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

Is the Freewill Defense Tenable?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/8/2008 Category: Religion
Updated: 14 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 3,050 times Debate No: 1531
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (27)
Votes (5)

 

Derrida

Con

Hello,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro

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

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

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

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

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

Con

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

Now to your rebuttals:

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

First Argument

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

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

Second Argument

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

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

Third Argument

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

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

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

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

I await your reply.
Evan_MacIan

Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Con

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.
Evan_MacIan

Pro

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

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

I Ceded

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

But seriously, you've got my respect.
Debate Round No. 3
27 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 11 through 20 records.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
And,

"Thus, the moral-antirealist can still...."

I would reply, but I'm not sure what argument the "Thus" statement is in conclusion to.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
"The problem is that your statement itself is a normative one; you are telling us what is good and what is bad to do"

Unless you're denying the faculty of Reason, you are incorrect. I am telling you what there is no logical reason to do, which is distinct from what you should not do.

"You are right! There is no objective reason to behave in any way whatsoever. But you act as if this means that moral anti-realists (you conflate this with "atheism") cannot act in any way whatsoever"

Strawman, I argued that the reality of evil poses a problem to atheists. That is, I pressupposed evil as a basis for my argument. The implication is not that atheists are immoral, but that they have a contradiction in their beliefs.

Finally, I am not talking about behavior, but about value judgements. Don't confuse the two.
Posted by Zasch 14 years ago
Zasch
What you are basically saying is that a person ought not base their decisions on what they feel (if this is a mischaracterisation, it doesn't matter: your argument follows the form "One ought not base decisions on X", where X can be anything). The problem is that your statement itself is a normative one; you are telling us what is good and what is bad to do, which presupposes that those things are objective parts of the universe. Any standards that you attempt to set for "justified ethics" is ultimately going to fall victim to the exact thing that all ethical systems do: it is an arbitrary standard that has no basis in reality. If moral statements are unable to have an affirmative truth value, then your statement that we ought not base decisions on X does not have a positive truth value, and thus carries no weight of motivative force unless the person you are speaking with has a preference in that fashion.

You are right! There is no objective reason to behave in any way whatsoever. But you act as if this means that moral anti-realists (you conflate this with "atheism") cannot act in any way whatsoever, which is a moral statement that moral anti-realists would believe is as baseless as any others. I have no objective reason to believe murder is wrong, or to protect my husband, or to go eat food...or to require that morality is an objective part of the universe in order to do anything. It is all arbitrary, but you are trying to pass off your pet requirement as "objective", when it isn't.

Thus, the moral-antirealist can still believe that morality doesn't objectively exist while still acting in a way that appears moral, all while being completely consistent, because if morality doesn't objectively exist then your requirement that someones ethical system "mean a darn thing" is baseless and arbitrary under the moral anti-realists philosophy. Thus, no contradiction occurs.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
Also, you have no objective reason to place value on another person, except in that it vicariously places value upon yourself.

But nor is there a reason to place any value on yourself, except by your own instincts, which again, are meaningless.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
1.) You have no reason to believe your personal negative reactions to something mean a darn thing. Since when is your gut a basis for decision making?

2.) I have not "shoved the problem off to God." Atheism - "materialism" - must stand or fall alone just like any other religion, and not in comparison to others.
Posted by Zasch 14 years ago
Zasch
As an atheist, I've heard that argument a great many times before, but for me it doesn't seem to be particularly convincing. There are two reasons for my skepticism:
1. Why must calling a thing "evil" imply objective morality? If I say that my glass of orange juice tastes "good", it doesn't seem as though I'm saying "There is an objective standard of goodness, and thus if you don't like orange juice you are wrong" - but rather, it seems I'm saying "Orange juice is pleasing to me". Similarly, why can it not be the case that when I say "Murder is wrong", I don't mean "Murder contradicts the natural order of the universe", but rather "Murder provokes such a negative reaction in me that I will act to prevent it."?
2. Shoving the problem off to God doesn't seem to actually solve anything. Indeed, moral anti-realism (like divine command) only creates additional problems. Suppose that God proclaims that eating shrimp is evil. What exactly is "evil", if not a preference for how the world ought to be? If we say morality is objective, then "evil" needs to have some sort of objective manifestation. If God proclaims eating shrimp to be evil, but I reject that, what can a person say to me to convince me of how I am "wrong" other than to say "Well, God is more powerful than you" (Which is a threat, not a proof)? Even with God, "morality" still does not appear to even be possible to be objective. How does one concept of evil correspond to reality more than any other concept?
Furthermore, it introduces the problem of whether a thing is good or evil because God proclaims it as such, or whether God proclaims it as such because it is good or evil.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
In a nutshell, that's the summary.
Posted by Zasch 14 years ago
Zasch
I should note that I haven't read your comment-debate, but I noticed that you seem to be claiming that atheists cannot categorise anything as evil because that implies objective morality, which destroys atheism. Have I characterised your view correctly?
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
Not sure what you mean, Zasch.
Posted by SperoAmicus 14 years ago
SperoAmicus
"Are my arguments nullified by the position that omnibenevolence is a promise or vow?"

Yes, actually. Omnibenevolence as a vow means that God has restrained Himself, and is no longer Omnipotent. Any appeal to God's supposed ability to negate evil must be filtered through the vow, rather than taken sequentially.

Part of an Omnibenevolent vow is that He must create fully distinct and separate individuals and reveal Himself to us, otherwise there is no love.

But our faculty for perceiving evil (Judgement) would itself be a creation of God, a tool to help us recognize and understand the difference between turning to Him, and turning away from Him.

Consequently, as part of the Omnibenevolent vow, He must create a method of revealing Himself to us, distinguishing Himself as a loving creator more compassionate than the free choice of turning away from Him.

If there were no evil against which to compare God's love, we could not perceive God's love. But exposing Oneself as a lover is part of being a lover, meaning that Evil had to be a part of the Vow.
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