| Posted 05/23/08 at 12:56 PM||Reply with quote #1 |
I posted this mistakenly into the middle of a well-established debate. I should have started a new thread it seems!
I am relatively new to the Reasonable Faith website but have found it a worthwhile source of stimulating material.
By way of introduction I am Tony from the UK and hold an evangelical christian worldview (in the emerging "red letter" sense of Tony Campolo).
I was very interested in the debate between Drs Craig and Antony on the possibility of the existence of absolute morality in the absence of God. By choosing to play "burden of proof" volleyball, Dr. Antony effectively admitted she had no substantive reason to justify her belief in absolute morality and she simply had to repeatedly ask Dr. Craig to explain his position on Euthyphro. I won't delve into this too deeply because I see there is a debate going on this already.
Instead I want to focus on Dr. Antony's insistence of a self-evident moral obligation to protect sentient life. She explained that she was not "speciesist" in the sense that she considers our moral obligation extends to other lifeforms with less well developed consciousness. I am not sure where she stands with respect to vegetarianism or animal experimentation, but I assume she would have to embrace the former and reject the latter. If not, then we are drawn into establishing a scale of moral values. Is it acceptable to experiment on a monkey in order to save human life? If not, are laboratory rats acceptable?
Consider an alien life form whose sentience and intelligence exceeds ours by the same factor that differentiates us from rats. It could be perfectly justifiable for them to enslave us, farm us and even perform live experiments upon us if it could be shown that the benefit conferred to their species was significant. Moreover, if the universe really does have moral absolutes in some kind of Platonic sense (the only way I think Dr Antony can really hold that this is true), it could be our moral obligation to assist the alien species to carry out their programme against the human species. It would be morally wrong to resist.
I have listened to the debate but have not heard any of the Q&A so I am not sure if issues of this kind were discussed.
| Posted 05/23/08 at 04:04 PM||Reply with quote #2 |
|I think that there are moral absolutes, but that they are objectively good not because they are God's will, but because they actually are objectively good. |
Also, humans will always be incomparable to rats in the sense that we can think abstractly. Intellect is of no importance, as really smart people can't rule over really dumb people.
| Posted 05/23/08 at 05:04 PM||Reply with quote #3 |
|I suppose the point I was trying to make was this.|
Dr Antony believes in an absolute morality, from an atheist perspective, in which human beings have value and that this creates an imperative for us to act in ways that promote our mutual wellbeing. She also believes that other sentient species should also be given a measure of respect.
Having now listened to the debate Q&A I now realise that Dr Antony is not a vegetarian although she does seek to promote animal welfare through purchasing free-range products. She clearly has no issue with the principle of animals being farmed for our benefit though.
This suggests that Dr Antony accepts that there exists a scale which measures the extent to which we are morally permitted to treat other species in different ways. I can only presume that this scale is correlated to some characteristic such as the level of sentience exhibited by that species. So, we are morally obliged to treat a human being according to the Golden Rule for example, obliged to slaughter a cow under certain conditions, obliged to allow hens to roam with a degree of freedom and kill snails that eat our hostas with relative impunity. By the time we reach vegetables and rocks, it would seem that our moral duties have evaporated completely.
But where do moral absolutes lie if the human species is not the apogee of Universal sentient lifeforms? What if we occupy some middle or low territory such that a super-sentient species would regard the distinction between human beings and rats to be insignificant? Might this place humans in the moral absolute category of a species appropriate for farming and experimentation? If this were the case wouldn't it be morally degenerate of us to avoid being farmed?
I suppose the root of my objection to atheist absolute morality is that I simply can't see why universal absolutes would exist that are so favourably disposed to the human species. It would seem to be very lucky that we, of all the possible life-forms in the Universe, are so favoured.
| Posted 05/27/08 at 11:37 AM||Reply with quote #4 |
|I think another problem with that type of moral reasoning is that it doesn't address the question of what is "good." Are we to search pleasure for all sentient beings as much as possible? It really sounds to me like epicurianism redux. |
| Posted 05/28/08 at 12:28 AM||Reply with quote #5 |
|There is a saying in Management "You cannot manage what you cannot measure" I believe this totally. And the concept of morality without God leave you with no just measurement.
Dr. Anthony believes causing pain is wrong and considers certain acts in the Old Testament as genocide. In this light how would she measure the dropping of the Atom bomb on Hiroshima?
| Posted 05/29/08 at 02:27 AM||Reply with quote #6 |
|If atheists really believe we're an accident, then we have no purpose to exist, and therefore no obligations to oblige to. If somebody were to go on a killing spree it would be no worse than sleeping all your life. Life has no meaning and therefore morals have no meaning either.
That is, if you're an atheist.
| Posted 06/01/08 at 03:22 AM||Reply with quote #7 |
Whatever you do don't fall for this sort of shallow understanding
If atheists really believe we're an accident, then we have no purpose to exist, and therefore no obligations to oblige to. If somebody were to go on a killing spree it would be no worse than sleeping all your life. Life has no meaning and therefore morals have no meaning either.
It is false and refutable (I've done so recently and do so even with the few words I add beneath).
In my opinion you don't have to go far to get the answer to your questions.
Try looking at it from an entirely different perspective, one that is espoused by several philosophies overtly and perhaps by the underlying roots of the semitic religions.
I speak simply of demolishing the artificial barriers that form the illusion of "me" and "the rest"..........bringing a non-dualistic perspective which automatically means empathy.
If we are enabled with empathy then to cause hurt to another sentient being, of whatever species, is to hurt onself. It's called compassion....literally to "feel with".
Look at it this way and the answers are easy
| Posted 06/01/08 at 04:53 AM||Reply with quote #8 |
I suppose the root of my objection to atheistic absolute morality is that I simply can't see why universal absolutes would exist that are so favourably disposed to the human species. It would seem to be very lucky that we, of all the possible life-forms in the Universe, are so favoured.
I agree. And I think this becomes even more "lucky" once you throw evolution into the equation. For, given naturalism, there doesn't seem to be anything to link the natural with the supernatural realm. It therefore seems an amazing co-incidence that blind evolutionary processes have churned out the very animal that an independently-existing realm of moral values has been waiting for. It's almost as if, from the moment of the big bang onwards, certain moral propositions have been hanging around (like "It's wrong to harm human beings") and then, hey presto, here come human beings.
Of course, a naturalist might want to rephrase these moral propositions in different terms, e.g. "It's wrong to harm animals of a certain degree of complexity", or "It's wrong to cause animals emotional pain". But such propositions are no less problematic, for, on naturalism, what is this all-important degree of complexity, and what are emotions? After all, according to most naturalists, we're little more than the product of a bunch of genes; and humans and chimps are 99% the same genetically speaking. So, why does this 1% difference result in such a drastic difference in the moral properties of using chimps for experiments and using humans for experiments? And, on naturalism, what are emotions if not just chemical reactions, and why should they endow an action with moral properties?
| Posted 06/01/08 at 08:51 AM||Reply with quote #9 |
If we are enabled with empathy, then to cause hurt to another sentient being, of whatever species, is to hurt onself. It's called compassion....literally to "feel with".
Look at it this way and the answers are easy.
Easy perhaps. But not, in my opinion, very satisfactory. For this kind of moral theory seems to amount to little more than the statement: "It's not much fun to hurt other people", which has nothing to do with morality per se; it's just an expression of what people happen to enjoy. Thus, someone who enjoys hurting other people (and/or herself) does nothing "evil" (just as someone who enjoys helping other people does nothing "good"). In fact, on this view, if someone is a sincere masochist (or even just a sadist), then it seems positively "compassionate" for her to inflict pain on other people.
| Posted 06/01/08 at 01:32 PM||Reply with quote #10 |
Easy perhaps. But not, in my opinion, very satisfactory. For this kind of moral theory seems to amount to little more than the statement: "It's not much fun to hurt other people"
James if you base your actions on those of compassion and non-duality you will IMO find a system which is totally satisfactory.....and what's more exclusively so......in other words anything else is not satisfactory. It is of course exactly the same as "Love thy neighbour as thyself". We of course mean neighbour in the very broadest all inclusive sense.
If you can find an example where it does not answer, such as your S/M one, try thinking it through again a little more deeply. if you still have trouble or still think
by all means refer it back to me.
this kind of moral theory seems to amount to little more than the statement: "It's not much fun to hurt other people"
ps: I just saw the title of the thread header
If you invent something called "morality" then you may as well invent a "God" to go with it. Neither however are more than mental constructs if you ask me.
| Posted 06/01/08 at 01:51 PM||Reply with quote #11 |
If you base your actions on those of compassion and non-duality you will IMO find a system which is totally satisfactory.
I get the impression that when you say that I will find this system "satisfactory", what you mean is that I will find it a satisfying way to live, which I don't dispute for a second. What I find unsatisfactory, however, is that this system defines morality out of existence. For if morality simply amounts to not hurting other people because such behaviour invariably ends up hurting one's own self, then acting morally is just a matter of prudence. Raping someone, for instance, is not wrong. It is just unbeneficial. And this is a view that I (and I think most other people) cannot accept.
| Posted 06/01/08 at 02:00 PM||Reply with quote #12 |
if morality simply amounts to not hurting other people because such behaviour invariably ends up hurting one's own self
If I may say James I think you misdescribe my position. It's more like "such behaviour"......and why not take your rape example.......doesn't amount to "not hurting other people".......it hurts the common sensibility.
| Posted 06/05/08 at 01:44 AM||Reply with quote #13 |
You say "Raping someone, for instance, is not wrong. It is just unbeneficial." What do you mean here? I doubt seriously if anyone doing normative ethics (excluding non-cognitivists) would say they cannot account for the wrongness of rape. Kant, Mill et al accounted for such actions without grounding ethics in God's nature. As I have said on another thread, can God make a rock more valuable than a human? Or perhaps I could say, could God make smashing a rock unethical? The answer to both questions is no (I hope this is obvious), but this should show that the nature of ethics is grounded in the intrinsic nature of those in the moral community in virtue of their constitution, not what caused them to exist. As such, a naturalist and a theist could both account for ethics. I often get the impression that for many Christians, a secular ethics is somehow a compromise of the Christian faith and I am not sure that it is. There are a lot of important issues that have not been discussed or clearly explained, e.g., Platonism, nominalism, realism, hedonism. What a lot of Christians mean by naturalism is actually reductive physicalism or eliminativism. These latter views definitely have problems accounting for ethics.
| Posted 06/05/08 at 03:06 AM||Reply with quote #14 |
You say "Raping someone, for instance, is not wrong. It is just unbeneficial." What do you mean here? I doubt seriously if anyone doing normative ethics (excluding non-cognitivists) would say they cannot account for the wrongness of rape.
True. But I was responding specifically to the view that morality is simply a matter of "not hurting one's self" at this point.
| Posted 06/05/08 at 04:10 PM||Reply with quote #15 |
Thanks for the clarification.