Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Counter Apologiost Attacks The Moral Argument

 photo sightseeing-rome-rome-tours-sightseeing-rome-things-to-do-rome-la-dolce-vita_zps534dbad5.jpg

The Fountain scene from La Duce Vita
one of my favorite films. I use it as symbol of
moral relativism.


I know nothing about this guy, who calls himself "counter apologist:" (I'll call him CA) except that he is a philosophy student somewhere in the US.I don't know graduate or undergraduate, I will say this for him, he's a good student. He is arguing against the moral argument for the existence of
God as it is ran by William Lane Craig, so it is a modified version of divine command theory. The basic argument says:

(1) if God exists, there are objective moral values

(2) there are objective moral values

(3) therefore God exists.

This is a lousy argument. I will say it up front. I never argue this  it's just a bad expression of a moral argument that I have to wonder if he isn't making  straw man hat is except it is a version WLC uses. I can't fault the guy but one does wonder why he doesn't  take on Kant's moral argument? My contention is that this argument is invalid because it's  committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Just because it is true that if God exists there will be objective moral values doesn't mean that the presence of objective moral values means that God exists. You would need another  premise saying that god is the only source of grounding possible. That would be pretty thought to prove. I'm going to argue the possibility of a moral argument and present my own better version. But I'm to engage CA at the point where he opposes oral realism to theistic morality.
But before we get into that there is another basic paradigm he brings into the discussion which I also want to challenge. In discussion Christian moral theology he labels the idea of God as proper grounding for moral axioms as "the grand metaphysics object" (GMO).He's doing the same thing with that phrase that Dennett is doing speaking of "wonder tissue," he's sarcastically mocking an ideal that he can't answer. That ideas is the notion that God grounds moral axioms. He can't conceive of how God could  equal a moral axiom being true so therefore it's like a magic trick just an arbitrary notion like some big magic trick. He juxtaposes this to antsiest version of moral realism where moral conclusions are just factually arbitrarily and we are given to think so, but no supernatural is required to make it so.
Before starting let me make clear my assumptions. I understand virtue ethics and deontology as two sides of the same coin. I also understand both as almost synonymous with Christian ethics. So he begins by playing what I call they wonder tissue card," that is asserting that the believer's notion of morality is some magical thinking thing that has no meaning. to witt:
Moral Realism and Atheism: "Why should we consider the 'grand metaphysical object' view of morality to be the only game in town when it comes to getting an objective morality?"  Objective could be used as a key, in that if the apologist was to use the word to mean “object-like” could be a way to insinuate that, but why would we care? We can have objective, independent reasons that apply equally to all moral agents, to adjudicate between right and wrong.   In fact, it is this second kind of objectivity that’s referred to in debates about the moral argument...

It is Hard to understand how literally he takes "object." He seems to be trying to build a straw man argument by re defining virtue/obligation in terms that portray it as "wonder tissue." [2] That is to say some kind of magic thing that can't be explained and has a reality beyond the world. of the physical; as though there is some magical moral stuff up in heaven that makes things good. It's a straw man argument because that's what religious people mean by ":the good" At least it[s not what I mean.
while there no doubt are those whose conception of the good is similar to the GMO idea there are obviously major thinkers (and also me) who don't have that idea so he's not challenging thke best examples, me.
What’s important to note here is that there’s a difference between “objective” moral values and any notion of moral values “existing” as a grand metaphysical object.  This is an important distinction to realize: moral objectivism is quite different from moral realism...If moral values are simply the basis that moral agents use to determine between right and wrong actions, then we can have an objective moral value system that does not require a “value” to exist as some object.  On this conception of morality, it would be equivalent to something like “money” or “chess”.   One certainly would say that these things “exist” even if it is only a concept that is used by human beings, and we can derive objective facts about these kind of things. 
Of course we can. We religious people can have that as well. I don't believe that the good is some magical stuff like a physical object. The good is not a magic stuff or some physical thing. It's based upon God's character,. So "the good" is an abstraction based upon the nature of God's inclination to prefer the other; ie "Love." The good is as concept and an attitude that regulates behavior in relations with others. But since CA thinks it's a magic stuff then he's going to compare it as competing against his philosophy of "moral realism." I may have a tendency to make a straw mam argument out of his views. Bearing that in mind, I think moral realism is the view that is irrational and most similar to magical thinking. But there can be theistic moral realism. In a sense any Christian ethical thinker is a moral realist in that we think moral values have real meaning and actually count. That's really the issue. Moral thinkers consider that moral values have meaning and there are reasons to hold to them beyond the pragmatic. It don't just want to be good to avoid fights and problems we think it means it matters that we are good. We think the meaning of moral value and the nature of it's gravitas is grounded in God's command. God has authority because he created all that is and all that could ever be is contingent upon God's active will or forbearance. It's not an arbitrary whim that makes it good but it's the basis of love. God as all knowing source of all that is judges the level of veracity against the acts of virtue, not for meritorious consequences but so that we might know in what ways our conduct and attitudes have fallen short. All of that tempered with love's propensity for mercy.
Moral realism when not backed by the divine is much like presupositionalism, there's no real reason given and non e will ever  be defended, he says: "I’m touching on a debate about what counts as 'moral realism'.  Moral realism is a philosophical position that there are true moral facts that accurately describe reality.  That’s a bit confusing if you’re not into philosophy, so let’s use an illustration." What makes something a true moral fact (as opposed to a false moral fact)? Nor will any be offered. Look at what passes for an answer in CA's argument.
Consider the following two statements:
1.)    I used to own a pit bul.
2.)    It is morally wrong to torture babies for fun.
 Moral realism holds that both statements, if true, are true in the same way. That is the statements actually describe some facts about reality. Suffice it to say, if one is a moral realist, you will affirm premise two of the moral argument.
What makes them facts? How do we know they are facts? That is as much like moral good being an object as theist morality ever comes. Now he uses moral realism to .put atheism in a position of parity, atheism has the equivalent of objective morals too because it has moral facts. He says:
One of the things that isn’t brought up often enough in debates over the moral argument is that the majority of “moral realist” theories in contemporary philosophy are completely compatible with atheism." There’s John Rawls’s Social Contract theory, various forms of consequentialism, Railton’s Reductive Naturalism, the Ideal Observer Theory, and a host of others.  Each of these theories provides a basis for moral agents to be able to tell the difference between right and wrong in an objective way. 
Here he shifted his argument, Those are not examples of moral realism. In fact some of them are not even moral but are based upon abandoning the moral. John Rawls is opposed to consequentialism,. Consequentialism is based upon outcomes matching value system but without grounding the value systems in something they are arbitrary. Most ethicists today feel that Rawls disproved consequentialism. Rawls social contract is limited to the dictates of society can't arbitrate between competing values such as a fascist based social contract. Reductive naturalism is like giving up on morality. I don't think any of those are moral realism.
There are entire families of “atheism compatible” moral realist theories that satisfy the criteria of there being objective moral values in the sense Dr. Craig describes with his Nazi example.  The list provided above isn’t even close to exhaustive. This is why the moral argument is so unconvincing to anyone who has spent time studying moral philosophy.  One of the first things that become clear is that there are a plethora of meta-ethical theories out there that can get us to this kind of “objective moral values”.  An apologist might counter that the above kinds of conceptions of morality don’t actually count as moral realist views as they don’t get you a Grand Metaphysical Object kind of morality.  Sometimes you’ll hear them refer to “robust moral realism” in order to indicate belief in the “Grand Metaphysical Object” style of moral values.  My response there is to ask why it should matter if there is no Grand Metaphysical Object.

This is actually a bait and Switch, None of those theories are moral realism, comseqntualism does not assert that it's axioms are moral facts it asserts that they grounded in being consequences, and so withy all the others. Moral realism is not just any other moral system that's not divine command. That is essentially what he's asserting. Moral realism is a specific idea that moral axioms are moral facts but they still have to be grounded or it's just as arbitrary as the big magic who ha that he tries to say G
od is, the wonder tissue idea. He's selling secular naturalistic wonder tissue.Moral realists don't believe in grounding but they offer not basis for moral facts.[3]

This is because even if one denies the Grand Metaphysical Object style of moral values, they can still get an objective moral value system that gives the atheist a basis for discerning between right and wrong, like in Dr. Craig’s Nazi example.  All that we’re arguing over is a semantic issue on whether or not such systems count as “real” even if they’re not fundamental parts of reality, but rather if morality was a “real” as “the economy” or “baseball”. The point is that atheism, even if one is a naturalist or materialist, allows one to avoid collapse into nihilism or moral relativism.

What's going to make it be objective? Look at Rawls social contract. That says moral axioms are moral because society says they are moral. In WWII we had  society that said gassing people and baking them in ovens was moral. What makes it not moral? society confined it. By definition social contract theory is relative to society. Consequentialism is relative to consequences. He is doing what an atheist friend of mine describes as pour ought sauce on it.[4]
Moral realism I either mysterious and arbitrary or it is based upon values that themselves reduce to non ethical values meaning it's as firmly grounded as values commanded by God because they relative and not universal. Moral realists are violating vthe4 is/;ought dichotomy, Grounding axioms would mean one has a reason to attach an ought, merely saying "one ought" doesn't establish the basis for ought, Saying X is a moral fact doesn't ell us why omen should do X or not do X.

Having eliminated the bait and switch to the secular wonder tissue it's no different then any other atheist who has to ground his values and axioms. God is always going to be the most certain and  universal grounding because he is the source of moral values and the source of love upon which morality is based.[5] Morality is not magic, it's an object in the physical sense, it's the mandated consequences of God's Love. Fletcher got the idea from St. Augustine who said Love is the background of the moral universe. Without a universal mind making judgments and instilling moral laws  and communicated and role modeling love atheists might maintain some moral motions and they can love. I am betting they wont have the strong grounding God supplies or the spiritual strength of love enemies. Let's just hope we have that. Without a universal mind to pass judgment on an ought where is the universality?

 see sources for more quotes.


[1] The Counter Apologiost, "A much longer Counter to the Moral Argument." The Counter Apologist Blog. (May 13, 2016) URL:
accessed 5/28/2016
[2] Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained. New YorkBack Bay Books; 1 edition (October 20, 1992)

Wonder tissue a term Dennett uses to stand for the mysterious qualities of mind that can't be pinned down and that he doesn't believe exist.
[3] Shin Kim, Internet Encyclopedia: A Peer Reviewed Academic Resource. accessed 5/28/2016

The moral realist contends that there are moral facts, so moral realism is a thesis in ontology, the study of what is. The ontological category “moral facts” includes both the descriptive moral judgment that is allegedly true of an individual, such as,“Sam is morally good,” and the descriptive moral judgment that is allegedly true for all individuals such as, “Lying for personal gain is wrong.” A signature of the latter type of moral fact is that it not only describes an enduring condition of the world but also proscribes what ought to be the case (or what ought not to be the case) in terms of an individual’s behavior.The traditional areas of disagreement between the realist camp and the antirealist camp are cognitivism, descriptivism, moral truth, moral knowledge, and moral objectivity. The long and recalcitrant history of the realism/antirealism debate records that the focal point of the debate has been shaped and reshaped over centuries, with a third way, namely, Quasi-realism, attracting more recent attention. Quasi-realism debunks the positions of both realism and antirealism.
The point being realists have no  clear grounding.

Kim, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Korea.


[4] Fred D'Agostino, Gerald Gaus,  and John Thrasher,  "Contemporary Approaches to the Social Contract", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.
The social contract theories of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau all stressed that the justification of the state depends on showing that everyone would, in some way, consent to it. By relying on consent, social contract theory seemed to suppose a voluntarist conception of political justice and obligation: what is just depends on what people choose to agree to—what they will. Only in Kant (1797) does it become clear that consent is not fundamental to a social contract view: we have a duty to agree to act according to the idea of the “original contract.” Rawls's revival of social contract theory in A Theory of Justice did not base obligations on consent, though the apparatus of an “original agreement” persisted as a way to help solve the problem of justification. As the question of public justification takes center stage (we might say as contractualist liberalism becomes justificatory liberalism), it becomes clear that posing the problem of justification in terms of a deliberative or a bargaining problem is a heuristic: the real issue is “the problem of justification”—what principles can be justified to all reasonable citizens or persons.
 That quote essentially says even though Rawls version is not based upon concert it's still  based upn society,

[5] Joseph Fletcher, Situation Ethics: The New Morality, Westminster John Knox Press; 2nd edition (July 1, 1997) 57, 87



Mike Gerow said...

"(1) if God exists, there are objective moral values

(2) there are objective moral values

(3) therefore God exists."

Am I reading this right? WCL really put forward this incredibly bad argument? Did he ever take Logic 101? Did he pass?

~([A -> B] -> [B -> A])

Joe Hinman said...

I know as an argument it sux. I don't know if Craig really said that or not, I'm hopping he made some caveats.

Joe Hinman said...

we use to eat those on new years, caveats and champagmie

Eric Sotnak said...

Craig's argument, as he usually uses it in his debates, is actually:

1. If God does not exist, then there are no objective moral values.
2. There are objective moral values.
3. Therefore God exists.

(The logical form here is modus tolens).

Expressed positively, it would be:

1. If objective moral values exist, then God exists.
2. Objective moral values exist.
3. Therefore God exists.

His case rests on defending the view that some kind of divine command morality is the best (or perhaps only) hope for defending objective moral values.

Joe Hinman said...

yes true. It's valid. but it still sux as an argument.t I would not want to be stuck defending it in that form. I have a better approach I think .I'm going to get to it next week maybe.

Eric Sotnak said...

Joe: If you're going to write up something, I recommend giving this a look.

Joe Hinman said...

ok thanks


Joe Hinman said...

Am I reading this right? WCL really put forward this incredibly bad argument? Did he ever take Logic 101? Did he pass?

I know it sux. He did study logic big time. he studied with Kasemann who studied with Baultmann. They didn't study logic but that means he's had a big time education. Toubingen.