Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Settling for a Branch

Many atheists, when trying to ground moral values, appeal to something like human well being as a guide for morality. This seems to be patently insufficient of a ground for morals, because it itself is simply a moral judgment. It is good to promote human well being and bad to stifle it is a moral value itself, and therefore can't be the ground of moral values. As I said to one commenter on Sam Harris' attempt to use this as a ground, "Saying that well-being of some sort is good is simply another moral claim, so it hasn't reached any sort of ontological base at all. If this is Harris' base, then he seems to have stopped short of a true ground for morality and settled for a branch. [In other words] you can't say that a moral value is itself the ground of moral value."

This is why most attempts at ethics today are silly little exercises in futility.

101 comments:

SLW said...

I agree with you.

What, in the natural, can ground anything past one's own personal well-being? At best, all that could be derived would be some kind of tribal utilitarianism, the practice of such "enforced" by retribution. That humans seem to "naturally" find such a scheme repugnant says there is something in us beyond what meets the eye.

bossmanham said...

I don't think you can go beyond individual relativism without God. You may have certain personal reasons to cooperate with the tribe, but they're your own subjective reasons.

youtube_heckler said...

bossmanham,

I think Sam argues that the maximization of well-being is by definition *good*. So if you're asking why we should maximize sentient well-being, the answer is because it is good to do so. And if you ask the further question on why it is "good to do so", well it's because it is within the purview of how we've defined the word "good".

It's kind of like asking the question "why is it good to behave morally?" --because "behaving morally" is within the purview of our definition of the word 'good'.

At least, that's how I understand it.

John said...

Sorry, I was mistakenly logged in to my other account.

I'm 'youtube_heckler'

bossmanham said...

That's the question, however. What is morality?

Saying it is good to maximize well being is just another moral judgment. On what are we basing that? What is it about well being that makes it so we ought to go about promoting it?

Ana said...

"Human well being" is very 'iffy' as a standard because "well-being" can mean different things to different people. For example, an atheist I had an exhange with on a blog thread a few months back, thought Christians should be put into sterilization camps so they can no longer breed. Presumably he thought the elimination of Christians would render positive results for humanity...an increase in the well-being of humanity.

So if a person wants to adopt "maximizing well being" as a moral/good principle, the question remains whose "maximizing well being" plan should we adopt? For their could be mutually exclusive plan proposals.

I imagine someone like Sam Harris would leave the plan proposals to scientists.

John said...

Yes it is an assumption that undergirds everything. It's just like assuming evidence is better than no evidence --that's an assumption, and it just so happens, it makes the project of science doable.

"Saying it is good to maximize well being is just another moral judgment. On what are we basing that?"

-- We are basing it on the definition of 'good' itself. Once we as a species were able to create language, we've used words to describe things. The word 'good' in the moral sense is what we've used to define a particular way people can behave.

"What is it about well being that makes it so we ought to go about promoting it?"

-- Happiness is quantitative. The more we maximize well-being, the more sentient creatures become happy. Why is that good? Because 'making people happy' (not at the expense of others) is part of how we've defined the word 'good' in the moral sense.

In other words, maximizing sentient well-being, by definition is good.

John said...

@ Ana

Just because someone believes that killing people will maximize well-being, it doesn't mean it actually will.

Certainly, if we had a 'well-being' measuring tool, which in principle we could develop since well-being can be traced to brain states, it wouldn't show 'well-being' actually being maximized on the scenario you just described.

It's pretty obvious that those Christians are sentient creatures, and their well-being is important too. So torturing other people will obviously do the opposite of maximizing well-being.

I've heard an example elsewhere that we would be maximizing well-being if we eliminated the old and the handicapped because they have nothing to give to society. But this is wrong for so many obvious reasons; we will all become old, and a lot of us will be handicapped at some point in our lives. It won't help maximize well-being to know we would be subjected to the same fate later on in life.

SLW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SLW said...

John,
What you are suggesting sounds like nothing more than relativism. Where is the objectivity that undergirds it? Any system of morality based on such would run aground in the face of scarcity, where senses of well-being would be in competition, and one would have to win and the other lose for anyone to have well-being.

Ana said...

"Just because someone believes that killing people will maximize well-being, it doesn't mean it actually will."

But, the said person could just as well tell you, "just because someone believes that killing people won't maximize well-being, doesn't mean it actually won't".

One issue with "maximizing well-being", was the question of, what makes maximizing well being good? The way that was addressed was by making "maximizing well-being" good by definition ...subjective human definiton...

But, the issue that remains is that not everyone's concept of what would "maximize well-being" is the same.

I think that implementing Sam Harris' idea would ultimately lead to "maximizing well-being" plans being put into the hands of the political-scientific elite, potentially something authoritarian, not in the hands of the 'ignorant masses' and Sam Harris would definitely not want it placed in the hands of the religious.

John said...

"What you are suggesting sounds like nothing more than relativism."

-- Not if you accept the first premise that maximizing well-being is good.

"Where is the objectivity that undergirds it?"

--Again, since well-being is quantitative in principle, accepting the premise will make it objective.

I should also say that maximizing well-being is good because that's how we've defined the word "good" in the moral sense. It's like asking if love is good; yes it is because of how we've defined the words 'love' and 'good'.

"Any system of morality based on such would run aground in the face of scarcity, where senses of well-being would be in competition"

-- Sam argues that there are different peaks in this moral landscape. Senses of well-being may be in conflict only among the peaks that would more or less be of the same height; like arguing which was more delicious, chocolate or vanilla. But this does not obviate the distinctions between food and non-food. By the same token, we may have disagreements on the morality of euthanasia and what have you, since both directions of the argument could be relatively similar peaks in the moral landscape, but this does not mean that a peak could not be distinguished from a valley.

John said...

Ana,

"But, the said person could just as well tell you, 'just because someone believes that killing people won't maximize well-being, doesn't mean it actually won't'."

-- Yes it won't. You can take that hypothetical psychopathic society and run them through the well-being measuring tool, and it will show you that well-being is not getting maximized. In fact, if such a society of people existed, that society, if left to their own devices, will immediately die out. So how does killing people maximize well-being? It may maximize the well-being of an individual who's a psychopath. But in doing what he likes to do, he isn't maximizing well-being, just his own.

"But, the issue that remains is that not everyone's concept of what would "maximize well-being" is the same. "

-- If it is a peak on the moral landscape that has more or less the same height. This is why Sam's 'landscape' analogy is so powerful, because it addresses this very question.

"I think that implementing Sam Harris' idea would ultimately lead to "maximizing well-being" plans being put into the hands of the political-scientific elite, potentially something authoritarian"

-- If Sam Harris had his way, yes I would think so too. I don't like the guy too. But this does nothing to the actual argument he is making. If Christianity became even more ascendant in society, and we left it to be run by fundamentalists like Glenn Beck, we probably would have nasty results as well. This however isn't evidence that Christianity is wrong.

bossmanham said...

Ana I think makes a good point. Who defines what well being is? I could say that human well being includes the extermination of all people with more than 52 freckles.

Further, even if we could determine what well being is, it doesn't bypass the is-ought problem.

John said...

"Ana I think makes a good point. Who defines what well being is?"

-- It's a state of the brain. We don't have to confuse it's definition.

"I could say that human well being includes the extermination of all people with more than 52 freckles."

--You could say that. But you wont be consistent with reality if you did. Unless you really have something wrong in the head. I could say that looking at trees is arousing, but I could look at a tree all day and never get aroused, since arousal is a state of the brain, and not some thing that could be subjectively defined.

John said...

"Further, even if we could determine what well being is, it doesn't bypass the is-ought problem."

--Bingo. Maximizing sentient well-being is good (by definition). But the question that Sam can be accused of sloppily defending is: why is it that people *ought* to be good.

SLW said...

why is it that people *ought* to be good.

I kinda thought that was what this was all about in the first place.

John said...

"I kinda thought that was what this was all about in the first place."

--Well no it wasn't. The post, which you've explicitly agreed with, says:

"Saying that well-being of some sort is good is simply another moral claim...."

Which, as I understand, questions the notion of maximizing well-being as a good, or asks how we are able to say that such an endeavor is good.

I wanted to show that it IS a good by it's very definition. Rather than asking how Sam can say that it is good, you should ask how Sam can say that we ought to do such good.

bossmanham said...

It's a state of the brain. We don't have to confuse it's definition.

That doesn't really make any sense. To promote well being, a definition of "well being" has to be established.

You could say that. But you wont be consistent with reality if you did.

Sure I would. In reality, it seems to me that the human race would prosper far better without people with 52 freckles. Everyone would be better off overall.

Bingo. Maximizing sentient well-being is good (by definition). But the question that Sam can be accused of sloppily defending is: why is it that people *ought* to be good.

No, I don't think you can even determine that it's good by fiat. 1) It's entirely arbitraty. 2) Even if we could see scientifically what would objectively promote well being, that is only an 'is'. "It is the case that such and such acts promote well being." You can't go from that to "it is good to promote well being." He's just making it up. 3) It is a moral value statement itself, which doesn't seem to offer any true foundation for moral value statements.

John said...

"That doesn't really make any sense. To promote well being, a definition of "well being" has to be established."

-- And it will be once we are able to study it more. What is indisputable is that it is a brain state, thus quantitative and therefore cannot simply be loosely defined. I cannot simply say that torturing kittens will increase my well-being if I wasn't psychopathic in some sense.

"Sure I would. In reality, it seems to me that the human race would prosper far better without people with 52 freckles. Everyone would be better off overall."

-- How would everyone be better off overall? Like I said, well-being is a brain state and cannot simply be loosely defined.

"No, I don't think you can even determine that it's good by fiat."

-- In principle, we can.

"1) It's entirely arbitraty. "

Only insofar as there are many peaks in the moral landscape. There are many ways of getting to the same state of well-being. To me it might be eating chocolate, to you it may be eating vanilla. That does not obviate the distinctions between chocolate and poison. We don't all give the process of breathing equal value. You could say that we arbitrarily give value to oxygen. I could value oxygen more than you. But at some point, we can say that someone is abnormal for not giving oxygen enough value to necessitate his own survival.

"2) Even if we could see scientifically what would objectively promote well being, that is only an 'is'."

-- Eating right promotes health. We certainly cannot say that people *ought* to eat right. But we can say that if people wanted to be healthy, than they *ought* to eat right. By the same token, we cannot say that people *ought* to be good, but if people wanted to be good, then they *ought* to maximize well being on the aggregate.

"It is the case that such and such acts promote well being." You can't go from that to "it is good to promote well being."

-- Only, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying "such and such acts promote well-being" therefore "such and such acts are good by definition".

Take the statements 1, Maximizing well-being is good. And 2, people ought to be good.

The latter is an 'ought' statement, while the former is an 'is' one.

Sam's mistake is in unjustifiably mixing these 2 statements. Yours is in confusing them.

SLW said...

John.
Since you visited the concepts of peaks in the moral landscape again (in response to bossmanham this time) let me revisit my scarcity argument, because I think you're missing the point.

I'm not arguing for one liking chocolate and another vanilla, but both liking chocolate, and having only enough chocolate to reach the threshold of "good" for one. Now change chocolate to "air sufficient for self-preservation" and we have a better illustration. Both have equal claims, both have competing senses of well-being. Maximizing well-being for all will be minimizing well-being for one. Is not one bound to feel the result is moral and the other to see it as patently immoral?

John said...

I guess I should jump to the crux of your post, which is:

"Maximizing well-being for all will be minimizing well-being for one. Is not one bound to feel the result is moral and the other to see it as patently immoral?"

-- Yes ofcourse it's possible that one can have a completely different opinion from another. But again, if well-being is quantitative, then one of those 2 people will be objectively wrong. If you compare a sane person with a psychopath, they will obviously have tremendously different opinions on the importance of human life. It won't be hard though to tell which view would maximize well-being on the aggregate. In that example though, we are comparing a peak to a valley.

Conflicts will, presumably, only be likely to arise if we are to compare peaks of more or less the same height. Let's take euthanasia. Does euthanasia decrease or increase well-being on the aggregate? It's hard to tell, because there are persuasive arguments from both sides. But since well-being is, in principle, measurable, then there should be an answer. If we had all the information, we could find out if society would be better off one way or the other. Obviously it would be difficult to adjudicate dilemmas of this stripe. But for questions like "would flying a plane through a building maximize well-being"? I think the answers are fairly obvious.

SLW said...

But again, if well-being is quantitative, then one of those 2 people will be objectively wrong.
How can that be when everything in their disparate view is equal but the outcome? If one is right and one is wrong, then all that would prove is that might makes right.

If there is a case where the well-being argument fails to produce a moral solution, is it not undermined as a fundamental basis for discovering morality?

John said...

"How can that be when everything in their disparate view is equal but the outcome?"

-- I'm lost. What makes you say that everything is "equal but the outcome"?

"If one is right and one is wrong, then all that would prove is that might makes right. "

-- Might doesn't have anything to do with it. If every person believed that killing other people increased well-being apart from a single person, that wouldn't mean that all those other psychopaths who have the "might" are right.

"If there is a case where the well-being argument fails to produce a moral solution, is it not undermined as a fundamental basis for discovering morality?"

-- Depends on the reason it failed. It could simply be because of lack of understanding of some kind.

SLW said...

In the illustrative case I outlined, two people were identical in their conceptions of well-being, and equal in their need for self-preservation (adequate air in this case). Facing scarcity in achieving well-being, one achieves it, the other loses being all together. I suggested that one would feel the maximizing of well-being produced a moral result, the other would feel otherwise.

You said, "one of those 2 people will be objectively wrong." I said, given their equality, all that it would prove is that might makes right (assuming the mightier of the two was the one who got the air).

I actually see that as a more plausible secular moral than any conception of well-being. It certainly is more Darwinian, and can be applied without emotional or religious clutter in every circumstance.

John said...

That's really not what the analogy was about. It seems you are showing 2 people who are competing for a resource. Sure, the resource they are competing for, in this case air, is important for each one's well-being. But a peak in the moral landscape is not a state of well-being, it's an *act* that's done to promote well-being. There are many peaks insofar as there are many ways to promote well-being. Some peaks are as high as others which signifies that in both acts, the same amount of well-being is promoted. (either side of the euthanasia debate, as I said earlier, could represent peaks that are more or less the same height)

When I said that "one of those 2 people will be objectively wrong", well, "wrong" is probably too strong a word for what I meant. If we had 2 people who had identical lives and capacity, and 1 gave 50 bucks to charity and the other gave 10 bucks, we don't say that the latter is "wrong". We could measure the well-being created in each of those acts, and would be able to say however that one was being more moral than the other -- which is not to say that the other was being 'immoral'. Both acts represent peaks in the moral landscape, it's just that one peak is higher than the other.

Think of it this way: the amount of well-being produced will be proportionate to the height of the peak. So if we are comparing someone who gave 50 bucks to charity, while the other burned down the charity office, then we are comparing a peak and a valley.

SLW said...

John,
In my stripped down, get to the basics case, we ARE talking about an act that leads to well-being. In the nature of circumstances the act of the "winner" promotes his well being, which I think would qualify beyond dispute as good (self-preservation the most fundamental moral good). It just so happens, due to scarcity, his act is simultaneously a moral peak (for himself) and a moral valley (for the "loser").

How would this naturalistic approach for discovering morality avoid inherent relativity or produce a moral concept other than might makes right (at least in the face of scarcity)?

You may say this isn't the gist of Harris' system, but it leaves me with the sneaking suspicion that such a system of morality is the hothouse variety.

John said...

O.K. Give me an ACTUAL example. Just lay it out. When you say we are comparing a peak and a valley, in terms of the need for oxygen, what comes to mind is one valuing oxygen alot, while the other not at all. We can therefore say that the latter is objectively wrong. If we are comparing 2 similar peaks, then one would be valuing oxygen alot, and the other only enough to perpetuate his existence --then the difference would be like the 50 bucks vs 10 bucks to charity analogy.

It seems you want to say something, but in the context of Sam's analogy, you are saying something else completely different -- which is downright confusing.

SLW said...

I thought the case I laid out was simple, straightforward and capable of testing the premise: only two actors and one sense of well being as applied to one circumstance (scarcity). One actor takes and lives, the other actor is taken from and dies. Given the "scientific" definition of good as maximizing well-being, the result, objectively, is not the same for both parties: one would have maximized well-being and seen this as good, the other (or since the dead do not see, his family in another location) would have seen it as not good (relativism). The overall moral picture would be something akin to: in the face of scarcity, it is good to be mightier than your competitors.

If, when it comes to the most fundamental of questions as in this hypothetical, this is what the "scientific" approach to morals produces, then I see it has an inadequate definition of good.

John said...

You are really not getting the landscape analogy. But, I think I see your point now. I got confused since you said you were comparing a peak to a valley, but it seems you are comparing 2 exact peaks, as both actors in the hypothetical scenario need the exact same amount of oxygen to maximize his well-being.

If, say, both actors wanted the same amount of oxygen, yet having this situation wherein oxygen was only limited in supply and was only enough for the well-being of one actor, and the "mightier" actor maximizes his well-being at the expense of the other by obviously consuming all the oxygen. Are you arguing that this would be immoral?

Firstly, we will have to stipulate that they were the only people in the world for this to make any sense. Now if that were the case, why would it be immoral? It certainly would have been more moral than both of them dying for lack of oxygen. It would have also been more moral than one killing the other (a deduction in net-well-being) to be able to survive. Perhaps the most moral thing would be for the weaker one to sacrifice himself for the stronger, because the latter would ostensibly be more able to maximize well-being thereafter. Any of the situations I described above do not violate the notion that the maximization of well-being is good.

SLW said...

John,
We're in the same ballpark at least now.

The issue with the assessment of morality in this case, is that either principal would see this differently from the perspective of merely seeking the maximal well-being. The outcome, the actual act, would be maximal in one's eyes, minimal in the other's. This would be especially obvious if their respective strengths were near equal, and neither had better future prospects, or even that they were equal but it was just a bad day for the loser. There is inherent relativity, insurmountable in my view, in this measure or definition of goodness.

If we look at the total picture, rather than the individuals, we could come to conclusions such as you have suggested. The stronger, the better Darwinian candidate if you will, survived. His well being is maximized, and if progeny follow, they'll be better off because of it. I think you stumble when you suggest that the loser should sacrifice himself. That would violate the principle of self-preservation. If the two are very near equal and neither has a discernible long-term survival advantage, then what, beside the life and death contest could decide?

Since societies are the accumulations and massing of individuals, how would what is true of the individuals not be true for the masses in analogous circumstances?

Though defining good as the maximization of well being may sound plausible, I think it fails in application. It's a Star Trek ideal, not one of this real world.

John said...

"The issue with the assessment of morality in this case, is that either principal would see this differently from the perspective of merely seeking the maximal well-being."

-- Actually, no, both have the exact same perspective, since we're assuming that both need the exact same amount of oxygen to maximize their well-being.

"The outcome, the actual act, would be maximal in one's eyes, minimal in the other's."

-- No, this is why I said you are not getting the landscape analogy. Both have the exact same idea on how to maximize each's well-being. The outcome would maximize one's well-being, and in effect minimize another's, but this does not mean the loser would feel the other was being immoral. He could feel that, but he would be wrong if he did. It's like falling in line at a fast-food restaurant; would you feel that the one ahead of you was being immoral simply because he got there first? No. Well, you could, but you would be wrong if you did.

"There is inherent relativity, insurmountable in my view, in this measure or definition of goodness."

-- Yes, it does seem you feel that way. But you still haven't clarified why.

"If we look at the total picture, rather than the individuals, we could come to conclusions such as you have suggested."

-- Nobody said we should be looking at individual perspectives. If that were the case, you could've made a stronger point by comparing a psychopath to a normal sane person, wherein they would have completely different views, and what's good for one would immediately seem evil to the other.

"I think you stumble when you suggest that the loser should sacrifice himself. That would violate the principle of self-preservation."

-- No, I said it would seem like the most moral outcome if the weaker one sacrificed himself -- because the stronger would more be able to maximize well-being thereafter. Here you are confusing the 'ought' and the 'is'. We certainly cannot say that the weaker ought to sacrifice himself, but if he wanted the situation to turn out the most 'good' it can possibly be, than he must. Incidentally, in doing so, he is also maximizing well-being on the aggregate.

"If the two are very near equal and neither has a discernible long-term survival advantage, then what, beside the life and death contest could decide?"

-- If they are exactly equal, then any outcome would be just as moral as the next. Absolutely no peak in the landscape. The "life and death contest" would neither have a moral or immoral outcome. Incidentally, this again fits like a glove with my premise because any outcome here would produce the exact same amount of well-being.

"Since societies are the accumulations and massing of individuals, how would what is true of the individuals not be true for the masses in analogous circumstances?"

-- Because masses are not individuals. There isn't a society that is the accumulation of the exact same individual.

"Though defining good as the maximization of well being may sound plausible, I think it fails in application."

-- Could be. But you still haven't shown how it would fail in even just a single application.

Havok said...

Wes Morriston in his paper God and the ontological foundation of morality, a response to WLC's moral argument(s), states:
"Why are love and justice and generosity and kindness and faithfulness good? What is there in the depths of reality to make them good? My own preferred answer is : Nothing further. If you like, you may say that they are the ultimate standard of goodness. What makes them the standard? Nothing further. Possessing these characteristics just is good-making. Full stop. Is there some problem with this? Some reason to press on, looking for a ‘deeper’ answer that only theism can provide?"

makes a case that no, there isn't a need for a 'deeper' answer, and concludes:

A Godless universe could contain loving and just persons, and if it did they would still be morally good. It might contain acts of cruelty, and if it did those acts would still be morally wrong. Neither moral value nor moral duty need be illusory in a Godless universe."

bossmanham said...

Ah Morriston, the guy who constantly asks questions that have already been answered.

Of course the problem with making moral values the basis of moral values faces the same problem when Morriston does it as when Harris does it.

1) Kindness and faithfulness are ambiguous without a referent.

2) They themselves are moral values, so he hasn't answered the question of why certain things like kindness are good nor why we should do them. Just because there's something we can point to and define is kind in no way entails that it is good, nor does it give a reason for why we should strive to adhere to it.

BTW, I wonder if all you atheists who like to throw Morriston quotes around realize he's a Christian?

Havok said...

1) Kindness and faithfulness are ambiguous without a referent.
Not sure what you mean. If we talk about a kind act, the referent would be the person who performed it (even if hypothetically).

2) They themselves are moral values, so he hasn't answered the question of why certain things like kindness are good nor why we should do them.
On Morriston's account, they just are good-making. There doesn't seem to be anything particularly wrong with the claim at face value.

Just because there's something we can point to and define is kind in no way entails that it is good,
But those things just are good on this account.

nor does it give a reason for why we should strive to adhere to it.
Morriston mentions there are many options available to account for moral duty in the absence of divine commands (which is where you seem to be going), but gives further detail for just 2:
• If two propositions are inconsistent with one another, and you know one of them is true, then you shouldn't accept the other. No divine command is needed to back up this rule, and so there seems to be no reason to think things are different for moral rules.
• A person could consistently identify duties with commands that would be given by a perfect being.

BTW, I wonder if all you atheists who like to throw Morriston quotes around realize he's a Christian?
And that makes a different how? He presents a case against the grounding of morality in God. Whether he believes in God or not seems beside the point.

bossmanham said...

Not sure what you mean. If we talk about a kind act, the referent would be the person who performed it (even if hypothetically).

Kind can be interpreted differently among people. Some may think it's kind to continue medical treatments so as to prolong a life as long as possible. Others may see it as kind to put the person out of their misery now. Unless there's a strong referent for the definition of kindness, we're stuck with subjectivity. You'll see more depth to this problem below.

But those things just are good on this account.

According to Morriston. But since when is he a moral authority? Why should anyone agree with that? Who says they are good? "They just are" is an extremely insufficient grounding for morality. Not to mention he's not explaining what kind of existing thing "kindness" is.

If two propositions are inconsistent with one another, and you know one of them is true, then you shouldn't accept the other. No divine command is needed to back up this rule, and so there seems to be no reason to think things are different for moral rules.

This doesn't make any sense in this context. Just because a proposition is either true or false doesn't mean it needs a truth-maker any less.

If the proposition "kindness is goodness" is true, then there must be something out there that is "kindness." It seems that Morriston is either treating it as 1) a Platonic form, or 2) simply says that the idea that we formulate as "kindness" is what is the good.

Platonic forms have their own issues.If we're saying the idea that humans come up with of "kindness" is the good, we then are back to subjective morality, because those ideas are contingent on humans existing and on humans coming up with the idea. Without humans existing, the proposition would be clearly false. But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?" Then we should ask why this idea should apply to everyone. The problems with this tripe seem never ending.

And that makes a different how? He presents a case against the grounding of morality in God. Whether he believes in God or not seems beside the point.

I didn't say it mattered to the argument. I'm just wondering if you realize that.

Havok said...

According to Morriston. But since when is he a moral authority? Why should anyone agree with that? Who says they are good?
The same objection can be leveled at the DCT
"Is there some problem with this? Some reason to press on, looking for a ‘deeper ’ answer that only theism can provide ?
It’s not obvious that there is. No matter what story you tell about the ontological ground of moral value, you must at some point come to your own full stop. If you say that love is necessarily good because God necessarily exists and loves and because God’s moral nature is the ultimate standard of goodness, then we can ask what makes God’s moral nature the ultimate standard. It would be unwise to respond, ‘ because it includes love and justice and the rest ’, since that would confine us to a small and entirely unenlightening circle of ‘ explanations ’. At some point, you are simply going to have to bite the bullet and say, ‘ That’s just how it is’."


"They just are" is an extremely insufficient grounding for morality.
"The pertinent issue here isn’t whether uninstantiated moral properties can exist. It is whether – in a Godless universe – goodness is present in whatever instances of love and justice might exist in that universe. So far, then, Craig has done nothing to show either (a) that love and justice could not be instantiated in a Godless universe or (b) that goodness would not be present if they were."
(Morriston is responding to an argument by William Lane Craig, hence the reference).
" It may be said that God’s moral attributes just are the ultimate standard of goodness. But how is this is any more satisfying than saying that love (for example) just is good-making ? As far as I can see, building God and God’s attributes into the account of moral values merely complicates things and replaces one set of puzzles with another."

Not to mention he's not explaining what kind of existing thing "kindness" is.
"[ . . . ]Instead it has to do with the way in which goodness ‘ supervenes ’ on non-moral properties. The moral realist has failed to tell us how goodness supervenes on love and justice and the rest.
It is just this demand for a ‘ further explanation ’ that I have already questioned. It is (I say) every bit as reasonable to ask in virtue of what God is good as to ask in virtue of what human love is good-making. If we are told that God is good in virtue of being loving and just and so on (and what else is there to say ?), this merely brings us back to the tight and wholly unilluminating circle of explanations to which I have already called attention."

Havok said...

This doesn't make any sense in this context. Just because a proposition is either true or false doesn't mean it needs a truth-maker any less.
In logic, the rules of the formal system seem to "make things true" (though we're both committing ourselves to rather different theories of truth here).

But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?"
One could ask the same with respect to God's attributes.
Morriston looks like claiming that "Love", "Kindness" etc just are what we mean by "good".

Then we should ask why this idea should apply to everyone.
Which again, could be asked of your own position.

The problems with this tripe seem never ending.
There are ongoing problems and discussions regarding metaethics - while proponents might claim theirs is the only (or most) reasonable position to take, opponents continue to point out problems. This seems true for ALL positions, not just those you disagree with.
To prematurely proclaim victory implies unwarranted hubris.

I didn't say it mattered to the argument. I'm just wondering if you realize that.
I suspected, but didn't/don't care. I stumbled upon some of his papers, and it was his arguments I was interested in.

bossmanham said...

The same objection can be leveled at the DCT

Mm, not really. In DCT, you have a moral authority. In fact, the moral authority is the same Person who is the basis of moral values, making Him the only logical moral authority, the One which moral values themselves are based in.

Lacking that moral authority, we have no reason to think that anything is good, nor do we have any reason to follow it.

Your next two quotes don't really address or answer what you're tying them to. However, in response to them, a) relative love and justice, what people invent to correlate to those definitions, may very well exist. The issue is objective standards of love and justice and whether they exist and obtain; b) goodness as an necessarily objectively existing thing could also not exist without God.

It may be said that God’s moral attributes just are the ultimate standard of goodness. But how is this is any more satisfying than saying that love (for example) just is good-making ?

Because there's an actual referent to which we can compare acts of love to to see if they are adhering to the objective standard.

Instead it has to do with the way in which goodness ‘ supervenes ’ on non-moral properties. The moral realist has failed to tell us how goodness supervenes on love and justice and the rest.

We have an objective standard by which one would compare moral acts to in order to determine their moral status. As far as an act corresponds to the nature of God is how moral an act it is. If it runs contrary to His nature, it is immoral. So in that sense, it would be the nature of God that would supervene on creation and determining whether moral acts are good or evil.

One could ask the same with respect to God's attributes.
Morriston looks like claiming that "Love", "Kindness" etc just are what we mean by "good".


On one side, however, we have an independently and necessarily existing thing by which we ground morality. On the other, we have contingent and only mentally existing things.

Which again, could be asked of your own position.

God's universe.

There are ongoing problems and discussions regarding metaethics - while proponents might claim theirs is the only (or most) reasonable position to take, opponents continue to point out problems. This seems true for ALL positions, not just those you disagree with.
To prematurely proclaim victory implies unwarranted hubris.


Except this is false, as I'be just shown. I notice you didn't deal with the meat of my critique of Morriston's objection here. You just threw out a bunch of quotes from him which don't really pose a problem, as shown, and weren't related to what I was saying.

Havok said...

Mm, not really. In DCT, you have a moral authority. In fact, the moral authority is the same Person who is the basis of moral values, making Him the only logical moral authority, the One which moral values themselves are based in.
So you say, but why should I accept that? What makes God the moral authority? Why should I accept your claims that these values only have value in virtue them being attributes of this being?

Lacking that moral authority, we have no reason to think that anything is good, nor do we have any reason to follow it.
On Morristons account things just are good - there is no further reason.
As I quoted, he gives 2 possible accounts of moral obligation, and states there could be many more.

a) relative love and justice, what people invent to correlate to those definitions, may very well exist. The issue is objective standards of love and justice and whether they exist and obtain
And by Morriston's account, love and justice "just are" objectively good. Acts of love are good by their nature.

b) goodness as an necessarily objectively existing thing could also not exist without God.
Except of course you've not demonstrated this point. Morriston, who is as you pointed out a Christian, and therefore doesn't seem to have a reason to prefer "free floating" love and justive rather than you're account, and every reason to accept your account, doesn't.

Because there's an actual referent to which we can compare acts of love to to see if they are adhering to the objective standard.
Do we?
I'd argue that if anything we refer it to some "idealised" notion of love, not to the love embodied in some other person (even if that person is God).

So in that sense, it would be the nature of God that would supervene on creation and determining whether moral acts are good or evil.
How does it do that?

On one side, however, we have an independently and necessarily existing thing by which we ground morality. On the other, we have contingent and only mentally existing things.
You're misunderstanding or misrepresenting Morriston. On his account, goodness is not a "contingent and only mentally existing thing", it's a part of reality - he is after all arguing for an objective morality.
And of course, here are serious problems with this "independently and necessarily existing thing by which we ground morality" which shouldn't be swept under the rug either.

God's universe.
A nice non-response.

Except this is false, as I'be just shown.
No you haven't. You assert many things, but you haven't shown this one to be the case.

I notice you didn't deal with the meat of my critique of Morriston's objection here. You just threw out a bunch of quotes from him which don't really pose a problem, as shown, and weren't related to what I was saying.
I was trying to let Morriston argue his own case. I'm not trying to push Morriston's account as the "one true morality", just that he points out problems with your own DCT and produces what seems just as valid an account of objective morality - more so because it doesn't rely upon a "God" and the difficulties that brings with it.

bossmanham said...

What makes God the moral authority?

Because He's the basis of moral values. Therefore, He's the only logical competent moral authority.

With Morriston's, all we have is him saying that kindness is goodness. That's not very compelling. A being for whom it is logically impossible to deceive, however, seems to me a pretty sound one to listen to.

On Morristons account things just are good - there is no further reason.
As I quoted, he gives 2 possible accounts of moral obligation, and states there could be many more.


No you haven't.

And by Morriston's account, love and justice "just are" objectively good. Acts of love are good by their nature.

And we're back to the issues I presented.

Except of course you've not demonstrated this point. Morriston, who is as you pointed out a Christian, and therefore doesn't seem to have a reason to prefer "free floating" love and justive rather than you're account, and every reason to accept your account, doesn't.

There's nothing that exists that is "good." There are only contingently and subjectively existing ideas one can arbitrarily ascribe "good" to. That's not objective morality, however.

I'd argue that if anything we refer it to some "idealised" notion of love

Lol, which is neither necessary, nor objective. You're making this too easy.

How does it do that?

By correlating or not to His nature.

On his account, goodness is not a "contingent and only mentally existing thing", it's a part of reality - he is after all arguing for an objective morality.

And then we're back to how it is a necessarily and objectively existing thing. Is Morriston a Platonist? That's the only other thing I can think of that posits these types of things, and Platonism suffers from deep problems. Otherwise, "kindness" and "love" are contingent on humans existing and thinking them up.

A nice non-response.

Um, no. God governs the universe, therefore He has appropriate authority over it.

No you haven't. You assert many things, but you haven't shown this one to be the case.

I've shown that Morriston's account fails where the DCT theorist's does not....

just that he points out problems with your own DCT and produces what seems just as valid an account of objective morality

I've answered these supposed problems, and shown where the holes lie in his in the meat of my critique, which is clearly why you didn't address it. Because it shows that his account is not "just as valid an account of objective morality."

John said...

I just read the Wes Morriston paper Havok provided a link for. Wow, would have never guessed that guy was a Christian. In my honest opinion though, the paper just seemed like one big assertion.

Havok said...

Because He's the basis of moral values. Therefore, He's the only logical competent moral authority.
To which Morriston might reply "this merely brings us back to the tight and wholly unilluminating circle of explanations to which I have already called attention."

With Morriston's, all we have is him saying that kindness is goodness. That's not very compelling
Well, I think most folk would agree that "kindness" is actually good, so we seem to have more than just Morriston's word on this.

A being for whom it is logically impossible to deceive, however, seems to me a pretty sound one to listen to.
Well, if we accept theism and Morriston's account, you could also have that beings word that "kindness" is good.

No you haven't.
Morality is like logic, and duty is that which a perfect being might command.

And we're back to the issues I presented.
I don't see that to be the case. On Morriston's account love, justice, etc are the objective standard.

There's nothing that exists that is "good." There are only contingently and subjectively existing ideas one can arbitrarily ascribe "good" to. That's not objective morality, however.
And that's not Morriston's argument - it sounds like you're arguing against a subjective moral system.

Lol, which is neither necessary, nor objective. You're making this too easy.
I was making a claim as to what I thought occurred in practice.
I'm not sure what Morriston would say on the matter. You could pose your question to Morriston if you wanted
I'd like to see the arguments and evidence supporting your claim though - it sounds a little contrived.

By correlating or not to His nature.
And this nature is good because? Probably definitional :-)

And then we're back to how it is a necessarily and objectively existing thing.
Which I doubt Morriston would think is a problem for his account.

Is Morriston a Platonist?
No idea, though it sounds like he's more likely to endorse supervenience of some sort.

That's the only other thing I can think of that posits these types of things, and Platonism suffers from deep problems.
According to this survey (which I'm sure you've seen before), a significant portion of suveyed philosophers lean towards Platonism.
It probably does have it's problems which most metaphysical theories seem to have, including theism :-)

Otherwise, "kindness" and "love" are contingent on humans existing and thinking them up.
Morriston would disagree, of course:
"It may be said that God’s moral attributes just are the ultimate standard of goodness. But how is this is any more satisfying than saying that love (for example) just is good-making ? As far as I can see, building God and God’s attributes into the account of moral values merely complicates things and replaces one set of puzzles with another."

Um, no. God governs the universe, therefore He has appropriate authority over it.
Might makes right of some kind? Doesn't sound like morality to me.

I've shown that Morriston's account fails where the DCT theorist's does not....
You've shown that you don't accept it. You're still working out the details of whether it falls to your criticism or not.

I've answered these supposed problems, and shown where the holes lie in his in the meat of my critique, which is clearly why you didn't address it. Because it shows that his account is not "just as valid an account of objective morality."
No, you're still working out the details of whether your DCT falls to the problems Morriston points out.

Havok said...

In my honest opinion though, the paper just seemed like one big assertion.
is the assertion you're thinking of
Love just is good" or something similar?

John said...

"Platonic forms have their own issues.If we're saying the idea that humans come up with of "kindness" is the good, we then are back to subjective morality, because those ideas are contingent on humans existing and on humans coming up with the idea."

--Exactly right. But humans do exist. So I would argue that we've already come up with words to describe certain things. "Kindness" is good (I should say generally speaking, ofcourse being kind to a serial killer in a way that would exacerbate his proclivities would intuitively seem bad) by definition. That's simply how we've defined those words. If kindness is good, then helping people is good and so forth. If kindness is good, as per our definition of those words, then if people wanted to be good, they ought to be kind.


"Without humans existing, the proposition would be clearly false."

-- Right.

"'But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, 'kindness,' is chosen as the good. Why not 'meanness?' Why not 'hungriness?'"

-- I really don't get this. We use words to describe particular things. It's as simple as that. We exist in one way and not another, therefore such an existence would obviously necessitate regularity. We can just loosely define hungriness as good, because it would make little sense with respect to the way we exist.

"Then we should ask why this idea should apply to everyone."

-- Because when people act in a certain way, it moves them to a certain direction. These are merely ideas that describe those directions. We cannot say that people *ought* to move in a certain direction, but we can objectively describe each direction and objectively make claims about how those movements would affect everyone else. We are able to do all of this because our universe operates in a certain way, whether we like it or not.

John said...

"is the assertion you're thinking of
Love just is good" or something similar?"

-- I'm actually making a different point. Which is, morality is objective with respect to how we've been able to evolve. There's no need for a God for morality to be objective because we've already evolved in a certain way. I'm sorry, but I think Wes merely asserts that we ought to behave in a certain way without giving any strong foundation for thinking that way. Unless I misunderstood him. (I ruefully admit, I simply glossed over the paper)

SLW said...

"'But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, 'kindness,' is chosen as the good. Why not 'meanness?' Why not 'hungriness?'"

-- I really don't get this. We use words to describe particular things. It's as simple as that. We exist in one way and not another, therefore such an existence would obviously necessitate regularity.

There was at least one human society (i.e.the Sawi) in which treachery was called good.

Havok said...

John: I'm actually making a different point. Which is, morality is objective with respect to how we've been able to evolve.
Which, of course doesn't get you the variety "objectivity" that BMH seems to require, but I don't that as such a big problem.

There's no need for a God for morality to be objective because we've already evolved in a certain way.
I'd go further, in that I (in moments of weakness, of course) suspect there is a "calculus" of sorts for the behaviour of social interacting intelligences (ie. morality). Of course, the existence of such a thing wouldn't make it binding ("Why would I want to follow the moral calculus?"), but I have issues with objective prescriptivity as well :-)

I'm sorry, but I think Wes merely asserts that we ought to behave in a certain way without giving any strong foundation for thinking that way. Unless I misunderstood him.
Well, his claim, that "X" just is good, would give us the moral precepts. A theistic who accepted Wes' claims would probably say that moral obligation/duty follows from Gods commands (God is good, but only in virtue of him possessing attributes of Love, etc, to the highest degree). Wes does outline 2 non-theistic accounts of moral obligation/duty.
Is that the sort of thing you were thinking?

Havok said...

There was at least one human society (i.e.the Sawi) in which treachery was called good.
Sounds fascinating, assuming there was no misunderstanding concerning treachery and good, of course :-)

John said...

"There was at least one human society (i.e.the Sawi) in which treachery was called good."

-- Assuming they've never been able to revise their views on treachery and good, I bet that society has been long dead. Which, incidentally, makes my point.

@ Havok:

I actually do not think it is possible that, given naturalism, anyone can have any moral obligation or duty. If they want to live better, than that would inject an ought into the picture. I just don't see how one can get an ought from an is.

Havok said...

John: Assuming they've never been able to revise their views on treachery and good, I bet that society has been long dead. Which, incidentally, makes my point.
A (admittedly very brief) look at the book "Peace Child", which documents a missionary's experiences with the Sawi, indicates that the treachery was only accepted between tribes.

John: I actually do not think it is possible that, given naturalism, anyone can have any moral obligation or duty.
I have doubts that moral prescriptivity is "real" or particularly coherent (still working through it), so I don't think you need limit that to naturalism.

John: If they want to live better, than that would inject an ought into the picture.
And if one wanted to follow God (or avoid Hell), that that too would inject an ought (not arguing with you, just making a point).

John: I just don't see how one can get an ought from an is.
Nor do I unless, as you observe, some value or desire or some such in included.

John said...

"I have doubts that moral prescriptivity is 'real' or particularly coherent (still working through it), so I don't think you need limit that to naturalism."

-- But still, moral obligations & duties would seem more coherent, I think, on a non-naturalistic worldview. Don't you agree?

"And if one wanted to follow God (or avoid Hell), that that too would inject an ought (not arguing with you, just making a point)."

-- Yes. But "follow[ing] God" shouldn't seem so trivial, considering that *if* God existed, then following him -- or whatever it is that theists want to do-- would be the purpose for our creation, right? Ofcourse we can mock and trivialize this by asking, why would anyone want to literally follow/walk side by side with a sky-daddy -- but that's missing the point. Fulfilling our objective purpose should, at least ostensibly, be a much greater thing that one must aspire to than just wanting to "live right". Don't take this adversarial stance as a challenge of some sort, really, I'm just sayin. I'm agnostic, and really just want to find out the truth.

"Nor do I unless, as you observe, some value or desire or some such in included."

-- But on a theistic perspective, with respect to moral obligations, it should lead to something more fundamental, since this is the creator of the universe we're talking about. I do observe that there is value and desire, which slightly puts an 'ought' if you will, that leads us to behave morally, and on account of how the world operates, we are able to be completely objective about. However, from an atheistic perspective, considering that this is all there is; everyone becomes equal in death. Why should it matter?

Havok said...

John: -- But still, moral obligations & duties would seem more coherent, I think, on a non-naturalistic worldview. Don't you agree?
I don't think I do agree. I think moral obligations and duties are a similar "thing" regardless of who they're owed to, though I'm not entirely sure what that "thing" is (They may simply flow from the intention to follow an agreement, as seems to be Harman's position in This (slightly old) paper).

John: Yes. But "follow[ing] God" shouldn't seem so trivial, considering that *if* God existed, then following him -- or whatever it is that theists want to do-- would be the purpose for our creation, right?
It may perhaps be the purpose for which God created us, but to be annoying about it, why should I care about the purpose given me by someone else?
It may make sense to follow God, because he's loving and knows a lot, but that seems more pragmatic reasoning, rather than strictly moral reasoning, and to me it doesn't seem to do the work required.

John: Fulfilling our objective purpose should, at least ostensibly, be a much greater thing that one must aspire to than just wanting to "live right".
I'm not convinced that being told you were created for purpose 'X' makes that an objective purpose that is therefore worth following - as a free being (in theory at least), why should another's purpose be binding or valuable to me in that fashion?

John: Don't take this adversarial stance as a challenge of some sort, really, I'm just sayin. I'm agnostic, and really just want to find out the truth.
No problem. I'm just trying to figure out where I or others have gone or do go wrong (I'm a "weak" atheist, I guess) and trying to figure out this morality thing while I'm about (among other things) :-)

Havok said...

John: But on a theistic perspective, with respect to moral obligations, it should lead to something more fundamental, since this is the creator of the universe we're talking about.
I'm not quite sure why it should lead that way, which also seems to be Morriston's point - why should it matter that the good-making ideals of Love, Justice etc are instantiated to give them the force of moral ideals (which I think is where, at least partyl, BMH find fault with Morriston's argument).

John: ...and on account of how the world operates, we are able to be completely objective about.
I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that last part, and your use of "objectively" doesn't seem to match that of BMH when he claims morality is objective - for him there seem to be "moral objects" existing out there (well, as objectively existing properties of his God). You seem to use it there as simply that we can find out what is "true" regardless of our subjective "preferences".

John: However, from an atheistic perspective, considering that this is all there is; everyone becomes equal in death. Why should it matter?
Because we're not dead yet, and our actions have real consequences here and now, would be one reason.
Of course you could ask, why should you care about that? ;-)

bossmanham said...

To which Morriston might reply "this merely brings us back to the tight and wholly unilluminating circle of explanations to which I have already called attention."

Why should Morriston's inability to be illuminated by this answer bother me? DCT provides a plausible ground for morality, whereas his doesn't.

Well, I think most folk would agree that "kindness" is actually good, so we seem to have more than just Morriston's word on this.

That just highlights the problem even more, since "kindness" is a moral value. To say that a moral value is the ground of moral values is to not actually have a ground at all. Like building a house in the air.

Well, if we accept theism and Morriston's account, you could also have that beings word that "kindness" is good.

Mmokay, but then we're accepting one of the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma, and not answeing what the ground of goodness is.

I don't see that to be the case. On Morriston's account love, justice, etc are the objective standard.

Which have to be referring to something necessary and objective, or else Morriston has not given us an objective morality.

And that's not Morriston's argument - it sounds like you're arguing against a subjective moral system.


It's the only option if God does not exist.

I was making a claim as to what I thought occurred in practice.
I'm not sure what Morriston would say on the matter.


Then why did you bring it up?

I'd like to see the arguments and evidence supporting your claim though - it sounds a little contrived.

The claim that human based morality is not objective? Humans are contingent and their thoughts are subjective.

According to this survey (which I'm sure you've seen before), a significant portion of suveyed philosophers lean towards Platonism.
It probably does have it's problems which most metaphysical theories seem to have, including theism :-)


And if I weren't a theist, I'd probably have to grab on to some sort of Platonism.

Otherwise, "kindness" and "love" are contingent on humans existing and thinking them up.
Morriston would disagree, of course:
"It may be said that God’s moral attributes just are the ultimate standard of goodness. But how is this is any more satisfying than saying that love (for example) just is good-making ? As far as I can see, building God and God’s attributes into the account of moral values merely complicates things and replaces one set of puzzles with another."


Does anyone else see how this doesn't address what I brought up?

Might makes right of some kind? Doesn't sound like morality to me.

I'd say ownership makes right, but obviously this isn't the extent of the answer one would give as to why we should follow God.

bossmanham said...

John,

I'll address what you said a little later. I'm actually at work right now, and my break isn't that long.

Havok said...

BMH: Why should Morriston's inability to be illuminated by this answer bother me?
Perhaps because he's pointing out a troublesome spot for your account which his doesn't suffer from?
BMH: DCT provides a plausible ground for morality, whereas his doesn't.
Many of DCT's claims are implausible and/troublesome, and Morriston's account does provide some means of "grounding" morality, regardless of what you believe.

BMH: To say that a moral value is the ground of moral values is to not actually have a ground at all. Like building a house in the air.
Some ideal "kindness" is the ground of kindness. On reading an earlier paper of Morriston's he does equate them to some sort of platonic properties, and says that he sees no reason why instantiation of said properties (in God or whomever) is required to give said properties moral force.

BMH: Mmokay, but then we're accepting one of the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma, and not answeing what the ground of goodness is.
Morriston seems to accept the external standard horn without difficulty (in the same way God is limited by logic, he is also limited by morality).
I get that you don't accept Morriston's account of grounding - you seem to require instantiation of said properties in a specific being. Morriston does argue against that, however.

BMH: Which have to be referring to something necessary and objective, or else Morriston has not given us an objective morality.
Some sort of instantiated (if you're a theist) or uninstantiated (if you're not) platonic properties seems to be where he's going with this.

BMH: It's the only option if God does not exist.
So you continue to claim. It seems to me that you have a very narrow conception of what "objective morality" could possibly be, and you cannot countenance any dissent from that. Those who are experts in the field don't seem to hold to the same narrow conception of objective morality you do.

BMH: Then why did you bring it up?
Because you made the ridiculous sounding claim that we compare "kindness" to a person and not some ideal (which on Morriston's account would be his platonic property thing).

BMH: The claim that human based morality is not objective? Humans are contingent and their thoughts are subjective.
Given Morriston isn't arguing for human based morality, that's not an argument against his claims.
And anyway, the claim I asked about was this on:
"Because there's an actual referent to which we can compare acts of love to to see if they are adhering to the objective standard."
Of course, on thinking about it, we could compare to Morriston's properties in much the same way you claim we compare to God.

BMH: Does anyone else see how this doesn't address what I brought up?
On Morriston's account, these are properties that exist, irrespective of humans.

Havok said...

BMH: I'd say ownership makes right,
Which still doesn't sound like moral obligation to me, more like coercive force :-)

BMH: but obviously this isn't the extent of the answer one would give as to why we should follow God.
There are numerous reasons why we might follow God if it existed, but I can't really think of any which make obligatory in a moral sense. As I said above to John, God would know more, so on practical or pragmatic grounds it might make sense to follow this being.

John said...

@ Havok

"It may perhaps be the purpose for which God created us, but to be annoying about it, why should I care about the purpose given me by someone else?"

-- Maybe because it's not just "someone else". If God created you and had a purpose for you, then I think, whether you cared or not, that purpose would be somewhat important -- since, again, this is the creator of the universe we are talking about. Maybe you could be right in saying "why should I care?" But I think if that's what someone would say, he could just as well say "why should I care about other people who's choices won't conceivably affect me?" But then again, you could argue that, even if I were right, the fact that nobody objectively knows what the purpose of God is, then it would make the point slightly effete.

"I'm not convinced that being told you were created for purpose 'X' makes that an objective purpose that is therefore worth following -"

-- Well it would make it an "objective purpose". But you're right in doubting whether it would be worth following or not. We simply can't know if it's worth following, so I see your point. Nevertheless, if everyone knew they had objective purpose yet decided to just live the way they want since they do not have knowledge whether such a purpose would be worth following, then they will do exactly that: live the way they want. By the same token, why should there be any standard at all? People as free beings should just live the way they want.

"I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that last part, and your use of "objectively" doesn't seem to match that of BMH when he claims morality is objective"

-- Mine is based on Sam Harris's book 'The Moral Landscape'. But I do think Sam erred in deriving the statement 'people ought to do good' from the second statement 'maximizing sentient well being is good'. I believe the latter, but also believe that it has nothing to do with the former, on account of us not being able to derive an ought from an is. If we accept that the maximization of well-being is good, and since well-being is quantitative, then morality becomes objective -- since it can be measured.


"Because we're not dead yet, and our actions have real consequences here and now, would be one reason."

-- Yes, I hear this a lot. I guess this just isn't very reassuring to me. Sure, you can create all sorts of diagrams that show that to be true; you can explain the 'butterfly effect' and what have you. But I guess it just doesn't seem intuitively true. It certainly doesn't seem to be the case that what little thing I do would affect someone from Iceland. So I can understand your argument, and in some sense I believe it, but it's just not reassuring. It's not something we can always argue for people to be convinced.

Havok said...

John: If God created you and had a purpose for you, then I think, whether you cared or not, that purpose would be somewhat important -- since, again, this is the creator of the universe we are talking about.
The purpose may be more special, we may find we have very good reasons to follow it, but that doesn't seem to make it obligatory or binding (which is what I'm trying to say).

John: But then again, you could argue that, even if I were right, the fact that nobody objectively knows what the purpose of God is, then it would make the point slightly effete.
Well, if he existed, God would know the purpose, and being all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving etc, he surely would have the power, knowledge and reason(s) to let us know what that purpose was in an unambiguous and unquestionable manner.

John: Well it would make it an "objective purpose".
In the same sense that my purpose to get some work done today is also objective.

John: We simply can't know if it's worth following, so I see your point.
And if it were worth following, we might follow it for that reason, but not because it is intrinsically binding in some sense (I've heard the terms "Objective Presciptivity" and "Objective Absolute Normative Force" used to describe, I think, the latter concept).

John: By the same token, why should there be any standard at all? People as free beings should just live the way they want.
Well, moral relativists would claim there is no standard, but standards which we agree to. And people do tend to live the way they want, making compromises (like following some moral code) because it helps them in that. At least, it seems very much that way to me.

John: But I do think Sam erred in deriving the statement 'people ought to do good' from the second statement 'maximizing sentient well being is good'.
In Sam's defense, I think he simply defines "the good" as "maximizing well being of sentient beings" (in the same way Morriston defines "the good" just as Love, Kindness etc, and Divine Command Theorists like BMH define "the good" as God's moral nature, his love, kindness etc). If what I've read of Harris' book are accurate (I haven't read the book), he doesn't acknowledge that he's asserted his "ought" in the same way other moral theories do.

Havok said...

John: I believe the latter, but also believe that it has nothing to do with the former, on account of us not being able to derive an ought from an is.
But, if what Harris claims is correct, and that when we speak of "good" we really do mean the well being of sentient beings, then he's gotten is ought. of course I don't think he can say why I must think this way, so his moral theory does fail to derive an ought from an is, but his thesis seems to be more that science can inform our morality, and so as a practical matter he may still be correct.

John: If we accept that the maximization of well-being is good, and since well-being is quantitative, then morality becomes objective -- since it can be measured.
Which I agree to - it means the well-being would exist as objective facts about the world (which, as I think you mentioned above, would exist in the brain states of sentient beings).

John: Yes, I hear this a lot. I guess this just isn't very reassuring to me
I think a lot of people feel that way.

John: It certainly doesn't seem to be the case that what little thing I do would affect someone from Iceland.
But what little thing you do may affect someone next to you (giving a seat to a pregnant woman, etc). Why worry so much about those from Iceland and not take into account those in your neighborhood? :-)

John: It's not something we can always argue for people to be convinced.
No. It seems people need there to be some absolute or transcendent purpose (or at least, find the thought of such a thing to be reassuring).
The sentiment "Without god there would be no value in the universe - and think how horrible that would be!" seems common (and rather confused) :-)

bossmanham said...

Perhaps because he's pointing out a troublesome spot for your account which his doesn't suffer from?

Morriston not being illuminated doesn't mean there isn't illumination to be found.

Many of DCT's claims are implausible and/troublesome, and Morriston's account does provide some means of "grounding" morality, regardless of what you believe.

Except no one has shown that, and Morriston's account is a house in thin air.

Some ideal "kindness" is the ground of kindness.

And an ideal is never necessary and is always subject to someone imagining it.

On reading an earlier paper of Morriston's he does equate them to some sort of platonic properties,

Wonderful. And that lands in the numerous issues that plague moral Platonism, assuming it is based outside of God.

Morriston seems to accept the external standard horn without difficulty (in the same way God is limited by logic, he is also limited by morality).

Except logic doesn't make sense without a divine ground either, but whatever.

I get that you don't accept Morriston's account of grounding - you seem to require instantiation of said properties in a specific being. Morriston does argue against that, however.

And in doing so, these so called morals are left in thin air. They're simply nothing, and referring to nothing. On theism, you have a necessary, true, and objectively existing entity that is what we are referring to when we speak of goodness. It's hard to imagine what "kindness" is refering to otherwise.

It seems to me that you have a very narrow conception of what "objective morality" could possibly be, and you cannot countenance any dissent from that.

Pretty simple: true in spite of what anyone thinks.

Those who are experts in the field don't seem to hold to the same narrow conception of objective morality you do.

If it can be different based on what someone thinks, that seems an awful odd definition of "objective." Say "necessary moral values" if it makes you feel better.

Given Morriston isn't arguing for human based morality, that's not an argument against his claims.

I never meant it to be. This was in response to your asking for that argument. Perhaps you lost track of the conversation there?

Of course, on thinking about it, we could compare to Morriston's properties in much the same way you claim we compare to God.

Right, which is why I said earlier that for objective morality, the only view that could even come close other than DCT is moral Platonism. See, you're starting to get it now.

Which still doesn't sound like moral obligation to me, more like coercive force :-)

So ownership = coersion? Got it.

There are numerous reasons why we might follow God if it existed, but I can't really think of any which make obligatory in a moral sense.

One of the easiest is that God is omniscient, knowing only and all true propositions, and that would include propositions of what one ought to do.

We also have the ground of morality telling us what we should do, and the ground of morality would certainly be a competent moral authority.

SLW said...

...the answer one would give as to why we should follow God.
There are numerous reasons why we might follow God if it existed, but I can't really think of any which make obligatory in a moral sense.

What could be more fundamental than self-preservation, not just in the here and now but for eternity. Only those who walk with God are not committing eternal suicide as it were.

Havok said...

BMH: Morriston not being illuminated doesn't mean there isn't illumination to be found.
Perhaps there is, but surely its up to the person claiming "illumination" to support the claim(s)?

BMH: Except no one has shown that, and Morriston's account is a house in thin air.
Perhaps you should read a little more widely?

BMH: And an ideal is never necessary and is always subject to someone imagining it.
If I understand correctly, the Platonic Moral Values envisaged by Morriston would certainly be neccesary, and are completely independant of people imagining them.

BMH: Wonderful. And that lands in the numerous issues that plague moral Platonism, assuming it is based outside of God.
I'll try to comment on WLC's claims in a subsequent comment. His/your claims of morality strike me as similarly difficult/incomprehensible as Morristons.

BMH: Except logic doesn't make sense without a divine ground either, but whatever.
Yeah, it does. There's plenty of alternatives out there, but, whatever :-)

BMH: And in doing so, these so called morals are left in thin air. They're simply nothing, and referring to nothing.
Not, they're Platonic. They are Ideals of Love, Justice, whatever. I don't see that they need to be instantiated specifically, nor to refer to anything specifically.

BMH: On theism, you have a necessary, true, and objectively existing entity that is what we are referring to when we speak of goodness.
Except for all of the problems you get when putting forward such a being (still no successful argument showing the existence of this necessary being, for example), as well as the seeming arbitrariness of such a designation (one of the horns of a Euthyphro like dilemma).

BMH: It's hard to imagine what "kindness" is refering to otherwise.
It it instantiated in kind persons and kind acts, but doesn't need to be instantiated to exist. It doesn't need to "refer" to anything for this.

BMH: Pretty simple: true in spite of what anyone thinks.
Just like my preference for chocolate ice cream in spite of what anyone thinks? :-)

BMH: If it can be different based on what someone thinks, that seems an awful odd definition of "objective." Say "necessary moral values" if it makes you feel better.
I'm not the one arguing that morality depends on a person. Morriston's account doesn't care what people think (regardless of whether it is me or God).

BMH: I never meant it to be. This was in response to your asking for that argument. Perhaps you lost track of the conversation there?
No, I suspect you did. But with all of the fisking, it's an easy mistake to make.

BMH: So ownership = coersion? Got it.
Not neccesarily. I was objecting to your claim that ownership implied moral obligation/moral prescriptivity of the sort which seems required.

BMH: One of the easiest is that God is omniscient, knowing only and all true propositions, and that would include propositions of what one ought to do.
Which would be a great reason to listen to what this being had to say, if it existed. This doesn't sound like it's morally binding however.

BMH: We also have the ground of morality telling us what we should do, and the ground of morality would certainly be a competent moral authority.
Again, excellent reason to do so. This being, if it existed, would tell us what was good, and so we'd have good reason to think that, if we wanted to do good, we'd be well advised to listen to this being (ignoring the epistemological issues involved). But this still doesn't sound like "objective prescriptivity".

Havok said...

SLW: What could be more fundamental than self-preservation, not just in the here and now but for eternity. Only those who walk with God are not committing eternal suicide as it were.
Another excellent reason.
Though it does sound like you're advocating "egoism" rather than some divine command theory - do what God asks because it's in your best interests.

bossmanham said...

Lol. I think it's amusing that you think just because a philosopher has come up with something it automatically becomes a viable alternative. "Well this philosopher said this" doesn't mean jack if it solves no problem or creates more than it attempts to solve.

Havok said...

BMH: Lol. I think it's amusing that you think just because a philosopher has come up with something it automatically becomes a viable alternative.
It would be funny if that was my position. I think both Morriston and your accounts of morality have problems (because the objects you require don't actually exist, or at least we don't and possibly can't know that they do).

BMH: "Well this philosopher said this" doesn't mean jack if it solves no problem or creates more than it attempts to solve.
The same could be said of your position :-)

Havok said...

WLC: It is clear what is meant when it is said that a person is just; but it is bewildering when it is said that in the absence of any people, Justice itself exists. Moral values seem to exist as properties of persons, not as mere abstractions—or at any rate it’s hard to know what it is for a moral value to exist as a mere abstraction. Curiously, since the abstract object Justice is not itself just, it would seem to follow that in the absence of any people justice does not exist—which seems to contradict the hypothesis. Atheistic Moral Platonists seem to lack any adequate foundation in reality for moral values but just leave them floating in an unintelligible way.

In response to a similar passage as the above, from WLC, Morriston offers the following:
"In the passage just quoted, he makes it clear that there is no room in his ontology for abstract moral properties. Values like love or justice can exist only as properties of individual persons. Otherwise, Craig says, they would be groundless, ‘floating in an unintelligible way’. It seems clear to me that this objection misses its intended target. The pertinent issue here isn’t whether uninstantiated moral properties can exist. It is whether – in a Godless universe – goodness is present in whatever instances of love and justice might exist in that universe. So far, then, Craig has done nothing to show either (a) that love and justice could not be instantiated in a Godless universe or (b) that goodness would not be present if they were."

In response to the "queerness" argument that WLC seems to be appealing to (but doesn't elaborate on), Morriston continues:
"Craig here appears to be gesturing in the direction of a ‘queerness argument’ specifically directed against the view that moral properties supervene upon, without being reducible to, non-moral ones. Unfortunately, Craig does not elaborate the point; so my response will be brief.
However the natural/non-natural distinction gets made, it’s clear that on Craig’s own view the goodness of creatures is non-natural. It consists in resemblance (in relevant respects) to God, who is himself a paradigmatically nonnatural being. Which respects are relevant is fixed by God’s moral attributes, which themselves must be non-natural. So the problem Craig means to be raising here can hardly be that he objects to the non-natural. Instead it has to do with the way in which goodness ‘supervenes’ on non-moral properties. The moral realist has failed to tell us how goodness supervenes on love and justice and the rest.
It is just this demand for a ‘further explanation’ that I have already questioned. It is (I say) every bit as reasonable to ask in virtue of what God is good as to ask in virtue of what human love is good-making. If we are told that God is good in virtue of being loving and just and so on (and what else is there to say?), this merely brings us back to the tight and wholly unilluminating circle of explanations to which I have already called attention.
It may be said that God’s moral attributes just are the ultimate standard of goodness. But how is this is any more satisfying than saying that love (for example) just is good-making? As far as I can see, building God and God’s attributes into the account of moral values merely complicates things and replaces one set of puzzles with another."

Havok said...

WLC: Suppose that values like Mercy, Justice, Love, Forbearance, and the like just exist. How does that result in any moral obligations for me? Why would I have a moral duty, say, to be merciful? Who or what lays such an obligation on me? On this view moral vices such as Greed, Hatred, and Selfishness also presumably exist as abstract objects. Why am I obligated to align my life with one set of these abstractly existing objects rather than any other?

Regarding moral duty on his account, Morriston offers this:
"Even if I amright in thinking that we don’t need to ground moral values in God, it may still be thought that we need God to account for moral duty. Moral duties (it may be said) must be constituted by commands in order to have imperative force, and a perfectly good God is the only adequate source of such commands. However, it seems to me that a non-theist who embraces moral realism is not without resources at this point. There are many options, of which I’ll mention just two.
The first is simply to deny that duties must be constituted by commands in order to have imperative force. There are, after all, lots of normative laws that do not require a lawmaker. If, for example, you know that two propositions are inconsistent with one another, and you also know that one of them is true, then you should not accept the other.25 Nobody thinks we need a ‘divine command’ to back up this rule. I see no reason why it should be different for moral rules. If this is right, then the way is open for the non-theist to say that basic moral duties are fundamental moral facts and (like moral values) require no further foundation or ground.
But suppose something further is desired. Here is another option. It is a variant of the ideal spectator theory. Even an atheist might consistently identify duties with commands that would be given by a perfect being. That might not settle every question we’d like have settled; but it would certainly make it a duty not to"


WLC: Thirdly, it is fantastically improbable that just that sort of creature would emerge from the blind evolutionary process that corresponds to the abstractly existing realm of moral values. This seems to be an utterly incredible coincidence when one thinks about it. It is almost as though the moral realm knew that we were coming.
Morriston seems to endorse "Intuitionism", and gives "HUEMER, MICHAEL (2005) Ethical Intuitionism" as a reference.

bossmanham said...

Perhaps there is, but surely its up to the person claiming "illumination" to support the claim(s)?

Done.

Perhaps you should read a little more widely?

Perhaps you don't know what I've read?

If I understand correctly, the Platonic Moral Values envisaged by Morriston would certainly be neccesary, and are completely independant of people imagining them.

...Then it's not an ideal, but an existing Platonic value...


Yeah, it does. There's plenty of alternatives out there, but, whatever

Heh, okay.

Not, they're Platonic. They are Ideals of Love, Justice, whatever. I don't see that they need to be instantiated specifically, nor to refer to anything specifically.

No, they're Platonic forms. And this gets into the issue of what on earth a Platonic form is.

Except for all of the problems you get when putting forward such a being (still no successful argument showing the existence of this necessary being, for example)

This is, of course, a separate issue altogether. Obviously God's existence would be necessary for divine command theory to be true. One can show it to be internally consistent without having to prove God's existence. That's the purpose of other arguments. Being that DCT is the only viable theory of objective morality, either it is true, or subjectivism is true, and Mackie's conclusions are true (though not because of his arguments).

as well as the seeming arbitrariness of such a designation (one of the horns of a Euthyphro like dilemma).

The horns of the ED have been split for quite a while by noticing that God's nature is the basis of morality, which cannot be arbitrary because He is necessary.

Just like my preference for chocolate ice cream in spite of what anyone thinks?

Oi, yes, your thoughts exist objectively, but the propositional content of your thoughts are subjective based on what you actually think. You're just doing this on purpose. Come on, man.

No, I suspect you did. But with all of the fisking, it's an easy mistake to make.

Tis true.

Which would be a great reason to listen to what this being had to say, if it existed. This doesn't sound like it's morally binding however.

What you ought to do is morally binding by definition. Whether God exists is another issue, and I think the moral argument is a sound argument that points to God's existence.

Again, excellent reason to do so. This being, if it existed, would tell us what was good, and so we'd have good reason to think that, if we wanted to do good, we'd be well advised to listen to this being (ignoring the epistemological issues involved). But this still doesn't sound like "objective prescriptivity".

Sure it is. We ought to do what an authority tells us, as that is inherent in the definition of an authority. Sure is better than having impersonal Platonic forms with no authoritative power guiding morality.

bossmanham said...

See, this is the difference between you and me. I don't think simply because someone mentions an argument, and then says something bland and general about it, that that critique has any plausible force. Plausibility is somewhat subject to persons, but truly, Morriston's account seems simply unintelligible, and DCT simply provides, in a plausible way, an objective ethics.

Base on other foundational knowledge I have, I have no reason to think that Morriston's critique is any more than somewhat interesting, but not really a problem when scrutinized.

Havok said...

BMH: And this gets into the issue of what on earth a Platonic form is.
The issue doesn't seem any more difficult than just what on earth "God" is. Perhaps it's a little less difficult due to Platonic forms not being defined as mysterious, probably incoherent persons etc.

BMH: One can show it to be internally consistent without having to prove God's existence.
But if the God concept required to support the DCT is inconsistent or incoherent, then we have a problem, whether or not God exists.

BMH: Being that DCT is the only viable theory of objective morality,
So you've claimed repeatedly. The discussion continues...

BMH: The horns of the ED have been split for quite a while by noticing that God's nature is the basis of morality, which cannot be arbitrary because He is necessary.
God's nature may be defined as necessary, but there seems no non-arbitrary reason to think that this necessary nature is as you claim.


BMH: Oi, yes, your thoughts exist objectively, but the propositional content of your thoughts are subjective based on what you actually think. You're just doing this on purpose. Come on, man.
My preference for chocolate might be a product of my nature rather than something I have subjective control over, in a similar fashion to your claims regarding God's nature.
While claiming it is God's nature that defines morality may overcome the subjective charge, it does seem to still be open to charges of arbitrariness.

BMH: What you ought to do is morally binding by definition
But ought I do the act because it's the right thing to do or because God tells me it's the right thing to do?
The first seems to be what is usually meant by morally binding, the second seems to be the conclusion of your DCT.

BMH: ...I think the moral argument is a sound argument that points to God's existence.
It might be a valid argument, but I don't see it as being sound. But of course I have to say that :-)

BMH: Sure it is. We ought to do what an authority tells us, as that is inherent in the definition of an authority.
But we ought not do it simply because the authority tells us to, but because it is the right thing to do, correct (even if we only know it is the right thing to do because the authority informed us it was so)?

BMH: Sure is better than having impersonal Platonic forms with no authoritative power guiding morality.
impersonal Platonic forms would be the (impersonal) authorities on Morriston's account, and the "authoritative power" could, as Morriston points out, be similar to the manner in which we ought accept a sound logical argument.

Havok said...

BMH: See, this is the difference between you and me. I don't think simply because someone mentions an argument, and then says something bland and general about it, that that critique has any plausible force
Course you don't. Though you do accept Craig's dismissal of Moral platonism, though it suffers from it's own problems. Curious :-)

BMH: Plausibility is somewhat subject to persons, but truly, Morriston's account seems simply unintelligible, and DCT simply provides, in a plausible way, an objective ethics.
To me it seems just as unintelligible as your DCT account (which has made trying to defend it somewhat interesting, I have to say).
Your DCT account of Good being good seems true, but only vacuously.
God's nature is necessarily Good.
Good is what is in accordance with God's nature.
So, God's nature is necessarily God's nature.
So, granted God's nature would be necessarily good, that doesn't actually tell us anything about God's nature. To do so you seem to have to insert values of some sort. And doing so seems just as much of a leap as your dismissal of Morriston's account "...we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?"

BMH: Base on other foundational knowledge I have, I have no reason to think that Morriston's critique is any more than somewhat interesting, but not really a problem when scrutinized.
And based upon knowledge I have, God as you define it doesn't exist, and so the DCT is nothing more than an interesting game of "what if" :-)

John said...

@ Havok

If we've evolved in a completely different way, and, say, killing the first born child became evolutionarily advantageous --does Morriston's account of morality say this would still be an immoral thing to do? I reckon that we would have a completely different sense of morality, and such would be seen as a moral thing --which, as far as I've been able to gather, Dawkins agrees with. But, what is Morriston's view on something like this?

Havok said...

John: If we've evolved in a completely different way, and, say, killing the first born child became evolutionarily advantageous--does Morriston's account of morality say this would still be an immoral thing to do?
If I understand Morriston correctly, then yes, this would be immoral, or at least, morality would be unchanged regardless of the details of our evolutionary history (though perhaps there could be some practical concerns which could make it moral, since it seems we still need to reason our way to applied ethics? Not certain about that)

John: I reckon that we would have a completely different sense of morality, and such would be seen as a moral thing --which, as far as I've been able to gather, Dawkins agrees with.
Not sure about Dawkins view, but I'm not sure something like what we are - a cooperating society of individuals - and have a markedly different set of morals, simply due to the requirements of that setting.
There could be exceptions made, such as for your example of sacrifice of the first born child - which has happened to some degree in some cultures (for example, parts of the bible seem to indicate sacrifice of a (first born?) lamb or other animal is a suitable substitute for a first born child, probably as reaction to an existing or older practice or tradition), but over time I think, due to reasoning, consistency, and other concerns, there would be a "moral trajectory" of improvement much as we can see in our own history.

bossmanham said...

The issue doesn't seem any more difficult than just what on earth "God" is. Perhaps it's a little less difficult due to Platonic forms not being defined as mysterious, probably incoherent persons etc.

Actually, we're quite familiar with persons, and God is a personal, so I don't see where you're getting that there's a problem here.

But if the God concept required to support the DCT is inconsistent or incoherent, then we have a problem, whether or not God exists.

That's a separate issue to whether DCT is internally consistent.

So you've claimed repeatedly

And is constantly shown.

God's nature may be defined as necessary, but there seems no non-arbitrary reason to think that this necessary nature is as you claim.

Um, arguments for God are deductive and sound, which isn't arbitrary. That gives us a reason to think God exists. If you're asking why God's nature is good, that's silly. The definition of God includes certain essential attributes, including goodness.

My preference for chocolate might be a product of my nature rather than something I have subjective control over, in a similar fashion to your claims regarding God's nature.

You not having control over it makes it no less subject to you.

While claiming it is God's nature that defines morality may overcome the subjective charge, it does seem to still be open to charges of arbitrariness.

A claim you haven't backed up.

But ought I do the act because it's the right thing to do or because God tells me it's the right thing to do?

Depends. There are some moral duties which we are morally bound to do, like helping people in need if we are immediately available. There are some morally good things that we are not bound to do in that way, like become a doctor. God's commands constitute moral duties. God's nature provides the grounds for those commands, and for the other acts that may be good, but are not duties.

But we ought not do it simply because the authority tells us to, but because it is the right thing to do, correct (even if we only know it is the right thing to do because the authority informed us it was so)?

See above.

bossmanham said...

similar to the manner in which we ought accept a sound logical argument.

Actually, that's no less an ethical judgment in my mind. However, I don't see any reason to think we are morally bound to accept only sound arguments. That may be one of those conditional oughts. If we want the truth, we ought to accept sound arguments. You would need to explain what is meant in that statement.

To me it seems just as unintelligible as your DCT account (which has made trying to defend it somewhat interesting, I have to say).

Well, stubbornness is something that no one can force you to get rid of.

So, God's nature is necessarily God's nature.

Otherwise we're not talking about God...You did want to discuss DCT, correct?

So, granted God's nature would be necessarily good, that doesn't actually tell us anything about God's nature.

That's an epistemic issue, not an ontological issue.

To do so you seem to have to insert values of some sort.

...The values are what constitutes God's nature.

And doing so seems just as much of a leap as your dismissal of Morriston's account "...we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?"

This followed several other lines of argument, if you'd be so kind to keep things in context.

And based upon knowledge I have, God as you define it doesn't exist, and so the DCT is nothing more than an interesting game of "what if"

Then you wouldn't be warranted in accepting DCT. But of course I would say you're not really seeking very openly or rationally for the truth, since you just dismiss reasons to believe in God out of hand and lack any reason to think God doesn't exist.

Havok said...

BMH: Actually, we're quite familiar with persons, and God is a personal, so I don't see where you're getting that there's a problem here.
We're not exactly familiar with immaterial, timeless, changeless, necessary persons. Not at all, it would seem.

BMH: That's a separate issue to whether DCT is internally consistent.
If the concept of God which is required by the DCT is not consistent in itself, then the DCT is inconsistent.

BMH: And is constantly shown.
Lol.

BMH: Um, arguments for God are deductive and sound, which isn't arbitrary. That gives us a reason to think God exists.
I'll grant you valid, but they're not sound, so no good reason to think God exists.

BMH If you're asking why God's nature is good, that's silly. The definition of God includes certain essential attributes, including goodness.
I'm not asking why God's nature is good. I'm asking why God's nature is as it is. Love is only good because it is a part of God's nature, so there seems no reason as to why God's nature necessarily is loving, etc.

BMH: You not having control over it makes it no less subject to you.
And God having no control over his essential nature doesn't make it any less subject to him. You seem to be making my argument for me :-)

BMH: A claim you haven't backed up.
God's nature is necessarily good, so if God's nature was cruel, cruelty would be good. Fairly arbitrary thus far.

BMH: Depends...
Didn't answer my question though. We can probably just continue this on the other thread :-)

BMH: You would need to explain what is meant in that statement.
If we want to be logical, we ought not accept 2 contradictory statements when we know 1 of them is true.
If we want to be moral, we should ought not accept that torturing babies for fun is good.

BMH: Well, stubbornness is something that no one can force you to get rid of.
Whatever.

BMH: Otherwise we're not talking about God...You did want to discuss DCT, correct?
Missing the point again?
God's nature is simply defined as God's nature. It's an empty tautology.

BMH: That's an epistemic issue, not an ontological issue.
No, it simply means that God's nature, on your account, while "good" by definition, doesn't tell us anything. Why is love a part of God's nature, and not hate?
An non-circular answer would be appreciated :-)

BMH: ...The values are what constitutes God's nature.
And they're arbitrary. We're just lucky that God's necessarily good nature happened to be loving, kind etc. Phew! :-)

BMH: This followed several other lines of argument, if you'd be so kind to keep things in context.
No, you've not addressed this at all, yet (though perhaps I'm being unclear).

BMH: But of course I would say you're not really seeking very openly or rationally for the truth, since you just dismiss reasons to believe in God out of hand and lack any reason to think God doesn't exist.
Right. Whatever helps you through the night :-)

bossmanham said...

We're not exactly familiar with immaterial, timeless, changeless, necessary persons. Not at all, it would seem.

Seems to me we're plenty familiar with the immaterial type. I don't know why adding timelessness and changelessness to the equation would really change our familiarness with persons. I don't think those are intrinsic properties of God anyway, since I think God is in time and His thoughts would change as different things became present.

If the concept of God which is required by the DCT is not consistent in itself, then the DCT is inconsistent.

Not internally, though.

Lol

I've done a lot of that since you've visited.

I'll grant you valid, but they're not sound, so no good reason to think God exists.

Heh, okay.

I'm not asking why God's nature is good. I'm asking why God's nature is as it is. Love is only good because it is a part of God's nature, so there seems no reason as to why God's nature necessarily is loving, etc.

Love is what it is because God is who He is. To ask why God's nature is what it is is like asking why red is red, or why rock is rock.

And God having no control over his essential nature doesn't make it any less subject to him. You seem to be making my argument for me

Except God exists necessarily, and is the ultimate reality from which everything else has its being. So apples and oranges.

God's nature is necessarily good, so if God's nature was cruel, cruelty would be good. Fairly arbitrary thus far.

Except God's nature isn't arbitrary. Do you even know what that connotes?

If we want to be logical, we ought not accept 2 contradictory statements when we know 1 of them is true.

This is a conditional if...

If we want to be moral, we should ought not accept that torturing babies for fun is good.

And this isn't what most moral objectivists see as the reason to be moral; rather being moral is a categorical imperative. Simply we ought to be moral; no condition.


God's nature is simply defined as God's nature. It's an empty tautology.

There's nothing wrong with having base definitions. Mathematics and Science wouldn't survive without it, and neither would ethics.

No, it simply means that God's nature, on your account, while "good" by definition, doesn't tell us anything. Why is love a part of God's nature, and not hate?

Actually that's the definition of an epistemological problem. I'm open to suggestions on how to discover what is good. I think divine revelation is one way.

And they're arbitrary.

No, they're necessary.

We're just lucky that God's necessarily good nature happened to be loving, kind etc

This is fairly confused thinking, since we wouldn't be talking about God any longer if He wasn't. But that in no way would make it arbitrary. Necessary in no way can be construed as being arbitrary, and its odd you're suffering from such a confusion.

Havok said...

BMH: Seems to me we're plenty familiar with the immaterial type.
No, we're only familiar with embodied persons - those whose minds are dependent on physical substrate (ie. brains).

BMH: I don't know why adding timelessness and changelessness to the equation would really change our familiarness with persons.
Because the persons we're familiar with act within time (it actually seems required to think and do anything) and are subject to change. Timelessness and Changelessness are pretty strange properties on their own, let alone when you attribute them to a person.

BMH: I don't think those are intrinsic properties of God anyway, since I think God is in time and His thoughts would change as different things became present.
I presume, since you seem to adore his other arguments, you follow WLC on this point (that God become within time when He created)?
It seems nonsensical to me (a man eternally sitting, one of WLC's examples, could not decide to stand up because the decision would require time).
Whatever you need to do to hang on to your beliefs I suppose :-)

BMH: Not internally, though.
Surely if the concept of a neccessary, perfect, maximally great being is inconsistent, and that concept is a requirement of DCT, then that makes DCT itself internally inconsistent? Perhaps we're thinking of different things.

BMH: Love is what it is because God is who He is. To ask why God's nature is what it is is like asking why red is red, or why rock is rock.
In other words Love is arbitrarily good because it happens to be in Gods nature?
I'm not aware of arguments as to why God is necessarily loving (and not necessarily hating) or why love is necessarily a part of God's nature.

BMH: Except God's nature isn't arbitrary. Do you even know what that connotes?
Is it simply something else which is "definitional"?
The claims of maximal greatness etc, which are often used to explain that God is all loving, etc, slip in values from outside - we value love, kindness, etc, and so they're great-making properties, therefore God has them maximally, and therefore he made us value them.
Why bother with such a vicious circle?

Havok said...

BMH: rather being moral is a categorical imperative.
There are arguments against this being the case.

BMH: Simply we ought to be moral; no condition.
This seems to undermine your claim that we ought to do what God commands because he commands it - if it's a categorical imperative, then we do good works because they're a duty in themselves.
That good is what is God's nature seems beside the point (except to provide a reference, which Morriston's Platonic morality does just as well).

BMH: There's nothing wrong with having base definitions. Mathematics and Science wouldn't survive without it, and neither would ethics.
I'm complaining about the slight of hand which seems to inject love, kindness, etc in there, not that you start with what is essentially "A is A" (though a tautology does seem a dubious definition, since it is true, but trivially so).

BMH: Actually that's the definition of an epistemological problem.
No. Above you claimed that God is necessarily loving. How and whether we can know that to be the case is a different claim.

BMH: I'm open to suggestions on how to discover what is good. I think divine revelation is one way.
Revelation is a terrible way, given all of the contradictory revelations abounding, with no agreeable method of distinguishing between them (even within Christianity) without rendering all of them implausible and unlikely.

BMH: No, they're necessary.
Then present the argument.
You argued that Morriston's "Platonic Moral Values" were arbitrary, but you've given no reason to think the Nature you attribute to you deity is any different.

BMH: This is fairly confused thinking, since we wouldn't be talking about God any longer if He wasn't.
You've not made that argument, though it seems you think you have.

BMH: But that in no way would make it arbitrary. Necessary in no way can be construed as being arbitrary, and its odd you're suffering from such a confusion.
If you give no reason to think that love is a part of God's nature, and not cruelty, then your own attribution of said properties seems rather arbitrary. You can shout the term "necessary" all you want.

bossmanham said...

No, we're only familiar with embodied persons - those whose minds are dependent on physical substrate (ie. brains).

Yet we know they aren't identical to the brain, because if they were they'd be different people from moment to moment, since the physical constituents of the brain are constantly changing.

Further, we can intuitively see a distinct relation between us as a person, and the body we inhabit. I can conceive of myself in a very Franz Kafka like situation where my mind is no longer attached to my brain, but to another. So it's possible for me to exist without my brain, but that's not true for my brain itself. Therefore, my mind is not identical to my brain.

Because the persons we're familiar with act within time (it actually seems required to think and do anything) and are subject to change.

And? What does this entail about entities that don't? And who says I'm not familiar with immaterial entities?

Timelessness and Changelessness are pretty strange properties on their own, let alone when you attribute them to a person.

Not really. But it's not even an issue, since I conceded that God is in time and does change.

It seems nonsensical to me (a man eternally sitting, one of WLC's examples, could not decide to stand up because the decision would require time).
Whatever you need to do to hang on to your beliefs I suppose :-)


Or it could show your own lack of sophisticated thinking abilities?

Surely if the concept of a neccessary, perfect, maximally great being is inconsistent, and that concept is a requirement of DCT, then that makes DCT itself internally inconsistent?

Um, no. Have you ever heard of an internal critique? Obviously a requirement of DCT being true is God existing. But to inspect DCT, or any other system, one can assume something to be the case for the sake of argument. Myself and other theists do this all the time when critiquing naturalism or something like that. Heck, the moral argument's first premise is essentially an internal critique of the status of morality on atheism.

In other words Love is arbitrarily good because it happens to be in Gods nature?

How are you possibly ascribing arbitrariness to that statement? I'm unsure that you know what you're even talking about at this point.

Is it simply something else which is "definitional"?

You've got to have definitions somewhere, otherwise language is a bust.

One can recognize these great making properties and then posit that a maxiamally great being would have to have them. We're not "slipping in" anything as you so slantingly put it. Rather we see that love and kindness are great making.

I'm complaining about the slight of hand which seems to inject love, kindness, etc in there, not that you start with what is essentially "A is A"

How is it a sleight of hand for a DCT theorist, or any ethicist for that matter, to recognize that love is good?

bossmanham said...

No. Above you claimed that God is necessarily loving. How and whether we can know that to be the case is a different claim.

I think one of us lost track of the conversation again. This really hasn't happened with anyone else.

Revelation is a terrible way, given all of the contradictory revelations abounding

That isn't an argument about revelation. False revelation does not mean there are no true revelations. Bad interpretations also does not entail no true interpretations. Not to mention using this as an argument against divine revelation seems like your cherry picking, since humans reveal things too, and there are contradictory human revelations. So does that mean human revelation should be discounted? Good bye science. This very discussion would be equally as useless.

You argued that Morriston's "Platonic Moral Values" were arbitrary, but you've given no reason to think the Nature you attribute to you deity is any different.

I never argued that. I argued they're inscrutable, imperceptible, incogitable and implausible. I can concede quite willingly that if Platonism is true, Platonic forms would be necessarily existent. I did argue that human based morality is arbitrary.

You've not made that argument, though it seems you think you have.

Sure I have.
1) If we want to talk about God, then we would need to talk about an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good personal being.

2) Therefore, if you talk about a being that lacks any of those attributes, you're not talking about God.

3) Havok brings up the possibility of a God that is not wholly good.

4) Therefore, Havok is not actually talking about God.

There's the argument, and I've given it two or three times before in simpler forms.

If you give no reason to think that love is a part of God's nature, and not cruelty, then your own attribution of said properties seems rather arbitrary

Cruelty is not good. Pretty simple, huh?

Havok said...

BMH: Yet we know they aren't identical to the brain, because if they were they'd be different people from moment to moment, since the physical constituents of the brain are constantly changing.
We ARE different people from moment to moment. The changes are simply small, and we have a continuity.
The evidence strongly indicates the mind is what the brain does, and undercuts the sort of substance dualism which theism seems to claim.

BMH:Further, we can intuitively see a distinct relation between us as a person, and the body we inhabit. I can conceive of myself in a very Franz Kafka like situation where my mind is no longer attached to my brain, but to another.
That you can conceive of something does not mean it is possible. Evidence of brain damage demonstrates this - a part of your brain is destroyed, and your personality changes - you become a different person (the famous case of Phineas gage is an example).

BMH: So it's possible for me to exist without my brain, but that's not true for my brain itself.
Not really. The evidence is against you, regardless of what thought experiment you might like to indulge in.

BMH: Therefore, my mind is not identical to my brain.
Your argument fails.

BMH: And? What does this entail about entities that don't? And who says I'm not familiar with immaterial entities?
If you were you familiar with any, you wouldn't need to equate this timeless, changeless personal mind without a brain with our timely, changing personal minds which require brains, would you?

BMH: Not really. But it's not even an issue, since I conceded that God is in time and does change.
Claiming a mind without a brain is still a stretch - especially if that mind can "do stuff", as God is envisaged to be able to do. We require our brains to excite nerves, which contract muscles which do stuff.

BMH: Or it could show your own lack of sophisticated thinking abilities?
It would be lovely if you could.

BMH: Obviously a requirement of DCT being true is God existing. But to inspect DCT, or any other system, one can assume something to be the case for the sake of argument.
Since the conception of God required for your DCT is different to the God required for Morriston's or (I think) R. M. Adam's or R. Swinburne's DCT's, so assuming "God" exists isn't enough. You have to assume specific things, which seem to me to be integral to the actual DCT rather than some generic "God" concept.

BMH: How are you possibly ascribing arbitrariness to that statement? I'm unsure that you know what you're even talking about at this point.
So why is it that love is a part of God's nature?
On your account, love is not essentially good, as it derives it's "goodness" from being a part of God's nature. It seems just as plausible that "cruelty" could be a part God's nature, and therefore be "good".

BMH: Rather we see that love and kindness are great making.
That seems to be rather subjective, doesn't it?

BMH: How is it a sleight of hand for a DCT theorist, or any ethicist for that matter, to recognize that love is good?
You complained that Morriston's account had seemingly arbitrarily decided that "kindness" was good and "hungriness" was not. The same charge seems to be applicable to your own account, and that is what I'm trying (and apparently failing) to highlight.

Havok said...

BMH: That isn't an argument about revelation. False revelation does not mean there are no true revelations.
It also doesn't mean that there are true revelations. The lack of any method to decide between false and true revelation is a good indication that "revelation" as a means to knowledge is likely faulty.

BMH: Not to mention using this as an argument against divine revelation seems like your cherry picking, since humans reveal things too, and there are contradictory human revelations. So does that mean human revelation should be discounted? Good bye science. This very discussion would be equally as useless.
Sorry, no. For science, we have this thing called "reality" against which we can test our hypothesis. During this discussion there is empirical evidence of our discussion. We have logic and reasoning to help us discuss issues, and try to resolve disagreements.
Revelation doesn't seem very open to confirmation or falsifiability, nor does it seem amenable to logic and reasoning (see WLC's distinction between the magisterial and ministerial uses of reason).

BMH: I never argued that.
"But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?" Then we should ask why this idea should apply to everyone. The problems with this tripe seem never ending."

BMH: I argued they're inscrutable, imperceptible, incogitable and implausible.
Similar charges can be laid against your God and it's "nature", so you don't seem to be gaining anything.

BMH: I can concede quite willingly that if Platonism is true, Platonic forms would be necessarily existent. I did argue that human based morality is arbitrary.
I thought you were arguing that "kindness" being a moral attribute was arbitrary. If I'm mistaken I apologise.

BMH: 1) If we want to talk about God, then we would need to talk about an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good personal being.
Your God concept is a necessary being.
Swinburne's God is not necessary (if I understand correctly).
Morriston's God is not the source of morality.
And yet I would think they'd both claim their concept of God was " an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good personal being".

BMH: 2) Therefore, if you talk about a being that lacks any of those attributes, you're not talking about God.
Fine. As above, there is still a lot of "wiggle room" in the concept of God.

BMH: 3) Havok brings up the possibility of a God that is not wholly good.
No, I bring up Morriston's account that God is not the "source" of morality. I bring up questions regarding the contents of that "wholly good" nature, not that it is "good".

BMH: 4) Therefore, Havok is not actually talking about God.
Right...

BMH: Cruelty is not good. Pretty simple, huh?
But I have no problem imagining a God who has all the attributes you require, but which is cruel.

bossmanham said...

If we were different people, then the feeling of continuity in being the same person is inexplicable. And it's simply false that we're different people every moment. I am the same person who typed the last message I typed. Conversation assumes this fact, as does moral responsibility.

The evidence strongly indicates the mind is what the brain does, and undercuts the sort of substance dualism which theism seems to claim.

No, the evidence shows correlation between brain states and mind states. Correlation is not identity, and you did nothing to refute my deductively valid argument. Simply asserting something doesn't make it true.

That you can conceive of something does not mean it is possible.

Sure it does. In fact it's been pretty widely held in philosophy that conceivably entails possibility. How could one conceive of an impossible state of affairs?

Evidence of brain damage demonstrates this - a part of your brain is destroyed, and your personality changes - you become a different person

No, evidence of brain damage demonstrates a correlation between mind states and brain states. If one imagines the mind using the brain as a tool to control the body, then a damaged tool would entail a deformed operation. But just because a damaged piano affects the sound that the pianist causes through the piano doesn't mean that the piano and the pianists are the same.

You need to show or argue that everything about the brain is true of the mind. The simple ability to form images in your mind is in direct opposition to this, since you can imagine a pink elephant in your mind. That image then exists there. But you can't scan the brain and find a pink elephant. Only perhaps brain states that would correlate with the thought of a pink elephant. But correlation is not identity.

And of course you ignore the widely detailed evidence of near death experiences. But that's the cherry picking I'm beginning to expect from you.

Not really. The evidence is against you, regardless of what thought experiment you might like to indulge in.

Even if there were evidence against this, you still haven't shown it's not possible. You need to make that argument. If it's possible, then the argument is deductively sound.

Your argument fails

Of course you haven't given an argument that says such. Nice try, though.

If you were you familiar with any, you wouldn't need to equate this timeless, changeless personal mind without a brain with our timely, changing personal minds which require brains, would you?

That makes no sense.

Claiming a mind without a brain is still a stretch

Except it's not, and the history of philosophy supports that.

Swinburne's DCT's, so assuming "God" exists isn't enough. You have to assume specific things, which seem to me to be integral to the actual DCT rather than some generic "God" concept.

Um, is this supposed to be a refutation of what I said about internal critiques? "to inspect DCT, or any other system, one can assume something to be the case for the sake of argument." Nope...

So why is it that love is a part of God's nature?

Because that's the definition of God. If we speak of an unloving being, then we would be speaking of something, but not God. Can you not assimilate that simple concept?

On your account, love is not essentially good, as it derives it's "goodness" from being a part of God's nature

No, on my account, just as moral values are one and the same with God's nature, so is love.

bossmanham said...

It seems just as plausible that "cruelty" could be a part God's nature, and therefore be "good".

If by God you mean not-God, then perhaps.

That seems to be rather subjective, doesn't it?

Not if we're observing an objective truth.

It also doesn't mean that there are true revelations.

Hah. Funny I never made that argument.


The lack of any method to decide between false and true revelation is a good indication that "revelation" as a means to knowledge is likely faulty.

Actually, it's only an indication that there's a lack of a method. But you just asserted that instead of argued for it, so...

Sorry, no. For science, we have this thing called "reality" against which we can test our hypothesis.

First off, this is begging the question against theism, for I would say that there is a reality which we can compare differing accounts of divine revelation against to test which is true.

Second, this also depends on humans revealing the findings of their test. Plus, the interpretations of these tests can be equally as contradictory. Lorentzian aether theory relies on the same empirical evidence as does Minkowski's block universe theory. They are incompatible interpretations of the same evidence. The differences are metaphysical.

Also, we don't have access to the past to be for sure that these tests against reality actually happened. Science relies on people revealing test results to us in order to formulate conclusions.

It also relies on our sense perceptions as revealing truth to our minds. But there have been contradictory accounts of events, meaning people experienced different things through their senses, which by your logic would entail that it is useless.

Revelation doesn't seem very open to confirmation or falsifiability

How would you falsify that Einstein actually did his work on relativity?

"But with human existence, and the formulation of the idea, we then should ask why that idea, "kindness," is chosen as the good. Why not "meanness?" Why not "hungriness?" Then we should ask why this idea should apply to everyone. The problems with this tripe seem never ending."

I have never dealt with someone who cannot keep track of the conversation like I have with you. Right before what you just cherry picked, I said "If we're saying the idea that humans come up with of "kindness" is the good, we then are back to subjective morality, because those ideas are contingent on humans existing and on humans coming up with the idea." This is in reference to any human based concept of morality, where individuals come up with what they think is good. This is not in reference to PMR at all.

Can you please try to keep the conversation straight? You'd avoid a lot of straw men if you did.

Similar charges can be laid against your God and it's "nature", so you don't seem to be gaining anything

Then why are you claiming that PMV is a viable alternative to DCT?

Furthermore, you couldn't say that moral values are any of those things on DCT.

Your God concept is a necessary being.
Swinburne's God is not necessary (if I understand correctly).
Morriston's God is not the source of morality.
And yet I would think they'd both claim their concept of God was " an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good personal being"


Um, so? They don't see the logical conclusion of a belief of theirs. I can't help that, and it does nothing for the conversation for you to bring it up.

But I have no problem imagining a God who has all the attributes you require, but which is cruel.

You're imagining something, but it isn't God.

Havok said...

BMH: If we were different people, then the feeling of continuity in being the same person is inexplicable.
Not really, as there is physical continuity - our brains do not change entirely every moment, but they do change (imperceptibly for the most part) every moment.

BMH: And it's simply false that we're different people every moment. I am the same person who typed the last message I typed.
No you're not. You were "BMH March 10, 2011 2:21 AM" then. Now you're "BMH March 11, 2011 4:33 PM".

BMH: Conversation assumes this fact, as does moral responsibility.
We may assume these things for the basis of conversation, but that doesn't mean the experience of an ongoing, unchanging "I" any less a fiction which our brains generate (a very useful fiction, I might add), which is what it seems to be.

BMH: Correlation is not identity, and you did nothing to refute my deductively valid argument. Simply asserting something doesn't make it true.
Your premises sucked, and I provided empirical evidence that your brain is definitely a component of who you are (Phineas Gage, though there are many others).

BMH: Sure it does. In fact it's been pretty widely held in philosophy that conceivably entails possibility. How could one conceive of an impossible state of affairs?
Sorry, I meant "possible" in the sense that it is possible in this world, not that it is logically possible.
Not to derail things too much, but I can conceive of a world without God (in fact, I live my life in that fashion), so it is, by your own account, possible for your necessary being to not exist :-)

BMH: No, evidence of brain damage demonstrates a correlation between mind states and brain states. If one imagines the mind using the brain as a tool to control the body, then a damaged tool would entail a deformed operation.
But it isn't just the tool which is damaged, it is the mind. Memories, perception, personality, even the "I" of consciousness can be changed or "removed" by manipulating the brain, which is strong evidence that mind states are brain states.
This finding would be rather surprising on your dualist account.

BMH: But just because a damaged piano affects the sound that the pianist causes through the piano doesn't mean that the piano and the pianists are the same.
It's more that you're cutting off a pianists arms and then asserting he's the same - he can no longer play!

BMH: You need to show or argue that everything about the brain is true of the mind.

BMH: The simple ability to form images in your mind is in direct opposition to this, since you can imagine a pink elephant in your mind. That image then exists there.
The visual cortex, at the back of your brain, is basically a map or what you see (and has been imaged, and what the person was seeing has been extracted).
This part of your brain also seems involved when you imagine things like your pink elephant (though the subsequent extraction has not been done, as far as I know - equipment if likely too crude as yet).

BMH: Only perhaps brain states that would correlate with the thought of a pink elephant. But correlation is not identity.
But if everything which we think of as making up our minds can be altered by altering the brain, then that is strong evidence in favour of identity.

Havok said...

BMH: And of course you ignore the widely detailed evidence of near death experiences. But that's the cherry picking I'm beginning to expect from you.
I don't ignore it (though I expect such claims from you). For a start NDE's are just that - "Near Death". No one has come back from brain death and detailed their experiences (simply because no one comes back from brain death). During clinical death (which is when NDE's have occurred), the brain is still active (though in a reduced, oxygen deprived, dying state).

BMH: Even if there were evidence against this, you still haven't shown it's not possible.
It may be logically possible to construct a scenario where this might occur, but it isn't possible (at least, the evidence shows it unlikely in the extreme) in our world.

BMH: You need to make that argument. If it's possible, then the argument is deductively sound.
No, it's deductively valid. You'd need to argue for the premises a little more, and address the evidence which exists in the literature before announcing it to be sound.

BMH: That makes no sense.
If you (we) are actually familiar with timeless, changeless, unembodied, immaterial persons, why do you need to argue from analogy when you could argue directly?

BMH: Except it's not, and the history of philosophy supports that.
And yet the only minds we're familiar with and are able to investigate at all seem to be those with brains, whether you accept that minds are the products of brains or something "other".

BMH: Um, is this supposed to be a refutation of what I said about internal critiques?
Perhaps, as I mentioned earlier, we were arguing from different terminology (or I'm just confused - a definite possibility).
If by internally coherent, do you mean logically valid, or do you mean logically sound, or do you mean something else?

BMH: Because that's the definition of God. If we speak of an unloving being, then we would be speaking of something, but not God. Can you not assimilate that simple concept?
I'd like to know why God must be loving since love is not in itself good (and it then seems love is no necessarily a great-making property).

BMH: No, on my account, just as moral values are one and the same with God's nature, so is love.

BMH: Hah. Funny I never made that argument.
Your claims that we have received commands from God seem predicated upon that claim.

BMH: Actually, it's only an indication that there's a lack of a method. But you just asserted that instead of argued for it, so...
No. While the lack of method doesn't entail that there are no "real" revelations, it does seem to mean that we do not (or cannot) know whether a purported revelation is "real" or "false".

Havok said...

BMH: First off, this is begging the question against theism, for I would say that there is a reality which we can compare differing accounts of divine revelation against to test which is true.
You can claim that, in which case we are saying the same thing. I'd go on to claim that the methods which have proven successful in investigating reality, and the evidence and interpretations which have resulted from those methods (ir. science) do not seem to support Christian theism (or theism generally it appears).

BMH: Lorentzian aether theory relies on the same empirical evidence as does Minkowski's block universe theory. They are incompatible interpretations of the same evidence. The differences are metaphysical.
I'd be surprised if the differences were entirely metaphysical. Since we know that relativity breaks down on the quantum level, a theory of quantum gravity seems likely to have some distinguishing features.
Also, just because 2 theories are different interpretations of the same evidence (LET and SR appear to share the same mathematical formalism) doesn't mean that there are no further criteria by which we can assess them.

Your subsequent observations seem to require certainty for something to count as knowledge (We rely on our senses, people sometimes disagree, we rely on the past, etc). I don't think this is the case, nor does it need be.

BMH: How would you falsify that Einstein actually did his work on relativity?
It doesn't matter whether Einstein actually did his work. It matters that there is evidence that Einstein and others have done work on testing, falsifying relativity and the results have been consistent with the theory.
To falsify that Einstein was the man behind the initial relativity papers, we'd look for evidence that someone else was behind it (using a pen name, creating a hoax, etc). But should the evidence from this investigation show it likely that Einstein did not do his work on relativity, that would not invalidate relativity itself.

BMH: This is in reference to any human based concept of morality, where individuals come up with what they think is good. This is not in reference to PMR at all.
At times you've seemed to claim that if you account of morality is not true, then morality must be human based (ie. If God does not exist, objective moral values cannot exist). So it wasn't entirely clear that you weren't equating Morriston's PMR with human based morality, and I mistakenly assumed you were equating the two.
My apologies.

BMH: Then why are you claiming that PMV is a viable alternative to DCT?
Because you do not accept that those charges hold against your DCT, so if you accept those issues not being a problem for DCT, I don't see you have grounds to reject PMV because of them.

BMH: Furthermore, you couldn't say that moral values are any of those things on DCT.
But God's nature would/could be.

BMH: They don't see the logical conclusion of a belief of theirs. I can't help that, and it does nothing for the conversation for you to bring it up.
The problem is that you're not demonstrating that they have problems with their beliefs - that the logical conclusion is false, wrong, or undesirable.

BMH: You're imagining something, but it isn't God.
It has all of the traditional attributes of God (omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, etc, as much as one can imagine such things), so I fail to see why that is the case.

Havok said...

Maitzen's "A semantic attack on divine-command metaethics" highlights some of the problems and/or concerns I've been trying (and failing) to point out.

bossmanham said...

Not really, as there is physical continuity - our brains do not change entirely every moment, but they do change (imperceptibly for the most part) every moment.

And that didn't answer anything. Continuity is not identity.

No you're not. You were "BMH March 10, 2011 2:21 AM" then. Now you're "BMH March 11, 2011 4:33 PM".

Adding a time stamp doesn't say anything but I, the same person, endure through time. Being BMH is the relevant fact. And in your very statement you're assuming I am identical at 4:33 PM to the party at 2:21 AM by using the personal pronoun "you" in reference to me and equating the "you" to the two different time periods.

a fiction which our brains generate (a very useful fiction, I might add), which is what it seems to be.

Which you flippantly assert, mind you.

Your premises sucked, and I provided empirical evidence that your brain is definitely a component of who you are

No you didn't, and simply saying an argument sucks in no way sticks if your counter argument's conclusion doesn't follow.

Sorry, I meant "possible" in the sense that it is possible in this world, not that it is logically possible.

And all that's required for this modal argument is logical possibility.

Not to derail things too much, but I can conceive of a world without God

First off, that's debatable. I don't think any world you conceive of doesn't have a God, whether you believe it doesn't or not, since existence is impossible without God.

Second, the ontological argument shows that it either God exists, or His existence is impossible.

Third, this isn't relevant to the argument I provided.

But it isn't just the tool which is damaged, it is the mind. Memories, perception, personality, even the "I" of consciousness can be changed or "removed" by manipulating the brain, which is strong evidence that mind states are brain states.

You don't know that. You're assuming that because you see a deformed operation, that the mind is also damaged. But all you're viewing is the correlation between the events. Further, I concede that things that happen to the brain affect the mind. It's a two way street. Studies have been done where a patient is told to think a specific way, and their brain states change. The mind affects the brain. Brain damage also clearly affects the mind, because the mind is using the brain. Just as a broken piano would affect the pianist.

And since the brain stores memories, I don't have a problem with the mind no longer being able to access them. Perhaps even the memory of who the person is.

You're assuming that correlation is identity, which is a silly, but very common in this age of scientism, fallacy.

bossmanham said...

This finding would be rather surprising on your dualist account

Um, why on earth would you think that? You realize when dualism was the prevailing view that people still experienced brain damage, correct?

It's more that you're cutting off a pianists arms and then asserting he's the same - he can no longer play!

You've not argued that. To stay true to my metaphor, the pianist is the mind. I think people can lose their minds. I think they can damage their minds by partaking in disgusting sins or by forming pacts with demons. This would be akin to that, and then the mind is obviously unable to play the brain correctly.

So you've yet to argue what you've asserted.

The visual cortex, at the back of your brain, is basically a map or what you see (and has been imaged, and what the person was seeing has been extracted).
This part of your brain also seems involved when you imagine things like your pink elephant (though the subsequent extraction has not been done, as far as I know - equipment if likely too crude as yet).


Interesting. So the mind uses that part of the brain. And you realize you've done nothing to address the argument here, right? The image of the pink elephant can be found in the mind. All that's found in the brain are nerves and chemicals...no pink elephants.

But if everything which we think of as making up our minds can be altered by altering the brain, then that is strong evidence in favour of identity.

Correlation is not identity. You can keep trying to argue this route till the cows come home, but it doesn't reach the conclusion you want.

For a start NDE's are just that - "Near Death". No one has come back from brain death and detailed their experiences (simply because no one comes back from brain death). During clinical death (which is when NDE's have occurred), the brain is still active (though in a reduced, oxygen deprived, dying state).

Can you see how this doesn't add anything to the conversation? How it doesn't answer a single question? How it only describes something, and it's something that's extremely ambiguous anyway. Who, for instance, determines the moment the brain dies?

It may be logically possible to construct a scenario where this might occur, but it isn't possible (at least, the evidence shows it unlikely in the extreme) in our world.

Actually, if the argument I made works, it's simply the case in any world there are minds and bodies.

You'd need to argue for the premises a little more, and address the evidence which exists in the literature before announcing it to be sound.

No I wouldn't. You'd need to actually show that the premises are incorrect before I need to further argue for them.

If you (we) are actually familiar with timeless, changeless, unembodied, immaterial persons, why do you need to argue from analogy when you could argue directly?

1) You're using "familiar" in a rather ambiguous way. 2) Now that God is no longer timeless and changeless (in a strict sense) those two would be un-familiarizable (I coined it) with...3) It's quite obvious that you aren't familiar with them, and so to explain it in a way you are able to understand it, I dumb it down for you.

And yet the only minds we're familiar with and are able to investigate at all seem to be those with brains, whether you accept that minds are the products of brains or something "other".

Which still isn't an argument for anything you're asserting.

bossmanham said...

If by internally coherent, do you mean logically valid, or do you mean logically sound, or do you mean something else?

Logically valid and lacking contradiction.

I'd like to know why God must be loving since love is not in itself good

I guess you can't assimilate it.

it does seem to mean that we do not (or cannot) know whether a purported revelation is "real" or "false".

No it doesn't even mean that.

I'd be surprised if the differences were entirely metaphysical. Since we know that relativity breaks down on the quantum level

How on earth do you think slipping from relativity theory to quantum physics is even relevant?

doesn't mean that there are no further criteria by which we can assess them.

But nonetheless, there are two separate "revelations" from human beings. And you said that contrary revelation entailed no revelation. I think your silly argument has been sufficiently reductioed.

Your subsequent observations seem to require certainty for something to count as knowledge

That's what your argument against revelation seems to require. We must know with certainty which revelation is true or none of them are!!!!!111!!!!one!!!eleven.

To falsify that Einstein was the man behind the initial relativity papers, we'd look for evidence that someone else was behind it (using a pen name, creating a hoax, etc).

But then you'd just have some contradictory accounts. That might mean it didn't happen *gasp*!!!

At times you've seemed to claim that if you account of morality is not true, then morality must be human based

Well I certainly don't think PMR makes a lick of sense. It simply wouldn't work. Ethics doesn't work without an authority.

Because you do not accept that those charges hold against your DCT, so if you accept those issues not being a problem for DCT, I don't see you have grounds to reject PMV because of them.

My problems with PMR are distinct from supposed problems for DCT.

It has all of the traditional attributes of God (omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, etc, as much as one can imagine such things), so I fail to see why that is the case.

It has cruelty? Just a thought.

Havok said...

BMH: But all you're viewing is the correlation between the events. Further, I concede that things that happen to the brain affect the mind. It's a two way street. Studies have been done where a patient is told to think a specific way, and their brain states change. The mind affects the brain. Brain damage also clearly affects the mind, because the mind is using the brain. Just as a broken piano would affect the pianist.
And yet the serious impairment of minds which occurs due to brain damage is surprising on dualism - damage to language centres might be expected to influence the persons talking, for example, but it seems rather surprising that it effects their actual cognition of language, which would surely be expected to be a function of the mind. There are numerous examples of this sort of thing. The simple observation that memories are stored in the brain ought to be surprising on dualism, let alone that the brain contains the personality, reasoning, etc. I'm not sure what function is left for the mind to perform on dualism.

BMH: You're assuming that correlation is identity, which is a silly, but very common in this age of scientism, fallacy.
I'm not just assuming it - the evidence strongly indicates that this is the case.

BMH: Um, why on earth would you think that? You realize when dualism was the prevailing view that people still experienced brain damage, correct?
Dualism is still the prevailing view of the public.
It's the observation that the damage can be so specific, and alters or removes various functions of the mind that ought to be surprising on dualism.

BMH: You've not argued that.
I am arguing that - the piano and pianist appear to be a group deal. You're assuming that they're separate

BMH: To stay true to my metaphor, the pianist is the mind. I think people can lose their minds. I think they can damage their minds by partaking in disgusting sins or by forming pacts with demons.
Damage to their minds would show up as changes to the brain.
Demons - hilarious! :-)

BMH: Interesting. So the mind uses that part of the brain. And you realize you've done nothing to address the argument here, right? The image of the pink elephant can be found in the mind. All that's found in the brain are nerves and chemicals...no pink elephants.
The "pink elephant" exists in the brain in the relationship between the neurons etc, so it is simply a mistake to claim it doesn't exist.

BMH: Correlation is not identity.
It's not been ruled out, and there seems to be few if any good reasons to do so.

BMH: You can keep trying to argue this route till the cows come home, but it doesn't reach the conclusion you want.
It may not be conclusive "you can't deny it regardless of how you rationalise your way through it" evidence, but it is a strong indicator.
You're yet you provide evidence that this is not the case, btw.

BMH: Can you see how this doesn't add anything to the conversation?
Do you see how claiming NDE's also doesn't add anything, since there are non-dualistic explanations.

BMH: How it doesn't answer a single question?
It answers the question "Do we need to postulate dualism to explain NDE's?" with a "No" :-)

Havok said...

BMH: How it only describes something, and it's something that's extremely ambiguous anyway. Who, for instance, determines the moment the brain dies?
When brain function ceases is still a little ambiguous, but our methods of determining this are getting better. For instance, we know that the brain can (and does) continue to function (though in a degrading fashion) for some time (several minutes at least) after breathing and pulse cease.

BMH: Actually, if the argument I made works, it's simply the case in any world there are minds and bodies.
It only works were minds are not dependant on brains, so it doesn't seem to work in the actual world. Now, I can imagine a world where consciousness, the "I", etc are not related to the brain, and where your scenario might work, but that isn't this world.

BMH: Which still isn't an argument for anything you're asserting.
yeah, it is. It shows that a disembodied mind is something entirely strange and unfamiliar. Whether you are a dualist or a monist, this is the case.
As you admitted that memories are stored in the brain, how would a disembodied mind have memories, or remember anything?
And since memory seems to be involved in us reasoning (not to mention parts of the brain are intimately involved in reasoning), how does a disembodied mind reason?
And since this disembodied mind doesn't remember, reason, or apparently think like we do, why call it a mind at all?

BMH: No it doesn't even mean that.
Please elaborate.

BMH: How on earth do you think slipping from relativity theory to quantum physics is even relevant?
Quantum gravity would bridge the macro and the micro. It would subsume relativity (or LET), which would very likely become a special case of quantum gravity.
When we're talking about Relativity (or LET), any eventual theory of quantum gravity would be rather relevant.

BMH: But nonetheless, there are two separate "revelations" from human beings.
You're using "revelation" in a mundane manner here. When used to describe interaction or communication from God, we tend to mean something different.

BMH: And you said that contrary revelation entailed no revelation.
Both SR and LET entail the same observations, so they're not contradictory. On the other hand, the numerous contradictory revelations which involve numerous contradictory observations or predictions don't seem to be so easily passed over.

BMH: I think your silly argument has been sufficiently reductioed.
Think whatever you want my man

Havok said...

BMH: That's what your argument against revelation seems to require.
We don't seem to even have a method to assign probabilities, or to gain any sort of confidence in them, etc.
I'm not asking for certainty.

BMH: But then you'd just have some contradictory accounts. That might mean it didn't happen *gasp*!!!
And?

BMH: Well I certainly don't think PMR makes a lick of sense.
Which doesn't make it false.
Your DCT (or any for that matter) doesn't make a lick of sense to me either, but I doubt you'd accept that as a valid argument :-)

BMH: It simply wouldn't work. Ethics doesn't work without an authority.
Again, there are other accounts of how ethics works, including those which purport to have objective prescriptivity. There are argument against objective prescriptivity itself, that it makes no sense, and if true, ethics would HAVE to work without an authority of the type you're championing. I'm sure there are arguments which put forward an authority which is not persons.

Yet you appear willing to dismiss all of these, every argument which doesn't agree with your claim as false, even though metaethics is not generally held to be a settled matter (even between Christian philosophers), and without interacting with them, and in some cases, without seeming to be familiar with what those arguments are.
You make claims of rather certain claims of impossibility for any and all alternate claims, without what seems to be the required arguments to make this case.

BMH: It has cruelty? Just a thought.
You may have to use your imagination here - in the possible world God exists in (in this case), cruelty is a great making property, and is good in the same way love is good on your account - because of God's nature :-)

bossmanham said...

And yet the serious impairment of minds which occurs due to brain damage is surprising on dualism

Apparently you didn't read what you've bolded.

but it seems rather surprising that it effects their actual cognition of language, which would surely be expected to be a function of the mind. There are numerous examples of this sort of thing.

Why would this be surprising?

The simple observation that memories are stored in the brain ought to be surprising on dualism, let alone that the brain contains the personality, reasoning, etc.

Not really. I don't know necessarily that they are. It could be that the memories remain in the mind, but require the mind to access a certain pathway to properly interpret them in a way that's physically necessary. That would be speculation on my part.

I hope you're beginning to see how useless it is to try to argue identity from correlation.

I'm not just assuming it - the evidence strongly indicates that this is the case.

It's not possible for the evidence to indicate such a thing. It's fallacious reasoning. Further, the evidence of NDE's points to the exact opposite.

It's the observation that the damage can be so specific, and alters or removes various functions of the mind that ought to be surprising on dualism.

I still haven't seen that argument linking correlation to identity.

I am arguing that - the piano and pianist appear to be a group deal. You're assuming that they're separate

But they're not a group deal. The pianist can go get lunch without the piano. That's the point of the metaphor. Gracious.

Damage to their minds would show up as changes to the brain.

Or altering of pathways, or ceased use of a certain part. The mind changes the brain.

bossmanham said...

The "pink elephant" exists in the brain in the relationship between the neurons etc

Maybe a correlation between the thought of a pink elephant and certain chemicals exists, but the image of a pink elephant most certainly cannot be found in the brain.

It's not been ruled out, and there seems to be few if any good reasons to do so.

But you can't use it to show identity, as you've been trying to do.

it is a strong indicator.

For people that use reason and logic, it's not an indicator at all.

Do you see how claiming NDE's also doesn't add anything, since there are non-dualistic explanations.

First off, the non-dualistic explanations use the same fallacious reasoning and assumptions as you are, meaning they fail as explanations. Further, there are no non-dualistic explanations of how someone can be in a hospital bed in emergency surgery, see a very specific item on the roof of the hospital, and report it to the nurse upon recovering.

When brain function ceases is still a little ambiguous, but our methods of determining this are getting better. For instance, we know that the brain can (and does) continue to function (though in a degrading fashion) for some time (several minutes at least) after breathing and pulse cease.

Useless pontification: next.

It only works were minds are not dependant on brains, so it doesn't seem to work in the actual world.

You don't understand simple modal logic apparently. The argument shows that since possibly, my mind can exist sans my brain, they are not identical. That means any world where there are minds and brains this is true. So it does show that this is the case in this world, and in any other.

Now, I can imagine a world where consciousness, the "I", etc are not related to the brain, and where your scenario might work, but that isn't this world.

Then you actually agree with the first premise of the argument, which means you are irrational for not accepting the conclusion.

bossmanham said...

yeah, it is. It shows that a disembodied mind is something entirely strange and unfamiliar.

Which doesn't entail non-existence. And it actually is quite familiar since we all actually are minds that inhabit bodies.

As you admitted that memories are stored in the brain, how would a disembodied mind have memories, or remember anything?

I didn't actually state it as dogmatic. I don't actually know how it all works. Perhaps the mind retains memories and uses the brain to access them. Perhaps the disembodied mind accesses memories differently than when embodied. Nothing says this entails strict materialism.

Quantum gravity would bridge the macro and the micro. It would subsume relativity (or LET), which would very likely become a special case of quantum gravity.

Which has nothing to do at all with what I stated. Are you able to not get off on red herrings every few posts?

You're using "revelation" in a mundane manner here.

As in someone revealing their personal knowledge to you...Seems to be the common meaning.

Both SR and LET entail the same observations, so they're not contradictory.

They're entirely contradictory.

Again, there are other accounts of how ethics works, including those which purport to have objective prescriptivity

Unfortunately, purporting to have something doesn't mean you actually do.

Yet you appear willing to dismiss all of these, every argument which doesn't agree with your claim as false, even though metaethics is not generally held to be a settled matter (even between Christian philosophers)

I dismiss them as giving an objective morality, yes.

and without interacting with them, and in some cases, without seeming to be familiar with what those arguments are.

I am familiar with the wide general fields of ethics, but I have neither the time nor desire to investigate everyone's ethical system. Nor do I think I have to to come to a conclusion. I don't think ridiculous skepticism is necessary. Do you? The general arguments seem to bridge multiple theories and are subject to similar criticisms.

You make claims of rather certain claims of impossibility for any and all alternate claims, without what seems to be the required arguments to make this case.

The claim I made was that they cannot postulate an objective morality. That's it.

You may have to use your imagination here - in the possible world God exists in (in this case), cruelty is a great making property

There is no such possible world. That's why it's logically impossible.

bossmanham said...

I'm cutting off comments here, because this has gotten too long and we're just repeating ourselves uselessly now. If you have something to add, you can post it on the other post, but if it's not an addition, I won't respond to it.