Challenge to proponents of objective morality
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09-08-2017, 06:24 AM (This post was last modified: 09-08-2017 06:39 AM by Necessitarian.)
One Christian Response
(08-08-2017 12:09 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  This is a challenge to anyone who thinks that morality is objective, whatever morality may mean to them.

1) Define what morality means. How do you determine how moral or immoral an action is?

2) Describe any situation you like, which contains some sort of conflict of interest between outcomes.

3) Explain how you can resolve this situation according to your definition of morality, to find the objectively most moral (or perhaps least immoral) action to take.

Good questions; this is an important topic. Before I present my view, I'd like to preface by noting that this isn't a peer-reviewed journal or funded blog or anything like that. In fact, the questions are clothed in every-day, commonsense language, not precise philosophic terminology (e.g., moral realism). What I will be proposing is a brief introduction which should not be thought exhaustive. (And for the record, I don't take any issue with this layman context because I am a layman myself.)

I am a Christian of the Reformed variety who takes a form of Divine Command Theory (DCT). Much else could be said, but one factor seems vital to point out here: covenantalism. Covenantalism is a view of anthropology, a view about the nature and place of human beings in the cosmos.

By covenantalism, I mean that the Christian God voluntarily contracts Himself to the world and He does this by creating beings in His image (cf. Gen 1:26-30). To put it more simply, God creates the world and He creates human beings to be His representatives in that world, which we are capable of doing because of our being made in God's image. The nature of God's relationship to humankind is that of suzerainty, a covenant, a sovereign contract wherein the Sovereign has promised blessings to human beings which obligates their obedience and worship. Hence, you see in Genesis, God's design of humankind simultaneously blesses and obligates us (e.g., "God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (Gen 1:28)).

Paraphrased, Genesis is saying, "God made you a rational person capable of enjoying knowledge, lordship over the universe, relationships to other human beings, and above all, a relationship to God. Therefore, carry out these things." This covenantal perspective means that morality, God's law which obligates our obedience, is tied to and explained by our being made according to the likness of God.

However, God's contract with humankind has been hampered by sin. In the Garden of Eden, Adam was our federal representative, and since he failed to fulfill God's law, since he failed to fulfill his covenant duties to God, he nearly ruined the human race. Now, people are, by nature, born sinners, inheriting a state of condemnation from Adam's disobedience, and so turn to idols instead of worshiping the Triune Yahweh. However, God became a man to save people under a New Covenant, a Covenant of grace for all who entrust themselves to the atoning work of Jesus Christ.

To sum up: God creates human beings in His image, an image that bears repercussions for how humans ought to conduct their lives. Adam failed to follow through with his covenant responsibilities and so threw the entire human race into a state of evil. But(!) God, in His infinite grace, has provided a way to be good, to enjoy good, and to enjoy the consequences of virtue again; He has accomplished redemption and renewal of human beings through the saving work of Jesus.

So, with this very brief and simple backdrop in mind, I'll answer your questions as best I can, Rob:

1.) "Morality" refers to the Law of the Christian God which (a) acts to express the beauteous character of God; which (b) constitutes obligations tied to our covenantal nature; which © condemns sinners, showing our need for the Messiah Jesus; which (d) overlaps with wisdom broadly; and which (e) is set down in detail throughout the Christian Scriptures, summarized by God Himself: "Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself." Though there are multiple ways to determine whether something is moral or immoral, point (e) covers the best way to discern good from evil: identifying it on the basis of God's inscripturated word.

2.) One conflict of interest is this topic itself. For if moral realism is not the case, then there is no fact of the matter whether one ought to be a moral antirealist or not. In other words, if morality is not objective then there is no fact of the matter about whether it's right or wrong to believe morality is not objective. In fact, there would be no fact of the matter whether we ought to believe anything at all!

The moral antirealist must not only be willing to admit that theft, rape, mutilation, and murder are not factually evil, that they are mere social constructs or evolved behaviors or deceptive buzzwords used for self-preservation or whatever. Moral antirealists must also give up the idea that rationality itself is factually good or that irrationality is factually evil. To put it more starkly, on moral antirealism, there is no such thing as "rationality," since the term connotates a value judgment about certain intellectual states over others. If there is no fact of the matter about whether we ought to think one way over another, then "rationality," "knowledge," and so forth are vacuous terms.

3.) Christian DCT resolves the issue. On the above model I proposed, there is an extramental state of affairs which demands we humans be rational to the best of our ability. Namely, the Christian God has blessed human beings with their cognitive faculties and has given us the duty of using those faculties toward the worship of God, affectionate understanding and care for other human beings, and stewardship of God's creation.

As an aside, I'd like to offer anyone voice-chat over the topic. Actually, I was invited here by Nihilis. This question of morality is so vast and complex that it's difficult to adequately cover the issue in a short forum post - besides, this is already getting long, I suspect. Feel free to PM me to talk to me and others (including unbelievers) about the issue of the "objectivity" of morality.

[Edited for one spelling error.]

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).
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09-08-2017, 06:27 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:12 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:08 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  What makes theistic systems of morality subjective, to me, is their dogmatism.

What does this even mean?

It means "one size fits all," which is not at all realistic. Circumstances alter cases.
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09-08-2017, 06:28 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:27 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:12 AM)Naielis Wrote:  What does this even mean?

It means "one size fits all," which is not at all realistic. Circumstances alter cases.

But how does that make it subjective?

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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09-08-2017, 06:31 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:28 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:27 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  It means "one size fits all," which is not at all realistic. Circumstances alter cases.

But how does that make it subjective?

Actually, I have been arguing in favor of objective morality. Realism or fantasy are what make morality either more or less objective.
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09-08-2017, 06:33 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:31 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:28 AM)Naielis Wrote:  But how does that make it subjective?

Actually, I have been arguing in favor of objective morality. Realism or fantasy are what make morality either more or less objective.

But you said theistic morality is subjective. How does that follow from the fact that it's "one size fits all"?

"I think part of the appeal of mathematical logic is that the formulas look mysterious - you write backward Es!" - Hilary Putnam
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09-08-2017, 06:38 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
Welcome to TTA.

(09-08-2017 06:24 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
1.) "Morality" refers to the Law of the Christian God which
...

... which is subjective to that god.

Angel

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09-08-2017, 07:29 AM
Response to DLJ's Univocal "Subjective"
(09-08-2017 06:38 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Welcome to TTA.
Thank you and thanks for having me. You responded quickly, haha.

(09-08-2017 06:38 AM)DLJ Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:24 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
1.) "Morality" refers to the Law of the Christian God which
...

... which is subjective to that god.

Angel
True, but that seems to me the quintessence of deepity. A deepity is a statement which has two senses, one which is true but utterly trivial, another which would be significant if it were true but which turns out to be false. (I believe Dennett coined the term.) You are correct -- it is true that morality, like the rest of the universe, is subject to God's thought/will. At least that is my position as a Christian determinist.

However, the question of moral realism is whether there are extramental facts of value (e.g., you ought not murder) just like there are extramental facts about what numeric value belongs in "2 + 2 = x," which direction the sun is spinning relative to Earth, or whether Lincoln was the US's 16th president. Regardless whether those ethical and nomological facts are embedded in theism or not, they are either not subject to human mental states and therefore objective (in that sense), or they aren't. The objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is subject to human opinion, not whether it is created/determined by or grounded in God. (This is obviously the case for any orthodox Christian Theism, and almost always the case with general theism anyway.)

To push back at you, DLJ, you have falsely assumed words like "subjective" carry univocal import on meta-ethics (or metaphysics in general, for that matter). You have falsely assumed that because something is determined by God (a more precise way of specifying how morality is "subject" to Him) that it is somehow "subjective" simpliciter, without any metaphysical qualification or distinction between Creator and creation, as if reality were some abstract container to which both creature and Creator are subject. This means you'd be under an awkward, controversial burden to show that DCT inherently precludes moral realism, contra centuries of philosophic history and, frankly, the majority of Divine Command Theorists. Moreover, and much worse, it puts you in the position of merely neglecting or rejecting the Reformed Christian metaphysic. (If the latter, the conversation moves to whether Christianity, and its meta-ethics, or your worldview, and its meta-ethics, is true.)

Of course, going back to Point (2) of my previous post, what exactly does it mean to say, "Morality is subjective," if there is no fact of the matter whether we ought to believe as much. If moral antirealism is the case, then there is no reason why we ought to believe anything, including that the concept of anitrealism is even a coherent one or that "rationality" is (significantly) distinct from "irrationality." To make clear the gravity of this problem, observe: on moral antirealism, there is no reason why we ought not to believe that anytime DLJ says something, he really means, "Christianity is true." Without moral realism, there are no moral facts of the matter, and therewith disappear facts of any matter at all, metaphysical, epistemic, semantic, etc. And without Reformed Christian DCT, what cogent moral realism is there to be had at all?

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).
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09-08-2017, 07:32 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
At work.

Yay! Hello Naielis and freind! Big Grin
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09-08-2017, 07:58 AM
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:38 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Welcome to TTA.
Thank you and thanks for having me. You responded quickly, haha.

Not that quick really. I had lots of time to read your post before I approved it.

(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
A deepity ... (I believe Dennett coined the term.)
...

Actually, a young daughter of a friend of said Dennett. I believe she said "Daddy made a deepity".

And yes, it's a deepity because it's true in the sense that if a god put forth some rules those rules would be just his/her opinion, man; and false in the sense that morality is not subjective.

(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
The objectivity of morality is a question about whether it is subject to human opinion, not whether it is created/determined by or grounded in God.
...

So why did you bother bringing a god into the discussion?

Unsure

(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
Moreover, and much worse, it puts you in the position of merely neglecting or rejecting the Reformed Christian metaphysic. (If the latter, the conversation moves to whether Christianity, and its meta-ethics, or your worldview, and its meta-ethics, is true.)
...

Why worse? It's only true in the philosophical sense that 'true' (or false) is a label applied to given proposition for a given epistemology.

When the epistemology fails the test, the conversation ends.

That was easy.

Big Grin

(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
Of course, going back to Point (2) of my previous post, what exactly does it mean to say, "Morality is subjective,"
...

It means nothing much because it isn't.

(09-08-2017 07:29 AM)Necessitarian Wrote:  ...
there is no reason why we ought not to believe that anytime DLJ says something
...

As I have advised many on this site before... even though I am always right, never believe what I say and never take my advice.

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09-08-2017, 08:24 AM (This post was last modified: 09-08-2017 08:30 AM by Thoreauvian.)
RE: Challenge to proponents of objective morality
(09-08-2017 06:33 AM)Naielis Wrote:  
(09-08-2017 06:31 AM)Thoreauvian Wrote:  Actually, I have been arguing in favor of objective morality. Realism or fantasy are what make morality either more or less objective.

But you said theistic morality is subjective. How does that follow from the fact that it's "one size fits all"?

Theistic morality is subjective because it is based on any number of fantasy premises rather than on any objectively verifiable criteria. This necessarily leads to over-simplifications of doctrines, like "turn the other cheek," which doesn't make sense in all (or even in many) situations. Theists themselves realize this and don't follow their own beliefs in all situations. The difficulties surrounding applying fantasy-based morality to real-world situations is what creates so many religious hypocrites.
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