Saturday, January 26, 2019

Is opposition to adultery a moral fact?

When it comes to adultery, we have some people who think that God, (who presumably knows what is right or wrong) has told us not to do it in the Seventh Commandment. If there is a God, a take it that it more than just His opinion that adultery is wrong. But if there is not God, or God never said that, then we can still ask whether or not adulterous affairs are good things. One aspect of this has to do with whether marriage necessarily implies a promise to be faithful, which of course would be broken by the adulterous affair. Religious traditions that include the idea behind the Ten Commandments think that there are what philosophers call moral facts: that is, something true about what is right and wrong regardless of what anybody thinks about it. Religious nonbelievers disagree with one another as to whether there are moral facts: J. L. Mackie was a philosopher who thought that moral facts do not exist, Erik Wielenberg is an atheist philosopher who thinks that moral facts do exist. 

32 comments:

Legion of Logic said...

Richard Dawkins and Richard Carrier would both assert that adultery is not the problem, rather an unnatural commitment to monogamy. Thus we should change society so that we don't care if our spouses (would marriage even exist?) have sex with all our friends. We would be screwing our friends' spouses anyway.

What a utopia.

One Brow said...

I don't know that either Dawkins or Carrier would that should apply to everyone, just that it applies to themself (well, Carrier says that, and it would not surprise me if Dawkins did as well, but I don't know that with certainty).

I would think the pain caused by promising monogamy, and then breaking that promise, is so harmful that the causation would qualify as factually morally bad.

Legion of Logic said...

One Brow,

If you haven't, I recommend reading a piece by Dawkins called "Banishing the Green Eyed Monster". He has an awful lot of "should" language applied to "us" if he doesn't think it should apply to everyone.

One Brow said...

Thank you for recommending the essay.

If the marriage is open by agreement, is sex outside of the marriage a harm? YMMV.

Certainly, I agree with Dawkins that adultery is something that can be forgiven.

On the other hand, monogamy comes easily to many people; it's not an unnatural state for them.

Hugo Pelland said...

Read it, here are a couple of quotes:

"Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined? "

"I am not advocating a promiscuously swinging lifestyle, and I am not advocating deception and lying in personal relationships."

It's all about trust, honesty and freedom. What religions are againts.

Joe Hinman said...

https://metacrock.blogspot.com/2019/01/god-bestows-meaning.html

Jason Thibodeau [secular outpost] writes a long article, "Can Humans Create Meaning? Can God?" [1] I will concern myself with only a small part of the article, the argument that God cannot create meaning. Jason argues: "The conception of meaning is not altered by whether God, or any other supernatural entity, exists. Whether life is meaningful depends on whether there are, in our lives, things that matter."

Legion of Logic said...

It's all about trust, honesty and freedom. What religions are againts.

I can't say I know of any Christian couples against trust or honesty. (Disclaimer: being honest doesn't mean revealing every stray thought!)

On the other hand, what one would call opposition to freedom, another might call the value of commitment.

One Brow said...

Legion of Logic said...
On the other hand, what one would call opposition to freedom, another might call the value of commitment.

Polyamorous people also value commitment. They just don't wrap monogamy into that concept.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion,
I was referring to religions, not individuals who can rationalize their views despite religious doctrines.

Legion of Logic said...

Good thing my religious doctrine requires no rationalization!

Hugo Pelland said...

Ah but you necessarily do Legion.
Religions don't teach trust in each other, but rather to follow set rules; honesty isn't quite as relevant if a god watches us at all times; freedom goes as far as religions want it to go, it's fake really...

Legion of Logic said...

Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church; wives are to respect their husbands.

Does trust really need to be spelled out?

Hugo Pelland said...

There you go, exactly my point. Trust is the simple consequence of a 2-way agreement between consenting adults who decide what they are comfortable with. Religions, Christianity in your case, muddles the water with superfluous distinctions between men and women, ideas of sinful acts regardless of the agreements within the couple (adultery for e.g., to keep the post in line with the current post) and irrelevant parallel with fables like you just did.

Legion of Logic said...

Well I guess that's ONE perspective on it...

Hugo Pelland said...

Is there anything else but UNIQUE perspectives? I know god believers sometimes like to think their views are superior because they supposedly line up with a supreme being, but it's still just ONE perspective from ONE person at a time. And in general, it's actually better than not having any, and I thus see you as better then your religious affiliation Legion, for instance.

Legion of Logic said...

I shouldn't have thrown that comment out at all. Was stuck at a drive through so didnt have time to elaborate.

My main objection would be the generalization "religion". That one word covers such a wide range of beliefs that I find it utterly useless as a descriptive term.

And stemming from that, yes I am aware of prohibitive Handmaid versions of religion that are very policing. But they aren't all like that. I and many others don't view the "rules" as restrictions any more than I find the state law against murder to be a "restriction". More like guidelines for the best way of doing things. All the best marriages I know personally are deeply religious, and deeply joyful.

So even within "religion", there is a great variety of perspectives (not necessarily interpretations). As other discussions going on in other threads also indicate, it's more complex than a comment in a blog can convey.

Hugo Pelland said...

Legion, yes, I agree with all that, but it still remains obvious to me (happy to be proven wrong) that all of these "freedoms" under religion are really "departure" from religion, i.e. it's the non-religious aspects of religious' people lives...

It's very interesting to me that you would mention that "All the best marriages I know personally are deeply religious, and deeply joyful" for at least 3 reasons.
First, didn't you mention that you live in a mostly rural area of a mostly conservative are of the US? That's kind of a self-fulfilling thing...
Second, and similarly, the best unions I know personally are not religious; they are not even married...
Third, and as the opposite, we know the worst unions are necessarily religious, because only religion has, and still does, forced people to stay married regardless of the situation...

Hugo Pelland said...

(or I should have said... I agree with 'almost' all that... given the details I disagree with, which were not quite relevant anyway imho)

Legion of Logic said...

that all of these "freedoms" under religion are really "departure" from religion, i.e. it's the non-religious aspects of religious' people lives...

That would depend on the religious belief and believer in question. :)

Yes, this is heavily conservative country, but most marriages I know aren't by deeply religious people. Go to church maybe, but couldn't quote two Bible verses.

Hugo Pelland said...

I don't think it depends, no. By definition, religious ideas and rulea are passed down without question and meant to be enforced as is. Any divergent opinion or action from those is thus non-religious in that sense. Believers are more less religious in that same sense.

Again, to stay in line with the OP, adultery fits that principle as just 1 of many examples.

Legion of Logic said...

Just so we aren't talking past one another, can you name a specific example of what you mean here:

religious ideas and rulea are passed down without question and meant to be enforced as is.

Hugo Pelland said...

Well, can you name a specific example that doesn't fit? I really don't see any... again, happy to be proven wrong.

Joe Hinman said...


https://metacrock.blogspot.com/2019/01/paul-tillichs-ontology-deep-structures.html



That being has depth is a clue to the meaning of “the ground of being,” or “being itself.” The depth of being is also related to the notion of the “power of being.” These are all saying the same thing or very closely related things. To really understand what Tillich is saying we have to understand what the depth of being is and relate that to the power of being. The context of the phrase “depth of being” and the quotation above about that comes form Tillich’s sermon, converted into a small book, The Shaking of the Foundations (op cit). In the chapter entitled “the depth of existence,” Tillich tells us that he is using the term “depth” as a metaphor to indicate an attitude taken form spiritual experience.

Joe Hinman said...



Link

Legion of Logic said...

I suppose I am just trying to reason out your criticism, since I don't view it in those terms.

Staying on the topic of marriage and only discussing Christianity, the two extremes would be every single action and word being guided by a rule out of the Bible, vs there being no rules at all and anything goes. Obviously neither extreme is healthy, so we would presumably agree that the range of optimal balance between rules and freedom lies somewhere in the middle.

The rules for marriage out of the Bible include not cheating on one another, loving and being kind to one another, raising your children up with discipline (but not discouraging them) so they don't turn into human garbage, etc. I call those quite reasonable and productive guidelines, while you apparently frame them in the light of being religious rules opposed to marital freedom.

If so, your idea of optimal balance between rules and freedom is far closer to freedom than mine, far past the point where freedom becomes harmful in my book. So I would definitely say that "religion" is a good thing there.

Hugo Pelland said...

The point is that anything that's "out of the Bible" is, on its own, useless. The rules are just that; rules to be obeyed. The minute you add your judgment, it's not quite religious doctrines anymore, as you're using your intellect to determine what's right, just, fair, honest.

Note that I specified "on its own" because religions can be used as tools to teach what we think are good. But religion is never a good thing to determine what is good, again on its own, as it dictates rather than discuss, it asks for blind trust instead of earned trust in each other, it doesn't care for honesty as the religin comes before that, etc...

I.e. nothing to do with an idea of optimal balance between rules and freedom. I'm just pointing out how religious doctrines are unhelpful as they bring up ideas such as adultery, or man/women relationship as exclusively sanctioned, above personal choices and freedoms, for no good reason. The good reasons individuals give are rationalizations.

Legion of Logic said...

I guess we think about it so differently that I am literally unable to grapple with it, so this one we will just have to agree to disagree!

Hugo Pelland said...

Ya that's what I sense too, and nothing really bad here imho, but not surprising either. That's what religions teach unfortunately and you may or may not get out if it, but it won't change much afaik so it's not a big deal.

David Brightly said...

Maybe there are moral facts but they are hard to discover. Imagine a time two thousand years hence. Historians and sociologist have access to quality data about human life as various positions between relative conformity to certain rules and relative freedom from them have been tried out. Maybe an objective picture of how best to structure our lives would emerge. This would amount to moral fact. Now come back to the present. Maybe the rules encoded into world religions are our ancestors' attempts to retain such moral fact as they had discovered.

bmiller said...

Maybe the rules encoded into world religions are our ancestors' attempts to retain such moral fact as they had discovered.

Or were embedded in their nature.

Hugo Pelland said...

David's comment made a lot of sense; I had not noticed it until bmiller's comment... thanks for adding one.

However, this doesn't really make sense: "Or were embedded in their nature." Humans have many instincts for sure, such as a sense of what 'fairness' is for example, but it's relatively simple things, more like reflexes and gut feelings.

When it comes to more complicated structures such as how to organize society and which moral facts we can be convinced of, I don't see how this can possibly be 'embedded' / innate to human beings.

Hence, the need for things like religions or other types of collective knowledge to propagate ideas down to future generations. But embedded in their nature? Not so much.

David Brightly said...

No. It seems we have the freedom to choose ways of acting that do not accord well with our nature. The moral facts have to be discovered and freely submitted to. They are consequential upon our nature but not part of it.