Wednesday, September 01, 2010

What are the bad arguments for your position?

I thought I would redate this one.

If you believe in God, do you believe that there are any bad arguments for theism? I certainly do. The ontological argument just seems to me like one huge mistake. And there are others that I have doubts about, such as the Thomistic cosmological argument.

If you are an atheist, what arguments do you think are bad arguments for atheism?

If you are a theist and you like all the arguments for theism, or if you are an atheist and think all the arguments for atheism are good, then it makes me a tad suspicious that you might be an ideologue, not really thinking but just reacting.

61 comments:

Tim said...

I think there are many, some of the strangely prevalent. All of the presuppositional apologetics of the van Til and Bahnsen school seem to me to be deeply wrongheaded, including the transcendental argument(s). Plantinga's approach I take to be a dead end for some of the same reasons, though of course it is incomparably more sophisticated and powerful than the works of van Til.

On the level of "pop" apologetics, there are so many bad arguments that it would be a long task just to list them. A little logic would go a long way.

Hallq said...

I've never been much of a fan of claims that the idea of God is incoherent or meaningless. And Dawkins' "ultimate 747" line has always been a little fuzzy at best.

Nullasalus said...

As a theist, I don't believe miracles themselves do a very good job of providing evidence for God. They may, however, provide evidence of what is possible and how supposed promises of God may well be correct.

The ontological argument doesn't do much for me - but I think it's more supposed to be a display of philosophical oddness than anything else. Most people seem to shrug it off, but some philosophically inclined types seem fascinated by it.

Oddly, I don't think arguments about the immaterial do much for me either. If only because I've never seen a good argument against God owing to an assumption of physicalism (if anything the advances of science has made God vastly more plausible in that field by my measure), and even truth of an immateriality of mind doesn't automatically lead to God - it just would place a point in the category theists generally adhere to.

Honestly, whenever I hear a bad argument for theism, I'm more likely to consider it a case of poor communication on the part of the offerer about either the statement itself, or what it's supposed to actually prove.

exapologist said...

The ones that immediately come to mind are ones specific to Christianity, such as the mythical Jesus horse***t, the various hypotheses of the Jesus Seminar of Jesus as a mere social reformer or cynic (plus any theory based on wildly speculative crap about a triple-layered Q document), dumb lines of reasoning based on stuff people read from the DaVinci Code, etc., etc.

Also, many criticisms of arguments for God are stupid, such as the "who made God?" criticism.

As for arguments against theism that are bad: how about Quentin Smith's Big Bang argument? But I guess the worst sort is the logical positivist argument about the meaninglessness of God-talk.

There's a good start, anyway.

Marty W. said...

I wonder why you have doubts about the Thomistic cosmological argument? That is the strongest argument, in my opinion.

I've always felt rather doubtful about the 'Intelligent Design' and 'irreducible complexity' arguments, however.

Timothy said...

I've never really been impressed by the 'argument from morality' or the so-called 'Moral Law' in C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.

John W. Loftus said...

The worst atheist argument was logical positivism which claimed God-talk was meaningless. That's clearly ideological.

I'm working on something along these lines. Whether someone accepts an argument is person related. People don't have the luxury of getting Ph.D's in the arguments. So whether or not an argument is bad depends to some extent on whether any given person thinks it's bad. To what extent?, is the question. Some, of course are bad regardless of what a person thinks. But what about this one?:

I could be a completely uninformed dish washer at McDonald’s and be rationally justified in disbelieving by simplistically claiming that since God knows what it would take for me to believe, if he wants me to believe, he should show me.

mattghg said...

A lot of arguments from fulfilled Biblical prophecy I hear seem deeply suspect. But of course those are arguments for Christianity rather than theism in general.

Tom G said...

Some anti-evolution arguments (sometimes used in support of theism) are very badly flawed. The worst I've heard is probably, "If evolution were true, there would be no homosexuals, because they would never reproduce."

One Brow said...

If you are arguing for atheism (the position that there are no gods, or alternatively, that there is no reason ot believe in gods), than any argument about the character or nature of some putative god is irrelevant. Showing that a god is not omnibenevalent (or lacking in some other supposed characteristic) does not make that god non-existent.

atheos said...

I always found the "who created God?" argument silly. After all, if you accept the god hypothesis, god is a special case so you don't need to answer this question.

More compelling evidence to me were the problem of evil, and the lack of evidence for a soul that survives the brain's death.

Jason Pratt said...

One distinction worth making is that sometimes an argument is only bad because it's overreaching. Presup arguments can be okay as abductive arguments, but become worse than useless when proponents try to nurse deductive arguments out of them.

(I've been journaling on "How I Should Be A Sceptic" recently starting here; the series covers, among other things, limits and outright faults in theistic apologetics.)

Miracles can be helpful, but tend to be fairly restricted by the nature of the case: if I poof a cloud into existence (not that I can do this {s}) and then call a friend to come look at what I've done, how does that help? A cloud looks like a cloud. Plus the relationship between supernatural and natural events is a lot more complex than people tend to recognize (on any side of the aisle). (I'll be journaling on this much later in the series, several months from now.)

I've long been vocal about the inherent limitations about cosmological arguments: they're okay up to a point, for several purposes, but none of those purposes resolve (I think) either the naturalism/supernaturalism debate or the atheism/theism debate. While I'm a big fan of ontology and arguments thereof, the typical ontological argument (I can conceive maximum God-properties therefore God exists) I am not much of a fan of. {s}

I have respect for Arguments from Morality (I even employ a variant early in my novel--with a more extensive version of the anti-theistic AfE later in followup {g}), but (as I wrote about, extensively, back last summer) I wouldn't actually proceed in that direction first--and I have seen versions that are just outright poor.

I think Arguments from Design have some potential (in principle) but I can't think of any offhand that actually impress me. There are serious conceptual problems even with a highly sophisticated 'forensic' approach such as in Dembski's The Design Inference, though that's the kind of approach I think has the most potential.

I'm glad to see that Bayesian probability arguments are starting to be better applied (a little) on various topics, but ye God the number of goofy-@$$ attempts I've seen along this line from people with high credentials...

Historical apologetics are important, but of course there are better and worse ones (e.g. 'the Sanhedrin didn't show the body because the body was gone' being a worse one, as I discussed extensively in a debate with Keith Parsons here on Victor's site years ago--though amusingly he and other readers somehow got the impression I was trying to defend it). Also, I don't hold to the notion of historical apologetics trumping philosophical constraints in and of themselves--my rejection of that (like Lewis') tends to be in favor of sceptics (though not in favor of scepticism ultimately).


I actually agree with John's test proposition about the rational justification of the dishwasher, despite the fact that I don't consider that argument to hold water under scrutiny (depending on the extent to which it's taken). I've extensively blogged about this, in principle, during the past month starting here. (Caution: four fairly long posts there.)

I agree with Mattghg about a lot of Biblical prophecy arguments being, let us say, problematic. {g} (e.g., GosMatt's use of Isaiah 7, which though I find highly interesting and even useful for positive apologetics, fails spectacularly when put to the typical apologetic-from-prophecy use. I didn't have time to blog about it this year, but will probably do so next year during Christmas. I do however mention the obvious problems, in passing, in the HSIBAS series somewhere.)

To which I can add: while I'm (obviously) a big fan of the AfR, there are versions that I don't think work as well as others, and some (including Plantinga's putative version in the EAAN) which are so outright wrong that they'd be answered best, among other ways, by a proper AfR.

(And hey, look, I've achieved a topical chiasm! {g} Go me! {lol!}{bowing to Tim})

JRP

Steve Lovell said...

Well, I presume we mean something like "Of the arguments for your position which people have seriously espoused, which one's do you think are bad ones?"

Without that "seriously espoused" part, the list would be simply endless.

For my part, one of the most fascinating and plausible seeming arguments which I've come to distrust is the Kalam Cosmological Arguments. That is, the philosophical versions rather than the scientific ones. I love discussing them, but I don't think they persuade. I feel much the same about the Cosmological argument from contingency (the Thomists' third way).

I do think these arguments contain important insights, but I don't think they are anything like watertight knockdown arguments.

Never personally been able to see the variants of the Ontological argument as anything more than a linguistic trick when considered as arguments. However, as with the other arguments I mention, reflections on the ontological argument(s) can be fascinating nonetheless, both as meditations on the nature of God and reality and also on the nature of language and logic.

Steve

Anonymous said...

As an atheist, I vote this one as the worst:

"I could be a completely uninformed dish washer at McDonald’s and be rationally justified in disbelieving by simplistically claiming that since God knows what it would take for me to believe, if he wants me to believe, he should show me."

Chris said...

LOL at anonymous. ^^^^

I agree with John Frame when he says that "The teleological arguement is perhaps the strongest argument of all when it is considered informally, but it has always been one of the weakest when theologians and philosophers have tried to state it formally."
(Apologetics to the Glory of God, p. 105)

cptchaos said...

One Brow said...
"If you are arguing for atheism (the position that there are no gods, or alternatively, that there is no reason ot believe in gods), than any argument about the character or nature of some putative god is irrelevant. Showing that a god is not omnibenevalent (or lacking in some other supposed characteristic) does not make that god non-existent."

Hm, this is one of my favorites for the really bad arguments for theism. To show that I'll mirror the argumentation with an substitution:
Replace atheism with the believe that there is not greatest natural number.

"If you are arguing for the believe that there is no greatest natural number. (the position that there is a natural number, for which all numbers are smaller), than any argument about the character or nature of some putative Number is irrelevant. Showing that a assumed greatest Number is never the greatest does not make that greatest number non-existent."

However there is no greatest Number which can easily be mathematically proven.

If someone wants to argue that something exists or does not exist. Its Properties (e.g statements about character or nature)
are the only things to start this Argument. A Word for a thing that has no Properties whatsoever does not mean anything.

This lends me to the my candidate for the worst argument for Atheism.
"There are no meaning full definitions of God. Therefore it does not exist."
Here I consider inconsistent definitions as at least partly meaningful.
However I'm an atheist for the reason that I don't know of any definition that is meaningful and for which I can perceive or reason that God exists. This does not make God non-existent, however I'm not able to believe in its existence for other reasons. I'm only sure of the non-existence of Gods with inconsistent Properties.

normajean said...

Vic -

YOu wrote this to a guy named shygetz along time ago and I never quite understood what you meant.

See:

Identity claims are necessary truths. In order for physical states to determine intentional states uniquely, it must be logically contradictory to deny the mental state once the physical information is given. Postulate any amount of physicalistic information you want, and you will never get anything that logically entails the existence of a mental state. The only way to get an argument that has a conclusion "X is about B" is to have intentional states in the premises. It doesn't matter how much physical information you give, it will always be logically possible for me to deny the existence of the mental state without logical contradiction.

If you have time, plz explain.

awatkins69 said...

I won't speak for atheists. First of all, I think the Thomistic argument is the best.

The argument from experience is BAD. I don't deny religious experience, and I think it is completely real. It just doesn't make a good argument. I think the moral argument is TERRIBLE. I'm apprehensive about the argument from design. I don't like the ontological argument in most of its forms either.

On the other hand, I think that the problem of evil, in its various forms, IS a problem (though not unsolvable). So I'm happy to admit that this is the best thing atheists have going for them.

Blaise Pascal said...

The ontological argument is a sophism. It confuses second order predicates (existence) with first order predicates (a god).

Blue Devil Knight said...

normajean: that's basically Chalmers' argument (from his book 'The Conscious Mind') that Victor is restating.

Block/Stalnacker responded to it pretty effectively in their paper Conceptual Analysis, Dualism, and the Explanatory Gap. It seems less of an argument, more a claim that needs to be established.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Worst arguments for atheism I have seen typically involve easy refutations of fundamentalist literalist evangelical Christianity, not theism.

People mention the 'god has contradictory properties' argument as bad, but I'm not so convinced. Those can get pretty subtle, even the supposedly stupid questions that involve logical contradictions (can he build a stone he can't lift type stuff).

Those lead to very interesting and complex issues, especially if you consider whether God might follow paraconsistent logic or other weird logics. God is not a Boolean!

Shackleman said...

"On the other hand, I think that the problem of evil, in its various forms, IS a problem (though not unsolvable). So I'm happy to admit that this is the best thing atheists have going for them."

The problem of evil points *toward* God, not away from him.

"Evil" is a meaningless term, given atheism.

The PoE is still a prblem for sure, but it threatens the notion of an omnibenevolent God specifically. It has no power against a god in general.

If God were evil, he'd still be God.

Bilbo said...

Shackelman: If God were evil, he'd still be God.

I think I disagree with this, but it would make a very good topic of discussion, wouldn't it?

I haven't read Plantinga's version of the cosmological argument, otherwise I would say it was bad.

Bilbo said...

oops...I meant Plantinga's version of the ontological argument.

Shackleman said...

"I think I disagree with this, but it would make a very good topic of discussion, wouldn't it?"

I agree with your disagreement :-) But I think it is a useful quip against the notion of the PoE as a defeater for the existence of God.

I also realize my quip is vulnerable to the Euthyphro dilemma. However, I think the PoE creates a sort of "reverse" Euthyphro for the atheist, which is all my quip is trying to show.

Eric said...

The biological versions of the Intelligent Design arguments for theism that I've seen are pretty bad in my opinion. I'm also not a fan of most presuppositional arguments for theism. The better versions of the ontological argument also fail to establish god's existence, but I do think they help us see the alternatives more clearly.

As far as atheism goes, the arguments from the success of methodological naturalism in the natural sciences to atheism aren't exactly compelling. Neither are the arguments from the bad consequences of religious belief. Oh, and Steven Carr type arguments against biblical Christianity are generally pretty bad.

normajean said...

BlueDevilKnight,

Thanks for jumping-in and providing the link man. I'll be reading it soon.

Gordon Knight said...

I think the moral argument is bad.
Grounding morality in God either means:

(1) divine command theory, which is just subjectivism writ large.

(2) objective moral properties are instantiated in God's nature or identical to God (depending on how you think of God and simplicity etc)
# 2 could is a possible way the world is. But its hardly necessary to suppose that objective moral qualities are found in the deity.

If we can make sense of "God is good" we can also makse sense goodness instantiated in the non-divine realm.

Joel said...

Arguments based on the latest trendy interpretation of "end-time prophecy" are really bad. Arguments from messianic prophecy aren't quite as bad, but still pretty weak.

Shackleman said...

"If we can make sense of "God is good" we can also makse sense goodness instantiated in the non-divine realm."

I challenge you to define "goodness" given materialism in such a way that we can "make sense" of it. Can mere atoms be "good" or "bad"?

Gordon Knight said...

well materialism is not the same as atheism.

Just look at the british intuitionists, Moore, Ross, Prichard. Each different, each an objectivist about morality and yet none (as far as I know) had theistic committment as part of their moral theory.

I am inclined to think "good"can't be defined but is a primitive.

You are not defining good anyway if you say,as you should, that God is good. you are predicating a property, not defining it

If you define it in terms of will or command then that is just subjectivism... its not moral realism.

In any case, moral realism implies that there are moral properties in the world sans God. Love is good, suffering bad, etc

If you think love is good because god likes it, that again, makes morality a matter of arbitrary whim. (if God commands something BECAUSE he knows its good, then that is fine, but that leaves you with the undefined good.)

Shackleman said...

"well materialism is not the same as atheism."

Agreed, but you gotta walk before you run.

Let's start with materialism and work our way up.

Does the term "goodness" have any meaning whatsoever given materialism?

"I am inclined to think "good"can't be defined but is a primitive."

You previously claimed that you can "make sense" of goodness. Now you say "goodness" can't be defined. How do you make sense of something that can't be defined?

Further, what do you mean by "primitive"? Primitive to whom or to what? Are you suggesting that "good" exists independent of "minds"? If so, you have a LOT of work to do to try to "makes sense" of it, since, "sense" is a function of a "mind". Can the mindless know "good"?

"You are not defining good anyway if you say,as you should, that God is good. you are predicating a property, not defining it"

True, but you're the one claiming that the term is meaningful outside of the divine, not me. I'm just asking you how you do it.

Shackleman said...

"If you think love is good because god likes it, that again, makes morality a matter of arbitrary whim. (if God commands something BECAUSE he knows its good, then that is fine, but that leaves you with the undefined good.)"

You're describing the Euthyphro dilemma which I've already admitted to as being a weakness in my quip.

What you're doing is shifting the focus away from your claims, and instead pointing toward weaknesses in others' claims. You should be able to defend your claims on their own without the need to do this.

How do *you* make sense of "goodness" outside of the divine?

mattghg said...

I've written in this thread already, but that was before I saw this video.

Gordon Knight said...

S: I don't understand. I see a person caring for another, I sense the goodness. It may turn out that this goodness is somehow derivative from another one--but that has to be shown, and is hardly a part of moral phenomenology.
I thought all sides agreed that theists and atheists have roughly the same moral experience--indeed even non-cognitivists and subjectivists, I would claim, sense objective moral values, though they deny it for theoretical reasons.

Note Sartre, a subjectivist if there ever was one, nevertheless still insisted on the phenomenological objectivity of value.

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Blue Devil Knight said...

Sorry something really messed up with blogger comments right now at this site. I'm trying to post two posts, but the first gets overwritten when I post the second. Will post later when it seems fixed...

Blue Devil Knight said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shackleman said...

Hey GK:

It seems that you're taking morality as a brute fact without showing why and how. That both theists and atheists have similar moral experiences (a point I'm not ready to concede), doesn't entail that morality is real or objective.

If we go back to your first post in this thread for a minute, you claim that the moral argument for God is weak. And it seems what you're saying is that it's weak simply for the fact that objective morality is a brute fact.

The weakness in this position I think is obvious. If one appeals to "brute facts", then one can justify anything at all.

One could say that the non-existence of God is a brute fact.

That the universe exists as a brute fact.

That minds exist as a brute fact.

That materialism is true as a brute fact.

That God exists as a brute fact.

You're actually not saying much of anything by appealing to brute facts.

If that's not what you're doing, then I'm quite open and would genuinely appreciate your taking the time to explain further and show me how I'm misunderstanding you. But If I'm understanding you correctly, then I would challenge you to show how it's possible that brute facts have any explanatory power.

I agree that morality is real and is objective. If we agree on that, then we have to decide where they come from. If we don't then we're just begging the question.

The other point I'd make is that appealing to intuition is a dangerous game and marginalizes the notion of objectivity in moral standards. Did Jeffrey Dahlmer ignore his intuitions, or were his intuitions different? If they were ignored, then are there consequences for ignoring them? If not, then what compels one to follow one's intuitions? If his intuitions were different, then what becomes of your standard?

Since you haven't answered any of my previous questions, perhaps you will answer this one. Are cats and dogs capable of having moral experiences? If so, go backward down the foodchain if you would, and please explain at what life-form do moral experiences cease to be attainable?

My position is:

1) Objective morality exists.
2) Only minds can experience, and are aware of morality
3) Therefore morality comes from mind
4) Therefore perfect mind (God) created perfect morality

Granted, I have a LOT of work to show to bolster each proposition. But at least I have a proposition to work on. Saying morality exists as a brute fact leaves you with no case to make.

Blaise Pascal said...

"1) Objective morality exists.
2) Only minds can experience, and are aware of morality
3) Therefore morality comes from mind"

3 does not follow. Awareness and experience are attributes of minds. 2 is in fact trivial: Only minds can experience or are aware of something.

There has to be a mind if there is awareness. Its a necessary condition. Only minds are aware that there are laws of logic, therefore laws of logic are from minds? I dont think so.

Anyway, I wouldnt start the argument from the good, but from duty.

1. You always ought to do what is right/good.
2. There is a cause for this obligation.
3. There are only two kinds of causes: minds or bodies.
4. The cause for an obligation cannot be a body.
5. Therefore the cause of this obligation is a mind.

6. The obligation is transcendent, it does not depend on time or space, i.e it is timeless.
7. Objects in time cannot be the causes/reasons of timeless objects.
8. Therefore the cause of the obligation is not in time, i.e. timeless and is always the same.

11. The obligation is universal. (It should be followed by every moral agent at every time and place in the complete universe and even beyond.)
12. A universal obligation implies universal jursidiction.
13. Therefore the cause of this obligation has universal jurisdiction.
13. Universal jurisdiction implies universal power.
14. Therefore the cause of this obligation has universal power.

This beeing is what we call God.

Instead of 2-4 one could also just assert as an axiom "An obligation implies someone (a mind), who obliges."

Blue Devil Knight said...

1) Giraffes exist.
2) Only minds can experience, and are aware of giraffes.
3) Therefore giraffes come from mind

Blue Devil Knight said...

I argued about this a few years ago at Debunking Christianity here. Gordon’s comment spurred the following.

From divine whim to divine nature
The theist has the following argument:
"First, assume (for discussion) that God is Good, and that he only wishes Good things, and those wishes are transparent to us. In this case the theist wins: we have a rational foundation for moral behavior."

The problems come up when you try to justify the assumptions therein. How do we know that God is good? Euthyphro suggest we shouldn’t think it’s just because God says so. Rather, there should be independent reasons for thinking that God is Good. In this case, we’d know God is good not just because he says so, but because of our independent ability to recognize and reason about goodness. Let’s call the processes that underlie this ability our "moral faculty". With the help of our moral faculty, we find sufficient reason to infer His goodness.

What are the origins of the moral faculty? If it is installed in us full-blown by God, then we end up with the Euthyphro dilemma all over again. God could just design our moral faculty so we have no choice but to see him as good. Hence, shouldn’t we say that our moral faculty emerged independently of God?

Not necessarily. While that is one option, perhaps the faculty didn’t have to emerge completely independently of God. For instance, perhaps God designed humans with a more general “reason faculty.” This is the faculty that gives us the capacity to freely reason based on evidence, to have systems of beliefs that rationally adapt and expand to absorb new circumstances. He built us to be able to apply reason in all domains, including the domain of how we think the world should be (the moral sphere).

This could be a solution for the theist that wants to use God to ground morality, but without God directly controlling or tinkering with our specific moral beliefs in the process.

Merits of this scenario
I like this solution, partly because it seems to solve the problem of how we can differentiate between worshipping an evil deity that has built you to believe it is good, versus a God worthy of worship. I wouldn’t worship a baby-raping deity even if it told me that such behavior was the pinnacle of goodness. I would see through that BS using my moral sense grounded partly in reason.

I also like this solution because, if it works, that means the theist no longer gets the upper hand in discussions of how moral claims are grounded. This is because the naturalist can say, “Fine, you can believe that God gave you a faculty of reason. However, replace 'God' with 'evolution' three paragraphs ago, and you basically have my view of morality!

Euthyphro recursion: is there any escape?
A potential problem with this view is that we can apply the same Euthyphro-type questions to the faculty of reason. One option is to simply admit that it indeed emerged independently of God. This shouldn’t bother too many people: don’t people like to point out that even God can’t defy logic when confronted with ‘stone too big to lift’ type scenarios? Euthyphro’s recursive loop stops with reason.

Because our moral sense emerges partly from our faculties of reason, we don’t need God to tell us that God is good. We only need our moral sensibility, cultivated via standard ratiocinative practices in practical situations. Using said sensibility, I can see that God is a loving God, a merciful God, who will forgive my sins even if I don’t deserve it. I don’t need Him to tell me that’s good, any more than I need to listen to an evil deity tell me how to evaluate his baby raping behavior. “Thanks, evil deity, but I got this one.”

It only makes God’s Goodness more compelling if we are not compelled by God to think He is Good.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Very weird, link to debunking C. original discussion didn't work, should be here.

Anyway, it's at his post 'Christians do not have a superior foundation for morality.'

Blaise Pascal said...

First I agree that what is good does not depend on Gods will. But what does depend on Gods will is obligation or duty.

"What are the origins of the moral faculty? If it is installed in us full-blown by God, then we end up with the Euthyphro dilemma all over again. God could just design our moral faculty so we have no choice but to see him as good. Hence, shouldn’t we say that our moral faculty emerged independently of God?"

Since this also applies to the reasoning faculties lets assume a world with a single person in it. This person has a reasoning faculty by which it can receive truths. We must differentiate between that what we say about this person, and what is happening in the persons mind.

Should he trust his faculties? Yes, this trivial it follows from the assumption that they are capable of truth.

The question should be framed in another way. Lets assume the person has a capacity to receive thoughts (e.g. in form of propositions) and another capacity that says whether these thoughts are true or false, without assuming that it is judging correctly or incorrectly.

We can ask two questions here:
1. Should the person trust his faculties?

2. What is happening in the mind of this person?

To answer 2: It seems to me that every thinking agent must be willing to trust his faculties. He has no other choice. The first act of thought is really an act of faith (willingness to believe).

But to answer 1 we have to make further assumptions:

Lets assume there is a benevolent, immediate or mediate creator of this person, then we can surely say that he should trust his faculties.

But what if not? If the creator is malevolent? Well though luck, he shouldnt trust his faculties, but in his mind he has no other choice.

Lets assume this person was created by a mindless process. I dont see any reason why he should trust his faculties. We are at best agnostic on whether he should or should not, but again he has no other choice.

So unless we want to assume that a mindless, blind process can create a truth perceiving faculty (which seems highly unreasonable to me) we have to assume that there is benevolent creator in this our little imaginary world if this person should be capable of truth.

Now it is basic axiom in our world that our faculties are capable of truth. Therefore, it seems reasonable to me, that we have to presuppose a benevolent creator that this can be so.

Shackleman said...

Just a few quick points, and then perhaps when I have more time I will respond further.

I said: ""1) Objective morality exists.
2) Only minds can experience, and are aware of morality
3) Therefore morality comes from mind">


Blaise Responds: "3 does not follow. Awareness and experience are attributes of minds. 2 is in fact trivial: Only minds can experience or are aware of something."

GK is an idealist. Or at least he told me he once was. This is why I chose this strategy to describe my position. For the idealist, 3 *does* follow. Also, 2 is not at all trivial because it is not assumed for everyone. Those who believe believe "minds" exist solely as simple epiphenomena of brains would not find 2 trivial, and in fact may deny it.

BDK parodied: "1) Giraffes exist.
2) Only minds can experience, and are aware of giraffes.
3) Therefore giraffes come from mind"


The consistent idealist (GK) would not find your parody at all persuasive. Which again, is why I chose to employ this strategy with him to elucidate my position. I'm not an idealist, but I do have leanings that way. When reduced, all things, in my view, can be attributed to the mind of God.

Additionally, the "Cat in the box" ideas from QM suggest also that your parody is misplaced. So, the giraffe in your parody doesn't exist until a mind observes it.

That said, both of your positions are fair criticisms, but I haven't completed all the work necessary to fully express my position (and in fact, said so at the time). It was sort of a rough-draft, or loose outline which went to show my basic position. I have yet to describe in detail the trees in the forest I was getting at.

I'll be interested in really giving your other posts more time, BDK and Blaise. Thanks for the interesting discussion...hope to read more when I have a bit more time.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Blaise, I think you are partly supporting my idea. Recall I said:
Hence, shouldn’t we say that our moral faculty emerged independently of God?

Then I responded with:
Not necessarily.

Which for some reason you didn't seem to notice. Then I spelled out why the answer is 'not necessarily'. I think you largely agree with what I wrote, but I have trouble following much of what you said.

Basically I argued that if God instilled in us a general ability to freely reason about all topics, including the Good, and didn't install individual beliefs about what is good, then things work out for the theist.

Then in the last part of my post, I discussed what happens when we apply similar considerations to this reason faculty itself.

There I pointed out that even God is constrained by principles of reason and logic (even God cannot create a stone so large he can't lift it). However, he created our minds to be able to employ and understand such rules of logic. So our reason faculty was a gift from God, as he wanted us to be able to reason, be rational, be sensitive to these "higher" truths.

Using this faculty lets us reason about any domain, including what is good. It also allows us to discover the evidence that God is good, without him specifically instilling in us that belief. That is, he doesn't compel us to believe he is good, the evidence of his goodness compels us to believe he is good.

(As an aside, I wonder if we could make the same argument about moral truths that I just made about logic/rationality. E.g., God gave us a faculty to appreciate an independent realm of moral truths, without actually installing any particular moral belief. Rather, he opened our minds to that special set of truths as a gift so we could see a little bit of what he sees.

Basically, God installs receivers in our brains to detect moral truths, truths of logic and rational inference, etc. (this could be one sense in which we are made in His image). Since those truths exist independently of him, they aren't true because he says they are, but we can see the principles because God has opened our eyes to them.)

Blaise Pascal said...

Ok. I confused Euthyphros Dilemma with Descartes Evil Demon. Now it makes sense what you said :)

I think I basically agree with you. Human reason is like our eyes. There are no innate thoughts or truths in it, as there are no innate images in our eyes. Also, as our eyes look at certain objects from a reflex (e.g. fast moving objects), so our reason grasps certain truths from a kind of innate reflex.

In my post I was rather concerned under which conditions one can trust his sight so to speak.

Blaise Pascal said...

"With the help of our moral faculty, we find sufficient reason to infer His goodness.

What are the origins of the moral faculty? If it is installed in us full-blown by God, then we end up with the Euthyphro dilemma all over again. God could just design our moral faculty so we have no choice but to see him as good. Hence, shouldn’t we say that our moral faculty emerged independently of God?"

If by our moral faculty we find sufficient reasons for why he is good, then how does Euthyphro apply here?

He is not good because God said so, but because he made us see so. Thats different.

Blue Devil Knight said...

By "installed full blown" I meant with specific beliefs pre-installed by God. If He just installed the ability to perceive moral truths, then He's off the hook Euthyphro-wise as I discussed at the end of my post in parentheses.

Shackleman said...

Really great stuff in there from both of you, BDK, and Blaise.

I think though the trouble you're both having, unless I missed it, is that you both are taking as a brute fact (like GK earlier) that moral truths are real existent things.

Your thoughts BDK, on how the theist can argue we come to know the moral truths is frankly really cool. However it still assumes that they exist as independant things.

I'm not sure I'm well enough equipped to make my point---it seems I haven't yet articulated it well enough for anyone here to get my meaning. I'm arguing that moral truths are *emergent* from minds. Without minds, they wouldn't exist at all.

Imagine the universe existing without any human minds and without any human reasoning. At that point, I would argue that moral truths cease existing.

Since moral truths are emergent from minds, and a perfect morality can only emerge from a perfect mind, an objective, perfect morality is attributable to God alone, lest they wouldn't exist.

Someone help me with the point I'm making please! :-)

Blue Devil Knight said...

Shackleman I'm assuming most Christians think there is an independent realm of moral truths, i.e., they are moral realists. Obviously there are lots of exceptions. I actually agree that they are partly constituted by mental activity (we paint the world in moral hues just as we paint it with colors that aren't really in the objects).

I was assuming most Christians would be completely unsympathetic to such a view.

Blaise Pascal said...

BDK: I think we have a basic agreement, although I do not agree in all details.

Shackleman: "Imagine the universe existing without any human minds and without any human reasoning. At that point, I would argue that moral truths cease existing.

Since moral truths are emergent from minds, and a perfect morality can only emerge from a perfect mind, an objective, perfect morality is attributable to God alone, lest they wouldn't exist."


I agree with you in a sense. I'll give you my take on this matter:

A moral truth can always be brought in a certain form ("One ought to /ought not to X) e.g. "One ought not to steal". Not to steal is good, but there is also something in this truth that compells us, or obliges us not to steal. This compelling element comes out more clearly in the command "You should not steal!".*

I think this "oughtness" or this commanding element that is in the moral truth is not necessarily connected to what is good. There is no contradiction in saying there are beeings that ought to do bad. But if it is not necessarily connected to it then this connection has to be contingent on something other. This other can only be a mind or a will. It cannot be contingent on a body.

We can assume that what is good/right is independent of Gods will.

Now, if a morality is a system of commands, then there can be no morality without a mind. A perfect morality can then be defined as a system of commands that only command what is right/good.

That there is one perfect system of morality binding on everyone can be easily seen, because we know that "One always ought to do right/good" is true. **

Every other moral truth can in theory be deduced from it, if we know the special cases of what is good. [This has no bearing on what is happening psychologically if we perceive a moral truth.]

The truth is most simple, most universal and perfectly good. I think these are reflections of the properties of the command giver.

----------------
*[It seems to me that the sense of the command is not completely congruent with the sense of the form "One ought not to steal" because a command cannot be true or false, it has no truth value, but the mentioned form has a truth value. Nevertheless there is a partial congruence. The form seems to express that the command is binding on everyone.]

**[Its a synthetic apriori truth, i.e. its not deducible from logical truths [there is no necessary connection between ought and good] and it is known independently of experience. Experience can give us only particular truths, but this truth is universal.]

Shackleman said...

" "One always ought to do right/good" is true. "

The above sort of sums it up for you, correct Blaise? I agree of course, but I think you're still answering a different question. Here, you're assuming that "right/good" as concepts really exist.

I agree right/good exist, but I disagree it exists as a separate entity from the mind of God because it only exists in "minds" in the first place. If it is true that there is one objective standard of morality, then it must have come from some mind somewhere, otherwise we'd be free to make up our own.

So far, all challengers are:

a) assuming morality just sort of exists on its own, and no one as yet has explained how/why other than to retreat to brute fact.

b) we all have an "intuition" about this code

c) we all ought to live by it.

You're sort of skipping the a) and b) and going straight to c). GK skipped a) and goes straight to b) and ignores c). And BDK addresses b) by justifying the intuitional aspects of morality and bolstering it with rationality (a cool move, and one I appreciate, but still misses the point I'm making).

If I were to revise my initial proposition, taking into account yours and BDK's criticisms it might look like this:

1) Morality exists
2) Morality emerges from minds
3) Only minds can perceive Morality
4) A perfect Morality must exist
5) A perfect Morality must emerge from a perfect mind.
6) Therefore perfect morality is contingent on a perfect mind.
7) The perfect mind is known as God.

7a) Though the AfM may not be fullproof, it is not a weak argument

:-) ***That last bit, obviously is just for fun---hoping GK is still lurking***

Blaise Pascal said...

Shackleman: "Here, you're assuming that "right/good" as concepts really exist."

Yes, I am coming from logical objectivism, so I believe that logical entities such as concepts are independent of any minds.

"I agree right/good exist, but I disagree it exists as a separate entity from the mind of God because it only exists in "minds" in the first place."

Here is a little problem: If you say "minds" using the plural that means that there are several minds, and in everyone of these minds is a morality. Because the content of mind is not shared with others it must be somehow unique. If morality were in different minds, this would mean that everyone had different morality. We wouldnt speak about the same morality.

If morality exists only in mind and if there is only one morality, it has to be only in one mind. This must then be Gods mind, because there was a morality when God alone existed.

[This is not by position of course. I merely assert that the obligation is contigent on Gods will.]

"If it is true that there is one objective standard of morality, then it must have come from some mind somewhere, otherwise we'd be free to make up our own."

Assume there is one objective standard of morality. Then we are not free to make up our own by assumption. The origin is then not relevant.

What regards your argument: I think premisses 4 and 5 suffice for the conclusion (modus ponens). 1-3 are not used in your argument.

Blaise Pascal said...

Correction: "This is not by position of course."

I meant: "This is not my position of course."

Shackleman said...

Blaise,

I think you've again launched good criticisms against the form I've offered of my position, thank you.

I don't believe that 4 and 5 alone are enough to make my case because it again assumes too much. What I'm trying (unsuccessfully, evidently) to show is that morals are fully and wholly contingent on minds.

------------------

"Yes, I am coming from logical objectivism, so I believe that logical entities such as concepts are independent of any minds."

I'm not familiar with "Logical Objectivism" and couldn't find much online about it. But, I think what you mean is that "logic" exists onto itself. How is this possible? Logic is something which is *applied* to concepts or objects. Logic, in other words is contingent on a subject. So, it's the subject that exists, or put differently it's the concept which is offered, and then logic is applied to it. Said concept can either be logical or illogical. So, the logic doesn't exist until *after* a thing comes to be, be it conceptual or actual. (Math is like this. 2+2=4 assumes subjects which are being concatenated. Without the subjects, the maths are meaningless---a number by itself is wholly insignificant).

So, minds *do* logic., no? Logic doesn't exist apart from minds. At least that's where I'm coming from. :-)

So in effect, I'm saying the same thing of Morality. It doesn't exist apart from minds, which is why I kept trying to tease out responses to my question: "Are mere atoms aware of, (or can they be) moral?

As for minds plural vs. mind singular. I think my sloppy language and lack of formal training in philosophy hinders me (not a little) when trying to present my case, so I thank you for pointing out the problems in my presentation. There is only one objectively true "Good" and it stems from God. But we may know that "Good" at least in part as a divine revelation given to us.

You're actually making my case stronger, by pointing out that multiple minds cannot have their own unique moralities, lest we lose our objective standard. I tried to make this point myself earlier, but evidently I wasn't clear.

Shackleman said...

I forgot to conclude my own thought...

"I don't believe that 4 and 5 alone are enough to make my case because it again assumes too much. What I'm trying (unsuccessfully, evidently) to show is that morals are fully and wholly contingent on minds. "

If I can persuasively show that Morality is wholly contingent on minds, then I've gone a long way toward answering GK's original objection to the AfM. After it can be shown that they are contingent, it's a short walk more before one sees that a perfect morality exists only in a perfect mind. Therefore the AfM would be successful.

I have yet to make my case that morality is contingent on minds, because to this point, all challengers are just assuming Morality is self-existent. This is the difficulty I see with brute facts---they're impossible to argue against (or for).

As an example of this, you end your thoughts above by saying simply that the origin of Morality is not relevant.

Well, humor me. Assume it's not relevant, but show me where they come from anyway *without* appealing to brute facts. :-)

Blaise Pascal said...

"I'm not familiar with "Logical Objectivism" and couldn't find much online about it. But, I think what you mean is that "logic" exists onto itself. How is this possible? Logic is something which is *applied* to concepts or objects."

"logical objectivism" is not an right, official term :) I think it is called logical realism. It says that logical or abstract objects exist by themselves (concepts, functions, senses, etc...).

It has to do with the fact that the contents of several minds are unique.

For example: If several persons feel pleasure then each of these persons feels a unique emotion. The pleasure is not shared with others. The pleasure of one person is not the pleasure of the other. It might be similar, but it is not identical. It is not the same object. But several people can grasp the same meaning of a sentence. They might connect different feelings, emotions, or ideas (in the sense of inner pictures or sounds) with it, but they still grasp the same meaning. The meaning of a sentence therefore has to be somehow independent or else science wouldnt be possible. You would have your pythagorean theorem, and I would have mine. We wouldnt reason about the same thing.

Nightvid said...

I am an atheist, and I find the following to be bad arguments for atheism:

1. You can live a good moral life without believing in God. This is a bad argument because it doesn't actually address the existence of God, only the utility of believing in God, which is an entirely separate question.

2. Atrocities perpetrated in the name of religion. Bad argument for the same reason as in #1.

3. The verificationist argument - namely that what cannot be observed is either meaningless or doesn't exist. This is a bad argument because that premise is false: Logical and mathematical truths are meaningful despite not being matters of empirical observation.

4. Appealing to scriptural atrocities and saying a God who commanded them would not be worth worshipping. This fails for at least two reasons, the first being that it assumes that if God exists, the thing in question was actually done or revealed by him and not simply falsely claimed to be so, and the second reason it fails being that "not being worthy of worship" is not the same thing as "not existing"!