Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Bill Craig's account of his debate with Louise Antony

46 comments:

normajean said...

Bill is sweet!

Ilíon said...

WLC: "... Her account, which emerged in her next speech, was basically that it is wrong for a rational creature to cause suffering to another sentient creature. I asked her why, on atheism, it’s wrong for rational creatures to cause sentient creatures to suffer—it seems purely arbitrary. She shot back, “I wonder if you have any friends!” ..."

How utterly familiar is that?

Hans said...

It is wrong for rational creatures to cause sentient creatures to suffer because God said so.

If Louise Antony says it, that wouldn't make it true.

It is true only because God said it.

Because whatever God says is true, because God is truth.

Anonymous said...

The debate is available at veritas.org. Someone loaded up the videos here and here.

Mike Darus said...

Theism posseses an important value that is lost when morality rests on the threat of future judgment. Inherent in the writings of the apostle, Paul is the intrinsic value of the righteous life. Its value is not just in the avoidance of judgment and the hope of reward, but also of living life well -- as it should be lived.

The Bible seldom appeals to fear of judgment or even utilitarian consequences when disuading sinful behavior. It most often (and especially the New Testament) appeals to the character of God and the image of God in humans as the reason for moral behavior. I have not viewed the whole debate but from Craig's summary, I was disapointed that he relied on law and the threat of punishment. I think there is a higher road.

I also think that Victor's doubts about retribution should lead in this direction also. Christ was an embodiment of love mcu more than a purveyor of fear.

Clayton said...

I guess I'm the only one who thinks that he came off more than a tad bit smug and arrogant in his account of the debate. Obviously I'm an outsider, but as an outsider let me just say that Craig does not do a good job representing Christianity to non-Christians. Fwiw.

I've never seen any reason to think that the onus is on the atheist to _explain_ the objectivity of morality. Whatever that reason might be, it isn't to be found in this:
I explained to the students that with the failure of her dilemma, Dr. Antony’s case for objective morality without God collapses, so that she must now provide some positive account of how objective moral values, duties, and accountability still exist on an atheistic worldview.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that Craig is saying if the Euthyprho Dilemma doesn't undermine putting ethics on a theological basis, an atheist cannot reasonably believe in morality unless they can provide a 'positive account' of how morality could exist in a Godless universe.

That strikes me as patently absurd. Moreover, I don't see any _account_ of what morality is being offered by Craig. Saying it's God's nature isn't an account of anything.

I'm still unable to make sense of this:
I asked her why, on atheism, it’s wrong for rational creatures to cause sentient creatures to suffer—it seems purely arbitrary.

How does that seem arbitrary? There are quite a few intuitionist types that think it is self-evident that pain has negative intrinsic value and similarly self-evident that anything with such value we have a pro tanto reason not to create. Is Craig saying that you can't be a foundationalist because of the arbitrariness worries? Is he saying that a rational subject cannot be non-inferentially justified in believing pain is bad? That seem to be what he's committed to and that seems to fly in the face of our ordinary practice of epistemic appraisal. It also seems to commit him to saying that there is nothing in God's nature that would incline God to say that there is something intrinsically wrong with pain. That seems, well, bad.

me phi me said...

but as an outsider let me just say that Craig does not do a good job representing Christianity to non-Christians.

Sure. Okay, so who does do a good job for you at representing Christianity?
This was a debate that they were having, are you expecting him to just spout endless pleasantries towards her?
Also, have you seen how he is typically represented on non-theist boards (contra-craig)? Don't get your feathers too ruffled if you find him to be a tad smug.

I've never seen any reason to think that the onus is on the atheist to _explain_ the objectivity of morality.

Why not? Why shouldn't one who's making the claim that objective morals can exist in the absence of a supernatural agent be requested to provide a positive case? So yeah, place the onus on them.

an atheist cannot reasonably believe in morality unless they can provide a 'positive account' of how morality could exist in a Godless universe.

We're talking about objective morals. An atheist shouldn't assume others to abide by their arbitrary standards of proper conduct.

That strikes me as patently absurd.

This strikes me as Bette Midler scenery chewing.

Moreover, I don't see any _account_ of what morality is being offered by Craig. Saying it's God's nature isn't an account of anything.

You type like you don't have a clue about what they were debating. She was debating objective morals in the absence of the Divine.
And you saying it isn't an account isn't an argument.

How does that seem arbitrary?

Because on what grounds would you make me follow that "dictum" that it's wrong for rational creatures to eat animals?
You explain how it isn't arbitrary.

There are quite a few intuitionist types that think it is self-evident that pain has negative intrinsic value and similarly self-evident that anything with such value we have a pro tanto reason not to create.

Okay, and why do you take their insight as law? I can think of numerous times where I grew and developed because of a painful situation. Many realists feel that it is through pain and struggle that we develop the most. Why do you side with the group you mentioned? Arbitrary.

That seems, well, bad.

Well I'm convinced.
You're personal inclination towards what seems bad is just a fine standard to superimpose over all. Groundless and arbitrary.

Clayton said...

me phi me,

I think of debates as an opportunity to exchange ideas meaningfully, not sport. As for Christians that represent Christianity well, there's a long list. Victor Reppert, for one. I'd add every theist that posts at Prosblogion. I'd add Bill Hasker. I'd add Mike Almeida. (It actually breaks my heart that Almeida is a theist. He's far more clever than most philosophers, he's kind, and he's honest to a fault.) I'll stop adding. There's tons, says me. Craig isn't on that list. He strikes me as a charlatan and a huckster and I don't think I'm alone in this.

I wrote:
There are quite a few intuitionist types that think it is self-evident that pain has negative intrinsic value and similarly self-evident that anything with such value we have a pro tanto reason not to create.

You responded:
Okay, and why do you take their insight as law? I can think of numerous times where I grew and developed because of a painful situation. Many realists feel that it is through pain and struggle that we develop the most. Why do you side with the group you mentioned? Arbitrary.

I didn't take their insight as 'law'. I think they are right, but that is a different matter. The intuitionists are typically taken to be epistemological foundationalists who claim that we can have non-inferential justification for certain moral beliefs (e.g., that the fact that an action of mine will cause pain counts against that action).

Interestingly, nothing you said contradicts the view I put forward. The view I put forward was the view that we can be non-inferentially justified in believing that the pain caused by an action counts against it. In saying that there are pro tanto reasons not to cause pain is not to say that it is absolutely impermissible to cause pain. It is to say there is a reason to refrain from causing pain while conceding that the reason can be overridden by stronger reasons to the contrary. This is consistent with the further claim that all can turn out for the best because the pain caused. But, no one thinks that this shows that the pain is either intrinsically good or neither intrinsically good or bad.

So, the crucial question is this. Do you sincerely believe that:
(a) the pain caused by an action does not count against it;
(b) that people cannot be non-inferentially justified in believing (a)?

Myself, I have a hard time taking seriously the suggestion that (a) is false or that we need a well-grounded world view to justifiably accept (a). The experience of a painful sensation should suffice to put someone in a position to appreciate (a). While (a) might seem arbitrary to someone who hasn't had the requisite experiences, those who have had the experiences are just going to scratch their heads when someone denies or doubts (a).

me phi me said...

A huckster and a charlatan?
Those are very specific terms and you're applying them to W.L. Craig.
That's something.
But not only that, you appeal to others that might feel the same way. How considerate of you, Clayton.
All your philo-babble trumped by name calling and appeals to others with similar sentiment. And you're calling Craig smug.
Like those standards, Clayton. You fault someone on your perception of their smugness and then make insults to invalidate that person's character?

"Heaven forfend!! We might just have an elevated level of smugness. Well what does it matter, that guy is a fraud anyway."

Clayton, you're a punchline to too many jokes.

But still one has to love your perception of smugness and arrogance, while you gloss right over a comment questioning whether one has friends or not.

Nacisse said...

what if an action (rape say) causes one person pain and causes another (who is in a coma say) no pain. if I accepted (a) wouldn't that mean that I'm committed to thinking that one rape is worse than the other? what if one drugs the victim first so they don't remember or feel much pain is it less wrong then? given (a) it would seem so... so if (a) is meant to explain objective morality it would seem to be arbitrary.

Nacisse said...

oops... i thought (a) read : pain does count against an action -- with respect to wrongness. maybe that is what Clayton meant anyway, it is what i thougth he meant..

Hans said...

Demons are sentient creatures.

It is our duty to try to make them suffer.

Ilíon said...

Hans: "Demons are sentient creatures."

I sometimes wonder whether we human beings may not be those "fallen angels" and this present life is how God is getting us back as his own -- some of us, at any rate, those who will be reconciled to him.

mattghg said...

hans,

I can be silent about my suspicions no longer. Are you Steven Carr?

Clayton said...

I suppose one lesson is that you cannot actually have an exchange with me phi me. I tried to patiently explain why your initial remarks were mistaken. You respond like a petulant child. I gave it a shot.

Nacisse,
I'm not sure what the problem is supposed to be. Pain is among the conditions that can contribute to the wrongness of an action. That the act is exploitive, contrary to the dignity of humans, involving treating a person as a mere object--these are all further things that contribute to the wrongness of an action. I don't see anything implausible in saying that if A rapes B and _then_ decides to make it extra painful this thereby makes A's actions worse. Maybe you can explain how this leads to an arbitrariness worry that never arises for theists.

me phi me said...

I suppose one lesson is that you cannot actually have an exchange with me phi me. I tried to patiently explain why your initial remarks were mistaken. You respond like a petulant child. I gave it a shot.

Yeah, from the one who called someone a huckster and a charlatan. Cute.
Go cry foul, you're good at that. Say whatever you want about others and then look shocked when people call you on it. There's a word for that it's "punk".

Nacisse said...

Clayton,

that 'it is wrong for a rational creature to cause suffering to another sentient creature.' was what was to account for the existence of duties and objective morality - I had thought. so if you could have an action A committed against persons B and C but only B felt pain.. it would seem to me that it isn't true that causing suffering is what accounts for objective morality - that kind of an account of things would seem arbitrary. that was my claim...

your account of morality seems different from the one presented in Craig's account of the debate because you include dignity and such. so maybe it is more like: 'it is wrong for a rational creature to use another sentient creature in a demeaning undignified way' or something... but that was not what I was responding to..

Clayton said...

me phi me,

You don't actually respond to any of the points and proceed to name calling. If you want to know why I think he's a huckster and a charlatan, I can refer you to other places where I've argued this. Your initial remarks made it transparently clear that you really did not understand the philosophical issues being discussed and I think that once you appreciated this, your subsequent posts became nothing but name calling. Call me a punk if you want, but at least I'm a punk that also understands the relevant issues.

Nacisse,
I'm still not sure what you take the problem to be.

Do you think it is arbitrary to suggest that there is a pro tanto reason not to cause another to suffer or experience pain?

I wouldn't suggest that pain/pleasure is the sole foundation of morality because (a) I'm not convinced that pain and pleasure are the sole bearers of intrinsic value/disvalue and (b) I don't think that the rightness of an action is simply a matter of producing the greatest balance of goods over evils.

Anyway, that's neither here nor there. You still seem worried that you cannot have a non-arbitrary moral view without theism. I take it that it doesn't matter whether that view is pluralist or monist for the arbitrariness worry to get off the ground. But, I just don't see how it gets off of the ground. I take it that the arbitrariness is supposed to be epistemic and it seems that the following things are all things we know non-inferentially and without presupposing any complicated views about the origins of the world, the existence of God, etc...
(a) painful experiences can make a person's life go worse (even if it leads to an overall greater good.)
(b) there are reasons not to make a creature's life go worse.
(c) if there are reasons not to perform an action of this sort and no overriding reasons to perform an action of this sort, the action that goes against these reasons are morally wrong.

My view (attack if you wish) is that by our ordinary epistemic standards we are willing to regard people as reasonable, justified, and rational in endorsing (a), (b), and (c) even if they do not and cannot justify these claims by appeal to anything further. These claims are all true. These claims are likely known to be true given these first two points. If you know something to be true, you are not being arbitrary in reasoning from them (although there might be special argumentative contexts in which you oughtn't treat them as basic for dialectical reasons.)

exapologist said...

I'd have to add my vote to saying that Craig is a huckster and a charlatan. I say this as a former Craig defender and acolyte for many years. With a graduate degree in Philosophy, at least, you can see what's going on in his debates, and why many find his debates compelling. It's like watching a basketball game with little knowledge of the rules of fair play in basketball, and one team is scoring hundreds of baskets, while the other team gets few to none. To such an observer, it looks as though the latter team is getting creamed. But to the one who knows the rules of the game, they see that the team is getting all the baskets by cheating (by travelling, etc.).

Similarly, to one who doesn't know some of the subtler points of logic -- or even the less-subtle points about the burden of proof -- it appears that Craig comes off rather well in debates. But one with philosophical training sees that it's because he's cheating -- he makes illegitimate moves with the burden of proof, etc.

An example: notice that in the vast majority debates, it's set up so that it's atheism vs. theism, so that agnosticism is off the table. But this sets things up in the mind of the audience members that if the atheist can't establish his case, then that's a "point" in favor of theism by default. Craig routinely exploits this trick in debates.

philip m said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
philip m said...

exapologist,

As is often echoed time and time again, public debate is an extremely limited medium to work with. One must take extremely large argument, and responses to those arguments, and truncate them down into sizes that can be effectively wielded in a debate. And if the debate is theism vs. atheism, claiming that the atheist ought to shoulder some burden of proof is entirely justified. It's not like the atheist themself doesn't view the world in some way, a way that clearly not everyone ought to automatically assume reality is like given a slightly faulty case for theism: if theism has a few problems, but the opposite view has many more problems, then a person ought to lean towards theism. Nothing illegitimate about that at all.

Debaters in general, not just Craig, have to truncate their comments for the sake of time. And the atheist does have to shoulder at least some burden of proof. These seem to be the two main reasons that you called Craig a .. *ahem*... huckster and a charlatan? Please don't call me a huckster and a charlatan for pointing out that you definitely have a lot bigger burden of proof than you have supported.

Clayton said...

As is often echoed time and time again, public debate is an extremely limited medium to work with.

Precisely, and that is why it is to my mind more than a little bit silly for Craig to demand that the atheist produce on stage a demonstration of the non-arbitrariness of morality when it isn't even clear what such a demand amounts to.

Moreover, if you look at the post-game that he wrote you will see a few places where Craig is either being a huckster or is just showing himself to be a really, really poor philosopher. (I think he can't be as thick as he'd have to be if he were being honest, so I lean towards huckster and charlatan.) Case in point. He wrote:
At one point she confessed to having qualms about eating lamb and pork because it causes suffering to these sentient creatures. I asked, “Why on atheism is it morally all right for a wolf to eat lamb but it’s not all right for a human being to eat lamb?” She responded that the difference is that human beings are rational agents, and the lamb has the right not be caused suffering by a rational agent. I was incredulous. “So you think that on naturalism lambs have the right not to be eaten by a rational agent but they have no right not be eaten by a non-rational agent. That strikes me as just bizarre!” Apparently she is willing to just bite the bullet on this one.

This is ridiculous. Antony makes the very sensible point that moral obligations apply to morally responsible creatures only. Craig's response is that if this were so, then it would not be morally wrong for wolves to eat lambs. First, it seems the 'problem' faces the atheist no less than the theist. Second, it seems that no reasonable person would think there is a problem here. The reason that the wolves do not violate the rights of the lamb is not that lambs lack rights, but that wolves lack what is necessary to be a violator of rights. Suppose God exists and we have property rights. Are we really going to say that a wolf that crosses our yard without our consent has violated our property rights? Do bears really violate the rights of infants by eating them? No, no more than tsunamis do by washing them out to sea. This really isn't hard. These are points that any intro student grasps. I can't think Craig isn't clever enough to grasp them, so it's natural to think he's just being a huckster and charlatan.

normajean said...

Clayton, if Antony’s response was that moral obligations apply to morally responsible creatures then I'm confused. On Atheism there exists no non-arbitrary point in which harming humans is different than harming wildebeests. Antony’s moral compass is connected to a harm principle. Does she eat meat or swat flies?

exapologist said...

On Atheism there exists no non-arbitrary point in which harming humans is different than harming wildebeests.

Hmm. Why is that, exactly? In any case, vagueness or arbitrariness at the borders doesn't entail vagueness or arbitrariness across the board (cf. baldness: perhaps there's no arbitrary line between baldness and non-baldness, and yet there are clear cases of both).

philip m said...

Clayton: Precisely, and that is why it is to my mind more than a little bit silly for Craig to demand that the atheist produce on stage a demonstration of the non-arbitrariness of morality when it isn't even clear what such a demand amounts to.

It is no way silly, but rather contrarily is what the topic of the debate was in the first place. What is silly is people like you saying the atheist ought not do what their side of the debate is supposed to do. She has to give an account because if the way God accounts for morality fails, it doesn't follow that objective moral values can still exist. If the actual account of the non-arbitrariness of morality without God is complex, then it is Dr. Antony's job to simplify it, in the same way it is Dr. Craig's job in other debates to be able to have a 30 second or a 56 second or a 90 second response to the problem of evil because he is an 8 minute timeframe with many other things to cover. You think that the necessity of summarizing extremely complicated issues very quickly does not apply to Craig as well? Further, if he didn't get around to talking about the problem of evil in such a case, it would not be unreasonable for the other side to note in their next speech, "Craig did not respond to the problem of evil." In fact, such a response is what is entirely expected in a debate.

And while what that account what might be like is not clear to you, Antony is a philosopher who studies the matter and should be expected to have some idea of what it would look like, given she is a part of the professional conversation on the matter.

As for the wolf eating the lamb, I think you have misunderstood the point. Most atheists in constructing the problem of evil point to the large amount of natural evil that occurs in the world, especially because of predation in nature. In pointing to all this killing in nature, atheists are not calling out the predators for doing something wrong. They are simply identifying what is done as being wrong, even though there's no moral agent at fault in that case. Craig was appealing to this idea that we recognize that such killing should not happen, and was pointing to the inconsistency (or at least arbitrariness) that Antony thought that it is wrong to cause a lamb suffering if and only if it is done by a creature with a sufficient amount of cognizance of the act--which is pretty bizzare for a person who believes in objective moral facts, since this is just gerrymandering when one of these "facts" applies to the exact same physical action. The inconsistency becomes even more apparent when you consider that Antony agrees that the objectivity of morals implies that they exist regardless of anyone's knowing them to be true, which implies that sufficient cognizance of the action is not needed, since objectivity does not take into account people's cognizance of their actions. An even further bizzare product of Antony's reasoning is that a morally retarded person who goes on a killing rampage has done nothing wrong.

You still aren't warranted in calling Craig a charlatan or a huckster for other reasons I mentioned that you didn't respond to, which were in the comment that you quoted. And according to your own reasoning, if your reasoning for your bloated claims about Craig's character doesn't work, you must be a charlatan. And given you're packaging an entire man based on a limited amount of obversvation from afar into cheap shots about his character in the first place, you must also be a huckster. Riiiiiight?

Clayton said...

Normajean:
On Atheism there exists no non-arbitrary point in which harming humans is different than harming wildebeests. Antony’s moral compass is connected to a harm principle. Does she eat meat or swat flies?

You are running together two issues. The first is whether moral responsibility is a necessary condition on being the sort of thing that can be obliged or duty bound to perform an action. To this, everyone says 'Yes'. It's trivial. The second question is whether a non-theist can say rationally that there is a non-arbitrary reason to say that humans and non-human animals differ in moral status. There's nothing that Antony has said that commits her to saying 'No', because saying that the harm principle is _a_ principle only says that morally responsible creatures have a prima facie duty not to harm. They might have further duties that apply only to persons. For example, any sentient creature's life will go worse if it is forced to endure a painful experience. Humans, but not animals, have further morally significant interests connected to their autonomy. Antony is not committed to denying this. Recognizing this gives us the distinction you are after.

As for eating meat, I would have thought we could all agree that it would be better for non-human animals not to be forced to suffer for our pleasure. Flies, so far as I can tell, are not covered by the harm principle unless you can make sense of how harm can come to a fly. I can't. I'll keep swatting.

Philip,
I think we can agree that Craig hasn't given "an account" of morality by saying that he's somehow steered between the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma by saying that morality is "grounded" in God's nature. Similarly, I would have thought that Antony could have done any of the following and done what she was supposed to do:
*provide a positive account of morality;
*show that the absence of God does not entail the absence of objective moral standards;
*show that the theist has as difficult a time accounting for the objectivity of morality as the non-theist.

We can agree, I hope, that these are three different things. Doing any of these successfully would be an impressive feat for a public debate. (I hope you can agree that much of this is sport.) I don't see that Antony's failure to pull of the first feat or failure to try to do so constitutes a failure. Not if she can do the second or third or some fourth I hadn't considered. Maybe Craig wants Antony on the spot to do the first thing, but that's his attempt to set the standards or move the goalposts depending on the particulars.

You wrote:
Craig was appealing to this idea that we recognize that such killing should not happen, and was pointing to the inconsistency (or at least arbitrariness) that Antony thought that it is wrong to cause a lamb suffering if and only if it is done by a creature with a sufficient amount of cognizance of the act--which is pretty bizzare for a person who believes in objective moral facts, since this is just gerrymandering when one of these "facts" applies to the exact same physical action.

No, it is not bizarre. What would be bizarre is to think of a wolf's action as morally wrong. It is akin to thinking of an earthquake's action as morally wrong. They can be _bad_, but wrong is a category mistake.

As for your remarks about cognizance and objectivity, I think you are making another mistake. It is objective, let's say, whether Lincoln knew the way to San Jose. That objective fact, however, depended on his being cognizant of certain things.

As for calling Craig a charlatan, it isn't based on this particular exchange. It comes with reading a fair amount of his work. Each time I come away with the impression that he is either grossly incompetent or dishonest. Charity led me to say intellectually dishonest. I pointed to one instance, but if you read through his webpage there are plenty more. If it makes you feel better to call me a charlatan because I won't produce a comprehensive report, that's fine with me. It doesn't show that the work I pointed to is anything less than rubbish.

normajean said...

Clayton, if “yes…it’s trivial” then swat flies and humans also if it fits a subjective imagination—Craig’s point.

philip m said...

clayton,

I suppose it is just the internet, but at least on the better philosophical blogs like Victor's here it's expected to not just throw out opinions without being willing to substantiate them.

I wasn't *actually* calling you a charlatan or a huckster, I was hoping you would catch that it's not really legitimate for me to make those character calls about you when I don't really know you. Not only do I think the same is true for you or anyone when thinking about Craig, but that we should expect that as something as a public spokesman for Chrisian philosophy, we should expect much of Craig's work to be simplified so that people that don't necessarily have backgrounds in philosophy can follow them with some effort.

That last point still considered, it seems remarkable to call someone a charlatan who has two Ph.D's and allows their exact same opening statement to be scrutinized by peers in public formats time and time again. The people who I would be more inclined to call charlatans are people like Dawkins who don't care to put their views up for contest in front of a live audience where people can reflect long after on your performance.

As for making judgment calls about someone you don't know, I can tell you from talking to Craig that his character is not one that likes to do things dishonestly. A few weeks ago I was talking to him and I remarked that I liked debate format because it emphasizes what arguments actually work in real life dialogue, since I think the pragmatic impact of arguments can often be lost when they are in the form of long written exchanges. But he misunderstood me at first and somewhat jumped in to say that he prefers written work better, since you can flesh out exactly what you mean at length, rather than debates which limit the conversation so severely. Seems like the opposite of dishonest to me. Not only this, but a virtue esteemed in Christianity is honesty, and I don't think you have any grounds to be thinking Craig in some way doesn't think this as well.

Your three options seem valid, but I think what happened is Antony opted for a 2/3 mix and since Craig felt he dealt with those, explained that the 1st was Antony's real challenge. But yes, explaining mostly any large issue even close to adequately is an impressive feat.

Using the word 'wrong' is a technically incorrect, but I thought it would be obvious what I meant since I noted the wolf was not being assigned moral responsibility for the action. I don't really think moral agency is the point, as I said.

Clayton said...

Normajean,

if “yes…it’s trivial” then swat flies and humans also if it fits a subjective imagination—Craig’s point.

Way too quick. I have no idea what "fits a subjective imagination" amounts to. None of my atheist colleagues adopt a view on which you should feel free to do whatever you feel. Many of us agree that it is objectively wrong to impose harm. The point I was making is that there are some living entities that cannot be harmed (at least, it's not obvious that they are harmed in any way.) Think about trees. I don't see that they are harmed by losing their futures, branches, etc... I'd say the same for flies. But, if you think as a matter of scientific fact that flies are harmed by swatting them, why on Earth would you think it would be okay to do? I'm clearly missing something you're trying to convey.

Philip,

I think it's one thing to simplify points for a popular audience. It's another to write to that audience in such a way as to obscure the fact that the points being made are either controversial or nearly universally rejected by people with the relevant expertise. Craig does this with some frequency.

I don't see that the willingness to engage in public debate is the mark of academic honesty and openness. It's often just sport and an opportunity for sophistry. It's a way of presenting complicated ideas to people without the relevant expertise in a way that does not allow one to go through the careful work necessary to expose a bad idea as a bad idea.

Anyway, I'd like to know more about what you think Craig was getting at. So far as I can tell, there's really nothing left of Craig's claim that Antony was being inconsistent with her views on the suffering of animals. He's not saying that she's committed to saying that the wolf's actions are wrong, only that they are bad. What's wrong with saying that again?

I can't find a single reading of his remarks that aren't deeply confused or just obviously wrong.

And, I know I'm coming off as a world class jerk because I've said that I think Craig is a charlatan and a huckster. I don't think this about theists in general. I probably won't convince you of this here, but this is a rare case where I think this sort of criticism is warranted. I don't throw this around cavalierly. I also don't see why his being a Christian is a defense. Of course Christians take honesty and humility to be virtues. So do atheists. But, as we both know, dishonesty and arrogance knows no bounds.

Anonymous said...

Could any of you give me your thoughts on who you feel is a better philosopher, Peter Kreeft or William Lane Craig?

Thanks!@

Nacisse said...

Clayton,

Antony's approach to objective morality was a capacities one that held sentient beings as the one valuable good that ought not be wronged through inflicting pain. that approach arbitrarily leves out real persons and the wrongs potentially inflicted on them... why not say on atheism what accounts for wrongness is for an emotional creature to cause warm-blooded creatures to suffer? or it's wrong for creatures with long term memories to show disrespect to beautiful people... if any of these principles are meant to show how objective moral values, duties, and accountability exist (which was Antony's purpose with her principal of : it is wrong for a rational creature to cause suffering to another sentient creature.) it is arbitrary... of course, i don't think Antony's views represent all of non-theism so I don't think all non-theistic moral theories will falter on that problem.

anyway, i think we we're talking past one another because it is not epistemic arbitrariness i had in mind really (more ontologically arbitrary i'd say) and it might be monism that is causing the problem although i think a more pluralist theory will have similar issues - it is likely the capacities approach itself that makes things arbitrary...

does anyone really think that the more rational or sentient you are the worse your crimes (should we have especially harsh punishments and prisons for philosophy professors that commit murder?) or the greater your value (is it worse to insult a scientist than a handicap person?)... such a view sounds completely arbitrary ... why not say the more emotional you are the greater your crimes? or the better you are at basketball the greater your worth ..

Clayton said...

Nacisse,

I don't think moral principles wear non-arbitrariness on their faces. So, I wouldn't expect the citing of one to strike us as non-arbitrary.

Thanks for helping me see what you meant by arbitrary. If it's non-epistemic, I guess what I'd wonder is this. Suppose we know that pain is bad. Is that supposed to be a contingent fact about pain? I have to confess that I can't imagine a world just like this one except that in it pain is good.

I take it that part of the issue is this: how does theism help with the (alleged) problem of arbitrariness. From my perspective, it seems we have good grounds for thinking pain is bad in this world. We have good grounds for saying that this isn't just a contingent fact about this world. At no point have I appealed to God. If I haven't said enough to justify the claim that pain is objectively bad, how does the supernatural help? If it doesn't help, why is it that the atheists are supposed to be in trouble?

You asked:
does anyone really think that the more rational or sentient you are the worse your crimes (should we have especially harsh punishments and prisons for philosophy professors that commit murder?) or the greater your value (is it worse to insult a scientist than a handicap person?)... such a view sounds completely arbitrary ... why not say the more emotional you are the greater your crimes? or the better you are at basketball the greater your worth ..

Let's grant that there shouldn't be harsher penalties for philosophy professors for murder. (Thanks, btw, for picking that as some ideal for human rationality. I would have picked architects.) That seems perfectly consistent with saying that actions with the same objective character can be morally less bad if carried out by those with diminished intellectual capacities. Surely if I shoot my neighbor and my two year old son or my pet monkey or my pet rabbit shoots my neighbor's twin, my actions are morally worse even if the effects are the same. What matters, I guess, is that you cross a threshold of minimal intelligence so that you can be properly held responsible for your deeds. If you don't cross that threshold, your actions can be bad or dangerous without being immoral. If you cross that threshold because you're a normatively competent philosopher or plowman, your actions will count as morally equal. (Apologies for the RUSH reference. Can't stand that band.)

Similarly, no one thinks that the value of a person increases with their intelligence. Some will say that if you lack the capacities for rational thought you have a different moral status than fully rational persons, but that is a matter of controversy and it is controversial just what this claim amounts to.

One reason not to say that the better at basketball you are the more your moral worth is that no one has ever found it the slightest bit intuitive to say this and we're all on Neurath's raft. We reason from what's available to us (belief, experience, intuition). No one has seriously thought that the ability to play basketball is morally relevant, so we just ignore it.

Nacisse said...

Clayton,

Sade's world was one where pain was good - so it does seem imaginable, if your warped enough... but i think we could imagine a world - it is a world many believe we are in now (Joyce's: The myth of morality defends the view) that our moral language is in error and nothing we call bad is really bad... so pain being bad is a contingent fact since moral fictionalism or something close is at lest possible, it seems... theism could skirt the arbitrary problem by an appropriate appeal to the worth of persons made in the image of god - or so i've heard reasonable arguments toward that view.

Clayton : Similarly, no one thinks that the value of a person increases with their intelligence.

I'd disagree I think many people hold that view (implicitly at lest). something has to make persons distinct from flies or lambs and that something is what would give us our dignity - i'd presume, I'm not sure what else would minus the theistic answer. the most popular proposal for making that distinction - as demonstrated by Antony - is being rational - it seems to me. so if one holds that our dignity (and all objective morality according to some like Antony) comes from our rational abilities it should follow that the more of that value you have the more valuable you are...

i'd disagree about what many intuitively think is valuable also... being athletic and popular are traits held by most in the NBA and of extreme value for most people. I think many people believe that NBA players are of more worth than your average Joe because it follows from the view that our worth comes from capacities (intelligence, athletic ability etc..) that those with more of them have more worth...

philip m said...

clayton,

What I think Craig was getting at was Antony's proclivity to stamp moral facts onto sentient creatures without giving a good reason why. She has to give an account that isn't simultaneous with the experience of it, because if our moral apprehensions are reducible to our experiences of them then everyone, no matter what they think is right and wrong, is on an equal playing field. There has to be something independent to base this off of--but she didn't give anything like that, so her assertions come off as a bit awkward.

But as for Craig, I think it's pretty clear you simply are in a state where you feel at liberty to comment on issues without having sufficient information to do so. You have now called him arrogant on top of everything else, and since you have never even met the man, I don't really feel this is a dialogue capable of going anywhere. There are celebrities in the news a lot, but I don't make judgments about them because I have never sat down and talked with them to actually know who they really are. This is Victor's blog, and in the spirit of his appreciation of Lewis I quote, "What can you ever really
know of other people's souls-of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the
only one whose fate is placed in your hands."

normajean said...

Clayton wrote: From my perspective, it seems we have good grounds for thinking pain is bad in this world.

Clayton, I don’t have a lot of time to press this but what in the world does it matter that you think there are good grounds for thinking pain is bad in this world? - Craig’s question.

Ilíon said...

Me Phi, Philip M, and Nacisse, and NormaJean:

I must give you credit for being far more patient in trying to deal with these atheistic charlatans and hucksters (if I may coin a phrase) that I could be. Or, to be honest with myself, than I particularly want to be.

But, I have a word of general caution: don't expect much and don't let it affect you if, as is most probably, you make no progress with them.

Clayton said...

Clayton wrote: From my perspective, it seems we have good grounds for thinking pain is bad in this world.

Clayton, I don’t have a lot of time to press this but what in the world does it matter that you think there are good grounds for thinking pain is bad in this world? - Craig’s question.


I don't want to go through basic moral epistemology any longer, but I was saying that I had grounds, not specifying the grounds. As I had said earlier, the grounds for the judgment that pain is bad is experiential. You seem to be defending the view that such experiential grounds alone cannot make it rational to believe pain is bad. So, on your view, it seems that a person can be perfectly reasonable in holding their hand to the flames, fully appreciate the painfulness, but think "Yes, this is _excruciating_, but I wonder if it would be bad for someone to force me to endure this experience?" or asking "Yes, this is _excruciating_, but I wonder if there's reason for me to remove my hand?" As both questions strike me as completely unreasonable, I just don't understand your epistemological view.

Nacisse,
You wrote:

Sade's world was one where pain was good - so it does seem imaginable, if your warped enough... but i think we could imagine a world - it is a world many believe we are in now (Joyce's: The myth of morality defends the view) that our moral language is in error and nothing we call bad is really bad... so pain being bad is a contingent fact since moral fictionalism or something close is at lest possible, it seems... theism could skirt the arbitrary problem by an appropriate appeal to the worth of persons made in the image of god - or so i've heard reasonable arguments toward that view.


I don't see the first point. As _you_ point out, you'd have to be warped to think that the badness of pain were either missing or a mutable characteristic of it. So, I guess I don't see why you think we can imagine how pain could be intrinsically good or neither good nor bad.

Minor point: if moral fictionalism is true, it is _not_ a contingent truth that pain is bad. If fictionalism is true, our moral talk is false. The success of the arguments for fictionalism does not seem to depend on any atheistic assumptions.

More significant point. Imagine that in this world (W1) we were created in God's image. Imagine in a possible world there's no God but we are exactly the same as we are here (W2). Are you really suggesting that persons in W2 are less valuable, utterly valueless, not worth caring about, but the persons in W1 are valuable and worth caring about?

i'd presume, I'm not sure what else would minus the theistic answer. the most popular proposal for making that distinction - as demonstrated by Antony - is being rational - it seems to me. so if one holds that our dignity (and all objective morality according to some like Antony) comes from our rational abilities it should follow that the more of that value you have the more valuable you are...

The previous point speaks to your appeal to theism to explain the dignity and value of persons. Let me just say that the standard view about rationality is that while intelligence comes in degrees, it would be a mistake to think that additional degrees of intelligence confer additional degrees of moral value. Think of it like this. You have to cross a certain threshold to be considered an adult under the law. You don't become more of an adult under the law just because you've marked more time. Kantians would likely say that intelligence is a necessary pre-condition for moral worth and that additional degrees of intelligence cannot be what confers additional value on a person because this gets the values backwards. It would take a long, long time to explain the point but I see no obvious reason to think that additional IQ points ought to confer additional moral worth since the reason that rationality is supposed to matter is that rationality is a necessary condition on performing actions that have genuine moral worth (i.e., show that the agent acted from the moral motive). That you acted from a moral motive is not something that admits of degrees.

Philip,
You wrote:
What I think Craig was getting at was Antony's proclivity to stamp moral facts onto sentient creatures without giving a good reason why. She has to give an account that isn't simultaneous with the experience of it, because if our moral apprehensions are reducible to our experiences of them then everyone, no matter what they think is right and wrong, is on an equal playing field.

It's an interesting point, but again I think that there's a difference between saying that facts about our experiences give us reasons to act and the sort of mindless subjectivism that you rightly reject.

But as for Craig, I think it's pretty clear you simply are in a state where you feel at liberty to comment on issues without having sufficient information to do so. You have now called him arrogant on top of everything else, and since you have never even met the man, I don't really feel this is a dialogue capable of going anywhere.

Okay, maybe I should not have called him an arrogant person. He writes like a very arrogant person. He also writes like a very dishonest person by papering over controversies and consistently misrepresenting the views of atheists. There are many, many instances of this where the reaction to his work is either that he doesn't know what he's talking about or just doesn't care to know what he's talking about so long as he can confuse philosophical novices.


Ilion,
Once again, I bow to your superior philosophical ability.

Ilíon said...

"Once again, I bow to your superior philosophical ability."

As well you should -- sucking, as you do, at sarcasm.

normajean said...

Clayton, I promise I’m not being stubborn here. I see no reason to believe *my experience* of pain being bad is transcendently true, especially, if naturalism is true. As Victor wisely puts it: “physical facts do not logically entail mental facts, just as physical facts do not logically entail moral facts. Getting an “about” from an “is” is just as impossible as getting an “ought” from an “is”, and for much the same reason.”

Clayton said...

Clayton, I promise I’m not being stubborn here. I see no reason to believe *my experience* of pain being bad is transcendently true, especially, if naturalism is true.

I'm not sure what to make of the modifier "transcendently" (it's the inevitable problem of lots of strangers getting together from different backgrounds trying to talk shop), but I wonder how much experience one needs with pain to reasonably judge that:
(a) pain makes my life worse,
(b) pain is to be avoided.

I say little, but even if it's lots, the point is that you need little by way of intellectual sophistication to judge that (a) and (b) are true and be reasonable in so doing. You do not need a rationally defensible view about naturalism, theism, etc...

You then wrote:
As Victor wisely puts it: “physical facts do not logically entail mental facts, just as physical facts do not logically entail moral facts. Getting an “about” from an “is” is just as impossible as getting an “ought” from an “is”, and for much the same reason.”

I think here Victor and I (might) part company. There's an important difference between entailment and deduction. I'd agree that you cannot deduce an 'ought' or 'about' from a specification of the physical facts. However, that is not obviously a commitment of naturalism, physicalism, atheism, etc... What _is_ a commitment of those views is that there are entailment or necessitation relations between, say, the is and the ought or the physical and the mental. To connect these two, we would have to assume:

(*) There can only be necessitation relations between the A's and the B's only if a conceptually competent subject can deduce the A-facts from the B-facts (or vice-versa).

This assumption, however, is widely rejected thanks in part to a bunch of work that came out in the 70's in the philosophy of language and mind. Because of this, the opacity of the connection between the physical and the mental or the physical and the normative is no longer accepted as grounds for asserting a kind of ontological independence between these various sorts of fact. Good thing, too. As various philosophers have pointed out, if you accept (*) you can cause mischief for the theistic views I take it that you and Victor favor. We're just going to be at a stalemate.

me phi me said...

Clayton,
While I disagree with your choice of words to describe Craig, I want to apologize for how I acted to you on this board.
I haven't posted in awhile because I felt pretty stupid for reacting to emotionally. That, and you were right when you said I don't understand the philosophical particulars. I do struggle with making sense of alot of the terms and concepts used. I try to make sense of it and understand, but so many times I find myself scouring dictionaries and wiki's to understand the terms and concepts.

So anyway, you don't have to accept, but I'm sorry.

normajean said...

Clayton, yes, there is a difference between entailment and deduction. There’s also a vast difference between entailment, deduction, and moral imperatives. What happened in the 70’s in the philosophy of language and mind?

Clayton said...

Me phi me,

I'm sorry things got so heated between us. I know people get touchy when you disparage WLC and I wasn't being sufficiently sensitive.

Hey Normajean,

Lots and lots. I'm thinking about the work on reference (Perry, Kripke, and Kaplan), natural kind terms (Putnam and Kripke again), and attitude reports (Burge and Kripke) which called into question a certain picture that would have allowed us to test claims about necessitation by appeal to observations about the potential to deduce a certain type of statement from another type of statement.

Think about Moore's open question argument. There was a time when people were convinced that the fact that questions of the form 'x is F, but is it G?' were open were taken to show that G-ness and F-ness were distinct and quite possibly only contingently related. That time has since passed. So, when you say (correctly)
"Getting an “about” from an “is” is just as impossible as getting an “ought” from an “is”, and for much the same reason.”

It's no longer clear that _this_ can be the reason for saying with Victor:
“physical facts do not logically entail mental facts, just as physical facts do not logically entail moral facts.

This isn't just the picky point that entailment relations do not hold among facts (because then there could be no logical entailments from false propositions to further false propositions). The point is that the impossibility of deriving an 'ought' from an 'is' is no longer taken as grounds for asserting that the 'is' in question does not entail the relevant 'ought'.

To give but two examples. Not knowing the time, you cannot _derive_ 'The operation should end now' from 'The operation should end at 10:42 p.m.', but the proposition expressed by the first might well be true only if the proposition expressed by the second is. Similarly, you cannot _derive_ 'The Beatles ate here' from 'The actual performing artists that first recorded 'Yellow Submarine'', but we still have a kind of necessitation that holds between the two propositions. Necessarily, if the second is true, so is the first.

Joe said...

Definitely you can’t expect that these debates will really get to the bottom of things but they are interesting to listen to because it reveals what the debater thinks are issues to focus on and you can hear some interesting ideas. (yes of course most people who have thought about these issues have heard most of the arguments before.) I had two thoughts after listening to this debate:

1)
WLC says:
"Her argument was an old, familiar one: either something is good because God wills it or else God wills something because it is good. The first alternative is unacceptable, since it makes what is good (or evil) arbitrary, and the second alternative implies that the good is independent of God. So moral values cannot depend on God."

I don't see her point the same way as WLC. I think she is merely pointing out how its *possible* morals can exist without God. The second alternative explains how it is possible. Even if there is a third alternative that third alternative does not erase the second alternative given by the Louise Antony.

2)
I do not think it is self evident that we shouldn’t cause pain. I may strongly believe that is the case but I do not think something should be considered "self evident" unless we can not conceive how its negation can be true. The rules of logic are self evident. But statements about morals are not self evident. When we water down “self evident” beyond that we do end up with unsubstantiated hunches posing as "self evident" truth.

We may all agree generally that sometimes inflicting pain is bad. But our agreement does not make it self evident. Nor does the strength of our belief make it self evident. Perhaps it’s a hunch we all hold. For me the question is where did the hunch come from and are we epistemicaly warranted to keep it.

Ilíon said...

Joe: "I don't see her point the same way as WLC. I think she is merely pointing out how its *possible* morals can exist without God. The second alternative explains how it is possible. Even if there is a third alternative that third alternative does not erase the second alternative given by the Louise Antony."

But it's *not* possible for morality to exist apart from or independently of God. That we can *say* the phrase, "it [is] *possible* morals can exist without God" does not make it so -- no more than that we can say the phrase "it [is] *possible* that invisible pink unicorns exist" makes it so. It is logically impossible that invisible pink unicorns exist, and it is logically impossible that morality exists apart from God.

It's too bad that the term 'subjective' has the meaning it has. If we used 'subjective' to mean something like "relating to subjects," one could say "morality is subjective" without being understood to be asserting moral relativism.

So, instead, let us understand that morality is personal -- drat! misunderstood, once again.

So, instead, let us say that morality is inter-personal, which is true, but incomplete.

The main point I wish to get across here is that morality relates to persons, subjects, agents and does not relate to non-persons, non-subjects, non-agents ... and that it does not and cannot exist if there exists no person.

So, it would seem that either:
1) morality exists because humans exist and assert that this is right and that is wrong; or,
2) morality exists because someone "above" humans exists and asserts that this is right and that is wrong.
Don't misunderstand this as that I am asserting one horn of the 'Euthyphro,' I am not; I am asserting that 'Euthyphro' is a false dilemma, which is based upon the difficulty of properly understanding what morality is, or stating in a few words what it is. I started this paragraph with "So, it would seem that either:" due to that difficulty.

Now, if morality is not subjective [as we use the term] and not contingent and not immanent/local, but is rather objective [as we use the term] and non-contingent and transcendent/universal, then this is so only if there exists at least one person who is transcendent and "objective" and non-contingent. Though, perhaps we must say that there must exist persons who possess these qualities, since morality is not merely personal but also inter-personal.

Joe said...

Ilion thank you for the response. I agree with much of what you said. I think we are both talking about "real" "objective" morals as pretty much understood in the field of metaethics. With that in mind let me go to the crux of your point you say:

"The main point I wish to get across here is that morality relates to persons, subjects, agents and does not relate to non-persons, non-subjects, non-agents ... and that it does not and cannot exist if there exists no person.

So, it would seem that either:
1) morality exists because humans exist and assert that this is right and that is wrong; or,"

First let me address paragraph one. I agree with it to some extent. I mean, I agree that without say humans or agents like humans be they God angels humans or lets even say some sort of sentient alien, moral laws would have nothing to govern. I do not think any other animals on earth are governed by moral laws. And to take an extreme, if there were nothing but lifeless atoms bouncing around, then clearly there would not be any "moral or immoral actions." However, I am not sure that I can say the laws of morality would not exist. If matter didn't exist would the laws of physics exist? I don't know. But ok lets set that aside for a moment. I would admit that only humans and perhaps certain other types of creatures are "governed" by moral laws. But let me assume what you said is true for the sake of argument. That is from here on I will assume moral laws can't exist without persons.

I think from what you said in paragraph one the only thing that follows is that humans must exist. But you say they must not only exist but they must also "assert that this is right and that is wrong."

I disagree. I think something can be right or wrong regardless of whether anyone asserts it is right or wrong. I do not think a person needs to assert a moral law anymore than matter needs to assert the laws of physics.

I see no logical problem with the assertion that it is simply a property of reality that certain human actions are wrong. Now perhaps I am not quite getting it. Perhaps you are trying to show the logical inconsistency when you say this:

“Now, if morality is not subjective [as we use the term] and not contingent and not immanent/local, but is rather objective [as we use the term] and non-contingent and transcendent/universal, then this is so only if there exists at least one person who is transcendent and "objective" and non-contingent. Though, perhaps we must say that there must exist persons who possess these qualities, since morality is not merely personal but also inter-personal. “

Here I am not sure I understand what you mean by all of these terms. I think the mainline position of the naturalist who is also a moral realist would be to say morals are objective – that is they are not dependant on anyone’s agreement as in relativism. But are they transcendent/universal and non-contingent? I’m not sure. But again lets say for the sake of argument that moral laws are transcendent and universal and non contingent. I don’t see how it follows that “…then this is so only if there exists at least one person who is transcendent and "objective" and non-contingent.”

BTW I do think the naturalist has many insurmountable problems when it comes to moral realism. I mean starting out with Mackie's basic argument from queerness. The existence of moral properties/laws would seem to cut against many of the principles that many naturalists espouse. Moreover there are insurmountable problems with thinking we have any reliable way of knowing/believing moral truth, let alone free will and materialism issues.

But I don't see how the naturalist commits any logical error in simply believing that reality is such that it has real objective moral properties regardless of whether anyone asserts them.