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Moral Realism and Atheism...

Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 2:35:47 AM
Posted: 3 years ago
I'm having a hard time understanding how morality can be objective without God. I know there are a lot of Atheistic (or non-theistic) moral theories. However, wouldn't they just be contrived social constructs based on our collectively subjective wants as a society? If there is no God, how can morality be actually objective? It seems that if you are an Atheist, the most reasonable position is moral anti-realism.

Now, I could be completely wrong. It's possible (and very likely) that I haven't done enough research. However, if God does not exist, how can morality be objective?

This question troubles me, as I see a lot of my Atheist comrades endorsing moral realism and I can't understand it.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 4:33:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I don't mean this to be offense, but perhaps you've been watching too many William Lane Craig videos. As a rhetorical device, he uses his inflection and tone of voice to imply that it's very difficult to have atheistic moral realism. It's a very useful psychological tactic for winning debates. You simply have to get out of his rhetorical trick to understand atheistic moral realism better. There is no inherent problem between them, and people have been doing it for thousands of years.

(This isn't meant as a personal attack on Dr. Craig. As a debater, of course he's going to use these tactics.)
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 4:57:08 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 4:33:27 PM, Sargon wrote:
I don't mean this to be offense, but perhaps you've been watching too many William Lane Craig videos.

There are plenty of Atheists philosophers who concede that moral realism implies God, and theistic alike (obviously). I'm not sure why you think Dr. Craig plays any vital role in my question here.

As a rhetorical device, he uses his inflection and tone of voice to imply that it's very difficult to have atheistic moral realism. It's a very useful psychological tactic for winning debates. You simply have to get out of his rhetorical trick to understand atheistic moral realism better.

I probably do have to understand it better. Hence:

"It's possible (and very likely) that I haven't done enough research." - Me

There is no inherent problem between them, and people have been doing it for thousands of years.

From what I have seen, theories (such as Ulitarianism or Contractarianism) are completely subjective. Their proponents just call it "objective".

If God doesn't exist, then nobody is actually right or actually wrong. If one person says its fine to steal, but I don't think so; nobody is right. You can only say it is irrational to steal if there is an agreed upon goal in the first place (the goal to live in a society where we respect each others property). What makes that goal rational? You can say X, and I can say what makes that rational? It will boil down to our subjective wants as a species. However, if God says its wrong to steal then he has to be right by definition (he is perfect).

I am not saying it is impossible for objective morality to exist without God. I am just saying that I find it hard to see how it can be the case. I will do more reading in the literature, as there is a good chance someone has already addressed the concerns I have.


(This isn't meant as a personal attack on Dr. Craig. As a debater, of course he's going to use these tactics.)
Magic8000
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11/10/2013 5:04:04 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Would morality be objective if it was based on an instinct? That would be outside the realm of opinion.
404 coherent debate topic not found. Please restart the debate with clear resolution.

"So Magic8000 believes Einstein was a proctologist who was persuaded by the Government and Hitler to fabricate the Theory of Relativity"- GWL-CPA
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:09:52 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:04:04 PM, Magic8000 wrote:
Would morality be objective if it was based on an instinct? That would be outside the realm of opinion.

Perhaps, but then it would have to be shown that it actually is based on instinct.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 5:10:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.

Probably the snideness.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:12:06 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:10:46 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.

Probably the snideness.

Admitting I don't know enough and asking you for papers to recommend is snide? No, saying that I haven't gotten enough sleep was snide.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 5:13:33 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:12:06 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:10:46 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.

Probably the snideness.

Admitting I don't know enough and asking you for papers to recommend is snide? No, saying that I haven't gotten enough sleep was snide.

The part where you feel the need to underline and quote yourself as if I wasn't a functioning human being who can read for myself.
Rational_Thinker9119
Posts: 9,054
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11/10/2013 5:14:52 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:13:33 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:12:06 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:10:46 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.

Probably the snideness.

Admitting I don't know enough and asking you for papers to recommend is snide? No, saying that I haven't gotten enough sleep was snide.

The part where you feel the need to underline and quote yourself as if I wasn't a functioning human being who can read for myself.

That's not how I meant it. I apologize if you were offended, as that was not my intention.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 5:22:18 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:14:52 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:13:33 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:12:06 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:10:46 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:09:17 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:07:39 PM, Sargon wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:41 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 11/10/2013 4:59:12 PM, Sargon wrote:
Weren't we going to debate about this? (It may have been my fault for never pursuing it.)

Why the would I debate you when I just said I don't know enough about the issue? I just want to understand moral realism without God better as I don't see how it works. If you have some papers to recommend, I would like to read them.

I guess I'll talk to you when you've gotten a proper amount of sleep.

What about my post indicates that I haven't gotten a proper amount of sleep? lol You are very random sometimes Sargon.

Probably the snideness.

Admitting I don't know enough and asking you for papers to recommend is snide? No, saying that I haven't gotten enough sleep was snide.

The part where you feel the need to underline and quote yourself as if I wasn't a functioning human being who can read for myself.

That's not how I meant it. I apologize if you were offended, as that was not my intention.

I'm sorry for snapping at you as well.
Sargon
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11/10/2013 5:25:27 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Anyway, the reason I brought up William Lane Craig was that most people are exposed to the debates on moral realism and atheism through his popular debates and works. Many people hear him say, with a very calibrated tone and inflection, that the two are incompatible and hard to fit together. Subconsciously, if you listen to him enough, it "sticks". It's just a myth that you don't see pressed as confidently from anyone but him.

The underlying theme is that the non-existence of god makes it harder to have a real right and wrong. This myth is belied by a simple analysis of the current state of philosophy. Atheistic moral realism has been argued by the philosopher Quentin Smith (Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy) and the eminent ethicist Shelley Kagan (Normative Ethics). A study called 'What do philosophers believe?' by David Bourget and David J. Chalmers, published in Philosophy Papers, indicates that 72.8% of philosophers are atheists, while 56.4% are moral-realists. This makes it mathematically necessary that there are many atheist philosophers who are also moral realists. There are also many ethical systems which do not require god: deontology, utilitarianism, etc.

I'm just saying that many educated philosophers have been doing moral philosophy without god for thousands of years, and many atheistic philosophers in the present day as well. The gap that Dr. Craig wants between the two just isn't there.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:32:51 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:25:27 PM, Sargon wrote:
Anyway, the reason I brought up William Lane Craig was that most people are exposed to the debates on moral realism and atheism through his popular debates and works. Many people hear him say, with a very calibrated tone and inflection, that the two are incompatible and hard to fit together. Subconsciously, if you listen to him enough, it "sticks". It's just a myth that you don't see pressed as confidently from anyone but him.

The underlying theme is that the non-existence of god makes it harder to have a real right and wrong. This myth is belied by a simple analysis of the current state of philosophy. Atheistic moral realism has been argued by the philosopher Quentin Smith (Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy) and the eminent ethicist Shelley Kagan (Normative Ethics). A study called 'What do philosophers believe?' by David Bourget and David J. Chalmers, published in Philosophy Papers, indicates that 72.8% of philosophers are atheists, while 56.4% are moral-realists. This makes it mathematically necessary that there are many atheist philosophers who are also moral realists. There are also many ethical systems which do not require god: deontology, utilitarianism, etc.

I'm just saying that many educated philosophers have been doing moral philosophy without god for thousands of years, and many atheistic philosophers in the present day as well. The gap that Dr. Craig wants between the two just isn't there.

I agree 100%. There are probably more Atheistic moral realists than Atheistic non-moral realists. I just don't see how the position can be tenable, as there is no objective standard; just the collectively subjective standards of human beings and their wants. Your instinct idea is very interesting, as it seems to be distinct from opinion and wants. I would have to look more into that...
Stephen_Hawkins
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11/10/2013 5:33:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
There's a couple roots:

1) Intuition. Just as we make our metaphysical claims based on some indubitable truths (e.g. I see something; I exist; there are others, etc.), one of them is "moral judgements exist".

2) Look up Apel and the German schools (Frankfurt and Erlangen). They do some good work in this field.

Just note that a secular moral realism will look vastly different from a theological one, and will almost seem relativist. However, you're looking for a normative universalism in an ethical theory, and so that's what you ought to hope to prove.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

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Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:43:46 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Also, I think the problem with grounding morality in instinct would be that there are lesser animals with instinct, but they clearly are not moral agents. We does morality apply to us, and not them? Yes, I am going to quote Dr. Craig (lol):

"When a white shark forcibly copulates with a female shark, it forcibly copulates with her, but it doesn't rape her." - William Lane Craig

Why are we moral agents, but not them if morality is grounded on instinct? A shark's instinct is to forcibly copulate. Would you qualify it and say that morality is based on human instinct to avoid the problem? Even then, I don't see how it could be, as our instincts are horrible.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 5:47:39 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:33:56 PM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
There's a couple roots:

1) Intuition. Just as we make our metaphysical claims based on some indubitable truths (e.g. I see something; I exist; there are others, etc.), one of them is "moral judgements exist".

Moral judgement does exist, but it is based on a collectively subjective standard founded on our wants as a species. We want to live in a world where pain is minimized for most people, thus it is self-evident that punching people in the face randomly is wrong under that framework. However, the framework is based on our wants. How is morality not subjectively based? If we didn't want to live in a world where minimizing violence was the case, I could hardly see how punching random people could be looked at as "wrong".


2) Look up Apel and the German schools (Frankfurt and Erlangen). They do some good work in this field.

Thank you. I will definitely read their work.


Just note that a secular moral realism will look vastly different from a theological one, and will almost seem relativist. However, you're looking for a normative universalism in an ethical theory, and so that's what you ought to hope to prove.
Graincruncher
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11/10/2013 6:10:47 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
I think there's an argument to be made that most (if not all) morality is "utilitarianism + framing metanarrative". It then allows us to rephrase the question as "can there be a universal moral metanarrative?", which helps avoid getting stuck analysing particular systems of thought and instead gives us a useful heuristic-esque method for analysing theories into categorical types. Instead of looking at the content and claims of a particular moral system, we can look at the foundational, informing concepts and more easily tell whether they are universal/objective or not. If they are not, we need not look at the particulars of the system. If they are, they deserve further investigation.

Interestingly, this kind of analysis would show that theistic morality is itself necessarily subjective, since there is no 'public' referential metric against which to check its claims. What it would amount to is, in every practical and meaningful sense, subjective unanimity. An objective standard that cannot be publicly checked against is one that we can never know whether we are following correctly. It's the same problem as is dealt with in the private language argument in that it reduces "following a rule correctly" to a state indistinguishable from "mistakenly thinking you are following a rule correctly". Since this means we are then relying on subjective opinion as to which of the two is taking place and with no way of testing the accuracy of that opinion against something other than our own opinion, any such morality is subjective. Populist, even.

Although to be perfectly honest, I think the whole objective/subjective debate is extremely misleading. Moral problems arise in a dynamic system and therefore the answer to each, while following certain themes, is different. New concerns arise and old ones disappear. Instead of thinking in terms of strict moral rules, it may be better to consider things as moral tendencies that can be used to understand what we tend towards, what we tend away from and why we do so in each case. Similarly to the instinct comment made earlier in the thread, it would be objective in that it would be foundational, universal and flexible enough to be useful without being so flexible as to be wholly arbitrary.

The idea that the debate is binary is false, though; perhaps parts of our morality are what we would consider objective whilst other parts are not. Without access to the objective metric, we can't know which bits might be which. Either we need one we can check or we should abandon the false dichotomy between the two altogether, else we are at best incapable of answering such questions and at worst incoherent for asking them in the first place.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 6:37:54 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 6:10:47 PM, Graincruncher wrote:
I think there's an argument to be made that most (if not all) morality is "utilitarianism + framing metanarrative". It then allows us to rephrase the question as "can there be a universal moral metanarrative?", which helps avoid getting stuck analysing particular systems of thought and instead gives us a useful heuristic-esque method for analysing theories into categorical types. Instead of looking at the content and claims of a particular moral system, we can look at the foundational, informing concepts and more easily tell whether they are universal/objective or not. If they are not, we need not look at the particulars of the system. If they are, they deserve further investigation.

Interestingly, this kind of analysis would show that theistic morality is itself necessarily subjective, since there is no 'public' referential metric against which to check its claims.

I disagree. If Theism is true, and God says that it is wrong for us to steal, then it is true by definition (he is perfect). If a perfect being makes a claim, that claim is true, as it would be imperfect for a being to make a claim that wasn't true and just based on opinion.

What it would amount to is, in every practical and meaningful sense, subjective unanimity. An objective standard that cannot be publicly checked against is one that we can never know whether we are following correctly.

It wouldn't follow from this that morality wouldn't be grounded in God though, if that were the case.

It's the same problem as is dealt with in the private language argument in that it reduces "following a rule correctly" to a state indistinguishable from "mistakenly thinking you are following a rule correctly". Since this means we are then relying on subjective opinion as to which of the two is taking place and with no way of testing the accuracy of that opinion against something other than our own opinion, any such morality is subjective. Populist, even.

You are confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology. How we come to know moral truths is not the same thing as what grounds moral truths. Even if we would just be going on our own opinions, and even if we were completely lost without knowing what the right answer is, that wouldn't change the fact that there is an objectively right answer due to the nature of God (what his commandments would be based off of).


Although to be perfectly honest, I think the whole objective/subjective debate is extremely misleading. Moral problems arise in a dynamic system and therefore the answer to each, while following certain themes, is different. New concerns arise and old ones disappear. Instead of thinking in terms of strict moral rules, it may be better to consider things as moral tendencies that can be used to understand what we tend towards, what we tend away from and why we do so in each case. Similarly to the instinct comment made earlier in the thread, it would be objective in that it would be foundational, universal and flexible enough to be useful without being so flexible as to be wholly arbitrary.

The idea that the debate is binary is false, though; perhaps parts of our morality are what we would consider objective whilst other parts are not. Without access to the objective metric, we can't know which bits might be which.

Yes, but as I said, us not knowing what is the right answer doesn't mean there isn't a right answer.

Either we need one we can check or we should abandon the false dichotomy between the two altogether, else we are at best incapable of answering such questions and at worst incoherent for asking them in the first place.

I think that morality is simply based on what our wants and goals are as a society. We want to live in a world where the minimization of punching people in the face is implemented for example, so our goal is to live in that world. Obviously, punching random people goals against that goal, and is irrational under that framework. However, it is still based on a subjectively contrived framework. What is irrational is completely relative in this case.

To give another example, imagine I build a cubed box. There is nothing irrational about that, I just built a box. However, if my goal is to live in a world where the maximization of spherical objects is the case, then building that box is completely irrational. I could have built a spherical object which was more in line with my goals.

We can deem things right or wrong, but it is always going to be subjectively based. The reason Theism makes no sense to me, is because if Theism is true, then we have to believe that even if no human cared about anybody's well being, nobody respected anybody's property, females didn't care about being raped and they didn't care about pain, and the rapist doesn't care, and the family doesn't care that it would still be wrong that rape. I see no reason to accept that, as it is extremely count-intuitive. For example, if a victim doesn't care that he is in pain or being tortured, and his his family and friends don't care, and the man doing it doesn't care... What is "wrong" about it? God is just an unnecessary assumption.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 6:40:49 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
So, I believe that you can put God into the equation and poof...we have objective morality. However, I believe it is unnecessary, as our experience of morality can be explained without that assumption.
000ike
Posts: 11,196
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11/10/2013 7:40:56 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Moral realism is false whether or not a god exists. Perhaps we're not using the same reasoning to address the concept...
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
000ike
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11/10/2013 7:44:12 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 5:04:04 PM, Magic8000 wrote:
Would morality be objective if it was based on an instinct? That would be outside the realm of opinion.

That question doesn't even make sense. The condition "based on" implies a relative foundation.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 8:09:14 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 7:40:56 PM, 000ike wrote:
Moral realism is false whether or not a god exists.

I have argued against that notion. If God exists, he is a perfect being. Thus, if he claims that stealing is wrong, then he is right by definition. If a perfect being states something is not going to be false and just based on opinion (that would be imperfect, and traits of a lesser being). Since his commandments are based on his necessary nature, then his necessary nature provides the foundation for objective morals.

Perhaps we're not using the same reasoning to address the concept...
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 8:10:05 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
Oh crap, Magic said Would "morality be objective if it was based on an instinct? That would be outside the realm of opinion", and not Sargon. I have been replying to the wrong person... My bad.
Rational_Thinker9119
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11/10/2013 8:12:00 PM
Posted: 3 years ago
At 11/10/2013 7:44:12 PM, 000ike wrote:
At 11/10/2013 5:04:04 PM, Magic8000 wrote:
Would morality be objective if it was based on an instinct? That would be outside the realm of opinion.

That question doesn't even make sense. The condition "based on" implies a relative foundation.

Not really. Take God for instance, his is commandments are "based on" his nature necessarily (not relatively). If God commanded something that went against his nature, then there would be a contradiction.