Monday, September 25, 2006

Chandler on Plantinga on morality

Hugh Chandler writes:
In his recent sketch of his personal history Plantinga says:
> But naturalism cannot make room for that kind of normativity; that requires a divine lawgiver, one whose very nature it is to abhor wickedness.

For Plantinga, the 'main options' are naturalism (on the one hand) and personal-god type Theism (or, perhaps, that kind of Christianity) on the other. This is difficult for some of us to swallow. I believe the first sentence in the quotation is true. Real moral obligations, if there are such things, are irreducible and non-natural - and consequently, if believed in, force us outside naturalism. But what on earth leads Plantinga to think that belief in real moral obligations requires belief in a person-type God (as opposed to the traditional Catholic God, Anselm's God, Platonic Justice itself (so to speak), or even, perhaps, no God-like thing at all? Hugh

I think the Anselmian or Catholic God is probably personal enough; that God is at least personal enough to become incarnate in Christ. Demographically a lot of people gravitate toward either naturalism or theism, so it is understandable to treat these as the "main options." But one feature of Lewis's apologetics, one that doesn't get a whole lot of airplay these days, is that Lewis talks about alternatives like Absolute Idealism, Pantheism, and Bergsonian Creative Evolution, all of which have sort of fallen off the map in the present day discussion. These options are not recognizably naturalistic but neither are they theistic. Lewis became convinced of the arguments that he later defended against naturalism and became not a theist but an absolute idealist. Then he had to be persuaded by other considerations to become a theist.

Robert M. Adams in his essay on moral arguments for God (in The Virtue of Faith, Oxford 1987) gives some reasons why theism might be preferable to other sorts of non-naturalistic world-views in connection with moral arguments, so I will try to look that up.

There are still sure enough honest to goodness absolute idealists walking around these days, such as this guy, Dan Hutto.

1 comment:

Jason said...

{{I think the Anselmian or Catholic God is probably personal enough; that God is at least personal enough to become incarnate in Christ. }}

As much as I agree about criticising Anselmian concepts of justice, I also have to agree that it's highly odd to contrast the "Catholic God" with a "person-type God". Aside from the Incarnation, there's this whole _THREE PERSONS_ doctrine thing, too. {g} (As Lewis calls it, something more personal than the personhood we're naturally familiar with.)

Still, it points to a reason why I reject the Anselmian (and related) accounts of justice: they don't go together well with trinitarian theism per se. This is the result--a schism between the justice and the personal nature of God is perceived, and not unreasonably so.

{{There are still sure enough honest to goodness absolute idealists walking around these days, such as this guy, Dan Hutto.}}

Several years back, it looked for a while like Richard Carrier was going to go that route (on AfR grounds, if I recall, not AfM); though apparently he didn't. (Probably an interesting story there...)