The Instigator
aleph_naught
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Benshapiro
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points

Can There Be Morality Without God?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Benshapiro
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/15/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 725 times Debate No: 52613
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (1)

 

aleph_naught

Pro

By morality without God, I mean some moral reality in the absence of a deity. In other words, is there any conflict in atheism and moral realism? And if there is, is it one of stark inconsistency, or instead of probabilistic tension?

God will be understood as the god of orthodox monotheism, the all-powerful, benevolent creator and sustainer of the universe. Or, alternatively, the greatest being of Anselmian theology. If my opponent has a slightly different (preferably less restrictive) definition of God, I'd probably be fine with it.

I define moral realism as the thesis that some ethical judgements are truth-apt (expressing propositions), and of those some are in fact true. For example, "murder is wrong" is literally true. It follows from this that there must really be some thing (in this case, the action of murder) which actually instantiates the moral property it's described to (in this case, wrongness).

My opponent is free to use any argument he likes, but I would be especially impressed if he demonstrated that such moral truths (or moral properties) have some feature that either requires God's existence, or is improbable given his nonexistence, or is inexplicable given his nonexistence. Of course each would be a significantly weaker claim than the last, and thus easier to defend. Try to make the strongest case you can.

Laying my cards on the table: I am both an atheist and a moral realist, and I am constantly hearing theists claim that God is, in some way, required for a moral reality. But it's so rare to hear a defense (let alone a good defense) of this claim. Time to put up or shut up ;)

Finally, brevity and clarity are virtues. I will try to make your experience enjoyable by writing as clearly and concisely as possible. I would really appreciate it if my opponent did the same. Good luck! I'm ready to be convinced if you can give a good argument.
Benshapiro

Con

Thanks pro. I accept your definitions.

I'm assuming that I can present my arguments this round because no debate format was provided.


The debate topic: Subjective morality or objective morality?

Let me try to provide more clarification. The title of the debate states: "Can there be morality without God?" I would agree that there can be *subjective* morality without God, but we are debating whether or not there can be *objective* morality without God. This is shown by the following statement:


Pro: "I define moral realism as the thesis that some ethical judgements are truth-apt (expressing propositions), and of those some are in fact true. For example, 'murder is wrong' is literally true."

We are debating "can there be [objective] morality without God?"

As con, I will be arguing that absolute moral truths can not exist without a God.

Briefly answering questions asked in the first round before presenting my arguments

Pro: "By morality without God, I mean some moral reality in the absence of a deity. In other words, is there any conflict in atheism and moral realism? And if there is, is it one of stark inconsistency, or instead of probabilistic tension?"

I am arguing that there is a stark conflict with atheism and the existence of objective morality. It is not merely probabilistic tension because absolute moral truths cannot exist whatsoever among an objectively purposeless existence. Without a God, good and evil cannot objectively exists - every moral action must be neutral or morally subjective.

Many atheists argue that morality exists to maximize human cooperation and survival to further the evolutionary process. Natural selection is a natural process that results in the efficient propagation of our species. Therefore, morals exist to promote this same efficient process of survival. The problem? Natural selection is a natural process without any purpose. Natural selection results in the propagation of our species, but it's simply a natural process with a result. One must ask, if we derive purpose from the natural process of natural selection, why not derive purpose from the equally natural process of death? We don't seek to speed up the process of death but it's just as natural as the process resulting in survival.

My argument structure

My opponent would be persuaded most from the following in descending order:

1) moral truths (or moral properties) have some feature that either requires God's existence
2) is improbable given his non-existence
3) is inexplicable given his non-existence

1)
an omnibenevolent God, as provided in the definition given in the first round, would explain the presence of objective moral values for several reasons. God created us in his image for the purpose of loving one another as he loved us. The presence of objective moral values makes sense given that the nature of God is omnibenevolent (all-loving), and because we were created in his image. The Hebrew word for image doesn't have the precise meaning that it does in English, but think of the word image to have the meaning of shadow or outline. If we were created by God with the shadow or outline of his nature present in each one of us, our nature would seek to shadow the nature of God. Since God is omnibenevolent, the presence of objective moral values are derived from his all-loving nature.

2) Although I would like to argue that objective values are improbable given his existence because you would find it more persuasive, I wouldn't be able to put forth a convincing argument rationalizing any objective moral truth emerging from an objectively purposeless existence.

3) God's omnibenevolent nature, as being intrinsically part of us, would explain objective moral truths. Without a purposeful existence for the human race (accidents of random mutation), objective moral values can not exist. Objective moral truths can not be derived from any natural, purposeless process because we could choose to derive our morality from equally natural processes - including death - and be equally moral.

Consider this: Do human beings have value? Intrinsic or extrinsic?

Another very relevant argument to consider: Do human beings have value? If we do, is our value intrinsic or extrinsic? If human beings are inherently valuable, this means we have an objective purpose otherwise we wouldn't see each other as being intrinsically valuable. If we value each other extrinsically, it must follow that we have criteria for value judgements on other human beings. I will argue that human beings have intrinsic value.

Here are my arguments:

1. Human beings donate to charity without expectation of being reimbursed in any way, shape, or form.


1a: This donation does not require an assessment of an individual's extrinsic value.


C: therefore, this donation is validated by the fact that this donation is given because human beings have intrinsic value.




2. A baby will be rescued without a necessary evaluation of his/her value.


2a: Without this evaluation, the value exists as an inherent property of being human.


C. therefore, a baby will be rescued because it has intrinsic value.




3. Abortion is a very controversial topic.


3a: The controversy rests on whether conception or any state of development other than a born baby constitutes as human.


3b: Once the baby is born, abortion is not considered by proponents of abortion.


C: The controversy of abortion hinges on the fact as to whether or not fetuses constitute as a human being because human beings are inherently valuable.





Over to you, pro!
Debate Round No. 1
aleph_naught

Pro

Yes, I'm sorry for forgetting to give a debate format. I say we just go back and forth until either one of us admits defeat, or we run out of rounds.

You've used a few terms I'm not familiar with, you'll have to explain what you mean by 'objective morality', 'subjective morality', and 'absolute moral truths', and how they're different than 'moral realism' as I've defined it.

In response to your argument

1. “An omnibenevolent God, as provided in the definition given in the first round, would explain the presence of objective moral values for several reasons.”

On top of what you mean by objective moral values, it's not clear to me how God explains anything. Yes, God is all-loving, and if we were made in his image we would also be loving to some extent. But atheists also believe love exists, and that humans (or at least some of them) are loving. Maybe once you define your terms, it will become more clear.

That being said, God's creating us with a purpose does not entail that there would be true moral propositions. Nor would God creating us in his (perfect) image entail any moral truths. So it really doesn't seem as if theism even can explain these sorts of things.

2. “...I wouldn't be able to put forth a convincing argument rationalizing any objective moral truth emerging from an objectively purposeless existence”

But there's no reason to think that atheism entails a purposeless existence (unless you want to defend that claim too). In fact, I believe our purpose is simply to live as we ought to. And so if morality and atheism are compatible, then so are purpose and atheism.


3. “Without a purposeful existence for the human race (accidents of random mutation), objective moral values can not exist. Objective moral truths can not be derived from any natural, purposeless process because we could choose to derive our morality from equally natural processes - including death - and be equally moral.”

I see no reason to think that an evolutionary origin has any implications for morality. That being said, I wouldn't think to 'derive' moral truths from evolution anyway. Partially, because that just doesn't make any sense. You must be using 'derive' as a metaphor, but I don't know what it could be a metaphor for.

A counter to your argument:

Consider this, it really seems that things like suffering and malice and injustice are intrinsically evil. And similarly, love and mercy and happiness seem intrinsically good. But all these things obviously exist in an atheistic universe. And so if these things really do have intrinsic moral value, then moral value must be compatible with atheism.

Response to “Do humans have value? Intrinsic or extrinsic?”

Yes, humans have intrinsic moral value. Human suffering, for example, is intrinsically evil. On the other hand, human flourishing is intrinsically good. We all have a reason to promote human flourishing and to alleviate human suffering independent of our personal preferences, or goals.

Benshapiro

Con

Thanks pro.

Objective morality, like moral realism, is the belief that certain moral acts are wrong indefinitely. Subjective morality is the belief that no moral action can be wrong indefinitely. It entails the same beliefs as moral realism does, I'm just more familiar with the terms of subjective/objective morality to define relative/absolute moral truths because that is the way I've seen those terms commonly referred to when debating this issue.

1. God would explain that absolute moral truths exist and are part of
our nature if we were made in God's omnibenevolent likeness. Atheists certainly believe that love exists, but the existence of love wouldn't explain why that particular emotion, instead of say hatred, would/could/should be the absolute moral truth if morality is unbiased as neutral. Objective morality, or what every human sees as an absolute moral truth, could not exist without God's nature because we must be unbiased and neutral if we were created spontaneously with no purpose.

2. "But there's no reason to think that atheism entails a purposeless existence. . ." Yes, but with a caveat. Atheists can have a subjective purpose but not an objective one. Subjective meaning that the atheist can give his life any purpose he chooses without any predisposition for any other purpose. An objective purpose means that the purpose of all human life exists toward a common purpose. If God is true, this purpose is to love one another as he loved us. This would explain the basis for our objective moral truths too.

3. "I see no reason to think that an evolutionary origin has any implications for morality. "

Then what explanation other than a God can absolute moral truths come from? Without a God, this point becomes inexplicable.

"Consider this, it really seems that things like suffering and malice and injustice are intrinsically evil. And similarly, love and mercy and happiness seem intrinsically good. But all these things obviously exist in an atheistic universe. And so if these things really do have intrinsic moral value, then moral value must be compatible with atheism."

I'm slightly confused here. Either you are claiming that moral truths must be compatable with atheism or that since atheists hold the same values that believers in God do, this wouldn't explain why atheists hold the same values as those who believe in God. The former is a presupposition and the latter is explained because God would've made all human beings in his nature and not just those who believe in him.

"Yes, humans have intrinsic moral value."

What could give humans intrinsic value and objective moral truths other than an objectively purposeful existence? In other words, if we all see each other as being valuable just for being human and realize that we all have a common purpose, this cannot be explained without a God. It must follow that if we have an existence that was accidental and spontaneous, then no absolute moral truths or intrinsic human value can exist because we'd be objectively purposeless and act independently of one another.
Debate Round No. 2
aleph_naught

Pro

In response to your points:

1. How exactly does the fact that an omnibenevolent deity created humans in his likeness explain that there is such a thing as a fact of the matter about good and evil, or right and wrong? This just sounds obviously false to me, I really need to see a good defence of this claim. To my ears, it's as if you were saying “the fact that it's currently raining explains why there is a moral reality”. The two appear to have nothing to do with each other.

2. I think you missed my point. Our purpose is simply to do what we ought to do, and so by your claiming on atheism we can't have any purpose you're begging the question. You have to first defend your claim that on atheism there can't be a moral reality—since if there was a moral reality then there would be a purpose to our living.

And again, God's creating us with a subjective purpose in mind doesn't translate into our having an objective purpose. There is no difference between my subjective purpose, and God's subjective purpose. Here as well I don't think God explains a thing.

3. I don't think moral truths 'came' from anywhere. It's not as if goodness just began to exist one day, and thus needed a cause. You probably intend to be speaking metaphorically, but again I'm not sure what this could be a metaphor for.



And I was simply setting up an argument: Love appears to be intrinsically good. But on atheism, love exists. Therefore, on atheism, there are intrinsically good things.
I'm not trying to give an explanation of why love, or anything, is good. I'm merely giving a proof that atheism and goodness are compatible. If the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true as well.


Finally, if something gave humans their value, then it wouldn't be intrinsic to us. Your question doesn't make any sense. But maybe I can refine this: maybe humans aren't intrinsically valuable, but rather our psychological features are. Our intelligence, capacity for love, our ability to flourish and so on. In this, our value would be a product of having these intrinsically valuable properties. To then ask what makes those properties intrinsically valuable again would presuppose that they weren't actually intrinsically valuable to begin with. But consider this: suppose a baby popped into existence spontaneously and accidentally for no reason. This baby is obviously still valuable, regardless of it's origin! Isn't it just so incredibly obvious that the origin of a thing has absolutely nothing to do with its moral value? I don't really see how you can think such a thing.

Benshapiro

Con

I'll try to be concise.

You have two competing hypothesis'. The first hypothesis is that God doesn't exist. The second is that God exists. There is no middle ground.

Following the hypothesis that God does NOT exist, it must follow that objective reality and intrinsic human worth cannot exist. It's logically invalid to assume otherwise. It's a truism. The reason why, is because objectives don't exist when something is objectiveless. If you create an objective then what you hold to be true is subjective. This is why atheists hold that human worth is extrinsic and that morality is always subjective.

Following the hypothesis that God exists, and given that we are made in the image of an omni-benevolent God, our nature seeks to be like God. This explains why morality follows from the nature from which we were created. This is a MUCH better explanation for objective morality because 1) we were created in the nature of an omni-benevolent God, and 2) we were created with objective purpose. An objective purpose means that there is something all human beings must strive toward and objective morality, being part of God's nature, provides us this guide in the form of our conscience.

2. "Ought" doesn't objectively exist without a God. A purposeless existence means that we don't "ought" to do anything. I've explained why atheism, assuming we were created spontaneously with no purpose, automatically entails an objectiveless moral reality. It's a logical contradiction to think otherwise.


God did create us with an objective purpose. That purpose is to love each other as God has loved us.

"I don't think moral truths 'came' from anywhere." Why would something be considered "good" or "bad" if it has no criteria to judge whether it's good or bad? The criteria is intrinsic in each one of us. It can't be explained without a universal mind to instill it in each human being. Following this logic, the rational explanation can only be God.

Atheism can't be compatable with intrinsic good. If it exists as an inherent property, then that property must be explained in the material world. The physical world can't spontaneously produce something inherently good in itself.


"Finally, if something gave humans their value, then it wouldn't be intrinsic to us." I am glad that you agree, but then you must explain how something can be inherently valuable or good if nothing in this world has a purpose. The inherent value exists because it's valuable toward a common goal or purpose.
Debate Round No. 3
aleph_naught

Pro

In response to “Following the hypothesis that God does NOT exist...”

I don't intend this to sound rude, but you're literally starting to make up words. Remember you said objective morality is that some acts are wrong indefinately, and subjectivism is that no act is wrong indefinately. I'm not sure why you've put a time constraint on it, but that's what you said.

“The reason why, is because objectives don't exist when something is objectiveless. If you create an objective then what you hold to be true is subjective. This is why atheists hold that human worth is extrinsic and that morality is always subjective.”

So moral realism is impossible without God because;

a) if something isn't objective then it isn't objective (???)

b) if you create an objective then you've created something that isn't objective (???)
And you are completely wrong about the atheist view of human worth. I literally just said that I think humans are intrinsically valuable, and in the OP I claimed to be a moral realist—that I believe some actions really are right and wrong.

The parts of your argument that are at least cogent enough for me to respond to are just obviously false. I'm starting to think you don't really know enough about the topic.

In response to “Following the hypothesis that God exists..”

Your explanation has two parts, that we were created in the image of God, and that we were created with a purpose. You didn't really answer my previous question, though:

What does “man was created in the image of an omni-benevolent God”, or “our natures seeks to be like an omni-benevolent God”, have to do with “there are some actions which are really good or evil, right or wrong”? You haven't been able to explain what connection there is between God and the existence of moral facts or truths, or properties. I think it might be time for you to admit that God doesn't actually explain anything about morality.

Secondly, ironically you said before “if you create an objective then what you hold to be true is subjective”. So if God created us with a purpose, it only follows that we have the subjective purpose God has for us. There's nothing more real about the purpose God's given us than if ones parents raised them with a certain purpose.

But third, you keep assuming that on atheism there is no such thing as a purpose. I've already explained why you're begging the question.

2. You're begging the question by assuming that, on atheism, people have a purposeless existence. You haven't defended this claim at all.


" Why would something be considered "good" or "bad" if it has no criteria to judge whether it's good or bad? The criteria is intrinsic in each one of us. It can't be explained without a universal mind to instill it in each human being. Following this logic, the rational explanation can only be God.”

I think I'm starting to see a problem, you're confusing humans having a conscience with there being a moral reality. Your claim here is that God explains why we have our conscience, but this has nothing to do with there being a moral reality. And I think you're also confused about the nature of good and evil. Good and evil are properties, like red and blue, or hot and cold, or solid an liquid. They are properties of actions, actions can be good or evil. The difference between good and evil and other properties is that they constitute goal-independent reasons to act. This is getting a little philosophical, so I wont really go into it, but they are normative properties. And these properties would exist even if no people were aware of them, or were actually making ethical judgements.

Also, atheism isn't the same thing as materialism. An atheist is very free to believe in non-natural entities: they might think good and evil exist in the same way numbers do. Then again, they are also welcome to believe that good and evil supervene on or reduce to natural properties like lovingness and kindness, or harmfulness and malice. It's very plausible that moral properties are really just natural things.

And, finally, again you're begging the question by assuming that, on atheism, there is no purpose. But saying that there is a common goal for all people have doesn't mean there's such a thing as morality. We could imagine a world in which everyone's common goal is to kill everyone else. Clearly your analysis of morality fails.

Benshapiro

Con

I'll try to condense your arguments while staying true to your logic. Let me paraphrase some of your arguments:

Moral realism without God must explain:

1.)
Why morality is objectively right and wrong. Why do you think right and wrong can objectively exist without any purpose of our existence which automatically entails no objective right and wrong values? If you believe that we have a purpose without a deliberate cause, what objective purpose do we have then? What criteria do you have to judge right and wrong exists objectively except your pre-existing notions of right and wrong? The criteria for our morality, or what is "good" and "bad" derives from unconditional love / unconditional hatred. If God is the ultimate unconditional love and good, then the opposite of God is the unconditional "bad" which is hate. Our morals are guided by principles of unconditional love. Is it good to give someone less fortunate than you just because you love them? yes. Is it bad to murder someone just out of pure hatred for them? Yes.

This shows that our morality follows a code of love rather than hate. If God is the ultimate being that created us in his image, our nature would seek to be like God and our morals are instilled within us as part of his nature.

please explain to me how objective morality is better explained without God rather than with him. Explain why virtues of love are considered over hate in the absence of an objective omni-benevolent moral code. If you agree that we derive our morals from an unconditionally loving code, how would the notion of God be rejected in favor of something just existing without reason to justify its virtues?

I don't appreciate you saying that my arguments aren't cogent and understandable. I actually feel that you haven't contributed anything towards explaining how objectively morality is better explained without a God than with, and I've shown how objective morality is a blatant contradiction if we have a purposeless existence.

"What does “man was created in the image of an omni-benevolent God”, or “our natures seeks to be like an omni-benevolent God”, have to do with “there are some actions which are really good or evil, right or wrong”? You haven't been able to explain what connection there is between God and the existence of moral facts or truths, or properties. I think it might be time for you to admit that God doesn't actually explain anything about morality."

Because our moral nature seeks the unconditional loving qualities of an unconditionally loving God. What is "good" necessarily follows these loving qualities and what is "bad" necessarily follows unloving qualities. Selfishness is bad and is the love of one's self, but at the expense of love towards others

Secondly, ironically you said before “if you create an objective then what you hold to be true is subjective”. So if God created us with a purpose, it only follows that we have the subjective purpose God has for us. There's nothing more real about the purpose God's given us than if ones parents raised them with a certain purpose.

This is the definition of objective and will help me explain: "relating to or existing as an object of thought without consideration of independent existence —used chiefly in medieval philosophy "

If God created all humans with a purpose then it necessarily follows that we all have this purpose. Parents can raise us with a certain purpose in mind but then that's subjective, meaning it exists for that family based on their parents' perception. All parents don't raise their children the same way but certain morals exists the same way in each human being.

"You're begging the question by assuming that, on atheism, people have a purposeless existence. You haven't defended this claim at all."

Atheism is belief without a God. If we have a purposeful existence, you must explain why the intention of unconscious, random, spontaneous processes were set in place to reach some kind of end result. This seems absurd.

Definition of purpose: " something set up as an object or end to be attained" -Merriam-Webster

"I think I'm starting to see a problem, you're confusing humans having a conscience with there being a moral reality. Your claim here is that God explains why we have our conscience, but this has nothing to do with there being a moral reality"

So you don't believe that our conscience ties in with human beings have a moral reality? The inner voice telling us right from wrong has nothing to do with morality or right and wrong? Please.

conscience definition: "the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong" Merriam-Webster

Also, atheism isn't the same thing as materialism. An atheist is very free to believe in non-natural entities: they might think good and evil exist in the same way numbers do. Then again, they are also welcome to believe that good and evil supervene on or reduce to natural properties like lovingness and kindness, or harmfulness and malice. It's very plausible that moral properties are really just natural things.

That wouldn't explain why our morality seeks to follow only inherently "good" morals. Morality is purpose-driven and abstract numbers are not. If my moral compass tells me to give up an activity that I want to do in order to help someone else, I've chosen a route that wouldn't have been taken otherwise. Thus, my intentions have changed and my reality has changed based on my moral choice.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what our objective purpose is if we have no conscious, deliberate, cause for our existence.

Debate Round No. 4
aleph_naught

Pro

aleph_naught forfeited this round.
Benshapiro

Con

Vote con.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by LostintheEcho1498 3 years ago
LostintheEcho1498
This should be interesting. I'd take it on myself but don't match the requirements. Personally I would go with perspective. One person's version of good is because of what they have been taught about God and if he did not exist then who would teach that as you said "murder is wrong" as a fact. In the book "Legend of the Seeker" Darhken Rahl(try to forgive misspelling) believes that killing and raping is okay because he was taught that that is what you do in life. Totally psychopathic but debatable.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by LostintheEcho1498 3 years ago
LostintheEcho1498
aleph_naughtBenshapiroTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Both conducted themselves well and used correct spelling and grammar. As for how debate went the con was more convincing in that in his last round he debunked and proved his point very well ad the pro had no response. Neither used any sources so no points there. Overall an interesting debate.