The Instigator
Con (against)
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The Contender
Pro (for)
9 Points

Ethics can be defined apart from God

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/14/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 691 times Debate No: 66986
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (1)
Votes (2)




Is there a definition of Ethics that can be put away from God? Can we say that Ethics has nothing to do with a divine creature?
Firstly we need to define Ethics, according to Aristotle, which was the first one to introduce the concept (however no the first one to talk about it), ethics is the seek of a greater good, a good that is seek for itself, some may call that greater good later "happiness".
This greater good assumes there is an objective good (a truth), and according to other philosophers before Aristotle, there is no such thing as evil (just as there is no such thing as darkness, just the absence of light), These philosophers would relate knowledge with the greater good, using other words.
They used to say there is an objective truth to find, and once you find it and know it, you can act towards it, and then achieve the greater good, this truth can also be known as education or knowledge, and in fact, according to these philosophers (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, sorry if i miss someone) knowledge leads you to the greater good, because if you don't understand or know the truth you can't achieve goodness.

If what i just wrote is confusing, let me explain it better with an example but before i start let me clear out something. I mentioned an objective truth, and it is truth that for several anthropologists, even Aristotle mentioned it, all the actions human being takes reach a good purpose, meaning human being is always tending to goodness however Aristotle explains that this is a mere consequence of ignorance, if i don't know what the objective truth is, then i can't reach the greater good. I might think I'm doing good, but there is an objective good that if i dare to learn the truth i will recognize as the objective good and therefore accept my mistakes.
For example, a drug addict is doing no good to himself when using drugs, he however doesn't intend to harm himself while doing this. The idea of greater good for him is to feel pleasure that comes from drug use. This idea of goodness, make us wonder about the objectiveness of the greater good that's why Aristotle explains ignorance, the drug addict will remain relativist about goodness until he educates himself and finds out what the real truth is.

So if Ethics is the seek of the greater good, which is objective and constant. There should be something greater that guide human kind towards it, is it god? I'll take a catholic position for the purpose of this debate and i will say God is that objective truth that exists, and is limitless therefore can't be reached fully, to go towards god is to try to know the truth therefore to seek greater good. Having said that you can't put aside God and Ethics, no matter what religion you profess.


Let's set some groundwork

1. The Pro burden of proof/clash is to prove that ethics can exist/be achieved without God.
2. The Con burden of clash/proof is to prove that ethics cannot exist/be achieved without God.
3. Thus, if Pro can provide a meta-ethical theory which does not require the existence of God, pro wins the round.
4. The resolution presumes the existence of an objective good. Therefore, if an objective good cannot exist, then ethics cannot, and neither can the God that supports it. Proving this would fulfill Pro's burden of Clash.
5. If Pro can sufficiently show that God runs contradictory to objective ethics, the Con falls.
6. If Pro can show how an Ethical theory following the example of God goes against a proven objective value, Con falls.
Feel free to voice any discrepancies in the next round, Con

Let's begin.

Pre-Fiat Critiques on the Resolution

1. "God" is a moving target. Since the nature of this being is unknowable, so would be the nature of ethics, or the "greater good". All we have to go on are world religions, and those are as subjective as they are arbitrary. Thus, no objective ethical "truth" can be garnered from this being.

2. Any ethical framework relying on the existence of God would exclude atheists and those who have not heard of a monotheistic God. A framework under God holds that polytheistic religions, such as Hinduism and Hellenism, cannot have a groundwork for ethics. This would mean that ethics did not exist before the rise of Zoroastrianism, which is a very arbitrary line. Because these ethical standards cannot possibly apply to all human beings, we cannot use them to evaluate objective ethics.

3. We have no proof that God is a morally perfect being. All powerful does not equal morally-perfect. In fact, history points to the contrary. Nazi Germany, British Imperialism, and the North Korean State all serve as prime examples of how power does not equal morality.

4. Appeal to God is an Appeal to Authority fallacy. How are we to trust this figure? Just because he "says so"? Isn't that what Eve supposedly did in the Garden of Eden? Ethical standards cannot be subject to the arbitrary whims of one person, or else fail to be a true system of living.

5. Even if the concept of God is needed, the actual existence of God is not. If we accept that concept of God as necessary for thinking about ethics, that doesn't make his existence factual. All it means is that Ethics is a thought expiriment that requries imaginng a certain being to carry out, and if that's the case, then it just speaks to how meaningless ethics is. To explain what I mean, I'll refer to Schrodingers Cat. The thought expiriment says that because the cat in the box is unobserved, he is dead and alive at the same time. Turns out, this expiriment was meant to show how ridiculous the idea of uncertainty was in the first place. Much like Schrodingers Cat, all that this thought expiriment would prove is how ridiculous the thought of a "greater good" is in the first place.
Meta-Ethical Theories Not Involving God

1. Kantian Constructivism

In laymans terms, this is the meta-ethical theory that states that Ethics/Morality can be achieved through human reason.

The logic goes as follows.

a. Human beings are the only species capable of moral thinking. This is what seperates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, and affords us special respect for Human Rights. (Note that this is the basis for Monotheistic religions as well).

b. If human beings are the only species capable of moral thinking, then the origin of morality/ethics/"the greater good" must come from a trait unique to human beings. This origin must also be readily available to all humans, so that a standard of objective morality can actually be reached.

c. The only trait which fits into this category is rational thought. Therefore, the unique trait of morality in humans arises from the ability to reason, and it is through this reason that we may hope to reach moral truth.

To sum it all up, humans are seperate from animals because we can think morally, beyond mere instinct. The origin of this morality has to come from something unique to humans, because if it didn't, then any animal could do the same.

An ethical framework must also be accessible to all humans. Why? So that it can be an acceptable standard of living for all.

The only trait that fits perfectly into this category is reason.

God, as I've shown in my Pre-Fiat critiques, does not fit into this category, because there are many athiests and polytheists in the world who haven't heard of Him or "His Word".

When you think about it, common sense supports this conclusion as well. After all, is it possible to have a moral discussion without reason (or at least, reach a semi-decent conclusion)? Even the Con side of this debate cannot escape the attempted use of reason.

Another boon of this philosophy is that it perfectly explains why we should respect human worth and human dignity. Rational beings, being capable of higher thought, are sacred in the rareness of their capability, and entitled to respect and dignity.

For both of these reasons (pun intended), reason is the true path to objective Ethics/Morality.

Thus, ethical conclusions can be reached without God, through rational human thought.

2. Virtue Ethics

To put it simply, virtue ethics are the idea that the purpose behind moral actions is to become a good person. Instead of focusing on the act, we should focus on what kind of person we are making ourselves.

For example: Frequent donation to charity makes one "charitable". Always offering a helping hand makes you "helpful". Giving more than you're expected on a regular basis makes you "genorous". Refusing rewards for your good deeds makes you "Humble".

This is the system of ethics that is the most similar to the ethics of mainstream monotheism, so I figured that I'd throw it in there to reach some common ground. Jesus, for example, could be said to be "virtous".

However, the difference cannot be ignored. The fact of the matter is, we can learn what is "virtous" through many things, including but not limited to our parents, societies approval, reason (see above), the consequences of our actions (see below), and our own image of an ideal-self.

Not only that, but the role-model for virtue need not be an omnipotent God.

The good thing about this philosophy is that it is extremely helpful in reaching that state of being a good person.

Thus, the motivation for becoming a person of higher virtue/goodness can be reached without God, through the use of ideal identity formation.

3. Consequentialism

This is a philsophy that actually goes with its name. "Consequentialism" is the notion that morality is to be evaluated through the consequences of ones actions.

Ironically, there is a theory under consequentialism called utilitarianism, which advocates the "Greatest good for the greatest number".

The logic goes that real-world consequences are the only things we can objectively evaluate.

It's a great philosophy in that there are no hard-line rules. It allows for white-lies (There's a nazi knocking on your door, and you're hiding a Jew. What do you do?)

It also has the added benefit of being something that only humans can do. For what other animals can foresee even 5 layers ino the butterfly effect?

One last benefit is that its great for impartial public policy. "Greatest good for the greatest number", if done completely impartially, is ultimately every policy makers decision.

Through this philosophy, ethics can be achieved not through God, but through the uniquely human ability to evaluate the greater consequences of ones actions.

4. Moral Intuitionism

Moral intuitionism is the notion that each and every human being is born with an innate knowledge of morality/ethics, that other animals don't have.

It goes on further to explain that all of our moral theories are human attempts to rationalize their instinctive knowledge of what is true. This is how we evaluate the viability of a given ethical theory.

For example, almost every set of moral/ethical laws, even those grounded in religion, puts human life at a great value. Even consequentialism aims to save the "greatest number of lives." Why human lives as an end? Because we're born instinctively opposed to killing. Even if there are those who are not, we still have the knowledge to look at an act and deem it wrong.

Another example is Kantian deontology (acting with the intention to respect the moral law that is established through Kantian Constructivism). Kant believed that for an action to be moral, it must be moral in ALL circumstances, regardless of differing factors. Thus, lying would always be wrong.

The challenge to this theory is the case of a Nazi knocking on your door mentioned earlier. The philosophy is rejected, because under deontology, it would be wrong to lie and prevent the murder, even though there's no actual logical contradiction.

The point here is that we reject/accept pihlosophies based on their ability to logically rationalize what we have already been born to know right.

We know what is right, and need no God to help us.

Thus, ethical knowledge is an inherent part of humanity, and already exists without the help of a God figure.


To conclude: Pro has not only given four acceptable alternatives (of which, only one need to be valid in order to uphold the resolution) to God in ethics, but has shown how an ethical theory relying on God is unfounded.

Con must refute all four of these meta-ethical positions in order to win this debate.

Then, they must refute the Critiques of the Resolution in order to avoid defaulting to a no-win, Nilhistic scenario, of which the Contender (not Con, but the Contender) must win by default, because the Instigator (Pro) has not achieved his goals set forth within the Debate.

The ball's in your court now, Con.

Debate Round No. 1


salomon2792 forfeited this round.


Con has forfeitted this round.

As a guesture of good faith, I will not post further argumentation in hopes that my opponenet will be able to answer my arguments the next time his turn comes around.

However, because of Con's lack of a response, all of Pro's meta-ethical and critical arguments still stand.

I look forward to your rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 2


salomon2792 forfeited this round.


Con has forfeitted the round once again.

Extend all Pro arguments.

I (perhaps in vein) look forward to your rebuttal.
Debate Round No. 3


salomon2792 forfeited this round.


Con has forfeitted yet again.

I suspect that this is a pattern

Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 4


salomon2792 forfeited this round.


Con has forfeited all of the rounds.

Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 5
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
I agree with you. All people have an innate sense of right from wrong. But without belief in a higher destiny, there is no accountability when those things are ignored. Not to mention eternal life is available only through the giver of life, God.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by lannan13 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture
Vote Placed by Blade-of-Truth 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct - Pro. Con forfeited multiple rounds in this debate. S&G - Pro. In Con's opening round I noticed some errors in both spelling and grammar. An immediate example would be Con's forgetting to capitalize "i" several times. Arguments - Pro. Con ended his opening round with the claim that God is the objective truth that leads toward the "good". This was a pretty big claim to uphold, and unfortunately, it never was. On Pro's side we see him build a compelling case utilizing the fact that God is not objectively understood, amongst several other strong arguments. Regardless of his arguments, Con never came back to provide any form of rebuttals. Ultimately, Pro was left standing unchallenged, and for this, wins arguments. Sources - Tie. Neither utilized sources in this debate. This is a clear win for Pro.