Casey1981 wrote: Of Dr. Craig's five usual arguments for God's existence, I find the moral argument to be the least convincing (which isn't to say I find the others unconvincing at all). This is because the argument rests on sheer intuition, as when Dr. Craig says "...and I think we all know it," referring to the fact that we "just know" objective moral values to exist. I suppose he considers our belief in objective moral values to be basic and thus not something to be argued for, but objective moral values are not basic for me in this sense. I appreciate that for those for whom objective moral values are basic, though, the argument will go more smoothly.
Casey1981 wrote: But mainly I wanted to mention that I'm always confused by Dr. Craig's presentation of the argument in debates because I cannot remember him ever having defined what it means for an action to be "wrong." I've heard him define "objective." Something is objective if it is so regardless of human opinion on the matter. But what does it mean to say something is wrong? Or right?
I'd like to go on to make another point that's always bothered me about Dr. Craig's moral argument, though. My point rests on a notion of "wrong" that would come close to equating "wrongness" with "viciousness," in the sense this term has in virtue theory. The ethical systems of Plato and Aristotle are alike in that they are both eudaimonistic. That is, they are primarily concerned with happiness, the Greek word for happiness being eudaimonia. And while neither Plato nor Aristotle afford God a substantial place in their ethical theories, as I read them, they nevertheless believe that moral values are objective. This is because they see a bad or wrong act as one which causes us to be unhappy, and they believe that the acts which cause us to be unhappy do so regardless of our opinion on what things are right and wrong. This is because we possess a human nature which can only be fulfilled by certain acts, and which must be corrupted by certain other acts; thus such acts are right and wrong because they lead us to happiness or unhappiness, and these acts achieve this insofar as they allow us to fulfill, if you will, our human nature. But if there is anything to such eudaimonistic systems of ethics, and indeed I tend to conceive of ethics in this way, then it is possible to have objective moral values without God.
Casey1981 wrote: If he is in fact defining wrong in terms of prohibitions and ought-ness, then I would object that this is not the only way of conceiving of an action as being wrong. His conception of wrong makes no sense without God, while the conception of wrong in eudaimonistic ethics only has to do with actions which lead away from happiness, objectively speaking. If all Dr. Craig's argument aims to show is that we cannot have objective moral laws without a super-human lawgiver (since if the lawgiver(s) involved are human, their laws will never be anything more than subjective), then this makes sense to me. But it wouldn't follow that there might not be objective moral values without God, because there is a way of conceiving of moral values that has nothing to do with ought statements or prohibitions.
Casey1981 wrote: It might seem surprising, but just as I said I don't know what 'wrong' means in the moral argument, I wouldn't know what 'ought' would mean if it were substituted in the place of 'wrong' in the argument.
Casey1981 wrote: The same goes for prohibitions. What does it mean to prohibit an action?
Casey1981 wrote: Also, I do think it's possible to have objective moral values without believing that certain actions are prohibited or that they ought not be performed. This is because, if we follow Plato and Aristotle and the eudaimonistic tradition of centering ethics on the attainment of happiness, it is possible to hold that a moral value is what promotes or detracts from happiness. These values would be objective because, given the fixity of human nature, certain actions must produce happiness while other actions detract from it, regardless of human opinion about what actions produce and detract from happiness.
Casey1981 wrote: Perhaps I've just repeated what I said before, so I'll try to be clearer in light of your (so well put!) response. First, there is a way of conceiving of ethics which doesn't involves ought-statements or prohibitions.
morally wrong actions cannot exist in an atheistic setting.
Snakeystew wrote: morally wrong actions cannot exist in an atheistic setting.Incorrect:http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/case_for_objective_morality/
From the website:
The unit of ethics is values. Values are things that one must work to gain or keep (a simple example of that is nutrition). These values are short-handed ways of expressing moral principles (ex. “we need to eat because otherwise we die”), and moral principles are short-handed way of expressing scientific or social facts (such as the facts about metabolism).
This article basically frames morality in terms of a hypothetical imperative. To obtain the fulfillment of humanity (i.e. its happiness and survival) we do certain actions. A hypothetical imperatives take the form if “If the goal is A, do B.” Hypothetical imperatives tell us what sorts of actions help to achieve certain goals. A few examples: if you want to benefit humanity, be nice to people; if you want to rape someone, it helps if she is weaker than you. Notice that hypothetical imperatives can be used to achieve moral or immoral ends. The problem with hypothetical imperatives in our case is that they don’t tell us which goal we ought to pursue in the first place. This is the key problem the author faces with his attempt to provide a basis for objective morality.
“If the goal is to benefit humanity (ensure its survival and happiness) these actions help to achieve that goal.” This tells us what to do to accomplish a certain goal, but who or what says we ought to pursue this goal instead of, say, the destruction of humanity? What if I am an extreme suicidal misanthrope and what I value is the destruction of all mankind? Who or what says I ought to value human life instead? The author of the article doesn’t really have an answer to that. The author points out what we need to do achieve certain benefits for humanity (i.e. a hypothetical imperative), but doesn’t describe who or what says we ought to pursue this goal. Pure reason cannot in isolation tell us what goals to achieve; it can only give us hypothetical imperatives.
The problem with hypothetical imperatives in our case is that they don’t tell us which goal we ought to pursue in the first place.
Snakeystew wrote: The problem with hypothetical imperatives in our case is that they don’t tell us which goal we ought to pursue in the first place.http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/is_ought_false_dichotemy/Regards,
(I1) Human beings have a metabolism which requires nutrients to be sustained.Leads to(I2) Human beings need to eat and drink in a certain way to survive.Leads to(V) Nutrition is a value.Leads to(O) We ought to eat and drink in a certain way. The first two being “is” statements and the last two being “ought” statements. As we can see, it is easy to transpose a scientific fact into a moral value.
The first two being “is” statements and the last two being “ought” statements. As we can see, it is easy to transpose a scientific fact into a moral value.
"If the goal is to have good nutrition, we ought to eat and drink a certain way." Sure, but we still don't have an answer as to who or what says what are values should be.
If for instance I value death and destruction rather than survival and nutrition, I could get something like "We ought to kill everyone we see."
We need someone or something that says what we ought to value before we have objective moral values.
Snakeystew wrote: "If the goal is to have good nutrition, we ought to eat and drink a certain way." Sure, but we still don't have an answer as to who or what says what are values should be.Let me just get clarification on this. You seem to be asking me why an organism would care about survival. Right?
We need someone or something that says what we ought to value before we have objective moral values.Survival.