What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

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

Post  Nathan Barley on Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:23 am

"Since the second paragraph of your response is mere opinion (you gave no argument to support the thesis)"

Are you denying that there are passages in the Old Testament where God condones slavery? My apologies, I assumed you were familiar with this book.

"I'm using commonly accepted and valid principles of logic to keep people from unintentionally straying from the subject"

If you are making the claim that a necessary aspect of a transcendent morality is that it doesn't change, then it is not straying from the subject for me to point out that God's morality changes in the bible.

So in response you can either argue that it does NOT change (eg, it's still ok to beat your slave as long as they don't die within three days*), or you can argue that a transcendent morality can change.

* "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money."
Exodus 21:20-21 (King James Version)

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

Post  Jim on Sat Oct 10, 2009 10:33 am

Objectivitees wrote: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.
really? because you say explicitly "My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things." i used the word 'definition' because you did. there's no strawman at all.
regardless, that doesn't address the issue in any way. how do "Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control"? what's the justification for such an inference? you've now been explicit that it isn't definition, so what is it? further, as Satan is beyond our control, and as, according to you, things "imply moral authority, because they stand outside [our] ability to control," how is Satan not a source of moral authority?


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.
ok. now what? would you like me to quote the entire entry from the OED on this? nothing suggests a necessary moral authority based merely on the transcendent nature of some entity. further, even if it did, we would be wholly justified in asking what the grounding for such is. again, you don't get to claim it by fiat, by some trick of definition.

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.
no. there was nothing fallacious there. responding to a specific claim is wholly relevant. asking what your party affiliation would have been irrelevant, but asking about something you explicitly claim is in no way irrelevant. if you don't want people to question your bald assertions, don't make them. claiming they're guilty of fallacious reasoning when they address specific things you brought up only shows your own ignorance of how such fallacies work. again, you just look like a foolish jerk.

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.
you mean mere opinion like "Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control"? that kind of bald assertion with no justification at all shouldn't be brought up? fine. i'm cool with that.

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.
you shouldn't bring up things you don't want to discuss.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:14 pm

eally? because you say explicitly "My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things." i used the word 'definition' because you did. there's no strawman at all.

Jim, go look up the definition.

you shouldn't bring up things you don't want to discuss.

I didn't Jim, nathan did. as a courtesy, I responded to him. Now, I don't think you clearly grasped my point when I said I was not going to discuss the definition any longer because it is not germane to the object of this thread.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:20 pm

I looked it up. Beyond the material, or pertaining to God. I don't see how this helps you.

And I've explained why my point about God's changing morality is relevant to a claim that God's morality doesn't change!

I'm really not sure what you've got to offer here, Objectivitee, apart from assertions.

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

Post  Stegocephalian on Sat Oct 10, 2009 1:34 pm

Objectivitees, with regards to the definition of trancendent, it is ultimately besides the point of whether or not you define the term as including "beeing a source of morals" or "morally superior" - or whatever else property you want to add to the definition of the word.

The fact still remains is that there is no argument that we've seen from you (or anyone else, for that matter) that would give us any reason to think why a being that trancends this world should automatically be a foundation of absolute morals.

In trying to smuggle in this property to the definition of the word "trancendent", and then describing God as "trancendent", it seems to me that instead of arguing for why trancendence should imply being a source of morals, you are trying to define your position into being right.

It is exactly analogous to, if, say, rather than amassing evidence and constructing arguments to make a persuasive case for evolution through natural selection, Darwin had simply defined the word "evolution by natural selection", as having the property of being the necessary ultimate source of order in the biological world, and then declared that evolution is thus proven. After all, it is defined as being necessarily the source of order in the biological world, is it not?

Of course, had Darwin done thus, he would rightly have been dismissed as having failed to argue for his case, to provide any reason for anyone to accept his definition as a sensible one that is likely to apply to the real world we live in.

The same objection is being raised against you, when - at least it seems so to me and apparently others participating in this thread - you are trying to forgo the need to argue your case by simply defining yourself into being right.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:48 pm

Nathan,

"Since the second paragraph of your response is mere opinion (you gave no argument to support the thesis)"

Are you denying that there are passages in the Old Testament where God condones slavery? My apologies, I assumed you were familiar with this book.

Yes. I think you’ve misinterpreted the paradigm under which the Judeo- Christian ethic interprets those passages. However, since this topic is irrelevant to the thesis of the post, I don’t see why you are arguing it. Somehow, your apology comes off as sarcasm, rather than sincerity.

"I'm using commonly accepted and valid principles of logic to keep people from unintentionally straying from the subject"

If you are making the claim that a necessary aspect of a transcendent morality is that it doesn't change, then it is not straying from the subject for me to point out that God's morality changes in the bible.

I’m not making that claim. That quality is part and parcel of what Transcendence means. Even so, it is still ‘straying’ because God’s ‘morality’ does not change; again, you’ve misinterpreted the paradigm in which the Judeo-Christian ethic interprets whatever passage you think makes that claim. Please understand I am responding to you out of courtesy, These responses do not mean I am going to argue these points further with you, because I have already pointed out, they are not germane to the OP’s line of inquiry.

So in response you can either argue that it does NOT change (eg, it's still ok to beat your slave as long as they don't die within three days*), or you can argue that a transcendent morality can change.


Or, I could argue that you’ve misinterpreted the paradigm under which the Judeo-Christian ethic interprets those passages.

You see, there’s a third option, which means, according to logic, you’ve committed the fallacy of ‘Bifurcation’ here. (False dilemma) Still, since the validity of your interpretation of those passages or the validity of mine is not the question the OP proposed, I’m not going to further with this argument either.


* "And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money."
Exodus 21:20-21 (King James Version)

Hmmm. So you think imposing penalties for beating someone too severely is a bad thing? A standard by which discipline for employees (bondservants/slaves, whatever you want to call them) is limited to a humane level is a bad thing? Wow.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

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


The fact still remains is that there is no argument that we've seen from you (or anyone else, for that matter) that would give us any reason to think why a being that trancends this world should automatically be a foundation of absolute morals.
Emphasis added.



That's because I'm not making that argument, I'm making the argument that...
The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself.
Which is what the OP asked for. The OP clearly asked for a source of 'obligation' if there is no God! I proposed it would have to be yourself! Can we please try to stay on topic? I did not propose God or anything else that was trancendent should or should not "automatically be a foundation of absolute morals". I said ABSENT a transcendent source, the authority lies in ourselves.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Sat Oct 10, 2009 5:46 pm

"So you think imposing penalties for beating someone too severely is a bad thing? "

Spin it how you like, the quote clearly says that as long as the slave doesn't die within two days of you beating him/her, then you shouldn't be punished. In other words, God is clearly condoning beating your slave as badly as you want, as long as he/she doesn't die within two days, even if he/she dies after three days. It clearly says 'you shall not be punished'. How can you interpret the passage any other way?

So why is God condoning slavery in the first place? Wouldn't it be better to unambiguously tell people NOT to own slaves, and not to beat them at all if they have to own them?

1) Do YOU view this as moral (slave owning for a start, and beating them for a second)?
2) Do you think this is STILL God's view?
3) Do you see it as a problem to the idea of a transcendental morality if God changes his mind about slavery?

"I said ABSENT a transcendent source, the authority lies in ourselves."

I agreed with you straight off on that point. I only added that I believe the authority lies in ourselves either way, with or without a 'transcendent source', and have explained my reasons why. If you agree with me, then obviously we don't have a disagreement. If you believe that positing a God removes the need for our own authority, then I'm happy for you to discuss why. I don't see this as being massively off topic. If you do, please tell us which direction you WOULD like the discussion to go in.

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

Post  Jim on Sat Oct 10, 2009 6:58 pm

Objectivitees wrote:Jim, go look up the definition.
so, now you're admitting that when you wrote "That wasn't a definition, Jim," that such wasn't true, that you were talking about a definition, as suggested when you wrote "My quote above is true because, by definition, Transcendence is all these things"? good deal.

like i said, that's been done. from the OED, with etymology, but without quotations:
[ad. L. transcendent-em, pr. pple. of transcend-{ebreve}re to TRANSCEND. For the spelling with -ant cf. F. transcendant (14-15th c. in Hatz.-Darm.), also ascendant, descendant.]

A. adj.

1. Surpassing or excelling others of its kind; going beyond the ordinary limits; pre-eminent; superior or supreme; extraordinary. Also, loosely, Eminently great or good; cf. ‘excellent’.

{dag}b. With above, to: greatly superior to. Obs.

{dag}2. Of language: Elevated above ordinary language, lofty. Obs.

{dag}3. Of an idea or conception: Transcending comprehension; hence, obscure or abstruse. Cf. METAPHYSICAL 1b. Obs.

4. Philos. a. Applied by the Schoolmen to predicates which by their universal application were considered to transcend the Aristotelian categories or predicaments. See B. 1a.

b. By Kant applied to that which transcends his own list of categories (explained as a priori conceptions of the understanding, which it necessarily employs in ordering its experience, but which have no validity outside of experience); hence, transcending or altogether outside experience; not an object of possible experience; unrealizable in human experience. (Distinguished by him from TRANSCENDENTAL 2b.)

5. Theol. Of the Deity: In His being, exalted above and distinct from the universe; having transcendence. Distinguished from IMMANENT 1.
Originally often connoting the denial of Divine action or interference in mundane affairs.

6. Math. = TRANSCENDENTAL 4.

B. n. [the adj. used absol.]

1. Philos. {dag}a. A predicate that transcends, or cannot be classed under, any of the Aristotelian categories or predicaments. Obs.
Aristotle taught (Metaph. x. 2) that being and unity were neither categories, nor fell under any one category, but could be predicated in all the categories; in Eth. Nic. he says the like of goodness. Such predicates came to be called by the Schoolmen transcendentia, ‘transcendents’, as transcending the limits of the categories. Their enumeration as six, Being, Thing, Something, One, True, Good (found first in a treatise attributed to Thomas Aquinas, but thought by Prantl (Gesch. der Logik III. 245) to be subsequent to Duns Scotus), was in regular use down to the time of Kant.

b. transf. A person or thing that transcends classification.

c. According to the Kantian philosophy: That which is altogether beyond the bounds of human cognition and thought. See A. 4b.

{dag}2. One who or that which transcends or rises high above the ordinary rank of persons or things; a person or thing of great eminence. Obs.

{dag}3. That which transcends, surpasses, or excels something else, or things generally. rare.

{dag}b. A transcendent or pre-eminent quality. Obs.

{dag}4. A 2- or 3-line capital letter such as those put at the beginning of books or chapters. Obs. rare.

{dag}5. the transcendent: the ascendancy, the superiority; = ASCENDANT B. 3. Obs. rare.

6. Math. A transcendental expression or function; a non-algebraical function; e.g. log x, sin x, ax. See TRANSCENDENTAL a. 4.
now what?


I didn't Jim, nathan did. as a courtesy, I responded to him.

you absolutely 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," and, as i've pointed out repeatedly, this is a wholly unjustified inference that, if true, makes Satan a moral authority as well.

Now, I don't think you clearly grasped my point when I said I was not going to discuss the definition any longer because it is not germane to the object of this thread.
no, i understood you. i'm a bright guy. but you saying that you don't want to be called on your bullshit won't prevent me from calling you on it.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Jim on Sat Oct 10, 2009 7:03 pm

Objectivitees wrote:That's because I'm not making that argument, I'm making the argument that...
The only source you can reasonably have, without a transcendent source (God) is yourself.
Which is what the OP asked for. The OP clearly asked for a source of 'obligation' if there is no God! I proposed it would have to be yourself! Can we please try to stay on topic? I did not propose God or anything else that was trancendent should or should not "automatically be a foundation of absolute morals". I said ABSENT a transcendent source, the authority lies in ourselves.
clearly, this discussion, like all discussions, is dynamic. if you don't like that, you should not engage in such things.
you are not the dictator of this board. you are not even a mod. you don't get to dictate the direction the discussion takes. you do have the option to refuse to participate, but that is the only control you have here.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:13 pm

you absolutely wrote "Transcendent sources imply moral authority, because they stand outside your ability to control, because they are outside your control,...


Yeah and then you quoted as definition #1...

1. Surpassing or excelling others of its kind; going beyond the ordinary limits; pre-eminent; superior or supreme; extraordinary. Also, loosely, Eminently great or good; cf. ‘excellent’.

My irony meter just broke. I'm gonna exercise the control I have. Have a nice day, stay out of the rain there in sac town.


Last edited by Objectivitees on Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:15 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Capitalization)
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Nathan Barley on Mon Oct 12, 2009 5:27 pm

"So you think imposing penalties for beating someone too severely is a bad thing?"

Let's take a different tack on this. Imagine a Muslim boasts to you that Allah's morality is unchanging, and gives you incest as an example - 'it's always wrong,' he tells you.

Then you show him a passage from the Koran that says 'If you're making love to your sister, make sure you don't make her pregnant. But if she doesn't get pregnant, that's ok'.

Imagine then that the Muslim replies:
"So you think advising people not to have incestuous babies is a bad thing? Wow".

Would you not think him a bit disingenuous? This is what you have done here.

"I could argue that you’ve misinterpreted the paradigm under which the Judeo-Christian ethic interprets those passages"

Claiming that people interpret those bible passages differently nowadays, not taking them as condoning slavery - that only goes to prove my point. The interpretation has changed over time. Nowadays, people start with the notion that slavery is wrong before they read the bible, and so they read those passages in that light. Two hundred years ago people would passionately quote the same passages as justification for slavery. Wherever they get their morals from today, it isn't the bible. And yes, that is on-topic.

And I don't buy your 'I'm the one being civil act', objectivitee. In civil discussion, if someone makes a point and you don't understand its relevance, it's polite to ask the other poster to explain its relevance, rather than barking 'Fallacy of irrelevance!' at them, as if you're a robot that's just done a course in elementary logic. It reeks of point scoring, rather than the understanding that you claim to be attempting to spread.

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

Post  Jim on Mon Oct 12, 2009 9:16 pm

Objectivitees wrote:My irony meter just broke. I'm gonna exercise the control I have. Have a nice day, stay out of the rain there in sac town.
you don't genuinely think you're being clever, do you? because that makes you look even more foolish than before. nothing in the definition you want to use, which isn't the only definition, suggests that the inference you want to make, that something merely being transcendent implies that it is a moral authority. and, yet again, if merely being beyond our power grants moral authority, then Satan has moral authority.

you're not clever at all. you're just kind of annoying.
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cool video on this subject

Post  Sosa on Wed Oct 14, 2009 2:12 am

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn4DT5sHNWs
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  nonchai on Wed Oct 21, 2009 12:52 pm

I like to think of this question in terms of the desire and/or need to belong to a "club".

Given a choice of 'clubs' ( or communities ) would a person ( "good" or "evil" ) prefer to belong to a group which encourages or enforces
"good" moral behaviour or one which encourages "bad" moral behaviour.

Take for example street gangs - if you live on the "street" and need/want to joing a gang - would you want to belong to one which enourages deceit and double crossing both WITHIN and OUTSIDE the group ? or one which enforces a gangsters "code" ?

Even a sociopath would probably choose a group which encourages trustworthyness and integrity WITHIN that group regardless on how it treats outsiders. Now it happens that sociopaths dont care if they break such rules, but they are the exception. And how to explain why most humans are NOT sociopaths ( although loads are philosophical "freeloaders" ) well, if we were ALL sociopaths we probably would have ceased to exist long ago, since to survive it seems to me pretty clear that humans through history have needed each other to survive. No need for an evolutionary explanation for this in my opinion.

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

Post  jvollmer57 on Thu Oct 22, 2009 4:03 am

I love the exchange here throughout this thread! I made the initial post regarding the source of morality because I had just read Schweitzer’s book and was on my way to hear him lecture on it. It’s been great fun to read the back and forth—especially after Objectivitees jumped in. Are theists always so weasely? Pardon me if I cross the line to name-calling, but he/she refused to directly respond to anyone’s questions—particularly Jim’s (btw thanks for the Matt Ridley recommendation). I am not deeply schooled in this issue, but I am very interested in how theists and non-believers take different approaches to building moral foundations in their lives. If I remember correctly, W. L. Craig says that god is not the source of moral goodness, he IS moral goodness. Now I am not taking up Objectivitee’s banner here, but if god is the good, why can’t we reasonably assume the existence of a transcendent source of absolute morality? Y’all still got patience to ‘splain it one more time?

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

Post  Nathan Barley on Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:37 am

But what does it mean to BE moral goodness? It's kind of a meaningless assertion. Why not assert that God is moral badness instead? How would one tell the difference?

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

Post  Sosa on Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:34 am

Even if the god of the Judeo-christian tradition existed, we can still challenge his moral "goodness", he would be a contradiction to absolute morality...
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  nonchai on Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:57 pm

Nathan Barley wrote:But what does it mean to BE moral goodness? It's kind of a meaningless assertion. Why not assert that God is moral badness instead? How would one tell the difference?

Exactly - what would the idea of god BEING moral intrinsically mean anyway ? doesnt morality only have meaning when there is more than one party?. Before god "made" anything there would only have been god, nothing else. The only other form of morality i suppose some might bring up is sexual morality, suicide and such - but what does THAT mean ? i guess if god is love - he/she is very into "self-love" but hat possible action could a god do that is immoral if the only thing that exists is "him" ? - Maybe this is why the trinity thing kicks in - so god the father can "intrinsically" be "good" towards the "son" or the "holy spirit" but OTOH all three are "one" oh my brain hurts!!. Time i guess to play the "quantum theory" card.... quantum theory is weird and counterintuitive and no one really understands it - "ergo" the christian can feel nice and "sane" to propose any old theological bollocks he/she happens to have adopted/indoctrinated into.

W L Craigs attempt at working around Euthrypros dilemma is pretty much a silly game of words without investigating what the hell it all means.

In any case the other big premise about the necessity of the ultimate "first cause" HAVING to be a person seems daft too, in what sense is something that is outside time, matter, space the whole shebang any kind of person by our "humble" human useage of that term ? Whatever it is we shouldnt be calling or describing it as a person. Does god "think" ? not in any sense like we do . Does god "decide" ? according to Craig he does. What does decision or "free will" mean for heaven sake when one is outside of and in command of EVERYTHING ?

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

Post  Brad on Sat Oct 24, 2009 7:51 pm

Just saw this discussion.

To me, the relatively recent discoveries about mirror neurons seem to have a lot of explanatory value when it comes to what we think of rudimentary, instinctual, forms of morality. At levels more sophisticated than that, I'd say socialization - necessary for communities, accounts for most of the remainder of our moral and ethical thinking/patterns, as described by cultural anthropologists and other social researchers.

In any event, as several have argued well above, the interposition of "transcendence" or of any god or other immaterial being as necessary to morality is an obvious canard to anyone who has traveled much around the world or known many life-long atheists.

Then there are those who wishfully argue that their deity must have implanted our instinctual morality.
The only problem with that is there's no evidence for such a deity outside the minds of believers.

Thanks to Sosa for the great video link. I'm looking forward to viewing more of that fellow's work! Very Happy
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Brad on Mon Oct 26, 2009 11:17 pm

Jim and Nathan and Stego, et al,
The meek, gentle, and ever-so-logical Mr. Turek appeared recently on the "A Christian and an Atheist" podcast.
Now the atheist co-host from that show - Emery Wang is his name - has just set up a blog to discuss Turek's main points from his debate with Christopher Hitchens, which, needless to say, came up also in the podcast interview / bludgeoning.
You guys made some really good points above, so I thought I'd offer the link in case you want to check in there.
Here 'tis:

http://www.answeringfrankturek.blogspot.com/
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  Objectivitees on Fri Feb 12, 2010 2:58 pm

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

(still)The only source you can have, is yourself.
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Re: What is the source of our obligation to behave morally?

Post  2buckchuck on Thu Sep 16, 2010 8:09 am

Interesting discussion ... sorry to be so late to the party. I need to go back and read more of the older threads.
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Moral Obligation

Post  Nik K on Mon Jul 25, 2011 9:52 pm

I just wrote a blog post about this subject at this link:
http://nikkane.blogspot.com/2011/07/moral-obligation.html
Basically I think, although Naturalism can offer a valid foundation for objective morality in the assertion that morality is founded on the well-being and suffering of sentient creatures, it has no valid foundation for the concept of objective moral obligation. As a naturalist, this is very concerning to me.
It is my belief that moral obligation can only be founded on human life having purpose. So we can have an obligation to act morally because it is essential or inline with our purpose. Now theism asserts a God-given, inherent, objective purpose to human life. Therefore it has a valid foundation for moral obligation. Naturalism can only provide human existence with self-created, subjective purposes. Therefore, any concept of moral obligation extending from these purposes must also be subjective and are therefore not obligatory at all.
Any ideas?

Nik K

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the moral argument - we can do better

Post  Marky on Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:46 am

New to the forum and posted my opinion before i read this topic... please have a read

Marky

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

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