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General Discussion => Community Debates Forum => Topic started by: Orion on May 03, 2016, 09:59:40 pm

Title: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on May 03, 2016, 09:59:40 pm
The question of objective morality is clearly a hot topic on this forum, with some excellent logical argumentation and impressive philosophical analysis on both sides. This post approaches the Moral Argument for God’s Existence from a slightly different angle. As has been noted in multiple other debates, a common version of the Moral Argument is as follows:

Premise 1: If God does not exist, then objective morality does not exist.
Premise 2: Objective morality does exist.
Conclusion: Therefore, God exists.

Let me start with Premise 2—the idea that objective morality undeniably exists. There are those who attempt to deny this truth, but ironically, the denial of objective morality’s existence is, in itself, an attempt at creating an objective moral truth. Case in point: if there is no objective moral law that divides right from wrong, then everything is in fact justified ... which is effectively equivalent to saying that everything is objectively good, regardless of anyone’s opinions. And that is indeed a form of objective morality. So since even the attempted negation of objective morality ends up espousing objective morality, it is 100% safe to say that objective moral truth exists.

But before we start looking at the implications of objective morality’s existence for worldviews, it is important to note that the old adage of “there is no good without evil” is totally false. At first it seems ironclad—if there’s an up, there’s a down. If there’s a right, there’s a left. So doesn’t evil somehow help lend good its substance? As a necessary opposite—two sides of the same eternal coin? In a word, no.

To demonstrate why evil is not goodness’s necessary opposite, simply look at good and evil through the same lens as truth and falsehood. Truth stands true on its own, but falsehood only gains its definition by contradicting/perverting truth. The same is true of good and evil. Life can exist just fine without murder, but murder only gains its definition by attacking life. Sex can exist just fine without rape, but rape is a brutal perversion of sex. A similar duality holds for every other good thing and its evil counterpart. The good has substance in itself, whereas the evil is always parasitic on the good. Translation: there is good without evil, but there is no evil without good. Evil is inherently inferior and unnecessary.

But if objective goodness exists (distinct from inferior, unnecessary evil), there must be some sort of explanatory ultimate that defines goodness, which leads us to the three fundamental worldviews: atheism, pantheism and theism. At this point in the debate, the Euthypro Dilemma is usually invoked, first by the atheist in an attempt to knock down the necessity of God for objective morality, then countered by the theist, then countered by the atheist, and back and forth until it results in infinite regression. Once the Dilemma has run its course, the debaters are forced to turn to other logical tools, since objective morality must have a stopping point. And we are again left with our three basic worldviews:

ATHEISM: Atheism proclaims an impersonal ultimate, namely non-sentient matter and energy. So if atheism is true, any objective moral laws would be an inherent part of the eternal physical cosmos—axiomatic values akin to the laws of physics.

PANTHEISM: Pantheism also proclaims an impersonal ultimate, only it is impersonal spirit instead of physical matter and energy. Again, objective moral laws would be an inherent part of the eternal spiritual cosmos—perhaps a law of karma.

THEISM: Theism alone proclaims a personal ultimate—an eternal, sentient, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Being. Objective moral goodness would be part of God’s inherent nature. Any moral imperatives would stem directly from God’s nature.

So which ultimate explanation for the existence of objective morality is the most plausible? If more than one is potentially valid, then the Moral Argument cannot be used to support just one worldview. But on the other hand, if only one explanatory ultimate could possibly be valid, then the Moral Argument instantly narrows truth to that worldview.

Interestingly, both atheism and pantheism attempt to define objective morality through an impersonal ultimate, which would leave us with equations like:
-Impersonal Matter and Energy = Goodness/Love
-Impersonal Spirit = Goodness/Love
But the insurmountable problem for both worldviews is that concepts like goodness, love, compassion, loyalty and honesty are, without question, personal in nature. So how could personal attributes possibly find their ultimate stopping points in something completely impersonal? Asteroids do not love and cannot be the embodiment of goodness. Though pantheistic spirit is more mystical than straight-up atheism, non-sentient spirit still cannot truly be good and cannot be the embodiment of love.

In stark contrast, an ultimate personal Deity could indeed be the embodiment of both goodness and love. Of course, this is precisely the contention of the Bible in 1 John 1:5 and 1 John 4:16 (among other Scriptures). As such, theism is the only possible valid explanation for the existence of objective morality, which leads us straight back to Premise 1 and the resulting Conclusion—the Moral Argument for God’s Existence is correct.

For those who are interested in this topic, I look forward to a robust dialogue! My subsequent posts also expound on it further:
If God Is Good, What Is Evil? (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/if-god-is-good-what-is-evil-6034415.0.html)
The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/the-moral-argument-christian-god-alone-6034704.0.html)
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Jeffery Jay Lowder on January 01, 2017, 11:09:34 pm
Hi Orion,

I can't engage in an extended back-and-forth exchange, but since no one had replied to your post I thought I would offer some critical comments.

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Let me start with Premise 2—the idea that objective morality undeniably exists.

I probably agree with premise 2, but it is hard to be sure since you don't offer an explicit, philosophically precise definition of the key term, "objective morality." You should offer one.

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There are those who attempt to deny this truth, but ironically, the denial of objective morality’s existence is, in itself, an attempt at creating an objective moral truth.

You haven't shown this. I'm pretty sure this is false if I understand what you mean by "objective morality." Premise 2 is a proposition, viz., it has a truth value. To say that premise 2 is false is NOT "an attempt at creating an objective moral truth" just as saying that the proposition, "Mermaids exist," is false is not an attempt at creating an objective moral truth. To say that either or both of these propositions does not presuppose a claim about moral value or moral obligation, so it's hard to understand why you are linking a denial of 2 to an attempt to establishing an objective moral truth.

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Case in point: if there is no objective moral law that divides right from wrong, then everything is in fact justified ... which is effectively equivalent to saying that everything is objectively good, regardless of anyone’s opinions. And that is indeed a form of objective morality. So since even the attempted negation of objective morality ends up espousing objective morality, it is 100% safe to say that objective moral truth exists.

I don't think this works. If there is no objective moral law that divides right from wrong, then nothing is objectively morally right and nothing is objectively morally wrong. That contradicts the idea that "everything is objectively good, regardless of anyone's opinions."

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But if objective goodness exists (distinct from inferior, unnecessary evil), there must be some sort of explanatory ultimate that defines goodness, which leads us to the three fundamental worldviews: atheism, pantheism and theism. At this point in the debate, the Euthypro Dilemma is usually invoked, first by the atheist in an attempt to knock down the necessity of God for objective morality, then countered by the theist, then countered by the atheist, and back and forth until it results in infinite regression. Once the Dilemma has run its course, the debaters are forced to turn to other logical tools, since objective morality must have a stopping point. And we are again left with our three basic worldviews:

By itself, theism doesn't specify the relationship between God and the Good. That is why you have some theists, like Robert Adams, who are Modified Divine Command Theorists, and other theists, like many Catholic philosophers, who are Natural Law Theorists.  Because theism doesn't specify the relationship between God and the Good, it follows that theism by itself doesn't provide an ontological foundation for morality or offer an explanatory stopping point. In order to argue that objective morality requires some sort of theistic explanation or foundation, you have to combine theism with one or more auxiliary hypotheses (such as Modified Divine Command Theory). Mere theism isn't sufficient to do the job. But notice that some of the options which are consistent with theism are ALSO consistent with atheism or naturalism. For example, Natural Law Theory is consistent with atheism.

So, in my opinion, it's a mistake, albeit an easy one to make, to frame the the options as theism vs. atheism vs. pantheism. Instead, you should start with the different theories of moral ontology debated by metaethicists, then assess those theories, and then assess them against theism vs. atheism vs. pantheism.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 03, 2017, 07:41:31 am
Hello,

I'll start out with some basic accurate definitions:

Objective (source: definition.com (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/objective?s=t))- existing independent of perception, individual conception, emotion, or personal bias.  (tldr-true regardless of opinion)

Atheism - Proclaims no God or ultimate authority exists.  With no ultimate law giver, morality would exist only has a subjective preference (not objectively). 

Theism -Proclaims a personal ultimate authority of God that grounds the existence of an objective moral law that differentiates between good and evil. 

note: I emit pantheism since it is just impersonal theism (often polytheistic).  Mostly irrelevant regarding morality.  I'm only talking about the two extremes, being God or no God. 


Good and Evil:
But before we start looking at the implications of objective morality’s existence for worldviews, it is important to note that the old adage of “there is no good without evil” is totally false. At first it seems ironclad—if there’s an up, there’s a down. If there’s a right, there’s a left. So doesn’t evil somehow help lend good its substance? As a necessary opposite—two sides of the same eternal coin? In a word, no.

There is confusion in this quote above.  In a world that contains freedom to choose, there is freedom to choose wrongly, which is why "There's no good without evil" is true.  When there's an up, there's a down.  When there's truth, there's choice to pervert it.

To demonstrate why evil is not goodness’s necessary opposite, simply look at good and evil through the same lens as truth and falsehood. Truth stands true on its own, but falsehood only gains its definition by contradicting/perverting truth. The same is true of good and evil. Life can exist just fine without murder, but murder only gains its definition by attacking life. Sex can exist just fine without rape, but rape is a brutal perversion of sex. A similar duality holds for every other good thing and its evil counterpart. The good has substance in itself, whereas the evil is always parasitic on the good. Translation: there is good without evil, but there is no evil without good. Evil is inherently inferior and unnecessary.

Good cannot be looked at through the same lens as evil.  Why?  As you said, evil cannot exist without goodness.  Evil is wanting what goodness brings through objectively wrong means.  In other words, the intention of goodness can exist alone, but the existence of evil cannot.  Simply because one is dependent on the other and one is not, doesn't mean they aren't necessarily co-existent.  This is especially important when freedom is factored in.  Evil is inherently necessary when the existence of love or objectively true good intentions are to exist.  If the ability to choose wrong doesn't exist then honest true love doesn't exists, the ability to hate must exist cooperatively.   All worldviews must take into account the problem of evil.  This is why. 

On atheism, objective moral values do not exist.  Objective good and evil are fabrications of the imagination.  Any morality is a subjective preference and grounding it in anything, but God holds no ground.  Orion states that this worldview's ultimate is matter and energy, why?  on what grounds?   On who's authority?  As Richard Dawkins states, we're all just dancing to our DNA. 

I personally believe in the Christian God.  A personal ultimate, but i'm specifically speaking morality on general theistic terms. 
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: RealFishman on January 03, 2017, 08:56:27 am
They way I understand evil is akin to the reason why "God gave us the law so that we may know what sin is". That is a paraphrase from the OT. Now then, like you mention Orion, up and down - How would we know what good is without bad. I am understanding you correctly - that we (free will creatures) could know what good is without bad.

While I would agree that God could know good without bad, I do not think I could agree that humans could know good without bad.

Personally, I think it is great answer for the problem with emotional and natural evil, that is to say that all types of evil exists so that we may know what all types of good are. The only problem with what I am saying is that I would not want to confuse it with Polytheistic norms such as "Yen and Yang".
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on January 03, 2017, 10:11:42 am
Baabaadoo's definition of "objective" is lacking. Notice that, if God exists then, as the creator of all things and as an omniscient being, nothing is independent of his perception or opinion. No statement can be true without God believing that it is true, and nothing can occur without God perceiving and permitting it to occur.

But then, given this definition, morality is trivially subjective given theism. We need a better definition.

The problem is that "dependence" is too broad, as there are a number of different sorts of dependence. On theism everything (or, most things) are dependent on God and his attitudes in virtue of being contingent on them, and being caused by them. But these are not the sorts of dependences we're talking about when we talk about objectivity and subjectivity. To be objective is to be constitutively independent of anyone's attitudes. It is the sort of dependence relationship water has on H2O, and lightening has on the discharge of electrons, and that the property of being alive has on certain properties of molecular biology.

Now everything (or, nearly everything) is dependent on God in virtue of being contingent on God's attitudes and caused by God's attitudes, but most things are not constituted of God's attitudes. Material things are made up of particles in motion and energy, and not anything supernatural.


But now, with this suitable definition, we can easily show that atheism is compatible with objective morality. Note that if morality is fundamental, and is not constituted of anything further, it must be objective. (If morality is not constituted of anything then it cannot be constituted of anyones attitudes, and by definition cannot be subjective). Such a view would be a dualistic view of morality, similar to dualism about the mind. And, since theists are already committed to a dualism of a sort (typically, dualism about the mind), they're in no position to offhandedly reject dualism about morality. But a dualistic morality would not be constitutively dependent on God, either, nor would it entail God's existence. And so the atheist can very consistently, at least as consistently as the theist, accept this dualistic view of morality and, thus, that morality is objective.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 03, 2017, 11:38:18 am
Notice that, if God exists then, as the creator of all things and as an omniscient being, nothing is independent of his perception or opinion. No statement can be true without God believing that it is true, and nothing can occur without God perceiving and permitting it to occur.

You are absolutely correct! Where your flaw in logic occurs is you equate God as a dependent being (or a created one).  God isn't dependent on any virtue or other being for anything (including God's existence).  If God were dependent on any principals then his authority wouldn't be objective would it?  Something greater would have to be the authority.  God is the uncaused first cause.  He is the truth, the way, and the light.  He isn't bound by principals; He is them!  He is the personal embodiment of truth. 

To equate God as a being with mere attitudes, which are fleeting, is immature logic that you haven't qualified with evidence.

Attitude:  manner, disposition, feeling, position, tendency, orientation. 

God is not subjective, like the philosophy of atheism, as you so eloquently put for me.  The atheist sits on God's lap to slap Him in the face.  Feet firmly planted in mid air, as the brilliant WLC puts it.  The only duelist mind is yours.  You pit your own beliefs against one another. 

A true belief contains sound logic and is based on true premises.  Consistency is included in sound logic, but consistency without true premises leads to broken philosophy.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on January 03, 2017, 01:43:05 pm
Notice that, if God exists then, as the creator of all things and as an omniscient being, nothing is independent of his perception or opinion. No statement can be true without God believing that it is true, and nothing can occur without God perceiving and permitting it to occur.

You are absolutely correct! Where your flaw in logic occurs is you equate God as a dependent being (or a created one).  God isn't dependent on any virtue or other being for anything (including God's existence).  If God were dependent on any principals then his authority wouldn't be objective would it?  Something greater would have to be the authority.  God is the uncaused first cause.  He is the truth, the way, and the light.  He isn't bound by principals; He is them!  He is the personal embodiment of truth. 

To equate God as a being with mere attitudes, which are fleeting, is immature logic that you haven't qualified with evidence.

Attitude:  manner, disposition, feeling, position, tendency, orientation. 

God is not subjective, like the philosophy of atheism, as you so eloquently put for me.  The atheist sits on God's lap to slap Him in the face.  Feet firmly planted in mid air, as the brilliant WLC puts it.  The only duelist mind is yours.  You pit your own beliefs against one another. 

A true belief contains sound logic and is based on true premises.  Consistency is included in sound logic, but consistency without true premises leads to broken philosophy.

I didn't say that God is contingent or caused or created, or that he is subjective. But yes, God does have attitudes. God is a person with beliefs and preferences which motivate his behavior, just like any other person. Sure God is unlike any other person in many respects, but he's still a person and has these basic personal characteristics.

My point was just that, given a dualistic view of morality, morality is both objective and compatible with atheism. And that theists aren't in any position to reject a dualistic view of morality offhand, since they themselves are committed to a form of dualism (i.e., dualism about the mind).
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 03, 2017, 03:48:54 pm
I didn't say that God is contingent or caused or created, or that he is subjective. But yes, God does have attitudes.
Your logic presumes that God is as fallible and fickle minded as a created/caused being, which you then use to disqualify God as a moral law giver.  How do you come to this conclusion?  What evidence do you offer?

God is a person with beliefs and preferences which motivate his behavior, just like any other person. Sure God is unlike any other person in many respects, but he's still a person and has these basic personal characteristics.

God is like a person as in God has a person-hood meaning a self-consciousness or rational being.  God has personal characteristics, but this doesn't disqualify God as being a moral law giver as I have described in my previous response. 

My point was just that, given a dualistic view of morality, morality is both objective and compatible with atheism. And that theists aren't in any position to reject a dualistic view of morality offhand, since they themselves are committed to a form of dualism (i.e., dualism about the mind).

What do you mean dualistic view of morality?  In what sense is objective morality compatible with atheism?  How do you ground something to be morally objective (as defined below)? If you disagree with the definition below, please redefine and qualify the changes with evidence. 

Objective (source: definition.com)- existing independent of perception, individual conception, emotion, or personal bias.  (TLDR-true regardless of opinion)
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on January 03, 2017, 05:33:07 pm
I didn't say that God is contingent or caused or created, or that he is subjective. But yes, God does have attitudes.
Your logic presumes that God is as fallible and fickle minded as a created/caused being, which you then use to disqualify God as a moral law giver.  How do you come to this conclusion?  What evidence do you offer?

No it doesn't, I haven't come to that conclusion.

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God is a person with beliefs and preferences which motivate his behavior, just like any other person. Sure God is unlike any other person in many respects, but he's still a person and has these basic personal characteristics.

God is like a person as in God has a person-hood meaning a self-consciousness or rational being.  God has personal characteristics, but this doesn't disqualify God as being a moral law giver as I have described in my previous response.

I never said otherwise! But, if you think God is a "moral law giver" you have other problems. There are two senses of the word "law", neither of which helps your case:

In one sense when people talk about laws they're talking about legislative laws. And in this sense it makes sense to talk about law givers and law makers. Legislative laws are made up and handed down by governments--groups of powerful people who are able to enforce the laws they make up. In this sense a law is just a codified and enforced expression of the governing bodies will.

But, this sort of a law is subjective (or intersubjective). So as long as morality is not subjective, then there cannot be such a thing as a "moral law" to be given. Morality, in other words, is not a sort of legislation handed down by some divine government. (If you think otherwise, you'll have to defend that).

In the other sense, when people talk about laws they're talking about universally quantified truths. It's in this sense that we would talk about the laws of logic, or the laws of mathematics, or the laws of nature. One such law of nature is e=mc2 or, in other words, for all physical systems x, the amount of energy contained in x is equal to the amount of mass in x times the speed of light squared. And so a law in this sense is just a sort of true sentence or theory.

But a sentence is true in virtue of whatever it is about being the case. For example, the sentence "theft is wrong" is about theft being wrong, and so is true if and only if there is such a thing as theft and it is wrong. But then why think that there was, once upon a time, a cause of theft being wrong? It's not as if some time ago in the past theft began to be wrong, and thus would have required a cause at that time. The wrongness of theft seems timeless. Moreover, it's hard to see what it would even mean for God to cause theft to be wrong. It's not as if we're talking about a particular object, that exists in some particular time and place. We're taking about a kind of thing (an act of theft) being another kind of thing (a wrong kind of thing). While we might think that all particular things have causes, it's not clear that kinds of things must have causes.

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My point was just that, given a dualistic view of morality, morality is both objective and compatible with atheism. And that theists aren't in any position to reject a dualistic view of morality offhand, since they themselves are committed to a form of dualism (i.e., dualism about the mind).

What do you mean dualistic view of morality?  In what sense is objective morality compatible with atheism?  How do you ground something to be morally objective (as defined below)? If you disagree with the definition below, please redefine and qualify the changes with evidence. 

Objective (source: definition.com)- existing independent of perception, individual conception, emotion, or personal bias.  (TLDR-true regardless of opinion)

I explained these things in my original post, but in short:

The dualistic view of morality is that morality is ontologically fundamental, and not constituted of anything further.

It follows from the dualistic view of morality that objective morality is compatible with atheism.

The term "ground" is technical jargon, and as such I doubt you know what it means (heck, I don't even think I fully grasp what it means). You'll need to define "ground" without the use of further jargon before I answer that question (try to explain what you're talking about in terms your grandmother would understand).

And that definition of objective isn't good because given theism morality (and everything else) is trivially subjective. A better definition is, as I've said before, being constitutively independent of anyone's attitude.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 03, 2017, 09:01:07 pm
You're not answering my questions.  Even worse, you are avoiding them.  You aren't explaining you're beliefs; you are simply rejecting mine.  You cannot reject a belief as false without explaining the truth. 

My first post in this topic contained my definition of theism.  I did state that God is not just a moral law giver, but that He alone is the embodiment of the moral law. 

I'll make this very simple for you since you seem incapable of answering the most basic question.  Make your case of what you believe to be true.

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself"
-Albert Einstein

I hear you redefining objective morality as subjective in an attempt to reduce God to mere human fallibility.  If that is true, you are saying that morality is subjective in every sense.  If that is the case, then I ask, How do you know that the statements you are saying are true?  If everything is subjective, then why are you even here on this forum?  If you can't define the most basic concepts in this discussion, then there isn't much of a discussion to be had. 

Explain you thoughts fully or this conversation is done.  Stating "No it doesn't, I haven't come to that conclusion"  is not only an immature thought, but it doesn't say anything other than "I didn't say that."  Give the readers and myself the respect and time it takes to make your case or don't do it at all. 
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on January 03, 2017, 09:42:26 pm
You're not answering my questions.  Even worse, you are avoiding them.  You aren't explaining you're beliefs; you are simply rejecting mine.  You cannot reject a belief as false without explaining the truth.

I thought I was answering your questions, which questions exactly are you talking about?

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My first post in this topic contained my definition of theism.  I did state that God is not just a moral law giver, but that He alone is the embodiment of the moral law.

I'm sorry but I think that's incoherent: It doesn't make any sense to say that God is either a piece of legislation or a universally quantified statement.

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I'll make this very simple for you since you seem incapable of answering the most basic question.  Make your case of what you believe to be true.

I did, in my first post. The argument put into a very simple form would be something like:

1. If morality is fundamental, then morality is compatible with atheism
2. If morality is fundamental, then morality is objective
3. Therefore, if morality is fundamental, then morality is objective and it is compatible with atheism

Now maybe I can't show that morality is in fact fundamental, but it's at least an open possibility. You don't know it's not, and so you're not in any position to claim that objective morality is incompatible with atheism.

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I hear you redefining objective morality as subjective in an attempt to reduce God to mere human fallibility.  If that is true, you are saying that morality is subjective in every sense.  If that is the case, then I ask, How do you know that the statements you are saying are true?  If everything is subjective, then why are you even here on this forum?  If you can't define the most basic concepts in this discussion, then there isn't much of a discussion to be had. 

Explain you thoughts fully or this conversation is done.  Stating "No it doesn't, I haven't come to that conclusion"  is not only an immature thought, but it doesn't say anything other than "I didn't say that."  Give the readers and myself the respect and time it takes to make your case or don't do it at all.

No offense, but your attempt to summarize my view isn't even coherent let alone accurate. It's starting to seem like you're intentionally misunderstanding, I don't see how you can be this far off.

I never defined objective morality as subjective, I never said anything about reducing God to mere human fallibility, I never said anything to suggest that morality is subjective in every sense, and I've defined all the concepts you asked me to. I told you I hadn't come to the conclusion you were accusing me of because it was true--I simply wasn't drawing the conclusions you thought I was drawing. I did already make my case, all you've done so far is strawman it.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Mammal on January 04, 2017, 09:00:42 am
Referring to the OP, I am not convinced that the distinction between atheism and pantheism is necessarily accurate. For the record - "Pantheism is the belief that all of reality is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantheism)...or simply put, God = Nature. Not that it really matters i.t.o. the topic under discussion as both (atheism & pantheism) would probably see it in a very similar manner...that morality is seen as an emergent property of human evolution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_morality), thus entirely natural and not requiring a supernatural cause.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 04, 2017, 12:50:49 pm
You are not answering my questions.  You aren't even supplying enough evidence for the claims you make in the most recent reply.  Let me explain:

I'm not looking for what you theorize to be potentially true.  I want to know what you believe to be true with certainty.  You aren't doing that when you follow up a post with, "Now maybe I can't show that..."

definition of fundamental according to definition.com (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fundamental):
1. serving as a foundation or basis
2. original or primary source


You stated that you don't know if morality is fundamental or objective (they are synonymous) and ,without proving so, your 3 point argument is firmly planted in mid air.  Fundamental/objective are synonymous because in order for morality to be truly objective it needs to originate from a primary source outside of humanity from an authority greater than humanity.  Anyway, why can't I know if morality is fundamental or objective?  How do you know that statement you just said (or any statement to be true)?  If your belief isn't grounded by a primary source objectively, then everything is mere preference.  Is truth knowable at all? 

That's a premise on which to base a case for subjective morality.  Your logic doesn't match your premises.  My attempt to summarize your view isn't coherent how?  How is my view incoherent if it isn't grounded fundamentally to a primary source, like yours? 

If my biochemical pathways in my brain says it's true.  What's stopping it from being so on your worldview?  You don't out espouse moral subjectivity, but your logic and premises lead to it almost directly. 

On a side note, we can address the statement about God being the personal embodiment of moral law later.  My first concern is definitions.  I haven't straw manned anything.  You do that to yourself.  I'm just doing my best to interpret your logic and apply it to reality.  Read your last post and tell me how any of that makes sense if you can't even prove that morality is fundamental. 
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Mammal on January 05, 2017, 01:48:01 am
I tried to post part of this yesterday, but that post is still awaiting moderation...not sure if it is because it was my first post, or due to the fact that I inserted links to substantiate some of the terminology. Let me try again without the links:

Referring to the OP, I am not convinced that the distinction between atheism and pantheism is necessarily accurate. For the record - "Pantheism is the belief that all of reality is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god" (according to Wikipedia)...or simply put, God = Nature. (Perhaps pantheism was mistakenly confused with deism..?) Not that it really matters i.t.o. the topic under discussion as both (atheism & pantheism) would probably regard it in a very similar manner...that morality is seen as an emergent property of human evolution (Evolution Of Morality), thus entirely natural and not requiring a supernatural cause.

The notion that "God is the embodiment of the moral law" would need some clarification. AFAIK moral law predates the emergence of contemporary versions of anthropomorphic gods, in fact the oldest remains of written moral laws or code of ethics were secular and much older than the Mosaic laws. One would thus have to be careful if one wants to specifically link the Abrahamic God with the origin of human morality.

One vital aspect of the argument seems to lie in the distinction between objective morality and morality, if such a distinction exists..? The term "objective moral values" are defined as qualities like kindness or love which are morally good independent of the belief of human beings (a.k.a. universal morality). Logically that would make a strong case for moral naturalism and could in fact be extended to members of our broader family of animals.

One possible answer to the definition of morality is “a set of principles describing how we ought to behave.” Morality is then defined as a certain set of ought-statements, and God seems to fit the explanation of why those ought-statements exist. That is not necessarily the case though. Our species evolved into highly skilled social animals, something that would probably not have happened if we were not able to fine-tune said behavioural patterns. The prominent school of thought among behavioural scientists today is that behaviour is exclusively driven by the interactions between genes and the environment (nature and nurture). So again, no God needed.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Baabaadoo on January 05, 2017, 11:50:41 am
The notion that "God is the embodiment of the moral law" would need some clarification. AFAIK moral law predates the emergence of contemporary versions of anthropomorphic gods, in fact the oldest remains of written moral laws or code of ethics were secular and much older than the Mosaic laws. One would thus have to be careful if one wants to specifically link the Abrahamic God with the origin of human morality.

Sources of secular moral laws predating the Abrahamic God?  Philosophically, a source being older than another doesn't mean it's more accurate or truer than the younger source. 

One vital aspect of the argument seems to lie in the distinction between objective morality and morality, if such a distinction exists..? The term "objective moral values" are defined as qualities like kindness or love which are morally good independent of the belief of human beings (a.k.a. universal morality). Logically that would make a strong case for moral naturalism and could in fact be extended to members of our broader family of animals.

Objective moral values are kindness or love, why?  How are they good independent of human belief?  Because they don't result in humans killing each other?  Why is that a 'good' quality?  Why is human survival a good thing?  What authority is that moral law/trait based on?  How is a pesticide killing an ant colony morally different than human genocide?

One possible answer to the definition of morality is “a set of principles describing how we ought to behave.” Morality is then defined as a certain set of ought-statements, and God seems to fit the explanation of why those ought-statements exist. That is not necessarily the case though. Our species evolved into highly skilled social animals, something that would probably not have happened if we were not able to fine-tune said behavioural patterns. The prominent school of thought among behavioural scientists today is that behaviour is exclusively driven by the interactions between genes and the environment (nature and nurture). So again, no God needed.

I agree with your definition of morality, but not you behavioral interpretation into naturalism.  If behavior is determined by nature and nurture, then humans are pre-hard wired to do what we do and the biochemistry in our brains combined with our experience completely determines our actions and thoughts.  This means that our actions are not objectively wrong unless:

1. We are in control of our actions regardless of our nature/nurture
and
2.  How we ought to behave is fundamentally (of primary source) grounded in something outside of humanity's perception, conception, emotion, or personal bias. 

You lack both of those qualities, just as aleph_naught does.  Your morality is firmly planted in mid air; grounded on nothing. 

----------------------------------

Mammal, I had that issue before.  The below is a message from a mod:

As soon as you reach five approved posts you'll be set free to post at your leisure. Sorry for the inconvenience but this keeps spam and other issues off the forum.

Kind regards,

Pathos.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Mammal on January 06, 2017, 04:47:01 am
Sources of secular moral laws predating the Abrahamic God?  Philosophically, a source being older than another doesn't mean it's more accurate or truer than the younger source. 
What I wrote was that moral law (its primitive origin and application) predates the emergence of contemporary versions of anthropomorphic gods (http://genealogyreligion.net/the-earliest-moral-ethical-laws-were-not-religious), which brings into question the link between human morality and the Abrahamic God, and as a side note, that the oldest written moral/ethic/legal codes were (mostly) secular in nature and much older than the Mosaic laws (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_legal_codes). Which form of (objective) morality is more accurate or truer is besides the point.

Objective moral values are kindness or love, why?  How are they good independent of human belief?  Because they don't result in humans killing each other?  Why is that a 'good' quality?  Why is human survival a good thing?  What authority is that moral law/trait based on?  How is a pesticide killing an ant colony morally different than human genocide?
Again, note what I wrote. I questioned whether there is a distinction between morality and objective morality and then went ahead to use the commonly accepted definition for objective morality (as per Stanford, for what it is worth). You yourself previously referred to the definition of "objective" (Objective (source: definition.com)- existing independent of perception, individual conception, emotion, or personal bias.  (tldr-true regardless of opinion). You have now raised an interesting angle to the debate though. Morality (or the application thereof) is fallible, correct? Somebody referred to God being the personal embodiment of morality. If fallible, how can that be? If the old Genesis narrative is to be taken seriously, humanity learned all about morality from the fruits of the forbidden tree. Again, that knowledge clearly seems fallible. Even God's alleged morality seems highly dubious...the genocide of the Canaanites being one example..? A fallible morality would thus point to a natural (opposed to divine) process of acquiring it, no?

I agree with your definition of morality, but not you behavioral interpretation into naturalism.  If behavior is determined by nature and nurture, then humans are pre-hard wired to do what we do and the biochemistry in our brains combined with our experience completely determines our actions and thoughts.  This means that our actions are not objectively wrong unless:

1. We are in control of our actions regardless of our nature/nurture
and
2.  How we ought to behave is fundamentally (of primary source) grounded in something outside of humanity's perception, conception, emotion, or personal bias. 

You lack both of those qualities, just as aleph_naught does.  Your morality is firmly planted in mid air; grounded on nothing.
Well, there is not yet consensus (will there ever be?) but there is a significant number of behavioural- and neurological scientists who hold this opinion; dare I say this is the most prominent contemporary school of thought among scientists? Which would then imply that you are sort of right in saying that our actions can hardly be sinful (is that what you meant by objectively wrong?). Of course that does not mean that we could, or would behave in any manner we see fit, because "what is fit" are based on checks and balances that are deeply rooted in our evolutionary social behavioural skills. Obviously there are those who will, like psychopaths (a freakish result of gene/environment interplay). Hard wired..? That is another contentious subject. In any event and w.r.t. to your points 1 & 2, the contemporary school of thought is that our behaviour is largely automated. We're complex marionettes dancing to the strings of our genes and environments (Jerry A. Coyne from an article on Free Will: https://www.edge.org/response-detail/25381). Our sense of "morality" is thus "grounded" in evolution and applied via our gene/environment-inspired behaviour, hardly planted in mid air.

Mammal, I had that issue before.  The below is a message from a mod:

As soon as you reach five approved posts you'll be set free to post at your leisure. Sorry for the inconvenience but this keeps spam and other issues off the forum.

Kind regards,

Pathos.
Thank you. I thought it had something to with such a restriction, which is understandable. It makes it difficult to get into a conversation in real time though and be able to edit, etc.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on January 22, 2017, 05:22:18 pm
Wow! I'm glad to see my post finally generated some interest. Thanks so much, Jeffery Jay Lowder, for getting the ball rolling and for making me think through this.

Regarding some of the criticisms of my initial post, I'd like to clarify what I mean by stating "there is good without evil, but there is no evil without good". The point here is that God does not need to have a "dark side", contrary to the argumentation of many New Age pantheists. God, being the greatest conceivable maximal Being, is Truth, Goodness and Light (no falsehood, evil or darkness needed within God's eternal nature).

However, it is indeed true that human moral free will (since we are contingent beings) does necessitate the choice between good (God's ultimate goodness) and evil (self-righteousness that seeks to challenge God). I expounded on this more in my posts "If God Is Good, What Is Evil?" and "The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone".

Aleph Naught, you are clearly an excellent philosopher and logician, and I'm glad you weighed in on this. While I'm not sure it would be beneficial to attempt to go through every last nuance of all the previous posts at this point, I would say that your theory of atheistic objective morality fails to get down to an ultimate moral basis. Objective morals are personal in nature. The atheistic equation of "impersonal axiomatic self-existent moral law = goodness" is simply not tenable. It's logically equivalent to saying that "impersonal septic tank = goodness" or "impersonal asteroid = love". Impersonal things cannot be moral, period. As such, when analyzing the three possible cosmological ultimates (since objective morality must have some sort of ultimate stopping point/foundation) - atheism, pantheism and theism - the existence of objective morality inescapably leads us to an ultimate personal explanation ... which instantly narrows it down to theism.

Also, I was critiqued for equating the "objective morality does not exist" viewpoint with an attempt at creating objective morality, effectively saying "everything is good". Yes, we can split hairs there, but if objective morality does not exist, then everything is, in essence, justified (in the absence of objective morality, there is no possible "thou shouldn't do X"). The point is that even those who attempt to deny objective morality end up espousing it - I've never met a denier who has not attempted to smuggle it into the discussion somehow (it's inevitable). So I firmly stand by the gist of my original statement.

Some Christian friends of mine have warned me not to admit that atheism would lead us to conclude that everything is objectively justified, since that's exactly what many atheists want (a moral free-for-all). And that's a concern, but if everything is justified, then SO IS RELIGION! If atheism is true, there is absolutely no reason for me not to be religious. It certainly won't hurt the Blind Watchmaker's feelings.

All of Richard Dawkins's rants against Christianity and religion in general effectively attempt to be objectively moral: THOU SHALT NOT BE RELIGIOUS and RELIGION IS EVIL. But atheism cannot possibly support such a commandment. The irony is that if atheism is true, truth (or at least human perception of it) does not matter. Some over-evolved primates on Earth are welcome to have all the religious delusions they want. And as Richard Dawkins has admitted, we all dance to our DNA ... which I means I can't help but be religious - my DNA made me do it.

Of course, I firmly do believe in objective morality, human moral free will and that certain things are objectively right and other things are objectively wrong - and again, that leads us straight to theism. In fact, as I submitted in "The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone", it leads us straight to Christian theism.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Jeffery Jay Lowder on January 23, 2017, 03:14:29 pm
Quote
Wow! I'm glad to see my post finally generated some interest. Thanks so much, Jeffery Jay Lowder, for getting the ball rolling and for making me think through this.

You're welcome. I have to confess I'm still not sure if any of what followed was supposed to be a reply to me.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on January 23, 2017, 06:32:04 pm
Hey, Jeffery - good to hear from you. In your original response to my post, you questioned whether the denial of objective morality ironically equates to an attempt at creating objective morality. I still assert that it does. From a straight logical perspective, denying the existence of objective morality seems plausible. However, even the denial of objective morality effectively has profound moral implications - ones that purport themselves to be true, regardless of anyone's opinion. It's kind of like saying "there are no absolute truths", which is an absolute statement that claims to be absolutely true. As I mentioned, we could probably split hairs here, but in the end, even those attempt to deny the existence of objective morality end up espousing it. It's inevitable.

Also, I was clarifying my assertion that "there is good without evil, but there is no evil without good". My reason for stating this is because we are talking about the very nature of God and the viability of God as the ultimate definition of/foundation of/stopping point for objective morality. God is good, and has no "dark side" (1 John 1:5). I drew the analogy of comparing truth and falsehood to make this point. Truth stands true on its own, but falsehood only gains its definition by contradicting truth. A similar duality holds for good and evil. However, I completely agree that - in terms of humans with moral free will - there is the choice between goodness (submitting to God's true goodness) and evil (choosing to become independently self-righteous, as our ancestors did in the Garden of Eden).

So in sum, I don't think we're necessarily contradicting each other. I wanted to clarify some points because they lead into my later posts, ending with the assertion that the Moral Argument not only establishes God's existence, but leads us specifically to the Christian God alone.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on January 23, 2017, 06:53:16 pm
Also, I believe that my framing of the debate as atheism vs. pantheism vs. theism is foundationally correct. If objective morality exists, there must be some sort of ultimate explanation. I believe that theism, when properly stated and defended, does necessarily tie objective goodness straight to God's nature. It all goes back to the Euthypro Dilemma and Socrates's famous question: "What is holiness/piety?" Or, "What is goodness?" Natural Moral Law theorists (theistic, pantheistic or atheistic) are welcome to espouse their theories, but when push comes to shove, everyone has to retreat to an explanatory ultimate (per the endless back and forth of the Euthypro Dilemma). Hence, it is entirely appropriate to immediately analyze the question of objective morality in light of the three possible explanatory ultimates: atheism, pantheism and theism. Although the atheistic community would vehemently disagree with me, including many of the extremely talented atheists on this forum (such as Aleph Naught), I believe the only reason atheists are able to remain in the moral discussion for longer than a minute is because they distract the debate from the explanatory ultimates - then the philosophical tap-dancing and convolution begins. But when you drive the debate straight to the heart of the matter, neither the atheist nor the pantheist can possibly provide a tenable, compelling answer to Socrates's fundamental question. In stark contrast, the theist can answer the question.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on January 23, 2017, 09:46:52 pm
Orion, I think that theists are the ones doing the philosophical tap dancing when they're pressed to defend the claim that God is necessary for objective morality. In fact, I think very often the things theists say in trying to defend this claim aren't just clearly false, but in fact incoherent.

Atheists can give a perfectly good answer to Socrate's question: goodness is a fundamental property, and there is no further explanation of its nature. This view is essentially dualism about the moral and non-moral, just as mind-body dualists see consciousness as a fundamental dualistic property.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on February 19, 2017, 09:59:27 am
Hey, Aleph Naught - thanks very much for jumping in on this. My goal with my original post was to avoid all the philosophical tap dancing. And per both of our most recent posts, we have now boiled things down to the fundamental issue. Although debates about objective morality can quickly get bogged down in endless philosophical wrangling about various principles and trains of logic (etc., etc., etc.), objective morality must have some sort of stopping point, which is what I submitted in my original post. The endless back-and-forth of the Euthypro Dilemma leads us to that stopping point, until all three fundamental worldviews are under scrutiny at the most basic level possible (pertaining to objective morality):
-Atheism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal impersonal physical cosmos, similar to a law of physics. Therefore objective morality's basis is impersonal in nature.
-Pantheism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal impersonal spiritual cosmos, possibly a law of karma. Therefore objective morality's basis is impersonal in nature.
-Theism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal personal Deity. Therefore objective morality's basis is personal in nature.

Once we are taking a stark look at all three fundamental worldviews, we must move beyond the Euthypro Dilemma and turn to other logical tools. You are an excellent thinker, and I completely respect that you find the atheistic explanation tenable, though clearly I do not. As I have stated multiple times previously in this thread, morality is, in its very essence, personal in nature. To argue that morality is impersonal is logically equivalent to arguing that "asteroid = love" and "septic tank = goodness". I firmly contend that something ultimately personal in nature must therefore have an ultimate personal stopping point. And that immediately eliminates atheism and pantheism, taking us straight to classical theism.

I doubt I have convinced you of this yet, but I certainly hope to sway you. The Moral Argument is near and dear to my heart, since it played a powerful role in my own journey from devout atheism to Christian theism. During my atheistic days, I had a very strong conscience and sense that objective morality existed, despite all my attempts to deny it and get away from it. And though I listened to many atheistic attempts to construct a viable foundation for objective morality based upon an impersonal ultimate (which would allow me to hopefully escape from God), I could not help but reject them once things were boiled down to the fundamental impersonal-versus-personal question.

In addition to the foundational questions in this debate, I believe the moral problem for atheists, pantheists and non-Christian theists is further compounded by two of my other original posts:
(a) Dividing Good from Evil: Not only must there be some sort of objective dividing line between good and evil, note that evil is subordinate to and parasitic upon goodness. It is not merely objective morality that must have an ultimate definition, but it is objective goodness that must have an ultimate definition. If atheism and pantheism are true, both good and evil are inherent parts of the eternal physical or spiritual cosmos and are equally valid. But if theism is true, then God alone is ultimate goodness, whereas evil only gains its existence by warping/attacking goodness. At most, evil only exists as a subordinate concept generated by goodness's necessary existence, just as falsehood only gains its definition as a contrast to truth. I elaborated on this more in If Good Is Good, What Is Evil? (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/if-god-is-good-what-is-evil-6034415.0.html)
(b) The Problem of Justification: Outside of Christianity, all religions (including atheism and non-Christian theism) boil down to human self-justification. But how can humans become justified/good? Even if we assume that atheism or pantheism could viably generate some sort of objective moral law, this leads to other impossible-to-answer questions. For example, exactly what percentage of personal righteousness must I achieve in order to be a "good person" (whatever the heck that is)? Further, isn't self-righteousness downright morally nauseating? "I am such good person because I have done so many good things. Now let me list them for you so you can see how amazing I am..." I would argue that human self-righteousness and evil are one and the same, and Jesus alone provides a solution to this problem. I elaborated on this more in The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/the-moral-argument-christian-god-alone-6034704.0.html).
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on February 19, 2017, 12:54:51 pm
Hey, Aleph Naught - thanks very much for jumping in on this. My goal with my original post was to avoid all the philosophical tap dancing. And per both of our most recent posts, we have now boiled things down to the fundamental issue. Although debates about objective morality can quickly get bogged down in endless philosophical wrangling about various principles and trains of logic (etc., etc., etc.), objective morality must have some sort of stopping point, which is what I submitted in my original post. The endless back-and-forth of the Euthypro Dilemma leads us to that stopping point, until all three fundamental worldviews are under scrutiny at the most basic level possible (pertaining to objective morality):
-Atheism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal impersonal physical cosmos, similar to a law of physics. Therefore objective morality's basis is impersonal in nature.
-Pantheism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal impersonal spiritual cosmos, possibly a law of karma. Therefore objective morality's basis is impersonal in nature.
-Theism: Objective morality is a fundamental property of the eternal personal Deity. Therefore objective morality's basis is personal in nature.

On atheism morality could be a fundamental property (i.e., atheists could be dualists about morality, just like some are dualists about the mind), or morality could reduce to natural properties (just like how a lot think that the mind reduces to physical stuff).

I think that the nature of morality is impersonal, because I'm an objectivist. But a lot of atheists are also subjectivists, and they would say that the nature of morality is personal--that morality is constituted of the attitudes of persons.

Quote
Once we are taking a stark look at all three fundamental worldviews, we must move beyond the Euthypro Dilemma and turn to other logical tools. You are an excellent thinker, and I completely respect that you find the atheistic explanation tenable, though clearly I do not. As I have stated multiple times previously in this thread, morality is, in its very essence, personal in nature. To argue that morality is impersonal is logically equivalent to arguing that "asteroid = love" and "septic tank = goodness". I firmly contend that something ultimately personal in nature must therefore have an ultimate personal stopping point. And that immediately eliminates atheism and pantheism, taking us straight to classical theism.

Maybe you need to define what it means for something to be personal, then.

I agree that morality is related to persons. That moral properties wouldn't be instantiated without persons, or things like them. But that's very different from saying that the nature of moral properties must be construed in terms of persons, or that goodness could not exist or be real in the absence of persons (or in the absence of a god).

After all, you could say all the same things about rationality. Rationality is related to persons. Nothing could be rational or irrational in the absence of persons. But that doesn't entail that rationality itself would not exist or not be real in the absence of persons.

In short, a property needn't be instantiated to be real. There needn't be any good things, for there to be such a thing as goodness. This becomes all the more clear when you consider examples like the Dodo bird. The Dodo bird is a genuinely real kind of bird. There are all sorts of facts about the Dodo bird. But, as it happens, the last of the Dodo birds died some couple hundred years ago. So Dodo birds do not exist (i.e., there do not exist any particular Dodo birds), but the species (i.e., the kind of thing) of the Dodo is still very much real.

Quote
In addition to the foundational questions in this debate, I believe the moral problem for atheists, pantheists and non-Christian theists is further compounded by two of my other original posts:
(a) Dividing Good from Evil: Not only must there be some sort of objective dividing line between good and evil, note that evil is subordinate to and parasitic upon goodness. It is not merely objective morality that must have an ultimate definition, but it is objective goodness that must have an ultimate definition. If atheism and pantheism are true, both good and evil are inherent parts of the eternal physical or spiritual cosmos and are equally valid. But if theism is true, then God alone is ultimate goodness, whereas evil only gains its existence by warping/attacking goodness. At most, evil only exists as a subordinate concept generated by goodness's necessary existence, just as falsehood only gains its definition as a contrast to truth. I elaborated on this more in If Good Is Good, What Is Evil? (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/if-god-is-good-what-is-evil-6034415.0.html)
(b) The Problem of Justification: Outside of Christianity, all religions (including atheism and non-Christian theism) boil down to human self-justification. But how can humans become justified/good? Even if we assume that atheism or pantheism could viably generate some sort of objective moral law, this leads to other impossible-to-answer questions. For example, exactly what percentage of personal righteousness must I achieve in order to be a "good person" (whatever the heck that is)? Further, isn't self-righteousness downright morally nauseating? "I am such good person because I have done so many good things. Now let me list them for you so you can see how amazing I am..." I would argue that human self-righteousness and evil are one and the same, and Jesus alone provides a solution to this problem. I elaborated on this more in The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/the-moral-argument-christian-god-alone-6034704.0.html).

(a) Why think evil is "parasitic" on goodness? Why not think both good and evil are equally real? I've never bought this "evil is just an absence of good" idea.

(b) You are a good person when you habitually do good things, and do them for their own sake. A good person helps others out of habit, and because they want to, and not because they're being compelled to for some selfish reason. There's no specific amount that's needed, rather you are good a good person to the extent that you habitually do good things. This is just virtue ethics, though. There's quite a lot virtue ethicists have to say on this topic.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on February 19, 2017, 04:31:52 pm
When I say that morality must have a personal (self-conscious) stopping point, I'm submitting that objective morality's ultimate definition is rooted in personhood. I would argue that both morality and rationality are inextricably linked to personhood. While your example of the dodo bird is well taken, the fact is that the dodo still existed at one time, even if all the specimens are extinct, so the concept of the dodo bird is inextricably linked to the prior existence of the dodo bird.

In the case of objective morality, it must be tied to the ultimate nature of existence (again, atheism, pantheism or theism). There must be some sort of ultimate paradigm of goodness that distinguishes it from evil, and an impersonal explanation simply doesn't cut it. Concepts like goodness, love and rationality are not merely related to personhood—they are inseparable from personhood, so I would argue that none of them could exist apart from personhood. In a cosmos devoid of personhood, there would be no rationality, love or goodness, as there would be no self-conscious (personal) mind of any kind capable of having such traits. There would only be mindless machinations (as many atheists have ironically admitted). However, I understand you disagree with me on that point.

Regarding why I said evil is parasitic upon goodness, I went into great deal about this in my post If God Is Good, What Is Evil? (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/if-god-is-good-what-is-evil-6034415.0.html) The short version is that, like falsehood, evil only gains its definition by warping or attacking goodness. For example, rape (evil) is just a perversion of sex (good). Murder (evil) is merely an attack on life (good). It's similar to how facts (truth) stand true on their own, while lies (falsehood) are only distortions of or contradictions to truth. The existence of truth opens up the possibility of falsehood, but only if something contradicts truth. Truth does not need falsehood, but falsehood does need truth. Goodness does not need evil, but evil does need goodness. The important point is that good and evil must be separate, and goodness must be entirely superior (necessary) to evil—yet only theism provides a valid basis for this. Under atheism or pantheism, everything is either part of the self-existent material cosmos or the self-existent spiritual cosmos, including good and evil—in which case good and evil are equally valid and necessary parts of a greater whole. But I firmly contend that the classic New Age assertion of "there is no good without evil" is 100% false. Again, I went into this issue more deeply in the other post, though I kept it separate from this thread, in order to attempt to keep things shorter.

In terms of what makes a good person, I delved more deeply into the question in my post The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/the-moral-argument-christian-god-alone-6034704.0.html). Again, it may be best to discuss the issue under that post. Or you could peruse my other two posts and raise objections in this thread (whatever works best for you). I find your definition of a "good person" to be insufficient, as there would most certainly be an amount of goodness needed! If no amount is needed, then the argument about a "habitually good person" disintegrates, since a person who habitually does 0% good deeds would still qualify as "good", and no habits are needed in the first place. "Habitually" must be quantified or defined somehow, and that inevitably leads to an amount—some sort of dividing line between a "good" and a "bad" person, possibly with "mediocre" people in between. On the other hand, if there is a percentage requirement, the question immediately arises: is it 21.2%, 98.9%, or 52.645902%? What exactly is the magic number? How good is good enough? Were Stalin and Zedong "good" people? If not ... how did they fail to objectively qualify as "good"? Also, since the method of justification, namely qualifying as a "good person", stems from the self (i.e. the level of habitual goodness or the number of good deeds or the percentage of righteousness or however it's captured), the logic is still firmly rooted in human self-righteousness. And as I explained in my post, even evil people actually think they are good. This is the joke evil plays on itself. Falsehood is really just bogus truth, and evil is really just bogus goodness. And out of all the religious and irreligious teachers in human history, Jesus alone challenges human self-righteousness (a.k.a. evil), which is why we all attempt to avoid Him and conjure our own raised-in-rivalry-to-God goodness (per the narrative in Genesis 3).
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: aleph naught on February 20, 2017, 05:45:11 pm
In the case of objective morality, it must be tied to the ultimate nature of existence (again, atheism, pantheism or theism). There must be some sort of ultimate paradigm of goodness that distinguishes it from evil, and an impersonal explanation simply doesn't cut it. Concepts like goodness, love and rationality are not merely related to personhood—they are inseparable from personhood, so I would argue that none of them could exist apart from personhood. In a cosmos devoid of personhood, there would be no rationality, love or goodness, as there would be no self-conscious (personal) mind of any kind capable of having such traits. There would only be mindless machinations (as many atheists have ironically admitted). However, I understand you disagree with me on that point.

I still think you're conflating between the property being instantiated and the property being real. In a cosmos devoid of personhood there would be no rational beliefs, no loving relations, and no good actions. But that doesn't mean that rationality, lovingness or goodness would not exist.

The connection that rationality, lovingness and goodness have to persons is that it's certain features of persons (their beliefs, their relationships, their actions) that are rational, loving and good. But that doesn't entail that such things must be explained in terms of persons.

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Regarding why I said evil is parasitic upon goodness, I went into great deal about this in my post If God Is Good, What Is Evil? (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/if-god-is-good-what-is-evil-6034415.0.html) The short version is that, like falsehood, evil only gains its definition by warping or attacking goodness. For example, rape (evil) is just a perversion of sex (good). Murder (evil) is merely an attack on life (good). It's similar to how facts (truth) stand true on their own, while lies (falsehood) are only distortions of or contradictions to truth. The existence of truth opens up the possibility of falsehood, but only if something contradicts truth. Truth does not need falsehood, but falsehood does need truth. Goodness does not need evil, but evil does need goodness. The important point is that good and evil must be separate, and goodness must be entirely superior (necessary) to evil—yet only theism provides a valid basis for this. Under atheism or pantheism, everything is either part of the self-existent material cosmos or the self-existent spiritual cosmos, including good and evil—in which case good and evil are equally valid and necessary parts of a greater whole. But I firmly contend that the classic New Age assertion of "there is no good without evil" is 100% false. Again, I went into this issue more deeply in the other post, though I kept it separate from this thread, in order to attempt to keep things shorter.

You're saying many different things under the guise of having one unified account of evil. Saying that murder (an evil thing) is merely an attack on life (a good thing) is not the same as saying that murder is a perversion of life. Murder is clearly not a perversion of life. So here we have a counter example to your claim that evil things are simply a perversion of good things.

Yes there is a dichotomy between good and evil, but that doesn't mean that evil things are just a sort of perversion of good things.

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In terms of what makes a good person, I delved more deeply into the question in my post The Moral Argument for the Christian God Alone (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/forums/community-debates-forum/the-moral-argument-christian-god-alone-6034704.0.html). Again, it may be best to discuss the issue under that post. Or you could peruse my other two posts and raise objections in this thread (whatever works best for you). I find your definition of a "good person" to be insufficient, as there would most certainly be an amount of goodness needed! If no amount is needed, then the argument about a "habitually good person" disintegrates, since a person who habitually does 0% good deeds would still qualify as "good", and no habits are needed in the first place. "Habitually" must be quantified or defined somehow, and that inevitably leads to an amount—some sort of dividing line between a "good" and a "bad" person, possibly with "mediocre" people in between. On the other hand, if there is a percentage requirement, the question immediately arises: is it 21.2%, 98.9%, or 52.645902%? What exactly is the magic number? How good is good enough? Were Stalin and Zedong "good" people? If not ... how did they fail to objectively qualify as "good"? Also, since the method of justification, namely qualifying as a "good person", stems from the self (i.e. the level of habitual goodness or the number of good deeds or the percentage of righteousness or however it's captured), the logic is still firmly rooted in human self-righteousness. And as I explained in my post, even evil people actually think they are good. This is the joke evil plays on itself. Falsehood is really just bogus truth, and evil is really just bogus goodness. And out of all the religious and irreligious teachers in human history, Jesus alone challenges human self-righteousness (a.k.a. evil), which is why we all attempt to avoid Him and conjure our own raised-in-rivalry-to-God goodness (per the narrative in Genesis 3).

I think you're completely wrong about my view. Again, it was that: to be a good person is to habitually do good deeds for their own sake. If someone does no good deeds, then they do not habitually do good deeds and thus they are not a good person.

And since the goodness of a person comes in degrees, there is no such problem. There is no magic number, just like there is no magic number to being a good person.

And I didn't say that to be a good person is to habitually do what you think is good, I said that to be a good person is to habitually do what is good. So you can't just inject subjectivity in like that, or else you're straw-manning my answer.
Title: Re: Objective Morality—Atheism vs. Pantheism vs. Theism
Post by: Orion on March 04, 2017, 03:20:49 pm
The Key Issue
Really appreciate you continuing on this thread, Aleph Naught, as this is the critical issue for the debate. Can rational thought and objective morality be extracted/separated from personhood? You claim "yes". I claim "no".

Note that the rationality and morality of your own arguments cannot be extracted from your own personhood. If a computer were to accidentally spew out the same output, it would only appear to be rational/moral argumentation. And it would only have that appearance in the perception of a rational and moral being who was observing the output. (An asteroid "observing" the output would not even cognizant of the alleged rationality or morality.)

So I firmly contend that both rationality and objective morality cannot be extracted from personhood. In a cosmos devoid of persons, there would be no rationality or objective morality at all, or love for that matter (or hate, etc.). But I understand that you have to continue making that claim, or atheism instantaneously collapses under the weight of the Moral Argument.

Good vs. Evil
In principle, I don't mind you analyzing my example of life vs. murder, as that'll help sharpen me. But I really think you're nitpicking here. It's true that murder is not a perversion of life, but rather an attack on it. Great point! But my underlying contention still stands firm—good can get along just fine without evil, but evil cannot survive without perverting or attacking goodness. I'm sure if we nitpick this to death we can insert some more examples in there that may be different than "perversions" or "attacks" (perhaps betrayal is more of a "subversion" of trust), but the point remains the same. The good-versus-evil dichotomy is the same as the truth-versus-falsehood dichotomy. Good and truth stand on their own apart from evil and falsehood, whereas the latter two only gain their definition by standing in contrast to the former two. For the theist, this is a critical point, as it means that God can validly be the ultimate paradigm of goodness and truth, without some yin-yang "necessary opposites" or some sort of New Age "dark side". Things like evil and falsehood would only come into being (or be hypothetical possibilities) in contrast to God.

What Is a Good Person?
I'm not straw-manning your argument at all! You're again attempting to avoid my fundamental point here. For there to be some sort of objectively good person, there must be some sort of objective dividing line between a "good" person and a "not good" person. Otherwise "good" and "bad" people are one and the same, with no delineation between them. Your claims about "habitual goodness" are extremely vague and evasive. Asserting atheistic objective morality is not enough, even if a "good" person's habitual good deeds are objectively good in the impersonal "judgment" of the incognizant, uncaring, matter-and-energy cosmos (or line up with an impersonal axiomatic objective moral value that's intrinsic to the cosmos).

You stated: "If someone does no good deeds, then they do not habitually do good deeds and thus they are not a good person." Well, if "habitual" = doing one good deed out of habit (instead of zero good deeds), you've effectively just attempted to provide a magic number (1 versus 0)! So ... if Joseph Stalin habitually does one good deed, he's a good person? I'm betting you think it takes more than one good deed to be habitually good, but again, you're attempting to avoid providing a number. Also, is there a metric system to weigh good deeds against bad deeds? Is murder a –100, whereas walking a little old lady across the street is a +1? So if a murderer walks 101 little old ladies across the street, he's now a good person? Or is doing one good deed enough of a "habit" to outweigh all bad deeds, regardless of how heinous?

You also stated: "And since the goodness of a person comes in degrees, there is no such problem. There is no magic number, just like there is no magic number to being a good person." Now you've inserted degrees, which are based upon some form of numbers or percentages—or some form of metric (otherwise the variation among the degrees cannot be observed or understood). But (again), you are trying to evade the fundamental point, which is: what separates a "good" person from a "not good" person?

As I've said all along, you're obviously an outstanding thinker! At the bottom line, I think you realize your argument is invalid—you know that if you're forced to assign some sort of precise dividing line or percentage to defining a "good" person, you'll only be able to come up with something that is totally arbitrary and indefensible (i.e. 1.2% versus 98.6% versus 41.9%). So this is why you are continuing to make obtuse assertions about what exactly defines "habitual goodness", while denying that you need to provide an exact number. But the question won't go away—within your proposed framework: how habitually good is habitually good enough?!

The Question of Self-Righteousness
And the deeper problem for humanity remains: How do we become good? Evil and human self-righteousness are one and the same (remember that even the most evil people think they are justified). And if you're about to point the finger back at me and point out that I want to be correct in this debate, the answer is: you're absolutely right! We are all afflicted with this self-righteous ailment. And I am guilty as charged.

The appeal of atheism is that if atheism is true, the material cosmos is legitimately self-justified. And since I am part of that material cosmos, I am also legitimately self-justified. The same is true for pantheism. If pantheism is correct, I am part of the self-justified spiritual cosmos. As such, there are strong psychological motivations to want to adhere to atheism or pantheism.

But if theism is correct, then God alone is legitimately self-justified, and I (as a creation who has a beginning) am not. And whereas non-Christian theism still appeals to human self-righteousness (i.e. if you do enough good religious things, you can become good enough to please God), Christian theism uniquely asserts that humanity cannot become legitimately self-justified apart from or in rivalry to God, no matter how many good works we do. Instead, we must quit fighting against God's true goodness and morally surrender to the Deity.