The Instigator
CzechCzar
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
bossyburrito
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

Objective Moral Values and Duties must be grounded in God

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
bossyburrito
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/19/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,396 times Debate No: 34922
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (3)

 

CzechCzar

Pro

The argument I will defend is simple:

Premise 1: Absent God, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
Premise 2: Objective moral values and duties do exist.
Therefore, God exists.

First, a definition of terms: what does it mean to say that something is an "objective" moral value or duty? By this I mean that duties and values are good or evil, right or wrong, absolutely " in other words, prior to, and regardless of, any subjective opinion about them. To use the most frequently-cited example: the genocide committed against the Jews during World War II was evil, and would have remained evil even if Germany had won WWII and brainwashed everybody who thought otherwise. Actions are good or evil, regardless of what anyone thinks.

Premise two is simpler, so I"ll address it first. If objective moral values and duties did not exist, if moral values and duties were purely subjective, then there would be no way to condemn or condone an action; all that could be said is that "I find that action displeasing". The problem is, some actions, such as torturing a baby to death, really are wrong, and some, such as loving your neighbors, really are right. These actions are wrong and right relative not just to a person, society, culture, etc., but as a basic fact. If everything is relative, the ontological foundation for moral criticism evaporates.

Onto premise one. How does God provide a foundation for objective moral values and duties? As a maximally great being, God is the embodiment of great-making properties: love, charity, justice, are perfectly expressed by our divine creator. These are our values. God's morals are communicated to us via divine commands, which constitute our moral duties.

To effectively defeat this argument, the opposition must give an explanation of how it is possible to derive objective moral values and duties absent God. Several responses deserve consideration.

One of the most common alternatives that has been proposed is that in the course of human evolution, one of the traits that emerged as advantageous was a sense of morality. Whether this morality is developed in a cultural, national, or religious context, is of little importance. The crucial point is that the morality we sense as objective is actually the result of a long process of evolution.

This view has multiple problems:

In this view, morality is only perceived as objective. If we were to rewind the evolutionary clock, a different set of morals might very well emerge. Since contradictory morals could emerge from the evolutionary process, these morals are in no sense objective as the theist uses the word.

Moreover, what makes this set of morals binding upon all members of society? One cannot use this theory to convince someone whose moral feelings disagree with yours that he is wrong, and ought to behave differently. Nor can he convince you. If you made such an argument to a sociopath who took this position on the sources of morality, but who had a taste for human flesh, he could say to you: "your rules are just the outcome of a long process of totally contingent events, each of which was governed by nothing but happenstance. Every one of them might have turned out differently. The same goes for me. My rules are different.." And he would be correct. Because under this theory, the rules of society are not really moral, in the sense that they are not objectively binding on us; they do not oblige us.

Similarly, conflicting morals among societies would have no way to be resolved. Where one society viewed tribal genocide as a Good to be pursued, and another, as an evil to be stopped. the two would have no higher authority to appeal to for resolution of their dilemma. The same duty could be viewed as both good and evil.

Finally, societal or cultural moral reform would be impossible. A reformer by definition contravenes the existing norms in which he operates. By advocating a reform of the moral principles of the majority, he would necessarily contradict that majority"s moral values and duties. Any moral progression would be impossible.

Objective moral rules are not like that; there is no getting out of them. And so, I think we have seen that this theory really fails. It may tell us how we evolved our social rules, and how they work to our advantage in the world, but it cannot tell us whether our rules are right, or whether our moral views are true.

Other attempts have been made to ground morality objectively, apart from God. An atheist might also adopt a Natural Law stance, and say that a realm of objective moral values and duties exists apart from physical matter, and we humans are able to apprehend this realm through a fortunate evolutionary coincidence.

By saying this, the atheist is abandoning his original position (that the physical world is all that exists) for a much more radical one: that there exists a separate reality, entirely apart from the physical. He offers no evidence of this reality, only that it indeed exists, as certain as matter, or gravity.

The questions compound: How did the reality come to exist? How can he know that he perceives this reality accurately? How is he able to explain how humans, each evolving differently, would possess the ability to perceive this reality in the same manner?

More importantly, even if we grant that a separate moral reality exists, and that all or most humans are able to perceive it accurately, problems remain. What basis does the atheist have for concluding that the values this reality seeks to impose are obligatory? Where the survival and procreation of one"s genes run contrary to these morals, it would make sense to ignore them completely.

If there is a Natural Law but no God, then morality turns out to be just as much a matter of happenstance as it did under the evolutionary theory we"ve already disproved. The only difference between these two theories is in where they locate the sheer happenstance at the root of what we call morality. Under the evolutionary theory we have already discredited, morality arose as a matter of sheer happenstance within the history of our universe. The atheist Natural Law theory says that it arose as an integral aspect of our universe that, because there is no God, itself arose as a matter of sheer happenstance, mere brute fact. Under this theory, the sociopathic cannibal could say, "I recognize that there is a Natural Law that says I ought not to kill and eat you. But the Natural Law, like the rest of existence, is a matter of sheer happenstance. I, too, am a matter of happenstance, and I happen to feel differently about morality than the rest of our universe." And, again, he"d be right.

In the absence of God, both the theories we"ve talked about boil down in the end to "there is no absolutely binding, objective moral truth, but rather only happenstance." When push comes to shove, then, the only way there can be such a thing as morality is if there is an omniscient, necessary God who knows without possibility of error what is right.

In conclusion, I think that we have seen how objective moral values and duties can be grounded, by divine command morality, in God. I have pointed out some of the problems inherent in alternative systems of morality. The opposition must illustrate both how divine command morality is flawed, and how objective moral values and duties, can be derived from an atheistic metaphysical landscape. Unless and until the opposition can accomplish these two tasks, I think that the rational thing to do is to accept divine command morality, and consequently, God.
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bossyburrito

Con

I think that we can both agree that logic is valid and that reality exists, correct? If not, then there's no reason of having this debate in the first place. During this debate, I will support the idea that the state of reality itself grants moral status to actions.

As my opponent said, actions such as torturing a child are morally wrong. However, our reasons for coming to that conclusion are very different. He claims that, since the actions seem to be right or wrong to him, the actions are objectively right or wrong. This is not enough to substantiate his claim, as he gives no reasons as to why they are right or wrong. Since this is the case, his argument for the existence of God is not particularly strong.

"In this view, morality is only {...} theist uses the word."

Why does the chance of a different reality void the possibility of the things in the current reality being objective? Accepting the fact that free will exists as to not derail the debate, if I happened to eat an apple yesterday, could I not say that my consuming of the apple is an objective description of my actions during the time period in which I ate the apple? If your argument was valid, the possibility that I ate, say, a banana instead, would mean that I could not objectively say that I ate an apple had I, in fact, eaten an apple. The past cannot be changed; it is set in stone. If it could be changed, the reality in which I said that I had eaten an apple would not be the same as it was before the change, and therefore could be said to be a "different" reality.

"Moreover, what makes this set of morals binding {...} they do not oblige us."

The fatal flaw in this argument is that morality simply describes what is; the current state of what exists. I'll explain more about this when I make my main arguments, as it's a fairly big point and I would like to keep it organized with the other points.

"Finally, societal or cultural moral reform would be impossible. {...} Objective moral rules are not like that; there is no getting out of them."

I don't quite understand this argument. Would this not apply to the morality set in place by God, if the majority of people subscribed to a different moral theory? How does this make objective morality without God impossible? If the moral rules were in fact objective, the opinion of the majority wouldn't matter at all.

"An atheist might also adopt a Natural Law stance {...} reality in the same manner?"

I have never heard of an argument for natural law using another reality as its justification, except for the claim that an omnipotent creator who transcends the universe created the moral laws. As for how he can perceive the reality accurately, I would like to turn the question back to you. How do you know that you perceive the world correctly enough to make the claim that objective morality requires God? If you would like to hold this line of reasoning, you would have to admit that it's possible for there to be objective morality without God, which would refute all your arguments already put forth.

"Where the survival and procreation of one"s genes run contrary to these morals, it would make sense to ignore them completely."

As before, I will address this later.

Now, on to my main arguments as to why objective morality can exist without God.

As stated earlier, I'm assuming that reality exists, and that reason can be used in order to derive accurate conclusions about the world around us. The most basic fact, based on the number of "layers" it sits upon, is the fact that A is A. From this axiom, one can derive further conclusions, each growing more complex. Eventually, one comes to the point where objects in the world can be identified as having certain qualities, and those qualities allow the objects to be put into various groups. For a group to be worth having, it must be exclusive. In other words, it must not accept those objects which do not have a certain quality: the quality the grouping is based upon. If an object does not have that certain quality, it cannot be said to be part of the group. Objects are also combined, forming more and more complex objects.

Eventually, small components are able to form "living" creatures (with the word "living" used simply for convenience, as it's a fairly meaningless and arbitrary-defined term that people like to throw around and attention should not be drawn to it with any intensity other than the bare minimum), and these bundles of objects can be said to have qualities of their own, as a result for all that they are composed of. Therefore, these entities can also be put into groups, much like the smaller objects. If an entity were to lose a quality that it must have to be in a certain group, again, much like the smaller objects, it cannot be part of the group.

Some of these creatures are known to be part of the group called Man (Man being different from Human), and this group has restrictions on membership just as any other does. To be awarded the title of being part of Man, one must be able to reason. The key to the lock that is on the gate of Man resides in the mind of the creature, and one must work to find it. Just being part of a certain species isn't enough, as the groups Man and Human have different restrictions. A chicken, had it shown the ability of logically thinking, could be accepted alongside you or I.

The connection from this to morality is fairly simple, though I would wish to define morality first. Many define a moral action as "something one should do" and an immoral action as "something one should not do". I would like to offer my own edits onto those definitions, with "something one should do" becoming "something one should do if one wishes to maintain a certain quality", with that quality being the one which allows access to the club of Man, reason, and "something one should not do" becoming "something one should not do if one wishes to maintain that very same quality". In this way, morality describes what is. For you to reject it as being subjective, unless you find a specific instance of a flaw in the logical flow of the argument, you would have to reject every facet of reality as being subjective, even that core axiom, that foundational bedrock which, with much struggle, bears every single fact upon its back.

Having informed the reader of this debate of my position, I am now going back to the previous concerns of my opponent.

"Moreover, what makes this set of morals binding {...} they do not oblige us."

The hypothetical sociopath would have to spit in the face of all logic, which dictates otherwise.

"Where the survival and procreation of one"s genes run contrary to these morals, it would make sense to ignore them completely."

If and only if the person in question desires to lose his status as being part of Man and lose all rights associated with that (rights, of course, not being "granted", but by being necessarily in place because of the status of reality).

I look forward to seeing my opponent's response.
Debate Round No. 1
CzechCzar

Pro

I thank my opponent for taking up what promises to be a most enriching debate. In this, my first response, I will address the argument first, and then respond to criticisms.

The Oxford English dictionary defines morality as "principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior: a particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society: the extent to which an action is right or wrong. My opponent has redefined morality to signify ""something one should do if one wishes to maintain a certain quality... [and] something one should not do if one wishes to maintain that very same quality."" He has not offered any rational justification for this redefinition. Moreover, the distinction he drew between "Human" and "Man" was similarly developed without rational justification.

His stated precondition for qualifying as a member of the group of Man is having the ability to reason. He then arbitrarily redefines morality as "something one should do if one wishes to have access to the club of man (reason). In this way, morality is, for him, descriptive of the preconditions necessary to have access to the club of Man.

The problems with this conception of morality are many. Who is to say that this having access to this club of Man is constitutive of morality? A sociopath certainly doesn't. My opponent says that "The hypothetical sociopath would have to spit in the face of all logic, which dictates otherwise". But sociopaths, by definition, don't show remorse, and don't obey the morality common to most human beings. They enjoy acts of cruelty. This surely excludes them from the club of man. But sociopaths don't see anything wrong with their actions; they are acting in accord with their own logic.

The Nazis, during WWII, thought that their attempts at genocide were fulfilling some good. German society had a different moral code - call it the "verein des Menschen" - to which they aspired. And if they had won WWII, and managed to kill everybody who disagreed with them, we would all be operating under the morals of the verein des Menschen, rather than the club of man. Societal structures would still operate under a logical structure, just a different structure than that advanced by the club of man. If morality could be A or not-A under different scenarios, morality is, ipso facto, not objective. My opponent has thus failed to give a truly objective ontological basis for morality.

Notice too that my opponent has used a conditional ought here instead of the unconditional ought. If you"re unfamiliar with those philosophy terms, let me explain. A conditional ought takes the form of something sufficiently like "If you want to do X, you ought to do Y" and says what conditions help accomplish a particular goal without saying whether one should aim for the goal in the first place, e.g. "If you want to poison your teacher to death, you should use a sufficiently strong toxin." An unconditional ought says what ought to be _period_ and is the sort of ought found in "You should not poison teachers to death" and "the worst possible misery and suffering for everyone for all eternity is a state of affairs that ought not to be," and is thus goal-independent in a way that a conditional ought is not. When applied to a person"s actions, an unconditional ought refers to a genuine obligation for that person (e.g. "you should not torture infants just for fun") rather than merely stating what actions help bring about some descriptive state of affairs (like a dead teacher or having more money). An unconditional ought is not to be confused with an "ought" that doesn"t rely on any circumstances whatsoever; e.g. one could believe the unconditional ought with respect to not killing applies in some circumstances but that this obligation doesn't exist in certain other situations (some self-defense cases perhaps).

Morality is an unconditional ought. Moral properties of objectively existing unconditional oughtness don"t fit in very well in an atheistic worldview. For a morality to be objective, it must regard unconditional oughtness. Moreover, the very notion of morality is undermined and meaningless without an omniscient being to judge actions objectively. A sociopath would simply say "Who cares? We"re all dead anyway! We"re just meaningless assemblies of organic matter, all of which will die relatively soon in the heat-death of the universe! What does it matter if I torture a child for my own amusement?" Again, he"d be right. You need an omnipotent God to make moral judgement objective. Without that God, morality is either meaningless... or pointless.

I will now turn to address my opponent"s objections to my original argument. Most importantly, my opponent has misrepresented my position by saying that "He claims that, since the actions seem to be right or wrong to him, the actions are objectively right or wrong. This is not enough to substantiate his claim, as he gives no reasons as to why they are right or wrong." This is a straw man. The argument is premised upon the existence of objective moral values and duties. I assume that objective moral values and duties exist, as per the frame of the entire debate. Since by accepting this debate, my opponent has bought into the premise that objective moral values and duties do exist, his only recourse is to find a source of ontological objectivity that is not God, a task he has heretofore failed to execute

He misunderstands my argument regarding evolution. It is true that we evolved characteristics {a,b,c} rather than {x.y,z}. But other societies (Nazi Germany) evolved {x,y,z} rather than {a,b,c}. Who is to say which society is correct? Forget about rewinding the evolutionary clock; contradicting morals among different people, cultures, and societies, exist right here and now. Is it wrong to bind young girls" feet? Is it wrong to enslave others? Many think it is not; if we are to condemn them, we must have some criteria by which to do so, other than our subjective opinion.

"The fatal flaw in this argument is that morality simply describes what is..." This is a misunderstanding of morality. Morality is what moves us from "is" to "ought". Were it the case that morality only describes what is, then no one could ever condone or condemn any action. If I see a child being tortured, I don't merely say, under objective morality, "Hmm!! That child looks to be in excruciating pain! And it is being inflicted upon him with no good reason! How about that!!" I say that this action is morally reprehensible.

He asks "Would this not apply to the morality set in place by God, if the majority of people subscribed to a different moral theory? How does this make objective morality without God impossible? If the moral rules were in fact objective, the opinion of the majority wouldn't matter at all." The key question here is this: how could moral values and duties be objective in the first place, absent God? My opponent is thus begging the question in his favor. The burden of proof is on him: how exactly could morality be grounded objectively, in something other than God?

He says "I would like to turn the question back to you. How do you know that you perceive the world correctly enough to make the claim that objective morality requires God? If you would like to hold this line of reasoning, you would have to admit that it's possible for there to be objective morality without God, which would refute all your arguments already put forth." One"s perception of this world is what philosophers would call a properly basic belief. If we don't take our most basic beliefs - say, in the law of noncontradiction - to be an accurate reflection of reality, then we are left in a position where we cannot know anything. I would thus be able to turn this objection around: How does my opponent know that he perceives the world well enough to make the claim that objective morality doesn't require God?
bossyburrito

Con

I will start off by addressing the concerns surrounding my definitions. I do not feel that I have changed the definition of morality from the one provided in the OED. I have just pointed out those segments of the definition which are implied in order to maintain clarity and avoid confusion. Things are granted the status of "right or wrong" from a particular perspective. If one wishes, for example, to remain thin, he would view overeating as a "bad" thing. If, however, one would like to gain weight, he would consider overeating to be a "good" thing. As such, one who wishes to be included in the group of Man would view doing that which allows him to join as "good", and the opposite actions as "bad".

As for the issue of Man vs. Human, those who reside within the group of Man are forced to have a certain quality, while those who are within the group of Humans have to have an unrelated quality (not being able to reproduce with those of different species). This is not to say that the groups are mutually exclusive. For the distinction to be "without rational justification", one would have to claim that the qualities that the groups are based on are one and the same. If they are not, the groups are necessarily different.

"But sociopaths don't see anything wrong with their actions{...} {m}y opponent has thus failed to give a truly objective ontological basis for morality."

The recognition of objective morality is not required for the objective morality to exist. If I were to, say, claim that 1+1=3, the fact that 1+1 objectively equals 3 is not harmed. The so-called "morality" of those living in a world run by Nazis would not be morality at all. As my opponent pointed out, two "moralities" cannot coexist while both claim to be objective.

"Notice too that my opponent has used a conditional ought{...} For a morality to be objective, it must regard unconditional oughtness."

I must admit that I've become a bit confused when reading this. I fail to see the distinction between unconditional and conditional "oughts". For example, as my opponent said, an unconditional ought using his definition does not necessarily disregard circumstances. However, does that not make his "unconditional ought" become a "conditional ought"? If killing is wrong except in self defence, could you not say the following: If the killing is not done in self defence, then the action is morally wrong. Would the "ought", then, be conditional? After all, it follows the format of "if x, then y". It is dependant on x, with x being the circumstance.

"Moreover, the very notion of morality is undermined and meaningless without an omniscient being to judge actions objectively."

That "being" that would judge actions without a God would be reality.

"Most importantly, my opponent has misrepresented my position by saying that{...} find a source of ontological objectivity that is not God"

I will concede this point.

"Who is to say which society is correct? {...} Were it the case that morality only describes what is, then no one could ever condone or condemn any action."

I can see how one can misinterpret my argument, so allow me to clarify myself. The issue here is that I do not believe that one can act against the state of reality. They must act within the boundaries of logic. Morality is what tells you what you can and cannot do. You cannot draw a square triangle. Similarly, one cannot be irrational while still being called Man. Contradictions do not exist. One society cannot make claims that directly clash with reality while still being correct.

"The burden of proof is on him: how exactly could morality be grounded objectively, in something other than God?"

I was not begging the question, as I had included, within the round, my arguments for the existence of objective morality without God.

"I would thus be able to turn this objection around: How does my opponent know that he perceives the world well enough to make the claim that objective morality doesn't require God?"

I don't believe I do. However, since the fact that either of us arguing over this point would end in the debate being useless, I have decided to assume that logic does, in fact, accurately describe the universe, for the sake of the debate. If you wish to pursue this line of argumentation, it will end in us both coming to the conclusion that "we don't really know either way".

This is turning out to be an incredibly enjoyable debate, so I must thank my opponent for the opportunity.
Debate Round No. 2
CzechCzar

Pro

Thanks to you as well! You are the most courteous debate partner I have ever had - it has been a pleasure!

The fundamental distinction between Humans and Man is, according to my opponent, "be[ing] able to reason... "Men" have "that quality... which allows access to the club of Man, reason... "something one should not do" becom[es] "something one should not do if one wishes to maintain that very same quality". It seems that for my opponent, the fundamental quality of being "Man" is being able to reason.

Very well. But I must ask the question, who is to decide how to reason? People reason their way to different solutions to moral dilemmas. Sociopaths are very logical and reasonable. The Nazis were as well. These rational groups have come to very different moral conclusions. The ability to reason alone is not enough to get objective morality. This is the central point of my rebuttal, so I will emphasize it again: if rational agents come to opposing conclusions regarding which rational action to take, being a rational agent cannot, by definition, be a sufficient antecedent to objective morality. My opponent"s proposal for an objective morality without God thus fails, logically.

My opponent says "[t]he so-called "morality" of those living in a world run by Nazis would not be morality at all. As my opponent pointed out, two "moralities" cannot coexist while both claim to be objective." This is misunderstanding my counterargument. While I agree that two contradictories cannot both be true, he is begging the question by saying the Nazis were not "moral". After all, they were rational! They operated according to strict logical precepts, and would thus have been included in "Man". Had they won WWII, we would all think that their morality and logic were correct, rather than ours. By saying the Nazis weren"t moral (= rational, logical), my opponent is simply begging the question. The Nazis epitomized rationality - a different rationality than ours! I say again: if rational agents (societies) come to opposing conclusions regarding which rational action to take, being a rational agent (society) cannot, by definition, be a sufficient antecedent to objective morality.

The distinction I drew between conditional and unconditional oughts can be applied to this very scenario. If one wants to operate according to Nazi morality, one should exterminate certain ethnicities. If one does not want to operate according to Nazi morality, one should not. These are conditional oughts, because they vary according to which subjective viewpoint one adopts. As my opponent points out, killing might be considered a conditional ought: right in some circumstances, wrong in others. An unconditional ought would be, "Do X, always." A Christian might say that an unconditional ought is "love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind" - always. It is not subject to circumstance.

My opponent"s next statement is puzzling. He say that "[t]hat "being" that would judge actions without a God would be reality." How can this be so? "Reality" so construed is just a bunch of particles spinning into each other, some of which create life, all of which is doomed to die in a short period of time. How can reality so-construed be properly said to judge anything? How can you derive an "ought" from that? If my opponent says that morality is constituted by the opinion of the moral majority, he opens himself to the points I made in my opening statement regarding moral reform, contradictory viewpoints across societies and time spans, etc.

"One society cannot make claims that directly clash with reality while still being correct." Well, yes. But the difficulty in establishing which society"s moral claims are right and which are wrong is impossible to decide in my opponent"s moral system. The Nazis thought it was good and correct to kill Jews, the Allies didn"t - the two contradictory views have no means of arbitration between them. This is yet another instance of begging the question, assuming your morals are correct and their contradictories incorrect.

Next: "If you wish to pursue this line of argumentation, it will end in us both coming to the conclusion that "we don't really know either way"". Agreed. I was trying to get you to see that this line of argumentation was doomed to failure, and thus refute the point you made in your initial statement.

Objective, normative, moral properties like "moral wrongness" have an "ought" component to them. When you think about it, such objectively existing properties of "oughtness" are rather strange on atheism; they are invisible, nonphysical, causally inert, yet they exist somehow independently of our perception of them. Barring the supernatural, the presence or absence of objectively existing oughtness would not affect the physical world at all, and so it cannot be empirically detected. So why believe that such properties exist?

I am not saying that my opponent is an atheist. But the viewpoint he defends is atheistic. Why, on atheism, think that such a strange non-physical thing as "objective morality" exist? Why shouldn"t the atheist reject the existence of these invisible nonphysical things that cannot be empirically detected, if the atheist is also to reject the existence of invisible nonphysical deities that have not been empirically detected? From the atheist"s perspective,Isn"t it likely that our evolved intuition of these invisible nonphysical properties is delusory, akin to humanity"s sociobiologically evolved belief in invisible nonphysical deities? I think the answer is yes. Given atheism, it is unlikely that objective morality exists and it is more likely that people"s belief in objective morality is a delusion brought about by evolution to get us to behave in certain ways and help our species survive.

And what of judgement? On his view, there are just certain things you should do if you want to belong to the Club of Man. But what if you don"t want to belong to that club? What if you want to go around, stealing, raping, and pillaging? Who is to stop you? You might die, but, then again, we ALL die. If society shuns you, so what? Who is to say that society is right? There is nothing threatening about that. In short, there is no future reward/punishment for current good/bad behavior. You need an omnipotent God to make punishment/reward objective. And you need an omniscient/personal God to judge us according to our actions. Without those two qualities, morality is either meaningless, or pointless.

In short, I don"t think my opponent has given good reason for us to believe that objective morality is possible in the absence of God. I think that I have provided ample justification for the premise that objective morality needs God to have a sound ontological foundation. My opponent has not yet seriously challenged my position. Nor has my opponent proposed a satisfactory alternative.
bossyburrito

Con

"But I must ask the question, who is to decide how to reason?"

No person can decide what is reasonable and what is not. Reason is merely a way to derive further conclusions from reality: it consists of a grouping of truths (how one derives these truths has already been explained) from which one can piece together new truths (not in the sense that the truths are "created", just that the various pieces were put together for the first time). Everything is already there; one can find everything about the universe given unlimited time and the bedrock of all truths.

I definitely do not believe that the Nazi's are reasonable in any way. What may seem reasonable at first glance could very well be unreasonable. For instance, to those without knowledge of our solar system outside of that which one can gain from casually looking at the sky, the Sun could appear to be rotating around the Earth. Obviously, we know that this is false. However, people believed that it was a perfectly sound explanation for the motion of the star.

The Sun cannot orbit around the Earth and the Earth orbit around the sun at the same time. It must be one or the other. One theory must be wrong. If, for example, Objectivism clashes with the philosophy of the Nazi's, they cannot both be right. In fact, if two belief systems differed just slightly in one aspect but were the same in all others, one would still have to be wrong. They could both be wrong, of course, but the fact that we might not have the "correct" moral system at this time does not change the fact that there is one. If you propose that no answer is correct, then that means that logic is incorrect. This would still allow me to arbitrarily impose my will and make logic valid again, which is rather pointless when debating. Thus, logic has to be considered to be valid in any arguments presented.

"A Christian might say that an unconditional ought is "love your God with all your heart, soul, and mind" - always. It is not subject to circumstance."

Ah, but is there not a hidden circumstance in that example? Does it not rely on reality being what it is? If reality was different, could the "ought" not change?

"How can reality so-construed be properly said to judge anything? {...} akin to humanity's sociobiologically evolved belief in invisible nonphysical deities?"

Reality can "judge" (with "judge" referring to applying moral status to an action) because it sets the boundaries. Only one reality exists, with nothing being able to go against the rules of that reality. It allows us to reason, as reason is just the method by which reality can be understood. When one reasons, one only "uncovers" truths. These truths were true without being found. Thus, they are not subject to human manipulation (much in the same way that a vision of a mirage in a desert does not change the actual desert), and are objectively correct.

"Without those two qualities, morality is either meaningless, or pointless."

Why must there be a punishment for immoral actions for the actions themselves to be immoral?

A quick note: I didn't specifically single out points that I felt I had addressed earlier in the round. Please keep this in mind as you're reading.

See you next round!
Debate Round No. 3
CzechCzar

Pro

My opponent says that "no one person" can decide how to reason, and that "[r]eason is merely a way to derive further conclusions from reality: it consists of a grouping of truths". Key to this is the notion that "everything is already there". Here I think it is important to point out that my opponent assumes that the "bedrock of all truths" is established. In other words, if one already agrees about the criteria necessary for entrance to the "club of Man," then the further truths naturally follow. But surely, this is begging the question. For if one disagrees about the fundamental truths underlying reality, one will not be led to the same corollary truths (i.e., moral outcomes).

My opponent says that "I definitely do not believe that the Nazi's [sic] are reasonable in any way. What may seem reasonable at first glance could very well be unreasonable." Glad to hear it. But to pretend that the Nazis were not logical, were not based in sound philosophy, is silly. A cursory perusal of google reveals:

"In the case of other major historical revolutions, we are more familiar with seeing the significance of philosophy. When we think for example of the causes of the Communist Revolutions in Russia and China, we naturally think back to the philosopher Karl Marx. When we think of the causes of the French Revolution, we think back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. When we think of the causes of the American Revolution, we naturally think back to the philosopher John Locke. The same holds the causes of National Socialism"although since the Nazi regime went so horribly wrong, there is perhaps some reluctance to name names. Yet naming names is sometimes crucial if we are going to get to the historical heart of the matter. What philosophers can we cite in the case of the Nazis? Several names are candidates: Georg Hegel, Johann Fichte, even elements from Karl Marx.

"But in connection with the Nazis, perhaps the biggest and the most controversial name regularly mentioned is that of Friedrich Nietzsche. The Nazis often cited Nietzsche as one of their philosophical precursors, and even though Nietzsche died thirty-three years before the Nazis came to power, references to Nietzsche crop up regularly in Nazi writings and activities. In philosopher Heidegger"s lectures, for example, "Nietzsche was presented as the Nazi philosopher." [http://www.stephenhicks.org...

Clearly, the Nazis were not mere lunatics.

My opponent next says "Ah, but is there not a hidden circumstance in that example? Does it not rely on reality being what it is? If reality was different, could the "ought" not change?" Well, yes, it could, but this point is trivial and I don"t see how it affects anything. If there is no God, this rule does not apply. This is why I said, in introducing this unconditional ought, "A Christian might say". I introduced this example solely as a way to illustrate the difference between a conditional and an unconditional ought.

My opponent next says "Reality can "judge" (with "judge" referring to applying moral status to an action) because it sets the boundaries. Only one reality exists, with nothing being able to go against the rules of that reality. It allows us to reason, as reason is just the method by which reality can be understood. When one reasons, one only "uncovers" truths. These truths were true without being found. Thus, they are not subject to human manipulation (much in the same way that a vision of a mirage in a desert does not change the actual desert), and are objectively correct." Note that this proposition, even if granted, does not get you to judgement. This definition of morality may be able to get you an "is," but it does not and cannot get you an unconditional "ought", or moral judgement. Especially important is the assertion that "When one reasons, one only "uncovers" truths." Surely this is not the case. In a disagreement, two sides take opposing views on the truth-value of a proposition, but they have both reasoned their way to the conclusion. My opponent is shouldering an unsustainable burden of proof by asserting that reason leads, must lead, and can only lead, to truth. As the above illustration of the Nazis should clearly illustrate, reason can lead to contradictory truth claims. Notable is that my opponent did not address the case of the sociopath.

Punishment, or, more properly termed, judgement, is necessary to morality because it provides the normative "oomph" behind moral imperatives. Disagreement about moral values and duties, as has been illustrated, is all-too-common. Without some overarching power capable of judging and punishing immoral actions, people would simply act as their individual or societal moralities - which often disagree - dictate.

At this point, the debate is almost entirely focused on the question of whether objective morality is possible without God. My opponent has not significantly disputed my assertion that objective morality is possible with God. The position I am defending thus remains relatively uncontested. Unless my opponent can offer a convincing alternative in the final round before conclusions, he has failed to sustain the burden of proof.
bossyburrito

Con

"Here I think it is important to point out that my opponent assumes that the "bedrock of all truths" is established."

If my point is contested for being circular, the same could be said for your very objection to it. Your objection is based on logic, correct? If it is a valid point, it would defeat itself. Using logic to disprove logic would end in one asserting their will - and I could, in turn, assert existence existing as a fact. I could even go as far as to assert that objective morality can exist without God. The reason why I do not wish to do this is because, logically speaking, of course, it defeats the purpose of debate. The purpose of debating is to argue within a framework with already accepted rules, for these axioms allow argumentation to occur. After all, it's all for fun, isn't it? What's the fun in refusing to stress one's mind?

Even if I'm wrong about what the conclusions you can draw from a basic axiom are, what doesn't change is that you can draw something from it, and that only one of two opposing statements can be correct at any given time. Both Locke and, say, Nietzsche*, cannot be right. One (or both, in fact), has to be wrong. If one has to be wrong, how can you say that they were logical? An idea surely cannot be both logical and illogical at the same time. I would, in fact, argue that the policies of Nazi Germany were made by lunatics. A distinction must be drawn between being logical and being structured. The Nazis were structured, but the structure they relied on was not logical.

"I introduced this example solely as a way to illustrate the difference between a conditional and an unconditional ought."

I was simply trying to understand where this distinction was. If it was dependent on a God, it would not be unconditional. If there really is no distinction between the two forms of "oughts", then my opponent's argument ("For a morality to be objective, it must regard unconditional oughtness) does not stand.

"This definition of morality may be able to get you an "is," but it does not and cannot get you an unconditional "ought", or moral judgement."

Would you not say that when one asks the question "what direction should I go if I wish to go to California?", and the person looks at a map and locates the location of both California and wherever they currently are, they can derive the answer to their question (an "ought") from reality (the "is")? If one is in, say, Alaska, and says "I should go east in order to get to California", they would obviously be wrong.

"In a disagreement, two sides take opposing views on the truth-value of a proposition, but they have both reasoned their way to the conclusion."

Do you believe that, in a scenario in which two people are in a room, and one "reasons" (using the term loosely) that A is A, and the other "reasons" that A is not A, both can be right? Unless you are claiming that reason itself is false, you have to assume that one of the two isn't reasoning in the proper way (whatever that may be (it's fairly irrelevant)).

"Without some overarching power capable of judging and punishing immoral actions, people would simply act as their individual or societal moralities - which often disagree - dictate."

I do not see how this is relevant. You have not yet explained how a large amount of people doing something immoral would destroy the fact that the action is immoral. Besides, would you not say that people could disobey God? After all, look at all the murderers in the world. x

How are we going to go about the final round? Are we just doing conclusions? I would appreciate it if you laid out what I should do in your next round.

Thanks.
Debate Round No. 4
CzechCzar

Pro

I want to thank my opponent for what has been a wonderful debate. At this point, I think conclusions should be used not to introduce new arguments, but to offer final rebuttals to the arguments that have been introduced, and to try to tie together the threads of this debate. Neither of us should offer any new arguments.

When I was referring to "bedrock of all truths" above, in philosophical terms, I meant ontological grounding. As a necessary being, God can provide an objective source of moral values and duties. There must be a stopping point, an axiom upon which any analysis must be based. But the criterion for entry into the "club of Man" (namely, the ability to reason, in a certain way) is arbitrary. Sociopaths are logical, but their logic is different from that of most people; the Nazis were logical, but their logic was different from that of most people. Because of this difference, they are excluded from the club of Man. The logic these two groups use is different, but no less logical. If our moral rules can be summarized by A, and the Nazis had won WWII, we would all be operating according to a different logic (not-A). This is what I was driving at when I said that my opponent was begging the question. The logic underlying my opponent"s moral philosophy is contingent; the logic underlying mine (God) is necessary.

In the next paragraph, my opponent states that two contradictory propositions cannot be derived from the same premise (axiom). This (the law of noncontradiction) is quite true. Two points should be brought up: first, moral decisions do not generally proceed from indisputable axioms. In a courtroom, contradictory moral verdicts are defended, based upon one body of evidence. Second, and more important, the dramatically different conclusions reached by our society, and that of the Nazis, or that of sociopaths, are dependant upon different propositions that each takes as axiomatic. We think hurting people is bad; sociopaths and Nazis disagree. While we think their disagreement is illogical, that is according to the standards of our logic. They would surely think our morality was illogical, according to the standards of their respective logics. These differences have no way to be arbitrated, absent God.

My opponent next misunderstands my distinction between a condition and an unconditional ought. An unconditional ought still requires an ontological foundation - God. But the duty or value itself is not ordered towards reaching some exterior goal or end. It is independent of circumstances. This is not the case with a conditional ought. It is true that, given a map, one knows objectively in which direction to go if one wishes to get to California. The key question, however, is why should one wish in the first place to get to California? Rephrasing, if one wishes to gain access to the Club of Man, one should do certain things, and avoid others. But why should one wish to gain access to the Club of Man? Why not prefer the morals (or, "clubs"), of sociopaths, or Nazis?

I addressed my opponent"s next objection regarding the law of noncontradiction above .

My opponent next says that "You have not yet explained how a large amount of people doing something immoral would destroy the fact that the action is immoral. Besides, would you not say that people could disobey God? After all, look at all the murderers in the world." This argument misses the point. This debate is about whether it is possible to ground morality on an objective basis, without God. This debate is not about whether morality would change if people felt differently , or whether people are capable of disobeying God. My opponent is obviously begging the question by assuming that people are doing something really, objectively, immoral. How does he arrive at this conclusion? He still has not explained how his morality is anything other than arbitrary.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize what I think are the most important points of this debate. The position I am defending has remained nearly-entirely uncontested. As I have sought to illustrate throughout the debate, my opponent"s position, the so-called "club of man," has numerous problems, most prominently that the morals of the club of man are completely arbitrary. Those with different moralities, such as sociopaths or Nazis, are excluded without warrant. Add to this the fact that there is no method of enforcing the rules for morality - of rewarding good behavior and punishing bad. Finally, and crucially, there is no means of administering justice - there is no way for previous wrongs to be righted.

As such, my opponent has not sustained the burden of proof. II think that the rational thing to do is to accept that God is necessary for objective morality.
bossyburrito

Con

"There must be a stopping point, an axiom upon which any analysis must be based. {...} These differences have no way to be arbitrated, absent God."

I believe that the fundamental nature of reality (i.e. the laws that govern all things) would be able to be the axiom you speak of. One cannot break the laws of reality, for they would not be laws if they can be bypassed. The Nazis could not be said to have used logic any more than someone, when asked to recite the numbers from one to ten and said zero, could be said to have counted correctly. The fact stands that there are set rules by which the universe runs, and any attempt to ignore these rules would result not in a "different" kind of logic, but a form of thinking that is not logical at all. If we were using "not-A", we would be wrong whether we accepted it or not. Even if we had no way of knowing which way of thinking was logical, the existence of a logical way of thinking would still exist.

"Why not prefer the morals (or, "clubs"), of sociopaths, or Nazis?"

The same argument could be made against the "unconditional oughts" you have put forward. There is no such thing as an unconditional ought as you describe it. If one has the power to choose a path in life, then they can surely choose the "wrong" one. If they prefer that path, using your arguments, morality even with God is not objective. Either way, it's irrelevant when considering whether a system is objectively moral or not. Objectivity is granted by consistency, which, in turn, is governed by the rules of the system as set out by the "builder" of it. These rules are not man-made, however, as they still must reside within the rules set forth by reality itself, and a system based on rules that disregard reality cannot be considered to be objective.

" My opponent is obviously begging the question by assuming that people are doing something really, objectively, immoral. How does he arrive at this conclusion? He still has not explained how his morality is anything other than arbitrary."

My comment about God was on a bit of a side note, and was not meant to fill my burden of proof. I do not feel that I was begging the question, as I had already laid out arguments beforehand to justify my position. After all other arguments against my position had been countered, your argument loses its weight, as it relies on morality not being objective.

This was a very interesting debate, and I have to commend my opponent for his debating skills. Multiple times throughout the debate, I had difficulty responding to his arguments. Thanks for the opportunity to debate this topic!
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by bossyburrito 4 years ago
bossyburrito
MrJosh, can you please add more to your RDF? Check out this link: http://www.debate.org...
Posted by DeFool 4 years ago
DeFool
"If morality is simply a measure of normal social interactions within a given population, then were the Nazis 'moral' simply because they were popular?"

This question largely became the crux of the debate, in one form or another. "Is morality simply whatever is popular?" "What if most people become immoral?"

The answer I would have liked did not decisively appear in the debate, which made my scoring more difficult than it should have been. The sad truth is that most people cannot become immoral, because that is the measure of "normal". In a sense, this equates with the "objective/subjective morality" that the religious community has sought for so long. I state this as "Yahweh cannot be immoral, because as a god, his actions comprise the definition of morality."

For the religious, this can be seen as a true statement, since the literature surrounding gods and goddesses make up an important part of the religious person's ecosystem and society. For the rest of us, however, the word only describes what is normal in a given population of earthlings.

I had hoped to see a large portion of the debate focused on a central flaw in the "divine morality" argument: that we humans must still interpret and implement the divine commands, and therefore create, interpret and implement our own moral systems... even if there are gods and goddesses that have attempted to hand these matters down.

As it stood, I was only allowed to score on what I saw as the central question of this contest, which involved these two concepts of morality. (Is morality a measure of societal norms? Or divine commands?) In the end, this question resolved the matter of whether or not these values and duties can exist independently of the commands of gods and goddesses. I found that CON demonstrated that this independent existence was at least possible.
Posted by devient.genie 4 years ago
devient.genie
True Scripture should help Pro, but it wont because he embraces false scripture from copies of copies of copies of copies thousands of times over :)

True Scripture, will help you see more relevance to the 21st Century, Not that watered down tripe from back in the day :)

Thoughts 7:17--Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told. religion is doing what youre told regardless of what is right :)

DUH 9:23--You dont need religion to have morals. If you dont know right from wrong, you lack empathy, Not religion :)

IDIOTS 6:13--Allegories, parables, opinions, apologies, metaphors, interpretations and excuses, these are the ingredients of the religious mind :)

Inept 5:55--Logic, reason, evidence, critical thinking and facts are religions natural enemies :)

Religitards 8:25--If ignorance was body odor, religious beliefs would stink like a dumpster of fish and vomit :)
Posted by CzechCzar 4 years ago
CzechCzar
Thanks! I have read and studied WLC, so he, along with Feser and Plantinga, have had a big impact on my thoughts. I have not plagiarized anyone, I assure you!
Posted by Guy_D 4 years ago
Guy_D
Pro, your arguments and comments are strikingly similar to that of William Craig Lane in a debate against Sam Harris.
Posted by CzechCzar 4 years ago
CzechCzar
Gojira,

You are talking epistemology, not ontology. I don't see how women's rights have anything to do with morals or Canada - could you explain?
Posted by Solomon_Grim 4 years ago
Solomon_Grim
The Bible does not say that woman are inferior to men. It simply says that their are some jobs that each gender fits best. You must agree with the fact that woman can do things better than men, and men can do things better than women. What have been observed in animals are more instinct than anything. I saw a video recently of a group of dolphins drown one of their own just because. Animals usually do what they must to survive, and sometimes this may seem to be based in morals. We humans are different. We tend to give up comfort or opportunity everyday for people we care about and love.

My problem with not having a god of some sort is that morals would be unique to every person. If every person makes their own morals, than who can say its wrong. At what point can we say that it is incorrect to do something. What if we lived in a country that if you are found walking outside at night, they kill you. To the people in the country, it is moral, but who can say otherwise. It almost reminds me of the new movie, "The Purge". Everyone does what they want since it is moral to them and no one can say that it is wrong.
Posted by Gojira303 4 years ago
Gojira303
As an avid Atheist, I have to add that throughout history, we can see that Humans had Morals even before a religion was established. Cro Magnon for example, before their religious practices they understood the Beneficial and Detrimental aspects of their society, and so do most animals today including the Modern Great Apes and Modern Dolphins, including Orca.

To say that Morals come from any one God I have to say is ridiculous, mainly because here in Canada, women have the most amount of rights than any other country in the world. I personally think that it is morally wrong to have rights be taken away from our Female Counterparts and it disgusts me to think that a country like Saudi Arabia doesn't even allow their women to ride Bicycles let alone drive cars. To them it is Morally just because women are "Inferior" to men and, because of heavy religious beliefs, it is written in the Koran that God doesn't allow women to do what men don (In fact, it's also written in the Torah and the Bible).

Most Women are put to death if they even talk to an unmarried man or even seen walking next to an unmarried man. Those are the Morals of the Bible and God. This is one of the many reasons I became an Atheist.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Ragnar 4 years ago
Ragnar
CzechCzarbossyburritoTied
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: CV MrJosh's weak vote. Please improve the RFD to include in what way his arguments failed, or what way con made them fail.
Vote Placed by MrJosh 4 years ago
MrJosh
CzechCzarbossyburritoTied
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Reasons for voting decision: This was a well argued debate on both sides; I do not believe PRO met his BOP.
Vote Placed by DeFool 4 years ago
DeFool
CzechCzarbossyburritoTied
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Reasons for voting decision: CON correctly defines morality as a simple measure of a society's mores (morality simply describes what is; the current state of what exists), although I would have liked to have seen this definition made more concisely. PRO defines morality as divine commandments. Religious persons may include divine commands into their societal ecosystem, but the rest of the community is not required to respect these decrees in the same way that they are forced to acknowledge behavioral norms. For me, this distinction was important to the debate, since most of the remaining arguments depended on one of these two understandings.