Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Touchstone Tries To Save Face, Ends Up Blowing Head Gasket

Touchpebble's ("Pebbles," for short) shtick used to be that of the prophet calling Triabloggers to moral reform. He gained sympathy from his atheist constituents by constantly pointing out our rude treatment of those we conversed with, claiming that we were "dishonoring Christ." Pebbles has now become what he so often vilified. In fact, he's now almost too rude to make in on our team.

Anyway, here's the story: Mason gave us a link to a paper for us interact with. I responded to that paper. Touchstone responded to my response. I responded to Touchstone. He responded back. What follows is my response to his latest. Like before, his words will appear in red:

"Manata attempts to set the record straight in this post over at Triablogue."

Let's set the record straight, I did set the record straight.

Pebbles quotes me:


The first thing to point out his title - interesting choice of words given that he's an expert on "secular morality." Touchpebble says, "Manata Mangles Secular Morality." Since there is no such thing as "secular morality" then how did I mangle it? For example, prominent up and coming atheologian Jeffery Jay Lowder states,

"On that basis, atheism alone is not enough to construct a worldview. Atheism does not entail any particular ethical theory; all that atheism entails is a rejection of theological ethical systems, such as divine command theory."

So, I have no idea how I "mangled" a non-existent category, viz. "secular morality."


He responds,

"Well, that explains it, then. Paul just doesn't think it exists as a category."

I don't "just think" that it doesn't, it doesn't. There is no such thing as "Secular ethics." Lowder corroborated.

Pebbles runs to Wikipedia in order to find support for the existence of "secular morality." Thus the Wiki:



Secular ethics is a branch of moral philosophy in which ethics is based solely on human faculties such as logic, reason or moral intuition, and not derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance (which is the source of religious ethics). Secular ethics can be seen as a wide variety of moral and ethical systems drawing heavily on humanism, secularism and freethinking. The majority of secular moral concepts consist, on the grand scale of the acceptance of social contracts, and on a more individual scale of either some form of attribution of intrinsic value to things, ethical intuitionism or of a logical deduction that establishes a preference for one thing over another, as with Occam's razor. Approaches like utilitarianism and ethical egoism are considered rather more radical.


(Emphasis supplied)

Thus saith the Wiki. Let's note some problems:

i) Pebbles makes my point! Thanks buddy.

ii) At best, this quote says that their is a secular way of approaching ethics. It doesn't support the idea that there is a secular ethic. This can be proved by pointing out that an ethical system is supposed to provide normative, action-guiding principles. If an ethical system didn't purport to tell us how we should act in given moral situations, then that system would be useless as an ethical system. This is to say that there needs to be both a formal and a material aspect to ones ethical theory (this point is made by many, for example, secularist Mark Timmons points this out in his book Moral Theory. Secularist James Rachels makes this point in The Elements of Moral Philosophy. etc). Since the above does not purport to give us action-guides, we haven't seen a "secular ethic."

iii) The above account is biased towards a realist conception of ethics. Notice, furthermore, that "culture" is not listed as one of the "basings" for a "secular ethic."

iv) There are secular ethicists who deny that anything has intrinsic value.

v) Pebbles thus digs his grave all the more deeper. He's simply giving us all a lesson on just how much he doesn't know about ethics qua branch of philosophy, and ethics qua secular.


"This article is not one of Wikipedia's gems, and there are certainly better resources for more in-depth discussion of the topic. But there it is, right in a trivially obvious place to look."

Given my comments above, this utterly embarrassing for Pebbles. Oh, btw, I never look to Wikipedia for support of my assertions, especially assertions that are suspect and off-the-cuff.

"Paul satisfies himself with a quote from Lowder, that suggests to him that it just "doesn't exist" as a category. Lowder is correct: atheist doesn't ENTAIL any PARTICULAR ethical theory. There are any number of particular ethical theories that can operate under the umbrella of secular morality, as noted in the Wiki quote above."

That's right, and that's all that I was saying. There is no such thing as "secular" morality. An approach to ethics isn't an ethic. There is no "secular morality" since a morality gives one normative prescriptions that serve as action guides. A "morality" has principles, guides to actions, rules, an axiological position, and, in some cases, aretaic ethics - which, not surprisingly, the Wiki quotes leaves out of the list of the myriad "basings."

"Whoops. Paul hears Lowder say atheism doesn't require any one specific ethical theory, and makes the leap to "atheism doesn't support ANY ethical theories". Lowder was rejecting supernaturalism, but doing so in a way to leave plenty of room for non-magical ethical systems."

Whoops? Let's see:

i) First, I read Lowder, I didn't "hear" him.

ii) I never said "atheism doesn't support ANY ethical system." That's Pebbles' (mis)characterization. I simply said that there is no such thing as "secular morality." Lowder would agree. But, "atheism" does not support any one theory (see (iii) below).

iii) I know that Lowder "leaves room open" for secular "ethical systemS." I never denied that there were secular ethical systemS (plural). But, that "atheism leaves room for ethical systems" does not entail that "atheism supports any one system." I might "leave room" for a slacker to get a passing grade in my class, that doesn't logically entail that I support any one (or n) slacker/s!

iv) Pebbles is simply confusing being compatible with ethical system/s, and being an ethical system. There is no "atheistic" or "secular" ethic, though, "atheism" and "secularism" are compatible with numerous ethical systems.

v) Lowder doesn't use the pejorative "magical" in his post. Why does pebbles? He professes to be a Christian yet he refers to a theistic ethical system as "magical." His "Jesus" teaches us of a "law," an "ethic," yet Pebbles disrespects his professed "savior" by spitting on, and mocking, his claims.

Moving on...

Pebbles quotes me,


Furthermore, as I point out in my post, there is no one accepted "secular morality." I wrote,

"This theory is certainly not the accepted view of atheists and naturalists. Some would say that moral principles are necessary truths expressed as conditionals (cf. Shafer-Landau). Some would say that ethics are the products of social contracts (cf. Hobbes). Some would say that ethical principles are the product of virtues (cf. Aristotle, Mill, etc). Some would say that ethics are supervenient facts, products of the natural world (cf. Brink)."

But, perhaps Touchpebble will reply, conveniently, that I am being pedantic. So let's move on...


His response:

"This Lowder's point, which Paul used as a mangling device above. It's a category, a set of different constituent frameworks. We could say the same thing about theism: there is no one accepted "theism". Some would say God looks like Allah, some like Yahweh, others Quetzacoatl perhaps. But that doesn't "disappear" theism. Paul's instincts are pedantic here, but he hasn't even reached it yet. He's just confused at this point."

i) No, this was my point. I'm the one who said that there is no such thing as a secular ethic. I cite Lowder as agreeing with me. My only point was that Pebbles' title was sloppy. I didn't mangle "secular morality" since there exists no such enterprise to mangle. That's it. Pebbles needs to make more to this then there is. He's trying to cover his tracks. Simply put, my point was that his title was misleading and ignorant. My point is correct. No amount of complaining and sophistry can change the fact.

ii) I know there is no "theistic ethic." That's why I never claimed that there was! Pebbles is trying to put his mistakes on me. Anyway, there is a "theism" where "theism" is defined as "belief in a god." There is no secular ethic, no matter how you define it (speaking non-arbitrarily here). An ethic requires certain things that make it impossible to point and say, "Ah, look, there is the secular ethic." So, his argument from analogy isn't a good argument, and isn't analogous. Everyone agrees that there is an intelligible category which we can use in intelligent conversation called, "theism." This is not the case with "secular ethic." Pebbles is just confused here.


I quoted Byrne - someone Jeff Lowder respects, by the way - as agreeing with me about certain points. Pebbles responds:

"Ahh, someone from the Stanford site said something with some of the same words as Paul used. He's off the hook! It is Stanford and all."

Ahhh, someone (some oneS) from the Wiki site said something with some of the same words as Pebbles used. He's off the hook! It is Wikipedia and all.

"If you read Byrne here, this is not the basis for a "sense" -- however trivial and "not my argument" Paul now wants to claim it is -- that atheists CANNOT be moral. From just above Paul's quote in the SEP article:"

That's not why I cited Byrne, Pebbbles. Perhaps if you calmed down before posting you'd be clear-headed enough to see through your emotional haze of T-blog envy and you'd actually be able to comprehend what your interlocutor is arguing. I had said that my point was something we could both agree on, but that wasn't the focus of my post. My argument was not that atheists CANNOT be moral. That wasn't what I was arguing in my post, Pebbles. I made some qualifications where THAT argument COULD be made, but that was the stated PURPOSE of my post. You picked on something that wasn't INTENDED to function as part of my RESPONSE to the Ethical Atheist.

Pebbles cites the SEP article:


Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

These versions of moral argument partake of the flavor, and thus of the difficulties, that surround the pragmatic arguments for religious belief found in writers such as Pascal and James. They will meet with the same response: this is wishful thinking dressed up as argument. The non-theist may press this specific point: only if one is convinced prior to these arguments of the premise that

44. The world is likely to be organized so as to meet our deepest human needs

will one find them cogent. But (44) is just the kind of hypothesis that would be false if there is no God. Arguments such as IX and X thus look circular.


Of course I never gave that argument, or any argument like it, now did I?

Pebbles continues...

"We have here a discussion of the difficulties involved in construction of moral frameworks with and without a God in view. And to be sure, proceeding to build moral frameworks without a supposed supernatural authority presents a significant challenge -- what Byrne calls a "perilous enterprise". It is this peril that points to the criticism leveled at theism -- so much "wishful thinking dressed up as argument". It's just the convenient utility of pointing to an invisible, unverifiable authority that makes theistic morality problematic."

And this is nothing more than Pebbles taking the discussion further off the road from where mine went. Pebbles is simply proceeding with his originally false assumption about my argument. He can wipe his red herrings over the trail all he likes, this dog won't hunt, though. I furthermore wonder which theistic arguments from morality he has sincerely, honestly, and critically interacted with. Based on some of his claims, I'd wager not many, if any.

Lastly, here a zinger! >:-D Let's look at a claim Pebbles made once in our combox about the "evidence" of morality which point, for him, to theism:

"f. Evaluation of "moral law".
f1. Christianity posits final justice, provides dis/incentives for man to be moral, even when "no one is looking".
f2. "Moral law" appears to be "built in" -- 16 month old son displays sense of virtue, shame, guilt, honesty, along with everyone else. My own sense of moral obligation to *something* or *someone* endures, even after I have decided Christianity is as bogus as YEC. My *experience* in dealing with the world in terms of ethics doesn't shout "Yahwheh" or "Bible" directly, but does suggest persistently there is more to this sense than simply serving my own goals (even altruistically construed).
f3. Secular morality seems as plausible, but deficient in terms of final justice, psychological guardrails vis-a-vis Christian model. (and militates against (1)).
f4. Application of Christian morality as hypothesis provides good validation of a) man's nature, b) value of universal principles as bedrock for moral society, behavior.

Notice his "deep need" for "justice" and the "need" t provide "incentive" in order to be moral. His "need" of "psychological guardrails," etc. So, even though I didn't make the kind of argument Pebbles attributes to me, he does! Pebbles must ridicule himself now. He appeals to a "magic" after life. Boy did he ever "mangle" secular morality!

Moving along...

"Paul then proceeds to distance himself from the relevance or efficacy of the comments of his I looked at in my previous post on this. I'm taken to task for seizing on what really should be taken for what it is -- a trivial "throw-away" digression that really doesn't attach to the rest of his points, the good, relevant points in his post."

i) This is revisionist history. Pebbles is simply sophistically using language to characterize the discussion in a light which blots out the actual facts of the matter. Pebbles "mangles" the facts.

ii) As Bertrand Russell once quipped: I am firm. You are obstinate. He is a pig-headed fool.

iii) Rather than "distance myself" from my comments I simply "corrected" Pebbles' mishandling of them.

Moving along...

Pebbles quotes me in response to his asking of a secularist could say that theists are immoral:


I'd have to see the argument expressed more fully. At this point I'm inclined to say "No." In fact, I'd wager that most atheists don't have a problem saying that Christians can be "good" on myriad secular standards; realist ones, at least. Perhaps some subjectivists would say that those who believe in a god are immoral, and the factor that makes this right is the mere belief of the subject, then I'd agree that if that thesis were true, then I couldn't be good. Perhaps an emotivist thinks: "Theism, boo!" But why think anything of interest follows from that? If pebbles wants this point, I'll gladly give it to him.


"This is to miss the point, and the way Paul responds to this 'turning of the tables' reflects the vacuity of his original sense. Indeed, there is a sense in which atheist can say 'theists can't be good'. He then says, without a hint of tongue-in-cheek, 'But why think anything of interest follows from that?'"

i) What is the sense? That an emotivist or a subjectivist can say that a theist can be immoral? They could say that ping pong players are immoral!

ii) Nothing of interest follows because if Pebbles was up on his ethical theory he'd know that the two types of ethical theories I cited can't say that I am "really" or "objectively" immoral. I mean, if he really needs this point, then that's why I gave it to him. Indeed, given the above theories, they could say that Pebbles is immoral! In fact, a secular subjectivist could say that all other secularists besides him are immoral! So, if Pebbles really wants this point he has it. But then this old Nursery Rhyme is apropos:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Moving along....

Commenting on my claim that nothing interesting follows from that Pebbles responds,

"That was precisely MY objection to Paul's original "sense", this self-serving and narrow sense in which Paul gets to define the existential ontology ("God exists"), and the semantic freight too ("Gotta use my interpretation of the Bible to define the terms"). Yes, Paul, there is that "sense" on both sides of the coin -- self-serving and irrelevant."

i) And, in one sense, I even granted this! I knew this before Pebbles brought it up! I didn't need him to tell me what was, what I thought, obvious to all. That's why my argument didn't make us of the points I cited in one paragraph amidst the many I wrote!

ii) In another sense, something interesting does follow from my point that doesn't from the other theories I pointed out above. You see, on those theories I'm not really immoral. If they are true, I am not actually immoral. But if my theory is true, then the atheist is really (objectively) immoral. I thought everyone knew that that was the interesting question. Who cares if you're not really immoral? I should think that everyone cares if the truth of something implies that they actually are immoral. Pebbles isn't even in the same league with me in this discussion. He didn't even practice for the game. Came on to the field without shoulder pads. Without a helmet. And, he brought a Dixie cup!

"Paul complains that nothing "of interest" follows from the atheist side of that coin."

No, I claimed that nothing interesting followed from emotivism or subjectivism. To make an argument that Christians are immoral on a realist account is something I asked you to flesh out since I don't see them being able to make that claim. At best, we'd have differences at the level of fact, not principle (am I assuming to much to think Pebbles grasps the distinction?).

"But, well, there's a large paragraph devoted in his original post to the theist side of the coind [sic]. Nothing of any interest proceeds from that, either. But Paul is unaware."

No, things of interest follow from my comments. The proper distinction that I'm making, though, is that my comments had nothing much at all to do with my argument and response to the Ethical Atheist. It was a side point of clarification. I mainly wrote it for fellow theists who might have broached that subject in the combox. But, as I made clear in my post, the subject for discussion was a different one. The apologetic literature doesn't contain arguments from the qualified sense, they press the: O --> G; O; :.G argument I mentioned in my last response to you. It is often claimed that theists are making arguments from the inability of atheists to be moral. To "refute" this argument is simply an exercise in futility since no one is making that claim. I thus made sure that the Ethical Atheist was dealing with the arguments that we do make, not ones he falsely imputes to us. I should think that a sensible fellow like you would have (a) grasped that and (b) agreed with it. Surely you're not for someone wasting their time beating up straw men, are you?


In response to my clarifying the obvious for Pebbles, he digs his feet in further, refusing to grant when he's overreached,

"Paul's welcome to minimize his point."

Again with the sophistic use of language. Anyway, I rather thought it was obvious that my point was minimized in my post. It's not as though I'm backpedaling now and "minimizing" some strong, main point I made. I even claimed in my original post that,


"iv) ... But, I take it that in this debate, and the sense the Ethical Atheist meant it in, the claim that "atheists can't be moral" is usually intended to connote the idea that atheists cannot adhere to some basic, fundamental, paradigm cases of morality according to a normative model. That is, atheists can refrain from murdering, lying, stealing, etc. (Of course, even here, qualification could be made, for there is much more to following those commands than ordinarily thought. But again, I'm speaking in a very minimalist way. Perhaps a way in which the atheist can accept as what constitutes following moral precepts.)

v) Thus I think the question isn't, "Can atheists act morally?", the question is, "Can atheists provide an account for objective morality?".


It is thus obvious to any one who wants to develop the intellectual virtue of the principle of charity that I "minimized" my point before Pebbles ever responded to me! For a mistake this is too big. What accounts for pebbles' hatchet job? Simple, his mind is clouded by his emotions right now. He's got it out for us, and he doesn't care about putting forth work with a modicum of intellectual integrity, he simply cares about making us look bad. I'd suggest a couple valume, a long vacation, a few drinks, a few nights alone with the Mrs., and then a return to the tough job of defending the atheists from the mean and nasty T-bloggers.

It gets worse...

"but the larger point of Paul's post (which he stresses is what we should focus on, never mind his "more qualified sense") is that secular morality cannot point to a justification for its qualitative assessments -- "good", "bad", "virtue", "vice", etc. That's a key point for Paul, or any presuppositionalist because their worldview depends on a transcendental argument, one that theism in the general sense neither requires or embraces in many cases."

i) I don't use "the transcendental argument for Christian theism alone." I made this point a long time ago. I've pointed this out to Pebbles on numerous occasions. He continues to push bad information. Integrity is not something he holds in very high regard, as you can see.

ii) Many non-presuppositionalists make the exact same argument that I do. Once can see that by reading the works of Copan, Craig, Hare, Helm, Moreland, et al.

iii) My "worldview" depends, at a basic level, on the information contained in the text of Scripture.

iv) I used "normative" assertions, not "qualitative," in my post.

v) Many secularists don't think that secularists (or anyone for that matter) can account for norms in morality.

"That is, Paul MUST assert that secular morality cannot have a rational foundation because his faith is pinned to the idea that it cannot -- God must exist, presuppositionally, for there to be a basis for morality at all."

Notice Pebbles stipulates to his audience what I "MUST" believe, he doesn't quote me, though. And, it is obvious that Pebbles doesn't know the first think about my ethical theory. It's not that "God must exist" for their to be a "basis for morality," though that it part of it. If I were Pebbles I' make sure I knew the difference between necessary and sufficient conditions.

"A theist who is an evidential, for example, isn't committed to this. He's free to question and doubt the foundations of secular morality, but the discovery or establishment of a secular basis for ethics doesn't invalidate his worldview as it does Paul's."

Contrary to Pebbles' assertions, many evidentialists would hold that if someone actually did put forth a valid secular justification and account for objective ethics that would falsify their position (now, they could change their position after the fact). I wonder if he's ever heard of the divine command theory of ethics? Many evidentialists have held to this. Thus if one holds that an ethical theory that states:

* An act A is obligatory if and only if it is commanded by God that we A.

* An act A is forbidden if and only if God commands that we not A.

* An act A is permissible if and only if God neither commands that we A or that we not A.

and one thinks that DCT is entailed by their version of theism, then if one can put forth a theory of ethics that says that an act A is permissible if X-secular feature, and this theory is true, then the DCT's position has been defeated because if something entails a false proposition, then it is false. I should have thought that all of this was obvious. Pebbles' remarks about "presuppositionalists" hold the same for a non-presuppositionalist like Robert C. Mortimer.

"So, whenever you get a presuppositionalist to comment on this topic, you can confidently expect the knee-jerk reaction, the only defense in the presuppositionalist playbook, and one which must be played and stuck to no matter what: there cannot be any basis for secular moral, because God is transcendentally required for morality."

Note, again, Pebbles offers no quotes from his opponent. I could just as arbitrarily state that whenever you get a Triablogue hater, like Pebbles, you can confidently expect the knee jerk reaction, the only defense in the hater play book (washed down with some hateraide), and one which must be played and stuck no matter what: there can be no good argument from a T-blogger, 'cause they are just stupid and they hurt my feelings.

Pebbles quotes me,


"I dismiss it because the question he's addressing isn't framed that way in the standard literature. So, in this particular debate, the theist does not make that claim. I did point out, though, that if we did make that claim, the debate would progress beyong a mere discussion of normative or meta ethics. So, that claim could not be defeated by simply pointing out that atheists follow deontic principles, for the most part. That was the point. But, as my post indicated, I didn't wish, or need, to debate that point. I even cited W.L. Craig stating that our objection has never been "atheists can't be moral" (from our position, this is obvious. Thus Saint Paul: "There are none who are good." But we don't make that argument because it would take us right back into a "Does God exist" argument. If G then ~M. We would need to prove G first. Thus the argument could be thought of more like this: If objective morality, then God. Objective morality. Then God. If God then atheists cannot be good persons (in the fullest sense of the term). God. Then atheists cannot be good persons (in the fullest sense of the term). Thus the full argument here would be: {O --> G; O; :. G. G --> ~M; G; :. ~M.} But note that I didn't make this argument.), our objection, the one found in the apologetic literature, is that secularism cannot account for the deontic, normative action guiding prescriptions of objective morality, nor teleological normativity, nor axiological normativity. And that is what I was debating, not what Pebbles so underhandedly presents as my position in the context of the dialogue given the framing by the Ethical Atheist."


He then just has to write something,

"Yeah, snore. It's axiomatic for Paul: secularism cannot account for moral norms, because that would invalidate his worldview, a worldview he cannot arrive at reasonably, and can't be expected to leave reasonably. It doesn't matter what arguments an atheists presents, it's literally -- this is vanilla presuppositionalism -- a foregone conclusion. Say what you want, atheists, Paul doesn't need to consider or understand. He knows the TRUTH™ here, and all of this is just so much cynical philosophical swordplay in the fine traditional of van Til and his nihilist heirs. Atheists often make the mistake in reading statements like Paul's "cannot account for" as meaning it's theoretically possible, but atheists haven't succeeded."

This is nothing but an emotional tirade. A temper tantrum of epic proportions. ranting for the sake of ranting. For nothing he has just written can even remotely count as a response to what he quoted from me. Reading what I wrote (see context especially), and then reading his response, leads me to believe that he probably didn't want to put in the mental effort to soak in the information I was conveying. I furthermore have never argued that atheism cannot provide an account for morality because "that would invalidate my worldview." But, even if what Pebbles claims were the case, this is simply an example of a circumstantial ad hominem argument. Even if true, the arguments given against secular accounts of morality must be weighed on their own merits, not on the (alleged) psychological disposition, or circumstances in which I proffer those arguments. And, I would hope that atheists 9or anyone) would read "cannot account for” the way it is intended, the way it is used in philosophical literature. Pebbles acts as if he's never cracked open a philosophy text.


"The larger point, widening out from Paul's "narrow sense" in his long post is that for all its length, it is "content free" with respect to the arguments put forward by the Ethical Atheist et al."

That's funny, the Ethical Atheist didn't really put forward any arguments, any good ones, at least. If Pebbles disagrees, he's always free to actually engage my discussion in a substantive manner, rather than taking shots from the cheap seats. Anyone can assert that someone can't play the game, if they're in the stands.

"That is, when the statement is made that X is considered a norm by virtue of its status as social contract, Paul complains that that is not a sufficient "why"."

i) The Ethical Atheist didn't argue for the social contract theory.

ii) Well, not just me, Pebbles. Surely if you're so versed in ethical theory you'd know that secularists maintain that the social contract theory has severe and crippling problems. I mean, talk about "magic," the social contract is based upon fiction. There is no contract. I mean, who signed this contract? I don't remember doing it. Our children didn't. Was it made long ago? Are we bound to our ancestors agreements? Do our children "renew" it every generation? What about sentient beings who are not participants to the contract. For example, did animals sign it? How about infants? The contract only works, per the theory, if both sides sign it and agree to it. It is based on rules of mutual benefit. To say that we have duties to beings that are not part of the contract, never entered in to it, seems to undercut the very foundation of the theory!. Anyway, for objections tom the social contract theory see such secularists as Rachels, Elements, pp. 155-160. The social contract theory also has been noted to assume psychological egoism, this has its problems, of course being unfalsifiable is one of them. There's also questions on the normativity and objectivity of the social contract theory. They seem to admit that there are no objectively existing features of the word that make moral principles facts of the world.

iii) Social contract can't account for "ultimate justice" and so YOU, PEBBLES, must say that it won't work! That's what you claim above. (They tell me that self-refutation is the worst form of refutation. I wouldn't know, is that true?)

iv) Those were just some opening salvos, you'll notice that I never appealed to anything like: "It just can't be true 'cause them my beliefs would be wrong." I've thus shown that Pebbles simply opines his way through arguments. It is he who is the one who argues thus: Paul just can't have a point, 'cause then my faith would be shattered.

"You can point to the evolutionary social constraints that established it, you can point at the biological and instinctual orientations humans bring to the table, their innate sense of empathy, desire, social connection and competition distilled through millions of years of development, and Paul will still say that's not a 'why'."

Of course I've undermined his false claims about how I argue. Also, if Pebbles knew anything about the theory he's trying to defend, he'd note that it states that we are innately egoists. We are born in a state of war. We want it all. There is a fierce competition for goods. So, we make a contract, based on prisoner dilemma type arguments, that working together would be the best way for us to get the most out of life. We do it grudgingly. We have calculated the odds, and giving up some freedom gives us the best opportunity to live out our egoist desires. And, I will gladly grant that that's a "why." It's just not a good "why." I will also say that saying those things don't account for the normativity and objectivity of ethics. If one could wear Gyges' ring, have the power of invisibility, never get caught, why obey the "rules" on the social contract theory?

Anyway, it's been fun as always, Touchstone. You always provide us with such good fodder, and for that, I thank you. We're all just doing our part.


  1. The Pebble said:
    But there it is, right in a trivially obvious place to look

    What is it with T-Stone and his obsession with trivial internet searches?

    Perhaps T-Stone reads so poorly because he's never seen a book in his life....

  2. Hey Peter Pike,

    Does this describe RAPE?

    Judges 21:10-24 NLT:
    Then they thought of the annual festival of the LORD held in Shiloh, between Lebonah and Bethel, along the east side of the road that goes from Bethel to Shechem. They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, "Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife! And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, 'Please be understanding. Let them have your daughters, for we didn't find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.'" So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. Then they rebuilt their towns and lived in them. So the assembly of Israel departed by tribes and families, and they returned to their own homes.