Dawkins’ Secular Morality

Richard Dawkins has gone on record as stating that if someone takes their morality form the Bible, their morals must be ‘hideous’. Instead, he recommends that people base their morals on intuition, philosophy and law. Now I intend to critique Dawkins’ sweeping dismissal of Biblical morality in due course, but for now, let’s see if his view of intuition, philosophy and law forming a solid basis for morality.

Intuition

Now there are real problems with the human intuition as the basis of morality. This philosophy Dawkins’ articulated here is intuitionism – the idea that humans instinctively know what is morally right or wrong. Largely, this is true. People the world over consider murder and theft wrong, for example. The problem is that human morals also differ widely across cultures. What is condemned in one culture may be applauded in another. The punishment of crime is a case in point. For fundamentalist Muslims, the amputation of a hand for theft is a perfectly just punishment, which can be rationally defended as a suitable deterrent fitting the crime. Those Muslims who support this punishment will denounce the Western prison system instead as expensive and dehumanising. For liberal Westerners, however, physical mutilation for crime is a horrendous punishment, the brutality of which far outstrips the offence itself.

Intuitionism also suffers from the same drawbacks as fideism, the belief that God exists, because people believe in him. Intuitionism similarly states that something is right, because people instinctively feel that it is so. Now Dawkins himself is vehemently critical of anything that smacks of fideism, believing that this corrodes critical thinking. It is therefore contradictory of Dawkins to promote an intuitionist attitude to morals.

Thus, human intuition by itself does not provide an adequate guide or basis for morality, and Dawkins essentially has double standards if he promotes this while rejecting religious faith.

Law

Law is similarly flawed as a guide or a basis for morality. Firstly, laws don’t actually need to reflect morality, only what is considered useful and necessary to require legal sanction by the state in a particular society. For example, the Code of Hummarabi from ancient Mesopotamia contains many clauses dealing with the proper maintenance of Babylon’s system of irrigation ditches. While it was necessary that the system was properly maintained for the fields to remain fertile, it’s questionable whether this is a piece of moral legislation of quite the same character as the prohibition of murder or theft.

Secondly, laws themselves are merely the enactment of what a society considers moral at the time, and not necessarily the expression of transcendental morals, which are objectively true, regardless of the situation and society. For example, for centuries before 1807, British law sanctioned the slave trade. The vast majority of people in Britain now naturally find that situation horrific and deeply immoral, yet it was accepted and encouraged by the law at the time.

Thirdly, the law itself can be used to oppress. The various laws enacted punishing runaway and rebellious slaves are a case in point. It’s possible to go even further, however. One of the ancient philosophical schools in ancient China were the Legalists, who recommended harsh, authoritarian legislation in order to restrain people from criminality and brutality and maintain order and the state. Some historians have compared their views with contemporary totalitarian ideologies such as Fascism.

Thus, the law by itself is not a firm basis for morality, and only shows what society or the ruling class considers is acceptable at the time, not what is moral in and of itself.

Philosophy

Then there is the problem of philosophy. Now I have a very high regard for the use of reason to investigate moral problems and, hopefully, to provide a solution. However, philosophy by itself also may not offer an unfailing guide to morality. Philosophers themselves can differ considerably over what is to be considered moral, offering mutually contradictory arguments in favour of various positions. They can also create and promote regimes, which are deeply oppressive through a basis in philosophical rationality. Plato’s Republic, for example, contains thorough, rational arguments for a totalitarian state few people would actually wish to live in. Postmodern philosophy, which considers all worldviews equally valid, also problematises the use of reason in apprehending an objective morality, by stating that all moralities are essentially social constructions. Even philosophy itself becomes problematic in this worldview. The Postmodernist and atheist polemicist, Richard Rorty, for example, declared that philosophy as a discipline was dead and moved to his university’s English department instead. If all views of reality are considered to be equal, then Rorty contradicts himself by violently opposing theism, as he himself admits he can never know this to be untrue, which is a good argument for not taking Postmodernism or Rorty seriously.

In fact the great English philosopher John Locke was acutely aware of the shortcomings of philosophy in establishing true morality, and argued strongly that it was partly through the inability of philosophers to establish a true, moral religion and conception of God that made divine revelation necessary:

‘It should seem, by the little that has hitherto been done in it, that ‘tis too hard a task for unassisted reason to establish morality, in all its parts, upon its true foundation, with a clear and convincing light. And ‘tis at least a surer and shorter way, to the apprehensions of the vulgar and mass of mankind, that on, manifestly sent from God, and coming with visible authority from him, should, as a king and lawmaker, tell them their duties, and require their obedience, than leave it to the long and sometimes intricate deductions of reason to be made out to them: which the greatest part of mankind have neither leisure to weigh, nor, for want of education and use, sill to judge of. We so how unsuccessful in this, the attempts of philosophers were, before our Saviour’s time. How short their several systems came of the perfection of a true and complete morality is very visible. And if, since that, the Christian philosophers have much outdone them, yet we may observe that the first knowledge of the truths they have added are owing to revelation; though as soon as they are heard and considered they are found to be agreeable to reason, and such as can by no means be contradicted.’1

Now collectively intuition, law and philosophy do provide a powerful, but imperfect guide to morality. However, they do not lead to an objective morality on their own. Such transcendental, objective morality is only the case when based on the existence of a transcendental, moral Creator. This transcendental moral Creator – God- now only provides an objective basis for morality, but also allows humans to discover this morality through their participation in His nature. Humans have an innate knowledge that good and evil exist, because they are created in the image of God. God created the universe through the divine Wisdom, and it is through Wisdom that kings and rulers govern wisely and with justice. In Proverbs 8: 15-16, Wisdom states: ‘by me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.’ Again, Wisdom in Proverbs 8:29 states firmly the rational, lawful nature of the universe: ‘When he gave to me His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth.’

Thus, alone and unaided, human intution, philosophy and law cannot provide an adequate basis for morality, but grounded in the divine revelation, they allow humanity to participate in God’s rational, lawful, moral nature and create a rational morality expressed in just laws on Earth.

Notes

1. John Locke, ‘The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695)’ in David Wootton, Divine Right and Democracy: An Anthology of Political Writing in Stuart England (Harmondsworth, Penguin Books 1986), p. 483.

22 Responses to “Dawkins’ Secular Morality”

  1. JOR Says:

    I agree that intuition – although it is where we have no choice but to start – can’t provide us a good idea of morality on its own. Much of what we find ‘intuitive’ is due to social construction. And as a legal nihilist I certainly agree that the law can tell us nothing about morality – what is done is the law, and people sometimes do immoral things. However, I think your treatment of philosophy here is somewhat unfair. You state that philosophers disagree about morality, and that’s true – but that’s like using the fact that theologians and religious traditions disagree about God(s) as an argument against religion. You can say that we must appeal to revalation – say we must, but then what? People disagree about what counts as revalation, and within a given tradition they disagree about the proper interpretation. Of course I’m not using this as an argument against religion, revealed or otherwise – I’m just trying to show how silly this line of argument is. We could even say that since there are disagreements between physicists, we should be skeptical that there is anything physical ‘out there’. But that would be silly.

  2. Landon Says:

    Beast, first of all let me commend your blog–it is a fresh breath from the off-the-wall unfounded assertions that Frank makes over at his blog. You don’t know how many times I’ve attempted to fix his mistakes on that blog where he just won’t post my comments because he doesn’t like being wrong. I hope you run your blog in a more intellectually respectable manner (and I have no doubts that you will).

    In regards to this post, I’m struck by the moral argument in your last paragraph. You specifically write: “Such transcendental, objective morality is only the case when based on the existence of a transcendental, moral Creator.” This is no different than the argument used by Dr. Craig (and others), essentially:

    (1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists,
    (2) Objective moral values exist,
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    Obviously both premises are in dispute by various philosophers. Some dispute (2), but even granting that premise, the most difficult premise on your shoulders is (1).

  3. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for your comment, JOR. I’m sorry if I appeared unfair on philosophy and philosophers. That’s really not my intention. I’ve a high regard for them, and really do wish philosophy enjoyed the same respect in the Anglo-Saxon world as it does in continental Europe. I dare say the controversies would still be pretty much the same, but they’d be better argued and the thinking about the problems would be clearer.

    I actually agree with your comments about intuition being the place where everyone starts. You’ve probably heard the saying that ‘philosophy is the finding of bad arguments to support what everyone already knows by instinct’. I think there’s a lot of truth in it, though some of the arguments used by philosophers are obviously really very good.

    You raise a good point about the necessity of using rationality to evaluate revelation, and what counts as an authentic faith. I can remember that actually being the topic of the first theology lecture we had as undergraduates. Revelation is interpreted and examined through human reason, at least within mainstream Christianity, which stressed the necessity of having a reasonable faith.

    I also take your point about arguing from the difference of opinion amongst philosophers to state that philosophy itself is useless is just as silly as using the difference in conception of God or the gods to prove that that belief is silly. I think you’re right. And I don’t think that moral philosophy or philosophers are useless. Clearly that’s not the case, as Christian scholastic philosophy, which was strongly influenced by Aristotelianism, itself demonstrates.

    My point of view is simply that intuition and morals need a grounding the divine, either through revelation or the inner light illuminating human reason, in order to become something more than simply opinion and approach objective truth. I tried to make that point in my final paragraph, where I do actually say you need all three – reason, intuition, law, but the insights from these arise through humans, as rational creatures, participating in the divine reason and law. I’m sorry if I expressed myself poorly so that the point was lost.

    No, I certainly don’t believe in dispensing with human reason at all. But I do think you need both faith and reason to approach the ultimate ground of being and to base moral decisions as close to truth as is humanly possible.

  4. beastrabban Says:

    Hi, and welcome to the blog, Landon. Thanks for the kind comments. I really enjoy Frank’s blog, and have learned a lot there, both from him and from the other posters, including you and JOR.

    Yeah, I have made the transcendental argument for the existence of God, and yeah, I’m sure it can be strongly contested. I probably would have done better if I’d used some of Dr. Craig’s own arguments directly. A key aspect of Kant’s philosophy, for example, is that atheists act morally, and that atheism provides no excuse for acting immorally.

    Regarding the existence of objective moral values, I think it’s fair to say that everyone acts as if morality was objective, rather than merely subjective or intersubjective. And rightly so – you need to etablish some moral laws as objectively true in order to prevent moral chaos. Having said that, some philosophers have attempted to get around a completely inflexible belief in the existence of certain moral values in order to combat the viciously intolerant dictatorships of the 20th century. Sir Isaiah Berlin was one. He was horrified at the brutal intolerance and oppression of the Fascist dictatorships and Stalinist Russia, which he thought were based in such a belief in objective morality. His solution was to suggest that although there were no objective values, nevertheless there were universals, such as the prohibition on killing, that acted as objective moral values.

    However, this is open to the criticism that merely because something is universal, if it is not objective, then there is no reason why it can’t be ignored and that to insist on its observance, merely because it is a universal, relies on basing one’s opinions on the views of the majority, rather than one’s own conviction whether something is true or not. Now I believe that the universal human injunction against murder is there because murder is objectively wrong, and that this holds good, and continues to be true independently of the fact that the prohibition of murder also allows society to function properly.

  5. JOR Says:

    Well, Berlin was historically mistaken. The Stalinists and fascists both (largely) rejected any kind of universally binding, objective moral principles for psychologistic/polylogistic, nationalist relativism.

  6. JOR Says:

    I’m not sure what is meant by faith here. I was under the impression that faith means something like, “honoring your obligations (to God)”, in which case it may be part of the content of morality, but not something you need to establish morality’s existence. That is to say, someone might be correct about what objective morality ‘is’ and where it ‘comes from’, but might nevertheless be unable to fully specify morality’s content without referring to God’s demands. But this seems to be very different from what TAGers are trying to say.

  7. beastrabban Says:

    Hi JOR. I largely agree with your comment that The Stalinists and fascists both (largely) rejected any kind of universally binding, objective moral principles for psychologistic/polylogistic, nationalist relativism. I think it’s more true of the Fascist states, which contained a strong strand of Existentialism in their ideologies, than the Communist dictatorships. Stalin may have argued initially for ‘Socialism in one country’, just like Mussolini declared that ‘Fascism is not for export’, but he did believe that Socialism/Communism were historically inevitable. There’s also the evidence from all those odious paeans the hard Left has written to its revolutionary leaders over the years, from Trotsky to Kim Il Jong, lauding them as the greatest people in all history and for all humanity. There’s a universalist stance there which is absent, or not stressed to quite the same extent, in Fascism.

    But I do agree with you about Fascism. One of the things that strikes me is the intense similarity between it and some of the things the proponents of multiculturalism have said to defend regimes elsewhere in the world that have an appalling attitude to human rights. I can remember reading a speech by Adolf Hitler in one of the text books on the Third Reich we had at College, where the Great Dictator was ranting that democracy was all right for other countries, but not for Germany where conditions were historically and biologically different. It strongly resembled some of the rants by the dictators of some extra-European nations that attack democracy and women’s freedom to have an education and a career outside the home as being against their national values and part of a plot to enslave them by the Western world. I’ve also seen the same arguments used by apologists for certain ethnic communities in Britain to justify a policy of segregation from the host community, and the segregation of women to prevent them working with men.

    I’ve seen some of these rants even turn up in left-wing text books, written and edited by the earnest liberal types who would be out on the streets demonstrating if White Britons, Europeans or Americans start advocating such ideas. It’s one of the reasons why multiculturalism is coming increasingly under fire from the Left as well as the Right, as some members of the Left with a genuine commitment to equality have started attacking the racist double-standards espoused by some multiculturalists.

  8. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the comments on the way I was using the term ‘faith’. I was actually using the term in its more general sense of ‘religious belief and/or practice’, rather than in any technical sense. I’m sure that honouring one’s obligations to the Lord is part of it, though the word translated as ‘faith’ in the New Testament is pistis , which means ‘trust’, with the implication of it being ‘trust based on evidence’. Faith means trusting God’s word.

    I’m sure you’re right about my using the term in a different sense from the way it’s employed in TAG. However, I was brought up in the Anglican tradition of ‘faith, tradition and reason’. I was all trying to answer two different questions at once, or rather, two aspects of the same question: Firstly, that the existence of God is still needed to ground morality, which TAG does very well; and secondly, that divine revelation or religious faith can still act as a guide to morals, which is the point that Dawkins tries to attack. Now I believe that a rational, informed faith – that is, trust in God, enlightened by reason and scripture, does that.

    Note that in the above quotation by Locke, the great philosopher doesn’t reject reason. He says that it is difficult for people, by their own unaided efforts, to come to God, but when revelation is examined it’s found to be reasonable. He isn’t rejecting reason, merely making a perfectly orthodox statement about the problems faced by reason alone to come to a knowledge of the Lord.

    As for Locke himself, I’m a great fan of the man. Uni last year was planning to hold a one-day course on him and his philosophy. I signed up, only to have a phone call later stating that they’d had to cancel it due to lack of interest. Now that really is disappointing.

  9. JOR Says:

    It’s true that the communists believed that communism was historically inevitable, but they did reject moral objectivism. Or at least they thought they did; usually when people – fascists included – do this, they just wind up uncritically propounding some twisted anti-morality as objective and binding without realizing it. I’m reminded of school shooters and people I’ve encountered with similar nihilistic views who reject morality only to go on using words like ‘strong’ and ‘weak’, ‘fit’ and ‘unfit’ to mean in a twisted, formal sense what we would mean by ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

  10. JOR Says:

    Well I’m sure you’re aware that I don’t think very highly of the TAG, whether the topic is logic or morality. For the other argument that our moral specifications will be incomplete as long as we don’t acknowledge God’s demands – I disagree with it (I think it misconcieves God to imagine that he makes demands – rather God just is the content of morality, and something to be discovered by reason and whatever else you think is investigatively legitimate) but I don’t see it as viciously mistaken, or incompatible with an otherwise good philosophical conception of morality.

  11. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for the comments, JOR. Regarding the weird, twisted morality created by some individuals who adopt a Nihilistic worldview based on the right of the strong over the weak, I’ve got a feeling C.S. Lewis said something similar. He remarked in The Screwtape Letters I believe that to make atheism attractive, you don’t argue that it’s right, you argue instead that it is ‘strong’, ‘stark’ and so forth. Now clearly an awful lot of atheist polemic is based on atheism being right. However, I think he does accurately describe a type of ‘folk’ Nietzscheanism that’s out there: the adoption of a kind of crudely thought-out Nietzschean philosophy by people who like his moral anarchism and the extreme egotism in his philosophy, seen through the distorting lens of the Third Reich. And Hitler, for all his hatred of Christian morality, did indeed use the Darwinian notion of ‘survival of the fittest’ as the basis for his morality.

    All this done without taking on board that Nietzsche himself hated the rampant nationalism of Wilhelmine Germany. He stated that when someone mentioned culture, he thought only of French culture, as the Germans didn’t have any. When his cousin, Elizabeth Forster-Nietzsche published extracts from his books as a kind of proto-Nazi text, The Will to Power , Nietzsche severely criticised her, stating that he wrote it as a mental exercise. ‘It is a book for those who like to sit and think, no more.’

    Now I’m sure he was genuinely antichristian and that he genuinely believed that the morality he outlined would reinvigorate humanity, but he wasn’t a Nazi and only seriously abridged copies of his work were available during the Third Reich. Nevertheless, this type of atheism – or the crude charicature of Nietzscheanism that Hitler adopted as a suitable mascot for his regime, with its loud admiration of the ‘blonde beasts’ – does appeal to a type of severely alienated, misanthropic personality. I suspect they adopt it – like the school shooter in Finland last week – because it appears to give a philosophical and moral justification for their hatred for humanity. The people who adopt such a view of Nietzsche clearly view themselves as the ‘Superman’, freed from bourgeois conventions and Christian compassion, and look down on the rest of ‘humanity, mere humanity’ subjugated by Christian slave morality. It’s been that way ever since a very famous case in California, sometime in the 1920s, I believe, in California, when two kids from very privileged backgrounds murdered a third youth. When they were caught they claimed that they were motivated to do so because they were Nietzschean supermen, and by doing so they were demonstrating their freedom from bourgeois, Christian slave morality. My own view is that rather than being any type of Superman, they were a pair of thugs who got off on the thrill of murdering someone and with the thrill of power that thinking they were superior to everyone else gave them. My own feeling in these instances is that, antichrist as he was, Nietzsche would probably have been no more impressed with them than you or I.

  12. beastrabban Says:

    Yeah, I definitely got the impression you weren’t impressed with TAG. I think the problem with very abstract arguments like TAG is that they can appear to be a form of logic-chopping, and that generally people prefer a more evidentialist approach to demonstrating the existence or otherwise of God.

    Regarding your comments about God being the content of morality, rather than making ethical demands – this sounds to me quite an Aristotelian/ Neo-Platonist approach, where God is the unknowable One, who nevertheless is accessible to humanity through participation in rationality and the emanation of Mind. Now I do actually have a lot of time for Neo-Platonism. Porphyry’s comment that the One, although simple, contains all the objects expressed in the lower emanations of the universe in the same way that a mathematic problem like 1+9 contains its solution – 10- deftly answered Richard Dawkins’ daft question of how God, if He was simple, could create something as complex as the cosmos. This is one of the reasons why I really, really don’t take Dawkins at all seriously.

    Nevertheless, I do think that it’s entirely correct for God to make ethical demands, or be perceived to make ethical demands. For ethics to mean anything, they have to have a clear enunciation as the divinely mandated basis of objective morality. There has to be an obligation to act morally, beyond social necessity, and it’s best expressed as a set of basic moral demands, like the Ten Commandments. But I realise we’re going to differ on that. Thanks for letting me know that you don’t think my position on this is viciously mistaken or incompatible with what you would consider to be an otherwise good philosophical view of morality.

  13. JOR Says:

    Well, personally I dislike the TAG because of what it implies about logic and morality. I’m not averse to logic chopping – I think the best arguments against TAG are presuppositionalist in form, and I cringe whenever I see some crude empiricist rebuttal to abstract arguments like the TAG.

    The reason you give for wanting to ground moral principles in divine commands seems too consequentialist for my taste. I agree that social necessity is a poor ground for morality – but I think that is mainly because morality is not the kind of thing that needs to be, or even can be grounded in some other thing. In this instance morality precedes social cooperation, telling us social cooperation is good – so social cooperation surely can’t be the ground of morality. Likewise, if God makes demands of us, then morality is what answers the question: ought we obey these commands? It does not consist of the demands themselves. And it seems true that any correct specification of the contents of morality will include interpersonal obligations, indeed interpersonal obligations may well make up most of morality, but it does not follow from this that there needs to be a single person that we are all obligated to obey. That seems almost to be a fallacy of composition.

  14. JOR Says:

    Does Dawkins really think complexity can’t come from something simple? I’ve always thought his statements to the effect were an argumentum ad absurdum.

  15. beastrabban Says:

    He does seem to think that complexity can come from simplicity, in the form of step by step evolution. He says in The God Delusion that complex structures, like a Boeing 747, can only be created by something more complex than itself, hence his rejection of God, as God being very simple clearly couldn’t create complexity.

    I have to say I find it an absurd argument, though I don’t think it’s intentionally so. I’ve got a feeling he really, honestly believes that for God to exist, He must have evolved like every other object in the cosmos. It’s painful reading some of Dawkins’ arguments, not because they’re any good, but because they’re so bad.

  16. beastrabban Says:

    Thanks for your comments on TAG and consequentialism. I’m afraid I haven’t quite come across this approach before. Interesting. Here’s my perspective on some of the points you’ve raised.

    In this instance morality precedes social cooperation, telling us social cooperation is good – so social cooperation surely can’t be the ground of morality. Certainly morality precedes social co-operation, but it becomes acutely actualised and necessitated particularly during social interaction to the point where social co-operation, although not a ground of morality, becomes a major point for its actuation. And as most people would consider social co-operation to be a good, that good surely needs to be grounded in an enunciated set of moral conventions.

    Likewise, if God makes demands of us, then morality is what answers the question: ought we obey these commands? It does not consist of the demands themselves. If God is good, then therefore the demands themselves given by God are good. Again the problem isn’t that these ethical principles don’t exist, but that they may not be discovered by humanity or taken as seriously as they should be if they are.

    And it seems true that any correct specification of the contents of morality will include interpersonal obligations, indeed interpersonal obligations may well make up most of morality, but it does not follow from this that there needs to be a single person that we are all obligated to obey. That seems almost to be a fallacy of composition.

    My view here is that, God as the author and primordial archetype of humanity, grounds the way in which we act towards others. One obeys God, because God’s commands are intrinsically good, and in doing so one also serves humanity. I’d cite in support of this the statements in the Bible that humanity is made in the image of God, Christ’s statement that whatever you do to the beggars who meet you, you do to Him, and His command: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and with all your soul. And your neighbour as yourself. On this hangs the Law and the prophets.

  17. JOR Says:

    Certainly morality precedes social co-operation, but it becomes acutely actualised and necessitated particularly during social interaction to the point where social co-operation, although not a ground of morality, becomes a major point for its actuation. And as most people would consider social co-operation to be a good, that good surely needs to be grounded in an enunciated set of moral conventions.

    Sure.

    If God is good, then therefore the demands themselves given by God are good. Again the problem isn’t that these ethical principles don’t exist, but that they may not be discovered by humanity or taken as seriously as they should be if they are.

    Well, yeah. But the point I make against the TAG is this: how do we determine if God is good? And what do we mean if we say that God is good – how do we establish that, if God is in fact good, that we ought to obey his commands? Prior moral presuppositions are embedded within any suggestion that God’s commands are good, or obligatory, or both; much the same way that principles of logic are presupposed and embedded within any suggestion that some other thing justifies or grounds them. I’m not saying these moral presuppositions that lie behind the argument from morality and TAG are illegitimate (though depending on the particular presuppositions, they may well be), just that they’re there. And that’s enough to damn the TAG from the start. Now it’s true that none of this applies if all you’re saying is that we, for whatever reasons, can’t get a good idea of the content of morality unless we acknowledge God’s will or commands. I disagree with that too, but it’s a much hazier matter and it’s not what I was arguing against here.

  18. Frank Walton Says:

    Beast, first of all let me commend your blog–it is a fresh breath from the off-the-wall unfounded assertions that Frank makes over at his blog. You don’t know how many times I’ve attempted to fix his mistakes on that blog where he just won’t post my comments because he doesn’t like being wrong.

    LOL! So, you say, Landypoo.

    I hope you run your blog in a more intellectually respectable manner (and I have no doubts that you will).

    In regards to this post, I’m struck by the moral argument in your last paragraph. You specifically write: “Such transcendental, objective morality is only the case when based on the existence of a transcendental, moral Creator.” This is no different than the argument used by Dr. Craig (and others), essentially:

    (1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists,
    (2) Objective moral values exist,
    (3) Therefore, God exists.

    I don’t see how Beast Rabban put his contention in a syllogism but I doubt he would disagree with Dr. Craig.

    Obviously both premises are in dispute by various philosophers. Some dispute (2), but even granting that premise, the most difficult premise on your shoulders is (1).

    Well, if you would explain how, maybe there would be more to go on. How does God’s existence impede objective moral values?

  19. JOR Says:

    How does God’s existence impede objective moral values?

    It doesn’t. Nobody said it does. I guess this is what is to be expected from someone who thinks nuance is intellectually unmanly or whatever.

  20. Frank Walton Says:

    *SIGH* As always, it seems that JOR is at it again, giving an infinite amount of comments without really understanding what’s been said. But I”m not what you would say “someone who thinks nuance is intellectually unmanly or whatever”. But if you actually read Landon, he wrote: “the most difficult premise on your shoulders is (1).” And if you recall premise 1 is “(1) If objective moral values exist, then God exists…” That’s an existential claim, genius. To which I responded “How does God’s existence impede objective moral values?” *ROLLS EYES* People.

  21. JOR Says:

    Disputing that premise does not imply that God’s existence impedes objective morality, Frank, only that God’s existence is not required for, and so can not be inferred from, the existence of objective morality.

  22. beastrabban Says:

    Hi JOR and Frank – thanks for the comments. It’s been great reading them, though I’m afraid I haven’t been able to comment because I’ve been kept a bit busy. Regarding TAG, I can see Frank’s point in that the distinction between transcendental objective moral values and God could lead some to conclude that God is an unnecessary complication to moral theory.

    However, my guess is that a defence of the identity of God and moral values can be made using something like the ontological argument. God is fundamentally good, and an objective part of the universe. Thus objective moral values exist objectively as themselves and in the person of God. Now the categorical imperative clearly exists prior to the situations it governs, just as God, as the Creator and governor, exists prior to and above the situations the categorical imperative governs.

    However, this does not rule out the necessity of God’s action. While objective morality exists, humans are unable to establish it through their own actions. Some moral principles are unclear, and debated. So in order to awaken humans to the actualization of objective moral values, God is entitled to use hypothetical imperatives – to make demands of the ‘if this, then this’ type to create a situation closer to God’s eternal values. This can be seen apodictic nature of the Old Testament Law, which follow the ‘if a man…, then…’ of Hammurabi’s laws. Furthermore, God is entitled to make demands because of the contingent nature of the universe. Clearly the universe has fallen short of God’s plan, and can only be recalled to a more proper manifestation of that pristine order and goodness through contingent actions which partake of God’s goodness because they act to manifest God’s own moral nature on the universe.

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