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July 30, 2013

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Harris redefines “good” (in the context of human beings) as whatever supports or encourages the well-being of conscious creatures; if an action increases human well-being (human “flourishing”) it is “good”, if it decreases well-being, it is “bad”.

It's supposed to be so much better (somehow) to redefine “good” in terms of the Christian god.

How do you apply such a definition to a moral dilemma?

Chess? Sigh.

This game is much easier than chess.

Here’s how you play:

Rule #1: Define “flourishing” to encompass any objective moral truth (this is half the battle).

Rule #2: If someone presents a moral problem with some particular action that also leads to “flourishing” but it feels icky, just say that “everyone couldn’t get away with it”. If they ask what you mean, provide an example. Say it’s like rubber-necking; if one person does it, no problem. Everyone does it - you’re stuck in traffic for 2 hours.

Rule #3: If someone asks why they should care about “flourishing” or care about anyone else “flourishing” for that matter, just say, “Because it’s in your nature. You do care don’t you?” Who could argue with that?

Rule #4: If someone points to the fact that, it’s true, some people really don’t care about “flourishing” just say, “Well those people will die off, so ultimately, we’re back to “flourishing”.

Rule #5 If pressed, or painted into a corner and you’re unsure what to do, make sure you say this is descriptive not prescriptive (people love this rule, by the way).

The chess analogy is interesting but limited. In chess as in life, there's competition. A good move by you might be bad for me!

Unlike in chess, life is a team sport. A good move by you might be good for me too!

In life it's impossible to cheat. Every possible move is allowed, although many moves are bad. Arresting someone is a move you might try to make on the chessboard of life, if you can.

Chess has simple rules and clear conditions for winning, but life has no fixed rules and unclear winning conditions. Still, life does have pretty clear rules of thumb, and it's pretty clear when someone wins or loses. The analogy holds up here, I think.

There's a big difference between rules and strategy. Even in chess there is no rule saying you must always castle king-side in the first 12 moves. That's a handy rule of thumb, similar to life's rules, but not an absolute unbreakable law.

It's supposed to be so much better (somehow) to redefine “good” in terms of the Christian god.

How do you apply such a definition to a moral dilemma?

In the abstract sense, this is obvious. You examine the situation, examine the moral principles given by God (explicitly and narratively), and attempt to apply them to the situation. The application part is much the same as driving a car - you take the general principles and skills of car driving that you have learned, and apply them to the situation at hand. This doesn't mean that unanticipated or challenging situations won't arise, but you are at least working from a philosophically coherent base.

Athiestic philosophy cannot provide such a base. Any external moral base would necessarily pre-exist humans themselves, nor would it particularly refer to humanity. This is obviously an inane position if we deny a "creator", and thus morality becomes merely a shared social philosophy, subject to the same changes as any other social idea. "Right" and "Wrong" are simply claims that "I/we don't like it", and have only as much weight as the power you can use to enforce your view. It's nothing more than "Might makes right".

Andrew,

How does "might makes right" not describe reality?

Also, I don't think you addressed moral dilemmas.
Using your car analogy, I think the question
might be: with my driving skills, how do I be in two places at once?

Jre,

I’ll obviously let Andrew answer, as this was addressed to him, but I’d like to respond to this:

How does "might makes right" not describe reality?

It doesn’t describe reality in a myriad of ways. Human beings, typically, don’t believe that just because one has power, they are necessarily right as it relates to moral issues.

Take, for example, a bully taking a bike or popsicle from a powerless kid. It doesn’t follow that it’s right because the bully is powerful. This goes without saying. When asked if something is moral or right, we don’t ask, “Well, who’s asking?”

So, no, it doesn’t describe reality in that power doesn’t affect moral truths at all.

It does, however, shed some light on how we view some immoral behavior. Many people get caught up with what power means. They get caught up in what it represents. For some immoral actors it’s free license to do as one chooses – moral or not. There are countless ways this describes perception and various moral shortcomings, but not reality.

A lot of talk about 'moral truths' but no evidence or argument given for their existence.

Philosophically speaking, I can not prove that other minds exist or true knowledge exists. So it concerns me very little whether someone can prove "true" morality, or whether there is some sort of "base" for morality. Human suffering exists and is the thing needed to make an "ought" that "this needs to end". Everything else is just window-dressing with words.

A lot of talk about 'moral truths' but no evidence or argument given for their existence.
That's the point, Ron.

Christian thought grounds morality in the revelation of God. I'm not claiming that there is explicit Law for every situation (though some Laws explicitly apply in every situation!), but rather that we have authoritative teaching on Good and Evil that we can use to ground our moral reasoning. Naturalism can only ground moral reasoning in the transient.

This is not to deny "moral intuition". We all display some form of moral intuition, albeit fallible. To the Christian, this is a mercy from God, a created bias towards morality (or at least paying attention to it), even if corrupted by sin. To the naturalist, it is a biological accident that may or may not have survival value, and certainly no reasonable basis for moral truth-claims. You're not discovering shared truth, just stating your opinion (perhaps coercively).

Where "jre" gets it right is that "might makes right" does describe reality. The question is, do you want that might to be wielded by a creator God with absolute might, or petty tyrants who wish to contest your own petty tyranny? Any reference to "my truth" or "your truth" or even "unalienable truth" without reference an external source of truth is philosophically dishonest - it's turning "what I think" into an absolute, and thus claiming absolute moral authority for the speaker while pretending that they are not.

Conclusion: if there is no absolute source of morality, then there is no moral truth. If there is a creator God who speaks and will judge, then there very much is. (Whether the latter exists is vitally important, but beyond the scope of this discussion)

(PS: jre - totally don't understand the "be in two places at once" reference, nor how it might be relevant. In a moral dilemma, you have to choose to do something. When driving, you also have to choose to do something. In neither situation can you turn both left and right (or panic and fail to turn at all) at the same time. Sure, you might decide that if it comes up again you will choose differently, or you might choose differently to your stated intent, but for any given person it's still a single contiguous sequence of events and decisions.)

Andrew,

Where "jre" gets it right is that "might makes right" does describe reality.

My earlier post was obviously directed at earthly power. Your petty tyrants, if you will. I understand what you’re getting at, but disagree with your semantics. If you frame this in terms of God, as you have, you could just as easily say “right makes might”. Total Perfection = Total Power, etc. In sum, I’d say in describing God’s Nature, attributes don’t “make” other attributes. It’s a package deal.

This line of posting reminds me of Herodotus' story of King Croesus. I have in mind the episode where the king is visited by a Grecian seer(sorry, his name escapes me) noted for his wisdom. The king asks the seer: Who is the most fortunate person? After being told about the lives of two impoverished gents who had died "happy," Croesus asks why he would not have been considered such as fortunate. The seer replied that Croesus life still was ongoing. Rich now doesn't mean rich always.

Enter Cyrus the Geat and the Persian absorption of Croesus' Lydian Empire.

The whole concept of "florishing" is a vapid one. It's good to florish. It's better to sustain oneself in times of misery. If your ethic can manage that, then voila! you have something that trumps what Harris is hawking.

How do you apply such a definition to a moral dilemma?

In the abstract sense, this is obvious. You examine the situation, examine the moral principles given by God (explicitly and narratively), and attempt to apply them to the situation. The application part is much the same as driving a car - you take the general principles and skills of car driving that you have learned, and apply them to the situation at hand. This doesn't mean that unanticipated or challenging situations won't arise, but you are at least working from a philosophically coherent base.

But how in either case does that generate an objectively right or wrong answer? What is your aim in driving? Is it to get there safely? To get there faster? To get there economically? Any of these aims could constitute "good driving" If you follow your own analogy, then you need some external basis to justify which of them you are using as your criterion of "good".

And where did God get his moral principals from? Did he just make them up? Well, then they're just arbitrary. Did he get them by using some standard? Then the standard exists independent of God and he is not necessary as a basis for objective morality. (Yes, we are talking Euthyphro).

Ah, the principals come from God's loving nature, youre going to say. Where did God get his nature from? If he had a hating nature, would that have made hatred and misanthropy good?

Hi KVM and Andrew,

Thanks for the responses.
I should have been clearer. I meant "might" as Andrew had defined it above - "shared social philosophy". I think that moral codes which are agreed upon by society as a whole, reflect reality. I didn't mean the whims of individual actors or small groups (petty dictators).
If you don't think that the "might" of society can determine "right", how do you explain differences in moral codes between societies,or changes to moral codes over time within societies?
For the car analogy/moral dilemma, I see a dilemma as a situation with no right answer, where equally valid morals are at odds with each other, thus a quandary.

Andrew,

More talk about 'moral truths' - or in this case, 'moral truth' - and still no evidence for it/them.

Enter stage right, the unsupported claim

if there is no absolute source of morality, then there is no moral truth
Maybe there is moral truth. And maybe it is without source. I don't see any evidence of 'moral truth', much less a reason to assume it has a source.

Some things seem to exist on there own - even if you believe in a creator - because they are not the kind of thing that can be created. (If you think that's wrong, consider the power to create.) Tell me why 'moral truth', assuming it exists, cannot be one of those things.

RonH

Jre,

I think that moral codes which are agreed upon by society as a whole, reflect reality.

This is true as far as it goes. I mean, these codes do reflect reality in that they are most likely agreed upon by certain groups or communities and enforced by them. In other words, these codes aren’t imagined. However, they do not reflect reality in the larger sense. That is, agreed upon codes do not equal just codes.

If you don't think that the "might" of society can determine "right", how do you explain differences in moral codes between societies,or changes to moral codes over time within societies?

Societies can only determine right as it relates to how they define right. Again, take female circumcision for example. It’s practiced in almost 30 countries. This is part of the law/moral code that is enforced in those countries.

Now, the question becomes, “Is this law moral?” The deliberation process on this question sheds light on how we’re supposed to talk about these things.

"That is, agreed upon codes do not equal just codes."

I argue that they do. I'm not conflating a moral code with a legal system, btw. Those two things can be very different.

"Societies can only determine right as it relates to how they define right"

Yes, agreed. That's the whole point. How can you go beyond that? How can a society define "right" independent of itself?

Oh man, I can't believe people are still dishing out Euthyphro objections. Do I hear an echo in here?

You say: Enter stage right, the unsupported claim "if there is no absolute source of morality, then there is no moral truth"

And yet in my mind, this seems almost true by definition.

Jre,

I argue that they do. I'm not conflating a moral code with a legal system, btw. Those two things can be very different.

If you’re not conflating the two, please distinguish how you’re defining them. Also, how the moral code affects the legal system.

I truly appreciate this insight from Andrew:

Any reference to "my truth" or "your truth" or even "unalienable truth" without reference an external source of truth is philosophically dishonest...

The core point of contention between atheists like Harris and theists like J. Warner Wallace has to do with what it takes to have an effective, sustainable "external source of truth."

For atheists (actually, for secular ethicists generally), it takes observable evidence, carefully gathered with the discipline of empirical objectivity, rigorously assessed through open and critical review, and crucially tempered by humane compassion and empathy. The criteria are all clearly defined in secular terms, without any need to appeal to revelations of divine authority, and are therefore equally accessible to everyone in a religiously pluralistic society.

For theists, it takes an admission and acceptance of the assertion that some people have written down, in holy scripture, the revelation of all that God intends for us to know about His moral law. We have to deal with the fact that these people were quite varied, wrote over an extended period of time, under varying social, political and cultural conditions, in languages that have long since become extinct, preserved only in the fragmented and error-prone copies of copies of copies that have come to us, variably translated at different times into different varieties of so many of the thousands of languages in active use today.

In both cases, the "external source" is actually deficient and imperfect.

On the secular side, we always need more evidence, always need more accurate and reliable methods of observation, always need greater care and diligence in checking our work and our conclusions. We have to acknowledge that we must often decide and act on the basis of incomplete knowledge.

On the theistic side, a bare assertion that scripture is "inerrant in authorship" is both unsupported and insufficient; the canon as a closed set is made impervious to any improvement (except among those sects who have dared to introduce "novel revelations", or who contest various exclusions or inclusions of manuscripts), and the only recourse for adapting to new conditions is to reinterpret what was written. Once we were ready to acknowledge that slavery should be abolished, the parts in scripture that instruct us on how to conduct slavery needed to be handled differently; the same applies once we're ready to acknowledge that being a homosexual is not like being a murderer or a thief.

I have no argument with Christians who claim divine provenance for the codes of behavior they want to enforce by means of public law - so long as they can provide observable, real-world evidence, open to critical assessment, to confirm their claims that these codes are in fact good.

Here's an interesting example to consider: Is it okay to impose the death penalty for some crimes? What does the bible say? What does the evidence say? What does our intuitive sense of compassion say? It's a matter on which sincere and intelligent people may differ, regardless of where they sit on the theism/secularism axis.

There is of course the clear logical distinction that killing the criminal makes it impossible to consider a wide range of other alternatives, some of which could have actually led to outcomes that, on the whole, might have been more desirable for all concerned. This imbalance between the death penalty and other alternatives should be equally obvious to theists and secularists alike, but the question remains: what is the relative cost/benefit, or danger/opportunity? On committing to one choice or the other, how well can we sustain that choice, and thereby sustain ourselves as a society?

Can we really make our commitment stand absolutely? How bad (or good) would it be to allow that we might change our minds over time, or under different circumstances?

A small but significant addendum to what I said above about the "deficient and imperfect" nature of the secularists "external source of truth":

... We have to acknowledge that we must often decide and act on the basis of incomplete knowledge. And we must be willing and able to acknowledge and redress the mistakes we inevitably make.

Oh man, I can't believe people are still dishing out Euthyphro objections. Do I hear an echo in here?

Andrew, thank goodness that these days we have you to put such intellectual pygmies as Plato in their place with your closely reasoned argument in refutation.

Oh, uh, where was the closely reasoned argument, btw? I must have missed it.

Otto,

On the secular side, we always need more evidence, always need more accurate and reliable methods of observation, always need greater care and diligence in checking our work and our conclusions. We have to acknowledge that we must often decide and act on the basis of incomplete knowledge.

This is just a big pat on the atheist’s back, really. There are much deeper problems. Namely, that you have never and will never gather evidence on the matter as it relates to objective moral truths in the manner that you think you do. Don’t hold your breath because the type of evidence you’re looking for won’t come.

You can observe all day long in an effort to decide what works in society for you. You can even observe what works best for others - in your opinion. You can observe that spousal abuse, robbing banks, and littering all have negative effects, but you can never observe any piece of evidence that tells you why we have moral truths and from where do they come without acknowledging a transcendent source of that truth.

All you’ll ever get is what you articulated perfectly with this:

What does our intuitive sense of compassion say?

Which, ultimately is gibberish, because it depends on who is asking?

Besides what, and alongside what KWM notes, Otto's scheme cant define good to regulate the "intuitive sense of compassion". The eugenics movement was born out of someones sense of compassion which naturally led to racial inequality and oppression because of the worldview behind it.

In Otto's scheme, how would one know if eugenics was really on the cusp of reforming "good", or a devolving toward "evil"? This same scene repeats itself over and over again with each different clash between competing intuitions regarding what is good or evil behavior.

The materialist following Otto's scheme would never know is he's dealing with a reformer for good, because he's waiting for evidence of good after the fact, and even then there is that problem of what is good[?]. What if he goes of half cocked and discourages a true reformer for good? How can he know? Conversely, what if he encourages something that 30 years later is deemed evil...btw what is evil?

You can observe all day long in an effort to decide what works in society for you. You can even observe what works best for others - in your opinion. You can observe that spousal abuse, robbing banks, and littering all have negative effects, but you can never observe any piece of evidence that tells you why we have moral truths and from where do they come without acknowledging a transcendent source of that truth.

KWM,
"Good"and "bad" are part of human language. The way we use those words depends on our having shared criteria for their use, just as we have shared criteria for other value-judgement terms such as expensive/cheap or short/tall. The fact that we might not be able to agree over whether someone at 5' 11" is short or tall doesn't alter the fact that a person who measures 7' is tall and anyone who thinks otherwise is just an idiot who can't use language properly. This doesn't require some kind of transcendent god of height to base our judgements on.

The same goes for morality. Anyone who says that killing babies for fun is morally good is just an idiot who is using language incorrectly. The fact that there can be undecided areas, such as the death penalty and abortion, doesn't alter that.

Frances Janusz,

Anyone who says that killing babies for fun is morally good is just an idiot who is using language incorrectly.

Ah, yes. Once this minor language mistake is corrected everything should be good to go. Perhaps a remedial course is offered. If this person is just an “idiot” – we can fix that. It's not immoral to be an idiot after all.

""Good"and "bad" are part of human language. The way we use those words depends on our having shared criteria for their use, just as we have shared criteria for other value-judgement terms such as expensive/cheap or short/tall."

Not quite so tidy Frances. Altough the terms expensive and cheap are a little more nebulous, these are defined based on taking a mean average of observed samples...just like short and tall, consult the mean average. You actually do have an objective standard provided and if people argue about it, they dont have the observed standard guiding them.

You dont have any such thing with terms like good and bad/evil, these terms are meaningless without an absolute standard that is authoritative and binding on everyone at all times.

You say that you have an absolute and unchangeable standard about "killing babies for fun", what standard have you consulted for this observation? Could be, that this has been provided for you when God created man in His image and you know this moral truth so intuitively and with enough certainty as to not even question its veracity. If you have some other source that proves this truth authoritatively, please do share.

Correction: The first sentence of the last paragraph should have begun with:You imply that you have...

Psychopath is a meaningless word if no god.

That's pretty easy to establish.


Frances is at least aware that Child Sacrifice is wrong in all possible worlds, as is Sam Harris. Objective moral laws which transcend neuronal pathways within the human skull.


Flourish equals Good? This is an idenity claim of A = B.


It's pretty easy to show this is false, just as it is pretty easy to show that "psychopath" has no immutable, everlasting, binding meaning in the world wherein the atheist must point to insects which make sex-slaves of entire groups within their colonies and declare this as love's mechanism.


The Atheist points at insects which make sex-slaves of entire groups within their respective colonies and tells women: “This is the mechanism whereby we men have come to have this delusion programmed into us that you women are actually valuable even if everyone, all of every society, tells you that you are not valuable.”

The wife of the man who appeals to insect sex-slavery as the mechanism whereby he is suffering from this delusion that she is valuable even if he himself and everyone else on earth should think her un-valuable, will, of course, perceive the false-hood of his logic.


Women get it. Women are far too clever for some sort of "Mind is but a Con" game of words when it comes to whether or not they are actually valuable even if everyone on earth, including their husband, and society, should shout, "No way!"


That sort of absolute, everlasting worth cannot be offered by atheism's insects and everlasting bedrock of indifference. Thus atheism just rings false. And women trust their minds here; that is, they get that their Mind is not just some Con being played by indifference.


The logician who appeals to atheism’s ontology of everlasting, immutable indifference in his effort to establish an immutable, everlastingly binding epistemology housing something which is forever differentiated from the hard fist of indifference is destined to suddenly recant, fudge, skirt, dismiss, self-contradict, double-talk, and do all sorts of auto-hypnotic self-negating dances as he changes his descriptive language on its head in a hopeless attempt to stand his prescriptive language atop immutable indifference. There is no little green man who can, with his magic spell, separate epistemology from ontology and miraculously maintain coherence. Well, such magicians do exist; but only in our delusions and fantasies.

Brad,

Thank you for your response. I agree that the cheap/expensive example is simpler than the good/evil issue. But that doesn't affect my point, which is that our ability to say things which are true and to recognise what is said as being true springs from that most distinctively human of activities: a shared language.

Let's take a more complex case: babyhood. A newborn is a baby. Are we all agreed? And a three month old and a six month old, yes? A ten year old, no way. But a three year old, mmmm, well, maybe. Is this certainty that the issue is resolved in some cases, but open to doubt in others best explained by there being a transcendent authoratative god of babyhood who has created us all hard-wired with the concept or is it better explained by the fact that humans use language and categorise things according to shared criteria?


Frances,

We agree that women as a category are not valuable. Your category definition ends there.

Insects & sex slaves inside of "mechanism".

God, immutable love, defines women, men, Mankind..... differently.

Women:


That you are valuable regardless of how society "defines" your value is but a delusion implanted in your mind, for your mind is but a Con being played upon you by Indifference.


The mechanism for this delusion's implantation into your genome is found unearthed in various insect colonies.

Women,


Atheism is, of course, not the truth of the matter.

God, that is to say, Immutable Love Himself, of course, values you everlastingly, and thus, regardless of how your husband, your church, your society, or your culture "defines" your "worth", you just are valuable.

How valuable?


Love Himself, the God Who just is Immutable Love, spreads His arms wide, and He pours Himself out, high atop that Hill.


That just is what Love does for the beloved.

Note: Andrew of post Aug 1 05:53 (Euthyphro) is not the same Andrew (ie me) as of the other posts. Updated my tag to be clearer.

I meant "might" as Andrew had defined it above - "shared social philosophy"No, I mean "might" as "apply coercive power to make others conform to your will".

My point is that "shared social philosophy" is a mechanism for discerning consensus, not truth. Asserting "if a belief is popular it is more likely to be true" has some traction, but you'll find proving it in the general case to be a very rough road littered with counter-examples.

If you can find it, scbrownlhrm makes an excellent point: if we're voting on moral, do the insects get to vote?


Otto, something to note: Christians agree that there are many cases where discerning morality is hard. However, we see this as clear evidence that we (ie humans) are morally flawed and corrupt, not that morality is unknowable. However, we are in a fundamentally different realm of argument to the naturalist: the Christian's problem is to understand (and submit to) moral truth; the naturalist's problem is to explain how moral truth can even exist in a purposeless system.

Yes, we can redefine "good" and "evil" to mean "accepted" and "unaccepted". But this is fundamentally dishonest, as it is a clear attempt to "power up" the claims by using words that have historically had absolute weight and using them to represent mere preference.

It's a bit like using the word "many" to mean "one or two" in order to add weight to an argument.

The key point here is the idenity claim:

A = B

Where A = Flourishing

Where B = Moral Landscape / "Good" (via Sam Harris, etc).

It's a false idenity claim because it is not even, say, half-necessary, that the two be idenitical, or even are.

Andrew W,

I'm not sure if any part of your last post was in response to mine or not. If it was, then for the record, I do not believe that what is right can be decided by a vote. What "right" means is "decided" (informally) by the way the word is used. Specific instances of using the word will only be capable of being true if they reflect the criteria which underpin its usage. Insects have no bearing on the question at all (unless you know of an insect species which uses complex language, including abstract nouns).

I do not define good and evil to mean "accepted" and "unaccepted" respectively. They are hard to define as are most abstract concepts, but if I was trying to define them, those terms are obviously inadequate.

But may I ask you (& all Christians who believe that God is necessary to the existence of objective morality) a question? If we look at one of the questions where there is dispute amongst even Christians as to what is right - let's say abortion - suppose you get to Heaven and God says to you "But there's nothing wrong with abortion! I'm totally cool with a woman's right to chose!" How would you respond? Would you respond at all or just accept that you'd made a mistake all along? Or would you have any questions? I've assumed that Christians on this site will be opposed to abortion, but if any of you aren't opposed to it, it's just an example. The death penalty, for or against, would work just as well. Any controversial moral issue where you take a stand one way or the other. Suppose it turns out you got it "wrong" - how would you respond?

Frances,

Any controversial moral issue where you take a stand one way or the other. Suppose it turns out you got it "wrong" - how would you respond [to God]?

Why does it have to be controversial? If you get it wrong, then you get it wrong I suppose. What else is there to say? That we’d try to argue with God? The framing of your question is almost incoherent to the Christian, however.

Let’s take human rights, for example. Rosa Parks works. What she did was very controversial at the time. I wonder what Rosa Parks would say to God if he said to her, "But there's nothing wrong with segregation. I'm totally cool with it. The back of the bus isn’t that bad!”

What sort of thing are you looking for asking this type of question?

I agreed with Brad. Frances J. seemed to "imply" he had an immutable standard which trumps the human brain stem.

I think now he does not and we are back to fancy ways of defining relativism.

Or maybe we are back to the obviously false identity claim that flourish = moral.


But immutable ........nope.

“Insects have no bearing on the question at all (unless you know of an insect species which uses complex language, including abstract nouns)”

Actually, the evolutionary mechanisms nurturing along any tendencies of altruism have everything to do with this conversation.

The sacrifice of any member of a colony, village, or species which furthers along such tendencies, it is said, is the mechanistic bedrocks of love and altruism. Now, this manifests, over time, into the delusion programmed into the group member that the motion to thus do so “feels right” and, of course, that such altruistic motions may lead to the extinction of such members is explained by (quite vigorously by atheists appealing to Darwin’s dilemma here) the fact that such non-reproducing sex-slaves are quite capable of being genomically perpetuated by other members who do reproduce because those slaves benefit the welfare of the whole colony, thus, should they be selected out of existence then the benefit of their slave-labor to the overall well-being of the village will be lost, and thus there is, quite nicely, all sorts of selective pressures to keep such casts in play. This is why slavery is quite helpful to flourishing for such non-reproducing automatons benefit the village in other ways, and this is also why in particular various modes of sex-slavery in various colonies will be even more of an impetus to flourishing. This is why both insects and homosapien have had, have, and will have sex-slaves, and slaves of other sorts as such tendencies just to augment flourishing quite beautifully.

In other words, one’s ontology has exactly everything to do with the intellectual validity of one’s epistemology.

If Mind is but a Con being played by Indifference, well then, everything is up for grabs for we have our Pan-World Pan-Diagnosis atop our desks: Pan-Psychosis.


Why does it have to be controversial? If you get it wrong, then you get it wrong I suppose. What else is there to say? That we’d try to argue with God? The framing of your question is almost incoherent to the Christian, however.

Let’s take human rights, for example. Rosa Parks works. What she did was very controversial at the time. I wonder what Rosa Parks would say to God if he said to her, "But there's nothing wrong with segregation. I'm totally cool with it. The back of the bus isn’t that bad!”

What sort of thing are you looking for asking this type of question?

KWM,

I'm not looking for anything apart from an honest answer. It's not a trick question! The reason I'm asking is to try and find out which horn of the Euthyphro dilemma you are opting for. You're right, it doesn't have to be controversial question. The reason I asked about controversial questions was to get Christians on the site to focus on a question which they might have specifically applied their minds to with regard to justifying or opposing some stance.

If you would just accept whatever God told you without question ("OK, turns out abortion's fine. Who knew? I feel so silly having spent all that time opposing it...") then you are accepting that good and bad are simply the result of God's fiat, and with nothing intrinsically characteristic of good or bad acts which makes them so. If on the other hand you might ask God to explain where your reasoning went wrong and why your arguments against abortion were flawed, then you would be opting for the other horn, because you would expect God to have reasons for categorising actions as good or bad. In that case, it's the reasons which make it right or wrong and not God. All God would have done would have been to recognise the reasons and convey them.

I'm not sure what you're getting at with the Rosa Parkes example. If God said that to Rosa Parkes, do you agree that that would be the end of the matter? Or might that view (whoever it comes from) require further justification?

The Euthyphro's Dilemma….. sigh……


The “Evil God” thing comes in, of course, and to introduce that we have the “Euthyphro” thing to set the stage for the “Evil God” thing:

“Your points are relevant to those who misguidedly try to rescue the false dilemma posed in the Euthyphro argument: either something is good because God wills it or God wills something because it is good. Because these alternatives are not contradictories it is open to the theist to propose a third alternative, viz., God wills something because He is good. Unhappy with this defeat of their dilemma, some have demanded: is something good because of the way God is or is God that way because something is good? The critic isn't listening. We've already said that something is good because of the way God is. "But why is God good?" the critic persists. It's hard to make sense of this question. The moral theory just is that God is the paradigm of goodness, and it makes no sense to ask why the paradigm of goodness is good. The critic must be asking, "Why believe your theory?" The answer is, "because it makes the best sense of objective moral values and duties." It is the most plausible ethical theory out there.” (WLC)

Presuppositions, anyone? Ontology and Epistemology, anyone?

As we merge into the “Evil God” thing, we have these brief looks at the “Euthyphro” thing with this link here and this link here and finally this link here.


Then:


“Suppose someone hypothetically argued for an Evil God that exists”

Well, if we must, we can look at this link here.

It ends with this: “One final note: I talked earlier about reasons to think that the Creator/Designer of the universe is good. Suppose we concede for the sake of argument that an evil Creator/Designer exists. Since this being is evil, that implies that he fails to discharge his moral obligations. But where do those come from? How can this evil god have duties to perform which he is violating? Who forbids him to do the wrong things that he does? Immediately, we see that such an evil being cannot be supreme: there must be a being who is even higher than this evil god and is the source of the moral obligations which he chooses to flout, a being which is absolute goodness Himself. In other words, if Law’s evil god exists, then God exists.” (WLC)

Of course, the false identity claim of [Flourish = Moral] has yet to be addressed within the confines of atheistic presuppositions, epistemology, and, lest we forget, ontology.


It's an obviously false identity claim.

Frances,

The reason I'm asking is to try and find out which horn of the Euthyphro dilemma you are opting for?

As it relates to Euthyphro, there is nothing as it relates to His moral character that is independent of God. It’s not a contingent thing. Put another way, His Nature and Morality are not separate things. There is no concept of good outside of God. That’s the reason I said the question is almost incoherent to the Christian.

“What would you do if God told you murdering for fun was a-okay?”

You could just as easily ask, “What would you do if you were totally wrong about God’s Nature and He wasn’t All Loving, All Perfect, etc.?” Christians believe God is the greatest conceivable being and anything that contradicts that means He’s not God.

If on the other hand you might ask God to explain where your reasoning went wrong and why your arguments against abortion were flawed, then you would be opting for the other horn, because you would expect God to have reasons for categorising actions as good or bad.

When I’m standing before God, He will not have the burden of proof.

The fundamental essence of sin is thinking that we know better than God. There's a reason that the beginning of sin is explained as mankind choosing to know good and evil. The emphasis is not merely being aware that good and evil exist (although they get more of that than they bargained for), but that they can stand above good and evil as God does.

We are not authoritative moral agents, and all the suffering in the world can ultimately be traced back to our desire to be such.

But returning to critiquing naturalistic morality. If you believe that morality is discovered by consensus, then it seems to me that you are left with three self-contradictory choices.

Assertion: societies across the ages have believed that different and mutually contradictory things are moral.

- if moral principles are not constant, then what is immoral yesterday might be moral today and could become immoral again tomorrow if I can convince enough people. "Morality" becomes a pretty word for tyranny: "We think ..., agree or else".

- if moral principles are constant, then to claim that the moral principles "discovered" by our society are the true ones is a very arrogant claim, since it's basically saying that everyone else before or since is wrong, even though we have no scientific or historical test or external referent to vet our claims.

- if moral principles are constant, but we can't know them with confidence, then they might as well not exist. You're basically back to a version of tyranny plus self-confessed ignorance of what you're enforcing.

Note that the Christian position differs from all of the above.
- There is an external referent, which is knowable (God's moral revelation)
- But people (including Christians) misunderstand, mis-apply or just deny this
- because we are inherently morally corrupt

Note that this view does not deny moral truth (it exists), nor does it under-cut it (it exists and is knowable), but it is also not arrogant (we don't know moral truth because we a superior moral thinkers; in fact, we often get it wrong). It also allows for debate (since we are all flawed thinkers, it is important to question and learn) without suggesting that debate is pointless (moral truth exists) or that we stand above truth.

scbrown,
The Euthyphro dilemma and Stephen Law's evil God argument are two different things and I am not going to complicate matters by dealing with an argument which I haven't actually raised.
I don't think much of WLC as a philosopher and I am not going to debate him as filtered through you. If you have some coherent and relevant point of your own which you wish to make, then I will respond. Otherwise you might be better off watching from the sidelines.

KWM,
You misunderstand. I am not suggesting that God bears any burden of proof. I am just suggesting that God might be asked for guidance as to where you'd gone wrong. If a pupil has got something wrong at school, she might ask the teacher to help her by pointing out how she'd gone wrong. This wouldn't be to argue with the teacher or put any burden of proof on them. Just for the teacher in their wisdom to help. Would it be possible, in theory at least, for you to ask God to assist you by pointing out where you'd gone wrong in concluding that abortion (or whatever) was wrong?

When you say that there is no concept of goodness outside God, this makes the statement "God is good" circular. True (if he existed) but uninteresting. God is what he is. So? Tells us nothing about God.
You can only recognise any entity as God if that entity meets some criterion of goodness of which you have a preconceived notion.

Frances,

Would it be possible, in theory at least, for you to ask God to assist you by pointing out where you'd gone wrong in concluding that abortion (or whatever) was wrong?

I think, you think, you’re being clever. You’re trying to get me to say that God needs to offer up some sort of rationalization for His laws, ergo this rationalization is outside of God. As if God would say that he read about moral values in a book one time, and He just picked the ones that looked legit.

As I’ve said, if I’m wrong about a particular moral action, then I’m wrong. This isn’t a problem for God. It's a problem for me.

When you say that there is no concept of goodness outside God, this makes the statement "God is good" circular.

You misunderstand circularity and you misunderstand my response to Euthyprho. I’m simply describing God. Again, God defined as the greatest conceivable being. God’s own Nature is the standard of goodness. Our moral duties are a byproduct of God’s character. God wills something because He is Good. Haecceity. Your assertion of circularity would be akin to saying 2 and the concept of 1+1 is circular or four-sided object and square is circular.

You can only recognise any entity as God if that entity meets some criterion of goodness of which you have a preconceived notion.

I want to see you try to prove that my or any notion of goodness (or moral intuition) supersedes or predates God’s existence.

The form "circular reasoning" and the form "presuppositions" may be worth researching, Frances.

Just a suggestion.

It is interesting. Atheism cannot account for volitional reasoning geared toward truth and instead advances observational reality geared toward survival, truth being relative, and, morality being mutable per our daily preferences. No where in there is Man the humble servant of transcendent truth, "guilty" if misapplying it and miserable if missing the mark. Whereas the Christian cries for help daily, conceding truth as his better, confessing guilt his daily companion, and fearing the misery of some lesser "preference" based "truth".

Yet the atheist jests at lectures in humility, jests at an awareness of the need for perpetual corrections.

Its a bit odd. But, when truth is whatever "works" for me.....well who, then, needs humility.......

Frances,


It seems that what you are doing is blurring the distinction between circular reasoning and an identity claim.


This OP is about an “A = B” claim, or identity claim of “Flourishing” equals “Moral Good”.


This in and of itself is not circular. It is the same as “God Who is Love” equals “The Good”.
This too is not circular reasoning.


These are “identity claims”.


“Good” equals “Preference” is also an identity claim (not circular reasoning).


And so on.


Where circular reasoning comes into the picture is via/by those moves we begin to make when these identity claims are laid atop, or beneath, or various ontological presuppositions.


Another place where circular reasoning comes into the picture is via/by those moves we begin to make when our ontological presuppositions are laid atop, or beneath, our epistemology.


It seems you are confusing these various “components” to some degree, as I myself often do. Fortunately various Non-Theist commentators here such as RonH and others are kind enough not to hammer me on it “too” hard, as I’m sure they’d like to!


It is interesting that you raise the issue of the need to approach moral truth with humility, that our moral intuitions are, though present, also flawed. The Christian of course agrees necessarily for Love’s A to Z presented in scripture makes this very clear. However, flawed perceiving of moral truths in atheism’s ontological system is nonsense. Where humility comes in necessarily is when we are, necessarily, the slave of moral truths which transcend us rather than the inventor of simple fantasies which are nurtured out of our various moods and appetites. The latter just has no room for guilt nor for humility. That is to say, necessarily speaking, according to our presuppositions there within our ontology.



Sam Harris claims that [Flourish] = [Moral].


The Christian claims that [Immutable Love] = [Moral].

As we each apply our semantics within epistemology and bring our ontological presuppositions into our various identity claims we can begin to unveil the locations of necessary humility as well as the locations of non-circular reasoning.


This OP is about the identity claim of Sam Harris, which is quite popular among atheists. It is of course false, but, nonetheless, it does give us at least the illusion of a pen with which to write our elusive prescriptions atop our descriptive terms.

For scbrownlhrm:

"Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gal 5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law."

re:

"The Christian claims that [Immutable Love] = [Moral]."

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