Friday, November 13, 2009

In Defense of my Moral Argument

Steven writes:

In neither case does it follow. Morals can be subjective and yet not arbitrary--perhaps our moral judgments are a product of our upbringing, psychological states, personal preferences, and so on

I don't think you understand the connotation of arbitrariness. If this is the case, they were arbitrarily formed by our predecessors. They are subjectively determined by people. If you're still having an issue with the definitions of arbitrary and subjective you might appreciate this entry:

Main Entry: arbitrary
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: whimsical, chance
approximate, capricious, discretionary, erratic, fanciful, frivolous, inconsistent, injudicious, irrational, irresponsible, offhand, optional, random, subjective, supercilious, superficial, unaccountable, unreasonable, unscientific, wayward, willful

They're synonyms, Steven. To be arbitrary is to be subjective.

Neither does it follow from the fact that if moral values are not eternal, then they are arbitrary

Yes it does. It means someone has subjectively created them, meaning they are an arbitrary decision of someone, not based in any objective/binding reality.

Suppose moral values change over time, but change for good reason. That's possible.

If they did, they would be arbitrary and subjective.

So it doesn't follow that if they are not eternal, they arbitrary.

Yes it does, since someone would have arbitrarily determined them at some point.

(i) Moral values can be "based in something" and yet not objective--for instance, they can be "based in" our personal preferences and emotions.

And that's why I said, "For morals to be objectively true, they must proceed from something that transcends this world." I am arguing against morals being founded in the individual. That would make them completely arbitrary.

(ii) They can come from another source than an individual's mind, sure, but why do they have to be grounded in a mind to begin with?

You gonna go with Plato and say they exist in some special reality as actual things? They're abstract concepts, like numbers, which originate from the essence of God.

(i) It doesn't follow from the fact that we might have evolved such that we valued different things that therefore there are no objective moral values in a naturalistic universe.

Yes it does. If morals could have been different, then they aren't objective. They are arbitrarily based on how we evolved. Objective morals are true no matter if anyone believes them or not. If the Nazis had won WWII, we might all think what the did was morally good, but we would be wrong.

(ii) Why suppose that, even if we are no different than the rest of the animal world, there are no objective moral values? That doesn't follow.

Because the morals would be arbitrary evolutionary concepts created by us for survival. They would not be based in anything, and there would be no reason that we would be obligated to follow any.

(iii) We are different from the rest of the animal world--we can reason, make value judgments, be aware of moral truths, etc.

On naturalism, we're simply highly developed ape descendants. And how can we be aware of "moral truths" if there aren't any?

(i) That doesn't follow. They could have been formulated for some reason.

And the reason is arbitrary. Arbitrary doesn't mean 'without reason' it means "subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one's discretion." Someone could have a completely arbitrary reason for forming moral values.

(ii) Why think that if moral truths change, they have to be "formulated" by some person?

One person, group of people (society). It changes nothing. If they are changing, they are being reformulated.

You're begging the question by assuming that if moral truths exist at all,

No I'm not. I'm telling you why your view makes them arbitrary and subjective. I don't have to assume my view to do this.

(i) Moral values can change for good reasons, or change with the state of the universe, like the mass of the planets change, etc.

Now this is begging the question. Aren't you a philosophy major???

(ii) God could arbitrarily decide some things to be moral--does it follow that they are not objective?

I'll think about that.

I think you may be the only person in the universe who takes "There are no moral values" to be a moral judgment

Do you talk to anyone?

Then you shift the burden of proof by rebutting my, I think, common sense observation that it is not a moral judgment by telling me I need to prove it isn't.

Yes, because it is espousing a moral judgement/philosophy.

There are no moral values, on the other hand, is a description of the state of the universe

It is wrong to kill is a description of the state of the universe. It doesn't mean it is any less a moral value. Claiming a lack of morals is itself espousing a moral position, that there are none.

it makes no evaluative claim

"There are no morals" isn't a claim? It's not evaluating the state of something?

it doesn't predicate a normative quality or property of some subject at all. So it is not a moral judgment. is predicating a normative quality and property of morals.

The consequent doesn't follow from the antecedent.

If the premises are true, it does. As I have shown your arguments against my premises to be lacking, they still stand.


drwayman said...

Brennon - Arbitrary/subjective moral values are non-sensical. Moral values have to originate in a Being that has the power to enforce them; otherwise, they are meaningless.

Also, if moral values have evolved over time, how do we know that the evolution wasn't some connection of random events? Evolution connotes improvement but that is in direct conflict with the law of entropy which states that disorder is a natural result of the universe. Leave your car outside and don't do anything to it for 50 years. You will come back to a rust bucket. Hence, the concept that moral values improve over time is nonsensical as well. Even though we are dealing with an abstract concept, the brain that thinks these abstract concept is physical and subject to the law of entropy, not to mention the theological belief of total depravity.

Anonymous said...

Hey Brennon.

I will respond to this later today; I've got a busy day at school today and so don't have the time now.

bossmanham said...

I have determined what I think about this: (ii) God could arbitrarily decide some things to be moral--does it follow that they are not objective?

Yes, by definition. This is why some bring up Euthaphro's dilemma. If the good is what God commands, then He could have very well commanded something else. We would all be bound by whatever He commands, but it is subjective. God's choice isn't based in anything either. It's arbitrary. God could have said that rape and murder are okay. But, since God's essence and nature is the source of morals, they have an objective source from whence they flow.