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January 27, 2016

Comments

Mike,

You say and ask, "If objective morals exist, then you should be able to list them. What are they?"
I provided epistemological examples pointing to the existence of objective moral values and duties. Why should I have to "list" them to show that they exist?
I have a question for you: Is there ever anything morally wrong about the behavior of a sadist who takes pleasure in causing others pain?

ACtually Daniel what you said is this:

"our reactions/responses to so many events (e.g, terrorist attacks, child abuse, acts of generosity...) point to the existence of objective moral values and duties"

Which is actually saying that we each have personal opinions - "our reactions" - i.e. subjective - which you then use as evidence that objective morals exist.

SO forgive me for thinking that you didnt do a great job in your examples. If objective morals exist then why cant they be listed? Surely that would be the best evidence that they do exist?

I dont see what your rather disturbing question about sadists has to do with establishing whether there are such things as objective morals.

Mike,
I believe that lists/categories can certainly be discovered throughout peoples' experiences (and have been so throughout human history. One example may include Jesus' teachings, where he lays out universal standards such as loving one's neighbor as oneself. There's plenty of overlapping examples where it seems clear that general moral principles that can be discovered/known.

"I dont see what your rather disturbing question about sadists has to do with establishing whether there are such things as objective morals."
---So...why aren't you answering the question? If you answer yes, then you are adhering to an objective standard of morality. However, that would be inconsistent with an atheistic worldview.

scbrownlhrm, rave on.

Daniel,

You said "On atheism, I have yet to hear a logical explanation for the grounds of objective morality on the atheistic worldview."

The best account of the source of morality which I have read is by Adam Smith. Before he wrote the economics classic "The Wealth of Nations" he wrote "The Theory of Moral Sentiments". Smith's account is quite complicated, but it begins with the human tendency to feel for and with others, which he calls 'sympathy'. Add to this our cognitive abilities to imaginatively put ourselves in another's place, and to see ourselves as others see us, and the fact that we are brought up in a society where people are continually making moral judgements of each other, and the fact that we wish to be well-regarded. With these and like materials Smith builds an account of how we come to have a conscience, which is a kind of imaginary impartial observer of our own and others' actions and moral qualities.

I've not read the whole book, but what I have read impressed me greatly. Adam Smith was a theist, and he believed the creator endowed us with these tendencies and capacities, which give rise to morality, for man's benefit, that he might thrive. It seems to me that an atheist can embrace the same system, only substituting that evolution has produced this combination of capacities in us as social animals which give rise to our ability and inclination to make moral judgements that we might thrive (so to speak). I say "so to speak" or "as it were" because evolution does not literally pursue goals. Rather, traits which give rise to patterns of behavior which promote survival are selected for. But the result is that, objectively, these capacities and inclinations allow human individuals and societies to thrive. Which is what Smith said God's goal was in endowing us with moral sentiments.

Taking a different tack: I like the analogy between language and morality. We are the only linguistic animals, just as we are the only moral animals. We are born with the natural inclination and capacity to learn language and to learn a moral system from those around us, but there are linguistic and moral universals -- generalizations which hold of all languages and all moral systems. The language that we learn allows us to speak meaningfully and to understand what others say. The morality we learn allows us to live meaningfully, and to perceive moral meaning in the lives around us. A language is an objective thing in that it is shared by a language community and allows them to communicate. But it was never laid down once and for all, and it changes over time. The same can be said of moral systems. They are objective in the sense that they are shared by a community, and they change over time in whole societies, and individuals’ moral judgements change too, as they learn from experience.

It bothers some of us to hear others speak ungrammatically. We may want to point to an authority like a grammar book or a dictionary to correct them, and this may work. It’s natural to think there is just one correct way to speak, and that is written down in a book in a set of rules. That can be an effective way to win an argument, if the disputants belong to the same language community, and the reference book enshrines that community’s dialect as standard. Of course, if someone comes from a distant land and speaks a foreign language, you wouldn’t correct them. You wouldn’t even understand them. But if they speak a different dialect of your language, they will disagree with you on linguistic judgements, and a reference book may not help. Both judgements are right within their own language communities.

It bothers us when others behave immorally. We may want to point to an authority like a Bible, and this may work. It’s natural to think there is just one correct way to behave, and that is written down in a book in a set of rules. That can be an effective way to win an argument, if the disputants belong to the same moral community, and the reference book enshrines that community’s morality as standard. If someone comes from a distant land with a different religion and a very different moral system, unlike in the linguistic example, we still want to correct them. Because, although we may not understand the system of institutions and moral judgements they are operating within, we still think we understand enough – human actions seem to have enough in common across cultures – for us to apply our own standards to foreigners. So it seems to us more like a difference with someone who is speaking our language but doing so badly. We are averse to accepting that seemingly contradictory moral judgements may both be right, each within its native context. We want to convert each other. Across such great divides, a reference book may not help. But then Christians are devoted to converting everybody to using their reference book.

It seems to me natural and right that we should each be devoted to our own moral view of the world. Each moral judgement is part of a system, a way of seeing and a way of feeling that goes a long way toward defining who we are. We see a truth – that something is good in a certain way or something is bad in a certain way – and we want others to see it as we do, so that they will behave well. Others may see it differently and want us to see it their way instead.

I think the proper way to go about trying to convince others to see things morally our way is to use reason and rhetoric and art to convey a way of seeing and feeling about a situation. And I think that calling on God and your interpretation of the Bible as ultimate authorities as a way to insist that your moral judgement is the correct one – I think that’s cheating, and I think it’s based on a fiction and a lie. Anyone who has ever said he is speaking for God is either delusional or a liar.


We've acquired 3 coherent data sets from our Non-Theist friends:

Set 1:

No metrics for inherent intention.
No metrics for inherent design.
No metrics for inherent ought-love.
No metrics for inherently intentional love.

Each coherently affirms the other.

Set 2:

Sound metrics for As-If intention.
Sound metrics for As-If design.
Sound metrics for As-If ought-love.
Sound metrics for As-If inherently intentional love.

Each coherently affirms the other.

Set 3:

Sets 1 & 2 fail reality-testing.


Gerald,
I'd have to take more time to respond to the problems with attempting to ground objective morality in evolution. It simply does not work. This article may be a helpful place to start:
http://www.str.org/articles/evolution-can-t-explain-morality#.Vrp9tFgrLIU

Any who, I remain confident and coherent with saying that, on the atheistic worldview, all that anything boils down to in the end is molecules in motion, and there is nothing objectively morally wrong or right about anything...bonds break and bonds form, species come and species go (including humans), and there is nothing objectively morally right/wrong; there is nothing objectively right about the behavior, choices, and motives of a Mother Theresa and nothing objectively wrong about the behavior and motives of a sadist (on the atheistic worldview taken to its rational conclusions).

scbrownlhrm,

Although you've mentioned it quite a few times, I've never known you to reality-test anything. Please demonstrate with an example. Using your favorite storybook as a stand-in for reality doesn't count. And keep the verbiage down to a minimum please. And is it too much to ask to eliminate the jargon and figurative language? Nobody understands them.

While you're at it, please give your "metric" for "inherent" anything.

Pure Physics.

No appeal to God, Gaps, or Heavy Meta need present itself.

Reality testing our premises against the anthology of science which sums to physics is enough.

That is why Christianity embraces Physics.

Because "it" coheres seamlessly with its truth predicates.

We simply allow physics to inform our definitions of "intentionality". In principle, in science, we have our array of carbon based networks inside our skulls (which is no less and no more than physics allows) perfectly replicated in our array of carbon based networks over in A.I. driving our cars and "designing" our houses, and so on in countless permutations and combinations.

Intentionality and aboutness and intentional love do not exist in such carbon based networks. Void of intentional love, void of love period, the moral paradigm of evolutionary morality, which BTW gets its specific "part" straining towards love's three unavoidable termini right/correct (as described earlier) still yet suffers the pains of that final reductio ad absurdum vis-à-vis the first person experience. So also do all coherent concepts of “design” and “designer” suffer said absurdities.

Simple.

Clean.

Physics.

Science.


“DNW” replies to a Non-Theist in a com-box at E. Feser's blog along lines that are perhaps relevant here:

Quote:

You stated this, “Isn't the problem of justification always going to be a shell game? You can always find where I'm dropping a premise, taking something for granted without arguing for it ..."

I'm not accusing you of "dropping a premise" or taking something for granted without arguing for it. I am accusing you of something worse: deliberate intellectual fraud.

I am accusing you of persistently deploying universal terms which have been rendered entirely problematical on your own account, as if they still meant what they once did in a moral universe populated by natural kinds and furnished with teleologically derived normative standards.

It's just all too precious.

Now, I understand, as the relative newcomers here might not always, that the nihilist dance routine, and the refrain that it is better to huckster the crowd than to pester about the ultimate, is in fact your operating premise. But, and it's a big ugly butt as they say, if you took your own claim of epistemic humility seriously, you would keep this truth about your method at the forefront, and refuse to engage in pseudo-arguments which are in principle incapable of any kind of resolution because of the built-in problems of equivocation; problems of which you are perfectly aware, and have in fact placed there.

Thus, when you launch off on these rhetorical diversions, one can only conclude that these speech acts of yours are base and cynical attempts to simply exhaust those who don't quite get the meta-narrative which lies behind and informs and shapes your surface efforts.

What you need to do, in order to be "truly authentic", is to admit to yourself and to everyone else, why that kind of consistent honesty is so dangerous to those taking your stance; and why, unless relentlessly pressed, you seek to avoid it.

By the way, and for what it is worth; I don't wish to leave the impression that I imagine there is some functional equivalence between the concept of a tautology and a spandrel. I was – probably obviously – implying the prosaic image of a cluster of tautological statements giving an appearance of a meaningful structure or system when stacked and leaned up against each other at various angles ... the resultant spaces providing the necessary illusion for pattern projecting subjects to go on to ... etc ...

You know, and in adverting to the paragraph two above, there is in fact, something profoundly "metaphysical" in that diversionary, dissembling tactic. Something, as you have I believe yourself admitted as anti-logocentric. Something which at the deepest and most profound level takes deceit, and manipulation, to be at the very heart of a "life strategy".

It almost reminds me of ... well ... the paradigm or myth escapes me at the moment. But I am sure it will come to me eventually…….

….. [ ] …….You replied, “This feels too all-or-nothing to me ..."

You will be glad to know that you need not feel that way, since that is not what I was suggesting.

I was stating outright that given your epistemological bracketing of and placing aside systems of truth in favor of a kind of "pragmatism", and given your adoption of a Rotarian program of arguing rhetorically, rather than logically and categorically, you should try admitting this upfront, rather than having it squeezed out of you.

It would be an interesting experiment to observe what would happen if you were to say to someone: "Now, what I am saying is not to be taken as universally true, or even true in your case, but I wish you to accede to my request because it makes me feel better and serves my interests even if it does not, yours."

It would be akin to the Churchlands whom I mentioned earlier, admitting upfront that they had no minds but that they nonetheless - wished insofar as there was a they, that could "wish" - had registered an impulse which caused them to try and modify your brain state and thus affect your behavior. Not that there was as they would be the first to stipulate, that there was any real "purpose" to it.

I am challenging you to give up using traditional moral language in a deceptive and purely rhetorical manner and to adopt a more transparent and less time-wasting mode of interfacing: or, to at least always admit upfront that what you are doing is wheedling, rather than arguing in any traditional sense. I'm challenging you to drop the camouflage as a matter of principle, and not wait for it to be forcibly stripped from you.

I'm challenging you to admit that your "arguments" are not arguments in any reals sense but attempts to produce emotional effects in others, and thereby modify their behaviors in a way which you find reinforcing.

How far do you think you might be able to get in this project in that open manner and without the camouflaging rags of a habit you have long thrown off?

And if you cannot get by in that manner, what does it say regarding your essential life project, and the role of deception in it?

You mention the post-moderns. Perhaps you would like to share some of the broader implications of an explicitly anti-logocentric anthropology.

End quote.

BTW,

"DNW" is one of several commentators among various blogs from whom I learn, grow, borrow, steal, quote, paraphrase, and so on, along with WL/WisdomLover, Brad B, DGF, Debilis, Dave, Scott, J. Pemberton, and others. Thus the "references" to them buried inside of said quotes, thefts, and paraphrases.

Reply to scbrownlhrm | February 10, 2016 at 02:30 AM:

Well, scbrownlhrm, you did keep the verbiage down - thanks. But I should have added (silly me) "Please speak in complete sentences!" Let me add one more request: "Please string the sentences together in way that makes a coherent description of one particular test of a particular proposition against reality."

Evidently your 2:30 AM response was supposed to be a reality test, but you didn't say what you were testing, and the word "Physics" doesn't a test make. Neither does a reference to "the anthology of science."

Here's a proposition of yours to test against reality:
"Intentionality and aboutness and intentional love do not exist in such carbon based networks." How do you know that's true? Have you tested that proposition against reality? Or have you simply consulted your metaphysical assumptions?

As far as I can tell, "Intentionality and aboutness and intentional love" exist in brains. Things we do to brains, like give them concussions, or alcohol, or ether, or deprive them of oxygen, affect the abilities of their owners to think and believe and love. That, I think, is a reality test which supports the idea that intentionality exists in brains. And brains are carbon based networks. (Unless you have a reality-tested reason to believe they are something more.) As far as anyone knows, brains do not violate any laws of physics, even when their owners are believing or loving, and you have made no argument (that I am aware of) that brains MUST violate the laws of physics in order to behave intentionally. So citing physics does not in itself "reality-test" the claim that intentionality exists in brains.

Life also exists in brains. Life isn't in physics books, but it doesn't violate the laws of physics. How do you know that intentionality isn't like life?

One more point. I have defended the idea that intentionality and even consciousness are not necessarily, as far as we know (or as far as I know), incompatible with physicalism. However, I am a realist about intentionality and consciousness. They are real, and I would not give them up to save physicalism. If it could be shown to my satisfaction that physicalism was incompatible with intentionality and/or consciousness, I would give up physicalism. I prefer it as a hypothesis because I prefer unity over division, but if physicalism isn't true, it isn't true. What giving up physicalism would not force me to do, in itself, is to abandon either naturalism or atheism. There could very well be natural laws relating physical structures to non-physical intentional conscious states. That would be perfectly agreeable to me, as long as I could understand what that meant. A great deal more would have to be shown to prove the existence not only of the non-physical but the supernatural. And a great deal more beyond that to prove a personal supernatural benevolent omnipotent creator god. And more again to identify it with Jesus. And frankly, even if I knew he existed, I wouldn't worship him. Because the problem of evil would still be on his plate. And there is no way in hell that I'll accept the Christian blame-the-victim solution to that.

Gerald,

How do I know physics affirms Christianity's claims?

I simply followed your attempt to make said carbon based networks succeed.

In short, any "claim" which the Non-Theist makes on any particular X being "not designed / is designed" is a claim which must contradict all which physics tells us of reality for physics takes inherent intentionality and painfully morphs it into the express array of As-If intentional networks laying there in our bed whispering sweet no-things in our ears.

In fact, right now, the sweet thing is parking my car.

"for physics takes inherent intentionality and painfully morphs it into the express array of As-If intentional networks laying there in our bed whispering sweet no-things in our ears"

Wooooah hold on. Call the Publishers. We need to re-write the physics books. Call the nobel committee as well because scbrownlhrm is really onto something here.

ACtually hang on. This is complete gobbledigook.

scbrownlhrm have you got a random word generator to make these things up? Or do you - even more scarily - actually think this is going to make sense to someone else?

Mike,

There's lots of well developed approaches to the epistemology comprising the philosophy of mind and of course ontologically its tied in to that on multiple fronts. It's not a new topic either, not for Naturalists nor for Theists. The questions behind intentionality seem beyond you, which is fine, but you may want to Google causation and mind and other such key words. Amazon is reliable too.

scbrown

I *love* the way you are trying to make this about my lack of understanding. How funny.

How about you do a better job of stringing words together into coherent sentences.

The other - independant- comments Ive read online posted to you provide evidence that you talk alot of jibberish.

So dont make this about me.

Mike,

Hold on, sweet thing is talking to me now.....something about how I want my dinner cooked.... will get back to you when I can.

I'm finally getting the hang of a scbrownlhrm-style argument. It goes:

1) claim: Whatever I believe
2) reality testing: "Physics."
3) conclusion: Whatever I believe.

For variation, it may go:
1) claim: Whatever I believe.
2) reality testing: "Philosophy of mind."
3) conclusion: Whatever I believe.

If queried, "Could you be a bit more specific than "Physics." or ""Philosophy of mind."? scbrownlhrm, unconcerned with the details -- like any actual facts or particular arguments -- blithely replies, "You may want to Google it. Amazon is reliable too."

Is Mike ignoring my question?

scbrownlhrm,

Would you say that, on a purely naturalistic worldview, personhood doesn't exist?

Gerald,

Since you've not shown us anything which can trump the long quote of E. Feser's "Philosophy of Mind", I see no reason to move beyond that. Please explain in detail where the quoted analysis failed. Also, you've not yet shown how you've managed to eliminate the Root that is physicality's intention-less causation as the final taskmaster of all causation in all of your carbon based networks.

Your failure to do either of those two isn't the Christian's problem.

It's yours.

BTW, Sweet-Thing did a great job designing my dinner party.

Daniel,

Does not exist...Agree.

On Naturalism, the entire collocation of information about reality which our entire first person experience ushers us into is an illusion. Personhood. Ought. Intention. Choice. Etc. "As-If" and "Inherent" are literally *WORLDS* apart.

scbrownlhrm, I haven't had a chance to read Feser, and I don't know when I will.

Daniel,

I read the Koukl article you gave a link for. I don't believe its criticisms tell against my version of what's going on.

Koukl makes a common error in interpreting the hypothetical relationship between evolution and morality. It is a species of "the genetic fallacy". (Wikipedia: "The genetic fallacy is a *fallacy of irrelevance* where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone's or something's history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.")

Just because a behavior was shaped by natural selection doesn't mean that the reason that an individual behaves in that way is in order to promote her own or her species survival. Take a mother's nursing an infant. Evolution gave her an overpowering love for her child and it gave her breasts to feed it. These traits had obvious selective advantage. They promoted the survival of the offspring of mothers with those traits. But that is not why she nurses her baby. She nurses it because she loves it. She does want it to survive and thrive. She wants those things because she loves it; she doesn't love it because she wants those things.

If developing and obeying a moral sense promoted survival and was therefore selected for, that doesn't mean that we behave morally because we want to survive, and therefore any species of evolved morality is just a kind of selfishness. That's a genetic fallacy.

It is really, in my view, beside the point how we came by our human nature. Adam Smith believed it was God-given. I believe it evolved. But on either version (Smith's or mine) morality itself wasn't created directly by that source (God or natural selection). Instead, human nature combined with living in human society gives rise to morality. That was Smith's thesis, I believe.

Here is how the book begins, with a chapter titled “Of Sympathy”:

“I.I.1 How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

“I.I.2 As we have no immediate experience of what other men feel, we can form no idea of the manner in which they are affected, but by conceiving what we ourselves should feel in the like situation. Though our brother is upon the rack, as long as we ourselves are at our ease, our senses will never inform us of what he suffers. They never did, and never can, carry us beyond our own person, and it is by the imagination only that we can form any conception of what are his sensations. Neither can that faculty help us to this any other way, than by representing to us what would be our own, if we were in his case. It is the impressions of our own senses only, not those of his, which our imaginations copy. By the imagination we place ourselves in his situation, we conceive ourselves enduring all the same torments, we enter as it were into his body, and become in some measure the same person with him, and thence form some idea of his sensations, and even feel something which, though weaker in degree, is not altogether unlike them. His agonies, when they are thus brought home to ourselves, when we have thus adopted and made them our own, begin at last to affect us, and we then tremble and shudder at the thought of what he feels. For as to be in pain or distress of any kind excites the most excessive sorrow, so to conceive or to imagine that we are in it, excites some degree of the same emotion, in proportion to the vivacity or dullness of the conception.”

That is the first two paragraphs. I urge you to read on through the seventh ( I.I.7.) to get a solid idea of the rich detail of evidence and the careful thought Smith brings to his subject. I would cut and paste them here, but you can access the text easily at www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smMS1.html. (If you Google “adam smith theory of moral sentiments” a PDF will come up from earlymoderntexts.com. This is a slightly abridged paraphrase of the text in modern language. You will miss the ancient flavor but get the gist.)

These paragraphs show the kinds of materials from which Smith will build a story of how we come to have a conscience. I admire this writing immensely. It shows detailed observations and acute thinking about them. We aren’t given merely emotions here, or some sappy idea that sympathy for others arises from our innate goodness or Christian virtue. We put ourselves in others' places, and suffer to some degree what they suffer, in imagination. We can't help it. Even ruffians do it. It’s human nature and it’s complicated.

How did we come by the pieces of human nature Smith describes? Who knows? If you’re a theist like Smith, it’s God’s providence. If you‘re an atheist, it evolved. But not everything that evolves does so due to selective pressure. Some traits just happen for no particular reason, by "genetic drift". Others arise as byproducts of other traits that were selected for. Why do we imaginatively change places with others? One could tell lots of stories about why this might have been selected for (if it was). For instance, in order to promote our survival, we might need to understand not only what other members in our group are feeling but what they might do because of those feelings, in case they could pose a threat to us, or provide an advantage. And if we imagine ourselves in their place, we can predict what we would do, and this may help us predict what they may do. But none of this matters to us in the moment. We don't sympathize with others in order to survive. We do so because it is our nature to.

Koukl's emphasis that morality is prescriptive is well-taken. Adam Smith takes pains to construct an account of how, based on the kinds of materials described above – our human nature – we come to develop a prescriptive conscience, that is, why we develop moral norms, and why we come to apply them to ourselves. This is admittedly an attempt at a naturalistic explanation of our moral 'faculty'. Koukl claims that what any naturalistic theory explains can't really be morality. He asks, "Why ought anyone be unselfish in the future?" Then he applies his genetic fallacy and makes his straw man evolutionist give bogus answers that boil down to selfishness, which is absurd.

By the way, if Koukl means to imply that it is always wrong to act selfishly, I disagree. Christianity tends to be unbalanced in that respect. Rabbi Hillel said, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? [But] if I am for myself alone, what am I?" Aristotle recommended a happy medium. So let's alter Koukl’s question slightly: “"Why, in a particular circumstance, ought anyone be unselfish in the future?"

If we don't take Koukl's wrong turn, what would an Adam Smithian evolutionist answer? I think he would answer in a way any moral, non-religious person would: "If a person in a particular situation judges that to act selfishly would be wrong and to act unselfishly would be right, he should do what he judges to be right, and act unselfishly." If you ask him "Why? What justification do you have for such advice?" he might say, "If I put myself in that person's position, that's what I hope I would do. It would be shameful to do otherwise." If you say "But why would it be shameful?", he might refer to specifics of the situation, e.g. "Sally would be depending on me."
But if you pressed him with repeated why's, there would be no answer. He has accounted for conscience, and conscience gives answers, but its answers don't come with ultimate justifications, only ones relative to the circumstances, like what the situation is and what the consequences of an act would be. We may try to draw generalizations about what conscience says, and to formulate those generalizations into principles. But those principles are descriptive, and are likely to get things wrong in concrete, novel circumstances. It is conscience that is prescriptive, that is, it is human nature active in particular circumstances in history. That is the ultimate moral authority, or as ultimate as we have. Is that a failure of the theory? Does that mean it doesn't explain morality?

Perhaps it’s the Christian’s concept or morality that is at fault.

Christians are used to having a final answer to end all answers. As scbrownlhrm might say, "Because God." Perhaps they believe that without an ultimate authority to dictate morality, and to enforce those dictates with rewards and punishments, there is no right or wrong. But do Christians really have any better way to respond to a series of why’s?

This is just an atheist imagining such a conversation:

Why be good?
Because God commanded it.
Why obey God?
Because God loves me.
That’s a non sequitur.
Because He rewards the good and punishes the bad.
So you are good out of selfishness, to obtain God’s love and avoid hellfire?
No. God tells me what is good and I choose the good because it is good. But it wouldn’t be good without God.
How do you know that?
The Bible tells me so.( Or maybe it’s theologians who do, on the basis of the Bible.)
So if you learned that you were mistaken about God, then you would no longer distinguish between good and bad? You would as soon torture a baby as kiss it? You would be mean for the fun of it? You would see no reason to condemn cruelty or praise loving kindness?

I don’t know how the Christian answers that. But the atheist thinks that he doesn’t need God to underwrite virtue. Human nature does.

Is the theist really in a better position than the atheist when it comes to explaining why we should be good?

Gerald,

Without Smith's A and Z, the (two) means and the (two) ends are not equivalent.

While it is nice to see you trying to fudge at a link...borrowing... there's no need to float such a fallacious nuance.

It doesn't "stick".


Daniel,

"...cause hell...reward... command" etc.. etc...

Try not to laugh to hard.

And, please, be gentle on poor Gerald.

Gerald,

The paragraphs you referred me to from Smith is focused more on covering the area of epistemology (how we come to know what is morally good), but my focus is on moral ontology (the grounding of morality).

You say:
"It is really, in my view, beside the point how we came by our human nature. Adam Smith believed it was God-given. I believe it evolved. But on either version (Smith's or mine) morality itself wasn't created directly by that source (God or natural selection). Instead, human nature combined with living in human society gives rise to morality. That was Smith's thesis, I believe."
The point I'm going to bring it back to over and over again is that you can't ground objective morality in evolution. At best, you can describe behaviors that help or hurt individuals/groups. But again, on atheism, you can't make the claim that person A helping person B was objectively morally right. You can make the statement, for instance, that Stalin was responsible for the suffering and death of countless millions, but you have not basis on which you can make the claim that his actions and choices were objectively morally wrong ~ our distaste for his actions are nothing more than neuronal synapses firing off in our brains, but in actuality, that doesn't make his actions objectively morally wrong. The type of morality you are describing is still subjective.

"We don't sympathize with others in order to survive. We do so because it is our nature to."
Gerald, whatever motives we have for having sympathy for others (because its our nature or because it's for the survival of the species), on an atheistic worldview, think here: those imaginations (i.e. placing yourself into their position), motives, and actions just boils down to stuff/matter happening (neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions...). There is no ultimate "moral" authority, just an abstraction.

"But the atheist thinks that he doesn’t need God to underwrite virtue. Human nature does."
What is human nature, Gerald? On an atheistic worldview, all humans are are replicating cistrons, nothing else. You are matter and energy, and there is no basis to say that "human nature" is any better than rocks, dirt, bugs, carbon dioxide, etc. It all boils down to matter and energy.

I actually demonstrated that a particular argument that had been directed at me was fallacious. I even named the fallacy. scbrownlhrm accuses me of "floating a fallacious nuance" but doesn't say what argument was fallacious or how. I doubt scbrownlhrm has any inkling of what an argument is. He just makes vague unsupported and often unintelligible assertions and peppers them with snide remarks. You haven't earned that air of superiority, scbrownlhrm.

Gerald,

So far you seem to be asserting two things:

[1] Inherent intentionality exists in purely physical (material) systems.

[2] Objective ought exists in purely physical (material) systems.

Both are based (so far) on fallacious half-truths and question begging.

You are well aware that none of this is brand-new material never before hashed out in countless places.

Sam Harris has done a far better job than you, and his fails, and your request for point-by-point unpacking of your failure is denied - outright - for two reasons. First - because it's uninteresting - and second - its easily available.

Whoever wants to find the "Y" in the road between the ontology of immutable love and the ontology of indifference need only dive into a few search boxes.

Or, if you insist, you can count the refusal of your demand to dance and unpack your (uninteresting) Moral Landscape as "evidence" that there are no reasoned arguments out there to be heard.

No one cares if you go there.

If you do go there, and when you arrive there you fail to hear my yawn...., you can find a very small slice of it up in the comment time stamped, "Posted by: scbrownlhrm | February 10, 2016 at 03:00 AM"

_____________________________________


The X which is ontologically void of inherent intentionality is an X which is ipso facto ontologically void of purposed ends and whatever X is in such a state of affairs is not, and cannot be even in principle, designed.


Gerald,
Let's go back to when you first challenged my post: "On atheism, I have yet to hear a logical explanation for the grounds of objective morality on the atheistic worldview."
Examining your posts, I still do not see any grounds for the existence of OBJECTIVE morality on your worldview. It doesn't work to say that objective morality is based on evolution. All evolution does is select for genes which code for proteins which influence traits, but you have no objective grounding to say that one behavior is morally "good" or that another one is morally "wrong". You can say that person A has "sympathy" for person B, but what's really going on there? This is merely the result of neuronal synapses firing off in the brain. You can, at best, describe some behaviors as beneficial to individuals/groups and other behaviors as harmful to individuals/groups, but in actuality, that doesn't make them morally right or wrong.
On atheism, everything boils down to matter and energy, stuff happening, bonds breaking and bonds forming, species coming and species going...and there are no such things as objective moral values and duties.

Part of the reason I write is to find out what I think. If I try my best to express it clearly and logically, then, if I'm lucky, I may find out that I'm wrong, and I will have to change a belief. That's progress. Just as good, I may find out that I can tell a more complete and coherent story than I have before. If I discuss these topics with people who are just as earnest and dedicated at expressing what they think, perhaps especially if they disagree with me, ideally -- unfortunately it's rare -- they help me, or I may help them, see what we didn't see before in quite that way or quite so clearly. Not only do I want to find out what I think, I want to understand what others think. So often it seems absurd, but I am constantly absurdly optimistic that, with probing, they will be able to explain their seemingly absurd beliefs to me in a way that seems reasonable. So far I've been disappointed, but I haven't given up. I want to believe we can communicate with each other, although there's precious little evidence.

Whatever scbrownlhrm is doing, it's not the hard work of hammering out ideas for himself. He merely waves his hand vaguely in the direction of the thought he approves of, and then helps himself to whatever conclusions he likes, and accuses me of all kinds of well-known, childishly obvious but unnamed errors. Anything more strenuous bores him. That is no help to me. I have tried to engage with him, but it is futile. Once again I will stop trying.

Daniel,

You keep repeating claims of "boils down to" and "nothing more than" and "nothing else":

"on the atheistic worldview, all that anything boils down to in the end is molecules in motion"

"those imaginations (i.e. placing yourself into their position), motives, and actions just boils down to stuff/matter happening (neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions...)."

"On an atheistic worldview, all humans are are replicating cistrons, nothing else. You are matter and energy, and there is no basis to say that "human nature" is any better than rocks, dirt, bugs, carbon dioxide, etc. It all boils down to matter and energy."

"On atheism, everything boils down to matter and energy, stuff happening, bonds breaking and bonds forming, species coming and species going...:

"our distaste for his actions are nothing more than neuronal synapses firing off in our brains"

The claim seems to be that an atheist must accept this absurd worldview. When I first ran across this, in C.S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity", I thought it was nuts, and I still do. It was a straw man. Since Lewis, there are some radical philosophers ("eliminative materialists") who have actually embraced this view with respect to the mental. That doesn't make it any less crazy. (Among its problems: it is self-refuting. If they say "I believe in eliminative materialism" they have contradicted themselves.)

Consider this: The world is hierarchically organized. Subatomic particles make atoms. Atoms make molecules. Molecules make crystals and gases and liquids and viruses and living cells. Cells make organs. Organs make organisms. Organisms make families and societies. Things are happening on each of these levels which are best described at their own level.

Chemistry may "boil down to" physics, but that doesn't mean chemistry isn't real. Water is not an illusion because it's made of hydrogen and oxygen. The properties of water are not those of hydrogen or oxygen. Is water "nothing more than" hydrogen and oxygen? The answer is no. It isn't even hydrogen and oxygen. It's water, hydrogen with oxygen TOGETHER, making something new.

Are living cells nothing more than molecules? In one sense, it's true. Biology discovered, in the twentieth century, that there is no immaterial "life force" or "ordering principle" necessary to explain life. The material world is rich enough to explain life. But that doesn't mean that life is "just a bunch of atoms." There are structures, functions, information; metabolism, eating, locomotion, reproduction, heredity; growth, senescence, sex, disease, death. These are all real. To say "everything boils down to matter and energy, stuff happening, bonds breaking and bonds forming" overlooks all this ontological richness.

We could do the same with humans. Are they just collections of cells or atoms? That just overlooks nearly everything about them -- culture, emotions, love, violence, music, brutality, moral judgements, philosophy, religion. What is the point of such a statement, that they are 'nothing more than"? Apart from its use as a device to brand atheists as nihilists, what is the point of saying "those imaginations (i.e. placing yourself into their position), motives, and actions just boils down to stuff/matter happening (neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions...)." What if they did "boil down" to that? At the same time it would be true that "neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions" would "cook up to" a human life full of meaning.

That is the hypothesis anyway. You don't believe that's possible, that we could be made of atoms and nothing more.

scbrownlhrm claimed that I had asserted that "Inherent intentionality exists in purely physical (material) systems." It may seem like I was asserting that. In fact my position is that we don't know that we are NOT purely physical systems. That is, it is POSSIBLE that we are. (I believe this is the philosopher Thomas Nagel's position.) But if somehow we found out that that was not the case, and that intentionality was somehow non-physical, that would not, in itself, contradict either atheism or naturalism. The natural might just be expanded to some non-physical realm, still governed by natural law.

I'm a slow reader with wide interests, so there is much a don't know about subjects that interest me. One philosopher I like and have read some of (but he is quite difficult) is Galen Strawson. He calls what he believes "real physicalism". It is a philosophy that accepts consciousness as real, but claims that it is also physical. Strawson believes in panpsychism. I believed in panpsychism when I first started thinking about consciousness, when I was young. I'm not as convinced now. Another approach is Giulio Tononi's. He's a neuroscientist who believes consciousness arises when a threshold level of integrated information is reached. So it is physical, but it is related most intimately to information, not matter. I think WE JUST DON'T KNOW how consciousness is related to the physical world, and if "inherent intention" means intention that is inherently conscious, we don't know how it fits in either.

Theists' continual insistence that atheists must be eliminative materialists (when this position is extremely problematic, held only by a few radicals, and there are other options to choose from) and worse, that they must be eliminativists not only about the mental but about everything except elementary particles, is just a ridiculous smear tactic used by Christian apologists.

At least that's the way it seems to me. If you can explain to me why I must believe it, I'm willing to listen.


Gerald,
"Apart from its use as a device to brand atheists as nihilists, what is the point of saying "those imaginations (i.e. placing yourself into their position), motives, and actions just boils down to stuff/matter happening (neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions...)." What if they did "boil down" to that? At the same time it would be true that "neurons firing, atoms vibrating, molecules in motions" would "cook up to" a human life full of meaning."
I say it because, looking at the atheistic/naturalistic worldview from the outside-in, taken to its logical conclusion, there's no basis on which to claim there is such a thing as objective meaning or morality (even if some matter and energy is more organized than other matter and energy).

Gerald,

Explain how natural laws govern supernatural causations.

Gerald,

[1] Explain how natural laws govern supernatural events.

[2] If you find at the end of the line that which is inherently intentional - full stop - does it have to be a mind or is there some more proximal causation which yet precedes that explanatory terminus which is inherently intentional?

[3] Do you mean something different than inherently intentional constituting your explanatory terminus?

[4] Can the human mind reach a (valid/true) ultimate metaphysical explanatory terminus reliably?

Obviously as a Christian you know my answers.

Yours are still quite blurry -- a bit of conflation seems to be going on but perhaps you can clarify.

Gerald,

The only reasons for those questions is this:

But if somehow we found out that that was not the case, and that intentionality was somehow non-physical, that would not, in itself, contradict either atheism or naturalism. The natural might just be expanded to some non-physical realm, still governed by natural law.

What instrument will we use to measure this Non-Physical reality which is itself governed by Physical Causation?

If it is governed by Physical Causation -- can it be inherently intentional?

You seem to be inferring that there may be immaterial causations which are inherently intentional - full stop - which natural laws (which are not inherently intentional), govern.

That is the reason behind the earlier questions, as that line seems to be a bit incoherent.

Daniel

"Is Mike ignoring my question?"

Not exactly - I just dont think it makes sense. Let's recap:

""I dont see what your rather disturbing question about sadists has to do with establishing whether there are such things as objective morals."
---So...why aren't you answering the question? If you answer yes, then you are adhering to an objective standard of morality. However, that would be inconsistent with an atheistic worldview"

You keep asserting there are objective morals and havent done anything to support that assertion.
So you need to demonstrate that there are such things as objective morals. You obviously dont have a list of them - so find another way. Simply claiming it is so doesnt cut the mustard

Secondly, how does me answering 'yes' mean that there objective morals?! That doesnt make any sense.

scbrownlhrm

"Explain how natural laws govern supernatural causations"

Give an example of supernatural causation.

As an aside, why are you bringing this up? What in Gerald's post caused this post and the subsequent post complete with this charming sneer:

"Yours are still quite blurry -- a bit of conflation seems to be going on but perhaps you can clarify."

Does this sound familiar scbrownlhrm??:

"Well, imagine you had a piece of software that takes random articles from Feser, David Bentley Hart or WLC, extracts random quotes from those articles, spices them up with poorly written juvenile taunts and pure gibberish (like "The very concept of one deflationary vector "informing" another deflationary vector is absurd") - and you have scbrownlhrm in a nutshell. I have honestly no idea why Christian mods tolerate his trolling, but they do."

""Yup. I´ve seen his schtick on other sites before. It can be quite amusing though, because his endeavour to write as pretentiously as is humanly possible sometimes leads to simply hilarious constructs like:
"Love's ceaseless reciprocity amid the unavoidably triune instantiates (at some ontological seam somewhere) in the Adamic vis-à-vis the Imago Dei.""

Read more at: http://www.strangenotions.com/philosophy-in-the-eyes-of-theologians-friend-or-foe-part-2-of-3/ and I hope that the poster Andy_Schueler doesnt mind me reproducing his comments here

Mike,
Actually, I'm showing by clear case scenarios that objective moral values and duties exist. And by asking you that question, I want to know if you are affirming that the existence of objective morality. I'd do the same thing with other folks who didn't believe in objective moral principles.
It's just interesting to me that you're dancing around the question.

Gerald,
Here's the problem with attempting to root morality in the human conscience: it's still descriptive, not prescriptive. You can say that "human nature/conscience" influences our thoughts, motives, and behavior towards others, but it doesn't work to call any of those thoughts, motives, and behaviors morally right. Where do you get the notion that love and sympathy are morally right?

Unless you have a transcendent explanation for the existence of morality, you don't have objective morality.

I believe that morality is ultimately grounded, not in the commands of God, but in His character (from which He sets forth commands that are consistent with his character). That's also why I have issues with making morality essentially man-centered (as you are suggesting), not God-centered. I think that Dr. John Piper gives a clear explanation of what is objectively morally evil (and therefore the opposite of these would be, ultimately, what is morally right):

"The glory of God not honored.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savored.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The promises of God not believed.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved."

"I'm showing by clear case scenarios that objective moral values and duties exist."

What clear case studies would these be? How does talking about sadists establish that objective morals exist?!

All you have done - and Ive just re-read all your comments about objective morality again - is simply assume and assert that objective morals exist. You need to do better than that.

Mike,

"But if somehow we found out that that was not the case, and that intentionality was somehow non-physical, that would not, in itself, contradict either atheism or naturalism. The natural might just be expanded to some non-physical realm, still governed by natural law."(by Gerald)


Hence the series of questions for clarification.

That seems to be inferring that there may be immaterial causations which are inherently intentional - full stop - which natural laws (which are not inherently intentional), govern.

That is the reason behind the earlier questions, as that line seems to be a bit incoherent.

It would be good if you could, in a similarly civil fashion and in simple english, say what 'inherent intentionality' is and why you keep referring back to it like it's some major issue.

Mike,

From earlier comments:

Sweet-Thing is not inherently intentional.

In principle, in science, we have perfect copies of all carbon based networks. Sweet-Thing appears intentional. But As-If Intentionality ruins all attempts to make truth claims about ontological design/non-design.

Sweet-Thing reminds us that appearences are not everything.

Gerald and I are both realists when it comes to intentionality and hence refuse any series of regressions which ipso facto annhilate "it".

Intentional -- full stop.

Reality's "rock bottom".

Mind emerges as necessary.

Unless [Non-Mind] can be shown to be [Intentional --full stop].


scbrownlhrm

That doesnt make any sense

Mike,
Your avoidance of the question shows me that, deep down, you know that objective morality does exist.

"Your avoidance of the question shows me that, deep down, you know that objective morality does exist"

Blimey. Is that the best you have? Im not even sure what the name of that logical fallacy is - maybe "argument from 'you know its true really, honest guv"

You havent thought about this at all have you?

Mike,
It's okay to keep avoiding the question. That is continued confirmation to me of what you truly believe (even if you don't admit it). Thanks.

"It's okay to keep avoiding the question. That is continued confirmation to me of what you truly believe (even if you don't admit it). Thanks"

Gosh. Is this truly the level of intellectual rigour associated with theism? - "Objective Morals exist because, well, you know deep down they do. It's obvious isnt it"

Ive seen soggy Kit-Kats carry more weight than this 'argument'

Mike,
Is there anything objectively morally wrong with what Stalin or Hitler did?

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