Moral Naturalism is more compelling than Moral Relativism
No Semantics Arguments
No Ad hom
No intentional fallacies
BOP is shared.
Please post case first round
Until today, I was unfamiliar with the term "moral naturalism," so I had too google it. I am neither a moral naturalist nor a moral relativist. However, I do think moral relativism has more going for it than moral naturalism, so I think I can participate in this debate without having to play devil's advocate.
Naturalism: The view that the physical universe is all that exists (except perhaps abstract objects like numbers, propositions, properties, relations, etc.). There are no supernatural beings, such as angels, demons, or gods.
Moral facts: Moral facts are statements that describe (a) prescriptive obligations (e.g. You ought to feed your cats.), (b) virtue and vice (e.g. Courage is a virtue and cowardice is a vice.), (c) right and wrong (e.g. Helping people is right and harming them is wrong.), (d) good and evil (e.g. Happiness and well-being are good, but suffering and dispair are evil), etc.
Objective: A statement is objective if it refers to the object. For example, "Blue Bell is a company that makes ice cream," is about the company, Blue Bell. Objective statements can be true or false independently of whether anybody believes them or not.
Subjective: A statement is subjective if it refers to the subject making the claim. For example, "Blue Bell is the best ice cream in the country," is an expression of the tastes and preferences of the person making the claim. Whether it is true or false depends on the subject making the claim. It's true for a person who likes Blue Bell, but it's false for a person who does not like Blue Bell.
Relative: If the truth of a statement is relative, that means it depends on the subjective preferences of individuals or the collective preferences of groups. "Relative" in this context should not be confused with "relative" in the Theory of Relativity, in which time is relative to frames of reference.
Moral Naturalism: The view that naturalism is true and that moral facts are objectively true descriptions of the natural world
Moral Relativism: The view that there are no objective moral facts, but that moral statements are subjective and/or relative as defined above.
There are two reasons I think moral relativism has more going for it than moral naturalism--(1) Moral naturalism is the mother of all is/ought fallacies, and (2) Moral relativism solves the gounding problem better than Moral naturalism does.
(1) The is/ought fallacy
One can give an exhaustive description of how the physical world is in the language of chemistry and physics. But chemistry and physics only describe what is the case. They never describe what ought to be the case. The is/ought fallacy is a mistake in reasoning in which somebody jumps from the fact that some state of affairs is the case that it therefore ought to be the case. Such a leap of logic is fallacious because it simply does not follow by any known rules of inference. Under naturalism, the universe simply is. It simply exists. But there's no particular way it ought to be. It follows that under naturalism, no state of affairs in the universe can be objectively right or wrong, good or evil.
Moral relativism does not suffer from the is/ought fallacy since moral relativists do not claim that statements of morality are objectively true. Moral statements are merely statemetns of individual or cultural sentiment and preference. For you to say, "Killing is wrong," is just to say that you value life or that you abhore killing.
(2) The grounding problem
The grounding problem in morality is the problem of establishing what makes a moral statement true (whether true in the objective sense or true in the subjective sense). Moral relativism does a better job of grounding morality than moral naturalism does. In moral relativism, moral facts are grounded in persons. In moral naturalism, moral facts either have no ground or are grounded in physical states of affairs.
Only persons ascribe value and worth to things. If there were no persons, then nothing would have value or worth. It follows that there could be no state of affairs that are good or evil unless there are persons who value them or ascribe worth to them.
Only persons have purposes. Nothing matters unless there is somebody it matters to. If the physical world is all that exists, then nobody meant for us to be here. And when we are gone, it will not matter that we were here at all. It follows that nothing matters now except what matters to us. Since nothing matters apart from our own sentiments, it follows that there is no objective right and wrong.
Only persons issue commands. It follows that morals cannot be grounded in the natural world. They can only be grounded in persons. Prescriptions are a form of command since they impose obligations which people are required to obey. The universe imposes no obligations on us. The universe simply is. We are not obligated to obey a blind and indifferent universe which issues no commands. It follows that we have no moral obligations.
There you have it. Moral naturalism commits the is/ought fallacy, but moral relativism doesn't. Morality can be grounded in moral relativism, but morality cannot be grounded in moral naturalism. It follows that moral relativism has more going for it than moral naturalism.
Thank you for coming to tonight's debate. I look forward to my opponent's case for moral naturalism over and against moral relativism.
 "Moral Naturalism," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu...
 "Moral Relativism," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu...
[3[ "Does Anything Really Matter?," Philochristos http://philochristos.blogspot.com...
I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate.
Now I would like to note to my opponent moral naturalism is (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy):"the label is more usually reserved for naturalistic forms of moral realism according to which there are objective moral facts and properties and these moral facts and properties are natural facts and properties"
Natural Law Ethics(or Neo-Aristotelian naturalism)l is specifically what I am defending which is very similar to moral law ethics, so my opponent should know it is not inconsistent with Supernaturalism as C.S. Lewis might say.
(1) Is-ought fallacy
What constitutes a good knife? One that cuts well obviously. What constitutes a bad knife? One that does not cut well. An agent that performs its function well or telos is a good agent. For example, In order for agent A to accomplish B, A must reasonably do C. The function of human agents as a whole is act rationally according to Aristotle. The function of the mind is to produce rational thoughts a mind that doesn't is considered a bad mind. Anything can be considered on basis of telos can find it"s good. What is right depends on the goal. But as Aristotle defined men, in order to be moral must act rationally. Morality is rationality. My opponent seems to think that because rationality is objective and non-changing in cannot be based on function. As Contradiction once said "Given a teleological account of human nature, there is no fact-value distinction, for value is built into fact from the very beginning. If the purpose of eyes is that they see, then it follows straightforwardly given their telos that eyes which see well are good eyes. Nature is not merely descriptive, but also prescriptive. "Ought" claims are not derived from "is" claims, but present to begin with".
(2) The grounding problem
The problem with Moral Relativism is instead of solving the grounding problem ignores it resolving it as incoherent. It resolves moral propositions as subjective mores. Moral Law ethics resolves that good is features of the objective world and it depends on the function. The fact is that moral laws do exist and moral relativism the problem for the moral relativist is they have no good answer to the question: Is there anything wrong with anything, and why? Absent this thing, morals/ethics simply becomes emotive. Rape, for example, can never be deemed wrong; the strongest statement that can be made about rape is "I don"t like it."
Moral Relativism is cannot justify itself, supposing that many morality exists has no validity on what is actually true. By dogmatically asserting that there is no truth, people have become close-minded to the possibility of knowing truth, if in fact it does exist. The problem is that Relativism usually presents itself as an interpretation of moral disagreements: It is said to be the best explanation of rationally irresolvable moral disagreements. However, once moral truth is regarded as relative, the disagreements seem to disappear. For example, someone in X who affirms S is saying suicide is right for persons in X, while someone in Y who denies S is saying suicide is not right for persons in Y.(Stanford)
Moral Naturalism seems more plausible than Moral Relativism. Moral laws are defined in terms of the function of the agent and needn"t appeal to metaphysical state nor deny the ethical norms. Oakum"s razor seems to destroy not only Relativism but Realism/Objectivism in the process. The axiom problem is solved and doesn"t necessitate an infinite regress. Moral Relativism by comparison is unjustified tolerance mechanism rather than anything that is true.
"Caleb's Path - Robin Schumacher's Blog." The Problems with Moral Relativism. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://calebspath.blogspot.com...;.
"Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings [Hardcover]." Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings: Louis P. Pojman: 9780534529611: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://www.amazon.com...;.
MacIntyre, Alasdair C. After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 2007. Print.
"Moral Relativism." (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://plato.stanford.edu...;.
When I read in the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) that moral naturalism is "usually reserved for naturalistic forms of moral realism," I assumed that's the way my opponent was using the phrase. If so it would mean he is a naturalist who thinks morals are part of the furniture of the physical universe. I am familiar with natural law theory. It was not only advocated by Aristotle, but also Thomas Aquinas, and it has a strong tradition in the Catholic church. It is defended by modern theistic philosophers such as J. Budziszewski. In their case, it is certainly not a naturalistic theory of ethics. When I read my opponent's post, I questioned whether moral naturalism and natural law were really the same thing. There are separate entries for each in the SEP. Neither article made reference to the other moral theory. I did, however, find one internet source by an anonymous author who said that "Both New Natural Law and Science of Morality ('SOM') are forms of (in practice) moral naturalism. If so, then I have nothing to complain about except that I'm not really clear on what my opponent's position is. He says that his point of view is not inconsistent with supernaturalism, but he doesn't say whether supernaturalism is part of his point of view or what roll supernaturalism plays in it if any. That would make a huge difference in how I response, which I will explain presently.
My opponent attempts to do away with the fact/value distinction by grounding natural law in teleology, i.e. purpose or design. For example, knives are for cutting, minds are for reasoning, and eyes are for seeing. That is their purpose. But as I argued in the previous round, there can be no purpose unless somebody means for things to be a particular way. The reason knives are for cutting is because that was the intention of knife makers. If we are the accidental by-product of purely natural causes, and nobody meant for us to be here, then we don't have any purpose in any objective sense. Eyes may be useful to us insofar as they allow us to pursue our own ends, but unless somebody meant for us to have them so that we could see, they don't have any objective purpose. So it makes all the difference in the world whether my opponent grounds his moral theory in a being such as God or not. If God created eyes for the purpose of seeing, then that is their proper function, and it is good when they are successful at accomplishing that end. But if there is no God, then no moral quality can be attached to an eye's ability to see. If there is no God, then my opponent's theory commits the is/ought fallacy and is ungrounded.
So far, my opponoent hasn't defended his point of view. He has only explained it. To defend it, he's got to explain to us why we should think there is any purpose or teology in the universe. He's got to explain to us why we should think there's any objective morality at all. And since it seems to me he can only do that by appealing to a supernatural being, he's got to explain to us why we should think a supernatural being exists. In my opening, I said that although I didn't subscribe to moral naturalism or moral relativism, I could still take this debate without having to play devil's advocate. My original intention was to show that assuming naturalism, moral relativism is the better theory. But if my opponent appeals to supernaturalism to defend his argument, then I will have to play devil's advocate in order to refute his arguments. After all, I do believe in God.
My opponent faults moral relativism for not being moral objectivism. He says that moral relativism cannot tell us what is actually true about morality. Well, of course not! That's because in moral relativism, there are no objective moral truths. You can't refute moral relativism just by telling us what it is.
He says that moral relativism is problematic because moral laws do exist, but he doesn't defend that claim. He just asserts it.
In some of the things my opponent said, it's not clear whether he's got some misunderstanding about moral relativism or if he's just not being careful with how he words his sentences. For example, he says, "By dogmatically asserting that there is no truth, people have become close-minded to the possibility of knowing truth, if in fact it does exist." But moral relativism is not the view that there is no true at all. He's confusing moral relativism with epistemological relativism. Moral relativism is perfectly consistent with there being objective truths that can be known. There just aren't any objective truths about morality.
He also confuses moral relativism with emotivism. Although closely related, they are not exactly the same thing. For a moral relativist, moral statements like, "Rape is wrong," don't necessarily reduce to, "I don't like rape" or "Rape makes me feel bad." Rather, they mean "I value happiness, and rape diminishes happiness," or "I disapprove of rape." Although emotions are usually associated with what people value, they are not the same thing. People can value things and not get emotional about it, and people's emotions can be inconsistent with what they value. So moral relativism is not the same thing as emotivism.
He also says that moral relativism is an attempt to resolve moral differences. It's not clear what argument he's trying to make here. If he's saying that moral relativists appeal to differences in morality in order to prove moral relativism, then so what? What follows from that? if he means to critique this argument, then he's committing the straw man fallacy since I haven't made that argument in this debate. But if he means to say that a desire to explain moral differences is what motivates people to be moral relativists, then he's committing the genetic fallacy. What causes or motivates people to adopt a point of view doesn't tell us anything about whether that point of view is true or false.
He makes the odd claim that Occam's razor destroys, not only moral relativism, but objectivism as well. That's an odd claim since moral objectivism is part of his theory! He also says, "The axiom problem is solved and doesn't necessitate an infinite regress." i have no idea what he is talking about. What infinite regress does he think he has avoided? How does Occam's razor shave away moral relativism or objectivism? And if it does, then how has he salvaged his own theory, which is a form of moral objectivism?
In my opening, I claimed that moral relativism is a better theory than moral naturalism because moral naturalism commits the is/ought fallacy, and it leaves morality ungrounded. My opponent has attempted to solve both problems by grounding morality in natural teleology. But he has left natural teleology ungrounded, which means his theory still suffers from the two criticisms I made of it. Moral relativism doesn't suffer from either malady. And if naturalism is true, moral relativism must also be true since morality must be grounded in persons, and we are the only persons around.
 J. Budziszewski, Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law http://www.amazon.com...
 "Moral Naturalism" http://plato.stanford.edu...
"Natural Law Theories" http://plato.stanford.edu...
 "Moral Naturalism and the Naturalistic Fallacy" http://sophistintraining.wordpress.com...
"If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!" The Aesthete
In my previous post, I said there were two things my opponent would have to do to defend his position--(1) tell us why we should think there are any objectively true moral facts, and (2) tell us why we should think there's any teleology/purpose in nature. He did take a stab at the former, but he really made no effort to defend the latter.
I thank my opponent for such a spirited and lively debate I enjoy such spirited discussion. I would ask my opponent not to post arguments next round in order to make argumentation time even :)
What my opponent had to do to win?
My opponent maybe a little more polite than me I didn't tell him how to win as he did me. My opponent had to show that morals were more likely based in persons and relative than in natural facts. My opponent seems to attempt to justify in "the grounding problem" but he really never justifies his view. He poses problems to mine as i do to his, but I believe I better justified teleology than he justified he relativistic ethics.
Teleology and Functions
My opponent attacks the without personal being aspect of inherent teleology. But as I stated before its irrelavent whether personal being exists but there is no reason to presuppose athiesm over theism. My opponent seems to think that the end of function or the effect produced cannot be the purpose. We needn't make extra assumptions, we can simply assume in accordance with Okeam our friend that simply is the purpose.
I am a simply at fault for my lack of time management. I thank my opponent for reading this debate and vote based on my round 3 and 2. I would like to thank philo for participating. Please vote Pro :)
Thank you for coming to tonight's debate, and a big "thank you" to my opponent for sticking with it to the end even though you were pressed for time.
The rest of this space is intentionally left blank for the sake of both of us having an equal number of posts.
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