Does Objective Morality Require the Existence of God?

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Does Objective Morality Require the Existence of God?

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Post by wiploc »

The Peanut Gallery is here:
viewtopic.php?t=33976

Those who wish to comment on this discussion may do so there. Once this thread is closed, Tanager and wiploc may post there too. In the meantime, we may respond here to comments made there.

Topic: Does Objective Morality Require the Existence of God?

Tanager's position -- if I understand it -- is that objective morality is possible if a god exists, but not possible otherwise.

My own position is this prejudice: If objective morality is possible with a god, then it is also possible without a god; if it is not possible without a god, then it is also not possible with a god.

I invite Tanager to expound on his position.

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Post by The Tanager »

Thanks wiploc. It is my current belief that if morality really is objectively true, then this points to God's existence. Another way to look at it is to say my belief is that the truth of theism is logically consistent with objective morality, but that the truth of atheism is not. I think that if atheism is true, then morality is a human convention or illusion. This is a claim about whether or not God needs to exist or not for us to get objective morality. This is not a claim that belief in God is necessary to act morally.

By objective morality, I mean something like: "certain things are really good or evil and certain actions are obligatory or impermissible, regardless of one's opinions on the matter." These are truths about the thing or action itself, not truths about the person making the moral claim.

I'll stop there for any response and questions (and because I'm out of time for tonight).

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Post #3

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The Tanager wrote: Thanks wiploc. It is my current belief that if morality really is objectively true, then this points to God's existence. Another way to look at it is to say my belief is that the truth of theism is logically consistent with objective morality, but that the truth of atheism is not. I think that if atheism is true, then morality is a human convention or illusion. This is a claim about whether or not God needs to exist or not for us to get objective morality. This is not a claim that belief in God is necessary to act morally.

By objective morality, I mean something like: "certain things are really good or evil and certain actions are obligatory or impermissible, regardless of one's opinions on the matter." These are truths about the thing or action itself, not truths about the person making the moral claim.

I'll stop there for any response and questions (and because I'm out of time for tonight).
Good post.

I'm not in this for the pettifoggery, but I want to address some terminological issues before going to the merits. I don't want us to be talking past each other. And I don't want you to think I'm correcting you, or insisting that you have to talk like I do. I'm just going to float these notions out there--you can ignore them if you want--so that you'll know why I talk a little differently than you.

"Truth of atheism": Atheism consists of not being a theist. The only truth of atheism is that some people aren't theists, right? But you're probably thinking of strong atheism (the belief that gods do not exist). It's okay that you call that "atheism"; you have the support of dictionaries and common usage. Dictionaries and common usage also support my preferred usage.

People who identify as atheists overwhelmingly prefer my usage.

I'm not saying you have to switch. I'm saying that I'll probably say something like, "absent gods," or "if gods don't exist," or, "on strong atheism," rather than "if atheism is true."

Good and Evil: The way I learned it (in a Western Civilization class), good is the sources of happiness. By extension, it is happiness itself. Evil is the sources of unhappiness, or, by extension, unhappiness itself. Sin isn't the same as evil. Sin is doubting or disobeying Jehovah. Evil is the punishment for sin.

I bring this up because you obviously mean something else by "good" and "evil." I don't know what you mean, but--if the words meant to you what they mean to me--I don't think you would say that good and evil wouldn't exist in the absence of gods. Even if gods don't exist, torture still makes people unhappy. Torture is still, by definition, evil.

Again, I'm not saying that you should talk like me. I'm saying that I don't understand part of your post, and I'm trying to point at where I suspect the confusion lies.

God/gods: Where you say "God," I'm likely to say "gods." This is in part because many Christians think that if could prove a first cause existed, then they would have proven that a god exists, and even that the god is Jehovah. They skip steps. I try not to aggravate their confusion by writing "God" when I mean "a god." When I want to capitalize, I usually write "Jehovah." But I'm not entirely consistent about that.

This doesn't call for any particular response from you. I've just gotten the occasional impression that some people think, I dunno, that I'm being crafty or insulting or something when I talk about gods. But really all I'm thinking is that if Jehovah could make morality if he existed, then why couldn't Odin make morality if he existed?

In fact, I don't see how either of them could. I don't know what gods have to do with morality.

Moral Realism: I listened to Sam Harris's book, The Moral Landscape, and it persuaded me that I am a moral realist. On the subject of moral realism, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says: "... at least some moral claims actually are true. That much is the common and more or less defining ground of moral realism." In other words, there are things we really ought to do, and other things we ought not do. Moral realism, then, is--and I confess that this term is probably unique to me--oughty.

One might make the same point by speaking of prescriptive (as opposed to descriptive) morality.

When you say that "certain actions are obligatory or impermissible, regardless of one's opinions on the matter," that sounds like moral realism to me. So, I believe that you and I are in the same camp. :)

What I don't understand is why you think moral realism has to do with gods. Hence this one-on-one discussion thread, so we can figure that out.

Objective Morality: What you describe strikes me as moral realism. "Objective" is so often used as a weasel word, as a locus of equivocation, that I try not to bring it up.

Utilitarianism: I'm a utilitarian. I think making people happy is good, and making them unhappy is bad. Thus, morality. This is true even though gods don't exist. It would be true even if gods did exist. It would be true even if existing gods insisted that something else was true.

If gods said that morality consisted of punching the person on your right, that wouldn't make punching people right.

The Moral Argument: With apologies to William Lane Craig:

1: If gods don't exist, then moral realism is false. (Premise)
2: If moral realism is true, then at least one god exists. (From P1)
3: Moral realism is true. (Premise)
4: Therefore, at least one god exists. (From 2 and 3)

You and I probably agree with 3. We can stipulate to it, or it might be interesting to discuss it.

We can agree, I assume, that the argument is valid; if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true also.

2 is simply a restatement of 1. If 1 is true, then 2 is true.

That leaves only 1, which is why we are here. You say 1 is true, and I'd like to know why.

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Post #4

Post by The Tanager »

First off, sorry for the time it has taken me in this start up. I've been busy most of the past couple of days working on an event, but I should have more time in the coming future.
wiploc wrote:I'm not in this for the pettifoggery, but I want to address some terminological issues before going to the merits. I don't want us to be talking past each other. And I don't want you to think I'm correcting you, or insisting that you have to talk like I do. I'm just going to float these notions out there--you can ignore them if you want--so that you'll know why I talk a little differently than you.
Absolutely. Terms are very important to get straight and use consistently when talking together. I'm fine using "strong atheism" and "if gods don't exist." I also understand your points about God/gods. I am fine talking about any aspect of that. We can talk about theism generally, but I'm also open to any questions about my specific form of theism and if that changes the situation regarding morals.

As far as 'good' and 'evil' go, I'm not sure how best to define those terms. I'm not sure it should be so narrowly tied to happiness and unhappiness. Something good can result in unhappiness for you or others. For instance, it may make you (and your neighbor's wife) unhappy in the moment for you to keep your hands off your neighbor's wife, but it would make your neighbor happy and maybe even you and/or the neighbor's wife at another time. It seems to me that good/evil is something different than happiness/unhappiness, although those things do play a role. To me, good and evil describe the acts, while the results of those acts may involve happiness and unhappiness for different people.

We are both moral realists. I believe moral realism makes perfect sense if god(s) exist. I'm not sure if you agree with that, but you can bring objections up if you don't think that follows. Let's turn to your question to me. Why do I think moral realism would be false if god(s) don't exist?

Now, of course, there are many different atheistic worldviews. So perhaps it would help to know your worldview in more detail, at least in regards to moral realism. Do you think moral values are by-products of our biological evolution and social conditioning because it helped our species survive? Do you think moral values exist in a Platonic way? Something else? Who are we obliged to in our moral duties?

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Post #5

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The Tanager wrote: First off, sorry for the time it has taken me in this start up. I've been busy most of the past couple of days working on an event, but I should have more time in the coming future.
That's fine. Don't give it a thought.

If this thread runs long, there may be times when I seem to disappear.


As far as 'good' and 'evil' go, I'm not sure how best to define those terms. I'm not sure it should be so narrowly tied to happiness and unhappiness.
Dan Barker talks about ... uh ... I have to go look it up.

I'm back. :) I looked it up here, where I'm in another one-on-one: https://talkfreethought.org/showthread. ... guysnephew.

Barker talks about "flourishing." Others talk about "well being." I think that "happiness" is a short simple word that at least touches on goodness, even if it may not exhaust the subject.


Something good can result in unhappiness for you or others.
Right. But that's not a problem. If my stubbing my toe makes you happy and me unhappy, then it is both good and bad. A mixed bag. Not purely one or the other.


We are both moral realists. I believe moral realism makes perfect sense if god(s) exist. I'm not sure if you agree with that, but you can bring objections up if you don't think that follows.
I'm a moral realist in this world, the actual world. The possibility that gods exist in this world doesn't change that. I don't see how it could. I don't see what gods have to do with morality.


Let's turn to your question to me. Why do I think moral realism would be false if god(s) don't exist?

Now, of course, there are many different atheistic worldviews. So perhaps it would help to know your worldview in more detail, at least in regards to moral realism. Do you think moral values are by-products of our biological evolution and social conditioning because it helped our species survive? Do you think moral values exist in a Platonic way? Something else? Who are we obliged to in our moral duties?
You wrote,
The Tanager wrote:I think theism can provide a rational foundation for objective morality ..."
and
I'm not seeing any atheistic possibilities that would logically lead to [here you gave an example of objective morality].
Your position, then, if I understand it, is that objective morality can exist if gods exist, but not if they don't.

That's why we're here. That's what I want to talk about.

I don't want to invent an atheist philosophical system for you to test for for weaknesses, with the result that we never get around to discussing the topic of this thread.

I want to talk about your claim that objective morality (or moral realism, if you prefer) requires gods. I don't see what gods have to do with it.

Over decades of reading and discussion this topic, I've reached the conclusion that nobody can defend the moral argument. I usually depends entirely on equivocating on the word "objective," on surreptitiously changing the meaning of the word.

It's refreshing that you aren't trying to do that. But you also aren't trying to explain or justify your belief that moral realism and/or objective morality requires gods. I'd like to see us start in that direction.

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Post #6

Post by The Tanager »

wiploc wrote:Right. But that's not a problem. If my stubbing my toe makes you happy and me unhappy, then it is both good and bad. A mixed bag. Not purely one or the other.
I think this may confuse things. You seem here to be saying that it is good to make people happy and bad to make people unhappy. First, that sentence becomes a tautology if we define good as 'happiness.' The grammar will be off, but it becomes: It is happiness to make people happy. We aren't saying anything informative there.

Second, I don't think it's true at all. It may not be good in certain situations to seek the happiness of the individual. I'd be a bad parent if I simply tried to make my kids happy all the time. I want my kids to find happiness in good things, but many people find happiness in things we'd call bad.

I see good/evil as the value judgments on moral actions. I see happiness/unhappiness as possible results of actions people take. It may be that moral value is decided by measurements of happiness/unhappiness (utilitarianism), but I still see those as distinct concepts.

Third, if it's true, I don't see how morality doesn't become subjective. What makes the rapist happy and the intended victim happy are two opposite things. But if goodness is happiness, then the act of rape is both moral/good and immoral/evil/bad. It just depends on perspective. I don't see how that would be moral realism.

If good and evil are moral realities in an objective sense...I'm trying to avoid using that term, but point out if you feel I'm equivocating on the term at all...(i.e., that it is evil to rape another person even though the rapist gains happiness from it) the question becomes what makes that so? It has to be something outside of individual human minds. Let's brainstorm possible alternatives:

(1) Goodness is a physical property humans have
(2) Goodness is like a Platonic form
(3) Goodness is doing what an authority demands
(4) Goodness is doing what humans are made to do (what I usually think of when people say the term 'flourishing')
(5) ?????
(6) ?????

We can talk more in depth about our thoughts on whichever ones, but for now I'm just sketching the conclusions I've come to as I've thought about the different ones. I don't see any evidence of (1). I find (2) seriously flawed. I think (3) and (4) are somewhat related. Ultimately, I think (3) would require (4) to avoid leading to moral subjectivism. And (4) seems to come down to whether an intelligent being made humans to be a certain way or if chance and natural selection made humans a certain way. The driving force of the latter seems to me to be survival, not moral values. Humans have become what they are because that helped them survive, not because there are moral truths we had to take notice of. We could have evolved different moral tendencies. And survival today can be accomplished in ways we now call 'good' as well as through 'bad' actions. This seems to go against moral realism.

So, I feel that the only thing that remains standing is humans being created a certain way by an intelligent being. And eventually I think the ultimate source of this has to be a self-existent being that is good by its uncreated nature (a description of the term 'god' to me), or else we would have a further step in the line of "what makes that so?" and keep pushing it back. I don't think an infinite regression is possible for this kind of explanation.

It probably got confusing, at least towards the end, because there is a lot there that needs unpacking, but I would like to sketch it out and then go back along each step in more depth with you to see exactly where our differences may lie.

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Post #7

Post by wiploc »

The Tanager wrote:
wiploc wrote:Right. But that's not a problem. If my stubbing my toe makes you happy and me unhappy, then it is both good and bad. A mixed bag. Not purely one or the other.
I think this may confuse things. You seem here to be saying that it is good to make people happy and bad to make people unhappy.
Right.


First, that sentence becomes a tautology if we define good as 'happiness.' The grammar will be off, but it becomes: It is happiness to make people happy. We aren't saying anything informative there.
Good is the sources of happiness, or, by extension, happiness itself. If we don't want to use the figure of speech, if we want to be literal, then we don't call happiness itself good. We just call things that cause happiness good.


Second, I don't think it's true at all. It may not be good in certain situations to seek the happiness of the individual. I'd be a bad parent if I simply tried to make my kids happy all the time. I want my kids to find happiness in good things, but many people find happiness in things we'd call bad.
But why don't you want them to be happy all the time? Isn't that because you think that, say, taking drugs will cause a net loss of happiness in the long run? You want them to be as happy as they can be--which necessarily involves sacrifices of happiness now (brush your teeth, do your homework, tell the truth) in the hopes of gaining more happiness later.


I see good/evil as the value judgments on moral actions.
Then there's no point in talking about them being objective.


I see happiness/unhappiness as possible results of actions people take. It may be that moral value is decided by measurements of happiness/unhappiness (utilitarianism), but I still see those as distinct concepts.
If you defer gratification now in the hopes of more happiness later, or if you give up some of your own happiness in the hopes of creating more happiness for other people, those are moral acts. So, yes, doing an act that you think will result in increased happiness is moral.


Third, if it's true, I don't see how morality doesn't become subjective.
Can you show us how morality is objective if gods exist and subjective otherwise? Because I don't mind if you call morality subjective, as long as you're not saying it would be different if gods existed.


What makes the rapist happy and the intended victim happy are two opposite things. But if goodness is happiness, then the act of rape is both moral/good and immoral/evil/bad.
The fact that rape makes people unhappy is what's bad about it. It also makes some people happy, which is why rapists exist. But rape has a strong tendency to increase unhappiness more than happiness. It's a net evil.

The fact that it's a net evil is what makes it immoral.

Doing rape would very likely decrease net happiness. Therefore, one ought not to rape. Rape is immoral.


It just depends on perspective. I don't see how that would be moral realism.
Suppose Joe raped Sara, with the result is that Joe is happy, and Sara--not to mention Sara's friends and relatives and neighbors and women who hear about the rape and no longer feel safe going out at night, and the male friends and relatives of those women--is unhappy. That doesn't depend on perspective. It's what happened. Joe was made happy and Sara and others were made unhappy. If that's what happened, then it's a truth from anybody's perspective.


If good and evil are moral realities
They are realities; some things do cause happiness, and some things do cause unhappiness.

Are they "moral realities"? Morality has to do with trying to increase happiness, trying to do good, things one ought or ought not do in order to increase happiness or refrain from decreasing happiness.


in an objective sense...
I'm trying to avoid using that term, but point out if you feel I'm equivocating on the term at all...
No problem. I don't have a clue what you mean there, so I just edit out the "in an objective sense." To me, your clause reads, "If good and evil are moral realities."


(i.e., that it is evil to rape another person even though the rapist gains happiness from it) the question becomes what makes that so?
Rape is wrong because it's a net evil. It causes more unhappiness than happiness.


It has to be something outside of individual human minds.
"[The cause of good and evil being moral realities] has to be something outside of individual human minds"?

I'm sorry, I can't make sense of that.

Let's brainstorm possible alternatives:

(1) Goodness is a physical property humans have
(2) Goodness is like a Platonic form
(3) Goodness is doing what an authority demands
(4) Goodness is doing what humans are made to do (what I usually think of when people say the term 'flourishing')
(5) ?????
(6) ?????

We can talk more in depth about our thoughts on whichever ones, but for now I'm just sketching the conclusions I've come to as I've thought about the different ones. I don't see any evidence of (1). I find (2) seriously flawed. I think (3) and (4) are somewhat related. Ultimately, I think (3) would require (4) to avoid leading to moral subjectivism. And (4) seems to come down to whether an intelligent being made humans to be a certain way or if chance and natural selection made humans a certain way. The driving force of the latter seems to me to be survival, not moral values. Humans have become what they are because that helped them survive, not because there are moral truths we had to take notice of. We could have evolved different moral tendencies. And survival today can be accomplished in ways we now call 'good' as well as through 'bad' actions. This seems to go against moral realism.
I'm still stumped by "good and evil being moral realities." But I can say that nothing you've listed--especially Plato--appeals to me as a grounding of morality.

What's your theory? Assuming that gods do exist:

1. What is morality?

2. Why should we be moral?

3. What does that have to do with gods?

Assume for the sake of argument that evolution has programmed us to try to survive. In the movie Marooned, one guy killed himself so that two others would have enough oxygen to live. He was moral by violating evolution's programming.

4. In your system, is it ever moral to disobey a creator god?

5. Not even if that creator god is stupid and malevolent?


So, I feel that the only thing that remains standing is humans being created a certain way by an intelligent being.
If we were created by a scorpion god because he wanted the pleasure of stinging us to death, we'd be morally obliged to go along with that because that would be what we'd be made for?

If so, I don't get it. Under your system, I see no reason for anyone to want to be moral.


And eventually I think the ultimate source of this has to be a self-existent
I looked up "self-existent." It doesn't look like it means anything, but the dictionary says it means "uncaused." Like virtual particles, then. Like radioactive emissions.

I don't see what that has to do with morality, but let's cruise right past it.


being that is good by its uncreated nature
6. And what do you mean by "good" there? This may be important.


(a description of the term 'god' to me),
I'm skeptical.

7. If, in order to be morally good, we have to behave in accordance with the purpose assigned by our creator, how can an uncreated god be good? An uncreated god wouldn't have a purpose, and therefore could not act in accordance with that purpose, and therefore could not be morally good.

That's your theory, isn't it? Are you abandoning your theory?

or else we would have a further step in the line of "what makes that so?" and keep pushing it back. I don't think an infinite regression is possible for this kind of explanation.

It probably got confusing, at least towards the end, because there is a lot there that needs unpacking, but I would like to sketch it out and then go back along each step in more depth with you to see exactly where our differences may lie.
I look forward to your sketch.

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Post #8

Post by wiploc »

Elsewhere, you write:
The Tanager wrote: ...why the moral norms are binding on us.

... But the question is whether we ought to accept what he calls "the institution of morality" (which I think he should call the 'institution of human social behaviors'). He is giving a hypothetical ought. If you care about creating social stability, security, etc., then you ought to take actions that do that. But the question is why ought we to care about those things.

... Morality in the moral realism sense, it seems to me, is a categorical ought. You ought to do A. You ought not to do Z. The morality in these articles are hypothetical. If you want A, you ought to do B.
Do you think moral norms are binding on us if gods exist, but not otherwise? If so, why?

Do you think we ought to care about morality if gods exist, but not otherwise? If so, why?

Do you think there are things we ought to do for no reason? Why ought we to do them if there is no reason? How would the existence of gods change this?

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Post #9

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wiploc wrote:But why don't you want them to be happy all the time? Isn't that because you think that, say, taking drugs will cause a net loss of happiness in the long run? You want them to be as happy as they can be--which necessarily involves sacrifices of happiness now (brush your teeth, do your homework, tell the truth) in the hopes of gaining more happiness later.
I agree, but with nuances. Some people talk about happiness and unhappiness in terms of pleasure and pain. I want them to flourish as humans (which the ancient Greeks called eudaimonia and is sometimes translated as 'happiness'). I want them to be good humans. That kind of life, I think, will turn out to be more pleasurable, but it is reached through a mix of pleasure and pain (felt happiness and felt unhappiness). I want them to flourish, so they should undergo the unhappiness or 'pain' of brushing their teeth, doing homework, telling the truth, etc.
wiploc wrote:Then there's no point in talking about them being objective.
Why do you think so? Perhaps my wording confused you. Why does saying that actions have a certain moral value negate it's objectivity? To me it's just like saying that the shape of the earth has a certain physical value to it or that an equation has a certain mathematical value to it.
wiploc wrote:Can you show us how morality is objective if gods exist and subjective otherwise? Because I don't mind if you call morality subjective, as long as you're not saying it would be different if gods existed.
So we are comparing two different sources of 'goodness' here. Your view finds this source in happiness. If god(s) exist, they become the source of goodness. If happiness (pleasure) is good and unhappiness (pain) is bad, then the action of rape is both good and bad. It is good to one person and bad to the victim. That's subjectivity. The source of goodness is found in each individual being and is different for different beings. That's different than the objective fact of the shape of the earth and mathematical facts.

If a god(s) is involved, then it could conceivably make (through command and/or creation) the action of rape wholly bad, in spite of the pleasure it brings to one party. Good/bad isn't about felt happiness/unhappiness, but finds it's source in an intelligent being(s) outside of every individual human, which is like the shape of the earth and mathematical facts (that is, being outside individual humans, not necessarily sourced in an intelligent being, although I believe it is, but that is a separate question).
wiploc wrote:Suppose Joe raped Sara, with the result is that Joe is happy, and Sara--not to mention Sara's friends and relatives and neighbors and women who hear about the rape and no longer feel safe going out at night, and the male friends and relatives of those women--is unhappy. That doesn't depend on perspective. It's what happened. Joe was made happy and Sara and others were made unhappy. If that's what happened, then it's a truth from anybody's perspective.
Now, of course, I view rape as immoral. And I hope using that as an example does not add to the tragedy of anyone who has undergone such an atrocity. I'm willing to change the example, if people feel it should be. But how do we measure this? You still seem to be talking about truth from a perspective, it's just the perspective of the majority.

In your scenario, let's say 1000 people learn of Sara's rape and ache for the trama she unjustly went through. What happens if the rapist had a buddy taping the rape. They then upload the video to the internet and 2000 perverts come across it and find enjoyment in watching it. Does this new majority make the act moral now, because there is a greater surplus of felt happiness?

Or maybe we talk more generally. The majority of people are against rape and feel unhappy about such an action, generally speaking. That's why rape is wrong. Well, what happens if society swung the other way? It wouldn't happen. That doesn't matter, the principle is still majority rules. Maybe it doesn't happen with rape. But majorities can change. That means morality is still subjective and perspectival.
wiploc wrote:"[The cause of good and evil being moral realities] has to be something outside of individual human minds"?

I'm sorry, I can't make sense of that.
If an action is good or evil because of something within one individual's mind (or the majority group of individuals), then morality is subjective. The shape of the earth doesn't depend on what one individual or the majority group feels about it or because of it. It depends on something outside of human minds for the way it is. It is objectively true.
wiploc wrote:What's your theory? Assuming that gods do exist:

1. What is morality?
That's tough to boil down to anything other than what I gave at the start. It gets fleshed out in our wider discussion. To requote what I originally said: "Certain things are really good or evil and certain actions are obligatory or impermissible, regardless of one's (or the majority of humans') opinions on the matter."
wiploc wrote:2. Why should we be moral?
Because that is what we were made to do and what will cause us the greatest happiness. Just like seeing is what an eye is supposed to do, and so it flourishes when it is working correctly.
wiploc wrote:3. What does that have to do with gods?
I believe God created us in this certain way, in His image, where He is the locus of goodness itself.

But assume for the sake of argument that evolution is the source of our species' social behavior. The majority of humans are against rape. Sharks are okay with it. Well, what if we rewind evolution and the next time it plays out, humans are a species that reproduce through rape. Rape becomes moral on this view. This kind of morality is subjective. Morality is about what we ought to do, not just what our social behaviors have happened to become, although they could have easily been different.
wiploc wrote:Assume for the sake of argument that evolution has programmed us to try to survive. In the movie Marooned, one guy killed himself so that two others would have enough oxygen to live. He was moral by violating evolution's programming.

4. In your system, is it ever moral to disobey a creator god?

5. Not even if that creator god is stupid and malevolent?
No. On the surface, this seems like a good critique, but I don't think it is when taking the particulars of my worldview. God, by His nature, is essentially good. This type of god, if it exists, could not give a moral command that is what we now call 'evil'. It would be logically impossible, by definition.

Hold on. That's special pleading, begging the question, all kinds of bad things, right? I don't think it is. This is a general theistic point. Whether the Christian God (which is my own) is this God or not is a separate question. Perhaps the Biblical God is stupid and malevolent (I don't think He is, but that's a discussion to have later). That wouldn't change what I'm saying here. If the god is essentially good, it could not give an immoral command, because it's nature lines up with what we call 'moral'.

This is why I don't agree with DivineInsight's belief (shout out to the peanut gallery) that putting God as the moral authority just moves the subjectivity back a level. It's not based on God's opinions, but on God's objective, eternal nature. It's not arbitrary. If you want to say it's still technically 'subjective', that's fine but it is objective to humanity and a different kind of 'subjectivity' than when we say that morality is humanly subjective, at least as I understand it.
wiploc wrote:If we were created by a scorpion god because he wanted the pleasure of stinging us to death, we'd be morally obliged to go along with that because that would be what we'd be made for?

If so, I don't get it. Under your system, I see no reason for anyone to want to be moral.
Being made in the image of such a god is why we have the desires to do good (a moral conscience). If the scorpion god made us in such a way as to want to be stung to death, then I guess it would technically be immoral to try to avoid that. But we wouldn't try to avoid that. And back to my last point above, the type of god I believe would not be able to create such a being.
wiploc wrote:I looked up "self-existent." It doesn't look like it means anything, but the dictionary says it means "uncaused." Like virtual particles, then. Like radioactive emissions.

I don't see what that has to do with morality, but let's cruise right past it.
We are dependent beings. We rely on things other than ourself to exist. Self-existent beings do not rely on things other than themselves to exist. Virtual particles are not self-existent or uncaused; they depend on the quantum vacuum as a material cause at least. And the same with radioactive emissions.

I think this point is important because if we say morality finds it source in a dependent being/thing, then that being is dependent on what it is (including it's goodness) on some other being. That would seem to make it not the ultimate source of goodness, but just a conduit of some kind.
wiploc wrote:6. And what do you mean by "good" there? This may be important.

I'm skeptical.

7. If, in order to be morally good, we have to behave in accordance with the purpose assigned by our creator, how can an uncreated god be good? An uncreated god wouldn't have a purpose, and therefore could not act in accordance with that purpose, and therefore could not be morally good.

That's your theory, isn't it? Are you abandoning your theory?
Whether the ultimate source of goodness is a god or something else, it cannot be morally good in same way that other things being judged by it are morally good. The moral law isn't itself under any moral obligation. Just like the law of gravity isn't attracting every other particle in the universe with any force.

For instance, if justice exists like a Platonic form, it is justice. It's not under any obligation to be just; it can't be unjust. But it is just in a sense that is different than saying Eduardo is just.

If the source of goodness is a self-existent being rather than a law/Platonic form/etc. then it isn't under any moral obligation, but it can still be called 'good'. But it is good in a different way than Kelly is said to be morally good.
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The Tanager
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Post #10

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wiploc wrote: Elsewhere, you write:
The Tanager wrote: ...why the moral norms are binding on us.

... But the question is whether we ought to accept what he calls "the institution of morality" (which I think he should call the 'institution of human social behaviors'). He is giving a hypothetical ought. If you care about creating social stability, security, etc., then you ought to take actions that do that. But the question is why ought we to care about those things.

... Morality in the moral realism sense, it seems to me, is a categorical ought. You ought to do A. You ought not to do Z. The morality in these articles are hypothetical. If you want A, you ought to do B.
Do you think moral norms are binding on us if gods exist, but not otherwise? If so, why?
I think god(s) could make things categorically or hypothetically binding on us. I think God, because of the nature I believe God has, makes moral norms categorically binding on us.

I think that if god(s) do not exist, then moral norms are hypothetically binding on us. If we want to live socially with other humans and because of how humans have evolved socio-biologically, then we should do such-and-such. If we want to gain the most happiness for the most people and we accept a certain way of calculating that, then we should do such-and-such.
wiploc wrote:Do you think we ought to care about morality if gods exist, but not otherwise? If so, why?
My answer here would mirror the above. If God exists and has the nature I believe God does, we should care about morality because it will bring us ultimate happiness as we flourish as humans.

If god(s) do not exist, morality becomes a conditional thing as far as I can currently tell. We should care about the prevailing morality if we want to gain the benefits that will come from it. If we don't want those supposed benefits or don't think it will get us those benefits, then we should not care about what humans call 'morality'.
wiploc wrote:Do you think there are things we ought to do for no reason? Why ought we to do them if there is no reason? How would the existence of gods change this?
I'm not sure what you mean here.

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