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Objective Morality Without God

wellwisher

Well-Known Member
Moral systems are designed to deal with destructive human behavior that is not rational. How can an atheist rational system deal with the people who are not being rational?

Law was not made for the righteous man; those who understand moral cause and affect. It was made for the sinners who tend to limit their reasoning to supporting the needs of their own irrational impulses. Serial killers can be quite logical and clever in terms of fulfilling their irrational needs to kill. The professional thief knows how to overcome all type of tech security; logical overrides, but they can't control their impulse to steal. The adulterer is not thinking about the consequence of their actions on others but is tunneled visioned by their own self serving impulses.

These underlying irrational impulses is where religion often has an advantage. Atheists claim religion is based on imaginary things and is therefore irrational. Ironically, this is what is needed to deal with the irrational imaginations of the criminals. Law does not have to be tailored to the rational, since law is not designed with them in mind. That approach is more to make the rational feel better about themselves; an irrational need of the ego.

One would think a rational person would be able to infer that reason may not be the best way to reach the irrational who tend to suspend their reason during impulses. Atheist are not as rational as they think they are. They assume an approach by rational eggheads in ivory towers will somehow reach the irrational.

The Liberal Left controls education in the USA. We would to assume these Left wing teachers and professors are rational. Why would they teach something like critical race theory, that is designed to rewrite history to divide people and increase lawlessness; legal thieves? These people appear to be rational on the surface, but deep down they are not not acting as rational as they claim to be. Why teach the young people to ignore a law of science; time sequence of past to future, so they become lost in biased irrationality?

These boneheads in education violate a laws of science; sequence of time, by telling people to associate themselves with a different time, than the point in time that is rationally connected to their own lives. Is this a scam by irrational con artists or are Liberal professors all irrational down deep? We may need laws to protect all of use from such as these, since law is made for irrational manipulators and con artists. I would not be comfortable having such as these defining any moral code, since it would be self serving and destructive to others; criminals deep down.
 

Ella S.

Well-Known Member
Moral systems are designed to deal with destructive human behavior that is not rational. How can an atheist rational system deal with the people who are not being rational?

Law was not made for the righteous man; those who understand moral cause and affect. It was made for the sinners who tend to limit their reasoning to supporting the needs of their own irrational impulses. Serial killers can be quite logical and clever in terms of fulfilling their irrational needs to kill. The professional thief knows how to overcome all type of tech security; logical overrides, but they can't control their impulse to steal. The adulterer is not thinking about the consequence of their actions on others but is tunneled visioned by their own self serving impulses.

These underlying irrational impulses is where religion often has an advantage. Atheists claim religion is based on imaginary things and is therefore irrational. Ironically, this is what is needed to deal with the irrational imaginations of the criminals. Law does not have to be tailored to the rational, since law is not designed with them in mind. That approach is more to make the rational feel better about themselves; an irrational need of the ego.

Not really. The fear of divine punishment for transgressing the laws of God doesn't actually reduce or prevent crime. Many serial killers were/are Christians.

One would think a rational person would be able to infer that reason may not be the best way to reach the irrational who tend to suspend their reason during impulses. Atheist are not as rational as they think they are. They assume an approach by rational eggheads in ivory towers will somehow reach the irrational.

This is just anti-intellectual rhetoric. There's not an ounce of truth to it.

The Liberal Left controls education in the USA. We would to assume these Left wing teachers and professors are rational. Why would they teach something like critical race theory, that is designed to rewrite history to divide people and increase lawlessness; legal thieves? These people appear to be rational on the surface, but deep down they are not not acting as rational as they claim to be. Why teach the young people to ignore a law of science; time sequence of past to future, so they become lost in biased irrationality?

Or maybe Leftists tend to be, on average, more educated and more rational, and that's why they're more prevalent in academic contexts. That's what the statistics seem to indicate the last time I checked, at least. Maybe "critical race theory" is actually incredibly rational, articulate, and supported by countless inter-sectional evidence from a diverse number of fields. Maybe you're the one who's irrationally clinging to a falsely idealized history.

These boneheads in education violate a laws of science; sequence of time, by telling people to associate themselves with a different time, than the point in time that is rationally connected to their own lives. Is this a scam by irrational con artists or are Liberal professors all irrational down deep? We may need laws to protect all of use from such as these, since law is made for irrational manipulators and con artists. I would not be comfortable having such as these defining any moral code, since it would be self serving and destructive to others; criminals deep down.

Wait, I thought you were praising religious morality earlier in your post? How can you do that and oppose laws made by manipulators and con artists? Organized religion is the oldest pyramid scheme.

Also, how is wanting to tax those who have excess wealth in order to give to those who actually need the resources to survive "self-serving and destructive to others?" There's a saying in Christianity about how impossible it is for a rich man to enter Heaven, as well as one about giving to Caesar what is Caesar's. Even under Christianity, your position here is cruel and immoral.
 

wellwisher

Well-Known Member
Not really. The fear of divine punishment for transgressing the laws of God doesn't actually reduce or prevent crime. Many serial killers were/are Christians.

Or maybe Leftists tend to be, on average, more educated and more rational, and that's why they're more prevalent in academic contexts. That's what the statistics seem to indicate the last time I checked, at least. Maybe "critical race theory" is actually incredibly rational, articulate, and supported by countless inter-sectional evidence from a diverse number of fields. Maybe you're the one who's irrationally clinging to a falsely idealized history.

Are you aware that slavery was common in Africa for centuries before slaves came to America? Critical Race theory starts the story too late so it create a false narrative; leave out important data.

African cultures warred with each other, and the winners enslaved the losing tribes. One Tribe had grow large and wanted to expand its empire to the next level; major leagues.They needed guns and traded guns for slaves to the Dutch. Blacks overlords trading their blacks slave began the slave trade in the West.

I often wonder why the black did not fight back when captures as slaves. They were already slaves and accepted their fate and the trade.

This slave trade still happens today with some Black leaders, trading black votes for money. This is part of the systematic problem. This goes beyond uncle Tom to something like a trade partnership. Black still kill blacks, more than do the whites due to the same mentality of King and tribe and slaves.
 

Brian2

Veteran Member
Exactly. You are anticipating my responses. I disagree with premise 2 of argument A and premise 1 of argument B. The rest of the premises are true, and (imo) neither argument commits a logical fallacy.

I think theists have some room to push back against my disagreement with premise 1 of argument B. They might say that the laws of nature ARE authored by God, just like the laws of mathematics and logic. (But a few problems arise if they try to go that route.)

I think if they fail in the effort to support premise 1 of argument B, or concede the point that not all laws need an author, then I am justified in rejecting premise 2 of argument A. (And if premise 2 is false, then the conclusion of argument A is unsupported.)

Would you agree with that?

Like I said before, I'm not trying to "win" our debate. I'm trying to test my own assumptions (and yours) and see where the debate ends up.

Well I don't know if it is a debate but I don't see that you have shown in all this that morality is objective without a God, and even if you had shown that, who is going to say what that objective morality is when people disagree?
 

SkepticThinker

Veteran Member
Well I don't know if it is a debate but I don't see that you have shown in all this that morality is objective without a God, and even if you had shown that, who is going to say what that objective morality is when people disagree?
Has anyone shown that morality is objective with a God?

I don't count following orders as any kind of exercise in morality.
 

NewGuyOnTheBlock

Cult Survivor/Fundamentalist Pentecostal Apostate
Are you aware that slavery was common in Africa for centuries before slaves came to America? Critical Race theory starts the story too late so it create a false narrative; leave out important data.

You don't understand what critical race theory is. Critical race theory has absolutely nothing to do with African history; and has everything to do with how the social and legal treatment of non-whites have oppressed them. To go all the way back to Africa and go on about the mutual enslavement of each other has absolutely nothing to do with American history or how the American social and legal treatment of non-whites have oppressed them. African history is completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

So, if they enslaved each other way back when, does that make these things morally correct?

1. Enslavement in Southern planations.
2. Receiving more time for crimes than their white counterparts.
3. Jim Crowe laws and being denied access to private businesses and public spaces based on skin color.
4. Being denied loans and jobs while they are more qualified and experienced than their white competitors.
5. Being lynched for falling in love with a white woman or accidentally bumping into one on the way to the store.

If you condone any of the above, then maybe you need to study Critical Race Theory rather than criticize it.
 

Brian2

Veteran Member
Has anyone shown that morality is objective with a God?

I don't count following orders as any kind of exercise in morality.

Certainly there are grey areas in morality where a decision has to be made about which orders should be followed and which ignored. So morality has more to it than following orders/commandments/laws.
But no I don't know that anyone has shown that the morality of any particular God is objective, which would mean consistent.
 

vulcanlogician

Well-Known Member
In other words, if you assume that ethics is objective, and that suffering is objectively bad, then you can make an objective ethical philosophy based off of that. I agree, but I think there's an issue with that assumption.

Well, really though? Because if you agree with that, then you agree that objective morality is possible. That doesn't mean you accept moral realism as true. But it does mean that there is room in your philosophy for the idea that moral relativism and moral nihilism could be false... and that moral realism could be true.

There could be some hypothetical axiom that might become evident to you one day, one that you can't help but accept upon reflection. An axiom whose truth would impact objective criteria about what is good or bad for human beings and other sentient beings. Anything that a reasonable person could determine concerning the impact of a physical phenomenon upon a person, and whether it is good for or bad for that person, could serve as a basis for ethics when coupled with the acceptance of this hypothetical axiom. If one would understand and accept this axiom, they could answer the question: "How can I do good to others?" in a completely objective and logical way.

If I understand your last statement correctly, you don't take issue with hedonism or utilitarianism but rather the underlying axioms of those theories.

But you also think that one needs to "assume that ethics is objective" in the first place to accept a morally objective outlook. That's not one of the assumptions one needs in order to postulate an objective ethics. "Pain is bad" will do fine on its own. Our hypothetical "undiscovered" axiom could also work fine as a foundation for ethics. Couldn't it?

Well, I don't feel that way when I feel pain. Sometimes I like a bit of pain because it reminds me that I'm alive or it tells me that I've pushed myself to grow beyond my limits. I don't see that pain as bad at all. I don't even see it as a necessary sacrifice to some greater good. Pain is an indifferent to the Stoics.

It's also lauded for its ability to help the Overman in his will to self-creation, since it gives him a struggle to overcome under Existentialist humanism.

So "Pain is bad" kind of is an "out there" claim. It's directly opposed by quite a lot of philosophy. I don't think it's an assumption that we can merely take for granted.

Sure pain can be a means to greater pleasure or happiness. Any hedonist will tell you that. If the Overman is an idea that makes one truly happy, then pain and suffering is justified in the pursuit of that ideal. Likewise, if stoicism or eudaimonia is one's goal, then there is an amount of suffering that is justified in achieving that goal. I hold the (controversial) view that both Nietzscheism AND stoicism are philosophies that deal with mostly with valuation. Both try to understand value. Both are a search for "true value." And both recognize the problem of human suffering.

I honestly don't know what you mean by this. I don't think I've ever experienced self-evident badness. That's not me being a runaway skeptic. I genuinely have no frame of reference for what you're talking about here.

Do you mean aversion? I'm not averse to pain. I used to be, but through discipline I've mostly overcome that.

First: I don't mean aversion. I mean the experience of pain or suffering itself. THAT is what is bad. The propensity of pain to create aversion, isn't the problem with pain. Aversion is a reaction to pain, and not necessarily good or bad to me. Maybe pain-avoidance is good insofar as it is rational. But pain itself just sucks, that is fundamental to its nature. If pain didn't suck, it wouldn't be bad, and we wouldn't call it pain.

I didn't mean that anyone who looks at the concept of "objective badness" as dubious is a "runaway skeptic." I admire your skepticism.

I think that skepticism is incredibly useful. Incredibly clarifying. Incredibly reductive. But there is a problem with skepticism: how much is the right amount?

It's all fine and good when we skeptics say that "the house probably isn't haunted. I see no reason to believe that ghosts exist at all, much less in this particular house." That is skepticism at its best. But skepticism can go further than that: "The very house itself doesn't exist." Even though we can all see the house. What do we say to that kind of skepticism? What do we say to real world skepticism? I say this: "you've taken skepticism too far."

What I meant by "self evident badness" is an evaluation of the experiences you've had. I bet that, stoic or not, you think pain is bad and naturally try to avoid it. This avoidance can be explained by our physiology alone, but it can also be explained by rationality alone. Because it can be explained by pure rationality, I think ideas like "pain is bad" can be considered objective.Not necessarily rooted in our own perspective or biological vantage point. But nonetheless true because any being that experiences pain must acknowledge its badness. Otherwise how does it qualify as pain?

I think that good and bad are very real. And are things that exist in the real world.

I think that "Micheal Jordan is good at basketball." is a true statement. It describes reality well, even though such a statement resorts to valuations. A lot of work needs to be done to quantify such a statement. What makes someone good at basketball? But we don't need to resort to opinions there. We can come up with objective criteria for Micheal Jordan's skill at basketball, just like we can determine good and bad things in the ethical dimension.

People might have opinions about Jordan being good at the game, but those opinions don't matter in the face of what is objectively true.

I think most of the problems with ethical systems come from post hoc stirrings of moral intuitions which grow uncomfortable with simple ethical axioms being taken to their logical conclusions. I don't think this is really an issue with the ethical systems themselves, though, so much as it demonstrates that they aren't subjectively acceptable to whoever takes issue with them.

I too am dissatisfied with the "post-hoc" nature of some of the arguments for realism. But I'm similarly dissatisfied with the reasoning used in moral skepticism.
 

SkepticThinker

Veteran Member
Certainly there are grey areas in morality where a decision has to be made about which orders should be followed and which ignored. So morality has more to it than following orders/commandments/laws.
Morality is about distinguishing between right and wrong actions, good or bad behaviours, based on the consequences those actions/behaviours will have on ourselves and those around us.
Morality is not being exercised by anyone who is following an order, in my opinion, because they aren't doing that. That is just somebody being an obedient person, which is something different. You mention "grey areas" where following orders might be a bad action and ignoring those orders might actually be a good action. So how is a person who is supposed to be following orders from some moral god, meant to be able to make that distinction, if they're just supposed to be doing what they're told? I find that rather confusing.

But no I don't know that anyone has shown that the morality of any particular God is objective, which would mean consistent.
Agreed.
 

Ella S.

Well-Known Member
Well, really though? Because if you agree with that, then you agree that objective morality is possible. That doesn't mean you accept moral realism as true. But it does mean that there is room in your philosophy for the idea that moral relativism and moral nihilism could be false... and that moral realism could be true.

There could be some hypothetical axiom that might become evident to you one day, one that you can't help but accept upon reflection. An axiom whose truth would impact objective criteria about what is good or bad for human beings and other sentient beings. Anything that a reasonable person could determine concerning the impact of a physical phenomenon upon a person, and whether it is good for or bad for that person, could serve as a basis for ethics when coupled with the acceptance of this hypothetical axiom. If one would understand and accept this axiom, they could answer the question: "How can I do good to others?" in a completely objective and logical way.

Right. I don't think objective morality is impossible. I could be convinced of its existence if its axioms could be demonstrated.

If I understand your last statement correctly, you don't take issue with hedonism or utilitarianism but rather the underlying axioms of those theories.

But you also think that one needs to "assume that ethics is objective" in the first place to accept a morally objective outlook. That's not one of the assumptions one needs in order to postulate an objective ethics. "Pain is bad" will do fine on its own. Our hypothetical "undiscovered" axiom could also work fine as a foundation for ethics. Couldn't it?

If you're affirming that "pain is bad" is objectively true, then you have already conceded that there are objective moral truths. The issue is how we can demonstrate that pain is bad, and what "bad" is. Can we define "bad" as a type or a set of objects, or does it refer to an object itself?

Any answer you give is just going to be one definition for "bad," though, so how are you going to demonstrate that your definition is the only objectively true one?

Sure pain can be a means to greater pleasure or happiness. Any hedonist will tell you that. If the Overman is an idea that makes one truly happy, then pain and suffering is justified in the pursuit of that ideal. Likewise, if stoicism or eudaimonia is one's goal, then there is an amount of suffering that is justified in achieving that goal. I hold the (controversial) view that both Nietzscheism AND stoicism are philosophies that deal with mostly with valuation. Both try to understand value. Both are a search for "true value." And both recognize the problem of human suffering.

How can "pain is bad" be true if pain is also sometimes good? Are you implying that good and bad are not contradictory?

First: I don't mean aversion. I mean the experience of pain or suffering itself. THAT is what is bad. The propensity of pain to create aversion, isn't the problem with pain. Aversion is a reaction to pain, and not necessarily good or bad to me. Maybe pain-avoidance is good insofar as it is rational. But pain itself just sucks, that is fundamental to its nature. If pain didn't suck, it wouldn't be bad, and we wouldn't call it pain.

I didn't mean that anyone who looks at the concept of "objective badness" as dubious is a "runaway skeptic." I admire your skepticism.

I think that skepticism is incredibly useful. Incredibly clarifying. Incredibly reductive. But there is a problem with skepticism: how much is the right amount?

It's all fine and good when we skeptics say that "the house probably isn't haunted. I see no reason to believe that ghosts exist at all, much less in this particular house." That is skepticism at its best. But skepticism can go further than that: "The very house itself doesn't exist." Even though we can all see the house. What do we say to that kind of skepticism? What do we say to real world skepticism? I say this: "you've taken skepticism too far."

I might call that "pseudo-skepticism" or "denialism."

What I meant by "self evident badness" is an evaluation of the experiences you've had. I bet that, stoic or not, you think pain is bad and naturally try to avoid it. This avoidance can be explained by our physiology alone, but it can also be explained by rationality alone. Because it can be explained by pure rationality, I think ideas like "pain is bad" can be considered objective.Not necessarily rooted in our own perspective or biological vantage point. But nonetheless true because any being that experiences pain must acknowledge its badness. Otherwise how does it qualify as pain?

Pain is a specific series of electrical and chemical responses in the nervous system in response to various physiological stimuli, which I can define in a more laborious and specific way if you want me to.

That's my understanding of what qualifies as pain and it doesn't require a concept of badness.

I think that good and bad are very real. And are things that exist in the real world.

I think that "Micheal Jordan is good at basketball." is a true statement. It describes reality well, even though such a statement resorts to valuations. A lot of work needs to be done to quantify such a statement. What makes someone good at basketball? But we don't need to resort to opinions there. We can come up with objective criteria for Micheal Jordan's skill at basketball, just like we can determine good and bad things in the ethical dimension.

See, I wouldn't even say that "Michael Jordan is good at basketball" is a true statement, either. That seems more like an opinion to me.

One could argue, for instance, that the point of basketball is to have fun since it's a game. Since Michael Jordan has turned it into a career, passed the point that it's fun for him, we could argue that Michael Jordan is actually very bad at basketball.

The problem here is that this criteria for evaluating "good at basketball" and your criteria for evaluating "good at basketball" ultimately falls down to personal preference. There's nothing objectively right about using one set of criteria over another here.

People might have opinions about Jordan being good at the game, but those opinions don't matter in the face of what is objectively true.

I can see how one could arrive at the conclusion that "Michael Jordan is good at basketball" objectively by comparing him to a certain set of standards and criteria. The issue that I have is that those standards and criteria are, themselves, ultimately grounded in opinion. This makes the statement "Michael Jordan is good at basketball" ultimately reduce to preference.

It tells us more about what you subjectively value in a basketball player than it does about Michael Jordan himself.

I too am dissatisfied with the "post-hoc" nature of some of the arguments for realism. But I'm similarly dissatisfied with the reasoning used in moral skepticism.

The problem for me is that I genuinely don't see any coherent argument for realism at all. As far as I'm concerned, when people talk about matters of morality, they do so relative to one particular criteria or another, and that criteria is frequently their "moral intuition" (i.e., just how they "feel" about it, which isn't rational at all.) Even when we set forward a logical ethical philosophy, its axioms have to define moral terms like "good" and "bad" in idiosyncratic ways for the rest of the philosophy to follow.

I'm not convinced that this is the case for all of ethical philosophy, but I've personally never seen anything close to a logically sound argument for moral realism, as far as I'm aware. If I have, I didn't understand it.
 

Brian2

Veteran Member
Morality is about distinguishing between right and wrong actions, good or bad behaviours, based on the consequences those actions/behaviours will have on ourselves and those around us.
Morality is not being exercised by anyone who is following an order, in my opinion, because they aren't doing that. That is just somebody being an obedient person, which is something different. You mention "grey areas" where following orders might be a bad action and ignoring those orders might actually be a good action. So how is a person who is supposed to be following orders from some moral god, meant to be able to make that distinction, if they're just supposed to be doing what they're told? I find that rather confusing.

Morality is first and foremost doing what God would have us do in a particular situation. Deciding which action that might be has a lot to do with consequences that the actions might have on those around us, as love for our neighbour is the second most important command from God.
Usually the grey areas I was referring to would entail deciding which of God's orders is more important and following that one if there seems contradiction in a particular case. Love is always the most important and if we are not loving our neighbour in our actions then we need to reconsider.
It sounds like obeying commands but the Christian life is to be led by the Spirit.
 

wellwisher

Well-Known Member
Any form of morality works best is we can reason why certain required actions are optimized. If it makes no logical sense it may be harder follow. However, even if we can reason the value of the right thing to do, one may still have to deal with their own internal desires and impulses, as well external social and peer pressure, which can have their own countering logic streams.

For example, one commandment says thou shall not bear false witness. Does anyone remember the Russian Collusion Coup, where there was a full court press of peer pressure, to go along with the lie, which would be proven, in the future, to be a con job. You must bear false witness or else. Do it now, while the lie is fresh.

If you did not go along, the Jackals would go after you to force conformity. Twitter may have even censored you. The logic of Social and peer pressure required you bear false witness or else you will become a target. Based on these two logic streams, the lessor of two evils for many, was ego self preservation versus doing the right thing and waiting for the hard data.

It is never good to misrepresent things against your fellow citizens, since it will create confusion, as well give some mean people to an excuse vent angry self righteousness. This can be destructive. But if you did not bear false witness, in this case, it could be harmful to your own person. Both logic streams are based on cause and affect, but they are in conflict. Which path did the Atheist and the Religious each go? Which was correct in 20/20 hindsight? Which seemed better in the short term? Time scale of perception is also part of the equation of moralist. The worse idea be reasoned as good during short term impulses.

Morality was designed for the team, not the ego. Peer pressure will have the most impact on the ego. Morality, being a team sport, has the players look out for the team. The team needs to stay optimized to truth and justice, even if an ego is being harmed with slander in the short term; turn the other cheek.

God and Religion is one way to lower the subjective value of the ego, so external inductions and their logic paths can not manipulate you as easily, via a short time scale lie. The ego will often act in its own perceived short term interest, to avoid pain and pressure. But this may not be optimized, in the long term, as was the case of the Collusion Coup. God and most religions play long ball. This makes one assume the longer term logic train. Heaven and hell is a long term plan, not a whim or impulse subject to peer pressure.

One may notice the discussions of heaven and hell, often involve atheist wanting the more short to term plan of last minute forgiveness of sins. The Religious tend to assume a life time plan for their logic streams. They do not expect the Hail Mary pass, with seconds to go, will be enough. It still may but this is not a good bet.
 

Sand Dancer

Crazy Cat Lady
Hi folks. The idea of objective morality is something I've given serious scrutiny since I began studying philosophy.

One key item I think it's good to settle before proceeding into the thick of metaethics is what role God or (insert religious entity here) has to do with whether morality is objective or not.

Some people think morality is subjective. "Is morality subjective or objective?" is another very important ethical query. But that's not the question I'm asking here. My question is: "If morality IS objective, could God's pronouncement be the thing that makes it so?"

I tend to think: no.

In my view of things "stealing is wrong" or "stealing is bad" aren't true simply because God says so.

In my view, stealing is wrong for reasons. Personally, I see a plethora of things wrong with theft. It causes suffering. Arguments could be made that we are entitled to the fruits of our own labor. Plenty of reasons stealing is wrong. And if THOSE REASONS explain why stealing is wrong, then God's forbiddance of it has little to do with the objectivity of the statement: "stealing is bad." God's pronouncement that stealing is forbidden has nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of it. Even if God exists and created the universe, his commandments cannot be what makes things right or wrong.

Some of you may notice that I'm hitting on an ancient Greek argument. But I don't want to get stuck on that argument. I'd like to move beyond it. I think there are even more reasons than the ones I've listed in this OP. But this is as good of a starting point as any.

So does anyone disagree with me here? If so, where precisely has my reasoning gone astray? And what good arguments can you quote (or produce yourself) that support the thesis that God existing is necessary for morality to be objective?
Religions came about to answer what happens to us after death. Morality came about because we are social creatures.
 

vulcanlogician

Well-Known Member
Well I don't know if it is a debate but I don't see that you have shown in all this that morality is objective without a God, and even if you had shown that, who is going to say what that objective morality is when people disagree?

Very true. I have not made the case for objective morality without God in our exchange thus far.

But I did examine an argument (argument A) whose conclusion was that God is NEEDED for objective morality... an argument that I have heard multiple times from multiple theists... and did my best to show exactly why I think its conclusion is false. I tried to approach it as honestly as I could, giving credit to its strengths. And I also tried to be very precise in where I thought the argument goes astray.

And then I invited you to defend the argument if you felt so inclined. But it seems that you want to move on to the next item. Cool with me. It doesn't mean you are conceding the point or anything, but I do take it to mean that you found my appraisal of the argument to be reasonable. (Not correct, mind you, but reasonable.)

The fact is, if the conclusion to argument A is true, then I am wrong. Full stop. So it made sense to address it first.

That's how I like to proceed through issues like this. Being fully transparent, thorough, and meticulously logical. We can speed things up if you'd like, but it'll cost us some clarity. I only have one more point to address anyway, and that is Divine Command Theory vs. the Euthyphro argument. If we work our way through those, I will have fully made my case for God's non-necessity for moral objectivity. I still have all my work ahead of me to show what objective ethics is actually true, but that's too big an issue to tackle here. I'm fine with demonstrating that God's commands have nothing to do with objective morality.

I suppose the only lingering issue would be the issue of moral relativism, or how can there be moral objectivity when people disagree? I thought I'd already addressed this, but maybe I didn't do too good of a job. Long story short, it doesn't bother me that people disagree. I'm interested in what actually is the case. Think of it this way... if you were a detective trying to figure out whether OJ Simpson murdered his ex-wife, would you examine the evidence around the crime scene? Or would you say there is no objective truth of the matter, citing that large numbers of people disagree as to whether he did it or not? Long story short: the fact that people disagree does not deter me from trying to get to an objective truth, independent of people's opinions (if such a truth exists).
 
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Brian2

Veteran Member
Very true. I have not made the case for objective morality without God in our exchange thus far.

But I did examine an argument (argument A) whose conclusion was that God is NEEDED for objective morality... an argument that I have heard multiple times from multiple theists... and did my best to show exactly why I think its conclusion is false. I tried to approach it as honestly as I could, giving credit to its strengths. And I also tried to be very precise in where I thought the argument goes astray.

And then I invited you to defend the argument if you felt so inclined. But it seems that you want to move on to the next item. Cool with me. It doesn't mean you are conceding the point or anything, but I do take it to mean that you found my appraisal of the argument to be reasonable. (Not correct, mind you, but reasonable.)

The fact is, if the conclusion to argument A is true, then I am wrong. Full stop. So it made sense to address it first.

That's how I like to proceed through issues like this. Being fully transparent, thorough, and meticulously logical. We can speed things up if you'd like, but it'll cost us some clarity. I only have one more point to address anyway, and that is Divine Command Theory vs. the Euthyphro argument. If we work our way through those, I will have fully made my case for God's non-necessity for moral objectivity. I still have all my work ahead of me to show what objective ethics is actually true, but that's too big an issue to tackle here. I'm fine with demonstrating that God's commands have nothing to do with objective morality.

I suppose the only lingering issue would be the issue of moral relativism, or how can there be moral objectivity when people disagree? I thought I'd already addressed this, but maybe I didn't do too good of a job. Long story short, it doesn't bother me that people disagree. I'm interested in what actually is the case. Think of it this way... if you were a detective trying to figure out whether OJ Simpson murdered his ex-wife, would you examine the evidence around the crime scene? Or would you say there is no objective truth of the matter, citing that large numbers of people disagree as to whether he did it or not? Long story short: the fact that people disagree does not deter me from trying to get to an objective truth, independent of people's opinions (if such a truth exists).

I suppose it is possible to show that there is objective morality without the need for a God and even if people disagree as to what that objective morality is.
Please proceed.
 

SkepticThinker

Veteran Member
Morality is first and foremost doing what God would have us do in a particular situation. Deciding which action that might be has a lot to do with consequences that the actions might have on those around us, as love for our neighbour is the second most important command from God.
Those two things contradict each other.

As an example of this, let's say God tells you to do a thing. You think that thing is immoral. Do you do it?

Usually the grey areas I was referring to would entail deciding which of God's orders is more important and following that one if there seems contradiction in a particular case. Love is always the most important and if we are not loving our neighbour in our actions then we need to reconsider.
It sounds like obeying commands but the Christian life is to be led by the Spirit.
As pointed out in the post you were responding to, this is a system of obedience to authority and not an exercise in practicing morality .
 

vulcanlogician

Well-Known Member
If you're affirming that "pain is bad" is objectively true, then you have already conceded that there are objective moral truths. The issue is how we can demonstrate that pain is bad, and what "bad" is. Can we define "bad" as a type or a set of objects, or does it refer to an object itself?

Any answer you give is just going to be one definition for "bad," though, so how are you going to demonstrate that your definition is the only objectively true one?

The philosopher G.E. Moore postulated a concept of "goodness simplicita"... or that good and bad are simple concepts. It works much like higher and lower with numerical value. According to Moore, once you understand what the number 2, you simply understand that it is more than 1 and less than 3. Or, another example, when you understand how a tire works, and it is best inflated to 32 psi in order to perform that function optimally, then you can make statements like, "you ought to inflate that tire to 32 psi." A beautiful but problematic theory.

But I prefer the approach of citing that some things are self-evidently good or bad, using pleasure/pain as an example because we've all experienced both, and I like to argue that we all view pain as intrinsically bad, whether we are stoics, masochists, ascetics, you name it. Pain to the ascetic is a means to an end (union with God, or perhaps disunion with an illusory world)... but just plain old pain.... that does not help us achieve those ends... is pointless, even to the ascetic. And if a rational being has to choose between pointless pain and pointless pleasure, she would always choose the pointless pleasure. Why? It is intrinsically better that pointless pain.

Pain is a specific series of electrical and chemical responses in the nervous system in response to various physiological stimuli, which I can define in a more laborious and specific way if you want me to.

That's my understanding of what qualifies as pain and it doesn't require a concept of badness.

I agree with your assessment of what pain is. We don't need ectoplasm, badness, or anything other than the things you listed to define pain. What I propose we do is ask ourselves an additional question about pain, especially after having experienced it: is the experience of it good or bad? I think the answer is self-evident. It's bad. Have you ever accidently put your hand on the stove? Did you not get a sense of "this is bad" that accompanied the pain?

Let me cook up a thought experiment. Your best friend or someone you love has come down with a life threatening disease. There are two cures for the disease. They cost an equal amount of money. Each cure is equally as effective as the other. One cure has the side effect of causing intense pain in the recipient's left hand... as if they put their hand on a stove. This cure does not actually cause tissue damage in the hand or anything. It merely causes the recipients of that cure to experience a minute or two of pain. This usually happens during the first few minutes after the person awakens each day and only happens every morning for about a week after imbibing the cure.

The other cure causes the recipients to experience a few minutes of pleasure in their left hand every morning for a week. They experience the sensation of the world's greatest massage therapist relaxing all the muscles of their hand. Like the other cure, this causes no lasting physiological effects. Massage therapy can improve circulation and provides a whole host of other beneficial effects. But the second cure doesn't bestow any of those. It merely creates the experience of an expertly-given hand massage and the pleasure experienced therein.

Let's say that your dear friend was in critical condition because of the disease. He/she is unconscious and unable to select which cure to choose. The decision falls on you. Which cure would you choose for them? I think it's obvious that the second cure is the better choice... but the question is: WHY? Why choose the second cure over the first, when they are both as effective at curing the disease? The answer, I think, is simple. It's obvious that pain is bad and pleasure is good. A rational person would always assume that when making such a decision. If you want to do good to your loved one, you would (most rationally) always choose the second cure for them.

"Badness" is like poverty. You aren't going to look under a rock and find poverty or badness. It can't be found in nature with telescopes or microscopes.

But I would argue that poverty is a real phenomenon that exists in the real world. Same thing with good and bad. Economics is an objective enterprise. When you understand economics, you understand the reality of poverty. I argue that it works the same with good and bad for ethics. I understand wanting to assert that good and bad are controversial notions... that what seems good to one person might seem bad to another. But that doesn't mean there isn't an objectively quantifiable standard for good and bad. Likewise, people who live in an impoverished village might not "feel" like they are impoverished, but that doesn't mean that an economist's notion of poverty fails to be objective.

Where to draw the poverty line is another issue of contention. But the fact is, in our current society, some people are wealthy and others are impoverished. We have to appeal to valuation to make these statements, but these valuations are nonetheless objective and help us see what is really going on.

How can "pain is bad" be true if pain is also sometimes good? Are you implying that good and bad are not contradictory?

I am appealing to the hedonistic categorizations of "extrinsic and intrinsic goods." Pleasure is an intrinsic good to the hedonist. Something like money is an "extrinsic good." Money isn't good all by itself. It is only good in the sense that it can get you something good. Walking to work in the cold of winter involves pain and discomfort (things a hedonist would call intrinsically bad). But it could be justified in order to get you money. But, as we justed noted, money isn't good all by itself. It is only good in the sense that it can help you obtain things that make you happy. (Happiness is an intrinsic good.)

Long story short, pain can be good when it is an "extrinsic good"... a good that, like money, can lead to greater happiness and pleasure (intrinsic goods) in the future. And is therefore justified, even by the hedonist. So, while intrinsic good and bad indeed do contradict one another. When you add the idea of "extrinsic goods" you end up being able to say that pain can be sometimes good. We can even break out the utilitarian abacus and demonstrate why it is so.

***

As far as your Michael Jordan arguments and comments about pseudo-skepticism/denialism, I thought you made good points. But I propose we table those for now. They are just too long and complicated to deal with, and we risk drifting into metaphysics and epistemology. I say we avoid that for now, and revisit them after we have resolved the simpler ethical issues that we're dealing with now. I know you realize I'm not dodging those questions or anything. They're good questions. And I'm happy to handle them later. Also ,yes, I brought them up in the first place. But I was hoping that they would have at least some persuasive power on their own. I didn't necessarily intend to wade into an analysis about specific problems concerning those arguments. But good on you for spotting the problems you did. I have replies, of course. But I just don't have it in me to tackle those issues AND the ethical issues we are trying to focus on. So, will you take a rain check on those?

The problem for me is that I genuinely don't see any coherent argument for realism at all. As far as I'm concerned, when people talk about matters of morality, they do so relative to one particular criteria or another, and that criteria is frequently their "moral intuition" (i.e., just how they "feel" about it, which isn't rational at all.) Even when we set forward a logical ethical philosophy, its axioms have to define moral terms like "good" and "bad" in idiosyncratic ways for the rest of the philosophy to follow.

I'm not convinced that this is the case for all of ethical philosophy, but I've personally never seen anything close to a logically sound argument for moral realism, as far as I'm aware. If I have, I didn't understand it.

People in general are sloppy with their ethical postulates. Maybe even myself included. It's really hard to argue moral realism, not just because it is a dubious position (which it is). It is also hard because if moral realism is true, its truth is very complicated. There are multiple moving parts to objective morality.

In physics there is the three body problem. It is pretty much impossible to calculate the exact resultant positions of three or more objects over time when each object has a substantial gravitational influence on the other two. That doesn't mean it's subjective though. There actually is a correct answer to the subsequent spacial positions of three gravitational bodies. But it's difficult for us to calculate it.

The best we can do is to try and simplify the issue. I see only three viable meta ethical theories:

moral realism
moral relativism
moral anti-realism

First of all, do you accept that only one of these theories can be true? That, if one is true, the others are false.

If not is there a fourth theory? Which (if any) are you disposed to eliminate first? And why?

These are my definitions of each:

1. Moral realism: it is possible for moral statements to be objectively true.
2. Moral relativism: a moral statement can only be true in relations to personal, cultural, or ideological frameworks.
3: Moral anti-realism: morality is a fairy tale. it can not be true because it is constituted by erroneous beliefs and/or emotional or physiological reactions to certain behaviors.

So which theory do you find most plausible? Or is there a forth theory?
 
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vulcanlogician

Well-Known Member
I suppose it is possible to show that there is objective morality without the need for a God and even if people disagree as to what that objective morality is.
Please proceed.

First of all, I'd like to make clear that my attack on Divine Command Theory is not an attack on religion in general. Plenty of Christian philosophers reject DCT. To them, moral laws exist independently of God. To them, God commands us to do the correct moral thing because he is wise and all knowing (and thus perfectly knows right from wrong) and he loves us all and wants us to be good to one another. One need not accept DCT in order to hold this view.

Furthermore, there is even scriptural justification that valuations can exist independently of God. God didn't make the world and "pronounce" it good. He created the world and saw that it was good. Like a carpenter, who after crafting a table, looks over his work and sees that his creation turned out nicely. Anyway, I'm not a Christian, nor do scriptural arguments mean anything to me, but I did want to establish before getting into things that the idea that moral valuations exist independently of God does not necessarily contradict Christianity.

Divine Command Theory:

"An action is only morally bad because God forbids it. An action is only morally right because God prescribes it."

***

We could substitute the phrase "if and only if" instead of "because" if we wanted to be super precise. So, do you agree with Divine Command Theory? If not then I don't have to bother bringing in arguments against it. But then, you'd be conceding the point that God is not necessary for morality, then. Because, as I see it, Argument A and B (from before) or DCT are the only ways God would be necessary for objective morality.
 

vulcanlogician

Well-Known Member
Your morality is subjective. It is according to "your view".

A person can have views that relate to objective as well as subjective statements.

In my view, the Earth revolves around the sun. Why do I have this view? A little bit of education. A little bit of ameteur atronomy. Other people might think the Earth is at the center of the solar system.

That's a view people have. It's called called "geocentrism." Is geocentrism objectively true or false? I think we can determine that.

Perhaps instead of "in my view" I should have said "as far as I can tell." But it's merely an inaccurate turn of phrase, like when an evolutionary scientist refers to the "design" of a bird's wing, which does happen from time to time.

But you aren't going to refute evolution by pointing your finger at that person and saying "Ha! You said design."
 
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