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PostPosted: Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:46 pm  Morality as brute fact Reply with quote

Many atheists reject objective morality as something that requires a god, however, I feel that the existence of these values and duties are obvious, self evident. I hate to argue from emotion, but I cannot see ANY case or reason in which torturing and cannibalizing children is morally permissible, and I KNOW it is a moral abomination in the same way I know that 5+9=14. Even if everyone on Earth decided such an atrocious and heinous act were acceptable, I would still know, beyond any doubt, that it is wrong. I am as certain of this as I am of my own existence.

I am NOT saying that everything that falls under "morality" is objective and unmistakable -- that would be absurd. Of course there is disagreement on things such as the morality of speeding, premarital sex, religious devotion, gambling, early-term abortion, or prostitution. What I am advancing is the position that minimal universal moral values are objective and properly basic. By "minimal universal moral values," I mean the three principles that:

1) It is wrong to cause gratuitous suffering to an innocent human being.

2) It is right to promote / improve the life of an innocent human being.

3) It is right to bring punishment upon those that violate (1) and/or (2).

From these three principles, all of our more specific moral values (rape is wrong, murder is wrong, slavery is wrong, child molestation is wrong, theft is wrong, saving lives is right, healing diseases is right, punishing mass murderers is right, etc.) logically follow.

I believe that these 'minimal moral values' are every bit as obvious and self-evident as cogito ergo sum. For example, what (sane) individual person could raise a rational doubt about the immorality of raping and murdering an innocent woman, or of torturing an innocent child to death? What rational, reasonable person could deny the moral imperative of attempting to save a child from death by cancer?

I also feel that god(s) cannot be a sound basis for morality due to the Euthyphro Dilemma:

1) Is what is morally good commanded by God because it is good

OR

2) Is what is morally good right because God commands it?

Either scenario is fatal to theism. If scenario (1) is true, then absolute moral good exists independently of God, making God superfluous.

If scenario (2) is true, then absolute moral good does not exist, and is simply contingent on God's subjective commands. On (2), if God commanded child rape (as he ostensibly did in Numbers 31, btw), child rape would be right. Obviously this view is deeply problematic, and provides no more explanatory power for objective morality than does atheism.

Instead of the logically incoherent positions of theistic morality or moral relativism, I believe that objective moral values and duties are "brute facts" and require no explanation or cause of their existence.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brute_fact

Debate question: Do objective moral values and duties require an explanation, or do they 'just exist' as brute facts? If they need to be explained, why?
MPG Recipient Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 21: Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:17 pm
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Haven wrote:
On an intellectual level, I know you guys are right. Without a god / gods, there is no basis for objective morality and no reason to call any action moral or immoral. All moral claims are simply statements of subjective opinion.

However, on a deeper, more fundamental level, I cannot accept moral relativism or moral nihilism. I cannot accept that the mass murders of people during the Holocaust, the rape of children, and the theft of people's life savings are not immoral. I cannot accept, as some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer have said, that unborn babies and infants have no right to live, and that it is permissible to euthanize disabled people and those suffering from illnesses. Such things are moral abominations, and I know it to the depths of my being. Maybe it's just the oxytocin talking, or whatever, but I know such things are wrong. Likewise, I know certain acts, such as saving innocent human lives, volunteering with children, healing the suffering and the broken-hearted, and helping others recover from their pain is absolutely right. Yes, this is an appeal to emotion, but I don't care. I just know these things, and no amount of argument in the world could convince me otherwise.

I'm willing to concede this debate -- you guys are correct on a rational, intellectual level -- but I'm not willing to relinquish my belief in objective morality. I realize I have to on pain of irrationality, but, well, I'd rather be irrational than immoral. Smile

I'll leave this discuss with a quote from famous atheist intellectual Robert Ingersoll:

Robert Ingersoll wrote:
"Intellect, without heart, is infinitely cruel. . . ."


~Haven



Ok.. you are accepting it as a very strong emotional instinctual reaction. The need for a framework of morality is very much part of being a social animal.

The NEED for a morality framework is instinctual. .. Morality in human society is like language.. every society has a language. Many or most languages have elements in common. But not every society has the same language.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 22: Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:46 pm
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Haven wrote:
On an intellectual level, I know you guys are right. Without a god / gods, there is no basis for objective morality and no reason to call any action moral or immoral. All moral claims are simply statements of subjective opinion.

However, on a deeper, more fundamental level, I cannot accept moral relativism or moral nihilism. I cannot accept that the mass murders of people during the Holocaust, the rape of children, and the theft of people's life savings are not immoral. I cannot accept, as some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer have said, that unborn babies and infants have no right to live, and that it is permissible to euthanize disabled people and those suffering from illnesses. Such things are moral abominations, and I know it to the depths of my being. Maybe it's just the oxytocin talking, or whatever, but I know such things are wrong. Likewise, I know certain acts, such as saving innocent human lives, volunteering with children, healing the suffering and the broken-hearted, and helping others recover from their pain is absolutely right. Yes, this is an appeal to emotion, but I don't care. I just know these things, and no amount of argument in the world could convince me otherwise.

I'm willing to concede this debate -- you guys are correct on a rational, intellectual level -- but I'm not willing to relinquish my belief in objective morality. I realize I have to on pain of irrationality, but, well, I'd rather be irrational than immoral. Smile

I'll leave this discuss with a quote from famous atheist intellectual Robert Ingersoll:

Robert Ingersoll wrote:
"Intellect, without heart, is infinitely cruel. . . ."


~Haven
Haven, I can assure you that I understand your dilemma. I grew up evangelical christian, in a very black and white outlook of the world. Lots of rules. Lots of pointing fingers. This was not the intent but rather the result. A black and white world suits my personality quite well. It has taken a breaking down and rearranging of everything i know to allow for....nonblack and white. Very Happy

In fact even after i accepted the atheist label, I struggled with the belief that there could be/are moral absolutes. Or at least could be absolute standards. In fact I am still working out all the bugs in my own paradigm.

I would like to share with you an example that had a profound impact on my thinking in this area.

Consider one solitary being, on an island, there is no one else.
Would this solitary being have morals? and what would they be?


If you are willing to discuss this any further we can take it to the next step.
Add one. Are their moral values now? where did they come from? What would they be?



At first sight, if all you have known is a black and white world with a little grey here and there, the thought of no absolute moral values can be a bit scary, and intimidating, and yes our brain does not want to allow such a ginormous paradigm shift. But, If you consider that social groups can agree upon things, as "bad" and "good" by weighing their effects, and using tools like empathy, compassion and critical thinking (consider consequences etc) it begins to make more sense, how and where we can establish mutual moral values based on the fact that we are human, and we share that trait with other. This compassion and empathy can then grow to other things as we begin to see and realize that our actions affect other beings, (animals/plants/the world/universe etc) .


Would love to continue the discussion if you are interested.

Regards,

soms

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 23: Mon Feb 27, 2012 5:34 pm
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hollysoms wrote:
Haven, I can assure you that I understand your dilemma. I grew up evangelical christian, in a very black and white outlook of the world. Lots of rules. Lots of pointing fingers. This was not the intent but rather the result. A black and white world suits my personality quite well. It has taken a breaking down and rearranging of everything i know to allow for....nonblack and white. Very Happy


Thanks, Soms Smile. Yes, I was also raised evangelical, and the black and white mindset was definitely driven into me. It's hard to shake off.

Quote:
Consider one solitary being, on an island, there is no one else.
Would this solitary being have morals? and what would they be?


Yes, I feel they would. The person would still be morally prohibited from abusing any animals that might exist on the island.

If we assume there are no animals on the island, and no way for the person's actions to effect any other sentient beings, then no, there would be no need for morality.


Quote:
If you are willing to discuss this any further we can take it to the next step.
Add one. Are their moral values now? where did they come from? What would they be?


I see your point: moral values wouldn't simply spontaneously pop into existence when the other person entered the island.

Still, my heart objects.

Quote:
At first sight, if all you have known is a black and white world with a little grey here and there, the thought of no absolute moral values can be a bit scary, and intimidating, and yes our brain does not want to allow such a ginormous paradigm shift. But, If you consider that social groups can agree upon things, as "bad" and "good" by weighing their effects, and using tools like empathy, compassion and critical thinking (consider consequences etc) it begins to make more sense, how and where we can establish mutual moral values based on the fact that we are human, and we share that trait with other. This compassion and empathy can then grow to other things as we begin to see and realize that our actions affect other beings, (animals/plants/the world/universe etc) .


After debating this issue both here and in "real life," I've come to understand that there is no logical, rational, or philosophical basis for objective moral values or duties under atheism. I concede that. Wielenbergian "brute fact" objective morality (what I described in my OP) is less parsimonious than the absence of moral facts, so it is moral rational to accept that there are no moral facts. This is what the logical part of my brain tells me.

Still, I feel as if there must be some moral absolutes -- not with certain things theists like to bring up (sex, politics, etc.), but with more fundamental things like the value of human life and the prohibition against rape or slavery. If all morality is simply subjective preference, it is meaningless.

Unfortunately, atheism leaves no other rational option but relativism (which is a form of nihilism), and this is exactly why I am considering rejecting atheism. I simply cannot accept that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and "subjective morality" (personal preference / opinion) just doesn't cut it for me. Even though there is no evidence for theism (and plenty of evidence against´╗┐ it), I feel it is still a better worldview overall because it accounts for objective moral values and duties.

Maybe Voltaire was right: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."

~Haven

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 24: Mon Feb 27, 2012 7:47 pm
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Haven wrote:


Thanks, Soms Smile. Yes, I was also raised evangelical, and the black and white mindset was definitely driven into me. It's hard to shake off.

It is indeed. But believe it is liberating! And allows for the reality we see around us. Smile
In fact, as I was shedding a lot of my former paradigm of belief I wrote a little op called out of the darkness into the light. hee....
Something i knew would erk some who believed i had entered the darkness FROM the light, but I fully realized that I had been allowing myself to live in cognitive dissonance with reality in many cases. A very hard struggle if you are driven to be honest and a truth seeker.
In fact, I felt very much that letting go of binary thinking (thanks for the term goat Smile ) and coming out of my own cave of cognitive dissonance was very much like the story by Plato. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYKNAdbhQ-w&feature=related
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Yes, I feel they would. The person would still be morally prohibited from abusing any animals that might exist on the island.
you are doing it again. Smile what would you consider abusing? killing to eat and survive? having sex with it? killing it to save your self? (consider that in our society it is more "evil" to have sex with an animal than to kill it for sport (or its ivory or what not) although it seems less evil to kill a human than to have sex with it....where does black and white fit there?

Quote:

If we assume there are no animals on the island, and no way for the person's actions to effect any other sentient beings, then no, there would be no need for morality.

absolutely. Smile

Quote:

I see your point: moral values wouldn't simply spontaneously pop into existence when the other person entered the island.

Still, my heart objects.



After debating this issue both here and in "real life," I've come to understand that there is no logical, rational, or philosophical basis for objective moral values or duties under atheism. I concede that. Wielenbergian "brute fact" objective morality (what I described in my OP) is less parsimonious than the absence of moral facts, so it is moral rational to accept that there are no moral facts. This is what the logical part of my brain tells me.

Still, I feel as if there must be some moral absolutes -- not with certain things theists like to bring up (sex, politics, etc.), but with more fundamental things like the value of human life and the prohibition against rape or slavery. If all morality is simply subjective preference, it is meaningless.

Unfortunately, atheism leaves no other rational option but relativism (which is a form of nihilism), and this is exactly why I am considering rejecting atheism. I simply cannot accept that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and "subjective morality" (personal preference / opinion) just doesn't cut it for me. Even though there is no evidence for theism (and plenty of evidence against´╗┐ it), I feel it is still a better worldview overall because it accounts for objective moral values and duties.

Maybe Voltaire was right: "If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him."

~Haven
Not necessarily. You just must open the box. There's more out there. Smile
Now I will agree with you that atheism does not offer a satisfactory lifestyle, or moral standard in itself. It is not designed to. It is merely a label about a position with regards to the existence of an extraordinary being. However, are you familiar with secular humanism?
I think you would find their moral standard (and position on such) to be surprisingly satisfying. (it is also why I am careful to identify as a secular humanist and not JUST an atheist. To be clear on my values.
here is a link to their manifesto : http://www.americanhumanist.org/who_we_are/about_humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III

A little more on morals.
Consider the island and the adding of the second person. Why would killing that person be wrong? what makes it wrong? (because a being in the sky says so? even though we see contradictions to such all through the bible )
OR....could it be because once we have the ability to empathize with another, and understand that our actions beget consequences, affect each other, and ourselves, that "doing unto another as one would have done unto oneself" makes sense? (it can be found in many forms in many religions and philosophy through the ages) it is as simple as discovering that fire burns the skin. Man cannot walk in fire and survive. If I steal from somebody, they might steal from me. Hey..wait. I don't like people stealing my stuff. OH.......

Kindness feels good when done to us, learning to care about another, family, friends, etc we can see that they enjoy kindness done to them.
Then so much else comes into play. Even scientifically. Genetically we inherit things that benefit our survival. (to include things like the oxytocin, and altruism, mother's instincts to protect etc.) So it is a combination of instinct AND what we learn by critical thinking about consequences, and benefits.

I challenge you to continue working this out and examining all sides. It really does help to realize and face the way we have seen things black and white. And then begin reexamining everything...back to the beginning.

soms
kind regards and cheers to your continued journey (and mine Smile )


Smile Angel

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MPG Recipient Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 25: Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:00 am
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Haven wrote:
I cannot accept that the mass murders of people during the Holocaust, the rape of children, and the theft of people's life savings are not immoral. I cannot accept, as some utilitarian philosophers such as Peter Singer have said, that unborn babies and infants have no right to live, and that it is permissible to euthanize disabled people and those suffering from illnesses. Such things are moral abominations, and I know it to the depths of my being.

There is no need to accept mass murder or any of the other things you listed as moral under moral relativism, all of these things you said are still true. It is as you said, you know it to the depths of your being: You, a moral agent, are the source of morality.

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Likewise, I know certain acts, such as saving innocent human lives, volunteering with children, healing the suffering and the broken-hearted, and helping others recover from their pain is absolutely right.

In simular way, there is no reason to think these actions would stop being right under moral relativism. What would be different is the source of these value judgement, instead of a set of rules that exist out there, you are the judge. And this isn't such a big step, you already know how to judge to the depths of your being.

Quote:
I'm willing to concede this debate -- you guys are correct on a rational, intellectual level -- but I'm not willing to relinquish my belief in objective morality. I realize I have to on pain of irrationality, but, well, I'd rather be irrational than immoral. Smile

You can be both rational and moral.

Quote:
Unfortunately, atheism leaves no other rational option but relativism (which is a form of nihilism), and this is exactly why I am considering rejecting atheism.

Moral relativism is distinct from moral nihilism, rather than a subset of moral nihilism. Under moral relativism, moral statement such as "it is wrong to murder" is equivalent to "according XYZ murder is wrong" which does have a truth value. Where as under nihilism, there is no such equivalence and the statement have no truth value, neither true or false.

Quote:
I simply cannot accept that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and "subjective morality" (personal preference / opinion) just doesn't cut it for me.

People have had their freedom taken away for certain personal opinion, people have been killing each other for certain personal opinion, people have sacrificed themselves for certain personal opinion; Personal opinion do "cut it" and isn't something to be taken lightly.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 26: Thu Mar 22, 2012 4:02 am
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Re: Morality as brute fact

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Haven wrote:
Many atheists reject objective morality as something that requires a god, however, I feel that the existence of these values and duties are obvious, self evident. I hate to argue from emotion, but I cannot see ANY case or reason in which torturing and cannibalizing children is morally permissible, and I KNOW it is a moral abomination in the same way I know that 5+9=14. Even if everyone on Earth decided such an atrocious and heinous act were acceptable, I would still know, beyond any doubt, that it is wrong. I am as certain of this as I am of my own existence.


You know, the issue is, I don't think, whether on a mental level we don't know that these things are "bad" or in any case contra our own sense of decency. Well, unless you have some really bad mental problems anyway.

The real issue with morality really is... not the content at hand, but the FORM. WHY should the demands of morality OBLIGATE? In other words, I see something as bad, why should I desist from doing it though? You might say it's self-evident. But that's not the point. See, it isn't about emotion, exactly, but rather law. Where does law derive its force, its power?

People give advice, give "Counsel." But really, what makes it so that it becomes wrong to break with counsel, to go contra advice? What makes it that law has that special edge. It's the difference between what "is" and what "ought" between "common sense" and "NO YOU DON'T."

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 27: Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:04 pm
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I agree that giving victims' morality priority goes a long way toward eliminating the problems of moral relativism, but what is the justification if not an appeal to objective morality designed around protecting victims?

What do you do in cases where there is no clear victim, or both sides are claiming victimhood?

What does a relativist have to say about fostering positive developments such as allowing stem cell research? W. Bush claimed to have a morality that opposed it, and I doubt relativists could argue against it.

IMHO relativism works most of the the time because we mostly agree on what is moral, but as moral views diverge we need ways to talk people around to our way of thinking, and you can't do that without appealing to some kind of perfect objective morality.

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