What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Page 1 of 2 1, 2  Next

View previous topic View next topic Go down

What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  jvollmer57 on Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:58 am

Anyone care to help me explore this topic? Without belief in a god, where do our moral obligations come from? I recently read Jeffrey Schweitzer's "Beyond Cosmic Dice," in which he tries to define a "natural ethic." He bases this ethical system on this: "A natural ethic states that we must be moral because we have the capacity to choose to be moral." Does this not seem like a weak foundation on which to base an entire ethical system? We have the capacity to do all sorts of things, but we do not therefore push onto people an obligation to do them. We have the capacity to make art, but we do not oblige people to make art. Likewise, we have the capacity to behave immorally, so why do we not have the obligation to behave immorally? What do you think? What is the source of moral obligations for the godless? Question

jvollmer57

Posts : 13
Join date : 2009-09-06
Location : Los Angeles

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Stegocephalian on Wed Sep 23, 2009 10:27 am

I think the obligation to act morally is a socially enforced convention - but it's basis, and why it is universal, is in the moral instincts instilled in us by our evolutionary history.

As a social species, this moral instinct is necessary for us to be able to form alliances, and navigate social networks - thus if you say, see a man kick a pragnant woman in the stomach, it doesn't matter what culture you come from, you'll get the same instinctive emotional reaction; outrage, anger, a desire to punish and restrain the man. If you see someone risking their life in an effort to save the life of someone else, you feel admiration and goodwill towards the person acting this way; a desire to see them rewarded in some way.

These emotions make it pleasurable for us to act in a way that could be described "moral", and repugnant to act against these impulses. How would you feel about congratulating the man who kicked the pragnant woman, and spitting on the face of the person who just saved another?

If you feel that the thought of acting this way is repugnant, and acting this way would make you feel very bad indeed, why would you not act in the moral fashion instead?

In addition to these moral intutitions guiding our actions, there are the underlying reasons why natural selection favored individuals with these intuitions, rather than some others - the fact that they are the foundation of co-operative, and coalitional behavior, the adherrance to which is likely to lead to the wellbeing of the society, and the acceptance of you into that society, while breaking them, if such a thing is widespread, will lead to the breakdown of social groupings, which isn't good for anyone, and, in a functioning social setting, would lead to you being rejected from the group.

So the reasons - acting good feels good, and acting good is necessary for social wellbeing - make it an imperative to act in a moral fashion.

Compassion, and realization that your own emotional life is not dissimilar to those of others, I think, is the foundation of thinking of moral behavior as a duty; further, if you partake in a society, and benefit from co-operation within it, then you've made an implicit contract to act in accordance to the rules that govern fair transactions.
avatar
Stegocephalian

Posts : 73
Join date : 2009-09-08

http://www.chess.com/groups/view/the-godless

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:01 pm

matt ridley's Origin of Virtue is a pretty good book on this subject written for laypeople.
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Morals / God

Post  Nathan Barley on Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:28 am

"Without belief in a god, where do our moral obligations come from?"

If you ever have a Christian apologist throw this question at you, throw the burden of proof straight back at them.

I would argue that adding a belief in God makes no difference to the question of why one is obligated to be moral. You've got to start with an idea of what is moral before you can decide that you'll follow a deity's morality, not the other way round. Otherwise, why not follow Satan's morality rather than that of Jesus? Not to mention Euthyphro's dilemma.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Mon Oct 05, 2009 9:53 am

Nathan Barley wrote:"Without belief in a god, where do our moral obligations come from?"

If you ever have a Christian apologist throw this question at you, throw the burden of proof straight back at them.

I would argue that adding a belief in God makes no difference to the question of why one is obligated to be moral. You've got to start with an idea of what is moral before you can decide that you'll follow a deity's morality, not the other way round. Otherwise, why not follow Satan's morality rather than that of Jesus? Not to mention Euthyphro's dilemma.
funny, i've been talking about something very similar for several months. i even wrote a blog post about it about a week ago. what is it about a god existing, even God, that grounds an objective morality? this version of the argument from morality is common for the New Apologists, but i don't see how it works at all. if there is a problem grounding an objective morality, i don't see how that problem is solved by pushing it back to some god.
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Mon Oct 05, 2009 2:24 pm

I think they all get their apologist ideas from a central pool. Or they all copy off William Lane Craig. The idea is that they start off saying 'If there's no 'objective morality' then you've no basis to say that Hitler was wrong, or that torturing babies is wrong'.

This wrong foots you. We're not used to defending such a basic idea as 'mass murder is immoral', it is normally something we all 'take as read'. Having created dissonance in the atheist's head, the apologist then offers a way out - an objective morality offered by a God.

It's actually a very cunning strategy. It left Christopher Hitchens somewhat non-plussed in his two debates with apologist Frank Turek. He thought that Turek was arguing that morality was coming from religion, when he was actually arguing it comes from God. Rather than attempt to explain how atheism can answer the 'why baby torture is wrong question', Hitchens should have lobbed it straight back at Turek. Why does positing a God make it any less wrong?

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Mon Oct 05, 2009 4:48 pm

Nathan Barley wrote:I think they all get their apologist ideas from a central pool. Or they all copy off William Lane Craig.
exactly right. craig is the dawkins of the New Apologists.

It's actually a very cunning strategy. It left Christopher Hitchens somewhat non-plussed in his two debates with apologist Frank Turek. He thought that Turek was arguing that morality was coming from religion, when he was actually arguing it comes from God. Rather than attempt to explain how atheism can answer the 'why baby torture is wrong question', Hitchens should have lobbed it straight back at Turek. Why does positing a God make it any less wrong?
you're exactly right. one problem is that turek's arguments are so sophomoric that it's hard to believe that anyone even familiar with the terminology he uses would ever say such a thing. every time i've heard him i've found myself wanting to clean his arguments up for him thinking "you don't want to say that when what you clearly mean is this."
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Lobbing it back

Post  CaptainSpaulding on Mon Oct 05, 2009 10:00 pm

I think the best way to "lob it back" at the believers is to ask them why they don't stone their insolent children, or anyone who gathers firewood on shabbat?

What is the basis for accepting some moral teachings of the Bible, and rejecting others? Obviously, we have an innate sense of morality which causes us to accept the wise admonitions and to reject the crazy ones. Where does that moral sense come from? And why not just eliminate the middleman?
avatar
CaptainSpaulding

Posts : 9
Join date : 2009-09-19
Age : 60
Location : Sarasota, Florida

http://www.DUISarasota.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:21 am

Hiya Captain. Unfortunately, I find that the strategy you lay out there tends to play into the hands of the smarter apologists. That's where Hitchens went wrong with Turek, assuming that the argument is that morality comes from the bible, rather than from God.

The apologist will just reply "So how do you know that stoning children is wrong? Where does that come from? If you're an atheist, you can't even say that murdering children is wrong". And you're back where you started. The apologist argues that if you 'cut out the middleman' and reject the existence of God, then the whole concept of morality becomes meaningless.

If you give them an answer along the lines of 'We evolved a moral sense', then they'll accuse you of turning an 'is' into an 'ought'. And in a way, it is true that one cannot say a feeling is right just because we evolved to have that feeling. As Dawkins points out, we are able to overcome our evolved urges. Some of these urges are good, and some are bad.

I've argued long and hard with Turek directly on his website about this subject. He's very hard to pin down.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Tue Oct 06, 2009 8:38 am

Nathan Barley wrote:I've argued long and hard with Turek directly on his website about this subject. He's very hard to pin down.
seriously, just thinking about arguing with turek about anything makes me frustrated. his treatment of the correspondence theory of truth just annoys the shit out of me.
what's his response if you question the existence of moral facts themselves? it always strikes me as odd that these guys take morality as a given, but their explanation is that God is required to have any such thing. their argument is circular in that way. how do we know we have God? because we have morality. how do we know we have morality? we have God. i looks like both turek's metaphysics and epistemology is a knotted mess.
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Tue Oct 06, 2009 9:02 am

"what's his response if you question the existence of moral facts themselves?"

What, you mean if one tells Turek that there's no such thing as a moral fact? He'll say the consequence of that is that one cannot therefore call baby-torture wrong. He'll ask you if being against baby-torture is 'just an opinion', as if making something 'an opinion' is to reduce it to the status of a whim.

In his view, baby-torture being wrong is equivalent to 7 being a prime number - it's a universal law. And all universal laws must come from God.
"If we're all just molecules and atoms, then why is baby-torture wrong?".

I don't get this - we ARE molecules and atoms, no-one denies that. We just don't believe in some extra 'magical' aspect of us. And I don't understand why the 'magical' aspect supposedly imbued by God would make any difference.

"his treatment of the correspondence theory of truth just annoys the shit out of me"

Oh, fill me in on that, I haven't heard it.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Tue Oct 06, 2009 10:50 am

that's just what i mean. one might say there are prudential imperative but not moral imperatives. moral anti-realism is a common position amongst those doing meta-ethics. the reason i asked is because it seems like it would be pretty easy to just cut the legs off turek's argument right there.
the whole position these guys take on ethics is just bizarre. they just ignore the huge amount of work done in meta-ethics, which is a ridiculously hot topic even now.

you can hear his speech on truth here:
he's clearly got the correspondence theory of truth in mind as he says around 0:35 that "truth is what corresponds to its referent." but then he just does a terrible job of explaining it, and he acts as if there are no problems with it. he does a terrible disservice to his audience who thinks they're leaving his talk armed with a clever set of responses. the problem is that anyone who took any intro course in philosophy that touched upon theories of truth could tear down these arguments with very little effort.
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Thu Oct 08, 2009 1:16 pm

jvollmer57 wrote: What is the source of moral obligations for the godless? Question

The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself.
avatar
Objectivitees

Posts : 120
Join date : 2009-10-08

http://www.objectivitees.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Thu Oct 08, 2009 3:58 pm

"The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself."

Positing a transcendent source makes no difference. It still has to be YOU who chooses that source and judges it to be moral. Either you are judging that source by YOUR standards, or you are judging it by its own standard, in which case it's no choice at all.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Fri Oct 09, 2009 2:49 am

Positing a transcendent source makes no difference. It still has to be YOU who chooses that source and judges it to be moral. Either you are judging that source by YOUR standards, or you are judging it by its own standard, in which case it's no choice at all.

Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control, you can't judge them, therefore you choose only to comply or not comply.
avatar
Objectivitees

Posts : 120
Join date : 2009-10-08

http://www.objectivitees.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:33 am

I'm afraid your argument doesn't really make sense. If 'you can't judge them', how do you know it's correct? What stops it being an arbitrary decision that 'God is the moral abiter'? Why not say that Satan is the moral arbiter? Where are you getting the information that your God is 'the good guy'. My point stands. Either you're judging him by your standards or by his own. And since the latter option makes no sense (Satan could be good by his own standards), you're still left with your own decision or choice or judgement.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:52 am

If you construct an argument for why God is more moral than Satan that appeals to God being the more powerful one, then you're just making a 'might is right' argument.

And 'God is the creator, therefore is moral' argument doesn't really hold water either. Any creator is automatically moral? So if Satan had been the creator, then human sacrifice and torture would be moral?

And if you've got some 'logical' reason why God is more moral than Satan that runs along the lines of proving that love is more moral than hate (CF CS Lewis arguments), then presumably one could use the same 'proof' to construct a moral framework without injecting a deity in the first place.

In all cases, the 'morals can only come from God' argument becomes either circular or self-defeating.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Stegocephalian on Fri Oct 09, 2009 11:27 am

Objectivitees wrote:
jvollmer57 wrote: What is the source of moral obligations for the godless? Question

The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself.

I would invite you to read my earlier post (the second post in this thread). There I - very briefly - outline the naturalistic, and very common-sensical reasons behind morality, and why you don't need to have your morality handed down to you from some trancendent source.

Indeed, that claim, as others have pointed out in response to you, is itself problematic - it seems to be a simple "might makes right" position.

If morality comes down to us from some trancendent authority, where did that transendent authority get it? Did he just make it up? If so, then what did he base his ideas of morality on?

In other words, are God's moral commandments good because they were given by God, or does God command good, because it is good for some reason?

If God's commandments are good by definition, so that whatever God happened to ascribe morality to be, that would be good, that simply makes morality entirely arbitrary - set in stone, yes, given from above, yes - but still founded on nothing but the whims of a trancendendent being.

If the latter is the case, that there is good reason why some things are good and other things not, which to me seems to be the case as revealed by even the most cursory look at the philosophy of ethics, and the functioning of human societies in general, then you can work out those morals for yourself, appealing to those underlying reasons - you don't need the trancendent being to spell them out for you.

Indeed, as I briefly explain in the post I referred to earlier, there are good evolutionary reasons for why social animals of all kinds have moral intuitions that guide their behavior; morals are there because morals are useful - just like our eyes, ears, lungs, or any other organ is there because they are useful.
avatar
Stegocephalian

Posts : 73
Join date : 2009-09-08

http://www.chess.com/groups/view/the-godless

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:01 pm

I think the obligation to act morally is a socially enforced convention - but it's basis, and why it is universal, is in the moral instincts instilled in us by our evolutionary history.

I read your post before, and your assessment of morality is spot on as it should be for someone who believes in evolution. I applaud you for your consistency in claiming a naturalistic explanation. The question I have is, how do you define morality? In your first post you define morality as I noted, in a way that is consistent with a materialistic worldview and your espoused belief in Evolution. (Philosophical naturalism) However later you refer to a definition that is consistent only with a transcendent concept of morality, where you evoke an emotional response to a scene you assume everyone (universally) will respond to in the same way. It is the claim of universality in interpreting the emotional response by everyone in the same way that actually points to an absolute standard of morality, which can come only from a transcendent source. You don’t get to have it both ways. Your argument is an equivocation, which I’ll demonstrate by refuting your premise.

(…thus if you say, see a man kick a pragnant woman in the stomach, it doesn't matter what culture you come from, you'll get the same instinctive emotional reaction; outrage, anger, a desire to punish and restrain the man.)

Not everyone in Islamic countries where Sharia law is enforced suffers the ‘outrage, anger, ‘ and ‘desire to restrain the man’ you suggest. Husbands are allowed to treat their wives as chattel or property; it is his right to kick her, if he deems it necessary. This is especially the case if the pregnant woman is not married; in fact, it is viewed as justice, not a moral wrong.

A "socially enforced convention" is not transcendent, (doesn't apply to everyone, {Sharia husband}) a morally just one has to be transcendent. (applies to everyone {outrage, anger}) It's what transcendence in the philosophical/theistic sense is
avatar
Objectivitees

Posts : 120
Join date : 2009-10-08

http://www.objectivitees.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Fri Oct 09, 2009 5:58 pm

"which can come only from a transcendent source"

Objectivitees, I'm afraid we've already explained why a transcendent source makes no difference to the argument. You've not addressed this, and the discussion cannot move forward until you do.

What's more the morality in the bible is not transcendent in that it doesn't apply at all times - Slavery is clearly condoned then, but isn't ok now - and also doesn't apply to God himself.

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:57 pm

Nathan Barley wrote:"which can come only from a transcendent source"

Objectivitees, I'm afraid we've already explained why a transcendent source makes no difference to the argument. You've not addressed this, and the discussion cannot move forward until you do.

What's more the morality in the bible is not transcendent in that it doesn't apply at all times - Slavery is clearly condoned then, but isn't ok now - and also doesn't apply to God himself.

Actually nathan, I did address this when I said
Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control, you can't judge them, therefore you choose only to comply or not comply.
My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things. If you disagree, it points to the probability you don't understand the theistic concept of transcendence, rather than to my needing to address it... More importantly though, it is irrelevant (fallacy of irrelevant thesis) to the OP's question, which seeks to JUSTIFY morality, when transcendence is absent. Rather than define it, it presupposes it's absence, and therefore dispenses with the need to define it. Since arguing it's definition is irrelevant thesis, (the fallacy of) I won't comment on it further.

Since the second paragraph of your response is mere opinion (you gave no argument to support the thesis) I'll dismiss it without further comment, as well. But allow me to note before having to respond again to your objections, it suffers the same fallacy as your first 'point'.

If you believe we can't move forward still, then I assume that means you won't be participating further?


Last edited by Objectivitees on Fri Oct 09, 2009 6:58 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : font color)
avatar
Objectivitees

Posts : 120
Join date : 2009-10-08

http://www.objectivitees.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Fri Oct 09, 2009 11:17 pm

Objectivitees wrote:Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control, you can't judge them, therefore you choose only to comply or not comply.
how does something standing outside your ability to control imply moral authority? what's the justification for such an inference?
even worse, Satan would presumably be beyond our control. by your definition that would make him a moral authority, and that's clearly wrong.
My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things. If you disagree, it points to the probability you don't understand the theistic concept of transcendence, rather than to my needing to address it...
that's absurd. you don't get to define something arbitrarily and claim that anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand. you need an argument for this position. you can't just decree it by fiat.
More importantly though, it is irrelevant (fallacy of irrelevant thesis) to the OP's question, which seeks to JUSTIFY morality, when transcendence is absent. Rather than define it, it presupposes it's absence, and therefore dispenses with the need to define it. Since arguing it's definition is irrelevant thesis, (the fallacy of) I won't comment on it further.
he's responding to your post, so there's nothing irrelevant about it. you're just making yourself look like a foolish jerk.

Since the second paragraph of your response is mere opinion (you gave no argument to support the thesis) I'll dismiss it without further comment, as well. But allow me to note before having to respond again to your objections, it suffers the same fallacy as your first 'point'.
well, since you've offered no argument, i guess we can dismiss you without further comment as well.
avatar
Jim

Posts : 95
Join date : 2009-09-16
Location : NOLA

http://appleeaters.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:56 am

[quote="Jim"]
Objectivitees wrote:Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control, you can't judge them, therefore you choose only to comply or not comply.
how does something standing outside your ability to control imply moral authority? what's the justification for such an inference?
even worse, Satan would presumably be beyond our control. by your definition that would make him a moral authority, and that's clearly wrong.

That wasn't a definition, Jim, it was an explanation of a specific aspect of the concept. To attempt to apply the broad brush stroke you have here, and paint with it as though it were a 'definition', is to paint a strawman, at best.


My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things. If you disagree, it points to the probability you don't understand the theistic concept of transcendence, rather than to my needing to address it...


that's absurd. you don't get to define something arbitrarily and claim that anyone who disagrees just doesn't understand. you need an argument for this position. you can't just decree it by fiat.

It's not arbitrary, go look up the definition, and don't forget the latin root. The definition is the argument you propose I didn't have. It wasn't posted specifically because I assumed people here understood the meaning of transcendence, but I can see now, (twice)I was wrong about that part.


More importantly though, it is irrelevant (fallacy of irrelevant thesis) to the OP's question, which seeks to JUSTIFY morality, when transcendence is absent. Rather than define it, it presupposes it's absence, and therefore dispenses with the need to define it. Since arguing it's definition is irrelevant thesis, (the fallacy of) I won't comment on it further.


he's responding to your post, so there's nothing irrelevant about it. you're just making yourself look like a foolish jerk.

True, he was responding to my post, but he was doing so with the fallacy of irrelevant thesis. The OP does assume that transcendence is absent in the nature of the request. I'm not a foolish jerk , Jim, I'm using commonly accepted and valid principles of logic, (citing fallacies and demonstrating them, twice now)to keep people from unintentionally straying from the subject.For you to describe me as looking like a foolish jerk, makes you come off as intolerant of people who disagree with you, which in turn makes you look like you are just claiming I don't understand.

Since the second paragraph of your response is mere opinion (you gave no argument to support the thesis) I'll dismiss it without further comment, as well. But allow me to note before having to respond again to your objections, it suffers the same fallacy as your first 'point'.
well, since you've offered no argument, i guess we can dismiss you without further comment as well.
Remember, mere opinion is not allowed in debate, and the paragraph I cited from the post, has no supporting argument. Since I have now pointed out the argument that previously was only implied (the definition), I guess I have provided an argument now, and you can't so easily dismiss it. However, since the definition is irrelevant to tho OP's query, there's no more need to discuss the definition, so I'll just reiterate my original contribution...

The only source of moral authority anyone could possibly have without a transcendent (God) source, would be yourself. or, to quote myself...

The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself.

Now, I'll be happy to respond if you want to take issue with my claim that the only possible source absent a transcendent one is one's "self", but I'll not attempt to go down the red herring lined rabbit trail of 'transcendental' definition any longer.
avatar
Objectivitees

Posts : 120
Join date : 2009-10-08

http://www.objectivitees.com

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Stegocephalian on Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:23 am

Objectivitees wrote:

I read your post before, and your assessment of morality is spot on as it should be for someone who believes in evolution. I applaud you for your consistency in claiming a naturalistic explanation. The question I have is, how do you define morality? In your first post you define morality as I noted, in a way that is consistent with a materialistic worldview and your espoused belief in Evolution. (Philosophical naturalism) However later you refer to a definition that is consistent only with a transcendent concept of morality, where you evoke an emotional response to a scene you assume everyone (universally) will respond to in the same way. It is the claim of universality in interpreting the emotional response by everyone in the same way that actually points to an absolute standard of morality, which can come only from a transcendent source. You don’t get to have it both ways. Your argument is an equivocation, which I’ll demonstrate by refuting your premise.

(emphasis added to the quote)

I am not claiming that people respond to moral intuitions universally the same way - cultural, ideolgical, and religious indoctrination can subvert and over-ride those intuitions; that doesn't mean that the intuitions aren't there.

For example - and I regret that I do not remember what tribe, and where in the world this is - there is (was?) a tribe where the custom was for children, after their parents had reached a certain age of starting to show signs of decline, to throw their parents down from a high treetop, to their deaths. Does this qualify as an example of a morality that is diametrically opposed to the moral views of us in the west? Are these a calous, sociopathic people who get rid of the weak in this cruel manner before they become a burden?

It might seem so superficially, until you look at their reasoning - the belief system they hold. According to their beliefs, there is an afterlife in which you spend the rest of eternity, but you spend that eternity at the age and physical appearance that you have at the time of your death. Thus, to allow your parent to become aged and infirm, troubled by all the ills associated with advanced age, would be an act of cruelty: it would be condemning them to spend eternity in that state. If, on the other hand, you kill them while they are still in able physical condition, you'll ensure them a much better afterlife.

So, within the structures of the belief system these people hold, what they are doing is a selfless act of love (all the more selfless for the undobted emotional suffering this causes them), not a calous, unfeeling act of murder.

Similarly, if you hold to a fundamentalist Islamic faith of a certain brand, you believe that failing to follow the percepts of your religion would directly cause divine displeasure, and manifest itself in horrifying ways - much more horrifying than a mere beating of a woman. Thus it is the very desire to protect your loved ones, and your society, from such consequences that demands you "harden your heart" in the face of such "necessary" acts of dicipline as, say, a stoning for blasphemy, or the beating of a disobedient wife.

Further, human psychology is very much adaptive to circumstance - we can become desensiticed to violence and brutality when we are forced to experience it in our society regularly. This too makes perfect evolutionary sense - you need to adapt to the culture you are in.

As to why these underlying intuitions are essentially the same across people of all cultures, no matter what ideological and religious logic may twist them into shapes that superficially (but only superficially) look as going against such similarity, it is the very same reason all people have eyes that are pretty much similar from person to person, from culture to culture - or why all people have five fingers, across cultures.

It is because we share common ancestry, and have inherited these similarities from a common ancestor - and in all these things sometimes people are born that are aberant of the standard. Sometimes people are born without eyes, or with eyes that don't function, or six fingers, or no fingers, or indeed without moral intuitions. The last case of aberants are called sociopaths, and they are no less disabled than those that are born without eyes or fingers; a society where more than a minority of people were born sociopaths, without these moral intuitions, would crumble, leading to the demise of the society, and with it, it's sociopathic individuals.

The fact that we do share common moral intuitions across the species - and indeed even across OTHER species (chimps, and other social animals have been shown to display some of the same moral intuitions that humans do) - is testified by significant amount of experimental evidence. I recommend you actually pick up a book and read about it - I'd recommend Mark Hauser's "Moral Minds".


Last edited by Stegocephalian on Sat Oct 10, 2009 12:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
avatar
Stegocephalian

Posts : 73
Join date : 2009-09-08

http://www.chess.com/groups/view/the-godless

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:06 am

"because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control, you can't judge them, therefore you choose only to comply or not comply."

And by what method do you make this choice without using any kind of judgement?


Last edited by Nathan Barley on Sat Oct 10, 2009 8:23 am; edited 1 time in total

Nathan Barley

Posts : 41
Join date : 2009-10-05

Back to top Go down

Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Sponsored content


Sponsored content


Back to top Go down

Page 1 of 2 1, 2  Next

View previous topic View next topic Back to top

- Similar topics

 
Permissions in this forum:
You cannot reply to topics in this forum