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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Fri Dec 15, 2017 9:17 am
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Is this a valid naturalistic basis for morality?

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I was recently listening to the speech given by Tom Woods on the topic of where rights come from, which can be seen here.

Towards the beginning of the speech, he gives the following definitions of rights:

    • A sphere of action in which you can act and in which it would be morally wrong for anyone to interfere with you violently or with the threat of violence. (4:26)
    • You have the best moral claim to exercise a range of control over your physical body. (17:30) <--- Not an exact quote, but I think it accurately represents what he was saying in that section of the speech.

In short, I think a more concise definition would be that a right is the sphere of action over which you have the moral authority to exercise control.

Starting at 24:25, he explains a fundamental basis for determining how big the sphere of action defining where we have the moral authority to exercise control is. He provides several options (citing Murray Rothbard):

    1. I don't have the moral authority to exercise control over anyone. Not even myself.
    2. I have the moral authority to exercise control over only a portion of everyone, including myself.
    3. I have the moral authority to exercise control over another group of people.
    4. I have the moral authority to exercise full control over myself and no one else.

Of these options, only option 4 is logically sustainable. If I only have the moral authority to exercise control over myself and no one else, then that clearly leads to the conclusion that rape and murder are immoral among other things.

Now, as a Christian. I've had several discussions with atheists pointing out that they have no fundamental basis upon which they can say that murder and rape are any more wrong than dissolving an Alka-Seltzer tablet in water. However, if they replied with the argument outlined above (which I just came up with as a result of thinking through my beliefs and trying to think of an argument I'd make against them if I were an atheist), I don't know what response I'd have. I say this because this seems to provide a naturalistic basis for morality, which is something that Christian apologists have long argued against.

Can someone explain to me where the logical error is in this line of argument? I would greatly appreciate it.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:19 am
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Re: Is this a valid naturalistic basis for morality?

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[Replying to post 1 by tlewis3348]

Can you explain what is meant by "fundamental basis?" I ask because "I have the moral authority to exercise full control over myself and no one else" just sounded like a proclaimation not backed by some deeper truth.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Fri Dec 15, 2017 11:55 am
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Before I could address your questions I would need to know what you mean by "moral authority".

What gives a person "moral authority"?

What does the term "moral" even mean?

I just looked up the term on Google and was presented with several definitions the following two appearing to be the most applicable to your OP:

Moral - a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.

Moral - concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character.


The problem I see here is that unless these principles or standards of morality can be shown to be absolute and universal, then they cannot be anything more than personal opinion.

The the question changes and becomes, "What universal value does the concept of personal opinion authority have?"

In other words, 'moral authority' would be reduced to 'personal opinion authority'.

~~~~~~

To the bigger question of "right and wrong" within a society I think we need to think contextually, rather than in any philosophical absolute sense.

Societies make laws of conduct. Those laws do not need to be based on a concept of "morality", in fact most of our laws have nothing at all to do with moral considerations.

For example, tax laws have nothing at all to do with morality. Neither do traffic laws. Neither do many ordinances such as where a person is allowed to build a certain type of building, business, or residence, etc.

In short, we clearly don't even need to have a concept of morality in order to make laws. We then define "right and wrong" within that society simply based on whether a person is obeying the laws, or breaking the laws. There's simply no need for a concept of morality at all.

It is true that many laws do seem to be based on moral ideals. However, it could (and should) be argued that these laws make sense for the society in practical ways, and not simply because someone deemed certain behaviors "immoral". In fact, if that's the only reason they are on the legal books then they should be removed until they can be shown to be beneficial to the society in practical ways.

So when it comes to making laws no concept of morality is even required or needed.

"right and wrong" in terms of a legal system is simply defined by the laws of that legal system. In fact, someone can even argue against laws that clearly aren't practical in terms of the society. Arguments have been made against the "Blue laws" that make restrictions on what people can do on a religious sabbath day. Such laws are clearly not based on what's best for the society, but rather they are based on what a particular religion claims to be a 'moral requirement' of their specific God.

So, my answer to your question is that there is no 'Naturalistic Basis for Morality'. There can't be because morality is a matter of personal opinion. And different people have different opinions of what they consider to be "right and wrong". This is also true of different religions as well.

Moreover, there is no need for a naturalistic basis for morality because that should never be the basis of our legal system anyway. Clearly if we were going to argue for morality in law, then many laws would need to be removed from the books for lack of a moral basis. For example, what would be immoral about me turning my home into a business? Nothing. Yet there are ordinance laws that prevent me from turning my home into a business simply to protect my neighbors from having their neighborhoods turned into business complexes. But is there anything "immoral" about that? Hardly.

By the way, I actually support the laws that prevent my neighbors from turning their homes into businesses. This protects the residential space in which I live. None the less, it has absolutely nothing at all to do with morality.

So legal 'right and wrong' have nothing at all to do with moral 'right and wrong'.

Legal 'right and wrong' is based on what benefits the society and the individual citizens living within it (or at least that should be its purpose) No concept of morality is required.

Moral 'right and wrong' has to do with personal opinions of what an individual feels is right or wrong. Therefore it can never be made absolute. It's just an opinion and other people will have different opinions on what they feel is 'right and wrong'.

So my conclusion is that instead of trying to continually create a "basis" for an absolute morality, we simply recognize that morality is a matter of personal opinion and it's not even a required concept for making laws.

Once we do this, we're done. There is no longer any need to search for a 'basis' for morality because at that point we understand that it's open to personal opinion. And therefore there is no 'basis' beyond that to even search for.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Fri Dec 15, 2017 2:04 pm
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Re: Is this a valid naturalistic basis for morality?

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[Replying to post 2 by Bust Nak]

By "fundamental basis," I mean a strong foundation upon which to base absolute moral judgments of right and wrong.

As far as making proclamations not backed by deeper truth, this would be an accurate statement if you focus on option 4 exclusively, but there were a total of four options there that as far as I can tell cover all the options. If it is true that those are all the options available for determining how big the sphere of action defining where we have the moral authority to exercise control is, then we can rule out the ones that are not practically possible, and end up with just one option left defining what we do and don't have the right to do.

Therefore, I'm not sure a deeper truth is needed since we've ruled out all the other options as possibilities.

[Replying to post 3 by Divine Insight]

From Wikipedia: "Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth."

As I mentioned in my response to Bust Nak above, I've merely provided several options for what defines the limits of our rights and eliminated the options that are not practically possible. If you think there are other options that I've left out, I'd be very interested in hearing them. Additionally, if you think one or more of the options have been eliminated incorrectly, I'd also be interested in hearing that.

As far as the need for an absolute basis upon which right and wrong is defined, if it is merely a societal opinion that murder is wrong, then there is no moral basis from which to pass judgment on (among other things) The South for having slavery before the Civil War.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:03 pm
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Re: Is this a valid naturalistic basis for morality?

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tlewis3348 wrote:

From Wikipedia: "Moral authority is authority premised on principles, or fundamental truths, which are independent of written, or positive, laws. As such, moral authority necessitates the existence of and adherence to truth."


Ok, I would say that based on that definition for morality then morality cannot be a meaningful concept until it can be shown that there are "fundamental truths" concerning the concept of right and wrong, that are independent of written, or positive, laws.

So until that condition can be shown to exist there's no point in speaking of "morality" at all.

tlewis3348 wrote:

As I mentioned in my response to Bust Nak above, I've merely provided several options for what defines the limits of our rights and eliminated the options that are not practically possible. If you think there are other options that I've left out, I'd be very interested in hearing them. Additionally, if you think one or more of the options have been eliminated incorrectly, I'd also be interested in hearing that.


Well you're talking about "moral authority" and then you jump to conclusions that are non-sequitur:

You say:
Quote:
4. I have the moral authority to exercise full control over myself and no one else.

Of these options, only option 4 is logically sustainable. If I only have the moral authority to exercise control over myself and no one else, then that clearly leads to the conclusion that rape and murder are immoral among other things.


The problem here is that you are still treating "moral authority" as though it's an absolute.

Just because you have the "moral authority" to exercise full control over yourself and no one else, doesn't mean that anyone else will agree with your "moral authority".

In other words, even your choice of #4 can only be a subjective choice. You haven't established that #4 has to be an absolute for everyone.

tlewis3348 wrote:

As far as the need for an absolute basis upon which right and wrong is defined, if it is merely a societal opinion that murder is wrong, then there is no moral basis from which to pass judgment on (among other things) The South for having slavery before the Civil War.


This is exactly right. And this why the South believed that they were morally correct in keeping slaves.

This is why a concept of morality is totally useless.

We don't need a concept of morality to argue against slavery. It's simply stupid to enslave another human being against their will if we would not want to be enslaved against our will.

So we don't need to make an argument of morality. All we need to do is argue that it is utterly stupid to enslave other people against their will.

In short, all we need to do is make arguments based on intelligence alone.

And if a person is going to argue that it is intelligent to enslave other humans against their will, then what would be the point in trying to discuss a concept like morality with them? Think

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:06 pm
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Ultimately, because I believe the only logically sustainable basis for an absolute morality is God and what He has told us in the Bible, my suspicion is that the explanation I've provided above is taking an assumption for granted somewhere, and I've just not realized it. For several days now, I've been trying to figure out what that assumption is, but have been unsuccessful so far. Therefore, I was hoping that someone here would be willing consider this argument and help me find the unfounded assumption that I believe I've been missing.

As I'm typing this, I did just have the realization that I am making the assumption that the idea that any option that is to be considered for the limits of the sphere of action I've been referencing must be equally applied to all people. If my sphere of action can be larger than yours, then the entire endeavor becomes meaningless. Maybe there is a good reason to have that requirement, and maybe there isn't. Maybe I've just answered my own question, and maybe there's a counterpoint to be made that I'm not aware of.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Fri Dec 15, 2017 4:36 pm
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tlewis3348 wrote:

As I'm typing this, I did just have the realization that I am making the assumption that the idea that any option that is to be considered for the limits of the sphere of action I've been referencing must be equally applied to all people.


Exactly. That's it right there. You are making a global assumption concerning the very concept of "moral authority".

~~~~~

Here are some questions I would like to pose to you:

1. Can you make arguments for what should be considered to be right or wrong based on logical reasoning alone?

Is so, then why should their be a need to appeal to any "moral authority" when logical reasoning alone is sufficient to make the case?

2. If you cannot make arguments for what should be considered to be right or wrong based on logical reasoning alone, then wouldn't appealing to a moral authority at that point amount to nothing more than a concession that no good logical arguments can be made?

In short, why would there be a need to appeal to any moral authority except in cases where no sound logical arguments could be made?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 8: Mon Dec 18, 2017 6:09 am
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Re: Is this a valid naturalistic basis for morality?

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tlewis3348 wrote:

By "fundamental basis," I mean a strong foundation upon which to base absolute moral judgments of right and wrong.

As far as making proclamations not backed by deeper truth, this would be an accurate statement if you focus on option 4 exclusively, but there were a total of four options there that as far as I can tell cover all the options.

What about "I have the moral authority to exercise control over everyone?"

Quote:
If it is true that those are all the options available for determining how big the sphere of action defining where we have the moral authority to exercise control is, then we can rule out the ones that are not practically possible, and end up with just one option left defining what we do and don't have the right to do.

How are you ruling 1 to 3 out though? That one cannot conclude that rape and murder are immoral starting from those premise is enough to rule them out?

Quote:
Therefore, I'm not sure a deeper truth is needed since we've ruled out all the other options as possibilities.

Granted.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 9: Fri Dec 22, 2017 4:42 am
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[Replying to post 6 by tlewis3348]

Quote:
Ultimately, because I believe the only logically sustainable basis for an absolute morality is God and what He has told us in the Bible,

There were people who argued in favour of slavery and who would have said (if not the exact, but words to that effect) what you said just above.
You have your interpretation of what God said in the Bible, that slavery is wrong, and I'm happy for that...but this doesn't tell me that what you say in the quoted blurb is actually true.
I'd like to ask you a question.
How is it moral to make a moral judgement about X (X can be anything) if all one is going to do is go along with whatever Agent Z says about X? In fact, how is that even a moral judgement at all?
If one is concerned about whether or not slavery is moral, and your (that is, tlewis3348's) go to 'strategy' to find out whether it is moral, is to simply read a book and ask someone else...how is that conducting a moral evaluation?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 10: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:28 pm
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[Replying to tlewis3348]

I believe the unbased assumption that this argument is making can be summarized below:

Suppose it's true that

(1) You have the moral authority to exercise full control over yourself and no one else.

And it's also true that

(2) I have the moral authority to exercise full control over myself and no one else.

On what basis can you condemn me if I choose to extend that control over another person (i.e. rape, murder)? You only have the moral authority to exercise full control over yourself, so you can't tell me I'm wrong for my actions. As soon as you label my actions as "immoral", you're exerting a measure of control over me that you don't possess.

If you do look to condemn me then it begs the question of authority. To what standard are you appealing? What is the basis of this standard? Clearly, if you're able to condemn me (who is outside of your sphere of control) then there is some external and objective standard by which you're judging me. The source of this standard is what this line of reasoning assumes without basis.

Essentially, this standard is either meaningless (since you can't condemn anyone else) or completely arbitrary (if you condemn someone, it's on the basis of a standard that comes out of thin air). Even if a naturalist can reason with me why his moral standard makes sense, he's assuming that I should be rational or should choose to abide by the standard that is "true".

An individual with a Biblical perspective would claim that God is the source of morality, which is neither arbitrary or meaningless since it provides a distinct, superior, and objective measure by which our human actions can be judged.

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