Saturday, November 15, 2008

Meta Ethical theory

Meta ethics is the term used to discuss what makes something good or bad, right or wrong.It's the superstructure of ethical theory.

The problem is both sides are screwed up in their muddled misconceptions about what morality is and how God affects it.

In a latter post I'll give my attempt to unscrew the muddle. but for now i'm just going to talk about why both sides are screwed up.

The Evangelical problem.

Before I go into this I want to point out that I studied with two fine ethicist in gradate school. one of them world famous. They both thought I was a good student of ethics. I have tried to be very through in my understanding of the subject. My views on this come from a thinker who was one of the most intellectual Evangelicals ever; ironically she was a woman; Dorothy Emmet.

pre Reagan, not a fundie but Evangelical and highly respected by all camps. If you can you should find her book The Moral prism, eye opening weather you are a Christian or an atheist.

I point this out because it will schock some Christians to hear that her finding was that moraltiy is realitive and contestable.

Yes, she is saying is a Christian not an atheist not as some secular person this is her Christian analysis of the field of morality as a whole.

moral axioms have to be grounded in values.Values are arbitrary meaning there is no "objective" sense in which it can be proven one should hold one value or another. All the talk that goes on about "objective morality" is just wrong headed. Absolute values also is a misnomer and a problem.

Morality is not objective and its' not "absolute." What it is in place of this is either grounded or not grounded. It should be grounded because otherwise it's meaningless. The problem is in what do you ground it?


there is no verse in the Bible that says morality is absolute or objective. In fact the terms "objective" and "subjective" never appear in the bible. Thtas' because they only arise out of Kantian perspective where the mind is made the object around which the sense data orbits rather then another part of the sense data itself.

The whole subject object dichotomy only arises with Descartes to Kant.

I really wish you guys would stop talking about these formulations that are not connected to historical Christianity: I'm talking to the Christians here now!

One example of historical Christianity:

Augustinian

We love the eternal we use the temporal. The eternal nature of certain values grounds them in reality in way that other values are not grounded. Love for example is an eternal value. Eternal values are those that are based upon God's charter, the basis of which is love.

Just being long lasting (eternal) one might think is an advantage because it will last longer, but the real reason why it's a grounding is becasue it's based upon God and who and what God is.


temporal values are less grounded and not enduring because they are grounded in relative things that vannish and have no permenan and no importance beyond matters of taste.


this means people are eternal becasue we are souls, we have eternal life. So this means each and every person is an end in himself, we are not means to ends. We have treat each person equally with dignity and love and seek the good of that person as an end in himself not a means to archive our own ends.


Now you might think that's why we talk about objective and relative, or universe and relative. I admit "universal" is a good term for moral values more so than "objective." The fact is this is not just about relative vs. absolute. The problems with terms like objective and absolute is that they are not based upon the divine character, they are not based upon Biblical values or eternal values.

(1) There is no objectivity. There are only degrees of subjectivity. so there's no point in tyring to force objectivity as a phony value.

(2) these things belie the nature of contextualize that is crucial to understand In other words, there's no flexibility. Because meaning arises from context, you can't ignore context and just demand a universal standard that can never be understood in any other light. That's what Emmit was getting at.


The true nature of morality is based upon either deonotogy (duty and obligation, sometimes expressed as rule keeping) or teleology based upon the end or the goal. This is what will determine what's true or good or right vs false, evil, or wrong. Not objectivity not absolutes, but duty and obligation vs goals or the end result.



The Atheist Problem of Morlatiy




atheist morality is bankrupt. This is because they have no grounding, or the seek to deny the necessity of grounding. All atheist morality boils down to matter of taste. then to cover up the weakness of having no grounding they pretend that it's not important you don't need it it's all just my little feelings and what I feel like now is what makes something good.

there are three basic sources of atheist grounding, all inadequate:


(1) teleological


(2) personal feelings

(3) based upon the community or social contract.



*teleological ethics has been totally discredited in meta ethical circles. no one really claims to be a utilitarian or consquentialist anymore.


* No grounding in personal feelings at all. Your feelings can be selfish they can change and how do you deal with the feelings of others?


* relative to the community. what if your community is Nazi?


this is sort of what I was trying to get at when I was talking about overlapping communities. Because there is a way to build a consensus among communities and make assumptions about values and their grounding that would stack up to a universe moraltiy without appealin to religion: except for the fact that with most communities the values are embedded in religious past.

You can't take religion out of the mix. It's inherent and normative. In other words. the value we hold we hold because they came to us from religious traditions and that's why they are special and why they are wroth using to ground axioms. So you have to include that in the mix, although it is possible to construct a serviceable morality that can guide a secular society with impossing religion, but you can't ignore it as though its not a source of knowledge to draw upon for the values.



Both sides contribute big problems:



(1) The theistic, or especially Abrahamic religions: rigidity and lack the flexibility to understand contexts and situations.


(2) Atheist: destroy the basis for grounding all morality in anything stable in an attempt to deny the need for stability in axioms.

this last assertion I argue only in terms of those who try to down play or deny the need for grouding of axioms. That process,the process of down playing, merely says "we don't need moral thinking."

Now an atheist might argue as did Asimov on CARM:




You started adequately, and then you bombed here. Your parachute didn't deploy either so your a sodding mess all over the ground.

Quote:Me
Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
atheist morality is bankrupt. This is because they have no grounding, or the seek to deny the necessity of grounding. All atheist morality boils down to matter of taste. then to cover up the weakness of having no grounding they pretend that it's not important you don't need it it's all just my little feelings and what I feel like now is what makes something good.



I shake my head at you. Ignorant tripe is all this is.

Quote:
there are three basic sources of atheist grounding, all inadequate:

(1) teleological


(2) personal feelings

(3) based upon the community or social contract.
Retarded nonsense. Your world famous ethicist must have been a moron, too.

Social contract is grounded upon the recognizance of the fact that a society is a population of individual moral agents striving for survival at the basic level and the flourishing of life at the higher level.

A social contract applies to all citizens equally, and define the right to action of all citizens, equally. A Nazi social contract wouldn't be reasonable or equal, so your point is moot.


Social contract is the only true basis for a moral compact, that is rules to run a society by. But ti doesn't tell us why something something is good or evil, right or wrong. It's not adequate grounding. Granted its' better than divine right of Kings, which it emerged in the enlightenment to opposes, it's better than brute force or mob ruel but it's not adequate.


so I started out adequately becasue I was criticizing Christians. But when I criticize atheists he cant' take it and folds up in anger. hysterical thugs.

10 comments:

Kristen said...

I think your analysis is fascinating, Joe. I don't think I had thought about this issue in those terms before.

But the title of the blog post isn't fair to atheists like Quantum Troll or LA Canuck or Fleetmouse.

Anyway, I'm trying to understand-- what is the difference between "objective" and "grounded in the character of God"?

TJW said...

It would make more sense if you said some atheists are rectionary anti-intellectual thugs. And even then, it's still debatable.

Justin said...

Response from a reactionary, anti-intellectual thug. (You do need a comma there, btw.)

Problem's not fairness. Problem's that you're wrong about there only being two sides, about the relationship between those two sides and human behavior, and about the premise in general.

Number of Sides:
There's atheism, and then there's probably close to six billion versions of religion, most of which contradict each other. That's six billion and one sides.

Behavior and Religion:
There are religious people who, motivated by their religion, do constructive things in the lives of others.

There are religious people who, motivated by their religion, do destructive things.

There are atheists who, motivated by some non-religious internal desire, do constructive things in the lives of others.

There are atheists who, motivated by some non-religious internal desire, do destructive things.

Those religious people who behave constructively say the ones being destructive aren't really [insert faith here]. Muslims who say their religion is about peace while other Muslims say it requires murder. Christians who say their religion is about tolerance while other Christians think gay people are going to hell. Etc.

Religion has been a lubricant for kindness and for hatefulness. It cannot be demonstrated as the source of either.

Religion, then, is completely unreliable as an ethical guide. There will always be some other religion with equal objective claim to "the truth" and there will always be people claiming to be of my faith who "aren't really [insert-faith-here]."

Atheism is also not an ethical guide, but then, it never pretends to be, so who cares?

The Premise:
The problem here is you're treating morality as if it objectively exists in some real way. It doesn't.

Morality is a ward. It's a throwback to superstition. It's the idea that if I create a set of behavioral rules, then expect everyone to follow them, then everything will be ok and the demons won't come get us in the night.

Some people, religious or no, are going to prefer selflessness. Some people, religious or no, are going to prefer selfishness. Morality as an absolute that can be referred to is a myth. Theism and atheism are completely beside the point in this matter.

An atheist myself, I consider myself humanist by ethicality. Humanism is constructive and absent of any superstitious underpinnings. It works. You might look it up.

I am aware that not everyone will go along with humanism. That's unavoidable. It'll be ok.

All we've ever done as a species is make it up as we go along. It's worked so far and, I believe, it will work better the more of us are openly honest about it instead of appealing to morality and other ancient myths to try to control each other and our world.

J.L. Hinman said...

I changed the framework for the post to eliminate the meanness.

The difference in grounding and "objective" is that "objective" can mean many things: it can mean true in all situations and times, it can mean demonstrable in such a way that no rational person could argue with it. You can think of other meanings too but they are all inadequate. You can see from these two they are not valid.

The first is too rigid and the second isn't true, anyone can still dispute moral axioms and you can't prove what axioms people should use in such a way that no one could argue with it.

Grounding just means Grounding, a reason for being, a rational warrant for believing it.

J.L. Hinman said...

Response from a reactionary, anti-intellectual thug. (You do need a comma there, btw.)


thanks

Problem's not fairness. Problem's that you're wrong about there only being two sides, about the relationship between those two sides and human behavior, and about the premise in general.


Did I say there are only two sides? that was a mistake if I said that. I compared two sides, I don't think I said there are only two.

Number of Sides:
There's atheism, and then there's probably close to six billion versions of religion, most of which contradict each other. That's six billion and one sides.



Not important. yes there are as many ideas about religion as there are people to have them, So? There are as many ways to be human as there are people to be human, does that mean being human is wrong?

Behavior and Religion:
There are religious people who, motivated by their religion, do constructive things in the lives of others.

There are religious people who, motivated by their religion, do destructive things.


I didn't say anything about the truth of religion. My beef was the way these two go at it on message boards and neither sides understands the basis of meta ethical theory.

There are atheists who, motivated by some non-religious internal desire, do constructive things in the lives of others.


personal motivations don't come into it either.

There are atheists who, motivated by some non-religious internal desire, do destructive things.

Those religious people who behave constructively say the ones being destructive aren't really [insert faith here]. Muslims who say their religion is about peace while other Muslims say it requires murder. Christians who say their religion is about tolerance while other Christians think gay people are going to hell. Etc.


It's not all gravy you know: ah the rich pageantry of life

Religion has been a lubricant for kindness and for hatefulness. It cannot be demonstrated as the source of either.


yes but the issue I'm concerned about is meta ethical thinking.

I was pissed when I wrote that becasue it was met on CARM by a bunch mocking yahoos who don't know shit abut ethics but shoot their mouths off everyday about how bad Christian morality is. And a bunch of ignorant Christians are who are always telling the other side they need "objective" morality, or "absolutes."


Religion, then, is completely unreliable as an ethical guide. There will always be some other religion with equal objective claim to "the truth" and there will always be people claiming to be of my faith who "aren't really [insert-faith-here]."


Religion is unrelable if you ask everyone in the pew what they think and what's what. But how would it be if we ask everyone at walkmart what to do about the ecnomny? Does that make ecnomics unreliable? Christianity has a huge brain tust in all the major Universities of the world and it lead the way in Meta ethical theory (Kant was a Christain) so why not use the thinkers instead of the dumb shits in the pew?

No offense fellow dumb shits.


Atheism is also not an ethical guide, but then, it never pretends to be, so who cares?

It deems to critique Christian morality and Dawkamentalists waste a lot of indignation on the theme that they have a better sense of the moral than do christians

The Premise:
The problem here is you're treating morality as if it objectively exists in some real way. It doesn't.


No I'm treating it as though it's a real academic subject with a history and conversation and certain themes that have been discussed for centuries, and all fo that is the case.

Morality is a ward. It's a throwback to superstition. It's the idea that if I create a set of behavioral rules, then expect everyone to follow them, then everything will be ok and the demons won't come get us in the night.



that's the knid of the dumb shit thinking that justifies Abu Grabe. That's the kind of "just go by your feelings" crap that led to the Manson family

Some people, religious or no, are going to prefer selflessness. Some people, religious or no, are going to prefer selfishness. Morality as an absolute that can be referred to is a myth. Theism and atheism are completely beside the point in this matter.


what did I say about "absolutes in my post?" go read it again and od a report. You clearly didn't read it closely.

An atheist myself, I consider myself humanist by ethicality. Humanism is constructive and absent of any superstitious underpinnings. It works. You might look it up.


Out modded superstition. humanity is a myth. you are not human. ethics is superstition, just follow your feelings. you are an individual not a human.

I am aware that not everyone will go along with humanism. That's unavoidable. It'll be ok.


I don't think you understand the basics of humanism. did you know it was invented by Christians? it was. The "Renaissance humanism" ever heard fo it? they are all Christians.

All we've ever done as a species is make it up as we go along. It's worked so far and, I believe, it will work better the more of us are openly honest about it instead of appealing to morality and other ancient myths to try to control each other and our world.

7:54 AM
Delete

that is incredebly ignorant. I am suprpized but really I shouldn't be. atheism is about destorying learning it's abuot erasing western civlization an replacing it with stupid people on message boards.

humanity has survived because we invented rule of law, and humanism is about human morality and human values. incredible that you know so little about the things you calim to believe.

J.L. Hinman said...

atheist just don't' know anything about ethics as an academic subject. they don't' know who Rawls is. they are idiots.

they can send all the hate mail they wont that proves they are a hate group.

J.L. Hinman said...

my Ph.D. work was done at a secular university.

Kristen said...

Seems to me like Justin, while calling morality a "myth" (I assume meaning the same thing as a "fantasy"), finds humanism good in the sense that it is "constructive," while being "destructive" is bad. If morality is a fantasy, what is "good" about "constructive" and "bad" about "destructive"?

That said, I appreciate your changing the title of your post, Joe, and the clarification of the difference between "objective" and "grounded." It does seem to me that our morals have to be grounded in something to be valid. I have heard some humanists ground them in "reason"-- in other words, that it's reasonable to be "constructive" not "destructive." That makes more sense to me than just calling morality a "myth," though human reason too has its limits and therefore is not as effective a means of grounding than in the nature of God.

Anonymous said...

Given your premises about there being no objectivity and no basis for determining whether something is good or evil on an atheistic model, how does "grounding" ethics on God escape the problem on a theistic system? Supposing God's opinions were available to us, wouldn't they still be God's opinions? If there is no independent basis from which we can judge morality, how can we establish whether God's opinions are good? Are you simply defining "good" as whatever God thinks?

J.L. Hinman said...

Given your premises about there being no objectivity and no basis for determining whether something is good or evil on an atheistic model, how does "grounding" ethics on God escape the problem on a theistic system? Supposing God's opinions were available to us, wouldn't they still be God's opinions? If there is no independent basis from which we can judge morality, how can we establish whether God's opinions are good? Are you simply defining "good" as whatever God thinks?


One of the most incredible things in this world to me that I will never get over is how people can just forget the concept of God and start pretending like God is just another guy. He's not any body special, he's just Joe Shmoe from the bar next door and I am free to disagree with him call him an ass tell him to go to hell.

how do you know God is right?

Incredible!

how the hell do you know up isn't down? how do you know tables are thing to put things on? how do you know numbers are for counting?

how can God be wrong? how can the source of goodness and love not be the basis of right and wrong?

how can the source of being be false? how can the essence of what is good not be good?


God has no opinions.

this is all very silly. God is the basis of all reality God is the standard. God is the objective basis of all truth.