On Objective Moral Values and Duties and Murderous, Raping, Sex Traffickers

As I have previously said, this blog helps me sort out my thoughts. I think of an issue that bothers me, write about it and solicit help from the commenter in answering any question that plague me. If I come up with answers myself I like them to be warranted, not simply made up. An issue that came up recently was a quote from Richard Wurmbrand I found while reading.

“The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe when man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil. there is no reason to be human. There is no restraint from the depths of evil which is in man. The communist torturers often said, “There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.” I have heard one torturer even say, “I thank God, in whom I don’t believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil that is in my heart.” He expressed it in unbelievable brutality and torture infl[i]cted on prisoners.” – Richard Wurmbrand, Tortured for Christ, 34

At face value, the central claim that atheism affords one no reason to avoid evil is obviously false. Atheism can afford good reasons to avoid evil – fear of punishment by the government, lack of interest or just plain distaste. What is true is that in the situation Wurmbrand describes, when the evil is sponsored by the government, one is hard pressed to find any coercive reasons to avoid evil. Things like disinterest and distaste are good for those who have them, but for those who do wish to be evil, the absence of coercive reasons to avoid it translates to what was seen in the quote.

This spurred something of a conversation in the comment section when I posted it. I wanted to know what reason one has to act morally in such a situation. I really wanted to know – it is one of the major problems I have with atheism.

The conversation really upset me because most of the time, Rautakyy didn’t really seem to understand me. To be fair, I’m not the greatest writer, but I would expect that it’s pretty easy to see where I’m coming from. I got the impression that he believed I was arguing that atheism promotes evil, and that we cannot act morally unless we are being threatened with punishment. I, on the other hand, believed I was asking a question. We can act morally on atheism even if we are not being threatened with punishment, but why should we? Whether he understood me or not, Rautakyy offered some answers to my question.
1.    We want to live in a good society and following moral laws will improve the society and make it conducive for all of our lives.
2.     Doing evil hurts us and our conscience and diminishes our self-image.
3.     We should have compassion on the victims of evil.

I dismissed the third answer quickly. If doing the right thing means having compassion, it makes little sense to say we should have compassion because we should have compassion.The other two answers amount to ‘because it’s good for you’. I thought about his other answers and offered a scenario.

“Take Carlos, for instance. He runs an international sex trafficking ring. He makes tons of money from it. He’s also spent most of his life committing every imaginable crime – rising from petty theft in his teens to burglary, armed robber, rape and working as a hired assassin for some time before becoming his own boss. Whatever you think of this, he’s definitely not dying of guilt. His actions have given him what he wants – money and a comfortable life. However, one morning he experiences the odd thought that he ought to turn himself in and pay for his crimes. This is the right thing to do. However, his punishment is definitely not going to be light. I’m almost completely certain that Carlos would pick a diminished self-image over the gas chamber. It would definitely hurt him less and he’ll get to enjoy the fruit of his labors even longer.”

Carlos, in this example, is going to be hurt more by doing the right thing than by doing the wrong thing. Rautakyy replied that Carlos is not obligated to do anything except by the “commonly accepted rules of his respective culture”. His reply amounted to an admission that Carlos is neither obligated to do the right thing (except in some relativistic way), nor does he have reason to, but the rest of us have reason to force him to do it. All good for Carlos, because we can’t force him to turn himself in when we don’t even know what he’s guilty of. Rautakyy did explain ethics (or what he thinks ethics is) to me one more time, talk about how things can be right or wrong without God, argue that atheism does not lead to violence and advise me to get back to evaluating Christianity (even taking shots at the Bible on the way), but none of those things were the topic at hand and so, were of little use to me.

Rautakyy’s response saddened me. In particular, to say that no one is under any moral obligations besides those of their culture sounds wrong and sad. All that writing and still no answer. In situations like this, I start to think that I’m not getting any answers because there is no answer. Atheism really doesn’t deal with this. But before I close the book, I’m throwing the question out there. If atheism is true, why should Carlos turn himself in? I would appreciate a straightforward answer. Else, I will assume there is none and move on.

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Tracy

I’m Tracy

79 thoughts on “On Objective Moral Values and Duties and Murderous, Raping, Sex Traffickers”

  1. “If atheism is true, why should Carlos turn himself in?”
    It’s hard to say that atheism is “true.” The statement makes no sense. Atheism is the rejection of theist claims, so even if you interpret “atheism=true” to mean “there are no gods,” that still says nothing about morality. Even if gods exist, that doesn’t affect whether Carlos should turn himself in.

    In essence, we need to ask an entirely different question: “Why should Carlos turn himself in?”

    We have a number of different perspectives we could take to take to answer this, but I’ll consider two. Let’s start with Carlos’s:

    “I shouldn’t turn myself in because turning myself in will cause harm.” If Carlos truly feels bad about his crimes, he can stop committing them. He can end his sex trafficking ring and move on with his life as if nothing had ever happened. In doing this, society would be better off for it, but he may very well escape punishment. Whether or not that’s an intuitively satisfying conclusion is a different question. Carlos has already demonstrated that he values his own self-interest over society collectively, so I doubt he would choose to turn himself in; from his own perspective, he should not because doing so would hurt him more than just walking away.

    Now let’s take a utilitarian perspective:

    The important metric to measure morality is well-being. Abstractly, when the collective well-being is damaged, we judge the cause of that damage to be immoral. Actions that are good for society are good for the individuals because improving society improves the well-being of individuals living in that society. Carlos has actively damaged the well-being of individual members of society specifically and the larger group collectively. If Carlos turns himself in, this will allow society to offset the harm he’s done by 1) seizing his ill-gotten gains and allocating them to improving society, and 2) reinforce social cohesion by demonstrating that illegal and abusive behavior cannot go unpunished (creating a deterrence effect, at least). Society can achieve neither of these gains if Carlos remains anonymous, so Carlos should turn himself in.

    Note that this utilitarian perspective can be held by anyone, regardless of their beliefs regarding the existence of gods. I would suggest that most people implicitly follow something akin to this view of morality, theist and atheist alike (although the theist has additional layers built on top that the atheist lacks–the idea of sin as something that harms well-being, for instance).

    1. I guess I should have phrased the question as “Should Carlos turn himself in? Why or why not?” That’s a better question, especially given Carlos’s perspective. (You’re welcome to edit my comment to change that, if you like.)

    2. So, your answer is basically the same as Rautakyy’s. From Carlos’ perspective, he shouldn’t turn himself in but from a utilitarian perspective he could. Turning himself in would hurt him, but help the rest of us.

      Yes, the utilitarian perspective can be held by anyone – except Carlos. 😀

      1. Well, Carlos -could- hold that perspective, but self-interest would probably win out. I think the important takeaway is that the consideration of morality is independent from any consideration of theist claims. If Buddhism is true, how does that change our evaluation of Carlos’s dilemma?

      2. On the contrary. This question is so important to me partly because it says something about morality on theism and atheism.

        In this scenario, if theism is not true (and by theism I mean the kind proposed by Abrahamic monotheists), then whether Carlos should turn himself is relative. It is dependent on how hurtful the person answering the question would judge the consequences to be. The rest of us who are not Carlos say “Turn yourself in. This will be make society a better place and give us better lives”. Carlos says “The hell I’m going to turn myself in! What do you think, that I hate myself? Why the heck should I make the society better for you and make myself miserable?”

        To say that this is relative is not moral relativism, but it does support Rautakyy’s contention that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself in. That would in turn mean that it is voluntary for Carlos to turn himself in.

        If obeying such moral laws is voluntary, I obviously will have a problem telling the guy who tries to rape my sister “You shouldn’t be doing that”. I would be lying.

  2. We can act morally on atheism even if we are not being threatened with punishment, but why should we?

    It really depends on the moral theory. I think the one presented by Richard Carrier (which I summarize here) is the best secular moral theory that gives us objective morality.

    He provides the following argument:

    2.1 By definition, for any individual, to want one thing more than another is to prefer that one thing over the other (for whatever reason and in whatever way).
    2.2 Therefore, for any individual, to want one thing more than anything else (i.e., to want that one thing most) is to prefer that one thing over every other thing.
    2.3 By definition, every rational and sufficiently informed individual always chooses the thing that they prefer (when they can choose at all).
    2.4 Therefore, any rational and sufficiently informed indivudual who prefers one thing to another will always choose that one thing and not the other (if they can choose at all and cannot choose both).
    2.5 Therefore, any rational and sufficiently informed individual who prefers one thing to every other thing will always choose that one thing (if they can choose at all).
    2.6 If when rational and sufficiently informed you will want X more than ~X, and you believe X will result only if x is done, then you will want to do x more than ~x.
    2.7 Therefore, if when rational and sufficiently informed you want to do x more than ~x, by definition you prefer to do x to ~x. [per 2.1]
    2.8 Therefore, if when rational and sufficiently informed you prefer to do x to ~x, by definition you will always choose x (when you can choose at all). [per 2.3 and 2.5]
    2.9. Therefore, if when rational and sufficiently informed you want x (i.e., the consequences of x) more than ~x (i.e., the consequences of ~x), then by definition you will always choose x (when you can choose at all).
    2.10. If it is always the case that “if when rational and sufficiently informed you want x (i.e., the consequences of x) more than ~x (i.e., the consequences of ~x), then by definition you will choose x,” then it is always the case that you will obey the hypothetical imperative “if when rational and sufficiently informed you want X (i.e., the consequences of x) more than ~x (i.e., the consequences of ~x), then you ought to choose x.”
    2.11. Therefore, it is always the case that you will obey the hypothetical imperative “if when rational and sufficiently informed you want x (i.e., the consequences of x) more than ~x (i.e., the consequences of ~x), then you ought to choose x.” [per 2.9 and 2.10]
    2.12. Therefore, you will always obey a hypothetical imperative over all other imperatives.
    (Richard Carrier “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (And Science Can Find Them)”)

    I think his argument is sound.

    1. Thank you for that, Christopher, I will try to read your post when I get the chance and if I remember. However, I did not ask for a moral theory – however helpful this one might be. I didn’t ask if objective moral facts exist on atheism. I asked why Carlos should turn himself in. I am granting that it is objectively right for Carlos to turn himself in. I now wish to know why he should care about that and turn himself in despite the clearly undesirable consequences for him, whether or not he is obligated to do so and why.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. That’s the thing, though. In the moral theory here, it’s all dependent on what he wants. If Carlos wants x (or the consequences of x), i.e. if Carlos wants to live in a flourishing society, then a consequence is that he has to turn himself in. If Carlos wants his own personal freedom more than a flourishing society, then he won’t turn himself in.

        The question then moves to “Well, does Carlos want a flourishing society more, or his own personal freedom more?” I would say that, when rational and fully informed, most people would prefer to have a flourishing society. Thus, we can see from the argument that he would turn himself in.

      2. I think something went wrong somewhere. The question is “Why should Carlos turn himself in”, not “why would Carlos turn himself in”.

        What support would you give for the claim that Carlos should prefer to live in a flourishing society over a society in which he’s stinking rich and doesn’t get to suffer the horrible consequences that are coming to him if he turns himself in?

      3. The answer to why he should is because it’s what he wants in actual fact above all else when rational and sufficiently informed. We should only follow the facts of nature, and that we will do what we want the most is one of them.

        As to why one ought to in actual fact prefer a flourishing society over the consequences of turning himself in would easily be explained by game theory. It would be more advantageous for Carlos to have to deal with the consequences of turning himself in than having to deal with a society in which there is no justice.

      4. That is what Carlos actually wants? That’s a tall claim. Care to support it?

        Remember that Carlos is actually gaining a lot from this. He’s not going to live forever. This is his only life so he wants to enjoy it as much as possible. You seem to be saying that it would be more advantageous for him to deal with the consequences of turning himself in (life in prison or death) than the alternative – no punishment, he gets to enjoy his money, etc. Care you explain that in more detail?

      5. Sorry, should have said “The answer to why he should do anything is because it’s what he wants in actual fact above all else when rational and sufficiently informed.”

        In a similar example,

        Even current scientific evidence renders it likely that any further inquire will confirm that the kind of ignorance and cruelty of character that must be cultivated for a slave master to persist in his business is such as to elevate the risk factors for a galaxy of negative effects on the slave master’s own differential contentment (and that not only from his own feelings and behavior but from all the consequences to himself of the social system he must then support to make slavery possible), whereas cultivating instead an informed and satisfying character of such compassion, reasonableness, and integrity as would make remaining a slave master personally repugnant will (in conjunction with reasonable compensatory behaviors) reduce those negative factors while substantially increasing opportunities for a galaxy of positive effects on the (now ex-) slave master’s differential contentment…

        Game theory compounds the problem: a fully rational and informed slave master must agree it’s factually true that his slaves ought to kill him. It’s unlikely a rational person will want to live in a world in which he admits it’s right and proper that he ought to be killed. That is, not a world in which people believe he ought to be killed, but in which the slave master himself fully agrees he ought to be killed. I suspect the resulting paranoia and cognitive dissonance alone would make his life unlivable. (Richard Carrier “Moral Facts Naturally Exist (And Science Can Find Them”))

        I think this can apply equally to the question of Carlos. Unless it turns out that in actual fact none of this is true, in which case he morally should not turn himself in.

      6. Let me see if I get this. If what Carlos wants is a good life and he can better get this by not turning himself in than by going to jail, then he morally should not turn himself in.

      7. Technically, yes. It would be an objective fact about him, assuming he is rational and fully informed, and would thus be obligated (and would) follow it. However, again, not knowing he should turn himself in is unlikely, given what we know about relevant factors, such as society, biology, etc..

      8. You can be even more helpful. You can answer one more question. Given this. Moral system, would it follow that if the holocaust benefited humanity, then hitler should have done what he did?

      9. No, it would have to be shown that the mass execution of people is what Hitler ought to do in actual fact above all else, based on what he wants when rational and fully informed.

  3. “In this scenario, if theism is not true (and by theism I mean the kind proposed by Abrahamic monotheists), then whether Carlos should turn himself is relative.”
    Perhaps, but if theism /is/ true, whether Carlos should turn himself in is irrelevant. In Christian/Muslim theology, Carlos will go to heaven if he is a believer, and he will go to hell if he is not. His specific worldly actions are irrelevant as long as he puts his faith in his god. (Judaism doesn’t have a hell, so that’s a different equation. But then again, if Carlos doesn’t adhere to God’s laws–and it’s obvious that he doesn’t–he still won’t get any sort of reward under Jewish law either.)

    “it does support Rautakyy’s contention that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself in. That would in turn mean that it is voluntary for Carlos to turn himself in.”
    I think you’re conflating ideas here. Whether or not Carlos has a moral obligation to submit to justice, his doing so is still voluntary. Even if we were to establish 100% objective standards that definitively prove that he should/shouldn’t turn himself in, he still has to choose for himself.

    “If obeying such moral laws is voluntary, I obviously will have a problem telling the guy who tries to rape my sister “You shouldn’t be doing that”. I would be lying.”
    Obeying such laws *is* voluntary. That doesn’t render the statement “You shouldn’t be doing that” meaningless. We can still make value judgments in the absence of ultimate-objective-black-and-white-everything-is-prescribed morality.

    1. I forgot to say:

      I can’t speak for Islam and Judaism, but here’s a short explanation of how this works in Christianity. In Christianity, we are saved through our faith in Jesus. i.e. you accept that you’ve done bad things, you are sorry for them, regret them and wish to live a new kind of life. Then you turn to Jesus to help you because you realize you can’t do it on your own. When you accept him as your Lord and Savior, he gives you his holy spirit to live in you and guide you in becoming a better person.

      So, while it is true that it is not what you do that saves you, it is not true that what you do does not matter. If you have been saved and God’s holy spirit lives in you, you demonstrate an ever increasing hatred for evil and a desire to avoid it. In simple English, you are supposed to be getting better. If you are not, then you are not saved. In this instance, if Carlos is saved and following Christ, he would demonstrate remorse for his actions and the desire to pay for his actions. In Christianity, such true repentance counts for a lot. If Carlos does not react in the way I describe, he is not saved. Faith in God and good actions are tied together in that way because faith produces works.

      That said, I have no desire to take this conversation in that direction. I hope we can stay on topic.

      1. Well, you have to be careful because it’s impossible to make sweeping generalizations like that. Christian denominations disagree with each other over the specific meanings and obligations in the Bible. Now that I think about it, not even every Christian group believes in hell. You apparently come from a “works and faith” tradition, but many denominations reject that in favor of an “only faith matters” approach.

        The theological approach you’re presenting implicitly suggests that if someone has a different interpretation than the one you’ve presented, they’re not a “true” Christian. (This would be a No True Scotsman fallacy, btw.) Even if Carlos demonstrates remorse and a desire to pay for his actions, this still does not entail submitting himself to the police as the only option, and I contend he’d be quite unlikely to do so. (He could better serve Jesus by spending his time and money on building more churches, right? And that’s what’s important–living through faith, not concerning yourself with Earthly matters–right?)

        I don’t think this takes the conversation off topic; it seems pivotal. You’re asking about comparisons between theist and atheist claims to morality. I’ve presented one model that is compatible with both. “Christianity” is a pretty huge umbrella with a very diverse set of beliefs. If you’re only interested in approaching the question from a very limited subset of Christianities (specifically the brand of Christianity you’ve laid out here), that’s a different matter. In that case, we’re ignoring the majority of Christian interpretations to favor this particular minority view. I see no reason to do this.

  4. I think you misunderstood me. I meant that to say that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself in is to say that he breaks no laws by refusing to turn himself in. As an example, if I am not obligated to take of my shoes before going into my home, I break no laws by keeping my shoes on. Of course, even if there were a law that said I must take off my shoes, taking them off or keeping them on is still voluntary. But by keeping them on, I break a law and I might very well get punished. My keeping the law is voluntary in the sense that I can choose not to do it if I so desire, but involuntary in that if I refuse to keep it, I might get sent to jail (if there were such a law).

    To say that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself is therefore to say that he breaks no moral laws by refusing to turn himself in. Applied to other scenarios, one might say that the guy who rapes someone is breaking no moral laws. If he is breaking no law, one cannot legitimately punish him. To tell him that he shouldn’t be doing that is to say something false because it asserts that whether he should be doing it or not objective.when it in fact relative (i.e. true for me, but not necessarily for him).

    1. “he breaks no laws by refusing to turn himself in”
      You can’t assume that. For the sake of this example, we haven’t discussed the particular society’s laws. I’m willing to venture that there are a number of countries in which hiding from the police is an extra crime.

      “My keeping the law is voluntary in the sense that I can choose not to do it if I so desire, but involuntary in that if I refuse to keep it, I might get sent to jail (if there were such a law).”
      That’s still not involuntary. There’ss *coercion* to be sure, but the choice is still a voluntary one.

      “he breaks no moral laws by refusing to turn himself in”
      What is a “moral law?”

      “If he is breaking no law, one cannot legitimately punish him.”
      If it’s not illegal to rape someone, why would it be illegal to take personal vengeance on him for the rape? What reason do we have to assume that rape=legal and murder=illegal?

      1. To say that something is objectively wrong is to say that it is wrong regardless of what anybody thinks about it. It is wrong to burn a widow with her dead husband regardless of what anybody thinks about it.

        To say that something is wrong in such a manner is to say that we ought not to do it. i.e. there is a law that says we should not do it. That is the moral law. If this law is made by us, that’s moral relativism. Else, if this law was not made by us and it exists, it was made by someone else who is not one of us. If neither of those options are true, then there is no such law and nothing is right or wrong because laws must be made by someone.

        Evidently, we disagree on the meaning of voluntary and I can’t find a better word.

        “The theological approach you’re presenting implicitly suggests that if someone has a different interpretation than the one you’ve presented, they’re not a “true” Christian.”

        No. I’m saying we’re saved by God’s grace, through our faith, not by knowledge. So it does not follow that a different interpretation = not christian. It only follows that not admitting you’re a sinner in need of God’s grace or not choosing to follow Jesus = not Christian. I know of no Christians who would suggest that being a Christian means you can murder and rape and do whatsoever evil you want and none of it matters because you just have to believe in God. I think they would find it hard to justify such a view from scripture.

      2. Gah! Once again, I forgot to say the rest of what I wanted to say.

        “He could better serve Jesus by spending his time and money on building more churches, right? And that’s what’s important–living through faith, not concerning yourself with Earthly matters–right?”

        That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all day. As far as I can see, eating is an earthly matter. Being Christian does not mean that we do not concern ourselves with what goes on around us. Did someone tell you differently?

        He could better serve Jesus by building churches instead of submitting himself to the government instituted by God and demonstrating that he understands that his wrong actions have repercussions and he truly is sorry for them and willing to make restitution in that way? That’s an awfully strange follower of Jesus.

      3. Here we are. From thesaurus.com, the antonyms of obligatory are nonessential, optional, unrequired, voluntary. So, the word is correct.
        http://thesaurus.com/browse/obligatory

        So, like I previously said, To say that whether Carlos should turn himself in is relative is not moral relativism, but it does support Rautakyy’s contention that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself in. That would in turn mean that it is voluntary for Carlos to turn himself in.

        If obeying such moral laws is voluntary, I obviously will have a problem telling the guy who tries to rape my sister “You shouldn’t be doing that”. I would be lying. He may or may not do that. It is voluntary.

  5. And just for the record, I want to concede a point: “Atheism really doesn’t deal with this.”
    You’re right. It doesn’t. Atheism is merely the rejection of faith claims. If you want a positive non-theistic moral framework, look into Secular Humanism.

  6. “To say that something is objectively wrong is to say that it is wrong regardless of what anybody thinks about it.”
    I disagree with your interpretation of “objective” in this sense (it’s not even coherent under a Christian worldview because God’s opinion is said to be the determiner of morality, meaning even that Christian morality is subjective according to God’s whims), but I’ll accept it here for the sake of argument. (I wrote an article thinking about this subject if you’re interested. It’s called “Objective Morality as a Shell Game.” To avoid appearing self-aggrandizing, I won’t link to it directly unless you’d like me to.) So what if atheism can’t provide an objective morality in the sense you’ve indicated? We can’t even prove objectively that we exist. The fact that we make approximations about the world doesn’t mean we can’t know anything about it. Similarly, the fact that morality can change does not mean morality does not exist.

    “To say that something is wrong in such a manner is to say that we ought not to do it. i.e. there is a law that says we should not do it. That is the moral law.”
    I don’t think it’s appropriate to mix legal and moral terminology. Laws often but do not necessarily reflect a society’s moral values. They tend to lag behind social change, so you can infer similarity, but not representativeness. I know that a number of philosophers use terminology like “the moral law” but this presupposes the existence of such a law, which has not been established (as these conversations demonstrate, I think).

    As to “voluntary,” the dictionary indicates that both our interpretations may be valid in different contexts. I’ll try to stick to the way you’re using it because that’s the way it’s used in the legal sphere, so consider my previous objections surrounding the word withdrawn. However, in this sense of the word (a choice made in the absence of coercion), if any sort of absolute-objective moral obligation exists, wouldn’t it be true that no im/moral decision is voluntary? Wouldn’t every action have an implicit element of coercion?

    “To say that whether Carlos should turn himself in is relative is not moral relativism, but it does support Rautakyy’s contention that Carlos is not obligated to turn himself in. That would in turn mean that it is voluntary for Carlos to turn himself in.”
    What does it mean to be “obligated” in this sense? If there isn’t an imminent danger (in the sense of someone holding a gun to you–or threatening you with hell), what are the actual consequences of having a moral obligation? Can moral obligation really exist in the absolute-objective sense?

    “It only follows that not admitting you’re a sinner in need of God’s grace or not choosing to follow Jesus = not Christian.”
    Okay, so what about the serial rapist-murderer who admits that he’s a sinner in need of God’s grace? What if he only realizes this on the eve of his execution by the government? If at that point he makes an honest attempt to right himself with God, wouldn’t he be morally absolved of his crimes? Where’s the justice in that? If that’s the metric, it’s in Carlos’s best interests NOT to turn himself in, actively avoid thinking about Christianity, and convert (or otherwise become a “true believer”) on his deathbed. If atheism is “true,” whatever moral consequences come about from Carlos’s crimes stay with him indefinitely (or until restitution is made), not just until he apologizes to Jesus.

    “Being Christian does not mean that we do not concern ourselves with what goes on around us. Did someone tell you differently?”
    Multiple someones at various points have informed me that the most important thing in the world is to be “right with God,” and that the rest is all secondary. Like I said, Christianity is a big umbrella. Suffice it to say that I no longer understand exactly what it really means when someone says, “I’m a Christian.”

    “If obeying such moral laws is voluntary, I obviously will have a problem telling the guy who tries to rape my sister “You shouldn’t be doing that”. I would be lying. He may or may not do that. It is voluntary.”
    Actions have consequences. Even if there is no purely objective moral law, the action of raping someone carries a host of potential consequences. The statement “you shouldn’t be doing that” can still be objectively true because the rapist may be subjected to retaliation. Even if there is no God, most modern societies would punish the rapist, and even in the ones that wouldn’t, the victim’s family and friends are still free to pursue vigilante justice. Rape is a destructive act for the victim, but if you’re willing to disregard this factor (I’m not), it also becomes destructive for the perpetrator.

    1. You’re absolutely right. In some cases, telling a potential rapist that he should not commit that crime might be right. After all, the fact that such an action would end badly might be reuse for both of you.

      Yes, it is true that being right with God is the most important thing but that blankets lots of other things and it does not mean that other things are unimportant.

      The view you seem to be describing is that In Christianity, God’s nature is what determines morality. His opinions follow from his nature. His nature does not change. Therefore morality doesnot change in that scenario. If atheism cannot produce objective moral values, the consequences are whatever follows from moral relativism.

      I didn’t presuppose the existence of the moral law. I offered a little argument/explanation for it. I said that to say that we ought not to do something or to say that we are obligated to avoid it is to say there is a law that prohibits it. It is not merely voluntary. Where this law comes from is disputed of course, but to deny that there is such a law is to deny that anything is right or wrong. On the other hand, to say it is made by us is to accept moral relativism.

      Having a moral obligation seems to have the same implications as having a legal obligation. You break a law by not fulfilling the obligation. The alternative to saying we are obligated to act morally is to suggest that whether or not a dictator should commit murder is voluntary. Even if no one can punish him for the act, such a view sounds odd.

      1. “Yes, it is true that being right with God is the most important thing but that blankets lots of other things and it does not mean that other things are unimportant.”
        But if A is objectively more important than B, you have no reason to devote attention to B in any instance where you have a choice between the two. We have a biological need to eat, drink, etc., so we have to take care of our bodies as a prerequisite to doing what needs to be done to be right with God. In that sense, taking care of your biological requirements isn’t a “worldly” action but the fulfillment of a necessary condition that must occur in order to be right with God (although in religious traditions with fasting, that hunger is seen as a spiritual connection to the divine, but this doesn’t fundamentally change my argument; it just adds a footnote).

        “The view you seem to be describing is that In Christianity, God’s nature is what determines morality. His opinions follow from his nature. His nature does not change.”
        I’m sorry, but I have absolutely no idea what this is supposed to mean.

        Dictionary.com defines morality as “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.” It should be self-evident that without creatures to act, there can *be* no such thing as conduct. No conduct means there’s nothing to judge. Having nothing to judge means there cannot be morality.

        Grammar describes the rules of a language’s syntax and morphology. We don’t have a grammar to describe how colors talk to light because it isn’t possible, so there cannot be swear words in LightColorLanguage. This is exactly what I mean when I say morality cannot exist without behavior.

        “Where this law comes from is disputed of course, but to deny that there is such a law is to deny that anything is right or wrong.”
        Well let’s be careful here. The concept of a “moral law” says nothing about the existence of philosophical-absolute-objective morality. I posit that the “moral law” comes from the intersection of biological and social factors. If there were only one human in the world, there would be no moral law (supposing that humans were the only intelligent, reasoning species in this situation).

        “Having a moral obligation seems to have the same implications as having a legal obligation.”
        Does it? I don’t think so. If you break a law (legal obligation), the police can directly interfere with your life in a number of unpleasant ways. If you break a norm (moral obligation), there is no analog to the police. The hypothetical existence of a God still doesn’t introduce a moral equivalent to the police because you can break an infinite number of moral obligations on Earth as long as you sincerely apologize to God. This demonstrates that what we think of as moral obligations do not exist in a world ruled by the Christian god.

        “The alternative to saying we are obligated to act morally is to suggest that whether or not a dictator should commit murder is voluntary.”
        We still haven’t established what it means to have a moral obligation, so this assertion can’t really be responded to.

        “Even if no one can punish him for the act, such a view sounds odd.”
        A far more plausible argument is that this sounds odd because we’re a socially-evolved species with biological drives that compel us to act in prosocial ways. Cold-blooded murder is an anti-social act, which threatens the fabric of a stable society.

    2. Finally, remember that a conversion has to be sincere. If Carlos plans to wait till his deathbed to repent, that would hardly make a sincere repentance. Just saying ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it. A repentance is different from an apology.

      Secondly, the issue of whether it is just depends on your understanding of what goes on at this point. I considered writing a post about it, but someone has already done a much better job here:
      http://christianthinktank.com/inmyplace.html#TEAL

      You can read the whole thing or you can just read from the spot I linked to. I suggest you do read it if you wish to continue discussing the justice of this issue. At the very least, you’ll then have some understanding of my position.

      Long story short, exonerating a guilty person is unjust. But a person who repents and turns to Christ for salvation is made righteous I.e. not guilty. The verse about him separating us from our sins as far as the east is from the west comes to mind here.

      1. “A repentance is different from an apology.”
        Not really. It’s a sincere apology directed at Jesus or God or whomever.

        “If Carlos plans to wait till his deathbed to repent, that would hardly make a sincere repentance.”
        Yet you have to admit that such a thing is not impossible. We have a very strong stereotype in the US of the “deathbed conversion.” It’s a pretty common thing.

        “Long story short, exonerating a guilty person is unjust. But a person who repents and turns to Christ for salvation is made righteous I.e. not guilty.”
        Under this system, a serial mass murderer can have his crimes forgiven no matter what they are. Hitler would be equal in the eyes of God to Gandhi after repenting. That’s completely *not* moral.

        I’m not terribly impressed by that inmyplace article. It suggests a separation of morality into two tiers: earthly and spiritual. The earthly tier is basically irrelevant because only your relationship with God matters. This is implicitly telling believers that it’s okay to commit any crime as long as you repent for it. Again, this is not moral.

        Additionally, here on Earth, we flatly reject the idea of substitute punishment. If I murder someone, the legal system refuses to let my best friend step in to take my punishment of life in prison. This shifting of legal responsibility should absolutely be forbidden in all cases. If I were a rich man, I could murder any number of people and just pay poor people (their families, really) to take my place in jail each time I got convicted. I trust I don’t have to explain why that would be bad… If we had a legal system that automatically resulted in a life imprisonment sentence for literally any violation, the problem would not be that people keep jaywalking, exceeding the speed limit, etc; the problem would be an excessively punitive system. We wouldn’t expect everyone’s behavior to conform to the laws; we would change the laws. We would not create a loophole to allow Joe-Schmoe to serve additional life sentences for each person who illegally downloaded an mp3. That would be insane.

    3. “But if A is objectively more important than B, you have no reason to devote attention to B in any instance where you have a choice between the two.”

      If you must choose between the two, yes. Otherwise, you can do both. Not that I think such a thing is important in this case. I can think of little that we do that could not or should not draw us closer to God. Sinful things are an example but I can think of no other. Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 advises believers to do whatever they do (eating or drinking) for God’s glory. I can read and write about politics in such a way as to glorify God. By turning himself in, Carlos would glorify God more than he would by building churches. He would show the world the power of change that is in Christ – power to soften even the hardest of hearts and bring criminals to the true repentance in which they accept responsibility for their actions and submit to the authorities like they should (Romans 13: 1-7) despite their fear of the consequences. That glorifies Christ by showing the world his greatness far better than building churches will.

      You argued that my definition of ‘objective’ makes morality dependent on God relative because on such a view, morality is dependent on God’s whims. I replied by saying that you incorrectly represent this view of morality. It is not dependent on God’s whims, but on his nature, which never changes. I do not think you understood my reply. In simpler terms, something is wrong on this view if it is in line with God’s nature and wrong if it is not. This is not about behavior, but about values. So, I reject the charge that such a view is relativistic. For it be relativistic, God’s nature would have to change and it doesn’t.

      I shall use your definition from Dictionary.com to make my point about the moral law.
      You said, ‘Dictionary.com defines morality as “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct.”’
      So far, I have been calling them ‘laws’. ‘Rules’ conveys the same meaning I wish to convey. If morality means conformity to these rules, then there are such rules. This is very easy to follow. There are no such things as rules that were not made (unless you’re talking about the laws of physics and such). The kind of rules I speak of are rules such as “You can’t wear your shoes in the house” or “You shouldn’t beat your brother”. Unless such a rule was made by someone, it does not exist. Try thinking of a rule not to wear shoes in the house that wasn’t made by someone (or everyone). Such a rule is a non-existent rule. Unless someone says I shouldn’t wear shoes in the house, there is no rule against my doing so. For this reason, saying that no one made the moral law (which I am now calling a ‘rule’), is to say the law does not exist, which is to say there is no such rule as “You shouldn’t sodomize infants”.

      Your point that the law “comes from the intersection of biological and social factors” does not change this. If it exists, someone made it.

    4. Apology: a written or spoken expression of one’s regret, remorse, or sorrow for having insulted, failed, injured, or wronged another (according to Dictionary.com)

      Repentance: Repentance is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally involves a commitment to personal change and resolving to live a more responsible and humane life. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God in order to gain forgiveness or absolution. It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible. In Biblical Hebrew, the idea of repentance is represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow). In the New Testament, the word translated as ‘repentance’ is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia), “after/behind one’s mind”, which is a compound word of the preposition ‘meta’ (after, with), and the verb ‘noeo’ (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). In this compound word the preposition combines the two meanings of time and change, which may be denoted by ‘after’ and ‘different’; so that the whole compound means: ‘to think differently after’. Metanoia is therefore primarily an after-thought, different from the former thought; a change of mind accompanied by regret and change of conduct, “change of mind and heart”, or, “change of consciousness”. A description of repentance in the New Testament can be found in the parable of the prodigal son found in the Gospel of Luke (15 beginning at verse 11).(from Wikipaedia)
      More on theopedia if you don’t like Wikipaedia or want a second opinion. http://theopedia.com/Repentance Read it anyway, for a fuller view.

      A repentance incorporates an apology, but it goes further. It involves a genuine hatred for one’s actions, a genuine regret for having committed them, and a desire to change. It has you thinking that if there was a way to go back to the past, you would go back and act differently. This is not something you can plan to produce at the last minute (even assuming you would have the time while dying). If Carlos planned to keep sinning for as long as possible and then repent at the last minute, he would have to manufacture feelings of regret, a hatred for his wrongs and wish that he had done differently. A deathbed repentance is one thing, but a plan to repent on your deathbed is another.

      “We have a very strong stereotype in the US of the “deathbed conversion.” It’s a pretty common thing.”
      I’m sure lots of people want to tell God how sorry they are at the last minute so they can escape judgment, and maybe they all actually said it “I’m sorry”. But whether they were able to manufacture the feelings of hatred for their sin needed for the repentance to be true, is another matter. I do not think one can manufacture genuine feelings. If they are manufactured,I think it follows that they are not genuine.

      I doubt you actually read the entire article. That would be some pretty fast reading and in any case, you appear not to understand it. Glenn never says that we can do whatever we wish because only our relationship with God is important. That is self contradictory. What he does say is that things like punishment and penal substitution do not necessarily work in heaven the way they work here and he provides a model in which such a thing would work and not be immoral. That is supposed to respond to your objection that “we do not allow penal substitution here on earth”.
      Tell me, did you actually read it or just skim through it?

      “Under this system, a serial mass murderer can have his crimes forgiven no matter what they are. Hitler would be equal in the eyes of God to Gandhi after repenting. That’s completely *not* moral”

      Either you’re still thinking of it the wrong way “i.e. a guilty person is being let go” instead of “a guilty person is made not guilty” or you just need to chew on it some more. In my view, if no guilty people are being let go and no innocent people are being punished, there is no injustice.

  7. “It is not dependent on God’s whims, but on his nature, which never changes.”
    This still makes absolutely no sense to me. What does the claim that God’s nature is unchanging add to the discussion? God’s laws changed through the creation of the New Testament; one set of rules and punishments applied before, and a different set applies now. You said “His opinions follow from his nature.” but his opinions do seem to have changed. If your claim of (nature–>opinions) is true, this would mean his nature must have also changed. Please clarify?

    “‘Rules’ conveys the same meaning I wish to convey.”
    Okay, this definitely helps, but it’s not perfectly clear. Each household’s rules are different, and the punishments for violating those rules also vary. At the lowest level, you’re likely to incur minor social pressure to conform if you act improperly, and in this regard, they are fairly directly analogous to low-level moral violations. The existence of, enforcement of, and punishments for violating a family’s rules is arbitrary, however. Is arbitraryness compatible with objective morality?

    Are these household rules philosophically objective? (I anticipate a “no” to this.)

    In your Christian worldview, how are the repercussions of violating these moral rules relevant? As long as one makes a sincere attempt to repent, even the vilest violation can be forgiven (unless you believe that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, but I’m comfortable ignoring that one). Under the system you propose, the only possible objective moral rule appears to be “seek God’s forgiveness.” Everything else is irrelevant as long as one does that.

    “If it [the moral law] exists, someone made it.”
    Based on your analogy, you seem to mean “exists” in the same sense as a household rule. I don’t see how this demonstrates what you want it to; if household rules aren’t objective, how would this be?

    As for “someone made it,” your argument appears to be self-refuting. You’ve suggested that objective morality arises from God’s nature, but if “someone made it,” your argument suggests that someone made God’s nature. Are you saying that God made God’s nature? This would be a logical impossibility, for someone has to already exist in order to have the agency necessary to make something else. It’s a bit circular.

    Also, it is entirely conceivable that morality could be the result of non-conscious factors (in which case there was no agency, so the grammar of the conclusion is wrong).

    This discussion seems to be at risk of expanding into unmanageability, so for the sake of brevity, consider the apology/repentance issue entirely conceded. I’ll also retract all questions related to the deathbed conversion because I don’t think they’re ultimately helpful in answering the relevant questions. I think the inclusion of specific scriptural interpretations has led us off course. I have enjoyed the distraction, mind you, because I’m always interested to hear what believers think their holy books mean, but I don’t think it’s brought us any closer to answering the core questions. (I think I should probably apologize for letting this happen, but I appreciate hearing your interpretations. Also, no, I did not read the entire page; I read what appeared to be the section you wanted me to, but it was a large article, and I may have been mistaken about when that section stopped. If you’d like to make sure I’ve read all of what you intended, you’re welcome to paste the final sentence of it or something, and I’ll go back over it.) As long as you understand that the answers you’ve given me represent the beliefs held by only a fraction of Christians, I’m content to accept your interpretations and move on without further dispute. If you’ve said something you’d like a response to that I’ve omitted from this comment, feel free to re-raise it.

    Here are the relevant questions as I see them. I’ve attempted to format the list in an appropriate hierarchy so that each question relies on the one before it being demonstrated in the affirmative. If you think the questions should be phrased or ordered differently, feel free to suggest revisions. (For each usage of “objectively exist,” assume I mean it in the philosophical sense.)

    1) Do one or more gods objectively exist?
    2) Does God (i.e., the Christian god) objectively exist?
    3) Does morality objectively exist?
    4) If so, does it rely on the existence of God?***
    5) Is the Bible an accurate representation of God’s objective morality? (If so, which Bible?)

    *** I would say “a god or gods” here, but you’re arguing from a Christian perspective, so I feel confident in assuming you won’t try to claim that morality stems from Hindu or Islamic concepts. Your answer to this question was “it’s part of God’s nature,” but I don’t know what this means, and I think you’ve contradicted yourself.

    To recap, my contention is that philosophically objective morality does not exist, but I would add the caveat that we use objective standards, in the same non-philosophical sense that legal laws are objective (even if they’re subject to interpretation), to measure morality. (It seems that in this, I do differ from what you’ve described Rautakyy’s position to be because this kind of standard can be applied cross-culturally.)

    1. Thank you for helping me sort out the issues. I appreciate such things.

      As regards morality, I am talking about two things.

      1. Do objective moral values exist? i.e. Is something wrong or right regardless of what we happen to think. I have said that the Christian view of this I am familiar with is that something is right if corresponds to God’s nature and wrong if it does not. Given this view, right and wrong do not change, because God’s nature does not change.

      2. Do moral duties/obligations exist? i.e. are we under some sort of obligation to do the right thing and avoid the wrong thing? Notice that this grants that there is such a thing as objective right and wrong.This has to do with the moral law or ‘rule’ which I referred to. That is, there is a rule which says we should always do certain things (the right things) and avoid other things (the wrong things) something even your dictionary.com quote agrees exists.

      You are right in saying that some of these rules have changed but not that God’s nature has changed. This is because while God utters rules that are in line with his nature, this does not mean that there is only one such rule. For instance, God is by nature just and so his rules reflect that. In the OT, it was his policy to punish those who did wrong. Some wrongs he ordered the community to punish (e.g. murder, adultery) and some wrongs he punished himself (e.g. not lending to a needy relative). In the NT, Christians gentile are exempted from the Jewish laws that require such things as killing adulterers, not because his nature has changed and he is no longer just, but because (apparently) he no longer wishes them to do the punishment. This does not undermine his justice because he can still punish them himself. That is an example of how rules can change while God’s nature remains the same.

      The rule that I speak of is not a household rule (obviously). I merely used those to illustrate what I meant by rule (to differentiate it from the laws of physics and such). Think of both this rule and the household rule as subsets of ‘rules’. What they both have in common is that someone must have made them and that they They differ in that they were made by different people and apply to different subsets of the population. Household rules are made by parents or heads of households (usually) and apply to members of that household and sometimes visitors. Your household rules do not apply in my house, for instance.

      Another rule is the rule not to walk butt naked outside certain areas. This is obviously not a household rule, but it is a rule nonetheless. It is also a law in the legal sense.
      The moral law (or rule) applies to more than just a household and was not made by the head of my household. Think of it as a bunch of household rules on a much larger scale.

      To handle the rest of your objections: No, the moral law could not have been made by something non-conscious because laws or rules so far as we can see have to be made by conscious things. “Why can’t I go to the grocery store buck naked?” “Because the grocery store building said so”. That’s very funny. moral values can be based on unconscious entities, but not laws.
      You keep talking about the repercussions of breaking these moral laws. Obviously, you do not mean to argue that if there are no repercussions, neither the obligation nor the law exist. Perhaps you mean that there is no reason to obey them otherwise. I disagree. Like I previously argued, sincere repentance can neither be faked nor manufactured, saying “you can do whatever you like so long as you repent” does not work because if you believe the statement, you’ll have trouble sincerely repenting.

      Can you explain your question about the objectivity of moral rules? I understand what it means for a moral value to be objective.

      One final point: While I do vaguely understand your point about what I say about the Bible being my interpretation, I want to point out that unless you do not believe that texts have objective meaning (i.e. meaning independent of anyone’s interpretation), then there is a true meaning for any Bible passages I quote. Listening to other people’s interpretation is nice, but you should try to find out the true interpretation too. That will help you if you wish to evaluate Christianity. I believe my interpretation is that true one. I might be wrong or mistaken, but brushing off whatever I say as my interpretation is unwise.

      Wow, this is long.

      1. “One final point: While I do vaguely understand your point about what I say about the Bible being my interpretation, I want to point out that unless you do not believe that texts have objective meaning … then there is a true meaning for any Bible passages I quote.”
        Sorry if I seemed (or seem) thorny about this. I’ve actually been involved in a few discussions like the one we’re having here over the past few days, so I think I’ve occasionally mixed them up a little. I ended up adding that because of what someone else said to me elsewhere. My own personal opinion about whether or not there is objective meaning might be irrelevant because I’m not a believer.

        “brushing off whatever I say as my interpretation is unwise.”
        This is actually the exact opposite of what I meant to convey. Sorry for the confusion. I just meant to point out that there are a loooot of different interpretations of the Bible; even though I will probably occasionally disagree with your interpretation, I’m going to treat it as if it were the One Truth and not argue with you about it (unless doing so is relevant to the questions I’ve laid out).

        I included the first two questions in my list of five because I meant to illustrate that arguments based on the Christian god rely on God’s existence already being demonstrated, which hasn’t been done yet, so it’s not yet possible to reach a sound conclusion about objective morality based on the existence of God. (I hope that sentence makes sense.) Question three is meant to illustrate that the mere existence of God does not automatically entail the existence of objective morality. (You can make an argument from scripture, but unless we’ve also established that God exists AND that the Bible is an accurate representation of God’s word, this is largely pointless. This probably means that the question of objective morality should come after the question about the Bible.)

        It’s been a busy day, so I’m going to delay responding further until tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know that I’m not ignoring you.

      2. Take your time. I’m on vacation myself but I sometimes take my time in writing these replies because it’s better and that way I’m less likely to say things I’ll later regret.

        I don’t believe I’m arguing for anything based on the Christian God. I’m arguing that if God does not exist, OMV do not exist and basing that on the Christian God would be kind of circular. The only other thing I’m doing is outlining how I think of morality.

        Have no fear. I’m not going to argue from the Bible unless I’m trying to explain Christian doctrine. I don’t expect you to accept the Bible. Yet.

      3. “1. Do objective moral values exist?”
        I don’t see any reason to conclude that they do. If you presuppose the existence of a force whose nature might either 1) entail or 2) be capable of creating morality (in the same sense as gravity), then you can make an argument that those morals do in fact exist objectively, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the existence of a god creates objective morality (you’d still have to demonstrate that with an additional series of propositions). Because it’s possible to make true claims that do not correspond with reality, the problem is in demonstrating that this OMV-creating force exists. I’m probably going to end up repeating myself a bit here, but let me show you what I mean:

        The statement “if X, then Y” is logically true even if X=false. This means the claim “If God=true, then OMV=true” is true even if God=false. Consequently, even if you build an elaborate network of logically valid arguments on the premise “if God=true,” you still haven’t proven that OMV exist; instead, you’ve only proven “if God=true, OMV=true.” As long as the existence of God remains unknown, an argument that relies on God doesn’t actually prove anything. Thus, “if God=true, OMV=true” does not demonstrate that “OMV=true.”

        This is not intuitive, so as an example that doesn’t involve God, here’s a test claim: “If I am ten feet tall, cows eat grass.” We can confirm that cows eat grass, but knowing that the conclusion is true doesn’t prove that I’m ten feet tall. If I’m not ten feet tall, cows can still eat grass. The only way to disprove my claim is if 1) I am ten feet tall and 2) cows don’t eat grass. In each of the other three possible states (!X, Y; !X, !Y; X, Y), my claim is true. Everything I’ve said in this paragraph applies equally to “If I am ten feet tall, cows can fly.”

        If you’ve already studied logic, I probably just bored you to death (sorry!). My point is that belief in God doesn’t prove God any more than my believing myself to be ten feet tall would prove me ten feet tall, so any syllogism that relies on God’s existence is inherently suspect. (Thus, “If God, then OMV” alone demonstrates the existence of neither God nor OMV.)

        To answer your question directly (“1. Do objective moral values exist?”), we can demonstrate that “moral values” do exist, but I don’t think we can’t demonstrate that their existence is philosphically objective. Instead, I’d say that they exist in the same sense as legal laws or household rules exist, but I’m not familiar with a word in philosophy to describe this kind of existence. (I’m sure there is one, though, so if you know it, I’d love to learn it.)

        “2. Do moral duties/obligations exist?”
        I notice that this question lacks the word “objective.” Was that deliberate? I think we have agreed that they exist as social constructs, and this is not in question. If you meant to ask if they exist objectively, we’ve got the same problem as with objective moral values.

        You brought up some other points in the comment I’m replying to that I haven’t addressed. I’ve decided not to answer them here because they apply to arguments only within the scope of “If God=true, then OMV=true.” They are relevant within that scope, of course, but I didn’t want to get distracted from making my point here. If you still want me to answer them, I can do so with the understanding that until we have a logical proof that “God=true,” the discussion of any conclusions that follow from “God=true” is largely irrelevant (like discussing whether cows eating grass is the result of my being ten feet tall).

      4. Quick reply: I’m not arguing that if God exists, OMV exist. I believe that invalidates half of your response. Perhaps you want to rewrite your response? If not, I’ll respond to it later. I’m practically starving right now.

  8. “I’m not arguing that if God exists, OMV exist.”
    You seemed to be arguing that OMV exist because God exists before, which relies on the statement “If God, OMV.” You’re not taking that position now, but that doesn’t invalidate my claims. It just means they’re not relevant any longer. 😉

    Here’s your current argument:
    “if God does not exist, OMV do not exist”

    The problem I see here is that your capitalization of the G means this statement is “If the Christian god doesn’t exist, OMV do not exist.” There may be other ways to argue that OMV exist. One such example might be “If the Hindu gods exist, OMV exist.” Another might be “OMV exist as a natural law of the universe in the same way that gravity is a natural law of the universe.” Another might be “OMV exist because purple is a color.” Disproving one claim “if God, then OMV” does not invalidate the other claims about OMV that do not relate to God.

    Your argument (“if Christian-God=false, OMV=false”) is fallacious because it *may be* possible to have a situation where “Christian-god=false, OMV=true.” Disproving “if Christian-god=true, OMV=true” does not mean OMV=false.

    1. No. I just capitalize the G in God out of habit. Whenever I say God, think of the gods of Abrahamic monotheism and you’ll be somewhat on track. Maybe I’ll write a definition after I eat at 4pm and can think more clearly.

      Let’s set out the argument.
      If God does not exist, Objective moral values do not exist.
      OMV do exist
      Therefore God exists.

      This argument is fallacious, you say, because there could be situations is which OMV exist but God does not. But that does not make it fallacious (this is modus ponens we’re talking about!) It just means that you deny the first premise. That a premise might be false does not constitute a fallacy or most arguments would be fallacious.

      Why do you think that OMV do not exist?
      If they do not exist, what kind of moral relativism do you subscribe to?
      By saying that moral duties are social constructs, do you mean that such rules as ‘do not lie’, ‘do not murder’ and ‘do not deliberately run over your todller with a lawn mower’ were made by one (or all) of us?

      1. Yes.
        Affirm the antecedent (modus ponens)
        Deny the consequent (modus tollens)

        premise 1 is
        if (a) God does not exist (b) OMV do not exist.

        (b) is the consequent. I’m denying it and saying
        not (OMV do not exist)
        i.e OMV do exist.
        Therefore God exists. That’s modus tollens. It’s valid.

  9. Oh shoot, you’re right. I guess I read that too fast! I should have taken your advice to wait a bit before replying. 😦 Okay, scratch that.

    You contend that OMV exist. How has this been established?

    1. Reread my comments. Can you find a spot where I actually argue for OMV? No? I stated the argument in response to your claim that I was arguing that if God, then OMV but I never support the second premise, just the first.

      The reason is that I have that problem with the moral argument in whatever manner I have found it presented. The defense for the second premise (OMV exist) is that we all affirm it even those who try to deny it. I do believe that is true, but I find it less helpful than I would like it to be because the person can always emphatically deny that they do so. For that reason I rarely use the argument except with people who affirm the existence of OMV because I can defend the first premise.

      If I ever have to use it with someone who denies the existence of OMV, I might just do something really horrible to them. If they say I’m wrong for doing it (i.e. assert an objective standard independent of the both of us to which they believe I ought to submit), then they believe in OMV regardless of what they say.

      Alternatively, I ask them to produce some sort of argument against OMV, because I believe if there is no reason to doubt my intuition as to the existence of OMV, I should trust it.

      That’s why I asked you why you believe OMV do not exist.

      1. The difficulty I have with this discussion is that it’s very easy to equivocate. What “philosophical objectivity” means is not the same thing as what “objectivity” means in the sense of legal laws. They are two different words that share the same spelling and pronunciation; their meanings are similar but not identical.

        Laws are purely social constructs, but they exist; they do not exist in the philosophical sense of objectivity (would not exist without people). When you ask someone who isn’t familiar with philosophy whether objective morals exist, they generally answer in the affirmative, thinking they are evaluating “objective morality” in the same sense as laws. This is an equivocation. The question they’re answering isn’t the one you asked. I try to be careful when discussing objectivity and morality to avoid this problem.

        My position regarding (P)OMV is the null hypothesis, which is a position of skepticism. When presented with the claim that something exists, the default position is “no it doesn’t.” If sufficient evidence of that thing is demonstrated, then the null hypothesis is rejected. This rejection must be accomplished before a claim can be accepted, and the the burden of proof lies with the claimant. The null hypothesis requires no defense because it is not a claim; rather, it is merely the position “prove it.”

        The existence of shared moral values does not demonstrate the existence of philosophically objective morality. Thus, my position is “because (P)OMV have not been demonstrated, we cannot conclude that they exist.”

        Morality does not have to be philosophically objective to exist. Laws exist. Morals exist in the same way (but are not the same thing as laws). Thus, I conclude that (L)OMV exist, but there is no evidence that (P)OMV exist.

      2. I think we’re confusing each other. I don’t think Objective moral obligations and duties can exist without people, obviously because someone has to make the laws. But that is not what I mean when I talk about objective moral values. Note that I am speaking of values, not obligations here.

        I mean that something that is wrong is wrong even if we all decided that it was right. i.e. what we think about it does not change it. For instance, if someone were to brainwash us all and make us think murder was right, make laws to prosecute anyone who doesn’t murder their parents when they turn 18, murder would still be wrong. Even if everyone in India thought it was okay to burn widows with their dead husbands, it was still wrong. If something is wrong, it is wrong and believing otherwise doesn’t change it. Slavery wasn’t right because people believed that it was neither is it wrong because people believe that it is.

        “The null hypothesis requires no defense because it is not a claim”

        Of course it is. You said that ‘When presented with the claim that something exists, the default position is “no it doesn’t.”’ That is either a true statement or a false one. It is a claim which I happen to disagree with. I think that if you have no reason affirm or deny a claim, you suspend judgment.

      3. When presented with the claim “Martians exist,” what does a suspension of belief look like? It results in not accepting that Martians exist. The position of “I don’t believe you” is functionally identical to “No they don’t.” You’re right that active claims of nonexistence invite testing against the null hypothesis, of course, but this is only after previous claims of existence have met their burden of proof to demonstrate that thing’s existence. To actively claim that Russell’s teapot does not exist, I have only to cite the lack of evidence for its existence to do so. No evidence has yet been demonstrated for it, so we ‘reserve judgment’ by concluding that there’s no reason to believe it does, meaning we continue assuming it does not.

        In keeping with this idea, what evidence do you have that it would still be wrong after the brainwashing? (Note that I am not arguing that it would be okay. I’m just asking to see your evidence–in this case, your reasoning.)

      4. No, not really. The only situation in which I assume that russel’s teapot (whatever that is) does not exist due to a lack of evidence is when I have some reason to believe it does not e.g. A problem with the very concept or a belief that if it did exist, I should have some evidence for it. If I concluded that everything for which I have no evidence does not exist, I would have an awful lot of false beliefs.

      5. Firstly, I count arguments against relativism as arguments for OMV since they are the only two options.
        Secondly, I believe that it is intuitively obvious that some actions are better than others I.e. some are good and others bad. The only way some actions can be better than others is if there is some standard by which we measure it. For instance, my map of Texas is better than your only because there is a real Texas that we compare it to and my map is closer to it than yours. If this were not so, saying that my map is better than yours would be quite pointless. It works the same way. Comparing one set of actions to another (mother Theresa and hitler are the frequently used examples) is only possible if there is some objective standard, independent of what we all think to which both actions can be compared.

        No, I do not conclude that nibiru does not exist (even tentatively) God forbid that I should. I suspend judgment. I have make no judgments about its existence until I have reason to go either way. What problems do you have with that position?

  10. “If I concluded that everything for which I have no evidence does not exist, I would have an awful lot of false beliefs.”
    On its face, this seems like a tempting argument, but what does it mean? It depends on what you consider evidence. Do you have evidence that China exists? Well, yes. And lots of it. Do you have evidence for the planet Nibiru? No, so you *tentatively* conclude that it does not until sufficient evidence is demonstrated to establish its existence. I’m not talking about dogmatic belief here.

    Still, this particular point is secondary.

  11. “Firstly, I count arguments against relativism as arguments for OMV since they are the only two options.”
    This is a very dangerous statement because relativism isn’t a single construct. If you define relativism to mean “anything that isn’t OMV,” then this statement is absolutely fine, but let’s not pretend that we have only two possible moral perspectives. There are different types of relativity, the most eggregious of which is the disgusting notion that you hinted at before: that morality is relative to the individual. According to this mindset, we wouldn’t be able to judge any individual’s actions as being im/moral, but the mere rejection of OMV does not mean that we’re obligated to adopt this view.

    Additionally, if you’re going to argue that morality doesn’t exist because it’s not purely objective, I’d have to wonder whether you think laws exist, or whether art and music exist.

    “Secondly, I believe that it is intuitively obvious that some actions are better than others I.e. some are good and others bad.”
    I agree, but this does not constitute evidence for OMV. You and I both have minds, and we make moral judgments only within that context, so our own personal intuitions cannot possibly be objective. This is especially true because we are certain to differ on the relative morality of any number of actions, but it still applies even if 100% of all people share an intuition. Consider the example of ice cream: what’s the best flavor? This is an entirely subjective question. If I murder everyone in the world who doesn’t prefer vanilla, has vanilla become objectively the best flavor? No. It might be intersubjectively the best flavor, but preference cannot be objective.

    Furthermore, I’m not aware of a single moral judgment shared by 100% of humanity. That there may be trends in moral perception should be evidence *against* objective morality because those trends aren’t universal.

    “The only way some actions can be better than others is if there is some standard by which we measure it.”
    This is an incredibly important observation, and I anticipate referring back to it later. I agree with this wording of this claim, but I disagree with:

    “Comparing one set of actions to another … is only possible if there is some objective standard”
    That’s obviously false. I can use the standard “Things I Like”, which is in no way objective, but using this standard, I can compare any action to any other action.

    “I have make no judgments about its existence until I have reason to go either way. What problems do you have with that position?”
    I don’t have any problem whatsoever with a position of “I don’t know.” I’m just noting that reserving judgment is functionally identical to tentatively rejecting a proposed claim. Yes, “I don’t believe you” and “you’re wrong” are not the same position, but the result is identical. You can’t use a response of “I don’t know” to conclude a claim is true.

    Ultimately, however, it just isn’t true that you make “no” judgments about existential claims without evidence; we reflexively gauge claims for plausibility (even if only subconsciously), and we demand more evidence for claims that seem less likely. If I claim that the Earth’s core is actually highly compact Cherry Jell-O, you’re not going to assume that my claim has a 50-50 probability of being true. The probability value you assign to this claim in your head is a judgment.

    In the scope of this discussion, I’m not claiming that OMV absolutely do not exist. You might interpret my position as that same withholding of judgment, but I reason that because I have seen no evidence that OMV do exist, there is no reason to conclude that they do. Thus far, OMV is my Nibiru/Jull-O core–it’s a judgment of “probably not.” I need evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, and until then, I cannot agree that OMV exist. So far, I haven’t seen any evidence at all, so I reject the premise that OMV exist. (Please don’t put words into my mouth by suggesting that I must then conclude that morality does not exist.)

    I don’t agree that the only possible way to have morality is if it’s objective, and I don’t agree that the only way to have objective morality is if a god or gods exist, but I’ll put those objections aside for now. Let’s assume that your argument is airtight (if no God -> no OMV; OMV; therefore God). What evidence demonstrates OMV? Before you answer that, I’d like to ask for a reminder of your definition of “objective.”

    1. “Yes, “I don’t believe you” and “you’re wrong” are not the same position, but the result is identical. You can’t use a response of “I don’t know” to conclude a claim is true.”

      True. You can’t use a response of “I don’t know” to judge a claim as false either. As long as we both agree about that, we’re on the same page.

      “Ultimately, however, it just isn’t true that you make “no” judgments about existential claims without evidence; we reflexively gauge claims for plausibility (even if only subconsciously), and we demand more evidence for claims that seem less likely. If I claim that the Earth’s core is actually highly compact Cherry Jell-O, you’re not going to assume that my claim has a 50-50 probability of being true. The probability value you assign to this claim in your head is a judgment.”

      I think you’re proving my point. The reason I make that judgment is that so far as I know, cherry Jello is something made by human beings and not by nature and I find it less than probable that human beings have been filling the earth’s core with Jello. What I am saying is that I do have reason to think the statement is probably not true. If, however, you told me the earth’s core is filled with magnesium oxide, I with my amateur knowledge of physics, geology and chemistry, wouldn’t regard it in the same way I regard the Jello claim.

      Your response to my claim that “intuitively obvious that some actions are better than others I.e. some are good and others bad.” was a bit quick. I didn’t say that in itself was evidence. It was incomplete without the rest of what I said.

      I said: “Comparing one set of actions to another … is only possible if there is some objective standard”
      You said: “That’s obviously false. I can use the standard “Things I Like”, which is in no way objective, but using this standard, I can compare any action to any other action.”

      Like I have previously said, by ‘objective’, I mean something that is the same for everyone regardless of what they think. Your statement here can be interpreted as different things.

      Interpretation 1: The standard is what you yourself like and nobody else. In this case, the standard is objective as long as what you like does not change (like it probably has before). If it changes, it is no longer objective and is as useful for measuring actions as a iron meter rule in Texas’ climate is useful for measuring length.

      Interpretation 2: The standard is whatever everyone likes. Therefore the standard is different for everyone. This would be the same as if everyone had rulers with different measurements where 1cm on one ruler was twice as long as 1cm on another. Try figuring out what 3cm is in that situation. You’ll have to choose one of those rulers to use and that is exactly my point.

      If in saying something is good or bad we simply meant “whatever each one of us thinks is good” (with which you rightly disagree) or “whatever each culture thinks is good”, comparisons would be meaningless. One objective (unchanging) standard is needed and the only way it can be unchanging is if it does not depend on our opinions. Our opinions change.

      You say that morality can exist in the absence of OMV. What would it mean to say that things can be right and wrong if we have no good (i.e. unchanging) standard by which to compare Hitler and Mother Teresa?

  12. “by ‘objective’, I mean something that is the same for everyone regardless of what they think.”
    With this definition, I don’t see how even absolutely universally shared intuitions could be considered evidence of objective anything. Those intuitions absolutely rely on what people think.

    “In this case, the standard is objective as long as what you like does not change (like it probably has before). If it changes, it is no longer objective and is as useful for measuring actions”
    You did not include “unchanging” as a necessary condition of objectivity, and I think the inclusion of this requirement would be a mistake; it would, for example, render all physical processes subjective (or at least create the requirement for a third category). That said, the category “What I Like” still wouldn’t be objective even if my opinions never changed because they’d still be my opinions, and not everyone shares my opinions (sadly).

    “What would it mean to say that things can be right and wrong if we have no good … standard by which to compare Hitler and Mother Teresa?”
    Omitting your paranthetical, I think it’s easier to see the absurdity of this question. We have a number of good standards to compare the two. Harm caused. Murders inspired. Works performed. Effects on suffering and joy. Environmental impact. Each of these are potential standards to compare the two, and they most certainly are not mutually exclusive.

    “One objective (unchanging) standard is needed and the only way it can be unchanging is if it does not depend on our opinions. … ”
    Again, “unchanging” cannot be a standard for establishing objectivity.

    I’ll now present a positive argument for a system of universal morality that requires no god. We begin with a single goal, which is a subjective value, and build a network of objective standards on top of that singular value. With this goal clearly stated, we can objectively establish whether any given action furthers or impedes the goal. The initial premise does not need to be universally supported, but we can use something that almost all people would agree with. To demonstrate how this works, I’m going to suggest the most selfish value possible: “I want to be happy.”

    This may not be the strongest ethic upon which to build a society, but it’s entirely sufficient. (Indeed, I think we can and should choose better goals, and it’s not actually necessary to restrict ourselves to just a single value, but I’m trying to illustrate a point here.)

    What kind of world would be compatible with this end goal? Is a society that allows murder/theft/rape going to make us more likely to be happy? Superficially, if you’re the kind of person who wants to do these things, you might be inclined to say yes, but if you consider the implications of that, why it would not be more likely to lead to your happiness quickly becomes apparent. If you’re permitted to commit atrocities on other people, they are also permitted to commit them upon you. The standard applies to all people equally, so the only options are either 1) X is okay for everyone or 2) X is okay for no one. Since having our property stolen and our dogs murdered would not make us happy, the goal is *objectively* better met if we outlaw theft and at least one form of canicide. So what happens in the case of aberrant behavior–what obligation is there in this system to prefer law and order over chaos and mayhem? Well, if a criminal victimizes you, you will be less happy, so you have an active incentive to discourage criminality; an objectively good way to do this is to have a fair, strong, and consistent legal system. And so on.

    Again, the goal of self-happiness is not the strongest possible example, but I’m just trying to demonstrate that even selfish values can be used to create “good” systems of morality. Once that goal exists, the moral system is objective in its evaluation of actions by judging their relationship with that goal.

    In anticipation of the (ridiculous) question of why someone should be obligated to be moral even if the system isn’t founded on philosophically objective values, I offer this explanation: it’s for the same reason that we would desire a legal system in the “I want to be happy” system of morality; the rest of us are not obligated to let you abuse us. We are capable of defending ourselves against victimization, and it would be self-destructive to allow outside threats to torture and kill.

    Since you seem to value unchangingness so much, I’ll also point out that it is possible for the stated goal of this kind of moral system to be unchanging. It can be the same goal forever, even if specific interpretations of how that goal can be best accomplished may change. (Although I am deeply uncomfortable with the idea of a system that can never change because it would permanently crystallize any inequities in that system.)

    I believe this sort of moral system is far closer to what we see in reality than the claims of any religious text. If there were really an all-powerful god who was concerned enough with the world to establish a set of absolute rules and demand obedience, I’d expect to see widespread adherence to those rules. As it is, the world’s largest religion is actively disbelieved by two-thirds of the world’s population. That does not strike me as a statistic that supports the claim that an omnipotent entity wants our obedience, but it is the kind of statistic you’d expect to see if people form their moral values in communities.

    1. “With this definition, I don’t see how even absolutely universally shared intuitions could be considered evidence of objective anything. Those intuitions absolutely rely on what people think.”

      Can you explain that statement again? I don’t understand you. I said that an objective standard is the same for everyone regardless of what they think. It would not change if they begin to think differently. How does it then follow that shared intuitions cannot be evidence for objective standards?

      Let me again explain objective (as I am using it). I think I have been less than clear. A moral value is objective if it is the same for everyone, regardless of what they think. It does not change as the opinions of people change. Note that I am talking about values here, not physical processes. However, if you wish to apply the standard to physical processes, it applies too. Physical processes do not depend on people’s opinions. As a result they do not change when people’s opinions change so they are objective in this sense.

      ” “What I Like” still wouldn’t be objective even if my opinions never changed because they’d still be my opinions, and not everyone shares my opinions (sadly).”
      You’re right. I missed that one. They would not be objective, not because they are your opinions and are not shared, but because they still depend on your opinions and would change if your opinions did. That is true even if your opinions never change.

      Finally, you said: “Omitting your paranthetical, I think it’s easier to see the absurdity of this question. We have a number of good standards to compare the two.”
      It seems you read my parenthetical differently than I intended. I meant to ask, “What would it mean to say that things can be right and wrong if we have no objective moral standard by which to compare Hitler and Mother Teresa?”

      1. objective: If the standard by which we judge them is not objective, it means the same thing as saying a fish is 8 inches long when my inch is twice the length of yours and we have no standard independent of the both of us to measure by.
      2. Moral: This one should be obvious. Comparing them on a amoral standard like height would be pointless in this question. However, you can argue that harm caused is a moral standard and it is objective, in which case I would grant it and you would be agreeing that objective moral values do exist. However, we would still be left wondering why your standard is the real one or one that you just made up yourself. Made up standards are good for measuring things if you can get everyone to accept them (just look at the kilogram) but they are not objective because they are dependent on people’s opinions and so will change when the opinions change. In other words, your made up standard is still your standard.

      I have not responded to the rest of your comment. What I have written is enough. I suggest we only take this a little at a time. But I want to say that I am enjoying this conversation. You’re a lot easier to talk to than the rest of your atheist pals. Keep commenting here, okay?

  13. “Can you explain that statement again? I don’t understand you. I said that an objective standard is the same for everyone regardless of what they think.”
    Sorry, I think I must’ve chopped that sentence up with my editing pen and not quite put it back together right. What I mean is that an intuition is the product of a mind, so even if everyone shared it, I still don’t see how it could be considered objective. (Feel free to elaborate.)

    Is universality a guarantor of objectivity? Clearly not, because someone could just murder everyone who doesn’t prefer vanilla, making it universally accepted as the best flavor, but this would not make it *objectively* the best flavor. (Or do you think it would?) So how can we determine objectivity? Well, it depends on the definition. In the philosophical sense, moral intuitions couldn’t be objective because intuitions require minds, and objective things must be mind-independent. If we use the definition you just provided, however, we might reach a different conclusion…

    “A moral value is objective if it is the same for everyone, regardless of what they think. It does not change as the opinions of people change.”
    Isn’t this statement self-contradictory? What are morals? In practice, they’re judgments of preference (and preference is rooted in opinion) that apply to behavior (“I dislike when X is done,” or “I like when Y is done”).

    Even if it isn’t self-contradictory, I don’t think it carries the force you want it to. I could say that “murder is bad” is an objective moral value because that idea is the same regardless of how many people agree to it. In this sense, ideas are abstractions that are incapable of changing (but may be capable of spawning additional abstractions). Similarly, “murder is good” is equally objective. We would essentially be drowning in a sea of objective moral values, each with zero or more adherents.

    Using this definition, laws definitely seem to be objective. Yes, laws can be amended or repealed, but to do so requires the passage of a new law, and that new law supercedes the former one; it doesn’t change it per se. If you construct a system of rules and unilaterally declare it to be the unchanging moral law of the land, you would be creating an objective moral framework, even if that objective framework had its origins in subjective opinions. You’d be starting with a subjective value system and writing an objective code to mandate obedience to that subjective value. (This does not require a god.)

    I’d like to again suggest an unchanging system would be very susceptible to error. Anything that doesn’t change and cannot be reinterpreted to fit individual situations will invariably over- and under-punish offenses that may have exculpatory or aggravating circumstances. You could argue that, by definition, it isn’t necessary for an objective system to have universally fair outcomes, and I would concede the point readily, but I would call this kind of system an immoral one. (But that’s just me expressing my own subjectivity.)

    Under this definition, I’ll concede that each of the above forms of moral system is capable of being objective (and my own “I want to be happy” model–IW2BH–would too), but only because you have included no guarantee of permanence. That is, anything that might be perceived as revision would instead be the creation of an entirely new moral system. (The old system would still exist in some platonic sense, but the new form would take precedence.) In any event, none of these would be sufficient to prove any god.

    I anticipate a response of “if it can be changed or discarded, then it isn’t an objective moral system.” If you want to argue this, I would ask that you also consider the fact that God’s laws changed in the Bible. We don’t necessarily have to discuss that now, and perhaps we’d be better served waiting until we’ve agreed on a particular interpreation of objectivity before discussing whether/how the laws changed (although if I recall correctly, you’ve said that the law changed, but God’s nature did not–I have more to say about this, but I’ll abstain).

    Additionally, I’m still unaware of any universally shared moral value, so you have an uphill battle in front of you. Even if there is some innate, absolute, objective system of moral values to the universe, the lack of this universality suggests that humans are incapable of perceiving it.

    “However, if you wish to apply the standard to physical processes, it applies too.”
    I suppose, but I’d argue that it’s slightly different to say that “X is the same for everyone” and “X is X, regardless of any observer.” For example, a rock isn’t “the same for everyone” because a rock is a rock even if there is no one. It’s a very minor difference, but nuance can be important. (Also, erosion wears down rock into sand, so obviously rocks can change, and sand is still objectively sand. You might argue that unchangingness is a component of objectivity only within the scope of OMV, but I’m not sure what the point of this distinction would be.)

    “You’re right. I missed that one. They would not be objective, not because they are your opinions and are not shared, but because they still depend on your opinions and would change if your opinions did. That is true even if your opinions never change.”
    Using the definition you gave me here, however, the moral framework I laid out *would* be objective because those goals exist independently of personal opinions once they’re recorded. You might have the opinion that a system of rules built around IW2BH is not a *good* moral system, but it would still be an objective one. In that regard, anything that improved the likelihood of people reaching that goal would be objectively good, and anything that impeded it would be objectively bad.

    This problem belies why philosophers stress the importance of mind-independentness as a feature of objectivity. Under this strict definition, no example I’ve listed here would be objective because they were created by minds.

    This is also why some theologians argue that objective morality is part of God’s nature, as a weasel way to get around the problem of a “mind” (what’s moral is moral because of what God *is* instead of what God thinks or says), but this is circular. The argument boils down to “we know if God exists, OMV exist, and we know if OMV exist, God exists.”

    “What would it mean to say that things can be right and wrong if we have no objective moral standard by which to compare Hitler and Mother Teresa?”
    It would mean that we’re social creatures empowered with the reasoning skills necessary to condemn antisocial behaviors. We can shun without the existence of OMV.

    “1. objective: If the standard by which we judge them is not objective, it means the same thing as saying a fish is 8 inches long when my inch is twice the length of yours and we have no standard independent of the both of us to measure by.”
    Not at all. A better example would be comparing imperial to metric measurements or celcius to fahrenheit. Once we know that your “inch” is twice the length of mine, we can compensate to come to a mutually comprehensive understanding. Not having an objective standard isn’t the same thing as having NO standard. The IW2BH allows objective measurements, even if you want to argue that it’s not 100% objective because it’s founded on that initial value. We can objectively determine what actions are conducive to a healthy society, rewarding for those and punishing for the antisocial ones. Why on Earth would morality be completely without meaning if isn’t 100% objective? Surely subjective experience carries some value?

    Consider the following: if you want to argue that not having objective morality means that you cannot tell someone not to murder, the rest of us are equally free not to LET them murder. The question of objectivity is secondary to the question of reality; regardless of whether someone’s values are objectively “true,” they will act according to those values, and this has a far greater impact on the world than any observations regarding a value’s objective truthhood.

    “However, you can argue that harm caused is a moral standard and it is objective, in which case I would grant it and you would be agreeing that objective moral values do exist.”
    We’re almost on the same page here. Harm caused is an objective standard, but it isn’t an objective *moral* standard. Morality doesn’t come into play until we start making *ought* statements. Harm caused is an *is* statement. (The harm caused by action X is Y. Y is too large, so X is immoral.) The “should” element is probably subjective–at what point do we determine that causing harm is immoral? If only 0 harm is moral, then accidentally hurting someone’s feelings is immoral. In saying “well, at Z harm-value, the action becomes immoral,” the act of choosing a number for Z is a subjective moral value.

    In any case, if we agree that objective moral values exist in this circumstance, then I think we have rejected your proposition that OMV prove God. If you grant that IW2BH is objective, I have demonstrated that an objective system can be created without a God, so “no God->no OMV” is disproven.

    “Made up standards are good for measuring things if you can get everyone to accept them (just look at the kilogram) but they are not objective because they are dependent on people’s opinions and so will change when the opinions change.”
    I have to disagree with how you’re using “opinion” here. Your opinion of what something weighs is irrelevant to that thing. If you put something on a metric scale, that scale will tell you how many kg it weighs. No opinion necessary. Like IW2BH, the initial description of the basic unit of measurement may have been the result of a choice (and thus not objective), any application of that unit is an objective measurement.

    I’ll end with the same point I made at the beginning: An objective standard is not the same thing as an objective moral value; values are a subset of opinions, and as such, they are entirely mind-dependent. In traditional philosophy, this makes them incapable of being objective. You’ve suggested that a universal opinion could be evidence for OMV–are there any universal opinions?

    Here’s something to think about: if there is no God–if God is an entirely man-made lie–the moral code of the Bible can still be objective. It’s written down, and various behaviors are both supported and condemned. In this hypothetical, it would have been written by fallible men (maybe also women, but probably solely men) with questionable intentions, but once it was written down, it became an equally objective thing as any society’s laws. If you assume someone sticks to a single version of the Bible, it can be followed (or rather, a person can TRY to follow it) as an objective guide. So too, however, can the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita, the Lotus Sutra, the United States Penal Code, and so on. If you want to make a logical argument for the specific existence of only the Christian God, how will you form that argument to exclude other alternate objective moralities? (And isn’t the attempt to do this intellectually dishonest? If you’re starting from the conclusion you want to draw, that’s not an attempt to understand a truth but rather to manufacture one.)

    1. I have a pretty long list of things to do today and long as your response is, I’ll probably have to read it a few more times before I can respond to it. So, for now, I want to point out two areas where you misunderstood me.
      1. I did not say that OMV have to be shared by everyone for them to be objective. I said that whether people believe them or not is irrelevant to their objectivity. e.g. if murder is wrong, it would be wrong if everyone thought it was right and vice versa.
      2. I never said that the fact that we share moral values is evidence for OMV. I said it is intuitive and obvious that some things are better than others and so there must be a standard by which one can compare them (not that we can make a standard by which to compare them, but that there is a standard by which we can compare them).

      1. Sorry about the length of my previous response. It kind of got away from me. I understand that real life doesn’t always schedule itself around the internet, so take your time.

        “I said that whether people believe them or not is irrelevant to their objectivity”
        Agreed.

        “e.g. if murder is wrong, it would be wrong if everyone thought it was right and vice versa.”
        Is it impossible to call something wrong in the absence of OMV? Surely *some* murders are acceptable while others (most) are wrong.

        “I said it is intuitive and obvious that some things are better than others and so there must be a standard by which one can compare them”
        Right, and I don’t have a problem with this. I only object to any implication that these standards (I use the plural because we have more than one standard) must be objective.

    2. You’re right that an intuition is not objective if everyone shared it, but I never argued that it was. However, intuitions can give us insight into facts about the world that are objective. For instance, your intuition can tell you that if 3 is greater than 2 and 2 is greater than 1, then 3 is greater than 1. Your intuition is subjective although universal, but the knowledge you have discovered is objective by the definition I gave. Why is this important, anyway?

      I disagree that moral intuitions are, in practice, judgments of preference. There are lots of things that I dislike that aren’t wrong and I would contend that some people like things which are wrong. If rape is wrong even for the person who likes it, then it is obviously not true that morals are judgments of preference. Saying otherwise would imply moral relativism and you don’t agree with that.

      Your fourth paragraph seems to highlight an area on which we are not on the same page.
      You said: “I could say that “murder is bad” is an objective moral value because that idea is the same regardless of how many people agree to it. In this sense, ideas are abstractions that are incapable of changing (but may be capable of spawning additional abstractions). Similarly, “murder is good” is equally objective.”
      “murder is wrong” and “murder is right” are what we are discussing here and those are factual claims, not merely ideas. In saying that they are objective, I am saying that their truth value (whether the statements are true or false) does not change according to people’s opinions. I object to the word change for reasons I am yet to figure out.

      So, let’s modify your statement.
      “I could say that “murder is wrong” is an objective moral value because that factual claim is true regardless of how many people agree to it. In this sense, factual claims are abstractions whose truth values are incapable of changing (but may be capable of spawning additional abstractions). Similarly, “murder is right” is equally objective.”
      Your point depends on the word changes. When I substitute my meaning into the paragraph, it ceases to make sense.

      Your next paragraph confused me as well. Yes, you can create your own laws, declare that they cannot be changed but only replaced. (Of course if the replacing law directly contradicts the previous, that is effectively a change, but let’s ignore that). They are objective, true – I can see no reason why they would not be – but they would be right or wrong. Obviously, because we can come up with laws that legislate wrong things. If we can judge those laws are right or wrong, we must be comparing them to some standard. Ergo they are not the moral standard. This holds true for every standard created by humans even the IW2BH one. They answer to THE moral standard so my argument is still there. I am by no means arguing that you cannot create a moral standard without God. I am merely saying that there is a moral standard independent of the ones we create.

      Let me rephrase this again: “What does it mean for moral values if there is no objective moral standard by which to compare Hitler and Mother Teresa?”
      Sure, we can come up with our own standards, but they can always be replaced even if you declare them as unchanging. This makes some things only wrong now and then right later when a different standard replaces them. That makes the judgment of right and wrong meaningless. If you don’t like it, change… I mean, replace it.

      “Once we know that your “inch” is twice the length of mine, we can compensate to come to a mutually comprehensive understanding.”
      Absolutely! But that’s because we already have a standard independent of your inch and my inch. I used it when I said your inch was twice the length of mine, thereby comparing the two. I asked what you would do if you didn’t have THAT objective standard.

      “regardless of whether someone’s values are objectively “true,” they will act according to those values, and this has a far greater impact on the world than any observations regarding a value’s objective truthhood.”

      Note that I am not saying you can’t use your constructed moral standards to do things like make society flourish, reduce harm etc, I am simply saying that they would be useless in a moral sense. It’s just what people think or what people like or both. Like fashion. Saying something is wrong would be saying, “we do not like that or allow it in our society and if you try to do it, we’ll make sure that you don’t”
      I’m sure you see exactly what that means. Whoever has the power can make the rules and do as they like and they can’t be wrong because there is no standard that they answer to.

      “If you want to make a logical argument for the specific existence of only the Christian God, how will you form that argument to exclude other alternate objective moralities?”(And isn’t the attempt to do this intellectually dishonest? If you’re starting from the conclusion you want to draw, that’s not an attempt to understand a truth but rather to manufacture one.)

      My argument here reaches the conclusion that there is one objective moral standard to which all our standards (whether you judge them to be subjective or not) must conform.This argument as far as I know it does not culminate specifically in the Christian God, just God. If it did, however, it would only beg the question if it started from the assumption that the Christian God exists which it obviously does not. One does not have to believe a specific God exists in order to come up with an argument that excludes all other gods.

      “An objective standard is not the same thing as an objective moral value; values are a subset of opinions, and as such, they are entirely mind-dependent. ”

      The way I am using the word here, think of a value as a moral judgement and a standard as a set of values by which we measure things. They are right if they conform to those values and wrong if they don’t. For instance, “stealing is wrong” and “murder is right” might both be moral values and when combined, we can use them as a yardstick by which we judge all actions. One value can make up a standard on its own. Of course you don’t think that whether stealing is right or wrong depends on our opinions. You’re not that kind of moral relativist.

      I think I’ve pretty much covered all your points. Your remaining paragraphs just seem to say what you have already said. Do tell me if there were any points there you wanted me to respond to. Let me summarize my points so they don’t get lost in all this mess.

      If OMV did not exist, comparisons between moral systems or moral actions would still be useful, but would mean something differently from what they mean now. Instead of meaning something that should not be done regardless of whether you like it or it benefits you (by giving you pleasure and such) or you have the power, it would mean something you do not agree with and do not wish to allow. In my words, they would be meaningless in a moral sense.

      OMV exist because some things are right and some things are wrong, even our own moral systems. In order to call them right or wrong, we must be comparing them to some standard. This standard must be independent of what we think and say because our standards can conform or fail to conform to it. Therefore this standard exists independently of our opinions and so it is objective.

      1. “intuitions can give us insight into facts about the world that are objective.”
        They can also lead us terribly astray (cognitive biases, visual illusions, etc.). Intuitions are notoriously unreliable, so we need independent standards to measure things.

        “Why is this important, anyway?”
        To illustrate that universality of opinion (or moral perception, if you prefer) does not demonstrate objective morality.

        “I disagree that moral intuitions are, in practice, judgments of preference.”
        What is the difference of meaning, in your opinion, between the following two sentences?
        1) X is immoral.
        2) I dislike it when X is done.

        “Saying otherwise would imply moral relativism and you don’t agree with that.”
        It depends on the *type* of relativism we’re talking about. I’m prepared to accept arguments for a type of social/group relativism, but I have a hard time taking seriously anyone who makes an argument for individuals being permitted to slaughter each other and so on due to a lack of objective morality.

        ““murder is wrong” and “murder is right” are what we are discussing here and those are factual claims”
        I’m not convinced that statements of moral value *can* be factual claims. You can make a factual claim that “a society in which cold-blooded murder is not prosecuted would be dangerous,” but this is an entirely different sort of statement from “killing people is wrong.” (If nothing else, it’s different because we have come to understand that killing a person can be the right thing to do depending on the context.)

        “When I substitute my meaning [bad->wrong, good->right] into the paragraph, it ceases to make sense.”
        Isn’t that evidence that moral judgments are not factual claims?

        “If we can judge those laws are right or wrong, we must be comparing them to some standard.”
        Look at the state of US politics. The country is pretty well divided about many current laws. Each person has their own standard (although yes, one Republican’s standard is likely to be fairly similar to another Republican’s, so too with Democrats, Libertarians, etc., but even still, they won’t be identical).

        “Ergo they are not *the* [emphasis added] moral standard.”
        I think it is a mistake to presuppose the existence of a single moral standard in an argument about whether a single objective moral standard exists. The studies of memetics and/or semiotics (and other similar ideas) give us an ample toolbox for understanding the patterns of shared moral values.

        “I am merely saying that there is a moral standard independent of the ones we create.”
        I see no evidence of this. Studying culture reveals no universal moral view. What else would be evidence for an objective standard?

        “Sure, we can come up with our own standards, but they can always be replaced even if you declare them as unchanging.”
        You may find this idea distasteful, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

        “I asked what you would do if you didn’t have THAT objective standard.”
        This is not a problem. Step one: find a rock. Step two: compare the longest side of that rock to other things. Step three: Give a name to that longest side. Step four: cut objects to have equal length to that longest side, give those objects to other people, and tell them the name of your rock-length. Done. (In all seriousness, this is basically how our current systems of measurement were made. Weight and volume might be trickier, but they’re the same idea.)

        “I am simply saying that they would be useless in a moral sense.”
        I don’t see how you could call a system of rules that reduces harm and allows flourishing societies to develop “morally useless.”

        “Whoever has the power can make the rules and do as they like and they can’t be wrong because there is no standard that they answer to.”
        You have two ideas here, and one of them is terribly wrong. Let me chop it in half:
        “Whoever has the power can make the rules”
        It depends on the system of government. If the governmental head has unilateral police power, then they can indeed decide that society’s laws and determine how punishment is meted out, yes.
        “they can’t be wrong because there is no standard that they answer to.”
        Here’s the problem. You don’t think democratic principles can create standards that forbid abuse by government officials? Put another way, you surely see that those people will consider that governmental abuse “wrong,” even if the officials themseles do not? I think the recent riots and rebellions in the Middle East demonstrate this fairly well.

        Even if, as a consequence of not having OMV, we cannot call a dictator’s oppressing his people wrong (and I disagree with this being a consequence, but let’s pretend), the people themselves will feel wronged!

        “For instance, “stealing is wrong” and “murder is right” might both be moral values and when combined, we can use them as a yardstick by which we judge all actions.”
        We absolutely cannot use these two values to judge all other actions. If these are the only two values you have, the only two actions with clear moral value are stealing and murder. You can’t even extrapolate from “murder is right” to make a definitive case that assault and battery are right. Indeed, we might just as well conclude that physical violence is a terrible sin unless it results in murder. Heck, we could even decide that murder is bad if it causes pain and thus decide that only painless murder can be morally right! We just don’t have enough information here.

        “If OMV did not exist, comparisons between moral systems or moral actions would still be useful, but would mean something differently from what they mean now.”
        You’ve lost me here. What are you trying to say that moral comparisons mean now? Or do you mean moral actions?

        “Instead of meaning something that should not be done regardless of whether you like it or it benefits you (by giving you pleasure and such) or you have the power”
        But this is *not* what morals mean right now. We both agree that murder is wrong (I hope), but if you put me into a situation with a mass murderer who’s about to kill a room full of innocent children and the only way for me to stop it is to put a bullet in his head, you’d best bet I’d do it, and I’d condemn anyone who wouldn’t. Murder is wrong, but *this* murder would be right.

        “In order to call them right or wrong, we must be comparing them to some standard.”
        Of course. If we have no opinions about morality, we can’t make moral comparisons. Even a subjective standard is a standard.
        “This standard must be independent of what we think and say because our standards can conform or fail to conform to it.”
        Not at all. We can and do (daily, even) make comparisons based on subjective criteria. How can you remove yourself from your own moral perspective and/or cultural background to judge what the right/best/pick-your-adjective standard is? Any attempt to fall back on a value such as “causing harm is morally wrong” would be relying on subjectivity.

        If you’re going to make any arguments based on the existence of OMV, we can’t simply presuppose OMV’s existence. The human ability to compare moral systems against other moral systems is not sufficient to demonstrate the existence of OMV. Why not? Because we are capable of reasoning (thinking) about morality and establishing subjective opinions and values, and this explains our ability to compare systems with far fewer assumptions than the OMV hypothesis. An objective standard based in OMV is an unproven assumption (or hypothesis); the ability of people to form, share, and revise coherent thoughts is as demonstrated as anything can possibly be.

        Here are some specific questions that have been made relevant by my present reply:

        1) What is the difference of meaning, in your opinion, between the following two sentences?
        a) X is immoral.
        b) I dislike it when X is done.

        2) Contemporary societies have their own moral expectations regardless of whether OMV exist. Why do you think moral judgments would be meaningless if OMV do not exist when we already have these (subjective) alternatives?

        3) If OMV exist, is it possible to prove their existence?
        3a) If OMV can be proven, what kinds of evidence be necessary to demonstrate OMV, and how can OMV be fully understood? (For example, we know gravity exists, and physicists have described more or less all the mathematical formulas necessary to precisely describe how physical bodies will react to each other in spacetime. What would identify the law of gravity for objective morality?)
        3b) If OMV can’t be proven, why should we care whether OMV exist?

        4) How can we weigh one moral standard against another to determine which is best?

      2. As a quick reply,
        1. I do agree that we can create our own standards for judging moral actions.
        2. I said that these standards can be right or wrong. A standard which says killing people is always right regardless of the circumstances would be wrong for instance.
        3. In order to make these judgments, in order to judge the moral standards we create, we must be comparing them to a standard.
        4. This standard is not made by us obviously because our standards are subject to it.

        I did not understand your reply. You seemed to be suggesting that the mere fact that we are using a standard different from the ones we make to compare our moral standards does not mean that there is another standard independent of the ones we make and that sounds obviously false.

        Please clarify that. I will respond to the rest of your comment later.

  14. “2. I said that these standards can be right or wrong. A standard which says killing people is always right regardless of the circumstances would be wrong for instance.”
    Why? How can you demonstrate that that standard is “wrong?” Isn’t this claim just an expression of your subjective values?

    “4. This standard is not made by us obviously because our standards are subject to it.”
    You seem to be contradicting yourself:
    “1. I do agree that we can create our own standards for judging moral actions.”
    If we can create our own standards, why would our judgments about other standards rely on a standard that wasn’t made by people?

    I’m trying to figure out how you’re getting from “we use a standard” to “the standard that we use is objective, existing without any connection to minds.” We have agreed that people create and compare standards, but we still haven’t demonstrated OMV. I think that if you lay out the factors we consider when weighing standards against each other, you’ll see that they’re rooted in subjectivity. You seem to be merely assuming the existence of an objective standard, but I see no evidence that one exists.

    I hope this clears things up.

    1. I think I see the problem now.

      Firstly, you seem to be misunderstand me. I did not argue that we create a standard and that this standard we create is independent. I am arguing that our standards always answer to some higher standard because they can be either right or wrong.

      You seem to disagree with that because you think saying that the standard is wrong is just my subjective opinion. That ties into the larger question of what is right and what is wrong.
      You previously referred to moral judgments as judgments of preference. i.e. stealing is wrong equals I dislike stealing. I disagreed, making two points.
      1. I dislike lots of things that are not morally wrong.
      2. Some people like things that are morally wrong.
      From 1 & 2, moral judgments are therefore, not merely preferences.
      3. Since preferences differ by person, if “stealing is wrong” is merely a preference, “stealing is wrong” would be true for some people and false for others (those who happen to like stealing). This would be the type of moral relativism you so readily disagree with. Are you planning to accept it now?

      1. “I am arguing that our standards always answer to some higher standard because they can be either right or wrong.”
        I understand that you’re saying that, I just think you’re wrong. What proof is there? I have provided an alternative explanation to demonstrate that we don’t NEED that “higher standard” to explain right and wrong.

        “From 1 & 2, moral judgments are therefore, not merely preferences.”
        This is a category error. They’re not equivalent. Moral judgments exist within the category of preferences; they’re a specific type of preference, namely preferences regaring behavioral interactions.

        “3. Since preferences differ by person, if “stealing is wrong” is merely a preference, “stealing is wrong” would be true for some people and false for others (those who happen to like stealing).”
        Not quite. You can think stealing is wrong while stealing. People do things they know are wrong all the time. “Stealiing is wrong” isn’t “merely” a preference in the same way as “I like vanilla.” It’s a statement of moral value, and moral values are a certain subset of preference.

      2. Let’s work with that definition. Moral judgements are preferences regarding behavioral interactions.

        But such preferences do in fact differ by person, do they not? Obviously, there are things which you think are wrong which other people think are right. It would then follow, if those judgments are preferences, that some people prefer some of those things which you do not.

        You are arguing that we do not need a standard by which to compare our moral standards in order to compare moral standards? I thought we already agreed that comparing things require standards.

      3. I’m just arguing that we don’t need an *objective* standard, as in one that’s an intrinsic component of the universe like gravity, to compare moral standards. We can make reasoned judgments about the consequences of potential standards and then decide which to adopt based on those consequences.

        We override our instinctive responses to things quite frequently. Our capacity for reasoning is quite impressive, I think, and we’re served very well in using it to predict outcomes. Still, this isn’t objective.

      4. “We can make reasoned judgments about the consequences of potential standards and then decide which to adopt based on those consequences.”

        Yes, I get that we can reason about whether a standard achieves the goals we wish it to acheive and then choose the standard that best does what we want.

        But that is a standard. In such a case, we are comparing various moral standards based on how well they achieve certain goals. Aren’t you then saying that we do need some sort of standard to compare our standards? We’ve agreed about this before. The problem it seems that you are having is that if we need a standard by which to compare all of our standards, the standard by which we are comparing all of them won’t be one of ours.

        Do I take your response to the issue of moral judgments being subjective as a ‘no answer’?

      5. “The problem it seems that you are having is that if we need a standard by which to compare all of our standards, the standard by which we are comparing all of them won’t be one of ours.”
        Er, not quite. The standard I use to judge the moral worth of other cultures (and subcultures within my own) is one of harm and well-being. A standard whose consequences lead to more harm will be inferior to a standard whose consequences lead to more well-being.
        “Do I take your response to the issue of moral judgments being subjective as a ‘no answer’?”
        Sorry, I must’ve missed that one, and I don’t see it now. What was the question? (I do think moral judgments are subjective because judgments come from minds. I don’t think moral judgments being subjective in any way detracts from their importance, however. Was your question about this?)

      6. My question was related to the definition of right and wrong because it seems silly to carry on a conversation about what qualifies as those things if we can’t agree on their definitions. Here it is again:
        “preferences do in fact differ by person, do they not? Obviously, there are things which you think are wrong which other people think are right. It would then follow, if those judgments are preferences, that some people prefer some of those things which you do not.”
        If preferences, (even those regarding behavioral interactions which is your definition of moral judgments) differ by person, then moral judgments e.g. “capitalism is immoral” differ by person. Is that not a form of relativism which, if I remember correctly, you reject?

      7. Well, moral judgments do differ by person. The degree of wrongness I assign to a given act won’t be the same as the degree someone else would assign. Relativism in this sense is innocuous, and I wouldn’t reject this particular form.

        As to moral right and wrong, I’d classify “right” as an action that promotes well-being (at least more than it impedes it), and “wrong” as an action that causes harm (at least more than it reduces). I grant that these are not automatically the best possible definitions, but I’m unaware of any better approach to safeguard the human experience.

        The relativism I reject is the kind that says we cannot make judgments about other people’s moralities. We can (and should). Moral philosophies can be objectively more or less harmful than others in their consequences, and the ones that are significantly more harmful are less good (more wrong). If you accept the subjective standard of harm/well-being, then operating within this standard, moralities can be objectively compared.

    2. Now you have me completely stumped. I’ll repeat this to you just to make sure I get it.
      You believe that claims about right and wrong are subjective. When I say something is wrong, I merely say that I dislike it.
      Your definition of right is something that promotes well-being more than it impedes it and wrong is something that causes more harm than it impedes.
      That is your standard, the standard you use to judge right and wrong and the standard you use to judge any other standard.

      Now, if I have that right, is there any standard by which you judge your standard or do you just hold it as beyond question?

      1. “When I say something is wrong, I merely say that I dislike it.”
        I wouldn’t say “merely” because you may have a detailed reason for thinking something immoral. Just to be a bit more precise, saying something is morally wrong is to say that you dislike it whenever that thing is done (in the absence of some overriding larger concern); disliking the flavor vanilla does not make it immoral, but someone who hates the idea of anyone eating vanilla would probably call eating vanilla immoral. When we say murder is wrong, what we mean is something like “I hate the idea that someone would commit murder enough that it should be forbidden.”

        My subjective standard that I hold for judging moral frameworks is well-being, as you have laid out. It is not beyond question at all. I just accept it because I am aware of no better standard. I doubt that there can be any better standard for morality than this, but I am open to the possibility. If any other method of judging morality can result in better outcomes (I know this is vague, but it probably has to be), I am ready and willing to adopt that one instead.

      2. Okay, I think I get your definition of right and wrong now. I was stumped when you said that your standard is what you judge right and wrong by and also what you judge other standards by because it appeared that you were saying your standard was beyond question. That would be an odd (and disturbing) view in my opinion.

        Your response dispelled that idea, but it didn’t help me very much. You said your standard is that by which you judge others, but you also said it is possible for there to be a better standard than yours. That’s not vague, but it does seem self contradictory. If there can be a better standard than yours, then you are measuring your standard and others by some other standard (let’s call it A). To say there could be a better standard than yours is to say that there is a standard which better conforms to A than yours. But you say you do not judge by any other standard.

      3. I measure my standard by the outcome I see as most desirable. This is a subjective moral value. The outcome I want to see is a maximization of well-being. Saying there could be a better standard does not mean that there might be something that more closely conforms with some universal objective innate morality; it means there could be a standard with better outcomes for humanity. I doubt that there is a better standard than well-being, but it’s possible.

        “The best possible outcome” is my A in terms of your reasoning.

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