Friday, September 22, 2006

Secular amorality

At 12:11 PM, Giordano Sagredo said…

As a naturalist I can see no alternative to some kind of nonrealism, because ethical claims will ultimately depend on contingent anthropological and biological facts. I take it that our brains paint the world with a moral hue in a way analogous to the way it paints it with colors and humorous people.

Even if we found a moral module, akin to Chomsky's grammar module, such that we could predict, given a person's environment and genetics, what they will judge to be ethical (i.e., their judgments about what actions they are committed to, and the intention that all people be so committed), this would not imply that those judgments are "true".

I think the best we naturalists can do is agree that, given certain goals by which to measure behavior (e.g., some utilitarian or deontic rights-based metric), we can engage in valid and sound arguments about how to achieve those goals.

In practice, this doesn't seem a big problem, but in theory you can think of scenarios in which it is disastrous (e.g., a Nazi society that considers itself moral for having "exterminated" the Jews, and in which dissent has been eliminated). However, moral repugnance is not enough to establish moral realism, any more than seeing colored objects establishes that color is independent of the observer. I take claims about morality to be on a par with claims about someone being humorous. Can we say objectively that Chris Rock is humorous? I don't think so. However, we can still have rational discussions of what color an object is, or how funny someone is, and our judgments about such things will evolve over time based on such rational pressures.


  1. so much for the "big gun" of atheologians: The (so-called) Problem of Evil

  2. The folks at DC ought to disagree...since then they can't react with moral outrage everything you mock them.

  3. Phillip, Prince of Spain9/27/2006 9:53 AM

    So you have one atheist who is a relativist and that undoes the PoE?

    You're a great thinker, Manata.

  4. the fat little man in the corner9/27/2006 10:18 AM


    your friend is delusional. clear distinctions must be made when discussing ethics and philosophy:
    1) What someone in fact morally ought to do.
    2) What someone believes he morally ought to do
    3) What someone is motivated to do
    4) What someone actually does

    Establishing 1 relies upon moral realism. If there are moral facts, then there is good and evil. If there are not, there is no good and evil.

    Atheists (me) need not be sweeping and overcommitted physicalists. That bothers you presups, and completely disallows you your favorite stock lines, "account for this". I can, of course, say that logic and morality (and induction) are properly basic, and presuppose them just as you do the existence of God and his beloved little book. I can also refer to the various accounts that exist, from Platonic views of logic to dualist views of mental substances to linguistic modules...&c

    The question is, let us say that you (somehow) are able to show each one as false. What have you done? Nothing. You have shown me that explanations for "why/how" logic exists are just as vacuous as your (pseudo) explanations for "why/how" God exists, or "why/how" morality is explained by "God's nature".

    It is sad that so many people let you quasi-thinkers off the hook here.

    Back to moral realism for a moment:

    Let us say that there may or may not be moral facts.

    God is defined as omnipotent and omnibenevolent. That which is all-powerful and all-good must accomplish (by definition) its purposes without inducing or allowing evil.

    If there is evil, there is no God.

    If there are no moral facts, there is no God (by defintion).

    Looks like you lose either way.

    Your only hope is to say "there is God and there is evil, but..." just as theists throughout time have, and have always failed.