Q&A: A Possible Conflict Between The Moral and Ontological Arguments

Q&A: A Possible Conflict Between The Moral and Ontological Arguments

I have relatively recently thought up an objection to the Ontological argument as I see a conflict between it and the theory of ethics you and many other Christians hold. I am assuming that when you talk about great making properties you mean objectively great making qualities, as plenty of people have at least somewhat different ideas about what would be the greatest conceivable being. (What qualities in what amounts this being would have. Ex. Different people would think a maximally great being would have different amounts of mercy and justice.) This would mean that each subjective God would be “better” according to each person’s taste and they would be greater according to most of those people’s tastes if he actually existed in all possible worlds as the only sovereign controller of each world. Therefore each of these slightly different God’s would all therefore exclude each other from existence and no Maximally Great Being would therefore be able to actually exist.

Thus what we need is some method of determining what is objectively Great and not Great, and this is where my real argument comes in. In your articles on the moral argument, you attempt to ground objective morality in the existence of God and you claim that: “If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.” So according to you, whatever moral attributes God possesses, are by definition the right ones and if God does not exist, there are no “right” ones in the first place. As God’s nature according to you is the ground that makes certain qualities objectively good and others objectively bad, if he didn’t exist, no moral qualities would actually be objectively good or bad and thus not objectively great making.

So the Ontological argument in fact presupposes that God exists in order to make him a standard for what makes a being maximally great in the moral sense. So the Ontological argument essentially assumes that God exists in order to prove that he exists, which is the fallacy of begging the question. So in order for the Ontological argument to work, there would have to be an objective moral standard that isn’t grounded in God, that would determine what would make a being maximally great in an objective sense in the first place.

Perhaps you could still say that God is objectively great in non-moral ways, perhaps intelligence, knowledge and power are objectively great making properties, however if my argument is correct the argument cannot be used to prove that a morally good God exists, unless morality doesn’t require God. And thus, your argument that the God that is proved to exist by the Ontological argument is identical to the Christian God would be false. I suppose you could still argue that objective moral duties could not exist without God, but objective moral values would have to be grounded in something other than God.

— Sam


I think you’re very confused on the Moral and Ontological Arguments. First, it is true that I argue that if God does not exist, there no right or wrong moral attributes. Whatever a person does is void of moral evaluation. It can preferrable or non-preferrable, pleasant or unpleasant, but not good or evil. For objective moral values and objective moral duties to exist, there must be a God to ground them. In my previous articles, I’ve given the arguments that lead me to that conclusion and interested readers are suggested to check those out before they judge me for making a leap in logic. However, what needs to be stressed here is that the moral values and duties discussed in The Moral Argument are NOT to be equated with the great-making properties discussed in The Ontological Argument. For sure, all good moral qualities (love, kindness, patience, selflessness) are great making properties, but not all great-making properties are moral qualities. Power and knowledge, for example, are great making properties but are morally neutral. An impotent ignoramus is no less virtuous than a mighty genius. 

Given this clarification, it is fallacious to say that “in order for the Ontological argument to work, there would have to be an objective moral standard that isn’t grounded in God, that would determine what would make a being maximally great in an objective sense in the first place.” You don’t need a standard of morality to judge whether a being is greater if he’s powerful instead of weak or knowledgable instead of ignorant. You certainly don’t need a moral standard to judge that necessary existence is better than contingent existence. 

The worst that would follow from your objection is that we couldn’t discern whether or not The Maximally Great Being that exists in every possible world including the actual world is morally good, but we would still derive every other attribute; Omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and necessary existence. This would still be utterly unlike 99% of the gods in 99% of the world’s religions, though it would undermine the argument that an MGB must be a Trinity. 

But is it, in fact, the case that we can only say that “God is objectively great in non-moral ways”? I don’t think so. You can know what is good, without knowing why it is good. Indeed, these epistemological pathways to moral knowledge is how I defend premise 2 of The Moral Argument that “objective moral values and duties do exist”. This is why presuppositionalist apologists err when they tell atheists that they know God exists because they know good and evil exists. Your objection makes the same error in confusing the order of knowing with the order of being. God must exist in order for there to be good and evil, but you don’t need to conclude God exists in order to know good and evil. You can know good and evil exists through moral intuition. Inspiring Philosophy gives several arguments for moral realism on his YouTube channel and website that don’t depend on affirming theism. I highly suggest you check them out as well as all his videos on morality

So we can affirm what is objectively good and evil apart from being convinced of any argument for God’s existence. What we can then do is ask whether kindness, patience, generosity, and love are great making qualities instead of cruelty, impatience, and selfishness. And if we trust our moral compass, it shouldn’t take us too long to come to an answer. If kindness, patience, generosity, love, etc. are great making properties, then a Maximally Great Being would have them and have them to the greatest extent possible. He would be omnibenevolent. He would be all good. Any quality we know is good, through intuition and other avenues, an MGB would have them to the greatest extent. 

What all this means is that The Ontological Argument does not “presuppose that God exists in order to make him a standard for what makes a being maximally great in a moral sense”. The Ontological Argument only posits that moral goodness is a great-making property, and assumes that we are able to know which moral qualities are good.

What about the argument near the beginning of your e-mail? Is it the case that everyone has different ideas of what a Maximally Great God would be like? Do people differ on which properties are great making properties? I think this is true, but only to a certain extent. Certainly as a Molinist I think a God who can meticulously order history through His knowledge of what every free creature would do is greater than a God who must, in order to preserve His sovereignty, causally determine all things. Calvinists on the other hand would argue that a Molinist scheme limits God because He is limited to what possible worlds are feasible for Him to actualize (although I always respond that this is a self-imposed limit, God didn’t have to actualize a world of free creatures if he didn’t want to). Some people think God would be greater if He felt emotions, while others think impassibilitiy is a great making property. Some think a God who is eternally outside of time is better than one who enters into time. 

However, there are several properties that I think we ALL can agree on. We can most likely all agree that power, knowledge, goodness, and presence, are great making properties. It also seems intuitively clear that necessary existence is a better mode of existence than contingent existence. Now, this isn’t to say that “existence” is a property. St. Anselm’s version of The Ontological Argument said that, and Hume rightly showed how that’s nonsense. Rather, the modal version says that a certain type of existence is a property. Necessity and contigency are modes of existence. And, William Lane Craig, Alvin Platinga, and myself argue that the former modal property is greater than the latter. A being is greater if his non-existence is impossible and if He doesn’t depend on anything outside of himself to exist. 

But, if you’d like, you can do your own personal survey. Make a poll in a Facebook group with thousands of people and ask which properties they think are great. 

Option 1: Powerful Instead Of Weak.

Option 2: Weak instead of powerful. 

Option 3: Ignorant instead of knowledgable. 

Option 4: Knowledgable instead of ignorant.

Option 5: Necessary instead of the contingent.

Option 6: Contingent instead of necessary. 

And so on… 

My prediction is that options 2, 3, and 6 will have no votes at all. We all intuitively know that power is greater than weakness, knowledge is better than ignorance, goodness is better than evil. Why else would people all throughout history strive to have more of the former and less of the latter? Learning, physical fitness, sanctification (to use a Christian word) are what people strive for because we all know they’re what make people great. It’s why we venerate people like Mother Teresa for her goodness and Albert Einstein and Socrates for their great knowledge. We don’t venerate Hitler and people with low IQs. And why? Because evil and ignorance are anti-great making properties. 

So, we can confidently conclude that a Maximally Great Being would be omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, morally perfect, and necessarily existent in all possible worlds.

If there are any other great-making properties, He would have them too, but we won’t be able to agree on what they are. 

If you have any questions about Christian theology or apologetics, send Mr. Minton an E-mail at CerebralFaith@Gmail.com. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or Non-Christian, whether your question is about doubts you’re having or about something you read in The Bible that confused you. Send your question in, whatever it may be, and Mr. Minton will respond in a blog post just like this one.

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This Post Has 37 Comments

  1. Sam

    1. I never claimed that the Ontological argument for attributes like power, knowledge, etc is undermined.
    2. You misunderstand my point. I am not arguing about how we know moral attributes are great. I am saying that given your theory of ethics, if there is no God none of these moral attributes ARE in fact great making attributes. I am talking solely about Ontology not epistemology. Thus on your theory of ethics there are no (moral) great making attributes at all if God doesn’t exist. Thus in order for it to be correctly said that God would in fact be greater if he had generosity than if he did not, then God would have to actually exist in order for generosity to actually be better then it’s lack.

    1. Evan Minton

      1: Ok. Sorry.

      2: That just isn’t so. When debating The Ontological Argument, we can debate what best explains why A is good and Non-A is evil, whether you think God is the ground or adopt some other moral realist explanation like Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape”. If we can both agree that A is objectively good and Non-A is objectively bad, then a Maximally Great Being would have A to the greatest extent possible were there such a thing as a Maximally Great Being. You don’t need to prove an MGB exists to establish that an MGB has certain moral properties. You just need to think moral properties are real and are knowable. Whether or not God is needed for moral properties to be real in the first place is a different argument. So, ontologically, while I do think God needs to exist for moral properties to be real, I don’t think we need to prove God exists to know that moral properties are real.

      An analogy can be drawn with The Kalam Cosmological Argument. I would argue that an absolute beginning points to a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful, etc. etc. Creator. But you don’t need to know God exists to know that the universe began in a hot big bang beginning. This would, like your objection, conflate the order of knowing with the order of being. What I’m trying to say is that I can concede any theory of moral ontology to the atheist when debating The Ontological Argument for the sake of discussion. We just need to be confident that we can know good and evil are real, and what counts as good and evil, in order to correctly ascribe attributes to an MGB.

  2. Sam

    2. This would be problematic if you were debating a moral nihilist, or someone who thinks that morality is subjective. If an atheist was to be convinced by your argument that objective morality must be grounded in God, then this is a problem as that would undermine the Ontological argument. If they were already convinced of moral realism, that would then make them a theist already. And once again if you are correct that morality requires God, then Ontologically, that means moral great making properties in fact require God to exist. If you can show that they do, then the Ontological argument is both irrelevant and unnecessary.

    I think I should have said “A possible inconsistency between Divine Command theory and the On too argument.”

    Let’s take Inspiringly Philosophies arguments for moral realism.

    Argument 1. The argument from epistemic realism. This isn’t hard to avoid. In general, I don’t naturally see avoiding logical fallacies as a moral issue. Avoiding them is a Conditional ought. “If you want to be logical and come to the truth then you ought to avoid fallacies.” If you don’t care about the truth, there isn’t much I can say to convince you other than with more Conditional oughts. If moral realism is false then yes dishonesty isn’t objectively wrong. We who are concerned about dishonesty however will not take dishonesty seriously and most people will therefore not trust what you have to say and you will lose your influence. If you don’t care then I guess that’s the way things go. If you appeal to our intuition that is addressed in argument 5.

    Argument 2. Experience. This argument has several issues. First of all, being able to act consistently with a belief does not mean that the belief is false. Especially given Atheism. We would expect that the moral intuitions we evolve, or that we were conditioned to have would be hard to ignore even if we think that they are illusory and unimportant. Second, for cases like female genital mutilation, we have discussed this before. If morality is subjective (or moral nihilism is true) then there is nothing objectively wrong with shoving your subjective morals down other people’s throats. If I am appalled by the fact that people do that to little girls (and I am) then I can help work to enact laws that punish people and even countries which practice or allow it. This is the same problem for the people who claim that cultural relativism implies that we should tolerate other countries customs. If cultural relativism is true, countries that impose their values on other countries are not objectively worse then countries who are tolerant and respect the values of other cultures. Thus it is perfectly consistent for a moral subjectivist to enforce their views on others, if that is what there subjective values require them to do.

    Arguments 3-4. I responded to the claim about us having no right to impose our values on the KKK and Female genital mutilators above. Doing such a thing would be neither objectively right nor wrong and our subjective values may and in many cases do require it. Yes human morality does converge a lot. We should expect that given that humans are the same species, with similar instincts, emotions, needs, a knowledge of logic, etc. We therefore develop similar principles of morality. We function in societies with certain meeds and certain instincts about how we ought to behave. Thus we develop a similar ‘core morality.’ That shouldn’t be surprising. I would guess that a rational social species on another planet would have somewhat similar values as humans do. Given this, it is not a surprise that factual beliefs explain a lot of moral disagreements. As we come to true beliefs the standard of core morality judges that progress has been made if we react to this new information as this core morality requires.

    Argument 5. Intuition. We have likewise discussed this before. Intuition itself tells us to pay attention to what experience says over what it tells us. And experience tells us to be very careful about believing that certain things exist in the real world because intuition or instinct tells us it does. If I said that I believe that human nature is inherently good because I intuitively felt that it is, I would probably be laughed at. And I would blush with shame to confess that this was the reason I believe this. (I don’t actually believe that humans are inherently good. I see us as having tendencies that are good according to core morality and tendencies that are bad according to core morality, this has been my view for most of my life and it explains both human nature and human actions very well.)

    There is my response to IP’s arguments for moral realism.

    1. Evan Minton

      \\”If they were already convinced of moral realism, that would then make them a theist already.”\\ — Not at all! There are many atheistic philosophers who are moral realists. I already mentioned Sam Harris. Not only that, but a lot of lay atheists are also moral realists. Up until a few years ago, I had every atheist agreeing with premise 2 of The Moral Argument but objecting to 1. There are several theories that try to ground morality in something other than God. I think they all fail, I don’t think any of them are coherent, which simply bolsters my confidence in premise 1. But the point is that not all moral realists are atheists.

      \\” And once again if you are correct that morality requires God, then Ontologically, that means moral great making properties in fact require God to exist.”\\ — God needs to exist in order for morality to exist. But again, you don’t need to know or have reasoned to the existence of God to know that morality exists. Just as you don’t need to believe that there’s a Creator to know that the universe sprang into being out of nothing 14 billion years ago. Again, you’re confusing the order of knowing with the order of being. If I were debating Sam Harris on The Ontological Argument, he wouldn’t dispute that being loving is a great making property. We disagree on what properly grounds morality, but we both agree THAT morality is objective and THAT you are a better person if you’re loving than unloving.
      ——–
      IP’s arguments for moral realism, whether they’re valid or not, it isn’t germane to refuting your point that The Moral Argument cancels out The Ontological Argument. Nevertheless, since you shared your responses, allow me to address them.
      .
      1: You don’t understand the first argument. The connection is there are objective rules one ought to follow if you care about truth you ought to do these things. That is an objective claim regarding the rules. That is the point. So the point is if epistemic oughts are objective then other normative oughts are objective as well.

      2: You don’t get the point of the second argument. People do not act as if morality is subjective, they shove their morals on to people because we believe they are objective and everyone ought to do them. We don’t think ice cream preferences are objective and, ergo, we don’t force them onto anyone. Moral experience says moral values are different than ice cream preferences. As Frank Turek put it, we all know there’s a big difference who says “That meal was wonderful” verses “The holocaust was wonderful”. Plus, if it is all subjective you has no objective value to stand on to force his values on to people. He makes it all arbitrary and that violates moral intuition.

      For 3 and 4 you are confusing metaethics with moral epistemology or moral psychology. How we come to understand morality is not what it is.

      5: You don’t understand intuition. You’re taking the word “intuition” in its colloquial sense, not in the sense in which philosophers use it. Moral intuition is not the same as, say, “Women’s’ intuition”. Russ Shafer Landua says, “Intuition is not a belief, or a judgment, or any other doxastic statement, it is not a tendency, or a disposition to endorse a proposition, it’s not a guess, it’s not a hunch, it’s not a supposition, it is not a faculty of any sort, neither is it infallible, neither is it epistemically justified or unjustified. It’s a conscious experiential state that has content. It has propositional content that is representational and it’s presentational. Beliefs are formed either by accepting or building on intuition or by rejecting intuition.” Free will is intuitive and we either build a belief on that or deny the intuition we have free will and build an opposite belief against our intuition. Intuition suggests to us moral values and duties are objective. You even imply this when you say you want to end female mutilation. You intuitively feel there is something wrong and other people have to stop.

  3. Sam

    If you look at your quote of me in context you will see that I was talking about atheists who you have persuaded that morality cannot exist without God. I am saying that if you convince them of that and they are still moral realists then they are presumably no longer atheists. I agree that many lay atheists are moral realists. Or maybe not since the idea that morality is subjective is hardly unknown among laypeople.

    I am specifically distinguishing the difference between Order of knowing (Epistemology) and the order of being (Ontology). I have been the whole time even during my initial email. If an atheist agrees with you that morality is objective than sure you can use the Ontological argument on him/her. But the fact remains, if your claim that objective moral values do not exist without God is correct then if there is no God then there would be no objective moral great making properties in the first place.

    1. Ok. I don’t think anyone disputes the fact that if you want to achieve a certain goal as effectively as possible than you objectively OUGHT to do a certain thing that will achieve it most effectively. If that is what you mean by objective that is fine. If you want to lose weight in a healthy way than you OUGHT to exercise and go on a diet. If you want to maximize human (or ant) wellbeing then it is objectively true that you OUGHT to do certain things and not others. If you want to become a doctor than you OUGHT go to medical school. If you want to come to correct and/or rational beliefs than you OUGHT to use certain methods to do so and not others. All of these ends will objectively fufill your goal the best.

    2. Ice cream preferences are not affected by whether or not others enjoy the same flavor. Preferences for people being kind to each other verses brutally murdering each other however are affected by whether or not other people do that or not. We don’t have problems imposing our subjective view about the importance of safety compared to privacy on other people. Ice Cream preferences are rarely that important anyone. Moral values however, have much more emotional impact. Even if female genital mutilation isn’t objectively wrong, the horror my sense of empathy (which I at least subjectively value a lot) feels about it remains the same. I may not have an objective basis to stand on to impose my values, but the people who oppose me have no less of an objective basis given moral subjectivism. That said, I do agree that believing in objective morality increases the motivation to impose for most people. As for the intuition argument, see 5.

    3-4. Your begging the question in favor of moral realism. Given moral subjectivism, we aren’t understanding any objective moral standard. On moral subjectivism/nihilism we are simply having insticts and taught values or whatever, make us feel/think that certain things are right or wrong. IP tried to argue that these features of the world are evidence for moral realism and I am pointing out that they are also exactly what we would expect given moral subjectivism/nihilism and therefore that they are not evidence for this claim.

    5. Ok. Given that the burden of proof is on you to prove that moral intuitions are a reason to believe in moral realism, can you demonstrate that these intuitions fall into the Epistemologically reliable category? Is this ‘conscious experiential state’ a reliable one or not? Yes I feel that female genital mutilation is wrong. Even objectively wrong. Although obviously my sense of empathy will make sure I oppose it regardless of my beliefs about the objectivity of ethics. That said, my sense here isn’t a reason to think that there is any kind of moral realm beyond me. If I tried to argue that my moral intuitions prove a certain fact is true about the world in order to ground these intuitions, I would like I said above ‘blush with shame’ as it is so obvious, that this is a poor reason for concluding something about the physical (or any non-physical) world.

    1. Evan Minton

      \\\”I am specifically distinguishing the difference between Order of knowing (Epistemology) and the order of being (Ontology). I have been the whole time even during my initial email. If an atheist agrees with you that morality is objective than sure you can use the Ontological argument on him/her. “\\\ — In theory, yes, if someone denied that moral facts had truth value, I would have to convince them of moral realism before I could convince them that an MGB had certain moral properties. But (A) I could still argue that a necessary, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being exists in all possible worlds, and (B) in my experience most moral relativists and moral error theorists only give lip service to their views. Objective morality is, as one author put it, “What We Can’t Not Know” (actually the title of his book). Atheists who would normally bite the bullet and say that there’s nothing wrong with the holocaust or the rape of a little girl when debating The Moral Argument don’t usually bring up their moral skepticism when engaging The Ontological Argument. I’ve received a lot of objections from atheists about the moral argument; claims that omniscience is not a coherent, The Omnipotence Paradox, parody arguments to The Ontological Argument, etc. But not once has anyone ever said “Well, what counts as moral is up for grabs. Who’s to say an MGB isn’t cruel and selfish?”

      \\” if your claim that objective moral values do not exist without God is correct then if there is no God then there would be no objective moral great making properties in the first place.”\\ — Correct. But again, this is the ontology of morality. Ontologically, objective moral values and duties do not exist if God does not. Epistemologically, if I don’t know God exists, do I not know that objective moral values and duties do not exist? Of course not. I believed things were objectively right and wrong before I ever thought about what might ground them ontologically. Lots of people just take morality for granted without asking “WHY is X good and Non-X evil?”
      .
      So, again, The Moral Argument does not have to be proven valid before we can talk about The Ontological Argument.
      ————————————-
      1. This isn’t an argument I’ve studied in-depth, so I’m gonna drop it for now.

      2. Again, you’re missing the point. People do not act as if morality is subjective, the reason we shove our morals onto people is that we believe they are more than something we strongly dislike. There are things I DON’T have a strong emotional reaction to AND YET I still believe they are objectively wrong and you ought not do them. I don’t have a strong emotional reaction to people in homosexual relationships, even though I believe marriage OUGHT to be between one man and one woman for life. I believe it’s morally wrong for two men to have sex with each other, but I don’t get outraged like, say, if I heard a news report of a man who murdered his family. In fact, so much evil occurs in the world today that I’ve become desensitized to a lot of it. I still believe mass shootings, home invasions, etc. are wrong, but I don’t feel my blood boil like I used to. This shows that moral beliefs do not always correspond to feelings of outrage or pity.
      In fact, C.S Lewis addressed this in a way, in his book Mere Christianity. He wrote

      “For example, some people wrote to me saying, “Isn’t what you call the Moral Law simply our herd instinct and hasn’t it been developed just like all our other instincts?” Now I do not deny that we may have a herd instinct: but that is not what I mean by the Moral Law. We all know what it feels like to be prompted by instinct-by mother love, or sexual instinct, or the instinct for food. It means that you feel a strong want or desire to act in a certain way. And, of course, we sometimes do feel just that sort of desire to help another person: and no doubt that desire is due to the herd instinct. But feeling a desire to help is quite different from feeling that you ought to help whether you want to or not. Supposing you hear a cry for help from a man in danger. You will probably feel two desires-one a desire to give help (due to your herd instinct), the other a desire to keep out of danger (due to the instinct for self-preservation). But you will find inside you, in addition to these two impulses, a third thing which tells you that you ought to follow the impulse to help, and suppress the impulse to run away. Now this thing that judges between two instincts, that decides which should be encouraged, cannot itself be either of them. You might as well say that the sheet of music which tells you, at a given moment, to play one note on the piano and not another, is itself one of the notes on the keyboard. The Moral Law tells us the tune we have to play: our instincts are merely the keys.”


      So taking Lewis’ three instincts model, let’s devise a little thought experiment. Let us suppose that someone does something really evil to me (like murder my entire family). I have a strong emotional reaction of hatred and a desire for revenge. I also have a feeling of horror that evil thoughts of vengeance would enter my mind. But there’s a third thing within me that tells me which emotion is evil and should be suppressed. That third thing cannot be either of them. That third thing tells me that fantasies of getting even are wrong and I shouldn’t have them. The Third thing does not tell me that abhorrence at vengeful thoughts are wrong. The third thing is the moral knowledge that “revenge is not the way”, that “two wrongs don’t make a right”. The third thing is not in itself an emotional reaction at all. So then, once again, we see that moral knowledge and beliefs cannot be reduced to emotional reactions.

      3-4 I’m not begging the question in favor of anything. I simply pointed out that you misunderstood the argument. How we come to understand morality (moral epistemology) is not the same as what it is (moral ontology).

      5. Why should I distrust my intuitions in the absence of a defeater? Intuitively, I believe I’m awake and not dreaming of having a comment section discussion. If someone came along and told me “you’re in a dream”, wouldn’t the burden of proof be on them? Why should I distrust my moral intuition that tells me moral facts are real any more than I should distrust my physical senses to distrust a world of physical objects is real? You’ve never given a satisfactory response to this other than personal incredulity about moral intuition. If I’m given good evidence that my faculties are unreliable, then I might have some doubt, but I would first need to be shown that evidence. Trust in my faculties (be it my 5 senses or my moral intuition) is the default position and is entirely justified.
      .
      Perhaps you assume you assume your emotional reaction to female genital mutilation is MERELY an emotional reaction because of an apriori philosophical commitment to moral non-realism? Would you have said that female genital mutilation is something you merely dislike if it weren’t for philosophical arguments against moral realism swirling in your head? Think about it. You’re actually biting the bullet here and are saying that there is nothing really wrong about the mutilation of females’ genitalia and that the only reason you oppose it is on emotional grounds.

  4. Sam

    Ok. None of what you said in the first two paragraphs refutes my basic point: Given your theory of ethics, the only way some moral attributes are greater than others is if God exists in the first place, thus given your theory of ethics, you have to assume that God exists in order to use the Ontological argument to prove that God exists.

    1. Ok sounds good.

    2. I am not denying that people naturally think that morality is objective. I even agreed that people believing their values are objective makes them more likely to impose their values on others. My point is merely that if you care a lot about your subjective values, that may motivate you to impose your values on others. Your response to the claim that morality is emotions addresses a very weak form of that theory. A stronger theory would claim that you formulate principles from these social insticts/emotions. Then people reason from these principles to come to conclusions that they may or not support emotionally. This explains the ‘third thing’ that C.S. Lewis talked about. You oppose homosexuality, why? Presumably because you think it is wrong to disobey God’s authority, which is a conclusion you presumably came too from a moral principle. Maybe you think of it more emotionlessly: “God said not to do it therefore it’s wrong.” But presumably the reason you embrace the Divine Command theory is because you (emotionally) want a solid, objective, universal ground to justify moral judgements rather then reduce morality to mere feelings that can easily be dismissed as sentimental, or ‘just your opinion.’ And Divine Command theory seems to satisfy those emotions which demand this ground. That’s the reason I want objective morality to exist at least. Or maybe you think Justice requires that you obey God’s commands and therefore are against homosexuality since you believe it violates God’s commands.

    3-4. How did I misunderstand the argument? IP said nothing about how we come to understand morality and neither did I. He did argue that facts like moral agreement are evidence for moral realism and I pointed out that those facts are perfectly explained by the fact that humans are rational, social animals with similar instincts, needs, etc. This would create creates a core morality (or maybe core morality evolved in response to these needs) that allows us to judge that by this standard that things have progressed or have not. Thus my point is that his observations are not evidence for moral realism. This has nothing to do with how we learn morality, but merely that basic facts about the human condition explain the facts that he uses as evidence perfectly without the need of his hypothesis.

    5. If you think I have given you nothing but the personal incredulity fallacy then you haven’t understood my responses. I have argued that our instincts/intuitions have proven themselves unreliable. And I argued that our intuitions themselves declare that we should trust our experiences over them. And therefore when our experiences declare that our intuitions about the way the outside world is are not reliable we therefore should not believe things about the external world based on intuition. And I argued that intuively we would feel ashamed to make an argument for the existence of something based on our intuitions about it, because we intuitively know that our intuitions about the existence of something do not prove that it exists, so intuition about external objects is self discredited.

    I don’t necessarily deny moral realism. I am trying to figure out what I think about metaethics. I just think that you need to show that a ground for objective morality exists rather then believing it based on intuition. (And I think the other arguments here don’t work for the reasons given above). I oppose FGM because I think it is wrong, but even if I was a moral nihilist/subjectivist, I would still oppose it because of a sense of empathy. And yes, I have always thought that morality is an instinct. My horror of FGM (or the Halocaust) is instinctive. It is the result of emotionally charged (hence the horror) instincts. This instinct may judge other instinct, but it is itself an instinct that gets its power from emotions. When Frank Turek, presents the moral argument, he shows pictures of bodies of Halocaust victims piled on top of each other and then says something along the lines of “if there is no God then this wasn’t really wrong, it’s just a matter of opinion.” Why? Because it’s emotionally powerful. And emotions evoke this instinct/intuition which is highly connected to these types of emotions. If he said that if there is no God then being rude isn’t really wrong it’s just a matter of opinion that wouldn’t impress anyone, since it would have none of the emotional power. Thus observation clearly shows that morality is an instinct that gets its power from emotion. Accept or deny moral realism, the basic principles of morality are derived from emotionally charged instincts.

    1. Evan Minton

      I don’t know how I could spell it out any more clearly. Yes, “Given your theory of ethics, the only way some moral attributes are greater than others is if God exists in the first place”. That is an ontologically true statement. If God does not exist, benevolence is not a great-making property and neither is malevolence. But you don’t need to know that ontologically true statement in order to know “benevolence is a great-making property”. You don’t need to know that God has to exist for there to be a real moral difference between benevolence and malevolence in order to know that a great being would have the former instead of the latter. This is why I continue to say that, like the presuppositionalist apologist, you confuse the order of knowing with the order of being. Yes, God must exist or else we collapse into moral relativism or moral error theorism or any kind of non-objective morality. But we don’t need to know God exists in order to know that morality is objective.
      .
      Therefore, The Ontological Argument is not question-begging. I don’t need to assume my theory of ethics to get it off the ground. I don’t need to say “Ok Mr. Atheist. Now that we know God exists and objective morality exists, we can now talk about what moral properties a Maximally Great Being would have.” I just have to say “Can we agree that to be loving makes a person better than to be unloving? Can we agree that to be kind is better than to be cruel?” and in my experience, most atheists answer “yes”. They don’t share my theory of ethics. They don’t believe God is needed to ground morality. Yet they answer “Yes, a being is greater if he’s kind instead of cruel, patient instead of impatient, forgiving instead of unforgiving, just instead of unjust, etc.”
      .
      I honestly don’t know where I’m losing you.
      ———————————————-
      Your proposed explanation for the origin of “The Third Thing”: You wrote \\”Your response to the claim that morality is emotions addresses a very weak form of that theory. A stronger theory would claim that you formulate principles from these social insticts/emotions. Then people reason from these principles to come to conclusions that they may or not support emotionally. This explains the ‘third thing’ that C.S. Lewis talked about.”\\ —
      .
      By “social instincts” what do you mean by that? Are you talking about morals taught to us by our society and upbringing? That’s what I get from “social” instincts. But correct me if I’m wrong. This interpretation would make sense in what you go onto say about why I oppose homosexuality. I learned from The Bible that gay sex is wrong and therefore, I’m opposed to it. Likewise, Barney The Dinosaur has taught a lot of children that we ought to share and not be selfish. I don’t deny that we’re TAUGHT right and wrong by our society, culture, parental guidance or whatever. However, this is not a satisfying explanation for “The Third Thing”.
      .
      In Lewis’ example, we ought not think of a man standing on the shore deliberating “Gosh, I really want to help that guy. On the other hand, I’m not a very good swimmer. I might drown myself! What should I do. Well, my mama always told me to help a person in need. Alright. I’ll do it. I’ll help him. It’s the right thing to do.” Often in emergencies, we aren’t reasoning about what we want to do or what we SHOULD do. We just act on what we know is right. If I see a child playing in the middle of the road with a car coming towards him, I don’t deliberate. There’s no time for that. I just put my own safety in parel and yank him out of harm’s way. I know what the right thing to do is without having to reflect on Jesus’ teachings, or pithy moral sayings popular in my society.
      .
      Moreover, we must wonder where society got these ideas from in the first place. You would say that they evolved in us. In his book “The Language Of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief”, Francis Collins explains why evolutionary explanations of the moral law are untenable. He writes ”

      “Agape, or selfless altruism, presents a major challenge for the evolutionist. It is quite frankly a scandal to reductionist reasoning. It cannot be accounted for by the drive of individual selfish genes to perpetuate themselves. Quite the contrary: it may lead humans to make sacrifices that lead to great personal suffering, injury, or death, without any evidence of benefit. And yet, if we carefully examine that inner voice we sometimes call conscience, the motivation to practice this kind of love exists within all of us, despite our frequent efforts to ignore it. Sociobiologists such as E. O. Wilson have attempted to explain this behavior in terms of some indirect reproductive benefits to the practitioner of altruism, but the arguments quickly run into trouble. One proposal is that repeated altruistic behavior of the individual is recognized as a positive attribute in mate selection. But this hypothesis is in direct conflict with observations in nonhuman primates that often reveal just the opposite—such as the practice of infanticide by a newly dominant male monkey, in order to clear the way for his own future offspring. Another argument is that there are indirect reciprocal benefits from altruism that have provided advantages to the practitioner over evolutionary time; but this explanation cannot account for human motivation to practice small acts of conscience that no one else knows about. A third argument is that altruistic behavior by members of a group provides benefits to the whole group. Examples are offered of ant colonies, where sterile workers toil incessantly to create an environment where their mothers can have more children. But this kind of “ant altruism” is readily explained in evolutionary terms by the fact that the genes motivating the sterile worker ants are exactly the same ones that will be passed on by their mother to the siblings they are helping to create. That unusually direct DNA connection does not apply to more complex populations, where evolutionists now agree almost universally that selection operates on the individual, not on the population. The hardwired behavior of the worker ant is thus fundamentally different from the inner voice that causes me to feel compelled to jump into the river to try to save a drowning stranger, even if I’m not a good swimmer and may myself die in the effort. Furthermore, for the evolutionary argument about group benefits of altruism to hold, it would seem to require an opposite response, namely, hostility
      to individuals outside the group. Oskar Schindler’s and Mother Teresa’s agape belies this kind of thinking. Shockingly, the Moral Law will ask me to save the drowning man even if he is an enemy.” (Francis Collins, “The Language Of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence For Belief, pages 27-28)

      .
      So, therefore, evolution isn’t a plausible explanation for where society got its morals with which to condition us in the first place. In other words, you’ve not succeeded in explaining the origin of “The Third Thing” (The Moral Law). All that I’ve said thus far would pretty much address what you said in bullet points 2-4.
      .
      Moral Intuition
      You wrote \\” If you think I have given you nothing but the personal incredulity fallacy then you haven’t understood my responses. I have argued that our instincts/intuitions have proven themselves unreliable. And I argued that our intuitions themselves declare that we should trust our experiences over them. And therefore when our experiences declare that our intuitions about the way the outside world is are not reliable we therefore should not believe things about the external world based on intuition.”\\ — Right. I agree. If there is some reason to think that my intuition about X is wrong or at least suspect, then I shouldn’t trust it. But you’ve given me no reason to suspect that our moral intuition is untrustworthy. And just because some of our intuitions about OTHER things have been proven wrong in the past, that no more gives me reason to trust my intuition about THIS, any more than the fact that hallucinations and vivid dreams give me reason to suspect that my five senses are telling me the truth about the external world right now. Moreover, I get the feeling that when you say “I argued that intuitively we would feel ashamed to make an argument for the existence of something based on our intuitions about it.” you are still operating under the assumption that I’m using “intuition” in its colloquial sense, and in its colloquial sense, it’s synonymous with words like “hunch” or “guess”. But that’s not at all how philosophers use the term. I’ll defer you to the Russ Shafer Landua quote I used earlier in this discussion then. Moreover, it is true that ” our intuitions about the existence of something do not prove that it exists” and I have never once claimed that moral intuition proves moral realism. Rather, I have argued that we are epistemologically justified in believing moral realism on the basis of moral intuition unless some defeater comes along to prove that our moral intuition is not a reliable pathway to moral knowledge. Until such a defeater is forthcoming, I will continue to trust my moral intuiton. Just as I would trust my 5 senses to tell me I’m actually sitting here typing this rather than asleep in my bed dreaming about typing this unless some defeater (i.e waking up) came along.
      .
      Finally, I think Turek presents the Holocaust as an example because it’s the most obvious example of evil and you’d sound like a monster if you bit the bullet and said “No that wasn’t really wrong. It’s just something I don’t like.” I think Turek COULD use rudeness as an example if he wanted to, but it would most likely work better in a one-on-one conversation rather than an apologetics lecture. For example, let’s say Frank had this hypothetical discussion
      .
      .
      Frank: “God is obviously real. There’d be no morality without Him. If you can’t see that, you’ve got poop for brains!”
      Atheist: “Hey, that’s not very nice. I am trying my best to figure out the truth about reality, I just don’t find your arguments for moral realism convincing.”
      Frank: “You don’t find them convincing because you’re an idiot!”
      Atheist: “Stop it! I have a PH.D in philosophy. I’m just as intelligent as you are.”
      Frank: “Why should I stop? Are you saying it’s objectively wrong for me to insult you?”
      Atheist: “Well, no, I just don’t care for it.”
      Frank: “Well, why should I cater to your personal tastes, moron?”
      Atheist: “Alright. It’s objectively wrong. Now will you stop calling me stupid?”
      Frank: “Sure thing.”
      .
      Although as I type this, I think there might be a way for him to pull this off even in lecture format. But it would undoubtedly be more effective in one-on-one. Now, you may say “But he’s clearly having an emotional reaction to Frank Turek insulting him.” Maybe. But being a seasoned veteran in Internet Debates, I’ve had my fair share of mud slung at me by vitriolic Twitter atheists and Young Earth Creationists. They did initially make me angry, but now I just roll my eyes and shrug it off. I still believe it’s wrong to treat me like an idiot in the case of the former, and a heretic in the case of the latter. But I’m not emotionally impacted by it anymore. In fact, often times I find that insults are more powerful if they come from people you love and respect and/or look up to. I’d be more hurt (and ergo angry) if Michael Jones or William Lane Craig called me a sloppy scholar than if some random neckbeard from Reddit called me that.

  5. Sam

    Ok. I think we Basically agree here. You have said that Ontologically I am correct, which is all I am saying. Here is why it matters. On your view, if cruelty was God’s nature then that would by definition be a great making property. Any properties such as compassion, love and fairness are good rather than bad merely because they happen to be a part of God’s nature. Thus Ontologically, morality is still arbitrary. These qualities aren’t simply moral goodness itself, they are by coincidence what happens to be good. If Satan had the qualities of fairness, compassion, and love and God had hatred, unfairness, and cruelty as his properties then God would still be perfectly good and Satan perfectly bad. Obviously this is completely absurd, as it is arbitrary to simply define God’s nature (whatever it is) as good. Why not just arbitrarily define Satan’s nature (whatever it is) as good? The term ‘God’ and the term ‘goodness’ do not mean the same thing anymore then the term ‘fire’ and the term ‘hot’ mean the same thing. Hotness is simply a property of fire that can exist independently of it. Maybe fire can be perfectly hot, but this perfectly hot fire would not be the definer of what is and is not heat. Otherwise you could just say that this perfectly hot fire by definition hot even if it’s temperature was absolute zero. Thus saying this fire is hot would simply be saying nothing. Imagine talking about a Maximally hot fire. Since hot means ‘whatever temperature this fire is or would have’ this fire as a concept doesn’t by definition have any qualities, thus the concept is simply gibberish. Thus it makes no sense to praise God for his generosity given your theory of ethics. If God was maximally selfish, that would by definition be just as praiseworthy as him being perfectly selfless and giving. That was a bit of a rant, no offense is intended by it.

    I will reply to the rest of your comment later.

    1. Evan Minton

      But here, you’re simply pushing the objection you have in previous discussions on The Moral Argument which is that you think grounding morality in God is an adequate stopping point for grounding morality. I’ve already dealt with this in this article –> https://cerebralfaith.net/q-and-the-revival-of-euthyphros-delimma/, (your logic would result in an infinite regress of “why”s requiring answers). We can discuss this again at some later date if you’d like. For now, can I ask would you agree that you don’t have to know WHAT grounds objective morality to know THAT objective morality is real and ergo a Maximaly Great Being would have morally good properties? In other words, even though God must exist for morality to be objective, for The Ontological Argument to work, all you really need to know is WHAT goodness is and THAT goodness is a great making property? Thus, the Ontological Argument doesn’t presuppose its conclusion?
      .
      I patiently await the rest of your response.

  6. Sam

    I agree that we should debate this another time. Perhaps I will respond on this article. That said if moral realism is true I tend to think ethics would not need to be grounded in anything anymore then heat would but that is a discussion for another time.

    I technically agree with what you said. However, once again if you prove your theory theory of ethics you have refuted the Ontological argument. All the atheist has to do is refute the arguments for moral realism and then they have escaped the conclusion that a Good God exists, although they may have to accept some form of Deism if the Ontological argument is otherwise valid. That’s my point.

    By social instincts I mean the instincts that we have that are related to social interaction. That’s it. They are probably shaped by society (and I think the idea that we should help our enemies for example is not natural and shaped by society), but I think the basic elements are simply natural. Thus I am saying that certain types of social instincts are moral intuitions that judge that certain emotions or other instincts are good or bad.

    For the Francis Collins quote let’s take the argument about indirect benefits. How does this explain small acts of altruism. As long as the basic idea of altruism is planted in our genes, it may cause “unintended side effects” of altruism that aren’t necessarily beneficial. The idea that the moral law requires saving an enemy is confusing. What do you mean by “enemy?” Do you mean someone who annoys you often or someone who has severely and constantly harmed you? If someone tries to kill you I don’t see how you would be required to save them. Most people are hostile to people outside of their group. It isn’t natural to be friendly to people not in our in group. You have to be taught that, when cultures have to work together to survive they will have to work to overcome this natural tendency. Simply observe how hostile people often are to those who have different political beliefs. Mother Teresa is an rare case. If our genes caused us to act like her all the time, then yes altruism would be harmful. She very well may have been that altruistic due to social conditioning. (Probably the combination of her personality and her experiences overall.)

    Once again, morality seems completely instinctive to me. I have naturally thought that it is instinctive even since I was a very young child. Instincts about the way the world works are not reliable. People intuitively think that if you drop a heavier and a lighter object, that the heavier one will fall first. But this has been proven wrong. Our instincts therefore should not be trusted, at least not without empirical confirmation.

    Ok, first of all if you are correct then you are admitting that those examples are merely appeals to emotion. They don’t prove anything. I assumed that you were attempting to make the intuition more clear and powerful by using those examples. Surely when you argue that on Atheism there is no difference between exterminating a hill of ants that is what you are trying to do at least to some degree? If so that shows that our moral intuition get a lot of power from emotion. Either way, I can tell you that my intuition on this is stronger and more clear when I hear about cases like the Halocaust or FGM then about rudeness.

    Sorry for the late response.

    1. Evan Minton

      \\\“However, once again if you prove your theory of ethics you have refuted the Ontological argument.”\\\ — No. If The Moral Argument is sound, all that shows is that God must exist for real good and real evil to exist. But you can be totally ignorant of God and know certain things are good and evil. Order of being VS. order of knowing.
      .
      \\“All the atheist has to do is refute the arguments for moral realism and then they have escaped the conclusion that a Good God exists, although they may have to accept some form of Deism if the Ontological argument is otherwise valid. That’s my point.”\\ — Well, again, if someone denied that moral facts had truth value, I would have to convince them of moral realism before I could convince them that an MGB had certain moral properties. But (A) I could still argue that a necessary, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent being exists in all possible worlds, which would definitely refute atheism, virtually every form of polytheism, and pantheism, and (B) in my experience most moral relativists and moral error theorists only give lip service to their views. Objective morality is, as one author put it, “What We Can’t Not Know” (actually the title of his book). I have found that Atheists who would normally bite the bullet and say that there’s nothing wrong with the holocaust or the rape of a little girl when debating The Moral Argument don’t usually bring up their moral skepticism when engaging The Ontological Argument. I’ve received a lot of objections from atheists about the moral argument; claims that omniscience is not a coherent, The Omnipotence Paradox, parody arguments to The Ontological Argument, etc. But not once has anyone ever said “Well, what counts as moral is up for grabs. Who’s to say an MGB isn’t cruel and selfish?”
      .
      However, if someone did say that, then I’m willing to step up to the plate and defend moral realism in the context of The Ontological Argument, just as I would when defending The Moral Argument.
      .
      To the Francis Collins’ quote.
      Yes, we have to work to overcome our tendencies to let our enemies drown. But that is not the same as knowing we OUGHT to save them. I have to work at NOT doing several things I know I ought not do. This is not surprising on a Christian worldview, as we’re all sinners with a sinful nature that inclines us to doing wrong. Paul expressed this frustration in Romans 7. You said “It isn’t natural to be friendly to people not in our in group. You have to be taught that” – Even so, you have to be taught calculus too. That doesn’t mean your calculations don’t correspond to reality.
      .
      You wrote \\“Instincts about the way the world works are not reliable. People intuitively think that if you drop a heavier and a lighter object, that the heavier one will fall first. But this has been proven wrong. Our instincts therefore should not be trusted, at least not without empirical confirmation.”\\ — But once again, If there is some reason to think that my intuition about X is wrong or at least suspect, then I shouldn’t trust it. But you’ve given me no reason to suspect that our moral intuition is untrustworthy. And just because some of our intuitions about OTHER things have been proven wrong in the past, that no more gives me reason to trust my intuition about THIS, any more than the fact that hallucinations and vivid dreams give me reason to suspect that my five senses are telling me the truth about the external world right now.
      .
      In the absence of some defeater to trust my intuition (or “instinct” as you put it), I am justified in trusting it. Your examples of false intuitions had defeaters to them. The intuition that heavier objects would fall faster than lighter objects was disproven through scientific tests. Thus, we had reason to distrust our intuition here. But what defeater exists for moral intuition? Again, just because intuitions about other things have been proven wrong doesn’t mean ALL intuition is wrong. You might as well say that because some syllogisms have been proven invalid that therefore ALL syllogisms are invalid. This is clearly fallacious.
      .
      Appeals To Emotion
      When I use the example of exterminating an entire hill of ants VS. exterminating 6 billion Jews, I don’t mean to incite an emotional reaction in my readers at all. I merely appeal to their common sense intuition that there is something really wrong with killing humans en masse, but not getting rid of pests. We all know humans are of more value than insects, but if atheism is true, that wouldn’t actually be the case. They’d be on the same level of morality, which is to say that one wouldn’t be worse than the other. I don’t always get emotional when thinking about The Holocaust by the way. Sometimes I do, like when I see pictures of dead bodies piled up, or when I read an eyewitness report of what happened in the concentration camps, or watching the movie Schindler’s List starring Liam Neeson. But as I’m talking to you about it right now, I’m not angry at Hitler, or sad, or anything. If moral knowledge and emotions were linked, wouldn’t you think that that wouldn’t be the case?
      .
      How can I make this clearer? I think I may have used this example before, but I think it’s still a good example to show that emotional reactions and moral knowledge are not reducible to each other. When my Dog Max was alive he would often need to be taken outside to pee right at the very moment I woke up. I’m not a morning person, and I’m not in the mood to do anything before my first cup of coffee. I would sometimes be irritated at him for not doing it until sometime after I had my coffee. Yet, despite my irritation, I never thought my dog did something morally wrong. Even before he was house trained and would poop in the floor, my anger did not correspond with the thought “This was a morally bad thing my dog did” although, ironically, I would use moral sounding language – “Bad dog!” By contrast, when someone tells lies about me, I’m angry. But unlike my dog making me go outside at the crack of dawn or pooping in the floor, I believe the one lying about me is doing something really morally wrong. I am angry and I believe they OUGHT not lie about me. In all of the above cases, I’m angry. Something was done that I didn’t like. But only in the final example was something done that went beyond a mere dislike on my part. There was a moral outrage. “Thou shalt not bear false witness” is on a whole ‘nother plane than “Thou shalt not poop in mine floor, doggy!”We intuitively know that slandering a man’s integrity with lies and an animal desecrating the living room floor are not both immoral misdeeds, even though both evoke emotional reactions from us.
      .
      We know that butchering a cow for food and butchering a cow for child sacrifice to a god are not on the same level even though, if you’re a vegan at least, you might get hot under the collar at the thought of both.

  7. Sam

    (I mistyped, I should have said “on the article you linked” rather than “on this article.”)

  8. Sam

    Ok. You can be totally ignorant about the “fact”
    (according to you not me) that Good and evil require God to exist. That means that the Ontological argument can only succeed through lack of knowledge.

    Francis Collins. First the entire point is a rebuttal to the claim that the cited examples disprove evolutionary explanations for morality (morality in general). If you are claiming that evolution doesn’t explain why people have an sense that they should save their enemy and I point out that we don’t naturally have this, then I have shown that since this idea isn’t innate, it doesn’t have to be explained by evolution. It is explained by social conditioning.

    Intuitions about the world have been shown to be unreliable. If our intuitions/observations about whether we are dreaming or not showed themselves to be unreliable all the time then I would say that we would have reason to not trust them and simply be agnostic about whether or not we are dreaming.

    I am not saying that morality and emotion are equivalent. I am saying that morality is an instinct that gets its power from emotion. You may not feel emotion about Hitler right now, but you have earlier, correct? You used to and you remember that you used to have this right? Therefore you know, even now that your moral instincts overwhelmingly tell you that it is wrong, correct?

    For your dog. We instinctively recognize that dogs aren’t moral beings. This is because we instinctively recognize that beings that don’t and cannot understand right from wrong, and these concepts cannot influence their behavior, are not moral beings and therefore it is absurd to really blame them.

    1. Evan Minton

      \\”(according to you not me) that Good and evil require God to exist. That means that the Ontological argument can only succeed through lack of knowledge.”\\ — It can succeed even if you don’t know God is required to ground morality. It can even succeed if you throw out the morality element altogether. Sure, I’d lose the ability to make the case that an MGB is a trinity, but I still get an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, necessary being who may or may not be morally perfect. As long as such a being is logically possible, he exists in some possible worlds, and ergo in all possible worlds, and ergo in the actual world, thus atheism is false and we conclude that a God exists that looks a heck of a lot like the Yahweh of The Bible.

      Of course, I’m not willing to make that concession, but what I’m saying is that even if I did, it would only impact the derivative Divine Identity Argument, i.e that The God of The Ontological Argument is the God of Orthodox Trinitarian Christianity.
      .
      The Francis Collins Quote
      So how do you account for pangs of conscience for small violations of morality that no one else knows about; like the shame of a person who looks at pornography for the first time, or a man who feels like he’s violated a woman through sexual fantasy, or feeling guilty over having stolen something in an act of shoplifting or pirating even though no one knows about it? You can say that people believe X is wrong because they were taught from their parents and society that X is wrong. Perhaps this would motivate someone to avoid X and do non-X in cases in which X is likely to be found out. But why feel guilty if no one else knows? Maybe Someone does know. Maybe that Someone is the Moral Law Giver. Can evolution and social conditioning explain that? If no one knows just how bad I am, why should I care?
      .
      \\”Intuitions about the world have been shown to be unreliable. If our intuitions/observations about whether we are dreaming or not showed themselves to be unreliable all the time then I would say that we would have reason to not trust them and simply be agnostic about whether or not we are dreaming.”\\ — Once again, just because intuitions about other things have been shown to be unreliable doesn’t mean moral intuition is unreliable. Why should I distrust my moral intuition?
      .
      The point of using my dog as an example is to show that the reason I get angry at him pooping on the floor and the reason I get angry at the Holocaust are totally different. Perhaps I should parse it this way. We have reasons for why we experience the emotions we do in reactions to the circumstances we are in. Emotions are not just things that happen with no rhyme or reason. This is why the question “WHY are you angry?” or “WHY are you sad?” makes sense. Why did it anger me when Max pooped in the floor? Well, cleaning up a pile of dog feces is gross and inconvenient and I don’t like to do it. Why am I incensed when I hear a woman is being abused by a husband? Perhaps because I know humans are intrinsically valuable and therefore ought to be treated with respect? That a husband has a moral duty to love his wife and that treating her like a punching bag doesn’t fulfill that moral ought? Perhaps there’s a reason we’re outraged at injustice, and that’s because we realize it’s injustice, rather than the opposite that you appear to be proposing that we think things are unjust because we get outraged.

  9. Sam

    Ok. This is point is just going around in circles.

    Francis Collins. I explained this in an above comment. Short answer: it’s a byproduct. Guilt in general helps organisms keep the morality that is generally good for them surviving in social situations. A side effect is that we feel guilt when we violate these morals (as that is the trigger for guilt) even when preventing those wrongs are not the “intended” reasons the guilt evolved. And not to mention guilt for things that we think others aren’t watching can prevent us from doing something bad and being discovered or getting into bad habits.

    Because they are an example of intuitions which are broadly discredited as a means of knowing about the world. If intuitions about physics, probability, etc are all discredited why should we trust moral ones? Further moral intuitions are unreliable. For example, the famous trolley problem. In one case most people agree that you should divert the train to run over 1 person rather than 5. However they have a much more serious issue with pushing someone in front of the train to stop it. Why? This is arbitrary.

  10. Sam

    Emotions. I agree. The reasons are ultimately instincts however. And the instincts draw a lot of their power from emotion. (That’s one of the main reasons we care about morality like it or not.)

    1. Evan Minton

      The byproduct arguments seems like a really poor explanation. If what I do doesn’t hurt anyone, if it doesn’t impede the survival of our species or me and individual of our species, there shouldn’t be any reason I would have reservations about it if evolution was responsible for our moral instincts. The byproduct argument seems like a poor ad hoc maneuver to keep a naturalistic explanation afloat. However, it seems to me that even if I concede the point that evolution is wholly responsible for our moral instincts, the argument seems to presuppose that our evolved moral instincts have no correspondence to a transcendent reality other than survival of the fittest. But certainly you believe all of our other senses have evolved to accurately interpret reality; sight, touch, taste, etc.
      .
      Here’s an exerpt from my book “The Case For The One True God” in which I argue that even given the socio-biological account of our moral instincts, this doesn’t mean that they don’t point to a moral law giver.
      .

      “Many people think that our moral beliefs are spin-offs of biological and social evolution and conditioning. In fact, I argued in my defense of premise 1 that if atheism is true, this is, in all probability, correct; our moral beliefs were chosen by natural selection because they benefit the continued existence of the human species. Objection number 9 in this chapter argues that the sociobiological account of the origins of morality discredits our moral intuitions. But, is this a valid objection?
      First of all, this objection commits the genetic fallacy. It matters not where you learned morality. Even if the epistemological source of your beliefs are improper, your belief could still nevertheless be true. The genetic fallacy is when a person tries to discredit your belief by attacking how you came to hold the beliefs that you hold. For example, often times atheists say “You’re only a Christian because you were raised in a Christian home. If you were raised in a Muslim home, you’d be a Muslim. If you were raised in a Buddhist home, you’d be a Buddhist.” This argument is fallacious because how one came to believe Christianity is true is entirely irrelevant to whether or not it is true. The sociobiological account being an argument against The Moral Argument is the same way. It matters not whether evolutionary history is what ingrained our moral beliefs into us, they could still be true regardless.
      However, the objector might back up and go “Okay dude, maybe the truth isn’t undermined by evolutionary theory, but the epistemological justification is undermined”. The socio-biological account might not render objective morality spurious, but it would render us not capable of truly knowing whether or not objective morality is real. After all, natural selection selects things for their survival value, not for their truth value.
      First of all, this protestation to the argument is self refuting since not only our moral beliefs are formed through socio-biological conditioning, but every
      single one of our beliefs are
      , such that you couldn’t believe anything, not even the socio-biological account! Secondly, this objection presupposes a non-theistic evolution. If Theistic Evolution is true or if the theory of evolution is false entirely, then our moral intuitions could be reliable, for God could either inscribe the moral law onto our hearts as Romans 2 says or He could guide the evolutionary processes to produce true moral beliefs. In other words, the objector needs to prove atheism is true for this objection to work.”

      .
      Intuitions
      Again, as I said before, you might as well say that because many syllogisms have been proven to be unsound (through a formal fallacy or having a false premise), that therefore they’re all unsound. That would be absurd. Look, you can’t just say “See, we had intuitions about A, B, and C and they were wrong. Your intuition about D is probably wrong too. Therefore, we can’t say for sure that D is real!” That’s fallacious. A, B, and C had defeaters to them. They were demonstrably false. Scientists proved that heavy and light objects fall at the same rates rather than the former falling faster than the latter, for example. But you cannot use disproven intuitions to disprove other intuitions. It’s like saying that because some scientific theories have been disproven that therefore, we ought not trust that the theory of evolution is right. Or it’s like saying that because some religions are false, they must all be false. Christians have actually made the former argument, and atheists, the latter. But, Sam, surely you can see that this is fallacious. All of these must be analyzed on a case by case basis. You can’t use disproven examples of things in a class to dismiss ALL of the things in that class.
      .
      Emotions and Moral Instincts
      \\\“Emotions. I agree. The reasons are ultimately instincts however. And the instincts draw a lot of their power from emotion. (That’s one of the main reasons we care about morality like it or not.)”\\ — Or maybe I get emotional because I care about morality, rather than caring about morality because it gets me emotional.

  11. Sam

    The byproduct explanation is a great one. Here’s why. A sense of guilt is useful if it helps us obey moral rules that tend to help our genes be passed down. The trigger for guilt is violating these rules, not whether or not you think others can see you violating them. This is because you may not know that others are watching and getting into a habit of breaking them can cause problems. Thus the trigger for feelings of guilt is a violation of these rules, as that being the trigger solves the issue. I would recommend reading evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne’s book Faith vs Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible, for a more detailed explanation.

    I never said that evolution proves that we have no access to transcendent morality. It’s just that there is no reason to think that we would evolve such access as it wouldn’t help us survive and reproduce. There is reason however to think that we would evolve generally reliable senses, logic, and other senses that help us understand the world. As organisms that are bad at understanding the world are probably not going to pass on their genes. For the theistic evolution explanation, we should simply appeal to Occam’s Razor. It requires fewer assumptions to think that we evolved morality to help us function as rational social animals (since we know that at least most of our facilities evolved for this purpose) then to assume that a God wanted us to have access to a true morality. And actually even if evolution is false, this reasoning still applies. We know that many of our facilities help us survive and reproduce as rational social animals, so it would still be simpler to assume that a God gave us morality to help us function in this way then to assume that it was given to help us understand transcendental moral truths. Thus either way these intuitions are discredited.

    It is perfectly reasonable to say that if a method has failed you time after time that it doesn’t work. Syllogisms aren’t perfect, but they at least improve arguments so that anology doesn’t work. Science also is better. It gives us a great deal of progress which shows beyond any reasonable doubt that it is effective in telling us truths about the world. Science needs to have really strong evidence, because small amounts of research haven’t proven to be a reliable method. Lots of it has. That’s why it is fair for religious people to ignore some single study that ‘proves’ that prayer is unreliable. However if dozens of studies overwhelming showed this then this would be a problem. Religious experiences constantly contradict each other and therefore have discredited themselves as a reliable method of knowing anything about the Divine. That doesn’t mean that any religious experiences you have are false, merely that they are an unreliable method of coming to the truth. You would need some other method of confirming this experience to be rational in believing it.

    Ok.

    1. Evan Minton

      But a minor act of shoplifting or sexual fantasizing is hardly going to impede the survival of our species. And what we would expect from a naturalistic evolutionary perspective is anxiety, not guilt. Anxiety over whether we really got away with it or not. But even in the absence of such anxiety, even with full certainty that no one will ever know, the pang of guilt still comes.
      .
      Secondly, nothing you said changes the fact that your argument against The Moral Law, and our knowledge of it the moral instinct a.ka the moral intuition is question begging in favor of atheism. That was the whole point of the excerpt. It presupposes that there was no God who guided evolution or supernatually implanted moral knowledge on the finished product. It presupposes that our sense of morality evolved through a purposeless, blind, undirected process, so that morality is merely an aid to survival and is more or less unreliable except in cases in which a moral belief gives a survival advantage.
      .
      Moreover, the socio-biological explanation, as I said, commits the genetic fallacy. I don’t think evolution CAN account for all of our moral knowledge. A pang of guilt over watching a pirated movie isn’t exactly going to keep me or my family from surviving long enough to pass on our genes. But my point here is that even if the point is conceded, It matters not whether evolutionary history is what ingrained our moral beliefs into us, they could still be true regardless.
      .
      Finally, I have an intuition that I’m awake right now. I have an intuition that I’m actually typing on a computer rather than having a multi-sensory hallucination that makes me think I see a computer, feels a keyboard, and hear the sound of the keys as I type. I have an intuition that in the absence of a defeater, I can trust these. But I guess you’re right. So many intuitions about so many other things have been proven unreliable that we can’t trust ANY of them. How will I ever know that I’m not dreaming this? Well, there are no defeaters for any of these intuitions, but since other intuitions have been given defeaters, these probably have defeaters too. Well, Sam, I hope that when I wake up, I’ll be able to come up with a way to salvage an epistemological warrant for The Moral Argument’s second premise. Because intuition sure is useless. Of course, then again, I also intuit that my rational faculties are functioning correctly. Maybe that’s wrong too and maybe I’m incapable of reason! If that’s the case, how will I come up with an argument to salvage the second premise!? Oh, this is a crisis!

  12. Sam

    Shoplifting is a violation of the general rule about stealing. As for sexual fantasies the taboo against them and the corresponding guilt about them is probably due to religion’s like Christianity. If you take a sociology class, you will learn that people internalise the values and reactions of others and therefore feel guilty for what they do even if it is not known to others. This explains why people feel guilty about that. Of course some cultures don’t have much concern with guilt (honor shame societies) and focus much more on how others react to them in terms of honor and shame as several recent articles you have recently written indicate that you are aware of. So guilt is affected by how people are conditioned. Thus people can be conditioned to feel guilty about things that are actually bad for society like stealing, or about things that are harmless like sexual thoughts even when others aren’t watching. If people are conditioned to feel guilt about something like this that has no impact on society or your genes that isn’t surprising. And it is fairly well known that individuals and societies feel different degrees of guilt over sexual thoughts and behaviors. So that argument simply doesn’t work.

    Did you read what I said about Occam’s Razor? Both hypothesis explain our intuitions fine, the difference is that the unguided evolutionary one makes less assumptions in doing so. And I even pointed out that if intelligent design is granted, the Occasion Razor objection still applies. (See above).

    I never said that evolution proves that our moral intuitions are false and explicitly said otherwise. I have responded to the pirating movies objection above.

    You have experience that indicates that you are awake not just “I instinctively feel like I am awake.” Instincts about how the external world works have been discredited not, intuitions (in the technical sense you use them) in general. Rationality isn’t merely a properly basic belief as I have argued before. It is self refuting to deny reason as you and many others have pointed out. Thus reason is the starting point on which you prove other things. In fact, I would go as far as to say that if a tornado blew through a junkyard and caused you to assemble by chance I would still say that you should still trust your reason since it is self refuting to do otherwise.

    1. Evan Minton

      If God does not exist and humans evolved moral intuitions, then those intuitions don’t correspond to anything objective. They just correspond to what benefits the survival of the species or individuals of that species. Thus, if the evolutionary history were rewound and started afresh, very different creatures in very different environments could have evolved different moral beliefs. If you have read all my arguments on The Moral Argument like you said, you’re familiar with my quotation of Charles Darwin who gave the thought experiment of humans evolving under the same conditions as hive bees. The mothers would kill their fertile daughters who threatened to take their thrown, and no one would think twice.
      .
      Naturalistic evolution, a godless evolution, produces subjective moral values, not objective moral values. Thus if your view is right than my moral intuition doesn’t actually correspond to objective moral facts. And, as I argue in defense of premise one, there are no objective moral facts for my beliefs to correspond to. But to argue “evolution and social conditioning, therefore, subjective moral values” or “evolution and social conditioning, therefore unreliable moral faculty” begs the question in favor of atheism. It assumes what it seeks to prove; i.e that our moral beliefs are all about survival of the fittest and what society indoctrinated into us rather than corresponding to a moral law by a moral law Giver.
      .
      If I am to be as skeptical as you of moral realism, you’re going to have to give me some reason to doubt my moral intuition, and you’re going to have to make stronger arguments than assertions that everything is reducible to evolution and “Intuitions just can’t be trusted because look at all these examples of demonstrably disproven intuitions!” That’s just not going to cut it. And if that’s all you’ve got, continuing this discussion will just be spinning your wheels.

  13. Sam

    Ok. I am actually becoming convinced of moral realism, despite not believing in a good God. We can discuss that later. I have read the Charles Darwin quote, what of it? My entire thesis here is that moral intuitions aren’t evidence for moral realism, not that moral realism is false. If you can get around the ought-is problem and demonstrate that objective morality actually exists, then the problem is solved and objective morality is true. I am merely saying that these instincts are not reliable guides here. (Although if we are discussing Christianity the Bible says they are, see Romans 2:14-15, so I can use the “moral law” that God has according to the Bible to judge the morality of the Bible.)

    There is no begging the question on my part. I am saying that both of our explanations explain the existence of moral intuitions mine simply does so with fewer assumptions. And I even argued that if an intelligent designer created humans, we can already tell that this designer is interested in interested in helping our species survive and reproduce, and since morality does this we have enough of an explanation without unnecessarily assuming that the intelligent designer is a good God who wants us to have morality. Thus even granting theism, nay even creationism, Occam’s Razor still takes care of the argument from moral intuition. I am not arguing that moral realism is false. I don’t think it is false. I am arguing that moral intuitions cannot be used as evidence for it. It’s that simple.

    Our instincts about how the world works have repeatedly proven to not be reliable. Thus I am not going to accept these instincts as evidence. You need observation and reason, even our instincts themselves tell us that. Thus both Occam’s Razor and the general unreliability of instincts about the way the world works refute the argument from intuition.

    1. Evan Minton

      Perhaps I can make things clearer if I make the argument from moral intuition syllogistically.

      1: In the absence of a defeater, we are justified in believing our intuitions are true.
      2: My moral intuition tells me that objective moral values and duties do exist.
      3: There is no good defeater to my intuition that objective moral values and duties do exist.
      4: Therefore, I am justified in trusting my intuition that objective moral values and duties do exist.

      By 2, I mean that I intuitively believe murdering your daughter is objectively wrong whether you evolved under the condition of our actual evolutionary ancestors, or evolved into hive bee like circumstances. “If, for instance, to take an extreme case, men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” But despite these hypothetical homosapiens not thinking it wrong to allow fertile daughters to be slaughtered by their mothers, it would still be objectively wrong. That’s what my moral instinct, moral law, moral intuition, or whatever you want to call it tells me.

      I find premise 1 to be axiomatic. Why should I doubt what really seems to be the case unless I’m given some reason to doubt it? I dismiss intuition that heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects because I have a good reason to believe that intuition to be flawed. You’ve given no reason to doubt our moral intuitions other than to basically say “Well, look at all of these other intuitions that have been discredited.” Yeah, so? That some intuitions are wrong doesn’t mean that others aren’t right. Perhaps I need to define my terms. By “defeater” I mean a reason to believe intuition X is false. By “justified”, I mean that a person is perfectly reasonable to believe X is true unless and until a reason to disbelieve X is discovered by said person. Justified does not mean proven or true, but that we are rational to affirm it in the absence of a reason to doubt.

      So which premise do you reject? You haven’t done anything to show that 3 is false. As I’ve said before over and over, the argument that “Intuitions just can’t be trusted because look at all these examples of demonstrably disproven intuitions!” is just not going to cut it.

  14. Sam

    I reject premise 1, given your definition of defeater. By your logic I could show that we are justified in believing in superstitions (I mean things like “If I wear red today I will have good luck”) that “seem to be the case” despite the fact that superstitious logic has failed time and time again. A defender of superstition could say: “The argument that superstitions just can’t be trusted because look at all of these examples of demonstrably disproven superstitions is just not going to cut it.” If they have a new category of superstition that hasn’t been tried before, according to your logic, all of the previous failed superstitions provide absolutely no reason to think that superstitions as a general category are unreliable. Surely, you can see that this is absurd, and that you would never apply this logic elsewhere.

    The same logic could even be applied to rumors by known liars. “The argument that rumors from known liars just can’t be trusted because look at all these examples of demonstrably disproven rumors by known liars, is just not going to cut it.” If a general category of belief finding methods have proven unreliable, then we are justified in being suspicious of that any specific one of those methods as a means of finding truth. And we are not justified in trusting it like a normal properly basic belief.

    1. Evan Minton

      Come on, Sam. This is just silly. This is not even an apples-to-oranges comparison. This is an apples to bowling balls comparison. Our intuition that something are really objectively and truly right While others are really objectively and truly wrong is not the same as a belief that if a black cat crosses your path and you’ll have bad luck. superstitions are not properly basic beliefs as I believe that belief in objective morality is. Neither are superstitions intuitive in the colloquial sense. It is far from intuitive that breaking a mirror will bring you 7 years of bad luck or that killing a cricket in your house will bring bad luck, or that seeing your wife right before your wedding is bad luck. By contrast, it is intuitive that torturing little babies for fun is truly an objectively evil while nurturing and taking care of little babies is truly an objectively good.

  15. Sam

    That was a complete misunderstanding of a rather simple point. I was attacking your definition of defeater, pointing out that if it seems to be the case that you wear red you have good luck that day, then by your logic all of the examples where these types of (superstitious) reasoning fail hold no water against superstitious logic in general. Although of course the same argument could also be applied to people who go with their ‘gut feeling’ about things like that rather than superstitious logic. The essential point remains the same, as is best illustrated by my ‘known liar’ example. The essential point isn’t about intuition. It is about the point that when a category of alleged means of attaining knowlege is discredited, you don’t need to discredit all specific examples of it. Thus our instincts about reality being unreliable in general discredits moral instincts as a way of knowing about the way the world works. It means that merely having instincts about the way the world works is not to be considered evidence.

    1. Evan Minton

      “It is about the point that when a category of alleged means of attaining knowlege is discredited, you don’t need to discredit all specific examples of it. Thus our instincts about reality being unreliable in general discredits moral instincts as a way of knowing about the way the world works.”

      .
      I see. So basically the “look how many intuitions have proven wrong in the past” argument again. This isn’t even an objection to premise 1. If you’re trying to argue that moral intuition should be dismissed because on the grounds that “look how many intuitions have proven wrong in the past” then that’s an objection to premise 3, and it’s a bad one at that.

  16. Sam

    No, it’s an objection to premise 1, given your definition of defeater. If you were to redefine defeater to “a reason to believe that the intuition is false or unreliable” then I would indeed reject premise 3. Simply apply your logic to the other categories I mentioned and you will see who really has the bad objections here.

    1. Evan Minton

      Yes, that is indeed how I define “defeater”. And your response is invalid because premise 1 states “In the absence of a defeater, we are justified in believing our intuitions are true.”, and as I pointed out, this is an apples to bowling balls comparison because no one actually intuits superstitions like broken ladders and broken mirrors bring you bad luck. Someone might tell you that, and you might believe them, but in the absense of anyone telling you, you would have no idea. There’s no apparent connection between the broken mirror and misfortune. Superstitions are not properly basic beliefs as I believe that belief in objective morality is. Neither are superstitions intuitive in the colloquial sense. But let’s say that they were comparable for the sake of the argument. Suppose a child is told by his parent that black cats crossing your path will cause bad luck. Would that child be justified in believing that in the absence of a defeater? I would say so. Because remember that by “justified”, I mean that a person is perfectly reasonable to believe X is true unless and until a reason to disbelieve X is discovered by said person. Justified does NOT mean proven or true, but that we are rational to affirm it in the absence of a reason to doubt. iN the case of this child, the child would not be irrational to believe the black cats cause bad luck when they cross your path even though the child would indeed be very wrong. The child has every reason to believe his parent is looking out for what’s best for them, and they reason that their parent has never lied to them in the past “so why would they start now?”. Moreover, perhaps the child did cross a black cat and perhaps he just so happened to have a bad day afterward. Now, when this child grows up and thinks more deeply about it. He realizes that parents aren’t always right, and while his mother probably didn’t purposefully lie to him, she was wrong. He reasons that there is no causal connection between a particular animal of a particular color causing bad things to happen just by walking in front of your path. Moreover, he has had plenty of black cats cross his path since his childhood and nothing bad happened to him. He reasons that that one-time misfortune followed was likely coincidental. The grown man sheds the superstition of his youth because he now has “defeaters” to it. He has reasons to disbelieve it.
      .
      Now, I don’t think there is any comparison between superstitions and our moral intuition, but even if there were, I can think of cases in which people would be justified until they are presented with evidence to the contrary. Justified does not mean correct. It just means you are rational to affirm it.
      .
      Moreover, as I said before, your argument that “It is about the point that when a category of alleged means of attaining knowledge is discredited, you don’t need to discredit all specific examples of it. Thus our instincts about reality being unreliable in general discredits moral instincts as a way of knowing about the way the world works.” you might as well say that because many syllogisms have been proven to be unsound (through a formal fallacy or having a false premise), that therefore this syllogism is unsound. That would be absurd. And again, you can’t just say “See, we had intuitions about A, B, and C and they were wrong. Your intuition about D is probably wrong too. Therefore, we can’t say for sure that D is real!” That’s fallacious. A, B, and C had defeaters to them. They were demonstrably false. Scientists proved that heavy and light objects fall at the same rates rather than the former falling faster than the latter, for example. But you cannot use disproven intuitions to disprove other intuitions. It’s like saying that because some scientific theories have been disproven that therefore, we ought not trust that the theory of evolution is right. Or it’s like saying that because some religions are false, they must all be false. Or it’s like saying that because many syllogisms are invalid, that, therefore, they’re all invalid.
      .
      You can’t use disproven examples of things in a class to dismiss ALL of the things in that class. The very fact that science, logic, religion, and intuition have many examples of falsified truth claims cannot be used as an argument that science, logic, religion, and intuition are not valid pathways to knowledge. Each truth claim in each must be evaluated on a case by case basis, and only when a particular truth claim is invalidated by particular evidence can that particular truth claim be dismissed. In science, new data might overturn the current theory or paradigm. In logic, a philosopher might give evidence to doubt one of the premises of a particular argument. And in intuition, someone might give evidence to show that the fact of the particular matter is counterintuitive. In this particular case of moral intuition, why should I distrust it?
      .
      Do you have any particular evidence for the particular intuition that objective moral values and duties exist? Listing off examples of particular intuitions being disproven with particular arguments and evidence does not refute the particular intuition that objective moral values and duties do exist. So again, what evidence do you have to make me think that our moral intuition, our intuition that objective moral values and duties do exist (and hopefully you remember what I mean by “objective moral values and duties” – it’s not that they objectively contribute to survival, for example, or that it’s an objective fact that people get upset at being wronged), what evidence do you have to make think that our intuition that objective moral values and duties exists is a false intuition?

  17. Sam

    First of all I am not arguing that superstitions are intuitive. Thus it isn’t a “apples to bowling balls comparison.” The relevant point is that if a person knows that a general means of obtaining knowlege has shown itself to be unreliable, we should no longer accept claims within that category without additional evidence.

    The superstitious child is a bad anology. A good one, is a child who has believed in multiple superstitions based on what there parents have told them. Most of them have been proven wrong, however he still thinks he is justified in believing the last 1 or two that he still has, as there haven’t been any specific defeaters to them.

    Syllogisms are a method of reasoning. To deny the reliability of reason is different than simply denying a properly basic belief. Denying reason is self refuting, whereas denying the reliability of your senses or moral intuition is not.

    Science has shown itself to be generally reliable. Thus indeed the burden of proof is on the person who denies any scientific theory that has been backed by large quantities of evidence. If however, the scientific method was a highly unreliable and main scientific theories were constantly being disproven then creationists would be more than justified in not accepting evolution. If theories backed by overwhelming evidence were constantly shown to be wrong, creationists would be entirely justified in dismissing the evidence for evolution. So no, I don’t always need to disprove a specific instance of each truth finding category to be justified in not accepting a new instance of it.

    No, I don’t need to have particular evidence against it. In case you do want some however, I do have Occam’s razor favoring an unguided form of evolution over a guided one, which you wrongly dismiss as begging the question against theistic evolution. And I even argued that granting creationism, morality being designed for helping humans function as rational social animals is the simplest explanation for the data that requires the fewest assumptions along with at least equal explanatory scope. A God caring about morality is an unnecessary hypothesis that doesn’t offer any additional explanatory value.

    1. Evan Minton

      Sigh. You keep missing the point. The point is that all of the epistemological pathways that I have listed have had many many truth claims falsified. If we go with your line of reasoning that an epistemology is invalid because it’s had so many falsified truth claims, and intuition is one of them because many intuitions have been proven to be false, then we ought to dismiss science and philosophy and pretty much any way that we obtain knowledge. The fact that science, philosophy, and intuition use different methods in coming to a conclusion is irrelevant. The fact that the former is a posterior he and its conclusion and the ladder is a priori is irrelevant.

  18. Sam

    My line of reasoning isn’t that “an epistemology is falsified because it’s had so many truth claims falsified.” My line of reasoning is that an epistemology is to not be trusted if it constantly yields false conclusions without being overall reliable. Science has shown itself to be highly reliable, intuition has not. Philosophy is the application of logic to understanding ‘the big questions’ about life. To deny the laws of logic or our reliable access to them, is self refuting for the same reasons you and others have pointed out. Thus those anologies simply do not work. Since my line of reasoning does not apply to philosophy or well researched scientific theories, this line of reasoning is not reduced to absurdity. I never said anything remotely related to the difference between a priority and a posterior knowledge, thus it indeed irrelevant. Logic is a priori and I accept it as valid, and science is a posterior and I accept it. Intuitions however do not count.

  19. Evan Minton

    \\\My line of reasoning isn’t that ‘an epistemology is falsified because it’s had so many truth claims falsified.’ My line of reasoning is that an epistemology is to not be trusted if it constantly yields false conclusions without being overall reliable.”\\ — and the difference is….?

  20. Evan Minton

    Can you not think of any intuitions that, when scrutinized a-posteriori (the ones that can be), have been shown to be true?

  21. Sam

    The difference: if an epistemology is overall reliable (science) it should be trusted. Your version of my response would not allow for that.

    Yes, I can. Our instincts however are not generally reliable for coming to true beliefs however unlike science. That’s the entire point.

    1. Evan Minton

      So you can think of intuitions that are true, and have been proven to be so by a posteriori investigation. Interesting. So doesn’t that imply that intuition could be true and need not be dismissed out of hand? After all, if you rejected those evidentially investigated intuitions out of hand, you would have made a mistake.

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