Response to https://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/its-time-to-change-something-other-than-the-design/ about Ethical Models

Over the past few days, I have been discussing ethical models with another blogger.  Because the responses were becoming lengthy, I was told to write a post about it so that this blogger could more easily address what I had to say.  The following excerpt is what I will be responding to:

“Oh okay, well thank you for what was an excellent laugh. I have no idea why you’d assume that I would think that life is inherently valuable. It’s not a bold thing to say at all, I’ve said multiple times on this blog that existence of reality itself is not off the table for discussion. (though that isn’t to say I think reality doesn’t exists, but that to me through we have to justify our belief in reality as well. Though there are simple pragmatic arguments which I feel tackle the job nicely in most cases.) Nothing you said in that first paragraph was what I’d call bold, nor does it bother me in the slightest. In fact I quite like what you said there. I agree that there lack inherent meaning in such things as language or life. I’d venture so far to say there is not inherent “meaning” to anything. That reality doesn’t need a reason or an end to exist. (This isn’t saying that reality does have a reason it began, but that is a separate question) [1]

Now moving on I don’t necessarily like anything which requires an ultimate end, the Aristotelian idea that things have some end in mind does not map with on to anything other than the works of sentient beings. Now this isn’t to tip my hand, evolutions as my favorite example does not need any teleological reasons to occur. Once you have life (or really once you have a system which can maintain ever increasing chemical complexity, though let’s not conflate abiogenesis with evolution) only that life which is capable of surviving, and does survive to reproduce will carry on. You don’t need teleological explanations for that. Teleological explanations are useful for explain what humans do, but I’d venture to say you could probably explain everything humans do in non-teleological ways. [2]

Now for the sake of this argument and due to my current lack of imagination I will agree that to justify meaning to a human life we are forced to use some teleological frame work. In truth I probably would anyway as it would be significantly easier. However I don’t agree that a teleological explanation needs to be explained by another teleological explanation. With sentient comes the ability to predict and make changes which will affect the future in a manner more fitting that critters designs. Though for that ability to arise you do not need any teleological explanations, because evolution does not need any teleological explanations to work. [3]

Another aside on Evolution: While it may be the case that we sometime talk about evolution is a teleological manner this has to do with conventions of language getting in the way of understanding. [4]

Now I don’t think we need to agree that there should be some good stopping point. I think we are too early in the discussion to be determining and ultimate points where morality will rest. I think it would be far more productive to try to find systems of morality which work well, and achieve goal which reflect those problems which face now, and ideally have the foresight to begin tackling the problems we will face further down the line. This way we don’t box are selves in too much and allow ourselves to change as new information undoubtedly comes in. It seems to me that as we overcome problems we discover or create more, so the “perfect” morality to face today’s challenges would like be different then one 100 or 1000 years in the future. [5]

Now when given the options between human flourishing, and gods character? Well one is massively arbitrary and self conflicting based on the testimony and book written about the Christian god, and the other one can be tested and empirical data can be collected on to give much clearer answers. Now you might disagree that “God’s character” isn’t massively arbitrary, but if you do I’d ask you to try to take me for task on that one, because I haven’t read much the bible and I’ve seen some flat out contradictions in that gods behavior. Let alone the attributes attributed to Gods behavior and character by Christians. [6]

Now as to your finding it puzzling that those folks such as myself who are not overwhelmingly nihilists. I have two answer for you. One nihilism is pretty silly, it’s a dead end, game over man game over. It’s clear to most everyone with half a brain and but a meager shred of empathy that the existence of moral frame works benefits everyone, not just society as a whole. Even those people who wish to abuse the morality of our societies to their personal gain general recognize those moral system as benefiting them. Without them we’d probably all die, and we certainly would not reproduce anywhere near the rates we do now, all but guaranteeing out species demise. Which rolls nicely into my next answer. [7]

We are (mostly) born with an inbuilt desire to live and procreate, and to create more generally, amongst other things because of evolution, so while there lacks inherent meaning that does not mean that we do not come with inbuilt desires. Which in turn will gives us guidance in how we what we will ultimately choose as good/bad. If we choose to look at things in that manner at all. This give us a beginning, and as I said there may not be an ultimate end which shall work for all times and all peoples making the problem of infinity not really a problem as you get rid of the need for an ultimate end. This may also (though not necessary) make it impossible to have an objective source of morality, but since I don’t think that’s currently possible that doesn’t worry me. [8]

Also we fall into the question of is it god because god wills it or is god good because he wills it. Now you seem to be trying to get around this problem with some presuppositional apologetics, but really your still going to need to give me some better reasons for why god is necessary for existence and then why that then means he’s also necessary. [9]

Okay so I read and reread your third to last paragraph and well one where the hell are you getting the trinity bit? Like this sound like someone pet theory, and has no justifications included. Like you have behind one of god characteristics, but you negated any positives that may have brought about by now insisting that somehow this let to the creation of humanity, and all of existence. Like the story of the universe brought about by god love is compelling and all, but what you said there comes across to me as all fluff and no substance. Your asserting things about gods nature and how there necessary, but you’re not backing those claims for connecting them in any tangible way. Your conclusions don’t follow from your premises, or at least you haven’t made a good enough account for them yet. [10]

Though this still leave a gaping problem which I have not seen anyone fill successfully. If you want to base a moral system on the nature of Yahweh first you are going to have to define that nature. If you can’t do that then the core of your morality remains hollow and ready to be filled with any ad hoc measure people need to justify their actions. [11]

To be clear I don’t truly mock any “gods” motives though I entirely concede that I allowed confusion to seep in into how I used my language. I don’t believe in Yahweh so mocking “his” intentions would be fairly silly outside the realm of hypothetical’s. In truth I’m mocking the intentions of the people who wrote the text, altered them, and many who’ve translated them. Now I’m assuming your thinking the bible is divinely inspired so those two target are probably largely the same to you. [12]
I understand that to worship something you generally need to at least fear that thing. You don’t necessarily have to hate something to fear it, and historically most religion have had mixed relationships with their gods. They would both help and hurt them for a wide variety of reasons. The mythical stories of Yahweh are no different, God both hurt and helped the Israelite throughout their relationship. [13]

“Maybe, you disagree with God, but where else can you derive objective morality?”
This is the biggest problem which I really haven’t mentioned up till now is that you think we can’t have satisfactory subjective explanations of morality. I disagree. It’s easy enough to see why we might think human flourishing is a good reason, it allows us to keep asking these question, to keep enjoying life. To part take in life and love, pain and suffering. To do good and ill. All of these things in one way or another have some value to us. Even if it’s just value we assign to them. I think this desire to have an object source of morals blinds you to the more difficult possibility that the only meaning we have are those we assign to things. That doesn’t mean we need to be relativists, or more specifically Nihilists it means we might not have any source for easy answers, and that will have to work for everything we have even the most basic foot holds for reality. [14]
Remember subjective does not mean relative, it just means there is no outside immutable source. Wanting there to be an objective morality does not necessitate one, and only having a subjective morality does negate morality all together. We can create systems, and have created systems of morality that allow us to test the waters see what works and what doesn’t, be it Kantian ethics, Consequentialist, value ethics, ect. We can see what works and what doesn’t, which system or combination of systems brings about those ends we want. [15]

Moving on you said ” I would like to see how you might establish that as something good without using God’s character.”
Well to be terse I’d like to see you define gods character, and I would like to see how you try to back up that definition. [16]
So far you’ve been claiming somehow your conception of god grant us objective source for morality, but you have not done even a fraction of the ground work to justify that claim. You haven’t even shown how we can know it’s objective! [17]

” Humans rely on God for existence” I’ll consider it when I see a cogent and convincing argument. You can keep asserting that all you like and it will niether won’t make it true, nor will it convince me. [18]

“If God forced everyone into communion with him he would deny free will and make moral agency impossible. He would also be unjust, an aspect of his character, if he did so.”
What and it is somehow just to reward/punish everyone based on something which is not evidently true? Now I’m certain you’ll argue that it is evidently true, but it that was the case damn near everyone would be a Christian, and you’d see that regardless of geographical area. You would have no need for apologetics, because proving god would be trivial. This however is the opposite of what we see. We see a whole host of conflicting deities, and conflicting sects for those same deities arguing over minutia, and educating their children that they have the “true” faith. [19]

If any of this was obviously evident you would even have to argue this with me, there would be bullet proof proofs for your god, and his nature would be well defined at least so that we would have this objective source for moral you’re so keen on.
It is dishonest to claim something as self evident when it is not so, and just because you like a certain idea doesn’t make itself evident. [20]

Well this is utterly massive, if you’d like to keep doing this I just suggest keeping this focused in the future or writing a post to which I can respond to in parts. [21]”

In order to keep this response organized, I have numbered each paragraph with brackets for easy reference.  I will respond to it bit by bit in a similar way to how the blogger responded to what I had written earlier (https://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/its-time-to-change-something-other-than-the-design/#comment-4116).  Also, I will be using the second person to refer to the blogger and not to the reader.

I apologize for assuming something that I shouldn’t have.  Based on your previous replies, which were aimed at condemning certain base tactics in argumentation, I assumed that you must believe in an objectivistic (adj. for objectivism) model for ethics.  I was not aware that you seem to take a more provisionalistic approach.

Let me just clarify from the beginning, since you mention it in the beginning [1], my epistemology would be nihilistic in nature; meaning, I don’t think there are self-evident beliefs.  Every belief must be proven through sound argument.  Nevertheless, my epistemology would not be completely nihilistic; I think that logic cannot be proven without using logic.  Though, I do agree with the Bible that there are certain propositions about reality, which necessitate the existence of God, that virtually all people believe in.  I will elucidate on these particular propositions throughout my post.

In [2] you talk about things not requiring a telos (ultimate end).  I do not really agree with Aristotle in that every action requires a final cause, because there are things like rocks moving whose purpose for moving according to some teleology would be difficult if not impossible to ascertain.  Notwithstanding, I never did argue that every action requires a teleology.  I would only argue that moral actions require a teleology, in order to be specially classified apart from other actions in the physical world.  The workings of Neo-Darwinism evolution, though I don’t believe its mechanism is sufficient to function successfully, would, of course, not be teleological.  There is no goal in evolution; it just happens through changes by mutations accruing over time.  I would agree with you in that psychology, physical movements, and mostly everything relating to humans could be explained in non-teleological ways, but I would still press the point that in order for moral actions to stand apart from mundane physical ones in any real sense, a teleology must be established.  But, you said you agree on that point, or at least for the argument’s sake.

In [3] you disagree with me that a teleology requires another teleology.  The analogue of this would be causation.  Events are explained by immediately proceeding events.  Once you come to a point and say that something was not caused by a proceeding event, then you have no explanation for why the ante-ceding event occurred.  In the teleological realm, there are similar stipulations.  Something is good because it participates in achieving in a telos.  But this telos, even though it’s supposedly ultimate, must also require another telos, lest you run into the same problem which exists in causation.  Again, I would agree evolution is not teleological in nature.  When you speak of sentience and what that entails in the life of beings with that characteristic, you are talking about prudential actions and not prescriptive actions.  Sure, if the creature is focused on surviving, then it will make decisions centered around that goal.  But, this is just practical thinking.  If it were prescriptive thinking, the creature would think, “Should I really do these actions in order to follow my innate desire to survive?  Why should I actually want to survive?”

In [5] you again assert your disagreement about teleological justification.  You say we should try to find systems of morality which work well.  Well, I would say we need to find systems of morality that are true.  In order to determine whether a system of morality is working well, we must have some other system of morality already in mind, whereby we judge whether that other system is achieving some goal effectively.  I would strongly resist the proposition that systems of morality can develop.  In the same way that logic does not develop, but just is already there and complete and impossible to argue against, so must our teleology be.  Maybe my causation analogy did not sufficiently express the point.  I will try again.

The heart of the disagreement apparently lies in whether or not our system of morality needs to be objective.  I say yes.  You say no in [14]. When I used to word objective to describe my teleology, I was following a certain tradition of moral philosophy which describes something, which I’ll talk about in just a moment.  In a conventional context, subjective and objective are adjectives that describe something in relation to an observer.  Subjective would describe things, which occur only for or within the observer, that cannot be verified by third-person parties.  Under this definition, you would be right that subjective is not the same thing as relative.  A person can have a sensory experience that is subjective in nature, but it is still actually true that the experience did really occur within this person.  Something that is relative would be something that is not actually the case, but only appears so for a particular observer.  Objective would normally mean something that is the case for every observer, namely, something that exists in a particular way independent of observers.  When speaking teleologically, I take objective to mean something that is necessarily so and subjective to mean something that is contingently so.  For example, the laws of logic are necessarily so; that is, there is no other way for logic to exist except as it does.  Morality cannot exist in any way contingently because it is prescriptive.  Morality has some sort of authority if you can actually be condemned for doing something wrong.  If morality were contingent, then how could someone be condemned for something if the universe could have existed with a different morality in which that condemned person were lauded for his same action.  Morality would hold the same weight as mere preference.  Preferences are based upon human caprices, which are in turn based upon prudential means for certain contingent goals.  Because morality is necessary and not contingent, it is a problem if we arbitrarily stop in the chain of justifications.

In [6] you claim God’s character is arbitrary.  You would also like me to provide an actual description of his character.  To describe God’s character would be difficult because I would have to words like just and loving which revert back to God’s character in order to mean anything.  For example, if you ask me what it means for something to be just.  I respond that it is something that adheres to the principle of justice.  Justice is not being deprived of rights, getting exactly what one deserves.  How should I know what one deserves?  I would say that someone deserves something based on how accurately his character aligns with God’s.  Since none of our characters aligns perfectly with God’s, we don’t deserve anything.  Because we have sinned, we have no rights before God.  We have rights before each other because God has commanded it to be so and his commands emanate from his character.  The best way to think about God’s character in an attempt to describe it (bear with me on this one) would be to imagine something with no actual properties.  If this thing existed a se; that is, from itself with nothing else existing alongside it, then, once you start adding other things into existence alongside it, you begin to be able to describe that original thing within the context of the new items.  Concepts like justice, mercy, and love emerge even though more than likely God’s character has only a single aspect, love, from which these others are derived.  The new concepts gain fullness in meaning when placed within the backdrop of other created things beside God.  Without other created things with other properties, however, an attempt to describe that things that existed a se would be fruitless.  If God’s character and God himself is like this then it would be necessary in nature because there was no other way they could exist.  They already existed in a state eternally in the past that is difficult to describe other than saying that is just how they exist.

You also claim in [6] that you’ve seen some contradictions of God’s character in the Bible.  I would be interested in hearing about the instances that appear to you as a contradiction of God’s character.

In [7] you believe Nihilism to be a dead end, but then go on to extoll the precepts of Nihilism.  In case you understand it in a different way than I do, let me clarify.  Nihilism is the view that morality is not objective and holds no authority.  Everything that has arisen morally is entirely a cultural production that is prudential in nature and need not be followed.  You say people should be moral because it benefits them.  This is exactly what prudence means.  You do something only in order to accomplish something; you choose to accomplish that goal in the way you did because it is the most expedient means to do so.  The is what a Nihilist believes.  He will only obey a morality insofar as it benefits him, once it starts impeding on what he sees as his goal, he stops obeying morality.

In [8] you may not think a telos is necessary for an ethical model, but once you follow through on this, you lose all justification for categorizing certain actions as moral actions and not just actions deemed best at achieving survival or flourishing.  You think an objective teleology is not possible therefore, you don’t worry about it.  But, you lose all grounds for calling your system a moral system and not just prudence aimed at fitness.  Yes, we’re born with innate desires, but what forces us to execute these desires apart from that we want to?  If you don’t want to follow these desires, what allows someone else to condemn you for doing so?

An answer to [9] would be: something is good because it embodies God’s character (To keep things more understandable, it might be better to say things are godly instead of good).  It is not good in itself and is not good simply because God wills it.  What would it mean for a teleology to exist a se without a divine foundation.  Without persons involved, I don’t know what it would even mean to say something has moral content.  All moral actions come from moral agents.  Moral agents need to be persons.  It wouldn’t make any sense to establish what is good on some abstract concept, like a Platonic form.  Forms just are not capable of carrying such a burden.  Therefore, objective morality necessitates God’s character.  If you want to know what necessitates God himself, then I would appeal to any argument from causation.  There is the traditional one dealing with the beginning of the universe and then there’s one dealing with any event in general, which I happen to have written a post on already (https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/argument-from-meticulous-causation/).  The traditional argument from causation can be found in my book excerpt (https://sirratiocination.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/an-exerpt-from-my-book/).

Responding to [10] this would not be a pet theory but interpretation based on biblical evidence.  For Christians and any reasonable person, the Bible would be revelatory source of information.  This means that the information most likely could not have been arrived at through rational discourse.  An example of this would be that God exists in the trinity.  Maybe, someone could arrive at the conclusion that in order for love to exist, God has to be multi-personal (I will write a post on that in the near future), but someone could not ratiocinate the concept of the trinity without revelatory knowledge.  What I was providing for you in the paragraph, which you were responding to, was a positive theology in order to understand my teleology.

For [11], I have already tried to describe God’s character.  To do so is difficult, as I have already said, because of the inherent circular nature of the adjectives that would describe it.  This does not mean that people could just do anything and use God’s supposed vague character to justify what they have done.  The Bible clearly lays down God’s character.  The life of the Christian is to understand God’s character and to implement it in his thought and conduct, thereby being transformed.  To clarify terminology, I have been talking about God’s character, you mention his nature, which does not play such an important in my teleology.  An analogy would be: character is a human’s personality and principles, but nature would be that the human is a rational animal with a particular physiology and particular capabilities.  God’s nature would entail adjectives as such: omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, immutable, and atemporal.  A note on omnipotence.  God can do everything, but some things cannot be done because of their illogical nature.  The typical example is a square circle.  There are also things that God can do, but won’t do because of his character.  For example, he will not impede on human free-will.  Nevertheless, he is theoretically capable of doing so.

In [13] you talk about fearing God and God’s covenantal relationship with people (Israel in the Old Testament; the Body of Christ in the New Testament).  When the Bible talks about fearing God, the meaning to me would be slightly different from fear used in other contexts.  People don’t fear God himself, but what he can do to them in retribution for what they have done against him.  Any godly person in the Bible held sufficient fear of God, not because they actually think that God will punish them (how could they be called godly if they were punished alongside the ungodly), but because they held God to be someone apart from common things.  He is sacred (set apart).  He should be treated with the proper respect and awe (fear).  One of the ten commandments embodies this principle, “don’t use Yahweh’s name in vain.”  Don’t use it commonly, or in lying oaths.  But, like you said fear does not mean hate.  And to explain the second part of your paragraph.  God did not arbitrarily bless and hurt his people.  The people of Israel were brought into a covenantal with God and were given certain conditional promises.  God promised to bless them if they adhered to the stipulations of the covenant, contrarily, he promised to curse them if they rebelled.  Immediately, Israel rebelled and fell into idolatry, which God called adultery, because he viewed himself as the husband of his people.  He waited hundreds of years to severely judge Israel.  All the while, he reprimanded them and warned them what would happen if they continue in their rebellion.  Finally, he allowed 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel to be destroyed by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C.  Centuries later, he allowed the rest of the tribes to be captured and undergo great tribulation because they also showed contempt for the covenant.  God is not just hurting his people, he is punishing them for not holding to specific statutes in his covenant with them.

For [14-17], I have already addressed the content of these paragraphs.  You don’t look for systems that “work,” because you need another model already in place to determine if they work.  And you say these systems are directed towards something that we want [15].  Why should the means for achieving what we want hold any moral weight.  What makes the means here different from the means to getting enough money to buy a house of a certain value?  I have shown how my teleology can be objective (necessary) in such a way that the universe, if God exists (appealing to causation arguments) cannot have existed in another way without God’s character or with God’s character modified because God is eternal and immutable in nature and character.

In [18] I would respond by saying that if God exists, humans would need God to exist.  Only God has aseity.  But then again, this was originally part of my positive theology section.  All of it would have other arguments for necessitating God’s existence.

I think what you said in [19] is interesting.  Based on what I said earlier, I don’t believe anything is self-evident.  If it were so, the argument substantiating this supposed self-evident thing would only have a conclusion and no premises.  Such an argument is not logical and is merely an assertion.  Things are necessary, but argumentation must be demonstrated.  According to God’s account of history, people all did believe in him at one time.  But, they sinned, and eventually because of bad parenting and a broken “flesh” nature they departed from God.  Especially à propos for this discussion is something Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So, they are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.  Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity…”  Clearly, Paul believes God’s existence in his true form is plain to people, but I wouldn’t push that word φανερωσ (openly, publicly, plain) to mean self-evident in the hard philosophic sense.

Just because there is debate about something doesn’t mean there isn’t an absolutely true answer.  Any belief people hold, they hold for a reason.  The argument for this reason might have faulty deduction or false premises, but there is always some argument.  Apologetics and philosophy would simply be to assess these arguments in an attempt to discover if they are sound.  Therefore, apologetics is necessary even if the points defended seem trivial.  For example, I think, along with most people, it is really trivial to talk about whether or not there are things that are right or wrong and what the content of these things is.  Most people would be able to give a good moral account if simply asked.  The particulars of these issues might require more examining, however.  Also, another reason for the necessity of apologetics is that according to the Bible “their hearts were darkened.”  Hence, even if in a better world the existence of God in his true form seemed trivial, now people have been hardened in their thinking.  They must have this shell broken and be restored to a right mind.  For instance, some people might say that consciences are the same universally in content.  I would disagree.  The Bible says that some have seared their conscience and that because of their submission to sin and the flesh nature, their conscience is corrupted.Paul on hill

8 responses to “Response to https://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/its-time-to-change-something-other-than-the-design/ about Ethical Models

  1. Now this is like it, this way we can produce content for our blogs, and address each other more fully. I feel people (myself included) take their blog posts more seriously than their comments, so I can’t see this as anything but helpful.

    Now for the sake of keeping this manageable (in terms of post size) I will try to avoid commenting to each point of your response. Instead I focusing on direct questions you pose and points I find interesting and those I find questionable. So if I don’t comment on something it does not necessarily mean I hold any particular view. Only that I thought other things where more pressing or more worth while to discuss. I invite you to do the same, otherwise we might end up with 10’000 word responses (it has happened to me before) which will be nearly impossible to follow or make sense of after the fact.

    Though if you do think I miss something important, please do comment or mention it in your next post.

    Thank you for taking the time to write up this response I’ll reread it and stew on it. I’ll try to type my response tomorrow. I suspect both of us will learn a fair amount by taking up this challenge.

    Withteeth

    Like

  2. Pingback: Reply to sirratiocination, a romp through philosophy. | hessianwithteeth·

  3. Pingback: Reponse to https://hessianwithteeth.wordpress.com/2015/01/26/reply-to-sirratiocination-a-romp-through-philosophy/ | Why should you believe in God?·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s