Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Loyal Oppositoin Speaks

Friend and Loyal opponent Hermit makes comments on the last post about Loftus views on atheists and morality. I decided those comments deserved spotlighting so I'm answering them here.

Hermit is answer what I said previously in answer to his question about how God grounds moral axioms.

Meta:
"how do human needs ground axioms? We have a need not to be killed so therefore killing is wrong, like that? what about competing needs?"


Hermit:
Morality is about human behavior (I'd even say it's a form of human behavior) so our judgements about what makes any particular behaviour moral, it seems to me, rely on the effect that behaviour has on us and those around us. Certainly competing needs complicate theose judgements, but I don't see how belief in God makes those competing needs go away.


Metacrock:
"besides I don't think you understand how belief in God grounds axioms. I'll do a blog thing on that in a couple of days."


Hermit:
I'll look forward ot it...


Metacrock (Hermit quoting me)
"the mystical experince is about love. The essence of God is love. That's the whole point of the connection between being and love. love requires that God be intimately connected to people. The whole self actualizing aspect of the experience demonstrates God's intimate connection with humans."


Hermit:
Well, I'm all for love, but I don't see any need for a God to connect with people in love. In fact, I've found that for me love is more meaningful if understood as a product of our humanity; it requires a connection with each other, with our environment, with ourselves but trying to connect all of that to anything called "god" is just a distraction in my experience.


Metacrock: of course it is about us, we are made in the image of God, God is love we are capable of loving we are made in God's image. Love is powerful, so for us to be able to love we have understand it our own terms. We have our own kind of love that we can understand, God has divine love that only God can understand.I'm sure the two have a lot in common, the one is just a microcosm of the other.

Hermit:
And important as it is, there's more to morality than love; honour, dignity, courage...but these are all, like love, like morality itself, products of our humanity. We're talking about human emotions, human behavior when we talk about morality; I can't see how grounding it in something non-human makes any sense.
Metacrock: Calling them products of humanity doesn't mean that there is no divine nature inovled in the process of moral decision. Of cousre human morality concerns emotion emotions and ideas and problems, so it's clearly going to be partly grounded in our own concerns and understanding. That doesn't mean that it doesn't have a higher grounding in duty and obligation.

Ethical is based upon a hierarchical value system and means of understanding the goals or outcomes of decision making. There are two major types of ethical thinking: teleological, which is consequential, outcome oriented. That says what makes someting good is the derived outcome. The other is deontological. In it's simplistic from that means rule keeping, but it's really about duty and obligation. To have a moral system one must have one of these two kinds thinking as the base of one's ethics. But for my money the deontolgocial is the best. The teleological has been largely abandoned by ethicists becasue it can be reduced to ledger keeping and often requires one to violates one's creed in order to assume the desired outcome.

Duty and obligation are the basis for moral thinking. In oder to have a code of duty and to keep obligations one must understand who is owed the obligation and to whom one id pledged to duty. God is the most certain object of such devotion becasue man, individuals, society, one's own conscience, all are empty and pointless without a standard that is not relative or based upon personal taste or personal advangage. Without duty or obligation to higher court, higher meaning, higher power, the whole concept is empty and pointless. So there has to be something at the top of the metaphysical hierarchic that makes behaviors duties or obligations.

People don't think this way much anymore, which is to say we are degraded. Our Civilization is had died and is in decay, because we have forgotten what makes things moral. Rather than understanding the basis of morality we have come to identify morality with personal tastes and sense of individual desires. We confuse it with modern autonomy. This has made us forget the basics of ethical thinking.




Metacrock:
"but as wonderful as humanity is, it is also weak, sick, frail, sinful, silly, selfish, violent, ignorant foolish and so on. So just because we need something doesn't we know what we need or how to legitimate getting it."


Hermit:
That's why human beings are always having conversations like this one...we need to recognize our iognorance and our weakness and work through it. And let's be honest; the God described in the Christian Bible is surprisingly human in his behaviour; He seems to exhibit the same of kind of petty jealousies, insecurities and anger that so often undo us mere mortals...a terrific metaphor for human behaviour, perhaps, but again taking the idea of God as more than a metaphor and trying to make it the basis for morality seems like a distraction from the real issues that confront us human beings trying to find a way to live together in this world.



Metacrock:

Of course we filter our experiences of the divine through cultural constructs because all we can understand. That's our thinking. We literally think in cultural constructs. We cannot do otherwise. We can't relate to God at all in any other way. The wise approach is to understand what the metaphors tell us without liberalizing them.

But no modern ethicist thinks that ethical axioms can be grounded in feelings alone. There's no way to gain leverage for one value over another or for competing internal senses. All we have is an admixture of personal sentiments but not an ethical system, if we try to ground ethics only in what we feel.





Meta: (before)
"Grog need woman. Og has woman. Grog kill Og and take woman. This is moral because it's a human need."

Hermit:
And that would the "silly, comic book version" of humanistic morality, wouldn't it? Human need doesn't just mean fulfilling every biological need, and damn the consequences; our need for security rules out Og's behaviour here because non of us want to live in a world where it's OK to just kill someone and take what you want; our need for self determination rules out men just "taking" women...I can think of all kinds of ways in which Og's behaviour here violates human centred morality and never have to appeal to a God to do so.

Metarock: of course now congnizent of the weakness of a relatiivistic ethics based only on feeling, you to tro indotuce consquentualism to put more fiber in it. It's just a natural working out of practicality that grounds the notion of the good in outcomes. But that doesn't work and it's been abanoned by most modern ethicists. But the fact that you resort to something more than just feelings means you recognize the fact that you need some sort "more objective" orobter in which to ground axioms.




Metacrock (before)
"...the love that we have in us is not merely a side effect of brain chemistry it's the fact of our being created in God's image. So the values of God's character that make up the nature of the good are part of us by virtue of our creaturilness."

Hermit:
Why does God get the credit for all of the good parts of our nature, and never gets the blame for the bad parts?
Meta: becasue he's the basis of goodness. we would have no concern for the good if not for God. Because he's not bad in any way, everything of god is good. We introduced bad. we rebelled. we did it. we put our feelings and our desires above the good. That created sin. We are the authors of sin not God.

There is neither good or bad in nature. nature is neutral. Is not a good or a bad. Its' just there. Good is transcendent of nature.


Hermit:
I think this is part of the reason I reject the use of a God idea as a basis for morality; it seems to me to create a false dichotomy between the conflicting parts of our nature; bad things are human, good things are divine...I think that's unfair to humanity, it puts the good part in a sense beyond our reach instead of recognizing it as the thing that makes us truly human.

Meta: how could anyone seriously entertain the notion of tagging God with the origin of evil? If you ever had a sense of God's presence, if you felt God's love for real you would understand how absurdly absurd that is. That would be like the Addam's family thing about the evil snarling Babi. The evil little deer running around snarling and hateful. Why deny waht human nature is? you see it in the world. Think the death squads in El Salvador? you seriously think they tortured and murdered because they believed in God? They were such strong believers that's why murdered persists and the arch bishop right?

God does not murder, humans do. God did not teach the contras to attack schools and hospitals, humans taught them to do that. You want to shuck your guilt. You don't want to be forgiven of it, you aswage yourself so you don't feel it. So you want to blame God for it rather than facing the fact of human nature is.

Ironically the atheist concern for individual feelings will actually mean less concern for the individual in the working out of ethical systems. John Rawls in his great work A Theory of Justice Dirves the final nail in the coffin of consequentialist ethics. He argued that Utilitarian thinking reduces ethics to the equation of a ledger sheet and buries the individual moral agent in the "bottom line" of that ledger sheet. The conscience of the individual must be sacrificed to "the greatest good for the greatest number." Christian morality, on the other hand, protects the feelings of the individual to a much greater extent. This is because as Augustin pointed out Christian morality is based upon eternal values. We love the eternal and we use the temporal. Humans are eternal since we are made in the image of God and have a life after death in eternity with God. Thus each and every individual human is an end in him/herself. We are each one as valuable as the entire of project of the ethical system. Thus we are to love to each other. The is the basic motivation of Christian ethics that ground ethical axioms. But doesn't make individual whims the orbiter of the good, it makes the individual the recipient of moral concerns.

2 comments:

David B. Ellis said...


how could anyone seriously entertain the notion of tagging God with the origin of evil? If you ever had a sense of God's presence, if you felt God's love for real you would understand how absurdly absurd that is.


What God are we talking about? The POE is an argument against a God who is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.

If that doesn't describe the God you believe in then, of course, it doesn't necessarily apply.

Though, personally, I don't trust my (or your) ability to "mind meld" with a supernatural being as an indicator of its character (never mind as an indicator of its existence).

Do you think you are incapable of being deceived by a supernatural being that you admit is so vastly beyond your understanding that you have trouble even defining it?

What evidence, other than your "mind meld" do you have for believing God is loving? I see little indication of it in his creation.

J.L. Hinman said...

What God are we talking about?

there can only be one God. the question is what are God's attributes, not which God?

The POE is an argument against a God who is omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent.

Existence of Pain and evil does not disprove a God of love. Omnipotence and omniscience are qualities of Aristotle's unmoved mover not God in the Bible.

Philosophers of religion today such as Plantinga argue for "maximal greatness" rather than "the omnis." Maximal greatness means not "all powerful" but as powerfully as it is logically possible to be.


If that doesn't describe the God you believe in then, of course, it doesn't necessarily apply.


I agree agree with the latter positoin, Max great, not omni.

Though, personally, I don't trust my (or your) ability to "mind meld" with a supernatural being as an indicator of its character (never mind as an indicator of its existence).

I don't derive my notion of divine attributes from the mystical experinces I've had. I do assert that God is love based upon that because I don't think love would come through otherwise. But throe experience do not include dissertations about the divine attributes. I derive them in other ways, mostly logic.

at this point I should make a special note about conscoiusness. that might be something I would derive from experince the same as with love. But my take on that is that even though I assert God is conscious, and indeed the original and source of all consciousness, I don't see that as meaning that God is a big man or reasons like a human. I think God's consciousness is much higher than ours and perhaps we might not even recognize it as such and certainly can't understand it.


Do you think you are incapable of being deceived by a supernatural being that you admit is so vastly beyond your understanding that you have trouble even defining it?


The idea that God would be deceiving us is so far beneath the worthiness of God that it's not worth considering. But of course that doesn't mean we can't be wrong. God is beyond our understanding. But that's not deception it's just our own limited intellects.

What evidence, other than your "mind meld" do you have for believing God is loving? I see little indication of it in his creation.

I never said anything about a mind meld and I don't appreciate that concept. Those experinces are all about love. Love is deeply wrapped up in them and it's such a major revelation to actually loved in such a way that seems written into the fabric of the universes that I don't believe it could just be me.