Ethical Realism

February 11, 2010

William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument for God

William Lane Craig argues that intrinsic values (real objective moral value) requires God. We can be nice to each other if God doesn’t exist, but it wouldn’t “really matter.” (You can find his argument in text format here or as a free streaming video here.) He basically argues that we have to either be reductionistic materialists or theists, but reductionistic materialists can’t believe in intrinsic values. We know intrinsic values exist, so we have to be theists (believe in God).

I have already argued that intrinsic values don’t require God precisely because materalists don’t have to be reductionists. It is possible that the human mind and intrinsic values are an emergent part of the universe. Craig does not say why such a view can be dismissed despite being widely accepted by philosophers. There are contemporary philosophers who believe in intrinsic values and don’t think they require God, and Craig’s argument would not phase these philosophers because they accept irreducible facts. Craig seems to completely disregard the worldview of such contemporary philosophers.

Craig’s Argument

Craig’s argument is the following:

  1. Either we must be reductionistic materialists or theists.
  2. Reductionistic materialism can’t account for intrinsic values.
  3. Theism can account for intrinsic values.
  4. Intrinsic values exist.
  5. Therefore, God exists.

Reductionistic materialism is the view that the only real parts of the universe are the smallest material parts (particles and energy). Everything else is an illusion. Intrinsic values are not particles or energy, so intrinsic values (by definition) would be rejected by reductionistic materialists. (Of course, mental events would also have to be rejected by reductionistic materialists, and that seems to be sufficient reason to reject reductionistic materialism.)

How Plausible is Craig’s Argument?

I have two major objections against Craig’s argument. One, his argument is a false dilemma. Two, it could be a reductio ad absurdum.

Objection 1: His argument requires a false dilemma.

I agree that reductionistic materialists can’t account for intrinsic values, and I agree that intrinsic values exist. Therefore, I agree that we have to reject reductionistic materialism. However, I don’t agree that we “have to be theists.” Why? Craig presents us with a false dilemma. We don’t have only two choices (to be reductionistic materialists or theists). We could be atheistic platonists (people who believe intrinsic values constitute a separate reality), dualists (people who view the mind and body as two different sorts of reality), pluralists (people who think there are multiple sorts of reality), or materialistic emergence theorists (people who think that there is only one reality with multiple irreducible elements). Right now I find some sort of materialistic emergence to be plausible.

What is materialistic emergence? The view that material conditions give rise to new sorts of reality. The brain isn’t the mind. Instead, the mind exists as an irreducible part of reality that can’t be fully described in non-mental terms. However, the mind exists because of the brain. Additionally, the mind is part of material reality. It isn’t a separate substance or property. I think that intrinsic values exist from some sort of emergence as well.

Objection 2: He Provides a Reductio ad Aburdum.

William Lane Craig seems to think that he proved that God exists, but it seems more likely that he proved that one of his premises is false. I find his argument to be a a reductio ad absurdum. The conclusion, “God exists,” is not something anyone has to accept, so one of his premises is almost certainly false. Many people will then say, “Well, I guess intrinsic values don’t exist then,” and reject premise 4. However, I think premise 4 is true and I disagree with premise 1 instead. (I disagree that we either have to be reductionistic materialists or theists.)

One kind of bad argument: Premises of an argument should be more plausible than the conclusion. We need to start with things that are pretty certain to lead us to a conclusion that is no more plausible than the premises. There is something wrong with an argument if the conclusion is more certain than the premises. For example, “If I am in a dream world, then I can sit on this chair. I am in a dream world. Therefore, I can sit on this chair.” We know I can sit on this chair, but we don’t know I am in a dream world. We find it very implausible that I am currently in a dream world, so such premises don’t seem to give “evidence” of the fact that I can sit on this chair.

Another kind of bad argument: An even worse mistake for an argument is to provide a conclusion that we find to be more plausibly false than the premises are plausibly true. Plausible premises should lead to somewhat less plausible conclusions, but a bad argument can have seemingly acceptable premises that lead to an implausible conclusion. For example, “Killing is always wrong. If killing is always wrong, then we shouldn’t kill one person to save thousands of lives. Therefore, killing to save thousands of lives is wrong.” Some people would agree with both of the premises, but the conclusion is almost certainly false.

If an uncertain premise leads to an obviously false conclusion, then we have an example of a “reductio ad absurdum.” These are arguments should be meant to show that an uncertain belief is probably false because it leads to absurd consequences. The belief that killing is always wrong seems to lead to the absurd consequence that killing one person to save thousands of lives is also wrong.

Craig’s argument seems to be implausible for this reason. The premises might be accepted by some people, but it seems to lead to an absurd consequence. If we are to ever accept an argument for God, then the premises will have to be very close to certainty rather than merely “accepted by some people.”

Some Additional Constructive Criticism

Not only is Craig’s argument based on a fallacy, but I believe he uses some questionable methods of persuasion. His arguments might be made to “trick people to convert people to theism” rather than to rationally change people’s mind. (I think Craig is too intelligent and well-informed to use these fallacies on accident.) Consider the following:

Suppressed Evidence

To use suppressed evidence is to refuse to mention certain essential factors that could plausibly undermine an argument. We might not want to mention objections to our arguments when those objections might prove us wrong.

Craig neglects to show that the very people who might disagree with him (e.g. emergence theorists) do exist, and their worldview is considered to be very plausible by the experts. Such a worldview is apparently “not worth mentioning.” Even worse, many philosophers will reject reductionistic materialism and theism as plausible views. (I certainly think that reductionistic materialism is much less plausible than emergence materialism.) Craig assumes that we either have to be reductionist materialists or theists. Those might not even be plausible options. Instead, the more plausible options seem to include Platonism and emergence materialism, for example.

Moreover, Craig gives a list of “testimonials” from professional philosophers who seem to agree that materialism is incompatible with intrinsic value. For example, he quotes Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science from the University of Guelph, as saying the following:

The position of the modern evolutionist . . . is that humans have an awareness of morality . . . because such an awareness is of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth . . . . Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love they neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves . . . . Nevertheless, . . . such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory . . . .

Obviously he didn’t quote the opinion of professional emergence theorists. This gives the impression that the majority of professional philosophers agree with him. The fact that some philosophers disagree with him is not mentioned at all, and he does not consider any serious objections to his own argument.

Appeal to Ignorance

An appeal to ignorance is perfectly blended with suppressed evidence to give us the impression that theism is the only possible foundation for intrinsic values. An appeal to ignorance is the suggestion that “we don’t know how to explain something being true, so it must be false.” However, failing to explain something doesn’t mean it’s false. For example, we didn’t always know how to explain what causes lightning without referring to God, but that doesn’t mean God really does cause lightning.

Supposedly we are expected to agree that since atheists can’t explain where intrinsic values come from, they have to reject intrinsic values altogether:

First, if atheism is true, objective moral values do not exist. If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?

No serious attempt to actually answer the question is ever given. The question is taken to somehow vindicate his position despite the fact that some atheistic philosophers really do try to answer this question.

Moreover, philosophers don’t have to explain everything just like scientists don’t have to explain everything. Scientists didn’t need to explain the cause of lighting before being able to do so, and we shouldn’t feel the need to explain the cause of intrinsic values before being able to do so.

Conclusion

William Lane Craig might have a much better argument that morality requires God elsewhere. Perhaps this argument is just the one meant for the masses rather than for other philosophers. Either way, his use of fallacies seem to lack integrity and I see no reason to think intrinsic values could only exist with God, as I have argued for elsewhere.

William Lane Craig is a major philosophical figure for many conservative Christians, and many people agree with his arguments, so it is worth our time to figure out where his arguments go wrong.

Related:

A Youtube Debate: Does Morality Require God? with William Lane Craig and Dr. Shelly Kagan.

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34 Comments »

  1. [...] the conclusion after all. Consider the following argument that I mentioned in my essay, “William Lane Craig’s Moral Argument For God“: “If I am in a dream world, then I can sit on this chair. I am in a dream world. [...]

    Pingback by Four Requirements for Good Arguments « Ethical Realism — March 13, 2010 @ 10:04 am | Reply

  2. I agree. I think Craig’s claim that on atheism we can’t say rape, torture, genocide is wrong is grotesque and simply dishonest. his apologetics plainly show that he’s not looking for the truth with regard to God’s existence despite the several arguments he presents (including his Moral arg) but converts. Craig is convinced he has the truth in his back pocket and he’s so sure of this fact that he openly confesses even if all the argumets and evidence were to point against his iron age faith, he’d remain a Christian bc the witness of the Holy Spirit trumps it all! evangelical hypocrisy

    Comment by AgeOfReasonXXI — July 17, 2010 @ 10:51 pm | Reply

  3. Can you point me to Bill Craig’s argument where he actually lays out the premises? I looked at that one link you gave and didn’t see any argument (in premise form) given. I also didn’t see the word intrinsic, nor did I see the word reductionist in the link.

    I think Craig’s argument is good insofar that it shows that if God doesn’t exist, then we succumb to nihilism. How can anyone say something is objectively good or bad, given the process of unguided natural selection?

    I also find it strange when you say, and I quote: “”If killing is always wrong, then we shouldn’t kill one person to save thousands of lives. Therefore, killing to save thousands of lives is wrong.” Some people would agree with both of the premises, but the conclusion is almost certainly false.”

    You really think it’s okay to kill someone to save a thousand lives? After all you believe in intrinsic value. Wouldn’t that make it where you would say it’s not okay to kill someone (b/c they are intrinsically valuable), even to save a thousand lives? If not, it sounds like to me you’re a consequentialist. Where do you draw the line? Is it okay to rape, even to save a thousand lives? If you actually say yes to this, how low can the number of lives go until you say that it’s wrong to rape? Where do you draw the line and say above or below this number will determine if it’s okay or not okay to rape/kill/etc. someone?

    I apologize for all the questioning, but it’s just something to reflect on. Thanks!

    Comment by J.C. — October 30, 2010 @ 9:59 am | Reply

    • No need to apologize for questioning because questioning is the whole point here, and thank you for your comments. Craig does not lay out his premises as far as I know. You have to infer his argument by figuring out what he wants to say.

      I think Craig’s argument is good insofar that it shows that if God doesn’t exist, then we succumb to nihilism. How can anyone say something is objectively good or bad, given the process of unguided natural selection?

      First, what is nihilism? If you mean that “intrinsic values don’t exist,” then they could start to exist from evolution just like minds started to exist. Why did pain start to exist? As soon as you have pain, something bad exists.

      Second, how did Craig prove that atheism leads to nihilism? My argument here shows that he didn’t prove it. His argument is not only unpersuasive, but it’s riddled with fallacies.

      You really think it’s okay to kill someone to save a thousand lives? After all you believe in intrinsic value. Wouldn’t that make it where you would say it’s not okay to kill someone (b/c they are intrinsically valuable), even to save a thousand lives?

      If the person you kill has value, but the 1000 people saved also have intrinsic value, then your action might be necessary to bring about something good (many lives being saved). One life is not as important as 1000. The numbers are a factor even though they are not necessarily the only factor.

      If not, it sounds like to me you’re a consequentialist. Where do you draw the line?

      The fact that the line is not easily made doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I don’t have to actually know where the line is drawn. To suggest that the fact I don’t know something proves anything is false (or true) is an appeal to ignorance fallacy.

      Is it okay to rape, even to save a thousand lives? If you actually say yes to this, how low can the number of lives go until you say that it’s wrong to rape? Where do you draw the line and say above or below this number will determine if it’s okay or not okay to rape/kill/etc. someone?

      We have conflicting duties. We have duties to save lives and duties not to rape. If it’s possible to have to choose between the two, then a choice will have to be made. It’s not like a Kantian (deontologist) or divine command theorist doesn’t have the exact same problem. How do those philosophers decide on which duty to uphold?

      Also, I’m not worried that rape will ever save 1000 lives. I don’t think that situation will ever occur. I could imagine that killing people could save lives, such as when you kill a rampaging bear or a crazed murderer. It is now possible to kill one terrorist to save millions of lives if that terrorist has a nuclear weapon, for example. If you don’t think killing is ever allowed, then you have to be a complete pacifist that is totally against war — but such a pacifist might neglect certain duties. Does the pacifist claim that there is no duty to save lives at all?

      Comment by James Gray — October 30, 2010 @ 7:26 pm | Reply

    • Scroll down to Oct 15 2007 and you can listen to 4 of his ‘defenders class series” lectures on the moral argument. I for one find them sound! :) Here ya go: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=podcasting_main

      Comment by david — November 21, 2011 @ 2:17 am | Reply

      • If his argument is sound, then where did my arguments go wrong? It would be impossible for his argument to be sound and for my arguments to be sound simultaneously.

        Comment by JW Gray — November 21, 2011 @ 3:04 am

  4. Thanks for the speedy reply!

    First, I just want to make sure we are on the same page (that’s always an important first step). When you say intrinsic value, you’re meaning objective intrinsic value, correct? The reason I’m thinking this is so b/c in the link, Bill Craig never uses the term intrinsic value, but uses objective value several times.

    Craig’s argument is simply this: If God doesn’t exist, objective values do not exist. Given the processes of unguided natural selection, we simply evolved morality, as an adaptation that helps us with survival. Morality is merely subjective. Given the non-existence of God, where does objective morality come from, who or what grounds/determines that something is right or wrong, is it binding, and what makes it binding?

    You say, “If you mean that “intrinsic values don’t exist,” then they could start to exist from evolution just like minds started to exist. Why did pain start to exist? As soon as you have pain, something bad exists.”

    What one would say is is that yes, values started to exist, but never has objective values existed (or started to exist). I also don’t think pain necessarily entails something bad. Child bearing is said to be painful (though this is subjective b/c some women say it’s not painful and others say it is). However, we don’t say child bearing is bad, or that something bad has started to exist. Pain is actually very beneficial (though given the non-existence of God, when I say beneficial I mean it subjectively). If it wasn’t for pain receptors in our bodies we would end up destroying our bodies (though I don’t see any argument, given the non-existence of God, that would say destroying or hurting our bodies is objectively wrong). For example, if it wasn’t for pain receptors we would not know we were on fire, and not know to get out of the fire. The fire would not be bad in-and-of-itself, nor would the pain we would receive being close to a fire be necessarily bad, b/c it does provide a service.

    You say, “If the person you kill has value, but the 1000 people saved also have intrinsic value, then your action might be necessary to bring about something good (many lives being saved). One life is not as important as 1000. The numbers are a factor even though they are not necessarily the only factor.”

    In this case it makes you a consequentalist. Killing the one person results in more people surviving than in not killing the one person. The problem with consequentialism is that it can’t explain why a certain action is right or wrong, but merely looks at the outcome of a certain action to determine if we should or not do the action. This is extremely sloppy, and has no bearing on the objectivity of any action being right or wrong.

    You say, “We have conflicting duties. We have duties to save lives and duties not to rape. If it’s possible to have to choose between the two, then a choice will have to be made. It’s not like a Kantian (deontologist) or divine command theorist doesn’t have the exact same problem. How do those philosophers decide on which duty to uphold?”

    Given the non-existence of God, how do we have any duties? Who or what grounds these duties? How and what makes these duties binding? You make it out as if there are objective duties that we are binded to. You are right that the scenario I brought up can cause trouble to a deontologist or divine command theorist (I think less so for the divine command theorist). However the deontologist can simply bit the deontological bullet. As Kant said, ““Better the whole people should perish than that injustice be done” I agree with that statement. Doing a wrong even to save the whole universe, doesn’t make that wrong a right. Furthermore, a virtue ethicist can consistently hold the belief that there is nothing virtuous about doing a wrong even to save countless numbers of people. Having to live with a wrong that one has committed does not make one grow in virtue. Being virtuous is about doing the right thing, even if bad consequences follow.

    You say, “Also, I’m not worried that rape will ever save 1000 lives. I don’t think that situation will ever occur. I could imagine that killing people could save lives, such as when you kill a rampaging bear or a crazed murderer. It is now possible to kill one terrorist to save millions of lives if that terrorist has a nuclear weapon, for example. If you don’t think killing is ever allowed, then you have to be a complete pacifist that is totally against war — but such a pacifist might neglect certain duties. Does the pacifist claim that there is no duty to save lives at all?”

    I can imagine a terrorist making a demand that if you don’t do some evil act (either it be rape, murder, torture, etc.) then I’m going to blow up a whole town with a nuclear bomb. Even if we think this is not probable(though given the Middle East, their hatred for the Israelis, and the fact they are after a nuclear bomb raises to probability ever so slightly) we still have to deal with the scenario and ask, what do we do? Succumbing to consequentialism and/or utilitarianism, I think, is not the proper route to go. Neither one tells you why any action, itself, is right or wrong, but merely looks at the effects of the action.

    Earlier you spoke of a false dilemma. Now you have just created one. Either the pacifist can kill the crazed murderer(s) or simply neglect his duty to save lives. Obviously, these are not the only options the pacifist has. The pacifist can be a peacemaker and fulfill his duty to save lives that way.

    Comment by J.C. — October 30, 2010 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

    • First, I just want to make sure we are on the same page (that’s always an important first step). When you say intrinsic value, you’re meaning objective intrinsic value, correct? The reason I’m thinking this is so b/c in the link, Bill Craig never uses the term intrinsic value, but uses objective value several times.

      These are vague terms, but the idea is that intrinsic values are objective in the sense that they are real rather than delusional properties.

      Craig’s argument is simply this: If God doesn’t exist, objective values do not exist. Given the processes of unguided natural selection, we simply evolved morality, as an adaptation that helps us with survival. Morality is merely subjective. Given the non-existence of God, where does objective morality come from, who or what grounds/determines that something is right or wrong, is it binding, and what makes it binding?

      That’s not an argument. What are the premises? Why would I accept the conclusion? The fact that Craig thinks that morality requires God doesn’t mean he is right. Presumably there is a justification for such a claim.

      You seem to sum up Craig’s argument as a single question: “Given the non-existence of God, where does objective morality come from, who or what grounds/determines that something is right or wrong, is it binding, and what makes it binding?” A question is not an argument. There are two ways to take this “argument”. One, Craig wants to say that this question can’t be answered by the atheist moral realist. That argument is fallacious because it is an appeal to ignorance. Our ability to answer a question doesn’t prove that we are wrong about something.

      Two, Craig is saying that God enables him to answer this question, but it is IMPOSSIBLE for an atheist moral realist to ever answer the question. That is what he should be arguing and the argument I summarized above is basically that claim. The claim is false because it (a) assumes that theism can give a good answer to the question and (b) assumes that all atheists are reductionists. They aren’t, and I think they can answer the question better without an appeal to God than with one.

      You say, “If you mean that “intrinsic values don’t exist,” then they could start to exist from evolution just like minds started to exist. Why did pain start to exist? As soon as you have pain, something bad exists.”

      What one would say is is that yes, values started to exist, but never has objective values existed (or started to exist). I also don’t think pain necessarily entails something bad. Child bearing is said to be painful (though this is subjective b/c some women say it’s not painful and others say it is). However, we don’t say child bearing is bad, or that something bad has started to exist. Pain is actually very beneficial (though given the non-existence of God, when I say beneficial I mean it subjectively). If it wasn’t for pain receptors in our bodies we would end up destroying our bodies (though I don’t see any argument, given the non-existence of God, that would say destroying or hurting our bodies is objectively wrong). For example, if it wasn’t for pain receptors we would not know we were on fire, and not know to get out of the fire. The fire would not be bad in-and-of-itself, nor would the pain we would receive being close to a fire be necessarily bad, b/c it does provide a service.

      You don’t understand what intrinsic values are. You are thinking in black and white extremes. “If pain is bad, then it’s always bad and it’s wrong to do anything that involves pain!” That’s obviously not what “pain is bad” means here. You are also confusing “useful” with “intrinsic.” They do not have the same meaning. In fact, they are terms used to differentiate each other. Here is more information on intrinsic value:

      http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/is-there-a-meaning-of-life/

      http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/01/07/mischaracterizations-of-intrinsic-value/

      You say, “If the person you kill has value, but the 1000 people saved also have intrinsic value, then your action might be necessary to bring about something good (many lives being saved). One life is not as important as 1000. The numbers are a factor even though they are not necessarily the only factor.”

      In this case it makes you a consequentalist. Killing the one person results in more people surviving than in not killing the one person. The problem with consequentialism is that it can’t explain why a certain action is right or wrong, but merely looks at the outcome of a certain action to determine if we should or not do the action. This is extremely sloppy, and has no bearing on the objectivity of any action being right or wrong.

      Not necessarily. Deontology merely means that consequences aren’t the only thing that matter. The fact that consequences matter is uncontroversial. Almost no one thinks that consequences don’t matter at all. The main competition with “consequentialism” is the idea that we should be respectful of people. I think that saving 1000 lives is respectful to those lives

      You say, “We have conflicting duties. We have duties to save lives and duties not to rape. If it’s possible to have to choose between the two, then a choice will have to be made. It’s not like a Kantian (deontologist) or divine command theorist doesn’t have the exact same problem. How do those philosophers decide on which duty to uphold?”

      Given the non-existence of God, how do we have any duties? Who or what grounds these duties?

      Who said that someone must ground duties? I can make a promise and give myself a duty. As a society we have duties to one another because we rely on each other to live. A consequentialist could claim that “duties” are based on values. It’s right to help people and wrong to hurt them because it’s important to help people and not hurt them.

      Even if we didn’t know what “binds” duties that would neither imply that God must bind them nor that it is impossible to. You need another argument to prove such things.

      How and what makes these duties binding? You make it out as if there are objective duties that we are binded to. You are right that the scenario I brought up can cause trouble to a deontologist or divine command theorist (I think less so for the divine command theorist). However the deontologist can simply bit the deontological bullet. As Kant said, ““Better the whole people should perish than that injustice be done” I agree with that statement. Doing a wrong even to save the whole universe, doesn’t make that wrong a right.

      No one thinks that you “should” do “wrong”. The question is when something is “wrong” in the first place. If you want to totally ignore who you are and your situation in life then there is no way you can “do the right thing.” You have to know the laws of the universe, the values contained within it, ways you can make things better and stop bad things from happening, etc.

      Furthermore, a virtue ethicist can consistently hold the belief that there is nothing virtuous about doing a wrong even to save countless numbers of people. Having to live with a wrong that one has committed does not make one grow in virtue. Being virtuous is about doing the right thing, even if bad consequences follow.

      I am not convinced that you know what you are talking about. You have to eat or you die. You have to know how to eat appropriately or you will die or be unhealthy. You shouldn’t eat every second of the day. You have to know when to do it and when to do something else. If you see a child drowning in a small pool that needs your help, but you are hungry, you need to save the child anyway. Your need for food can therefore be temporarily overridden. Killing people can be necessary for similar reasons. That doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong when you kill someone to save 1000 lives. It is the morally right thing to do in at least some situations. You aren’t just going to watch a terrorist blow up a million people with an atom bomb. You need to stop it from happening even if you have to kill the terrorist.

      You say, “Also, I’m not worried that rape will ever save 1000 lives. I don’t think that situation will ever occur. I could imagine that killing people could save lives, such as when you kill a rampaging bear or a crazed murderer. It is now possible to kill one terrorist to save millions of lives if that terrorist has a nuclear weapon, for example. If you don’t think killing is ever allowed, then you have to be a complete pacifist that is totally against war — but such a pacifist might neglect certain duties. Does the pacifist claim that there is no duty to save lives at all?”

      I can imagine a terrorist making a demand that if you don’t do some evil act (either it be rape, murder, torture, etc.) then I’m going to blow up a whole town with a nuclear bomb. Even if we think this is not probable(though given the Middle East, their hatred for the Israelis, and the fact they are after a nuclear bomb raises to probability ever so slightly) we still have to deal with the scenario and ask, what do we do? Succumbing to consequentialism and/or utilitarianism, I think, is not the proper route to go. Neither one tells you why any action, itself, is right or wrong, but merely looks at the effects of the action.

      One, if you did what the terrorist demanded, you would be rewarding bad behavior and encouraging terrorism and endanger everyone’s lives for the future. Two, if you did what the terrorist demanded, they would still probably kill people. Three, if you didn’t do what the terrorist demanded, it is actually the terrorist that is causing deaths and not you. This is not a good example.

      Earlier you spoke of a false dilemma. Now you have just created one. Either the pacifist can kill the crazed murderer(s) or simply neglect his duty to save lives. Obviously, these are not the only options the pacifist has. The pacifist can be a peacemaker and fulfill his duty to save lives that way.

      That’s not a false dilemma. I never said that a pacifist couldn’t be a peacemaker to save lives. My point is that the pacifist might be in the exact situation that requires them to kill someone to save lives. This is a very unusual situation that some people are in from time to time including police officers. Do you want to say that all police officers who kill on the line of duty are doing something immoral?

      You might also want to take a look at my first post about why God is not required for morality: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/does-morality-require-god/

      Comment by James Gray — October 30, 2010 @ 11:19 pm | Reply

  5. Oops! I messed up my first paragraph. When you read… “When you say intrinsic value, you’re meaning objective intrinsic value, correct? The reason I’m thinking this is so b/c in the link, Bill Craig never uses the term intrinsic value, but uses objective value several times.”

    I meant to say when you say intrinsic value, you mean “objective value.” I did not mean to put the intrinsic right after objective. My apologies. Sorry for the long post, as well. lol

    Comment by J.C. — October 30, 2010 @ 10:58 pm | Reply

  6. You say, “These are vague terms, but the idea is that intrinsic values are objective in the sense that they are real rather than delusional properties.”

    This is part of our confusion. I thought you were trying to equate intrinsic value with objective value. I don’t know why, in your post, you would ever use intrinsic value, when Bill Craig always used objective value in the article. Craig defined the word as, “To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.”

    With that definition he used, would you agree that without God, there would only be subjectivity with regards to morality?

    You say, “That’s not an argument. What are the premises? Why would I accept the conclusion? The fact that Craig thinks that morality requires God doesn’t mean he is right. Presumably there is a justification for such a claim.”

    You’re right, that is not an argument in premise form. I put the argument out that way b/c that’s exactly what Craig did in the link you provided. He doesn’t give premise form argumentation in that link.

    You say, “A question is not an argument. There are two ways to take this “argument”. One, Craig wants to say that this question can’t be answered by the atheist moral realist. That argument is fallacious because it is an appeal to ignorance. Our ability to answer a question doesn’t prove that we are wrong about something.”

    I agree, but the question is for the people who think God doesn’t exist and also thinks there are objective value, they, like the theist, need to explain the foundation for objective morality. Craig argues the theist has an adequate foundation, whereas the naturalist does not.

    For example, Craig writes, “Theism and naturalism are contrasted with respect to furnishing an adequate foundation for the moral life. It is shown that on a theistic worldview an adequate foundation exists for the affirmation of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability. By contrast, naturalism fails in all three respects.”

    Then the rest of of the paper he talks about the above, but never in premise form.

    You say, “The claim is false because it (a) assumes that theism can give a good answer to the question and (b) assumes that all atheists are reductionists. They aren’t, and I think they can answer the question better without an appeal to God than with one.”

    With regards to (a) philosophers, even atheists, say the theist does have the foundation to affirm the existence of objective moral values, duties, and accountability. For (b) Bill Craig never said all atheists are reductionists. He mentions naturalists possibly are, but not in premise form. Remember he’s contrasting theism with naturalism.

    Craig says, “The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism.”

    You say, “You don’t understand what intrinsic values are. You are thinking in black and white extremes. “If pain is bad, then it’s always bad and it’s wrong to do anything that involves pain!” That’s obviously not what “pain is bad” means here. You are also confusing “useful” with “intrinsic.” They do not have the same meaning. In fact, they are terms used to differentiate each other.”

    No, the problem is I’ve never been using intrinsic value (it is you, even when Bill Craig never used the term once in the link, but used objective value), but instead been using objective value. I first thought you were trying to use those two terms interchangeable. As said previously, this was/is the problem in our conservation.

    You say, “Not necessarily. Deontology merely means that consequences aren’t the only thing that matter. The fact that consequences matter is uncontroversial. Almost no one thinks that consequences don’t matter at all. The main competition with “consequentialism” is the idea that we should be respectful of people. I think that saving 1000 lives is respectful to those lives”

    Yes, you’re right. However, the problem, as previously said, with consequentalism is that is merely looks (instead of addressing the actual action) at the effects and can’t explain why a particular action is right or right. So, only looking at the consequences to determine the rightness and wrongness of a certain action does become controversial.

    You say, “Who said that someone must ground duties? I can make a promise and give myself a duty. As a society we have duties to one another because we rely on each other to live. A consequentialist could claim that “duties” are based on values. It’s right to help people and wrong to hurt them because it’s important to help people and not hurt them.”

    Yes, we have subjective duties to fulfill in society. That’s the point I’m making. There is no objective basis that grounds our duties to society (given the non-existence of God) The most one can say is that government grounds some of the duties by establishing laws, but the government is not an objective basis for the grounding of duties. Governments are created and change. They are not an objective basis to control/ground duties.

    The reason I brought up grounding duties is because you said, “We have conflicting duties. We have duties to save lives and duties not to rape. If it’s possible to have to choose between the two, then a choice will have to be made. It’s not like a Kantian (deontologist) or divine command theorist doesn’t have the exact same problem. How do those philosophers decide on which duty to uphold?”

    From the above it seemed to me that you’re saying we have objective duties to fulfill. Given the non-existence of God, I’m not seeing how this is done. If you say there are objective duties, what is your argument? For there to be duty someone or something as to ground it. I’d argue for every example you give me for something of someone (other than God) grounding duties will be a subjective standard.

    You say, “Even if we didn’t know what “binds” duties that would neither imply that God must bind them nor that it is impossible to. You need another argument to prove such things.”

    You’re right, anyone who makes a knowledge claim is going to have to back it up is some argument. If an argument that coheres with classical theism.

    1. God, as classical theism teaches, is a necessary being, whom is also the creator and sustenance of the universe.
    2. God, as classical theism teaches, created human beings in his image.
    3. God, as classical theism teaches, placed moral faculties into humans.
    4. God, as classical theism teaches, judges all human beings based on his calling (theists argue that rejecting God is an immoral act).
    5. Therefore, God, as classical theism teaches, is the one who binds us to any duties that we are required to do.

    You say, “No one thinks that you “should” do “wrong”. The question is when something is “wrong” in the first place. If you want to totally ignore who you are and your situation in life then there is no way you can “do the right thing.” You have to know the laws of the universe, the values contained within it, ways you can make things better and stop bad things from happening, etc.”

    My concern is what is your argument, given the non-existence of God, that makes an action objectively right or wrong? Once we know that there are actual things that are objectively good and wrong, then we can try to go about applying it. You need to first explain why is something objectively right or wrong, before we talk about making things better and to stop bad things from happening. For all we know good things are bad and bad things are good. We need arguments that will demonstrate that objective good and bad exists. For you have any that will show this or gives us a foundation for such things? I think theism does.

    You say, “I am not convinced that you know what you are talking about. You have to eat or you die. You have to know how to eat appropriately or you will die or be unhealthy. You shouldn’t eat every second of the day. You have to know when to do it and when to do something else. If you see a child drowning in a small pool that needs your help, but you are hungry, you need to save the child anyway. Your need for food can therefore be temporarily overridden. Killing people can be necessary for similar reasons. That doesn’t mean that you are doing anything wrong when you kill someone to save 1000 lives. It is the morally right thing to do in at least some situations. You aren’t just going to watch a terrorist blow up a million people with an atom bomb. You need to stop it from happening even if you have to kill the terrorist.”

    The question is why is saving a drowning child the objectively good thing to do, given the non-existence of God? Maybe the terrorists killing a million people is a good thing? Doing that could save the human race in the long run (the threat of over-population and humans killing the planet and all). So, in the end the killing of a million people end up saving much more than a million lives.

    You say, “One, if you did what the terrorist demanded, you would be rewarding bad behavior and encouraging terrorism and endanger everyone’s lives for the future. Two, if you did what the terrorist demanded, they would still probably kill people. Three, if you didn’t do what the terrorist demanded, it is actually the terrorist that is causing deaths and not you. This is not a good example.”

    I agree, analogies can be messy. However, let me quickly change the scenario. There is a group of babies, yet they carry a dangerous disease (however, they are mere carries, and they, themselves, will not die from the disease). If you don’t kill the children, several thousands of people will die. The consequentialist cannot explain why any action would be objectively right or wrong. I think a virue ethicist (given theism) and a divine command theorist could better explain why the action is objectively right or wrong. It may be somewhat difficult, but better than any other ethical theory.

    You say, “That’s not a false dilemma. I never said that a pacifist couldn’t be a peacemaker to save lives. My point is that the pacifist might be in the exact situation that requires them to kill someone to save lives. This is a very unusual situation that some people are in from time to time including police officers. Do you want to say that all police officers who kill on the line of duty are doing something immoral?”

    Bill Craig could reply the same way and say he did not offer a false dilemma (I don’t see where he comes out and says these are the only two options available). Maybe he did, but I didn’t see it. What I would reply is that no, the pacifist would never say there is a situation that would require him to kill someone, no matter the circumstances. That, after all, is what a pacifist is. No matter what the circumstance he will not cause violence.

    As for the police officer scenario. These scenarios are certainly difficult to answer. I can’t give a confident answer that I think I could defend. Whenever I have enough free time I’d like to read up on just war theory (I can’t speak with confidence on this particular theory). Also, be nice to read up on how some try to separate absolute morality with objective morality. However, the point Craig would argue, as he did, in the article is that only would the existence of God adequately give us the foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability.

    I didn’t want to analogies to get as messy as they did (I think I finally got a good one down with the babies and the disease they carry). I wanted to avoid just war theory, and stay on subjects that dealt with cases that involved individuals who we thought to be innocent, or the more modest claim, individuals who we thought did not deserve punishment.

    I apologies for the length and the typos in the post.

    Comment by J.C. — October 31, 2010 @ 2:28 am | Reply

    • This is part of our confusion. I thought you were trying to equate intrinsic value with objective value. I don’t know why, in your post, you would ever use intrinsic value, when Bill Craig always used objective value in the article. Craig defined the word as, “To say that there are objective moral values is to say that something is right or wrong independently of whether anybody believes it to be so. It is to say, for example, that Nazi anti-Semitism was morally wrong, even though the Nazis who carried out the Holocaust thought that it was good; and it would still be wrong even if the Nazis had won World War II and succeeded in exterminating or brainwashing everybody who disagreed with them.”

      That is still vague. Moral anti-realist philosophers can agree that there are universally wrong actions. “Objective value” doesn’t mean much of anything. “Intrinsic value” is what we should really be concerned with.

      With that definition he used, would you agree that without God, there would only be subjectivity with regards to morality?

      The word “subjectivity” is pretty meaningless here and it is being equated with “subjective ontology” perhaps “subjective epistemic facts” and “non-universal.”

      Pain is bad. It’s usually wrong to give people pain. That is not just a matter of opinion. It’s true because pain is intrinsically bad. Pain has a subjective ontology (it exists in the mind) but it is perfectly real. The badness of pain is a property of pain. I would say that intrinsic value is “objective” even though it might require subjectivity to exist.

      Craig does think that “objective value” actually refers to “intrinsic value.” Here is a quote from Reasonable Faith:

      “Perhaps the most sophisticated development of the moral argument prior to our day is that of William Sorley…

      Where, then, does objective moral value reside? Sorely answers: in persons. The only beings that are bearers of intrinsic moral value are persons; non-personal things have merely instrumental value in relation to persons. Only persons have intrinsic value, because meaningful moral behavior requires purpose and will.” (Reasonable Faith, 3rd Ed. 104-105)

      He equates the word “objective value” with a lot of things, but intrinsic value should be the focus.

      You say, “That’s not an argument. What are the premises? Why would I accept the conclusion? The fact that Craig thinks that morality requires God doesn’t mean he is right. Presumably there is a justification for such a claim.”

      You’re right, that is not an argument in premise form. I put the argument out that way b/c that’s exactly what Craig did in the link you provided. He doesn’t give premise form argumentation in that link.

      You say, “A question is not an argument. There are two ways to take this “argument”. One, Craig wants to say that this question can’t be answered by the atheist moral realist. That argument is fallacious because it is an appeal to ignorance. Our ability to answer a question doesn’t prove that we are wrong about something.”

      I agree, but the question is for the people who think God doesn’t exist and also thinks there are objective value, they, like the theist, need to explain the foundation for objective morality. Craig argues the theist has an adequate foundation, whereas the naturalist does not.

      It’s a question for theists and nontheists alike. Craig would like to think that theists have a solid foundation and nontheists don’t, but he never actually says anything relevant that would make a person agree with him. Again, the above reconstruction of his argument is actually very enlightening. He claims that the nontheist thinks there are only atoms and no meaning could be derived from them, etc. He is creating a straw man assault saying that nontheists must think in reductionistic terms.

      Then the rest of of the paper he talks about the above, but never in premise form.

      We have to figure out what his premises are or he is just making meaningless noises. There’s no point in thinking about an “argument” that fails to provide reason to believe something, and we need premises to do that.

      You say, “The claim is false because it (a) assumes that theism can give a good answer to the question and (b) assumes that all atheists are reductionists. They aren’t, and I think they can answer the question better without an appeal to God than with one.”

      With regards to (a) philosophers, even atheists, say the theist does have the foundation to affirm the existence of objective moral values, duties, and accountability. For (b) Bill Craig never said all atheists are reductionists. He mentions naturalists possibly are, but not in premise form. Remember he’s contrasting theism with naturalism.

      Some philosophers might say that the theist has “the foundation” but certainly not all. That sounds like a fallacious appeal to authority. Also, based on your comments, he is equating “naturalism” with “reductionism” and “nontheism.” Atheism is a very broad category that is not limited to “naturalism” and “naturalism” is quite broad as well. He only points you to what some philosophers have to say on the matter as though we can just trust their opinions, and they just so happen to be reductionists.

      Craig says, “The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism.”

      The “worth” of a human being is not an “objective value” based on the definition you gave above (i.e. there is a right and wrong beyond opinion). The human being’s worth is an intrinsic value. (Just one more reason that intrinsic values have to be discussed.)

      I don’t know that Craig is even right in what he is asserting here, but it doesn’t matter because it just undermines his own argument.

      You say, “You don’t understand what intrinsic values are. You are thinking in black and white extremes. “If pain is bad, then it’s always bad and it’s wrong to do anything that involves pain!” That’s obviously not what “pain is bad” means here. You are also confusing “useful” with “intrinsic.” They do not have the same meaning. In fact, they are terms used to differentiate each other.”

      No, the problem is I’ve never been using intrinsic value (it is you, even when Bill Craig never used the term once in the link, but used objective value), but instead been using objective value. I first thought you were trying to use those two terms interchangeable. As said previously, this was/is the problem in our conservation.

      If pain is intrinsically bad meant “it’s wrong to cause pain” (which id does), that would not translate to the “objective value” “it’s always wrong to hurt people.” That would be an obviously uncharitable translation of the words.

      You say, “Not necessarily. Deontology merely means that consequences aren’t the only thing that matter. The fact that consequences matter is uncontroversial. Almost no one thinks that consequences don’t matter at all. The main competition with “consequentialism” is the idea that we should be respectful of people. I think that saving 1000 lives is respectful to those lives”

      Yes, you’re right. However, the problem, as previously said, with consequentalism is that is merely looks (instead of addressing the actual action) at the effects and can’t explain why a particular action is right or right. So, only looking at the consequences to determine the rightness and wrongness of a certain action does become controversial.

      Again, a good reason to discuss intrinsic values. The existence of intrinsic value is one way that the utilitarian (or deontologist) can ground their principles. If intrinsic values exist, then morality exists whether god exists or not. Morality does not necessarily require “objective value” using Craig’s definition.

      You say, “Who said that someone must ground duties? I can make a promise and give myself a duty. As a society we have duties to one another because we rely on each other to live. A consequentialist could claim that “duties” are based on values. It’s right to help people and wrong to hurt them because it’s important to help people and not hurt them.”

      Yes, we have subjective duties to fulfill in society. That’s the point I’m making. There is no objective basis that grounds our duties to society (given the non-existence of God) The most one can say is that government grounds some of the duties by establishing laws, but the government is not an objective basis for the grounding of duties. Governments are created and change. They are not an objective basis to control/ground duties.

      People (or their happiness or their humanity/dignity) have intrinsic value, so we should help them.

      The reason I brought up grounding duties is because you said, “We have conflicting duties. We have duties to save lives and duties not to rape. If it’s possible to have to choose between the two, then a choice will have to be made. It’s not like a Kantian (deontologist) or divine command theorist doesn’t have the exact same problem. How do those philosophers decide on which duty to uphold?”

      From the above it seemed to me that you’re saying we have objective duties to fulfill. Given the non-existence of God, I’m not seeing how this is done. If you say there are objective duties, what is your argument? For there to be duty someone or something as to ground it. I’d argue for every example you give me for something of someone (other than God) grounding duties will be a subjective standard.

      Pain is intrinsically bad and it exists, so we should try not to cause people pain, and so on.

      You say, “Even if we didn’t know what “binds” duties that would neither imply that God must bind them nor that it is impossible to. You need another argument to prove such things.”

      You’re right, anyone who makes a knowledge claim is going to have to back it up is some argument. If an argument that coheres with classical theism.

      1. God, as classical theism teaches, is a necessary being, whom is also the creator and sustenance of the universe.
      2. God, as classical theism teaches, created human beings in his image.
      3. God, as classical theism teaches, placed moral faculties into humans.
      4. God, as classical theism teaches, judges all human beings based on his calling (theists argue that rejecting God is an immoral act).
      5. Therefore, God, as classical theism teaches, is the one who binds us to any duties that we are required to do.

      I’m not seeing an argument there. God can tell you what to believe, but that doesn’t make it true. What makes moral facts true for a theist?

      You say, “No one thinks that you “should” do “wrong”. The question is when something is “wrong” in the first place. If you want to totally ignore who you are and your situation in life then there is no way you can “do the right thing.” You have to know the laws of the universe, the values contained within it, ways you can make things better and stop bad things from happening, etc.”

      My concern is what is your argument, given the non-existence of God, that makes an action objectively right or wrong? Once we know that there are actual things that are objectively good and wrong, then we can try to go about applying it. You need to first explain why is something objectively right or wrong, before we talk about making things better and to stop bad things from happening. For all we know good things are bad and bad things are good. We need arguments that will demonstrate that objective good and bad exists. For you have any that will show this or gives us a foundation for such things? I think theism does.

      We would know that pain is bad without God to tell us. We have felt pain and it felt bad. We know that other people feel pain as well. God couldn’t tell us that pain is wonderful and to go ahead and torture people. That wouldn’t convince anyone.

      I agree, analogies can be messy. However, let me quickly change the scenario. There is a group of babies, yet they carry a dangerous disease (however, they are mere carries, and they, themselves, will not die from the disease). If you don’t kill the children, several thousands of people will die. The consequentialist cannot explain why any action would be objectively right or wrong. I think a virue ethicist (given theism) and a divine command theorist could better explain why the action is objectively right or wrong. It may be somewhat difficult, but better than any other ethical theory.

      The consequentialist will say that one person’s life is worth something but more people’s lives are worth more. What is your alternative?

      You say, “That’s not a false dilemma. I never said that a pacifist couldn’t be a peacemaker to save lives. My point is that the pacifist might be in the exact situation that requires them to kill someone to save lives. This is a very unusual situation that some people are in from time to time including police officers. Do you want to say that all police officers who kill on the line of duty are doing something immoral?”

      Bill Craig could reply the same way and say he did not offer a false dilemma (I don’t see where he comes out and says these are the only two options available). Maybe he did, but I didn’t see it. What I would reply is that no, the pacifist would never say there is a situation that would require him to kill someone, no matter the circumstances. That, after all, is what a pacifist is. No matter what the circumstance he will not cause violence.

      His false dilemma is implied. Fallacies are not going to be given in crystal clear arguments. They are laced within rhetoric and murky arguments. If he doesn’t provide a false dilemma, then he doesn’t provide an argument at all. God isn’t required for morality insofar as it is possible for there to be intrinsic value even if God doesn’t exist. God does not make intrinsic values possible anymore than they would be anyway. He gave us no reason to think it is impossible, but he made it clear that a reductionist can’t account for intrinsic values. That’s the one thing he got right in his argument. One of his assumptions was correct.

      I hope you look more into intrinsic values because theists like Craig and nontheists alike both rely on intrinsic value for morality. Even deontologists and virtue ethicists typically believe in intrinsic values.

      Comment by James Gray — October 31, 2010 @ 3:13 am | Reply

    • Well said, J.C. Well said!

      Comment by JeremiahA — March 24, 2011 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  7. I’m still not really liking the analogy (sometimes it’s tough to get a good one). In gist, the point that a theist could make is that consequentalism and utilitarianism don’t take into account the particular act, and explain why it’s objectively right or wrong (making such ethical theories worthy of proper criticism). I’d further that sentiment to naturalism, and even bare atheism. I think the theist has an adequate foundation for explaining objective values and duties. Certainly, naturalism and atheism, can’t give us objective accountability, like theism provides.

    Thanks for the exchange!

    Comment by J.C. — October 31, 2010 @ 2:59 am | Reply

    • I don’t know why you think theism helps so much and I look forward to finding out. Don’t worry about questioning me or offering objections to my arguments. In fact, I welcome it and hope to continue our conversation.

      Comment by James Gray — October 31, 2010 @ 3:19 am | Reply

  8. Man, I’m not getting too much done today. That’s always my fear when deciding to make a comment. lol

    You say, “That is still vague. Moral ant-realist philosophers can agree that there are universally wrong actions. “Objective value” doesn’t mean much of anything. “Intrinsic value” is what we should really be concerned with.”

    Yes, much in philosophy can be vague and it’s usually always best to spell terms out. However, in the article Craig did spell out his use of objective values. The argument should be addressed at that and not towards intrinsic value. Since, he never used that word in the article.

    You say, “The word “subjectivity” is pretty meaningless here and it is being equated with “subjective ontology” perhaps “subjective epistemic facts” and “non-universal.”

    Pain is bad. It’s usually wrong to give people pain. That is not just a matter of opinion. It’s true because pain is intrinsically bad. Pain has a subjective ontology (it exists in the mind) but it is perfectly real. The badness of pain is a property of pain. I would say that intrinsic value is “objective” even though it might require subjectivity to exist.”

    What is your argument that pain is intrinsically bad? You simply take it as a basic belief and give no argument for it.

    With regards to the Craig quote. I have not read his book. Craig rarely uses the word intrinsic value. When he does he uses it to mean that something is intrinsically valuable when something is not a means to an end, but an end to themselves. Other than that, when he talks of morality, he sticks to the word objective. Even in the book quote, Craig quotes Sorely on intrinsic value.

    You say, “It’s a question for theists and nontheists alike. Craig would like to think that theists have a solid foundation and nontheists don’t, but he never actually says anything relevant that would make a person agree with him. Again, the above reconstruction of his argument is actually very enlightening. He claims that the nontheist thinks there are only atoms and no meaning could be derived from them, etc. He is creating a straw man assault saying that nontheists must think in reductionistic terms.”

    I think Craig argues that if theism, specifically Christianity, were true then we do have the foundation that provides for objective values, duties, and accountability. For example, Craig writes, “On the theistic view, objective moral values are rooted in God. God’s own holy and perfectly good nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. God’s moral nature is what Plato called the “Good.” He is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth…. Finally, on the theistic hypothesis God holds all persons morally accountable for their actions. Evil and wrong will be punished; righteousness will be vindicated. ”

    Surely, if the Christian God exists we would have an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability. I haven’t seen any argument, given the non-existence of God, that would make something objectively right or wrong. Is there a non-theist argument shat proves that any action is objectively right or wrong.

    To quote Craig from the article again, “If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?”

    Even though he’s asking questions, the point stands that theism offers the above, but atheism doesn’t. If you disagree, do you have an argument that show otherwise? Are there non-theistic arguments that shows that objective rights and wrongs exist?

    Craig quotes Paul Krutz, given atheism, that, “The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion”

    Are there any non-theistic arguments that demonstrate that that lying, stealing, adultery, and etc are objectively right or wrong?

    In the article, Craig has a long quote from Ricard Taylor, “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well…. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant…. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion…. Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

    I agree with this quote. Do you know of any non-theistic arguments that would show how any act(s) are objectively right or wrong?

    You say, “Some philosophers might say that the theist has “the foundation” but certainly not all. That sounds like a fallacious appeal to authority. Also, based on your comments, he is equating “naturalism” with “reductionism” and “nontheism.” Atheism is a very broad category that is not limited to “naturalism” and “naturalism” is quite broad as well. He only points you to what some philosophers have to say on the matter as though we can just trust their opinions, and they just so happen to be reductionists.”

    It’s not an appeal to authority b/c he backs up why the theist is justified in thinking that theism allows for the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability. Look earlier in the post to see how God, as the Good, and as the one who will judge all can be the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability.

    I’m not sure if he’s trying to say naturalism is the same as atheism, or if he’s only talking about the category of naturalism.

    You say, “The “worth” of a human being is not an “objective value” based on the definition you gave above (i.e. there is a right and wrong beyond opinion). The human being’s worth is an intrinsic value. (Just one more reason that intrinsic values have to be discussed.)

    I don’t know that Craig is even right in what he is asserting here, but it doesn’t matter because it just undermines his own argument.”

    You’re right that objective worth would not be objective value, b/c it’s objective worth. Also, objective value is different from objective duties and accountability. No need to use intrinsic value.

    You need an argument that shows why people and the properties thereof are objectively good and bad. Just saying things can have worth, doesn’t make it objective. Is there an argument that shows, given the non-existence of God, that certain properties and/or attributes humans have can even been good or bad, to even be called worthy or unworthy? These are problems that don’t seem to have any non-theistic solutions. How does one show without God that such and such is actually worthless or not, good and bad, right and wrong? I think Craig would argue, once again, the theist has an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability. The non-theist doesn’t.

    You say, “If pain is intrinsically bad meant “it’s wrong to cause pain” (which id does), that would not translate to the “objective value” “it’s always wrong to hurt people.” That would be an obviously uncharitable translation of the words.”

    What is your argument that pain is intrinsically bad. You take it as a basic belief. You assume that pain is bad.

    You say, “Again, a good reason to discuss intrinsic values. The existence of intrinsic value is one way that the utilitarian (or deontologist) can ground their principles. If intrinsic values exist, then morality exists whether god exists or not. Morality does not necessarily require “objective value” using Craig’s definition.”

    If they can’t ground their principles in God, than I don’t see how it’s objective (given Craig’s definition). After all, your argument has to be using Craig’s terminology and definitions (if not than you’re making a straw man). The problem with those ethical theories is they can’t explain why any act is actually right or wrong. If you know of one, I wouldn’t mind seeing it, just to see how persuasive it is. They assume that such and such are good and bad, but the question is why should we call certain things objectively good and bad, without the existence of God?

    You say, “People (or their happiness or their humanity/dignity) have intrinsic value, so we should help them.”

    That’s just it – who does a non-theist affirm human dignity and why should we help people to obtain happiness? You assume happiness is an objectively good thing. Reminds me of Sam Harris, when he says human flourishing is good. He just assumes human flourishing is good. Given the non-existence of God, is there an argument that shows that human flourishing is objectively good? Too many people just assumes that happiness, longevity, peace, and cooperation are objectively good things.

    You say, “Pain is intrinsically bad and it exists, so we should try not to cause people pain, and so on.”

    Where is the argument that pain is bad. They see it as self-evident, or as basic, I want an argument justification that shows pain is intrinsically bad.

    You say, “I’m not seeing an argument there. God can tell you what to believe, but that doesn’t make it true. What makes moral facts true for a theist?”

    If the Christian God exists, then God, as classical theism teaches, is the Good. Moral facts come and are expressed by the nature of God [by his very essence]. We derive at what is good through God. I apologize in advance, but I’m going to quote Edward Feser, who I think did a good job at explaining God and morality. He writes a lot and this is only a snippet, that I read a couple of weeks ago:

    “Keep in mind also that, as I noted in my post on Law’s “evil-god challenge,” the metaphysics underlying the arguments for classical theism lead to the conclusion that God is not one good thing among others but rather Goodness Itself. Given divine simplicity, that means that what we think of as the distinctive goodness of a human being, the distinctive goodness of a tree, the distinctive goodness of a fish, and so on – each associated with a distinct essence – all exist in an undifferentiated way in the Goodness that is God.

    Divine simplicity also entails, of course, that God’s will just is God’s goodness which just is His immutable and necessary existence. That means that what is objectively good and what God wills for us as morally obligatory are really the same thing considered under different descriptions, and that neither could have been other than they are. There can be no question then, either of God’s having arbitrarily commanded something different for us (torturing babies for fun, or whatever) or of there being a standard of goodness apart from Him.”

    You say, “The consequentialist will say that one person’s life is worth something but more people’s lives are worth more. What is your alternative?”

    My alternative is I want the consequentialist to explain why the act, itself, is wrong, instead of telling me that the act saved lives. What makes the act wrong? That’s what I want to know. I also want to know, given the non-existence of God, why saving lives is the objectively right thing to do? All I see is that we assume prima facie that life is objectively valuable, but haven’t seen any arguments given.

    You say, “His false dilemma is implied. Fallacies are not going to be given in crystal clear arguments. They are laced within rhetoric and murky arguments. If he doesn’t provide a false dilemma, then he doesn’t provide an argument at all. God isn’t required for morality insofar as it is possible for there to be intrinsic value even if God doesn’t exist. God does not make intrinsic values possible anymore than they would be anyway. He gave us no reason to think it is impossible, but he made it clear that a reductionist can’t account for intrinsic values. That’s the one thing he got right in his argument. One of his assumptions was correct.

    I hope you look more into intrinsic values because theists like Craig and nontheists alike both rely on intrinsic value for morality. Even deontologists and virtue ethicists typically believe in intrinsic values.”

    We can infer all types of things from ones’ writings. God is required for objective value, the way Craig defined it. You’re criticizing Craig, when he never, in the article, used the word instinctive value. He clearly used objective value and defined it. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you tell the audience (you can use any word you wish, as long as you define it). Given his definition of objective value, I don’t see, given the non-existence of God, how any action is objectively wrong. I think Craig is right, that theism does adequately explain objective values, duties, and accountability, whereas any non-theistic position does not.

    Comment by J.C. — October 31, 2010 @ 6:08 am | Reply

    • Yes, much in philosophy can be vague and it’s usually always best to spell terms out. However, in the article Craig did spell out his use of objective values. The argument should be addressed at that and not towards intrinsic value. Since, he never used that word in the article.

      If you use that one definition, then he will lose the debate before it begins. Morality can be universal without any irreducible moral facts. Even a relativist can believe in some universal moral truths. (e.g. R. M. Hare.) The definition does not require non-subjective factual truth makers of any kind.

      What is your argument that pain is intrinsically bad? You simply take it as a basic belief and give no argument for it.

      I think we can experience that pain is bad. To question the fact that pain is bad is like questioning whether or not you really have a hand when you look at your hand. Sure, we could be massively deluded, but it’s also possible we aren’t massively deluded.

      Here is a detailed version of my argument: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/10/07/an-argument-for-moral-realism/

      Here are other possible arguments for intrinsic values in general: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/11-arguments-for-intrinsic-values/

      I think Craig argues that if theism, specifically Christianity, were true then we do have the foundation that provides for objective values, duties, and accountability. For example, Craig writes, “On the theistic view, objective moral values are rooted in God. God’s own holy and perfectly good nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. God’s moral nature is what Plato called the “Good.” He is the locus and source of moral value. He is by nature loving, generous, just, faithful, kind, and so forth…. Finally, on the theistic hypothesis God holds all persons morally accountable for their actions. Evil and wrong will be punished; righteousness will be vindicated. ”

      First, Plato’s Good is not God, and so an atheist could agree with Plato that “the good” exists. As I said above, “Craig assumes that we either have to be reductionist materialists or theists. Those might not even be plausible options. Instead, the more plausible options seem to include Platonism and emergence materialism, for example.”

      Second, we don’t know good and bad from God’s “character.” We don’t even know his character. We know good and bad through experience. People all over the world know that torture is wrong because it hurts people whether or not they know about Jesus.

      Third, his answer sounds circular. Good exists because God is good. But that just means that good exists. The atheist can say good exists too. It’s easy to say that good exists and the fact that God exists and is good doesn’t seem to add anything to morality.

      Michael Martin had a similar debate and refuted this sort of answer saying the following:

      In any case, appealing to God’s character only postpones the problem since the dilemma can be reformulated in terms of His character. Is God’s character the way it is because it is good or is God’s character good simply because it is God’s character? Is there an independent standard of good or does God’s character set the standard? If God’s character is the way it is because it is good, then there is an independent standard of goodness by which to evaluate God’s character. For example, suppose God condemns rape because of His just and merciful character. His character is just and merciful because mercy and justice are good. Since God is necessarily good, God is just and merciful. According to this independent standard of goodness, being merciful and just is precisely what a good character involves. In this case, even if God did not exist, one could say that a merciful and just character is good. Human beings could use this standard to evaluate people’s character and actions based on this character. They could do this whether or not God exists. — http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/fernandes-martin/martin3.html

      The entire debate can be found here: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/michael_martin/fernandes-martin/

      Surely, if the Christian God exists we would have an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability.

      Not necessarily.

      I haven’t seen any argument, given the non-existence of God, that would make something objectively right or wrong. Is there a non-theist argument shat proves that any action is objectively right or wrong.

      Of course there are. These tend to be “arguments for moral realism.” I have written about some of them fairly recently. There are pretty much no scholarly arguments for moral realism that mention God because philosophers almost unanimously agree that God does not need to be discussed in such debates.

      Also, Craig must argue that an atheist couldn’t possibly be a rational moral realist, but that is totally absurd. Craig needs to argue that it’s impossible for moral realism to be true without God. That is not only false, but moral realism is probably the most plausible position to have even as an atheist.

      The fact that you keep asking, “How can objective moral value exist for an atheist?” doesn’t actually help support his argument because a question and even an inability to answer a question doesn’t imply that there is no answer. The fact that I can’t prove that aliens live on other planets doesn’t mean that they don’t. That’s an appeal to ignorance fallacy. There are lots of mysteries in philosophy that have not been adequately answered and these mysteries don’t imply that God exists or that there is no answer.

      To quote Craig from the article again, “If God does not exist, then what is the foundation for moral values? More particularly, what is the basis for the value of human beings? If God does not exist, then it is difficult to see any reason to think that human beings are special or that their morality is objectively true. Moreover, why think that we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes any moral duties upon us?”

      Even though he’s asking questions, the point stands that theism offers the above, but atheism doesn’t. If you disagree, do you have an argument that show otherwise? Are there non-theistic arguments that shows that objective rights and wrongs exist?

      Yes, and I have already mentioned them. I also don’t see how his answer actually tells me anything about morality. I don’t see how it could possibly be a “foundation” for morality.

      Also, atheism doesn’t have to offer anything. Craig has concluded that God must exist because it’s impossible for objective moral value to exist without God. He has to prove that no answer is possible for an atheist. Even if no answer was given yet that wouldn’t imply that no answer is possible.

      Imagine someone a few hundred years ago seeing a lightning bolt and saying, “God must exist!” Why? Because we don’t yet know how to explain lightning. It’s impossible for an atheist to explain it! Yet, we know that not having an answer does not mean that there isn’t one.

      In the article, Craig has a long quote from Ricard Taylor, “The modern age, more or less repudiating the idea of a divine lawgiver, has nevertheless tried to retain the ideas of moral right and wrong, not noticing that, in casting God aside, they have also abolished the conditions of meaningfulness for moral right and wrong as well…. Thus, even educated persons sometimes declare that such things are war, or abortion, or the violation of certain human rights, are ‘morally wrong,’ and they imagine that they have said something true and significant…. Educated people do not need to be told, however, that questions such as these have never been answered outside of religion…. Contemporary writers in ethics, who blithely discourse upon moral right and wrong and moral obligation without any reference to religion, are really just weaving intellectual webs from thin air; which amounts to saying that they discourse without meaning.”

      I agree with this quote. Do you know of any non-theistic arguments that would show how any act(s) are objectively right or wrong?

      This quotation is nothing more than a statement of what Craig wants to conclude. It is in no way evidence in support of his view and I have no idea why you would think it is plausible.

      You say, “Some philosophers might say that the theist has “the foundation” but certainly not all. That sounds like a fallacious appeal to authority.

      I was saying that Craig is appealing to authority and it’s not a good one because some people disagree. You shouldn’t appeal to authority when the intellectuals disagree — you can’t take a premise for granted just because one smart person agrees with it when other smart people disagree with it. I didn’t appeal to authority at all. You took “some people disagree” to mean “and therefore intrinsic values exist even without God!” I said no such thing.

      It’s not an appeal to authority b/c he backs up why the theist is justified in thinking that theism allows for the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability. Look earlier in the post to see how God, as the Good, and as the one who will judge all can be the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability.

      The fact that he thinks that theism might be able to have a foundation for objective value is irrelevant because his argument also requires something much stronger — that it is absolutely impossible for an atheist to have a foundation for objective value. His appeal to authority is his selective use of quotations where atheists “admit” that they can’t have a foundation for morality. These atheists are reductionists. They only seem to support his argument because he is making use of suppressed evidence and doesn’t mention atheists with a better worldview than reductionism.

      I’m not sure if he’s trying to say naturalism is the same as atheism, or if he’s only talking about the category of naturalism.

      It doesn’t matter because atheists don’t have to be either. In fact, a theist can be a naturalist too. That’s what the Stoics were/believed.

      You’re right that objective worth would not be objective value, b/c it’s objective worth. Also, objective value is different from objective duties and accountability. No need to use intrinsic value.

      Let’s say there are no intrinsic values. In that case it wouldn’t matter if I chose to hurt people because they have no worth. Intrinsic value must exist for morality to support moral realism. Intrinsic values should be discussed because it’s the moral realist foundation of both theistic and atheistic objective morality.

      The fact that you claim Craig is only interested in “objective value” doesn’t help because “objective morality” is very easy to justify, but only intrinsic values will justify it in the satisfying way that Craig and I want.

      If they can’t ground their principles in God, than I don’t see how it’s objective (given Craig’s definition).

      Some anti-realists think that “right” means the same thing as “maximizes happiness.” That’s objective because it’s true that some things are right and others are wrong based on the definition. The reason it’s unsatisfying is because it’s not clear we should care. I am not an anti-realist and moral realists will have more satisfying answers.

      My alternative is I want the consequentialist to explain why the act, itself, is wrong, instead of telling me that the act saved lives. What makes the act wrong?

      I already answered this question. According to the consequentialist, doing something horrible is wrong because it’s horrible and it’s horrible because of the intrinsic value lost or disvalue caused. The fact that you want to know where intrinsic value comes from doesn’t mean that the consequentialist’s answer is totally refuted.

      That’s what I want to know. I also want to know, given the non-existence of God, why saving lives is the objectively right thing to do? All I see is that we assume prima facie that life is objectively valuable, but haven’t seen any arguments given.

      There are no prima facie intrinsic values. You are mixing intrinsic values up with duties. They are two different but related areas.

      We can infer all types of things from ones’ writings. God is required for objective value, the way Craig defined it. You’re criticizing Craig, when he never, in the article, used the word instinctive value.

      I am being charitable to Craig by defining “objective value” in a way that makes sense. Right and wrong are not “values.” His definition was stupid, but I know he is actually interested in intrinsic value. The book and his debates makes that clear.

      Craig summarizes his argument as the following:

      1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

      2. Objective moral values do exist.

      3. Therefore, God exists. — http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

      This is pretty much the same thing as what I have above. The difficult premise is the first one, and I think he tries to justify that premise by arguing that atheistic “objective value” is impossible. Wait! Why is that? Because (if we read all his quotes) atheists are a bunch of reductionists. That might sound perfectly good to prejudiced Christians with no interest to the variety of nontheistic worldviews, but it’s false.

      Of course, the argument above seems to fail to prove that “if God exists, then objective value exists” but you have pointed out that he has tried to justify that point. If it is actually impossible for objective moral value to exist given that God exists, then we could prove that atheism is true using the same argument (which is absurd).

      Comment by James Gray — October 31, 2010 @ 7:21 am | Reply

    • Thank you, J.C., for providing such well-keeled, even-handed lucid comments and refutations. They were very interesting to read and I wish I was as clear as you in my speech.

      Comment by JeremiahA — March 24, 2011 @ 5:01 pm | Reply

  9. Do you not see the problem when I constantly asked over and over for non-theistic arguments that shows that a certain act is objectively right or wrong? Can you provide one?

    You say, “If you use that one definition, then he will lose the debate before it begins. Morality can be universal without any irreducible moral facts. Even a relativist can believe in some universal moral truths. (e.g. R. M. Hare.) The definition does not require non-subjective factual truth makers of any kind.”

    Do you have an argument for this? Who or what determines the universal moral truth, apart from God?

    You say, “I think we can experience that pain is bad. To question the fact that pain is bad is like questioning whether or not you really have a hand when you look at your hand. Sure, we could be massively deluded, but it’s also possible we aren’t massively deluded.”

    I think we can imagine that a rapist can say raping is pleasurable/good. Some people enjoy raping and do it on a constant basis b/c it’s good. I ask again, do you have an argument that shows pain is objectively bad and should be avoided. You’re taking pain as intrinsically bad as a basic belief.

    You say, “First, Plato’s Good is not God, and so an atheist could agree with Plato that “the good” exists. As I said above, “Craig assumes that we either have to be reductionist materialists or theists. Those might not even be plausible options. Instead, the more plausible options seem to include Platonism and emergence materialism, for example.”

    Second, we don’t know good and bad from God’s “character.” We don’t even know his character. We know good and bad through experience. People all over the world know that torture is wrong because it hurts people whether or not they know about Jesus.

    Third, his answer sounds circular. Good exists because God is good. But that just means that good exists. The atheist can say good exists too. It’s easy to say that good exists and the fact that God exists and is good doesn’t seem to add anything to morality.”

    Yes, Plato’s Good is not God, but many theists argue God (at least when it comes to his moral character) is Plato’s Good. If you take Platonism and emergence materialism, then I would criticize Platonism. You’re not a Platonist are you?

    You speak about Micheal Martin, but as Edward Feser says, “Again, the Euthyphro dilemma is a false one; the third option that it fails to consider is that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him. (As Eleonore Stump points out in her book on Aquinas, its role in resolving the Euthyphro dilemma is one reason theists should take seriously Aquinas’s doctrine of divine simplicity.)”

    You say, “Not necessarily.”

    Why not?

    You say, “Of course there are. These tend to be “arguments for moral realism.” I have written about some of them fairly recently. There are pretty much no scholarly arguments for moral realism that mention God because philosophers almost unanimously agree that God does not need to be discussed in such debates.

    Also, Craig must argue that an atheist couldn’t possibly be a rational moral realist, but that is totally absurd. Craig needs to argue that it’s impossible for moral realism to be true without God. That is not only false, but moral realism is probably the most plausible position to have even as an atheist.

    Can you provide me the a non-theistic argument that shows that a action can be objectively right or wrong? I think Craig would argue that atheistic moral realism is not a plausible position. If fact he does argue against atheistic moral realism. See: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

    You say, “The fact that you keep asking, “How can objective moral value exist for an atheist?” doesn’t actually help support his argument because a question and even an inability to answer a question doesn’t imply that there is no answer. The fact that I can’t prove that aliens live on other planets doesn’t mean that they don’t. That’s an appeal to ignorance fallacy. There are lots of mysteries in philosophy that have not been adequately answered and these mysteries don’t imply that God exists or that there is no answer””

    I been using Craig’s link you gave to show some reasons why theism does provide an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and obligations. You haven’t give me to believe that there are non-theistic arguments that offer of objective values, duties, and obligations. I don’t want links, I just want to post it in this thread.

    You say, “Yes, and I have already mentioned them. I also don’t see how his answer actually tells me anything about morality. I don’t see how it could possibly be a “foundation” for morality.

    Also, atheism doesn’t have to offer anything. Craig has concluded that God must exist because it’s impossible for objective moral value to exist without God. He has to prove that no answer is possible for an atheist. Even if no answer was given yet that wouldn’t imply that no answer is possible.

    Imagine someone a few hundred years ago seeing a lightning bolt and saying, “God must exist!” Why? Because we don’t yet know how to explain lightning. It’s impossible for an atheist to explain it! Yet, we know that not having an answer does not mean that there isn’t one.”

    I haven’t seen any argument in premise form in your posts. I don’t wish to go link navigating. Just provide the argument. If God, as the being the ground and is the Good, does not exist, then it makes it void to talk about good and bad. It’s not hard to understand that God, as defined by classical theism, would be the foundation for what we view as good and bad. Not only that but hold us accountable for our actions. Atheism does not give us that.

    Craig argues that morality would merely be a by-product of the process of unguided natural selection, if God doesn’t exist. This would make talking about objective morality void (the way Craig and theist define it). Show me a non-theistic argument that shows some act is objectively good or wrong. You believe there are certain acts the are good and evil. Can you provide any argument?

    I agree, we shouldn’t plug in God an an explanation for something we don’t know. However, the whole debate is that the theist says we have an adequate explanation for the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability. The non-theist does not. You simply say this is not true, but never give any argument.

    You say, “The fact that he thinks that theism might be able to have a foundation for objective value is irrelevant because his argument also requires something much stronger — that it is absolutely impossible for an atheist to have a foundation for objective value. His appeal to authority is his selective use of quotations where atheists “admit” that they can’t have a foundation for morality. These atheists are reductionists. They only seem to support his argument because he is making use of suppressed evidence and doesn’t mention atheists with a better worldview than reductionism.”

    I think you’re putting words into Craig’s mouth. In the article, Craig specifically says, “It is shown that on a theistic worldview an adequate foundation exists for the affirmation of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability. By contrast, naturalism fails in all three respects”

    Never does he say, “it’s absolutely impossible for an atheist to have a foundation for objective value.” He simply says theism provides an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and obligations, whereas non-theism does not.

    You say, “Let’s say there are no intrinsic values. In that case it wouldn’t matter if I chose to hurt people because they have no worth. Intrinsic value must exist for morality to support moral realism. Intrinsic values should be discussed because it’s the moral realist foundation of both theistic and atheistic objective morality.

    The fact that you claim Craig is only interested in “objective value” doesn’t help because “objective morality” is very easy to justify, but only intrinsic values will justify it in the satisfying way that Craig and I want.”

    The question is not if there is or is no intrinsic value, per se. The question is who determines and on what basis do they determine certain qualities/properties/attributes to have be something we view and good and therefore view as worthy? What standard do they use and where does it come from? The question is why is such and such objectively good to be considered worthy?

    Again, we’re not debating moral realism, we’re debating atheistic moral realism.

    You say, “The fact that you claim Craig is only interested in “objective value” doesn’t help because “objective morality” is very easy to justify, but only intrinsic values will justify it in the satisfying way that Craig and I want.”

    Give me a non-theistic argument that says there is such thing as objective values? You say you provide some, but I don’t see any.

    You say, “Some anti-realists think that “right” means the same thing as “maximizes happiness.” That’s objective because it’s true that some things are right and others are wrong based on the definition. The reason it’s unsatisfying is because it’s not clear we should care. I am not an anti-realist and moral realists will have more satisfying answers.”

    I agree with this. However, if an atheistic moral realist said the same thing, I’d question him as to why happiness is objectively good. They all seem to assume that happiness is good. They take it as basic.

    You say, “This is pretty much the same thing as what I have above. The difficult premise is the first one, and I think he tries to justify that premise by arguing that atheistic “objective value” is impossible. Wait! Why is that? Because (if we read all his quotes) atheists are a bunch of reductionists. That might sound perfectly good to prejudiced Christians with no interest to the variety of nontheistic worldviews, but it’s false.

    Of course, the argument above seems to fail to prove that “if God exists, then objective value exists” but you have pointed out that he has tried to justify that point. If it is actually impossible for objective moral value to exist given that God exists, then we could prove that atheism is true using the same argument (which is absurd).”

    Craig also argues against Platonism and so do many others (though not in the link you provide). In the end you haven’t gave any reason to believe that there is a non-theistic position that argues that there exists things that are objectively right and wrong. Most I’ve seen you say is, one can be a Platonist, believe in materialistic property emergence theorist, be a pluralist, or a dualist. These are not any real arguments.

    Comment by J.C. — October 31, 2010 @ 9:07 am | Reply

    • You say, “I think we can experience that pain is bad. To question the fact that pain is bad is like questioning whether or not you really have a hand when you look at your hand. Sure, we could be massively deluded, but it’s also possible we aren’t massively deluded.”

      I think we can imagine that a rapist can say raping is pleasurable/good. Some people enjoy raping and do it on a constant basis b/c it’s good. I ask again, do you have an argument that shows pain is objectively bad and should be avoided. You’re taking pain as intrinsically bad as a basic belief.

      No, I didn’t say it was a basic belief — but even if I did that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. I said we can experience that it’s bad. I also said that I argued for that fact in more detail elsewhere and gave a link. Read that before this conversation continues because I think that will answer a lot of questions. I won’t have time to give a satisfying reply to other concerns for some hours to come.

      When you ask for “foundational beliefs” it’s not entirely clear what that means. Intrinsic values can and do exist in the physical world, or so I argue. If God is responsible for the physical world, then she might be partially but only directly responsible for morality.

      Comment by James Gray — October 31, 2010 @ 6:02 pm | Reply

  10. You say, “No, I didn’t say it was a basic belief — but even if I did that wouldn’t necessarily be a problem. I said we can experience that it’s bad. I also said that I argued for that fact in more detail elsewhere and gave a link. Read that before this conversation continues because I think that will answer a lot of questions.”

    There’s nothing wrong with basic beliefs. The problem with basic beliefs (that deal with moral worth, right, and wrong) is when we use them for the basis of ethical theories. That then becomes a problem. But, you say you’re not talking about basic beliefs, so we’re good. Just I’m curious to see a non-theistic argument that shows certain acts to be objective right and/or wrong.

    I don’t see how anything is objectively right or wrong, apart from a divine lawgiver. The only thing that would ground good and bad, would be for one to argue that there exists some reality (some form of Platonism) beyond the physical universe that can ground morality. I would like to see an argument for this. It seems we just create some arbitrary scale of right and wrong, and categorize anything we deem appropriate (by our own making) and place ‘it’ into being good or bad.

    A question I have is even if one could demonstrate objective values, how do we have objective duties and obligations to fulfill. Further, how are we accountability for the duties? Who and/or what holds us accountability when we do something right or wrong? I don’t see any non-arbitrary entity that hold us accountability for our actions.

    You say, “When you ask for “foundational beliefs” it’s not entirely clear what that means. Intrinsic values can and do exist in the physical world, or so I argue. If God is responsible for the physical world, then she might be partially but only directly responsible for morality.”

    Classical theism states more than that God is responsible for the physical world. God is not only creator of the universe, but the sustenance, thereof. Further, God is the good to which we look to – is the scale we look to in determining the rightness and/or wrongness of something. His very essense is the objective, non-arbitrary standard that grounds morality.

    You say, ” I won’t have time to give a satisfying reply to other concerns for some hours to come.”

    It’s okay, we’re merely running in circles. However, thanks for the exchange! I have to get caught up with work. :(

    Comment by J.C. — October 31, 2010 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

    • I don’t see how anything is objectively right or wrong, apart from a divine lawgiver. The only thing that would ground good and bad, would be for one to argue that there exists some reality (some form of Platonism) beyond the physical universe that can ground morality. I would like to see an argument for this. It seems we just create some arbitrary scale of right and wrong, and categorize anything we deem appropriate (by our own making) and place ‘it’ into being good or bad.

      If pain is bad, then it is prima facie wrong to cause pain. Whether or not such moral result is “overriding” depends on the other values that exist. Whether or not we are able to assess such a balance of values is besides the point. The point is that such values exist and they are important.

      This isn’t arbitrary. It’s saying that some values correctly describe the world. We have a choice about what decision to make. If one decision causes incredible pain with no pay off compared to alternatives, then that decision would be “wrong.” Nothing arbitrary about that. The decision is based on reality and the possibility of alternative courses of action.

      If you want premise form it’s like this:

      1. We know intrinsic values exist through experience.
      2. If we know intrinsic values exist through experience, then they exist.
      3. Therefore, they exist.
      4. If intrinsic values exist, then one course of action is better than other.
      5. If one course of action is better than another, then one is “right” and others could be “wrong.”
      6. Therefore, some actions are right and others are wrong.

      Premise 5 is the most questionable and it could be supported in various ways. I don’t think anyone has given a completely satisfying answer (even theists). However, I think that part of the issue is simply language itself. The best anyone could mean by “right” is something like “promotes intrinsic values without being overly difficult.” Intrinsic values are the only things in the universe that “really matter” beyond one’s personal taste, so that is what we “need” to worry about. In premise form:

      1. When people say that something is “right” they should mean that the action promotes intrinsic values (or doesn’t significantly harm someone).
      2. If the word “right” and “wrong” should concern intrinsic values, then at least one action is right or wrong if at least one intrinsic value exists.
      3. At least one intrinsic value exists.
      4. Therefore, at least one action is right or wrong.

      “Right” and “wrong” are quite similar for morality as it is to be “healthy” or “reasonable.” Although vagueness is an issue between healthy and unhealthy, that doesn’t mean that nothing is healthy or unhealthy. There is vagueness between right and wrong, but that doesn’t mean nothing is right or wrong. It’s not always just an arbitrary distinction.

      If God exists and we measure value based on her being, then I don’t see how that helps. How does God’s existence tell me that pain is bad and that I shouldn’t hurt people? How would it help solve the balance of values that exists to find out which duty is overriding?

      We have actions that are permissible, obligatory, forbidden, supererogatory, and so on. How does God’s existence tell me what action belongs in a certain category? How does that work? I’m not saying that it can’t work, but I personally find such a theory to be highly mysterious.

      Note that I don’t think moral realism is incompatible with the existence of God and so on. My main point is that theism doesn’t seem to help meta-ethical philosophy. It doesn’t help us understand how morality works. Additionally, to have the audacity to posit the existence of God based on the “superiority” of “theistic foundations for morality” would be to claim that it is superior to such an extent that warrants incredible ontological commitments that would ordinarily be a violation of Occam’s razor. Craig’s argument is an attempt at a very strong sort of argument along these lines and he actually says that nontheistic moral realism is impossible rather than merely “inferior” to theistic moral realism. That has been disproven by the very fact that moral realism and intrinsic value beliefs have been given relatively plausible accounts by nontheistic versions of moral realism. (These are beliefs that merely discuss morality without talking about God, but in no way disprove God’s existence.)

      A question I have is even if one could demonstrate objective values, how do we have objective duties and obligations to fulfill. Further, how are we accountability for the duties? Who and/or what holds us accountability when we do something right or wrong? I don’t see any non-arbitrary entity that hold us accountability for our actions.

      There are different ways to understand obligation, but here’s one: You have a moral obligation to do something if not doing it would be sufficiently harmful and doing it wouldn’t be too difficult. Here “moral obligation” means “it would be wrong not to do it.”

      What kind of accountability do you want? I don’t think we need to fear punishment. I don’t think inevitable punishment or reward is necessary for morality to make sense. You should do what is right because you want to do it, because you care about people and want to help people rather than hurt them, and so on. It really his horrible to significantly hurt people, and that is why we shouldn’t want to do wrong.

      Let’s say that in addition to that God “holds us accountable.” What does that mean? Does he “feel bad” about what we did and point a finger? I don’t see how that helps anything.

      To be a good person means to understand moral reality and to care about things that “really matter.” Such a person is in harmony with moral reality — but no moral reality needs to exist beyond the physical world. Why? Because the physical world is the existence of people, who can suffer, become happy, etc. It is better to help people rather than harm them. Our actions can have harmful effects and we can often choose to do something that’s not harmful (or at least significantly less harmful).

      Do you not see the problem when I constantly asked over and over for non-theistic arguments that shows that a certain act is objectively right or wrong? Can you provide one?

      No, I don’t see the problem, but I’ve discussed above what you asked for.

      You say, “If you use that one definition, then he will lose the debate before it begins. Morality can be universal without any irreducible moral facts. Even a relativist can believe in some universal moral truths. (e.g. R. M. Hare.) The definition does not require non-subjective factual truth makers of any kind.”

      Do you have an argument for this? Who or what determines the universal moral truth, apart from God?

      Yes, I gave an example at one point. We could merely “define” “right” as “maximizes happiness.” I’m not saying that I like that way of dealing with objective values, which is why it is a misleading term to use.

      I discuss why intrinsic values is central to the theistic debates and why I don’t think theism is needed for intrinsic values here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/does-morality-require-god/

      I think we can imagine that a rapist can say raping is pleasurable/good. Some people enjoy raping and do it on a constant basis b/c it’s good. I ask again, do you have an argument that shows pain is objectively bad and should be avoided. You’re taking pain as intrinsically bad as a basic belief.

      Consequentialism offers one way to explain this. The rapist is misunderstanding how intrinsic values apply to decision making and “rightness.” I discuss this in quite some detail in the links I provided concerning intrinsic value earlier.

      Yes, Plato’s Good is not God, but many theists argue God (at least when it comes to his moral character) is Plato’s Good. If you take Platonism and emergence materialism, then I would criticize Platonism. You’re not a Platonist are you?

      It is theoretically possible for Platonism to be true even if God doesn’t exist. I am not personally a platonist, but I would be one if it was necessary to understand reality and one of my philosophy professors went in that direction. If you admit this, then you must admit that Craig’s argument presents a false dilemma because he doesn’t even talk about platonism for a second.

      I mentioned that emergence is another view that Craig does not discuss, and I think that’s a better way to account for intrinsic values (and therefore right and wrong as objective values).

      You speak about Micheal Martin, but as Edward Feser says, “Again, the Euthyphro dilemma is a false one; the third option that it fails to consider is that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him. (As Eleonore Stump points out in her book on Aquinas, its role in resolving the Euthyphro dilemma is one reason theists should take seriously Aquinas’s doctrine of divine simplicity.)”

      Very interesting, do you have a link? I don’t really understand why Edward Feser thinks that. I asked some important questions above concerning this issue. Can you provide an argument in premise form?

      You: Surely, if the Christian God exists we would have an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability.

      Me: Not necessarily.

      You: Why not?

      Because it’s not clear to me that God exists, that God would automatically provide an adequate foundation for morality. First, morality might be based on physical reality rather than a direct appeal to God’s existence. If theism is true, I would find this to be plausible. Second, God might claim to be all good, but maybe she’s not. She might also think “good” means “I like it.” And so on.

      Can you provide me the a non-theistic argument that shows that a action can be objectively right or wrong? I think Craig would argue that atheistic moral realism is not a plausible position. If fact he does argue against atheistic moral realism. See: Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview.

      I already have, and you never told me what’s wrong with my argument. (I gave you a link for the complete argument.) What exactly are Crag’s arguments? So far I doubt that he even understands what philosophers think about meta-ethics.

      If you have a link to a summary of Crag’s arguments, I would consider giving them a look.

      I been using Craig’s link you gave to show some reasons why theism does provide an adequate foundation for objective values, duties, and obligations. You haven’t give me to believe that there are non-theistic arguments that offer of objective values, duties, and obligations. I don’t want links, I just want to post it in this thread.

      I gave you the simple gist of the argument, but there are many details that are also worth knowing about. As I said, there are philosophers other than myself who discuss why we should accept moral realism or intrinsic values, and they don’t talk about God. You can find some of them in the category “review”:

      http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/category/review/

      I haven’t seen any argument in premise form in your posts. I don’t wish to go link navigating. Just provide the argument. If God, as the being the ground and is the Good, does not exist, then it makes it void to talk about good and bad. It’s not hard to understand that God, as defined by classical theism, would be the foundation for what we view as good and bad. Not only that but hold us accountable for our actions. Atheism does not give us that.

      On the contrary. It is very hard. I don’t see it. I can imagine that God exists, but I don’t know that objective right or wrong exists based on that scenario. I don’t know how to decide if one act is an obligation, forbidden, or anything.

      I agree, we shouldn’t plug in God an an explanation for something we don’t know. However, the whole debate is that the theist says we have an adequate explanation for the foundation of objective values, duties, and accountability. The non-theist does not. You simply say this is not true, but never give any argument.

      Yes, the nontheist does.

      I think you’re putting words into Craig’s mouth. In the article, Craig specifically says, “It is shown that on a theistic worldview an adequate foundation exists for the affirmation of objective moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability. By contrast, naturalism fails in all three respects”

      What words did I put in his mouth? His argument completely fails because nontheism does account for objective value quite well and it’s not clear that an appeal to God helps. Additionally, Craig does not actually discuss all possible ways atheists try to account for objective values or should try to do so. These arguments are totally ignored. Hence, he makes use of suppressed evidence. The fact that he not only doesn’t try to do so himself, but he doesn’t in any way prove that such a task is impossible is why he commits an appeal to ignorance fallacy.

      He basically says, “Where does an atheist get a foundation for morality. I don’t know. These guys don’t know either. Therefore it’s impossible!” Sorry, but that doesn’t prove it’s impossible. It just means that certain people don’t know how to do it. Even if no atheists knew how to do it, we would still have no reason to think atheists must reject objective value.

      Let’s say that the theist could give a better foundation for morality than the atheist. That would be a much more modest argument than the one Craig gives, and I suppose it could be worth a try. I don’t think this argument would succeed either, though.

      One reason I don’t think it would succeed is that we would have to weigh many pros and cons: Simplicity (occam’s razor), comprehensiveness, explanatory potency, etc.

      The question is not if there is or is no intrinsic value, per se. The question is who determines and on what basis do they determine certain qualities/properties/attributes to have be something we view and good and therefore view as worthy? What standard do they use and where does it come from? The question is why is such and such objectively good to be considered worthy?

      Why is pain bad? Because that’s how we experience pain. Why do we experience pain that way? Because that’s how the laws of nature operate. There doesn’t need to be any other reason that pain is bad other than that.

      Let’s say that theism gives a different answer. Perhaps it says that pain is bad because God feels no pain. That is utterly mysterious. God also doesn’t necessarily think about the fact that 1+1=2, but it’s not wrong to do so.

      I agree with this. However, if an atheistic moral realist said the same thing, I’d question him as to why happiness is objectively good. They all seem to assume that happiness is good. They take it as basic.

      To say that you experience something isn’t to say it’s basic. It’s not basic that my shirt is black, but I know it is through experience. God doesn’t have to exist to say that it’s true that my shirt is black exist anymore than he has to exist to make it true that pain is bad. What makes it true that my shirt is black? The shirt existing in the world with certain properties. What makes it true that pain is bad? Pain existing in the world with certain properties.

      Craig also argues against Platonism and so do many others (though not in the link you provide). In the end you haven’t gave any reason to believe that there is a non-theistic position that argues that there exists things that are objectively right and wrong. Most I’ve seen you say is, one can be a Platonist, believe in materialistic property emergence theorist, be a pluralist, or a dualist. These are not any real arguments.

      Yes, they are real arguments because those worldviews don’t have the reductionistic problems that Craig discusses. Craig proves that it’s impossible to be a reductionist moral realist, but not that it’s impossible to be a Platonist moral realist, and so on. He needs to prove that it’s impossible but didn’t. No such argument for Platonist moral realism even needs to be given! Craig is the one saying it’s impossible, but one does not have to give an argument for it to be possible. Your defense of Craig is like the following:

      A: God makes the world exist! Otherwise it would be impossible!

      B: What do you mean God must make it possible? Why couldn’t something else make it possible?

      A: No one has given an argument that “Something else makes the world exist,” therefore it is impossible to produce such an argument. Additionally, if it’s impossible to prove something through argument, then it’s false.

      Actually, it is possible for something to be true even before we can prove that it is true. This sort of thinking is riddled with horrible fallacious assumptions.

      I am not here to just “win an argument.” I am here to help people learn what they want. I give links because I have already discussed many of these issues in detail. If you are interested in my ideas and findings, then I would hope you would be willing to read them on your own.

      Let’s say that I give you an outline of why intrinsic values exist without appealing to God (and I have). You could then present me with several arguments against my statements — and I could have already discussed your “objections” in detail elsewhere in posts that I linked to. This is happening here and I don’t want to have to repeat myself over and over when you simply refuse to read the more detailed arguments. Not everything you say is unoriginal in this way and what you have to say is important, but reading more on these subjects can make both of our lives a lot easier.

      Comment by James Gray — November 1, 2010 @ 7:36 am | Reply

  11. You say, “If pain is bad, then it is prima facie wrong to cause pain. Whether or not such moral result is “overriding” depends on the other values that exist. Whether or not we are able to assess such a balance of values is besides the point. The point is that such values exist and they are important.

    This isn’t arbitrary. It’s saying that some values correctly describe the world. We have a choice about what decision to make. If one decision causes incredible pain with no pay off compared to alternatives, then that decision would be “wrong.” Nothing arbitrary about that. The decision is based on reality and the possibility of alternative courses of action.”

    The question is: who’s to say what’s good or bad? We do! We create what’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on our preferences. Through the process of natural selection we’ve evolved moral behavior. Much like we’ve evolved to digest food. There’s no more a good and evil way to digest food than there is to behave around others.

    It’s completely arbitrary. We create the scale and define the good and bad on our terms. There is no non-arbitrary scale to which we derive the good and bad from. The theist can ground and define the Good as God’s nature, and thereby have a non-arbitrary scale to derive at the good and bad.

    You say, “If you want premise form it’s like this:

    1. We know intrinsic values exist through experience.
    2. If we know intrinsic values exist through experience, then they exist.
    3. Therefore, they exist.
    4. If intrinsic values exist, then one course of action is better than other.
    5. If one course of action is better than another, then one is “right” and others could be “wrong.”
    6. Therefore, some actions are right and others are wrong.

    Premise 5 is the most questionable and it could be supported in various ways. I don’t think anyone has given a completely satisfying answer (even theists).”

    Yes, that’s something more of what I was looking for. Argument in premise form. What I like about this argument is if you actually think it’s valid and sound than you my may join the theist camp after reading the following argument.

    Premise 1. We know God exists through experience.
    Premise 2. If we know God exists through experience, then God exists.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    You made the statement if we know something [in this case intrinsic value] by experience then they are real. Very many people say they experience God and feel [experience] God in their lives.

    You say, If God exists and we measure value based on her being, then I don’t see how that helps. How does God’s existence tell me that pain is bad and that I shouldn’t hurt people? How would it help solve the balance of values that exists to find out which duty is overriding?

    We have actions that are permissible, obligatory, forbidden, supererogatory, and so on. How does God’s existence tell me what action belongs in a certain category? How does that work? I’m not saying that it can’t work, but I personally find such a theory to be highly mysterious.”

    Great questions! If God exists, more specifically God defined by classical theism, then we have a proper ontological foundation to affirm that certain things are, in fact, objectively good and evil. If a personal God exists and made us in his image, we thereby derive our inherit wroth from his personhood.

    To quote Aquinas, “In this way God Himself is the measure of all beings… Hence His intellect is the measure of all knowledge; His goodness, of all goodness; and, to speak more to the point, His good will, of every good will. Every good will is therefore good by reason of its being conformed to the divine good will. Accordingly, since everyone is obliged to have a good will, he is likewise obliged to have a will conformed to the divine will.” (QDV 23.7)

    See, you’re concerned about the content of morality – the knowledge of such principles and how we would apply it. I’ve been concerned about the source of such moral principles. This is where we’ve been talking past each other.

    You say, “Note that I don’t think moral realism is incompatible with the existence of God and so on. My main point is that theism doesn’t seem to help meta-ethical philosophy. It doesn’t help us understand how morality works. Additionally, to have the audacity to posit the existence of God based on the “superiority” of “theistic foundations for morality” would be to claim that it is superior to such an extent that warrants incredible ontological commitments that would ordinarily be a violation of Occam’s razor. Craig’s argument is an attempt at a very strong sort of argument along these lines and he actually says that nontheistic moral realism is impossible rather than merely “inferior” to theistic moral realism. That has been disproven by the very fact that moral realism and intrinsic value beliefs have been given relatively plausible accounts by nontheistic versions of moral realism. (These are beliefs that merely discuss morality without talking about God, but in no way disprove God’s existence.)”

    Theism paves the way for meta-ethical philosophy, in what I think is its truest form. Theism provides the view and grounds the fact that there are such things as objectively good and evil. Not only that, but theism provides the way for natural law to work, its need that God created persons where we would derive at moral truths through reason by the natural order of things [the created universe]. (As Alexander Pruss further notes, for natural law to work, human persons need to be understood in the Aristotelian way, which can be a design argument for the existence of God.) Given God’s existence, he would be the Author of creation, and thereby Author of the natural law, in which ethical theories use to derive at intrinsic value.

    You say, “There are different ways to understand obligation, but here’s one: You have a moral obligation to do something if not doing it would be sufficiently harmful and doing it wouldn’t be too difficult. Here “moral obligation” means “it would be wrong not to do it.”

    What kind of accountability do you want? I don’t think we need to fear punishment. I don’t think inevitable punishment or reward is necessary for morality to make sense. You should do what is right because you want to do it, because you care about people and want to help people rather than hurt them, and so on. It really his horrible to significantly hurt people, and that is why we shouldn’t want to do wrong.

    Let’s say that in addition to that God “holds us accountable.” What does that mean? Does he “feel bad” about what we did and point a finger? I don’t see how that helps anything.

    To be a good person means to understand moral reality and to care about things that “really matter.” Such a person is in harmony with moral reality — but no moral reality needs to exist beyond the physical world. Why? Because the physical world is the existence of people, who can suffer, become happy, etc. It is better to help people rather than harm them. Our actions can have harmful effects and we can often choose to do something that’s not harmful (or at least significantly less harmful).”

    I don’t agree with that definition of obligation that you are using. To be obligated to do something, it needs to imposed [either by oneself or by another person]. The question is who are what imposes such obligations in a non-theistic universe? Furthermore, who or what holds us accountability for these moral obligations? As Craig and others note, even if a can prove that there are objective values, given non-theism, the question is why should people live by them? Why live a moral life, when in-the-end it ultimately makes no difference if you helped the needy, or lived the life of a hedonist? Their is no ultimate difference. No more an ultimate difference then if I switched to eating watermelons, instead of pineapples.

    If there is no accountability, then there’s no one who holds you responsible for your actions. I know many say justice is an intrinsic good, and with God holding us accountability, there will be justice. It’s not about fear of punishment or wanting a reward, but about bearing responsibility.

    I’d argue none is good, but God alone (I could’t help to say that lol). However, the last part I agree with, except I would substitute moral reality with God’s eternal law.

    You say, “Yes, I gave an example at one point. We could merely “define” “right” as “maximizes happiness.” I’m not saying that I like that way of dealing with objective values, which is why it is a misleading term to use.

    I discuss why intrinsic values is central to the theistic debates and why I don’t think theism is needed for intrinsic values here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/does-morality-require-god/

    Depending on how we define intrinsic value, there may very well be no need to invoke God. However, my problem comes down to that many non-theists presuppose Goodness, and that humans have dignity, moral worth, and etc. Again, what is their ontological foundation, that allows them to affirm such things?

    You say, “Yes, I gave an example at one point. We could merely “define” “right” as “maximizes happiness.” I’m not saying that I like that way of dealing with objective values, which is why it is a misleading term to use.

    I discuss why intrinsic values is central to the theistic debates and why I don’t think theism is needed for intrinsic values here: http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/does-morality-require-god/

    Yes, it’s all in the definitions. What theists criticize from non-theists who are moral realists is how do they know what the Good is. What is the non-theistic ontological foundation for objective morality? Many non-theists simply presuppose moral worth and human dignity.

    You say, “Consequentialism offers one way to explain this. The rapist is misunderstanding how intrinsic values apply to decision making and “rightness.” I discuss this in quite some detail in the links I provided concerning intrinsic value earlier.”

    Again, the question would go toward the non-theistic consequentialist on explaining how he accounts for the Good. That’s where the debate lies. It’s easy to define intrinsic value as such and such and then apply it in the real world, without ever having to explaining the ontological foundation for the Good.

    You say, “It is theoretically possible for Platonism to be true even if God doesn’t exist. I am not personally a platonist, but I would be one if it was necessary to understand reality and one of my philosophy professors went in that direction. If you admit this, then you must admit that Craig’s argument presents a false dilemma because he doesn’t even talk about platonism for a second.

    I mentioned that emergence is another view that Craig does not discuss, and I think that’s a better way to account for intrinsic values (and therefore right and wrong as objective values).”

    I will certainly admit that Craig did not deal with a host of other possible theories and theories that will continue to be created. The question is – is Platonism and/or emergence true? I know many, including Craig, argue against Platonism. I would need to see some argumentation about the emergence option.

    You say, “Very interesting, do you have a link? I don’t really understand why Edward Feser thinks that. I asked some important questions above concerning this issue. Can you provide an argument in premise form?”

    Here’s the link: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

    The Euthyphro dilemma give us an either or: to choose from

    Premise 1: In the Euthyphro dilemma, the first option asks: Is something good simply because God commands it?
    Premise 2: In the Euthyphro dilemma, the second option asks: or does God command it because it is already good?
    Premise 3: The problem that arises given the first option is: it seems we are committed to the possibility that God could make it good for us to torture babies just for fun, simply by commanding it (Option 1 makes morality arbitrary)
    Premise 4: The problem that arises out of the second option is: it seems we are committed to saying that there is a standard of goodness independent of God, to which He refers us when He commands. This conflicts with the core theistic claims that God is the ultimate cause of all things, and in particular the source of all goodness
    Premise 5: If there is another option available then the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma.
    Premise 6. A third option, the one that the Euthyphro dilemma fails to mention is: that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him. God’s very essence is the source of Goodness.
    Conclusion: Therefore, the Euthyphro dilemma it is a false dilemma.

    You say, “Because it’s not clear to me that God exists, that God would automatically provide an adequate foundation for morality. First, morality might be based on physical reality rather than a direct appeal to God’s existence. If theism is true, I would find this to be plausible. Second, God might claim to be all good, but maybe she’s not. She might also think “good” means “I like it.” And so on.”

    Certainly a possibility. Classical theism teaches that God is the creator and sustenance of the universe. He is the author of the laws, and would be the one which grounds and governs the physical universe and anything that it’s based on [in this case morality].

    Divine simplicity, as defined by classical theism, argues that God does not think of a good as a like or preference, instead God is the Good, the summum bonum.

    You say, “I already have, and you never told me what’s wrong with my argument. (I gave you a link for the complete argument.) What exactly are Crag’s arguments? So far I doubt that he even understands what philosophers think about meta-ethics.

    If you have a link to a summary of Crag’s arguments, I would consider giving them a look.

    I gave you the simple gist of the argument, but there are many details that are also worth knowing about. As I said, there are philosophers other than myself who discuss why we should accept moral realism or intrinsic values, and they don’t talk about God. You can find some of them in the category “review”:

    http://ethicalrealism.wordpress.com/category/review/

    I can’t recall your argument off the top of my head. Just I didn’t wish to go back and forth between links and have to copy and paste your arguments here, and get all mixed up.

    However, you (and others, as well) keep equating objective good with intrinsic value. The question, as said a few times, is what is your ontological foundation for affirming that what ever you view as good is actually Good? That’s basically Craig’s argument/concern. Craig doesn’t really expand much, with regards to our conservation, in the Philosophical Foundation for a Christian Worldview.

    You say, “On the contrary. It is very hard. I don’t see it. I can imagine that God exists, but I don’t know that objective right or wrong exists based on that scenario. I don’t know how to decide if one act is an obligation, forbidden, or anything.”

    I want to clear the distinction between ontology and epistemology. I’m concerned about the ontology and the meta-physicality of such things as objective good and evil. You’re worried about the epistemology of such things – the knowledge that such and such is an obligation, forbidden, and etc. In our conservation, I have not been arguing about what exact things are objectively right and/or wrong. I’ve been arguing about if there actually are such things as objectively right and/or wrong.

    You say, “Yes, the nontheist does.”

    The non-theist, in this case you, have simply been giving suggestions, but not giving reasons to accept those suggestions [meaning you haven't given arguments to believe].

    You say, “What words did I put in his mouth? His argument completely fails because nontheism does account for objective value quite well and it’s not clear that an appeal to God helps. Additionally, Craig does not actually discuss all possible ways atheists try to account for objective values or should try to do so. These arguments are totally ignored. Hence, he makes use of suppressed evidence. The fact that he not only doesn’t try to do so himself, but he doesn’t in any way prove that such a task is impossible is why he commits an appeal to ignorance fallacy.

    He basically says, “Where does an atheist get a foundation for morality. I don’t know. These guys don’t know either. Therefore it’s impossible!” Sorry, but that doesn’t prove it’s impossible. It just means that certain people don’t know how to do it. Even if no atheists knew how to do it, we would still have no reason to think atheists must reject objective value.

    Let’s say that the theist could give a better foundation for morality than the atheist. That would be a much more modest argument than the one Craig gives, and I suppose it could be worth a try. I don’t think this argument would succeed either, though.

    One reason I don’t think it would succeed is that we would have to weigh many pros and cons: Simplicity (occam’s razor), comprehensiveness, explanatory potency, etc.”

    That’s your take. Though, it seemed he was saying theism gives an adequate [key word here] foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability. He also made sure to define objective values, so there would, hopefully, be no mix up.

    I think theism provides a better account for morality than non-theism. Simply put, God being the creator and sustainer of the universe, created persons in his image, giving us inherit worth and dignity. He also created us with moral faculties. I also think God installed us with sensus divinitatis (the ability to sense the divine). Further, God created a rational and ordered universe, which allows us to come to moral knowledge, which he himself is the Good.

    You say, “Why is pain bad? Because that’s how we experience pain. Why do we experience pain that way? Because that’s how the laws of nature operate. There doesn’t need to be any other reason that pain is bad other than that.

    Let’s say that theism gives a different answer. Perhaps it says that pain is bad because God feels no pain. That is utterly mysterious. God also doesn’t necessarily think about the fact that 1+1=2, but it’s not wrong to do so.”

    Who do you think theists believe created the universe, and thereby the laws of nature? Given the non-existence of God, why think a purposeless universe contains laws of nature that deal with objective morality?

    I don’t know of anyone arguing pain is bad b/c God feels no pain. I also don’t know anyone who says God also doesn’t necessarily think about the fact that 1 + 1 = 2. As God is all of Goodness, so is his intellect the measure of all knowledge [as Aquinas says]. God knows all propositions. God would know all truth/knowledge as one ‘block.’ God wouldn’t have to think about one thing while neglecting (or not being aware of) other propositions. God simply knows all propositions at all times. This is the concept of God, as classical theism teaches.

    You say, “To say that you experience something isn’t to say it’s basic. It’s not basic that my shirt is black, but I know it is through experience. God doesn’t have to exist to say that it’s true that my shirt is black exist anymore than he has to exist to make it true that pain is bad. What makes it true that my shirt is black? The shirt existing in the world with certain properties. What makes it true that pain is bad? Pain existing in the world with certain properties.”

    I think pain would be bad, with bad meaning something that one doesn’t want to have done to them. Bad should not be equated with what a theist would call evil. One doesn’t experience the bad, one experiences the pain and says, “That hurts, if only I was given lidocaine, I would no longer feel the sensation of pain.”

    You say, “Yes, they are real arguments because those worldviews don’t have the reductionistic problems that Craig discusses. Craig proves that it’s impossible to be a reductionist moral realist, but not that it’s impossible to be a Platonist moral realist, and so on. He needs to prove that it’s impossible but didn’t. No such argument for Platonist moral realism even needs to be given! Craig is the one saying it’s impossible, but one does not have to give an argument for it to be possible. Your defense of Craig is like the following:

    A: God makes the world exist! Otherwise it would be impossible!

    B: What do you mean God must make it possible? Why couldn’t something else make it possible?

    A: No one has given an argument that “Something else makes the world exist,” therefore it is impossible to produce such an argument. Additionally, if it’s impossible to prove something through argument, then it’s false.

    Actually, it is possible for something to be true even before we can prove that it is true. This sort of thinking is riddled with horrible fallacious assumptions.

    I am not here to just “win an argument.” I am here to help people learn what they want. I give links because I have already discussed many of these issues in detail. If you are interested in my ideas and findings, then I would hope you would be willing to read them on your own.

    Let’s say that I give you an outline of why intrinsic values exist without appealing to God (and I have). You could then present me with several arguments against my statements — and I could have already discussed your “objections” in detail elsewhere in posts that I linked to. This is happening here and I don’t want to have to repeat myself over and over when you simply refuse to read the more detailed arguments. Not everything you say is unoriginal in this way and what you have to say is important, but reading more on these subjects can make both of our lives a lot easier.”

    As I said earlier, they are not arguments, they are suggestions. Though, I agree if Craig is going to say something is an impossibility, than he needs to go go though all the other arguments and state why (or at least establishment one comprehensive argument that says theism can only provide such and such). However, I think the way he defined objective values. However, I think he’s right when he says there are no non-theistic argument for objective accountability. Even you hinted at an acknowledgement of this and said that we don’t need fear or reward to be good, but that fails to answer the fact that on non-theistic grounds there are no objective accountability.

    I agree, just because we can’t prove something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or is not true, obviously.

    With regards to your reference to my defense of Craig. You do know many theists believe if there isn’t a necessary being, then the existence of the universe would be impossible! For a necessary being is required to explain a Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact, BCCF for short. Alexander Pruss, wrote about this in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology – titled the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument. http://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/papers/LCA.html

    With regards to your last paragraph. Once again, it’s not about intrinsic value. It’s about the ontological foundation in which you derive at what is the Good. One can have a definition of intrinsic value, which never has to address the ontological foundation that explains how one can affirm such things as good and evil.

    Thanks for the conservation!

    Comment by J.C. — November 3, 2010 @ 10:19 am | Reply

    • It’s completely arbitrary. We create the scale and define the good and bad on our terms. There is no non-arbitrary scale to which we derive the good and bad from. The theist can ground and define the Good as God’s nature, and thereby have a non-arbitrary scale to derive at the good and bad.

      You are contradicting me. I think that there is a real intrinsic value that we can identify. People can be wrong about what has value, but they can also be right. A person can experience that their hand is solid and believe that it is solid. That doesn’t need “God” to explain why their experience provided knowledge. I see no reason to think that about intrinsic value either.

      “Right” and “wrong” aren’t completely arbitrary either. It’s unhealthy to eat too much chocolate despite the fact that we must know how to “draw the line.” There is vagueness here, but there is also a reality that we refer to. Vagueness doesn’t prove God’s existence.

      There might be some arbitrariness involved in morality just like there might be some involved with physical reality, but it’s not something that seems too offensive.

      Yes, that’s something more of what I was looking for. Argument in premise form. What I like about this argument is if you actually think it’s valid and sound than you my may join the theist camp after reading the following argument.

      Premise 1. We know God exists through experience.
      Premise 2. If we know God exists through experience, then God exists.
      3. Therefore, God exists.

      You made the statement if we know something [in this case intrinsic value] by experience then they are real. Very many people say they experience God and feel [experience] God in their lives.

      I find it much easier to agree that we experience that our hands are solid than that intrinsic values exist, but it’s also more plausible to think that intrinsic values are experienced than that God is experienced. For more information you need to read my actual argument in detail. I’m not going to repeat all the same points here.

      Maybe God is experienced, and maybe intrinsic values are. Either way, Crag’s argument fails.

      Great questions! If God exists, more specifically God defined by classical theism, then we have a proper ontological foundation to affirm that certain things are, in fact, objectively good and evil. If a personal God exists and made us in his image, we thereby derive our inherit wroth from his personhood.

      It sounds like you are saying that God has intrinsic value, so we do too because we are similar to God. However, the opposite argument seems to also work: God has intrinsic value insofar as she is similar to us. I see no special explanation being provided.

      To quote Aquinas, “In this way God Himself is the measure of all beings… Hence His intellect is the measure of all knowledge; His goodness, of all goodness; and, to speak more to the point, His good will, of every good will. Every good will is therefore good by reason of its being conformed to the divine good will. Accordingly, since everyone is obliged to have a good will, he is likewise obliged to have a will conformed to the divine will.” (QDV 23.7)

      I have no idea what to think about this quote. It doesn’t look like an argument to me.

      See, you’re concerned about the content of morality – the knowledge of such principles and how we would apply it. I’ve been concerned about the source of such moral principles. This is where we’ve been talking past each other.

      I am also interested in the “source of moral principles,” but the source of moral principles also should explain a little bit about how they are applied. That’s what could make a theory “comprehensive” and “explanatory.”

      So far God’s existence doesn’t seem to explain anything to me. If God is “perfect” then isn’t there an independent moral reality that is used to judge God’s perfection? If God makes commandments, don’t they also need to be based on an independent moral reality?

      Theism paves the way for meta-ethical philosophy, in what I think is its truest form. Theism provides the view and grounds the fact that there are such things as objectively good and evil.

      That’s what a theist hopes, but we need a good argument. If morality makes sense without God’s existence, then it seems to help very little.

      Not only that, but theism provides the way for natural law to work, its need that God created persons where we would derive at moral truths through reason by the natural order of things [the created universe]. (As Alexander Pruss further notes, for natural law to work, human persons need to be understood in the Aristotelian way, which can be a design argument for the existence of God.) Given God’s existence, he would be the Author of creation, and thereby Author of the natural law, in which ethical theories use to derive at intrinsic value.

      Yes, if God exists and created the universe, then that is true by definition. However, we simply don’t know why the universe exists. We don’t know that God must have created it.

      I don’t agree with that definition of obligation that you are using. To be obligated to do something, it needs to imposed [either by oneself or by another person].

      Why would you care about obligation if intrinsic values aren’t involved? How exactly does God give obligations that we wouldn’t have anyway? If intrinsic values exist and we can obligate ourselves to promote them, then why worry about God giving obligations?

      The question is who are what imposes such obligations in a non-theistic universe?

      Either we do, or this concern is just “playing with words.” Intrinsic values say that one actions is good and another bad. That is enough to decide what we “should do.”

      Furthermore, who or what holds us accountability for these moral obligations? As Craig and others note, even if a can prove that there are objective values, given non-theism, the question is why should people live by them?

      Because we can do good things and bad things. It’s better to do good things and it can be horrible to do bad things. How could an answer possibly be better than that?

      Why live a moral life, when in-the-end it ultimately makes no difference if you helped the needy, or lived the life of a hedonist? Their is no ultimate difference. No more an ultimate difference then if I switched to eating watermelons, instead of pineapples.

      The word “ultimate” here is basically just saying that helping people is good, but “not good enough!” I don’t see why I should agree that it’s not good enough. I think one human life matters enough.

      If there is no accountability, then there’s no one who holds you responsible for your actions. I know many say justice is an intrinsic good, and with God holding us accountability, there will be justice. It’s not about fear of punishment or wanting a reward, but about bearing responsibility.

      I don’t see God holding anyone accountable. Do you believe in heaven and hell? Is that what you think needs to hold us accountable? I think a good person would be good even if there was no heaven or hell. Such places are meaningless to me, even if they exist. The threat of punishment and opportunity for reward are not what matters here. Such things only matte if we are ethical egoists.

      I’d argue none is good, but God alone (I could’t help to say that lol). However, the last part I agree with, except I would substitute moral reality with God’s eternal law.

      I don’t know why you say this.

      Depending on how we define intrinsic value, there may very well be no need to invoke God. However, my problem comes down to that many non-theists presuppose Goodness, and that humans have dignity, moral worth, and etc. Again, what is their ontological foundation, that allows them to affirm such things?

      I already gave my argument. We can experience intrinsically valuable things as having value. Some things might be “good” for instrumental reasons — because they help promote intrinsic goodness. We don’t know exactly how these things can exist just like we don’t know exactly why my hand is solid, but a possible foundation can be found within emergence materialism. If this fails, then it is possible that a form of platonism is correct.

      I don’t think people should worry too much about “foundations” because they end up “making up” answers where we have none yet. To posit the existence of God is awfully ambitious for trying to explain unknown phenomenon when less ambitious possibilities also exist.

      Yes, it’s all in the definitions. What theists criticize from non-theists who are moral realists is how do they know what the Good is. What is the non-theistic ontological foundation for objective morality? Many non-theists simply presuppose moral worth and human dignity.

      I don’t know that they “just presuppose” such a thing. They might have a hard time fully explaining how they “know” goodness exists, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t know goodness exists.

      Some atheists are probably atheists for the wrong reasons. Some might even be moral realists for the wrong reasons. That’s certainly not to say that the same isn’t true for theists.

      I don’t pretend to know everything. There is a lot we don’t understand about knowledge and reality. My arguments are based on my own understanding, but they could be flawed. Still, I don’t think my arguments have been “proven false.” If they might be right, then Craig’s argument fails. He requires that it’s impossible for goodness to exist for nontheists, but I prove (if nothing else) that as far as we know goodness can exist given nontheism. I believe that my view is the best view out there, but I admit that some theists might be theists for the right reasons. I know that my view is not irrational, but I am not sure if theism is rational or not. Craig seems to want to argue that moral realist atheists are irrational because they believe something impossible. His argument fails.

      Here’s the link: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

      The Euthyphro dilemma give us an either or: to choose from

      Premise 1: In the Euthyphro dilemma, the first option asks: Is something good simply because God commands it?
      Premise 2: In the Euthyphro dilemma, the second option asks: or does God command it because it is already good?
      Premise 3: The problem that arises given the first option is: it seems we are committed to the possibility that God could make it good for us to torture babies just for fun, simply by commanding it (Option 1 makes morality arbitrary)
      Premise 4: The problem that arises out of the second option is: it seems we are committed to saying that there is a standard of goodness independent of God, to which He refers us when He commands. This conflicts with the core theistic claims that God is the ultimate cause of all things, and in particular the source of all goodness
      Premise 5: If there is another option available then the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma.
      Premise 6. A third option, the one that the Euthyphro dilemma fails to mention is: that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him. God’s very essence is the source of Goodness.
      Conclusion: Therefore, the Euthyphro dilemma it is a false dilemma.

      First, I agree that it is a false dilemma given the assumption that there is third possibility, but we don’t know if the third assumption is really possible or not. It might be logically possible, and therefore theism can provide a logically consistent foundation for morality. That doesn’t mean that theism can provide a plausible or even ontologically possible foundation.

      Second, it isn’t obvious that option 2 and 3 are really different options. It’s the issue I already mentioned: If God’s goodness explains goodness, then we know goodness exists just because it exists. However, the nontheist can give the same explanation. In other words the nontheist does not have to believe in an “independent moral reality” that resembles Plato’s forms.

      I want to clear the distinction between ontology and epistemology. I’m concerned about the ontology and the meta-physicality of such things as objective good and evil. You’re worried about the epistemology of such things – the knowledge that such and such is an obligation, forbidden, and etc. In our conservation, I have not been arguing about what exact things are objectively right and/or wrong. I’ve been arguing about if there actually are such things as objectively right and/or wrong.

      Yes, I know the difference. I have written about the ontology as well. That’s where emergence comes in.

      The non-theist, in this case you, have simply been giving suggestions, but not giving reasons to accept those suggestions [meaning you haven't given arguments to believe].

      I gave arguments, but I can only suggest where ontological foundations come from because we don’t know much about them at this time. The question for a materialist is: Why be a materialist? Can you account for morality within your system? I have talked about these issues elsewhere, but they are not clear cut. Platonism could be true as far as I know, but I am not yet convinced — and I think it looks overly ambitious to explain simple facts and mysteries.

      That’s your take. Though, it seemed he was saying theism gives an adequate [key word here] foundation for objective values, duties, and accountability. He also made sure to define objective values, so there would, hopefully, be no mix up.

      No, he was giving an argument for god. He was not merely saying that theism can account for moral realism better than atheists. He said that atheists couldn’t possibly do it. That’s how he supposedly concludes that God exists.

      He could have said, “we have at least prima facie reason to believe God exists because that’s the best way to account for moral realism” but that’s not what he said.

      I think theism provides a better account for morality than non-theism. Simply put, God being the creator and sustainer of the universe, created persons in his image, giving us inherit worth and dignity. He also created us with moral faculties. I also think God installed us with sensus divinitatis (the ability to sense the divine). Further, God created a rational and ordered universe, which allows us to come to moral knowledge, which he himself is the Good.

      Is there a good argument for this position? If so, you would have to actually compare it with the alternatives.

      Who do you think theists believe created the universe, and thereby the laws of nature? Given the non-existence of God, why think a purposeless universe contains laws of nature that deal with objective morality?

      Classical theists believe a perfect, all good, all powerful being created it.

      Atheists don’t know why the universe has laws of nature, and ultimately there might not be a “reason.” The word “reason” here might imply a “psychological motive,” but that would be begging the question.

      I don’t know of anyone arguing pain is bad b/c God feels no pain. I also don’t know anyone who says God also doesn’t necessarily think about the fact that 1 + 1 = 2. As God is all of Goodness, so is his intellect the measure of all knowledge [as Aquinas says]. God knows all propositions. God would know all truth/knowledge as one ‘block.’ God wouldn’t have to think about one thing while neglecting (or not being aware of) other propositions. God simply knows all propositions at all times. This is the concept of God, as classical theism teaches.

      Why does God judge pain to be intrinsically bad? The fact that he knows everything doesn’t explain how he knows.

      I think pain would be bad, with bad meaning something that one doesn’t want to have done to them. Bad should not be equated with what a theist would call evil. One doesn’t experience the bad, one experiences the pain and says, “That hurts, if only I was given lidocaine, I would no longer feel the sensation of pain.”

      The word “hurt” is a sort of badness, and we experience that. I didn’t equate “bad” with “evil.” I don’t know what point you want to make here.

      However, I think the way he defined objective values. However, I think he’s right when he says there are no non-theistic argument for objective accountability. Even you hinted at an acknowledgement of this and said that we don’t need fear or reward to be good, but that fails to answer the fact that on non-theistic grounds there are no objective accountability.

      What exactly is the theistic answer? Why isn’t my answer good enough? How do you know that “objective values” requires the sort of accountability the theist accepts?

      With regards to your reference to my defense of Craig. You do know many theists believe if there isn’t a necessary being, then the existence of the universe would be impossible! For a necessary being is required to explain a Big Conjunctive Contingent Fact, BCCF for short. Alexander Pruss, wrote about this in the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology – titled the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument. http://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/papers/LCA.html

      Yes, I have already admitted that God could be the cause of the universe. However, there could be no cause and so on.

      With regards to your last paragraph. Once again, it’s not about intrinsic value. It’s about the ontological foundation in which you derive at what is the Good. One can have a definition of intrinsic value, which never has to address the ontological foundation that explains how one can affirm such things as good and evil.

      I think that I made a good point about this with the explanation for lightning. Our understanding of ontology is flawed and we shouldn’t leap to the existence of God easily based on our ontological ignorance.

      I also made my point when I suggested that emergence or platonism seem to be alternatives to theism. For example, emergence could say that pain exists in the physical word and it is “intrinsically bad.” When I do the “right thing” I should make sure I won’t cause people needless pain. I will have options and I should choose the option without needless pain being involved.

      We aren’t going to be able to prove that one ontological possibility “has to be” the true one. However, it might be possible to narrow down the “most reasonable” ontological possibilities given our current understanding of the universe, theoretical virtues, and so on. I think that emergence is the best option involving moral realism at this time.

      Comment by James Gray — November 3, 2010 @ 9:45 pm | Reply

  12. What do you think of this version of the moral argument?

    1) Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature, or in an external cause.
    2) Moral facts exist.
    3) Some moral facts exist necessarily.
    4) Since the universe is contingent, there is nothing in the universe that can explain the existence of moral facts.
    5) The explanation of moral facts is either natural, or non-natural.
    6) The explanation of moral facts cannot be natural (Since the universe is contingent).
    7) The explanation of moral facts must be non-natural.
    8) The explanation of moral facts must either be abstract objects, or a non-natural person.
    9) Abstract objects do not exist, and/or persons are explanatorily prior to moral facts.
    10) Therefore, a non-natural person explains the existence of moral facts.
    11) Moral facts cannot exist independently of this non-natural personal entity, nor are these moral facts arbitrary since they are necessarily true.
    12) This non-natural personal entity must explain the existence of moral facts by its very nature.
    13) Evil is a privation of good.
    14) Therefore, this non-natural personal entity must be good by nature.
    15) Therefore, there exists a non-natural necessarily existent being that is good by nature.

    Premise (1) seems intuitive and to exhaust the possibilities for explanations of things that exist.
    Premise 2 is the majority view called moral realism.
    Premise 3 is crucial. I believe it is true because some moral facts are necessarily true (i.e. it is wrong to rape children), and since moral facts not only have a necessary truth value, but also exist, it seems to follow that moral facts must exist necessarily in order to be true in every possible world.
    Premise 4 can be defended by appealing to philosophical and scientific arguments that the universe is finite in the past.
    Premise 5 exhausts the possibilities.
    Premise 6 follows from 1-5.
    Premise 7 follows from 1-6.
    Premise 8 exhausts the plausible alternatives for non-natural, necessary beings.
    Premise 9 can be supported by arguments against the existence of abstract objects, and/or it seems eminently reasonable that even if abstract objects do exist, some moral reasons cannot be given without presupposing that persons exist.
    Premise 10 can follows from 1-9 and is plausible given Ockham’s Razor
    Premises 11-12 involves the Euthyphro Dilemma and a solution to the dilemma.
    Premises 13-14 are rooted in a medieval metaphysics of good and evil.

    Comment by Kevin — February 8, 2012 @ 6:08 pm | Reply

    • It’s an interesting argument, but almost every premise listed is controversial. The argument does a better job at showing God to be one possible explanation of moral facts than an argument to actually believe in God.

      Comment by JW Gray — February 8, 2012 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

  13. The length of some of the responses on here is mind-numbing. I mean, I value all your comments but there is a lot to be said for being concise.

    God does exist, and there is evidence everywhere. But the truth is that God needs to reveal Himself (herself/itself) to people in order for them to become believers, and God doesn’t always choose to do that. I think God enjoys the conversation between theists, atheists, and agnostics, and that’s why He does it.

    Best wishes, Steven (http://perfectchaos.org/)

    Comment by Steven — February 22, 2012 @ 8:41 pm | Reply

  14. Hi,

    There are major points which you seem to have missed. Recapping the 5 stage wording of WLC’s “proof”:

    1. Either we must be reductionistic materialists or theists.
    2. Reductionistic materialism can’t account for intrinsic values.
    3. Theism can account for intrinsic values.
    4. Intrinsic values exist.
    5. Therefore, God exists.

    There’s a leap from “theism” (belief in divine entities) to “existence” (of God).

    This has at least three aspects, one being that because you have an explanation which (apparently) works, then that explanation is necessarily true. That is to say, if you redefine “theism” to mean “acknowledging the factual existence of divine entities”, rather than “belief in divine entities”, then Craig is arguing that this single explanation for intrinsic values (existence of a divine entity) is both true and comprehensive. This is an example of Affirming the Consequent (http://www.fallacyfiles.org/afthecon.html) which also appears in the 3 part version of his “proof” which more adequately reveals the other issues here. The 3 stage proof is (in his own words):

    1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    ( http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-new-atheism-and-five-arguments-for-god )

    Of course, this version contains the same problems as the five part proof, in that the first two premises are far from controversial, they are in fact just statements of opinion. What Craig seems to want to do is quickly argue step 2 first, get the agreement of people like yourself (and you seem to have granted it, although I personally wouldn’t – certainly not without getting a firm understanding of what was meant by the terms). Then he wants to return to part 1 and argue by redefinition of terms, so that “objective values” are then agreed to be things that flow naturally from the existence of a god to form and enforce them which he does by basically by arguing the reverse. In other words, he argues that *if* there is a god with all the characteristics that WLC ascribes to him, then you’d have a sound basis for objective values – which is true (and even I would agree with it, and I assume that you would too). So, at this point the unwary will be labouring under the misapprehension that 1 is true and will have already accepted that 2 is true, and is then presented with 3 which does indeed follow logically, if you’ve accepted 1 and 2.

    As stated, the entire burden of proof is hidden under the bland wording of premise 1. Unless you redefine “objective moral values and duties” to mean “the moral values and duties as laid down by God”, there’s no reason to believe that the premise is necessarily true. If you don’t require necessary truth of premise 1 (and you accept premise 2), you can argue whatever you like:

    1. If the Grand Pixie does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
    3. Therefore, the Grand Pixie exists.

    Noting the form of this argument, and the apparent rules which allow you to make unsupported assertions in premise 1, we could present the Kim Kardashian proof (I couldn’t think of anything less meaningful):

    1. If God does not exist, then Kim Kardashian does not exist.
    2. Kim Kardashian does exist.
    3. Therefore, God exists.

    This is, in fact, a better argument because premise 2 is now less contentious – sadly very few people would be unaware of the existence of Kim Kardashian whereas there are schools of thought which deny the existence of “objective moral values and duties”, either totally or in part. Theists could not deny the truth of premise 1, right? (They would have to agree that without God, nothing exists, including Kim Kardashian.)

    Note that there are also plenty of appeals to emotion in another of his pieces ( http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/meta-eth.html ) – in which he claims that a valueless universe is abhorrent. Maybe, but being abhorrent hasn’t stopped things from existing. I don’t like earwigs, but they exist.

    The other thing he tends to do is say something along the lines of “leave all those problems aside” meaning “I’ve just raised something to distract you, but don’t think about it too deeply, because you’ll see that my logic is full of holes”. WLC does that in his The New Atheism and the Five Arguments for God, while addressing Dawkins’ Critique of Design. Firstly he argues that it is unnecessary to explain an explanation (ie if we find arrow heads in our garden, we can reach an explanation which includes some form of intelligent being which made them, without having to explain who or what they were or what they were doing in our garden). Then WLC argues against Dawkins argument that Intelligent Design is not elegant, in that the answer given is as complex as the problem it supposedly solves. WLC says “A hypothesis that has, for example, broader explanatory scope may be less simple than a rival hypothesis but still be preferred because it explains more things. Simplicity is not the only, or even most important, criterion for assessing theories!” and then calls for the reader to leave “all those problems” aside.

    He appears to do this because both his arguments against Dawkins fail (or at best are deceptive) if you take any time to review them.

    In summary, WLC is just another theologian who appears willing to abuse logic to further his goals and happy to ignore logic when it doesn’t suit him. It’s a little unfair to accuse him of being deliberately deceptive, since in his head he fully believes in the existence of God, so he’s quite likely unaware of what he is doing.

    cheers,

    neopolitan

    Comment by n30p0litan — June 10, 2012 @ 3:13 am | Reply

    • neopolitan,

      Thank you for your comments. I don’t think we can excuse any blatant fallacies used by Craig as unintentional because he is a professional philosophy professor who has been trained to understand these things.

      I agree with Craig that explanatory scope and simplicity are both theoretical virtues. The question is (in part) when we should accept an explanation rather than merely admit we don’t know what to think. Theists seem to think any explanation is better than none — or at least they often seem to lean closer to that position than atheists and skeptics in general.

      Comment by JW Gray — June 10, 2012 @ 3:23 am | Reply

      • Hi,

        The reason why I say it is possibly unintentional, or at least not deliberately deceptive, is due to the mind-set which is required to be a thinking theist. There appears to be a necessary disconnect between what you know and what you want to know if you are philosophically aware and theologically devoted. I’ve witnessed this disconnect (admittedly at less vaunted levels) while discussing points of theology and scripture with theists. Some of them seem to literally obey the two most important rules for scripture reading: Rule 1 – the Bible is infallible. Rule 2 – if the Bible is ever shown to be wrong, see Rule 1. This fracture in the mind of theists (or more kindly, the mental gymnastic ability), I think, makes it possible to present these deceptive seeming arguments without any intent to deceive. He quite possibly is utterly convinced by his own arguments. I agree though that it’s also quite possible that he is actually being deliberately deceptive, for what reason I cannot gather, since falsely believing in his god surely cannot be good in his estimation.

        I’m not arguing that explanatory scope and simplicity are not positive aspects of a theory, my point was merely that WLC did the same thing again, he drew attention to an argument that both you and I would agree with, and then encouraged his reader to move on quickly, hopefully before realising that the argument was used invalidly. It is in fact the very point is that *would* agree with his argument and, perhaps, not notice how it was used.

        And yes, I am happy with no knowing :)

        Comment by n30p0litan — June 10, 2012 @ 6:01 am

      • I will give theists the benefit of the doubt and assume that there are rational theists and rational forms of theism. I see no reason to think theism is necessarily irrational or unreasonable (even though my personal understanding of the world is that it’s more likely that theism is false).

        Although theists might be biased on fall victim to fallacious reasoning, everyone has that problem. Atheists rationalize and use fallacies as well. Jonathan Haidt has written about that issue recently. I’m not saying Haidt is correct in everything he says, but I think he makes some interesting arguments and the data he works with is worthy of consideration.

        I think there are theists out there smarter than I am and they don’t all think the Bible is infallible. (I doubt many of them think that.) Even if the Bible were infallible, interpretation would be required to assure us of that. If the Bible said, “1+1=3,” then we would have to interpret that very creatively. We could not believe it to be literally true. That would be stupid.

        My understanding is that there are legitimate theist philosophers out there who have some decent arguments worth thinking about. Craig does not prove God exists once and for all, but some of his arguments are at least somewhat intuitive and might nudge a person in that direction.

        Comment by JW Gray — June 10, 2012 @ 6:10 am

  15. On a first reading, I think a part seems to be incorrect. You say that

    “Killing is always wrong. If killing is always wrong, then we shouldn’t kill one person to save thousands of lives. Therefore, killing to save thousands of lives is wrong.” Some people would agree with both of the premises, but the conclusion is almost certainly false.

    I think the given argument is logically valid. Thus, if someone affirms both the premises, they cannot deny the conclusion, lest they want to contradict themselves. The problem with this argument seems to be the premise 1, as one cannot categorically condemn killing, but if one does they can’t reject the conclusion!

    Comment by Arpit Chauhan — May 26, 2013 @ 5:08 am | Reply

    • Sorry, I got the point later. You say that some people accept the premises, but we can’t accept the conclusion. As the person affirming the premises, and rejecting the conclusion changes, there is no contradiction.

      Comment by Arpit Chauhan — May 26, 2013 @ 5:13 am | Reply

  16. But the fact that mind is an emergent property is not relevant. So what if it is?!

    Comment by andygsp — May 8, 2014 @ 2:20 am | Reply

    • andygsp,

      I explained why it is relevant above, but I will try again.

      Craig want to argue that we have to either be some type of extreme reductionistic materalists or theists. That is wrong.

      Here is Craig summarizing his own argument:

      Today I want to argue that if God exists, then the objectivity of moral values, moral duties, and moral accountability is secured, but that in the absence of God, that is, if God does not exist, then morality is just a human convention, that is to say, morality is wholly subjective and non-binding. We might act in precisely the same ways that we do in fact act, but in the absence of God, such actions would no longer count as good (or evil), since if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist. Thus, we cannot truly be good without God. On the other hand, if we do believe that moral values and duties are objective, that provides moral grounds for believing in God.

      Why would anyone think that morality has to be merely a human convention or that there are no objective moral values assuming God doesn’t exist? That would be the case with an extreme type of reductionistic materialism. It is certainly not the case assuming objective values could be emergent.

      William Lane Craig makes his assumption that atheists have to be some type of reductionistic extremists when he says,

      The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalistic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view: materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists or physicalists, who regard man as a purely animal organism. But if man has no immaterial aspect to his being (call it soul or mind or what have you), then he is not qualitatively different from other animal species. For him to regard human morality as objective is to fall into the trap of specie-ism. On a materialistic anthropology there is no reason to think that human beings are objectively more valuable than rats. Secondly, if there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of our five senses and our genetic make-up. There is no personal agent who freely decides to do something. But without freedom, none of our choices is morally significant. They are like the jerks of a puppet’s limbs, controlled by the strings of sensory input and physical constitution. And what moral value does a puppet or its movements have?

      Notice that he is almost implying that the atheist has to not only reject all supernatural stuff (which is questionable in itself), but he is also implying (to some extent) that atheists can’t believe we have minds at all (which he says are immaterial). Well, perhaps he would admit that atheists can believe in a “material mind” rather than an “immaterial” one. Insofar as the mind can be material, I think objective value (what I call intrinsic value) can be material. However, I do not dismiss the idea that the mind and intrinsic value could be emergent as well. They could be quite unique from other things in the world rather than being identical to solid objects. I do not think it makes sense to say that only solid objects and movement exists, which is an extremist type of materialism.

      Comment by JW Gray — May 8, 2014 @ 2:37 am | Reply


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