Monday, March 7, 2011

Is, Ought, and God

I ran across this somewhere on the internet, but I can't find it again to credit the person for it. I thought it was very simple, yet fairly profound. Some wonder how God would solve the is-ought problem in ethics. There are several good answers to this from prominent philosophers of religion, but this one I think is pretty simple and seems so obvious.

God is omniscient, meaning He knows only and all true propositions. This would include propositions about what we ought to do. For instance, the proposition, "you ought to follow Jesus," would be known by God in light of Him being omniscient. Whether we can actually figure out why that proposition is true is separate from the fact that we can know it's true because it was stated by God.

So, we can know what we ought to do if God tells us.

64 comments:

Havok said...

But ought we do it because God tells us or because it's "true"?

bossmanham said...

You can't go further than what the proposition says. To say, "Why ought we to do what we ought to do?" is patently silly.

Havok said...

Perhaps my phrasing was poor.

If we ought to do X, is it God's commanding/telling us that X, or simply that X is the right thing to do, which gives it it's normative force - makes it binding?

bossmanham said...

God's commands are what gives force to the objective standard. There simply being a realm of real morality, or Platonic realities, doesn't seem to provide any duty to do anything. An authority ordering it, however, does.

But that's really not connected to this observation.

Havok said...

BMH: God's commands are what gives force to the objective standard.
Which opens your claims up to charges of arbitrariness.
Good is what is God's nature, and God's nature are what is good, therefore God's nature is what is God's nature - it's unilluminating, as Morriston observed.
If "love" is only good because it is God's nature, then it does nothing to explain why God's nature is loving (and claims of "maximal greatness" don't seem to get you there).

BMH: There simply being a realm of real morality, or Platonic realities, doesn't seem to provide any duty to do anything. An authority ordering it, however, does.
There are many different ways of conceiving duty and/or obligation. Claiming God's commands entail duties doesn't get you where you need to be anyway, as Weilenberg has observed in "Value and Virtue in a Godless Universe", where he points out that duty/obligation require some form of recognition by both parties to be legitimate (me not recognising God, whether reasonably or unreasonably, leads us to reject a valid "duty" relationship between us).

BMH: But that's really not connected to this observation.
The observation doesn't "work". What is morally true, and how moral duties can be conceived look to be 2 separate issues which you're shifting between as it suits.

bossmanham said...

Which opens your claims up to charges of arbitrariness.

Um actually it's the complete opposite, but let's see how you do.

Good is what is God's nature, and God's nature are what is good, therefore God's nature is what is God's nature - it's unilluminating, as Morriston observed.

It tells us what the good is...

If "love" is only good because it is God's nature, then it does nothing to explain why God's nature is loving (and claims of "maximal greatness" don't seem to get you there).

If "love" is only good because it is God's nature, then it does nothing to explain why God's nature is loving (and claims of "maximal greatness" don't seem to get you there).

What? This makes no sense. God is who He is necessarily. You don't ask why God is all powerful, all good, etc. and expect to have any sort of intelligent conversation, because it is that being that we are referring to when we talk about "God." It's definitional. If what we are talking about lacks those essential attributes, then we're speaking of something else. This is just the way language works. Likewise, if you're talking about a rock, you don't ask why the rock has the properties of not being alive, being stony, etc. The thing that is not alive and is stony is what we call a rock. If a thing lacks those properties, then we're not talking about a rock.

where he points out that duty/obligation require some form of recognition by both parties to be legitimate

That's silly. Just because criminals don't recognize the civil law doesn't mean they don't have a civil obligation to follow it. Just because a criminal doesn't recognize the authority of a police officer doesn't mean that the officer doesn't have authority. More tripe from Havok. I think that name more describes your thinking pattern than anything else.

The observation doesn't "work". What is morally true, and how moral duties can be conceived look to be 2 separate issues which you're shifting between as it suits.

What we ought to do is the same as what our moral duties are. They are synonymous. That's just a simple point of ethics. Just because something has the moral property "goodness" doesn't mean that it is a moral duty. It is good to have children, but no one is duty bound morally to have children. It's something you can choose to do that is morally good.

If God is omniscient, then He knows the truth value of what we ought to do, what our moral duties are. Whatever the reason they are our moral duties, we can recognize what our duties are by listening to God.

So, as always, your claims are simply confused again.

Havok said...

BMH: Um actually it's the complete opposite, but let's see how you do.
Right.

BMH: It tells us what the good is...
God's nature, of course. But it tells us nothing of the contents of that nature. Nice try though.

BMH: What? This makes no sense. God is who He is necessarily.
No, he's good necessarily. He's not necessarily loving (at least, you've not made that argument as yet). That his essentially good nature is loving is arbitrary - seems it could just as easily have been cruel.

BMH: You don't ask why God is all powerful, all good, etc. and expect to have any sort of intelligent conversation, because it is that being that we are referring to when we talk about "God." It's definitional...
On your account, God is good, and love is only good because it is a part of God's nature (cruelty would just as easily fit there - hence arbitrary).
If you claim that love, kindness etc are why God's nature is good (which seems to be the only other option available), then you might as well accept Morriston's account (or at least, you're admitting that love and kindness posses intrinsic goodness).

BMH: That's silly. Just because criminals don't recognize the civil law doesn't mean they don't have a civil obligation to follow it.
I'll track down the argument and present it for your digestion.

BMH: More tripe from Havok. I think that name more describes your thinking pattern than anything else.
Tut tut. Insults aren't arguments or answers.

BMH: What we ought to do is the same as what our moral duties are.
You make my argument for me.
Having children is good - it is a moral truth, but it is lacking the force of moral obligation.
Thanks for that :-)

bossmanham said...

God's nature, of course. But it tells us nothing of the contents of that nature. Nice try though.

That wasn't your problem with what I said here. Did you forget?

If you're asking what the ontological foundation of morality is, that is one question. We don't have to know the details of the ontological basis of something to know that it is the ontological basis. That's almost as inane as Dawkins asking who caused God in relation to the cosmological argument.

As I said, I'm open to ethical studies on discovering what the details of God's nature are. I don't think we could discover most of them if we didn't have divine revelation, though through reasoning through exactly what a being which no greater can be conceived would entail can get us to some of His properties. I think moral reflection is one way, if an imperfect one, of discovering what is good as well.

He's not necessarily loving

That would be entailed in His goodness...It would also be entailed in thinking of a being which no greater can be conceived, since a loving being is greater than one who does not love.

That his essentially good nature is loving is arbitrary - seems it could just as easily have been cruel.

And we're back to what a definition is. Language has to work somehow.

I'll track down the argument and present it for your digestion.

I'd say if its anything like what you've summarized, then this critique is pretty damning.

Tut tut. Insults aren't arguments or answers.

Really just an observation about your arguments. I will insult bad arguments, but I don't recall insulting you.

Having children is good - it is a moral truth, but it is lacking the force of moral obligation.
Thanks for that


I don't know that anyone has said that having children is a strict moral obligation. It may become one, however, if certain other conditions are met; like having sex.

Havok said...

BMH: That wasn't your problem with what I said here. Did you forget?
Perhaps - the two discussions we're having are failrly similar after all.

BMH: That's almost as inane as Dawkins asking who caused God in relation to the cosmological argument.
While Dawkins' argument is perhaps a little philosophically naive, that doesn't mean it's incorrect as far as it goes.
Wielenberg critiques it, finds it unconvinving as far as it goes ("In The God Delusion what we find is essentially
a fragment of Hume’s overall attack on the rationality of theism."
), and then presents stronger argument in "Dawkins’s Gambit, Hume’s Aroma, and God’s Simplicity", and concludes that God is not a convincing explanation.

BMH: As I said, I'm open to ethical studies on discovering what the details of God's nature are.
So you're open to normative ethics, but not contrary meta-ethics.
If we're being so strict in our delineation of meta from normative from applied ethics, then I don't see how your account beats Morristons meta-ethically. If I could reformulate the initial quotation to be what appears to be Morriston's view:
On the previous thread, you claimed being moral was a categorical imperative, so moral truths are obligations or duties simply in virtue of them being moral truths (not due to them being God's nature, as you're arguing there). This sort of view seems to undermine the one you're claiming here.

BMH: I don't think we could discover most of them if we didn't have divine revelation, though through reasoning through exactly what a being which no greater can be conceived would entail can get us to some of His properties.
Well, divine revelation is a terrible "way of knowing", which would leave us with reason.

BMH: I think moral reflection is one way, if an imperfect one, of discovering what is good as well.
You agree with Morriston on this, if I understand intuitionism at all.

BMH: That would be entailed in His goodness...
So love is essentially good?

BMH: It would also be entailed in thinking of a being which no greater can be conceived, since a loving being is greater than one who does not love.
But you seem to be arguing in a circular fashion here. love is greater because it's a part of God's nature. And since love is greater, it must therefore be a part of God's nature.

BMH: And we're back to what a definition is. Language has to work somehow.
God is defined as "good" - I accept that.
I don't see the argument that love is a part of God's nature, since you've admitted elsewhere that love is not essentially good - it's only good because it is a part of God's nature.
If cruelty were a part of God's nature (whether you think that possible or not), cruelty would be good, and be a great-making property.

BMH: I don't know that anyone has said that having children is a strict moral obligation.
So something being good does not give it normative force (doesn't make it an obligation)?

BMH: It may become one, however, if certain other conditions are met; like having sex.
So if one has sex, one incurs a moral obligation to have children, and I presume that obligation is owed to God?
I know you're likely simplifying, but that seems a little ridiculous to me

bossmanham said...

While Dawkins' argument is perhaps a little philosophically naive, that doesn't mean it's incorrect as far as it goes.

Actually, it's not just philosophically naieve, it's ridiculous and poses no problem for the theist.

So you're open to normative ethics, but not contrary meta-ethics.

Um, yeah.

On the previous thread, you claimed being moral was a categorical imperative, so moral truths are obligations or duties simply in virtue of them being moral truths (not due to them being God's nature, as you're arguing there).

Seems you misunderstood. Moral truths exist because God exists. If moral truths are synonymous with God's nature, then I think the categorical imperative works just fine here. To say, "moral truths are obligations or duties simply in virtue of them being moral truths," would be the same as saying, "God's nature provides obligations or duties simply in virtue of being God's nature."

Well, divine revelation is a terrible "way of knowing", which would leave us with reason.

Or it's the best way of knowing.

So love is essentially good?

Love is an aspect of God's nature, and has its origin in His nature, so yes.

love is greater because it's a part of God's nature.

That wasn't my argument. Love is a great making property, ergo it would be embodied in the greatest conceivable being to a maximal degree.

I don't see the argument that love is a part of God's nature, since you've admitted elsewhere that love is not essentially good

Uh, no I haven't.

If cruelty were a part of God's nature (whether you think that possible or not), cruelty would be good, and be a great-making property.

But that's logically impossible, so useless to consider.

So something being good does not give it normative force (doesn't make it an obligation)?

Apparently not. It is normative in the sense that it's an objectively good action, but it may not be required. But that's an issue of applied ethics.

Generally, we always have the moral duty to not sin. Beyond that, there are many good acts that we can do every day that may not be specifically required of us. It's good to become a doctor, say, but one isn't duty bound to become a doctor. There are lots of other good things you could do.

However, we are duty bound to protect innocent children.

So if one has sex, one incurs a moral obligation to have children, and I presume that obligation is owed to God?

One has the moral obligation to be open to children if they are having sex.

I know you're likely simplifying, but that seems a little ridiculous to me

Well that's not surprising from an unregenerate blasphemer ;-)

bossmanham said...

However the imperative I hold to is the one most are familiar with. Duty arises from an imperative given by an authority. Platonic forms lack any such ability to give anyone an imperative.

Havok said...

BMH: Actually, it's not just philosophically naieve, it's ridiculous and poses no problem for the theist.
It falls prey to the doctrine of "divine simplicity" - that God is not complex - but the God that many people conceive of is anything but simple. As Weilenberg points out, to say that God is simple is to basically admit inscrutability, and doesn't really help the theist.

BMH: Moral truths exist because God exists.
On your account, but yours isn't the only account available.

BMH: Or it's the best way of knowing.
Well, you have to say that.

BMH: Love is an aspect of God's nature, and has its origin in His nature, so yes.
If love is essentially good, then I don't see what your DCT buys you over Morriston's account (or Swinburne's etc).

BMH: That wasn't my argument. Love is a great making property, ergo it would be embodied in the greatest conceivable being to a maximal degree.
So, if God did not exist, then "love" would still be good, and those who loved would still be good people. Thanks for that :-)

BMH: But that's logically impossible, so useless to consider.
Your God concept is logically impossible (various arguments demonstrating the incoherence of divine properties solo or grouped together show this), so this whole argument is useless.
Perhaps you ought to consider that "impossible" scenarios are not as useless to consider as you think.

BMH: Well that's not surprising from an unregenerate blasphemer ;-)
Blasphemy requires the existence of the being being blasphemed against, so "unregenerate blasphemer" is an empty statement :-)

BMH: However the imperative I hold to is the one most are familiar with. Duty arises from an imperative given by an authority. Platonic forms lack any such ability to give anyone an imperative.
I don't see that the claim "Duty arises from an imperative given by an authority" is particularly familiar (though perhaps I'm unusual).
I also may be a little confused on the definitions, but that seems rather more like a hypothetical imperative rather than a/the categorical imperative.
Also, are you aware of moral arguments against the existence of God? They purport to show something along the lines of:
1. If any being is God, he must be a fitting object of worship.
2. No being could possibly be a fitting object of worship, since worship requires the abandonment of one's role as an autonomous moral agent.
3. Therefore, there cannot be any being who is God.

Apparently a similar argument is presented in a forthcoming book "Reasonable Atheism"

John said...

@Havok

"Also, are you aware of moral arguments against the existence of God? They purport to show something along the lines of:
1. If any being is God, he must be a fitting object of worship. "

-- One of his characteristics should be 'goodness' then. That is, if you believed this requirement. If you did believe requirement # 1, won't this undermine all your previous arguments about human inability to ascertain goodness as an inherent characteristic of God?

"2. No being could possibly be a fitting object of worship, since worship requires the abandonment of one's role as an autonomous moral agent. "

--This actually isn't a problem for theists, because they really do believe this. A perfect relationship with God, is one where all will is given back to him. Or something like that, I suppose.

John said...

BMH: "That wasn't my argument. Love is a great making property, ergo it would be embodied in the greatest conceivable being to a maximal degree."

Havok's reply: "So, if God did not exist, then "love" would still be good, and those who loved would still be good people. Thanks for that :-)"

-- Yeah.. If love is a "great making property", then why would it cease to be so if God didn't exist? You are essentially saying that love is good in and of itself. Or maybe not..

Havok said...

John: -- One of his characteristics should be 'goodness' then.
That is one of God's characteristics - it's assumed in the definition (as BMH points out tirelessly).

John: That is, if you believed this requirement. If you did believe requirement # 1, won't this undermine all your previous arguments about human inability to ascertain goodness as an inherent characteristic of God?
We assume, for the sake of argument, that premise 1 is true.

John: This actually isn't a problem for theists, because they really do believe this. A perfect relationship with God, is one where all will is given back to him. Or something like that, I suppose.
If you click through to the link I gave, the author argues for this point - that it is indeed immoral to worship any being (even God). This highlights the contradiction between 1 & 2, and since God demands worship, and God couldn't demand anything which was immoral, we conclude that no such being as God exists.

John: You are essentially saying that love is good in and of itself.
I think that is exactly what he is saying, and I think it is something which must be accepted for objective morality to fly (regardless of how, where etc you think Love exists).

Marc said...

Havok:

Hello. Hope you don't mind if make a few comments on some of your remarks.

It seems to me that some of the objections you raised at the beginning of the conversation must also be confronted by the advocate of Platonic moral realism (PMR). So, to the extent that they present a problem for a view like divine command theory (DCT), they also present no less of a problem for PMR. But if it's maintained that they don't present a problem for PMR, then I'd suggest that they don't present a problem for DCT either.

For example, when you gestured at one of Morriston's observations, you wrote: "Good is what is God's nature, and God's nature are what is good, therefore God's nature is what is God's nature - it's unilluminating." Regarding PMR, if one were to inquire about the content or nature of moral goodness, I'm not sure that the Platonic moral realist is afforded an advantage over the divine command theorist. Do you think that PMR enjoys a more illuminating characterization of moral goodness?

Another example might be this claim: "If 'love' is only good because it is God's nature, then it does nothing to explain why God's nature is loving." In response, couldn't the divine command theorist deploy a Euthyphro dilemma against PMR?

(1) Is moral goodness good because it has certain moral properties, or are these properties good because they constitute moral goodness?

(2) If moral goodness is good because it has certain moral properties, then these properties are the ultimate standard of goodness, not moral goodness.

(3) If these moral properties are good because they constitute moral goodness, then goodness is arbitrary.

Assuming that the Platonic moral realist embraces the second horn, it seems to me that divine command theorist could advance the following consideration: if justice is only good because it constitutes the nature of moral goodness, then this fact doesn't explain why the nature of moral goodness is constituted by justice. I believe that Morriston would affirm that moral goodness supervenes on justice, but if he were asked why this is the case, I suspect he would answer by saying that this is just the way the moral realm is, and necessarily is. Is an analogue of this answer unavailable to the DCT?

To conclude, I'll make one more comment. You said: "On your account, God is good, and love is only good because it is a part of God's nature (cruelty would just as easily fit there - hence arbitrary)." On the supposition that God (or His nature) necessarily serves as the supreme standard of moral goodness, and being loving is good but being cruel is evil, then it's metaphysically impossible for God to be cruel. Just as the Platonic moral realist holds that it's impossible for moral goodness to supervene on cruelty--there are no possible worlds in which this obtains--the divine command theorist can hold that it's impossible for God to be cruel. If this claim is arbitrary for (DCT), then I think it's no less arbitrary for PMR. (This pertains to the second option in the above dilemma.) Yet if it's not arbitrary for the latter, then I believe that the same applies to the former as well.

-- Marc

Havok said...

Marc, just so you know, I'm not presenting PMR as THE moral theory, just as a plausible alternative to the DCT as proposed by Bossmanham, hence I don't see that I need to defend it from problems it shares with the DCT :-)

Marc: Do you think that PMR enjoys a more illuminating characterization of moral goodness?
No. Morriston himself seems to accept that both are puzzling, but suggests that claiming the attributes must be instantiated doesn't aid the explanation, and introduces unnecessary detail/complexity.

Marc: In response, couldn't the divine command theorist deploy a Euthyphro dilemma against PMR?
Yes. Morriston's response is to accept that kindness and love are good (thereby "reducing" God's power/sovereignty).

Marc: Is an analogue of this answer unavailable to the DCT?
I don't see how, seemingly because the DCT as formulated by Bossmanham (and William Lane Craig) adds an extra layer of indirection.

Marc: On the supposition that God (or His nature) necessarily serves as the supreme standard of moral goodness, and being loving is good but being cruel is evil, then it's metaphysically impossible for God to be cruel.
But it doesn't seem logically impossible that cruelty could have been a component of God's nature, therefore the attribution of love to God seems arbitrary (it's not good in and of itself, after all).

Havok said...

I should have commented on this as well
Marc: On the supposition that God (or His nature) necessarily serves as the supreme standard of moral goodness, and being loving is good but being cruel is evil, then it's metaphysically impossible for God to be cruel.
being loving is good only because it is assumed part of God's nature, and being cruel is bad only because it is assumed not part of God's nature.
So, for all we know, cruelty could be good and love evil

Marc said...

Havok:

>> Marc, just so you know, I'm not presenting PMR as THE moral theory, just as a plausible alternative to the DCT as proposed by Bossmanham, hence I don't see that I need to defend it from problems it shares with the DCT :-)”

Thanks for the clarification. If your purpose is to present PMR as a plausible alternative to DCT, yet (some of) the features of PMR which are supposed to make the view more attractive are, in fact, just as problematic as they are for DCT, then these features of PMR can’t be adduced to show that it’s more plausible than DCT.

>> “Yes. Morriston's response is to accept that kindness and love are good (thereby "reducing" God's power/sovereignty).”

Many theists, I’m assuming, believe (roughly) that only metaphysically possible states affairs are subject to God’s omnipotence (and, by extension perhaps, to His sovereignty). So if there aren’t any possible states of affairs in which kindness and love aren’t good, then the impossibility of God’s bringing about a state of affairs in which kindness and goodness aren’t good—an impossible state of affairs—doesn’t, to my mind, reflect a lack of power.

>> “I don't see how, seemingly because the DCT as formulated by Bossmanham (and William Lane Craig) adds an extra layer of indirection.”

As suggested in the previous post, and as Morriston agrees, any moral theory which postulates an ultimate standard of goodness—be it God, some abstract object, or something else—must eventually reach a terminus of explanation. To the question, “Why is x good?” where x is the theory’s ultimate standard of goodness, it appears that one of the only answers is, “Because it is,” or, “That’s just the way the moral realm is.” If these answers are adequate for PMR, why are they inadequate for DCT? What do you mean by “DCT…adds an extra layer of indirection”?

>> But it doesn't seem logically impossible that cruelty could have been a component of God's nature, therefore the attribution of love to God seems arbitrary (it's not good in and of itself, after all).”

Although I would dispute the idea that love isn’t intrinsically good, or “good in and of itself,” my disagreement on this point isn’t germane to the comments I want to make. On PMR, if it’s possible for moral goodness to have supervened on cruelty, then it seems to me that PMR faces arbitrariness objection as well. If, however, the Platonic moral realist insists that moral goodness couldn’t possibly have supervened on cruelty, then I think an analogous response is available to the divine command theorist, namely that cruelty couldn’t possibly have been a component of God’s moral nature.

>> “being loving is good only because it is assumed part of God's nature, and being cruel is bad only because it is assumed not part of God's nature.
 So, for all we know, cruelty could be good and love evil.”

While the fallibility of our apprehension of the moral realm and of our moral judgments certainly needs to be acknowledged, I’m not sure that we should distrust our fundamental moral perceptions in the absence of a defeater. Swinburne, if I’m not mistaken, would call this a particular application of a more general principle – the principle of credulity. And Huemer, whose moral intuitionism Morriston favors, calls this phenomenal conservatism. In any case, though, I’m unclear about how or why our epistemic fallibility is supposed to be problematic.

bossmanham said...

It falls prey to the doctrine of "divine simplicity" - that God is not complex - but the God that many people conceive of is anything but simple. As Weilenberg points out, to say that God is simple is to basically admit inscrutability, and doesn't really help the theist.

Ambiguous and unbacked statement: ignore.

On your account, but yours isn't the only account available.

Um, this account is the one we're discussing. No other account can fully account for moral truths in the way DCT can, however.

Well, you have to say that.

Perfect being with perfect knowledge sharing with you some of that knowledge.....hmm...

If love is essentially good, then I don't see what your DCT buys you over Morriston's account (or Swinburne's etc).

It has a much better account of moral duties for starters.

So, if God did not exist, then "love" would still be good, and those who loved would still be good people.

Lol, notice I didn't say that either. Just because I said you can recognize it as a great making property without positing God doesn't mean God isn't necessary for it to be an objectively good thing. But nice try with the typical atheist dishonesty.

Your God concept is logically impossible

Notice how you drop the issue we've been talking about and run off into a separate issue.

Perhaps you ought to consider that "impossible" scenarios are not as useless to consider as you think.

Or not. But thanks for the suggestion.

Blasphemy requires the existence of the being being blasphemed against, so "unregenerate blasphemer" is an empty statement :-)

Well, since God does exist, by golly you are blaspheming.

Also, are you aware of moral arguments against the existence of God?

They'd have to posit an objective morality sans God, which isn't possible, and have to show that premise 2 is anything more than a dumb statement.

John,

Yeah.. If love is a "great making property", then why would it cease to be so if God didn't exist? You are essentially saying that love is good in and of itself. Or maybe not..

I suppose love is pretty ambiguous, and I did write that when tired. I never said love as an action couldn't exist without God. Assuming any sort of existence is possible without God (which I don't), but assuming it is, you could possibly have beings who, when their brains produced a certain chemical and certain neural connections obtained, it could be attributed the term "love."

However, this undoes any sort of intrinsic goodness that this action would have. The Bible says God is love, so it may be that the ontological basis of love is God, but that is something else altogether.

bossmanham said...

Marc,

Thanks for your input. I think you make some good points.

My issue with PMR isn't that it posits something as a definitional basis for reality. There's nothing wrong with that. It's how language works and seems to be metaphysically required to bypass infinite regresses. My problem is that 1) it's impossible to say how or what the Platonic forms are, 2) they pose no moral duty on anyone, and 3) there seems to be no reason we evolved to recognize these separate entities.

DCT solves all of those in a plausible manner. 1) God is a personal and existing being with properties like other existing things. Those kinds of things are the only things that seem to be actually able to be called "real." 2) If God exists, then He would be the governing authority over creation, and thereby have the power to prescribe duties. 3) We recognize moral values because we are made in God's image as rational beings in an intelligible universe.

Havok said...

Marc: ...then these features of PMR can’t be adduced to show that it’s more plausible than DCT.
Agreed.

Marc: ..an impossible state of affairs—doesn’t, to my mind, reflect a lack of power.
Again I agree, and Morriston makes the same point. I mentioned the reduction in sovereignty/power because that seems to be a motivation of some DCT's in making God the source and basis of all morality.

Marc: If these answers are adequate for PMR, why are they inadequate for DCT?
It seems to me that the "Gods Nature Divine Command Theory" is committed to claiming God's nature is good, but left explaining just why God's nature must be loving and kind.

Marc: What do you mean by “DCT…adds an extra layer of indirection”?
It seems to be adding a claims about God's nature between "good" and the attributes which are good making. The claim that love and kindness are good ONLY because they are instantiated in God seems unjustified and somewhat superfluous - if love is only good because God instantiates it, then there seems little reason to think it is a great-making property, and therefore I don't see why God must be loving.

Marc: On PMR, if it’s possible for moral goodness to have supervened on cruelty, then it seems to me that PMR faces arbitrariness objection as well.
You're probably correct. My objection was to the claim that, while goodness supervenes on God's nature, no reason seemed forthcoming for why God was loving, or why being loving was a great-making attribute (since on this account goodness does not supervene on love).

Wielenberg conducts a thought experiment concerning "God's Will DCT", which I suspect also applies to GNDCT, where 2 beings are competing for omnipotence. One is loving, kind, etc (ie. "Good"). The other is cruel, sadistic, etc (ie. "Evil").
The cruel being wins omnipotence, seemingly the worst has happened, and the world looks to be overrun by evil.
However, this doesn't happen, as the first use the being puts it's omnipotence to is to change ethical facts such that he himself is morally perfect. The result is not that this beings nature changes, but that what is moral changes. Though the cruelty, etc, that this being causes are incredible, the story has a happy ending.
The scenario sketched by Wielenberg seems both incorrect (metaphysically impossible as you stated) but ridiculous in the extreme.

Marc: While the fallibility of our apprehension of the moral realm and of our moral judgments certainly needs to be acknowledged, I’m not sure that we should
I'm attempting (and probably failing) to address the ontological claim that God is love.

Marc: Swinburne, if I’m not mistaken, would call this a particular application of a more general principle – the principle of credulity. And Huemer, whose moral intuitionism Morriston favors, calls this phenomenal conservatism.
Sadly I've not read either Swinburne nor Huemer - not enough hours in the day :-)

Marc: In any case, though, I’m unclear about how or why our epistemic fallibility is supposed to be problematic.
Apart from challenges to objectivity which cite disagreements about morality as part of a case against it?

I think an objectivist is likely committed to something along the lines intuitionism (though not being fully up to speed on intuitionism, nor proposed alternatives, I'm likely to be mistaken).

Havok said...

BMH: Ambiguous and unbacked statement: ignore.
The "simple God" claim Wielenberg renders as:
"(GH3)There exists a necessary, nonphysical, simple, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation
[ . . . ]
and (GH3) is at best obscure and at worst incoherent. "


BMH: No other account can fully account for moral truths in the way DCT can, however.
So you keep asserting. There are other accounts of objective morality besides your DCT and Morristons PMR, yet you dismiss them all with nary an argument.

BMH: Perfect being with perfect knowledge sharing with you some of that knowledge.....hmm...
An aweful lot of assumptions being made in that statement.

BMH: It has a much better account of moral duties for starters.
Actually, a DCT based on Morristons account would have the same explanation of moral duty, would it not?

BMH: Just because I said you can recognize it as a great making property without positing God doesn't mean God isn't necessary for it to be an objectively good thing.
Well, you just might have to argue that position.
If love is essentially good, then it would be good whether God exists or not, correct? Else, how can you say it is essentially good?

BMH: But nice try with the typical atheist dishonesty.
Pfft

BMH: Notice how you drop the issue we've been talking about and run off into a separate issue.
It's not quite a separate issue though, is it, since the logical impossibility of your "God" concept renders this discussion moot.
Also, I think you meant to say "metaphysically impossible" instead of "logically impossible" :-)

BMH: Well, since God does exist, by golly you are blaspheming.
Since you've not demonstrated that, you're simply making another empty statement.
We could do this all day :-)

BMH: They'd have to posit an objective morality sans God, which isn't possible,
You keep asserting this, over and over, as if it's either been demonstrated, or it's obviously true (neither of which appear to be the case, however).

BMH: and have to show that premise 2 is anything more than a dumb statement.
The author does further argue that is it more than just a "dumb statement".

BMH: However, this undoes any sort of intrinsic goodness that this action would have.
Why?
And I note that you're presenting some sort of reductionist materialism as the only alternative to a world without God, which is far from obvious.

BMH: My problem is that 1) it's impossible to say how or what the Platonic forms are,
Not actually being a PMR I may be off base entirely, but wouldn't "Kindness" be what is instantiated when we perform a kind act?
Not incredibly informative as it stands, granted, but it seems a start at the least.

BMH: 2) they pose no moral duty on anyone, and
I've provided a couple of examples from Morriston, and noted that a DCT could easily be constructed on his account. Also, with a DCT using PMR, moral duty would seem to be the same as your GNDCT.

BMH:3) there seems to be no reason we evolved to recognize these separate entities.
Huemer's intuitionism is noted by Morriston (and Marc, above) as addressing this issue. A PMRDCT could seemingly address this issue in the same manner your GNDCT does.

It would seem to me that your (1) is the only real difference between PMR and GNDCT, while (2) & (3) could only count against an atheistic PMR (assuming that no reasonable means of addressing them directly are available).

bossmanham said...

The "simple God" claim Wielenberg renders as:
"(GH3)There exists a necessary, nonphysical, simple, superhuman, supernatural intelligence that created the universe and has no external explanation
[ . . . ]
and (GH3) is at best obscure and at worst incoherent. "


Ambiguous, unargued: Ignore again.

There are other accounts of objective morality besides your DCT and Morristons PMR, yet you dismiss them all with nary an argument.

I dismiss them as objectively binding and true, yes. Any utilitarian theory, any personal happiness theory, any Egoistic theory; all based on subjective human ideas. Therefore, they aren't objective.

An aweful lot of assumptions being made in that statement.

Yeah. And if they're true, then divine revelation would be the best way of acquiring knowledge.

Actually, a DCT based on Morristons account would have the same explanation of moral duty, would it not?

No, not in the least. Platonic forms can't prescribe moral acts to anyone.

If love is essentially good, then it would be good whether God exists or not, correct?

Unless love has it's ground as a part of God's nature.

Pfft

Hey, hand waving! Haven't seen that before.

It's not quite a separate issue though, is it, since the logical impossibility of your "God" concept renders this discussion moot.

Aren't you attempting to perform an internal critique here? Gosh, if you can't even get your head around that concept, I'm not sure it's worth talking to you.

Also, I think you meant to say "metaphysically impossible" instead of "logically impossible"

No, I meant logically impossible, though the distinction isn't really that large if I understand correctly.

Since you've not demonstrated that, you're simply making another empty statement.

Since you've not demonstrated that He doesn't, then your statement is equally empty. My blog is almost entirely dedicated to parsing over the arguments, evidences, and reasons for believing in God. There are about a billion others out there. You'll find at the very least 50 arguments for God, many of them based on the empirical sciences you seem to idolize, many based on pure reason. Good hunting.

You keep asserting this, over and over, as if it's either been demonstrated, or it's obviously true

I've actually made the argument several times. You're welcome to answer it. I hope you can do better than blandly quoting some question begging philosopher.

The author does further argue that is it more than just a "dumb statement".

That's fascinating. Then he made some dumb arguments in support of a dumb statement.

And I note that you're presenting some sort of reductionist materialism as the only alternative to a world without God, which is far from obvious.

You're the atheist, not me.

I've provided a couple of examples from Morriston, and noted that a DCT could easily be constructed on his account. Also, with a DCT using PMR, moral duty would seem to be the same as your GNDCT.

Oh you were serious about those. Haha.

Huemer's intuitionism is noted by Morriston (and Marc, above) as addressing this issue.

Which doesn't answer why we evolved to intuit them.

Havok said...

BMH: I dismiss them as objectively binding and true, yes. Any utilitarian theory, any personal happiness theory, any Egoistic theory; all based on subjective human ideas. Therefore, they aren't objective.
yet that in no way exhausts the accounts of objective morality which differ from your account.

BMH: Yeah. And if they're true, then divine revelation would be the best way of acquiring knowledge.
That doesn't necessarily follow - seems you'd need to have some means of sorting the wheat from the chaff as well (which does seem to be lacking)

BMH: No, not in the least. Platonic forms can't prescribe moral acts to anyone.
And yet Morriston would have God imposing moral obligations - he is a Christian after all.

BMH: Unless love has it's ground as a part of God's nature.
Then you need to argue that this is actually the case, not that it would be the case if your account were correct.

BMH: No, I meant logically impossible, though the distinction isn't really that large if I understand correctly.
Well, there's no obvious contradiction involved in saying "God is cruel" (if I understand correctly, you'd need to show that your conception of God is logically coherent and logically necessary, then show that cruelty is not compatible with this).
You're also considering things which on your account are logically impossible, such as "love" not being good if God doesn't exist (on your account, isn't God logically necessary, and therefore God's non-existence logically impossible?)


BMH: Since you've not demonstrated that He doesn't, then your statement is equally empty
And why should I think He does?
Granted, I haven't read everything which has been written on either side, but I imagine you haven't either.

BMH: My blog is almost entirely dedicated to parsing over the arguments, evidences, and reasons for believing in God.
Good for you, then.

BMH: There are about a billion others out there.
Good for them too!

BMH: You'll find at the very least 50 arguments for God, many of them based on the empirical sciences you seem to idolize, many based on pure reason.
And yet all of them seem to have their flaws, whether evidential or based on pure reason.

BMH: Good hunting.
Thanks, but I don't like my chances given my experiences thus far :-)

BMH: I've actually made the argument several times. You're welcome to answer it.
Since you've not yet shown Morriston's PMR fails, I don't see why I need answer further.

BMH: Then he made some dumb arguments in support of a dumb statement.
That seems a rather bold statement to make if you haven't read the argument (though you do seem to think that, on occasion, such menial tasks are not required of you) :-)

BMH: You're the atheist, not me.
Atheism doesn't entail physicalism, materialism, or naturalism. It is interesting that you seem to be assuming that it does, however.

BMH: Oh you were serious about those. Haha.
Morriston was, yes.

BMH: Which doesn't answer why we evolved to intuit them.
Morriston, being Christian, would have open to him, the option for God to make us aware of them, would he not?

John said...

@Havok

"Atheism doesn't entail physicalism, materialism, or naturalism. It is interesting that you seem to be assuming that it does, however."

-- Actually, it's the other way around. Those world-views necessarily entail atheism, right? I think an atheist who doesn't hold any of those world-views is worse off than anyone else at either side of the debate. I mean, what else is atheism based on? Sure there could be some atheists who believe in reincarnation, but I think they would be hard-pressed in defending such a view wrought with too much internal inconsistency.

Havok said...

John: Those world-views necessarily entail atheism, right?
Yes. It is difficult to see how someone could belief in a god or gods could be compatible with one of those world views. You could, I think, also be an atheist and also be a strong solipsist (in fact, you would have to be) or an idealist.

John: I think an atheist who doesn't hold any of those world-views is worse off than anyone else at either side of the debate. I mean, what else is atheism based on?
I don't see why you couldn't believe in supernatural (spirits, magical powers of some supernatural kind, etc) while not holding a belief in a god or gods. It might be unusual to do so, but it the they don't seem incompatible.

John: Sure there could be some atheists who believe in reincarnation, but I think they would be hard-pressed in defending such a view wrought with too much internal inconsistency.
Is it the combination of atheism with reincarnation that you think is inconsistent, or reincarnation in general?
If you held some belief in spirits or souls, then atheism doesn't seem to pose a problem to a belief in reincarnation, or make the concept of reincarnation more inconsistent.

Havok said...

Ok, I've tracked down Wielenbergs argument (mentioned in comment 5, way back when...), and will try to present it in brief.

Assume that I've done you a favour, such that, should I ask to borrow your car you ought to lend it to me - I could impose a moral obligation upon you by requesting to borrow your car (and you have no other reasons as to why you cannot - you have a car, know I'm a good driver, haven't promised to lend it to someone else, etc).
Lets say that I somehow get a note to you, anonymously, which reads "Lend Havok your car". Have I imposed an obligation on you?
It seems not, because you have no idea whether the author of the note has the authority to impose the obligation (Even though, in reality, the author does have that authority). More than that, I, in ensuring the note was anonymous, presumably knew that you would have no way of knowing who issued it.
So for God to impose moral obligations on another, He must get the intended audience to recognise that the commands are coming from Him.
Now, if your God issues commands to someone (a naturalist) who does not recognise those commands as coming from a duly authorised commander (ie. God), or the commands of God are simply ambiguously presented, such that the author is not obvious or cannot be ascertained, then God has surely not been successful in imposing an obligation on that person or persons.
Wielenberg goes on to argue that whether the naturalist is reasonable or unreasonable in withholding belief in God, as long as the person is a naturalist, then God's commands, by virtue of them not being recognised as bearing His authority, do not (an in fact, cannot) impose a moral obligation.

bossmanham said...

yet that in no way exhausts the accounts of objective morality which differ from your account.

Eh, it pretty much covers about 90% of it. Course, us DCTers are still waiting for one.

That doesn't necessarily follow - seems you'd need to have some means of sorting the wheat from the chaff as well (which does seem to be lacking)

It's not necessary to know which particular revelation is divine to know that divine revelation is the best way to gain knowledge.

But it kinda goes without saying that we'd have a way to do so.

And yet Morriston would have God imposing moral obligations - he is a Christian after all.

So he DOES think God is necessary for a workable ethics. And not only that, it's God's commands that prescribe moral duties to us! WOW!!!! He's just a bit off on who, or what, the ultimate is.

Then you need to argue that this is actually the case, not that it would be the case if your account were correct.

Well, God has revealed that He is, for one. For two, it's entailed in the whole greatest conceivable being concept. Three, it's hinted at in our moral sense having an aversion to cruelty.

Well, there's no obvious contradiction involved in saying "God is cruel"

Not obvious perhaps, no, but logically impossible nonetheless. It's an implicit logical contradiction. We know that the principle logically rules out the possibility. God cannot be all loving and cruel, meaning this has postulated a logically impossible being. Further, adding the property "cruelty" to God has changed the definition, which means we're no longer speaking of who we were speaking of.

And why should I think He does?

You're pretty familiar with that, I'm sure. Why should I think He doesn't? There've been no successful arguments showing that God cannot exist.

And yet all of them seem to have their flaws, whether evidential or based on pure reason.

Eh, not really. They have potential sticking points. But they make the existence of God far more probable than not. Almost to where the not is inscrutable. No atheistic argument comes close.

Thanks, but I don't like my chances given my experiences thus far

Your pretend skepticism skirt is showing. You're not a skeptic, you're a dogmatic atheist through and through. The fool has said in his heart...

Atheism doesn't entail physicalism, materialism, or naturalism. It is interesting that you seem to be assuming that it does, however.

No, but the most consistent forms are all of those. But that's not that interesting to me.

On Wielenberg's argument:

It rests on the assertion that the revelation God has given is akin to an anonymous note on a car. It assumes that God has not provided enough evidence in what He has revealed to make it clear that He is the author of the specific revelation. Just because a stubborn bunch refuse to see or acknowledge the evidence and blinds themselves to the truth in no way entails that the truth wasn't plain to see. He would have to show that what is available was not sufficient, which would be a tough egg to crack. God signed His work, for Pete's sake, and topped it off with a resurrection! Far from anonymous.

Man, that really was a dumb argument.

Havok said...

BMH: Eh, it pretty much covers about 90% of it. Course, us DCTers are still waiting for one.
There seem to be plenty about - you're just not looking hard enough (or perhaps your ideology disposes you to dismiss some accounts on other than strictly logical grounds?)

BMH: It's not necessary to know which particular revelation is divine to know that divine revelation is the best way to gain knowledge.
Of course, if we find that we can never have confidence in the supposed revelation, then it seems we must lack confidence in the knowledge imparted.
This also runs into the problem of communication - a being like your God is supposed to be should be able to communicate in a less ambiguous and more straightforward manner than it supposedly does in practice.

BMH: But it kinda goes without saying that we'd have a way to do so.
If there is one it doesn't seem to be very forthcoming.

BMH: So he DOES think God is necessary for a workable ethics. And not only that, it's God's commands that prescribe moral duties to us! WOW!!!!
He offers 2 responses which account for obligation/duty without God, but being a Christian he no doubt believes God's commands provide the obligation/duty.

BMH: He's just a bit off on who, or what, the ultimate is.
Considering you're still struggling to show that his PMR is somehow false, contradictory or invalid, it seems a little premature of you to claim this :-)

BMH: Well, God has revealed that He is, for one.
And also that he's jealous and fairly cruel (at least, what we call cruel).

BMH: For two, it's entailed in the whole greatest conceivable being concept.
Which takes the values you have already, and "upsizes" them.

BMH: Three, it's hinted at in our moral sense having an aversion to cruelty.
That's just what a cruel deity would do - to dash our hopes seems to be a rather cruel thing.

BMH: It's an implicit logical contradiction. We know that the principle logically rules out the possibility. God cannot be all loving and cruel, meaning this has postulated a logically impossible being.
But God is simply that which nothing greater can be conceived, and love seems to only be a great making property because it is apart of your definition of God's nature. We come back to whether love is good in and of itself, which you seemed to admit earlier, and then backed away from it.

BMH: Further, adding the property "cruelty" to God has changed the definition, which means we're no longer speaking of who we were speaking of.
Not if cruelty is a great making property (and it is such, in virtue of it being a part of God's nature, as defined).

BMH: You're pretty familiar with that, I'm sure. Why should I think He doesn't?
Because the definition is logically incoherent?

BMH: There've been no successful arguments showing that God cannot exist.
Depends what you mean by God, now, doesn't it.
Yours seems to flounder due to an incoherent definition (or at least, the lack of a coherent definition), not to mention reality not lining up with what we'd expect were Christianity true.
Some "God" concept could well be possible, and exist in actuality, of course, but yours specifically seems spectacularly implausible and unlikely :-)

BMH: Eh, not really. They have potential sticking points. But they make the existence of God far more probable than not.
In your opinion (and that of others). In the opinion of myself and also others, they have flaws rather than sticking points, and the flaws are rather fatal.

BMH: Almost to where the not is inscrutable. No atheistic argument comes close.
And I simply see the lack of evidence for teleology, for God, as ample reason to withhold belief in such a being.

Havok said...

BMH: Your pretend skepticism skirt is showing. You're not a skeptic, you're a dogmatic atheist through and through. The fool has said in his heart...
Whatever helps you sleep at night.

BMH: No, but the most consistent forms are all of those. But that's not that interesting to me.
I'm not particularly interested on what you think is consistent or not.
There are various "stripes": those (like Chalmers) who are non-reductive concerning mental properties, as well as those who see ethical properties as not reducable to physical properties (non-naturalist non-theistic ethical realists). And that certainly doesn't enumerate the breadth of positions which don't require belief in a God.

BMH: It rests on the assertion that the revelation God has given is akin to an anonymous note on a car.
No. It uses the analogy of the anonymous note to indicate that the person imposing the obligation needs to ensure the person being imposed upon knows he command is from someone with the authority to do so. It seems you agree with this.

BMH: It assumes that God has not provided enough evidence in what He has revealed to make it clear that He is the author of the specific revelation.
And yet there are atheists who do not believe for rational reasons. There are people of other religions.
This claim really is rather silly.

BMH: Just because a stubborn bunch refuse to see or acknowledge the evidence and blinds themselves to the truth in no way entails that the truth wasn't plain to see.
And this characterisation of all naturalists as "stubborn" does you no favours either.
And regardless, it is still the responsibility of the one imposing the obligation to ensure that the person being imposed upon understands the commands authority.

BMH: He would have to show that what is available was not sufficient, which would be a tough egg to crack.
No, actually he doesn't need to show that.
He shows that a "reasonable naturalist" (who holds and epistemic position such that it is reasonable to withhold belief in God), who would therefore have reasons to doubt a supposed command was from God, cannot have God impose moral obligations on him
Weilenberg also goes on to show than an "unreasonable naturalist" (whose epistemic position makes it unreasonable to withhold belief in God, which would correspond to your accusation) is in the same position regarding God's ability to impose an obligation.
To demonstrate this, Wielenberg introduces another thought experiment, using the same 2 participants (you and I again).
Assume you refuse to believe that anyone who calls you on the phone is who they say they are, and that I know this about you. Knowing this, I am unable to impose a moral obligation on you by way of a command over the phone - you simply do not recognise that the command is from me (unreasonably).

BMH: God signed His work, for Pete's sake, and topped it off with a resurrection! Far from anonymous.
The signature is rather disputed, as is the resurrection.
Not sure that's great evidence in your favour there :-)

BMH: Man, that really was a dumb argument.
Man, you really like making proclamations about an argument before knowing much of anything about it :-)

Havok said...

As for continuing the discussion regarding minds and brains from the other thread, there doesn't seem much point - you're obviously willing to invent ad-hoc rationalisations to secure your beliefs on this matter

John said...

"Is it the combination of atheism with reincarnation that you think is inconsistent, or reincarnation in general?"

-- It's just that a belief has got to be based on something. I don't see how someone can believe in reincarnation while disbelieving in other things that, at least to me, seem less ridiculous (in the sense that they are more likely to be true). It's like someone believing that aliens don't exist, but werewolves do. It seems that atheists who are of this stripe are ignorant of what their atheism is actually based on. Or maybe just too lazy to check the foundations of their beliefs. Then again, the majority of theists could probably be accused of the same thing.

bossmanham said...

There seem to be plenty about - you're just not looking hard enough

Nah, there aren't. Simply, if there's no moral authority, there's no objective morality.

This also runs into the problem of communication - a being like your God is supposed to be should be able to communicate in a less ambiguous and more straightforward manner than it supposedly does in practice.

Which He has. Also, He personally dwells with us and enables us to learn about Him.

If there is one it doesn't seem to be very forthcoming.

Sure it is.

He offers 2 responses which account for obligation/duty without God, but being a Christian he no doubt believes God's commands provide the obligation/duty.

Neither of which actually account for obligation or duty.

Considering you're still struggling to show that his PMR is somehow false, contradictory or invalid, it seems a little premature of you to claim this

One doesn't have to do this to show it's insufficient.

And also that he's jealous and fairly cruel

Haha. I love how atheists think they know the Bible.

Which takes the values you have already, and "upsizes" them.

In a logically straightforward and inescapable way.

That's just what a cruel deity would do - to dash our hopes seems to be a rather cruel thing.

Now you're just getting ridiculous. Do you want to continue the conversation or not?

"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

We come back to whether love is good in and of itself, which you seemed to admit earlier, and then backed away from it.

No we don't. We come to understanding that love is a great making property, and then recognizing that if a being is love, they would be so to a maximal degree. God being the ontological basis of said love in no way challenges this reasoning.

Not if cruelty is a great making property

Yet we recognize it's not. Therefore, the greatest conceivable being could not be cruel.

Because the definition is logically incoherent?

WOnderful assertion; never been shown.

bossmanham said...

Depends what you mean by God, now, doesn't it.

If you want to talk about a different God than the one I've taken for granted you want to talk about, I'm not really interested. Why the red herrings?

Yours seems to flounder due to an incoherent definition (or at least, the lack of a coherent definition), not to mention reality not lining up with what we'd expect were Christianity true.

This hasn't been displayed.

Whatever helps you sleep at night.

Not really. I care for people and want them to come to Christ. However, I do observe your radical atheism, which has no support rationally.

m not particularly interested on what you think is consistent or not.

So?

No. It uses the analogy of the anonymous note to indicate that the person imposing the obligation needs to ensure the person being imposed upon knows he command is from someone with the authority to do so. It seems you agree with this.

...It rests on correlating an anonymous note to what we have, which is silly. But thanks again for repeating a failed argument.

And yet there are atheists who do not believe for rational reasons.

Just because they think they're rational doesn't mean they are. This falls under "stubborn bunch refuse to see or acknowledge the evidence and blinds themselves to the truth in no way entails that the truth wasn't plain to see."

There are people of other religions.

That falls under "stubborn bunch refuse to see or acknowledge the evidence and blinds themselves to the truth in no way entails that the truth wasn't plain to see."

And regardless, it is still the responsibility of the one imposing the obligation to ensure that the person being imposed upon understands the commands authority.

And, since God has provided sufficient means of understanding, His "responsibility" is accomplished.

No, actually he doesn't need to show that.

If he wants his argument to succeed he does.

bossmanham said...

He shows that a "reasonable naturalist" (who holds and epistemic position such that it is reasonable to withhold belief in God), who would therefore have reasons to doubt a supposed command was from God, cannot have God impose moral obligations on him

This is a fantasy, however, as no such person exists.

"...that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures" (Romans 1:19-23).


Further, there's no reason to think that one who imposes moral obligations has to insure that those under the obligations are clear about them. That's certainly not the case in our society. Not knowing the speed limit doesn't excuse one's breaking of it. Considering the placement of the signs too far apart also isn't.

Assume you refuse to believe that anyone who calls you on the phone is who they say they are, and that I know this about you. Knowing this, I am unable to impose a moral obligation on you by way of a command over the phone - you simply do not recognise that the command is from me (unreasonably).

This is far from clear as well. Knowing someone is extremely stubborn and won't believe you, even they have no rational reason not to, seems no reason to think that you can't tell someone what to do if they refuse to recognize your identity.

I could simply refuse to believe that a bill collector is who they say they are. Doesn't change the fact that they have the authority to tell me to pay my bills, and to enact penalties to achieve their ends. He's simply stacking the deck in asserting that this is reasonable for the party on the phone to accept. In no scenario could I ever see this thought experiment as being sane or rational. I'll call these Wielenberg's thick-headed thought experiments (WTHTE).

It also assumes that God's communication to us is like this in some way, which also hasn't been shown. Fail.

The signature is rather disputed, as is the resurrection. Not sure that's great evidence in your favour there

Doesn't change the fact that it's there. Someone disputing an historical fact doesn't mean they're being rational or reasonable in their disputation.

Man, you really like making proclamations about an argument before knowing much of anything about it

I read your formulation of the argument and replied to it here. You seemed to think I had what I needed to know. If I didn't know enough, that's your fault.

As for continuing the discussion regarding minds and brains from the other thread, there doesn't seem much point - you're obviously willing to invent ad-hoc rationalisations to secure your beliefs on this matter

All I'm doing is pointing out that correlation is not identity. The modal argument I offered, which you should agree with given your adherence to the first premise, and the evidence of people leaving their bodies, experiencing things on this planet and elsewhere give good reasons to think that the mind and brain are not identical. If we lacked those arguments, we still wouldn't be warranted in identifying the mind as the brain, since we have no evidence of that. All we have is evidence of correlation, which cannot lead us to said conclusion.

Havok said...

BMH, it's rather hopeless to continue when you intentionally or otherwise misinterpret an argument, and assume from the outset that it simply must be false.

Even though one of the examples is a naturalist who is unreasonable in his withholding belief in God, you make a comment that this withholding is unreasonable - you don't seem to be actually reading and interacting with the argument.

I'd respond to your criticisms and/or suggest you read the section of Wilenenberg's book (can be done online) if I thought you might make any sort of effort to look at it seriously, but it seems you may not be willing or able to.

You've simply made up your mind that your rather literal take on Christianity MUST be true, and that's that - like WLC and the "ministerial" use of reason being trumped by the so called "witness of the Holy Spirit", no evidence or argument is likely to get a fair hearing if it rubs your beliefs the wrong way.

John said...

Well, thank you guys for an entertaining debate --sure beats a couple of 14 yr olds, pretending to be Mensa members, thinking they've got everything figured out, debating over at Youtube. I think there are persuasive arguments on both sides, which is why I'm still agnostic.

The debate of Harris and Craig this April will be something to look forward to since I'm sure they will touch upon the moral argument extensively. To Craig's credit, he seems to have no problems in man-handling the arguments of Hitchens or Dawkins. Harris has a better grasp of Philosophy though, so it should be interesting.

Later guys.

bossmanham said...

BMH, it's rather hopeless to continue when you intentionally or otherwise misinterpret an argument, and assume from the outset that it simply must be false.

Well, I never tried to misrepresent any argument. The last time you accused me of that, I asked to be corrected and was never given any correction.

Furthermore, I am pretty convinced by arguments I see as sound. Do you have a problem with people making up their minds? I would not be rationally warranted in simply dumping what I believe because some random internet atheist came along and presented some contentions with one or two of the arguments I agree with, especially when I don't see them as strong enough to constitute a defeater, and further still since I have responses to said contentions.

I don't think you want me to be irrational in my thought.

Even though one of the examples is a naturalist who is unreasonable in his withholding belief in God, you make a comment that this withholding is unreasonable - you don't seem to be actually reading and interacting with the argument.

I don't see a person, with regard to one of WTHTE, who stubbornly refuses to believe me over the phone as having a reasonable 'out' for moral responsiblity. I don't see how anyone could accept that.

I dealt directly with the thought experiment, and I think it is deck stacking and ignores the reality of what we have with the Bible.

I'd respond to your criticisms and/or suggest you read the section of Wilenenberg's book (can be done online) if I thought you might make any sort of effort to look at it seriously, but it seems you may not be willing or able to.

I may look at it at some point, but when you are conversing with someone, I think it's your prerogative to be able to articulate arguments yourself instead of telling someone to go read it if you want them to deal with the argument at that time, as I've pointed out before. This is why I was excited to tackle the argument you did provide. Did you expect me to be convinced by it and were disappointed when I wasn't? I really don't think it was that good.

You've simply made up your mind that your rather literal take on Christianity MUST be true, and that's that - like WLC and the "ministerial" use of reason being trumped by the so called "witness of the Holy Spirit", no evidence or argument is likely to get a fair hearing if it rubs your beliefs the wrong way.

The Holy Spirit's witness is an important evidence in my life, and He guides my decision making and reasoning abilities. It would be foolish for me to ignore that as a part of my noetic equipment; and blasphemous.

I will say, Havok, that you are many many times more thoughtful and more intelligent than most atheists I've talked to online, and you don't simply present the all of the same pat answers (thought some of them are ;-)).

Marc said...

bossmanham:

Thanks.

>> “1) it's impossible to say how or what the Platonic forms are”

To clarify, are you suggesting that viewing them as abstract objects is inadequate? Or are you invoking something like Craig’s objection, where he says that PMR (or, in his terms, atheistic moral realism) is unintelligible?

>> “2) they pose no moral duty on anyone,”

Doesn’t Wielenberg claim that, on Platonic moral realism, our obligations arise from certain states of affairs which obtain. For example, take the state of affairs Its being morally obligatory to refrain from causing unjustified harm. To the extent that I understand Wielenberg’s view, he holds that states of affairs such as these obtain and thereby provide moral obligations. Perhaps there's something problematic with the notion that obtaining states of affairs can function as a suitable source of moral obligations.

>> “3) there seems to be no reason we evolved to recognize these separate entities.”

I agree that this has the capacity to be a promising objection. I can’t remember the details of Wielenberg’s moral epistemology, and I’m unfortunately not familiar enough with Huemer’s moral intuitionism, so I don’t know how they account for moral knowledge. That is, I don’t know how they’d answer the question: what reason is there to believe that we have (or could have) reliable epistemic access to the relevant abstracta?

Havok:

>> “It seems to me that the "Gods Nature Divine Command Theory" is committed to claiming God's nature is good, but left explaining just why God's nature must be loving and kind.”

As to questions such as Why is lovingness good? and Why is kindness good?, the divine command theorist will answer by saying that these attributes are good because they’re (essential) attributes of God, and He’s the ultimate standard of goodness. Regarding the question about why these attributes are (essentially) possessed by God, I suspect that the divine command theorist will answer by saying that this is just the way things (necessarily) are with respect to God’s nature. If this explanatory terminus is problematic for DCT, them I’m suggesting that it’s no less problematic for PMR, for it seems to me that PMR must appeal to an analogous explanatory terminus.

>> “It seems to be adding a claims about God's nature between "good" and the attributes which are good making. The claim that love and kindness are good ONLY because they are instantiated in God seems unjustified and somewhat superfluous - if love is only good because God instantiates it, then there seems little reason to think it is a great-making property, and therefore I don't see why God must be loving.”

As Alston would say, it appears that this objection expresses PMR predilections. Further, doesn’t PMR face an analogous objection? Perhaps something like the following: the claim that love and kindness are good only because they constitute moral goodness, or only because moral goodness supervenes on them, seems unjustified and somewhat superfluous – if love is only good because it constitutes moral goodness, or only because moral goodness supervenes on it, then there doesn’t seem to be good reason to regard it as a good-making property. If this isn’t a good objection to PMR, why suppose that it’s a good objection to DCT?

>> My objection was to the claim that, while goodness supervenes on God's nature, no reason seemed forthcoming for why God was loving, or why being loving was a great-making attribute (since on this account goodness does not supervene on love).”

Are you claiming that you don’t see any reason to think that love is morally good, and that, therefore, you see no reason to think that God is loving?

Havok said...

Bossmanham: Well, I never tried to misrepresent any argument. The last time you accused me of that, I asked to be corrected and was never given any correction.
Well, you seemed to accept the initial observation or Wielenbergs, that the person imposing an obligation has the responsibility of ensuring that the other party is aware the command which imposes the obligation is from someone authorised to make such a command. But then you reject the same observation when it applies to your deity. Perhaps misrepresent is the incorrect term. You certainly seem to be inconsistent.
You also make the blanket claim that those who don't believe in God are simply stuborn, yet there seems ample evidence that this is not the case - you need to justify the claim (with more than bible quotes).

Bossmanham: Furthermore, I am pretty convinced by arguments I see as sound. Do you have a problem with people making up their minds?
I don't have a problem with it, but you seem to - you don't seem to accept that someone could come to a different conclusion than you in a rational manner.

Bossmanham: I would not be rationally warranted in simply dumping what I believe because some random internet atheist came along and presented some contentions with one or two of the arguments I agree with, especially when I don't see them as strong enough to constitute a defeater, and further still since I have responses to said contentions.
It's the bold claims, such as athiests being stubborn rather than rationally withholding belief, or objective morality requiring your specific conceptions of God and his nature which I take issue to. The field looks much differently than they way you seem to portray it, and you don't seem to take any sort of alternate account seriously.

Bossmanham: I don't see a person, with regard to one of WTHTE, who stubbornly refuses to believe me over the phone as having a reasonable 'out' for moral responsiblity. I don't see how anyone could accept that.
If you knew that to be the case, you'd surely try some other means of imposing the moral obligation (meeting them in person, for example). You did seem to accept the initial contention that the person imposing the obligation has a responsibility here.

Bossmanham: I dealt directly with the thought experiment, and I think it is deck stacking and ignores the reality of what we have with the Bible.
Which assumes that everyone must view the bible in the same fashion you do, which seems a rather extreme position. To me it looks exactly like the work of men rather than being divinely inspired, so I don't see a God behind it, and therefore I don't see any commands as being from a duly authorised commander.

Bossmanham: This is why I was excited to tackle the argument you did provide.
Yet you seemed inconsistent in this tackling. You accept the initial premise, and then don't seem to accept it later. Granted I'm probably not articulated the problem clearly either. I'll see if I can't present the argument more clearly

Havok said...

Marc, I think you're correct regarding Wielenberg's claims that moral obligation arise from certain states of affairs. he does mention Huemer's. Wielenberg also makes the observation that Divine Command theorists are also committed to afirming ungrounded, substantive ethical brute facts. Some examples he notes are "That the Good exists, that the Good is loving, that the Good is merciful, and that the Good is just.".
Weilenberg makes the claim that moral properties supervene on non-moral properties, and that since evolution has equiped us with those non-moral properties, then we are able to perceive the moral properties:
"With these points firmly in mind, let us return to the issue that launched this discussion: the source of human moral rights and obligations. What is it? I propose the following answer: Necessarily, any being that can reason, suffer, experience happiness, tell the difference between right and wrong, choose between right and wrong, and set goals for itself has certain rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and certain obligations, including the duty to refrain from rape (in typical circumstances).67 Evolutionary processes have produced human beings that can reason, suffer, experience happiness, tell the difference between right and wrong, choose between right and wrong, and set goals for themselves. In this way, evolutionary processes have endowed us with certain unalienable rights and duties. Evolution has given us these moral properties by giving us the non-moral properties upon which they supervene. And if, as I believe, there is no God, then it is in some sense an accident that we have the moral properties that we do. But that they are accidental in origin does not make these moral properties unreal or unimportant"

I'm probably pushing the point too hard regarding "Why is love good?". It seems some people who object to morality not grounded in God's nature is that it is arbitrary, but as you point out the same can apply to GNDCT. I'm trying to point out that the starting point of DCT's is just as "arbitrary" as non-DCT objective moral systems.
I also don't see why God is necessarily loving, etc, rather than contingently so (since there seems nothing inherently "great" about love on the DCT account). Perhaps I'm just misguided in some manner.

Havok said...

Marc: Are you claiming that you don’t see any reason to think that love is morally good, and that, therefore, you see no reason to think that God is loving?
No, I think that claiming love is essentially great-making (which seems like an ethical claim), while also claiming all ethical claims must be grounded in God seems to be inconsistent.
The claim that love is great-making seems to either be essential to what love is, in which case we have what seems to be an ethical claim which is not grounded in God's nature, or we have the claim that love is not essentially great-making, which seems to make the inclusion of love in God's nature contingent and/or arbitrary.
Either way, there seems to be an issue here for DCT

SLW said...

Havok:
God is love.

SLW said...

It is the essence of morality to emulate God, insofar as we do so within the limits of our being.

Havok said...

SLW, the issue in the last couple of posts is the claim that on DCT, all ethical claims are grounded in God's nature (and ethical claims must be grounded in God's nature). On reflection, however, it seems that DCT does make substantive ethical claims that are not grounded in God's nature.
If I understand correctly, the claim you made "God is love" would be one of them.

SLW said...

Havok,
I have been reading along, although I'd have to admit there seems to be a bit of an impasse with the subject matter. Thought I'd throw in a little grenade. ;-)

Love is great-making because (consciously or unconsciously) it emulates God. We have an innate duty to emulate God because we have been created to function in his image.

Marc said...

Havok:

>> “Wielenberg also makes the observation that Divine Command theorists are also committed to afirming ungrounded, substantive ethical brute facts. Some examples he notes are ‘That the Good exists, that the Good is loving, that the Good is merciful, and that the Good is just’.”

I recall that Wielenberg makes this claim, but I don’t remember what he means by or how he defines “ungrounded.” I assume he intends to suggest something to the effect that there’s no by virtue of relation which stands between certain ethical facts and corresponding ontological facts (or states of affairs). For example, it’s false that some ethical fact is the case—e.g., moral goodness supervenes on compassion—by virtue of something else’s being the case.

Regarding Wielenberg’s examples of ethical facts, it seems to me that each one is, in some sense, grounded in God. By presuming that God is the Good, the Good’s existence, lovingness, mercifulness, and justness appear to be relevantly associated with God or His nature. As to such questions as Why does essential mercifulness constitute a part of God’s moral nature?, we’ll eventually arrive at a terminus of explanation, for it seems that explanation must terminate somewhere. But even if there’s no further explanation for why essential mercifulness constitutes a part of God’s moral nature—i.e., other than saying that this is necessarily the way things are—that doesn’t seem to mean that the fact of God’s being essentially merciful is ungrounded (in God).

>> “I'm trying to point out that the starting point of DCT's is just as ‘arbitrary’ as non-DCT objective moral systems.”

It seems to me that the Anselmian thesis—that God is a maximally perfect being—might provide the theist with a reason to think that DCT isn’t an arbitrary starting point. As Craig would suggest, it’s objectively better to be the ultimate standard of moral goodness than to conform to a more ultimate standard. So, if being the ultimate standard of goodness constitutes a perfection, and God possesses the maximum compossible array of perfections, then it would appear that the theist has a good, non-arbitrary starting point in God.

>> “I also don't see why God is necessarily loving, etc, rather than contingently so (since there seems nothing inherently "great" about love on the DCT account).”

I think it’s plausible to suppose, in accordance with our moral reflections and experience, that it’s objectively better to be loving than to be unloving. Being loving is morally good, and being unloving is morally bad, and so perhaps it’s not unreasonable to believe that being necessarily loving is better than being contingently loving. If this particular claim isn’t in dispute, then the Anselmian theist will appeal to a rationale (similar to the one given above) for holding for that God is necessarily or essentially loving. Any being who is loving in all possible worlds is greater (or “more perfect”) than a being who is loving only in some possible worlds.

>> “No, I think that claiming love is essentially great-making (which seems like an ethical claim), while also claiming all ethical claims must be grounded in God seems to be inconsistent.

The claim that love is great-making seems to either be essential to what love is, in which case we have what seems to be an ethical claim which is not grounded in God's nature, or we have the claim that love is not essentially great-making, which seems to make the inclusion of love in God's nature contingent and/or arbitrary.
Either way, there seems to be an issue here for DCT.”

As you might expect, the divine command theorist will claim that love is essentially a great-making property because the greatest possible being is loving. (Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that love is essentially a good-making property.)

Havok said...

Marc: I recall that Wielenberg makes this claim, but I don’t remember what he means by or how he defines “ungrounded.”
I think I introduced the term "ungrounded", and by that I meant not grounded in God's nature as the "God's Nature DCT" commits one to claim.
Wielenberg simply refers to them as "substantive, metaphysically necessary brute ethical facts". Wielenberg states the following as how he conceives of them:
"With respect to justice, my view is that there are various obtaining states of affairs concerning justice, and that when individual people have the property of being just, it is (in part) in virtue of the obtaining of some of these states of affairs. For instance, I hold that it is just to give people what they deserve; thus, anyone who gives others what they deserve thereby instantiates the property of justice."

Marc: By presuming that God is the Good, the Good’s existence, lovingness, mercifulness, and justness appear to be relevantly associated with God or His nature.
Wielenberg points out that the claim that "God is the Good", ie. claiming that "the Good" is not a property of a person but rather an actual person, seems to fall afoul of the claim that moral values exist as properties of persons (he quotes Lane Craig & Moreland to that effect).
As for "the Good" being a brute substantive ethical fact, not grounded in God's nature, Wielenberg has this to say:
"It might be thought that Adams’s theory does provide a foundation for such ethical facts; doesn’t the theory tell us, for instance, that the fact that the Good exists is grounded in the fact that God exists? The answer is no; since the Good just is God, the existence of God can hardly explain or ground the existence of the Good. In the context of Adams’s view, the claim that God serves as the foundation of the Good is no more sensible than the claim that H2O serves as the foundation of water.40 Indeed, once we see that, on Adams’s view the Good = God, we see that Adams’s theory entails that the Good has no external foundation, since God has no external foundation. It is not merely that Adams’s view fails to specify where the Good came from; the theory implies that the Good did not come from anywhere."
He is referring to R.M. Adam's DCT, which Lane Craig and others often refer to (which seems appropriate here), but the criticism seem apt for any DCT which affirms that "God is the Good".

Marc: So, if being the ultimate standard of goodness constitutes a perfection, and God possesses the maximum compossible array of perfections, then it would appear that the theist has a good, non-arbitrary starting point in God.
That would be assuming the theist can provide a composible array of perfections which includes this, along with the other standard "divine attributes" which is sound, and not incoherent - and I'm doubtful that can be accomplished.
Also, as mentioned above, current DCT's seem to require the existence of ethical facts which are not grounded in God, so they too would fail should the theist provide the Anselmian argument you sketched above.


Marc: As you might expect, the divine command theorist will claim that love is essentially a great-making property because the greatest possible being is loving. (Maybe it would be more appropriate to say that love is essentially a good-making property.)
It seems to me that the DCT proponent who made that claim would render the claim that God is necessarily loving contentless.
Love is great-making because God possesses that property, but God possesses that property because it is great-making. Granted, in the world it seems that love is a great-making (good-making) property, but it seems there's a possible world where cruelty is a great-making (good-making) property in virtue of the greatest possible being possessing that property (in a similarly circular manner). It just seems so unenlightening and uninformative :-)

Havok said...

Weilenberg's paper is In defense of non-natural non-theistic moral realism, if anyone is interested.

bossmanham said...

Marc,

To clarify, are you suggesting that viewing them as abstract objects is inadequate? Or are you invoking something like Craig’s objection, where he says that PMR (or, in his terms, atheistic moral realism) is unintelligible?

I'm not sure I said anything about abstract objects. I am saying that Platonic forms don't seem to have any sort of intelligible existence.

Doesn’t Wielenberg claim that, on Platonic moral realism, our obligations arise from certain states of affairs which obtain.

He may say that, but it doesn't work. States of affairs can't prescribe anything for anyone. They are simply things that happen. Only a person can tell someone what to do.

Havok said...

BMH: I'm not sure I said anything about abstract objects. I am saying that Platonic forms don't seem to have any sort of intelligible existence.
What would be the difference between them, or would you say that abstract objects are also unintelligible?

BMH: He may say that, but it doesn't work. States of affairs can't prescribe anything for anyone. They are simply things that happen. Only a person can tell someone what to do.
But if states-of-affairs can tell us what "the Good" is, shouldn't we ought to do what is good? Isn't that the thrust of morality generally?

bossmanham said...

Havok,

Well, you seemed to accept the initial observation or Wielenbergs, that the person imposing an obligation has the responsibility of ensuring that the other party is aware the command which imposes the obligation is from someone authorised to make such a command

I was only accepting it for the sake of argument. I don't think God, as the arbiter of morality, has moral duties; though He certainly acts in accordance with them. God would still be completely holy if He wiped out His creation without revealing Himself to anyone. That's His prerogative.

But then you reject the same observation when it applies to your deity

Because God isn't subject to moral duties. This isn't to say God won't act justly by us. As necessarily just, He certainly will. To apply certain duties to God that only humans have is to reduce God to our level. Also, I'm not sure I accept Wielenberg's assertions that those dispensing laws have to do those things anyway. I didn't see him argue for it, and I can think of counterexamples and I presented them.

You also make the blanket claim that those who don't believe in God are simply stuborn, yet there seems ample evidence that this is not the case

They're either stubborn or stupid or ignorant, because the obviousness of God's existence can be cut with a knife. But I only use this to show that it's certainly not necessary to accept Wielenberg's logic. Just because someone misinterprets God's revelation and just because some reject it as God's revelation, it does not follow that there's something wrong with God's revelation. That would be like a 6 day creationist discounting Darwinism because he finds it confusing.

you don't seem to accept that someone could come to a different conclusion than you in a rational manner

If I said that (which I don't think I did) I wasn't correct. I do think if one does come to this conclusion, they are either ignoring or missing certain foundational knowledge.

If you knew that to be the case, you'd surely try some other means of imposing the moral obligation (meeting them in person, for example).

1) Not necessarily. Perhaps it would be kinder and help the person develop more to let them face the consequences. 2) It's hard to see that the one setting obligations would suddenly have the obligation to go out of their way to make their identity more available. 3) It assumes that God doesn't meet them on other levels. 4) If one knew no matter what they did the other party wouldn't listen, then I think stepping back is perfectly justified.

Which assumes that everyone must view the bible in the same fashion you do

Then you didn't understand my refutation. No one might accept the Bible for what it is and it might still be sufficient revelation to come to God. Just like it may be that no one would accept some scientific treatise, but it still may be sufficient in conveying the truth of the matter.

bossmanham said...

What would be the difference between them, or would you say that abstract objects are also unintelligible?

No, because Platonic forms aren't necessarily the same thing as abstract objects. In fact, Platonic forms, if they existed, would very clearly be concrete existing entities; but what they heck is it for "rescuing-a-baby-is-good" to be a Platonic form.

Also, I think abstract objects exist only as ideas, and such would be entirely intelligible.

But if states-of-affairs can tell us what "the Good" is, shouldn't we ought to do what is good? Isn't that the thrust of morality generally?

No...because states of affairs don't have "ought-ness" about them. A female praying mantis eating her mate is something that happens. You can't derive any sort of "ought" simply from that state of affairs. Likewise, a German dictator ordering the extermination of a group of people is a state of affairs. How could you derive any "ought" from viewing that state of affairs?

Only if you have someone prescribe to you a way of reacting to those things could you have an ought, and only then would it be objective.

Havok said...

BMH: I don't think God, as the arbiter of morality, has moral duties; though He certainly acts in accordance with them.
Besides seeming to be a case of special pleading, this seems to be troublesome to some other claims of theism, specifically that God is morally praiseworthy, and God is worthy of worship. If God has no moral duties, then it seems God would be "amoral". Things that God might do might correspond to good, it doesn't seem that they'd be moral acts, and therefore not morally praiseworthy. I'm also not sure it's reasonable to conclude that an amoral being is worthy of worship.
It also doesn't seem correct. If God makes a promise (of which there are examples of in the bible), does God not then have an obligation to adhere to said promise? Saying that God will keep the promise (because he never lies or similar) doesn't seem to capture what is meant by promising.

BMH: To apply certain duties to God that only humans have is to reduce God to our level
But you're not claiming that we have duties God does not (which would make sense - one might claim that creatures have duties to their creator, for example). You're claiming that God simply has no duties. Claiming that this is simply the case doesn't seem enough.

Havok said...

BMH: They're either stubborn or stupid or ignorant, because the obviousness of God's existence can be cut with a knife.
So you say, but I simply don't see it. In fact, the theistic explanations for things that I'm aware of are rather light on explanatory detail (Dawes in "Theism and Explanation" argues for this point).

BMH: Just because someone misinterprets God's revelation and just because some reject it as God's revelation, it does not follow that there's something wrong with God's revelation.
The argument doesn't rely on finding fault with the content of God's revelation, just the fact that one can (whether reasonably or unreasonably) disagree about the source of the revelation.

BMH: If I said that (which I don't think I did) I wasn't correct.
You're claim that those who don't believe in God are either stuborn, stupid or ignorant, and comments to that effect do tend to reinforce the view that yours is the only rational position to hold.

BMH: I do think if one does come to this conclusion, they are either ignoring or missing certain foundational knowledge.
Then don't you need to demonstrate that this is the case (that we're either ignoring or missing certain knowledge, and that said knowledge is foundational)?

1) Which says nothing of the process of imposing the obligation.
2) Which also says nothing of the process of imposing the obligation.
3) The assumption that God does meet them on other levels doesn't seem obvious.
4) Seems to set limits on omnipotence, and/or free will.

Havok said...

BMH: but what they heck is it for "rescuing-a-baby-is-good" to be a Platonic form.
I wouldn't expect that is a Platonic moral form. I'd expect the Platonic moral forms are a little more foundational than that (love, justice, kindness etc).

BMH: Also, I think abstract objects exist only as ideas, and such would be entirely intelligible.
Does that make abstract objects subjective in some sense.

BMH: Likewise, a German dictator ordering the extermination of a group of people is a state of affairs. How could you derive any "ought" from viewing that state of affairs?
Weilenberg notes that there are various states-of-affairs which concern justice, and when one of these states of affairs are instantiated, then we say a person or act is just. In the example you provide, the state of affairs obtained would not be concerned with those which are good, and therefore the act would not be good. Since we ought to be good, and ought avoid being bad (ie. morality) then we ought to avoid the state-of-affairs you mention.

BMH: Only if you have someone prescribe to you a way of reacting to those things could you have an ought, and only then would it be objective.
I don't quite see where Wielenberg's account fails (the same way I couldn't quite see how Morriston's account failed in this regard). You're account of objective prescriptivity seems somewhat contrived (matches exactly what your DCT provides, and couldn't be fulfilled any other way), and doesn't necessarily reflect what we actually have.

bossmanham said...

Besides seeming to be a case of special pleading

It would only be special pleading if God weren't the arbiter of morality.

If God has no moral duties, then it seems God would be "amoral".

Perhaps you missed the whole "arbiter of morality" thing, and "ontological ground of morality."

Things that God might do might correspond to good, it doesn't seem that they'd be moral acts, and therefore not morally praiseworthy.

Uh, they'd be good by necessity, since God is the good.

Your argument isn't an argument, but rather an unbacked assertion.

You're claiming that God simply has no duties. Claiming that this is simply the case doesn't seem enough.

It only makes sense. God isn't issuing commands to Himself, but rather to His creatures. His commands constitute moral duties, therefore God has no duties. God would act in accordance to moral duty, however, because He is essentially loving, just, kind, etc.

Why is God praiseworthy then? Because we praise Him as goodness Himself, not because He's lived up to some moral obligation.

the theistic explanations for things that I'm aware of are rather light on explanatory detail

Explanatory detail has nothing to do with whether an explanation is correct or not, but digression here would be fruitless.

The argument doesn't rely on finding fault with the content of God's revelation, just the fact that one can (whether reasonably or unreasonably) disagree about the source of the revelation.

Notice I didn't say anything about finding fault.

You're claim that those who don't believe in God are either stuborn, stupid or ignorant

Someone who is ignorant about a certain fact can be rational within their ignorance, as could stupid people be rational in their stupidity, as long as one belief follows logically from another and doesn't contradict other beliefs.

Weilenberg notes that there are various states-of-affairs which concern justice

No their aren't. There are simply states of affairs. If God does not exist to prescribe justice, then justice is something we invent as an afterthought. There's no objective standard of justice which any state of affairs would correlate to.

I don't quite see where Wielenberg's account fails (the same way I couldn't quite see how Morriston's account failed in this regard).

States of affairs can't prescribe anything. Prescription entail personality. Pretty simple.

matches exactly what your DCT provides, and couldn't be fulfilled any other way

Funny that, eh? Not a wild wonder I hold to DCT. I'm just not so silly as to suggest that an impersonal state of affairs can prescibe action for us.

But as I said, these atheistic ethical ponderings are silly little exercises in futility.

Havok said...

BMH: It would only be special pleading if God weren't the arbiter of morality.
I don't see being "arbiter" (which doesn't seem the right term) absolves one of all moral duties. Claiming God has no moral duties seems to imply that he cannot make promises, not do good (or evil).

BMH: Uh, they'd be good by necessity, since God is the good.
Not sure about that. They might correspond to the good, and if another agent performed them because they morally ought to do so, then they'd be good, but God is no longer acting morally. God i amoral (though his behaviour corresponds to the good).

BMH: It only makes sense. God isn't issuing commands to Himself, but rather to His creatures. His commands constitute moral duties, therefore God has no duties. God would act in accordance to moral duty, however, because He is essentially loving, just, kind, etc.
But there are still things God ought to do because they're good, in which case it seems God is morally obligated to do them (and will do them because it's his nature).

BMH: Because we praise Him as goodness Himself, not because He's lived up to some moral obligation.
On this view, however, it seems that while "God is the good" is true, "God is good" is not.

BMH: Explanatory detail has nothing to do with whether an explanation is correct or not
It's rather important in the justification of an explanation, without which I doubt we can judge whether it is correct or not.

BMH: Notice I didn't say anything about finding fault.
You did mention that simple rejection doesn't mean there is something wrong with Gods revelation (a fault).

Havok said...

BMH: No their aren't. There are simply states of affairs.
On Wielenberg's account, some of the states-of-affairs concern justice - justice supervenes on them, I think he'd say.

BMH: If God does not exist to prescribe justice, then justice is something we invent as an afterthought. There's no objective standard of justice which any state of affairs would correlate to.
Not on Wielenberg's account. You've not demonstrated that moralty MUST BE a subjective human invention without God. And since the DCT seems to commit you to substantive objective ethical brute facts, you look to be in the same predicament as Wielenberg regarding this claim.
You also seem unable to separate yourself from your DCT when evaluating other accounts - here you seem to be saying Weilenberg's account doesn't fit what your's claims, and so should be discarded.

BMH: States of affairs can't prescribe anything. Prescription entail personality. Pretty simple.
We ought to do what is right, morally. On your account we can know this because of God's commands (and God gives those commands force). On other acocunts of objective morality, we ought to do what is right as well (we simply lack someone telling us what to do).
I don't see how you've solved anything. I mean why ought I do what God commands? You seemed to reply at the beginning of the comments that we simply ought to do what we ought to do, entailing God's commands are what we ought to do. I don't see a substantive difference between the two, really. I think this comes back to you claims regarding just what precriptivity is. Moral prescriptivity does not seem anything like physical presciptivity. In reality it doesn't actually seem to have the force you are claiming it does (or requires).

BMH: Funny that, eh? Not a wild wonder I hold to DCT.
Curious would be my observation. It seems your conception of presciptivity is custom made for your moral theory, and not the other way around. As I mentioned, your claims regarding prescriptivity don't seem to obtain in the real world (and what does obtain - the ability to follow or ignore morality, seems explainable on non-theistic morality, even various forms of relatavism).

BMH: But as I said, these atheistic ethical ponderings are silly little exercises in futility.
And there is the attitude I've come to expect from theists - "I'm certain that I'm right, so what's the point!" :-)
Since it doesn't seem certain (likely?) that a being with the traditional attributes of God is coherent, I'm not sure your certainty is warranted, but a digression into such details would be fruitless ;-)

SLW said...

Havok asked:
I mean why ought I do what God commands? You seemed to reply at the beginning of the comments that we simply ought to do what we ought to do, entailing God's commands are what we ought to do.

We ought to emulate God because we have been created in God's image to function that way--it is our design specs. It is why we can reason about such things as morality. Reason alone cannot perfectly discriminate morality (we need God's command for that). But that we can reason at all, and know there is a way that seems more right than another way, is a consequence of being made in God's image.

Havok said...

SLW: We ought to emulate God because we have been created in God's image to function that way--it is our design specs.
But in the same way that BMH deny he ought to do what is right on a non-thestic moral view, I can surely deny that I ought to do what God commands.
You can give reasons for doing so, as you do, but they don't seem to be "morally motivating" in the manner BMH (and yourself?) expects or requires

SLW: It is why we can reason about such things as morality. Reason alone cannot perfectly discriminate morality (we need God's command for that).
That is the heart of contention here - you (and BMH) are claiming that without God's command, we cannot know right and wrong, and/or cannot have an obligation to do it. But I don't see that your reasoning has actually demonstrated this.
On non-theistic objective morality, simply knowing what is right/good indicates what we ought to do or imposes a moral obligation - isn't that the essence of morality?

SLW: But that we can reason at all, and know there is a way that seems more right than another way, is a consequence of being made in God's image.
All of which is predicated on the existence of God and the truth of the DCT.
There are analogous reasons to be made for non-theistic objective morality (and other DCT's). That an adherent of a "God's Nature DCT" may not find them satisfying does not make them incorrect, as far as I can tell.

SLW said...

That is the heart of contention here - you (and BMH) are claiming that without God's command, we cannot know right and wrong, and/or cannot have an obligation to do it. But I don't see that your reasoning has actually demonstrated this.
On non-theistic objective morality, simply knowing what is right/good indicates what we ought to do or imposes a moral obligation - isn't that the essence of morality?


In a sense, I suppose it is, but what difference does it make? It doesn't seem to me to describe how humans actually live. Such morality seems to fall by the wayside when following it would produce loss or inconvenience. I'm not sure I've observed very many who endeavor to follow such a moral principal (apart from God, that is). Can you truly say that a moral principal such as you've described actually describes how people are? If not, how objective can it be?

Havok said...

SLW: In a sense, I suppose it is, but what difference does it make? It doesn't seem to me to describe how humans actually live.
As I mention below, the proscriptivity that a non-DCT moral realism (and some anti-realism's I'd suggest) seems to more closely mirror what we see than the absolute objective proscriptivity that the DCT requires. The DCT proponent (in this case BMH) seems to almost be arguing for moral prescriptivity that cannot be broken (seemingly analogous to physical law) and which we cannot opt out of following. But such a position seems not to obtain in reality - we can in fact opt out of behaving morally (yes, there may be consequences).
I may not be fairly representing the DCT position here, but that is how it seems to me (or at least, it seems to be walking a very fine line between the above, and some less prescriptive view, such as available to the non-theist).

SLW: Such morality seems to fall by the wayside when following it would produce loss or inconvenience.
This seems to be more a point against the absolute objective proscriptivity that the DCT proponent is committing himself to, rather than against a non-theistic moral realism which has more modest proscriptivity, as I mentioned above.

SLW: I'm not sure I've observed very many who endeavor to follow such a moral principal (apart from God, that is).
On BMH's account, God isn't actually following any such moral principle, because doing so would seem to imply a moral duty or obligation to do so. And having such duties or obligation is something BMH has denied for his conception of God.
I'm not sure there are many people who are actively "evil". We may find that we fall short of our ideals, but it seems to me that this is usually to some other concern which was at the time considered overriding (theft of food to avoid starvation, for instance)


SLW: Can you truly say that a moral principal such as you've described actually describes how people are?
If we follow either Wielenberg's "Goodness supervenes on states-of-affairs" or Morriston's "Platonic Moral Realism", then simply knowing what is right or wrong would provide motivation to do right or wrong. That someone can be mistaken about this doesn't refute the claimed ontology of the moral ontology, else such a point would also tell against a DCT. A person may also believe they have some overriding obligation for not performing an act (again, the person could be mistaken about this).


SLW: If not, how objective can it be?
If the ethical facts have some independant existence (not subject the the imagining or beliefs of a person), then surely they can be said to be objective, and both Wielenberg and Morriston posit the existence of such facts. And, as Wielenberg points out, claiming that such substantive ethical brute facts must be grounded in the properties of a person, as a GNDCT seems to claim, fails because such a DCT also requires positing such substantive ethical brute facts.