Knight wrote: Mithrae wrote:
Of course there'd still be the question of exactly what this deity deems to be good, and probably the best (and perhaps only valid) answer is what He created me to feel and think is good. At the moment I'm inclined to think a 'God' works as a fill-in-the-gaps answer to objective morality if that's what one desires, but makes no difference in pragmatic terms since we should think and feel the same regardless of whether we postulate a nebulous god-concept or not.
I think you'll be hard pressed to justify that moral "objectivists" - those who believe ought-statements have truth values - all share the same moral intutions. But if you can't, then justifying one's own moral intuitions (or reforming them accordingly) by appealing to God is extremely relevant, as pragmatics would not be as clear-cut as you seem to suppose.
But your point about identifying the set of things which God regards to be good is well-taken and brings me back to my point that ethics cannot be divorced from epistemology. It isn't sufficient to believe in, say, a deistic god in order to justify moral duties, for then one would only have his moral intuitions as his justification. But due to different moral intuitions, by what means can we judge which align with the deistic god's own views? None. Divine revelation is a necessary corollary to divinely grounded ethics. This is one reason why I'm interested in what Haven will do.
Very true, which is why I specified a nebulous god-concept
. My point was that if a person's (Haven, in this case) only real reason for appealing to deity is as a basis for objective morality, the question of divine revelation regarding the contents
of that morality remain as-yet unanswered. Until that person reaches further conclusions on the subject (and having rejected evangelical Christianity in the past, I'd assume that at least is not in Haven's sights) the nebulous god-concept is all they have. So this person's thoughts and feelings will ultimately be the basis on which they judge the morality which they ascribe to a deity, leaving little or no practical
difference from moral relativism. Of course even their assessement of the truth or falsity of any particular 'divine revelation' will depend on their thoughts and (to a lesser extent) their feelings, but I think we can assume that if there's divine revelation it should be apparent to those who honestly seek it. So granted, my comments apply only to an intermediate stage between supposing a god-concept to accomodate objective morality, and a hopeful future date of discerning what this deity actually requires.
Regarding not-particularly-subjective moral relativism
I think Darias
makes a good case, along with comments from others. I think his comments are quite a reasonable counterpoint to Hume's is/ought problem which Haven
mentioned and Knight
expanded on. We don't have a simple dichotomy between objective morality and the equivalency of all moral or amoral viewpoints. I and 99% of humanity 'ought' to behave in a certain fashion because it's in our nature, courtesy of our capacity for empathy.
I don't see how this applies to deviants. Even if we are predisposed towards making certain choices, how does it follow from that alone that said choices ought to be made?
It doesn't. The 'ought' is in my nature, and in the nature of most of humanity as I said. I'd suspect that the gaps between "This is how I like to be treated" and "This is how s/he likes to be treated" (in other words, empathy) are based largely on family relationships throughout childhood. The big and unjustified leap in reasoning is "This is how I ought to be
treated," which most children seem to infer simply from their desire to be treated thus; but looking back on my own and my friends' and siblings' experiences, it seems to progressively dawn on us that logically you can't have that without subsequently acknowledging "This is how s/he ought to be
treated." It's true that there are those (sociopaths in psychological terms, though sometimes given more hostile or dismissive labels) who, for one reason or another, haven't grasped "This is how s/he likes to be treated" on the same fundamental, emotional level that most of us do. Clearly there can be no 'ought' for them - but the rest of us still 'ought' to do our best to provide for needs of both them and their (hopefully only prospective) victims. I don't need to call someone evil to disapprove of their behaviour.
More broadly, since the moral conceptualisation starts with oneself, then extends to one's family, then one's society, it seems obvious that even into the 21st century we're still struggling with extending it to the level of the species. While we who live in the wealthiest countries still give any creedance to national boundaries and aren't making it our overwhelming priority to compensate the colonised regions from whom we've derived much of our wealth (and for that matter, reclaim much of the wealth the 1% have gathered even from us), I consider it nothing short of blatant hypocrisy for anyone to condemn the national boundaries on ethics displayed for example in the pages of the Tanakh - people with thousands of years less technological and ethical development than we - or from examples posted in this thread by a follower of the Tanakh, the Huns or the Aztecs.
Knight wrote: Mithrae wrote:
For a basis of comparison, I'd suggest that in this view morality can be considered even less subjective than language; if nothing else, the evolutionary imperative of perpetuating the genes/group/species from which empathy is apparently derived and to which many modern secular moral systems refer is far more universal amongst living organisms than language. In fact it's an interesting irony that Knight refers to language as being derived from God alongside morality - yet I can't imagine even the most ardent atheists, naturalists or materialists among us would say "That's only your subjective opinion on how to construct, punctuate and spell a sentence!"
There are various modes of language - English, French, sign, etc. - but meaning is necessarily communicated by language. One's use of language can be ambiguous, however. I think it would be better if we did away with "subjective/objective" terminology in discussions like these and instead focused on the truth values of relevant propositions.
We can say that X is not language or X is not communication, with just as much objective validity as we can say that Y is not moral or Y is not 'good.' In fact it's worth considering that the god-concept can detract from morality qua
inter-personal behaviours, and instead suggest things like homosexuality or wearing clothing of mixed fabrics as an affront against the deity itself. To that extent I suppose the comparison with language breaks down compared with God-defined morality. But as far as moral relativism goes, both language and morals serve a purpose between people, and as you've further illustrated language is the considerably more divergent and 'subjective' of the two. But that doesn't diminish the validity of either morality or language.
Knight wrote: Mithrae wrote:
But ultimately I think that more important than the objective truth of the matter is the process of questioning.
I disagree. This seems to abstract moral duty from the equation. It seems to me that you are emphasizing that "if we want x, we should do y." But rather than ask why we want x, should we want x? Why? Whatever answer one ultimately gives will be either true or false, and knowing which it is would seem to be more important than asking questions as to why we want x, at least in the context of a discussion about moral duties.
You're presupposing that there is an answer to your questions, or that there are any moral duties (in an objective sense). Or perhaps not... I suppose you're correct in that "why do I want X?" is not a more important question than "should I want X?" But asking why
I want X is an important part of questioning if I should
want it, or indeed if there's anything I 'should' want. Obviously, so far I'm of the opinion that there really is no 'should' - in effect, that there is no truly objective
truth-value to the statement that murder is wrong.
My comments reflect that perspective, I admit. But since in general terms humans generally come to fairly similar views on what they 'should' do - allowing for the increasing size over the millenia of the group/s with whom we identify, and the various mutations of 'good' and 'bad' which have been introduced by god-concepts - I still thinks it's fair to say that how we'll generally interact with others will not be greatly altered by our views on why we should
or simply why we choose to act thus.
Curiously, in this post
I've suggested that religion as a source of meaning
is ultimately a better promoter of moral outcomes than non-religion, since non-religious 'meaning' essentially defaults largely to self-interest. But it's worth bearing in mind that religion as a source of morality
can just as easily be an inhibitor of our natural empathy as a promoter of our common humanity and equality before the divine.