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The Moral Argument

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The Moral Argument

1. If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3. Therefore, God exists.

When I speak of something being objective, I mean, something which is independent of our minds.

It seems that premise (1) is agreed upon. Atheist existentialists have for the most part denied objective moral values in the world. They are at best things which we create.

Nietzsche, for example, thought that the death of God would destroy all values and meaning in life. He says “there are no moral facts, only interpretations.” We must be our own god and create value for ourself.

Australian philosopher and atheist, J.L. Mackie has been quoted saying, “If . . . there are . . . objective values, they make the existence of a God more probable than it would have been without them. Thus, we have a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a God.”
According to Mackie, ethics and morals must be invented. They are not mind-independent.

What do the logical positivists of the early 20th Century have to say about ethical statements? The positivists believed that there are really only two types of meaningful statements – tautologies and empirical truths. These statements must be verified in order to be meaningful. Ethics is not *in* the world, though and Ludwig Wittgenstein has said that “Ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental” (Lawhead 513).

A.J. Ayer also said, ““The statement ‘It is your moral duty to tell the truth” means nothing more than ‘I recommend you to tell the truth’”(Lawhead 509).

Richard Dawkins would agree with all these radical claims of ethics. He says, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

So it seems, that at least some atheists agree on premise (1).

What then, is the case for premise (2)? Do objective moral values actually exist in the world?

It would seem like they do at first glance. No one can hold to a subjective view of ethics, for if one did then they could not deem or judge anything as being good nor evil. Ethics itself would completely vanish. There is moral rightness and wrongness. No person would dare think that the Holocaust is just subjectively bad. The Holocaust would be wrong even if all the Nazis brainwashed everyone into believing that it was right.

Objective moral values do exist in the world. But where do we get ought-ness from is-ness? That’s where premise (3) comes in.

Moral values come in the form of commands. What we ought to do or ought not to do. It’s impossible to have abstract objects (numbers, logical truths etc) give us these values because, again, they do not stand in causal relations with us. God is the best explanation of objective moral values. Again, I’m purely talking about *where* these moral values come from.

J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982),pp. 115-16.

Lawhead, William F. The Contemporary Voyage: 1900 -. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2002. Print.

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995), quoted from Victor J Stenger, Has Science Found God? (2001)

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1 Comment

  1. J.R. Comfrey says:

    While I appreciate the thought you put into supporting the moral argument, I find it (and your own backing arguments) to be quite invalid, especially in the force of their assertions.

    Premise 1 is completely fallible, and I disagree with your interpretation of existential thought. Kierkegaard and Camus, and certainly Nietzsche as well, would argue that death and injury are not good, as humans are quite built to live and thrive. This can be observed in Nietzsche’s own argument of the “overman,” who is in love with life. It can be agreed that instead of any “divine being” necessitating moral law, ethics can instead stem from the simple fact that people naturally (and, absent of some perturbation, *invariably*) seek to live and prosper. This is true from the the smallest strain of virus to the largest whale known. Thus, premise 1 of the moral argument is destroyed within the context of your own references.

    Nowhere here does the necessity for a “divine being” arise, and thus the “moral argument” is illustrated to be quite incorrect. Moral values and duties can be said to arise from not injuring others (as Plato would say), perhaps, doing what is in the interest of oneself at any given moment (adapted Aristotelianism), or any of the other many ways of defining good, such as JSM’s idea of the “greater good.”

    Furthermore, this apparent ambiguity as to the origin of moral fact is where Nietzsche’s own idea of originating one’s own moral truths comes into play. Those who attempt to follow different ethical codes from what is the general (that is, prevailing in any culture, whether religion-based or secular) conception of morality may do so, but at their own risk. If they are “worthy”, then they will succeed, become successful, and satisfied; if they fail, then they will be miserable. This is discussed when Nietzsche states that religion is permissible to be “left to” the masses, because it is “good for them.” The majority does not have the capacity, necessary faculties or strength to search for deeper meanings, and are more than happy to be spoon-fed whatever was indoctrinated in them as children. The beings with certain types of “spirit” (or “zest for life”), however, will simply not allow themselves to be burdened under certain unprovable constructs, and will have to pioneer their own method of living. This results latter event results in *freedom,* which is unbearable for some.

    The last thing I wish to state is that I also disagree with your assertion that “Moral values come in the form of commands.” Now, I know this quoted statement is not your original claim, but I do wish to point out that it is a statement quite devoid of purpose, in the context of supporting your general argument. In fact, if a higher power was giving “commands,” where are the defining punishments – in other words, what is a command, without a punishment? Simply, a *recommendation*. Your assertion that God gives any commands leads straight to the Problem of Evil, which quite summarily turns the Moral Argument upon its head. I will not go much further into discussion, suffice to say that the outcome of discussing the Problem of Evil is often that a)humans cannot know a god, and b)that it is quite meaningless to profess/state belief in any such religion (since the tenets are originated and set by humans themselves.)

    Anyway, I enjoyed your post, and thank you for taking the time to write it. I had an enjoyable time writing this as well, and just wanted to hammer out some points in text form. If there are any flaws in my own premises, I am always eager to hear them.

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