Wednesday, June 29, 2016

If Christian sexual ethics is mistaken, secularists need to work on a replacement

It is a selling point (not the only relevant reason, surely), and what is happening could turn out to be growing pains. But with respect to sexual ethics, there is too much criticism of the Christian tradition without serious attempts to clarify what is and is not morally acceptable. Christian traditionalists have a clear set of rules. Maybe too clear.
But tradition rules serve an important purpose, they protect relationships from the ravages of competition and insure that proper care is taken for children. If you are going to criticize traditional Christianity on sex, it seems to me that a lot of serious work has to be done to clarify what is moral, and what is not. A simplistic appeal to "consent" is not enough. How the vulnerable can be protected and children are to be cared for still has to be developed in a replacement sexual morality, and I see to little work done on that.
If there are strong standards of conduct that are difficult to follow, then you are going to have problems with people pretending to follow them who really don't, hence the problems on the Christian side. If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible. You are probably going to have a certain number of people who find freedom from traditional rules who take it too far the other way, and this should surprise no one.
There are going to have to be rules, and it should be an important element in secularist thought to provide those replacement rules. But I see too little of it.

89 comments:

John Moore said...

You're right that secularists should develop their own ideas about sexual ethics. I expect secular ethics will follow some basic principles such as:

a) Sex might be for procreation, and in that case, people should do what's best for the children.

b) Or sex might be for building strong relationships among people. In that case, people should do what's best for each other.

c) Or sex might be for the sheer pleasure of it, and in that case, people should make sure there's mutual consent.


Maybe there's a kind of hierarchy where (b) presupposes (c), and (a) presupposes (b).

entirelyuseless said...

It is pretty obvious that this is right. Secularists often assert that anything is ok as long as the people involved consent, but that would be like saying that in eating and drinking, anything is ok as long as it is what a person wants to do. The latter is obviously false, and even secularists admit that it is false, because they do not approve of eating disorders like anorexia. There is such a thing as temperance in eating and drinking, and consequently there is also such a thing as temperance in sex.

In contrast, secularists often openly claim things like, "chastity is not a virtue." That's insane. Of course it is. And when push comes to shove, and you bring up things like anorexia, they will say, "well, sex has to be guided by prudence, like everything else." But that isn't sufficient unless you are willing to give some basic guidelines about what is prudent and what isn't.

It may be true that there are some signs of excessive rigidity in traditional sexual morality. For example, the Catholic Church teaches that there is no such thing as small matter in violations of chastity. That is not very reasonable, because it means that the line between "doing good" and "doing a serious evil" is a vague line, and that is not very plausible. It would be more reasonable to admit that there are minor violations of chastity, just like there are minor violations of temperance. Or take theft: the line between doing a small harm, say by stealing $1, and doing a large harm, say by stealing $10,000, is a vague line. You cannot give any exact boundary. And things can work this way. But it would be really strange to assert that there is no such thing as doing a small harm: either it isn't theft at all, or you are doing a serious harm. In that case you have a vague line between two very different things: not doing harm at all, and doing a serious harm. But even if there are plausible criticisms of traditional sexual morality, you cannot simply say that you don't need any morality in that area.

B. Prokop said...

"the Catholic Church teaches that there is no such thing as small matter in violations..."

And the Church is correct in this. One of the things I have (painfully, and way too slowly) learned over the decades is there really is no such thing as a "small" sin. Think about it. You have a choice before you (e.g., the above example of stealing $1), and it is crystal clear to you that stealing that dollar is contrary to your Maker, to the Lord of the Universe, to the Author and Source of all that is good, that is true, that is holy. And yet you do it - deliberately, fully aware that it pains God to see you so act. Knowing that unless and until you repent of even the least sin, you cannot be in a right relationship with Objective Reality. With full understanding that you have lessened your dignity, even in your own sight - let alone that of God. Realizing that whatever tainted pleasure you might get from that purloined bill pales in comparison to the grief you have laid on your very soul.

"I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate." (Romans 7:15)

The theologians tell us that Christ would have gone to the Cross to save even a single person guilty of a single "small matter", even if that were the only sin ever committed by anyone.

Jezu ufam tobie!

Satta M. said...

" they protect relationships from the ravages of competition and insure that proper care is taken for children"

Christians don't own that. Muslims, hindus, buddhists, secularists, etc all take care of their children in ways that are far more similar than different. I attribute it to to our shared biology; we're largely monogamous mammals with vulnerable young that take an exceedingly long time to mature, compared to any other animal. Evolution has selected for traits that provide those stable relationships, and there is interesting research into the neurochemical basis of it.

SteveK said...

John Moore,
I admire your list of principles but they are standing on nothing but subjective secular preferences, valves and desires - and that, ultimately, is the problem that will lead to the ruin of secularism. You're trying to create secular rules where, in principle, there are none.

steve said...

Satta M. said...

"Christians don't own that. Muslims, hindus, buddhists, secularists, etc all take care of their children in ways that are far more similar than different. I attribute it to to our shared biology; we're largely monogamous mammals with vulnerable young that take an exceedingly long time to mature, compared to any other animal. Evolution has selected for traits that provide those stable relationships, and there is interesting research into the neurochemical basis of it."

In which case, evolutionary ethics commits the naturalistic fallacy. You need to learn the distinction between descriptive and normal ethics. It's striking how often atheists are blind to this elementary distinction.

Satta M. said...

Show me where I made a normative statement

B. Prokop said...

"the neurochemical basis of it."

I take issue with your use of the word "basis". Our brain's makeup is no more the basis of our behavior than our eye is the basis for light.

In both cases, our physical bodies are so structured so as to to react to external stumuli. In the eye's case, the stimulus is light. In like manner, our brains are designed to react to God's Law.

"What the law requires is written on men's hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them." (Romans 2:15)

steve said...

Satta M. said...

"Show me where I made a normative statement."

Which misses the point. You act as though evolutionary ethics is a substitute for normative ethics. But if evolutionary ethics commits the naturalistic fallacy, then saying " Muslims, hindus, buddhists, secularists, etc all take care of their children" provides no basis for saying why they *ought* to do so. If you admit there's no duty to care for your children, then that illustrates the moral bankruptcy of evolutionary ethics.

Satta M. said...

"You act as though evolutionary ethics is a substitute for normative ethics."

I never said anything like that

Angra Mainyu said...

Victor,

Let's say that Ahmed realizes that Sunni sexual morality (hadith-based) that considers it's morally acceptable for a man to rape any of his wives (of course, they wouldn't call it rape) is horribly wrong. Should he refrain from criticizing Sunni sexual morality just because he can't come up with a correct theory of all of sexual morality himself?
Similarly, let's say that David also realizes that the version of Christian sexual morality that holds people who have gay sex deserve to be executed or imprisoned for a very long time, etc., and that laws imposing such punishments are just, etc. (a version you may find all around in places like Uganda, or in the past in the West; it's still held by small Christian groups in the West), is far removed from the truth. Should he refrain from speaking out just because he can't come up with a correct theory of sexual morality himself?
What if they realize that child marriages and forced marriages in India are morally unacceptable?

I don't agree that secularists need to (do you mean they have a moral obligation to?) have a full theory of sexual morality in order to point out several of the errors of Christian sexual morality (or rather, in the different Christian moralities that there are, since there is plenty of disagreement among Christians themselves).

More generally, I will argue that these sorts of demands are improper.
How should one go about searching a for a full general theory of sexual morality, if one intended to do so?
As far as I can tell, (simplifying here) the proper way to go would be something like:
1. Make moral assessments in real hypothetical scenarios that are clear enough, using one's own sense of right and wrong. The scenarios are quite specific, though of course not specified to every arbitrary degree of accuracy.
2. Propose a hypothesis generalizing some of the features.
3. Test the hypothesis against one's own sense of right and wrong in other scenarios.

Granted, intuitions in specific scenarios also fail sometimes, even when they look clear. That often happens as a result of previous damage of the moral sense caused by religion or another ideology (which are improper means of trying to find moral truth), and sometimes it results from other factors, so the picture above is a rough approximation, but that's the idea. If you have an alternative method, I would like to ask what you would propose instead.

In that framework, the intuitive assessment (using one's own sense of right and wrong) comes first, and falsifies the general theory when there is conflict, so we already have a way of making moral assessment in specific cases (each person has her sense of right and wrong, moral intuitions, or whatever you prefer to call that), and moreover, that method takes precedence over general theories. Why ask for the latter?
Still, having a general theory would be useful if there are cases in which one's intuitions aren't clear. So, for example, if a hypothesis passes every test (as described in 3.) whenever one's intuitions are clear, that might provide some evidence supporting its application in cases in which intuitions aren't clear.
However, as it turns out, it seems despite great efforts, no one has the correct full general theory (at least, to my knowledge). It's far too big a burden to demand that people come up or even try to come up with that sort of theory before pointing out errors in religious-based or other ideological-based moral beliefs. It's proper to just correct one or more moral errors, without trying to undertake a task no philosopher seems to have ever succeeded at.

Angra Mainyu said...


Regarding consent, well claiming that everything is okay as long as there is consent would be a false claim, and the way to see that is by means of the method I described in 3. For example, it's immoral to cheat on one's spouse purely for fun, even if the cheater has the consent of his lovers.

On the other hand, it seems to me that the following partial assessment is correct (A and B are human beings, and A is an adult of at least normal intelligence):
CR1: A is behaving immorally if the following conditions are met:
a. A chooses, of his own free will and while in control of his faculties, to engage in sexual behavior with B.
b. Either A knows or that B has not consented, or a reasonable person with the same information would know that B has not consented.

Of course, that's not remotely all there is. But that's not a problem. One can still assess the matter on a case-by-case basis, as humans normally do.

JaredMithrandir said...

"Traditional" Christian Sexual Morality is based on Plato not THe Bible.

http://solascripturachristianliberty.blogspot.com/2015/03/plato-augustine-and-traditional.html

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor,

Would you say you agree with the following statement?:

"Consent is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for sexual activity."

Victor Reppert said...

Certainly. But consent has to be teased out more than it normally is. For example, what if someone is partially impaired by alcohol in such a way that they are inclined to make choices they would not make in reflective equilibrium. In one sense the person is consenting, but in another sense they are not really consenting.

steve said...

I'd add that Peter Singer defends bestiality. Is that consensual? Certainly that's sexual activity.

Victor Reppert said...

Where is an animal rights advocate when we need him?

steve said...

http://www.utilitarian.net/singer/by/2001----.htm

Angra Mainyu said...

Victor,

You say, "But consent has to be teased out more than it normally is."
I'm not sure it needs to be, but in the situation you present, the matter depends on the specific case (though I'm not sure it's about reflective equilibrium but about what that person would do without the alcohol), and more precisely on what information is available to the other party (assuming the other party is not intoxicated). It's very difficult to resolve in general, rather than in particular cases (e.g., how did the person get intoxicated? Does the other person know? Should the other person know? What's the info available to the other party? And so on).
However, one doesn't need to resolve that case in order to reckon that some moral beliefs defended by a religion (such as Catholicism, or Sunni Islam in one variant or another) are false.
For example, if he forces himself on her despite her explicit "no", he's behaving in an appalling way, regardless of whether some hadith supports it. But I don't need or have an obligation to develop a full theory on sexual morality before it's proper for me to point that out, and the same goes for someone who lives in places where the hadith in question is generally accepted.

steve said...

What makes atheist morality superior to Muslim morality? Angra says it's "appalling". A Muslim disagrees.

From a secular standpoint, these are just two conflicting human opinions about morality.

To say it's appalling because it's not consensual begs the question. Why not say Angra's reaction is a reflection of his ethnocentric secular Western conditioning?

Angra Mainyu said...

It's not "atheist morality". It's just morality, as done by humans when their religion/ideology is not getting in the way.

The Muslim is mistaken. Also, his belief comes from an epistemically improper source (religion), whereas mine results from a proper one. I used my moral sense to figure that out, and there was no religion or ideology behind it. Unlike the Muslim, I didn't follow any sources I considered infallible (which would be improper) in order to make that assessment; I just made it.

The claim "From a secular standpoint, these are just two conflicting human opinions about morality." is both unjustified and false. There is nothing in secularism that commits one to say those are just two conflicting opinions, and there are different secular standpoints. The fact is that those are conflicting opinions, but one opinion is right, and one is wrong (most secularists know that).

That said, you do realize that your argument, if it were accepted, could just be turn on Christians, right?
Two Christians from different variants of Christianity, or a Christian and a Muslim, etc., disagree. But then, even if one is right, the Muslim might as well say that he is right, and the Christian is wrong. Not that your argument is good. One doesn't need religion to make proper and justified moral assessments.

By the way, how do you think people without access to the Bible should go about making moral assessments?

steve said...

As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is.

You're also confusing moral ontology with moral epistemology. Try to learn the difference.

Yes, there are different secular standpoints, including moral relativism, moral fictionalism, and moral nihilism. Thanks for bringing that to everyone's attention.

I didn't suggest there were just two conflicting opinions. Are you really that confused? My comment was in the context of you, an atheist, attacking Muslim ethics.

Angra Mainyu said...


As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong.

That is neither true nor justified. It's a claim you repeat.
So, do you think also that all the people who don't or didn't have access to revealed truth have merely moral opinions about right and wrong.


You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is.

So you say, but you say nothing to back that up.
You shouldn't have that opinion, by the way. On that note, I usually prefer not to post links to my own posts in other blogs not to be accused of self-promotion, but given your persistence, I will post links to my two of replies to Craig's metaethical argument.

Latest reply:
https://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com.ar/2015/02/another-reply-to-craigs-metaethical.html

If I had time to write long posts, I would further update a couple of points with my latest assessments, but the points I make are more than sufficient to deal with Craig's argument. Similar arguments are handled similarly.
For those who do not like the format of that reply, here's a previous one:

http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-reply-to-craigs-metaethical-argument.html

This one is older, but in a more usual format.

But to be fair, why don't you post links to some of your arguments defending your claims about atheists (if you have made any such arguments), so that any interested and informed readers can compare and judge the quality and strength of the arguments by themselves? (the posts with my arguments already provide links to Craig's arguments, btw.).

You're also confusing moral ontology with moral epistemology. Try to learn the difference.
Not remotely. That's what Craig tells some atheists, and what you falsely and with no justification believe I'm doing. Maybe you're just repeating Craig's line again?
In fact, if you had read any of my replies to Craig, you would know I know the difference. Well, if you had read any of those replies, and you understood metaethics enough to understand them (which might or might not be the case for all I know), and you were being rational about me (which you aren't; clearly, you keep getting unjustified beliefs about my beliefs), then you would know I know the difference (funnily, I even consider that theistic objection).

steve said...

Angra,

You're a funny guy. In response to Victor you appealed to "each person's sense of right and wrong."

But a few comments down, you say a Muslim who forces himself on a woman is behaving in an "appalling" way. Yet he's operating with his own sense of right and wrong.

You haven't offered anything to broker conflicting moral intuitions. You make claims which you yourself don't attempt to justify, as if these are self-evidently true.

Even if it's self-evident that certain actions are immoral, it doesn't follow that those are immoral given atheism.

It's funny how you whine about me supposedly failing to discharge my burden of proof when your own comments have been a string of assertions with nothing to back them up.

"Not remotely. That's what Craig tells some atheists, and what you falsely and with no justification believe I'm doing."

It's amusing that you're unable to keep track of your own statements. You said: "By the way, how do you think people without access to the Bible should go about making moral assessments?"

That fails to distinguish between moral epistemology and moral ontology. The question in the first instance is whether, given atheism, there are even moral facts to be known.

You also have this paranoid notion that I must be channeling Craig. Are you a dial-a-psychic?

"which you aren't; clearly, you keep getting unjustified beliefs about my beliefs…"

That's another confused statement on your part. I haven't said you deny moral realism. Rather, I said that if you were a consistent atheist, you'd deny moral realism.

I don't need to rehash all my arguments for your benefit. For instance, a while back I had a detailed exchange over at The Secular Outpost on this very issue.

Angra Mainyu said...

I never said or suggested that a person's sense of right and wrong is infallible. In fact, in the very post I replied to Victor, I said "Granted, intuitions in specific scenarios also fail sometimes, even when they look clear. That often happens as a result of previous damage of the moral sense caused by religion or another ideology (which are improper means of trying to find moral truth), and sometimes it results from other factors, so the picture above is a rough approximation, but that's the idea. If you have an alternative method, I would like to ask what you would propose instead."

There is a difference between preliminary intuitions (which are what appears to be wrong, obligatory, etc., at first), and intuitions after considering arguments, different scenarios, potential sources of error, etc.
Now, the Muslim might actually be using his preliminary intuitions, or he might not - maybe he is following the claims of his religion even if he's getting the intuition that such behavior is immoral.
But it is possible that his preliminary intuitions are giving him the wrong answer; if so, his sense of right and wrong is badly damaged if he doesn't even recognize his spousal rape as immoral.
However, he should realize that there is an improper source of beliefs that is messing with his sense of right and wrong - namely, religion, which isn't justified as a source of moral truth.

That said, I of course reject the burden of showing that something like spousal rape for fun (or to have a child, or whatever) is immoral "given atheism". That part - the "given atheism" - is the improper demand on your part. For that matter, you might as well ask me to show that a traffic light that appears red is really red "given atheism". The demand is out of place.

Of course, your accusation of failing to distinguish between moral ontology and epistemology is mistaken. My question to you is about moral epistemology, because you were raising objections about moral epistemology, you were asking about the justification of my beliefs, etc.

I'm not suggesting you're "channeling" Craig, but you seem to repeat some of the unjustified assertions that he repeats, and that many theists copy.


That's another confused statement on your part.

Not remotely. You keep getting the unjustified belief about my beliefs that I confuse moral epistemology with moral ontology.


I haven't said you deny moral realism. Rather, I said that if you were a consistent atheist, you'd deny moral realism.

I know that you said that. You have failed to support your claim. I challenge you to show the alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism.
I challenge you to give the argument. I challenge you to start with the premises that atheism is true and moral realism is true, and reach a contradiction by means of a valid argument.


I don't need to rehash all my arguments for your benefit. For instance, a while back I had a detailed exchange over at The Secular Outpost on this very issue.

You're the one making the claim. I challenge you to post a link to any place where you start with the premises that atheism is true and moral realism is true, and reach a contradiction by means of a valid argument.

Angra Mainyu said...

Steve, let me add the following points:

Victor's OP is almost entirely about moral epistemology, not about moral ontology. It's about figuring out the rules.
The only part about moral ontology is the part in which he says "If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible."
That's a part with which I fully agree.
My replies to Victor's OP (my first two posts on this thread) are also entirely about epistemic matters; my third post is a reply to one of his posts, and it's about first-order ethics and about epistemic matters. There was nothing about moral ontology there.
If you meant to raise a challenge on the basis of moral ontology, not only did you misspeak, but you also were confused about the matters under discussion from starters, or else deliberately chose to derail the thread.

steve said...

"That said, I of course reject the burden of showing that something like spousal rape for fun (or to have a child, or whatever) is immoral 'given atheism'. That part - the 'given atheism' - is the improper demand on your part."

You're not entitled to evade your own burden of proof. Atheists demand that Christians rationally defend their positions. You don't get to exempt yourself from the same onus. It's entirely proper for me to demand that you, as an atheist, explain how your moral sentiments map onto objective moral facts.

"My question to you is about moral epistemology, because you were raising objections about moral epistemology…"

You are hopelessly confused. I said: "As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is."

That concerns moral ontology, not moral epistemology. Sorry if you're too dense to perceive that.

"but you seem to repeat some of the unjustified assertions that he repeats, and that many theists copy."

You have this droll notion that I'm raising objections only a Christian would raise, as if this is a malicious Christian caricature of atheism. Maybe you're just monumentally ignorant of prominent atheist thinkers who reject moral realism.

"I challenge you to show the alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism."

You could begin by reading atheists who take that very position. For starters:

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-darwinian-dilemma.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/morality-is-human-invention.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/07/self-imploding-atheism.html

http://keithburgess-jackson.typepad.com/blog/2012/06/owen-j-flanagan-jr-on-sociobiology.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2012/06/nice-nihilism.html

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/confessions-of-an-ex-moralist/?pagemode=print

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/04/devolution-of-morality.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/02/evolutionary-naturalism.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-darwinian-bourne-legacy.html

http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/from-atheism-to-nihilism.html

The list could easily be expanded.

Angra Mainyu said...

You're not entitled to evade your own burden of proof.
I don't have that burden, regardless of how much you or a zillion other theists insist that I do. I'm not evading anything. I reject the burden because it's not my burden and it's improper to say I have it. It's not my burden.


Atheists demand that Christians rationally defend their positions. You don't get to exempt yourself from the same onus. It's entirely proper for me to demand that you, as an atheist, explain how your moral sentiments map onto objective moral facts.

No, it's not. I don't claim that "my moral sentiments" map into "objective moral facts"; I do claim that raping people of fun is immoral, just as I claim that the traffic light a block from my house has 3 colors: red, yellow and green.
I also claim there is an objective fact of the matter (in the usual sense of the words) as to whether a traffic light is now red, and as to whether the act of rape committed by a specific person on a specific day, etc., is immoral. But those positions are common sense positions. Those positions are justified on their intuitive likelihood. I don't need to justify them "on atheism". Rather, it's your burden to justify your claim if you claim that Jesus rose from the dead (which of course, he didn't; it's beyond a reasonable doubt); it's your burden to justify your claim if you claim that on atheism, raping people for fun would not be immoral, just as it would be your burden if you were to claim that on atheism, traffic lights are never red (or whatever).

The fact that you have not and never will realize that those are your burdens doesn't change the fact that they are.

You are hopelessly confused. I said: "As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is."
That concerns moral ontology, not moral epistemology. Sorry if you're too dense to perceive that.


Not remotely. That's clearly a claim about the moral epistemic status of my moral beliefs (which you call "opinions"). You are implying that my moral beliefs are not justified because I'm an atheist. If you had instead said something like on atheism, your moral beliefs do not reflect objective moral facts, that would be a moral ontology derail. But instead you went for the moral epistemic challenge. If you didn't mean to do that, and you meant to make a claim about moral ontology, you misspoke.

But it's not just that you misspoke.

Again, Victor's OP is almost entirely about moral epistemology, not about moral ontology. It's about figuring out the rules.
The only part about moral ontology is the part in which he says "If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible."
That's a part with which I fully agree.
My replies to Victor's OP (my first two posts on this thread) are also entirely about epistemic matters; my third post is a reply to one of his posts, and it's about first-order ethics and about epistemic matters. There was nothing about moral ontology there.
If you meant to raise a challenge on the basis of moral ontology (as you now clearly say), not only did you misspeak, but you also were confused about the matters under discussion from starters, or else deliberately chose to derail the thread.

Angra Mainyu said...

You have this droll notion that I'm raising objections only a Christian would raise, as if this is a malicious Christian caricature of atheism. Maybe you're just monumentally ignorant of prominent atheist thinkers who reject moral realism.
First, of course I realize there are some atheists who reject moral realism. But they usually don't repeat the line Craig insist on, like saying that one is confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology, or using words just like the ones you're using.
Second, I never said or suggested it was malicious. It's probably sincere and epistemically irrational, in most cases.

You could begin by reading atheists who take that very position.
Are you serious?
Your first example is Sharon Street. It's an example I actually mention specifically in my latest reply to Craig https://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/another-reply-to-craigs-metaethical.html

So, of course I'm aware of the Darwinian Dilemma. I've written quite a bit about it, on different places.

The funny thing is that Sharon Street's constructivism appears to be a theory of objective morality, in the sense that there would still be an objective fact of the matter as to, say, whether the Holocaust was immoral, or whatever. It's just that Street's definition of realism (something I disagree with, but that aside) makes her view anti-realist, and also her concept of "objective" (different people use that word differently) makes her view a type of subjectivism.
Of course, if her constructivism were correct, my moral beliefs would be either true or false, it would make sense to debate morality, etc.; your claims on the subject would still be false. You don't understand Street's metaethics at all.

Moreover, while Street argues against what she calls "moral realism", she never remotely suggests that it's inconsistent to claim that atheism and moral realism are both true.

As for the rest of the authors, I know some of those views, though I'm not sure those all count as "prominent". Regardless, they're not repeating the same sort of claims you keep repeating.



The list could easily be expanded.

Sure, I can expand it too. But it's irrelevant to the matter at hand. You implied that I was inconsistent if I claimed that atheism and moral realism is true. I challenged you to show that that is so. And I challenge you again. Even if some atheists actually believe atheism is inconsistent with moral realism, that does not remotely show that atheism is inconsistent with moral realism. You claimed or implied it is. I challenge you to show it is.

By the way, you won't see atheists repeating the sort of Craig-like claims you're repeating. Granted, Craig too sometimes repeat some atheists' claims (he seems to like it, as if that helped his case; it doesn't, and he has made no rational case, as I explain in the relevant posts I already linked to), but things like the claim that I'm confusing moral epistemology with moral ontology (a claim that is both unjustified and false) seems to have been taken from Craig's book, not from that of some atheist.
Regardless, if you're not copying Craig's argument, then you got confused without his help. That doesn't help your case.

Angra Mainyu said...

Steve,

By the way, on Street's definition of realism (what she calls "uncompromising normative realism"), I'm not a realist. I don't agree with his definition of realism, which she explains and defends in “Reply to Copp: Naturalism, Normativity, and the Varieties of Realism Worth Worrying About,” Philosophical Issues (Nous), vol. 18 on “Interdisciplinary Core Philosophy,” ed. Water Sinnott-Armstrong, 2008, pp. 207-228.". She acknowledges that under some other definitions, realism escapes her dilemma. She just disagrees with those definitions. And I disagree with her on that.

Now, I think the arguments in her "Darwinian Dilemma" have problems (see, for example, Richard Chappell's objections), but nevertheless, there is an argument in the vicinity (i.e., using evolutionary considerations in a similar fashion) that works against what she calls "uncompromising normative realism", or against the justification of believing it's true and also considering humans have a generally reliable even if fallible moral sense. I disagree with the view that that's the sort of realism worth worrying about (even if it is "a" sort of realism worth worrying about), and/or the view that it's a good definition of "realism".

Anyway, if by "realism" you meant what Street means by it, then your belief that I'm a moral realist is both unjustified and false.
If by "realism" you didn't mean what Street means by it, then what makes you think Street rejects moral realism, given that you clearly don't understand Street's metaethics?

steve said...

"I don't have that burden, regardless of how much you or a zillion other theists insist that I do. I'm not evading anything. I reject the burden because it's not my burden and it's improper to say I have it. It's not my burden."

It's fine with me if you're intellectually evasive. That's a backdoor admission that your position is rationally indefensible. Thanks for the fatal concession.

"No, it's not. I don't claim that "my moral sentiments" map into 'objective moral facts'; I do claim that raping people of fun is immoral…"

Unless your moral sentiments correspond to objective moral facts, your claim that raping people for fun is immoral is unwarranted. Indeed, self-refuting.

"But those positions are common sense positions. Those positions are justified on their intuitive likelihood."

The problem is when you *combine* a common sense position or intuitive likelihood with another position, atheism, which removes the necessary conditions under which those common sense positions or intuitions could be true. The question at issue is the *relationship* between atheism and morality. Not whether moral judgments are plausible considered in isolation, but plausible in relation to atheism. Sorry that you're unable to think logically.

"I don't need to justify them 'on atheism'"

Unlike you, there are secular philosophers with a modicum of intellectual honesty who realize that they do need to show how atheism is consistent with moral realism, and if they can't, they jettison moral realism, viz. J. L. Mackie.

"it's your burden to justify your claim if you claim that on atheism, raping people for fun would not be immoral,"

i) I don't personally have to do that inasmuch as many of your fellow atheists have done that for me.

ii) You yourself are making a truth-claim about the moral status of rape. Therefore, you yourself have a burden of proof to discharge. It's a two-way street.

It's not my problem that you shirk your burden of proof. Rather, that's a problem for you. That exposes the fact that your own position is rationally indefensible. I appreciate your abject surrender.

I said:

"As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is."

An atheist can't appeal to moral facts to underwrite his moral opinions because, given atheism, there are no moral facts. That's a statement about what, if anything, *grounds* beliefs about right and wrong. That takes us into moral ontology. I pity you that you are so lacking in rudimentary comprehension.

And it's hardly "derailing" the thread to discuss moral ontology. The OP was about the relationship between atheism, morality, and behavior. Just for once, try not to be monumentally silly for 30 seconds straight.

steve said...

You admit that Street's definition of realism makes her view anti-realist, and also her concept of objectivity makes her view a type of subjectivism. You admit that she argues against moral realism, as she defines it.

That's an example of a prominent secular philosopher who denies moral realism.

You then duck all the additional examples I gave.

"Even if some atheists actually believe atheism is inconsistent with moral realism, that does not remotely show that atheism is inconsistent with moral realism."

Sure it does. They give reasons for why that's the case. But you can't be bothered with reasons. That would threaten your fideistic atheism.

Angra Mainyu said...

Steve,

"It's fine with me if you're intellectually evasive. That's a backdoor admission that your position is rationally indefensible. Thanks for the fatal concession."

Again, I do not have that burden. I don't even have the burden to explain why I don't have that burden. I already explained that I do not have such burden, by means of an example, when I said that i of course reject the burden of showing that something like spousal rape for fun (or to have a child, or whatever) is immoral "given atheism". That part - the "given atheism" - is the improper demand on your part. For that matter, you might as well ask me to show that a traffic light that appears red is really red "given atheism". The demand is out of place.

But for a more detailed explanation of why I have no such burden, readers can take a look at the following link: https://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com.ar/2015/01/morality-and-ontological-grounding-some.html

"Unless your moral sentiments correspond to objective moral facts, your claim that raping people for fun is immoral is unwarranted. Indeed, self-refuting."
That's confused on so many levels.
First, it's about my moral beliefs, not sentiments.
Second, if they didn't correspond to facts, I would be mistaken, but nothing would be self-refuting.
Third, different people use the word "objective" differently, and Craig repeatedly equivocates on that, as I have already shown (see https://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/2015/02/another-reply-to-craigs-metaethical.html )
I don't need to get into some metaphysical claim in order to make a moral claim.

"The problem is when you *combine* a common sense position or intuitive likelihood with another position, atheism, which removes the necessary conditions under which those common sense positions or intuitions could be true. "
That's your claim and that's your burden. In other words, the view that atheism removes the necessary conditions, etc., is your claim, and it's your burden, just as if you were to claim that atheism removes the necessary conditions for objective color.

"The question at issue is the *relationship* between atheism and morality. Not whether moral judgments are plausible considered in isolation, but plausible in relation to atheism. Sorry that you're unable to think logically."
I am of course thinking logically. You aren't, but you ought to. Not that you will ever realize that you're not thinking logically. You're giving a good example of what happens when religious beliefs get in the way of rational thinking, and also in the way of morally acceptable behavior, because what you're saying about me is immoral. You should not believe the things you say, and you should not say them. But you will never, ever realize that. You're fully committed to your religion.
"Unlike you, there are secular philosophers with a modicum of intellectual honesty who realize that they do need to show how atheism is consistent with moral realism, and if they can't, they jettison moral realism, viz. J. L. Mackie."
But I am intellectually honest. You ought to realize that. You just won't. Readers can take a look at the exchange and at my posts (following the links I provided), and make their own assessments.

Angra Mainyu said...


"ii) You yourself are making a truth-claim about the moral status of rape. Therefore, you yourself have a burden of proof to discharge. It's a two-way street."
No, that's not how it works. If I point at a red traffic light, and I say it's red, then I do not have the burden of proof to discharge. Someone who claims it's not red has the burden.
If I say that raping people for fun is immoral, I have no burden to discharge, either. Moreover, if someone can't intuitively see that, I'm usually not really interested in trying to persuade them (they're probably way beyond my capability for persuasion).

"An atheist can't appeal to moral facts to underwrite his moral opinions because, given atheism, there are no moral facts. That's a statement about what, if anything, *grounds* beliefs about right and wrong. That takes us into moral ontology. I pity you that you are so lacking in rudimentary comprehension. "
No, you claimed that

"As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is."
That is a claim that my moral views are not epistemically justified, on a reasonable (and charitable) interpretation of your words.
But okay, let's say you meant to make a challenge on the basis of moral ontology (which now seems to be the case, given your insistence).
As I already pointed out, Victor's OP is almost entirely about moral epistemology, not about moral ontology. It's about figuring out the rules.
The only part about moral ontology is the part in which he says "If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible."
That's a part with which I fully agree.
My replies to Victor's OP (my first two posts on this thread) are also entirely about epistemic matters; my third post is a reply to one of his posts, and it's about first-order ethics and about epistemic matters. There was nothing about moral ontology there.
Since you meant to raise a challenge on the basis of moral ontology, not only did you misspeak, but you also were confused about the matters under discussion from starters, or else deliberately chose to derail the thread.
So, were you confused about my exchange with Victor? Or did you deliberately choose to derail the thread?


And it's hardly "derailing" the thread to discuss moral ontology. The OP was about the relationship between atheism, morality, and behavior. Just for once, try not to be monumentally silly for 30 seconds straight.

Of course it's derailing. I was talking to Victor about moral epistemology.

Angra Mainyu said...

"You admit that Street's definition of realism makes her view anti-realist, and also her concept of objectivity makes her view a type of subjectivism. You admit that she argues against moral realism, as she defines it."
No, "admit" is not the right word. I point out that she argues against what she calls "uncompromising normative realism".

"That's an example of a prominent secular philosopher who denies moral realism."
Actually, that's an example of a prominent philosopher who denies what she calls "uncompromising normative realism". It is not the case that she denies realism under other definitions, which would make her view a realist one (e.g., the definition by Sayre-McCord, Geoff, on "Moral Realism", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/moral-realism/ ).

Now, you have the following problem: if you use "moral realism" to mean what Street means by "uncompromising normative realism", then in that sense I deny moral realism, so your claim that I'm a moral realist is false (and unjustified; you had no reason to suspect I accepted realism in that sense). On the other hand, I'm a moral realist in the sense in which Sayre-McCord uses the expression in the SEP, or in the sense in which Huemer uses the expression (see his book, "Ethical Intuitionism"), or in the sense in which Copp uses the expression (those are all different senses).

As it happens, "moral realism" is a term of art, or rather several. Different philosophers mean different things by it and by "moral antirealism", as pointed out in the SEP entry on moral antirealism (http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/moral-anti-realism/#ChaMorAntRea )

If you use "realism" in a different sense, now you're equivocating by saying that Street denies moral realism. (by the way, why do you keep up this derail? Do you actually not realize this isn't even close, and I'm tearing your claims apart?).

Now, you claimed or implied that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent. Pointing out that some atheists reject moral realism does not prove your claim. So, I challenge you to prove that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent.

"You then duck all the additional examples I gave."
I duck nothing. I point out they're irrelevant to any of the matters at hand. Of course some atheists are not moral realists under any definitions. But you claimed or implied that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent. Pointing out that some atheists reject moral realism does not prove your claim. So, I challenge you to prove that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent.


Me: "Even if some atheists actually believe atheism is inconsistent with moral realism, that does not remotely show that atheism is inconsistent with moral realism."

Hays: "Sure it does. They give reasons for why that's the case. But you can't be bothered with reasons. That would threaten your fideistic atheism."
No, it doesn't. It is obvious to any reasonable person that I don't have the burden of addressing arguments by atheists against realism, even if some of them claimed that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent (do they?).

But let's consider one of your examples.

https://triablogue.blogspot.com.ar/2014/10/the-darwinian-bourne-legacy.html

Well, guess what?
The atheist there does not even claim that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent, let alone argue for it. He just claims (and gives bad arguments for) that realism is false.
Regardless, you claimed or implied that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent. Pointing out that some atheists reject moral realism does not prove your claim. So, I challenge you to prove that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent.

Angra Mainyu said...

Just to be clear, making a claim doesn't always give you a burden. It usually doesn't if you make a common sense claim, like saying that the traffic light is red (when it appears clearly so), or that raping people for fun is immoral.

steve said...

"If I point at a red traffic light, and I say it's red, then I do not have the burden of proof to discharge. Someone who claims it's not red has the burden. If I say that raping people for fun is immoral, I have no burden to discharge, either."

You keep repeated variations on that formulaic comparison. Several problems with your glib appeal:

i) Your comparison is an attempted argument from analogy minus the supporting argument. But you can't rationally just stipulate that the immorality of rape and the redness of a stoplight are comparable. If you claim those are comparable, it's up to you to show how, in fact, those are comparable. You haven't given the reason any reason to agree with you that your stimulative analogy is indeed analogous.

ii) It's arguable that color perception is subjective rather than objective. An example of phenomenal qualia.

iii) Apropos (ii) is the inverted qualia thought-experiments.

iv) Likewise, there are situations in which it would be proper to doubt an observer's report about the stoplight. If there's evidence that he was high on LSD at the time. If there's evidence that this may be Virtual Reality.

v) And that's the problem with atheism. All things being equal, there might be a presumption regarding the intuitive immorality of rape. But if, all things considered, you include atheism and/or physicalism, then that introduces countervailing defeaters to your facile intuitive appeals.

"Moreover, if someone can't intuitively see that, I'm usually not really interested in trying to persuade them (they're probably way beyond my capability for persuasion)."

And such people would include your fellow atheists. For instance, Peter Singer, the most influential secular bioethicist of his generation, says the following:

"Why would our judgments, and our emotions, vary in this way? For most of our evolutionary history, human beings – and our primate ancestors – have lived in small groups, in which violence could be inflicted only in an up-close and personal way, by hitting, pushing, strangling, or using a stick or stone as a club. To deal with such situations, we developed immediate, emotionally based intuitive responses to the infliction of personal violence on others. The thought of pushing the stranger off the footbridge elicits these responses. On the other hand, it is only in the last couple of centuries – not long enough to have any evolutionary significance – that we have been able to harm anyone by throwing a switch that diverts a train. Hence the thought of doing it does not elicit the same emotional response as pushing someone off a bridge. Greene’s work helps us understand where our moral intuitions come from. But the fact that our moral intuitions are universal and part of our human nature does not mean that they are right. On the contrary, these findings should make us more skeptical about relying on our intuitions." "Should We Trust Our Moral Intuitions?" Project Syndicate (March, 2007).

steve said...

Cont. "That's your claim and that's your burden. In other words, the view that atheism removes the necessary conditions, etc., is your claim, and it's your burden, just as if you were to claim that atheism removes the necessary conditions for objective color."

No, actually it's not my claim. I got that from the horse's mouth. Prominent atheists are claiming that. I've given multiple examples.

You have this bizarre notion that the onus is on me to prove something about atheism that many notable atheists already concede is true about atheism. When they themselves grant that atheism is incompatible with moral realism, it's hardly incumbent on me to produce an independent argument for the same conclusion. Indeed, when a position's own proponents make damning admissions, that's more impressive than an external critique.

As a matter of fact, I myself have often refuted secular ethics. But unless and until you can rebut what your own side is saying, I don't need to add to that.

"That is a claim that my moral views are not epistemically justified…"

Another example of your incorrigible confusion. Compare two statements:

i) Moral facts cannot be known

ii) There are no moral facts to be known

(i) concerns moral epistemology whereas (ii) concerns moral ontology. There is, however, an asymmetrical relation.

In theory, there could be moral facts, but these are unknowable. In that case, the existence of moral facts would be independent of their accessibility.

If, on the other hand, there are no moral facts, then that is why moral facts are unknowable. In that case, the inaccessibility of moral facts is due their nonexistence. (ii) is primarily about moral ontology, and secondarily about moral epistemology inasmuch as the nonexistence of moral facts negates the possibility of knowing any moral facts.

"The only part about moral ontology is the part in which he says 'If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible.'"

He didn't say that's implausible given atheism. Indeed, he'd use moral intuition to jumpstart theistic ethics.

"I was talking to Victor about moral epistemology."

You're so pathetic that you can't even keep track of your own arguments. When you "claim there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether the act of rape committed by a specific person on a specific day, etc., is immoral," that's not just a moral epistemological claim, but a moral ontological claim.

"It is obvious to any reasonable person that I don't have the burden of addressing arguments by atheists against realism, even if some of them claimed that atheism and moral realism are inconsistent."

When atheists explain why atheism and moral realism are incompatible, which you deny, then you do indeed have an intellectual responsibility to refute their arguments. But I understand that you're not up to the task.

Angra Mainyu said...


"i) Your comparison is an attempted argument from analogy minus the supporting argument. But you can't rationally just stipulate that the immorality of rape and the redness of a stoplight are comparable. If you claim those are comparable, it's up to you to show how, in fact, those are comparable. You haven't given the reason any reason to agree with you that your stimulative analogy is indeed analogous. "
The redness of the traffic light and the immorality of rape for fun are comparable in the sense that they're both common sense and that you have given no good reason whatsoever to even suspect that under atheism, one of them does not obtain.

"ii) It's arguable that color perception is subjective rather than objective. An example of phenomenal qualia.


iii) Apropos (ii) is the inverted qualia thought-experiments."
That depends on your definition of "objective", but in the usual sense of the words, there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether or not a traffic light was red, and a person accused of running a red traffic light (for example) won't get off the hook (and for good reasons) by saying there is no objective fact of the matter as to whether the light was red.

But that said, I never claimed or suggested that morality is objective in a sense in which color isn't, where color is also used in the usual sense, as when talking about traffic lights, etc.

"iv) Likewise, there are situations in which it would be proper to doubt an observer's report about the stoplight. If there's evidence that he was high on LSD at the time. If there's evidence that this may be Virtual Reality. "
Sure, and there are situations in which it would be proper to doubt an observer's moral sense, like when religion is getting in the way, or when the person is high on cocain when making the assessment. But that's beside the point; our faculties aren't perfect, but the point is that saying that it's not the case that rape is wrong on atheism, or that the atheist has a burden, etc., is akin to saying similar things regarding traffic lights, and of course, there is no good reason for questioning the redness of traffic lights on atheism, either.

"v) And that's the problem with atheism. All things being equal, there might be a presumption regarding the intuitive immorality of rape. But if, all things considered, you include atheism and/or physicalism, then that introduces countervailing defeaters to your facile intuitive appeals. "
You just claim so. You're just wrong, and again, I have no burden to explain discharge, though if I did, I would have already, in the links I provided.
But let's take a step back: do you realize how unjust it is to subject a person to this sort of questioning just because he or she is an atheist, whenever they make moral assessments?
The vast majority of people are not in a epistemic position to judge metaethical arguments, but they are in a position to make moral assessments. You would question that, for no good reason, religiously believing there is something to your claims.

Angra Mainyu said...



"And such people would include your fellow atheists. For instance, Peter Singer, the most influential secular bioethicist of his generation, says the following:"
First, your fellow theists engage in mass rape, sexual slavery, burning people alive for alleged witchcraft, stoning people to death for adultery, etc. What, you're not one of them, because even though they're theists, they have other beliefs very different from yours? Is the "fellow" part out of place? My point is: drop the "fellow", and the "my". I'm not responsible for what those people do or believe. You're treating me unjustly by using said words.
Second, I think you misunderstand Singer (though I do disagree with him, as you should have realized by now). But if you don't, whatever. I don't really care.

"No, actually it's not my claim. I got that from the horse's mouth. Prominent atheists are claiming that. I've given multiple examples."

First, you're giving examples of atheists that deny realism but do not claim it's inconsistent with atheism.
Second, it's your claim in this thread. In other places, it's been claimed by some other people. But whatever, that's not relevant.

"You have this bizarre notion that the onus is on me to prove something about atheism that many notable atheists already concede is true about atheism. When they themselves grant that atheism is incompatible with moral realism, it's hardly incumbent on me to produce an independent argument for the same conclusion. Indeed, when a position's own proponents make damning admissions, that's more impressive than an external critique."
First, you're giving examples of atheists that deny realism but do not claim it's inconsistent with atheism.
Second, it's not relevant that well-known atheists claim so. I don't have the burden of responding for what they say.
It's like if a prominent theist claims that on theism, it's okay to punish men for having same-sex relations, then I can get away with claiming that on theism, it's okay to punish men for having same-sex relations, and there is a burden on every theist to argue otherwise. Or if the Pope claims that on Christianity, capitalism , etc., then that places a huge burden on all Christians.

"As a matter of fact, I myself have often refuted secular ethics."
Whatever "secular ethics" means. You've not refuted anything I said about that.

"But unless and until you can rebut what your own side is saying, I don't need to add to that."
Right, so you must show that prominent Imams are wrong? And the Pope too (about the things he's wrong about)?
But your main error is the "your own side" part. It's group thinking. They're responsible for what they say. I have no burden to go around refuting them.

Angra Mainyu said...

"
Another example of your incorrigible confusion. Compare two statements:

i) Moral facts cannot be known

ii) There are no moral facts to be known

(i) concerns moral epistemology whereas (ii) concerns moral ontology. "
No confusion at all. Of course, (i) concerns moral epistemology whereas (ii) concerns moral ontology.

My point is that your claim "As an atheist, your moral opinions are nothing above and beyond mere human opinions about what is right and wrong. You have nothing to underwrite the opinion. You can't appeal to moral facts. There just is whatever there is." is a claim that my moral views are not epistemically justified, on a reasonable (and charitable) interpretation of your words.

But okay, let's say you meant to make a challenge on the basis of moral ontology (which now seems to be the case, given your insistence).
As I already pointed out, Victor's OP is almost entirely about moral epistemology, not about moral ontology. It's about figuring out the rules.
The only part about moral ontology is the part in which he says "If there are really no rules, no occasions when a sexual impulse ought morally to be resisted, then there can't be any problems. But that doesn't seem plausible."
That's a part with which I fully agree.
My replies to Victor's OP (my first two posts on this thread) are also entirely about epistemic matters; my third post is a reply to one of his posts, and it's about first-order ethics and about epistemic matters. There was nothing about moral ontology there.
Since you meant to raise a challenge on the basis of moral ontology, not only did you misspeak, but you also were confused about the matters under discussion from starters, or else deliberately chose to derail the thread.
So, were you confused about my exchange with Victor? Or did you deliberately choose to derail the thread?

"In theory, there could be moral facts, but these are unknowable. In that case, the existence of moral facts would be independent of their accessibility.

If, on the other hand, there are no moral facts, then that is why moral facts are unknowable. In that case, the inaccessibility of moral facts is due their nonexistence. (ii) is primarily about moral ontology, and secondarily about moral epistemology inasmuch as the nonexistence of moral facts negates the possibility of knowing any moral facts. "
I already know all that. But my point remains that on a reasonable and charitable interpretation, your claim was about the epistemic justification of my moral views, not about moral ontology. You misspoke.

"He didn't say that's implausible given atheism. Indeed, he'd use moral intuition to jumpstart theistic ethics. "
Not the point. He wasn't talking about that. And neither was I.

Angra Mainyu said...

Me: "I was talking to Victor about moral epistemology."
Steve Hays: "You're so pathetic that you can't even keep track of your own arguments. When you "claim there is an objective fact of the matter as to whether the act of rape committed by a specific person on a specific day, etc., is immoral," that's not just a moral epistemological claim, but a moral ontological claim. "
You keep insulting me believing you are right, with utter disregard from the truth.

Again, I was talking to Victor about moral epistemology. My point about there being an objective fact of the matter was a later reply to you. Obviously, I'm also talking about moral ontology after your derail in that direction. Will you stop misrepresenting what happened in the exchange? It's all on record, so interested readers can see how you're misrepresenting things.

"When atheists explain why atheism and moral realism are incompatible, which you deny, then you do indeed have an intellectual responsibility to refute their arguments. But I understand that you're not up to the task."

First, you're giving examples of atheists that deny realism but do not claim it's inconsistent with atheism.
Second, I have no such responsibility. Not remotely. Nada.

steve said...

Since you have such difficulty thinking through your own position, let's make it simple for you. In atheism, there can only be two possible sources of moral beliefs: nature and nurture. (i) social conditioning and/or (ii) naturalistic evolutionary conditioning.

(In principle, an atheist could reject evolution, but I'm discussing the standard view of modern atheists.)

i) Social conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for moral realism. For one thing, different cultures have divergent social mores. Indeed, that's a stock argument for moral skepticism.

ii) Naturalistic evolutionary conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for moral realism. For one thing, even if evolutionary psychology programs us to have certain moral instincts, naturalistic evolution is a mindless, amoral process. There's no connection between evolution and right and wrong. At best, some adaptations promote survival.

Evolution is no more a reliable indicator of true moral beliefs than rolling dice to pick winning race horses. The relationship is arbitrary.

steve said...

You act as though it's just coincidental that the atheists I cite reject moral realism. But, of course, atheism is their frame of reference. They are arguing from, and within, their secular worldview.

They don't propose some fallback to justify moral realism given atheism. Rather, for them, there's nothing to back up our moral beliefs. That's it!

steve said...

BTW, your attempted parallel about diversity within Christendom is a flop. As a matter of fact, it is incumbent on Christian intellectuals to justify their particular theological tradition in contrast to the competition. Not every Christian has the time or aptitude to do that, but for those who do, we do have an intellectual responsibility to explain why we are right and other professing Christians are wrong on this or that issue. I myself do that on a regular basis.

If a Catholic apologist makes a case for Roman Catholicism, and I'm Protestant, I need to respond to his case. I don't have to respond to every Catholic apologist. But where there are representative examples, I need to respond to that.

You have this kooky notion that even though some noteworthy atheists give reasons for denying moral realism, you can just disregard their reasons without bothering to show why they are wrong. I appreciate your anti-intellectualism. To be an atheist, you must be irrational. You must ignore counterarguments, even from fellow atheists.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 1 of 2)

Steve Hays references atheists who reject moral realism. Putting aside the obvious rhetorical value of quoting 'hostile witnesses,' , what logical or evidential value could these references have?

First, the references could be an argument from authority. Contrary to what some people (not necessarily Steve) think, arguments from authority can be logically correct inductive arguments. One inductive argument form is the statistical syllogism:

(1) Z percent of F are G.
(2) x is F.
(3) [probable] x is G.

The closer Z is to 100, the stronger the inductive evidence.

Arguments from authority are a form of statistical syllogism:

(1') The vast majority of statements made by x concerning subject S are true.
(2') p is a statement made by x concerning subject S.
(3') [probable] p is true.

As philosopher Wesley Salmon explains in his textbook, Logic, the following are "misuses of the argument from authority:"

1. The authority may be misquoted or misinterpreted.
2. The authority may have only glamor, prestige, or popularity.
3. Experts may make judgments about something outside their special fields of competence.
4. Authorities may express opinions about matters concerning which they could not possibly have any evidence.
5. Authorities who are equally competent, so far as we can tell, may disagree.

Suppose we charitably interpret Steve's references to atheists who reject moral realism is supposed to be an (inductive) argument from authority. Then if we let:

X="atheists Sharon Street; Massimo Pigliucci; Michael Shermer; Owen J. Flanagan, Jr; Alex Rosenberg; Joel Marks; Daniel Dennett; Michael Ruse; and Quentin Smith.";

S="metaethics" (which includes whether moral anti-realism is true); and

p="moral realism is false"

then Steve's argument would have the following logical form.

(1') The vast majority of statements made by x concerning subject S are true.
(2') p is a statement made by x concerning subject S.
(3') Therefore, p is true.

That argument is example of what Salmon called a “misuse of the argument from authority,” for at least three reasons.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 2 of 2)

First, Michael Shermer is not a philosopher and definitely not an expert on metaethics. (One could say the same about Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, names which often appear in lists like the list posted by Steve.) Likewise, when Massimo Pigliucci made the statement referenced in Steve’s post (in his debate with William Lane Craig), Pigliucci was a biologist only, not a biologist and a philosopher. Even today, Pigliucci is not an expert on metaethics. (It may also be the case that Pigliucci has changed his views since his earning his doctorate in philosophy; I don’t know.) Similarly, Michael Ruse is a philosopher of biology and Alex Rosenberg is a philosopher of social science, economics, and science; neither specialize in metaethics. Likewise, Daniel Dennett’s areas of specialization are philosophy of science, cognitive science, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of biology; metaethics is not one of his areas of specialization.

Second, what about atheist philosophers who do specialize in metaethics and reject moral realism, such as Flannagan and Mackie? I’m going to put to the side the interesting question of whether Smith and Street should even be counted as moral anti-realists; both have highly nuanced views and it would take a long blog post to give the topic the attention it deserves.

But putting those two names to the side, there are still other names available who were or are without a doubt atheists, experts on metaethics, and moral anti-realists. There are plenty of competent authorities on metaethics or the philosophy of religion—both theists and naturalists—who disagree with p (“moral realism is false”). Off the top of my head, I can think of at least ##. The atheist camp of moral realists includes: David Brink; Michael Martin; G.E. Moore; John Post; William Rottschaefer; Russ Shafer-Landau; Stephen J. Sullivan; and Erik Wielenberg.

Third, the definition of X arbitrarily limits who counts as expert: if we are interested in whether atheism is logically compatible with moral realism, the proper reference class is all metaethicists, not just atheistic metaethics. But then broadening the scope of X adds even more authorities who reject statement p. The theistic camp of metaethicists who reject the claim (“atheism is incompatible with moral realism”) includes people like Robert Adams and Mark Murphy (a Catholic and a natural law theorist). Then there are metaethicists whose religious views are unknown to me, but would join Adams in rejecting the claim that atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism: Avi Sagi and Daniel Statman.

Accordingly, as an inductive argument from authority, the argument is inductively weak and logically incorrect. The premises do not confer a high probability on the conclusion. So, rather than name-dropping a selective list of atheists (or even merely summarizing the arguments made by those names), what we need is actual engagement with the arguments made by metaethicists and, in particular, the work of Robert Adams and Mark Murphy on the theistic side and Erik Wielenberg on the atheistic side. I’ve written about some of the atheistic error theorists listed above here.

We also need to distinguish between authorities who say “moral realism is false because theism is false” vs. those who say “moral realism is false or meaningless for reasons that have nothing to do with God’s existence.”

steve said...

Jeff's comments are a lengthy exercise in misdirection:

i) I didn't quote Shermer, Dawkins, or Coyne. So mentioning them in response to me just a diversionary tactic.

ii) I didn't make an appeal to authority. Rather, if you bother to read the links, many of them provide arguments for their rejection of moral realism. Pity Jeff doesn't know the difference between quoting someone as an authority figure and quoting someone for their arguments.

iii) Furthermore, even if it were, in some cases, an argument from authority, when Christians point out that atheism is incompatible with moral realism, and some atheists respond by acting as if that's an ignorant, defamatory attack on atheists, it's perfectly legitimate to cite counterexamples from their own side to demonstrate that this isn't a Christian caricature of atheists, but something that many prominent atheists concede.

And in my experience, not a few internet atheists have no idea that there are real live atheist thinkers who deny moral realism. They just imagine that must be a Christian strawman.

iv) Jeff then acts as though, unless someone is an expert in metaethics, you should simply ignore their arguments. But isn't that self-refuting? Is Jeff an expert on metaethics? I guess we can safely discount everything he said in his two lengthy comments. What makes Jeff an expert? That he's an autodidact on metaethics?

v) I'd add that Jeff likes to artificially compartmentalize knowledge. But when, for instance, the topic at hand is evolutionary ethics/evolutionary psychology, it's preposterous to suggest a philosopher who specializes in philosophy of mind or evolutionary biology can't have anything worthwhile to say on the subject. These are interdisciplinary debates.

vi) Having made a dismissive comment about "the obvious rhetorical value of quoting hostile witnesses," Jeff does the very same thing by citing Robert Adams and Mark Murphy.

Likewise, Jeff complains about "name-dropping a selective list of atheists (or even merely summarizing the arguments made by those names…" even though his second comment is nothing but name-dropping (or summarizing) a selective list of theists and atheists.

vi) Finally, I've often responded to the subset of atheists who struggle to defend moral realism. It's not as if I haven't engaged their arguments.

But I do understand Jeff's need to throw a lifeline to his drowning cohort, Angra.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 1 of 4)

It's ironic that, in an exchange about the alleged superiority of theistic metaethics, Steve is rude to his dialectical opponents who are atheists. (To avoid any misunderstandings, I'm not complaining that my feelings are hurt or that I am offended.) Unlike Steve's reply to me, there was no intent to be snarky in my last comment and there is no intent to be snarky in this comment.

Steve tries to dismiss the entire point about inductive arguments from authority, as if that were an idiosyncratic interpretation of his remarks. I don't claim to be able to read his or anyone else's mind, so if it was not his intent to make an argument from authority, then I will take him at his word. Steve wasn't making an argument from authority. But I think the reader can be forgiven for getting that apparently wrong impression from the following exchange:

Angra Mainyu: "I challenge you to show the alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism."

Steve Hays: "You could begin by reading atheists who take that very position. For starters: ...." (followed by a long list of links to blog posts).

Almost all of the linked blog posts quoted atheists, but not all. (More on that later.)

So instead of making a logically incorrect inductive argument from authority, it is instead the case that Steve has simply brought up a bunch of irrelevancies to support his claim that "Atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible." As evidence for that claim, let's go through the first four of Steve's links.

Steve's first link is about Sharon Street's paper "A Darwinian Dilemma about Realist Theories of Value." Street's paper has nothing do with an alleged contradiction between moral realism and atheism. In fact, Street's paper has nothing whatsoever to do with moral ontology. Street's paper is about moral epistemology: she argues that if evolutionary naturalism is true, we have an undercutting defeater for trusting our second-order ethical intuitions. In plain English, it's as if she says:

"Many people think moral realism is true because it seems like moral realism is true. But that isn't a good reason to think that moral realism is true if you are an evolutionary naturalist. If evolutionary naturalism is true, it would 'seem' that moral realism were true even if it weren't. So the 'argument from seeming' [my name] isn't a good reason for evolutionary naturalists to think that moral realism is true."

But since that is the essence of Street's argument, it follows that Street's Darwinian Dilemma is irrelevant to the claim that atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism. The most charitable interpretation I could give to why Steve linked to an irrelevant paper by Street is that he was giving an inductive argument from authority, based upon the proposition, "Sharon Street is an atheist expert on metaethics who denies moral realism." Again, Steve says his argument wasn't an argument from authority, but the motivation to categorize his argument was my attempt to be charitable to Steve. Since it wasn't an inductive argument from authority, the alternative is that it was just an irrelevant premise. Even if Street's Darwinian Dilemma is correct, it still would not follow that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible. To think otherwise would be to confuse moral epistemology with moral ontology.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 2 of 4)

His next link was to a quotation of Massimo Pigliucci on moral realism. As I explain here, the logical form of Pigliucci's argument is as follows:

(7) Human beliefs about morality have changed over time.
(8) The best explanation for these changes in human beliefs is that there are no objective truths about morality.
(9) Therefore, there are no objective truths about morality.

Even if this were a good argument -- and it is not -- it still would not follow that atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism. Again, in an attempt to be charitable to Steve, I took him to be making an inductive argument from authority. Again, Steve says he wasn't doing that. And again, in that case, I say, "Fine. Then it's an irrelevant reference to a bad argument."

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 3 of 4)

His next link was to a statement by Paul Pardi. Paul is a Christian lecturer or professor of philosophy; in fact, at least for part of the last decade, he taught at Seattle Pacific University. Paul was commenting in the combox on a blog post by J.P. Moreland about Michael Shermer. (This is why I mentioned Shermer in my previous post.) So, as interesting as Paul's comments are, Paul Pardi's comments do nothing to show what atheists say about atheism and morality. Furthermore, Paul Pardi's comments actually undercut Sharon Street's Darwinian Dilemma. As Pardi points out, "To say that on evolution, our moral beliefs and practices wouldn’t track truth assumes what it’s seems to want to prove: that moral laws are something outside of the human mind that beliefs must correspond to."

Again, the most charitable interpretation (of Steve's bizarre decision to reference Pardi's comment) I could come up with was that: (1) Steve mistakenly thought Pardi shared Shermer's views (presumably because Pardi gave objections to Moreland's argument against Shermer); and (2) what really mattered to Hays was the support that Shermer, as an atheist, lends to an evolutionary account of morality. But, putting aside the fact that Shermer is not a philosopher, the empirical fact about moral epistemology, if it is a fact, that:

A: The correct explanation or the origin of our moral beliefs involves our evolutionary history.

provides zero support for the logical claim about moral ontology that:

B: Atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible.

And so, again, instead of saying (with charitable intent) that Steve Hays was making an argument from authority, we must instead conclude that he was simply providing another link to another irrelevant statement.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 4 of 4)

Flannagan's sociobiological explanation for the origin of our moral beliefs is similar to Shermer's. It is irrelevant to establishing Steve Hays' claim that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible, and for the same reason.

Steve's next link was to an interview about Alex Rosenberg. Here's the entirety of what Rosenberg had to say about metaethics in that interview.

"What is the difference between right and wrong, good and bad?

There is no moral difference between them."

So the interview Rosenberg contains no argument proving the alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism; all we find is the mere assertion that moral realism is false.

The other part of Steve's Rosenberg post includes the same basic point about natural selection tricking us into believing moral realism is true. It fails for the same reason as Shermer's and Flannagan's.

Again, I thought I was charitable in interpreting Steve as offering an inductive argument from authority. Again, I was mistaken. And again, the link to his blog post is irrelevant because the quoted material doesn't even make the claim that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible, much less provide an argument for that claim.

Furthermore, if one goes beyond the material quoted by Steve and looks at Rosenberg's journal article on metaethics, we do not find an article which tries to prove the alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism. Rather, what we find is an argument against moral realism which has nothing do do with an alleged inconsistency between atheism and moral realism. (See here).

---

I'm going to stop for now. To all the Americans reading this, Happy Independence Day!

Scott said...

Jeff, it's clear you're not aware that Pete Singer has repeatedly stated that the value of US holidays is entirely subjective. Moreover, Singer has suggested that it might be moral to allow animals to celebrate US holidays as well.

Angra Mainyu said...

"Since you have such difficulty thinking through your own position, let's make it simple for you. In atheism, there can only be two possible sources of moral beliefs: nature and nurture. (i) social conditioning and/or (ii) naturalistic evolutionary conditioning.

(In principle, an atheist could reject evolution, but I'm discussing the standard view of modern atheists.)"

You mean the causes of moral beliefs?
That's actually false. There are zillions of causes. Evolution is a very distant cause. Genetics (which resulted from evolution, but are different from it) are a more proximate cause; "social conditioning" has a very negative tone, but what happens is that our beliefs (moral or otherwise) are form through different interactions between our genes and our environment (including but not limited to the social environment), and our own reasoning, assessments, etc.

"i) Social conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for moral realism. For one thing, different cultures have divergent social mores. Indeed, that's a stock argument for moral skepticism.

ii) Naturalistic evolutionary conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for moral realism. For one thing, even if evolutionary psychology programs us to have certain moral instincts, naturalistic evolution is a mindless, amoral process. There's no connection between evolution and right and wrong. At best, some adaptations promote survival."
You're now conflating the causes of our moral beliefs with an alleged "basis for moral realism". That's confused, and it's not up to me to correct your confusion.

But for that matter, one might as well say "Naturalistic evolutionary conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for color realism. For one thing, even if evolutionary psychology programs us to have certain color perceptions, naturalistic evolution is a mindless, colorless process. There's no connection between evolution and red and green. At best, some adaptations promote survival."

Or one might say: "Naturalistic evolutionary conditioning can't be a sufficient basis for love realism. For one thing, even if evolutionary psychology programs us to have certain instincts about love, naturalistic evolution is a mindless, loveless process. There's no connection between evolution and love. At best, some adaptations promote survival."

Or whatever.

"Evolution is no more a reliable indicator of true moral beliefs than rolling dice to pick winning race horses. The relationship is arbitrary."
You might as well say evolution is no more a reliable indicator of true moral beliefs than rolling the dice to pick winning race horses, etc.
You are confused.

Angra Mainyu said...

"You act as though it's just coincidental that the atheists I cite reject moral realism. But, of course, atheism is their frame of reference. They are arguing from, and within, their secular worldview."

Wahhabi imams are also arguing from, and within, their theistic worldview.
The Pope argues from, and within, his Christian worldview.
And many Christians (Catholics, Protestants, etc.) who support or supported things like executing men who have sex with men, burning people alive for witchcraft, etc., argued or argue from, and within, their Christian worldview.
And so on.

I do not have a world view. I have a views about many issues. But even if you use "worldview" loosely enough, my worldview would not be theirs.

"They don't propose some fallback to justify moral realism given atheism. Rather, for them, there's nothing to back up our moral beliefs. That's it!"
And they're wrong. By the way, Sharon Street is not remotely among them. She believes moral beliefs are usually justified. She just rejects and argues against what she calls "uncompromising normative realism", which as I already pointed out, I reject as well (though I disagree with Street in the name, since I don't think "uncompromising normative realism" is a good name for what she argues against).

Angra Mainyu said...

Street also rejects a few other types of realism (but without calling them "realism"; I disagree with her choice of terminology), but not all that I would classify as such.
In fact, under the definition of "moral realism" given by Geoff Sayre-McCord in the SEP entry on moral realism, even Street's own metaethical theory (metaethical constructivism of the Humean variety) is a form of moral realism.
Moreover, under my usage of the words, also her own theory is a form of moral realism, since it's a form of success in moral talk (i.e., if her theory is correct, moral beliefs would usually constitute knowledge), and since if her theory were correct, there would be an objective fact of the matter about whether each specific behavior we morally assess is immoral or not (at least, in nearly all cases), in the ordinary sense of "objective fact of the matter" (she may well disagree with that, but our disagreement would be about the meaning of "objective fact of the matter", not about what would happen if her theory were true).

Angra Mainyu said...

"BTW, your attempted parallel about diversity within Christendom is a flop. As a matter of fact, it is incumbent on Christian intellectuals to justify their particular theological tradition in contrast to the competition. Not every Christian has the time or aptitude to do that, but for those who do, we do have an intellectual responsibility to explain why we are right and other professing Christians are wrong on this or that issue. I myself do that on a regular basis."

And not very well. But while you have a responsibility (actually, you're guilty) because you're promoting beliefs you should not be promoting (namely, Christianity), it would be out of place to demand when you make a moral assessment in a thread, you respond to the assessments of a list of other Christians present and past on a number of other issues.

"If a Catholic apologist makes a case for Roman Catholicism, and I'm Protestant, I need to respond to his case. I don't have to respond to every Catholic apologist. But where there are representative examples, I need to respond to that."
No, you do not need to, and you don't have an obligation to. If you believe otherwise, you are wrong.

But for that matter, why Christians, and not other theists?
After all, if I had an obligation to reply to everything other atheists say, why wouldn't you have an obligation to reply to what other theists say.

"You have this kooky notion that even though some noteworthy atheists give reasons for denying moral realism, you can just disregard their reasons without bothering to show why they are wrong. I appreciate your anti-intellectualism. To be an atheist, you must be irrational. You must ignore counterarguments, even from fellow atheists. "
There is nothing anti-intellectual about this, and I'm being rational, unlike you. But even you said "Not every Christian has the time or aptitude to do that". Well, guess what? I do not have the time to do that. If I post here in a thread, I am not remotely committing the time to address all of the nonsense you post (in fact, I didn't even have an obligation to address your derail), let alone deal with the errors of some other atheists. It's improper, out of place to make such demands. Even if I did have the time, I of course would not have the obligation; it's not a "kooky notion"; it's true. But I don't.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Finishing off my reply to Steve, here are 4 more comments

(Part 5 of 8)

Steve’s next link was to an article in the New York Times by Joel Marks, in which Marks talks about his change from “moralism” to “amoralism,” which can be thought of as the change from being a moral realist to a moral anti-realist. His article was published by the New York Times, not the American Philosophical Quarterly, so his article was not written for philosophers. Based on what Marks wrote, it’s hard to tell if he even believes that atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible. But, in order to be charitable to Steve, let’s assume that Marks believes precisely that. What support does Marks give for that claim in his article?

Marks makes only statement (or series of statements) which could possibly be relevant to a claim of logical incompatibility between atheism and moral realism:

“The dominoes continued to fall. I had thought I was a secularist because I conceived of right and wrong as standing on their own two feet, without prop or crutch from God. We should do the right thing because it is the right thing to do, period. But this was a God too. It was the Godless God of secular morality, which commanded without commander – whose ways were thus even more mysterious than the God I did not believe in, who at least had the intelligible motive of rewarding us for doing what He wanted.”

And later in the same essay he writes:

“Think of this analogy: A tribe of people lives on an isolated island. They have no formal governmental institutions of any kind. In particular they have no legislature. Therefore in that society it would make no sense to say that someone had done something “illegal.” But neither would anything be “legal.” The entire set of legal categories would be inapplicable. In just this way I now view moral categories.”
This is a variation of the old “laws require a lawgiver” argument. As I explain here, that argument fails because of the following negative analogy:

(8). The laws of nature, logic, mathematics, and (objective) morality did not begin to exist.
(9) The laws of nature, logic, and mathematics also do not have lawgivers.
(10) Therefore, the laws of (objective) morality do not have a lawgiver.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 6)

Steve’s next link was to an article by John Maynard Smith, in which Smith endorses Daniel Dennett’s view that, without something like the Bible, there is no epistemologically objective way to determine moral right from wrong.

Again, even if Smith (and Dennett) were correct about that, it wouldn’t follow that moral realism is false. The sentences "Moral realism is true" and "Moral skepticism is true" are logically consistent: it could be the case that there are objective moral values and duties, but we have no reliable way of knowing what they are.

More important, neither Smith nor Dennett claim “Atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible.”

Steve’s next link is to a blog post quoting Thomas Nagel. Quoting Daniel Dennett, Nagel endorses the view that if everything reduces to physics, then there is no naturalistic answer to a cosmic question. The cosmic question is put into square brackets. I haven’t read Nagel’s 2010 book, so I can’t tell if the words in the bracket come from Nagel or from Steve. I don’t have enough context for the quotation to make sense of the question put in the square brackets. In any case, I agree that with Nagel that naturalism is nonteleological.

I do not find, however, an argument (in Steve’s post) for the conclusion that the non-teleological nature of naturalism is logically incompatible with moral realism. To be charitable to Steve, perhaps the idea is that if physical reality is not teleological (which, according to naturalism, it isn’t), then moral realism is necessarily false. But the truth of that is far from obvious. There is no logical contradiction between "There is no cosmic teleology (i.e., the universe was not created for a purpose)" and "Moral realism is true."

First, it could be the case that God does not exist, in which case there is no cosmic teleology, but some version of Platonism is true (and so moral values exist as abstract objects). I take something like this to be the view of moral anti-reductionists (aka 'moral non-naturalists' like G.E. Moore and Erik Wielenberg).

Second, it could be the case that God does not exist and a neo-Aristotelian approach to ethics like that found in Larry Arnhart’s book, Darwinian Natural Right, is correct. But Arnhart’s neo-Aristotelian (and Humean and Darwinian) approach to ethics is a realist approach to ethics.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

(Part 8 of 8)

Moving onto point (iv) in Steve's comment, he writes, "Jeff then acts as though, unless someone is an expert in metaethics, you should simply ignore their arguments." No. Steve is tearing down a straw man of his own creation. Steve’s objection forgets the fact that I was (mistakenly) responding to his references to other atheists as if they were inductive arguments from authority. In THAT context, it is appropriate to point out that some of Steve’s atheists do not have the relevant expertise.

I agree with Steve that if we are told that we should believe X on the basis of some argument Y (and Y is not an argument from authority), then it is of course legitimate to consider argument Y, regardless of whether the person making it has the relevant expertise or not.

Regarding (v), Steve saddles me with a view I do not hold and, again, tears down a straw man of his own creation. The issue is not whether this person or that person has something worthwhile to say on the subject of evolutionary ethics or evolutionary psychology. The issue is whether this person or that person is an expert on metaethics. Expertise in evolutionary ethics or evolutionary psychology does not constitute expertise in metaethics.

As for (vi), I look forward to reading Steve's critiques of especially G.E. Moore's Principia Ethica and Erik Wielenberg’s Robust Ethics.

steve said...

Jeff says Robert Adams would reject the claim that atheism is incompatible with moral realism. Perhaps Jeff can quote where Adams has said that.

In Finite and Infinite Goods, Adams details a position in which the standard of goodness is defined by the divine nature. Finite things are only good insofar as they exemplify divine goodness. Given that framework, it's hard to see how Adams could also say atheism is consistent with moral realism, absent the necessary source and standard of goodness. So is Jeff saying Adams has elsewhere taken a position that's logically at odds with what he said in Finite and Infinite Goods?

steve said...

"Steve tries to dismiss the entire point about inductive arguments from authority, as if that were an idiosyncratic interpretation of his remarks. I don't claim to be able to read his or anyone else's mind, so if it was not his intent to make an argument from authority, then I will take him at his word. Steve wasn't making an argument from authority…So instead of making a logically incorrect inductive argument from authority, it is instead the case that Steve has simply brought up a bunch of irrelevancies to support his claim that 'Atheism and moral realism are logically incompatible.'"

i) So Jeff is telling us that he doesn't know the difference between testimonial evidence and an argument from authority. When an atheist reacts to the statement that consistent atheism denies moral realism as if that's a Christian strawman, it's both relevant and legitimate to quote prominent atheists who concede that very claim.
That's testimonial evidence to the contrary. A witness needn't be an authority figure to be a reliable witness.

ii) Over and above that, there are atheists who give reasons for their rejection of moral realism. So that's hardly an argument from authority, as if you should accept their position on their say-so alone. Rather, they explain why they reject moral realism, given their commitment to atheism, and the attendant implications thereof.
Jeff's characterization is muddle-headed.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Jeff says Robert Adams would reject the claim that atheism is incompatible with moral realism. Perhaps Jeff can quote where Adams has said that.

This is one of those times where a person reads something they wrote the day before, shake their head, and ask, "What was I thinking when I wrote that?"

Steve is right and I was wrong. I got my theists mixed up. I meant to write Louis Pojman, not Robert Adams.

But Adams did write something very interesting in his book, Finite and Infinite Goods. I'll have to find the passage when I get home, but the gist of it was something like this:

"Because I define excellence in a way that relates moral obligation to the commands of a loving God, excellence in that sense could not exist in a world without God. But a naturalist or an atheist could define excellence in an objective, realistic way that would be very similar [I think he uses the word "indistinguishable"] to what I call excellence, and so there would be little practical difference between the two."

Or something to that effect. Given my mixup on Adams vs. Pojman, I won't blame anyone if they want to wait until I produce the exact quotation.

steve said...

Two related questions for Jeff:

i) Suppose moral nihilism were true. In that event, does Jeff think it would be worthwhile to defend moral nihilism? Would he create educational organizations dedicated to the promotion of moral nihilism on the Internet?

ii) Suppose existential nihilism were true. In that event, does Jeff think it would be worthwhile to defend moral nihilism? Would he create educational organizations dedicated to the promotion of existential nihilism on the Internet?

steve said...

‪Jeffery Jay Lowder‬ 

"It's ironic that, in an exchange about the alleged superiority of theistic metaethics, Steve is rude to his dialectical opponents who are atheists."

i) Suppose for the sake of argument that Jeff's allegation is true. Keith Parsons, who's a regular contributor to the Secular Outpost, routinely makes rude comments about Christians.

Likewise, the historical library and modern library at the Secular Web contains articles by atheists that make rude comments about Christians. So it's instructive to see Jeff's double standard on display (even assuming that his allegation is true).

ii) But this brings us to a substantive point: Jeff thinks that he is important. That his dignity is important.

This is one of Jeff's intellectual problems. He's never allowed himself to appreciate the reductionistic consequences of atheism for human significance.

If atheism is true, then Jeff is worthless. Everything is worthless.

Jeff is a temporary entity that came into existence for no good reason, that will soon pass out of existence. Jeff is interchangeable with billions of other human biological units. He will be replaced.

If atheism is true, Jeff's existence has no intrinsic value. At best, it's only subjectively valuable–the way some Nazis (alleged) valued Jews as as raw material for lamp shades.

Satta M. said...

"If atheism is true,..."

You make the best of it.

Your rant here, Dr Craigs essays and chapters on this, what effect do you expect them to have on atheists? I can only speak for myself, but they don't fill me with existential dread, they just make me feel sorry for you, they show me people who are terrified of death, terrified of not mattering. You make the best of what it is, not the fantasy that you wish it were.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Two related questions for Jeff:

I'm not a nihilist, so I consider the questions irrelevant to me. But I suppose that, in the spirit of Steve's questions, if I were a nihilist, my answers to both questions would be "no." It would seem to be self-defeating, in a way that would be analogous to creating an organization to promote anarchism.

Chris said...

"they just make me feel sorry for you"

Why is that? If nothing really matters?

Feel sorry.
Don't feel sorry.
Make the best of it.
Don't make the best of it.
Live.
Don't live.

Like the kids say these days- whatever.

Satta M. said...

"Why is that?"

I'm wired for empathy

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Or something to that effect. Given my mixup on Adams vs. Pojman, I won't blame anyone if they want to wait until I produce the exact quotation.

Found it, courtesy of Amazon's "Search Inside" feature:

"What is true about goodness if God does not exist, or is not in fact a suitable candidate for the role of the Good? This is a conditional question about the actual world, not about other possible worlds; and I am confident of my answer to it. If there is no God, or if God is in fact not a suitable candidate for the role of the Good, then my theory is false, but there may be some other salient, suitable candidate, and so some other theory of the nature of the good may be true.

"Against the background I offer the less ambitious approach to the corresponding question about other possible worlds, which I asked on the assumption that God does exist, and is a suitable candidate, in the actual world. A deity would have to satisfy certain conditions (for instance, not being sadistic, and not loving cowardice) in order to be the salient candidate for filling the role indicated by our concept of the Good, thought it is part of the point of my theory that such requirements do not completely determine what the deity would be like. If there is a God that satisfies these conditions imposed by our concepts, we might say, then excellence is the property of faithfully imaging such a God, or of resembling such a God in such a way as to give God a reason for loving. In worlds where no such God exists, nothing would have that property, and therefore nothing would be excellent. But beings like us in such a world might have a concept subjectively indistinguishable from our concept of excellence, and there might be an objective property that corresponded to it well enough, and in a sufficiently salient way, to be the property signified by it, though it would not be the property that we in fact signify by 'excellent'."
-- Robert Adams, Finite and Infinite Goods, p. 46.
(All italics are from the original; boldface is mine)

I've always respected Adams' work on theistic metaethics and this highly nuanced passage is an example of why.

I could be wrong, but I interpret Adams to be saying:

(1) Atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism, IF realist/objective moral obligations are determined according to Adams' theory of excellence and his modified divine command theory are true.

He does NOT seem to be saying:

(2) Atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism about moral obligations.

In fact, depending upon how you interpret it, the end of the quotation I just provided seems to be either (a) Adams, saying in his own words, that atheism is compatible with moral obligation, if his theory of moral obligation is wrong; or (b) the difference between what counts as morally right/wrong/permitted on his theory vs. some secular alternative makes no practical difference.

And I think that Adams rejects:

(3) Atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism about moral value.

I think that Adams rejects (3) because he defends a Modified Divine Command Theory of moral obligation (what is morally permitted, prohibited, or obligatory), but he subscribes to a Divine Independence Theory (my name) of moral value (what is morally good or bad).

In fact, now that I think about it, the statement:

(4) Atheism is logically incompatible with moral realism.

Entails both (2) and (3). Even if it were the case that atheism were logically incompatible with realism about moral obligation, it could still be the case that that atheism is logically consistent with realism about moral value. Because (4) doesn't make a distinction between moral obligation and moral value, showing that atheism is logically compatible with moral value is, all by itself, sufficient to refute (4).

So maybe I was correct to list Robert Adams after all.

Chris said...

"I am wired for empathy"

I see. So, you don't really "feel sorry" . You are just wired that way. In that case, perhaps those who are "terrified of death" aren't really terrified of death, they are just wired that way?

Apparently, some meaningless and determined conditions that we call "selves" believe that is "true" that their meaningless and determined non-self selves have a more meaningful grasp of meaninglessness.

Oy.

Satta M. said...

Could you expand on the way you're using the italicized "really" in that sentence? What would make it more real?

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

‪i) Suppose for the sake of argument that Jeff's allegation is true. Keith Parsons, who's a regular contributor to the Secular Outpost, routinely makes rude comments about Christians.

You can't be serious. You're using the same excuse my children use, "But he did it, too!", as if that makes it okay. Two wrongs don't make a right.

I don't remember off the top of my head Keith Parsons making sweeping generalizations about all Christians. But if I'm wrong about that and/or if he has been rude in some other way, then he was wrong to do so and I will condemn it.

Likewise, the historical library and modern library at the Secular Web contains articles by atheists that make rude comments about Christians. So it's instructive to see Jeff's double standard on display (even assuming that his allegation is true).

I tried very hard to prevent this from happening in the modern library at the Secular Web while I held a leadership position and I doubt very much that this happened while I was the editor. If it has happened, that is regrettable. I am even willing to try to bring any items in this category to the attention of Keith Augustine, who is the current editor, to try to get them fixed. But, again, this is mere deflection by Steve. This doesn't excuse Steve's rudeness.

ii) But this brings us to a substantive point: Jeff thinks that he is important. That his dignity is important.

This is just more deflection on Steve's part. In effect, he's saying, "I'm justified in being rude to atheists because atheists can't justify condemning me for my rudeness." Even if it were the case that an atheist could not justifying a complaint about being treated rudely, it would still be the case that, as a theist, Steve is a moral realist. But as we've seen, Steve has been unable to demonstrate a logical inconsistency between atheism and moral realism.

This is one of Jeff's intellectual problems. He's never allowed himself to appreciate the reductionistic consequences of atheism for human significance.

This is one of Steve's intellectual problems. (See how easy it is to mirror Steve's condescension right back at him?) He's never been able to grasp the significance of the distinction between 'cosmic' or 'ultimate' significance and non-cosmic, non-ultimate significance, or the fact that "life has no ultimate significance" allows for "life has significance." It's a bit like complaining that winning one million dollars or even just one hundred dollars from the lottery has no value because the money won't last as long as you would like.

If atheism is true, then Jeff is worthless. Everything is worthless.

If everything is worthless, then the fact that "everything is worthless" is itself worthless and we should pay no attention to it.

Jeff is a temporary entity that came into existence for no good reason, that will soon pass out of existence. Jeff is interchangeable with billions of other human biological units. He will be replaced.

Analogy:
If I win a finite amount of money from the lottery, that money will not last forever. Therefore, it has no value.

That argument fails for the same reason Steve's argument fails. A thing does not need to have an infinite amount of value--or value for an infinite duration--in order to have value.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...


If atheism is true, Jeff's existence has no intrinsic value. At best, it's only subjectively valuable–the way some Nazis (alleged) valued Jews as as raw material for lamp shades.

Although this statement begs the question, it doesn't work. Steve, like many theists and atheists, has confused "intrinsic value" with "objective value." But these are separate concepts. There are four possibilities:

(1) Objectively intrinsically valuable
(2) Objectively extrinsically valuable
(3) Subjectively intrinsically valuable
(4) Subjectively extrinsically valuable

(These four possibilities become eight if you add in the possibility of having disvalue.)

A better name for "intrinsic value" might be "non-derivative value" and a better name for "extrinsic value" might be "derivative value." If I ask you, "Why do you like to go rowing?" and you answer, "Because I love the feeling of the scull breaking through the water when the boat is at a full sprint," your answer reveals that, for you, rowing is extrinsically or derivatively valuable: it is valuable because it is a means to an end. If you then ask, "Why do you like the feeling of the scull breaking through the water when the boat is at a full sprint?" and you answer, "I just do," then that feeling is intrinsically (non-derivatively) valuable to you: it is an end, not a means to an end.

The point is that, as soon as you make the distinction between intrinsic vs. extrinsic or derivative vs. non-derivative types of value, it is trivial to show that, even on the most reductionistic, materialistic versions of atheism, there can still be intrinsic (aka non-derivative) value.

Chris said...



"Honey, I love you"

"Oh, that's so sweet."

"Not really cookie, I'm just wired that way."

steve said...

Satta M. said...


"I'm wired for empathy."

While Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were wired for sociopathology.

Chris said...

Jeff,

Actually, I do see the importance of those distinctions. Thank you.

steve said...

"He's never been able to grasp the significance of the distinction between 'cosmic' or 'ultimate' significance and non-cosmic, non-ultimate significance, or the fact that 'life has no ultimate significance' allows for 'life has significance.'"

Actually, I drew that distinction. For some Nazis, Jews had no cosmic or ultimate significance, but they did have non-cosmic, non-ultimate significance when their skin was used to make Nazi lampshades.

"It's a bit like complaining that winning one million dollars or even just one hundred dollars from the lottery has no value because the money won't last as long as you would like…If I win a finite amount of money from the lottery, that money will not last forever. Therefore, it has no value. That argument fails for the same reason Steve's argument fails. A thing does not need to have an infinite amount of value--or value for an infinite duration--in order to have value."

i) I didn't suggest a thing needs to have an infinite amount of value to have value.

ii) Jeff's analogy is quite unfortunate for his position. Money has no intrinsic or objective value. People impute value to money because it's more convenient than a barter economy. But consider the value of Confederate currency after the South lost the war, or the value of money during hyperinflation. The value people assign to money is an arbitrary social convention, as a means to an end. Money can instantly become literally worthless.

iii) What Jeff's analogy actually proves is that humans, like money, have no inherent value, given atheism. They only have utilitarian value (like money), or subjective value–insofar as people project value onto other humans. And, of course, that's very selective.

"If everything is worthless, then the fact that 'everything is worthless' is itself worthless and we should pay no attention to it."

So this is Jeff's feeble attempt to be clever, but it fails:

i) To begin with, I'm posing an argument ad impossibile. The fact that atheism is incoherent doesn't mean you can't discuss the consequence of atheism from a hypothetical or counterfactual standpoint.

ii) Moreover, I didn't say that if everything is worthless, then nothing is true. Rather, on that scenario, it would be true that everything is worthless.

steve said...

"You can't be serious. You're using the same excuse my children use, 'But he did it, too!', as if that makes it okay. Two wrongs don't make a right."

So Jeff is telling us he can't think clearly. I never conceded Jeff's allegation of wrongdoing. Rather, I explicitly discussed it from a hypothetical standpoint, to expose Jeff's selective morality. His objection is disingenuous.

"This is just more deflection on Steve's part. In effect, he's saying, 'I'm justified in being rude to atheists because atheists can't justify condemning me for my rudeness.'"

Actually, I'm pointing to the ironic fact that atheists like Jeff can't stand it when people treat atheists consistent with the reductionist view of humanity that atheism entails.

"Even if it were the case that an atheist could not justifying a complaint about being treated rudely, it would still be the case that, as a theist, Steve is a moral realist."

As a moral realist, I don't accept Jeff's prissy code of etiquette. I've said many "rude" things about Donald Trump. I've done that because I'm a moral realism, and Trump deserves it.

Satta M. said...

Steve-

"While Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer were wired for sociopathology."

I agree, but do you think that helps the case for Christian theism?

steve said...

Another problem with Jeff's attempted analogy is that my statement wasn't confined to eventual nonexistence. I also noted that according to atheism, Jeff came into existence for no good reason. But Jeff presumably thinks there is a good reason for money.

steve said...

‪Satta M.‬ said...

"You make the best of it."
Atheists like Jeff do more than "make the best of it". They promote atheism as if it's good thing. Indeed, far superior to Christianity. 

"I can only speak for myself, but they don't fill me with existential dread, they just make me feel sorry for you, they show me people who are terrified of death, terrified of not mattering."

i) To begin with, fear of death is natural and pretty universal. Atheists are hardly exempt from that.

ii) It's easy for you to pretend that you don't dread it when you speak of death as an abstraction that's at a safe distance from you, but when people get into life-threatening situations, their faux nonchalance has a way of vanishing in a flash. When death ceases to be merely an idea, and becomes an imminent threat, most people panic.

iii) So a temporary bit of protoplasm called Satta is telling another temporary bit of protoplasm called Steve that she feels sorry for bits of protoplasm like him. But why should I care about Satta's opinion of me when we will both pass into oblivion in less than a century from now? Why does Satta imagine that her opinion of someone else counts for anything in the great scheme of things?

"You make the best of what it is, not the fantasy that you wish it were."

From a secular standpoint, what's wrong with entertaining a fantasy? If atheism is true, then when you're dead, it makes no difference to you if your corpse is a Christian corpse or atheist corpse.

And if living a fantasy makes you happier, why not live a fantasy? If a godless universe, no one can say it's wrong for me to live a fantasy. What I do with my little life is up to me.

"I agree, but do you think that helps the case for Christian theism?"

It hurts the case for atheism because you can't say that your wiring is better than Ted Bundy's or Jeffrey Dahmer's.

steve said...

Let's zero in on one of Jeff's key confusions. I never suggested, as a general principle, that anything temporary is worthless. Rather, I had specific reference to human existence.

A temporarily experience can be, and often is, worthwhile. A remembered experience.

A temporary event can be worthwhile insofar as it contributes to the well-being of the individual. The event itself now lies in the past, but it may have a beneficial, ongoing effect, or be a useful stepping stone.

If, however, the individual himself ceases to exist, then he can't remember the experience. In the long run, that event won't accrue to his benefit. Oblivion cancels everything out.

steve said...

I see Jeff did a post on our debate:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularoutpost/2016/07/06/are-atheism-and-moral-realism-logically-incompatible/

Two basic problems with Jeff's introduction:

1. Nowhere in my statements on the Dangerous Idea thread did I discuss what Jeff says our recent interaction has shown to be the case. In our exchanges on that thread, I didn't discuss the argument from evil or how that's related to moral realism. On the face of it, Jeff is simply using this as a pretext to saddle up his hobbyhorse.

And I notice that Jeff's fanboys in the combos don't even register the obvious disconnect. Confirmation bias blinds them to the hiatus.

2. Moreover, as I've repeatedly explained on other occasions, I never said that atheists who deny moral realism can't mount an argument from evil. Rather, what I've said is this:

i) If an atheist is implicitly or explicitly mounting an external argument from evil, then that only works if he can defend moral realism on secular grounds. Put another way, if an atheist believes the world contains objective moral evils which are incompatible with the existence of a benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God, then moral realism is a presupposition of his argument. So he needs to be able to defend that necessary presupposition consistent with his atheism. He is judging Christian theism by his own standards.

ii) If an atheist is mounting an internal argument from evil, then, in principle, he could do so even if he himself denies moral realism.

However, as I've also pointed out, if he denies moral realism, then he implicitly denies epistemic duties, in which case there's nothing morally wrong with believing in Christian theism even if it's demonstrably false. So what is the purpose of critiquing Christian theism if you reject moral realism? What's the rational motivation for convincing people that something is false unless you think people ought to reject falsehood?

Why does Jeff find those distinctions so hard to grasp or remember?

Edward T. Babinski said...

STEVE, JEFF AND MORAL REALISM

Definition: Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) is the meta-ethical view (see the section on Ethics) that there exist such things as moral facts and moral values, and that these are objective and independent of our perception of them or our beliefs, feelings or other attitudes towards them.

But exactly which values are we talking about? Let's see a definitive list that mentions exactly how people must behave toward one another, and exactly what the laws of enforcement should be along with the type and duration of punishments when they don't. Please show us a list, and then let's see how many theists from all religious traditions agree with such a list or not. *smile*

I suspect that the most basic moral values are just like other things humans have come to assess and define as "valuable" both individually and especially between two or more humans, due to basic shared biology and a shared need and desire to remain around others.

In other words, I donʼt think many people have great difficulty agreeing on the most basic values they hold dear relative to the alternatives:

1) being healthy rather than chronically ill or in pain

2) being mentally healthy, rather than losing oneʼs memories and ability to concentrate
eating rather than starving

3) having at least a little money rather than living in abject poverty

4) being sociable and having some friends rather than being shunned or living in total isolation from other humans and their society or their creations

5) living in peace and safety rather than living in fear of having oneʼs life, belongings, family, friends, job, etc., taken from one at someone elseʼs whim

6) living in peace and safety rather than living in fear of having oneʼs life, belongings, family, friends, job, etc.,taken from one via natureʼs whimsical disasters, pandemics, genetic mutations, or day to day accidents

And if people can't agree on the above, then I don't see how you are going to get everyone to agree on bronze age commandments and means of punishment. Just compare the First Commandment (no other gods before me under penalty of death), with the First Amendment (freedom of speech and religion).



Edward T. Babinski said...

Steve, Are you still a fan of the YEC position?

Do you still find no reason to admit that the authors of the Bible may have assumed a flat earth with the heavens being the upper stories and sheol (and later "hell" in much Xn thought) being the basement?

Do you still insist that scholars are incorrect for agreeing with the above assessment of the biblical and ancient Near Eastern evidence for such an ancient flat earth view?

Evangelicals other than Denis Lam. (who is not a liberal, but an Evangelical Pentecostal), such as John Walton and others have admitted the evidence from the Bible and the ancient Near East jives well together.

Your defense of YECism parallels J. P. Holding's own view of maintaining YEC as his default position, and expressing little interest in learning more about how the age of the earth and cosmos was determined. I guess ancient Near Eastern backgrounds as well as modern cosmological and geological science really aren't worth studying compared with juggling one's interpretation of the Bible so it comes out "inerrant" cover to cover.

Scott said...

Ed, honestly, coming onto a thread and completely changing the topic is rather bizarre and unproductive behavior.

steve said...

Jeff said:

"A better name for 'intrinsic value' might be 'non-derivative value' and a better name for 'extrinsic value' might be 'derivative value.' If I ask you, 'Why do you like to go rowing?' and you answer, 'Because I love the feeling of the scull breaking through the water when the boat is at a full sprint,' your answer reveals that, for you, rowing is extrinsically or derivatively valuable: it is valuable because it is a means to an end. If you then ask, 'Why do you like the feeling of the scull breaking through the water when the boat is at a full sprint?' and you answer, 'I just do,' then that feeling is intrinsically (non-derivatively) valuable to you: it is an end, not a means to an end. The point is that, as soon as you make the distinction between intrinsic vs. extrinsic or derivative vs. non-derivative types of value, it is trivial to show that, even on the most reductionistic, materialistic versions of atheism, there can still be intrinsic (aka non-derivative) value."

Suppose, due to brain damage, I have an irrepressible urge to swallow lightbulbs. Of course, that's hazardous to my digestive system. Dangerous to swallow or excrete broken glass.

If you ask me, "Why do you swallow light bulbs?" I say, "I do it because I love the feeling of swallowing light bulbs." If you ask me "Why do you love it?" I say, "I just do".

But surely there's something amiss with that answer. I'm not supposed to love swallowing light bulbs. That's a life-threatening compulsion.

Jeff's comparison omits the normative dimension of value. Whether something has value or disvalue independent of how we feel about it, in spite of how we feel about it.

In fact, his comparison illustrates subjectivism rather than realism. In his illustration, the experience is right or wrong in virtue of how we feel about it, rather than how we feel about it being right or wrong in virtue of something independent of our attitude towards it. Right or wrong despite our attitude towards it.

steve said...

Angra,

It's fine with me when atheists like you refuse to defend key presuppositions of your argument (such as it is) against Christianity. I like it when atheists build skyscrapers on quicksand. Go right ahead.