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Atheism/materialism doesn't justify morality
in Religion

By GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts edited May 5


Hi. 

I'm a Christian. One of the biggest problems I see with materialism is the inability to justify objective moral values and duties if you have a materialistic worldview. 

Let's take Ted Bundy. He raped and killed women and girls. A materialist can believe what Ted did to be wrong, but a materialistic worldview doesn't allow for the condemnation of Ted's actions. You may think (and feel) that Ted was wrong to rape and murder, but ultimately the universe doesn't care. Moreover, the rapist doesn't agree with you: he thinks and feels that he's completely justified in murdering/raping. Ted just isn't interested in playing by the rules.

The question now becomes, whether we can call what Ted did 'wrong'. I see no reason to suggest we can (based on a materialistic worldview). Can a jury rightfully sentence Ted? On what grounds/rules would a jury sentence Ted? We can't use 'our' moral rules because Ted never agreed to play along. This leaves us with his own rules, but his rules don't condemn his actions, they justify them. See, the problem isn't that atheists can't be moral, the problem is that atheists can't expect someone else to be. And a society that can't expect everyone to adhere to moral laws is not a society I want to live in.
The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
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  • ZeusAres42ZeusAres42 1348 Pts
    Firstly, what do you mean by objective morality? The reason I ask this is that sometimes people confuse moral objectivism as being the same thing as moral absolutism when they are two different things.
    piloteerSkepticalOne









  • NopeNope 367 Pts
    Glorfindel
    Individuals can justify sentencing Ted If they value their moral view and wish to remain free in many ways over other peoples total freedom. Anyone can recognize Ted danger to other people. They can also recognize that in order to have a law that protects them it needs to satisfy many people. This likely means protecting other people. The government can justify sentencing Ted If the people who make it decide that people like Ted should be sentenced. Ted doesn't need to be labeled as "objectively morally wrong" for him to be considered bad for society and the people in it.
    Glorfindel
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;
    First off, there is a huge difference between atheism and materialism. In fact, you can be a theist an a materialist or an atheist and a mind-body duelist.

    To explain briefly, an atheist is someone who holds the belief that there is no god. This is separate from someone who is agnostic, who is someone who has no positive belief in god or the absence of god.

    A materialist or a physicality is someone who holds the philosophical position that the world is made of mater, or more broadly that the universe is self contained, meaning that everything that exists is the only thing that effects what does exist.

    Duelism is the philosophical position that there are more than one substrates for reality, a natural and a supernatural. It is the position that things that do exist can be influenced by things that are supernatural, i.e. a soul.

    An example of someone who is both an atheist and a duelist would be Scientologists, because they do not have an official deity in the same way many other religions do, however they believe in the existence of Thetans which are essentially souls.

    Semantics out of the way, I would defend the position of morality with my own pragmatic views on ethics and morality. To put this simply, morality exists because it is useful for everyone and our society. Punishing criminal is acceptable because a society that needs these rules in order to function will enact them, and in practice this means establishing courts, laws, and enforcement.

    In this way, there is a lot of flexibility in what we can do with our laws to tailor them to the specific needs of a society. For example, according to the morality of the bible, eating pork, shellfish, working on Sundays, homosexuals, treating women as equals, or practicing any religion except Christianity is immoral. If we assume that the morality of the bible is objective and the one true morality then we have to accept that all of these things are inherently evil, even though most of us accept them already in our culture, and in fact derive great benefits from them (example: bacon) There is no flexibility in this moral system.

    Personally, I don't think that if we are pondering over if morality is objective or not we are asking the wrong question. I would say that there is a subjective moral system that enables and objectively good outcome. This is actually fairly obvious in examination. For example, Billy might think hitting other kids is alright, Jimmy might think hitting is always wrong, and Jake might think that hitting back if hit is okay. I would argue that although everyone has a subjective view on what is and isn't moral, an objectively best solution emerges, which would be a combination of nobody hitting and some people hitting if hit.

    The purpose of ethics and morality IMO, is to locate what this maximum is for any given set of arbitrary policies.
    GlorfindelZeusAres42Plaffelvohfenpiloteer
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • DeeDee 1903 Pts
    edited May 4

    One of the problems I see with materialism is the inability to justify objective moral values and duties if you have a materialistic worldview. 


    ****I don’t believe in objective morality  as all morality is subjective. Your Bible clearly states how one can buy and own people as property and indeed how one may sell and beat his property as approved by your god and Jesus , Christians now mostly detest slavery proving convincingly that morality is purely subjective and influenced by ones environment and society 


    ***Let's take Ted Bundy. He raped and killed women and girls. A materialist can believe what Ted did to be wrong, but a materialistic worldview doesn't allow for the condemnation of Ted's actions.


    What do you mean “ doesn’t allow” ?  One can have a materialistic worldview and all that entails but still abhor the actions of Bundy 


     ***You may think (and feel) that Ted was wrong to rape and murder, but ultimately the universe doesn't care. 


    No it doesn’t , so what?


    ***/Moreover, the rapist doesn't agree with you: he thinks and feels that he's completely justified in murdering/raping. 


    Yes he may think this 


    ****Ted just isn't interested in playing by the rules.


    Agreed 


    ***The question now becomes, whether we can call what Ted did 'wrong'.



     ***I see no reason to suggest we can (based on a materialistic worldview). Can a jury rightfully sentence Ted? On what grounds/rules would a jury sentence Ted? 


    To protect us from harm by Bundy as he has the ability to harm us if free 



    *****We can't use 'our' moral rules because Ted never agreed to play along. 



    But we never agreed Ted could rape our daughters did we ?


    ****This leaves us with his own rules, but his rules don't condemn his actions, they justify them. 


    Yes , just like gods do regarding slavery , there’s that  subjective “ morality “ again 


    ***See, the problem isn't that atheists can't be moral, the problem is that atheists can't expect someone else to be. 


    An atheist can reasonably expect others to treat him / her with the respect he treats them which is what most do 


    ****And a society that can't expect everyone to adhere to moral laws is not a society I want to live in.


    Nor do I 

  • @Happy_Killbot. It seems as though you would be correct, everyone would come to a conclusion that gives the most benefit to everyone (much like a free market society) but i do believe there is a potential flaw. I would consider this to be close to natural selection, weak die and strong stay.

    People like ted bundy do not care how someone else may benefit. Without morality, I think the argument can be made that the strong, who would often see the greatest benefit by just dominating the rest of society, would not take the comprimising strategy to help society.  They may be helped more in the long run, by implementing rules of "objective morality" but it would be a risk with no guarantee, i dont see them doing that.  This can be seen in many primitive societies and in nature.

    Maybe Im wrong, but it can only be seen now that Judeo-christian beliefs have been implemented that others can see, that these set of rules and freedoms generate the most benefit for everyone involved.
    Glorfindel
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @ZeusAres42 Concerning your question regarding a definition of objective morality. I'd define objective morality as follows:

    Objective morality, in the simplest terms, is the belief that morality is universal, meaning that it isn't up for interpretation. Morality concerns the things we ought and oughtn't to do.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Nope Thanks for your response. I'll quote it here for clarity: 

    "Individuals can justify sentencing Ted If they value their moral view and wish to remain free in many ways over other peoples total freedom. Anyone can recognize Ted danger to other people. They can also recognize that in order to have a law that protects them it needs to satisfy many people. This likely means protecting other people. The government can justify sentencing Ted If the people who make it decide that people like Ted should be sentenced. Ted doesn't need to be labeled as "objectively morally wrong" for him to be considered bad for society and the people in it."

    There are a few problems, but for now, let's focus on just one.

    What if Ted is caught, but not sentenced. Instead, even though the evidence against him should have been conclusive for life in prison (or the death penalty, if you're for that), he's allowed to walk free. Say, because the people voted for him to be free. Would that be right? Ought he be sentenced - even though society didn't consider him bad? Or, say a new bill gets passed by a massive majority that allows parents to eat their babies. Would that be right?

    See, if morality is simply whatever the majority decides it to be, morality can be a very nasty thing. Only, it wouldn't make sense to call it 'nasty', because, we don't have a higher moral standard by which to judge. 

    Say a society allows for black people to be enslaved. Is that right? Or say a society allows for jews to be killed in gas chambers. Is that right? Or say a society allows for people who disagree with the authorities on minor issues to be put in concentration camps. Is that right? If not, by what standard do you judge?
    WinstonC
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • DeeDee 1903 Pts
    edited May 4
    @Glorfindel

    **** Say a society allows for black people to be enslaved. Is that right?

    The bible allowed for a man to sell his daughter into slavery was that right? 

    It was right according to American “Christians” right up to the 1960’s to treat blacks as second class citizens, was that right?
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @MichaelElpers ;

    This doesn't work as a Darwinian method or something that develops organically for determining what is most moral, it requires deliberate computation.

    The rules would still apply to everyone in exactly the same way, so for example lets consider killing as a single axis of a social aspect.

    On one extreme of this axis, is killing is permitted by anyone against everyone without repercussion. On the other extreme, killing is never allowed by anyone under any circumstance.

    What I propose is that somewhere along this axis is a value for which an objectively superior society exists. In real life, it is much more complex because we are dealing with millions of axis and changing one value can potentially change what the new max is for all values, but for now we will keep it simple.

    A society that allows killing under any circumstance is unlikely to last a long time because of people like Ted Bundy. On the other hand, a society that never permits any killing will likely be enveloped by hostile outsiders and it too will come to a close. We can therefore determine that there is somewhere in the middle, where things such as killing in self defense, euthanasia, and capital punishment are debated.

    Of course, as I said before it is somewhat determined by changes in social and technological conditions. For example, Suppose we had the ability to link all of our minds together into a gestalt consciousness (a hive mind), which I am using as an example specifically because it is extreme. In this scenario, there is no need for any killing whatsoever. Contrast this with if we live in a zombie apocalypse, it might be considered acceptable to kill someone who was thought to have been infected.

    I would strongly argue against the notion that the US and liberal democracy is built on Judeo-Christian values, because I see all of this as coming out of enlightenment thinking and humanist values developed during the Renaissance. If Judeo-Christian values are so potent, then why did the middle ages last for so long? This is probably best made into another topic.
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot Thanks for the response. There's a lot in there, so I'm not going to be able to get to everything you said. But here goes.

    First off, you make the point of atheism being completely different from materialism. Though I agree that they have a different emphasis, I don't think they're quite so different. Atheism is the belief that there is no god. Materialism is the belief that the material world is all there is (go look it up). It is very difficult to maintain one without the other, and indeed we see that many atheists are materialists, and vice versa. Worldviews are package deals after all.

    Now, definitions out of the way, let's get to your response. I'll quote it here:

    "Semantics out of the way, I would defend the position of morality with my own pragmatic views on ethics and morality. To put this simply, morality exists because it is useful for everyone and our society. Punishing criminal is acceptable because a society that needs these rules in order to function will enact them, and in practice this means establishing courts, laws, and enforcement.

    In this way, there is a lot of flexibility in what we can do with our laws to tailor them to the specific needs of a society. For example, according to the morality of the bible, eating pork, shellfish, working on Sundays, homosexuals, treating women as equals, or practicing any religion except Christianity is immoral. If we assume that the morality of the bible is objective and the one true morality then we have to accept that all of these things are inherently evil, even though most of us accept them already in our culture, and in fact derive great benefits from them (example: bacon) There is no flexibility in this moral system.

    Personally, I don't think that if we are pondering over if morality is objective or not we are asking the wrong question. I would say that there is a subjective moral system that enables and objectively good outcome. This is actually fairly obvious in examination. For example, Billy might think hitting other kids is alright, Jimmy might think hitting is always wrong, and Jake might think that hitting back if hit is okay. I would argue that although everyone has a subjective view on what is and isn't moral, an objectively best solution emerges, which would be a combination of nobody hitting and some people hitting if hit.

    The purpose of ethics and morality IMO, is to locate what this maximum is for any given set of arbitrary policies."

    First, allow me to thank you for your clear and humble response. In my experience, there are few who seek who are left unanswered.

    I myself enjoy pragmatism very much, though I know far too little about it to be considered knowledgable in the field. However, your answer, like most answers from a pragmatic system, fails to give an adequate answer to the question why. Granted good laws improve the functionality of society, the question remains: why ought one seek the improvement of society? To say that it is good for people to seek the improvement of society would be circular reasoning. This is called the is-ought problem. Allow me to quote Hume:

    "
    In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;

    I would agree that there is a huge overlap between those who are atheist and those who have materialist perspective, but it is important to understand that correlation doesn't equal causation. I have given an example of atheists who are not materialists, similarly Deists, who believe that god created the world and then doesn't interfere thus making their position perfectly compatible with all scientific en-devours, could be materialists and theists.
    why ought one seek the improvement of society?
    The answer is physics causes it to happen. If I ask the same question in a different context, it doesn't make any sense:

    Why ought objects fall towards gravitational wells?

    These really are the same question. from a materialist perspective. In a materialist's eye, the world is essentially just a stage where things happen according to the laws of nature, and everything that happens in them is simply these laws playing out as they will. So for atoms to build molecules, to build proteins, to build cells, to build organs, to build people, to build societies is many layers of emergence that are all fundamentally based on underlying fundamentals. In this way, our construction of morality is a product of our very being, same with asking about morality and thinking about it. My pragmatic view on morality therefore needs no justification, because it just is.

    If we go looking for some abstract metaphysical reason we will turn up empty handed every time. God or Theism are not an answer any more than saying that pink fuzzy unicorns hide in the forest and that is why we need to treat each other nice because it rests on the unprovable assumption that god exists. On close examination, it doesn't work.
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot Thanks for your response. There's a lot in there, I don't think I'll be able to address everything, but I'll respond to what I can.

    First off, regarding the definitions of materialism and atheism, I agree that they have a different emphasis, but they are by no means vastly different. Atheism is the belief that there is no god. Materialism is the belief that the physical world is all there is (go look it up). These two usually go together. And indeed, most atheists are materialists and vice versa. Worldviews are package deals after all.

    Now, to get to your response. I'll quote it here for clarity.

    "Semantics out of the way, I would defend the position of morality with my own pragmatic views on ethics and morality. To put this simply, morality exists because it is useful for everyone and our society. Punishing criminal is acceptable because a society that needs these rules in order to function will enact them, and in practice this means establishing courts, laws, and enforcement.

    In this way, there is a lot of flexibility in what we can do with our laws to tailor them to the specific needs of a society. For example, according to the morality of the bible, eating pork, shellfish, working on Sundays, homosexuals, treating women as equals, or practicing any religion except Christianity is immoral. If we assume that the morality of the bible is objective and the one true morality then we have to accept that all of these things are inherently evil, even though most of us accept them already in our culture, and in fact derive great benefits from them (example: bacon) There is no flexibility in this moral system.

    Personally, I don't think that if we are pondering over if morality is objective or not we are asking the wrong question. I would say that there is a subjective moral system that enables and objectively good outcome. This is actually fairly obvious in examination. For example, Billy might think hitting other kids is alright, Jimmy might think hitting is always wrong, and Jake might think that hitting back if hit is okay. I would argue that although everyone has a subjective view on what is and isn't moral, an objectively best solution emerges, which would be a combination of nobody hitting and some people hitting if hit.

    The purpose of ethics and morality IMO, is to locate what this maximum is for any given set of arbitrary policies."

    First off, allow me to thank you for your clear and humble response. In my experience, few who ask truthfully are left without answers.

    Furthermore, I myself enjoy pragmatism very much. But, your argument has the same flaw pragmatism usually has: it fails to answer the question why. Granted good laws improve the functionality of a society, the question remains: why ought we to improve the functionality of a society? To say that it's for our benefit if society improves is circular reasoning. Why should we care what's for our benefit? This is called the is-ought problem. There's no way to get from "this is beneficial" to "this ought to be done." Allow me to quote Hume on this issue:

    "In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot

    You do a very good job of explaining why people care about morality. But you haven't explained why they should. I'm afraid that's the central theme of this debate: justifying objective morality. 

    Let me give you an example. Stating that most people don't rape doesn't explain why Ted shouldn't rape (it's the is-ought problem). All it does is explain the phenomenon that most people seem to willingly obey a law, even if they have no reason to. But if this law doesn't exist, how can it be broken? And if it cannot be broken, why can we not do what we want? Why is it wrong for Ted to rape? Why is it wrong for parents to eat their babies? On the other hand, if this law really does exist, where did it come from? A moral law requires a Moral Law Giver. But this Moral Law Giver would be a Being transcending our world, who sounds a lot like God.

    I'd like to respond to another point you made. You said, "...our construction of morality is a product of our very being, same with asking about morality and thinking about it. My pragmatic view on morality therefore needs no justification, because it just is."  Imagine if I said, "God doesn't need any justification, because He just is." Would you accept that?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;
    Not sure how that happened, but somehow I answered before you responded.
    Let me give you an example. Stating that most people don't rape doesn't explain why Ted shouldn't rape (it's the is-ought problem). All it does is explain the phenomenon that most people seem to willingly obey a law, even if they have no reason to. But if this law doesn't exist, how can it be broken? And if it cannot be broken, why can we not do what we want? Why is it wrong for Ted to rape? Why is it wrong for parents to eat their babies? On the other hand, if this law really does exist, where did it come from? A moral law requires a Moral Law Giver. But this Moral Law Giver would be a Being transcending our world, who sounds a lot like God.
    I am not arguing that appeal to popularity or the "bandwagon" is what morality should be based on in any way.

    What I am arguing is that there is a maximum objective potential for society for which a certain set of laws and ethics can be set to maximize.

    That's a little abstract, so here is my response to @ MichaelElpers above for copy/paste:
    This doesn't work as a Darwinian method or something that develops organically for determining what is most moral, it requires deliberate computation.

    The rules would still apply to everyone in exactly the same way, so for example lets consider killing as a single axis of a social aspect.

    On one extreme of this axis, is killing is permitted by anyone against everyone without repercussion. On the other extreme, killing is never allowed by anyone under any circumstance.

    What I propose is that somewhere along this axis is a value for which an objectively superior society exists. In real life, it is much more complex because we are dealing with millions of axis and changing one value can potentially change what the new max is for all values, but for now we will keep it simple.

    A society that allows killing under any circumstance is unlikely to last a long time because of people like Ted Bundy. On the other hand, a society that never permits any killing will likely be enveloped by hostile outsiders and it too will come to a close. We can therefore determine that there is somewhere in the middle, where things such as killing in self defense, euthanasia, and capital punishment are debated.

    Of course, as I said before it is somewhat determined by changes in social and technological conditions. For example, Suppose we had the ability to link all of our minds together into a gestalt consciousness (a hive mind), which I am using as an example specifically because it is extreme. In this scenario, there is no need for any killing whatsoever. Contrast this with if we live in a zombie apocalypse, it might be considered acceptable to kill someone who was thought to have been infected.
    So for example, eating babies is wrong because it decreases population growth, therefore it moves us away from that objective maximum.
    I'd like to respond to another point you made. You said, "...our construction of morality is a product of our very being, same with asking about morality and thinking about it. My pragmatic view on morality therefore needs no justification, because it just is."  Imagine if I said, "God doesn't need any justification, because He just is." Would you accept that?
    I would not accept that because there is no evidence whatsoever, and for this reason it is not useful to assume that one exists. Reality I see and experience at all times, so I have nothing but evidence that reality exists. God, gods, or other mythical beings have never been shown to exist.

    What would you say if I pointed out that the Abrahamic god is quite evil and therefore could not have been the source of an objective morality?
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • NopeNope 367 Pts
    Glorfindel 
    If the black people don't want to be slaves or the Jews don't want to be killed then I would wan't that society to change because I don't like those things. But that is just me. Things need not be objectively good or bad for people to decided they have problems with something and decide to take action.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Nope

    If the black people don't want to be slaves or the Jews don't want to be killed then I would wan't that society to change because I don't like those things. But that is just me. Things need not be objectively good or bad for people to decided they have problems with something and decide to take action.

    But why should your desire for things to change trump the desire of those who wish for it to stay the same?

    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot

    My answer disappeared... Don't know how. So I had to retype it. 

    What would you say if I pointed out that the Abrahamic god is quite evil and therefore could not have been the source of an objective morality?

    I'd love to discuss this point in another debate. Of course, I disagree with you. But let's stick to the topic for now, if you don't mind.


    I am not arguing that appeal to popularity or the "bandwagon" is what morality should be based on in any way.

    What I am arguing is that there is a maximum objective potential for society for which a certain set of laws and ethics can be set to maximize.

    ...So for example, eating babies is wrong because it decreases population growth, therefore it moves us away from that objective maximum.

    Yes, I agree that there is a maximum potential 'good' for society (though I fail to see why that matters in the grand scheme of things). I also agree that there are things we can do to begin to actualize this maximum 'good' for society. But what I fail to see is why I or Ted Bundy should care about it. The argument, "This is beneficial to society, therefore you should do it." has a hidden assumption, namely, that we should do what is beneficial to society. I see no reason why we should do what is beneficial to society (at least, on a materialistic worldview).


    It's a bit off-topic, but since you justified not eating babies because it decreases population growth, I assume you're pro-life?

    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • @Glorfindel
    It's an interesting point you raise. I as an atheist don't actually see the need to justify objective values and duties. I don't think there is any such thing as 'objective morality', because our concept of morality has been shaped by society. Believe it or not, morality actually came out of completely selfish values and beliefs, the reason being that it you act morally, you will get a better reputation. You might think that the reason we don't kill others is because we think it's the right thing to do, but it might not actually directly benefit you if you do. You see, if you, B and C are all rivals. If you kill B, you might have just done a good turn for C by eliminating one of his rivals. In summary, I don't think there is a need to justify objective values and duties, and I don't think it's a good enough reason to act morally just because God says so.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 5
    @xlJ_dolphin_473 Thanks for your response, appreciate the honesty.

    It's an interesting point you raise. I as an atheist don't actually see the need to justify objective values and duties. I don't think there is any such thing as 'objective morality', because our concept of morality has been shaped by society. Believe it or not, morality actually came out of completely selfish values and beliefs, the reason being that it you act morally, you will get a better reputation. You might think that the reason we don't kill others is because we think it's the right thing to do, but it might not actually directly benefit you if you do. You see, if you, B and C are all rivals. If you kill B, you might have just done a good turn for C by eliminating one of his rivals. In summary, I don't think there is a need to justify objective values and duties, and I don't think it's a good enough reason to act morally just because God says so.

    It seems like you would actually agree with my main point. I was trying to establish that a materialist can't appeal to objective moral standards without contradicting himself. Therefore, to be consistent in his base assumptions, the materialist must also be a moral relativist (you are a moral relativist, right? Or did I misunderstand your answer?).

    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • @Glorfindel
    Yes, I am a moral relativist, and I do agree with your main point. But it seems like we're interpreting the point in different ways. It seems as if you take objective morality as a given, and therefore consider materialism to be illogical. I on the contrary take materialism as a given, and consider objective morality to be illogical. Is this correct, or have I misunderstood?
    Plaffelvohfen
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @xlJ_dolphin_473

    Yes and no. The point I want atheists to consider is that there are only two consistent positions regarding morality. Either morality is objective (but that would require a God, which would make you a theist), or morality is subjective (which is the only view an atheist can consistently hold).

    Objective morality is, however, such a big part of how we live, that I find it hard to understand how someone can be a moral relativist. Do you really think it's ultimately OK for Ted to rape, whether you approve of it or not?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • @xlJ_dolphin_473

    Yes and no. The point I want atheists to consider is that there are only two consistent positions regarding morality. Either morality is objective (but that would require a God, which would make you a theist), or morality is subjective (which is the only view an atheist can consistently hold).

    Objective morality is, however, such a big part of how we live, that I find it hard to understand how someone can be a moral relativist. Do you really think it's ultimately OK for Ted to rape, whether you approve of it or not?
    I don't think that it's "ultimately" anything. Rape is only bad because of the effect it has on the person being raped, which is a subjective experience. There's nothing innately bad about rape. And before you take my words out of context, I'm not saying rape is OK. I'm just saying it's not objectively bad.
    Plaffelvohfen
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @xlJ_dolphin_473

    I don't think that it's "ultimately" anything. Rape is only bad because of the effect it has on the person being raped, which is a subjective experience. There's nothing innately bad about rape. And before you take my words out of context, I'm not saying rape is OK. I'm just saying it's not objectively bad.

    But what sense does it make to say that, if a clump of atoms bump into each other this way rather than that, it's not OK?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • @xlJ_dolphin_473

    I don't think that it's "ultimately" anything. Rape is only bad because of the effect it has on the person being raped, which is a subjective experience. There's nothing innately bad about rape. And before you take my words out of context, I'm not saying rape is OK. I'm just saying it's not objectively bad.

    But what sense does it make to say that, if a clump of atoms bump into each other this way rather than that, it's not OK?
    Because of the subjective experiences they cause. Consciousness is a blurry line.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 5
    @xlJ_dolphin_473

    Because of the subjective experiences they cause. Consciousness is a blurry line.

    OK, so the act of rape causes a negative experience for the victim, but a positive experience for Ted. Why does the woman's experience trump Ted's?

    By the way, I sent you a friend request. I like your honest approach.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;

    Yes, I agree that there is a maximum potential 'good' for society (though I fail to see why that matters in the grand scheme of things). I also agree that there are things we can do to begin to actualize this maximum 'good' for society. But what I fail to see is why I or Ted Bundy should care about it. The argument, "This is beneficial to society, therefore you should do it." has a hidden assumption, namely, that we should do what is beneficial to society. I see no reason why we should do what is beneficial to society (at least, on a materialistic worldview).


    It's a bit off-topic, but since you justified not eating babies because it decreases population growth, I assume you're pro-life?
    It isn't necessarily a maximum good, it's a bit more nuanced than that. For example, we can show objectively that some societies are happier than others, or healthier, or live longer, etc. All of these things are important components.

    Suppose I turn your question around, instead I ask "why should we do what is worst for society?" This has an objective answer which is intuitive.

    Let me explain it this way. Let's say there are 2 societies one that is committed to doing what is worst for society and one that is committed to doing what is best for society. The worst for society community will peter out and destroy itself. The other society which is committed to doing what is best will survive, therefore doing what is worst for society is objectively bad.



    On the off topic question, the simple answer is that I reject both the pro-life and the pro-choice positions, and instead substitute a secret 3rd option that sadly, gets little to no press which I have dubed pro-freedom, and simply put it is that the solution to the abortion debate is effective disassociation of sex and childbirth. In practice, this means developing technologies such as male-equivalent birth control and artificial wombs, both of which would effectively drop the abortion rate to near 0, just hundreds or thousands of people per year instead of hundreds of thousands, effectively solving the problem via irrelevancy.
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 5
    @Happy_Killbot

    It isn't necessarily a maximum good, it's a bit more nuanced than that. For example, we can show objectively that some societies are happier than others, or healthier, or live longer, etc. All of these things are important components.

    Agreed. I was just using the terms you introduced, to not put words in your mouth.


    Suppose I turn your question around, instead I ask "why should we do what is worst for society?" This has an objective answer which is intuitive.

    On a materialistic worldview, there's nothing to show that anyone shouldn't do what is worst for society. Many people don't do what's worst for society (some intuitively, some because of personal benefit), but the fact that something furthers the worst-case scenario for society isn't in itself enough to say it oughtn't to be done. Once again, the hidden assumption: we shouldn't further the destruction of society.


    To be clear, I'm not advocating the destruction of society. I'm also not saying that materialists are somehow a bunch of society-destroyers. What I'm saying is that a materialist cannot make an "ought" claim without contradicting his worldview.


    Let me explain it this way. Let's say there are 2 societies one that is committed to doing what is worst for society and one that is committed to doing what is best for society. The worst for society community will peter out and destroy itself. The other society which is committed to doing what is best will survive, therefore doing what is worst for society is objectively bad.

    I see no reason (on a materialistic worldview) why you can call the end of a society objectively bad. Matter is just matter. And ultimately all humans are is small bags of mostly water with big noisy holes on top. What sense does it make to say that the destruction of a bunch of these small bags of mostly water is bad? To be or not to be - who cares? To kill or not to kill - does it matter? To rape or not to rape - the universe doesn't care.

    I'm not denying that the society focussed on doing what's best for society will be better off (in the long run) than the society focussed on doing what's worst for society. Of course one will be better off than the other. There are two questions one needs to ask, however. 1) Does it matter, ultimately? 2) Why should an individual do the things best for society?

    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • PlaffelvohfenPlaffelvohfen 1355 Pts
    @ZeusAres42 Concerning your question regarding a definition of objective morality. I'd define objective morality as follows:

    Objective morality, in the simplest terms, is the belief that morality is universal, meaning that it isn't up for interpretation. Morality concerns the things we ought and oughtn't to do.
    There are a few problems with your definition... You have completely evacuated any notion of context, without which Morality cannot be articulated. Ought and oughtn't, need a goal or purpose (context) to make any sense...  What is that goal? 

    It seems to me you're saying that we ought or oughtn't do something, based on the will of an individual (God), but that doesn't make it objective, it would still only be that individual's subjective opinion... Saying it's God's will or it's John's will is the same... Unless you use the special pleading fallacy...
    ZeusAres42Happy_KillbotGlorfindelDee
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;
    On a materialistic worldview, there's nothing to show that anyone shouldn't do what is worst for society. Many people don't do what's worst for society (some intuitively, some because of personal benefit), but the fact that something furthers the worst-case scenario for society isn't in itself enough to say it oughtn't to be done. Once again, the hidden assumption: we shouldn't further the destruction of society.

    I see no reason (on a materialistic worldview) why you can call the end of a society objectively bad. Matter is just matter. And ultimately all humans are is small bags of mostly water with big noisy holes on top. What sense does it make to say that the destruction of a bunch of these small bags of mostly water is bad? To be or not to be - who cares? To kill or not to kill - does it matter? To rape or not to rape - the universe doesn't care.
    I think you are confusing materialism for nihilism, which are not the same thing in any way. With a nihilistic worldview there isn't any set reason or motivation, and I will get to this in a second.
    I'm not denying that the society focussed on doing what's best for society will be better off (in the long run) than the society focussed on doing what's worst for society. Of course one will be better off than the other. There are two questions one needs to ask, however. 1) Does it matter, ultimately? 2) Why should an individual do the things best for society?
    Let me approach this from a slightly different angle.

    Where exactly in a materialistic worldview would you suppose that meaning exists?

    It is important here to differentiate between a nihilist and a materialist in that the nihilist doesn't think there is meaning, but in a materialist worldview there can be.

    I would argue that meaning is a construct of the human mind which is made of cells made of atoms. In this way meaning exists because our brains can make this extrapolation in understanding. This of course requires that there are people then to be able to interpret the circumstances of reality into that meaning in order for it to exist, even as just an abstract construct.

    This implies that if people don't exist, say we all gave up and did the purge or something and inevitably all life ceased to exist, there could not be any meaning at all. Therefore we can conclude that in order for any meaning to exist there must be agents who can poses it, and further extrapolate that there is are objective ways to go about doing this as I have mentioned above.

    At the end of the day of course, this is all going to come down to human emotions and core motivations endued upon us by millions of years of evolution, which only seeks to continue it's existence because if it didn't it would cease to exist, thus meaning for continued existence isn't justified in any cosmic way but is rather an emergent property.
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • AlofRIAlofRI 631 Pts
    OMG! The simplest thing becomes a theoretical malaise in this modern world! 

    I'll just take the tac that society decides what is acceptable, what is not, and if there is any disagreement the courts will make a decision. Since we still have (mostly, at the moment) the theoretical separation of church and state, their morals should be considered, but not force the decision. Acceptable is acceptable, not is not .... Ted Bundy is not. So says society.

    Common sense should not have to take up screen after screen of my large screen computer.  :weary:
    Glorfindel
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 5
    @Plaffelvohfen

    There are a few problems with your definition... You have completely evacuated any notion of context, without which Morality cannot be articulated. Ought and oughtn't, need a goal or purpose (context) to make any sense...  What is that goal? 
    It seems to me you're saying that we ought or oughtn't do something, based on the will of an individual (God), but that doesn't make it objective, it would still only be that individual's subjective opinion... Saying it's God's will or it's John's will is the same... Unless you use the special pleading fallacy...

    If you give morality a goal or purpose it becomes subjective. Anyone who disagrees with the goal would be free to abandon morality. Let me explain: if the goal of morality is the preservation of life, someone who doesn't care for the preservation of life wouldn't be forced to be moral. Then morality simply becomes a game one can either play or not play.

    The problem with this view is twofold. Firstly, there's no reason to suggest that everyone has to play. If Ted doesn't feel like playing why should he? Secondly, who's to make up the rules? Who's to say that these rules rather than those would be best for completing the purpose of the game?

    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • PlaffelvohfenPlaffelvohfen 1355 Pts
    @Glorfindel

    A "goal" or "purpose" (whatever it may be) is implied by the use of ought or oughtn't... You "ought" to do X in order for Y for example... The second you use ought (or oughtn't), you imply a goal, an objective to attain, otherwise it is completely meaningless... What would be that goal with regards to morality? Why ought we be moral?
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot ;

    We keep missing each other. Let's take a step back. I'd like us to define our terms. Id that OK with you?

    Here are the definitions I propose.

    Morality.
    Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

    Objective.
    Outside humanity. Meaning, it would be, even if there were no humans to acknowledge it's existence.

    Subjective.
    Inside humanity. Meaning, it only exists because some humans think it does.

    Moral Objectivism.

    The belief that there are things everyone should and shouldn't do, no matter what their religion, political standpoint, or social position.

    Moral Relativism.
    The belief that there are no things everyone should do. Morality is something personal - no one can expect anyone else to adhere to his/her moral standards.

    Atheism.
    The belief that God doesn't exist.

    Materialism.
    The belief that matter is all there is.

    Nihilism.
    The belief that life is meaningless.

    Concerning the difference between objectivity and subjectivity, the following paragraph from IEP could be helpful:

    The terms “objectivity” and “subjectivity,” in their modern usage, generally relate to a perceiving subject (normally a person) and a perceived or unperceived object. The object is something that presumably exists independent of the subject’s perception of it. In other words, the object would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it. Hence, objectivity is typically associated with ideas such as reality, truth and reliability.

    If you can think of anything else we need to define, please add it to the list.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @AlofRI

    If society decides it's acceptable for parents to eat their babies, and the courts allow it - would it be right to eat babies?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @AlofRI

    If society decides it's acceptable for parents to eat their babies, and the courts allow it - would it be right to eat babies?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Plaffelvohfen

    A "goal" or "purpose" (whatever it may be) is implied by the use of ought or oughtn't... You "ought" to do X in order for Y for example... The second you use ought (or oughtn't), you imply a goal, an objective to attain, otherwise it is completely meaningless... What would be that goal with regards to morality? Why ought we be moral?
    This is interesting. I haven't considered this before. Would you allow me to think about it and get back to you with an answer (hopefully within a week)?

    I'd like to ask, though, how would the purpose, or goal influence morality?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • PlaffelvohfenPlaffelvohfen 1355 Pts
    @Plaffelvohfen

    A "goal" or "purpose" (whatever it may be) is implied by the use of ought or oughtn't... You "ought" to do X in order for Y for example... The second you use ought (or oughtn't), you imply a goal, an objective to attain, otherwise it is completely meaningless... What would be that goal with regards to morality? Why ought we be moral?
    This is interesting. I haven't considered this before. Would you allow me to think about it and get back to you with an answer (hopefully within a week)?

    I'd like to ask, though, how would the purpose, or goal influence morality?
    Sure, take your time.

    As for your question (how would the purpose, or goal influence morality?), I'd say the "goal" would be the context necessary to articulate any morality...  
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Plaffelvohfen

    OK. Thanks, I agree. But that wouldn't change anything about this debate, though, don't you think? The question about the goal of morality doesn't say anything about the objective/subjective nature of morality. Or do I misunderstand you?
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel
    Morality.
    Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
    I agree with this definition
    Objective.
    Outside humanity. Meaning, it would be, even if there were no humans to acknowledge it's existence.

    Subjective.
    Inside humanity. Meaning, it only exists because some humans think it does.
    On these two, I would not agree because there can be objective things inside humanity, or that only pertain to humans.
    I would use a more complex definition, such as:
    Objective:
    Anything which is unchanging fact regardless of personal feelings or interpretations

    Subjective:
    Anything which is unique to each individual based on his opinions, feelings, or interpretations
    Moral Objectivism.
    The belief that there are things everyone should and shouldn't do, no matter what their religion, political standpoint, or social position.

    Moral Relativism.
    The belief that there are no things everyone should do. Morality is something personal - no one can expect anyone else to adhere to his/her moral standards.
    I would generally agree with moral objectivism, however I strongly disagree with this definition of moral relativism because it is missing some nuance.
    Moral objectivism:
    The view that morality is something that is persistent and unchanging regardless of circumstance

    Moral relativism:
    The belief that morality is subject to someone's worldview and changes in relation to one's culture, and no one culture is specially privaleged.
    Atheism.
    The belief that God doesn't exist.
    Typical I would define atheism as bellow, but for the purposes of this discussion your definition is acceptable.
    Atheism:
    A lack of a belief in the existence of god, or gods.
    Materialism.
    The belief that matter is all there is.
    This would be the traditional materialist view, however I would also include other things such as space and energy. Sometimes this is refereed to as physicalism or naturalism.
    Materialism:
    The philosophical stance that nothing exists except the physical.
    Nihilism.
    The belief that life is meaningless.
    This definition is a little over simplified but for the purpose of this discussion I will accept it.
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • PlaffelvohfenPlaffelvohfen 1355 Pts
    @Glorfindel

    Well I think it does, it cements Morality as being relative... Morality can only be "objective" relative to the context in which it is articulated, whether it is Divine Command Theory, Utilitarianism, Natural Law Theory, Deontology, Virtue Ethics, etc... In other words, morality can only be objective within a specific context, context which is itself subjective...

    Sorry to say that try as you might, there is no getting out of this conclusion...
    Happy_Killbot
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Plaffelvohfen

    Thanks for elaborating. Let me consider this and get back to you.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot

    Thanks. I'll accept your elaborations on my definitions. Let's establish then the following. 

    Morality.
    Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.

    Objective.
    Anything which is an unchanging fact regardless of personal feelings or interpretations.

    Subjective.
    Anything which is unique to each individual based on his opinions, feelings, or interpretations.

    Moral Objectivism.

    The view that morality is something that is persistent and unchanging regardless of circumstance.

    Moral Relativism.
    The belief that morality is subject to someone's worldview and changes in relation to one's culture and no one culture is specially privileged.

    Atheism.
    The belief that God doesn't exist.

    Materialism.
    The philosophical stance that nothing exists except the physical.

    Nihilism.
    The belief that life is meaningless.

    Is this acceptable?

    Allow me then to make my case from scratch.

    I believe that materialists can't be moral objectivists without being inconsistent, because if matter, space, and energy is all there is, one cannot account for something being unchangeable. 
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel
    I believe that materialists can't be moral objectivists without being inconsistent, because if matter, space, and energy is all there is, one cannot account for something being unchangeable. 
    As it stands right now, this is a non sequitur because it makes no logical inference between the material world and something (I assume you mean morality) being unchangeable.

    Could you elaborate on this a little?
    Plaffelvohfen
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 5
    @Happy_Killbot

    Yes, I can elaborate.

    We established that objective morality would mean that morality is unchangeable through time, people, and culture. However, materialism doesn't provide the necessary preconditions to account for the uniformity (unchangeable nature) of morality. This is a problem that runs far deeper than morality. Materialism cannot justify any uniformity in nature. However, for now, let's stick with morality. 

    Just take a step back, try to clear your head, and think about this: if matter, space, and energy were all there is, could something be unchanging? At least, could I prove that something is unchanging? Could I point to something and through reasoning say: "That is unchangeable!" I don't believe you can, but if you disagree with me, be my guest and prove my wrong.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel ;
    @Happy_Killbot

    Yes, I can elaborate.

    We established that objective morality would mean that morality is unchangeable through time, people, and culture. However, materialism doesn't provide the necessary preconditions to account for the uniformity (unchangeable nature) of morality. This is a problem that runs far deeper than morality. Materialism cannot justify any uniformity in nature. However, for now, let's stick with morality. 

    Just take a step back, try to clear your head, and think about this: if matter, space, and energy were all there is, could something be unchanging? At least, could I prove that something is unchanging? Could I point to something and through reasoning say: "That is unchangeable!" I don't believe you can, but if you disagree with me, be my guest and prove my wrong.
    This is still a non sequitur, you are essentially saying that materialism can't account for unchanging nature because that's how you feel.

    And it is totally wrong.

    Materialism makes fundamental assumptions that certain aspects of reality are fixed and unchanging, namely the laws of physics. Provided this doesn't include morality automatically.
    PlaffelvohfenGlorfindel
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    edited May 6
    @Happy_Killbot

    This is still a non sequitur, you are essentially saying that materialism can't account for unchanging nature because that's how you feel.
    No, that's not what I'm saying.

    Listen, for morality to be objective, it needs to be three things: 1) unchanging 2) universal = applying to all humans 3) independent = right will still be right even if humans aren't there to observe it. Materialism can't justify morality as being any of the three. For now, I just wanted to focus on unchanging, but universality and independentality also doesn't make any sense. And this isn't just me saying it has to be because that's how I feel.

    Let's start from the back. Independent. I hold that for morality to be objective, it needs to be with or without humans. Its existence cannot depend on human existence because that would make it subjective (the subject of our observation and thought). Morality has to be something that is whether we like it or not, whether we obey it or not, whether we exist or not. Since morality deals with human behavior (specifically, the things we ought and oughtn't to do) I hold that, furthermore, there have to be moral laws. Morality contains laws. Not written on paper, but written on our conscience. Laws that tell us it's wrong to rape, even if we can get away with it. Laws that tell us it's wrong to eat babies, even if our planet has reached overpopulation. If we can then establish that morality is moral laws existing independent of humans, we have to ask ourselves whether this description fits in with a materialistic worldview. If matter, space, and energy is all there is, what are these moral laws made off? How can you justify the existence of these moral laws that are not made of matter, space, or energy? And if you can't justify their existence how can you expect someone to obey them?

    Now, let's take universal. Our moral laws have to be universal because if they're not, someone like Ted can just get out of obeying them by claiming that they don't apply to him. The question is, does a materialistic worldview provide the necessary preconditions for something to be universal. I'm not asking whether a materialist can observe universality, I'm asking whether his worldview can justify a universal. Remember, there's a big difference between moral laws and the laws of physics: we don't have any choice in obeying the laws of physics. We obey them whether we like it or not, whether we want to or not. It's impossible (against nature) to not be affected by gravity. It doesn't make sense to say we ought to fall to the earth when we jump, because that would imply that we have some sort of power/choice over the matter. We can't resist physics. Moral laws, on the other hand, we can resist. Which makes it more difficult to prove them to be universal. We can't point to conscience, because some people don't have it. How then, does the materialist justify (once again, justify, not observe or assume) the universality of morality?

    Lastly, let's take unchanging. Moral laws have to be (by your own admission) unchanging through time and culture. But can a materialistic worldview justify uniformity (something being unchangeable)? To justify uniformity one cannot simply assume it. That would be circular reasoning. Neither can one simply observe it because uniformity in the past doesn't necessarily prove uniformity in the future. The materialistic worldview cannot justify uniformity because matter, space, and time are constantly changing. For uniformity to be possible something needs to exist that is unchangeable. Because materialism doesn't provide such a thing (that is unchangeable), uniformity is impossible. This doesn't stop the materialist, however, from assuming an awful lot of uniformity. They assume the uniformity of nature on which all of mathematics, physics, history and all other sciences are built. But upon closer examination, we find that there is no justification for the uniformity in nature, at least, from a materialistic worldview. See, materialism doesn't provide the necessary preconditions for uniformity to be possible. Hence, to be a consistent materialist would mean to be a moral relativist, because moral objectivism cannot be justified from a worldview that doesn't allow for the existence of anything but matter, space, and energy.

    Materialism makes fundamental assumptions that certain aspects of reality are fixed and unchanging, namely the laws of physics. Provided this doesn't include morality automatically.
    Yes, I know. But they are just that: assumptions. Can you justify these assumptions? Are they possible within your worldview? As I motivated above, I don't believe it is. Though this debate is specifically about moral laws, the same would apply to the laws of physics. I just didn't want to go there because my background is in religion and philosophy, not in physics.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • WinstonCWinstonC 163 Pts
    @Glorfindel "What if Ted is caught, but not sentenced. Instead, even though the evidence against him should have been conclusive for life in prison (or the death penalty, if you're for that), he's allowed to walk free. Say, because the people voted for him to be free. Would that be right? Ought he be sentenced - even though society didn't consider him bad? Or, say a new bill gets passed by a massive majority that allows parents to eat their babies. Would that be right?

    See, if morality is simply whatever the majority decides it to be, morality can be a very nasty thing. Only, it wouldn't make sense to call it 'nasty', because, we don't have a higher moral standard by which to judge.

    Say a society allows for black people to be enslaved. Is that right? Or say a society allows for jews to be killed in gas chambers. Is that right? Or say a society allows for people who disagree with the authorities on minor issues to be put in concentration camps. Is that right? If not, by what standard do you judge?"

    On first reading, missing that you are the OP, I thought that this was an argument for an objective morality without God rather than against it. I had thought that the purpose of these questions was to show that, obviously, we should not gas Jews, for example.

    Conscious experience is the only thing which can have significance in and of itself. Without a consciousness in play no event matters, because it cannot impact a consciousness. A world without consciousnesses may as well not exist, like a video game without a player. Events only have any significance if they impact a consciousness.

    As such, we know that the only thing that ultimately matters is the effect that events have on consciousnesses. We also know from our own experience that events can have positive and negative effects on consciousnesses, and that the difference between these is not trivial. Suffering is significantly negative and pleasure is significantly positive. We can create suffering/reduce pleasure in order to produce a significant negative effect and we can produce pleasure/reduce suffering to produce a significant positive effect. The only reason to take any action is because it has significant effects and positive is by definition better than negative. As such, logically, we should take actions which ultimately have positive effects on consciousnesses and not take actions which ultimately have negative effects on consciousnesses.

    This doesn't mean that we shouldn't do anything to cause others suffering, or that we should never kill, it means that, for one example, we should kill only when necessary to prevent greater evil. It also does not mean that one should never cause others negative experience, for such things can ultimately be positive. An example might be that, despite the fact that school can be boring, it equips children with a skill set that allows them to elicit positive experience better in future. In the long run it is better for the children to go to school than not to.

    The only logical reason to do anything is because it will have a significant positive effect. Now, one could choose to be selfish and only consider themselves, however their experience does not objectively matter more than another person's does.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @WinstonC

    Yes, Nope was attempting to root morality in society's decisions. So I was trying to establish whether he'd be fine with people eating their babies if society allowed it. A bit far-fetched, but I was trying to make a point: society can be evil, and we know it. We intuitively know that society is not the ultimate standard. Society too can be judged. Obviously jews shouldn't be gassed, yes, but the problem is if society decides morality there's nothing wrong with gassing jews as long as the majority is for it. Case in point: Nazi Germany.

    I have a few follow-up questions regarding your argument.

    Conscious experience is the only thing which can have significance in and of itself. Without a consciousness in play no event matters, because it cannot impact a consciousness. A world without consciousnesses may as well not exist, like a video game without a player. Events only have any significance if they impact a consciousness.
    How would you define consciousness?

    We also know from our own experience that events can have positive and negative effects on consciousnesses, and that the difference between these is not trivial. Suffering is significantly negative and pleasure is significantly positive. We can create suffering/reduce pleasure in order to produce a significant negative effect and we can produce pleasure/reduce suffering to produce a significant positive effect. The only reason to take any action is because it has significant effects and positive is by definition better than negative. As such, logically, we should take actions which ultimately have positive effects on consciousnesses and not take actions which ultimately have negative effects on consciousnesses.
    Here I have two questions:
    1. When you say that positive is by definition better than negative, by what standard do you judge?
    2. I'd like to present you with the is-ought problem. Even if you can establish from a materialistic worldview that positive is better than negative, that in itself is not enough to suggest we ought to seek the positive. Is doesn't get you to ought without justification. So my question is: why should we seek the positive?

    Now, one could choose to be selfish and only consider themselves, however their experience does not objectively matter more than another person's does.
    To be clear, are you advocating for moral relativism here? Could Ted choose to be selfish and rape women? Would that be permissible? Because if you say that one person's personal experience doesn't matter more than another's that would mean that everything is permissible.
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
  • Happy_KillbotHappy_Killbot 1824 Pts
    @Glorfindel

    In the strictest sense it is true that from a materialist perspective that morality isn't objective, but this doesn't mean that morality doesn't exist.

    This is why my position isn't that morality is objective, but rather that from a materialist perspective an objective set of conditions will always have a set of relative morals associated with it that will lead to objective outcomes.
    Let's start from the back. Independent. I hold that for morality to be objective, it needs to be with or without humans. Its existence cannot depend on human existence because that would make it subjective (the subject of our observation and thought). Morality has to be something that is whether we like it or not, whether we obey it or not, whether we exist or not. Since morality deals with human behavior (specifically, the things we ought and oughtn't to do) I hold that, furthermore, there have to be moral laws. Morality contains laws. Not written on paper, but written on our conscience. Laws that tell us it's wrong to rape, even if we can get away with it. Laws that tell us it's wrong to eat babies, even if our planet has reached overpopulation. If we can then establish that morality is moral laws existing independent of humans, we have to ask ourselves whether this description fits in with a materialistic worldview. If matter, space, and energy is all there is, what are these moral laws made off? How can you justify the existence of these moral laws that are not made of matter, space, or energy? And if you can't justify their existence how can you expect someone to obey them?
    I think there is a fundamental  misunderstanding of how the universe actually works in a materialistic way that is leading you to these conclusions. The fundamental principal that you are forgetting is the concept of emergence. Basically, it is the process by which simple laws and systems can create more complex structures that seem to be governed by there own rules. If you have ever played Conway's game of life you will have seen an excellent example of this. In the context of a material universe, it explains how very complex things like cells and humans can exist from basic matter and space.

    Nowhere in subatomic particles is there a definition for an atom. Nowhere in an atom is a definition for a molecule. Nowhere in a molecule is the definition for a cell. Nowhere in a cell is the definition for a human. Nowhere in a human is a definition for morality. Thus there are many layers of emergence which must each build up. Sometimes underlying layers come up and disturb higher layers. One example of this would be radiation destroying a cell's DNA causing the cell which hosts it to develop cancer, causing the person to become terminally ill, causing the humans to have a discussion about ethics. A subatomic particle can effect our morality which is something that is accounted for in a materialist's perspective.

    Now let's tie this all together and what it implies. First off, if you want to claim that morality doesn't exist because it isn't made of matter, then I can retort that a human doesn't exist by the same logic because moral laws would be just as made of matter as humans are. What you are missing here is that the moral laws come into existence because of social interactions between humans who are made of matter.

    If someone takes the stance that morality is objective, then they assume that it exists without humans. Then the question becomes how can we show that morality exists without human existence? The short answer is you can't. Even if we invoke a god to define our morality, it would be subjective because everyone's interpretation of god is subjective. Think about all the thousands of religions and millions of sects. There have been numerous studies which show that people's idea of what a moral god is are based on their personal ideas of what morality is, so this doesn't solve the problem.
    https://www.pnas.org/content/106/51/21533

    For example, you bring up rape as an objective moral principle, but this requires humans, or at the very least entities like us to be true. Furthermore, the bible if used as a source of objective morality doesn't explicitly condemn rape in all circumstances, such as Deuteronomy 22:28-29 Which basically says that if you rape a virgin then she has to be married to her rapist, and Numbers 31. However, if we examine morality as an emergent phenomena of social interactions, then this whole scenario makes sense at least because the Israelites were just doing what they had to do to survive.
    Now, let's take universal. Our moral laws have to be universal because if they're not, someone like Ted can just get out of obeying them by claiming that they don't apply to him. The question is, does a materialistic worldview provide the necessary preconditions for something to be universal. I'm not asking whether a materialist can observe universality, I'm asking whether his worldview can justify a universal. Remember, there's a big difference between moral laws and the laws of physics: we don't have any choice in obeying the laws of physics. We obey them whether we like it or not, whether we want to or not. It's impossible (against nature) to not be affected by gravity. It doesn't make sense to say we ought to fall to the earth when we jump, because that would imply that we have some sort of power/choice over the matter. We can't resist physics. Moral laws, on the other hand, we can resist. Which makes it more difficult to prove them to be universal. We can't point to conscience, because some people don't have it. How then, does the materialist justify (once again, justify, not observe or assume) the universality of morality?
    What I explained above applies here, with moral laws emerging after many layers of complex interactions on all levels.

    It is fallacious to assume that because morals are relative that they would automatically be personal and not apply to everyone. Remember, at the very least morals require 2 people to exist, therefore morals do not exist in a vacuum. If one person says something is moral and another says it is not, then from a perspective of moral objectivity how can we determine who is right or wrong?

    In order for something to be objective it needs to be provable. This is why I take the stance that there is a set of morals which can lead to objective outcomes, even if those morals themselves are relative.

    I would like you to define what you mean by "justify". I would argue that the observation of somethings existence is its justification, the same way that observing a person is sufficient to justify it's existence.
    Lastly, let's take unchanging. Moral laws have to be (by your own admission) unchanging through time and culture. But can a materialistic worldview justify uniformity (something being unchangeable)? To justify uniformity one cannot simply assume it. That would be circular reasoning. Neither can one simply observe it because uniformity in the past doesn't necessarily prove uniformity in the future. The materialistic worldview cannot justify uniformity because matter, space, and time are constantly changing. For uniformity to be possible something needs to exist that is unchangeable. Because materialism doesn't provide such a thing (that is unchangeable), uniformity is impossible. This doesn't stop the materialist, however, from assuming an awful lot of uniformity. They assume the uniformity of nature on which all of mathematics, physics, history and all other sciences are built. But upon closer examination, we find that there is no justification for the uniformity in nature, at least, from a materialistic worldview. See, materialism doesn't provide the necessary preconditions for uniformity to be possible. Hence, to be a consistent materialist would mean to be a moral relativist, because moral objectivism cannot be justified from a worldview that doesn't allow for the existence of anything but matter, space, and energy.
    It is wrong to assume that things which are constantly changing can not give rise to things that are unchanging, despite how paradoxical this might seem.

    Consider that as I am describing here, that morality is something which comes into existence via social interactions, that it technically wouldn't be objective or relative in the strictest sense, it would also be both. Objective outcomes arise from relative circumstances which are part of an objective reality.

    Take for instance, rolling 2 6-sided dice. Most of the time you get 7, but you could get any other number between 2 and 12. Thus from something that is changing with each roll of the dice, we get a deterministic model. It's not intuitive, but chaos can give rise to order. The universe fundamentally works like this too. At the quantum level, everything is chaotic and fundamentally unpredictable, yet in our day to day lives things are for the most part highly ordered and largely consistent. You can expect that when you get home your table will not have traded places with you sofa and all of your silverware will not be on the moon, but for quantum particles this is a typical Tuesday night. In fact it is this drive from chaos to order which defines our entire reality, and it is the reason that life came to exist as a direct result of the rise in entropy. This same process is what drives emergence and higher levels of predictability and uniformity.

    It is true that our assumptions of uniform laws of physics might not be true for all times and places, but these assumptions are based on observations that have never once been falsified. This again comes back to what exactly you mean by justification. If observation is insufficient for justification, then what exactly is?
    Plaffelvohfen
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • GlorfindelGlorfindel 74 Pts
    @Happy_Killbot

    Justify.
    Show that it is possible within your worldview. For example, in order to justify the existence of humans, one must not only observe them but one must also show that it's possible for them to exist. If one's worldview doesn't allow for the possibility of human existence, believing in human existence because they've been observed to exist would be contradictory. In this case, your worldview would be at fault, not your observation.

    I want to get back to what you said about believing in morals being subjective, yet having an objective outcome. Exactly what do you mean by this?
    Dee
    The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
    Therefore, I boast in nothing but Christ.
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