Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Modified Version of the Moral Argument

I jotted this argument down in Philosophy class the other day.

1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2) Stating "there are no objective moral values" is itself a moral judgement.
3) It is self-refuting to state that objective moral values don't exist.
4) Therefore, objective moral values do exist.
5) Therefore God exists.

I've never seen the argument constructed like this, but I think it strengthens the argument to add the obvious self-refuting aspect of stating there are no moral values. This claim is impossible because it in and of itself is a moral claim, therefore there is at least that objective moral. But since there is that objective moral, the statement defeats itself. Therefore, following premise one, the conclusion follows that God exists.

10 comments:

Steven said...

(i) I don't know why P1 should be true. Objective moral values can exist even if God does not--it is not as if they are logically dependent on his existence.
(ii) P2 is also false. There are no moral values is not a moral judgment; it is a description of the universe. It makes no normative or evaluative claim.

Jc_Freak: said...

Well, the basic flaw in that presentation Brennon is that the usual presentation is attempting to prove P1, while you assume it. I think most atheists would agree with Steven and reject P1 off-handedly.

The classic presentation, which I think it quite good, is known more technically as the transcendental argument, in that there cannot exist objective transcendent realities if there is not a transcendental reality in which they must exist. What necessarily follows is a listing of transcendent realities that are known to exist, namely logic, morality, and mathematics.

As such, the argument isn't so much an argument for God as it is an argument against atheism which, being disproven, leaves the necessity of some form or theism.

Jc_Freak: said...

I actually talked more on this topic on this post.

Steven said...

Suppose you reword P1 into its traditional, WLC-style formulation: If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

Even then--why think that is true?

bossmanham said...

Objective moral values have to be rooted in something. The person who challenges premise one needs to formulate a more plausible explanation for the objectivity of abstract ideas. They have to root them in something that is not temporal, because otherwise the morals are arbitrary, ie not objective.

Premise 2 is a moral judgement. To say there are no moral values is to espouse a moral value. It's self refuting. Saying there are moral values is describing a state of the universe as well, but it too is making a moral judgement.

I will make no attempt to prove 100% premise 1. You can't prove anything beyond any doubt. We can't even prove that we aren't brains in a vat being stimulated by electrical impulses. But it seems self-evident that these objective morals do exist. As long as even one exists, then this argument works. It seems pretty obvious that it is always wrong to torture a baby and always right to take care of a baby.

Steven said...

Objective moral values have to be rooted in something. The person who challenges premise one needs to formulate a more plausible explanation for the objectivity of abstract ideas. They have to root them in something that is not temporal, because otherwise the morals are arbitrary, ie not objective.

I don't understand your reasoning here. You go from objective moral values having to be grounded in something (whatever that means), to their having to be eternal in the sense that they have always existed (whatever it means for a value to exist), because otherwise they are arbitrary (which does not mean they are not objective). This is a lot of confused writing.

(i) What do you mean they have to be "grounded in something?"
(ii) Why does it have to be that moral values have to be "always" true?
(iii) It does not follow from the fact that moral values are not eternal that they are arbitrary.
(iv) It doesn't follow from the fact that they are arbitrary that they are therefore not objective.

Premise 2 is a moral judgement. To say there are no moral values is to espouse a moral value. It's self refuting. Saying there are moral values is describing a state of the universe as well, but it too is making a moral judgement.

It is not making a moral judgment; it's plain as day to me that it is not a moral judgment at all.

How is "there are no moral values" a moral judgment?

I will make no attempt to prove 100% premise 1. You can't prove anything beyond any doubt. We can't even prove that we aren't brains in a vat being stimulated by electrical impulses. But it seems self-evident that these objective morals do exist. As long as even one exists, then this argument works. It seems pretty obvious that it is always wrong to torture a baby and always right to take care of a baby.

Fine, but P1 still has not been proven. Suppose moral values do exist. It doesn't follow that there is a God, therefore, or that if there is, that God is anything like Yahweh.

bossmanham said...

If morals are not objective, they are completely arbitrary and created by us. If they aren't eternal, they have been created at some point in the finite past, meaning someone arbitrarily created them.

(i) What do you mean they have to be "grounded in something?"

It means they have to be objective. They have to be based in something, or they are not truly there. Saying there are objective morals is asserting that they are true whether or not anyone believes them. If they don't come from another source other than the individual's mind, they are just formulations in individual's mind, and each individual can do whatever they like with them. They depend on nothing but what that person wants to do with them. If moral values do not proceed from something, they proceed from nothing and there is no reason why one person should be bound by the moral intuitions of another.

On naturalism, there is no reason we are any different than the animal world. We're just accidental byproducts of biological evolution, and the moral values we do hold could have developed differently, given different conditions. Rape could be okay in that case, after all it happens in the animal world all the time. There is no justification to condemn war, oppression, or crime as evil because it is just one animal species thinning itself out. If one lion kills another, it isn't murder, it's nature. There is a reason it is murder to kill another human being.

(ii) Why does it have to be that moral values have to be "always" true?

Because if they haven't been, they were arbitrarily formulated at some point.

(iii) It does not follow from the fact that moral values are not eternal that they are arbitrary.

Yes it does.

(iv) It doesn't follow from the fact that they are arbitrary that they are therefore not objective.

arbitrary: depending on individual discretion and not fixed by law(www.merriam-webster.com)

That means it's a subjective decision by an individual. Arbitrariness, by definition is a personal subjective choice.

It is not making a moral judgment; it's plain as day to me that it is not a moral judgment at all.

Saying there are no objective morals is certainly a moral judgement. In saying such, you have just espoused a moral viewpoint, which I assume the person asserting it takes to be objective. You need to show that it is not a moral judgement, because it clearly is.

Fine, but P1 still has not been proven.

For an argument to be good it doesn't have to be 100% provable. In fact, there is almost nothing that is 100% provable. Even your own existence as you know it isn't completely provable. It just has to be more plausible than its contradiction. It is more plausible that it is always wrong to torture a baby.

Suppose moral values do exist. It doesn't follow that there is a God,

If the premises of the moral argument are true, it does. That's what a deductive argument does, the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.

For morals to be objectively true, they must proceed from something that transcends this world. I believe they are based on the very character and essence of God. Moral values are what they are because they reflect who God is. He is the good, and morals are a reflection of Him. That roots the morals in God and makes them objective and necessary. Naturalists (or anyone) have not provided a more plausible source of morals. I am surprised you side with them on this. I would think if anyone believed in objective morals, it would be a Calvinist.

or that if there is, that God is anything like Yahweh.

I never said I was trying to prove that.

Steven said...

I reply here.

drwayman said...

Brennon - how about this? 1) If absolutes exist, then God exists. 2) Stating "there is no such thing as an absolute" is itself an absolute. 3) It is self-refuting to state that absolutes don't exist. 4) Therefore, absolutes do exist. 5) Therefore, God exists.

bossmanham said...

Dr. Wayman,

That works too.