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De Moralitate Atheorum
Posted: 02 April 2012 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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An interesting summary from a sci fi writer with some philosophical chops:

http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2010/04/de-moralitate-atheorum.html

Several posters will find theories they’ve brought up in other threads.

If you need the ‘duffer’s guide’, skip the middle part and look for the ‘Replies’ to the Objections that open the summary.

chris kirk

[ Edited: 02 April 2012 01:19 PM by inthegobi ]
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Posted: 02 April 2012 03:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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(1) We’ve known morality can’t come from God since Plato’s Euthyphro. So the most this sci-fi writer can hope to show is that there is no morality at all, or that God’s morality is the morality of the stronger, which amounts to the same thing.

(2) I couldn’t care less what Nietzsche, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Rorty or (ugh) Stanley Fish think about morality. So citing them is of no use to me.

(3) If Rosenberg argues what he is claimed to argue then the problem is with Rosenberg, not naturalism.

(4) There are plenty of atheistic moral systems, beginning with Buddhism, which predates Christianity by centuries, as well as systems like Confucianism that have no root in Christian theism. Much of Western contemporary moral theory beginning with Socrates is built around one or another non-theistic moral system as well. So the claim that moral theory requires God is false on its face.

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Posted: 02 April 2012 06:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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hi Doug.

dougsmith - 02 April 2012 03:30 PM

(1) We’ve known morality can’t come from God since Plato’s Euthyphro. So the most this sci-fi writer can hope to show is that there is no morality at all, or that God’s morality is the morality of the stronger, which amounts to the same thing.

The Euthyphro dilemma shows that Divine command theory is false, not that morals can’t ‘come from’ God at all.

The author seems rather to be saying that it’s more complicated than ‘morality is impossible without God’: note the distinction between believing where morals (don’t) come from versus their possible real origin. You don’t have to believe in a God to be moral. I thought the author made that clear enough. There’s more, of course.

(2) I couldn’t care less what Nietzsche, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Rorty or (ugh) Stanley Fish think about morality. So citing them is of no use to me.

That’s nice, although it’s a little odd to bring up what you care about.

(3) If Rosenberg argues what he is claimed to argue then the problem is with Rosenberg, not naturalism.

Do tell. Pity the summarizer didn’t outline Rosenberg’s argument. But I’ve seen it in more than one New Atheist. Let’s read the Rosenberg online article and discuss it, maybe?

(4) There are plenty of atheistic moral systems, beginning with Buddhism, which predates Christianity by centuries, as well as systems like Confucianism that have no root in Christian theism. Much of Western contemporary moral theory beginning with Socrates is built around one or another non-theistic moral system as well. So the claim that moral theory requires God is false on its face.

The summary was not about Christian theism per se but ‘about the morality of atheists’. And several prominent atheist/agnostic positions were given.

We’ll have to flesh out the Rosenberg position to get the anglo-american angle. 

Buddhist moral systems seem to require reincarnation and that requires eternal, immaterial soulish things (I forget the technical term), and karma, a non-physical causal law. These seem, if not God, then ‘of God, divine. Non-naturalist, even. And once you eat one non-natural potato-chip . . . .

Giving a list of non-theistic moral systems is not to the point about the source of morals. And most of them were informally underpinned by God, at least in Confucianism.

I can make up a clubhouse constitution without consciously knowing, remembering or even agreeing with Locke’s social contract theory, but his theory may still be the ground for my clubhouse constitution. Just so, a moral system can fail to mention or be tied explicitly to God, and still have God as its grounding - maybe in commands (though I think the Euthyphro dilemma is a good argument against that), maybe in God’s nature, maybe something else about God.

chris kirk

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Posted: 02 April 2012 07:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Maybe this from the Rosenberg article. I’ve numbered statements and separated them as their own paragraphs:

[1] There is no room in a world where all the facts are fixed by physical facts for a set of free floating independently existing norms or values (or facts about them) that humans are uniquely equipped to discern and act upon.
[2] So, if scientism is to ground the core morality that every one (save some psychopaths and sociopaths) endorses, as the right morality, it’s going to face a serious explanatory problem.
[3] The only way all or most normal humans could have come to share a core morality is through selection on alternative moral codes or systems, a process that resulted in just one winning the evolutionary struggle and becoming “fixed” in the population.
[4] If our universally shared moral core were both the one selected for and also the right moral core, then the correlation of being right and being selected for couldn’t be a coincidence. Scientism doesn’t tolerate cosmic coincidences.
[5] Either our core morality is an adaptation because it is the right core morality or it’s the right core morality because it’s an adaptation, or it’s not right, but only feels right to us. 
[6] It’s easy to show that neither of the first two alternatives is right.  Just because there is strong selection for a moral norm is no reason to think it right. Think of the adaptational benefits of racist, xenophobic or patriarchal norms. You can’t justify morality by showing its Darwinian pedigree. That way lies the moral disaster of Social Spencerism (better but wrongly known as Social Darwinism).
[7] The other alternative—that our moral core was selected for because it was true, correct or right–is an equally far fetched idea.  And in part for the same reasons. The process of natural selection is not in general good at filtering for true beliefs, only for ones hitherto convenient for our lines of descent. Think of folk physics, folk biology, and most of all folk psychology.
[8] Since natural selection has no foresight, we have no idea whether the moral core we now endorse will hold up, be selected for, over the long-term future of our species, if any.

[9] This nihilistic blow is cushioned by the realization that Darwinian processes operating on our forbearers in the main selected for niceness! The core morality of cooperation, reciprocity and even altruism that was selected for in the environment of hunter-gatherers and early agrarians, continues to dominate our lives and social institutions.
[10] We may hope the environment of modern humans has not become different enough eventually to select against niceness.
[11] But we can’t invest our moral core with more meaning than this: it was a convenience, not for us as individuals, but for our genes. There is no meaning to be found in that conclusion.

I’ll have to think about this section, but it seems to be the core of the morals part of the Rosenberg essay.

For starters, I’ll note that statements [9] and [10] smuggle in an outside standard - that a ‘nice’ society, cooperative, reciprocating, altruistic, is preferred (‘hope’). And the ‘may’ doesn’t really hold out that much hope, either.

chris kirk

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Posted: 02 April 2012 07:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The problem of evil is an intractable conundrum in any moral/religious system which posit an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient creator deity.

From the wiki on Problem of evil

In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (see theism). Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely.

However, in Buddhism:

In Buddhism, the problem of evil, or the related problem of dukkha, is one argument against a benevolent, omnipotent creator god, identifying such a notion as attachment to a false concept.

OTOH, in Taoism which predate Buddhism:

The proper path in life, says Taoism, is one that works in harmony with reality, the essence of the natural universe.

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Posted: 03 April 2012 04:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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inthegobi - 02 April 2012 06:47 PM

The Euthyphro dilemma shows that Divine command theory is false, not that morals can’t ‘come from’ God at all.

It shows that whatever moral truths are, they are separate from God’s will, so the existence of (a personal) God is not necessary for there to be moral truths.

I say “a personal God” because once we agree on that point, then the question becomes what we are willing to call God. In my definition God is a personal God. Anything else going by that name that is an abstractum (e.g., the Good, the laws of nature, the laws of mathematics) cannot believe, desire or respond to prayer and are hence not of any religious import.

inthegobi - 02 April 2012 06:47 PM

(2) I couldn’t care less what Nietzsche, Rousseau, Voltaire, Sartre, Rorty or (ugh) Stanley Fish think about morality. So citing them is of no use to me.

That’s nice, although it’s a little odd to bring up what you care about.

The article seemed presaged on the faulty notion that what these people said should make a difference. It doesn’t. (And in general I consider them very poor representatives of the position he is attacking).

inthegobi - 02 April 2012 06:47 PM

(4) There are plenty of atheistic moral systems, beginning with Buddhism, which predates Christianity by centuries, as well as systems like Confucianism that have no root in Christian theism. Much of Western contemporary moral theory beginning with Socrates is built around one or another non-theistic moral system as well. So the claim that moral theory requires God is false on its face.

The summary was not about Christian theism per se but ‘about the morality of atheists’. And several prominent atheist/agnostic positions were given.

We’ll have to flesh out the Rosenberg position to get the anglo-american angle. 

Buddhist moral systems seem to require reincarnation and that requires eternal, immaterial soulish things (I forget the technical term), and karma, a non-physical causal law. These seem, if not God, then ‘of God, divine. Non-naturalist, even. And once you eat one non-natural potato-chip . . . .

Um, no. You’re running together two completely separate theses.

Thesis one: God is necessary for there to be objective moral truths
Thesis two: naturalism must be false for there to be objective moral truths

It’s not the case that if naturalism is false then God exists, and I would dispute both theses, anyhow. But the point of bringing up Buddhism is not to say that it supports naturalism, but rather that it is a pretty conclusive refutation of the notion that one needs some notion of God to construct a moral system.

(Although I would argue that virtually all the moral claims in Buddhism are independent of the supernaturalist notions of reincarnation and karma; those simply underpin the supposed fruits of good or bad behavior).

inthegobi - 02 April 2012 06:47 PM

I can make up a clubhouse constitution without consciously knowing, remembering or even agreeing with Locke’s social contract theory, but his theory may still be the ground for my clubhouse constitution. Just so, a moral system can fail to mention or be tied explicitly to God, and still have God as its grounding - maybe in commands (though I think the Euthyphro dilemma is a good argument against that), maybe in God’s nature, maybe something else about God.

And I can argue that all moral systems are grounded in notions of reincarnation and karma, or in notions of physical causation, or in reciprocally altruistic biology. But claiming it doesn’t make it so, even if the just-so story might be convincing to a believer. What’s needed is evidence.

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Posted: 03 April 2012 04:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[1] There is no room in a world where all the facts are fixed by physical facts for a set of free floating independently existing norms or values (or facts about them) that humans are uniquely equipped to discern and act upon.
[2] So, if scientism is to ground the core morality that every one (save some psychopaths and sociopaths) endorses, as the right morality, it’s going to face a serious explanatory problem.
[3] The only way all or most normal humans could have come to share a core morality is through selection on alternative moral codes or systems, a process that resulted in just one winning the evolutionary struggle and becoming “fixed” in the population.
[4] If our universally shared moral core were both the one selected for and also the right moral core, then the correlation of being right and being selected for couldn’t be a coincidence. Scientism doesn’t tolerate cosmic coincidences.
[5] Either our core morality is an adaptation because it is the right core morality or it’s the right core morality because it’s an adaptation, or it’s not right, but only feels right to us. 
[6] It’s easy to show that neither of the first two alternatives is right.  Just because there is strong selection for a moral norm is no reason to think it right. Think of the adaptational benefits of racist, xenophobic or patriarchal norms. You can’t justify morality by showing its Darwinian pedigree. That way lies the moral disaster of Social Spencerism (better but wrongly known as Social Darwinism).
[7] The other alternative—that our moral core was selected for because it was true, correct or right–is an equally far fetched idea.  And in part for the same reasons. The process of natural selection is not in general good at filtering for true beliefs, only for ones hitherto convenient for our lines of descent. Think of folk physics, folk biology, and most of all folk psychology.
[8] Since natural selection has no foresight, we have no idea whether the moral core we now endorse will hold up, be selected for, over the long-term future of our species, if any.

[9] This nihilistic blow is cushioned by the realization that Darwinian processes operating on our forbearers in the main selected for niceness! The core morality of cooperation, reciprocity and even altruism that was selected for in the environment of hunter-gatherers and early agrarians, continues to dominate our lives and social institutions.
[10] We may hope the environment of modern humans has not become different enough eventually to select against niceness.
[11] But we can’t invest our moral core with more meaning than this: it was a convenience, not for us as individuals, but for our genes. There is no meaning to be found in that conclusion.

Oooof, this is worse than I’d thought. No, this is a real nonstarter of an argument.

Firstly, what is meant by “naturalism”? If naturalism is the claim that all the facts are natural (scientific?) facts, then that certainly has no bearing on the separate claim that there are values as well, which are moral values, since there is a logical distinction between fact and value.

Secondly, where is it written that humans were the only ones uniquely capable of discerning value? There is a raft of evidence that animals have moral sense, and certainly sense value.

Thirdly, although it seems clear from the evidence that our general moral capacity comes from biology (from selection for kin-based and reciprocal altruism), this does not imply that the core morality most humans share is thereby a product of direct evolutionary pressure. It could, for example, be that biology gave us a very rough moral template from which most all humans have elaborated similar fleshed-out moral codes. It could also be that those fleshed-out moral codes are so roughly similar in part due to what is necessary to live together in multicultural societies peaceably: there are just certain ways to act that promote peace and (what is generally considered) flourishing, and other ways in which to act that do not do so.

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Posted: 03 April 2012 04:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Other questions for the notion that a personal God is the root of all morality:

Which God?

Is this the God who said that one should be stoned to death for collecting firewood on a Saturday?

Nope, can’t be that guy.

Is this the God who killed over 200,000 people in the tsunami of 2004?

Can’t be that guy, either.

It beggars belief to claim either of these purported folks would have been the author of the moral laws.

And if these are not the person who authored the moral laws, where has he got himself to in the past several millennia?

My point is, let’s assume per impossible that the moral laws of the universe were cooked up by some ghost somewhere. It follows that that ghost did not author the Bible (since the Bible is clearly morally faulty) and is not in charge of the day-to-day running of the universe (since the universe is clearly morally faulty).

[ Edited: 03 April 2012 04:49 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 03 April 2012 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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inthegobi - 02 April 2012 06:47 PM

[The Euthyphro dilemma] shows that (i) whatever moral truths are, they are separate from God’s will, (ii) so the existence of (a personal) God is not necessary for there to be moral truths.

Let’s say moral facts, not moral truths. ‘Gandalf has a long, white beard’ is a truth, but not a fact. Otherwise we’ll confuse there being morals with someone (anyone) constructing them. You’re simply repeating an uncontroversial fact: people do make up things, even morals, without consulting God (or the Universe). The article does make that distinction.

A personal God would *be* moral, if anything would be. kkwan has already leaped ahead of you to the problem that follows from that. But to reply to your specific objection, will is of course separable from intellect, and being as well.

Anything else going by that name that is an abstractum (e.g., the Good, the laws of nature, the laws of mathematics) cannot believe, desire or respond to prayer and are hence not of any religious import.

Right. Even if there are moral facts (not just moral truths), they *might* just exist on their own, and moral abstracta are still abstracta. My crack about non-naturalism as potato-chips to God is that abstracta are only going half-way. Laws do nothing; blueprints make no houses.

You’re running together two completely separate theses.

Thesis one: God is necessary for there to be objective moral truths
Thesis two: naturalism must be false for there to be objective moral truths

It’s not the case that if naturalism is false then God exists, and I would dispute both theses, anyhow.

Well, I thank Kwan Yin I didn’t make that boneheaded move. But here, try just *one* non-naturalist potato-chip . . . .

There is a continual confusion here of truths (cf. Gandalf and his facial hair), and moral facts. And to do the article credit it does distinguish them. Even atheists can have morals: that is, you can be inculcated with morals, and think about them, and make new ones, and draw conclusions from old ones, without adding ‘And God exists.’ But there’s also a question of what really grounds morals. Whether they’re they’re facts or just truths (in your ethical system, truths about values), then one is led to ask what grounds those facts, or truths. Your next post will be about evolution.

As for karma and reincarnation: Buddhist morality would be toothless without them - as toothless as laws without lawgivers. (The interest they hold is that they’re not ‘personal’ in the bad sense - they don’t sound like Someone hating you, you in particular, for doing wrong. Ditto for abstracta like mathematical and natural laws: we get the warm feeling of living in a regulated the City without the disgusting necessity of thinking about a Mayor.)
 

And I can argue that all moral systems are grounded . . . in notions of physical causation, or in reciprocally altruistic biology. But claiming it doesn’t make it so, even if the just-so story might be convincing to a believer. What’s needed is evidence.

To head off a looming confusion:
You seem to restrict ‘grounding’ to *how* it works in human beings (‘It’s a lot easier for us, because we have these-here altruistic genes. Yep.’ ‘But we are also egoistic, because selfishness helps the organism win over others. Yep’). But what are morals is not the same as how they fit in our biology. Evolutionist accounts of morals seem to say both that there’s a selfishness and altruism, but this fails to give us any real advice as to what system to construct. I’m no fan of Nietzsche, but he does have a point about the ‘English flatheads’ (those who attempted a theory of objective morals without a God). Obvious (to me) our biology is mere materials, even materials for morals. But bricks aren’t a house.

ck

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Posted: 03 April 2012 08:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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inthegobi - 03 April 2012 08:04 AM

But to reply to your specific objection, will is of course separable from intellect, and being as well.

I don’t see why that’s a difference that makes a difference.

inthegobi - 03 April 2012 08:04 AM

Right. Even if there are moral facts (not just moral truths), they *might* just exist on their own, and moral abstracta are still abstracta. My crack about non-naturalism as potato-chips to God is that abstracta are only going half-way. Laws do nothing; blueprints make no houses.

One question is as to the metaphysical or ontological ground of these (purported) laws, another question is as to our capacity to understand them. In this context what we were discussing was the metaphysical ground, and that it cannot come from a personal God.

inthegobi - 03 April 2012 08:04 AM

There is a continual confusion here of truths (cf. Gandalf and his facial hair), and moral facts. And to do the article credit it does distinguish them. Even atheists can have morals: that is, you can be inculcated with morals, and think about them, and make new ones, and draw conclusions from old ones, without adding ‘And God exists.’ But there’s also a question of what really grounds morals. Whether they’re they’re facts or just truths (in your ethical system, truths about values), then one is led to ask what grounds those facts, or truths. Your next post will be about evolution.

Not necessarily. Here you are confusing the metaphysics with the epistemology. It might just be that these moral laws are brute facts about the universe. (E.g., there just are certain ways it is good to behave with other sentient beings). My post about evolution will come when asked about how we begin to know about value; then reason and experience flesh that out in practice.

inthegobi - 03 April 2012 08:04 AM

As for karma and reincarnation: Buddhist morality would be toothless without them - as toothless as laws without lawgivers. (The interest they hold is that they’re not ‘personal’ in the bad sense - they don’t sound like Someone hating you, you in particular, for doing wrong. Ditto for abstracta like mathematical and natural laws: we get the warm feeling of living in a regulated the City without the disgusting necessity of thinking about a Mayor.)

I’m not sure what the toothiness of moral laws has to do with anything; that’s a separate subject. You may well want your morality to be toothy, but wanting it doesn’t make it so.

At any rate the real toothiness of our moral convictions comes with social and political action, in particular nowadays as enshrined in the courts of law. The supposed toothiness of karma, reincarnation, gods and vengeful spirits is so much hot air; it’s the toothiness of the fairy tale, used to scare children.
 

inthegobi - 03 April 2012 08:04 AM

But what are morals is not the same as how they fit in our biology. Evolutionist accounts of morals seem to say both that there’s a selfishness and altruism, but this fails to give us any real advice as to what system to construct.

Agreed on both points, and I think it’s a mistake to look for moral answers in biology. All that would tell us is that it’s a good thing to have offspring.

Biology is not the final answer to morality; it’s only a beginning.

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Posted: 03 April 2012 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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kkwan - 02 April 2012 07:59 PM

The problem of evil is an intractable conundrum in any moral/religious system which posit an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient creator deity.

No, it’s not *intractable*. There are reasonable and consistent ways to explain the presence of evil granting the existence of an ‘omni’ God. The trouble comes mostly because any such explanation is going to be massively unsatisfying to those who suffer unjustly, and those who are compassionate for them. The proper response to suffering is not usually even a good explanation - unless maybe the one suffering is a philosopher. Any theory of suffering, even the right one, is a theory and not an emollient.

NB:
The article’s Latin title is not about the *morals* of atheists, but about an a-theistic moral system. Contra Doug, the blog author is suggesting they have no really good system. I agree. But since his blog is avowedly Christian (and sci fi; he’s a decent writer), of course he wants to go ‘all the way’. I’m not so ready to do that, at least not here. Often philosophers take down a theory, or point out its flaws, without advocating something else. I’ve been reading a series of articles by David Stove against Darwinism as applied to human beings; he gives no alternative, and he needn’t. (I see an overarching omission in his articles, but that’s for another day.)

The blog author also has a beef with scientific naturalism, which is largely an Anglo-american affair, and with the rather too easy confidence that morals can be screwed from natural science - to put it much too simply. Thus the clutch of Continental folks in the blog post.

ck

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Posted: 03 April 2012 08:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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inthegobi - 03 April 2012 09:27 AM
kkwan - 02 April 2012 07:59 PM

The problem of evil is an intractable conundrum in any moral/religious system which posit an omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient creator deity.

No, it’s not *intractable*. There are reasonable and consistent ways to explain the presence of evil granting the existence of an ‘omni’ God. The trouble comes mostly because any such explanation is going to be massively unsatisfying to those who suffer unjustly, and those who are compassionate for them. The proper response to suffering is not usually even a good explanation - unless maybe the one suffering is a philosopher. Any theory of suffering, even the right one, is a theory and not an emollient.

There is a contradiction in terms as an ‘omni’ creator deity cannot be that ‘omni’ if evil can and do exist.

Often philosophers take down a theory, or point out its flaws, without advocating something else.

That something else might be highly problematic or even impossible. Consider the Is-Ought problem

Hume calls for caution against such inferences in the absence of any explanation of how the ought-statements follow from the is-statements. But how exactly can an “ought” be derived from an “is”? The question, prompted by Hume’s small paragraph, has become one of the central questions of ethical theory, and Hume is usually assigned the position that such a derivation is impossible. This complete severing of “is” from “ought” has been given the graphic designation of Hume’s Guillotine.

.

The blog author also has a beef with scientific naturalism, which is largely an Anglo-american affair, and with the rather too easy confidence that morals can be screwed from natural science - to put it much too simply. Thus the clutch of Continental folks in the blog post.

That is the naturalistic fallacy

The phrase naturalistic fallacy, with “fallacy” referring to a formal fallacy, has several meanings. It can be used to refer to the claim that what is natural is inherently good or right, and that what is unnatural is bad or wrong (see also “Appeal to nature”). This naturalistic fallacy is the converse of the moralistic fallacy, the notion that what is good or right is natural and inherent.

There is one maxim which has some universality, the ethic of reciprocity or The Golden Rule

Statements that mirror the Golden Rule appear in Ancient Egypt in the story of The Eloquent Peasant. Rushworth Kidder discusses the early contributions of Confucius (551–479 B.C.) (See a version in Confucianism below). Kidder notes that this concept’s framework appears prominently in many religions, including “Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world’s major religions”. According to Greg M. Epstein, “ ‘do unto others’ ... is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely.” Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”.

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Posted: 04 April 2012 01:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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kkwan - 03 April 2012 08:31 PM

There is a contradiction in terms as an ‘omni’ creator deity cannot be that ‘omni’ if evil can and do exist. . . .

kkwan,
It is well established that, even if you are unconvinced by the arguments proffered, an omni-God and evil are not logical contradictions. (Maybe you’re confusing *absurd* or *unlikely* or *hard to understand* with *contradictory* and *intractable*) A decent book i’ve often used is the atheist John Perry’s Dialogues on Good, Evil and the Existence of God, although i usually have to supplement his much-too-curt criticisms of Augustine’s theodicy. (They in fact can be easily missed; just a few quick lines no-one in the dialogues comment on.) I thought there was once a thread devoted to the problem of evil (or unjust suffering), and i even contributed to it, but a quick search didn’t discover it.

BTW, most of the ‘mirrors’ of the Golden Rule are expressed negatively: ‘Don’t to others what you don’t want done to yourself.’ *The* Golden Rule is rather different: *Do* for others what you *want* done for yourself. (The negative version is sometimes nicknamed the Silver Rule.) Blackburn and the other people cited (because they’re comparing and not contrasting) do not make a very tight distinction between the negative and positive forms, but they entail different consequences. Converting the Silver Rule to the Golden Rule really is an advance in moral thought, wherever it has appeared.

chris kirk

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Posted: 05 April 2012 03:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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If we are to accept the authority of a higher power, should we not at least be able to identify its qualities?  God, Teapot, Spaghetti Monster essentially have the same authority, being as they are completely unprovable, supernatural even. Without defining qualities one can not say that there is a divine command, other than the philosophical; “do unto others….”, and the scientific; “as you sow…..”. I see nothing divine in those concepts, they are just common sense. Just because these concepts were recognized early on and written as “divine commands” in a book does not make that book or it’s hero divine.
I am sure that Atheists can identify with these concepts without the acceptance of a divinity. In fact, intelligence is not even required to behave in accordance with those concepts. Does a bee require knowledge of a divine command to practice those concepts much more dilligently than man?
They are merely very basic survival traits which assist in overcoming the relentless testing and selection by the natural environment.

[ Edited: 05 April 2012 03:32 AM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 06 April 2012 07:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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inthegobi - 04 April 2012 01:40 PM

It is well established that, even if you are unconvinced by the arguments proffered, an omni-God and evil are not logical contradictions. (Maybe you’re confusing *absurd* or *unlikely* or *hard to understand* with *contradictory* and *intractable*)


An omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omniscient deity has infinite or unlimited qualities.

From the wiki on omnipotence

Omnipotence (from Latin: Omni Potens: “all power”) is unlimited power. Monotheistic religions generally attribute omnipotence to only the deity of whichever faith is being addressed. In the monotheistic philosophies of Abrahamic religions, omnipotence is often listed as one of a deity’s characteristics among many, including omniscience, omnipresence, and omnibenevolence.

Uncertainty and other views:

In the Taoist religious or philosophical tradition, the Tao is in some ways equivalent to a deity or the logos. The Tao is understood to have inexhaustible power, yet that power is simply another aspect of its weakness.

Is that what you have in mind?

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Posted: 06 April 2012 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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kkwan - 06 April 2012 07:39 AM

“In the Taoist religious or philosophical tradition, the Tao is in some ways equivalent to a deity or the logos. The Tao is understood to have inexhaustible power, yet that power is simply another aspect of its weakness.” Is that what you have in mind?

That’s what I had in mind regarding . . . what? You lost me.

IMO, the Tao is a philosophers’ ‘thin’, nonpersonal God - comparisons are often risky, but the closest Western equivalent to the Tao might be the Stoic’s anima mundi.

But back to ‘the morality of atheists’.
Nietzsche means by ‘English flatheads’ those philosophers - the nature of obligation was a hot topic in England since the seventeenth century - who attempted to found a theory of universal morals without God - whether as a moral realism without a God to ground them, or as merely universal moral truths grounded only by human’s similarity of feelings (like Hume’s sentiments).
The first group of theories require arguments that there can be real moral laws or regularities without a Lawgiver or Regulator. Talk about ‘patterns’ or comparisons with natural laws beg the question: our fundamental conception of laws, regularities, patterns, information and the like are all thoroughly related to rational, mindful lawgivers, regulators, pattern-makers, and information specialists.
The second group require arguments that you can be *morally* bound by some non-moral feature of human life (i.e. murder is a bad idea for my status in the group - unless I’m clever about it. Non-moral substitutes don’t *obligate* me, and might even encourage the wickedly inclined to be more subtle in their wickedness rather than less wicked).

I *think* all attempts to fix atheist moral theories (that are either realist or at least universally applicable) are doomed to failure, but there’s only good for the atheist in making the effort - and jobs for the philosopher. For the first group, my personal experience has been that naturalist philosophers’ eyes kind of bug out and a vein pops up on their foreheads when you get even close to suggesting that ‘no law without a lawgiver’ needs argument. I think they get stuck on the supposed crudity of the word ‘law’. 

(And to repeat, you can *act* morally without having the right theory of morals. The strict title of the thread is about an atheistic moral-ity, not about whether atheists have morals.)

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