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November 20, 2009

Comments

It seems that "purposing" is serving up a whole lot of solutions these days. God never "purposes". He has decreed what is to be and just because we always want all the answers in no way obligates Him to hand them to us.

All one has to do to figure out how true it is that we are all simply depraved is reflect HONESTLY on our own heart. Folks like WSA can never ever do that because God simply has not been merciful to them.

WSA cannot ground his view because even the attempt to do so would open it to the mockery it deserves. We were not given a conscience for entertainment....and if these "educated elite" cannot figure that one out...then they need to hand in the PHd.

Melinda,

The morality left without God that Sinnott-Armostrong porposes isn't sufficient for grounding everyday moral choices. Christianity has a better alternative.

I am not interested in defending Sinnott-Armstrongs position, but I am very interested in learning more about the Christian alternative you mention for grounding everyday moral choices. Can you explain this to me, please?

Does anyone find it narcassistic that when some gent offers "I don't know" in cases like this, he has already presupposed that, because he does not know...it is entirely impossible for anyone else to claim otherwise?

Seems there's likely a voice on his shoulder saying, "If I cannot say 'thus is so', I'll be damned if anyone else is going to know. If I don't know, that HAS to mean it simply CAN'T be known."


(I think only those pro-choicers who DO acknowledge the humanity of the unborn...but remain pro-aborts are more vain...but not by much.) These views genuinely represent some of the most base and vile ideologies among us.

Knowing these characters are out their by the droves, I openly acknowledge, is a bit maddening and cause for alarm.

"Does anyone find it narcassistic that when some gent offers "I don't know" in cases like this, he has already presupposed that, because he does not know...it is entirely impossible for anyone else to claim otherwise?"
Yes, it's an all-too-common appeal to ignorance. I can't think of an explanation, therefore no explanation exists. It is the same logical error that is made when a Christian says, "I can't think of a basis for morality if there is no God, therefore there is no basis for morality if there is no God."

We all should simply agree not to harm others—cause death, pain, or disability—unless there is "adequate reason."

Notice that WSA didn't say "I don't know" here. SHOULD we simply agree? Well, if we agree to agree then we will. If not, then we won't. This is entirely consistent with WSA's statement. But SHOULD we agree? I don't think so, WSA. You lack the grounds.

There is a basis for morality if there is not God. The basis is the god in the mirror---me. Now the problem is is that that morality can change every day depending on how I feel or what the "morality of the day" is. If morality comes from the creator of the universe and is not of our own ideas or creation, then we can trust that it is good and trust worthy.

Yes Les...we can trust that God's morality is good and trustworthy...AND that that is never going to change....

The "god in the mirror" seems to affect all of us...even Christian apologetics leaders I'm afraid. "Oh wretched men that we are...."...BUT..."God who is rich in mercy.."

Les,

Perhaps there is something other than the "god in the mirror". Perhaps morality can be just as objectively grounded without God as it can with God.

"If morality comes from the creator of the universe and is not of our own ideas or creation, then we can trust that it is good and trust worthy. "

Why?

Eric...
I think you are mistaken to asssume that Our ability to "come up with an explanation" determnines truth or non truth.

We lack knowledge in lots of areas. That doesn't change what IS true one iota.


The point you seem to be missing is that the "god in the mirror" theory for morality is not logical...THATS why we ought to reject it out of hand...not because we can't think of some clever response.

Christians have GIVEN good solid evidence for both God and morality. Rejecting that evidence does not destroy the truth of it.

Vic,

"I think you are mistaken to assume that Our ability to "come up with an explanation" determnines truth or non truth. "
That is not my position.
"The point you seem to be missing is that the "god in the mirror" theory for morality is not logical...THATS why we ought to reject it out of hand...not because we can't think of some clever response."
I agree. That is why I responded to the suggestion by saying perhaps there is something other than that.

I am not convinced that Christians have any greater justification for objective morality than non-Christians. I am not arguing for subjective morality. I am not arguing that we make our own morality any more than you are arguing that.

When I said "I agree" in my previous comment, I obviously don't mean I agree that I am missing the point. I mean that I agree with your assessment of the "god in the mirror" position. You seem to have mistakenly thought I was defending that view.

Eric,

We are made in God's image and therefore are made to reflect his character and nature. Morality flows out of who God is and what he is like.

In addition God has just jurisdiction over the universe because he is its creator. Are we free to break the rules/morality of this universe which God has commanded? Absolutely. Yet if we do, we suffer the consequences of doing so, both in the immediate in the consequences of our decisions and then ultimately as we will stand before our maker.

We also find that since we are made in God's Image our deepest joy and flourishing as humans is found in imaging our Creator and his decrees.

Ted,

I can understand that that is your view, and that you believe these to be factual statements. You have asserted these things, but I don't see why they are true.

"We are made in God's image and therefore are made to reflect his character and nature."
How do I know that this is true?
" Morality flows out of who God is and what he is like."
I'm not sure what this means.
"In addition God has just jurisdiction over the universe because he is its creator"
Is this simply a premise, or have you concluded this through some logical argument?
"We also find that since we are made in God's Image our deepest joy and flourishing as humans is found in imaging our Creator and his decrees."
Is it good to do what results in our deepest joy, or are you primarily mentioning this as a pleasant side effect?

Eric,
On this STR page is Greg's answer for the moral grounding Christians have.

Please give it a read and post any problems you have with it. I'll be here for an hour or so more, so if I'm still here I'll try to respond.

Hmm, the link didn't work. Try this one: http://www.str.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5236

Eric...

You say " I am not convinced that Christians have any greater justification for morality than non christians."


THAT is why I said I believe you are mistaken. We most certainly DO have the better justification..(that is, giving a stronger, more logical reason for morality)than athiests.

The argument is not that atheists cannot be moral...even more so than some Christians at times. Its just that atheists have no real basis for being moral at all...other than their preeference to be so. For the christian...any morality we do display OUGHT to reflect our Creators character...since we are so greatful to be in His care in the first place.

Any "ought" needs to have a basis. Without it...morality (the oughts) is merely preference.

Eric,

Please read more carefully. I was responding directly to you asking why? in regards to Christian morality.

If your question is on how I know that is true it is because something inherently tells all of us that certain things are right and other things are wrong.

Even our Deist founders grounded our morality in God, "endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights..." So if we can all agree that it is objectively true that some things are right and some things are wrong, they question is why?

Well either it is because their is something that makes them objectively true for everyone and if that is the case there must be a transcendent personal cause that commands such things as right and wrong.

If not, then nothing is really wrong it is simply our personal preference and subjective likings.

Its not that the theist has a better reason to ground morality in, its that an atheist has NOTHING to ground morality in.

Newbietu,

I have read and heard Greg Koukl's treatment of the subject (among others) and I don't understand it. That's why I keep asking for clarification of this in various threads at this site when it comes up. On the page you linked, Greg says, "Morality is grounded in the immutable character of God, who is perfectly good." I think this probably means the same thing Ted said above, that "Morality flows out of who God is and what he is like." I don't understand what this means. It doesn't give me any better understanding of how the Christian is grounding morality. How can I know that this isn't just an arbitrary declaration by Christians in order to escape from a dilemma? How can I know that this really is a solution, and how can understand what that solution means?

Vic,

"THAT is why I said I believe you are mistaken. We most certainly DO have the better justification.."
Can you try to explain that justification to me, and why it is better than the justification available to the atheist?
" Its just that atheists have no real basis for being moral at all...other than their preeference to be so."
This is precisely the problem discussed above. How do you get from your own inability to come up with a basis to the conclusion that there is no basis?
"Any "ought" needs to have a basis."
What basis do you propose?

Eric-

Let's adopt, just for fun, WSA's utilitarianism (no other form of utilitarianism will serve any better as a ground of morality in any case).

So, we will never harm ourselves or another person unless there is adequate reason. Presumably the adequate reason to harm ourself or another person is to prevent even greater harm. So you can say that what's right is what minimizes harm to ourselves and others.

Now the question is: Are we to do what seems to minimize harm, or are we to do what really does minimize harm?

If the grounding of morality is to be objective, then we have to say that what is right is what really does minimize harm. The difficulty is this. No human being can know what that is, because no human being sees all ends. When I pull the drowning toddler out of the 5 gallon bucket, I may be rescuing the next Hitler.

Only the omniscient God is in an epistemic position to determine what really minimizes harm.

He could, of course, constantly whisper the harm-minimizing choice into our ears, or He could provide us with a set of rules that, if generally followed, will tend to minimize harm. Or He could follow some other strategy. Only He is in a position to know which strategy is best (i.e. most harm-minimizing). And it seems that He's decided that the best strategy is to lay down a set of rules for us to follow.

There's no point in saying that morality is really grounded in utility. Utility is an empty and useless notion to any less than omniscient being. It is also useless to us if God is silent.

A belief, then, in monotheism and divine revelation is needed to ground morality in the following sense. God is in a unique epistemic position to make moral pronouncements, and it is only by those pronouncements that we have any chance of knowing what really is right.

That's if you're a utilitarian, anyway. Which I'm not. Needless to say, I do not think that atheist prospects of grounding morality get any better when you move away from utilitarianism.

Eric,
Basically, the way the logic goes is that what makes God good is his "conscience" (what we call his nature) he cannot go against that.

His nature is completely consistent logically.
It is impossible for a being to be consistently evil and exist, so he is perfectly good. (I don't have a lot of experience in this area, but the arguments I have read on this point seem to make sense).

He has provided for each of us an internal compass that was initially synchronized to his nature (called the "conscience"). Generally, it still is. Thus both Christians and Atheists can talk about good and evil and generally agree on actions that fall into each category. Only the Christian can point to the source of those definitions, the Atheist has to try to talk about nature and logic, which work for some aspects, but are not completely consistent.

Does that work?

I'm not sure I'll be able to clarify further since I'm headed out, but I'll try to check back in later...

Ted,

"Please read more carefully. I was responding directly to you asking why? in regards to Christian morality."
And I was responding to your response. Do you think I misunderstood something you said? It can be hard to telling a text-only format, so I'm not sure if you have some concern here or if you are just being rude.
"If your question is on how I know that is true it is because something inherently tells all of us that certain things are right and other things are wrong. "
How do you know that your inherent understanding is valid? What if your inherent understanding disagrees with someone else's? How would you determine who is correct?
"Well either it is because their is something that makes them objectively true for everyone and if that is the case there must be a transcendent personal cause that commands such things as right and wrong."
I don't follow your logic. If something it objectively true then it must have been commanded by some transcendent person? Is it possible that you skipped a couple steps in the argument that you could fill in so I may be able to follow you better? I'm just not getting from your premise to your conclusion.
"Its not that the theist has a better reason to ground morality in, its that an atheist has NOTHING to ground morality in."
Can you support that claim? Do you have some way of demonstrating that it is not possible, or are you extrapolating from your personal inability to think of how it might be possible? The fact that you don't know an answer does not mean that no answer exists.

Eric...

My basis is the truthfulness of God's word. He SAYS that all of us know He exists....He TELLS us what is good right and true. In other words...i am saying that if God's word is NOT true....then none of us have anything but relativistic opinion as a basis for what is just.

The beauty of it is that we do not have to depend upon our feelings to affirm what is true. It may be quaint but it is most certainly true that "If God has said it...that settles it"...Our agreeing with it or appreciating it ...or liking it...is totally irelevant.

Newbietu,

"Does that work?"
It helps. You've filled in a couple gaps that other people seem to think are obvious. (I'm sure some people figure it out on their own and I'm just a bit slow catching on.)

Your explanation includes some things that would need to be supported:
There is a God
God is logically consistent
A consistently evil being can't exist
God has given humans a reliable moral sense

Still, you've helped me understand the position a bit better. Even if all this is true, why should someone behave in accordance with this morality? (I'm not suggesting one shouldn't, I'm asking for the reasons one should.)

Vic,

"i am saying that if God's word is NOT true....then none of us have anything but relativistic opinion as a basis for what is just."
I don't agree that we only have opinion. Can you tell me why you think it is not possible for objective morality to be determined without it being derived from a God?

WisdomLover,

Somehow I skimmed past you earlier and responded to later posts. Sorry about that.

I said early in the thread (in fact, it's the very first thing I said) that I'm not interested in defending WSA's position. This is largely because his opinion is not very clear from the excepts posted above.

"We all should simply agree not to harm others—cause death, pain, or disability—unless there is 'adequate reason.'"
This could be a strict utilitarianism, but it could be other things also. I think we would all agree to what he has said, but we might disagree on how to determine "adequate reason".

You say,

"Presumably the adequate reason to harm ourself or another person is to prevent even greater harm."

But I don't know if that's what he means. If that his only consideration, then we have strict utilitarianism, and I'm not going to defend it. I think weighing the total good versus total harm is an important part of moral considerations, but is not the only consideration. I suspect you agree.

"He could, of course, constantly whisper the harm-minimizing choice into our ears, or He could provide us with a set of rules that, if generally followed, will tend to minimize harm.."
If we can identify cases where the rules would not minimize harm, are we justified in violating the rules, or are we not capable of identifying these cases with sufficient reliability to risk violating the rules?
"God is in a unique epistemic position to make moral pronouncements"
An omniscient being would be in a position to determine what actions maximize utility, but that doesn't tell us whether or not maximizing utility should be our goal. How do we determine the criteria by which we judge? I agree that we will often lack sufficient information to reach a reliable conclusion, but that is different from knowing what to do if we had that information. Is an omniscient being in a unique position to determine the correct goal for our moral calculations?
"That's if you're a utilitarian, anyway. Which I'm not. Needless to say, I do not think that atheist prospects of grounding morality get any better when you move away from utilitarianism."
I think the utilitarian calculation is an important part, but not the only part, of moral considerations. I think the atheist's prospects of grounding morality are no worse than those of the Christian.

Eric...

You say you don't agree that we have only opinion...Is that your opinion?

What basis are you using other than your opinion to make that statment?

As I said My basis is more than just my opinion. Yes i do affirm that God's word is true...but it is based upon what i actually see rather than what is always comnfortable for me.

For instance... I do not particularly care to be shown by scripture to be a depraved self centered God hating sinner...I actually prefer to be thought of as an all right guy...but I cannot deny the evidence when i stop to actually examine it. That is where brutal honesty trumps opinion.

Vic,

"You say you don't agree that we have only opinion...Is that your opinion?

What basis are you using other than your opinion to make that statment?

As I said My basis is more than just my opinion."

I'm not following you. Are you suggesting that you have access to something other than your opinion but I don't have access to something other than my opinion? I'm not sure how to respond, because I'm not sure what your getting at. I think it's fair to say that it's my opinion that I have access to objective facts, but that would apply equally to you.

Can you tell me why you think it is not possible for objective morality to be determined without it being derived from a God?

Eric...You say you have more than your opinion for yur basis but you never get around to explaining what that "more" actually is.

My "more" is God's word. My opinion on His word is pretty much irrelevant.

The reason there is no objective morality without a transcendent Being is because...only a transcendent Being who has ALL knowledge can determine what is actually good true and right. All that you or I can do is offer what we'd like to see ....according to how we happen to be feeling at the moment.

You see...in order to claim a moral stance that is true and universal for all men all the time...you must KNOW everything. The reason that you and I are not qualified to dictate absolutes is because we are NOT omniscient. All we can do is take what God has said and then examine reality to see if what He says fits....and our opinions about it one way the other are a waste of time.

The Book of Romans assures us that we already know what is moral according to God's law.....because he has placed that knowledge in us. We natually rebel against that knowledge however pretending its just so complicated. We pretend because thats our only way to avoid what is manifest and clear to all of us...no exceptions.

Good questions however....

Vic,

"Eric...You say you have more than your opinion for yur basis but you never get around to explaining what that "more" actually is."
I have not explained it because I have not been asked to. I have been told, repeatedly, and without support, that I cannot possibly have a basis. No has yet seen fit to bother asking me to justify my claim, which seems odd since I am claiming something that others here are saying is impossible. They simply restate that it is not possible.

When someone tells me they can do something that I think is impossible, I usually ask for some kind of evidence.

>>I have not explained it because I have not been asked to. I have been told, repeatedly, and without support, that I cannot possibly have a basis. No has yet seen fit to bother asking me to justify my claim, which seems odd since I am claiming something that others here are saying is impossible. They simply restate that it is not possible. >>

This is patently false. The fact is that you HAVE been given reasons and explanations and it is YOU who continue to say "I don't see it...I don't see it..." over and over. I hope you don't take personal offense to this, but when I go back and forth between these posts, I see dishonesty on your part in facing the explanations set forth by others here. It is simple, if morality is grounded in anything other than a fixed immutable principle (by definition this could only be God), then any other standard we set for morality is either subjective (and hence not binding on anyone but the individual) or arbitrary (and thus not binding on anyone. Therefore, to have true moral obligation, an objective, self-sufficient, immutable standard is required for moral obligation. THIS IS AN EXPLANATION, not as you claim "a re-stating".

Ryan

Ryan...

Yes I think you are right. Seems there is a certain "cognizent dissonance" involved here. It isn't the explanation that is hard to grasp...but rather the coming to grips with the ramifications of what that means for us...if we admit we really DO understand perfectly.......just as the 1st chapter of Romans affirms.

Ryan,

" I hope you don't take personal offense to this, but when I go back and forth between these posts, I see dishonesty on your part in facing the explanations set forth by others here"
I shall try to suppress any personal offense I may feel. I am attempting to understand the explanations given here. When I disagree with them, I say so, and when I am not understanding them, I say so. If an explanation seems very sensible to you, but not to me, then my lack of understanding may appear to you to be disingenuous. I am not being disingenuous, but I can't completely fault you for your perception that I may be. (Such things certainly do happen in this kind of discussion.)

People have asserted that without God there can be no objective basis for morality. This is not self-evident; it needs to be justified. If there have been good justifications of this presented, then I have missed them. (I can assure you that this is inadvertent. I am attempting to deal with the best arguments presented. If you think I have missed one, would appreciate your drawing my attention to it.)

" It is simple, if morality is grounded in anything other than a fixed immutable principle (by definition this could only be God), then any other standard we set for morality is either subjective (and hence not binding on anyone but the individual) or arbitrary (and thus not binding on anyone."
You have come pretty close to something I would agree to, but you have added something that I think is wrong. I don't think that a fixed immutable principle can only be God by definition. For example, "A is A". I consider that as a fixed immutable principle, and I do not consider it to be God.
"THIS IS AN EXPLANATION, not as you claim "a re-stating". "
Yes, but you have done a little more than re-stating. You still haven't fully justified your position. You have not shown that there can be no objective basis for morality without a God.

Vic,

" Seems there is a certain "cognizent dissonance" involved here."
Cognitive dissonance is everywhere, and have no illusions that I am immune. I don't see it in this case, but that's sort of an inherent problem with cognitive dissonance. This is part of the reason that you will see me trying to stick closely to the specific arguments. (I don't always succeed, but I try to reign myself in when I realize I am straying too far.) I try to get things down to the premises and the conclusions that follow. I think this becomes obnoxious to some people, and I'm sorry for that, but it helps me focus on the arguments and minimize... emotional distractions. I think it also helps other people by requiring that we cut to the chase at some point.

I mean,
"Cognitive dissonance is everywhere, and [I] have no illusions that I am immune."

Eric...

I guess we will have to agree to disagree for now. You are most certainly mistaken to say cognitive dissonance is everywhere. Nonesense. It is NOT everywhere. We could never have landed on the moon if cognitive dissonance was everywhere. We obviously do not have all knowledge...but we do not NEED all knowledge to be cognitive of many things. Atheists commonly suggest that because we do not know all things that nothing at all can be known for sure. Pure pappycock. That is a copout pure and simple.

It does not require a Phd to see these things either. It does require honesty however. Me thinks you aren't ready for that however.

Vic,

I don't think we should go down this road. I hope you can understand that "cognitive dissonance is everywhere" is simply hyperbole. I'm saying that I accept cognitive dissonance is a common phenomenon and I'm even accepting that it could apply to me in this discussion. I don't want to fight. I want to discuss the issue. I was taking one on the chin without retaliating in an effort to defuse a souring tone in the thread. I don't understand why you would take that as an opportunity to further insult me.

If you have reached the point where you have decided to impugn my motives and directly insult my honesty rather than engage my arguments, then I have little alternative to accepting your "agree to disagree" suggestion. It's unfortunate, because I thought we were making progress.

Should you choose to take up the issue again, I am ready for the discussion.

Eric....


Try not to be too insulted. I am glad you do want to have a serious discussion. What I am telling you is not MY idea. I did not come up with it. When I question your honesty I do so because God's word tells me that we are ALL dishonest when we deny what is in front of our very eyes.
Thats the "conitive dissonance" I was referring to. There is a reason for this ubiquitous dissonance that we could taqlk about if you are intersted. All atheists are captive to it.

Another facet of this dissonance is that it is selective. We usually don't deny what is comfortable for us. I prefer to be told I am an alright guy, articulate, charming and all the rest. The reality of the matter often is something I prefer to avoid, however.

I am no psychoanalyst...but you don't have to be one to understand those points. God did not make it hard to understand. However...it seems he did make it hard for people in their sinful condition to be able to admit to. In other words...we (ALL of us)only reject God's word (including His exposition on Himself)...not because it is hard to understand or unreasonable. We reject it because we don't LIKE what it means for us as autonomous beings. We like to call the shots...and that is just not a high priority in God's mind.

You haven't really stated what you hold for a worldview...but feel free to do so.

Eric,

"Can you tell me why you think it is not possible for objective morality to be determined without it being derived from a God"

I've seen you ask this question a few times and I dont think its been addressed to your satisfaction, might i assuage you. I think the difficulty in getting of the ground here (as with most philosophical discussions) is tying down what you mean by deteremined. You could mean "decided by humans through agreeance" like referee's determining a call, or a bride picking a dress. Or you could mean determining like settling upon an idea through rational reflection, ascertaining or accepting how you are being appeared to per se, i.e apprehending what you immediately behold in the external world as being an accurate repesentation of what is. If by the determine you take the first definition then i think its clear that morality can't be objective, that is clear of the decision and biases of human beings, by definition because we would be authoring what we call right and wrong ourselves. If however you take the second definition, how do we perceive or apprehend objective morals without God, then further elaboration could be given. Which do you choose?

Chris,

I mean it like 'ascertain' or 'discover'. So, closer to your second version, but maybe not exactly like it. I do not mean something like a preference or an arbitrary choice. More along the lines of the way we can determine that Socrates is mortal, if you follow me. (Like that in principle, though not always possible in practice.) Does that help clarify?

"Can you tell me why you think it is not possible for objective morality to be determined without it being derived from a God"

Given your clarification, let me proceed some more in answering your question. I think what's really being said is this; one could not apprehend objective moral truths if they aren't derived from God because such truths could not exist apart from God thus if there is no God, there are no objective moral truths to apprehend. God is the sine qua non of morality if you will.

Chris,

"one could not apprehend objective moral truths if they aren't derived from God because such truths could not exist apart from God"
Is this for all truths, or only for moral truths? If this is a conclusion, then I'm not seeing the line of reasoning that gets us to it. Is it proposed as an axiom? Can you expand on this, please?

To help us stay on target, I'll clarify/restate what my position is. Christianity is not a requirement in order to derive an objective justification for moral behavior. This is in response to claims such as the one by Greg Koukl that an atheist has no objective basis for saying it is wrong to torture babies for fun. My position is that an atheist justify this just as objectively as can a Christian. The justification need not rely on the premise that a God exists.If someone can show that God is an absolute requirement for any objective justification for moral behavior, then my position will be shown to be wrong, and I will change my position. I don't typically ask people to prove an absolute negative (i.e. that there is no possible objective justification for moral behavior that does not require a God), but in this case people seem very willing to assert the absolute negative. So I think they should back it up.

Hi Eric, your statement:

"For example, "A is A". I consider that as a fixed immutable principle, and I do not consider it to be God."

has my interest piqued. Are you arguing that your "consideration" is authoritative and that we should accept it?

By the way, I might be tempted to argue with you that any law of logic is a reflection of God, and true knowledge is only justified by acknowledging God as it's ultimate foundation. Only Christianity offers a coherent justification for this view, not just deism in general, and atheism has no justification for any knowledge at all.

P.S. I believe that you spelled the word "reign" earlier while using the meaning for the word "rein".

Brian,

" Are you arguing that your "consideration" is authoritative and that we should accept it?"
No, I am not arguing that. I was saying something that I think is true. I expect anyone reading it is capable of evaluating it for themselves, regardless of my authority.
"By the way, I might be tempted to argue with you that any law of logic is a reflection of God, and true knowledge is only justified by acknowledging God as it's ultimate foundation. "
Which would make any attempt to construct an argument establishing the existence of God viciously circular. So your position would be that the existence of God cannot possibly be established without first assuming the existence of God? By all means, argue away.

Also, please feel free to contribute further to the topic already being discussed here. If that doesn't interest you, can always chime in if I make another spelling error.

Here's a definition (dictionary.com) for "objective":

of or pertaining to something that can be known, or to something that is an object or a part of an object; existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.

So for morality to be objective, it has to be a fixed feature of reality that exists independent of thought. How can the non-theist show this even in principle? Any such philosophy, no matter how brilliant, is at base a system of thought with no external referent. You can come up with some great reasons for behaving in certain ways, but it's not the same as saying something is objectively, morally obligatory or prohibited.

Eric,
I noticed this conversation and it caught my attention because it is similar to a discussion I recently got out of. I attempted to argue that the only universal ethical claims an atheist could build upon would be those based off of the concept of natural selection, since that is said to be the process that ‘guides’ evolution. This idea was shot down rather coldly, leaving me unsure why it was rejected.
The problem I have with atheists attempting to ground their ethics is I don't get how their concepts naturally originate from anything. It is like they (in my opinion) are trying to reverse engineer something that already exists, but could not come up with it on their own. Like needing to ‘prove’ murder is wrong, while trying to avoid the fact it may offer actual evolutionary advantages in some circumstances.

“I have not explained it because I have not been asked to. I have been told, repeatedly, and without support, that I cannot possibly have a basis. No has yet seen fit to bother asking me to justify my claim, which seems odd since I am claiming something that others here are saying is impossible. They simply restate that it is not possible.”

While I can’t speak for anyone else I would be interesting in hearing it. What basis do you believe to be possible? and, if it is not too involved, what are your reasons for thinking it is credible?

bc,

I looked at your source, dictionary.com. The definition you give is number 8 in their list. The sense in which I tend to think of it is better captured by their definition number 5:

"not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased"

I think the two are related. We can maintain that something like the quadratic formula is objectively true in both senses.

I probably should have provided a definition earlier. The word has many uses, and it would be a shame if we are going around in circles due to nuances of the definition. Thanks for prompting the clarification.

"So for morality to be objective, it has to be a fixed feature of reality that exists independent of thought. How can the non-theist show this even in principle?"
Do you mean by this that a "fixed feature of reality that exists independent of thought" cannot be established without appealing to a God? What about the Law of Identity? A is A. Does that meet your criteria for an objective feature of reality? It is not dependent on the existence of God. Whether one accepts the existence of God or not, the Law of Identity is inescapable. The atheist is no less justified in accepting the Law of Identity than is the Christian.
"You can come up with some great reasons for behaving in certain ways, but it's not the same as saying something is objectively, morally obligatory or prohibited"
How do you determine what is "objectively, morally obligatory or prohibited" in a way that different from having "great reasons for behaving in certain ways". Why is it wrong for you to torture babies for fun?

Brian,

It is like they (in my opinion) are trying to reverse engineer something that already exists, but could not come up with it on their own.
I would agree with you here. I think many individual atheists do precisely that. That doesn't mean that it can't be done right; it just means that some people don't do it right. I think you'll agree that this reverse engineering is not restricted to atheists.
"What basis do you believe to be possible? and, if it is not too involved, what are your reasons for thinking it is credible?"
I'm glad you asked. Had the roles been reversed, with someone claiming they could do something I think is impossible, this would have been right at the top of my list of questions. I'm afraid I will not be able to oblige you tonight. I'm east coast, and it's quite late (at least by my standards). I will try to compose something reasonably clear and concise, and post it tomorrow.

Hi Eric, if you dont expect me to believe your "condering" that "A is A" , then on what grounds do you expect me to accept it as true also?

Any untimate proposition is necessarily circular, so your hope to not deal with the argument would be in vain.

>>>Do you mean by this that a "fixed feature of reality that exists independent of thought" cannot be established without appealing to a God?

Not necessarily....I need to clean up what I said. I did say objective morality, but the substance of what I said really has to do with an objective grounds for morality. You are absolutely right, there are things that seem axiomatic, such as the Law of Identity, which we make no attempts to ground as they are intuitively self-evident. Someone may want to claim that morality is a similar thing, and it seems that in many ways it is. But the non-theist is often tempted to try and establish an objective grounds for it, something other than self-evidence, and it is there he finds himself wading into murky water philosophically. The theist offers something external, something "out there". What does the non-theist offer?

>>>How do you determine what is "objectively, morally obligatory or prohibited" in a way that different from having "great reasons for behaving in certain ways".

Let's say you can offer some good reasons why I should give to charity. Is it then incumbent upon me to give to charity based on your reasons? Great reasons alone do not create obligation. Do you believe morality entails obligation?

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