Dr. Craig and Objective Morality

by Luke Muehlhauser on June 9, 2010 in Ethics,William Lane Craig

Here is the question of the week I submitted for Christian apologist William Lane Craig to answer:

Dr. Craig,

You have remarkable skill in clarifying complex philosophical issues, and I’m hoping you will clarify one more for me.

I’m confused by your claim that “Without God, objective moral values do not exist.” Why am I confused? Because as I understand it, you defend a variety of divine command theory, which is a subjective moral theory.

Like individual subjectivism, cultural subjectivism, and ideal observer theory, divine command theory grounds moral value in the attitudes or nature of a particular person or persons. According to Christian divine command theory, moral values are grounded in the attitudes or nature of Yahweh (or whichever name you prefer).

What separates ideal observer theory and divine command theory from individual and cultural subjectivism is not that the former two are objective theories of morality, but that they are universal theories of morality.

But I suspect the source of my confusion is that the terms ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ are themselves confusing, due to the fact that philosophers have used them to mean a great variety of things. I recall one philosophy professor remarking that because of this she does not allow her undergraduate students to use either term in class until their third year!

But let us say you are using the term ‘objective’ in a different sense than most of the moral philosophers I have read. You do clarify your meaning with an analogy about Nazis. You say that divine command theory is ‘objective’ because even if the Nazis had won WWII and brainwashed everyone into believing that anti-semitic violence was moral, it would still be true that anti-semitic violence is immoral, because it is disapproved of by God. Thus divine command theory is ‘objective.’ Perhaps you use ‘objective’ to mean something like ‘grounded in something other than the attitudes or nature of persons who are primates.’

But if so, I’m confused by an argument you give in favor of the existence of objective moral values. You often appeal to a common intuition that objective moral values exist, but I’m not sure many people have an intuition concerning the kind of objective moral value you describe above.

Consider, for example, a possible world much like our own, except that Earth is visited by a massive, one-of-a-kind powerful alien, and many people define moral value by reference to the attitudes of this alien. Putting aside the question of how people are allowed to define moral terms, and ignoring that this possible world does not exist, it seems that such a moral theory would be ‘objective’ in your sense. Why? Because if Nazis in this possible world brainwash everyone into believing anti-semitic violence is moral, it would still be the case on this moral theory that anti-semitic violence is immoral, for the giant alien disapproves of it.

And if that is all you mean by ‘objective’, then I don’t think many of us have an intuition that morality is objective in THAT sense. I suspect those of us who believe in objective morality have intuitions about a more robust sense of objective moral realism that does not ground moral value in the attitudes or nature of particular persons. (Such theories of robust objective morality are offered by ethical non-naturalism, Cornell realism, and so on.) This even includes many Biblical authors, who seem to assume robust objective moral realism rather than divine command theory (see Ps. 34:9, which seems to non-tautologically predicate goodness of Yahweh; Ps. 58:2, which questions the goodness of the gods; Ex. 33:14; Gen. 18:25; Ezek. 20:25; and many others).

I hope my concerns are clear, and I hope you find the time to clarify your thoughts about objective morality for us.

Thanks!

Luke Muehlhauser

Discuss.

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{ 289 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh June 9, 2010 at 11:55 am

I think Craig will handle this one pretty easily. I challenged him on this point when I saw him speak last month. He will appeal to his answer to the Euthyphro dilemma:

It is not that God’s moral attitudes are subjective, nor that he has, say, perfect knowledge of objective morality. Rather, god’s moral attitudes and objective morality are EXACTLY the same.

When I debate such people, I often ask them: “If god said it was good to rape little girls willy nilly, would it be good?” The answer I typically get (and the one I got from Craig) is roughly “God could not possibly think it is good to rape little girls, because it goes against his very nature.” Keep in mind that this does NOT mean that God just has perfect knowledge of morality, but it in some sense means that the fact that God cannot possibly think it’s okay to rape little girls willy nilly is exactly equivalent to the fact that it is universally wrong to rape little girls willy nilly.

Now, I don’t buy this response. I’m not sure it’s coherent. But that’s what you’re gonna get from him.

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Alexandros Marinos June 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

Luke, I posted the following text on r/atheism, then came here and saw your article. It is a MIRACLE! GOD IS REAL!

>Title: If I hear one more christian talking about “objective” morality…

>Dr. William Lane Craig likes to claim that without god, atheists have no objective morality, no way to say that things like rape are ‘really wrong’. This may or may not be true (materialist ethics is a work in progress) but…

>Christians definitely do not have objective morality. They simply follow the commands of their [imagined] master. If he was to say that rape and/or genocide is a good thing and command them to do it [as he has in the past], they would do it, would they not? So for them rape is not ‘really wrong’ it’s just wrong as long as god says so. Since their god is a ‘person’ this morality is the definition of subjective. It is dependent on the changing opinions of a person, their god.

>Even so, many of them don’t follow their god’s commands just to be good. It is a means to the end of getting into heaven and getting out of hell. This puts them in the light of pure selfishness, with no priority other than looking out for #1, worse than the utilitarians they so happily deride. They have been brought to see themselves as nothing more than beasts, motivated with the stick of hell and the carrot of heaven. No wonder they fear that without god society would collapse.

>But they are selling themselves short. Even they can’t follow god’s commands all the time, because there is more to life than avoiding imaginary punishment. If only they would allow the possibility for a moment that they are more than doomed slaves…

obviously you put it much better than I could have, but still…

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Lorkas June 9, 2010 at 12:17 pm

To nip that response in the bud, just change your question to “If God said it was good to commit genocide, would it be good?” or “If God said it was good to kill your child for talking back to you, would it be good?”

A lot of other questions would work too. Just pick something we all agree is wrong, yet God commands people to do in the Bible.

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manicstreetpreacher June 9, 2010 at 12:20 pm

@Josh

Oh, according to Craig, God can order rape, theft and genocide if he decides and it becomes morally obligatory due to his command.

Read this article by Craig on the God-ordered atrocities of the Old Testament, which none other than Richard Dawkins described as “dumbfoundingly, staggeringly awful” to educate yourself.

Make sure you take Dawkins’ advice and rub your eyes to make sure you are not having a bad dream.

MSP

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Justfinethanks June 9, 2010 at 12:32 pm

On a Reasonable Faith podcast (which he hasn’t bothered updating in a while) once I heard Craig said that God can’t make you murder someone, but he can order you to kill someone, since God’s command would make it not murder.

Similarly, I bet he would argue that God can’t order you to rape someone, but he can order you to forcibly copulate with someone.

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Josh June 9, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Similarly, I bet he would argue that God can’t order you to rape someone, but he can order you to forcibly copulate with someone.

Hahahahhaha fucking excellent.

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rvkevin June 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Isn’t this

It is not that God’s moral attitudes are subjective, nor that he has, say, perfect knowledge of objective morality. Rather, god’s moral attitudes and objective morality are EXACTLY the same.

inconsistent with this?

Without God, objective moral values do not exist.

It seems like he’s acknowledging that objective values do exist, but that they can be known through god’s commands.

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rvkevin June 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm

To be more specific, it should be “It seems like he’s acknowledging that objective values do exist independent of god’s existence, but that they can be known through god’s commands.”

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

If he says that objective moral value is the same as God’s attitudes, that’s divine command theory. That’s moral subjectivism. I could say precisely that about the alien: According to those people in the posible world, objective moral value is the same as the alien’s attitudes. I don’t see how such a response gets Craig anywhere…

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Josh June 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

@rvkevin

That’s exactly the point I tried to make when I talked to Craig. But he insists those are not inconsistent claims—it’s basically not only is it the case that if god doesn’t exist, then morals don’t exist, but ALSO that if morals don’t exist, then god doesn’t exist. God’s moral attitudes and objective morality are EXACTLY the same.

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Zeb June 9, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I think that “objective good” is ultimately nothing more than a synonym for “godly.” There are two errors in your thought experiment. First, you defined subjective good as grounded in the “attitudes or nature” of a person, but in your experiment the people grounded their morality in the attitudes, not the nature, of the alien. If they merely observed this alien and were so impressed that they decided to emulate it, grounding their morality in its nature, that would be more objective than grounding their morality in its attitudes. Second, and more importantly, the people on that planet would still live in a universe created by the one true god, our god, and where objective good with still be identical with godliness (being like god or like that which is of god.) Now, if this alien happened to be morally perfect, the people might never realize that they were basing their morality on the wrong thing because their sense of objective good would always coincide with the attitudes of the alien. If a more impressive alien came by who had different attitudes, they might be tempted to change allegiance, but they would have the opportunity to recognize that Alien2′s moral attitudes were somehow off. But since my presupposing theism here is just as bad as your presupposing atheism, I’ll leave the thought experiment behind.

I believe that God’s characteristics (creative, generous, nurturing, humble, knowing, present, abiding, etc…) are not objectively good, but they are necessary in an absolute and noncontigent being. [I haven't seen this worked out yet, but I believe and expect it can be argued that a "god" with different characteristics would be contingent and therefor not the real final God.] Because they are true characteristics of the God who is the ground and source of all being, they are objective facts about reality. And because of who God is and who we are in relation to him, we intuitively value that which is of or like God, and so we call it good. And so there is objective good. In a sense you could say that if God’s nature were different morality would be different; good = godly, and that which is godly would be different. But God’s nature could not be different. If his nature were different, we’d all be obligated to repudiate him and go looking for the real God.

Ironically, I think we Christians my be living in the world of your thought experiment. In that world, if the people did not realize it was an alien they might call it “god”. But each new generation might notice something not quite right about the way “god” was presented to them, and fix that picture to be more like the way they intuit god must be (because they live in a universe of the real God). Eventually they will have left the alien behind almost completely and come to know the closest thing to the real god that a human mind is capable of. Despite the change they might keep, revere, and study the cultural record of their relationship with “god” such as he was understood over the generations as they progress toward a better understanding of his true nature.

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svenjamin June 9, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Craig is not a philosopher in the etymological sense of the word. He’s a damn talented sophist and rhetorician.
“To be more specific, it should be “It seems like he’s acknowledging that objective values do exist independent of god’s existence, but that they can be known through god’s commands.” ”

Yes, but to borrow my favorite WLC quote and put it completely out of context: “Well, I wouldn’t put it that way.” (from the debate with Shelly Kagan)

He avoids the Euthyphro dilemma by talking around it in broad circles.

This is why I think debating him in the standard format is basically futile: it’s only in a primarily cross-examination format that an opponent will be able to pin him down.

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svenjamin June 9, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Here is a synopsis of manicstreetpreacher’s link to WLC’s answer to Biblical atrocities. I hope it helps with the headache.

1) The OT killings are disturbing precisely because they appear to violate expectations of
a moral God.

2) But elsewhere, God acts admirably.

3) This does not pose a problem for the moral argument for the existence of God.

4) It’s a problem for Biblical inerrancy

5) “Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill.”

6) So whatever God commands is not subject to moral constraints on God’s commands,
and whatever God commands is moral.

7) Then God has the right to command to kill.

8) In fact, God is so moral and patient that he left his people as slaves for 400 years so
the Caananites would have a chance to get as wicked as possible before he set his people free
and told them to kill them.

9) But actually, God had Israel kill the Canaanites in order to prevent them from corrupting
his people.

10) Killing innocent children preserves their innocence.

11) All those arbitrary commands about not mixing stuff was probably to teach the Israelites
the Law of Contradiction.

11.5) Misuse of “Israeli” to refer to ancient Israelities.

12) Bunch of ignorant comments about Hinduism and Islam.

13) Aslan is not a tame lion. How many times do I have to tell you guys this?

14) Unlike Muslim wars of conversion, the ancient Israelite wars were really to kill people!

15)”The question, then, is not whose moral theory is correct, but which is the true God?”

Did anyone else notice that he managed to raise several additional problems without actually answering any of them before moving on to something else?

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Ajay June 9, 2010 at 2:11 pm

“There are no objective values.”
- J.L. Mackie, Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, 1977

;-)

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ayer June 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

“If he says that objective moral value is the same as God’s attitudes, that’s divine command theory. That’s moral subjectivism. I could say precisely that about the alien: According to those people in the posible world, objective moral value is the same as the alien’s attitudes. I don’t see how such a response gets Craig anywhere…”

Objective moral values are not the same as God’s attitudes, but the same as his nature. Omnibenevolence is a great-making property, and is a property of God as that being greater than which none can be conceived. Craig states that we as humans “experience” the objective moral values which just are God’s nature as divine commands, but he does not adhere to that horn of the Euthryphro dilemma that would say that God’s commands determine what objective moral values are.

In your alien example, that alien is not defined in Anselmian terms as that being greater than which none can be conceived, and thus does not necessarily have “the Good” as a great-making property. That is why the alien’s moral views are subjective, and God’s are objective.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

W/ regards to the following -

“You say that divine command theory is ‘objective’ because even if the Nazis had won WWII and brainwashed everyone into believing that anti-semitic violence was moral, it would still be true that anti-semitic violence is immoral, because it is disapproved of by God.”

Where would I find indication that like behavior/thought is disapproved by the Christian God?

I am under the impression that the bible does have cases where God says it is ok to be anti-? Am I misinformed?

If I am not misinformed (which I certainly may be) – this analogy would be quite dishonest.

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ConsiderAtheism June 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm

To nip that response in the bud, just change your question to “If God said it was good to commit genocide, would it be good?” or “If God said it was good to kill your child for talking back to you, would it be good?”

Hahahahaha! That’s hysterically devastating.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

The (paraphrased) ontological argument always cracks me up -

“Objective moral values are not the same as God’s attitudes, but the same as his nature. Omnibenevolence is a great-making property, and is a property of God as that being greater than which none can be conceived.”

How can one conceive of something whose properties are not defined independent of said something?

I can conceive of an even greater something. He has the properties of omni-delicious, omni-beauty, omni-potent, etc.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Luke,

Like individual subjectivism, cultural subjectivism, and ideal observer theory, divine command theory grounds moral value in the attitudes or nature of a particular person or persons.

This is not necessarily true, and especially untrue considering the type of God Craig argues. We’ve had this discussion before. I explained how your argument for desirism’s objectivity actually undermines your argument for DCT’s subjectivity. To refresh your memory, “a desire is simply an attitude about some proposition. So – without incurring a charge of special pleading – how can we call a theory grounded in the attitudes of people objective, yet, then turn around and call a theory grounded in the attitude(s) of God or gods subjective?”

Sans emendation, I’m left holding the provisional conclusion that you’re contradicting yourself.

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DoAtheistsExist? June 9, 2010 at 3:00 pm

I thought it was a well thought out question and a well written one too. However, I can’t make much sense out of your ‘Biblical’ references, with the way you extracted your particular meaning from them being shallow and incoherent.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 3:06 pm

cl,

When we get more detailed, I’m quite explicit about what I mean by ‘objective’, and I’m asking Craig to do the same.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm

When we get more detailed, I’m quite explicit about what I mean by ‘objective’, and I’m asking Craig to do the same.

Non-sequitur.

Why do you call a theory grounded in the attitudes of people objective, yet, then turn around and call a theory grounded in the attitude(s) of God or gods subjective?

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 3:14 pm

cl,

Huh? Non-sequitur, in the realm of logic, is a criticism made of arguments, but my comment did not offer an argument.

I don’t have time to repeat everything I’ve said elsewhere, but the short answer is that desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist. That’s quite different from a morality grounded in the attitudes of a particular person or group of persons. I didn’t hash out that distinction in the post above because I wanted to be brief. There are lots of other distinctions I would have hashed out if I was written a philosophical paper.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 3:34 pm

A non sequitur… is a comment which, due to its apparent lack of meaning relative to what it follows, seems absurd to the point of being humorous or confusing… (Wikipedia)

Your last reply to me did not follow the argument I presented to you. Hence, I stand by my use of the term.

…desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist.

Because we treat the set of all desires that exist as an object without the ability to pronounce arbitrary proclamations, such as a subject might have, correct?

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 3:36 pm

“Why do you call a theory grounded in the attitudes of people objective”

Is this true? I thought (roughly) that desirism was grounded on maximizing desire fulfillment. Desires are obviously subjective because different people have different desires. However, given this “fact” desirism is a “tool” that one can use to identify how all desires can be maximized.

Not convinced I worded that very well. I will try an example

Say you have 10 people – 9 want to rape the remaining one. How might all desires be best fulfilled?

There are a couple of (immediate) options – The remaining one could consent to sex w/ the other 9. Which would then mean rape is removed from the equation, or
Change the desires of the 9 such that they no longer want to rape.

Is this objective? Not sure – but it does maximize desires. Would it not?

Disclaimer – The main point of this comment is primarily my desire :-) that others will provide guidance of where I may be uninformed about or misunderstanding desirism.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 3:41 pm

cl,

I don’t recall yet reading anyone who attempted to answer that last question directly. What do you think?

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cl June 9, 2010 at 3:45 pm

By “last question” do you mean Paul’s, or mine?

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Cl – I think Luke meant yours :-)

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cl June 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Paul,

I thought (roughly) that desirism was grounded on maximizing desire fulfillment.

Different desirists present the tenets of desirism differently. Fyfe argues that desire fulfillment need not have any value at all, and I believe he would take issue with the claim, “desirism is grounded on maximizing desire fulfillment.” Fyfe offers the following distinction:

Desirism does not talk about maximizing some entity called ‘desire fulfillment’. It talks about making or keeping true those propositions that are the objects of our desires. (Fyfe)

Of course, I encourage you to read his post and form your own conclusions.

Is this objective? Not sure – but it does maximize desires. Would it not?

I would say that either changing the desire of the 1 or changing the desire of the 9 would amount to a maximization of desire fulfillment. I question why Fyfe and other desirists will argue that we should change the desires of the 9, when changing the desire of the 1 seems to entail much less work with much speedier results. The only reason I can think of is that deep down inside, the desirists in question actually believe in the very “intrinsic value” that they deny, and are struggling to wrap the theory around their moral intuitions.

Until given a better explanation, I have no choice but rest provisionally therein.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Cl -

Thanks for the replay

W/ regards to my statement – “desirism is grounded on maximizing desire fulfillment.” – I have no qualms acknowledging that this statement was at best a poor choice of words on my part; or worse – plainly wrong.

To the following – “I question why Fyfe and other desirists will argue that we should change the desires of the 9, when changing the desire of the 1 seems to entail much less work with much speedier results.”

I speculate that the response from some might be that the desires of the nine are more malleable (as a whole) than that of the one. If so, I think this would contrast your suggestion that it would be less work and speedier to change the desire of the one.

I am not prepared to justify it just yet but that is probably how I would answer, anyways.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 4:25 pm

One other note – for now

I wonder if harm becomes part of the equation; or of the thought process.

Changing the scenario a bit to better illustrate my point.

Say 2 people – one wants to rape and the other does not want to be raped.

This means that on some level it is an equal playing field. So would the fact that one wants to cause harm, shift the balance towards that person having their desires changed?

I think (not sure) it might in Dr. Carrier’s Results Utilitarian theory. Not sure about a pure desirist view.

I know I’ve somewhat digressed from the point of Luke’s original post. Hope that is ok.

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ayer June 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm

“I can conceive of an even greater something” (Paul)

If you can conceive of something greater, then THAT would be God, since God is by definition that being greater than which none can be conceived. This does not have to be viewed as the ontological argument for God’s existence, but just as the classical theistic definition of God (whether he exists or not). Regardless of whether “existence” is a necessary property of God, “omnibenevolence” is certainly a great-making property which the God defined by classical theism has. The fact that the ground of objective moral realism is coextensive with the nature of the Anselmian greatest conceivable being does not make that moral realism “less robust” than a moral realism that is not so coextensive. (In fact, it is far more “robust.” Our experience of the objective moral realm must be that of divine commands of a greatest conceivable being to even make sense; how could one have a moral “obligation” or “duty” originating from existence of some sort of Platonic idea of “justice” or “honesty” which can issue no imperatives?)

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cl June 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Paul,

I think Luke meant yours :-)

I await Luke’s clarification.

I have no qualms acknowledging that this statement was at best a poor choice of words on my part; or worse – plainly wrong.

I think you’re doing just fine. Hell, at least we’re not cussing at each other. This can be pretty nuanced stuff.

I speculate that the response from some might be that the desires of the nine are more malleable (as a whole) than that of the one. If so, I think this would contrast your suggestion that it would be less work and speedier to change the desire of the one.

I think the person making that argument has quite the work cut out for them. Of course, such an assertion would need to be supported by empirical evidence. I would be favorable to any attempt that began with clear definitions of malleable, and continued with empirical support for the assertion that the desire to rape is more malleable than the desire to avoid being raped. Then, I’d need empirical support for the claim that because the desires of the 9 are more malleable, changing them requires less work.

I know I’ve somewhat digressed from the point of Luke’s original post. Hope that is ok.

It’s okay with me. To complaints of thread drift, I typically respond that freethought need not be constrained to predefined lines of inquiry.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 5:20 pm

“Because we treat the set of all desires that exist as an object without the ability to pronounce arbitrary proclamations, such as a subject might have, correct?”

I don’t recall yet reading anyone who attempted to answer that last question directly. What do you think?

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RA June 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Wait a minute, cl. You know that desirism doesn’t claim objective moral values in the same way that DCT does. Why are you even bringing this up? I think you are being a bit disingenuous.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I don’t recall yet reading anyone who attempted to answer that last question directly. What do you think?

I think I don’t recall reading anyone who attempted to answer that last question directly, either, because I just formulated the question on-the-fly to check whether or not I understand the reasoning for your claim. What is the relevance of you asking me what I think about the fact you don’t recall an attempted answer to a question I just formulated on-the-fly?

When you say,

…desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist.

…do you say that because you treat the set of all desires that exist as an object without the ability to pronounce arbitrary proclamations, such as a subject might? Or, do you say this for some other reason?

If the latter, what is that reason?

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

cl,

Simma down na. You keep charging me with being evasive when I’m not trying to be, and after I’ve written hundreds of pages on moral theory. I have no interest in discussing this with you now. Not worth my time.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 6:08 pm

RA,

You know that desirism doesn’t claim objective moral values in the same way that DCT does.

Correct.

Why are you even bringing this up?

I didn’t. You did. Not once did I say anything even remotely construable as the position you’re trying to pin on me. My claim was that Luke’s contradicting himself. I suppose we’ll see how that pans out as we continue.

I think you are being a bit disingenuous.

No offense, but I think you’re simply misunderstanding one or more comments I’ve made. Let me know what I can do to help.

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RA June 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm

That wouldn’t be the first time would it? I’ll just be on my way.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Oh for FSM’s sake… really, Luke? Really? That you’ve written hundreds of pages on moral theory relates precisely zero to the topic at hand.

You keep charging me with being evasive when I’m not trying to be, and after I’ve written hundreds of pages on moral theory.

This is blatantly false. I’m not charging you with evasion, you little lover of philosophy you. I’m asking you why you’re saying what you said. I’m checking to be sure that the reason you said what you said is the same as the reason I think it is. What? Are you going to condemn me for trying to represent your position as accurately as possible? Hell, if you want, I could act like many of your atheist commenters and simply assume we’re on the same page, but I fail to see the value in such a strategy. That I ask you the same question twice – or three, or even four times – is not tantamount to a claim that you’re being evasive. Not once have I made this charge. It’s now more than apparent to me that it might be you who needs to “simma down,” as you’re acting like an overly-defensive child, and I am not trying to provoke or insult you when I say I’ve never seen you act like this.

Not worth my time.

Yeah, whatever. Your arguments are always worth my time, so if you change your mind, I’ll be around.

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cl June 9, 2010 at 6:23 pm

RA,

That wouldn’t be the first time would it?

The first time what?

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TaiChi June 9, 2010 at 6:40 pm

If you can conceive of something greater, then THAT would be God, since God is by definition that being greater than which none can be conceived.” ~ Ayer

Help me out, Ayer. Suppose I conceive of some X, and X is the greatest thing I can conceive of. Suppose your imagination is more fertile than mine, and you conceive of some Y, even better than my X. Which of us is conceiving of God, by definition? It has to be you, right? (The definition of God is not relative to each of us, so that X is Godfor-me, and Y is Godfor-you). So it would seem that you can conceive of God, but I can’t, by definition. Since belief in something requires a conception of it, it would be impossible for me to believe in God.
But you’re not so creative yourself as to escape this problem. Your Y is pretty great, but your faculty of imagination is finite, and so it is highly plausible that there is some Z, conceivable by another being more imaginative than you, and since ex hypothesi Z is better than Y, it follows that you cannot conceive of God, nor therefore believe in him. Indeed, it seems that only a being with an infinite imaginitive capacity would be able to conceive of the being than which no greater can be conceived, i.e. God himself. In that case, nobody can believe in God but God. Your definition makes theism impossible.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

CL -

In your last response to me – no rebuttal actually.

Rather – I’d rather take this opportunity and correct a wrong turn I may have taken. Given the original scenario I provided, I think both options are valid/viable.

Where I, subjectively perhaps, would go a step further is by incorporating harm (or benefit as the particulars may be) into the equation.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm

cl,

Of course I plan to write more about all these issues later, but I don’t like the tone of our current dialogue.

Later.

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ayer June 9, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Tai Chi: “Since belief in something requires a conception of it, it would be impossible for me to believe in God.”

Why is that? All that is required is that you accept that the definition of God is “that being greater than which none can be conceived”, whether or not you yourself have an omniscient grasp of that greatness in all its detail. On the great-making properties that we can determine using human reason (e.g., omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, omnibenevolence), we can, as classical theists have done, come to some consensus that those properties would apply to such a being.

As the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes:
“But in fact the concept of that than which nothing greater can be thought turns out to be marvelously fertile. God must, for example, be omnipotent. For if he were not, we could conceive of a being greater than he. But God is that than which no greater can be thought, so he must be omnipotent. Similarly, God must be just, self-existent, invulnerable to suffering, merciful, timelessly eternal, non-physical, non-composite, and so forth. For if he lacked any of these qualities, he would be less than the greatest conceivable being, which is impossible…The ontological argument thus works as a sort of divine-attribute-generating machine.”

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ayer June 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Link for that last quote to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anselm/

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 7:08 pm

Ayer -

You did not respond to the question I was really interested in. I will grant you that you are far better read on apologetics than I. So given that, let me simplify this forr my sake.

Which of the following is true
1) benevolence can be defined independent of God.
2) benevolence cannot be defined independent of God.
3) [please add other options]

If (1) is true, then I will concede that your use of the ontological argument is true.

if (2) is true, then your use of the ontological argument is dishonest. Or at least you are going to have to show – w/o hiding behind sophistry – how you can conceive of a being that has property X without knowing first what X is independent of that being. It is a circular argument; otherwise.

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I wish there were an ability to edit a post…

I want to correct the wording of the following
“If (1) is true, then I will concede that your use of the ontological argument is true”

to

“If (1) is true, then I will concede that your use of the ontological argument is honest”

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cl June 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Paul,

I’d rather take this opportunity and correct a wrong turn I may have taken. Given the original scenario I provided, I think both options are valid/viable.

When you say you think both options are valid/viable, do you mean both the option of trying to change the desires of the 9, as well as trying to change the desires of the 1?

Where I, subjectively perhaps, would go a step further is by incorporating harm (or benefit as the particulars may be) into the equation.

I’m interested but without a little more, I’m afraid I don’t fully understand the line of argumentation you’re now pursuing. Could you elaborate?

Luke,

…I don’t like the tone of our current dialogue.

I can’t stop you from reading things into my comments that aren’t there, but you can always ask if there’s ever any doubt. You got all defensive and accused me of accusing you of evasion when I did no such thing. Then you told me to simmer down on top of that. Those are facts, as is the fact that all I did was ask you a simple question in the interest of securing a correct understanding of your position. If you need more time or whatever, that’s fine, but don’t accuse me of accusations I’m not making. I believe you’re far more intellectually responsible than that.

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Lee A.P. June 9, 2010 at 7:52 pm

It is easy to conceive of a being greater than the Christian God. Therefore the Christian God is not the Universe’s most powerful God.

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ThePowerofMeow June 9, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I tend to paraphrase Dr. Craig’s Nazi example this way:

“What I believe is true, whether I believe it or not.”

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TaiChi June 9, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Why is that? All that is required is that you accept that the definition of God is “that being greater than which none can be conceived”, whether or not you yourself have an omniscient grasp of that greatness in all its detail.” ~ Ayer

Huh? Accepting that definition is precisely the problem – you’ve set things up so that no finite being can imagine what satisfies it. If they can’t imagine it, they can’t believe it – conceivability is a constraint on belief. Perhaps you mean to contest this last, but I can’t see on what grounds – it would mean that someone could have a belief whilst lacking the conceptual resources that characterize the belief. What could such a person possibly be taking themselves to affirm in giving voice to the belief? How could they act on the belief, without being able to access the conceptual content of it? It’s absurd.
I gather you want to say that, whatever anyone takes to be the greatest being, that’s sufficient to conceive God. But this won’t work. Again, compare my X to your Y: you might want to say that both X and Y are concepts of God. But if X is a concept of God, then it’s not just a concept of God for me, but also a concept of God for you, if you have it. And this is despite the fact that you can conceive of Y, and Y is better than X. So, what I presuming to be your inclusive policy leads to contradiction. It cannot be consistently followed.

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ayer June 9, 2010 at 8:24 pm

“If they can’t imagine it, they can’t believe it – conceivability is a constraint on belief.”

I’m unclear on what you mean by “imagine” in this context, and why you appear to regard it as synonymous with “conceive”: I can “conceive” the concept of, e.g., infinity, but I wouldn’t say that I can “imagine” it. So what? Similarly with the concept, e.g., of quantum entanglement–am I required to be able to “imagine” it in order to say that I can “conceive” it and believe it to be real?

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JS Allen June 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm

cl,

Of course I plan to write more about all these issues later, but I don’t like the tone of our current dialogue.

Later.

Luke, when you get your tone under control, I’d be interested to hear what you think. Craig is incoherent about “objective morality”, but you’ve done everything except explain why.

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JS Allen June 9, 2010 at 8:47 pm

@ayer – It’s fitting that the #1 Google result for “inconceivable” points to “The Princess Bride”, and not the dictionary.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm

JS Allen,

Which part of my concerns above don’t work for you?

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Paul June 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm

cl -

Ultimately, my default position (and I dont’ know how to put this in proper philosophical terms, so give me some leeway) is that morality is a creation of the human mind. But if asked to evaluate a scenario or circumstance, or what have you, I try to do it as “objectively” as I can. Typically this means taking into account those things I know to exist; desires, pleasure, pain, etc.

“When you say you think both options are valid/viable, do you mean both the option of trying to change the desires of the 9, as well as trying to change the desires of the 1? ”

At this moment my answer to that is yes. Having said that – given my original scenario; that the one where the 1 choose to have sex does not alone eliminate the desires of the 9 to commit rape. Perhaps that would tilt the equation.

I am not trying to backtrack on deflect but as I learn more I reserve the right to change my mind.

“I’m interested but without a little more, I’m afraid I don’t fully understand the line of argumentation you’re now pursuing. Could you elaborate?”

I am not prepared to call it an argument – at least not yet. Rather if I am asked to decide rightness or wrongness of X. I would start by first doing the desire equation. If that leads to multiple viable/valid options. Then, if asked/desired/necessary to choose one from these options, I would bring others components to the equation.

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JS Allen June 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm

@lukeprog – My gut reaction is that the talk of aliens and brainwashing was a bit tortured, unnecessary, and counterproductive. I don’t think that Craig is appealing to divine authority, as the “all powerful aliens” case suggests; I think he is appealing to tautology, which is even more problematic. Of course, I might be wrong about Craig’s position, but it sure seems like tautology to me.

Craig’s argument looks to me like the following:
1) Humans are created in God’s image (a matter of faith)
2) There are some innate moral impulses that all humans share (empirically verifiable)
3) Our shared moral impulses prove that we are made in God’s image, “imago dei”, and “God” is defined as the set of shared moral impulses that all humans share — i.e. that we derive our morals from God (tautological to #1)

I believe that #2 is scientific fact, but #1 and #3 are tautology. You need to assume #1 to “prove” #3. That alone is enough to refute Craig, as far as I can see.

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lukeprog June 9, 2010 at 10:26 pm

JA Allen,

My point wasn’t about divine authority. I was making an entirely different point about the meaning of the term ‘objective’ in ethical philosophy.

The argument you speculatively attribute to Craig is, yeah, very bad, though I kinda doubt Craig would say that. I dunno. Hopefully he’ll clarify.

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faithlessgod June 9, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Craig’s morality is subjective as it is based on the nature of a being, being supposedly identical to God’s eternal nature.

To the extent that this “nature” is something like human nature, this can only be read is that this is a being that has only true beliefs, good desires and dispositions to have true beliefs and good desires. Craig says we know this nature through it’s commands, and it could not command contrary to its nature, which is trivially true for any being’s nature.

This begs the question being of how does this being as well as us know that it only has good desires? This leads to taking the first and subjective horn not the second and objective horn of the following Euthyphro: “Is it good because it is identical with God’s eternal nature or is it identical to God’s eternal nature because it is good”. If God insists that morality is objective and that morality is identical to God’s eternal nature this is a contradiction and makes God (or the conception of God) incoherent.

A retreat to making God necessarily good, means that it is necessity not God that is the basis of objective morality as Swinburne argues – this leads to the second above horn and no need to know God just understand the necessity of the good. However such necessity arguments can be refuted by other means, still not needing to refer to God but also making it the case that God could not be necessarily good since nothing can and so that such a God necessarily cannot exist.

A retreat to making God’s nature unlike human nature such as “ground of being” arguments makes this theistic definition of the good depend on committing the fallacy of equivocation over “nature” as it destroys the God as paradigm or exemplar of good implication of the definition and renders the definition of good meaningless. If God is identical with such a good, God is meaningless.

So based on such a theistic conception of good either God is logically incoherent, God necessarily does not exist or God is meaningless.

FYI Going off-topic basing morality on desires does not automatically lead to subjectivity in the relevant and problematic sense – that is being depend upon opinions not facts. The desire-desire cause-effect relations are ontologically objective, however difficult it might be to discover them through epistemic objective methods. Either way these are a matter of fact and not dependent on opinion or attitudes of either the agents or the assessors.

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JS Allen June 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm


My point wasn’t about divine authority. I was making an entirely different point about the meaning of the term ‘objective’ in ethical philosophy.

@lukeprog – Well, you accused Craig of hewing to “divine command”, which is essentially what I said. And your use of the “all powerful aliens” example seems to emphasize this focus. That’s why I thought the whole “aliens and brainwashing” thing was gratuitous. Isn’t “divine command” self-refuting?

But it’s true that you (aptly) questioned the definition of “objective”. It seems pretty clear to me that Craig sees “objective” as being synonymous with “self-evident through empirical observation of humans”. If anything, I’m trying to be charitable to Craig and allow him to save face, yet he is still incoherent.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 1:02 am

JS Allen,

I suspect Craig uses objective to mean something like, “extant whether any humans accept it or not” or “existing outside human arbitration,” but it’s late and I totally shot both of those from my hip. That’s pretty much how I use objective, anyways. That’s why you might hear me say that something like a moral field would be an objective source of morality, if it existed.

Along these lines, if God or gods dictated morality according to arbitrary whims or something like non-contingent personal tastes, then I wouldn’t hesitate to call their pronouncements subjective.

On the other hand, if an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists, neither would I hesitate to call God’s pronouncements objective. This is because although communicated through a subject (God), we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts, not of the type we can call arbitrary whims or non-contingent personal tastes.

(A)theists can sit around and debate existence all day long, but it remains undeniable that a morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best morality possible.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 1:12 am

What is really puzzling is the he trots out the same old upside down incoherent moral argument in most all his debates yet I have never heard any opponent properly call him out on this one. If they deal with it all they are distracted by their own moral theory, which is irrelevant in showing the incoherence of WLC’s and not surprisingly – it is a good debate technique – WLC attacks that moral theory as a diversion to avoid dealing with the inadequacies of his own.

Now I have only seen a few debates, when I am bored and have time on my hands, but I have reached my limit as he trots out the same 5 or 6 arguments and no-one apart from Kagan and Dacey has properly debated back. (Indeed I do not need to listen to WLC usual 20 minute opening statement it is pretty much identical given the specifics of the topic being discussed.)

Luke are there any debates on which he is properly challenged on his unsound Moral Argument – challenges based, say, on Euthyphro or subjectivism? I would be interested to see how WLC responds.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 1:14 am

“it remains undeniable that a morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best morality possible. ”
That is one of the most ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous assertions I have read in a long long time.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 2:08 am

I apologize if this comment posts twice. I already submitted it once, to no avail. I’ll try again without the link.

faithlessgod,

Piss off. Your blog speaks of “no double standards” but here you’ve managed to catch a whopper. You – who falsely accused me of being a racist in 79th comment in the thread of “Living Without A Moral Code, part 4″ [4-5-2010] – are now going to have the audacity to sit there and call my reasoned assertion “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous,” and that without as much as a shred of evidence or argumentation of your own? That’s pathetic. That’s beyond pathetic. Don’t be such a poser.

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Richard Wein June 10, 2010 at 2:31 am

I don’t see why divine command theory can’t be considered an objective moral theory (i.e. a theory of objective morality), if any theory can be so considered. I think the concept of objective morality is incoherent. But, if we’re going to describe other theories that claim to deliver objective morality as objective moral theories, then I don’t see why we shouldn’t do the same for any version of divine command theory that claims to deliver objective morality. By “objective morality” I mean a set of putatively true cognitive moral facts, like “X is morally wrong”.

We may say that God’s own moral values are by definition “subjective” moral values. But Craig can still claim that these subjective values give rise (possibly via God’s commands) to true moral facts, i.e. to objective morality.

I certainly think that Craig’s position has more claim to being called an objective moral theory than does desirism. Desirism may be a theory about objective facts, but it’s not a theory about objective moral facts, because it redefines moral terms to mean something quite different from their normal meaning.

At the same time, Luke makes a good point by raising the example of an alien being. Craig can’t justify the claim that God’s commands give rise to objective moral values. If we’re going to make such claims without justification, we can just as well claim that an alien being’s commands give rise to objective morality, that my commands give rise to objective morality, or that the Big Bang gave rise to objective morality.

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Alexander June 10, 2010 at 3:28 am

Cl: “[I]f an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists, neither would I hesitate to call God’s pronouncements objective. This is because although communicated through a subject (God), we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts, not of the type we can call arbitrary whims or non-contingent personal tastes.”

Bona fide facts? Seriously? Facts? Facts that are reliable pronouncements? Reliable? And, seriously, facts!? This is your moral objective platform?

At this point I’m quite baffled, but it looks like the biggest problem with debating this with you is that you have a totally screwed up idea of what both “objective” and “facts” usually mean. And it’s a shame, because you were doing so well, you were clear and logical, but then with this one fell swoop you’ve gone and proved that all that promise was nothing more than fluff for an argument rooted in wishful thinking and, unfortunately, from the silly side of apologetics.

Please, just say you regret that post, that you wish to delete it, you were under some bad influence, and “can I please write it again so we can move on and do it properly?”

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ayer June 10, 2010 at 3:45 am

“Luke are there any debates on which he is properly challenged on his unsound Moral Argument – challenges based, say, on Euthyphro or subjectivism? I would be interested to see how WLC responds.”

Louise Antony challenged him using the Euthyphro, and Craig argued it was a false dilemma because God’s nature just IS “the Good.” If he is right about that (and I know you disagree), then she was right not to challenge him on “subjectivism” because if God’s nature just is the Good then he is clearly referencing “objective” moral values as most philosophers use the term “objective”–which is why she accepted his use of that term (and her specialty is metaethics, as I understand). It’s a better move to claim instead that his “false dilemma” argument is wrong and to claim “incoherence” (as you appear to do in your previous response). But Craig’s use of the term “objective” to describe his version of divine command ethics (one rooted in the assertion that God’s nature just IS “the Good”) is utterly noncontroversial, which is why I suspect Luke’s particular challenge has not been raised by Antony, Kagan, Kurtz, etc. in debate with Craig.

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drj June 10, 2010 at 5:27 am

Oh, cool… It sounds like fun to generate new proprieties of the theistic God, using the ontological argument. Here goes:

I think a property of the greatest conceivable being would definitely be the skill and power to create a world, in which the largest possible set of sentient beings freely choose heaven, without the use of a worldwide flood to wipe all of them out, without commands to rape virgins of neighbouring lands, and without the commands to put homosexuals to death.

Easy!

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Josh June 10, 2010 at 5:46 am

ayer,

Perhaps you could shed some light for me. I like to think about the difference between objective morality and, say, objective logic. I think there is a high likelihood that we both agree that the laws of logic are objective and necessary (e.g. modus ponens is irrevocably true and there is no possible world in which it is not true). Craig’s argument SEEMS to be asserting that morality is similarly objectively true and necessary.

However, that seems a bit weird. I think it would be absurd to say that god’s nature just is “the Logic”, because the laws of logic clearly supervene on God (e.g. omnipotence being limited to the ability to do logically possible things).

So I ask this: suppose that in our world, god thinks that some action X is immoral. Is there a possible world in which god thinks that action X is moral? If yes, then clearly divine command theory is subjective. If no, how is it NOT the case that the laws of morality are supervening on god? God might have the necessary property of “being subject to the Good”, but it’s only in the same way he has the necessary property of “being subject to the Logic”.

I see two ways out of this: What I suspect will happen is that you say that logic simply IS god’s nature, which will put us right back where we started. The other option is to show an explicit difference between the laws of logic and the laws of morality as conceived of by Craig et al.

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lukeprog June 10, 2010 at 6:07 am

faithlessgod,

It’s been a while since I’ve read or listened to WLC debates, but I don’t recall being happy with how anyone has replied to Craig’s moral argument.

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Paul June 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

cl -

“(A)theists can sit around and debate existence all day long, but it remains undeniable that a morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best morality possible.”

I have no disagreement with this so long as benevolence can be defined/explained independent of this deity. Otherwise it sounds circular to me.

I was thinking about the discussion we have had in this thread – and I would like to run some things past you. If you are so inclined let me know what you think.

My premises/definitions
1. Compare to all other “life” on this planet humans excel at Identify, Predict, Decide and Execute (IPDE – old driver’s ed ref). It could very well be the case that if physical life exists outside of our planet that those lifeforms may best us in this.

2. Compared to all other “life” on this planet humans are able to communicate to one another much more effectively.

3. A person will act towards satisfying their stronger desire. This may mean that in order to satisfy the greatest desire that the same person may have to first act on things that this same person desires less,desires not at all, or is averse to it – I hope I have articulated this well enough for you (and others?) to get the gist of what I am trying to say.

Moving on -

Often, I think, morality is correlated with what one ought to do (do I overstate or misrepresent this?). Assuming this is a fair representation; my inclination is to reject it. Or perhaps better put – I don’t concern myself too much with “oughts” – if get my what I am trying to say.

A lion if he is hungry does not concern himself with whether he ought to hunt game in order to feed. He just does it.

For the theist that which he/she most strongly desires might be to follow the rules outlined in the bible. So that is what the theist will do. What one “ought” to do is not part of the equation. I think this may be somewhat tautological.

Similarly, if I desire something strongly enough I do not concern with whether I ought to do it or not. I simply do it.

No doubt there are holes in what I just said. So I will try to clarify a bit. Say I wanted to commit murder. I wanted to do this very badly. However, my even more stronger desire is to not risk going to prison. This latter desires overrules my desire to commit murder and subsequently I don’t.

Why would murder be wrong? Well I am not sure that is the proper wording. Rather murder is made illegal because you, I… we as a society have decided that one of our strongest desires is to not be murdered – we desire to live a full natural life. So we create laws as an attempt to stifle someones desire to murder another. Have I appealed to morality in any way? I don’t think so.

Another example might be – say there was only one human left on earth. Say this human wanted to masturbate. Would this be immoral? It only matters insofar as to how this may impact the ability to satisfy the other desires this person may have. If I may take a shortcut – I think this is where desirism morphs into a results utilitarian type view.

Anyhow – it is a work in progress…

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J. Quinton June 10, 2010 at 6:37 am

I happen to think that the term “objective morality” is an oxymoron. Of course, this depends on my defiintions of “objective” and “morality”.

Morality is all about how we interact with out fellow human beings. Something is “immoral” only if it causes harm to another sentient being, harm being defined by the wronged being. Basically, there has to be an affected “other” in order for morality or immorality to exist. If there was only one person on the planet, then everything is amoral: morality doesn’t exist.

For example, try to list some things that are “immoral” if there was only one person left on the planet. No other people, no other animals. Just one person, and a world full of plant life.

Morality can only exist if sentient beings that can be wronged exist.

Here’s a dictionary definition of “objective”:

’1. existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality.

2. undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena’

So in order for there to be objectivity, it has to be a situation wherein emotion and bias are removed as much as possible.

Now, let’s put these two words together: objective and morality.

This would be a system of morality that’s independent of biases and emotions (objectivity), yet dependent on biases and emotions (morality)! Morality can only exist if there are beings who have biases and emotions, yet objectivity can only exist if all biases and emotions are removed. Morality is subject to any sentient beings’ biases and emotions.

The two can’t possibly coexist; meaning that the phrase “objective morality” is about as meaningful as a square circle.

Any personal god also has biases and emotions, so this a priori rules out any appeals to objectivity. If “objective” is defined as “anything god likes”, then like Luke said in a way, this simply makes “objectivity” subject to god’s biases and emotions.

Objectivity can only be attached to some sort of non-personal god.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 7:37 am

Thanks Ayer

“Louise Antony challenged him using the Euthyphro, and Craig argued it was a false dilemma because God’s nature just IS “the Good.””
Indeed the predicted response if not addressing Craig’s version, which I already did in a previous comment. Indeed what a previous commenter expected WLC if he replies to Luke to say. Unfortunately did not pre-empt such an unsound riposte in his original letter, oh well.

Either way, it is well know that, as John Loftus put it, is a difference than makes no difference, the subjective horn of the Euthyphro still results.

“then she was right not to challenge him on “subjectivism” because if God’s nature just is the Good then he is clearly referencing “objective” moral values as most philosophers use the term “objective”–which is why she accepted his use of that term”
That is a very odd comment, this the opposite of how most philosophers or ethicists use the term “objective”. Yes it has many related meanings but, surely, used as you implied this would redefine most subjective theories as objective and render the subjective/objective debate devoid of content?

“(and her specialty is metaethics, as I understand).”
As far as I could tell she has only written remotely on ethics and it was really axiology, she has written a diverse range of papers on mind, atheism and feminism are the most noticeable.

Still you might be right but that would be surprising since in meta-ethics it is quite uncontroversial that divine command theories are ethically subjective and you do not need Euthyphro to make that point (but it helps make it more clearly). She was in a debate and not one ranked positively by Luke so it might be a weakness in her debating skills (or she focused on other fish to fry) if nothing else?

“It’s a better move to claim instead that his “false dilemma” argument is wrong”
I agree as noted above

“and to claim “incoherence” (as you appear to do in your previous response).”
Which is an additional point (in addition, there is both internal coherence if God claims his morality is objective and an external incoherence if a believer asserts both)

“But Craig’s use of the term “objective” to describe his version of divine command ethics (one rooted in the assertion that God’s nature just IS “the Good”) is utterly noncontroversial”
!!!!!! What books have you been reading? It is utterly non-controversial in ethics because it is held to be false, indeed so clearly wrong that most do not bother to mention DCT when discussing moral realism, naturalism and objectivity unless for a cursory early chapter to note its failings, a chapter it which is more likely to occur if it is aimed at a non-technical or popular readership.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 7:51 am

Cl

I refer you to Alexander’s parallel response on your comment
ending “Please, just say you regret that post, that you wish to delete it, you were under some bad influence, and “can I please write it again so we can move on and do it properly?” ”

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Eneasz June 10, 2010 at 8:17 am

I refer you to Alexander’s parallel response on your comment
ending “Please, just say you regret that post, that you wish to delete it, you were under some bad influence, and “can I please write it again so we can move on and do it properly?”

CL will never do that because he uses the tactics of a guerrilla fighter. Drain resources until your opposition is unwilling to sink any more resources, while always avoiding direct confrontation. The resources in this case are the energy, time, and intellectual effort of thoughtful atheists. He is, as many have noticed, a master of this warfare. And as long as his comment continues to drain time and attention, he will never retract it.

His one weakness is that on the internet you don’t have to abandon your position to stop the hemorrhaging of resources, you can simply killfile/ban/ignore the guerrilla. Sadly, this is countered by the atheist’s weakness of being unable to let willful stupidity go without a challenge. I mean FFS, people still engage Ray Comfort, of all people!

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ayer June 10, 2010 at 8:41 am

Craig (and Moreland) actually have about 6 pages of discussion on objectivity and moral values in their Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview; some (unfortunately not all) of that discussion is at Google Books:

http://books.google.com/books?id=ACgBmzpv3mgC&printsec=frontcover&dq=philosophical+foundations+for+a+christian+worldview&ei=6xQRTMr2GI_MNe_IgaYI&cd=1#v=onepage&q=axiological&f=false

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davead June 10, 2010 at 9:19 am

Good questions Luke. I think he’ll respond with reference to his article “The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality” or maybe his comments in “Is Goodness Without God Good Enough?”

I think Craig uses objective very ambiguously. Obviously he thinks ethics is normative: there is a fact of the matter about whether or not rape, murder, etc. is wrong.

Note how he stresses that his moral argument deals with Moral Ontology, as if he’s asking, “What must we admit into our ontology for there to be moral facts?” The existence of desires or preferences doesn’t do it for Craig, nor the existence of human Reason, because then morality would be ‘subjective’: merely be the product of evolution that would have turned out differently if we wound back the clock and let evolution happen again.

Well, so what? Just because they’re ‘subjective’ in that sense doesn’t mean morality couldn’t be factual. So, perhaps Craig thinks morality must be necessarily true, not contingent on human beings or evolution or anything else.

So then we could ask, on divine command theory, isn’t morality contingent (though Craig might say subjective) on God’s command? Well, perhaps Craig would deny this, since he believes God exists necessarily, and maybe that moral facts entail from God’s good nature.

Consider a philosopher like Richard Swinburne, who believes that God exists contingently. He does not think God is necessarily for morality. Although, he thinks that the existence of God entails some moral obligations and makes certain acts morally good that would otherwise be morally neutral or wrong, like spending hours in prayer or worship.

Lastly, Craig is arguing that God is necessary for morality. A lot of the comments thus far and comments made to Craig in his debates try and show that God and/or Christianity is not sufficient for morality. We shouldn’t conflate those.

For a good debate, check our Craig vs. Shelly Kagan.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 9:28 am

J. Quinton: I happen to think that the term “objective morality” is an oxymoron. Of course, this depends on my defiintions of “objective” and “morality”.

Well said.

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Chris K June 10, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Josh, Luke, et al.,

I’m interested as well in the distinction between “objective morality” and “objective logic.” So, in the realm of abstract objects, we have things like numbers, the laws of logic, etc. I take it that these things are “objective” in that they necessarily hold. My sense is that ethical nonnaturalists will say that moral facts and properties belong in the realm of abstract objects as well, that they, contra Quinton, are true even if no persons exist. Is this right?

I think that many DC theorists can affirm ethical nonnaturalism by using Alvin Plantinga’s argument in his 1980 Aquinas Lecture, “Does God Have a Nature?” Essentially, if I have it right, he claims that if God and his nature are necessary, then all necessary truths can be thought of as being equivalent to God’s nature. Thus, “exploring the realm of abstract objects can be seen as exploring the nature of God.” So, while abstract objects are out of God’s control, one can perhaps think of them as being explanatorily grounded in or dependent on God’s nature. Plantinga doesn’t commit himself to this; maybe this reasoning doesn’t work out. But if one can make sense of this, then we can see “objective morality” on this model as being grounded in God’s nature while achieving the “objectiveness” that we are looking for.

Make sense?

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lukeprog June 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Thanks, ayer, I still do not have that book.

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al friedlander June 10, 2010 at 1:07 pm

“CL will never do that because he uses the tactics of a guerrilla fighter. Drain resources until your opposition is unwilling to sink any more resources, while always avoiding direct confrontation.”

This seems to imply that cl is, at least in part, disingenuous in terms of how he responds/what he claims. Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

I’m rather confused because of all the mixed messages I’m getting. Admittedly, I’m low-tier compared to everyone else here, but still. Am I completely oblivious of a pink elephant that everyone else sees, or what?

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godless randall June 10, 2010 at 1:56 pm

^^^^^^^^^^ who DOESN’T get mad when you rub their shit back in their face? i think Cl gets a lot of shit because of how hard he can give out a smackdown. and i don’t mean a smackdown like most of you give him which is a hair short of bar room shit talk. but a straight up logical smackdown. i could go on about it but there s enough of this type of shit all over the web and personally i thought high school was stupes the first time around

on the post, whoever said objective morality is an oxymoron seems like they have it

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations. It’s a shame since it seems like Cl has some brain power that could be applied to the topics at hand.

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ayer June 10, 2010 at 2:32 pm

“Thanks, ayer, I still do not have that book.”

Very understandable; it’s not cheap :)

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Alexander June 10, 2010 at 2:48 pm

@al friedlander, @godless randall

I’m not a regular here. I followed the trail of the discussion from the top to the bottom, and to be honest, up until the post of cl I reacted to he sounded logical and reasonable, and I was wondering about the stigma that was floating around, the reluctance to engage. I was getting a bit annoyed with lukeprog for avoiding the discussion, because I find this terribly interesting.

However, that very post I reacted to contained statements that just blew my mind in how stupid they were. Go ahead, read them again; all the criticism cl and logical fallacies he claimed on to others he pinned onto himself. Think about it ;

cl: “we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts”

That one part of a sentence alone points to so many holes and illogical arguments that swiss cheese seems impenetrable ;

- something that is reliable must be a repeated pattern

If by this he means that God is reliable, then it is in His absence, vagueness and human errors of matters of ethics, hardly something that leads to *facts*. But there is *no* reason for anything in his statements being reliable. Reliable to whom? Reliable how? Verified? Testable? A pattern we recognize? Reliable to the faithful? I’m sure faith is reliable to people who needs faith, however absurdum ad infinitum is hardly a good argument for, well, anything.

* bona fide = taken in good faith, good intentions
-> facts taken in good faith

Just putting these two together is enough for anyone to give up. WikiPedia: “The word fact can refer to verified information about past or present circumstances or events which are presented as objective reality. In science, it means a provable concept.” Key word here is “verified.”

You cannot put equality between “faith” and “verified.” There is no such thing as verified faith; *that*, if nothing else, is the biggest oxymoron in the room.

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antiplastic June 10, 2010 at 3:18 pm

“By “objective morality” I mean a set of putatively true cognitive moral facts, like “X is morally wrong”.”

Richard — cognitivism may end up being the most *important* issue for many people, but that’s not where the dividing line between realism and antirealism lies. Cognitive subjectivists (like sensibility theorists), and contemporary expressivists have no problem with true moral facts, but neither of them are objective in the sense the realist metaphysician wants. And while fictionalists and error theorists think all moral claims are false, they have no problem with the notion that they are truth-apt.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Oh for crying-out-EFFING-loud… as if Luke’s little tempter-tantrum wasn’t counterproductive enough, now we’ve woke all the rest of the whining babies. Way to go!

Since a perfunctory glance reveals that this appears to be the same old people spouting the same old baseless claims with ZERO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER, I’ll temporarily forego arguing against vacuity to address somebody new:

Alexander,

No offense, but before you jump on the bandwagon you really ought to slow down and re-read that comment. In my opinion, we’re having trouble because you appear to be debating sloppily. I say that not for shock value or to be rude, but because in your last comment — unless of course I’m misunderstanding you, which is always possible — you are responding to someone else’s words as if they were mine. Look, right here:

However, that very post I reacted to contained statements that just blew my mind in how stupid they were. Go ahead, read them again; all the criticism cl and logical fallacies he claimed on to others he pinned onto himself. Think about it ;

cl: “we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts”

That one part of a sentence alone points to so many holes and illogical arguments that swiss cheese seems impenetrable ;

- something that is reliable must be a repeated pattern

If by this he means that God is reliable… [Alexander, bold mine]

The bolded words were not mine, and you offer no support whatsoever for your objection to my “we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts.” You just hate on it, then call it a day, but as rationalists, I opine that we need more.

Lastly, of every single word in your,

…then it is in His absence, vagueness and human errors of matters of ethics, hardly something that leads to *facts*. But there is *no* reason for anything in his statements being reliable. Reliable to whom? Reliable how? Verified? Testable? A pattern we recognize? Reliable to the faithful? I’m sure faith is reliable to people who needs faith, however absurdum ad infinitum is hardly a good argument for, well, anything.

* bona fide = taken in good faith, good intentions
-> facts taken in good faith

Just putting these two together is enough for anyone to give up. WikiPedia: “The word fact can refer to verified information about past or present circumstances or events which are presented as objective reality. In science, it means a provable concept.” Key word here is “verified.”

You cannot put equality between “faith” and “verified.” There is no such thing as verified faith; *that*, if nothing else, is the biggest oxymoron in the room.

not one single word relates anything to an argument I’ve made in this thread. You’re completely out in left field. You started your argument criticizing my sentence, and apparently finished it criticizing someone else’s. No wonder you think I’m such an idiot!

al friedlander,

Is this most likely true, supported by evidence, or merely a subjective claim?

Do you see any evidence whatsoever from anybody making these claims? If you do, let me know, lest I be accused of not responding to some actual evidence.

Admittedly, I’m low-tier compared to everyone else here,

With that, I’ll take issue. In the lower tiers of these sorts of things, there is no humility or rationalism, as evidenced by way-too-many atheists that comment here. That you exemplify the [apparently lost] virtues of humility and rationalism places you in the upper echelon. You are the only one I can recall even asking for any evidence in this thread, or any other thread for that matter. From what I’ve seen, everyone else is just making claims without evidence under the pretense of rationalism, and it’s transparent hypocrisy IMHO.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I’ll temporarily forego arguing against vacuity to address somebody new

Talk about a verifiable pattern.

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TaiChi June 10, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I’m unclear on what you mean by “imagine” in this context, and why you appear to regard it as synonymous with “conceive”” ~ Ayer

You can substitute “imagine” with “conceive” throughout, it makes no difference.

So, perhaps Craig thinks morality must be necessarily true, not contingent on human beings or evolution or anything else.” ~ Davead

I think you’ve got this right. What WLC, and cl, mean by “objective morality” is really “necessary morality” – neither mean to claim that morality does not depend on a subject. So “necessary morality” or perhaps “moral analyticism” is what we should call it, not “objective morality”. Luke’s quite right to object to the misnomer.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm

Just a quick one to anyone who might be interested in the truth. Commenter Hermes has taken to taunting me from the sidelines with claims that I evade this point or that. Though he doesn’t take the time to include any evidence, of course, I freely concede that Hermes could point to several posts where I do not answer his questions whatsoever. It would be very easy to accept a conclusion like, “Gee, Hermes is right. Look at all these questions he asked cl that cl didn’t answer.”

That would be a mistake.

Hermes knows that I have promised Luke’s readership that I won’t oblige him on this blog anymore. The reasons why should be self-evident, and they’ve been documented before (though those comments haven’t surfaced yet, for some reason). When it comes to debating with me at least, ol’ Son of Zeus here is entirely consumed by personal issues as is evidenced by the vacuity of his charges. Hermes continues to ask me questions despite my clearly-stated disinterest in debating with him, then accuses me of being the loon. Go figure.

If anyone else (besides caseywollberg) wants to know what I think of one or more of Hermes’ arguments, by all means, ask. If nobody asks, I’ll assume that’s a sign Hermes hasn’t made any arguments that anybody else considers worth pursuing. Hell, I’ll even make an exception and field questions from caseywollberg. Why not.

So, whoever thinks they’ve got it, bring it. Let’s put this crap to rest and get on with the adult discussions.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Commenting about me is still addressing me.

When you have the stamina, I’m here. The offers are open.

Meanwhile, you keep burning bridges yourself and deciding that yet another person is not worth talking to. Like the Roman Catholic Church, I guess you’re looking for some timid and agreeable non-Christians, not the pesky ones with difficult questions and salient comments.

The question I have is — why does this keep happening to you? Is the whole world after you, or just not timid enough?

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cl June 10, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Technical note:

When I said that Hermes accuses me of being the loon, it was a paraphrase, not any sort of reference to a direct quote. Note the lack of double-quotes. I include this to pre-emptively dissolve accusations that I’ve made false accusations. I’m within reason to paraphrase Hermes as thinking I’m a loon. After all, he’s said much worse himself.

If Hermes can’t pony up evidence for his claims, every one of you who preach the ethos of desirism ought to be condemning him for making baseless claims. Same goes for anyone else.

TaiChi,

What WLC, and cl, mean by “objective morality” is really “necessary morality” – neither mean to claim that morality does not depend on a subject.

Speaking only for myself and not WLC, something about that just doesn’t seem right. In the crudest sense, by objective morality, I refer to a source of morality that is not a subject. That’s it. I’m definitely a fan of keeping it simple and to me, that’s about as simple a distinction as one could make. It follows from this Boolean definition that, if an objective reality exists as described thusly, then I do mean to claim that morality doesn’t come from a subject. That’s exactly what objective means: not from a subject.

Am I missing something? Have I articulated myself poorly somewhere along the line?

In the case of an omniscienct, omnibenevolent God, the factual nature of any given moral claim is the “objective” part. I believe I am in reason to claim that any bona fide fact is objective. The God I believe in — and the God WLC proposes — is a Subject with access to said facts at a rate of 100% accuracy. That’s why I’ll hold that I’m correct to say that an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best possible source of morality, and that such is undeniable.

Paul,

Sorry for the delay. Scrolling back up the thread I saw some good stuff from you. I will get to your comments.

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lukeprog June 10, 2010 at 5:22 pm

TaiChi,

That’s an interesting interpretation of Craig, and may be correct.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for addressing me again. You want something, but refuse it when offered. I wonder why? Maybe because you have thin skin and no confidence in your own ideas? Step up.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Is anyone starting to see what I mean about Hermes yet? Check this out. He says,

…you keep burning bridges yourself and deciding that yet another person is not worth talking to. Like the Roman Catholic Church, I guess you’re looking for some timid and agreeable non-Christians, not the pesky ones with difficult questions and salient comments.

On what grounds does he claim that I’ve “decided yet another person is not talking to?” The only possible answer is that he’s not thoroughly reading that which he attempts to lambast. I said I would field questions from caseywollberg. The Son of Zeus got it exactly backwards.

Of what relevance is the RCC comment to anything here?

How many times will he continue to taunt from the sidelines despite the fact that I don’t consider feeding trolls worth it?

Am I the only one who believes that Hermes will continue with his personal assaults until he is criticized by somebody that he actually respects? Even then I wonder if he’d slow his roll.

I’ll tell you what, Luke: you organize a debate between myself and Hermes, or any other hater for that matter. You choose the topic. Hermes gets to choose twelve “jurors” and I’ll get my twelve. Let them judge who’s more on the ball, and the loser leaves for good.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Why not keep it dry and to the point? Drop the theatrics.

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Alexander June 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm

cl: “No wonder you think I’m such an idiot!

After that reply, this has not changed. My goodness, and here I was thinking you were a smart cookie. Let me make a few things painfully clear, and I’ll start with the obvious misconception you have; when I attribute a statement to you, I do this:

cl: “In my opinion, we’re having trouble because you appear to be debating sloppily.

See that? That has your initials (from the lack of a real name, I suppose) followed by a colon which when I went to school we had translated as “here it comes”, so here comes something cl said, followed by even more hints in the shape of quotation marks. I would think this is fairly obvious.

Now, let’s peek at the thing you got your knickers over your head about (because you’re starting to sound like such a person). I said: “That one part of a sentence alone points to so many holes and illogical arguments that swiss cheese seems impenetrable ;
- something that is reliable must be a repeated pattern”

Notice how I *don’t* attribute any of this to you? Did you see that I didn’t use quotations marks, your initials, or anything else that might hint that you said this (like words saying so)? Good, because I didn’t. But did you notice the semi-colon before the first bullet point I made? Yes, that means I’m making a preamble to argument, a semi-colon to mark the spot, and bullet-points to make it even clearer that this is my point.

And what you failed to see here is that *you* introduced the word “reliable” in your statement that I found so stupid. And that one word you introduced is what I’m picking at here, basically saying that “something that is reliable must be a repeated pattern.” Now, you can take issues with *that* statement all you like, that’s fine, that’s part of discourse, but you not understanding English prose like this does not invalidate the argument.

cl: “unless of course I’m misunderstanding you, which is always possible

I’m glad you left that as an option, because I think it is fairly obvious you did.

cl: “you offer no support whatsoever for your objection to my ‘we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts.’ You just hate on it, then call it a day, but as rationalists, I opine that we need more.

1. I don’t hate, and certainly not some opinion from an anonymous douche on the intertubes. 2. No support for my objection? What is that even suppose to mean? What is your criteria for “support” in this, what is it that will satisfy you in discourse?

cl: “Lastly, of every single word in your, [... big snip .. ] … not one single word relates anything to an argument I’ve made in this thread.

You see, now this is just fucked up beyond anything, proof positive that you’re just pissing in people’s morning coffee because you get off on it. Luckily, people can scroll back and read it for themselves (I guess, unlike you) whether I was addressing anything you ever said in this thread.

cl: “You started your argument criticizing my sentence, and apparently finished it criticizing someone else’s. No wonder you think I’m such an idiot!

I don’t think so anymore, if that makes you happier.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I’ll tell you what, Luke: you organize a debate between myself and Hermes, or any other hater for that matter. You choose the topic. Hermes gets to choose twelve “jurors” and I’ll get my twelve. Let them judge who’s more on the ball, and the loser leaves for good.

Since that idea was probably a fantasy, I offer the Open Thread For Hermes on my own blog.

Come none, come all, but now that I’ve given Hermes an option that allows me to address his arguments in whatever level of detail he prefers – with the added luxury that it doesn’t entail breaking my promise to not get into it here – I politely ask each and every one of you (or at least one other person) to use the social tools to condemn Hermes if he continues accosting me with his personal issues and insults, thus lending the feeling of a high-school cafeteria to what was once a superior blog.

Hopefully now we can all finally bask in a sigh of relief.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Alexander,

“Anonymous douche on the internet,” eh? Great argument! I wish all atheists were so self-refuting. Then I could write about something else.

Notice how I *don’t* attribute any of this to you?

Yes. That’s why I paid you the courtesy of a disclaimer.

Now, you can take issues with *that* statement all you like, that’s fine, that’s part of discourse, but you not understanding English prose like this does not invalidate the argument.

I understand English prose just fine. I have no need to take issue with *that* statement at all, as it’s not a statement I made, which is why I questioned your raising it in the first place.

No support for my objection? What is that even suppose to mean?

Come on, you seriously don’t know what means to support an objection? Here’s where this all started:

Cl: “[I]f an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists, neither would I hesitate to call God’s pronouncements objective. This is because although communicated through a subject (God), we could reliably say that the pronouncements reflect bona fide facts, not of the type we can call arbitrary whims or non-contingent personal tastes.”

Bona fide facts? Seriously? Facts? Facts that are reliable pronouncements? Reliable? And, seriously, facts!? This is your moral objective platform?

At this point I’m quite baffled, but it looks like the biggest problem with debating this with you is that you have a totally screwed up idea of what both “objective” and “facts” usually mean. And it’s a shame, because you were doing so well, you were clear and logical, but then with this one fell swoop you’ve gone and proved that all that promise was nothing more than fluff for an argument rooted in wishful thinking and, unfortunately, from the silly side of apologetics.

Please, just say you regret that post, that you wish to delete it, you were under some bad influence, and “can I please write it again so we can move on and do it properly?”

Notice how you did nothing but ask rhetorical questions, state that you were baffled, then close with a bunch of snarky nonsense? All you’ve done is “hated on” (it’s a figure of speech that translates roughly to talk a bunch of crap about) my statement. You’ve not leveled a single lucid statement of your own that would indicate you understood mine.

Can you support your objection? If you’ve got an argument, or a premise, or an objection to a premise, or something of that nature, state it. If all you’ve got is more insults, well… I don’t know what else to say.

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Adding my content to your blog would benefit you, but do nothing for me. As I like and even admire Luke, I have no issue with donating a few bricks to his castle — not that he needs the assist.

Yet, both of us are here. Right now.

How about keeping it simple. No insults. Just dry comments.

You’ve got a god. Right?

I offered to look over your claims about your god, and if it’s one I am confident enough to say does not exist, I would do so and provide details. If not, I would say what my reasoning is. In each case, you can address what is presented to you and we can have a real back-and-forth.

For example, to get things going, you might say your god is ‘all knowing, all powerful, and all good’ (an omnimax deity). If that is the case, I will provide details on why that is a self-refuting set of concepts, and thus not a real entity. You would look over those details and comment on them. Maybe we’ll even have a discussion?

As a practical measure, since Luke’s site has an Alexa traffic rank of about 100K and your site is close to 12.5 million, the audience will probably be much much larger here even on an older thread. You can even post copious links back to your own blog to increase traffic there if you so choose. A real win-win, especially since those rankings probably put your blog on a very thin tail of the slope.

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Chris K June 10, 2010 at 6:43 pm

TaiChi,

As metaethics isn’t my strong suit, I’m afraid I don’t understand your distinction between “necessary morality” and “objective morality.” Wouldn’t it be the case that if moral facts exist as abstract objects, i.e., are objective, they would also be necessary?

I take Craig to be saying that morality is both necessary and objective. On the Augustine/Plantinga model of abstract objects and God’s nature, that moral facts just are a part of God’s nature, and thus a part of a Subject, make them no more subjective than the laws of logic, which are also a part of God’s nature.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Open Thread For Hermes, Updated.

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JS Allen June 10, 2010 at 7:09 pm

@cl – I don’t think you understand what “don’t feed the trolls” means. If the troll is causing you to react, you’re feeding it.

@cl, @lukeprog – The dictionary says that “objective” means “undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena”. By this definition, “objective morality” exists. We have lots of empirical research showing that our evolution has endowed our biology with a certain core set of morals.

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Katie's mom June 10, 2010 at 7:10 pm

If theists accept that God is good, what standard are they using to judge that this is so?

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Hermes June 10, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Cl, anytime.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 8:54 pm

As Eneasz wisely said “CL …Sadly, this is countered by the atheist’s weakness of being unable to let willful stupidity go without a challenge. I mean FFS, people still engage Ray Comfort, of all people!”

And all the while interesting posts by Richard, Antiplastic and others are drowned out by this noise.

I imagine that cl is happy with this. Now if only cl took the advice he gave to me then we might have a productive and interesting debate here. Don’t hold your breath!

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cl June 10, 2010 at 9:29 pm

JS Allen,

I don’t think you understand what “don’t feed the trolls” means.

I can see how you’d get that impression, but I assure you I do. I don’t necessarily consider demonstrating the vacuity of their arguments the same as feeding them, and I feel strongly that we should use the tools of condemnation when called for. I think that whoever wants to maintain the integrity of these discussions has a responsibility to take a stand against this sort of crap. By this sort of crap I refer to things like faithlessgod falsely accusing me of being a racist, or Hermes continuing along with his obstinance, insults and baseless claims. Also, it’s not so much trolling that’s going on here, as opposed to vicious character assaults without evidence from people posing as rationalists.

The dictionary says that “objective” means “undistorted by emotion or personal bias; based on observable phenomena”.

I’m curious why you felt the need to address that to me, because nothing in that definition conflicts with mine.

By this definition, “objective morality” exists. We have lots of empirical research showing that our evolution has endowed our biology with a certain core set of morals.

No offense, but I just can’t accept that without a better case. Perhaps you could expand the argument?

faithlessgod,

…all the while interesting posts by Richard, Antiplastic and others are drowned out by this noise.

If you were really more into the comments left by so-and-so, you’d address them instead of trying to pony up with Eneasz who’s contributed nothing to this discussion besides the venting of his own personal issues. Quit being so transparent.

Now if only cl took the advice he gave to me then we might have a productive and interesting debate here.

If you wish to have a “productive and interesting debate” with me, just apologize for falsely accusing me of a being a racist, then I’ll consider it water under the bridge and answer any question you’ve got. It’d be a win-win situation for everyone, don’tcha think?

Alas, if you’re too proud to apologize, I understand. I’m sure we could have a productive and interesting debate anyways. Perhaps you could – ahem – support your claim that my statement was “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous?” Anybody can call names, but can you actually do the work?

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cl June 10, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Paul,

Ultimately, my default position (and I dont’ know how to put this in proper philosophical terms, so give me some leeway) is that morality is a creation of the human mind. But if asked to evaluate a scenario or circumstance, or what have you, I try to do it as “objectively” as I can. Typically this means taking into account those things I know to exist; desires, pleasure, pain, etc.

No leeway required. That was clear and concise. I believe I understood exactly what you were trying to convey: that although you think we make morality up as we go along, you personally try to be considerate of our humanity when making your considerations. Is that a decent paraphrase?

At this moment my answer to that is yes. Having said that – given my original scenario; that the one where the 1 choose to have sex does not alone eliminate the desires of the 9 to commit rape. Perhaps that would tilt the equation.

I need a little help with that one though, if you don’t mind. I agree with you that both options seem viable, as in possible, but to me, the option of changing the minority opinion seems the most valid, on the logic that it requires the least work. Of course, I’m speaking generally, as there may well be instances where changing the desires of the majority requires less work. I’d imagine those would be the exception and not the rule, if they even exist at all.

I am not trying to backtrack on deflect but as I learn more I reserve the right to change my mind.

You’ll get no qualms from me on that; we’re in the same boat there, for sure. Just so you know, I don’t assume the worst about people. If you were reconsidering some position, I’d see that as a mark of honest intent, not assume deflection.

Richard Wein,

We may say that God’s own moral values are by definition “subjective” moral values. But Craig can still claim that these subjective values give rise (possibly via God’s commands) to true moral facts, i.e. to objective morality… At the same time, Luke makes a good point by raising the example of an alien being. Craig can’t justify the claim that God’s commands give rise to objective moral values.

That’s interesting, and I (at least provisionally) agree that Craig can’t justify that claim. AFAICS, I think it’s accurate to say I’m arguing the converse of Craig: that true moral facts give rise to God’s “subjective” moral values. This absolves me from the objection Luke levels against Craig via his “alien” hypothetical. I’m saying that moral facts exist, and they are as objective as any other type of fact. It follows that an omniscient, omnibenevolent God happens to be the best possible source of morality, then, because such a God retains infinite, perfect access to the set of moral facts. Now sure, atheists can say they don’t believe in such a God until they’re blue in the face, but that’s a different story altogether. That this type of God would be the best possible source of morality seems beyond dispute to me. Commenters like Alexander and faithlessgod have reacted to my claim with insult and ridicule, but I haven’t seen anyone actually rebut this claim.

At any rate, just wanted to say cheers. I enjoy your comments.

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JS Allen June 10, 2010 at 10:34 pm

I don’t necessarily consider demonstrating the vacuity of their arguments the same as feeding them.

Yeah, I figured as much. Operant conditioning is a strange thing, where sticks can be as nutritious to trolls as carrots. But I respect your right to arrive at different conclusions that I.

I refer to things like faithlessgod falsely accusing me of being a racist, or Hermes continuing along with his obstinance, insults and baseless claims. Also, it’s not so much trolling that’s going on here, as opposed to vicious character assaults without evidence from people posing as rationalists.

Those fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls. I consider myself an expert on trolling, but (again) I respect your right to arrive at different conclusions.

I’m curious why you felt the need to address that to me, because nothing in that definition conflicts with mine.

I was responding to Luke, in particular, but also to this specific quote of yours:

I suspect Craig uses objective to mean something like, “extant whether any humans accept it or not” or “existing outside human arbitration,” but it’s late and I totally shot both of those from my hip.

I think that Craig must have used objective to mean something like, “extant because most humans innately believe it”, which aligns with the dictionary definition. It seems like you would generally agree, and I admittedly responded to an entry that was “tired” and “shooting from the hip”.

No offense, but I just can’t accept that [i.e. "We have lots of empirical research showing that our evolution has endowed our biology with a certain core set of morals".] without a better case. Perhaps you could expand the argument?

That’s a valid question. I’m not sure which part of the statement, specifically, you find objectionable (since everything I said is debatable). I’ll assume that you’re objecting to the part about “empirical research”, since that’s easiest for me to substantiate :-), and I’ll trust you to raise objections to other parts if you have them.

The dictionary definition of “objective” requires “observable phenomena”, which are presumably reliable and repeatable. A small subset of our generally accepted morality meets this criteria. For example, even chimpanzees agree that “It’s totally wrong for you to bogart my snacks, dude!” [1]

Humans actually do display a surprising degree of homogeneity in what they consider to be “moral”. For example, almost nobody would pass by a starving baby without feeding it. Almost nobody would watch his son drown without jumping in to save him. Almost nobody considers it justified to torture the cat just because he failed to get a promotion at work. We can measure this “innate morality” through surveys; and better yet, through experiments. I pointed to an experiment done on chimps, but another that I find informative and hilarious is the PSAP: “Point Subtraction Aggression Paradigm”

[1] http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2007/07/16-01.html

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cl June 10, 2010 at 10:55 pm

JS Allen,

Actually, it’s funny you say this, because that’s exactly what desirism is: a form of operant conditioning.

Those fit my definition of trolling. I didn’t take any of those attacks against you seriously, and quickly categorized them as trolls. I consider myself an expert on trolling, but (again) I respect your right to arrive at different conclusions. (re: Hermes, faithlessgod)

Well thank you, kind.. sir? Ma’am? Either way, that’s all I needed to hear, quite honestly. Thanks again, and I guess you’re right: maybe I was giving these individuals more credit than they deserve? The ultimate bonus for me would be if Luke manned up and said something. Since they respect Luke, there’s a good chance they’ll have to listen, wouldn’t you think?

Whatever. It was old three months ago. I’ll get to the other salient points in your comment tomorrow, with a fresh mind. For now, I’ll say I’m digging where you went with it.

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cl June 10, 2010 at 11:01 pm

PS: Do you think they’re really trolling? Or, just otherwise possibly decent debaters who got a bruised ego that prompts them towards irrational arguments?

As far as “trolls” go, I’ve been demonized as a troll many times and for that reason, I’m hesitant to use the label towards others. It’s just too hard to discern actual intent sometimes, you know?

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Jake de Backer June 10, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Lucas,

Pardon how wildly OT this question is, but;

Are you done doing the letter-exchanges/debates with Vox and everyone?

J.

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JS Allen June 10, 2010 at 11:25 pm

As far as “trolls” go, I’ve been demonized as a troll many times and for that reason, I’m hesitant to use the label towards others. It’s just too hard to discern actual intent sometimes, you know?

In the words of Peewee Herman, “It takes one to know one”. I’m not an expert on trolling by accident.

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faithlessgod June 10, 2010 at 11:32 pm

JS Alen

You are confused. It is Cl that is the troll. For example see the thread where there was nothing else to conclude but that cl was a racist and he has not offered another alternative conclusion except that others think he was just trolling maybe.

In this thread, he has completely avoided answering my observation on a blatantly false statement of his and instead just persists in repeating it to others such as
” I’m saying that moral facts exist, and they are as objective as any other type of fact. It follows that an omniscient, omnibenevolent God happens to be the best possible source of morality, then, because such a God retains infinite, perfect access to the set of moral facts. ”
This is such a blatant non sequitur and completely fails to follow and he has yet again produced zero argument for such a ridiculous and absurd statement, which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective.

This is a typical cl tactic which he has used over and over again on other themes, and regardless of shown how mistaken he is and to which he fails to given decent ripostes, he returns to repeat them again and again as if debate had never happened. In other words typical troll behaviour.

I suspect he will do the same with the above type of statements, however I will let others discuss pursue that one if they wish.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 12:16 am

faithlessgod,

For example see the thread where there was nothing else to conclude but that cl was a racist and he has not offered another alternative conclusion except that others think he was just trolling maybe.

Oh, everybody, please do see that thread. It’s right here, since somebody who pretends to be a rationalist and boasts of “no double standards” is obviously not interested in providing support or citations for their claims.

In case anyone’s interested, the context was the infamous Nazi example. After gassing on to Thomas Reid and myself about how we’re supposed to consider all the affected desires in our evaluations, faithlessgod went on to omit the affected desires of the Nazis in his evaluation. I called him on this and when I wouldn’t back down, he decided to act like a cornered little rat and falsely accuse me of being a racist (#79).

Folks, I am the farthest thing from racist you’ll ever meet. That faithlessgod couldn’t think of any other conclusion just shows how “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous” he is. Of course, it can’t be that the almighty faithlessgod is actually wrong, so I’m a racist! Of course, not one single atheist rebuked faithlessgod for committing what might even be a legitimate criminal act in other contexts, but Thomas Reid expressed his opinion that faithlessgod’s attack was shameful and baseless (#80). If I were an atheist I’d be embarrassed to have this guy on my team. This is exactly what JS Allen is talking about in his responses to Alonzo in the Criticism of Atheists post.

So yeah everybody, please do see that thread. Then condemn faithlessgod for engaging in intellectual recklessness.

In this thread, he has completely avoided answering my observation on a blatantly false statement of his

This is demonstrably false: I’ve already sufficiently established your lack of any rebuttal let alone a cogent one. All you did was call it names: specifically, you said, “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous.” I’m not avoiding anything. I want you to give me an actual premise or something to argue against, because I’m sick to death of your mouth.

This is such a blatant non sequitur and completely fails to follow and he has yet again produced zero argument for such a ridiculous and absurd statement, which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective.

Are you denying that facts are objective?

This is a typical cl tactic which he has used over and over again on other themes, and regardless of shown how mistaken he is and to which he fails to given decent ripostes, he returns to repeat them again and again as if debate had never happened. In other words typical troll behaviour.

There you go again, attacks with no evidence whatsoever. No links, no arguments, no premises… just attack. Maybe JS Allen is right: maybe you are a troll! Why?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

Sorry if this posts twice. The first attempt apparently vaporized. Remember people, always copy your comments before hitting submit!

faithlessgod,

For example see the thread where there was nothing else to conclude but that cl was a racist and he has not offered another alternative conclusion except that others think he was just trolling maybe.

Oh, everybody, please do see that thread. It’s right here, since somebody who pretends to be a rationalist and boasts of “no double standards” is obviously not interested in providing support or citations for their claims.

In case anyone’s interested, the context was the infamous Nazi example. After gassing on to Thomas Reid and myself about how we’re supposed to consider all the affected desires in our evaluations, faithlessgod went on to omit the affected desires of the Nazis in his evaluation. I called him on this and when I wouldn’t back down, he decided to act like a cornered little rat and falsely accuse me of being a racist (#79).

Folks, I am the farthest thing from racist you’ll ever meet. That faithlessgod couldn’t think of any other conclusion just shows how “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous” he is. Of course, it can’t be that the almighty faithlessgod is actually wrong, so I’m a racist! Of course, not one single atheist rebuked faithlessgod for committing what might even be a legitimate criminal act in other contexts, but Thomas Reid expressed his opinion that faithlessgod’s attack was shameful and baseless (#80). If I were an atheist I’d be embarrassed to have this guy on my team. This is exactly what JS Allen is talking about in his responses to Alonzo in the Criticism of Atheists post.

So yeah everybody, please do see that thread. Then condemn faithlessgod for engaging in intellectual recklessness.

In this thread, he has completely avoided answering my observation on a blatantly false statement of his

This is demonstrably false: I’ve already sufficiently established your lack of any rebuttal let alone a cogent one. All you did was call it names: specifically, you said, “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous.” I’m not avoiding anything. I want you to give me an actual premise or something to argue against, because I’m sick to death of your mouth.

This is such a blatant non sequitur and completely fails to follow and he has yet again produced zero argument for such a ridiculous and absurd statement, which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective.

Are you denying that facts are objective?

This is a typical cl tactic which he has used over and over again on other themes, and regardless of shown how mistaken he is and to which he fails to given decent ripostes, he returns to repeat them again and again as if debate had never happened. In other words typical troll behaviour.

There you go again, attacks with no evidence whatsoever. No links, no arguments, no premises… just attack. Maybe JS Allen is right: maybe you are a troll! Why?

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faithlessgod June 11, 2010 at 1:32 am

Correction
” which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective”
I meant
” which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of BEST”

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Richard Wein June 11, 2010 at 2:15 am

ayer:

Louise Antony challenged him using the Euthyphro, and Craig argued it was a false dilemma because God’s nature just IS “the Good.” If he is right about that (and I know you disagree), then she was right not to challenge him on “subjectivism” because if God’s nature just is the Good then he is clearly referencing “objective” moral values as most philosophers use the term “objective”–which is why she accepted his use of that term (and her specialty is metaethics, as I understand). It’s a better move to claim instead that his “false dilemma” argument is wrong and to claim “incoherence” (as you appear to do in your previous response).

I agree with you, and I claim incoherence.

I can make no sense of the proposition that God’s nature is “the Good”. The phrase “the good” normally means all that is good. But that’s clearly not what Craig means, since he clearly believes that some things other than God’s nature are good.

If he simply said that God’s nature is “good”, then he would be vulnerable to the argument that there must be some objective standard of goodness–some objective moral fact–by which to judge that God’s nature is good, and that fact must exist apart from God’s nature. That would leave unanswered the question of where that objective moral fact comes from, and undermine Craig’s claim that objective moral values cannot exist without God. I suspect that he sees this problem, and that’s why he writes “the Good” instead of “good”. But without further explanation of what he means, his claim appears incoherent.

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Richard Wein June 11, 2010 at 3:47 am

antiplastic:

[Richard:] “By “objective morality” I mean a set of putatively true cognitive moral facts, like “X is morally wrong”.”

Richard — cognitivism may end up being the most *important* issue for many people, but that’s not where the dividing line between realism and antirealism lies. Cognitive subjectivists (like sensibility theorists), and contemporary expressivists have no problem with true moral facts, but neither of them are objective in the sense the realist metaphysician wants.

I didn’t intend “cognitive” to be the sole (or even primary) defining characteristic of objective morality. The main distinction I was trying to make was between:

1. People’s moral attitudes and/or beliefs. This would include, for example, both a non-cognitive stance against murder and a cognitive belief that murder is wrong.
2. Moral facts, such as the putative fact that murder is wrong.

Ideally, I would refer to the former as “moral values” and the latter as “moral facts”. However, it seems common to refer to the latter as “moral values” too. To distinguish between these two senses of “moral values” it seems common to refer to the former as “subjective moral values” and the latter as “objective moral values” or “objective moral facts”. (Perhaps the term “objective moral values” also refers to subjective moral values which happen to correspond to objective moral facts!)

You’re right that my definition didn’t allow for the kind of “subjectivist” who asserts that moral facts are subject-dependent, i.e. that moral propositions can be true from the point of view of of one subject and simultaneously false from the point of view of another. I don’t know much about this sort of subjectivism, and I doubt that anyone here supports it. But I should have ruled it out by including “universal” or “non-subject-dependent” among my criteria for objective morality.

I’m not familiar with contemporary expressivism, so I won’t comment on that. I was really only trying to give a definition that was adequate for the present discussion, not necessarily one that could cope with every weird and wonderful metaethical theory ever devised. But if you can suggest a better definition I’d love to hear it.

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Kip June 11, 2010 at 7:45 am

Alonzo Fyfe goes into this here: http://www.alonzofyfe.com/article_ose.shtml

The gist is that morality (according to him, and his theory of Desirism) is both subjective and objective.

In fact, I’d gather that it would be “subjective” in the same way that Divine Command theory would be, and “objective” in the same way Divine Command theory would be. That is, the nature of the underlying values (the ontological nature of value) is subjective. But, we can describe those values and know those values objectively (and inter-subjectively).

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Kip June 11, 2010 at 8:12 am

> In fact, I’d gather that it would be … “objective” in the same way Divine Command theory would be.

I object! Clearly we cannot know a being’s desires, attributes, or nature if that being does not exist. Therefore, “Desirism” is truly objective in this epistemological sense, and “Divine Command Theory” is not.

Also, what faithlessgod said about the relationship between desires being ontologically objective is true, so in this way, “Desirism” would be even further grounded on ontologically objective criteria than Divine Command Theory would be.

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lukeprog June 11, 2010 at 8:23 am

No, but sometimes there are many months between posts in a series, because I have too many of them. :)

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cl June 11, 2010 at 9:32 am

faithlessgod,

For example see the thread where there was nothing else to conclude but that cl was a racist and he has not offered another alternative conclusion except that others think he was just trolling maybe.

Oh, everybody, please do see that thread. It’s right here, since somebody who pretends to be a rationalist and boasts of “no double standards” is obviously not interested in providing support or citations for their claims.

In case anyone’s interested, the context was the infamous Nazi example. After gassing on to Thomas Reid and myself about how we’re supposed to consider all the affected desires in our evaluations, faithlessgod went on to omit the affected desires of the Nazis in his evaluation. I called him on this and when I wouldn’t back down, he decided to act like a cornered little rat and falsely accuse me of being a racist (#79).

Folks, I am the farthest thing from racist you’ll ever meet. That faithlessgod couldn’t think of any other conclusion just shows how “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous” he is. Of course, it can’t be that the almighty faithlessgod is actually wrong, so I’m a racist! Of course, not one single atheist rebuked faithlessgod for committing what might even be a legitimate criminal act in other contexts, but Thomas Reid expressed his opinion that faithlessgod’s attack was shameful and baseless (#80). If I were an atheist I’d be embarrassed to have this guy on my team. This is exactly what JS Allen is talking about in his responses to Alonzo in the Criticism of Atheists post.

So yeah everybody, please do see that thread. Then condemn faithlessgod for engaging in intellectual recklessness.

In this thread, he has completely avoided answering my observation on a blatantly false statement of his

This is demonstrably false: I’ve already sufficiently established your lack of any rebuttal let alone a cogent one. All you did was call it names: specifically, you said, “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous.” I’m not avoiding anything. I want you to give me an actual premise or something to argue against, because I’m sick to death of your mouth.

This is such a blatant non sequitur and completely fails to follow and he has yet again produced zero argument for such a ridiculous and absurd statement, which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective.

Are you denying that facts are objective? If yes, give us some support. If no, clarify what is is you are denying, please.

This is a typical cl tactic which he has used over and over again on other themes, and regardless of shown how mistaken he is and to which he fails to given decent ripostes, he returns to repeat them again and again as if debate had never happened. In other words typical troll behaviour.

There you go again, attacks with no evidence whatsoever. No links, no arguments, no premises… just attack. Maybe JS Allen is right: maybe you are a troll! Why?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 9:34 am

Luke,

I’ve been trying to post a comment to no avail for 12 hours now. Can you please see what’s up?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

Now that’sweird. Why did it take that comment, but not the one I’ve been trying to post for 12 hours? The link, perhaps? I’ll try without it:

****************

faithlessgod,

For example see the thread where there was nothing else to conclude but that cl was a racist and he has not offered another alternative conclusion except that others think he was just trolling maybe.

Oh, everybody, please do see that thread. It’s titled Living Without A Moral Code, part 4, since somebody who pretends to be a rationalist and boasts of “no double standards” is obviously not interested in providing support or citations for their claims.

In case anyone’s interested, the context was the infamous Nazi example. After gassing on to Thomas Reid and myself about how we’re supposed to consider all the affected desires in our evaluations, faithlessgod went on to omit the affected desires of the Nazis in his evaluation. I called him on this and when I wouldn’t back down, he decided to act like a cornered little rat and falsely accuse me of being a racist (#79).

Folks, I am the farthest thing from racist you’ll ever meet. That faithlessgod couldn’t think of any other conclusion just shows how “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous” he is. Of course, it can’t be that the almighty faithlessgod is actually wrong, so I’m a racist! Of course, not one single atheist rebuked faithlessgod for committing what might even be a legitimate criminal act in other contexts, but Thomas Reid expressed his opinion that faithlessgod’s attack was shameful and baseless (#80). If I were an atheist I’d be embarrassed to have this guy on my team. This is exactly what JS Allen is talking about in his responses to Alonzo in the Criticism of Atheists post.

So yeah everybody, please do see that thread. Then condemn faithlessgod for engaging in intellectual recklessness.

In this thread, he has completely avoided answering my observation on a blatantly false statement of his

This is demonstrably false: I’ve already sufficiently established your lack of any rebuttal let alone a cogent one. All you did was call it names: specifically, you said, “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous.” I’m not avoiding anything. I want you to give me an actual premise or something to argue against, because I’m sick to death of your mouth.

This is such a blatant non sequitur and completely fails to follow and he has yet again produced zero argument for such a ridiculous and absurd statement, which has the virtue of failing on just about any plausible and legitimate definition of objective.

Are you denying that facts are objective? If yes, give us some support. If no, clarify what is is you are denying, please.

This is a typical cl tactic which he has used over and over again on other themes, and regardless of shown how mistaken he is and to which he fails to given decent ripostes, he returns to repeat them again and again as if debate had never happened. In other words typical troll behaviour.

There you go again, attacks with no evidence whatsoever. No links, no arguments, no premises… just attack. Maybe JS Allen is right: maybe you are a troll! Why?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

Huh, maybe it was the link… Luke, can you clarify your blog’s policy on linked comments, so that no other commenters have to go through this awkward state of affairs?

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noen June 11, 2010 at 9:42 am

Once again we see that desirism is incoherent. The rot begins at the root when it claims that desires are objective mental states and works it’s way up to infect everything after.

Desires do exist of course, in the sense that we have them. They do not exist in the way that mountains exist. So the statement that Mt. Everest is taller than Pike’s Peak is epistemically objective. It is a fact about the world that we can discover. However the claim that Everest is more majestic than Pike’s Peak is epistemically subjective. It is not a fact about the world, it is a value that a subject might hold. It is not something one can discover but rather something that must be disclosed.

Desires are value judgments and hence inherently epistemically subjective. They have the word to world direction of fit in contrast to facts, the height of Mt. Everest, which have to world to word direction of fit.

Desirism, it seems to me, rests on a circular definition. Those desires are good which promote good desires. As it plays out in it’s proponents however this is suppressed and other explanations are given that contradict it. This is pretty typical human behavior that we’ve all seen many times. A good analogue would be the behavior of Libertarians who also have an incoherent philosophy which they suppress but argue in favor of special cases which contradict Libertarianism on the whole.

There is also in the thread a wonderful example of the moral superiority of Atheists. What a bright shining example!

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cl June 11, 2010 at 10:09 am

noen,

I’m interested in your strategy of attacking desirism at its root, but ultimately, I think it would be an easy criticism for Alonzo to get around. All we’d have to do is agree on what does objectively exist, then rename the theory accordingly. I agree with you that desires exist, and that they don’t exist in the same way as Mt. Everest. However, conglomerations of atoms that take the shape of home sapiens DO objectively exist, so Alonzo could simply rename desirism as “CATSHS” theory or something.

Desirism, it seems to me, rests on a circular definition. Those desires are good which promote good desires. As it plays out in it’s proponents however this is suppressed and other explanations are given that contradict it. This is pretty typical human behavior that we’ve all seen many times. A good analogue would be the behavior of Libertarians who also have an incoherent philosophy which they suppress but argue in favor of special cases which contradict Libertarianism on the whole.

That’s exactly my experience, too, though, I don’t know how much I’d say desirism rests on a circular definition. It seems to me that desirism’s definition of good is meaningless. I suppose meaningless and circular are essentially synonymous, and the point isn’t to be overly semantic. It’s that I – and many others – have provided Alonzo with clear examples indicating that the fact that a desire tends to fulfill other desires makes it useful, not necessarily good, and for the most part, he eschews them. IMO, this reluctance is unfortunate for those who wish to better understand his theory.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 10:15 am

Oh, missed this:

There is also in the thread a wonderful example of the moral superiority of Atheists. What a bright shining example! (noen)

I know, right? All this talk about “atheist morality” seems so misplaced in this thread, that’s for sure. However, I really do believe that if more of the intelligent people would condemn the intellectually reckless ones, we’d begin to see results. I think this strategy would be especially effective if Luke were the one to spearhead it. If not – that is, if the condemnation I’m calling for backfires and leads to stronger misbehavior from the intellectually reckless ones – well then, at least the lines would be more clearly drawn.

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faithlessgod June 11, 2010 at 11:12 am

Oh this is getting so tedious but I will reply once more.

My issue over Cl’s “racism” was his repeated insistence, it appeared every available opportunity, to talking about killing Jews. There are many ways to discuss Nazi-Jewish genocides and equivalents… but when I requested he discuss using equivalents, he more gleefully and deliberately used “kill the Jews” versions. One can conclude that either he is a troll or a racist, you decide.

As for CL’s claims he has made a zero case that an objective morality based on God is “undeniable”, that is not just the best solution but obviously the best solution. This, given my prior comments in this thread where it fails to be any sort of solution at all, let alone a candidate for a best solution, is an utterly ridiculous claim and shows a massive ignorance of ethics so what else can one conclude is that it is arrogant.

Now maybe morality is based on God, whilst I find this incoherent and absurd maybe I am wrong but I have yet to see any good arguments that this is the case, certainly none from CL, and most certainly nothing remotely that it is “undeniable”. So quite clearly it is ignorant and arrogant to claim it is “undeniable” and from my position and from what I can be implied from quite a few others comments here, it is ridiculous to assert such undeniability.

I am busy this weekend, so I will the rest of y’all deal with his bullshit or not as you chose.

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faithlessgod June 11, 2010 at 11:36 am

Hi Noen

“Once again we see that desirism is incoherent. The rot begins at the root when it claims that desires are objective mental states”
Desirism, or BDI theory or equivalent, upon which it is based, makes no such assertion. It is the conditions of fulfilment (satisfaction in Searle’s terminology) that are ontologically objective and, according to Mackie, this is entirely uncontroversial.

“Desires are value judgments and hence inherently epistemically subjective.”
This is possibly the genetic fallacy. Desires are not value judgements as I understand them, since I argue that values are in the relation between desires and states of affairs – extrinsic to both. Given a desire whether it is fulfilled or not is ontologically objective and this can be established in an epistemically objective fashion.

“Those desires are good which promote good desires”
This is incorrect. Desires are good in virtue of tending to fulfil other desires.

“As it plays out in it’s proponents however this is suppressed and other explanations are given that contradict it.”
Since the whole model can be explicated without reference to good, ought etc. I question this assertion, given that I have queried your points above that you think supports such a claim.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 12:08 pm

To Luke’s Readers:

I’m sorry that faithlessgod can’t just apologize for labeling me a racist in a public forum, not to mention a rationalist forum at that. Remember though, you can condemn him, too. The more we condemn that sort of behavior, the less we should see it – if of course desirism is even remotely true.

faithlessgod,

…when I requested he discuss using equivalents, he more gleefully and deliberately used “kill the Jews” versions. One can conclude that either he is a troll or a racist, you decide.

False. In the thread I provided a citation for, I discuss rape and the torture of children, both of which are entirely devoid of racial undertones. In other threads here, and on my own blog, I’ve discussed several other types of examples: smoking, pederasty, and asbestos (which I saw you incorporated into your own blog). So there’s five pieces of evidence for my claim that your claim – which you supplied no evidence for – is false.

As for CL’s claims he has made a zero case that an objective morality based on God is “undeniable”, that is not just the best solution but obviously the best solution. This, given my prior comments in this thread where it fails to be any sort of solution at all, let alone a candidate for a best solution, is an utterly ridiculous claim and shows a massive ignorance of ethics so what else can one conclude is that it is arrogant.

Hot air. Again, try to see: your prior comments haven’t established anything other than that you think my statement is “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous.” You are completely refusing to consider the question at all. Think about what I’m saying: an omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts. It’s undeniable, but if I’m wrong somehow, feel free to offer your best reasoned case. Not more hot air under the pretense of rational integrity.

Now maybe morality is based on God, whilst I find this incoherent and absurd maybe I am wrong but I have yet to see any good arguments that this is the case, certainly none from CL…

As you shouldn’t, because I’m not arguing that morality is “based on” God. To repeat myself yet again (I feel for ya in this regard Luke, I really do) – an omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts. You continue to spout air and viciousness against my character, yet you’re so obtuse that you’re arguing against me as if I held Craig’s position, when my position is about as far away from Craig’s as you are from cogent: and that’s a full 180 degrees, my friend.

Honestly, I feel sorry for you at this point, because I don’t actually think you’re a troll. I think you’re either incredibly dense, or just starting to realize what an ass you’ve made of yourself. Even if I hadn’t proven my willingness to discuss non-racially-sensitive examples on several fronts, that still doesn’t give you the right to accuse me of being a racist because I believe your argument is the logical equivalent of a boxer’s mouth.

I am busy this weekend, so I will the rest of y’all deal with his bullshit or not as you chose.

Good, because Hermes seems to have quieted down today, and as soon as you’re done, I don’t think I have any more false allegations to clear up. Please quit wasting our time. Just apologize and save some face. I’m not a racist and you had no right to say that, especially not while you gas on about the nuances of moral theory. Further, making unsupported and false accusations of racism is immoral and intellectually reckless. At the end of the day, your theory ain’t worth piss if you act immorally in the real world, IMHO.

Lest anybody to try to flank me with, “Ooh-ooh that’s a fallacy cl! faithlessgod’s theory stands or falls whether he himself is immoral or not!” I know that it does. I said what I said because I’m more of a moral pragmatist than a respecter of moral theory. Remember, theories are models that describe the real world. I see countless atheists who act so concerned with moral theories, yet blunder ahead utterly inept in any sensible application thereof. You are one of them, but you don’t have to be.

Just wake up, thank God (or Darwin or whoever) to be alive in such a complex yet beautiful world, and sprinkle a little love and humility into whatever else you do.

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godless randall June 11, 2010 at 12:57 pm

i didn’t read every single word of every single post since yesterday but objective morality still seems oxymoron to m e

^^^Hermes Cl resists following through on a thought even to provide a solid opposing position, and thus stifles many conversations.

since you replied right after me does that mean your response was for me? if so what the fuck are you talking about? are you even paying attention? i’m not saying i agree with all of Cl but he answers fucking ten measures ^beyond^ thorough. i barely even comment here but last time i did i saw the same shit which was you talking shit abot Cl and then not answering ^me^ when i asked you what the fuck you were talking about. i’m talking about the thread where people were all pissed off over the Newdow thing and the Pledge. that’s the best i can do for a reference but i know i’m right so i don’t give a fuck what you say Cl is right as fuck to make fun of you for not using evidence with your claims about him. and Cl is right to say we should mock your ass off here for acting like a bitch. Cl is right to say you don’t even think your shit through

Hermes: As a practical measure, since Luke’s site has an Alexa traffic rank of about 100K and your site is close to 12.5 million, the audience will probably be much much larger here even on an older thread.

notice how you got that bass ackwards ^ship dit^? this proves you don’t even re read the shit you dip. or maybe that you don’t give a flying fuck about being accurate

and what this shit about only being willing to debate Cl here? he (she? fuck i don’t know) gives you what you ask for without breaking the promise and now you say you only debate here? quit being such a pussy. a real Mike Tyson knocks motherfuckers out wherever he can

i wouldn’t have said shit to you but for the fact that you pulled this shit last time and then chumped out under pressure. check yourself and come correct else shut the fuck up you’re giving atheists a bad name

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Paul June 11, 2010 at 1:05 pm

cl

“No leeway required. That was clear and concise. I believe I understood exactly what you were trying to convey: that although you think we make morality up as we go along, you personally try to be considerate of our humanity when making your considerations. Is that a decent paraphrase?”

I think this is fair.

W/ regard to

“I need a little help with that one though, if you don’t mind. I agree with you that both options seem viable, as in possible, but to me, the option of changing the minority opinion seems the most valid, on the logic that it requires the least work. Of course, I’m speaking generally, as there may well be instances where changing the desires of the majority requires less work. I’d imagine those would be the exception and not the rule, if they even exist at all.”

No immediate disagreement with what I understood you to say.

Further – and I think this is understood – this is an effort on my part to explain an aspect of my world-view. It may – I hope it does – help fix any poor thinking on my part.

Now to try and answer the question you have –

I think you and I can agree that rape is not merely (or event) about sex. It is part of the act of course but I think other factors are of more import.

In another thread – Alonzo’s post about criticism of atheists – I state the following. You may have seen this, considering you have various comments on that thread -

“One of my (tentative) axioms; if you will, is that person P1 having a desire for X and a person P2 having a desire that P1 not desire X is invalid if X is inconsequential to the other desires of P2.”

As before, perhaps my wording is not philosophically sophisticated but I think I have this one written well enough.

I have a corollary to this -
“If person P1 has a desire for X with person P2 and P2 has no desire for X in relation to P1 then desire X is invalid”

I wrote this on the fly just now as an attempt to describe my thought process. Not sure “invalid” is the best term I can use but it is the one that came to mind.

Anyhoo – as applied to the rape case. It means that the desire to rape is invalid. Even if not, if I/we/society were able to change the 1 – assuming it would be less work/easier. I think those 9 might still have a desire to rape. So in a sense nothing has changed. The desire to harm someone else still exists.

As an aside – and I am not claiming to objectivity in any way – the two axioms I’ve provided, I think, are axioms that most people would tend to agree with – on some level.

I haven’t thought what I am about o say through but I think the only way to an objective (not really) set of codes might be for all of us to put down our own subjective goals/views and from that work to create a system that allows us to maximize the satisfactions of our collective desires.

I think – certainly not convinced – that what would follow from what I am trying to articulate would be something similar desirism.

What do you (or anyone willing to help me out) think?

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lukeprog June 11, 2010 at 1:06 pm

cl,

Alas, it all depends on my spam filter, Akismet. I can’t white-list IPs or anything like that in Akismet, as far as I know.

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noen June 11, 2010 at 1:22 pm

faithlessgod
Hi Noen

Hey hey.

“Desirism, or BDI theory or equivalent, upon which it is based, makes no such assertion.”

Well it’s confusing because I’ve had responses here that told me explicitly that desires are mental states. I didn’t pursue it but I assume what was meant was that a desire just is a configuration of neural firings in the brain of the person who has that desire.

What else could it be?

“This is possibly the genetic fallacy. Desires are not value judgements as I understand them, since I argue that values are in the relation between desires and states of affairs – extrinsic to both.”

Yeah… I’m not sure I buy externalism. People act based on their internal desires. Sometimes people say that they act based on external desires, like if I put a gun to your head your desires will change real quick. All they have done though is to alter their superficial desires to preserve a more basic desire for self preservation. I cannot have desires external to me.

Re: “the relation between desires and states of affairs” My statement “I desire that P” has the word to world direction of fit. It expresses my wish that it be so. My desire is fulfilled when my conditions of satisfaction are met. This is still subjective to my internal mental states. For me to say that my desires are objective would be to claim that “I desire that P” has the world to word direction of fit. This makes no sense because I am not external to me.

““Those desires are good which promote good desires”
This is incorrect. Desires are good in virtue of tending to fulfil other desires.”

How do you know that fulfilling these other desires is a good?

My understanding is that there is a sort of marketplace of desires that is constructed (is this true?). That only those desires that fulfill other desires will succeed and those desires that thwart desires will fail. This reminds me of the so-called “magic hand of the free market”. The belief that markets are inherently self regulating.

We’ve done that experiment, the results are in, the belief in self regulating markets is a delusion. I don’t expect any different results from marketplace desirism.

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drj June 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

False. In the thread I provided a citation for, I discuss rape and the torture of children, both of which are entirely devoid of racial undertones. In other threads here, and on my own blog, I’ve discussed several other types of examples: smoking, pederasty, and asbestos (which I saw you incorporated into your own blog). So there’s five pieces of evidence for my claim that your claim – which you supplied no evidence for – is false.

I can’t say as I blame many for getting impatient, frustrated, and eventually hostile towards you. We all have our major gaffes every now and then (in my case, all the time), but honestly, it was a little absurd watching a critique of desirism based on its inability to predict the harmful properties of asbestos. Really.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Paul,

What do you (or anyone willing to help me out) think?

Honestly, I’m more interested in listening to you. You have an exploratory spirit towards this stuff that’s making it that much more interesting and refreshing. That, and I don’t see any major points of contention between what you’re saying and what I’m saying – not that that matters. I’ll keep reading your comments, but other than that, keep an eye for my response to Tony Hoffman that you’d mentioned being interested in.

drj,

No worries, because I make gaffes too, but in your case, all the time seems appropriate, just as you said:

I can’t say as I blame many for getting impatient, frustrated, and eventually hostile towards you. We all have our major gaffes every now and then (in my case, all the time), but honestly, it was a little absurd watching a critique of desirism based on its inability to predict the harmful properties of asbestos. Really.

So, your unfavorable reaction to one or more of my asbestos comments give other people the right to get impatient, frustrated and eventually hostile? Now really, that’s a good one. What specific statement(s) of mine might you be referring to, that would actually excuse such incivility as that we see here? Without, well… you know, something like a citation or reference or reasoned statement, for all I know you’re just as far out in left field as the rest.

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Paul June 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm

“We’ve done that experiment, the results are in, the belief in self regulating markets is a delusion. I don’t expect any different results from marketplace desirism.”

Well there goes my theory :-)

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drj June 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm

So, your unfavorable reaction to one or more of my asbestos comments give other people the right to get impatient, frustrated and eventually hostile? Now really, that’s a good one.

I’m not saying their reactions are appropriate or logical – but at some level, they are very understandable. Patience is finite.

And when I saw the asbestos “objection”, I think at that point, one could reasonably doubt your sincerity in all this.

What specific statement(s) of mine might you be referring to, that would actually excuse such incivility as that we see here? Without, well… you know, something like a citation or reference or reasoned statement, for all I know you’re just as far out in left field as the rest. cl

I tried searching for it (it was on your blog, if I remember) before I even posted that, but could not find it. I was reminded of it because you alluded to it, in your post above:

I’ve discussed several other types of examples: smoking, pederasty, and asbestos (which I saw you incorporated into your own blog).

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cl June 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm

noen,

My understanding is that there is a sort of marketplace of desires that is constructed (is this true?).

If I’m understanding your “marketplace of desires” concept correctly, that’s exactly what I was asking Luke:

Luke, when you say,

…desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist.

…do you say that because you treat the set of all desires that exist as an object without the ability to pronounce arbitrary proclamations, such as a subject might? Or, do you say this for some other reason?

If the latter, what is that reason?

Your “marketplace of desires” would be my “object,” if we’re actually on the same page. Regardless, Luke wouldn’t answer. Instead, he accused me of “charging with evasion” and got all huffy-puffy for a second, when I never charged him with evasion at all. That you *seem* to be asking a similar question is an interesting confirmation. The feeling I’m getting from Luke is that since he’s written “hundreds of pages” about moral theory, that he doesn’t have to provide further support for arguments when asked. Hmph.

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Paul June 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

“keep an eye for my response to Tony Hoffman that you’d mentioned being interested in.”

Where?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I tried searching for it (it was on your blog, if I remember) before I even posted that, but could not find it. I was reminded of it because you alluded to it, in your post above…

Ah, I see: so it wasn’t that you really had a reasoned argument or anything cogent to say, or that you even have a specific statement in mind, you just kind of jumped at an opportunity encourage incivility? That’s kind of pathetic if you ask me, drj. If you can’t even supply a reasoned critique or point to a specific statement, hell… if you can’t even find the post in question, why should I take you with even a piss-ant’s worth of seriousness? I mean come on!

If you want to try again, the post is titled Questioning Fyfe’s Desirism: Introduction, and it can be found at the very bottom of the Desirim category on my blog. I’d supply a link but I’ve supplied so many links to evidence for my claims that Luke’s spam filter is literally trying to shut me down. I’m not joking, either.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Paul,

I’m unsure at the moment but I’ve got it in my notes. I will most certainly bring it to your attention when I’ve got my reply together.

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Paul June 11, 2010 at 2:58 pm

my “where?” question is where can I find your response.

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Paul June 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm

We must have submitted comment about same time. When the screen refreshed I saw that you had clarified.

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nate June 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Are there any arguments for moral realism besides “I feel moral realism is true” and “But I really feel that moral realism is true”?

I remember WLC as saying we should reject some standard of morality because it did not match our moral intuitions, but then he holds up DCM which does not match most people’s intuitions either. Has anyone ever called him on this?

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cl June 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

nate,

I remember WLC as saying we should reject some standard of morality because it did not match our moral intuitions, but then he holds up DCM which does not match most people’s intuitions either. Has anyone ever called him on this?

Really now? If you can provide a credible citation, I’d more than happy to call him on that. It seems to me that making such a claim is tantamount to saying man is fit to judge God. Since I can’t see Craig saying that, I’m a bit hesitant to accept your claim.

Where did Craig say what you’re thinking he said?

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drj June 11, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Ah, I see: so it wasn’t that you really had a reasoned argument or anything cogent to say, or that you even have a specific statement in mind, you just kind of jumped at an opportunity encourage incivility? That’s kind of pathetic if you ask me, drj. If you can’t even supply a reasoned critique or point to a specific statement, hell… if you can’t even find the post in question, why should I take you with even a piss-ant’s worth of seriousness? I mean come on!

If you want to try again, the post is titled Questioning Fyfe’s Desirism: Introduction, and it can be found at the very bottom of the Desirim category on my blog. I’d supply a link but I’ve supplied so many links to evidence for my claims that Luke’s spam filter is literally trying to shut me down. I’m not joking, either.

No, not a reasoned argument, just an observation. The snark is in high gear around here now, and even you seem to be partaking heavily – so maybe my post came out more mean spirited that it should have.

But on the other hand, I felt it worthwhile to let you know, at least in one particular instance, I can see why folk get frustrated.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 3:41 pm

drj,

..maybe my post came out more mean spirited that it should have.

You called my position “absurd” but couldn’t even identify my position, then had the nerve to ramble on about “you can see how other people get frustrated and hostile.” Did you really think that would be useful for anything besides a stern rebuke? You appear to be blaming me for other people’s inability to maintain themselves, and you can’t even point to an actual statement I made when asked. Sorry, but I have to take issue with that.

..I felt it worthwhile to let you know, at least in one particular instance, I can see why folk get frustrated.

I appreciate you stepping up and taking a side. I really do. That puts you miles ahead of pacifists and fence sitters, believe me. It’s just that, you haven’t explained why these folk should get frustrated and hostile? Why should they? Because you or they or anyone else fails to see the merit in some argument I made? That’s absurd. If some armchair philosopher(s) can’t take the heat, don’t you think it’s fair to say they ought not be in the kitchen?

Why should anyone ever get hostile in an ostensibly intellectual discussion? Give me one good reason.

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drj June 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Why should anyone ever get hostile in an ostensibly intellectual discussion? Give me one good reason. cl

Lots of reasons. One might get hostile or impatient if it becomes suspected that the other is arguing in bad faith. One might come to doubt that they are really engaged in an intellectual discussion at all, that perhaps they are being strung along by a sophist, attention seeker, or otherwise un-serious person who is toying with them, for whatever reason.

And fairly or unfairly, I got that sort of vibe after reading through the posts with the asbestos argument (and a little resurgence of that feeling, after reading the ‘reading calculation critique’ of desirism).

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lukeprog June 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm

cl,

You accused me of ‘non-sequiter’ and other language that implied you thought I was being evasive. And now again you’ve pointed out that I haven’t answered your question, which is true. That’s all I’m mentioning.

The reason I haven’t answered is because it would take along time and I’d have to explain 6 other assumptions I’m making philosophy of language and so on. I announced on this blog a while ago that I wouldn’t be answering most questions about desirism because instead I’m going to invest that time in doing the research and writing I need to do to present desirism in a form with the clarity and rigor fit for peer-review, which would benefit the discussion greatly in the long wrong. Right now, the opponents of desirism have the very good retort that desirism has not been formulated clearly enough to even know how to rebut it. I think that’s accurate. Alonzo may disagree, but I like my philosophy developed to a degree fit for peer review when possible.

It’s not that I feel I don’t have to provide more thorough arguments for desirism before it should be entertained by people. It’s precisely because I agree with you on that that I am spending the effort to put desirism up for peer review.

Hope that makes sense.

Cheers,

Luke

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TaiChi June 11, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Speaking only for myself and not WLC, something about that just doesn’t seem right. In the crudest sense, by objective morality, I refer to a source of morality that is not a subject. That’s it.” ~ cl

Ok, fair enough. I got the wrong end of the stick, somewhere.

As metaethics isn’t my strong suit, I’m afraid I don’t understand your distinction between “necessary morality” and “objective morality.” Wouldn’t it be the case that if moral facts exist as abstract objects, i.e., are objective, they would also be necessary?” ~ Chris K

Sure, but what you’ve done there is shown that morality is necessary if the relevant objects are abstract. If instead we take the objects on which moral facts depend to be concrete, then (unless that object is God) moral facts will be contingent.

I take Craig to be saying that morality is both necessary and objective. On the Augustine/Plantinga model of abstract objects and God’s nature, that moral facts just are a part of God’s nature, and thus a part of a Subject, make them no more subjective than the laws of logic, which are also a part of God’s nature. ” ~ Chris K

I think your interpretation is correct. However, if existing as “part of a subject” does not disqualify something as ‘objective’, then it appears that Craig has no reason to think that there can be no objective moral facts in the absence of God. He would have reason to think that there are no necessary moral facts in God’s absence however, and his example appears to argue for this.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Luke,

You accused me of ‘non-sequiter’ and other language that implied you thought I was being evasive.

You are correct that I accused you of a non-sequitur. That’s because you gave me a response that related absolutely zero to my question. However, what’s this mysterious yet unnamed “other language” that you mistakenly thought gave you the right to accuse me of “charging you with evasion?” I’m pretty sure you can see that if nothing else, I tend to be direct. On that logic, if and when I actually do want to charge you with evasion – or anything else for that matter – it’s a safe bet that I’m going to express such clearly and directly, just as I did when you committed the non-sequitur.

…now again you’ve pointed out that I haven’t answered your question,

Correct, because now somebody else apparently has a similar (if not identical) question. Still, that’s not a charge of evasion. You jumped to that conclusion yourself. If you want a charge of evasion, I’d mention my response to your “Creationists are evil” tirade from six months ago. Even then, it’s entirely possible that you simply forgot – which is why I’ve not once charged you with evasion – but don’t expect me to not leave reminders when I hear you repeating the same arguments without answering the questions, not even provisionally.

Right now, the opponents of desirism have the very good retort that desirism has not been formulated clearly enough to even know how to rebut it. I think that’s accurate. Alonzo may disagree,

I disagree, and will add that your comment seems to convey a watered-down version of that “desirism’s critics just don’t understand” attitude we’ve seen from you before. I think those of us leveling valid criticisms know how to rebut desirism just fine. That’s precisely because Alonzo was so painstaking and clear in laying out the foundations, IMHO. I think it’s well past the time where the onus is on the proponents of desirism to come up with successful rebuttals.

It’s precisely because I agree with you on that that I am spending the effort to put desirism up for peer review.

That’s fine. I have no problem with that, but why does that have to mutually exclude with finishing a conversation that you started? All I want to know is why you claim it’s different when the object of evaluation is all desires that exist. Is that because you treat all desires that exist as a sort of ontological entity incapable of subjective arbitrations, something like the “marketplace of desires” other commenters have mentioned?

I mean, no offense, but if desirism’s not even passing blog review, why are you so concerned about peer review? Why not subject it to more rigorous testing here, and if it seems to pass, then on to the journals?

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lukeprog June 11, 2010 at 6:04 pm

cl,

All this only demonstrates all the more (to me, anyway) that I need to write up desirism for peer review. To explain why I don’t think your rebuttal works will take me more time than I have. And yup, that’s all I’m going to say right now.

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cl June 11, 2010 at 6:16 pm

To explain why I don’t think your rebuttal works will take me more time than I have.

I disagree. If by “your rebuttal” you are alluding to my alleged contradiction @19 in this thread, you are literally two seconds away from getting me to say, “A-ha, I see your point.”

If you are treating the set of all desires that exist as an ontological entity incapable of subjective arbitration, then I can see why you would hold that “desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist.”

So take all the time you need. If your answer to that question is “yes,” then I accept the rebuttal you supplied and [at least temporarily] retract my charge of contradiction.

If your answer is “no,” then I cannot speculate further until you provide more information.

If by “your rebuttal” you allude to something else besides my alleged contradiction @19, you’ll need to clarify.

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Eneasz June 11, 2010 at 9:39 pm

And once again CL successfully destroys what could have been a productive thread, and destroys dozens (hundreds?) of productive hours from thinking atheists that could have been spent conversing with honestly interested parties rather than fed into the troll mill. Again, my hat’s off to a truly effective (if despicable) vandal.

On that topic, why don’t more atheist forums practice self-defense? Trolls destroy communities.

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noen June 11, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Eneasz
“And once again CL successfully destroys what could have been a productive thread”

Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with that. There is an awful lot of meta and not much on substance.

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noen June 11, 2010 at 10:17 pm

“why don’t more atheist forums practice self-defense?”

It requires self restraint. Kinda hard to come by in 14 year olds. ;)

I’m (sort of) serious about that. I think the majority of online atheists are adolescent boys trying to prove their manhood by beating up on dumb creationists. I mean… the Dawkins dot net forums resembled 4chan more than anything else.

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cl June 12, 2010 at 12:21 am

Eneasz

You? Again? As for trolling, guess what:

…a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community… [Wikipedia]

By definition, your comment is trolling. What have you offered to this thread? Oh yeah: nothing but an obviously “inflammatory, extraneous, and off-topic message.”

Now, if you have some kind of objection or premise or statement to discuss, then put it on the table and we can have a discussion. If not, get out of the way for the people that are trying to have discussions.

noen,

Some of the same haters also make you their scapegoat from time-to-time, and I mock them for it, and you’re going to throw me under the bus? Fair enough. To each their own, but I’m going to hold you to the same standard I’ll hold the rest: provide some kind of evidence for your claim. Something we might actually be able to debate. Don’t just spout off. Or, do. I don’t care. How is it that I’m a “troll” when all I’m doing is calling things as I see them and trying to keep up with every opinionated person who has something to say to me?

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cl June 12, 2010 at 12:49 am

I was getting a bit annoyed with lukeprog for avoiding the discussion, because I find this terribly interesting. (Alexander)

Now that’s interesting, Luke: here Alexander directly accuses you of avoiding the discussion, and you say nothing, but when I simply asked a question in good faith to be sure I understood you so I could temporarily retract a statement, you flew off the handle at me. No offense, but let’s try to communicate a little better.

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cl June 12, 2010 at 12:57 am

Alexander,

No support for my objection? What is that even suppose to mean? What is your criteria for “support” in this, what is it that will satisfy you in discourse?

My criteria for support in this case is any valid reason why my claim — “an omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts” — is untrue.

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faithlessgod June 12, 2010 at 4:05 am

Noen

Noen@:”Well it’s confusing because I’ve had responses here that told me explicitly that desires are mental states.”
Of course they are!

Noen@:”I didn’t pursue it but I assume what was meant was that a desire just is a configuration of neural firings in the brain of the person who has that desire.What else could it be?”
I agree, I do not see your issue yet.

Me@ “This is possibly the genetic fallacy. Desires are not value judgements as I understand them, since I argue that values are in the relation between desires and states of affairs – extrinsic to both.”
Noen@: “Yeah… I’m not sure I buy externalism.”
This is not externalism, although externalism is relevant elsewhere. This is a rejection of intrinsic values – see Mackie’s Argument from Queerness and Relativity. If values are not intrinsic then they are either extrinsic or do not exist. Surely it is sensible to take the more plausible approach?

Noen@:”People act based on their internal desires”.
They act on their desires period. However their actions are ontologically objective. Further according to any theory of rational action, actions are the result of intentions and these are the results of beliefs and desires. (Now Searle has a different psychological mode theory in comparison to the dominant psychological attitude theory here, but this is not substantive to debates for or against desirism, at least at the level at which we are engaged).

“Sometimes people say that they act based on external desires, like if I put a gun to your head your desires will change real quick.”
That is coercion. This is not relevant to the main questions here, since we are not making arguments of this kind. (Coercion is of course a topic discussed within desirism, as it should be in ethical model).

Noen@:”…I cannot have desires external to me.”
Yup.

Me@:“the relation between desires and states of affairs”

Noen@:”My statement “I desire that P” has the word to world direction of fit. It expresses my wish that it be so. My desire is fulfilled when my conditions of satisfaction are met. This is still subjective to my internal mental states.”
I think you have this upside down, check the wikipedia on “direction of fit”. So, a desire that P has a world-to-word direction of fit (world to fit word). However claiming that conditions of fulfilment have been met, is word-to-world direction of fit (word to fit world) that is it is ontologically objective. As I said check out Mackie in Inventing Right and Wrong who explicitly shows that this is uncontroversial even for subjectivists.

Noen@:”For me to say that my desires are objective would be to claim that “I desire that P” has the world to word direction of fit. This makes no sense because I am not external to me.”
Again you have it upside down but I do get the sense of what you were saying. However you are now denying that “you desire that P” as an objective fact – that claiming “you desire that P” has a word-to-world direction of fit (which may or may not be true, and if you are not self-deluded, mistaken or lying it would be true and fit the world)?

It has become quite unclear what you are arguing for, compounded by an innocent and confusing, at least to me, inversion of direction of fit. Nothing at this stage would, I think, Searle find at all controversial and indeed imagine would agree with what I have written.

Now here comes the rub though, upon which Searle has said nothing as far as I am aware:

Noen @:““Those desires are good which promote good desires”
Me @: “This is incorrect. Desires are good in virtue of tending to fulfil other desires.”
Noen @: “How do you know that fulfilling these other desires is a good?”

By analysis of the usage of the term good in the world. However nothing hinges on this if you don’t like, it don’t use it. I was refuting your self-circular argument which I have successfully done as far as I can see.

It is still the case that as to whether a desire tends to fulfil or thwart other desires, then to the degree it does those are the reasons to promote or inhibit that desire. One sometimes effective way of doing this is to use the terms “good” and “bad” as acts of praise and blame respectively, which might be effective on socially educated persons, and a guide for them with respect to the those who lack such social education, that is all.

Noen@: “My understanding is that there is a sort of marketplace of desires that is constructed (is this true?).”
Hmmm not sure at all. To the degree that social reality is constructed (a la Searle) clearly morality is too, being a social institution but it is unclear that is how you are using “constructed” here. Still, to carry on the analogy, one could say that there has mostly never been a free market on the desirability of desire with respect to all-things-considered and all-things-being-equal factors, but this is also a trajectory upon which one can plot the progress and regress of actual moral institutions through the ages and at present.

Noen @: “That only those desires that fulfill other desires will succeed and those desires that thwart desires will fail. “[My emphasis]
This is a different issue. The questions as to why these have not respectively succeeded and failed, where they have not, is the question over critiquing and improving morality and related regulative social institutions such as the law.

Noen @: “This reminds me of the so-called “magic hand of the free market”. The belief that markets are inherently self regulating.”
An interesting thought but moral social institutions require reciprocally regulative others institutions such as a legislature, a judiciary and so on. There is no magic involved of an invisible hand or otherwise. Alonzo might disagree on this but I am awaiting his next post which might very well address this question.

Noen @: “We’ve done that experiment, the results are in, the belief in self regulating markets is a delusion. I don’t expect any different results from marketplace desirism.”
Unfortunately this, as far as I can see, is a false analogy since applications of desirism in society would be to review, revise and improve the relevant associated social institutions not remove them all (some might be superfluous, one cannot rule that out a priori of course and, again, some might be lacking and need to be introduced too.)

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lukeprog June 12, 2010 at 4:45 am

Eneasz,

Yeah, that’s why at some point I just have to say “I’m done here.” My time is better spent elsewhere.

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lukeprog June 12, 2010 at 4:47 am

cl,

If you saw my demeanor or heard my say aloud what I typed, you would not describe it as flying off the handle.

I don’t recall Alexander’s comment catching my eye as I skimmed through the hundreds of comments left each day on this site.

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DoAtheistsExist? June 12, 2010 at 4:58 am

The comments on this thread are really annoying lol, from christians and atheists alike. I remember one of my atheist friends saying that there’s no more fun that an atheist can have than watching two christians squabble and argue with each other, accusing each other of heresy. Well, for me there is no entertainment like watching 2 atheists on a top quality blog slagging each other off effing and blinding for the cause of atheism LOL. =P

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faithlessgod June 12, 2010 at 5:23 am

This is addressed to others not cl. (As far as cl is concerned I refer him to the reply given in the case of Arkell v. Pressdram.)

“it remains undeniable that a morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best morality possible. ”
It was this that I gave the verdict that it was an “ignorant, arrogant and ridiculous” statement, a verdict that I have more than amply provided support for.

However in trying weasel out of that cl does come up with an interesting point: “an omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts” which is a completely different argument.

Now I can agree with this.

However in reference to the OP this specifically is not what WLC claims, far from it. Indeed if “an omniscient, omnibenevolent [and omnipotent] God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts” existed it would not have allowed anyone to hold the morality was identical with it’s nature and indeed it could use the Euthyphro dillemma to show this! Well maybe it is not omnipotent and so is powerless to correct the absurdities (and the wrong and subjective horn of the Euthyphro) that WLC argues for and that cl appeared, although now he has apparently retracted, to agree with.

If such a God existed and were at least (which does not need it to be omnipotent) capable of communicating this to us then then there would be no debate of DCT, since God itself would have explained its falsehood. Since this is not the case then this is evidence that God is not omnibenevolent (since by it’s omniscience it would know that it lied to its believers).

Of course this is version of the internal incompatibility of divine attributes argument and there is no need to go though all the variations with respect to “perfect access to the set of true moral facts”.

Still, this is I think leads to an interesting conlusion, in short, God promoting or approving people believing in DCT is evidence that God is not omnibenevolent!

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Zeb June 12, 2010 at 5:24 am

lukeprog

the short answer is that desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist.

There is, I think, the answer for Craig and other good-is-the-nature-of-God people (like me). God is the fulfiller and the fulfillment of the most and greatest of all the desires that exist. Humans, being creatures of God, have an innate, ultimate desire for communion with God. The teaching that all “sinful” desires are perversions of good desires that are truly fulfilled by God but that have been misdirected toward other objects is as old as Christian theology (and perhaps older). Indeed I think it is ridiculous to talk about God himself having desires, except in a sense a desire for others’ wellbeing and happiness, so that his “commands” are simply the true statements about how all beings can best fulfill their greatest desires (this relies on the idea, shared by desirism, that we can have unconscious desires that are stronger than any conscious ones.)

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lukeprog June 12, 2010 at 7:22 am

Zeb,

That is one solution I very much doubt Craig will take on board!

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faithlessgod June 12, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Hi Zeb

An interesting and thought provoking comment. So here are my commments :-)

“There is, I think, the answer for Craig and other good-is-the-nature-of-God people (like me).”
At least I know where you are coming from.

“God is the fulfiller and the fulfillment of the most and greatest of all the desires that exist.”
This makes God both the state of affairs that is the purported target of this most and great desires and the state of affairs through which the above state of affairs is brought about.

“Humans, being creatures of God, have an innate, ultimate desire for communion with God.”
This, presumably, is what you mean by the most and greatest desire. However history shows there no evidence that such an ultimate desire exists nor is innate. Certainly many people have and do have something like this but many do not and have not. For example, many hundreds of millions of Buddhists would disagree wiht this on many levels and Taoists, Adviata Vedantists and so on.

Sill ignoring the innate and ultimate questionable aspects the are two key points.

However, if true, only one religion (or possibly creed) is correct and the others are false so God is also the thwarter and thwartment of the most and greatest desires of all other theists. Further no-one has any objective evidence as to which theism is correct. So no-one knows if there desire will be fulfilled or thwarted until it is too late to change the result.

But non-theists have no such desire, they have nothing to fulfil or thwart.

The likelihood is that non-theists are better off than any theist! That would be the result of this Pascal wager :-)

“The teaching that all “sinful” desires are perversions of good desires that are truly fulfilled by God but that have been misdirected toward other objects is as old as Christian theology (and perhaps older).”
Much older. Sin is usually meant to err against God’s commands. However morality is not concerned about good desires that are fulfilled by God, that is a private an personal matter between a believer and their God. Morality is concerned about preventing “sins” against others and promoting “mitzvohs” (is there a Christian equivalent?) for others.

“Indeed I think it is ridiculous to talk about God himself having desires,”
In which case God cannot neither be good or bad as such, just a desired state of affairs, valued by beleivers.

“except in a sense a desire for others’ wellbeing and happiness,”
Getting closer to morality now

“so that his “commands” are simply the true statements about how all beings can best fulfill their greatest desires”
it depends on “best” here. Does this mean ignoring the plight of others, “best” in terms of narrow self-interest, then it is not morality, or “best” in terms of mutual and reciprocal benefit with others? Then is more like morality except this should not be just over their greatest desires but all their desires.

“(this, then relies on the idea, shared by desirism, that we can have unconscious desires that are stronger than any conscious ones.)”
Quite so.

Nice try but AFAICS this seems to miss the point over providing a basis for morality, that is providing a basis, explanation of and framework to evaluate the social institution for promoting universally beneficial desires and aversions using praise, blame, reward and punishment (that is the desirist description of this institution, but your attempt fails to resolve this in whatever terms it is described).

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Kip June 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

I like ice-cream. This is ontologically subjective. By that, I mean that the truth of this proposition depends on a mental state.

You like ice-cream. This is ontologically subjective.

[ Let's presume (for argument) that I am willing to pay $1 for a cup of ice-cream, and you are willing to pay $10 for a cup of ice-cream, and further that we both have equal ability to pay, and the exact same opportunity costs. ]

You like ice-cream more than I like ice-cream. <– Is this proposition ontologically subjective or objective? Does the truth of this proposition depend on mental states?

I think so (making it ontologically subjective). But, faithlessgod seems to say it does not (which is why it can be ontologically objective). And this is precisely the nature of things that makes some desires better than others, and is thus the grounding for morality that Desirism proposes.

I don't think this hurts the theory of Desirism, and am not sure that Fyfe wouldn't agree with how I have stated it, even.

I am curious as to why Luke thinks that Desirism does not include an ontologically subjective account of value, since it claims that all value arises from the relationship of mental states. And if Luke does not disagree with that, then how can Desirism not be at least partially ontologically subjective when the root of morality (value) is ontologically subjective?

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noen June 12, 2010 at 8:11 pm

@ faithlessgod — Thank you for your reply. Regarding direction of fit, in Searle’s lecture’s in PHIL 3 this spring he complained about how wikipedia had many of his concepts wrong. I’ll have to double check and see if the wiki entry is correct or not.

Noen@:”I didn’t pursue it but I assume what was meant was that a desire just is a configuration of neural firings in the brain of the person who has that desire.What else could it be?”
I agree, I do not see your issue yet.

I don’t accept the identity theory of the mind which is what I assume is being asserted here. But then I don’t accept functionalism either. I don’t think we know yet.

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Richard Wein June 13, 2010 at 3:36 am

I see a lot of discussion here about whether facts regarding mental dispositions (including desires) should be labelled “subjective” or “objective”. This seems like a pointless exercise to me. Mental dispositions are real dispositions, and facts about mental dispositions are facts in the same way that facts about the shape of the Earth (say) are facts. What useful distinction is being made if we say that the fact Richard likes ice cream is subjective but the fact the Earth is round is objective?

Kip wrote:

I like ice-cream. This is ontologically subjective. By that, I mean that the truth of this proposition depends on a mental state.

The distinction between ontological and epistemic subjectivity seems to be the idea of John Searle (from some brief googling). But as far as I can see, Searle applies the term “ontologically subjective” to phenomena, not to facts or propositions about phenomena:

We can have epistemically objective knowledge of domains that are ontologically subjective. So, for example, in the epistemic sense, it is an objective matter of fact—not a matter of anybody’s opinion—that I have pains in my lower back. But the existence of the pains themselves is ontologically subjective.

Even if Searle would describe a liking for ice cream as ontologically subjective, it seems he would describe the proposition or fact that you like ice cream as epistemically objective, by which he means there is a fact of the matter as to whether you like ice cream; it’s not just a matter of personal opinion. Surely in the context of objective moral facts it is Searle’s epistemic objectivity that we’re concerned with.

There seems to be a common conflation of (a) phenomena and (b) facts or propositions about those phenomena. Likings, desires and beliefs are all mental phenomena. My liking for ice cream is not the same as the fact that I like ice cream. My belief that the Earth is round is not the same as the fact that the Earth is round. Nor is it the same as the fact that I believe the Earth is round.

It seems to me that the term “moral values” should be reserved for describing the mental phenomena associated with morality. These could be beliefs (e.g. the belief that murder is wrong) and/or non-cognitive stances (e.g. disapproval of murder) or both. But there seems to be a tendency to conflate the terms “moral values” and “moral facts”, and I think that causes a lot of confusion.

There is a further complication, in that there is a certain sort of subjectivist who says that facts themselves are subject-dependent. That is, there is some sense in which a fact can be true from the point of view of one subject but false from the point of view of another subject. This may refer just to moral facts, or to facts more generally. Presumably someone who is a subjectivist about all facts would say that the Earth can be round for me but flat for you. I’m not familiar with this position, and I’m not going to try to make sense of it. I doubt that anyone here takes this position, even with regard to moral facts only. Anyway, I think it would be best if the word “subjective” was reserved for use in describing this subject-dependent sense.

Apart from this subject-dependent sense, I think it would be better to avoid the subjective-objective distinction when discussing moral values, and just stick to the fact-value distinction, using “moral values” to refer to mental phenomena only.

When people talk about “objective moral facts”, I take them to mean facts which would make some moral claims (such as “X is wrong”) true in the sense that moral claimants mean those claims. And I say there can be no such facts because such claims do not have a coherent meaning.

There are facts of the matter about people’s moral values, and I have no problem calling those “objective” facts if that makes things clearer for anyone. But these are not what is normally meant by “objective moral facts”.

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faithlessgod June 13, 2010 at 6:10 am

Kip, Richard and Noen

First, I stand corrected by Kip and Richard.

“I like sorbet” as a desire is ontologically subjective. However one can be epistemically objective about this desire. Indeed one could infer it from my actions and/or make predictions about my actions based on this desire. I chose sorbet over ice cream given the choice. I seek shops that sell sorbet over those that only sell ice cream and so on. That is, this (and any other) desire has real-world consequences. These consequences are ontologically objective and we can know these are, these consequences are epistemically objective. Whilst the desire itself is ontologically subjective, it’s conditions of fulfilment (satisfaction a la Searle) are ontologically objective. Richard, as an error theorist, is I presume is familiar with Mackie’s work, and Mackie, in his own language, states this is quite uncontroversial and accepted by subjectivists as in, IIRC, his exam (and other requirements) examples.

I am surprised that Noen who took a course with Searle did not point this out but maybe he did and I misread it? As for an identity theory of mind or not, this is not a substantive issue with respect to morality. All that is required is agents that have socially malleable beliefs and desires. This could include robots and “intelligent agents” in the AI parlance. Indeed this is where the refinement of Humean and Frege-Russel etc. philosophical psychology ended up with BDI theory, which was the exemplar model for intelligent agents in AI.

However then Richard talks about moral values that “should be reserved for describing the mental phenomena associated with morality”. Well the mental phenomena is only part of it, the central topic of morality is a social institution as briefly summarised in a previous comment. Indeed, surely, no values are mental states as such, all values are decomposable as relations between brain (or mental if you wish) states and (other) states of affairs, being extrinsic to both.

So Richard’s point that “There are facts of the matter about people’s moral values, and I have no problem calling those “objective” facts if that makes things clearer for anyone. But these are not what is normally meant by “objective moral facts”.” misses the point. We both agree that there are no objective moral facts that refer to external intrinsic prescriptivity or categorical imperatives. I further say that there no subjective (just for contrast) moral facts either, those that refer just to people’s (internal or mental) moral “values” – these are just opinions about these values, not values themselves.

Finally returning to a point from Kip:
“I am curious as to why Luke thinks that Desirism does not include an ontologically subjective account of value, since it claims that all value arises from the relationship of mental states. And if Luke does not disagree with that, then how can Desirism not be at least partially ontologically subjective when the root of morality (value) is ontologically subjective?”
Desirism does include this and insists that there is an ontologically subjective component (and specially not a full account thereof) of value. The point is that to insist that “root of value is ontologically subjective” is to commit the genetic fallacy. Values are not in the head.

That is enough for now back to you guys.

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faithlessgod June 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

Noen

You might be right about me misread direction of fit. Then as a student of Searle you and others could correct the wikipedia references. I did not have time to find and look up Searle on my bookshelf. Regardless I ensured in my answer that there could no confusion upon how I was using the term

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noen June 13, 2010 at 7:15 am

Richard Wein
What useful distinction is being made if we say that the fact Richard likes ice cream is subjective but the fact the Earth is round is objective?

Because Alfonso here, the originator of Desirism, claims that desires are objective in the way that my hair color is objective and that’s just nuts.

Surely in the context of objective moral facts it is Searle’s epistemic objectivity that we’re concerned with.

Yes, I think you are right.

But there seems to be a tendency to conflate the terms “moral values” and “moral facts”, and I think that causes a lot of confusion.

Desirism falsly claims that desires are objective moral facts and then pretends that moral values do not exist.

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Kip June 13, 2010 at 12:16 pm

> The point is that to insist that “root of value is ontologically subjective” is to commit the genetic fallacy. Values are not in the head.

By “root of value”, I mean “that which gives rise to value”. What is it that instantiates value? Value is the relationship between desires and states of affairs. Is it the states of affairs that “give rise” to the value? Or is it the desires? Both? It seems to me that the desires are what are giving “rise” to instantiate the value. Desires are what are motivating the agent to realize or maintain the state of affairs that s/he “values”. All of the “motiving work” is being done by the desires, not the state of affairs, which is why I think it is correct in saying that it is the desires that give “rise to” or are the “root of” value.

But, back to the larger question. I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective? Can someone explain this to me?

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Hermes June 13, 2010 at 12:53 pm

godless randall, no I was not replying to you. We posted at the same time and were responding to the same thing.

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Hermes June 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm

As for the rest of your comments, thanks for the input.

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Hermes June 13, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Drj, good assessments.

Cl, any dry (un-emotional) comments appreciated.

Zeb, sounds eastern.

Kip, good additions.

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Eneasz June 13, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Hi Kip!

I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective? Can someone explain this to me?

I know this isn’t the question at hand, but in my opinion it’s not worth comparing the two. Divine Command is simply wrong. Regardless of if one calls it objective or subjective, it remains the case that even if the only desires one considers are god’s, there are still MANY OTHER desires which provide any agent with reasons for action. Even if one states that she doesn’t know what the most-correct (or objective) moral theory is, it’s obvious that Divine Command is not in the running.

Given this, why bother engaging it at all? (except for the rare cases when you have to point out to a youngling that DC is a failure) It’s a distraction, at the very least we could discuss whether some other potentially-accurate model is more or less objective/subjective. Arguing about the relative merits of DC is like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

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Hermes June 13, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Kip, a few minor comments. I’ll try and keep them as terse as possible, and apologize for any lack of clarity or errors introduced by this.

We can unambiguously/concretely talk with and examine people and compare any human-to-human philosophy with those results. Those philosophical ideas can be expanded on, adapted, or even refuted. Desirism is one of those philosophies.

If a set of deities exists, though, they have been largely resistant to the same direct concrete/unambiguous examination. DCT specifically deals with a set of deities (one or more) and asserts that we are unable to perform that examination.

DCT is entirely abstract and detached from results. This is not the case with all philosophical ideas dealing with deities (example: the problem of evil (POE)). While some real-world examples dealing with DCT can be provided (as the can with the POE), for the most part they can be waved aside by DCT proponents and are not necessary.

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faithlessgod June 14, 2010 at 12:20 am

Noen

“Because Alfonso here, the originator of Desirism, claims that desires are objective in the way that my hair color is objective and that’s just nuts.”
Alonzo (not Alfonso) does not use Searle’s epistemic/ontologic distinction. If he did, I do not think he would disagree with my application of it here, which makes his argument quite consistent with Searle’s approach. If you have an issue with this, then address my points which is the relevant answer to your query. You might still disagree wiht my response and we can discuss. However repeating your original complaint and ignoring a potential resolution does not further debate.

Richard@:”Surely in the context of objective moral facts it is Searle’s epistemic objectivity that we’re concerned with.”
Noen @:”Yes, I think you are right.”
Exactly and I have given you an answer that makes sense of Alonzo’s claims,

“Desirism falsly claims that desires are objective moral facts and then pretends that moral values do not exist.”
False on both counts. As a reductive naturalism there are no moral facts not reducible to non-moral facts, one of these non-moral facts being facts over two or more agent’s desires, over which I have already explained how we can objectively examine the desire-desire cause-effect relations (more precisely the detrimental versus beneficial interactions of different conditions of fulfilment). It does not pretend that moral values do not exist. I presume you mean objective moral values – values independent of sentient beings – it makes the same argument that I presume Richard agree with – these do not exist as Mackie’s arguments from queerness and relativity support.

The above all said, Noen, if there is one thing you should have learnt from Searle’s course is to say things clearly and specifically. If you used a Searle like clarity there would be no confusion over what you are asserting. So when you claim that desirism pretends that moral values not exist – are we talking epistemically or ontologically are you arguing for subjective or objective or other types of values. This is all unclear so I had no choice but to make explicit presumptions in the above. It would be better if you made your presumptions explicit in the first place.

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faithlessgod June 14, 2010 at 12:37 am

Kip

Augmenting Eneasz’s and Hermes’ replies

“I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective? Can someone explain this to me?”
I think you were playing devil’s advocate here but still:

1. DCT is an intrinsic value theory (and one that has more flaws than any other), desirism is an extrinsic value theory
2. DCT holds that values are basic, non-reducible, non-decomposable and wholly mysterious (being identical to God’s eternal nature), desirism holds that values are non-basic, reducible and not mysterious etc.
3. DCT is subjective in identifying values in, presumably of its nature in a way that makes any sense at all, being identical to God’s desires, God’s desires are good of necessity without remotely explaining how and why this is possible nor provide any indication that it could be true without avoiding a vicious circularity.
4. DCT flagrantly ignore the is/ought distinction. So what that God has certain desires, why should it matter to us? DCT makes it matter by providing reward and punishment out of all proportion to the desires and actions being considered and, such are reward and punishment practice is itself morally repugnant. By contrast desirism is based on the real capabilities and limitation of human cognitive and affective capacities and is not out of proportion.

etc. etc.

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cl June 14, 2010 at 8:49 am

There is a sense in which people use the word objective to mean “existing outside ourselves,” and that’s generally true of all objects. However, to reason from this to something like, “DCT is objective because it’s grounded in God” is to lazily apply the definition of objective, IMO. In the same way I would consider “morality according to George Bush” subjective – at least philosophically – it would seem I’d also have to consider “morality according to God is subjective.” Why? Because George Bush and God are still subjects – even though there is a true sense of the word by which they are also objects (presuming an extant God).

drj,

One might get hostile or impatient if it becomes suspected that the other is arguing in bad faith. One might come to doubt that they are really engaged in an intellectual discussion at all, that perhaps they are being strung along by a sophist, attention seeker, or otherwise un-serious person who is toying with them, for whatever reason.

That’s exactly how I feel when I get accused of being a racist, troll, disrespecter of integrity, etc. It baffles me that you would get this reaction in response to hearing an actual argument, but to each their own, I suppose. I can’t argue against what you feel, and I respect your feelings as real. At this point, all I can see is keep watching.

faithlessgod,

…in trying weasel out of that cl does come up with an interesting point…

Kudos for the “interesting” part, but I’m not trying to “weasel out” of anything.

“an omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts” (cl)

Now I can agree with this.

I’m glad to see you’re actually thinking instead of just denouncing, but can you support your claim that my second argument is “completely different” than the first one? Calling them A and B, my first argument was,

A) It remains undeniable that a morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best morality possible.

My second argument was,

B) An omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts.

A and B are not “completely different” arguments. Rather, B – which you’ve already conceded to agreeing with – is direct, undeniable support for A. You cannot accept B and deny A without good reason.

However in reference to the OP this specifically is not what WLC claims, far from it.

Correct. I’ve stated several times that I don’t share WLC’s position, so how is that observation relevant?

Indeed if “an omniscient, omnibenevolent [and omnipotent] God would have perfect access to the set of true moral facts” existed it would not have allowed anyone to hold the morality was identical with it’s nature…

Okay, it took some time because you have a heap of vague pronouns and seemingly misplaced words in there, but here’s what I think you’re saying: “If an If an omniscient, omnibenevolent and omnipotent God existed, it would not let Craig et al. believe that morality was identical with God’s Nature.” Is that right? You continue,

…indeed it could use the Euthyphro dillemma to show this!

Who does the pronoun “it” refer to in that sentence? The O^3 God in question? A hypothetical skeptic? How is the Euthyphro dilemma relevant to my factual arguments A and B?

Well maybe it is not omnipotent and so is powerless to correct the absurdities (and the wrong and subjective horn of the Euthyphro) that WLC argues for and that cl appeared, although now he has apparently retracted, to agree with.

I’ve not retracted anything. You [apparently] assumed I agree with Craig without good cause.

The remainder of your response is incoherent.

Richard Wein,

…facts about mental dispositions are facts in the same way that facts about the shape of the Earth (say) are facts.

I agree. This is part of the support for my claim that DCT – though dictated through a divine subject (God) – is actually an objective theory: because an omniscient, omnibelevolent God would have perfect access to the set of moral facts. Therefore, any pronouncements in accordance with these facts is an objective pronouncement.

What useful distinction is being made if we say that the fact Richard likes ice cream is subjective but the fact the Earth is round is objective?

None whatsoever, AFAICS. The person who says that pleads specially.

noen,

Regarding your comments to Richard Wein,

[Alonzo] here, the originator of Desirism, claims that desires are objective in the way that my hair color is objective and that’s just nuts.

I believe they are, and I don’t find your argument that they’re not convincing. I’ve already explained why: even if we grant your whole “there’s no you” argument, we’re still left with a set of objects with varying and often contradictory properties. Apples are objects, people are objects. Techically, people are both subjects and objects, but for now I just need to focus on their object aspect. In the same way that a red apple is an object that differs from an object which is a green apple, a conglomeration of atoms with desire A is an object that differs from an object that is a conglomeration of atoms with desire B.

Desirism falsly claims that desires are objective moral facts and then pretends that moral values do not exist.

I’m pretty confident that it’s correct to say Alonzo considers desires objective facts , but I don’t know that Fyfe would call desires “objective moral facts.” Alonzo?

I believe the claim “desires convey objective facts” is true as stated, and a bit more accurate than anything I’ve heard to date.

Eneasz,

Divine Command is simply wrong. Regardless of if one calls it objective or subjective, it remains the case that even if the only desires one considers are god’s, there are still MANY OTHER desires which provide any agent with reasons for action.

That’s non-sequitur. How is the fact that there are still “many other desires which provide any agent with reasons for action” support for the claim, “DCT is simply wrong?”

Even if one states that she doesn’t know what the most-correct (or objective) moral theory is, it’s obvious that Divine Command is not in the running.

Unsupported assertion.

Given this, why bother engaging it at all? (except for the rare cases when you have to point out to a youngling that DC is a failure) It’s a distraction, at the very least we could discuss whether some other potentially-accurate model is more or less objective/subjective. Arguing about the relative merits of DC is like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Rhetoric, entirely. Can you support your claim that “DCT is simply wrong?” I have provided you with well-defined premises that I’ve already successfully argued as true. Do you have a response that doesn’t amount to personal disdain for DCT?

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Hermes June 14, 2010 at 10:48 am

Unsupported assertion.

“Divine command theory is widely held to be refuted by an argument known as ‘the Euthyphro dilemma’.

Source: http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/christian-ethics/divine-command-theory/the-euthyphro-dilemma

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cl June 14, 2010 at 11:41 am

Clarification:

That DCT is widely held to be refuted by an argument known as the Euthyphro dilemma is actually a well-supported assertion. I did not mean to imply that we have an absence of atheists mistakenly believing Euthyphro is a problem for DCT. Lord knows we do.

What’s unsupported is the assertion that Euthyphro’s is any dilemma for the particular variant of DCT I’ve argued. As far as our old buddy Euthyphro goes, I’m willing to take the first horn and claim that God commands the good because it is good.

Some writers argue that such is fatal:

A) If God commands the good because it is good, then he bases his decision what to command on what is already morally good.

B) Moral goodness, then, must exist before God issues any commands, otherwise he wouldn’t command anything.

C) If moral goodness exists before God issues any commands, though, then moral goodness is independent of God’s commands; God’s commands aren’t the source of morality, but merely a source of information about morality. (moralphilosophy.info, delineation added for clarity)

I accept A, B and C, as stated. Aside from the obvious question “why is the good good,” moralphilosophy.info’s rebuttal – like Luke’s before it – is semantic, but certainly not problematic. All I have to do is either justify calling DCT “divine command theory,” or replace it with something like “perfect access to moral facts” theory. I’m willing to do either or both if anyone wants to press the issue. My point is, what we call the theory is of marginal importance compared to the establishment of the theory’s veracity – which has been sufficiently established, IMHO.

Personally, I think DCT is a sufficiently accurate name, because the “theory” still amounts to “divine commands” at the end of the day. To me, so long as God’s proclamations are based on moral facts, it makes no difference to say “the commands come through God” as opposed to “the commands come from God.” It’s also true to say something like, “If God is omniscient and omnibenevolent, then God’s Nature is good.” None of this is problematic for my arguments.

Now, there are two ways I could agree with Luke that DCT is actually a subjective moral theory:

1) if we were proferring a non-omniscient, non-omnibenevolent God or gods; and/or,

2) if we were proferring an omniscient, omnibenevolent God or gods, whose prescriptions were not based on moral facts.

I’m not proffering either 1 or 2, so I can safely discard Luke’s objection.

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Zeb June 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

faithlessgod, thank you for your serious and thoughtful consideration. I agree with the first part of your response to my comment.

I disagree with this:

However, if true, only one religion (or possibly creed) is correct and the others are false so God is also the thwarter and thwartment of the most and greatest desires of all other theists.

The true God (if one exists) is the fulfillment of all desires for God, regardless in which religion those desires are expressed and which most accurately describes God. If you are saying that God actively thwarts people’s desires as a response to their professing a false religion, that me be true but it is not the concept of God I and many Christians and other theists hold. That is not a necessary teaching of tri-omni theism or DCT.

Further no-one has any objective evidence as to which theism is correct.

True as far as I know.

So no-one knows if there desire will be fulfilled or thwarted until it is too late to change the result.

Those who trust in the omnibenevolence of God know that even if they made a mistake in choosing their creed, their desire to be united with God (whoever he is) will be fulfilled.

But non-theists have no such desire, they have nothing to fulfil or thwart.

Of course this is the main point of contention. From my perspective that would be like saying “Nihilists have no desire to live, so killing them would not thwart their desires.” The understanding of most Christianity, at least, is that all people do have a desire for God, perhaps unacknowledged or unconscious, just as all nihilists have an unacknowledged or unconscious desire to live.

Morality is concerned about preventing “sins” against others and promoting “mitzvohs” (is there a Christian equivalent?) for others.

“Indeed I think it is ridiculous to talk about God himself having desires,”
In which case God cannot neither be good or bad as such, just a desired state of affairs, valued by beleivers.

“except in a sense a desire for others’ wellbeing and happiness,”
Getting closer to morality now

“so that his “commands” are simply the true statements about how all beings can best fulfill their greatest desires”
it depends on “best” here. Does this mean ignoring the plight of others, “best” in terms of narrow self-interest, then it is not morality, or “best” in terms of mutual and reciprocal benefit with others? Then is more like morality except this should not be just over their greatest desires but all their desires.

God’s commands (as desire fulfillment guidelines) must refer to both personal and mutual/reciprocal benefit for two reasons: 1. One who approaches fulfillment of his desire for total communion with God comes to share God’s desires, which are the happiness and well-being of all beings (As God loves all beings, he can be said to have that “desire” in a sense, particularly if a desire is any sort of reason for action). 2. A tri-omni God would create a world such that ‘true’ desires (those that do not have misplaced objects)can be and must be fulfilled in harmony. You say DCT of this sort should be over all desires, not just individuals’ greatest ones. First, if the greatest desire is to great as to be always overriding, would it not be sufficient for a good being to fulfill the greatest desire, and second if the greatest desire conflicted with the other desires would that not make the other desires “bad,” such that all good beings should desire to eliminate bad desires rather than fulfill them? However as I said, a common teaching in various theisms is that all desire are basically good, but have misplaced objects. In your analysis, I presume, the desire to live long (in the right circumstances) is good, but the desire to superdose on vitamin C (in order to live long) is bad because it based on false beliefs. And so one can hold that all other desires are part of package of desires as means that may include true or false beliefs; where the ‘true’ desire I referred to is the ultimate desire as end, communion with God or participation in the life of God or whatever..

Nice try but AFAICS this seems to miss the point over providing a basis for morality, that is providing a basis, explanation of and framework to evaluate the social institution for promoting universally beneficial desires and aversions using praise, blame, reward and punishment (that is the desirist description of this institution, but your attempt fails to resolve this in whatever terms it is described).

I’m not sure I buy the desirist description of the institution of morality, and perhaps my version of DCT does not meet that description as well as desirism, though I don’t see that it fails entirely. However I think it beats desirism in one criteria that is pretty commonly held to be an essential aspect of any moral system – translating moral ought into a prudential ought. Commonly we expect a moral system to be such that the illumination of a moral ought includes the correction of a false belief or the illumination of an unknown one that reveals the practical reason a person should and would want to obey the moral ought.

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Hermes June 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Retraction accepted.

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Zeb June 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Eneasz

Divine Command is simply wrong. Regardless of if one calls it objective or subjective, it remains the case that even if the only desires one considers are god’s, there are still MANY OTHER desires which provide any agent with reasons for action.

If as cl and I are arguing God is a complete and accurate source of moral facts then DCT is epistemically objective, and if as I argue God’s only “desire” is the best fulfillment of all beings’ desires (the all desires in harmony utopia of desirists and the all desires fulfilled utopia of utilitarians), DCT is objective in the sense that it is universal and considers all desires.

Arguing about the relative merits of DC is like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Once God has been dispensed, you’re right. But if you are trying to use disproof of DCT as evidence for disbelief, or if someone else is trying to use the intuitive sense of objective morals as proof of God via DCT, then you have to engage DCT.

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Hermes June 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm

But if you are trying to use disproof of DCT as evidence for disbelief,

There’s no evidence for belief in most deities, and vague evidence for the rest, so the status of DCT irt. belief is without meaning regardless of if the specific deity is said to be one that the DCT applies to.

[ revisit comments from previous conversations on beliefs being best informed by evidence but not reliant on them ]

or if someone else is trying to use the intuitive sense of objective morals as proof of God via DCT, then you have to engage DCT.

Intuitions are not objective, nor are they anathema to objectivity. Intuition is in another category.

If an intuition is to be shared, it is the other aspects of the phenomenon not the intuition itself that must be brought forth. In this indirect way, someone can ‘get’ an intuition of another person.

To be objective, the bar is raised even higher; just having someone else get it is not enough. Objectivity deals with facts that are unambiguous, not just private conjectures or biases.

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Eneasz June 14, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Hiya Zeb. I feel you’re missing a very important point.

If as cl and I are arguing God is a complete and accurate source of moral facts then DCT is epistemically objective

This would be relevant iff it were possible to interface with this God in some way in order to get access to these facts. But in our world this is not the case, so we are instead left relying on what other men say about God. And since what other men say God has reveal is wildly contradictory, frequently wrong, and generally supports the interests of those men, it is prudent to dismiss their claims until such a time that some sort of direct interaction with a God is actually possible.

And, not to get off topic, but even once such an interaction were possible we’d still have to verify that this God really does have access to all moral facts, and really is revealing them all truthfully (and not to further his/her own interests).

and if as I argue God’s only “desire” is the best fulfillment of all beings’ desires

Aren’t you another man? So we are once again left with the fact that we cannot interact with God to discover what his desires are, and instead have to rely on the claims of other men (in this case, you).

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faithlessgod June 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I wrote a long comment in answer to Zeb and it got lost. Sorry but not going write it again. I am finding the comments process on this blog unreliable it has now lost three comments in the last day. I will come back when this is fixed.

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lukeprog June 14, 2010 at 3:31 pm

It’s Akismet spam filter, which I can’t configure. Anyone have any recommendations?

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Hermes June 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Filtering is tricky. I have no ready recommendations for a blog.

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JS Allen June 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Akismet is the gold standard; I don’t think you’ll do better. It’s a common problem on practically any blog that doesn’t use captchas. People need to copy their comments to the clipboard before hitting post, and then tweak it if they see it got swallowed.

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drj June 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Better yet, just type your comments in an actual word processor or text editor and then copy’n'paste them into the text boxes. You’ll save yourself lots of troubles that way. Its good practice when posting to any blog or forum, and not just ones that have simplistic or quirky commenting systems.

Google docs is where I tend to do all mine. It will auto save, and its nice to be able to access the posts I’m crafting from anywhere there is an internet connection.

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 12:11 am

Well this might be selective memory or confirmation bias. but when I save to clipboard before posting, it goes through, when I forget it does not!

At least I know what the cause is. I much prefer captcha don’t have an issue with them.

As for using external progs such as word/google docs it interrupts the comment flow – but for long comments it is a good idea. However- you might be surprised to read this – I am always trying to write short comments – and those external tools would encourage the opposite, at least in my case!

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 12:13 am

In addition it is the fact that the comment disappears – without comment – that is the real gripe. If it was not accepted and returned ready to re-submit, I could update it and that would be far, far better.

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 1:30 am

Zeb

Here I go again, a bit shorter than last time and so some arguments will be brief, if you ask I will expand on them.

Zeb@:”The true God (if one exists) is the fulfillment of all desires for God, regardless in which religion those desires are expressed and which most accurately describes God. If you are saying that God actively thwarts people’s desires as a response to their professing a false religion, that me be true but it is not the concept of God I and many Christians and other theists hold. That is not a necessary teaching of tri-omni theism or DCT.”
Since Christianity holds that the only path to God is via Jesus and all other religions reject this, then you appear to be contradicting a fundamental tenet of Christianity, without which it is not Christianity. You repeat this contradiction later but I will not note this again.

Zeb@:”Those who trust in the omnibenevolence of God know that even if they made a mistake in choosing their creed, their desire to be united with God (whoever he is) will be fulfilled.”
But a truly omnibenevolent God would not permit people to beleive in DCT nor the Ten Commandments for that matter. This is evidence that God is not omnibenevolent. Why trust in a contradictory claim of God. The contradictions too is evidence that God is not omnibenevolent.

Zeb@:”Of course this is the main point of contention. From my perspective that would be like saying “Nihilists have no desire to live, so killing them would not thwart their desires.” The understanding of most Christianity, at least, is that all people do have a desire for God, perhaps unacknowledged or unconscious, just as all nihilists have an unacknowledged or unconscious desire to live.”
This is a bad analogy. Non-theists have many desires with many ends, not no desires with no ends. Whatever Christianity understands this is not born out by reality, especially noting variations of Buddhism and Taoism. You can provide not objective evidence to support this understanding, you admit as much, and so we have no knowledge that is i true and plenty of evidence – from the diversity of religions that it is most likely false.

Zeb@:”God’s commands (as desire fulfillment guidelines) must refer to both personal and mutual/reciprocal benefit for two reasons:”
Reciprocal benefit with whom, not God but other people.

Zeb@”:1. One who approaches fulfillment of his desire for total communion with God comes to share God’s desires, which are the happiness and well-being of all beings (As God loves all beings, he can be said to have that “desire” in a sense, particularly if a desire is any sort of reason for action).”
Where is the evidence for this claim? What about homosexuals, women as chattel, slaves, genocide of other peoples, coming with a sword to divide, codemnding all those who do not follow Jesus to hell. None of this supports this claim that Gods loves all beings.

Zeb@:”2. A tri-omni God would create a world such that ‘true’ desires (those that do not have misplaced objects)can be and must be fulfilled in harmony.”

Zeb@:” You say DCT of this sort should be over all desires, not just individuals’ greatest ones.”
No, I say a tri-omni God would have ensured that no-one believe in DCT.

Zeb@:”First, if the greatest desire is to great as to be always overriding, would it not be sufficient for a good being to fulfill the greatest desire, and second if the greatest desire conflicted with the other desires would that not make the other desires “bad,” such that all good beings should desire to eliminate bad desires rather than fulfill them?”
The idea that there is one greatest desire for one and all is quite false.

Zeb@”:However as I said, a common teaching in various theisms is that all desire are basically good, but have misplaced objects.”
Then this teaching is mistaken. It is not the ends picked out by desire that are the issue per se. A desire is ethically good or bad to the degree of its beneficial and detrimental affects on other desires. Why did God not teach that? Because it was not very clever, because it wanted to mislead, because it was not omni-benevolent?

Zeb@” In your analysis, I presume, the desire to live long (in the right circumstances) is good, but the desire to superdose on vitamin C (in order to live long) is bad because it based on false beliefs. And so one can hold that all other desires are part of package of desires as means that may include true or false beliefs; where the ‘true’ desire I referred to is the ultimate desire as end, communion with God or participation in the life of God or whatever..”
Sorry this does make much sense and AFAICT is irrelevant. Plus false beliefs are not be promoted if possible.

Zeb@:”I’m not sure I buy the desirist description of the institution of morality, and perhaps my version of DCT does not meet that description as well as desirism, though I don’t see that it fails entirely.”
You can provide an alternative description using other terms but it will be of the same institution. If it is not then you are not addressing the problem at hand.

Zeb@:”However I think it beats desirism in one criteria that is pretty commonly held to be an essential aspect of any moral system – translating moral ought into a prudential ought.”
It does it far better that the morally dubious mechanism of heaven and hell.

Zeb@”:Commonly we expect a moral system to be such that the illumination of a moral ought includes the correction of a false belief or the illumination of an unknown one that reveals the practical reason a person should and would want to obey the moral ought.”
Not my words but desirism does this far better than DCT.

Finally, Eneasz’s points are relevant and complementary to mine. I am examining the incoherence of a tri-omni God supporting DCT. The fact that this can only be known through epistemic subjectivity and is ontologically relative (to a logically and evidentially incoherent entity) certainly does not help!

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 6:33 am

Eneasz> I know this isn’t the question at hand, but in my opinion it’s not worth comparing the two. Divine Command is simply wrong.

Luke is the one bringing up the comparison. He advocates Desirism (as do I). He is raising an objection to WLC’s “Divine Command” theory on the grounds that it is not “objective”, while claiming (in other places) that Desirism is. I’m wondering why the comparison, myself. It seems to me that this comparison is invalid, as they both ground value in something that is ontologically subjective.

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Hermes June 15, 2010 at 7:26 am

Kip, agreed. I enjoy your comments; keep them coming.

Of the two, Desirism seems to have a possibility of being demonstrated as objective or being updated to make it objective to mere humans. I’ll wait till it is, and consider it subjective with some practical utility till then. DCT does not, for the reasons already stated.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 7:48 am

faithlessgod> 1. DCT is an intrinsic value theory (and one that has more flaws than any other), desirism is an extrinsic value theory

Without getting into an argument over what the “real” DCT does or does not say, let’s presume that some form of DCT is not an intrinsic value theory. This DCTe theory says that all value exists as a relation between states of affairs and God’s desires.

As this is the heart of the objection, I’ll not address your other points. DCTe advocates that value is ontologically subjective. So does Desirism. How is this different?

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lukeprog June 15, 2010 at 7:52 am

faithlessgod,

I’ll look for a plugin that does that.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 7:54 am

Regarding comments being lost… I recommend a plugin for Firefox or Chrome called “Lazarus: Form Recovery”.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 7:55 am

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Hermes June 15, 2010 at 8:51 am

Kip, that’s a new one to me. The ones I’ve settled on are;

Session Manager
* General session saving and recovery, occasionally fails to save a form.

NoScript
* Great for stopping javascript and flash abuses — critical if you use many windows and tabs.

BetterPrivacy
* Kills flash cookies. I recommend setting it to automatic LSO (flash cookie) deletion. If some sites stop working properly, then white list those specific cookies. Some off line capable web apps will have to be white listed if you use them.

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 10:34 am

Thanks Kip, Lets see if it works

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 10:43 am

Kip

“This DCTe theory says that all value exists as a relation between states of affairs and God’s desires.”
In which case good is not identical to God’s eternal nature. The issue is that if God is omnibenevolent then it only has good desires and not bad ones. However it does not follow that good is identical with God’s eternal nature, rather that God exhibits only the good and not the bad. Now the issue of good desires is their desirability with respect to other desires, not just God’s. If they were only with reference to God’s other desires then that would a form of subjectivism again.

Once you have the notion of good desire which are good extrinsically, that is in relation to other desires, then DCT is refuted as the other horn of the Euthuphro is taken.

I cannot see how to assert the good because it is identical to god’s eternal nature to be consistent with any of the above. Can you?

“As this is the heart of the objection, I’ll not address your other points. DCTe advocates that value is ontologically subjective. So does Desirism. How is this different?”
Desirism does not advocate that value is ontologically subjective. It advocates that value is ontologically objective being the relation between desires (which are ontologically subjective from the perspective of the agent, but ontologically objective in terms of it’s conditions of fulfilment with respect to everyone else) and states of affairs. So I cannot see that your question makes sense. Am I missing something?

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cl June 15, 2010 at 11:05 am

Well, this thread’s been active for some time now, and since no valid objections have been brought to my attention, now seems as good a time as any to up the ante: ALL contemplation of “the best moral theory” is actually a quest for second best.

Eneasz,

Should I take your silence as evidence that you don’t have the requested support for your assertions?

This would be relevant if it were possible to interface with this God in some way in order to get access to these facts.

My argument remains true whether we have this access or not, but it sounds like you’re actually accepting the veracity of the argument. Feel free to clarify if such is not the case.

…even once such an interaction were possible we’d still have to verify that this God really does have access to all moral facts, and really is revealing them all truthfully (and not to further his/her own interests).

1) Why?

2) Since the concept of less-than-omniscient beings verifying claims from an omniscient being is clearly absurd, what alternative would you suggest?

Kip,

It seems to me that this comparison is invalid, as they both ground value in something that is ontologically subjective.

I currently believe that desirism and DCT (as I argue it, at least) both ground value in the same thing: moral facts. I argue that moral facts – though abstract – are ontologically objective. Though, I’m interesting in hearing more about your claim that both ground value in something that is ontologically subjective.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 11:31 am

faithlessgod> Now the issue of good desires is their desirability with respect to other desires, not just God’s.

According to you. And me. And whoever else is in our moral system. But not to God. His “moral good” is the relationship between states of affairs and his desires. Our desires are irrelevant to him. So, yes, it’s subjective. I’m not disagreeing with that point. I’m disagreeing that value that is based on desires can be considered ontologically objective. I believe from reading Fyfe that he would agree with me. Value is ontologically subjective according to Desirism (and DCTe).

fg> Once you have the notion of good desire which are good extrinsically, that is in relation to other desires, then DCT is refuted as the other horn of the Euthuphro is taken.

So, if horn A is “it is good because it fulfills God’s desires”, and horn B is “it fulfills God’s desires because it is good”, then DCTe would claim horn A is correct. That is, it rejects the intrinsic value horn, and claims that value is a relationship between “it” and “God’s desires”. This is the same claim that Desirism makes for “generic good” (or “prudential good”). Now, whereas Desirism would consider “all desires” to see whether a particular desire was morally good, DCTe would only consider God’s desires. Does this make it “more ontologically subjective” and/or “less ontologically objective”, though? It doesn’t seem so to me.

fg> I cannot see how to assert the good because it is identical to god’s eternal nature to be consistent with any of the above. Can you?

Perhaps one could argue that God’s desires never change, and those desires are part of his nature.

fg> Desirism does not advocate that value is ontologically subjective. It advocates that value is ontologically objective being the relation between desires and states of affairs.

I think it does. Of course, it also says that it can be ontologically objective. Alonzo goes into this here: http://www.alonzofyfe.com/article_ose.shtml

The only real-word sense I can make out of the word “subjective” is “depends on a mental state”. Value clearly fits this description. Without mental states, there would be no value. If you are using “subjective” to mean something else, please define it for me.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

cl> I argue that moral facts – though abstract – are ontologically objective. Though, I’m interesting in hearing more about your claim that both ground value in something that is ontologically subjective.

“Ontologically subjective” means “depends on a mental state for existence”. Desires clearly fit this description. Of course, because desires exist in the real world (because mental states exist in the real world), then we can have objective knowledge of these mental states. That is, they are epistemologically objective.

This is the way that I am using the terms, as I think it makes the most sense. How are you using the term “ontologically objective” in such a way that a desire could said to be that?

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cl June 15, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Ontology (from the Greek ὄν, genitive ὄντος: of being (neuter participle of εἶναι: to be) and -λογία, -logia: science, study, theory) is the philosophical study of the nature of being, existence or reality in general, as well as the basic categories of being and their relations. Traditionally listed as a part of the major branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, ontology deals with questions concerning what entities exist or can be said to exist, and how such entities can be grouped, related within a hierarchy, and subdivided according to similarities and differences.

Epistemology (from Greek ἐπιστήμη – episteme-, “knowledge, science” + λόγος, “logos”) or theory of knowledge is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge. [Wikipedia]

Kip,

It seems my “ontologically objective” and your “epistemically objective” refer to the same attribute.

I prefer “ontologically objective” because desires are the [abstract] entities I’m describing. The word ontologically is an adverb that refers to the nature of existence of the entity in question.

To me, “epistemically objective” refers to something that we can know externally, whereas “epistemically subjective” would refer only to things we can know internally. The word epistemically is an adverb that refers to the scope of knowledge we can reasonably ascribe to the entity in question.

Given these clarifications, it seems we agree as to the nature of desires.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 12:17 pm

cl: if you would say a desire is “ontologically objective”, then what would consider to be “ontologically subjective”?

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Kip we are going around in circles on a useless concept of subjective. I am focused on objective in the sense of independent of opinion based on facts, versus subjective being dependent on opinion. Lets call this Fobjective. Another form of objective is with respect to mind independence lets call this Mobjective.

The question for moral realism is can we obtain a theory that is Fobjective, given that this must include Msubjective data. That is moral statements are truth-apt and some are true. The answer is yes, since all that is needed the interactions of Fsubjective data via desires conditions of fulfilment which are Fobjective (as Mackie long made clear with his exam and other requirements arguments). And we can be epistemically objective about these interactions.

Ok

Kip@:”But not to God. His “moral good” is the relationship between states of affairs and his desires. Our desires are irrelevant to him.”
So then it is nothing to do with us and not morality as normally used. Then such Theistic Morality is irrelevant to the questions that we call morality. Again one word two different meanings.

Kip@:”I’m disagreeing that value that is based on desires can be considered ontologically objective.”
This was covered in my preamble above.

Kip@:”I believe from reading Fyfe that he would agree with me. Value is ontologically subjective according to Desirism (and DCTe).”
From what I have read he would neither agree nor disagree. It just depends on what notion of subjective and objective you are using. under one this is morally subjective if this is mind-dependence that is Msubjective. Under another this is morally objective that is independent of opinion that is Fobjective.

Kip@:”So, if horn A is “it is good because it fulfills God’s desires”, and horn B is “it fulfills God’s desires because it is good”, then DCTe would claim horn A is correct. That is, it rejects the intrinsic value horn,”
Neither horn is necessarily intrinsically valuable but if any is it is horn A under usual conceptions of intrinsic values – values for their own sake rather than anything else. By contrast Horn B would be an extrinsic value – possible a derived value based on an intrinsic value found elsewhere, or in desirism’s case, an extrinsic value reducible to non-value facts.

Kip@:”and claims that value is a relationship between “it” and “God’s desires”. This is the same claim that Desirism makes for “generic good” (or “prudential good”).”
Indeed it is more generic rather than prudential unless it is assumed that God’s desires already are internally harmonious (or maybe necessarily- but then necessity is the ground not God, as the most prominent 20th century theologist Swinburne argues – WLC had no answer to that when challenged in a debate).

Kip@:”Now, whereas Desirism would consider “all desires” to see whether a particular desire was morally good, DCTe would only consider God’s desires.”
Not just desirism but any desire-based reductive naturalism, they differ only in how they resolve clahs of desires. Railton’s social rationality is closest to desirism. Indeed any modern form of moral realism would reject such an argument for morlaity, assigning it to the the subjective category.

Kip@:”Does this make it “more ontologically subjective” and/or “less ontologically objective”, though? It doesn’t seem so to me.”
It makes is totally ontologically subjective if you will. However one can be epistemically objective about such ontologically subjective states and rationally determine there most harmoniously combination. This, at the very least, makes God an internal utilitarian!

Me@:” I cannot see how to assert the good because it is identical to god’s eternal nature to be consistent with any of the above. Can you?”
Kip@:”Perhaps one could argue that God’s desires never change, and those desires are part of his nature.”
Desires not changing is quite irrelevant to the question I posited. How is this meant to resolve the question of consistency? Please expand on your “perhaps” as it is quite obscure how this is mean to resolve the question.

Me@:” Desirism does not advocate that value is ontologically subjective. It advocates that value is ontologically objective being the relation between desires and states of affairs.”
Kip@:”I think it does. Of course, it also says that it can be ontologically objective. Alonzo goes into this here: http://www.alonzofyfe.com/article_ose.shtml
The only real-word sense I can make out of the word “subjective” is “depends on a mental state”.”
Then desirism is a species of moral subjectivism. However it is also an objective theory not dependent on opinion – on humans or gods. Why not drop and stop worrying about such useless labels – it does not provide useful insights.

Kip@:”Value clearly fits this description. Without mental states, there would be no value. If you are using “subjective” to mean something else, please define it for me.”
Done above.

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm

“Well, this thread’s been active for some time now, and since no valid objections have been brought to my attention, now seems as good a time as any to up the ante: ALL contemplation of “the best moral theory” is actually a quest for second best.”
I know DNFTT but that is a Grade-A piece of bullshit :-)

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cl June 15, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Kip,

…if you would say a desire is “ontologically objective”, then what would consider to be “ontologically subjective”?

The hearing of voices purported to be experienced by those with various psychological afflictions.

faithlessgod,

My argument stands.

I know DNFTT but that is a Grade-A piece of bullshit

You’ve offered your opinion that a claim is a Grade-A piece of bullshit instead of a cogent argument demonstrating that a claim is a Grade-A piece of bullshit. I find that odd for a self-described rationalist, but that’s besides the point. If all you have are instances of the former, spare us the redundancy, please. If you have an instance of the latter, I’m interested.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 1:32 pm

fg> I am focused on objective in the sense of independent of opinion based on facts, versus subjective being dependent on opinion.

“fact” vs. “opinion”. You’ll have to define those. I think there’s a good reason why Fyfe stays clear of using the word “opinion”. It’s ambiguous. Do you mean what someone believes to be true? Or what someone desires to be true? Presumably “fact” is what is true, right? Or are you using that word some other way?

If so, then DCTe can be based on facts also, presuming that God exists, and has desires. Those can be “true”, regardless of what someone “believes” to be the case, or what someone “desires” to be true.

Kip@:”But not to God. His “moral good” is the relationship between states of affairs and his desires. Our desires are irrelevant to him.”

fg> So then it is nothing to do with us and not morality as normally used. Then such Theistic Morality is irrelevant to the questions that we call morality. Again one word two different meanings.

I think this is true, unless God’s desires are somehow inclusive of our desires. In other words, the question still remains that even if what is “morally good” is what fulfills God’s desires: why should I do that which fulfills God’s desires? Of course, the same question can be asked: if what is “morally good” are those desires that tend to fulfill more and stronger desires (of all desires)… why should I desire to fulfill anyone else’s desires but my own? In our world, we use social tools to modify desires. Perhaps in God’s world, he uses some other tools to modify desires to become harmonized with his desires?

Kip> The only real-word sense I can make out of the word “subjective” is “depends on a mental state”.”

fg> Then desirism is a species of moral subjectivism. However it is also an objective theory not dependent on opinion – on humans or gods. Why not drop and stop worrying about such useless labels – it does not provide useful insights.

I’m only discussing the words because they are at the core of Luke’s objection to WLC.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 1:40 pm

Kip> If you would say a desire is “ontologically objective”, then what would consider to be “ontologically subjective”?

cl> The hearing of voices purported to be experienced by those with various psychological afflictions.

I don’t see how a belief that someone heard a voice is any more ontologically objective than a desire. What if the mental patient had a desire to hear voices? Does that desire exist in any more objective sense than the belief that she was hearing voices? They’re both mental states.

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cl June 15, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Kip,

I don’t see how a belief that someone heard a voice is any more ontologically objective than a desire.

To clarify, I’m not discussing an agent’s belief that they heard a voice. IOW, I’m not discussing a mental state. The existence of the voice is ontologically subjective. Like desires, the former refers to a mental state. Unlike desires, the latter [ostensibly] refers to an actual entity that exists.

I can still see room for nuance, though. For example, if the voice is an emergent feature of a mental state, as opposed to an actual entity that influences a mental state. Obviously, the former dovetails well with a strict materialist explanation of mind, whereas the latter fits a range of spiritual theories.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 3:41 pm

cl> To clarify, I’m not discussing an agent’s belief that they heard a voice. IOW, I’m not discussing a mental state. The existence of the voice is ontologically subjective.

I think the voice (the sound waves) that was supposedly heard exists ontologically objectively, or it doesn’t exist at all.

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cl June 15, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Kip,

I think the voice (the sound waves) that was supposedly heard exists ontologically objectively, or it doesn’t exist at all.

When I say that a desire is ontologically objective, I mean that it exists [albeit abstractly] regardless of any opinions about whether it exists.

Likewise, when you say the “sound waves” exist or they do not, I agree: their existence is independent of any opinions about it.

So, why did I just say I considered “the existence of the voice itself” ontologically subjective?

Nobody else can confirm the voice’s existence. In theory, objective things can be experienced by everybody: trees, desires, bicycles, etc.

I hope that helps more than it confuses. I’m fully open to the possibility that my use of language could use improvement, so thank you for your continued interest.

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cl June 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Luke,

While re-reading the OP, the following caught my attention:

According to Christian divine command theory, moral values are grounded in the attitudes or nature of Yahweh (or whichever name you prefer).

You could improve that for accuracy. I suggest something like, “some variants of Christian DCT claim moral values are grounded in the attitudes of God,” or, “According to traditional Christian DCT, moral values are grounded in the attitudes of God.”

Your current wording suggests that you’ve not heard a Christian variant of DCT that claims moral values are grounded in moral facts.

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Kip June 15, 2010 at 4:27 pm

cl> So, why did I just say I considered “the existence of the voice itself” ontologically subjective? Nobody else can confirm the voice’s existence.

Whether someone can confirm the existence has to deal with epistemology, not ontology.

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Hermes June 15, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Like snowflakes, there are so many Christianities. Why fault someone for not listing each and every fractal-like variation? If you’ve got your own unique little corner of a crystal to offer up, offer it.

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faithlessgod June 15, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Kip

If you are only concerned about Luke’s labelling DCT as “subjective” then this is predicated on WLC’s false assertion that all “atheist morality” is subjective – not independent of opinion – which is meant to be a supposed refutation of all atheistic morality and an argument in favour of DCT. This is the primary sense over the issue and concept of subjective here.

It is a fact that anyone has an opinion, including God, if it exists, but it is still an opinion in the relevant way. The fact that God’s nature is eternal and it cannot change it’s opinion does not stop it being an opinion.

With the correspondence theory of truth an assertion is externally true, if it is true in fact, and false if not, that is, if the proposition that the assertion means is true of some state of the world or state of affairs, where facts are in the world, not in the statements.

An opinion is a supposed assertion about the world, that is only dependent on the internal (subjective) state of the claimant. There is nothing independent and outside of the claimant of those claims that makes it true or false. There are no facts in this relevant sense.

Now it is also the case it is a fact F that agent A has opinion O. However we could F call a second-order fact, and these second-order facts, are not facts in the relevant way that WLC requires nor does he criticise “atheist morality” for those types of facts.

In this sense any morality grounded in God, a supposed person, are opinions not facts, (even if we can know what these opinions are in fact, which is a separate epistemological claim by WLC, “we can know God’s nature by it’s commands”) which means it is subjective in the problematical sense, that WLC fallaciously asserts a priori to all “atheist morality” whilst failing to recognise that it definitely applies to any DCT variant. That is, his argument is self-refuting.

And, of course, this is only one way that DCT is subjective in the problematic way, that refutes WLC’s requirement for something to be “really wrong”, that is independent of opinion. In additions since there are no epistemically objective ways of a) determining if one has the real God, if it exists at all and b) determining what that purported real God’s commands are, since even if one has the real one these are wholly epistemically subjective claims too, more opinions, this time of the human claimants who make them, that is they are (human) opinions of (God’s) opinion, not facts. (And this is also relative in the relevant way that WLC falsely thinks does not apply to DCT, and that is another form of self-refutation).

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Kip June 16, 2010 at 5:28 am

fg> An opinion is a supposed assertion about the world, that is only dependent on the internal (subjective) state of the claimant. There is nothing independent and outside of the claimant of those claims that makes it true or false.

This makes no sense. An assertion (proposition) about the world is either true or false depending on the actual state of the world. Even if you are using the word “opinion” to mean “desire” (which is still not clear), then an assertion about that desire is either true or false based on the existence of that desire.

Your definition of “opinion” is baffling to me. This is probably why Alonzo Fyfe has said he avoids using that word. It’s very unclear what people are trying to make it mean.

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faithlessgod June 16, 2010 at 7:46 am

Kip

No sure what your issue is. Looked it up on wikipedia and it seems to agree with my intent. First line “An opinion is a subjective statement or thought about an issue or topic, and is the result of emotion or interpretation of facts.”

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faithlessgod June 16, 2010 at 7:48 am

WLC uses something like grounded individual or group preferences, if that helps. That is the way I intended it.

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faithlessgod June 16, 2010 at 7:49 am

Woops, WLC uses something like only grounded in individual or group preferences, if that helps. That is the way I intended it.

Luke what has happened to the comment edit feature, it has disappeared? Still using XP SP3/Chrome.

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Kip June 16, 2010 at 8:20 am

fg: my “issue” is that the word “opinion” is ambiguous.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/opinion

o·pin·ion   
1. a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty.

So, an “opinion” is a belief that lacks supporting evidence. That doesn’t make the truth or falsity of the belief “subjective”. It means we just don’t know if it’s true or false… yet.

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Luke June 16, 2010 at 8:45 am

Hmmm, looks like the Edit Comment plugin isn’t working. I’ll see what I can do.

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faithlessgod June 16, 2010 at 10:25 am

Kip

So it is your opinion that your notion of opinion is better than mine :-)

I was using opinion in a specific way and one consistent with WLC’s usage. And that is where the contradiction of WLC’s DCT comes from. If you want to chose a different notion of opinion that is your choice, but how is that relevant to this discussion?

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Kip June 16, 2010 at 10:42 am

From the OP, WLC doesn’t use the word “opinion”. It’s clear what he’s talking about. You used the word “opinion”, and it wasn’t clear what you were talking about. That’s the only relevance as far as I can see.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 12:08 am

Kip

IIRC WLC uses the term “opinion” in his debates. Regardless he argues that morality based on individual or group preferences are not the grounds for what is “really wrong” and that, in the context of the OP, is what I am addressing. I have no idea what you are trying to do but the following is my educated guess.

Note I am not interested in semantic games only what the terms refer to. Once you understand what they refer to you can give them any names you want, it makes no difference to the arguments.

Further I am not interested in much more discussing something I do not believe in and for which I find less support everyday, namely God. I am somewhat interested in arguments using God as the basis for morality but everytime I look I find or learn of even more flaws in such a morality basis. To be honest there are better things to spend my time on, such as on topics that have a chance of being true and so merit being challenged in order better determine such chances.

The only issue underlying our conversation here Kip that I can detect is that you are trying to make an argument that is something like the following. That is I criticise DCT for being subjective in a certain way that prevents or contradicts its claim to objectivity, yet you are trying to show that desirism is subjective in that same way and so is not immune to the same criticism and I am applying double standards in not doing so?

The fundamental difference between the two (although there are other differences of course) is that DCT is based on the necessarily only internally resolved, and hence subjective, preferences of a deity, whereas desirism is based on the external overall interactions of agents’ subjective preferences. This is a radical difference that makes all the difference between the two models with respect to internal/external, opinion/fact, subjective/objective or however you else want to characterise it. This distinction cannot be eradicated by word play or otherwise and if you are not making an argument that I am making a false distinction between the two, which AFAICT you have not succeeded in doing, then what are you arguing for that is of any real worth and relevance here?

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 5:37 am

fg> I have no idea what you are trying to do but the following is my educated guess.

You need not guess. Here are the pertinent questions I asked, for which I’m trying to get good answers (that don’t include further ambiguous terminology that is never clarified):

I am curious as to why Luke thinks that Desirism does not include an ontologically subjective account of value, since it claims that all value arises from the relationship of mental states. And if Luke does not disagree with that, then how can Desirism not be at least partially ontologically subjective when the root of morality (value) is ontologically subjective?

I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective?

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 5:39 am

fg> Note I am not interested in semantic games only what the terms refer to.

Then stop using the word “opinion” without telling me if you are talking about a desire or a belief.

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lukeprog June 17, 2010 at 6:09 am

Kip,

Alonzo and I have written many times about ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’, and in what senses desirism is objective, and in what senses it is subjective. One of many ways in which desirism tends more toward the ‘objective’ end of things when compared with divine command theory is this: DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person. That is on the extreme end of moral subjectivism. Desirism grounds morality, roughly speaking, in all the desires that exist, including the desires of non-human animals. Since ALL (malleable) desires are considered, I don’t think most people would call that ‘subjective’, but it’s up to you. If desire is a ‘propositional attitude’, and any reference to any kind of attitude makes a fact subjective, then technically moral facts under desirism are subjective. But then so is the news headline “30 people injured in Baghdad bombing.” If you go with a definition of subjective that makes desirism subjective, then such a news headline is also subjective. But I don’t think most people will see it that way.

(The word ‘injured’ is a value-laden term that references desires. A girl whose ear is pierced by a rapist is ‘injured.’ A girl who gets the exact same thing done by a professional because she wants earrings is not ‘injured.’ It all depends on her desires.)

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 7:54 am

Luke –

Alonzo says that morality is both subjective and objective (http://www.alonzofyfe.com/article_ose.shtml). The only difference that DCT has over Desirism, is the # of desires that are considered in the moral calculation of “good”. According to DCT, only God’s desires are considered in the moral calculation. It is “objective” in the same sense that Desirism is, in that it is not “common subjectivism”: the truth of whether or not something fulfills “more and stronger of God’s desire” is not contingent on what any individual believes, or desires. Including God. (Theoretically, a “God” could be “wrong” about what fulfills more & stronger of his desires. See the recent movie “Legion”? Of course, the omni-God couldn’t have this problem, since he knows all of his desires). This is why I think theists embrace the “nature” horn of Euthyphro’s dilemma: God “commands” good things because they “are” good… because of his “nature” (his desires).

So, does is desirism “more objective” because it includes a different set of desires? No. Is it “less subjective”? No.

If desire is a ‘propositional attitude’, and any reference to any kind of attitude makes a fact subjective, then technically moral facts under desirism are subjective.

Yes, they are ontologically subjective. And they are also inter-subjective. And they are also epistemologically objective.

But then so is the news headline “30 people injured in Baghdad bombing.” If you go with a definition of subjective that makes desirism subjective, then such a news headline is also subjective. But I don’t think most people will see it that way.

Clearly the words are confused. We should try to clarify what we are talking about, and use words that have real-world correlates. I guess the main thing I’m trying to get you to consider, is that your objection to WLC is really clouded (and perhaps misdirected) by the language you are using. I’m not sure if your goal is to really convince WLC that DCT is “really” subjective (as well as objective). Is it? If he were using your definitions of the words, then he would have to agree that you were correct. Clearly he’s using a different definition, though. So, where does that leave us? Desirism is better, right? Okay. Why? Not because it’s “more objective” (whatever that means). It’s better because it’s “more true”. (At least I think it’s reasonable to think so.)

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 8:15 am

Luke> Desirism grounds morality, roughly speaking, in all the desires that exist, including the desires of non-human animals.

I know this is off topic, but I was reminded that in another post (http://goo.gl/e0o4) you wrote:

In contrast, desirism says that slaughtering dolphins and torturing livestock is wrong precisely because of the harm it does to dolphins and livestock.

Fyfe seems much more reserved than you on this point. In fact, he would say that “desire thwarting” (or “harm”) is not intrinsically bad. So, this statement doesn’t seem to follow from the theory.

Desirism does not judge actions directly, so I don’t see how this statement could be correct. Instead, Desirism says that the object of moral evaluation is desires. So, would someone with good desires slaughter dolphins and torture livestock? How do we know the answer to that question? Your comment would have us believe that the answer to that can be known by looking at the “harm” done to dolphins and livestock. This is not the case. We know what a “good desire” is by realizing that people who use the words “good desire” have reasons to promote desires that tend to fulfill more and stronger desires by calling those desires “good” (as well as using other “social tools” of praise, and condemnation, reward, and punishment).

Alonzo Fyfe says very little in regards to the treatment of non-human animals(*). You, Luke, however, seem fairly biased to want to make sure that non-human animals are treated well, and not made to suffer. [A bias that I share, by the way.] This bias, at times, seems to “taint” your explanation of the theory. The theory says no such thing as “suffering is intrinsically bad”. There is no “utility” that we are seeking to maximize (including the “utility” of “happiness” or “non-suffering”, or even “desire fulfillment”).

(*) The few times that Fyfe has talked about non-human animals in regards to morality, the basic idea is that we (humans) have reasons to promote in other (humans) the desire to not torture animals [and he gives several reasons for this]. As you can see, this is not at all the same as saying that “torturing animals is bad because it causes them harm”.

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 8:17 am

Luke> Desirism grounds morality, roughly speaking, in all the desires that exist, including the desires of non-human animals.

I know this is off topic, but I was reminded that in another post ["Sean McDowell and Theistic Morality"; link removed due to Akismet spam filter blocking] you wrote:

In contrast, desirism says that slaughtering dolphins and torturing livestock is wrong precisely because of the harm it does to dolphins and livestock.

Fyfe seems much more reserved than you on this point. In fact, he would say that “desire thwarting” (or “harm”) is not intrinsically bad. So, this statement doesn’t seem to follow from the theory.

Desirism does not judge actions directly, so I don’t see how this statement could be correct. Instead, Desirism says that the object of moral evaluation is desires. So, would someone with good desires slaughter dolphins and torture livestock? How do we know the answer to that question? Your comment would have us believe that the answer to that can be known by looking at the “harm” done to dolphins and livestock. This is not the case. We know what a “good desire” is by realizing that people who use the words “good desire” have reasons to promote desires that tend to fulfill more and stronger desires by calling those desires “good” (as well as using other “social tools” of praise, and condemnation, reward, and punishment).

Alonzo Fyfe says very little in regards to the treatment of non-human animals(*). You, Luke, however, seem fairly biased to want to make sure that non-human animals are treated well, and not made to suffer. [A bias that I share, by the way.] This bias, at times, seems to “taint” your explanation of the theory. The theory says no such thing as “suffering is intrinsically bad”. There is no “utility” that we are seeking to maximize (including the “utility” of “happiness” or “non-suffering”, or even “desire fulfillment”).

(*) The few times that Fyfe has talked about non-human animals in regards to morality, the basic idea is that we (humans) have reasons to promote in other (humans) the desire to not torture animals [and he gives several reasons for this]. As you can see, this is not at all the same as saying that “torturing animals is bad because it causes them harm”.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 8:35 am

Kip (and Luke)

“Then stop using the word “opinion” without telling me if you are talking about a desire or a belief.”
How on earth can a desire be an opinion? I have never heard anyone make such a claim, but I do not.

I thought I made it clear what I meant by opinion, but to be black and white with respect to the OP it is a belief based only on one’s own dispositions, beliefs and desires. In the case WLC’s DCT, God’s belief that it is good, or that it’s eternal nature is good, is an opinion and not a fact, as it is a requirement that it necessarily makes no reference to anything outside of God (the key Euthyphro distinction). Such a claim by God seems to be an excellent exemplar of what an opinion is. Of course, usually opinions reference states of affairs external to the agent, but they have nothing but internal factors such as feelings or intuitions (or desires) to justify or support those claims.

Further WLC mistakenly criticizes “atheist morality” by falsely asserting that they can only be based on individual or group preferences, meaning that such preferences having no independent grounds of justification. In other words he is claiming that “atheists” only have opinions about what is right and wrong, but no facts to back them up to make them “really right and wrong” whereas he thinks he has in God.

We know this claim is mistaken as there are various modern moral realisms that are not solely grounded in individual or group preferences, that makes references to other factors and relations that are a matter of fact. They may have other flaws but being reliant on opinion is usually not one of them. (Of course some theories that assert moral realism are no such thing such as Randian Objectivism and so those could also be victim to arguments showing they are only based on opinions but I was not including such theories in the moral realisms noted above).

It appears that my guess was quite correct as your comment confirmed which made it all the more surprising that you finished this comment with:
“I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective? ”
I already answered that in my previous comment. I really fail to see how else to make this clear. I can only repeat what I said previously and you can ask what does not make sense to you from the following:

Me@:”The fundamental difference between the two (although there are other differences of course) is that DCT is based on the necessarily only internally resolved, and hence subjective, preferences of a deity, whereas desirism is based on the external overall interactions of agents’ subjective preferences. This is a radical difference that makes all the difference between the two models with respect to internal/external, opinion/fact, subjective/objective or however you else want to characterise it.”

Finally extending Luke’s point. Morality is a social institution. Searle’s terminology, only partially revealed by Noen here, was to explain what institutional facts were. There are observer-independent facts, “brute facts”, such as the existence of Mount Everest and then there are observer-dependent facts, some of which are institutional facts and Searle was showing how we can be quite objective in addressing this class of facts. Moral facts are a species of institutional facts. Others are money, marriage, goals in a football match, language, promise, presidents and so on.

Now your argument over both DCT and desirism being subjective does too much and makes a trivial and pointless distinction, since it makes all these other institutional facts subjective too. Fine if you want to do that but such a distinction is worthless not only in discussions in ethics but elsewhere.

That is what I am not concerned with how you label desirism. If you want to label it as a species of moral subjectivism along with DCT then go ahead. However that is a different type of objective/subjective classification to the one that is relevant here which is as to whether moral statements are truth-apt and that some are true, specifically regardless of opinion of one or many or indeed all.

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lukeprog June 17, 2010 at 8:51 am

Kip,

On animals: Yes, that’s true, it’s WAY more complicated than saying the wrongness of torturing livestock is precisely because of the harm it does to the livestock. See Fyfe’s posts on his blog about animals and morality. And I’m not sure about animals, either. It’s hugely complicated. Which is one reason I’ve been able to excuse myself not becoming a vegetarian yet. :)

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 9:30 am

Which is one reason I’ve been able to excuse myself not becoming a vegetarian yet. :)

I’m trying the “flexitarian” (or, really the “five-day vegetarian”) thing right now. It’s hard. I like meat. The video that convinced me to give it a shot was this: Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian.

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 9:39 am

fg> I thought I made it clear what I meant by opinion, but to be black and white with respect to the OP it is a belief based only on one’s own dispositions, beliefs and desires.

Okay. So, an “opinion” is a belief. (A specific type of belief, no doubt, but that’s fine for now.)

fg> However that is a different type of objective/subjective classification to the one that is relevant here which is as to whether moral statements are truth-apt and that some are true, specifically regardless of opinion of one or many or indeed all.

So, WLC could rightfully say that DCT is not “subjective” (using your definition) because it is not God’s “opinion” (his belief; again your definition) that makes a moral statement true. It is God’s nature; God’s desires.

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lukeprog June 17, 2010 at 10:23 am

Cool idea, Kip.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

Kip

“So, WLC could rightfully say that DCT is not “subjective” (using your definition) because it is not God’s “opinion” (his belief; again your definition) that makes a moral statement true. It is God’s nature; God’s desires.”
No that was not my definition. I never said an opinion is by definition only is a belief, I said an opinion is a belief as opposed to a desire. As for what type of belief it is, I said “it is a belief based only on one’s own dispositions, beliefs and desires” so your attempt as WLC’s advocate fails.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 11:00 am

A better way of saying that is an opinion is a belief that is only justified based only on one’s own intuitions, conviction, feelings etc. or dispositions, beliefs and desires, in other word one’s nature.

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 11:12 am

It’s still a belief, right?

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mpg June 17, 2010 at 1:32 pm

@ayer

Hello ayer. You have argued that Omnibenevolence is a great-making property. I’m a little confused by this, as I don’t know why or how omnibenevolence makes one great as opposed to omni-wickedness, say, or even omnigoodness-and-wickedness. What is about goodness that makes a thing or being great. If you are arguing that goodness is synonymous with God, how can you identify a property of goodness that any being that is the definition of goodness needs to have?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

“It’s still a belief, right?”
I just said it is a belief not a desire! It is getting tiresome to repeat myself. What on earth is the point of you doing this?

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Luke and Kip

“Since ALL (malleable) desires are considered, I don’t think most people would call that ’subjective’, but it’s up to you.”
The issue is not directly over that all desires are considered rather than of only one agent such as a deity, but in how they are considered. It is their interactions what I refer to as the desire-desire cause-effect relations which are external to any and all individuals, humans or deities. It is the internal/external distinction that corresponds to the subjective/objective distinction of the relevant kind (Kip). Meta-ethical labels are irrelevant. These external or 3rd person publicly observable relations are amenable to empirical examination whereas the internal, 1st person privately unobservable relations of a deity or human are not.

I feel I am repeating the same point in multiple ways, but if Kip does not want to get it, well you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Plus whatever one’s views over desirism, it is still the case the WLC fails to show that DCT is not subjective in the relevant way that he condemns in other systems, which make his argument in favour of theistic morality at least groundless, if not inconsistent and self-refuting.

Even if desirism did not exist, had not been proposed, was wrong or was subjective too, none of this would not alter the fact that DCT is subjective in the relevant problematic fashion.

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lukeprog June 17, 2010 at 3:57 pm

faithlessgod,

Right. I was just making a point about WLC’s claims to objective morality. As for desirism and ‘objective’ morality, many articles have been written on this topic already.

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cl June 17, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Kip,

Allow me to forego our “epistemically objective/subjective vs. onotologically objective/subjective” discussion momentarily, if you will.

I’m still confused as to how Desirism is objective in a way that Divine Command theory cannot be? If instead of human desires, the desires in question are “God’s desires”, how is this any less objective, or any more subjective?

I’m glad you asked that, because it’s a source of confirmation for me. That’s exactly what I meant went I alleged that Luke was contradicting himself. Luke’s answer still amounts to, “DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person,” whereas “Desirism grounds morality, roughly speaking, in all the desires that exist…”

Let us assume for a moment that an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists. Let us then refer to the set of all desires that exist as D. Via omniscience and omnibenevolence, such a God would be considering D, which is the very entity Luke claims gives Desirism its objectivity. Better yet – as I recently argued – such a God actually could perform the unwieldly large calculations required to consider D.

So, Luke’s claim that “DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person” is not necessarily true, and certainly not true of the God WLC and myself happen to be arguing. This means that as far as WLC and myself are concerned, Luke’s DCT is a strawman.

Luke,

It appears you’ve answered my question in the affirmative. Earlier, I had said,

If your answer to that question is “yes,” then I accept the rebuttal you supplied and [at least temporarily] retract my charge of contradiction.

However, per the reasoning supplied to Kip above, I’m actually going to stand by my claim that you’re contradicting yourself.

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 4:39 pm

It is their interactions what I refer to as the desire-desire cause-effect relations which are external to any and all individuals, humans or deities. It is the internal/external distinction that corresponds to the subjective/objective distinction of the relevant kind (Kip). Meta-ethical labels are irrelevant. These external or 3rd person publicly observable relations are amenable to empirical examination whereas the internal, 1st person privately unobservable relations of a deity or human are not.

I don’t think the relationship between desires is any more or less “amenable to empircal examination” than a desire itself. If you do, please explain.

Let’s say I have desire X, and you have desire Y. You are saying that my desire X is less “amenable to empirical examination” than the relationship between my desire X & your desire Y? I don’t think so, but I can’t wait to hear your explanation.

[ If it's not too much to ask, in your explanation, can you either refrain from using any words that are commonly misunderstood or equivocated, or else clearly define them (in "black and white") so I don't have to ask you to do so? Thanks. ]

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Kip June 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

As for desirism and ‘objective’ morality, many articles have been written on this topic already.

True. And Alonzo Fyfe says that it’s both objective and subjective. See here: Objectivity & Subjectivity in Ethics (http://www.alonzofyfe.com/article_ose.shtml).

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 10:52 pm

Kip

Is this another Kip to the one Luke and I know?

kip@:”Let’s say I have desire X, and you have desire Y. You are saying that my desire X is less “amenable to empirical examination” than the relationship between my desire X & your desire Y? I don’t think so, but I can’t wait to hear your explanation.”

I have already explained this in quite a few comments in this post. I am not going to repeat myself again. If you have an issue present the relevant statements and I will respond.

Kip@:”[ If it's not too much to ask, in your explanation, can you either refrain from using any words that are commonly misunderstood or equivocated, or else clearly define them (in "black and white") so I don't have to ask you to do so? Thanks. ]”
I do not use words so that they can be equivocated or misunderstood. I have made it quite clear on the particular usage of objective and subjective that is and can be relevant to this debate. If you want to uncharitably and deliberately misread them, then this is not a productive debate and is a waste of time.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Kip

Just another point:

You said:”I don’t think the relationship between desires is any more or less “amenable to empircal examination” than a desire itself. If you do, please explain.”

“I don’t think so” is not an argument. Asking for an explanation when one has already been provided is not an argument. Examining my explanation and dissecting it is an argument but you have given none so far.

“Let’s say I have desire X, and you have desire Y. You are saying that my desire X is less “amenable to empirical examination” than the relationship between my desire X & your desire Y? I don’t think so, but I can’t wait to hear your explanation.”
The explanation has already been given. My answer is the same, except for one re-emphasized point.

It is their interactions what I refer to as the desire-desire cause-effect relations which are external to any and all individuals, humans or deities. It is the internal/external distinction that corresponds to the subjective/objective distinction of the relevant kind (Kip). Meta-ethical labels are irrelevant. These external or 3rd person publicly observable relations are amenable to empirical examination – in virtue of being external or 3rd person publicly observable relations – whereas the internal, 1st person privately unobservable relations of a deity or human are not.

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faithlessgod June 17, 2010 at 11:26 pm

This wraps it up AFAICS Luke.

The point of our arguments is that WLC is mistaken in asserting that DCT is a basis for objective morality in the way that WLC wants. That his theory is fatally victim to the charge of subjectivity of kind that he rejects.

Now, in one sense it is irrelevant as to whether desirism is similarly affected since this cannot save DCT. However, in another sense, Kip has made it relevant, since this is the point Kip is making, thereby conceding the debate (if this is what it is), by agreeing that DCT is subjective in the sense that WLC disputes. Our point is made there is nothing more to say.

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Kip June 18, 2010 at 5:21 am

(Can someone please remind me never to engage faithlessgod in any sort of discussion? Thank you.)

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cl June 18, 2010 at 11:06 am

Kip,

[MOCKERY]

LOL! See, the real problem here is that you must be a racist! There’s no other explanation that can explain why you won’t accede to faithlessgod’s superior logic! At least, that was the problem with me. It just couldn’t have anything to do with, oh, I don’t know… faithlessgod’s incoherence or choppy writing style or any fault of his! Hell, let’s be “accountability partners” for faithlessgod. If you see me engage him, remind me not to. If I see you engage him, I’ll remind you not to.

[/MOCKERY]

Luke,

When you get a second, would you be willing to discuss my last comment to you? That DCT can be just as objective as desirism has been established. Your claim that DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a person has been shown irrelevant.

Especially given today’s post about the dangers of bias and protecting pet theories, I’m very interested in seeing your next move. It seems to me you’ve got some retracting to do, or at the very least, some attempts at countering.

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lukeprog June 18, 2010 at 11:26 am

cl,

I do not agree that DCT can be just as objective as desirism. I haven’t followed all 264 posts here: Why do you think DCT can be just as objective as desirism, and the grounding morality in the attitudes of a person does not make the theory ‘subjective’ in the usual sense of the word?

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cl June 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Luke,

I haven’t followed all 264 posts here…

That’s fine, I realize you have a life outside writing, but unlike a certain someone who whines vociferously about repeating themselves, I’m more than happy to repeat myself – because I want to get to the bottom of this. So, thank you for responding – sincerely.

[Why do you think that] grounding morality in the attitudes of a person does not make the theory ’subjective’ in the usual sense of the word?

I don’t think that. Grounding morality in the attitudes of a particular person or persons is subjective in the usual sense of the word. That’s why Alonzo’s recent screed amounts to a bunch of subjective propaganda, but that’s besides the point.

Why do you think DCT can be just as objective as desirism[?]

Let’s rewind for a second. You wrote, “DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person,” whereas “Desirism grounds morality, roughly speaking, in all the desires that exist…” The implication seems to be that the former is subjective, whereas the latter is objective. Right? Right?

Let us assume for a moment that an omniscient, omnibenevolent God exists. Let us then refer to the set of all desires that exist as D. Via omniscience and omnibenevolence, such a God would be considering D, which is the very entity you claim gives desirism its objectivity.

So, your claim that “DCT grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person” is not necessarily true, and certainly not true of the DCT I happen to be arguing [I'm hesitant to speak for WLC as much].

The DCT I am arguing is exactly as objective as your desirism.

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lukeprog June 18, 2010 at 5:02 pm

cl,

But DCT does not claim that moral value comes from all the desires that exist, which God is considering when he gives his commands. DCT claims that the only things of moral value are God’s commands themselves. If God is really a Desirist who just has more epistemic access to moral truth than we do, then Desirism is correct, and God is a messenger of moral value rather than a ground for it, which is not DCT. Such a theory would be as objective as Desirism because it IS Desirism. But I’ve never heard anyone propound such a theory and call it divine command theory.

Am I missing something?

cl, You are correct that I stop answering questions when they get hard. That is exactly what I said I would do months ago, and again about a week ago. The reason for that is that it would take me too much time to explain why I think moral terms can properly be understood using Gallie’s ‘essentially contested concept’ model, and from there explain what criteria we should use to decide on a set of moral definitions, and from there decide which set of moral definitions fits the criteria best, and from there get to desirism through empirical and semantic means. That would take WAAAAAAAAY to long and so yeah, I’m going to NOT answer questions that require me to do THAT. We are both better served if instead I do all the work to really write that whole account, and in a format fit for peer review. So as I’ve repeatedly said, yes, your questions will be answered with ‘You’ll have to be patient’ when an answer to them would require giving the whole account.

But you’ll notice I did engage your question about DCT because that didn’t require much time from me.

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Gavin Brown June 18, 2010 at 6:52 pm

I did not read the entire thread (don’t have that much time :), but I can tell you how WLC defines “objective” and “subjective,” b/c I taught on it last week (I’m teaching through his new book “On Guard” in a class at my church).

Objective – independent of people’s opinions
Subjective – dependent on a person’s opinion

Thus, objective moral values are those values that are true and applicable to all people irrespective of people’s opinions about them (viz., opinions about their truth or falsity, etc.).

If someone earlier in the thread already pointed this out, forgive me. Luke, I enjoy your site.

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Kip June 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Gavin -

Objective – independent of people’s opinions
Subjective – dependent on a person’s opinion

By “person”, do you (& WLC) mean “human person”? If not, what?

By “opinion”, do you (& WLC) mean “belief”? If not, what?

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lukeprog June 18, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Gavin Brown,

If that’s the definition Craig wants to use, that’s fine, but then a morality based on the attitudes (not opinions) of a visiting alien in the sky would be an ‘objective’ moral theory. So I’m not sure such a definition really captures what people generally mean by ‘objective.’

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Hermes June 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Gavin, additionally, is there any special significance to using “a person” in one case and “people” in another, or is that an arbitrary style choice?

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Gavin Brown June 19, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Luke,

But Craig obviously has in mind the moral values of humans.

And you said, “I’m not sure such a definition really captures what people generally mean by ‘objective.’” But with terms that are not agreed upon by everyone, what more can you ask than for someone to clearly define what they mean when they employ the terms. But I’m not so sure that WLC’s definition of objective & subjective are not generally agreed upon.

Mortimer Adler also defined objective and subjective in a similar way:

“Let us pause for a moment to consider the meaning of the words “objective” and “subjective.” We call something objective when it is the same for me, you, and for anyone else. We call something subjective when it differs from one individual to another and when it is exclusively the possession of one individual and of no one else.”

Now, WLC’s and Adler’s definitions are not identical, but they get at the same basic and simple point with respect to these terms..

Kip & Hermes,

No, there was no special significance to using “people’s” and “person’s.” I was just writing quickly, and thus not carefully. Sorry.

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Hermes June 19, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Gavin, thanks. Sometimes these small simple details lead to big misunderstandings.

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Kip June 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm

Gavin —

You didn’t answer my question; you answered Hermes (which was not the same as mine).

Objective – independent of people’s opinions
Subjective – dependent on a person’s opinion

By “person”, do you (& WLC) mean “human person”? If not, what?
By “opinion”, do you (& WLC) mean “belief”? If not, what?

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Gavin Brown June 20, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Kip,

By person, of course I mean “human person.”

By opinion, I suppose I mean “opinion” since that is the exact word Dr. Craig used. If he had not meant “opinion,” I assume he would have chosen another word.

Craig has offered – in published form – a clear and simple definition of “subjective” and “objective” as he uses these terms with respect to the moral argument, and more specifically, with respect to moral values and duties.

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Kip June 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Gavin> By person, of course I mean “human person.”

Of course… because there can’t be any other sort of “person”?

Gavin> By opinion, I suppose I mean “opinion” since that is the exact word Dr. Craig used. If he had not meant “opinion,” I assume he would have chosen another word.

That’s not very helpful. Can you define “opinion”, as you (& WLC) are using it then in these statements:

Objective – independent of people’s opinions
Subjective – dependent on a person’s opinion

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Gavin Brown June 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

Kip,

Craig used the word “opinion” in his definitions of “objective” and “subjective” in print in his book “On Guard.” I’m not really sure why or how you think I can tell you exactly what he means, although it appears obvious enough to me.

And Kip, do you think that Craig meant something other than a “human person” when he used the word “person?” It is very unlikely, especially when you considered that the work cited is written on a popular level.

And in context, this is obviously what Craig means. So if that is not helpful to you, I cannot help you. I have no interest in getting into a semantic battle with you.

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Kip June 21, 2010 at 10:38 am

Gavin —

Well, presumably God is a “person”, and Craig uses the word “personal” as an adjective to describe God, so that is why I needed the clarification on that. Luke introduced a potential non-human “person” as a thought experiment, so there’s another example of why the word needed clarification.

As for the word “opinion”, I didn’t think it was too much to ask for just a little bit of clarification, there, either, since there are varying understandings of what that means. But, I can understand if you’d rather it just be kept a “fuzzy concept” rather than try to explain exactly what it is you & WLC are saying.

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Kip June 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

> I have no interest in getting into a semantic battle with you.

Me either. I have (or had) an interest in understanding what you were saying, though.

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cl June 21, 2010 at 11:28 am

Luke,

FWIW, I am not arguing that DU and DCT are mutually exclusive. In my view, there’s no need to pit DU against DCT because both entail consideration of all desires that exist, which means both are equally objective theories. You object to this, and counter that DCT is subjective because it “grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person [God].” I’ll address this momentarily.

DCT claims that the only things of moral value are God’s commands themselves.

Where did you get that? WLC might argue a DCT that says, “the only things of moral value are God’s commands themselves,” but I can’t say because I’m not confident enough in my exposure to WLC’s argument to paraphrase him thusly. If that paraphrase is accurate, I grant that at the very least, the wording seems terribly vague: what does it mean to say “things of moral value?” Honestly? I have no idea what that means. Let’s ditch that and use a peer-reviewed definition of DCT:

Roughly, Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is somehow dependent upon God, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands. Divine Command Theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God, and that the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (a peer-reviewed source)

Further distilled,

1) morality is somehow dependent upon God;

2) moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands;

3) morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God;

4) the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires.

Now, let’s clarify what we [meaning you and I] are discussing: I’m objecting to your claim that DCT is subjective because it “grounds morality in the attitudes of a particular person [God].” Let’s also clarify the particular person in question: an omniscient, omnibenevolent God.

The word attitude lends all-too-easily to the idea of a God capable of arbitrary or contingent pronouncements similar to those a human might make, i.e., something like divine whims that may or may not be grounded to any objective facts. Given an omniscient, omnibenevolent God, however, DCT actually grounds morality in God’s non-contingent disposition towards and factual knowledge of the good. To give that the illusion of subjectivity by using the word attitude seems, well… inappropriate.

Since you are ostensibly preparing your arguments for peer-review, and the word attitudes doesn’t appear in the peer-reviewed definition I supplied, why are you using it? Where did you get it from? Does WLC use it? I suggest dropping it altogether. I don’t see anything in IEP’s definition that necessarily says or implies, “the only things of moral value are God’s commands themselves.” I do see something that says, “moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands (2), and I also see something that says, “morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God (3), but those seem sufficiently nuanced as to be fairly considered separate claims. Technically, when you interject the word attitude, you’ve mis-defined or at least mis-worded DCT, then declared it subjective. Hence, strawman.

…DCT does not claim that moral value comes from all the desires that exist, which God is considering when he gives his commands.

Granted, neither 1, 2, 3 or 4 of the IEP’s definition is worded thusly, but this is the unavoidable conclusion of 1-4 given an omniscient, omnibenevolent God making only those prescriptions which entail the most good for Creation.

So, where do we go from here?

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cl June 21, 2010 at 11:45 am

Kip,

Whether someone can confirm the existence has to deal with epistemology, not ontology.

I agree. Perhaps experience [verb] would have been better. I think the voice would actually be both: ontologically subjective (because we can’t “show” its existence to others, like we could a tree) and epistemically subjective (because we can’t “know” about it, like we would a tree).

Still, at the end of the day, regardless of the language we’re using, I think we’re in agreement as to the nature of desires, which was the point from which this [albeit interesting] discussion sprang. What do you think?

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Kip June 21, 2010 at 11:52 am

cl> Still, at the end of the day, regardless of the language we’re using, I think we’re in agreement as to the nature of desires, which was the point from which this [albeit interesting] discussion sprang. What do you think?

I think we can use empirical methods to gain true beliefs about our desires and the desires of others. (This is what I mean when I say that desires are “epistemically objective”.)

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cl June 21, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Kip,

When I talk of the objectivity of desires, I’m referring to the fact of their existence. Desires can also be subjective, in the sense that they vary from subject to subject [e.g., differences in desires for flavor of ice cream].

I think we can use empirical methods to gain true beliefs about our desires and the desires of others.

I tend to agree, and can’t help but wonder why so few desirists seem willing to take an approach that might rightly be called empirical. You know, something like an actual calculation. I gave it my best shot, and my calculation showed that shooting heroin can be good and reading books bad.

If Alonzo [or Luke or anyone else] would justify their conclusions with numbers, who could argue?

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Kip June 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm

cl> When I talk of the objectivity of desires, I’m referring to the fact of their existence.

Right, that’s what I mean when I say that desires are “ontologically subjective”. They do exist, just as “beliefs” exist, but the nature of their existence depends upon mental states (i.e. they are “subjective”). That’s the way I can make sense of the terms “subjective” and “objective” within my mental framework — trying only to refer to things that exist, and understanding them in relation to other things that exist — and coming to know and understand these things through empirical methods.

cl> If Alonzo [or Luke or anyone else] would justify their conclusions with numbers, who could argue?

I think that’s the idea that Alonzo has been pursuing lately with his posts in regards to “willingness to pay”. He still hasn’t come up with a “thermometer” to measure the relative strengths of desires — right now he’s just outlining the groundwork on some of the requirements.

I do think having an objective (actually, inter-subjective) standard on how to measure the relative strengths of desires would be good (mostly to make it more… “objective”), but I don’t think it’s required to see that we can compare them. The objective standard would make it easier to see, though.

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cl June 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Kip,

I think that’s the idea that Alonzo has been pursuing lately…

Did you see my attempts*? I’d be interested in hearing your estimation of their strengths and weaknesses:

* 1) Proposed Method For Meaningful Evaluations In Desire Utilitarianism

2) Conducting Single-Agent Evaluations With The Hierarchy-Of-Desires Method

…both accessible via the “Desirism” category on the right-hand sidebar of my blog.

Cheers. See you around.

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Hermes June 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

Test test test test test.

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tmp September 16, 2010 at 11:19 am

cl,

“an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is the best possible source of morality”

Not really, compare:

1. Objective(transcendent) moral value exist.
2. An omniscient and omnibenevolent God exists.
3. We have perfect access to this God.

DCT is the best possible moral theory.

1. Objective(transcendent) moral value exist.
2. Our moral intuition has perfect access to these facts.

Moral subjectivism is the best possible moral theory.

The end result is the same, and there is one less thing needed for the second one. Simpler is usually better.

It would be nice if there was such a convenient source for morality, but while we are wishing for things, why not wish that we simply knew?

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Val December 1, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Kinda late to post on this one, but I couldn’t resist.

After reading WLC’s justification of the slaughter of the Canaanites my jaw literally dropped.

It reminded me of Nixon’s justification for Watergate. “When the president does it, it is not illegal”. Lol.

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Mark W April 15, 2011 at 6:54 am

Omnibenevolence is a great-making property, and is a property of God as that being greater than which none can be conceived.

You’re just defining God as Good

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Leo April 24, 2011 at 8:08 am

Graig gave the answer already ?

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