Thursday, January 03, 2008

A scenario, continued

In my last post, I asked a question that was deliberately provocative (raping and murdering little girls is about the worst thing I can think of, especially given that I am a father of a little girl). I did so in order to ensure that the question would not be misunderstood and also to provoke the greatest possible chasm to appear between worldview and the instinct/liveability of said worldview.

What did we get as responses?

1) G-man tripped all over himself trying to explain Desire Utilitarianism.
He's right that more explanation would be required.
Maybe I'll break down his recent post on the subject soon. I *am* growing a little thin on blogpost ideas, so that'd be a needed shot in the arm.

2) Anonymous said:
-As an atheist I would say:

*Is* what he is doing wrong ?
No

Awesome - you and I are thinking on the same wavelength, given atheism. Now just go ahead and try to live that out, my friend. It'll be a LOT harder to live that out in real life than to say "no" in a blog combox.
Besides, ANY time you protest anyone else's rights (or, arguably, even your own) not to be oppressed or something similar, you show that you don't really believe this.

Then he says:
-Some people deserve to live. Most people don't.

By this he shows that he can't live it out. And he didn't even make it past one short combox comment!
This brings up a question, Anonymous, if you're still around - how do you know who deserves to live and who doesn't?

3) John Morales asked about circumcision.
He offered no explanation in the slightest but just asked me another question. Hopefully he'll decide to explain, given a 2nd call-out.

4) merkur begged the question in the following way:
-it is worth noting that some things are of course "more wrong" than others. This mutilation of which you speak, for example, is less wrong than raping little girls

Thereby showing that he can't live out Anonymous' claim either.
But maybe he doesn't believe it.

Then he says:
-A secular moral system can explain this

That's the question I keep asking.
Why is it I answer questions posed to me, but a substantial amount of atheist commenters here won't? Here's hoping for another try.

75 comments:

Matt M said...

I'm not quite sure why you see this as solely an atheistic problem - all a theist would be able to say is: "Because my God says so" (although they probably wouldn't say it is such a crude form), which gets you nowhere if the other person doesn't share your beliefs.

If you're looking for how atheists justify it to themselves, then again we're no different to anyone else - we have certain intuitive beliefs that drive our behaviour: good is better than bad, for example.

Rhology said...

Matt M,

Remember, this is a question to YOU, not to me.

Here's an explanation of why this isn't a problem for the Bible-believer.

then again we're no different to anyone else

You're different than me and other Bible-believers, so you're wrong there.

we have certain intuitive beliefs that drive our behaviour: good is better than bad, for example.

Begging the question.
1) How do you know "good" in that sentence?
2) How do you know "better" in that sentence?
3) How do you know "bad" in that sentence?

These are serious questions, I'd appreciate a thoughtful answer.

Matt M said...

Remember, this is a question to YOU, not to me.

I know. And I asked you one in return.

What makes these laws good?
-We need SOME standard to tell what good and bad are. In atheism, that's totally lacking.
These laws from God are backed up with the force of justice. He will punish all breakers of the law with eternal torment, so evil is met with just judgment.


So the only validation of God's law is that he'll torture you for eternity if you refuse to accept them?

Nice.

If God is the foundation of your moral views, then how do you judge whether God is good or bad (and therefore worth following)?

These are serious questions, I'd appreciate a thoughtful answer.


Good and bad are - at their root - largely intuitive judgements (formed through biology and socialisation). For example, I believe it's wrong to cause suffering in animals (and I therefore don't eat meat). At the root of this judgement is the intuition that suffering is wrong. Coupled with various other beliefs (such as that animals are capable of suffering in a significant way - based on my knowledge of animal behaviour and physiology) this leads me to take up the position that we shouldn't kill animals for their meat where it can be avoided.

My belief that "suffering is wrong" is pretty much axiomatic. Were I meet someone who held the opposite view I wouldn't be able to argue with them.

merkur said...

You seem to find the idea that there is a continuum of right and wrong difficult to manage. Yet I assume that you - like the rest of us - live out that continuum in your everyday life, just like every other human being that has ever lived. How exactly is that begging the question?

merkur said...

And please don't answer "Because you haven't established whether it's wrong yet", because I have established that it is wrong. I haven't established that it's wrong to your satisfaction - but that is a completely different thing, and it's worth noting that you haven't established that it's wrong to my satisfaction either.

thomastwitchell said...

(such as that animals are capable of suffering in a significant way - based on my knowledge of animal behaviour and physiology)

How do you know they suffer? You know they have pain. You know that they have physiological and behavioral response to it. But, how do you know they suffer? Isn't suffering a contemplative emotion? To say that animals suffer is an anthopomorphism, isn't it?

How do you know what an animal is contemplating? I guess then we have a difference in definition. Where do these words reside? Are they resident only in chemical interactions bound by physical mass? Do they express thoughts, and as expressions of thought, are they thoughts themselves? Is a picture in the mind only a picture of words, or does it exist in the mind without explanation? Do pictures have meaning in and of themselves without words. Can pain exist without contemplation? The answer is yes, and therefore suffering is not to be equated with it, nor is suffering to be equated with behavioral or physiological responses.

As to the definition of good. Who says that suffering and even pain is not good? Christians understand pain and suffering not to be natural, but a result of sin, and therefore not good. We also understand that pain and suffering can be used for good. And if you are familiar with the unconscious physiological changes brought about by pain, then you understand, that pain, can be a good that adjusts the body to promote healing.

Now, we can see that the nuances of good are varied, but in any case it is not contingent upon a naturalistic explanation. Just like the picture in the mind can be expressed by words here in the meta, there is no necessary connection between my physiology and your reading of them. There is a phenomenological disconnect just as there is between thought and physiology. And, let me draw one more distinction, there is a difference between thinking, or contemplating, and the thoughts or contemplations that are involvled. Creative expression is perhaps the clearest example that there are many ways to think what I am thinking.

So, getting back to naturalistic explanations of pain, you have heard it said, no pain, no gain, so suffering is not inherently a non-good in application, though, it is not good, if one considers that there is a more perfect state. You have asserted that suffering is not good, yet, to do so you must appeal to a more perfect state, and by doing that you agree that there is something that is not in measurable existence that is ultimately the good you desire. Suppose you reached the state of non-suffering, would that be the absolute state for that condition? If so, then you agree to a transcendent possibility of an absolute, a metaphysical reality that is not bound by physical experimentation, otherwise you would not even pursue that state.

Now, the question is, how do you know that that good exists. If the final state is not the perfect state, then the matter of alleviating suffering is only a matter of degree, having reached a plateau of less suffering than before, you would still be in a state of suffering, that from another's perspective may be intolerable animal suffering, and one that for them is unbearable suffering provoking them to seek what you have only acquiesced to not existing. Being familiar with the practice of medicine, pain is measured subjectively, because there is no objective physical measure. Each patient presents their own baseline. What is a zero for some, is a ten for others. Even when objective analysis is applied, it is at best inconsistent with self-reporting. You knew that right?

The point is this. Scripture tells us that no man knows another man's pain. It is impossible for you to experience what I do. Empathy is a myth. So, I can never convince you of my suffering, and though you may be able to demonstrate my physiological pain you may still be deceived by my behavior as to the extent of my suffering in it. Scripture affirms what we know physiologically is logically disconnected from what we know psychologically, how do you suppose that is the case? Your bad suffering, is another man's good, but that is not really the question.

The question is what is good? Upon what ultimate authority, baseline measure, is what you say good? You equated Christianity with Atheism as both having the same measure of appeal, but that is not true. We know that there is an absolute, and base our view upon that knowledge. You say that you do not know there is and so, you base your opinions on no certain standard. But, you go further, you say that there is no standard, but by asserting a differetial between good and bad, you contradict yourself, because by asserting the difference you agree that there is an absolute if only in the differtial itself.

You say your good is good to you, but what if it is not good to me? By what standard, which for all practical purpose stands in the place of an absolute authority (the differential) which must be transcendent, that is outside of us, will your good be judged good, so that I do not cause you suffering if I should assert my good established by shear authoritarian "because I said so" force? By what standard can I not inflict suffering upon you, if ultimately, to me it is a good to me to do so?

Finally, your only standard of what is good for me is what is good is you. How is that any different than your question: how do we judge God good or bad? How do we judge your intuition as being the ultimate power in the universe for determination of good? How do we know you are sane enough to actually be intuiting properly?

Isn't this what it really boils down to: an atheist has a near pathological rejection of authority and any imposition of external authority causes one to emotionally withdraw into authoritarianism. He digs in his heels, goes into his own contrived pouty world where he alone is god, and refuses to come out unless others agree with him?

Matt M said...

Thomastwitchell,

How do you know they suffer?

It is an educated guess.

I use suffer in a straight-forward dictionary sense:

a state of pain or distress

You're right that we have no way of experiencing exactly what others are experiencing, but I don't think it's necessary. When my friend cries out and clutches his hand I take it that he has hurt himself. When animals squeal or whine as they try to escape the person kicking them I think it's reasonable to assume that they are having a similar experience - especially when biology tells us they have nervous systems that bear some similarity to our own. We can never know for certain what goes on in another mind, but we can still form judgements on external activity.

However, the nature of animal suffering isn't too relevant and I fear we could be dragged off topic quite easily.

you have heard it said, no pain, no gain, so suffering is not inherently a non-good in application, though, it is not good, if one considers that there is a more perfect state

If through the death of a close friend, s person rediscovers a lust for life we'd say that some good came from it. But most people would agree that a way of achieving the same result without the pain would be preferable. So pain is arguably best avoided where possible.

You have asserted that suffering is not good, yet, to do so you must appeal to a more perfect state, and by doing that you agree that there is something that is not in measurable existence that is ultimately the good you desire.

I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here.

I have preferences, formed through biology and socialisation that guide my actions. The closer something lies to my preferences the "better" I consider it, the further the "worse". If the world existed exactly as I wanted it to (if it were "perfect") then I would have no more cause for action. None of this seems to require the existence of a transcendental realm, unless you're arguing for a dualist account of the mind (in which my preferences have no physical existence).

We know that there is an absolute, and base our view upon that knowledge.

I don't believe that an absolute exists in moral judgements. But let's say that it does: In order to use that absolute as a baseline for your morality you'd still have to judge whether it itself was good - and how do you do that? If you use a comparison with God's judgements as a measure, how do you evaluate His judgements?

By what standard can I not inflict suffering upon you, if ultimately, to me it is a good to me to do so?

There is no ultimate standard - no ultimate authority to appeal to. If I'm targeted by a psychopath who shares none of my beliefs then the best I can do is defend myself.

How do we judge your intuition as being the ultimate power in the universe for determination of good?

We can't judge our intuitions - as they're the source of our judgements. But I'm not suggesting that I should decide what's good for everyone: I simply use my intuitions as a guide for my actions.

To use Rhology's original example, in the case of X wanting P and Y wanting not-P I have no ultimate authority to appeal to (although there may be fallible guides I trust), so I simply have to choose which has the aim in closest accord with my preferences. I don't like suffering (in myself or others), so - assuming they did not want to be kidnapped and raped - I would side with the girls and defend them.

How do we know you are sane enough to actually be intuiting properly?

That is for you to decide.

Anonymous said...

- Besides, ANY time you protest anyone else's rights (or, arguably, even your own) not to be oppressed or something similar, you show that you don't really believe this.

Wow. You are confusing with what I think about my rights, and what I think about whatever God decrees.
If a God decrees something it must be right and just (as far as this scenario is concerned). Denying the odd behavior in some religion (not matter how crazy they sound like), does not give you any advantage on justifying your own religion’s craziness (unless you believe in that only-one-god nonsense, which breaks the condition of this scenario by falsifying all other gods).

- you show that you don't really believe this
as I said, I am an atheist. You are right. I do not really believe it. It is just a response to your proposed scenario.

-Some people deserve to live. Most people don't.

What you should have read from that line is that I do not really care what happens to the other lots. It is a position opposite but comparable to ‘Some people do not deserve to live. Most people do’.

In a scenario where there are multiple religions (theirs and yours) with real Gods, discussing which religious behavior is right or wrong is pointless because both religions are decreed by Gods that are all right and just. Such discussion will be reduced down to analysis of one’s morale basis, which is irrelevant as far as the scenario is concerned (unless the point of considering the scenario is to make verbal attack on other’s *personal* morales).

-This brings up a question, Anonymous, if you're still around - how do you know who deserves to live and who doesn't?

Simple. If you care about the person, the person deserves to live. Let those people who deserve to live, live. As for the rest of the people you do not care, they do not deserve to live. Let these people do whatever they want. Just because someone does not deserve to live does not mean that I have to go around killing those people.

In your religion where ability to know anything is linked with “what God would know”, that is a trick question (I know if I answer your question, you will be responding how I am justified to claim to know what only Gods will know with any certainty). As a normal human being, it is impossible to *know* anything with any significance to what God knows. Please paraphrase your question with wordings such as *feel*, so I do not need to employ my God-like powers (if any).

SBDA said...

Such a heinous act can be subjectively categorized as 'wrong' because it is severely unpleasant to me. My society generally perceives the practice the same way and we collectively consider it to be 'wrong'. The natives have no such distaste and most certainly could further qualify the practice with evidences of how beneficial it is, culturally, religiously, economically, and so forth. I might be tempted to appeal to some higher order, be it divine Law via morality, or natural law arguing the futility of maiming and killing your own, but I think this would be more pious than honest. It sickens me and thus is wrong, but when this act (or any other) no longer is quite so disgusting to me it ceases to be a moral issue and becomes a matter of permissibility and preference. I then will reframe the moral by reinterpreting the basis of what made it moral in the first place.

For instance, having spent time with said native culture, I will concede that the traditional native rite shouldn’t be blanketed as being moral, immoral, or even amoral, not because God (or Nature) isn’t necessarily fundamentally opposed to raping and killing girls as goes the tradition, but because the practice is uncivilized for the current time, or maybe it violates some health principle that has been unknown to the people until now, say the sanitary disposal of bodies or perhaps the transmission of disease. I’ll fight for reform however, because the ritual sickens me and I’ve experienced a way that is more livable to me.

I would argue the theist is no different than anyone else in this respect. Perhaps we could simply ponder some once disgusting and thus ‘immoral’ acts that are now ‘permissible’ among converted-folk such as eating blood-based foods (e.g., Christianized Germany) or we could ask how many married Bible-toting types wait the full seven days after a woman’s menstrual period to resume sexual activity. Circumcision presents lots of problems. I’m arguing that although a truly livable worldview can be postulated by an apparent objective moral, it is ultimately realized by a subjective consciousness. The hypothetical act doesn’t need to be immoral to be unpleasant, yet unpleasantness is sufficient to evoke feelings of wrongness, motivated by what I find to be livable.

G-man said...

Rhology - Looking forward to it! Remember, though, that atheism is not a theory of morality. One nice thing about desire utilitarianism is that people don't have to accept it to be good people.

I'm perfectly happy with Matt M justifying his distaste/disagreement with animal suffering. He's not harming anybody that way. Where he (or you, or I) deserve moral criticism is where we actually exhibit harmful behaviors and tendencies.

Thomas -

Asking "Who says that suffering and even pain is not good" is just a little bit silly. If morality is objective and/or universal, it doesn't matter what anybody says. If it's subjective, what one person says is irrelevant anyways.

As for the whole "no pain no gain" thing, there's still a separation between "pain" and "gain." Pain or suffering, then can be seen as a means to an end. Rarely is it considered be be an end in itself.

"Empathy is a myth."

I wonder how you define empathy, because it certainly seems to be a matter of degrees. If my smiling causes you to smile (and this is certainly possible), then empathy is not a myth.

As for the question of "what is good," you may be interested in following Rho's commentary on my blog (which hasn't started yet, to my knowledge). I believe - as proposed by another atheist - that there is such a thing as "good," and, more importantly, that its definition is in no way tied to ultimate authorities, baseline measures etc, but that the "good" is objective nonetheless.

G-man said...

sbda,

You interpretation of morality is a little depressing. Not that it makes it wrong, but... what is "a better world?"

From your perspective, it doesn't seem like such a thing exists. If Hitler got you to understand where he was coming from, genocide would become not just permissible, but an admirable moral goal.

Generally, an example like that (or Rho's) is used to try to establish a reductio ad absurdum, but that doesn't really work with your understanding of morality, I guess. Foster a society in which bigotry, racism and genocide are praised, and you'd be content with your children taking part in this because - hey, it's not unpleasant or heinous to them.

Now, bringing up practices that were once seen as immoral in a given culture but are now accepted does not prove morality to be contingent on public approval. I believe that such practices can be evaluated on the harm they generate, and that *actually better* practices can be introduced in their stead.

I also believe that the harm generated by bad practices can be demonstrated regardless of time, civility, individual or societal preference. That's why I differ strongly from you here.

Rhology said...

Thomastwitchell seems to be calling into question the atheist commenters' seemingly general accord that suffering=bad. He has done so 2 ways:
1) "no pain, no gain"; pain is a warning tool, pain is to point us to sthg that is wrong
2) showing that the atheist ASSUMES that suffering=bad without any way to show how beyond an appeal to "well, DUH! It HURTS, right? Most people don't like it, right?"

The 2nd is exactly my point. The 1st is interesting too.

Moving on...

Matt M said:
the only validation of God's law is that he'll torture you for eternity if you refuse to accept them?

No, that's why I linked to a whole post on the subject. Responding to 1/2 of the sentence that you pasted isn't a very impressive gambit.


how do you judge whether God is good or bad

I can't. He is the 1st principle of morality.
You may cry circularity, and it's true.
Remember, though, 4 things:

1) Examining 1st principles are circular by nature. Therefore...
2) ...appealing to your own personal preference to justify your personal preference is just as circular.
3) My 1st principle has logical "jurisdiction" (if you will) to make moral judgments over things outside of Himself. Yours doesn't.
4) When I call stuff "bad" and "good", I'm acting consistently with what I believe. When you try to enforce your morality on someone else, say by calling acts in the Bible barbaric or evil or sthg, you are acting INconsistently with what you believe.

And as I'm sure we'd agree, inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

Good and bad are - at their root - largely intuitive judgements

Begging the question.

My belief that "suffering is wrong" is pretty much axiomatic.

Why could not Timothy McVeigh or Genghis Khan say that the opposite is pretty much axiomatic? Were they not men, like you?

Were I meet someone who held the opposite view I wouldn't be able to argue with them.

1) B/c you'd have no basis to do so.
2) When other atheists call acts in the Old Testament "barbaric" and "evil", would you tell them they have no ability to make that call? Why or why not?

But most people would agree that a way of achieving the same result without the pain would be preferable. So pain is arguably best avoided where possible.

1) Why make "most" people the measure of moral judgment?
2) How can you justify it in this scenario - the tribal man's ENTIRE TRIBE, all he's ever known, thinks it's not only OK but morally required to rape and kill those little girls?
3) How do you know it's "most"? Where is your polling data?

I have preferences, formed through biology and socialisation that guide my actions. The closer something lies to my preferences the "better" I consider it, the further the "worse".

This is EXACTLY my point.
What if my preferences are different? You have nothing to say, do you?
I really should name this tribal rapist/murderer. How about Tkalim?
Tkalim's preferences are to rape and murder these children. As I said, I have quite a bit to say to him. You apparently would tell him that he might like a new life better, or that you don't like what he does. A question of moral authority comes into play at some point, doesn't it? Whence cometh your authority to try to enjoin such behavior modification on Tkalim?

If you use a comparison with God's judgements as a measure, how do you evaluate His judgements?

His judgments are the very standard by which we measure everythg ELSE.

If I'm targeted by a psychopath who shares none of my beliefs then the best I can do is defend myself.

Apparently without any justification beyond "I don't like you exercising your personal moral beliefs in attacking me."
Might makes right in an atheist worldview.

We can't judge our intuitions - as they're the source of our judgements.

Then I'll ask the same question to you that you asked about God's moral judgments:
If you use a comparison with your intuitions as a measure, how do you evaluate your intuitions?
How does that not make you your own god?




merkur said:
You seem to find the idea that there is a continuum of right and wrong difficult to manage.

I'm just asking you to justify it. If you're right, it shouldn't be that much to ask.
But naked assertions on merkur's authority aren't cashed at this bank. Make the argument.

Yet I assume that you - like the rest of us - live out that continuum in your everyday life

I can justify it, and you can't. that's the main difference.
Of course, there have been and remain many men on earth who are evil (that's what I get to say), who are different than you (that's what you have to say) who wouldn't agree with what you're saying. They like sticking swords into women and children and blowing them up whenever possible. This is one reason making man the measure of moral judgments is so problematic.




Anonymous said:
You are confusing with what I think about my rights, and what I think about whatever God decrees.

Your personal prefs are nothing more than that - personal.
Enjoining behavior on someone else is pushing your personal prefs onto someone else.
This is just might makes right, without any authority or justification for it.

In a scenario where there are multiple religions (theirs and yours) with real Gods

Such a scenario is not possible.
There is one true worldview, one true reality.
Religions are mutually exclusive: either one is right or none is.

discussing which religious behavior is right or wrong is pointless because both religions are decreed by Gods that are all right and just.

If it's me discussing with Tkalim, I tell him he stands condemned (respectfully, of course) and then proceed to explain WHY that is and WHY his religion is wrong. There are many means at my disposal at that time.
I don't just quote Bible verses at him, though I'd *start* there.


In your religion where ability to know anything is linked with “what God would know”

Mmmmm, I see what you mean, but I don't think that's quite the right way to say it.
God Himself is truth, truth proceeds out of Him. But to say that what I know is what God would know is not exactly right - God doesn't know what it's like, personally, to repent of sin, for example, since He's never sinned.

(I know if I answer your question, you will be responding how I am justified to claim to know what only Gods will know with any certainty)

Check my next newer post to this one - it IS true that you are taking the role of Deity onto yourself here.


SBDA said:
My society generally perceives the practice the same way and we collectively consider it to be 'wrong'.

"Society" is nothing more than the aggregate of what most people's personal preferences consider to be right and wrong.
Tkalim's society, however, considers your society completely wrongheaded. So who's right? How do you know?

I might be tempted to appeal to some higher order, be it divine Law via morality, or natural law arguing the futility of maiming and killing your own

Oh, man, you ALMOST went there, didn't you?
This is part of my point - your disgust shows that you actually DO think that this is an OBJECTIVELY disgusting, heinous act. But your worldview provides no way to say anythg is right or wrong objectively, so you back off from it.
And yet many atheists can't help themselves - they call acts like this "barbaric" or rip the Bible for including "barbaric" acts in it. In doing so, they borrow from a theistic worldview. But when asked about it, they try to hide the evidence. "No officer, of course I haven't been tasting from the theistic punch tonight!"

It sickens me and thus is wrong

Oh please. It makes Tkalim very happy, and he's been doing this for 30+ years. It's right.
So who's right - you or him? How do you know?

but because the practice is uncivilized for the current time

Tkalim's society doesn't care nor is interested in becoming "civilised". For example, your whole society sits on communal commodes to defecate. That is disGUSTing.

maybe it violates some health principle that has been unknown to the people until now

Maybe Tkalim's society's moral code includes precepts that are, as a matter of course and common knowledge, self-destructive. So what? Natural selection in action, right?

we could ask how many married Bible-toting types wait the full seven days after a woman’s menstrual period to resume sexual activity

The only reason one would ask that is b/c they were ignorant of the function of the Mosaic Law.


Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

Instead of engaging in ridiculous round-robin discussions on this thread, can I suggest that we take this to a specific and separate thread where we can clearly establish our positions and outline the reasons why we can never agree. Otherwise this is all too piecemeal for us to get anywhere.

Matt M said...

My 1st principle has logical "jurisdiction" (if you will) to make moral judgments over things outside of Himself.

Could you elaborate on this?

When I call stuff "bad" and "good", I'm acting consistently with what I believe. When you try to enforce your morality on someone else, say by calling acts in the Bible barbaric or evil or sthg, you are acting INconsistently with what you believe.

I'm not sure you can describe criticism as enforcing anything, at least not without doing some violence to the English language.

I'm curious as to where you see the inconsistency. I have certain desires that I wish to see brought into effect and act to bring them about as best I can.

Begging the question.

In what way?

It's a fairly empirical observation - if no foundational point of an argument can be found then it is, by definition, intuitive.

Why could not Timothy McVeigh or Genghis Khan say that the opposite is pretty much axiomatic? Were they not men, like you?

I'm sorry if I didn't make myself entirely clear - I meant axiomatic to me. It is what I believe and what I will seek to convince others of.

When other atheists call acts in the Old Testament "barbaric" and "evil", would you tell them they have no ability to make that call? Why or why not?

Again, I'm curious as to why you see it as inconsistent to try to bring others around to my point-of-view.

1) Why make "most" people the measure of moral judgment?

I wasn't.

I was specifically responding to the phrase "you have heard it said", which implies a recourse to general knowledge, I was replying in kind.

Tkalim's preferences are to rape and murder these children. As I said, I have quite a bit to say to him. You apparently would tell him that he might like a new life better, or that you don't like what he does. A question of moral authority comes into play at some point, doesn't it? Whence cometh your authority to try to enjoin such behavior modification on Tkalim?

Were Tkalim to hold his beliefs yet not act on them then my interference would most likely not extend beyond a friendly chat, which would be terminated at his wish. However, by choosing to impose his will over others, Tkalim has presented me with a choice - do I accept his desires or the desires of those who oppose him (the girls)? I cannot help but choose, and so do so based on my own desires.

merkur said...

BTW I don't need to justify the fact that a continuum exists - it simply exists. You don't disagree, because you've already stated that raping and murdering little girls is "about the worst thing I can think of", which tells us that you believe that it's at the far end of a scale of moral wrong.

I can justify such a continuum even if (in fact, especially if) my morals are subjective. You, on the other hand, have only presented us with a moral framework that says things are either right or wrong - does God think some things are less wrong than others?

Timmo said...

There is a strong streak of divine command theory here: whatever is good or right is what is commanded or dictated by God.

In Plato's dialog Euthyphro, Socrates meets Euthyphro, who is going to court to prosecute his father for murder. Socrates asks why Euthyphro would do this to his own father, and Euthyphro responds that it is the pious thing to do. It is what the gods command. Euthyphro advances his idea that the divine commands of the gods are source of moral norms and obligations.

Socrates challenges Euthyphro's position with this dilemma:

(1) Is it right because the gods say so?

OR:

(2) Do the gods say so because it is right?

Either way, we are in trouble.

If (1), then moral facts seem completely arbitrary. The gods could have dictated that it be wrong to prosecute your father. Moral facts seem to reduce to the whims of the gods.

If (2), then the gods are not the source of moral norms.

Likewise, supposing that God's will is the source of moral norms makes those moral norms arbitrary. Even if God's will is eternal and unchanging, so that murder is wrong now and always will be wrong, that does not change the fact that there are other possible worlds in which God might have dictated that murder was a moral obligation. In that possible world, murder would have been morally right and necessary. But, surely that's not correct! Moral norms are inherently necessary, so they cannot be made contingent on God's whims. Divine Command Theory seems untenable.

Even if Divine Command Theory were correct, there remains what we might call the so-called Normative Problem. Sure, what is morally good is what is commanded by God. But, why should I be good? This is the challenge that Thrasymachus poses to Socrates in Book I of Plato's Republic. The main task of the Republic is to solve the normative problem and show that moral norms really are binding on us. The solution to this philosophical problem is highly non-trivial, and is certainly open to a solution consistent with atheism.

The main upshot is this: since grounding our moral responsibilities in the decrees of God is problematic, both theists and atheist are presented with the same problem of articulating a suitable "foundation" for ethics.

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

sbda said,
"I’m arguing that although a truly livable worldview can be postulated by an apparent objective moral, it is ultimately realized by a subjective consciousness."

Precisely. And Timmo's post above provides a good explanation for why this tends to be the case.

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

My 2 cents regarding the scenario presented here. The words “steal” and “rape” are used in the scenario, thus immediately implying that, regardless of the apparent beliefs of the men of this tribe, somebody is having their personal values neglected when this ritual is performed. So we already have a value judgment stated before we have established the morality of the ritual on its own basis.

If the predicted victims of this behaviour do indeed consider themselves victims, then there is clearly a confrontation of beliefs in the tribe; i.e. there is a gross conflict between desires and thus no moral consensus in the tribal community. If the outsider has evolved a conscience that causes him to consider that the desire for the girls not to suffer outweighs the desires of the men to act out the ritual, he/she may decide to intervene. There is no need to appeal to a higher power's sense of right or wrong (in fact, it's intellectually lazy). The individual can appeal to reason (that to a considerable extent, underlies our evolution in the first place), and explain why disregarding the desires of a whole section of the populace is ultimately harmful to the social cohesion and thus survival of the tribe. See Sparta, Stalinist Russia or any other transient, authoritarian regime that has built itself up on a platform of inequality. The oppressed inevitably tearing it down, whether in a week or a few hundred years (but a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms), and causing it to be superseded by regimes less likely to make the same mistake.

If, on the other hand, the girls and their respective families confessed to being quite content with this tradition (testifying free from coercion obviously) and did not feel harmed by it either physically or emotionally – and did not consider the ritual to involve “stealing” or “rape” – then things would be a bit different. There would be no victims apparent, but simply a tribe with what would appear to the outsider to be a rather bizarre custom. In such a situation, the outsider might object to the ritual on pragmatic grounds, such as spreading sexually transmitted diseases, which would bring to bear other moral considerations in the form of extended consequences of such actions (see current Aids policies in Africa). But apart from that, there would be no clear moral high ground from which to condemn the ritual if the participants are all consenting.

BTW, Pan paniscus practices a highly promiscuous lifestyle that, as far as we can ascertain by applying our crudely anthropomorphic sense of suffering, the individuals all seem quite content with.

Alex said...

Timmo,
I recently came out from under a quarter where my philosophy prof held a view of aseity that is similar to what you have recommended in the past. I spent much of my time battling it out with him over this very topic. It was great fun to discover that the morality issue is alive and well even in my formal education!

That said here's my beef with the platonic moral groundings:

I think (1) is asking the wrong question. Because of this I don't think we are really left with a (1 v 2) sort of problem. The problem with (1) is that it comes too late in the logic chain to be an adequate ground. One can always ask, "Why did God command such-and-such? So in another possible world he could have chosen x instead?" That's where we get this charge of arbitrary. Surly this is unacceptable.

In my view the Euthyphro Dilemma is based off an assumption that must be false. For the argument to hang together we must presuppose that it is at least possible for God to make moral commands other than he does in-fact do. In other words, we must presuppose that God's character (which his commands must be based off of) is not necessary.

To hold such a position seems highly problematic in my view. For it seems that if there was to be anything in all reality to be necessary it would be God's essence, or character. The following is the view I am more inclined to hold:

(1) The character of God is necessary. (love)
(2) God's moral commands are based off his necessary character. (from 1)
(3) All reality flows from God.
(4) The created is necessarily subject to it's creator. (normatively)

Conclusion: If (1) obtains, then we, as part of the created order, are rightly subject to the objective commands of God. (from 2-4)

----------The above is the basis of my argument. what follows are just a few further thoughts. If they are unhelpful or confused feel free to ignore.--------------

I think this is one reason I find Kantian ethics so appealing. Kant bases his ethical system off of logical contradictions. I think he's on to something here. In your example above you postulate a view where God might have decreed a world where murder was a normative moral good. Perhaps we can conceive of such a world, but I think further thought on such a world will begin to illustrate my hunch. If such a world existed containing sentient beings, it wouldn't last for long. A contradiction soon appears as a binding moral command to murder leads to a swift end of all sentient life.

Furthermore, such a command would need to be reflective of the very core of the being issuing the command. A God like this would, at the very center, value destruction over life. If the very center of an omnipotent being was a lust for destruction that being's very existence would be included in the proposition and thus, it's own reality would collapse on itself. It's for that reason I don't see possible world scenarios of that type to hold together. In short, it turns out they are not possible.

Alex said...

This post is just to click that little "subscribe to follow-up comments" box.

Matt M said...

Alex,

(4) The created is necessarily subject to it's creator. (normatively)

I'd take issue with this. As far as I'm concerned, the created has no a priori obligations to their creator.

Alex said...

Hey Matt,

I'm not so sure this is really open to negotiation. By way of a well worn analogy, it is necessarily true that there will never come a time when the pottery is freed from obligation to the potter.

Sure the introduction of free will and a God who is love into our theodicy makes for some more interesting turns, but the principal remains.

Now, if, on the other hand, all we are is the chance happenings of a purposeless impersonal reaction... then you are right that the created has no obligations to the creator. But I would say you are right in perhaps a different way than you had intended. I would say you are correct in that the concept of "obligation" has been stripped of any useful meaning. Obligation presupposes volition and I have yet to be convinced that volition is anything other than a complete illusion in a closed deterministic system of material cause and effect.

However, if we take "obligation" to mean strictly "submission to that which caused you", then on that definition, materialistic atheism must leave you in nothing but complete submission to your "creator".

Either way I don't see how you can deny (4).

Matt M said...

there will never come a time when the pottery is freed from obligation to the potter

I don't think it's meaningful to talk of inanimate objects having obligations - but, even if pottery were capable of acting in a meaningful way (meaningful in the compatibalist sense) I'd argue that it has every right to decide upon its own course in life.

The creature owed no obligation to Frankenstein. Like us and the pottery, it did not ask to be created.

Nor do I really think we can really talk about "submission" or "obligation" to blind forces - unless you see yourself as "submitting" to gravity, for example. Though I suspect this is merely a semantic quibble.

merkur said...

Incidentally, in the next village to this gentleman is a tribe that has exactly the same practice, but when I ask them which gods they follow, they tell me that they're Christian. I tell them that raping young girls is absolutely not a part of the Christian faith, and they tell me that they have received this instruction directly from God. I'd have something to say to them, but what would you say, Rhology?

Alex said...

"even if pottery were capable of acting in a meaningful way (meaningful in the compatibalist sense)"

Meaningful in the compatibilist sense? Compatibilism really has nothing to do with meaning. Compatibilism is an attempt to reconcile our felt experience of moral accountability with the notion of determinism. As far as I'm concerned it's nothing more than determinism with a new pair of pants.

When it comes to brass tacks, (under atheistic materialism) you have no more freedom than a lump of clay. You simply have a more 'complicated' experience of being determined. Being consistent with your first principals, you have elsewhere denied that there is any fundamental difference between you and any other physical object, so what you are left with is this:

(1) All material is determined
(2) Clay is material
(3) Matt is material
(4) Matt and Clay is material (Conjunction 2 & 3)
(5) Matt and Clay is determined (Modus Ponus 1 & 4)

I don't see how tossing the word 'compatibilist' into the mix changes anything at all.

The only way I see a way forward is if we admit there is a very real (if not inexplicable) category difference between living creatures (possessing something like self-determination) and non-living material. (of which a conscious Frankensteinian monster would be affected by as well, I might add.)

All that aside, and recognizing I am skeptical that man will ever 'create' true conscious life, (consistent with my first principals) and also recognizing that people having babies is not equivalent to 'creating' babies, I don't think you have defeated my earlier premise (4).

I still maintain that if there is a personal ground to all reality, then that reality is necessarily subject to the creator. Even if the creator bestows free will upon parts of his creation for the purposes of making love possible, the creation is still necessarily subject to God as outside of God there is nothing at all. (which is the concept of hell that I am tempted to accept btw. Eternally chosen nothing.)

Okay... I'm going to try and stop now. Must go read. Though, I have to say it's been great pulling the old morality debate out for a fresh go of it!

Matt M said...

Alex,

An action is meaningful in the compatibalist sense simply if it isn't forced by another person. I thought that as I was going to be talking about choices I should make the qualification. I still think determinism holds in the universe.

Even if the creator bestows free will upon parts of his creation for the purposes of making love possible, the creation is still necessarily subject to God as outside of God there is nothing at all.

I'm not quite sure I understand your point.

I read your statement that a creation is obligated to its creator as saying that if a creator wishes X then the creation is obliged to X. So if Frankenstein wished his creature to become a lawyer, then the creator would be obliged to pursue that career. Or, more pertinently, if God wishes that we respect human life then we should do so.

As far as I'm concerned however, I would have no necessary obligation to respect God's wishes - I would still consider them using my own moral compass and act accordingly.

Tom Freeman said...

Alex:
(4) The created is necessarily subject to it's creator. (normatively)

Matt:
I'd take issue with this. As far as I'm concerned, the created has no a priori obligations to their creator.

I'd also take issue with (4). Tosay that the created is nomatively subject to its creator is a moral statement. So, either the truth of (4) is God-dependent, or it isn't. And so Euthyphro pops back in for another round of drinks...

Alex said...

First, two thoughts.

1. To claim that our frankenstein monster is in the same category as a God who creates ALL reality is equivocation. Thus drawing conclusions from the former has no bearing on the discussion.

2. I am not making a moral statement in premise (4). It is a statement of necessity. The argument I would use to sustain premise (4) would look like so:

(1) Outside of God and his creation there is nothing.
(2) Necessarily all dependent realities owe their existence to that which sustains them.
(3) God sustains all dependent realities. (understanding the concept of freedom necessarily complicates this premise)
(4) Humans are dependent realities.
(6) Humans owe their existence to God. (Modus Ponus 1 & 3)
(7) If a human refuses to live for the purpose that God created him/her, the only option is necessarily nothing. (Disjunction 1 & 7)

So... Euthyphro can go take a seat as far as I'm concerned. Besides, he's had enough to drink as it is.

A further consideration would be a moments reflection upon all that humanity has made. Then consider what of that is not rightly subject to our purposes. To deny (4) is to affirm the possibility that some object of our own crafting could have it's 'purposes' outweigh our own. (acknowledging that this is still a case of equivocation as creating 'things' within the created order is still in a different category from God creating all dependent reality, but even so I'm fishing for the visceral impact of the consideration).

Matt Says:
"As far as I'm concerned however, I would have no necessary obligation to respect God's wishes - I would still consider them using my own moral compass and act accordingly."

This is where freedom comes in. No it's not necessary as in 'forced', but if he brings history to a close at some point, (as revelation tells us he will) then the probationary period will be over and you will have had only two choices. Either God, or nothing. Necessarily.

Timmo said...

Alex,

Thanks for your comments. So long as people study philosophy, I am sure that ethics will be alive and well, especially because this is one of the most rich and rewarding subfields of that discipline -- and certainly the most important for human life.

First, a quick technical point. You have not shown that the Euthyphro Dilemma is a false one. If I pose a dilemma A OR B, then, in order to show it is a "false" one, you must argue that A and B do not exhaust all of the possibilities, showing that there is at least a third option, an option C. Instead, you have tried to argue that one of the "horns" of the dilemma, namely (1), is not, in fact, problematic.

The main thrust of the Euthyphro Dilemma is this: if what is good or right is what is commanded and dictated by God, then if God were to command or dictate differently, then what is good or right would be otherwise. This makes moral norms seem arbitrary and contingent in a way they are not.

Instead, you argue that it does not matter to the necessity of moral norms that if God were to command differently, different moral norms would hold. God's character, from which moral norms flow, is not only unchanging and eternal, but also necessary. God could not have commanded or dictated different moral norms. As a result, moral norms inherit the necessity of God's nature.

This purported solution, however, is inconsistent with other views you have espoused in the past. For instance, if I have moral responsibilities, then it must be the case that I have free will. For, only if my actions come from my own free choices can they be said to be my own, something for which I can be held accountable. And, being free means that I can be good and I can be evil. However, if God -- in virtue of His very nature -- is unable to act in a morally reprehensible way (he cannot, as you contend, will anything against His perfect nature), then God is not a free agent. Consequently, your solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma obligates you to accept a determinism about God, and you must accordingly renounce God's good character (one cannot even begin to be good unless one is free).

Also, I share Matt's skepticism about your contention that creations are obligated to their creators. You write, "The created is necessarily subject to it's creator." Do children belong to their parents? Certainly we do not think that children should be subject to physical abuse by their parents, or are commodities which can be sent to factories by their parents because some ownership they allegedly have over them in virtue of being their creators. Matt is right: Frankenstein's "monster" is not subject to Dr. Frankenstein.

This approaches the heart of the problem with Divine Command Theory. Under this conception of the moral life, human beings cringingly obey the orders of a cosmic despot, rather than act as self-governing moral agents who are bound by the moral law through the exercise of their own rational autonomy. Indeed, Kant stood against Divine Command Theory when he wrote,

So far as morality is based on the conception of human beings as one who is free but who also, just because of that, binds himself through his reason to unconditional laws, it is in need neither of the idea of another being above him in order that he recognize his duty, nor, that he observe it, of an incentive other than the law itself... morality in now way needs religion (whether objectively, as regards willing, or subjectively, as regards capability) but is rather self-sufficient by virtue of pure practical reason.

In Kant's vision, the moral law is not externally imposed on us by a deity, but spring from the autonomous exercise of our own individual reason. For Kant, Reason is the author of the moral law. (Kant's ideas about the relationship between morality and God are actually more complex than this alone suggests, as I discuss here.)

Alex said...

Timmo,
First, I hear what you are saying in the first bit. The alternative possibility I would offer would be that God's necessary character, not strictly his commands, ground morality. His commands are based off his character. I suppose what I was arguing was that (1) simply does not go far enough back on the logic chain to adequately ground morality.

I do not see my position as being inconsistent as you suggest. For one thing I don't feel threatened that in my view speaking of God as good becomes a tautology. I also don't have a problem affirming that God cannot will evil. I don't see affirming this as analogous to affirming he has no freedom whatsoever. I see this as no different as affirming that God cannot act in ways that contravene logic.

In a few other places above I make clear that parents having children and Frankenstein creating a monster is not the same as God creating all contingent reality. To make inferences from the former is equivocation. As such, any conclusions drawn based off them are invalid.

In close, I'm happy to stand right along side Kant in opposition to the traditional formulation of the Divine Command Theory. I believe, along with Kant, that morality can be discovered quite apart from religion. The only distinction I'd make (if this is in-fact a distinction) would be to say that I reject the notion that morality "springs" from the exercise of autonomous reason. Discovered to some degree, perhaps, but I don't see how it could find it's objectivity through the use of mans reason alone.

But I may be misunderstanding this a bit. I haven't worked my way to Kant yet. I'm still back in the classical Greek period.

Thanks for the time you took to write that out. I think I'm going to have to stop now, but I've been telling myself that with every post I write!

Tom Freeman said...

Alex, I'm even more puzzled now. If your original (4) isn't a moral statement, then what does the "normatively" there mean?

(7) If a human refuses to live for the purpose that God created him/her, the only option is necessarily nothing.

I think that's a bit iffy as well. You're arguing against the possibility of non-godly morality, but this is actually a denial of any non-godly purpose.

If someone chooses to live a greedy, selfish, hedonistic life, then that wouldn't be god's purpose. Therefore, on this logic, it's "nothing". Therefore greed does not really exist.

???

Alex said...

LOL! Sorry Tom. Don't mean to obsfucate things. :P

I think what I was getting at there is that it give a justified basis for normatively.

as for your comments on (7), good thoughts. To answer this we will have to take a more in-depth look at the theodicy and that will require us to take a few steps back.

At the current time 'creation' exists as a probationary period. We are told this creation is not going to remain static, but is 'going' somewhere. This history will eventually come to a close. Without getting into all the eschatological details, let it suffice to say that there will come a day when God will be 'all in all'. There will be no more hiddenness of God. To be against God will be to accept nothing. However, in this age we can live lives that are not in complete accord with the love of God. In essence this world is a character producing ground; a place where 'souls' develop and form their bias before they enter eternity. At that point we have either trusted God according to the knowledge of him that we had, or we continued to curve in on ourselves.

On that note, this probationary period does not immediately reward rejection of God with the ultimate end such actions necessitate. As such we can live a long rich life of debauchery if we so choose. My point is, upon death we will be greeted with the logic of our choices... an eternally experienced nothing.

(This view is fleshed out in great detail in Greg Boyd's 'Satan and the Problem of Good and Evil' if you have interest.)

Tom Freeman said...

Another thing occurs, to do with the interaction between 7 and 1.

(1) Outside of God and his creation there is nothing.

If this is taken to include in its meaning that there is no morality outside of god and his creation, then that just begs the question against the non-theistic moral realist.

If it doesn't, though, then the argument leaves that possibility open.

Alex said...

I'm not sure I understand.

We are assuming God for the sake of argument, are we not? If so, then yes, the possibility of anything morally good outside of God is excluded.

If you are concerned that I am arguing that someone who doesn't have an explicit mental assent to the proposition "there is a God" cannot be moral, rest assured I am not. I am personally open to the possibility that an atheist might be surprised with salvation upon death. Scripture teaches the fool says in his heart there is no God. Notice it didn't say in his head. I would be tempted to say that to the degree we have knowledge of God, through his revelation (general and otherwise) and to the degree we submit to that knowledge (which looks like self-sacrificial love) we are loving God. The apostle John says that those who have known love have known God, for God is love.

So the question remaining is this: How are we living our life? Is it for the genuine Good of others, especially at our own expense? Or is our love simply a facade for one more chance at meeting 'our' needs, or securing our own 'rights'? Only the one who knows us better than ourselves can answer that one.

Sorry man. I probably missed you by a mile.

Tom Freeman said...

I probably wan't so clear either - the dangers of late-night posting.

I'm not worried that you're denying there are good atheists. I know you don't.

We are assuming God for the sake of argument, are we not? If so, then yes, the possibility of anything morally good outside of God is excluded.

There are two things here. Sure, for the sake of argument, we're assuming God exists and has created the universe and the beings within it. But if this automatically means that all and any moral values that might be relevant to those beings must be those coming direct from God, then the conclusion's already in there from the start.

It seems to me that 'let there be light' and 'let the coveting of oxen be immoral' are two spectacularly different kinds of divine action. The first is obviously beyond our ken but still just the sort of thing that one would only need power and ingenuity to be able to do.

But I find it hard to conceive how the creation of moral facts can be logically possible, if they're to be something more than rules or opinions.

On the theodicy to flesh out (7), well OK, those who turn away from God end up experiencing eternal nothingness. Too bad for them (us, I should probably say).

But that just specifies the personal consequences of doing so, as stipulated by God himself. It doesn't go an inch towards explaining why (moral) purposes proposed by God are objectively real compared with those proposed by anyone else.

One more(!) thing:

How are we living our life? Is it for the genuine Good of others... Or is our love simply a facade... Only the one who knows us better than ourselves can answer that one.

Yep, we could defer to the omniscient for an assessment of our real motives. But that's just a point about information. An omniscient being who hadn't created us could do that just as well.

And, on the subject of polluted motives for 'doing good' - don't you think it was a terrible mistake for God to even mention the possibility of reward and punishment in the afterlife? Sort of guarantees that believers are going to acquire a new angle on self-interested motive.

G-man said...

Alex,

I have to jump in here and add to the noise. I (also!) take issue with your premise [4] .

Most importantly, I disagree with your contention several times that comparing a Frankenstein/monster or parent/child relationship to a God/humanity example is invalid. It really seems like a cop-out to me, because I believe the cases have similarity on enough grounds to not amount to equivocation.

You may be regretting having used the potter analogy - but if a potter is someone who reshapes existing materials into something new, then are not parents doing something similar? Does this make children subservient to parents?

Otherwise, I fail to see how you would justify [4] . If you refuse to compare it to similar (if smaller-scaled) examples, it comes across as an arbitrary/ a priori claim of some sort.

Of course, you posited a justification for that claim in one of your posts on Jan 5. Of these seven premises, let me ignore the first.

(2) Necessarily all dependent realities (replace with "children" as dependent realities) owe their existence to that which sustains them (parents).
(3) (Parents) sustain all dependent realities (relevant to the child).
(4) (Children) are dependent realities.
(6) (Children) owe their existence to (parents).
(7) If a child refuses to live for the purpose that its parents created him/her, the only option is necessarily nothing.

That was my first thought. Second:

Timmo had an excellent point in saying that " God is not a free agent. " You disagree - but let me point out an interesting implication.

If God can be a "free" agent, but operates only within the realm of good choices (evil not being an option), then why not such a thing for humans? I constantly hear theists try to squirm out of "problem of evil" arguments by saying that free will necessitates the ability to choose evil. If this is not the case, then why would God's creations (made in God's own image, even) not exhibit the trait of being free agents who can only choose good/ God?

I would imagine the circumstance being something similar to flying - as much as we want to, we are unable to perform the act of flying on our own power, as humans. Perhaps we could be created incapable of making immoral choices. What does that implication do to your idea of God as an all-good free-willed agent?

Alex said...

Tom,

"But if this automatically means that all and any moral values that might be relevant to those beings must be those coming direct from God, then the conclusion's already in there from the start."

I think I'm still missing you here. I'm not sure, but I get the feeling you are saying something so obvious that I'm confused as to it's significance. Can you say it another way for me perhaps? (again)

"I find it hard to conceive how the creation of moral facts can be logically possible, if they're to be something more than rules or opinions."

I think the main point that I am considering is that they must be in some way necessary. In my debate with Stephen Law (if you can call it that) I was really pushed to consider what a moral good is and what evil is. So to use your oxen example, coveting an oxen is really a very specific (and archaic sounding) instance of a much simpler principal. Given the sort of world that God did create and the purposes that he created (love), lusting after stuff is sin because it completely misses the point of reality. If the end game of all reality is going to be full participation in the loving dance of the triune God, then focusing on your own 'want' impulses at the exclusion of the love you ought to have for others (reflecting God's character) is a dead end. There's nothing there.

I guess what I would like to say is that your 'moral fact' must simply be that "God is" and all that that entails. If his character is necessary, as I think it must be, then the problem of moral facts should be settled. To my mind at least.

One rather broad consideration regarding the necessary character of God would be to broadly consider the nature of love (as best we understand it) and the nature of evil. Love gives, love creates, love sacrifices, love is free. We often speak of love and beauty comfortably co-existing. Evil, on the other hand, turns inward, takes from others, destroys, desires only it's own company, forces and enslaves. Likewise we also can comfortably conceive of evil and rot, decay and ugliness comfortably coexisting.

Is it even possible then for the foundation of all reality to be based on anything but love? Evil does not in it's essence posses creative power, only destruction. Evil could only collapse on itself. That's it's nature. Because of this I see there being a necessary condition for God. God would necessarily have to be a God of love.

Now I admit this is all very rough, but I'm just trying to put into words some of the things I've been kicking around lately.

"Too bad for them (us, I should probably say)."

Oh stop it. :P

"An omniscient being who hadn't created us could do that just as well."

I'll grant you that, though I'm not sure about its significance.

"Sort of guarantees that believers are going to acquire a new angle on self-interested motive."

Ya, I dunno. Though I'd imagine we'd both say a father who never warned his son about the danger of thin ice would be in need of some moral instruction himself. I guess I'd say that to truly know God we must know something of 'not God'. That's just part of revelation. I'm just going to leave it at that as this has that rabbit trailish feeling to it.

Alex said...

Hey g-man,
Gonna have to make this quick as I'm eating into my study time... sorry.

I'll focus on the premise number (4) objection as that seems to be your main point of contention. For the sake of clarity I'll restate it here:

(4) The created is necessarily subject to it's creator.

Allow me to try and clarify my claim of equivocation for things such as having children and Frankenstinian monsters vs. God creating all dependent reality. I would also like to try and defend my usage of the pottery analogy as you raised questions about that as well.

First off, our Frankenstein monster. This example would be more akin to resuscitation than 'creating a life'. In-fact it's not altogether removed from some advanced surgical procedures accomplished today. Clearly this is not in the same category as 'creation'.

As for having children, it should be clear that "I" don't create children. "I" copulate. Our bodies produce the child apart from any crafting involvement form us. The whole process is quite mysterious to us as well as what sort of "person" will result. We lack any creative control in the process. I don't think any more needs to be said here.

On the other hand, God created a contingent reality with a clear purpose in mind and who also necessarily occupies the seat of sovereign Lord. (not because of some moral claim, but because by necessity, there is no other reality to appeal to other than that which he created. Furthermore, there is no other 'programme' to align ourselves with other than his.)

And this must be the distinction. Parents do not 'create' wholly contingent children. They 'have' temporarily dependent free agents.

Frankenstein did not create a 'person'. He revived a corpse.

Finally, the potter analogy I think more closely illustrates the attributes I am striving to emphasize. Let me first say that the point does not so much rest upon the use of extant material (or lack thereof), as it does the concepts of purpose, contingency, and necessary authority. To my mind the potter analogy is helpful because without the potter the contingent state of "being a pot" would not obtain. I also find it useful as it brings to the conversation the concept of purpose. Sure, there may not be anything inherently wrong with the state of being an air-bubble filled, lopsided lump of clay, but if the potter wishes to craft a beautiful bowl for himself and others to enjoy... well then the former state is either rejected or reworked. Finally, the concept of necessary authority is revealed. If the clay is to wet and thus wants to slump into a certain form. On it's own it can only do so much. If abandoned by the potter it's reality will harden into an useless form and be discarded to be ravaged by the elements. It's contingency necessarily puts it under the authority of the potter who is ultimately in control.

All that said, I believe my charge of equivocation stands. Hopefully my clarifications have helped to elucidate the points I was trying to make.

Back to work... err... reading.

Matt M said...

Hopefully my clarifications have helped to elucidate the points I was trying to make.

I think what you're saying is true: If God created the environment we operate in (and there is no other) then in that sense we are entirely dependent on that God. Even the existence of free will (in any sense) doesn't change that: In order for us to be able to choose between A, B and C we have to exist, A, B and C have to exist, and there needs to be a situation in which we get to choose.

But I'm not so sure that has any bearing on morality - what options we get to choose from and which one we choose are linked, but separate matters. And it's the latter that seems to be the issue.

God may have created A and B, God may wish us to choose A, but that still provides us with no real reason to do so.

Matt M said...

Probably should be: I think what I think you're saying is true

Alex said...

Morning Matt,
I'm a little puzzled by this:

"God may have created A and B, God may wish us to choose A, but that still provides us with no real reason to do so."

First I'd clarify that God did not 'create' good and evil then wish for us to choose good. God created a contingent reality (including us) and wished for us to choose him (which is analogous to 'the only true reality') vs. the illusion of our own self-sustaining power and autonomy.

In this light, I don't see how we can say we have no reason to choose him. If God is love and the source of all life and what we call goodness... If he his the potter with the plan... how is it you don't see a 'reason' to choose him? Especially if by choosing 'not God' you ultimately choose nothing at all?

"Probably should be: I think what I think you're saying is true"

Hey I'll take it. It's more than I usually get! ;-)

Matt M said...

Alex,

In this light, I don't see how we can say we have no reason to choose him.

I didn't say we had no reason to choose him - just that we had no obligation to.

My argument is simply that a network of pre-existing intuitions/preferences already need to be in place for us to decide one way or another. You cannot simply jump from "God exists" to "we must/should do what God wishes" - the connection is not a necessary but a contingent one, contingent on my psyche being such that "love and the source of all life" is preferable to "nothing at all".

Alex said...

"I didn't say we had no reason to choose him..."

Sure you did:

"God may have created A and B, God may wish us to choose A, but that still provides us with no real reason to do so.

That aside, let's talk obligation. One one level I think I may agree with you here. At least on the level that God is not forcing you to do A rather than B you are under no obligation to capitulate.

"You cannot simply jump from "God exists" to "we must/should do what God wishes" - the connection is not a necessary but a contingent one..."

There's two levels to consider here:
1. If God exists, then his ultimate purpose will be the only purpose. (necessary)
2. If you are a finite free agent then whether you choose A or B will be contingent upon a variety of other factors. (contingent)

Vis. 1. where we come down on [A or B] necessarily has us either with the program, or not.

Matt M said...

Sure you did

Well... I said "real" reason, which was a sloppy way of saying necessary reason - there are a number of contingent reasons for accepting God's wishes, the fact that He'd probably be the most intelligent being in the universe for one, the fact that He can apparently inflict considerable punishment for another.

1. If God exists, then his ultimate purpose will be the only purpose

I think this is trivially true: If nothing could come into being without God wishing it so, then everything that exists would be because He willed it so. So while whether I chose A or B would be out of His hands, I could only chose because He willed it so.

So even though I have individual purpose (I can chose for myself), it would ultimately be God's choice that this is so.

But, I don't think this really helps us much when it comes to the issue of morality. The question of why I should go along with God's wishes - where I have the option of doing otherwise - remains unanswered.

Rev. Dr. Incitatus said...

"1. If God exists, then his ultimate purpose will be the only purpose. (necessary)"


That's true, but The Ultimate Purpose tells us very little about the many purposes that might, together, push the universe towards that end. And vice versa.

A cog in a conveyor belt might wax philosophical about its Creator's Ultimate Purpose of rotating around an axis, purely on the basis of its life experience. It would be completely oblivious to the fact that actually the creator's Ultimate Purpose is trying to move laterally along an axis.

Even if the cog did know what the big plan was, it might not fully understand why it had to do something that, from its own subjective experience, seemed counterintuitive to the grand plan.

There was a point to this comment, but it just escaped me.

Tom Freeman said...

oxAlex, we’re not doing very well, are we? In trying to explain what I mean, I’ll start by reconstructing what I think you’re saying.

(A) There is a unique, eternal, unchanging, supremely loving, personal God.

(B) Point (A) – in all its aspects – is a necessary truth.

(C) God created us and the world, and he wants us to live in it in a certain way. But he gives us the freedom to do so or not – he wants us to freely choose this way of life. His supreme lovingness means that his way of life is the one that will be best for us (whether we realise this or not).

(D) The way of life we choose on Earth will determine whether, thereafter, we are welcomed into God’s eternal embrace or cast into eternal damnation.

(E) God’s eternal embrace will be wonderful for us. Eternal damnation will be awful for us.

(F) Points (C), (D) and (E) are (all or part of) God’s purpose, i.e. what he wants to happen. As he – uniquely – is eternal and unchanging, so is his purpose.

(G) While we can form and pursue our own purposes, and gain personal satisfaction while doing so, these are essentially contingent, temporary and changeable even while they endure.

(H) Acting morally involves fulfilling a purpose. But not just any purpose.

(I) Morality is necessary, eternal and unchanging.

(J) From (H) and (I): to act morally is to fulfil a necessary, eternal and unchanging purpose.

(K) From (B), (F) and (J): to act morally is to fulfil God’s purpose.

How’s that?

If it helps with any alterations you might suggest, I can accept (A-I) for the sake of argument, although I’m hesitant about (H). I think (D) and (E) seem at best peripheral to the argument. I think (K) does follow from (B), (F) and (J), but I don’t think (J) follows from (H) and (I). I can go into this but first I want to check I’m near enough understanding you.

Tom Freeman said...

Sorry about the "ox" at the start there!

And Rhology, thanks for hosting all this!

G-man said...

@ alex:

Thanks for the clarification. I hope you enjoy being in the spotlight enough to be comfortable fielding all these questions :)

The thought occurred to me that, in the same sense that [4] is true, the created is necessarily subject to its destroyer if destroyed. In short, while a destroyer doesn't usually see himself as creating something per se, he certainly has a goal in mind when bringing about a state of affairs (where something is destroyed). The product - whether *technically* creative or not - was the object of the destroyer's energies.

If part of the object - call it the handle of the potter's pot - is smashed off intentionally by something else, does the smashed handle become subject to the destroyer in the same way the created object is subject to the original creator?

You could point out that if the created thing is subject to its creator, then the destroyer has no *right* to destroy it. I'd suggest that the creator, then, has no right in taking clay (originally, not something created) and using it to create something. Assuming this hypothetical destroyer's goal is to NOT have any created/purposeful things... well, let me try to be a little more clear.

If the conversation you're having with the other contributers to this wall concludes that, as something created, there is no *necessary* reason to follow the purpose the creator had in mind - especially not a moral reason - that the handle can, so to speak, act to destroy the pot (whether or not that ends up making it happy)...

Then the destroyer is maintaining or creating a state of non-createdness. Being subject to its creator, does the destroyer have control over what it does with the states of affairs it creates?

I guess what I'm getting at is this: a destroyer (or anything acting to prevent creation) brings about dependent realities - just like a creator does. Murdering another human, as this whole allegory is built to suggest, involves a being very intentionally (with any degree of art/craft/design in mind, full creative control etc) *creating* a state of affairs. Is this ok? Can anybody - created or destroyed - have an issue with this?

Or - is it necessarily the case that only dependent realities created ex-nihilo are subject to their creator? If that's the case, then God creating Adam out of dirt and Eve out of a rib would rob God of its subjects, for instance.

If all dependent realities are linked to their ultimate creator, and no sub-levels of dependence subjection are realized... well that really does a number to your potter analogy, doesn't it :)

-----

This all has little to do with contingency and necessary authority, but it struck me as a topic to bring up. I'm interested in your (and others') thoughts.

Rhology said...

Tom,

My pleasure!
And the convo has gone so far I fear I'll never be able to catch up to it given other commitments.
But the rest of youse guys, enjoy!

Peace,
Rhology

Rhology said...

OK, I'll answer merkur's two questions directed at me, so as not to leave him hanging.

You, on the other hand, have only presented us with a moral framework that says things are either right or wrong - does God think some things are less wrong than others?

Yes.


I tell them that raping young girls is absolutely not a part of the Christian faith, and they tell me that they have received this instruction directly from God. I'd have something to say to them, but what would you say, Rhology?

The God of the Bible does not give revelation contradictory to what He has already revealed before.
They're making the same mistake that the Mormons and Muslims do.

Anyway, like I said, I'll watch this thread for questions posed directly to me and try to get to them but otherwise invite you guys to continue.
And if I missed one, please recomment it so I can be reminded. Thanks!

Peace,
Rhology

Alex said...

Going to have to be brief at the moment, but I hope to come back to this soon.

Rhology,
I'd like to echo Tom's well mannered extension of thanks for the "away game" we are having here. As you may have noticed, we are all quite familiar with each other and have been at this for over a year now over at the blog Matt and I maintain called: in search of high places We found our way over here via Matt's nomadic wanderings. For whatever reason we all are drawn to these discussions and have quite enjoyed the interactions we've been having. No need to worry about playing host. We are usually quite capable of entertaining ourselves. I'd imagine we'll get hungry eventually and head back home. We'll leave the key under the flower pot on the way out. ;-)

Matt,
"The question of why I should go along with God's wishes - where I have the option of doing otherwise - remains unanswered."

I've been rolling this one over ever since you posted it. On first glance I just can't seem to understand what's behind such a question. When I consider the question I think to myself, "why WOULDN'T we want to go along with God?" And I think this may come down to a rather important point. The reason I'm so confounded by your question here is that, to me, it seems so obvious why we should obey God. It's obvious because I know him. I don't mean head knowledge here. (see quotes over on ISOHP) I mean knowledge of participation. (interesting that the NT refers to sex and "knowing" your partner) The point I would wish to make is that from what I know of him I know he is love. I know he is beauty. I know he is where joy ultimately lies. His revelation confirms as much.

On that basis, in answer to your question, "why should we obey him":

Because he loves us.

Incit,
er... ya. I think. ;-)

Tom,
Jimminy Christmas!!! Okay man. Gimme some time to digest this. I can point out a few clarifications right off the bat, but I want to spend some time with this.

G-man,
Same for you.

And this is why I say the blog is amongst the best educations around! Thanks for all the thinking guys!

Matt M said...

Alex,

I think I may have been guilty of not making myself entirely clear.

I've argued that at the root of atheistic morality is a set of preferences (love over fear, safety over pain, freedom over tyranny, etc.) which guide our behaviour - and that it is these preferences that allow us to establish a system of right and wrong (on the individual level).

It's been suggested that theistic morality is somehow superior to this - that it holds true no matter what our preferences may be.

But in order for you to argue for God on the basis that He is love you first have to show why love is a good thing. As I see it, in order to do that you have to appeal to preference just like the rest of us.

So the basis of all morality - theistic and atheistic - is intuitive rather than rational.

If someone genuinely preferred suffering to love then neither of us would be able to do much to convince him or her to change his or her behaviour.

merkur said...

"The God of the Bible does not give revelation contradictory to what He has already revealed before."

Right. So no chance that I'll be asked to sacrifice my son, only to be told to back off at the last moment.

You still haven't pointed us to the passage which specifically condemns - either explicitly or implicitly - the rape of young girls, by the way.

merkur said...

Oh, and your link to Bible Gateway appears to show that yes, God does think some things are worse than others. Tragically the Bible is as vague as ever about which things those might be.

Apparently I have now discovered tithing dill is on God's list of no-nos, which is useful to know. Who says that Bible is useless?

Rhology said...

merkur,

no chance that I'll be asked to sacrifice my son, only to be told to back off at the last moment.

Genesis 22:2 - 2He said, "Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you."

OFFER him. Which Abraham did. Didn't say "kill him", did it?

You still haven't pointed us to the passage which specifically condemns - either explicitly or implicitly - the rape of young girls, by the way.

I thought it was so obvious I wouldn't have to.
1 Cor 6:18 - flee sexual immorality.
The 6th Commandment - Do not commit adultery.
Any sex outside of marriage is adultery/sexual immorality.

Tragically the Bible is as vague as ever about which things those might be.

Naked assertion. Like what?

Matt M said...

Rhology,

Sorry to butt into your conversation with Merker, but...

"offer him there as a burnt offering"

According to Christian Answers

A burnt offering is one that is consumed by fire, and regarded as ascending to God while being consumed.


Was Abraham supposed to only lightly singe Isaac?

merkur said...

"I thought it was so obvious I wouldn't have to... Any sex outside of marriage is adultery/sexual immorality."

So in your view (which you assume to be God's view), it is impossible to rape somebody if you're married to them?

As well as not fitting the definition of rape, neither of these passages specifically rape, only adultery. So are you also saying that rape is morally equivalent to adultery?

What an interesting moral life you have.

merkur said...

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others."

This does not, in fact, explain what you claim it does. It's clear that tithing herbs isn't a big deal for him, but is not specific about what other moral issues he feels take priority. Justice, mercy and faithfulness are principles, rather than specific moral issues. Please point me to the Bible verse which explains to us all "sufficiently" those things which are worse than others - for example, whether rape is worse than lying. Surely that will be simple enough?

merkur said...

"OFFER him. Which Abraham did. Didn't say "kill him", did it?"

Are you genuinely trying to argue that "offer him" didn't mean "kill him"?

That's the entire point of the story, Rhology.

G-man said...

Matt M,

Sorry to point out something unclear in your post that began with an attempt to be more clear...

As atheism is not a theory of morality, even saying "an atheistic theory of morality" would make no sense - and you are making claims about some singular "root of atheistic morality."

I'd like to point out emphatically that I do not consider a set of intuitive preferences to be "at the root" of morality. Atheism does not inform my understanding of ethics in the slightest, as it is definitively morally neutral.

Furthermore, to even use the phrase "theistic morality" strikes me as such an enormous over-simplicity that I must object.

I shudder to think that morality must stem from intuitive preferences and not rational thought... but it's not just my aversion to that claim that I'd use as a basis to criticize it; I actually believe there is at least one fully rational explanation and foundation for objective moral claims.

Matt M said...

G-Man,

If I didn't want people pointing out my mistakes I wouldn't bother posting. :-)

However, I'm going to have to disagree with your disagreements. By atheistic theory of morality I simply mean a theory that doesn't rely on a god or gods in any way (utilitarian, Kantian, etc.). So I think that it (along with "theistic morality" to describe any system which bases itself on a god or gods) are perfectly valid terms. They're just simplistic categories rather than an attempt to suggest two monolithic systems.

I shudder to think that morality must stem from intuitive preferences and not rational thought...

Can you provide a non-circular, non-intuitive explanation of why reason is a good thing - which surely must be the starting point for any rationalistic system of morality?

Tom Freeman said...

Take all the time you like, Alex! I almost gave myself an embolism working that one through, and I'll be glad of a break to recover!

G-man said...

Ok, I think I can see where you're coming from. Still, "an atheistic theory of morality" sounds about as lucid as "a vending machine-free theory of morality" or "a round-earth theory of morality."

Those who believe the earth is round do not find their search for moral truth informed by that belief. The same is true of atheist ethicists - the nonexistence of God is a given.

Some "theistic morality" systems, on the other hand, define morality in terms of God's preferences (like Rhology does), so it makes sense to call it "theistic morality." Others, though, take a more Kantian approach: good and evil are moral absolutes; God is good in that He abides by those absolutes. Such a perspective does not *use* God to explain morality.

But - there's no real point in me wasting my words criticizing you, now that I understand more clearly what you're getting at. I'm just far too used to people assuming atheism makes conclusions about morality (like Rhology) when it is actually morally neutral.

"Can you provide a non-circular, non-intuitive explanation of why reason is a good thing - which surely must be the starting point for any rationalistic system of morality?"

I don't see why that *must* be the case, actually. I don't consider "reason is good" to be a starting point for morality; nor is that claim foundational at all. One can certainly use reason to argue (given other premises) that reason is good.

Alex said...

Ah Matt, I'm quite sure you're not the first to lack enough clarity for me to "get it". I think I see what you are trying to flesh out here. And can see there's is a distinction I would like to make that will hopefully help clarify things further.

As I see it we are running up against an ontological/epistemological confusion. You say, "As I see it, in order to do that [show why love is good] you have to appeal to preference just like the rest of us." This is an epistemological problem. How do we know that love is good?

You then say, "If someone genuinely preferred suffering to love then neither of us would be able to do much to convince him or her to change his or her behaviour." (see note below) Here again we have an epistemological problem. We have two opposing views. How do we know who's right?

I think I see what it is you are trying to get at, but the epistemological problem is really a separate issue from the argument I'm putting forth. I'm arguing for an ontological ground flowing from proposed premises. The epistemics encountered from our finite vantage point is another chapter entirely. Do you see what I'm saying here, or am I still missing your point?

Note: I realize you may not have intended to make this point, but since it's written above I wanted to briefly respond to it. You have suffering vs. love placed on opposing ends of a continua which I think is a mistake. I would think a more interesting comparison would be encountering a person who felt that love of himself at the exclusion of others was preferable to love of others at the exclusion of self.

Timmo said...

Alex,

If I understand Matt correctly, then he is pressing what I earlier called the Normative Problem: what makes moral norms binding on us? Why should I be good?

It is worth quoting Christine Korsgaard's wonderful book The Sources of Normativity at length. She says of moral norms:

They do not merely describe a way in which we in fact regulate our conduct. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide...When I say that an action is right I am saying that you ought to do it....

And in ethics, the question can become urgent, for the day will come, for must of us, when what morality commands, obliges, or recommends is hard; that we share decisions with people whose intelligence and integrity don't inspire our confidence; that we assume grave responsibilities to which we feel inadequate; that we sacrifice our lives or voluntarily relinquish what makes them sweet. And then the question why? will press, and rightly so. Why should I be moral? ... We are asking what justifies the claims morality makes on us. This is what I will call the "normative question".


As Korsgaard discusses in her book, there are a variety of attempts to identify what makes moral norms binding. G.E. Moore, as I've said on back at In Search of High Places, believed in the existence of non-natural properties in virtue of which some facts have moral bearing upon us. Hume grounded morality in human nature, attempting to show that morality is good for us. Kant proclaimed that the binding force of moral norms originated in the the agent's own rational will. The position you've taken up in this thread, Alex, most closely resembles the voluntarism she discusses in her book.

You have identified our adoration of God's divine character and admiration of His glory as what makes moral norms binding on us, as what makes moral norms binding. You write,

When I consider the question I think to myself, "why WOULDN'T we want to go along with God?" ... from what I know of him I know he is love. I know he is beauty. I know he is where joy ultimately lies.

Because your intimate, personal relationship with God makes it possible for you to love Him and know Him, you have a reason to do what morality demands, even if it is hard.

However, I suspect this is what strikes Matt and others as so profoundly dissatisfactory about your account. It implies that if I do not love God, then I do not have moral obligations. By locating the source of moral normativity in our contingent attitudes (our love or fear of God), it becomes possible for individuals to opt out of moral prescriptions altogether by taking a certain stance toward God.

In contrast, I think that any adequate foundation for morality would explain why morality is unconditional: it does not matter what my contingent desires are -- I should fulfill my moral obligations.

Matt M said...

G-man,

Glad to see we've cleared up one misunderstanding. For me, atheist is synonymous with non-theist and little else, but I forget that some people use it in a more "positive" sense.

I don't see why that *must* be the case, actually. I don't consider "reason is good" to be a starting point for morality; nor is that claim foundational at all.

If reason is not a good thing, then why would we expect anyone to abide by a rationalistic theory of morality? To say it's rational to X provides me with me no motivation to X, unless I already accept that it's good for me to be rational.

One can certainly use reason to argue (given other premises) that reason is good.

I might have been unclear again: By good I generally mean "better than irrationality" - so if I have no preference for rationality then no rational argument can have any real weight with me.

Matt M said...

Alex,

Do you see what I'm saying here, or am I still missing your point?

No and yes. But I'm afraid it's my fault on both accounts.

Ontology tends to baffle me. I don't know whether that's because it's too complex or not as complex as I think it is...

I'd agree that IF God was love, and IF we believed that love was a good thing, we'd have a damn good reason to follow God's wishes.

But I've always seen this discussion as about why we choose the paths we choose and how they obtain validity. To simply say that "love is good" (and therefore we should follow God) just seems to draw an arbitrary line in the sand. Why is it ultimately any different from me saying "individual liberty is good" (and therefore we should oppose all tyranny)?

Alex said...

School... slowly... overtaking blog efforts... must... resist!!!

*gasp*

Rhology said...

Sorry I haven't gotten to this yet. Been so busy!


merkur said:

So no chance that I'll be asked to sacrifice my son, only to be told to back off at the last moment.

You might receive a command to OFFER your son as a sacrifice and that may lead you to think in your own mind that you should sacrifice him. But God won't call for such a sacrifice.


You still haven't pointed us to the passage which specifically condemns - either explicitly or implicitly - the rape of young girls, by the way.

There are plenty of prohibitions against rape in the OT and proscriptions against fornication in general in OT and NT. It's not hard to figure out.

Tragically the Bible is as vague as ever about which things those might be.

It is? Not if you study it a bit more than a few verses at a time.

I have now discovered tithing dill is on God's list of no-nos, which is useful to know.

This is why no one should take you seriously in your critique of the Bible. Even looking at this one brief psg, you messed it up. Why? B/c you're just interested in poking whatever hole you can w/o trying to figure out what it means and THEN criticising it.
The Pharisees tithed dill, etc, and neglected the OTHER parts of the Law. Jesus doesn't tell them not to tithe their spices, He tells them not to neglect the more important laws. Wake up, man.

it is impossible to rape somebody if you're married to them?

That's quite a different question! I have little reason to believe you'll follow the answer, but hope springs eternal. Here goes.
1 Cor 7 says that spouses are not to withhold sex from each other. The spouse's body belongs to the other.
The wife is to submit to the husband (Eph 5). Yet the husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her (Eph 5). Let that percolate a little.


So are you also saying that rape is morally equivalent to adultery?

No, I was answering your question.
And this question is inane. What in the passage would lead any honest reader to think that?

Please point me to the Bible verse which explains to us all "sufficiently" those things which are worse than others - for example, whether rape is worse than lying. Surely that will be simple enough?

Depends - what is the lie?
There is no one verse that answers this question. But I have no reason to believe that you really care about the answer.

Are you genuinely trying to argue that "offer him" didn't mean "kill him"?

Yes. That's why he, um, DIDN'T kill him.
Notice that Gen 22:5 records Abraham saying "We'll go up and WE will return to you". Why would he say that if he thought Isaac would die and be burnt up there? He considered God could raise Isaac from the dead.



Matt M said:
Was Abraham supposed to only lightly singe Isaac?

He wasn't supposed to do anything to him except demonstrate that his intentions were to follow God's command to the letter.
God didn't change His mind at the last second, you know.
"Oh wait, never mind! Don't REALLY kill him! I thought of a better way!"

Peace,
Rhology

merkur said...

It seems fairly obvious that you've missed the point of that entire passage, which is staggering considering how critical it is for understanding Christian faith.

"There are plenty of prohibitions against rape in the OT and proscriptions against fornication in general in OT and NT. It's not hard to figure out."

I didn't ask for that. I asked for the specific prohibition against raping young girls that you have continually insisted upon. The "prohibitions against rape" that you've previously cited consisted largely of instructing men to marry the woman that they've raped - that's not a prohibition, that's a reward. 'Fornication' (to the best of my knowledge) is sexual intercourse outside of marriage; thus you appear to be saying that this has something to do with rape, which is why I asked if you place adultery in the same category as rape.

"This is why no one should take you seriously in your critique of the Bible. Even looking at this one brief psg, you messed it up."

Oh, for pity's sake, you humorless clod. I didn't mess anything up - the meaning of the passage is quite obvious to anybody with eyes. I will refrain from anything resembling subtlety in future, in order to avoid confusing you further. It's no wonder that you take the bible so literally if you read it with eyes cast from lead as you appear to.

"I have little reason to believe you'll follow the answer, but hope springs eternal."

I follow your reasoning, but I'm looking for a yes/no answer. It's not difficult. Is it possible to rape somebody if you're married to them?

Take a look in the mirror, Rhology. You are a Pharisee.

Rhology said...

A prohibition against rape in general would apply to cases in specific. If you don't get to rape people, you don't get to rape a subset of people.
Marrying the girl would not be a reward for a jerk who wanted sex and power but no commitment. This would be a castigation for the guy and only just for the girl, since she'd have a hard time finding a husband in competition against all the other virgins out there in her society. And it's a way of redeeming the situation to a degree.

Adultery and rape both fall under fornication in general, and of course fornication is forbidden as well.

You don't want to respond to what I said about you messing up the psg, fine by me.

I refuse to give yes/no answers to certain questions. To attempt to confine someone to such an answer shows the weakness of your own argument.

You have no idea what being a Pharisee really is in its historical etymology, it would appear. If that's the game, then you're a flat-earth Newtonian Inquisitionist Aristotelian Spartan guru. Redefining terms is fun - anyone can play!

merkur said...

I was using the word "pharisee" in its colloquial usage, meaning a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person, and one who generally places the letter of the law above its spirit. And yes, I'm aware that this is not an accurate description of the historical Jewish mode of thought.

I did respond to the point about messing up the passage. I explained that I fully understood the passage, but I now realise that I was too subtle in my ensuing comment. I was being ironic - misinterpreting the passage in the same way that Jesus accused the Pharisees of misinterpreting the Law.

That misinterpretation is the same that you are applying to Jesus statement - bringing us full circle and explaining why I call you pharisee.

Rhology said...

Your usage doesn't even fit your redefinition, merkur.
Point out where I've been self-righteous. Where I've placed the letter of the law over the spirit.
And to what law could you, an atheist, possibly be referring?

And if that was your correction to the charge of messing up the passage, I'm happy to let that lie where it is.

merkur said...

"A prohibition against rape in general would apply to cases in specific."

Yes, but as you have now explained, there are no prohibitions against rape in general - just the instruction to marry a woman after you've raped her. You have also previously confused "arranged marriages" with "forced marriages", and failed to cite any condemnation of rape within marriage. You've also characterised rape as a crime against property, suggesting that you view wives as the literally property of their husbands. You have also continually referred to the rape of "young girls", stating that you believe it is worse than other forms of rape, but this appears to be based solely on your personal preferences. All of this leads me to believe that you do not, in fact, have a coherent argument against rape on the basis of biblical citation.

This summary posted for any late-comers to the discussion.

Rhology said...

there are no prohibitions against rape in general

The marrying her is a penalty. That means it's a crime.
Other rape situations, the rapist is executed. But surely THAT'S not a crime either, by your logic. There's just the instruction for the rapist to die after he rapes the girl - no problem.

You have also previously confused "arranged marriages" with "forced marriages"

A highly anachronistic statement on your part. It's not valid reasoning to import 21st-century mores onto a different society.

failed to cite any condemnation of rape within marriage.

Sigh. Let the reader judge.

You've also characterised rape as a crime against property

When I said that the spouse's body belongs to the other spouse? And somehow that doesn't go both ways?

You have also continually referred to the rape of "young girls", stating that you believe it is worse than other forms of rape, but this appears to be based solely on your personal preferences.

Rape is horrible, no matter whom it is committed against.
But on atheism, you can't say it's horrible or commendable. It just IS.