The Instigator
Derrida
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points
The Contender
Evan_MacIan
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points

Is the Freewill Defense Tenable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/8/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 2,126 times Debate No: 1531
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (27)
Votes (5)

 

Derrida

Con

Hello,

As this is my first debate, I would like to thank my esteemed opponent, without whom I couldn't be debating this important issue, and also the creators and users of debate.org, without whom I wouldn't be able to debate at all :)

The Freewill Defense, (From now on abbreviated to FWD), is a popular objection to the Problem of Evil; specifically that moral evil can be justified because the possibility of sin stems from our free will, given to us by God. It is argued further that freedom is an intrinsic good, as without freedom people wouldn't be morally responsible for their actions.

I intend to put forth 3 arguments against the FWD, and then rebut any objections made to these arguments in the later rounds.

The first argument is based upon the assumptions made by the FWD, specifically:

1) That freedom entails the possibility of moral evil.
2) That freedom is necessary for moral responsibility.
3) That God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent.
4) That God is thus morally responsible, otherwise God could not be said to be omnibenevolent.

But, this entails a dilemma for the FW defender, in that God's omnibenevolence entails that God cannot logically do evil. Because God is by definition good, it is logically impossible for God to sin. In fact, if God can be said to have free will, then it must be possible to be necessarily good whilst also having free will. And the fact that God is omnipotent, (Can do anything logically possible), means that God can create free, yet perfectly good beings.

The second argument makes use of God's omniscience to throw into dispute the incompatibility of freedom and perfect goodness.

God's omniscience implies that for all truths about the world, God has perfect knowledge of them. Thus, if I am wearing a tie at time t, God knows with certainty that I am wearing a tie at t. But, this means that necessarily I am wearing a tie at t, because certainty of any proposition entails the necessity of that proposition. If I say that I know that two plus two equals four, then in the sense of knowledge God has, it cannot be the case that two plus two does not equal four. This means that, given a choice we make, that choice could not have been otherwise if God is omniscient. However, if this is to not imply that we don't have free will, then it must be the case that our free will would have remained intact if God had set up the world so that we did otherwise. Because our choice could have been such that it is the result of the laws of nature, implying compatibilism, or it could have been the result of God's intervention, because it seems certain that in a choice, we could possibly have chosen otherwise, and that there must be some explanation as to why our actions have been made logically necessary.

Finally, it seems that our free will needn't be incompatible with moral perfection, because human beings don't act in ways simply because they can, but because they believe that certain ways of acting are reasonable. If the punishment for chewing gum is death, then no-one in their right minds would chew gum, even though they are completely free to do so. If everyone knew that God would send to Hell those that sinned, then everyone would freely choose not to sin, as long as they were rational. To this end, there are only two requirements for necessitating goodness and freedom:

1) That everyone becomes aware that sin is ultimately punished and virtue rewarded, (This seems to be something the Christian God tries to make apparent through His gospels)
2) That everyone is rational, something not apparently too difficult, considering the fact that rationality is dependent merely on the proper functioning of our brains and senses.

It is my view that because of the validity of these arguments, the FWD ultimately falls through.
I happily await my opponent's reply :)
Evan_MacIan

Pro

The problem of evil is probably the strongest arguement against Christianity. However, the FWD does partially cover it. But only partially. The FWD as it is normally presented does not cover the existence of natural evil among other objections. Therefore, I only plan on covering the problem of moral evil, so as to keep the topic from becoming too large.

Before I begin, I would just like to say that the FWD is not perfect. Free will is not properly understood by anyone, to my knowledge, so any defense involving it will necessarily be somewhat imperfect or incompletet. Fortunately, the topic is only that the FWD must be tenable, and I hope to reveal as few of its imperfections as possible.

"And the fact that God is omnipotent, (Can do anything logically possible), means that God can create free, yet perfectly good beings."
You can take one of two objections to this arugement. The first objection would be that God did create man and the angels perfect, and that they Fell anyway, and in some manner rejecting their own perfection. If you contend that a perfect being could not choose evil, then you have as much as admitted that they did not have free will in the first place, at which point you admit that God could not have made perfect beings with free will.

"The second argument makes use of God's omniscience to throw into dispute the incompatibility of freedom and perfect goodness."
This one made me think a little. It is more complex than most of the omniscience objections I've seen. If I let go of an apple, that apple will drop. I know that apple will drop (thank you Isaac Newton). Yet my knowledge did not necessitate the apple dropping. The apple drops of its own properties (mass). Likewise, when God puts us on earth, his knowledge of our action does not necessitate our action, our actions are still the result of our properties (free will).

"Finally, it seems that our free will needn't be incompatible with moral perfection, because human beings don't act in ways simply because they can, but because they believe that certain ways of acting are reasonable."
I have two objections for this as well. Simply put, people do not always act as they reasonably know they should. It's not much of an arguement, but it's true. Second, according to Thomas Aquinas, the will spontaneously works towards the good. Choice is only possible because good and evil are mixed up or not apparent in most actions. He says that if we gazed on God's glory first, we would have no ability to choose anything but God. Your reason arguement is basically the same thing. And in neither instance is the will actually free. A moral decision must be a choice. If something is obligated by the nature of its being (as in the case of a bound will, or in your arguement, a bound intellect) it has no more moral goodness than a door nob turning or a car driving.
Debate Round No. 1
Derrida

Con

Hello Evan. If I could break protocol for a moment; I have read your debate on the compatibility of the Big Bang and theism, and would like to say that I am glad to have the chance to debate with you on such a interesting and lively subject.

Now to your rebuttals:

"Therefore, I only plan on covering the problem of moral evil, so as to keep the topic from becoming too large."
Agreed

First Argument

1) "The first objection would be that God did create man and the angels perfect, and that they Fell anyway, and in some manner rejecting their own perfection."
The important conclusion my argument generates, however, is that because God can't sin because of His omnibenevolence, that the possibility of sin isn't important regarding matters of perfection. Thus we must ask, could God at any point Fall just as we did? If not, then does that mean that a being can be free without needing to possibly commit sin? If the first answer is yes, then God isn't perfectly good by definition. If the first answer is no, then how can the second answer be yes? God is a being, and so if God can be all-good and free, then surely we could possibly be all-good and perfectly free. What is the difference between us and God that makes us necessarily vulnerable to corruption but God not?

2) "If you contend that a perfect being could not choose evil, then you have as much as admitted that they did not have free will in the first place, at which point you admit that God could not have made perfect beings with free will."
Again, we can say of God the corollary: If you contend that God could not choose evil, then you have as much admitted that God does not have free will in the first place, at which point you admit that God could not be perfect and have free will at the same time.

Second Argument

1) "If I let go of an apple, that apple will drop. I know that apple will drop (thank you Isaac Newton). Yet my knowledge did not necessitate the apple dropping."
I agree that such knowledge wouldn't directly cause the dropping of the apple, as the knowledge arises from the fact, and not vice versa. But, surely knowledge is such that: "If I know x, then necessarily x", as if there is room to doubt such knowledge, then the experience could have been the result of a Cartesian demon beguiling my thoughts; whereas if I know x absolutely with no room for doubt, then no such event could have occurred, and my knowledge must be true: x must entail. I may be using knowledge in a narrower sense than you, specifically meaning "If P knows X, then P is 100% certain of x", but you wouldn't doubt that God had such knowledge, as otherwise He wouldn't be able to know whether His knowledge were always correct.

2) "The apple drops of its own properties (mass). Likewise, when God puts us on earth, his knowledge of our action does not necessitate our action, our actions are still the result of our properties (free will)."
It seems though, that if God knows our actions, then our actions must happen, as argued above. But propositions can be necessary in only two ways:
-If they are tautological
-If they arise from other necessary facts.
This is how I draw my conclusion that human actions follow either from natural laws or divine instantiation: the proposition that "I do x" isn't a tautology, and so must be necessitated by other facts. These facts can be of two kinds, assuming theism:
-Natural facts, meaning that our actions arise from other physical occurrences.
-Non-natural facts, specifically divine action by God.
Thus God needs only to either change the facts of the universe or divinely instantiate it to make people do the most moral actions. You must keep in mind that I'm not arguing that this negates free will, rather that the fact that our actions are the result of other facts does not negate freedom. So God could make us freely do the good by manipulating these events.

Third Argument

1) "Simply put, people do not always act as they reasonably know they should."
I agree with you that people that are normally reasonable do unreasonable things, but that this is either incorrect (In that they are doing the rational thing), or that their reasoning has been corrupted in some way, I.E. by stress, lack of sleep, etc. For no-one who was truly rational would do something irrational because its... irrational! There has never been any problem posed in the history of humanity where irrationality would have succeeded over rationality. If a friend of yours calmly and collectedly said to you: "I'm going to blow up the president.", then you would probably rightly believe that he had taken leave of his senses, or that he wasn't serious, because the only other conclusion is that he actually is rational in his actions.

2) "Second, according to Thomas Aquinas, the will spontaneously works towards the good. Choice is only possible because good and evil are mixed up or not apparent in most actions."
If good and evil are mixed up and not apparent, then how in that case are our choices free? You would never say that someone should be held accountable for an event he didn't know he would cause.

3) "He says that if we gazed on God's glory first, we would have no ability to choose anything but God. Your reason arguement is basically the same thing. And in neither instance is the will actually free. A moral decision must be a choice. If something is obligated by the nature of its being (as in the case of a bound will, or in your arguement, a bound intellect) it has no more moral goodness than a door nob turning or a car driving."
This objection seems to confuse the idea of causal forces and epistemological/normative forces. That we obtain a certain piece of knowledge doesn't mean that we are causally forced to accept the conclusions that arise from this knowledge. Nonetheless, the force of a deductive argument entails that we accept its conclusions because we know that we ought, epistemologically to accept its conclusions if we follow its premises.

Reject the distinction between epistemological determination and causal determination, and you have to conclude that rational argumentation is no different to brainwashing, as both must then meet the result of belief through purely causal means.

I await your reply.
Evan_MacIan

Pro

You have clearly taken more philosophy than me. I can only hope that my high school Intro to Philosophy course and my independent study provide adequate challenge to you.

I.
1)"What is the difference between us and God that makes us necessarily vulnerable to corruption but God not?"
That is a very good question. I can only offer a paltry reply. I would suggest that GOd's immutability is the distinction. I cannot claim to have any idea how a being created perfect could have degenerated without an outside evil influence (Satan being the influence for man, but what degenerated Satan would be a mystery to me). In the lack of any solution to degenerating perfection, I would at least suggest that God's intrinsic immutability that allowed Him to be a perfect and free being where other perfect and free beings fell.

2) "then you have as much admitted that God does not have free will in the first place"
I briefly considered suggesting that God did not have free will. However, due to a few rather obvious objections (man being the image and likeness of God) and the fact that it smacks of heresy to me, I decided against it.

II
1) "I may be using knowledge in a narrower sense than you"
If I win nothing else in the debate, I am determined to have the victory here. I am going to object in (what I believe to be) a Nietzschean fashion and claim that this philosophy is an illusion of grammar. Grammatically, you can apply the transitive property and say "If God knows x, then necessarily x." In reality, the statement should read "If x, then God necessarily knows x." By a trick of sentence structure, the sentence can be rearranged to state that God's knowledge requires something, but it is more accurate , and possibly only accurate, to state that something necessitates God's knowledge. This is not a disagreement of the sense of knowledge, but of the applicability of the rules of grammar and their relation to reality. I would make the same objection if you used the broader sense of knowledge, and the only reason you do not use the broader sense of knowledge (because it could be built on almost exactly the same foundation) is because it is obviously denied by experience. I still insist that God's knowledge of our actions does not necessitate but is necessitated by our choices.

2) "So God could make us freely do the good by manipulating these events."
Here, again, I am afraid that my answer may be less than satisfactory. I am forced to claim that it is better this way. It is possible that a person choosing God and making it to heaven is more beautiful and more heroic when in an epic of violence and struggle surrounded by evil and temptation than in a poem of meek and mild morality. I have read Candide, and am aware of the possible objections to this position. If you are disappointed by this position, I would suggest you should not be surprised. This is invariably the nature of Christian hope. The idea that greater good may be brought out of great evil is the foundation of the Christian religion and the basis of the Crucifixion.

III
1) "For no-one who was truly rational would do something irrational because its... irrational!"
I consider this a side debate only, but I think it an interesting side debate, so I will continue it. Mortimer J. Adler, the foundation of most of our philosophy, would say that you are mistaking men for angels. An angel knows the good, and acts on it. Men, quite simply, don't. Our will is informed by, but not ruled by, our intellect. It is far too easy to corrupt the will to suggest otherwise. Emotion is probably the most common cause of the failure to act on our intellect, but the causes you mentioned among others would be an equally valid to prove that men are not as rationally motivated as you would seem to suggest.

2) "If good and evil are mixed up and not apparent, then how in that case are our choices free?"
The freedom consists in forming our consciences correctly and then acting on them. Some people do not even form their consciences accurately (such as someone who does not ask a moral question because they fear the answer), much less act on them properly.

3) "This objection seems to confuse the idea of causal forces and epistemological/normative forces."
I'm not entirely sure of what this means, though I think I get the gist of it. I think I should explain this more clearly. There are apparent goods, actual goods, and absolute good (also known as God fully revealed or the Beatific Vision). The first two are epistemological/normative forces. A person can use the spontaneous action of the will towards good (as well as his intellect) to choose an apparent good (such as drugs to a drug addict) over an actual good or visa versa. This is where free will is found. The Beatific Vision, on the other hand is a causal force because it is absolute good. The action of the will towards good is so strong as to remove choice. This is why we are not immediately shown God in all His glory, to preserve free will. I brought up this distinction because your arguement about the certain knowledge of hell struck me as the same sort of causal force, thus eliminating free will.

Hopefully, I used all of the terms correctly. I am enjoying this debate immensely. I don't know that I've ever HAD to think this hard in an online debate. I am very glad that you made the topic a "tenable" defense, because I don't know if I'd have any chance at it otherwise. Still, I do think my defense is at least tenable.
Debate Round No. 2
Derrida

Con

As this is my last round, I will go straight to the objections to my arguments, then write a brief summary of my position and arguments, and finish by detailing some thoughts on my method and the debate in general.

Argument 1
1) "...I would at least suggest that God's intrinsic immutability that allowed Him to be a perfect and free being where other perfect and free beings fell."
This reply, that God is immutable and so capable of making free choices whilst being omnibenevolent, seems to me a bit baffling. Why does God's immutability make Him immune to the FWD in this way? Obviously God can make timeless choices and decisions, as theists say that He made in creating the Universe timelessly. Why should God's timeless free decisions, then, not possibly result in God choosing to sin? Such a position needs to be elaborated on more fully. Also, this objection begs the question as to why God couldn't have created free and perfect timeless beings, rather than we imperfect, yet free, temporal beings. If it is to be claimed that temporality is an intrinsic virtue, then this seems to imply that God, a being possessing the maximal instantiations of all virtues, lacks a particular virtue, which is absurd.

Argument 2
1) "Grammatically, you can apply the transitive property and say "If God knows x, then necessarily x." In reality, the statement should read "If x, then God necessarily knows x." By a trick of sentence structure, the sentence can be rearranged to state that God's knowledge requires something, but it is more accurate , and possibly only accurate, to state that something necessitates God's knowledge."
I agree with the statement:
a) If x, then God necessarily knows x.
But don't believe that this nullifies my position. In fact, I would argue that (a) can be changed to:
a') x, if and only if God necessarily knows x.
This can be derived from:
b) If it is not the case that x, then it is not the case that God necessarily knows x.
Which is true because otherwise God could have false knowledge, and:
c) If it is not the case that God necessarily knows x, then it is not the case that x.
Which is true because God, by definition, knows everything; if He doesn't know something, then it didn't happen.
We can show that (a) can be derived from (b) and (c) by using logical notation:
x means: "It is the case that x"; G means: "It is the case that God necessarily knows x".
b) ~x --> ~G
b') G --> x (Modus tollens, from b)
c) ~G --> ~x
c') x--> G (Modus tollens, from c)
a') x <--> G (From b' and c')
Thus, theism entails a form of compatibilism, because all propositions of the form "I do x" are not tautological, (Because they are not self-contained, they give us information about the world), and so must arise from other necessary facts. These facts cannot themselves be tautological, as the only deductive conclusions that can arise from tautologies are themselves tautologies. So these must be facts about the world, either other physical facts, or the nonphysical fact of divine instantiation, (From a theistic perspective). But compatibilism entails that freedom is compatible with moral perfection: God just needs to create the right environment to cause us to freely choose the good.
2) "It is possible that a person choosing God and making it to heaven is more beautiful and more heroic when in an epic of violence and struggle surrounded by evil and temptation than in a poem of meek and mild morality."
This conjecture seems to entail an objection much like the one above: that God is the vessel for all virtues due to His perfection, and so anything truly virtuous would be possessed by Him. The objection would run like this:
1) God has all virtues.
2) God does not struggle with evil when making moral decisions.
3) Therefore, struggling with evil when making moral decisions is not virtuous.
Strangely, the attributes of God seem to be the greatest evidence of His incoherence.

Argument 3
1) "An angel knows the good, and acts on it. Men, quite simply, don't. Our will is informed by, but not ruled by, our intellect. It is far too easy to corrupt the will to suggest otherwise. Emotion is probably the most common cause of the failure to act on our intellect, but the causes you mentioned among others would be an equally valid to prove that men are not as rationally motivated as you would seem to suggest."
The main objection to this answer is this: why didn't God create angels and not men? It only follows that creating humans is intrinsically better only if you take the view that knowledge restricts freedom. But we cannot make educated choices without knowledge, and contra-positively, someone who isn't in possession of all the facts is said to be exempt from responsibility of the outcomes of their actions.
2) "The freedom consists in forming our consciences correctly and then acting on them. Some people do not even form their consciences accurately (such as someone who does not ask a moral question because they fear the answer), much less act on them properly."
Is the fact that some people do not properly form their consciences their own fault? If they choose to sabotage their consciences, then don't they have to have maligned consciences already?
3) "The action of the will towards good is so strong as to remove choice. This is why we are not immediately shown God in all His glory, to preserve free will."
This seems to raise an important issue on the relationship between freedom and knowledge: if God is omniscient, having all knowledge, then does that mean that He has no or little freedom? I don't see how any other conclusion can be derived from this contention.

Summary
I believe that I have shown that free will and moral perfection is logically compatible, which I have used to show the untenability of the FWD. I have done this with three arguments:
Firstly, I have shown that if God has free will and moral perfection, then the two must be compatible, even though the FWD says that such a being isn't possible.
Secondly, I have argued that theism implies a form of compatibilism, which entails the compatibility of freedom and moral goodness.
Finally, I contended that the only requirement of moral perfection is rationality coupled with applicable knowledge, which are themselves compatible with free will, and that as such God need only to make sure that people are rational in order to make the right moral choices.
One possible objection that comes to mind against all these arguments, which my opponent hasn't explicitly yet stated, is what I will call the Fideism Objection. The objection is this: "Even though the arguments are sound and I can think of no objections, their conclusions should be rejected, because I have faith in the fact that an objection is out there, which we may come to understand in the future. As a fideist, theism is for me a leap of faith, so one more leap shouldn't be that difficult". But this objection goes too far, as it means that all deductive arguments could be rejected on a skeptical basis. We know no case in which "two plus two" doesn't equal four, but that doesn't mean that it won't happen. This seems to show, then, that such skepticism seems to be toxic to the FWD debate, and even self refuting, as such skepticism can be levelled at arguments for the Fideism Objection itself.
In conclusion then, I would ask voters to:
1) Keep in mind only, or at least mostly, the arguments and objections used explicitly in the debate.
2) Assume a logically rigorous standpoint, by rejecting anything that hasn't been successfully argued for.
3) Remember that only one of my arguments needs to be sound for my position to be verified.

Thank you.
Evan_MacIan

Pro

I would just like to start out by congratulating my opponent... for thoroughly embarrassing me on his very first debate.

I'm probably going to cede most of this, but in the interest of sport I will respond to what I can. Voters, I expect a few pity votes for this.

I Ceded

II
1) I still haven't got the slightest idea what you're trying to stay. It seems to me that you are using grammar to put the cart before the horse. God knows something because it happens, not the other way around.
"1) God has all virtues.
2) God does not struggle with evil when making moral decisions.
3) Therefore, struggling with evil when making moral decisions is not virtuous."
Christ was tempted repeatedly throughout the Gospel's.

III
"The main objection to this answer is this: why didn't God create angels and not men?"
He created both.

"Is the fact that some people do not properly form their consciences their own fault?"
No, which is why we teach that invincible ignorance mitigates guilt.

Summary

I believe that I have shown that my opponent was superior to me, which I have used to show the untenability of the FWD by myself. I have shown this with three arguments:
Firstly, I have shown that my own knowledge is inferior to my opponent, which entails my lack of understanding about several of his arguments.
Secondly, I have argued until I couldn't anymore, and found an entire round left to debate.
Finally, I contend that rationally, I have been soundly beaten, and as such I would like for nothing more than to curl up on my bed and cry.
One possible objection that comes to my mind, though my opponent hasn't explicitly stated it yet, is the Relative Strength of Surety Objection. The objection is this: "Even though the arguments are sound and I can think of no objections (because some I don't even understand), their conclusions should be rejected (by myself), because the nature Free Will is a mystery as far as I can tell, and I have not heard of argument for its own existence that does not inevitably result in a form of materialistic or theistic determinism (except that its existence is apparently confirmed by experience). Therefore, it seems entirely likely that my opponent was probably wrong on some level, given that his arguments assumed something about the nature of Free Will (as did my own). Given the fragility of my respect for ANY proposition put forth about Free Will, and the enormity of my respect for the Catholic Church, which reason has lead me to believe the preponderance of evidence supports, I am left to shrug my shoulders and say: 'My reason is far surer of the correctness of Catholic doctrine than of my ability to properly defend its position on free will.'"
In conclusion then, I would ask voters to:
1) Keep in mind only, or at least mostly, that I have already taken a big hit to my self esteem, am in the process of catharsis, and do not need a horribly one sided vote against myself to add to my troubles.
2) Assume a logically lax standpoint, by rejecting anything that does not make you laugh or feel intense pity.
3) Remember that only one of my arguments needs to be funny for my position to be in some small way superior on a screwy voting paradigm.

Derrida, you were more than civil while you were spanking me, and I would more than welcome another debate with you if I was not so utterly terrified of such unmitigated public humiliation.

But seriously, you've got my respect.
Debate Round No. 3
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Derrida 9 years ago
Derrida
SperoAmicus: I don't pretend to have specialist knowledge about Roman Catholic doctrines, but your comments on freedom and omnibenevolence seem slightly ambiguous. Could God have decided not to take His vow, or did He have to?

Evan: Thank you for a great debate. I would very much like to debate with you again; possibly on the topic: "Is the Big Bang evidence for or against Theism", (I would take the against side).
Posted by SperoAmicus 9 years ago
SperoAmicus
"But was morality above God while He was omnipotent? Before He took His vow, could God have decided what was good and what bad, and if so doesn't this make morality arbitrary?"

This is irrelivent, the action is a perfection and fullfillment of God's Will. That's not flowery language, I mean that Desire is manifested in Enactment, and the two cannot be distinguished from each other.

The importance of this distinction, however, is this:

Good/Evil/Free Will all need to be understood as part of this active omnibenevolent vow, and not as though they are completely unconnected.

But you cannot love without someone to love, and you cannot act on love without revealing yourself to the other person. Consequently, evil, defined as some tangible absence of God, MUST exist in order for God to distinguish Himself against something.

But our perception of evil works, at least in one sense, much the same way pain does, as a warning signal that something is bringing us away from intimacy with God.

It is sort of red v. not-red, if your eyes were walloped in red, you wouldn't recognize that red as a color has any significance. If you expect kindness to be always shown to you, then you can't recognize it as kindness.
Posted by Derrida 9 years ago
Derrida
"The problem with your reply is that you presuppose that evil is a bad thing. Evil is rather a tool by which God distinguishes Himself from the universe."

Does this mean that the answer to my first question is that yes, He could have done otherwise? If it does, then surely God could have become evil, because if you're willing to call God omnibenevolent whether He takes this vow or not, then surely omnibenevolence has no meaning.

Can I take it by your second statement that you believe we must experience the negation of something for it to be intelligible? For instance, do we have to experience non-redness to be able to understand redness as a property?

"And yes, Morality is above God because He is not Omnipotent. He is Omnipotent, freely bound to Omnibenevolence. His Omnibenevolent vow is therefore above Him, as an intercessor between man and God."

But was morality above God while He was omnipotent? Before He took His vow, could God have decided what was good and what bad, and if so doesn't this make morality arbitrary?
Posted by SperoAmicus 9 years ago
SperoAmicus
Omnibenevolence is a vow of God, this has always been the Catholic position, and might be different from Protestant views. But with Catholics, One's actions perfect or bring into fulfillment One's Will, and cannot on one level be divided from the subject. "In the beginning was the Word (active tense), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) This Word is God's vow.

The problem with your reply is that you presuppose that evil is a bad thing. Evil is rather a tool by which God distinguishes Himself from the universe.

And yes, Morality is above God because He is not Omnipotent. He is Omnipotent, freely bound to Omnibenevolence. His Omnibenevolent vow is therefore above Him, as an intercessor between man and God.
Posted by Derrida 9 years ago
Derrida
SperoAmicus: Whilst I find your "Omnibenevolent vow" theory interesting, it raises certain problems for me, such as this: if God was not omnibenevolent before He decided to take this vow, then could He possibly not have taken it? If so, it seems only a matter of luck that God decided to choose the good and take the vow.

I also find myself agreeing with Zasch in that your position, (Divine Command Theory; that morality comes from God's will/laws/nature), falls foul of the Euthyphro Dilemma, which posits two mutually exclusive claims:

1) Something is good because God's law/will/nature presupposes that it is good.
or
2) God's nature/will/law presupposes that something is good because it is good.

If the first, then surely God's nature/law/will could have been otherwise, (Your position), and so morality is arbitrary and contingent. If the second, then surely morality is above God, and needn't presuppose Him at all, (My position).

P.S. I'll be posting my last round later in the day. Where I am, it's about eight o'clock in the morning, which is why I unfortunately missed Zasch and SperoAmicus' comments.
Posted by SperoAmicus 9 years ago
SperoAmicus
As per Evan's comment, I'll let it go.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
Hmm, that was a bit disorganised. To sum it up: The moral anti-realist has, by his philosophy, freed himself from the burden of having to "empirically" prove that his moral system is true, since any such standard is normative in nature. To overcome this, you need to empirically demonstrate that normative statements can be "objectively true", and then you need to demonstrate that this specific normative statement ("People should only have a moral system when they can justify it 'logically'.") is true. You cannot merely assert these two highly important facts as a priori knowledge.

We haven't really even touched upon what would be required to "prove" a normative statement, or even what "objective morality" means.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
....BOTH that morality is objective and that such a statement is objectively true, such a defence fails on the fact that the moral anti-realist (the "atheist") already believes that *normative* statements do not carry OBJECTIVE motivative powers.

Tying it all back into your original contention, unless you can prove your notion of morality to be correct, the atheist remains consistent internally and externally in his actions.

[[[Finally, I am not talking about behavior, but about value judgements. Don't confuse the two.]]]

Indeed, you are saying that the atheist cannot make value judgements because the atheist does not believe in objective morality. Once again, you haven't demonstrated this - you haven't linked it. I have given you a framework by which a person can decry a thing as morally incorrect without necssarily having to declare it to be "objectively" bad. You are presupposing your own objective morality and then calling the atheist absurd because he does not subscribe to it - the supposition is not justified, though, and is being challenged.

Suppose moral anti-realism. That means that ANY statement about morality is "not objective". Thus, the statement:

"Murder is wrong."

carries a truth value of "false" or a null value, depending on your outlook. As well, the statement:

"You shouldn't believe X unless God tells you to."

has a similar truth value. And thus, the statement:

"You shouldn't believe X unless you have an objective reason to."

has a similar truth value. You haven't addressed this.
Posted by Zasch 9 years ago
Zasch
[[[Unless you're denying the faculty of Reason, you are incorrect. I am telling you what there is no logical reason to do, which is distinct from what you should not do.]]]

If that is all you are saying, then you have failed to impact it. There is no logical reason to do anything - I've already given you that. Thus there is no logical reason to do it or to not do it. Logic checks for consistency and valid inference - your thesis is that a moral anti-realist cannot believe in "evil" without becoming inconsistent. The only way you can uphold that thesis is if you can demonstrate that a person *ought not* uphold a system of morality unless that system can be demonstrated to be independently true. If you don't have this link in there, then even if there is no logical reason to do so, it doesn't matter because a "logical reason" has not been established as a necessary criterion.

What I am submitting to you is that there is no logical reason that there must be a logical reason in order to uphold some moral system X, a point that you thus far have not refuted. If you do not refute this point, your contention falls apart.

[[[, I argued that the reality of evil poses a problem to atheists.]]]

You have asserted that, and to defend your assertion you try to say "Since we have no logical reason to act in a manner that is good/evil, THEREFORE an atheist cannot act in that manner and be consistent". However, you have not linked your premise to your conclusion: You have not demonstrated how we can go from "No logical reason" to "cannot act". You cannot be arguing in terms of descriptive reality, because that is an argument defeated by empirical data (You would be disproven if any atheist anywhere acted in a manner that affirms good/evil). Thus, you can ONLY be arguing normatively; that is to say, by "cannot" you mean "ought not". However, unless you can demonstrate BOTH that morality is objective and that such a statement is objectively true

(to be continued)
Posted by Evan_MacIan 9 years ago
Evan_MacIan
This is why we need a messenging system or something. Perhaps you two would like your own topic?
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