Saturday, December 15, 2007
This will be my last response to Touchstoned on this subject. As it is, I’m now having to repeat myself. So, unless he provides something of an interesting or substantive response, I think I’ll just let his response to my response be the last word. Since he’s not even bothered to critique anything in my first post to the Ethical Atheist, and since he’s all but admitted his initial critique was mistaken, all the reader really needs is my first couple of posts and all the information therein constitutes answers to anything Touchstoned is likely to bring up.
Drug abuse is often connected to radical change in behavior. Previously, Touchstoned's shtick was that of moral prophet, calling down curses on the Triabloggers for their "un-Christ-like" behavior. Now, though, it seems as if Touchstoned is incapable of refraining from base, cynical, disparaging, insinuating, malicious, mean, nasty, sarcastic, scornful, sneering, spiteful, unkind, uncivil, uncivilized, uncouth, uncultured, uneducated, ungracious, unmannerly, unpolished, and unrefined statements. He also used to condemn us T-bloggers for our bad argumentation which "brought disrepute" to "the Christian faith." But what accounts for his awkward, bedraggled, botched, careless, clumsy, dingy, dirty, disheveled, inattentive, mediocre, muddy, poor, slapdash, slipshod, slovenly, sludgy, slushy, and splashy "argumentation"? His anemic, debilitated, decrepit, delicate, effete, enervated, exhausted, faint, feeble, flaccid, flimsy, forceless, fragile, frail, hesitant, impotent, impuissant, infirm, insubstantial, irresolute, lackadaisical, languid, languorous, limp, makeshift, powerless, prostrate, puny, rickety, rocky, rotten, senile, shaky, sickly, sluggish, spent, spindly, supine, tender, torpid, uncertain, undependable, unsound, unsteady, unsubstantial, wasted, wavering, weakened, weakly, and wobbly Swiss cheese arguments? I can just imagine Touchstoned taking a pull off his 4 ft. binger right before he reads and responds to my posts. Hitting his phat spliff filled with the chronic bubonic. Now, if Touchstoned has a better explanation for his base behavior, and his dilapidated argumentation, I'm all ears. In the meantime I'll assume that he has to have his lungs full of the kind bud.
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. I responded back to him. He responded back to me. What follows is my response to his latest. Like before, his words will appear in red:
"In this post, Paul pursues the idea of the category that doesn't exist because it's not an instance. We've been talking about whether "secular morality exists", and Paul's now committed to the idea that it doesn't."
Another symptom of drug abuse is the inability to match your thoughts with reality, indeed, the need to actively distort reality so as to throw the spot light off your dysfunctional thought processes. First, notice that I am not quoted. My arguments for my position are not stated, Touchstoned simply asserts to his readers his interpretation of the data and banks on the probability that they will not read my posts (cause that's usually the case. I don't expect the readers of this post - if there are any! - to go and read his. That's why I try to represent the situation correctly for them). His claims for why I believe that there is no such thing as "secular morality" is not that "it is not an instance." I am committed to the idea that it doesn't exist for (a) the reasons I've stated and (b) because that's how the best in the secular community want me to represent them. I'll fill this more out as we proceed with the discussion.
"Atheism itself is not an ethical framework. As Lowder points out, it's just the denial of theism -- and the frameworks that are based on it (DCT and Calvinism being examples)."
Yes, atheism has no ethical theory. And, we can add Touchstoned's beliefs along with DCT and Calvinism. Lowder thinks he's as out to lunch as the rest of us. So, throw in his Arminianism and his "justice needs an after life belief" into the things atheism denies.
"'Atheist' is just a qualifier in that sense, so that any ethical framework that eschews supernaturalism would qualify."
Actually, Lowder states that supernaturalism is compatible with atheism: "Although atheism is logically compatible with the existence of supernatural beings other than God, the prior probability of the supernatural given atheism is low." SOURCE. So, it is not the case, as Touchstoned thinks, that any ethical framework that eschews supernaturalism would qualify as denied by "atheism." Touchstoned likes to pretend that he's enlightened. That he's "in touch" with his atheist peers. What I have seen, though, is that he is lazy - another symptom of drug abuse. Like with ethics, I'm almost positive that I have studied more works by atheists than has Touchstone. He's not really in a position to be debating this subject with me. But he has to, 'cuase it would hurt his pride too much to be PWNED by a T-blogger.
"Would it make sense to declare that there does not exist a such thing [sic] as "conservative tax policies"? To apply Manata's logic here, I'd be justified in asserting such because there is no one specific conservative tax policy implied by that term. Or, as Paul will tell us in just a bit, "conservative tax policies" is just an approach to tax policy, and therefore isn't meaningful as a concept in thinking about or evaluating tax policies."
i) Notice that is seems Touchstoned is committed to the existence of universals, how magical of his thinking.
ii) Notice that I've never denied that secular moralitIES exist. So, why would I deny that conservative tax policIES exist? Touchstoned can't keep his terms straight - another symptom of drug abuse.
iii) Also, note a logical point. Because I don't believe that X exists doesn't mean that I have to believe that same about Y, even if you can draw some similarities.
iv) My position is that "secular ethic" isn't an ethic. An ethic, just to be very basic about this, has (at least) two parts: a theoretical and a practical. The first tells us what it is that makes actions right, wrong, or permissible. The second gives us action-guides for moral situations. (I'd add that "motive" or "intent" is a third aspect, but to add that provides no help for Touchstoned anyway.) Now, given what I just laid out, let's look at Touchstoned's example of what "secular ethic" is, he cites 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.
a) We are not treated to a theory about what makes actions right or wrong, nor are we treated to a practical guide to action. Thus the above is not an ethic.
b) We should also note that there are secular ethics that would not agree with the above. Thus the above quote doesn't give us necessary or sufficient conditions for being a "secular ethic."
c) I should also point out that, as Lowder states, atheism is compatible with the existence of supernatural beings. It is easy to see that if there were supernatural beings that had knowledge which far surpassed ours, one might very well take an ethical theory "derived from purported supernatural revelation or guidance." In this case the atheist wouldn't hold to a secular account of ethics!
d) Let's note what else we are told by Touchstoned's authority:
Despite the width and diversity of their philosophical views, secular ethicists generally share one or more principles:
 Human beings, through their ability to empathise, are capable of determining ethical grounds.
 Human beings, through logic and reason, are capable of deriving normative principles of behaviour.
 This may lead to a behaviour morally preferable to that propagated or condoned based on religious texts.
Note that many theists (and theistic versions of ethics) would agree with  and . Thus it's not clear that  and  distinguish secular from non-secular ethics.  is disputable, even by secularists. In any case,  need not lead to better behavior. And,  would only produce morally preferable behavior only if secular accounts of morality were correct. But Touchstoned doesn't allow this move! Finally,  could fit in with a theistic version of natural law. Moral principles and action guides would not, then, be "based" on religious texts. Thus  would also be consistent with some theistic versions of ethics.
e) Thus Touchstoned hasn't even come close to making a case for his position. Apparently he thinks the mere linking to a site which uses the same word he does constitutes an argument. Well, if he'd quit burning blunts for a second, he could probably figure out that it's, um, not.
"Not. Paul, does the category "conservative tax policies" "exist"? Apparently, Paul is supposing that a group of instances of a class (ethical frameworks that are secular) somehow denies the instances. I'll confess, that's a novel way to dismiss dealing with the merits of any particular secular ethical framework. Haven't seen this maneuver before."
i) Of course, I've dealt with the merits of many secular ethical frameworks (I briefly touched on the social contract theory in my last response to Touchstoned!). I think it is safe to say that I have given actual arguments against varieties of secular ethics. I've posted my discussion with atheist Malcolm Pollock and his endorsement of subjectivism. I've posted some of my critiques of egoism. I've posted critiques of ethical relativism as well. So, for Touchstoned to say that I've developed some novel way to "dismiss" ethical frameworks is for Touchstoned himself to dismiss my arguments. Thus he's engaging in psychological projection.
ii) I don't deny that one could gather up all the secular ethical theories and call it "the category of secular ethical theories." But all this means is "secular ethics" = "all the various secular ethical theories grouped together." But of course I don't think one could "mangle" that! There's no silver bullet argument that works against "every single secular ethical theory." Just like I could not mangle "MMA fighter" where that means "every single MMA fighter grouped together." Furthermore, "secular ethical theory" isn't an ethical theory. It was obvious that I was giving arguments against ethical theories, viz, theories that try to give an account of what makes actions right or wrong as well as providing an action-guide for moral situations (and involved motivation, or focuses and being an ethical character). Thus to take my arguments - which were arguments against theories of morality - and mock them by saying "Manata mangles secular morality" was a subtle equivocation of Touchstoned's part. It was a category mistake as well. When one gives arguments against ethical positions you don't critique that by saying he didn't critique the aggregate of all systems combined - which isn't itself a system.
iii) Touchstoned still needs to supply necessary and sufficient grouping conditions. Since contradictory systems could be called secular ethics, what is the unifying factor? We know that socialism wouldn't be grouped with Reaganomics, so why would anti-realism be grouped with realism? Is it just that they both don't take their view to have anything to do whatever with theism or religion? But this simply tells us what secular ethics isn't! Touchstoned's thoughts are completely muddled here. I think he bit off more than he could chew.
"Now, he's just again declared that secular ethics doesn't "exist", and has to badly mangle Lowder (maybe we'll have to see if Lowder wants to weigh in on Manata's reading skills here?) to avoid the completely non-controversial concept of secular morality as a grouping of any of a number of ethical frameworks."
Right, and here we see that Touchstoned is opting for the "grouping" out. This renders his initial title meaningless. It also makes his ability to comprehend what I was doing quite suspect. It was obvious that I wasn't addressing "groupings." I was addressing meta, normative, and practical ethical issues. The "grouping" doesn't give us any information on any of these issues. It doesn't need to be "mangled," especially in the way I was mangling. Touchstoned is simply trying to save face. Trying to make something out of his initial botched response to my post.
Let's now see the games Touchstoned likes to play. Get a glimpse into his hypocrisy. After he cited "Wiki" I said, "Thus saith Wiki." Touchstoned responded,
"Paul's reaction: "Thus saith the Wiki." Srsly."
Actually, I took a page out of Touchstoned's playbook. Let's see what he said about my citing SEP ( a tad bit more heady than, um, Wiki):
"Ahh, someone from the Stanford site said something [...] It is Stanford and all."
So my comeback to his remark: "It is Stanford and all." Srsly.
"Heh. The Wikipedia even throws out a couple examples of instances in this category (utilitarianism, ethical egoism). Paul can tell us that any particular ethical system is displeasing to his (theological) tastes, but that in no way disqualifies it as an ethical system."
Right, but where did I ever say that Utilitarianism and Egosim weren't secular ethical systems??? Touchstoned simply continues to equivocate and compound his errors.
"Utilitarianism, for example purports to 'tell us how we should act in given moral situations', and provides its grounding for 'good' in an actions overall utility (hence the name!). That is a secular ethic, the very thing Paul supposes doesn't exist. Would Paul suggest that utilitarianism is not an instance of a secular ethical system that provides 'action-guides'?"
i) I've never denied that there are systems that can be called secular ethical systems. Indeed, to refute "Utilitarianism" would not be to refute "secular morality." The former gives us a theory of right and wrong, and action-guides (but see below), the latter does not. That is what I mean when I say there is no "secular morality." When one is critiquing the former, it is rather intellectually dishonest to portray him as critiquing the latter. The arguments I gave were against the former not the latter. They do not exist in the same sense. When I say that "secular morality" doesn't exist I mean "there is no such system that one could point to and say, "Aha, that is 'secular morality.' If one did that with, say, Utilitarianism then one could not do that with, say, Egoism.
ii) What is Touchstoned talking about when he says "Utilitarianism?" Perhaps the hedonic versions of Bentham (quantitative*) and Mill (qualitative)? The non-hedonic versions of a Brink? Which view of consequences is its theory of right? Actual consequence utilitarianism? Probable consequence utilitarianism? Are we talking about act utilitarianism or rule utilitarianism?
iii) Utilitarianism is a version of value basic ethics. That is, right and wrong are based on non-moral value. Thus it provides its grounding for right and wrong in goods. And so Touchstoned is just flat out mistaken when he says that "good" is grounded in utility. Rightness or wrongness are grounded in utility, or, goodness.
iv) When Touchstoned says "actions" he is implying that Utilitarianism is to be viewed as "act utilitarianism." There are many that would debate this characterization. Many secularists would disagree with Touchstoned. Touchstoned is simply a sophomore.
v) Many secularists would tell you that Utilitarianism fails at the level of action guides (for one, see Timmons, Moral Theory, pp. 144-149).
vi) Many secularists would tell you that act utilitarianism fails at the theoretical level - what makes an action right or wrong. This is brought out by various objections. One such objection is that act utilitarianism would seem to justify punishing innocent persons in order to, say, quell social upheaval. Another is that if the total utility of the aggregate of all peoples is more on a scheme which oppresses and takes advantage of some, this would be justified as well. Another is that if you could kill a bum with healthy organs so as to give them to 4 rich and charitable patients, this would be justified (if the utility came out that way). There are further objections of overdemandingness. Say that I wanted to go watch the Chargers play football. If I could serve food to the homeless during this 3.5 hour window, and that would yield more utility, then that is what I should do. Thus going to watch football games would be immoral. So, yes, many secularists would tell you that Utilitarianism fails in providing for what makes an action right or wrong. It fails because it would make wrong actions right in some cases.
vii) So, some would argue that "Utilitarianism" purports to give us those things but, upon analysis, it doesn't.
viii) At any rate, that "Utilitarianism" tries to give us those things doesn't mean that "secular morality" gives us those things. To say that it does, just look to "Utilitarianism," is to say that, say, Kantianism (a secular version of), does not. Or, at best, "secular morality" provides the action guide of both A and ~A. But if one's action guide is both A and ~A he would be petrified. Therefore, "secular morality" does not provide us with any action guides. Same goes for the theoretical aspect.
ix) Anyway, yes, "Utilitarianism" is a secular ethic. It's not a good one (and, I say this with reservation. It's not clear to me that at this level of vagueness and abstraction this couldn't also be a non-secular ethic!), though.
x) So, any weight Touchstoned tries to muscle with his objection to me is soon found to falter once poked a bit. His ideas may be fine for the ignorant audience he addresses, but we can see that he's about as deep as a puddle.
We get a glimpse into the smoke filled brain of Touchstoned. He quotes me:
PM: "iii) The above [Wiki] 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.'"
He responds, after choking on a bong load,
"Well, lucky for Paul that this whole category just "doesn't exist", then, huh? Ok, I've noticed that culture is not listed as a "basing". Now what? Maybe it's time to throw in a red herring?"
I should have thought my point was rather obvious. I think most people "got" it. The point: Wiki not only provided no single theory of right and wrong, no action-guiding principles, it also provided a picture of "secular morality" that would not allow other secular moralities from being called a secular morality! So, Touchstoned admits his choice of authorities has failed, now does he care to give us necessary and sufficient conditions? Not only must he provide a single theory of right and wrong, he must provide a single (or set) of action-guiding principles, and he must also not disallow secular theories from the label. All this just shows that my point was correct. He may list a set of conditions (may, I say)that all secular ethics have in common in approaching ethics, but he's not going to give us "secular morality." There is no such thing. And, just to show how fair I am, there is no such thing as non-secular morality. No such think as theistic morality. And, though there are many approaches to Christian morality, there is no one such "Christian morality." (That is not to say that one of the ethical positions that calls itself a Christian morality will not turn out to be the correct one, in that case then that would be "Christian morality," but note that it would also tell us wrong from wrong, give us action guides, and give us proper motivation through character.)
Touchstoned continues trying to avoid getting caught being high:
PM: "iv) There are secular ethicists who deny that anything has intrinsic value."
"Totally irrevelant. Unless Paul supposes the existence of such ethicists somehow denies the existence of other secular ethicists who do affirm intrinsic moral worth, this is just a useless observation."
No, I just pointed out that Touchstoned's authority failed at telling us what "secular morality" entails. (And, note that if he can ever do this, it won't be a morality.) It's like if I described a football defense as x, y, and having a three-four formation, I would then have ruled out four-three formations from the honorific title, "defense." So, I wonder how "totally irrelevant" secularists who don't hold to the characterizations Touchstoned has listed for us would think my points are? Funny. In a conversation with Touchstoned it is I who ends up defending secularists!
"Since Paul is having so much trouble with the concept of categories..."
Napes, don't think so. I don't have a problem with categories. My point, which everyone knows (besides the backpedaling, face saving, jig dancing Touchstoned) is that "secular ethics" isn't an ethic. "Secular morality" isn't a morality. I was critiquing moralities, not categories. At best, Touchstoned is tacitly admitting that his title was misleading.
"...maybe we can make headway by focusing on an instance."
And as I've stated from my firs post, I don't deny that there are secular moralitIES.
"...let's consider one of the instances mentioned above: utilitarianism. Even this "instance" is itself a category, or subcategory of secular ethics; under the broader perimeter of consequentialism, utilitarianism comes in multiple permutations -- classic utilitarianism, hedonistic utilitarianism,"
Classic utilitarianism is hedonistic utilitarianism. Bentham promulgated a pleasure/pain view of utility.
"But, variations considered, utilitarianism provides action-guides, a grounding for moral worth (normativity), offers practical axiological/deontological distinctions."
Yes, variations considered. To tell someone that you are "Utilitarian", and that's it, you've not provided them with anything.
"Utilitarianism, then, would be an instance of secular morality, a member of the class. Does Paul suppose that utilitarianism somehow "doesn't exist" as an ethical framework, secular or otherwise? This ought to push Paul's spinner to red-line RPM levels, I think."
Perhaps the first explanation of Utilitarianism provided the above - it doesn't do so anymore. But, what it does do, which is different that what Touchstoned's Wiki quote did, is that we at least know that right and wrong are based in the consequences of actions yielding the most utility. This will be characteristic of all versions. The problem is that it is too vague at this level. So, for one to provide a consequentionalist morality all one needs to do is to specify their position. I'm sure that almost all ethicists would agree with me that to simply say "Utilitarianism" and then shut your mouth afterwards, wouldn't be enough information for you to judge that as an ethical theory. At any rate, with the category "Utilitarianism" we at least know the basics of what they, and all of them, would say makes an action right - positive utility - and wrong - less positive utility than other options - and permissible - the same utility as any other option. And, some Utilitarianists would tell you that they are only trying to provide a theory of right and wrong, not practical action guides.
"I have to remind the reader here that the context for this was the question of whether atheists can be moral (or as Paul is inclined to re-cast the question: Can atheists provide an account for objective morality?). Rather than face any single, official rendering of secular morality, Paul has an array of secular ethical frameworks to deal with on this question. "Simply" pointing out that secular morality is a category containing multiple instances that qualify (which is what Lowder was pointing to) is a bigger problem from Paul. Rather than having to defeat a single "champion", he's obligated to "run the table". If just one of those secular frameworks can establish grounds for moral value, and the prescriptions and guides that flow from it, then his presuppositional goose is cooked. This is, however, a nice example of Paul as "contortionist pedant". Paul, does an array of secular ethical frameworks make things better for your argument, or worse?"
I re-cast the question to the one dealt with in apologetic literature. Why would Touchstoned support bad, straw man arguments from people? (Below we see that Touchstoned even admits that no one makes the argument that atheists cannot be moral in some minimal, nominal sense. So, he's agreeing with me.) Anyway, Touchstoned is way behind. I have already agreed that there's no silver bullet argument against every single secular ethic at once. I have furthermore pointed out that non-presuppositionalists have set them selves up for the same critique as Touchstoned offers me. So, why is he so enamored with presuppositionalism. He's acting as if he's making some charge that bears directly on me, or just presuppositionalists. He's actually making an argument against the majority of Christian apologists.
PM: "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 good grade in my class, that doesn't logically entail that I support any one (or n) slacker/s!"
"Now we're into thoroughgoing pedantics. If it "leaves room" -- "is compatible with" for those systems, it "supports" them. My Mac "supports" FireWire devices. It "leaves room" for compatible devices to be integrated in to the overall platform. Paul is equivocating on the word "support" here, leaning on "logically compatible with" in one case, and pointing to "fanboyism" (the slacker in his class) in the other."
_I_ am not equivocating, I used "support" in the same way. Furthermore, if "support" just means "compatible with" then why did he say what he did? Why think that because atheism doesn't require any single ethical theory it isn't "compatible" with any single ethical theory? Where did I ever even intimate anything remotely close to that? I'm no pedant, but Touchstoned is a sophist. He'll say anything, move anywhere, just to avoid looking bad.
"Atheism supports utilitarianism, for example. They are completely compatible."
Translated: Atheism is compatible with utilitarianism, for example. They are completely compatible. Furthermore, since "Atheism" is simply a "denial" of God's existence, it "supports" almost anything. Here's something else Touchstoned could have said: "Atheism supports child molestation, for example. They are completely compatible." Thanks for the words of wisdom, Touchstoned. What a wunderkid.
"As above, 'atheist' is just a qualifier, separating ethical systems into two categories: atheist ethical frameworks, and theistic ethical frameworks. Any ethical framework that does not rely on theistic concepts or principles is -- de facto -- an atheistic ethical framework..."
Well, I don't know about that. For starters, one could argue that the principles appealed to in ethics fit best in a theistic worldview, and so there are no atheistic ethics. Second, Touchstoned my show that all of the "atheistic ethical systems" are incompatible with any and all theistic ethics. Some theists - like Pojman - offers what he takes to be a morality that is compatible with both theism and atheism. He even says that he wants to provide a secular morality, one that secularists could agree with. I don't think he'd have agreed that his system was atheistic (and, Lowder even gives the book 4 starts on the Amazon review). Touchstoned is just ignorant of the entire field here.
Touchstoned starts to get it, but he just has to get a shot in since he can't bear the thought of being wrong:
"Ayiyi. It's no more possible to say "Ah, there is the theistic ethic" than "Ah, there is the secular ethic." They are both categories. I can say "Ah, utilitarianism, there is a secular ethical framework", and I can say "Ah, sweet Calvinism, there is a theistic ethical framework" (Calvinism, of course, is more than just an ethical framework, but it does provide one, for anyone scanning for ethical frameworks). Paul, the only reason I can see to deny the category "secular morality", is simply intransigence in correctly a poorly thought-out minor point in one of your posts. If you look around, plenty of intelligent people use the term, and the concept it points to, in useful and practical ways."
Yes, it was a somewhat minor point - it was correct, though. You should have just accepted it rather than jumping the gun. Lastly, I don't care if plenty of people talk that way (most people who read the Bible in a literal way take the creation account to be speaking of 6 literal days as well, but that doesn't stop Touchstoned from not adhering to the layman usage. I bet that sent Touchstoned’s RPMs into the red).
Touchstoned shuffles some more:
"Paul proceeds to implicate me in his own errors:
PM: '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!'
This in no way denies that atheistic moral frameworks can have a solid ground, Paul. I said in the quote above that secular morality appears quite plausible, but falls short of the virtues I'm looking for. That doesn't deny its existence as a moral framework, though. I affirm, at least in principle, and even nominally in practice, that secular ethical frameworks can provide accounts for their assertions and prescriptions."
The point of my critique here isn't to talk about whether Touchstoned denies the existence of "the secular ethic." My point here, which was plainly obvious to the reader, is that Touchstoned has no business chiding me (with no quotes, analysis, or proof, mind you) for saying that an ethical theory is wrong for "not meeting my "need" for something else, when Touchstone himself does the very thing he accuses me of doing! And, I cited proof to back my charges up. So, Touchstoned has not countered my piercing objection. That of intellectual hypocrisy. Has he read the literature? Atheists 'round the globe have scoffed at and argued against the "deficiency" that their system cannot account for final justice.
"A presuppositional claim to transcendental necessity for theism as the basis for morality is wholly unwarranted, a folly. If I can identify aspects of secular morality that I find deficient (or superior, by the same token), fine. But I grant that in principle, the atheist has all the basis he needs for providing justification for value judgments. The frameworks compete, rationally, and none are declared invalid prior to exercise and inspection by some artificial axiom I'm carrying around."
Assertion without argument.
"I'm routinely informed that any theistic tolerances I have are inherently immoral, in and of themselves, by at least two fellow on an email loop I participate in. That is, in their view, entertaining theistic ideas, absent rational justification for same (in their view), I'm an immoral person. This stems from the proposition that we are obligated to be rational and skeptically inclined, in some utilitarian sense. You can't even talk about "being able to make that claim", as you are presuppositionally forbidden from considering it a possibility. But in the general sense, I would dispute the "moral imperative" for totally eschewing supernatural ideas and instincts, but that would be their "qualified, narrow sense" in which theists qua theists are immoral, and cannot provide an accounting for themselves morally."
Now, I had just asked for Touchstone to show me how on an atheistic account of morality, theists would be immoral. I also had said that it would have to be at the level of principle, not factual disagreement. The above was his answer. My response:
i) This idea isn't an atheistic one!
ii) This is a debate at the level of fact, not principle. For, if we do have such justification, then we as theists, qua humans, are not immoral for being theists.
iii) I could make the same charge. Hence there is nothing here that shows how a strictly atheistic morality would imply that theists are immoral. Shoot, those same atheists could claim that Touchstoned was immoral if he murdered someone. Is "murder" the sole property of atheistic morality?!? Again, Touchstoned is making autobiographical remarks. That is, he's telling us just how much he doesn't know about ethics.
iv) Btw, I talk to atheists who I consider friends via private email and phone correspondance on a regular basis. So, don't try to pretedn that you're so enlightened. And, btw, they all say that they'd rather deal with a theist like us at T-blog than someone like you. So, don't know what you want to make of that.
"To put it in a nutshell, I believe your agument is: atheists cannot account for their moral judgments.
Do I have that right, for a nutshell?
If so, that's not an innovation in the conversation. That goes back to van Til and beyond. I've never supposed Christians -- the layman in the pew or the world-class apologist -- have contended that atheists cannot be moral/ethical in a nominal sense. It's demonstrably false, and not even interesting to entertain."
i) No, that's not my argument. That's not even an argument. Not even a nutshell of an argument. That may be a conclusion of an argument, it's not an argument, not even a nutshell. For someone who chides others for not getting their opponent, why does Touchstoned so often (almost always) misrepresent us? He's giving us more of his psychological projections.
ii) Not just Van Til and beyond, plenty of evidential, classical, Arminian and Roman Catholic apologists have made that claim.
iii) This was my point in my response to the Ethical Atheist, so why did you even respond Touchstoned? You are admitting you were wrong in your response, but you just can't admit it outright.
"No, I'm focused on the intellectual poverty of the attempts I've seen from you and others to either a) declare "presuppositional" victory up front, or b) go into "hyper-sophist" mode in confusing, obfuscating, and simply dealing dishonestly with the analysis of the underpinning of moral frameworks, secular or otherwise, or both. That is, the integrity of thought you bring to this discussion -- not if an atheist can be moral, but if an atheistic ethic can acquit itself -- is just a disaster. But disaster or no, I do see the "justification" question as being the central one from you and other Christian apologists, as opposed to "performance" (i.e. "doing good things")."
Assertions minus argument. Assertions minus quoting opponent. Argumentum ad takemywordforit.
Furthermore, a lot of my arguments against secular ethical theories have been gleaned from other secular ethicists! You're implicating those you seek to defend, and you're showing how unfamiliar with the arguments you are. If you were familiar, you'd have to say that the arguments from the Martin's, the Lowder's, the Rachels', the Timmons', the Mackie's, the Frankena's, the Rawls', the Singer's, the Shafer-Landau’s, the Miller’s, &c were all weak!
"It doesn't matter what else you use, Paul. Your presuppositionalism is problematic all by itself. It precludes the possibility -- not the demonstration, but the possibility -- of acknowledging secular grounds for concepts like "good" and "bad". It's a set of constraints you cannot get out of. This has nothing to do with your being otherwise willing to rationally consider a proposition on the merits. But you've embraced axioms that preclude that as an investigation. It's disingenuous to claim you can both maintain your presuppositionalist fancies, then also set them aside to consider things rationally."
This is after he made a comment about the transcendental argument. I showed him I don't use that argument. His answer: "That doesn't matter. You're wrong. Wrong. Wrong. No matter what, you're wrong. Did I say you were wrong?
And, btw, many non-presuppositionalists are precluded by the same thing! You're not attacking presuppositionalism like you'd like to.
And, again, notice the mere speculation. No arguments. No analysis. Just say-so. Touchstoned does the thing he accuses presuppositionalists of. He's simply psychologically projecting.
Lastly, I can acknowledge the broad logical possibility of a secularist accounting for those things. I haven't seen it yet. I actually study my opponents. I have read 4 books on ethics just this month! I have shown that I am more familiar with their positions that is Touchstoned. It is he who doesn't bother studying them.
I had wrote:
PM: "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."
"Completely irrelevant. This doesn't have any impact on anything at all here. Craig isn't bound by the commitments to presuppositionalism that you are, so he can, at least, in principle, claim to be pursuing these questions in earnest, rationally. You cannot."
Argumentum ad takemywordforit.
"You are the picture of irrationality. If your views weren't yours, you'd despise them as the apotheosis of anti-reason. But you bless them because they're yours, and they make you feel cozy, and provide magic answers to hard questions. Oh, and they insulate you from liability from having to engage these questions on the merits. That's what your worldview depends on."
Argumentum ad takemywordforit.
But, even if what Touchstoned 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.
What is hillarious about these kinds of remarks Touchstoned makes regarding me and my motives, is that they are the same remarks he chastises Phil Johnson for making! Notice what he says of Johnson:
* "They compromise their principles, don't you know. They don't -- they can't -- arrive at their positions through earnest inquiry. The Open Theist may say he's pulling his conclusions from scripture, and from logical implications that arise from that analysis. But really, Phil has traced the real cause, and that cause is slavish capitulation to the world's ways, anything at all in order to please Babylon." (Regarding me: Paul doesn't --he can't-- arrive at his conclusions through ernest inquiry. Paul may say that he's pulling his conclusions from the weight of the arguments that support them, but really Touchstoned as nailed the real cause: Paul just has to say that those other people's position can't be right 'cause otherwise he'd have to give up on his faith.)
* "So, by virtue of elimination, Phil is fairly forced to the ad hominem explanation. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, and he doesn't relish the kinds of disparagement he's got to dish out." (Regarding me: Touchstoned is forced to the ad hominem explanation. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, he just can't seem to be able to see that he's doing the exact same things hie chastises others for doing!)
Touchstone just refuses to deal with the fact that we may be right about the things we argue about. He cites competing positions to ours as if that showed that we were wrong. of course, those positions could be wrong. But Touchstoned can't take his blinders off long enough to realize this. He consistently fails to see that all his critiques can equally be launched against him and his modus operandi. That there are other interpretations of the things we debate doesn't imply that we are wrong. Touchstoned does a great job showing that there are other interpretations, at showing that it is possible for someone to play semantic word games to avoid arguments, that people can subtly change subjects and turn the debate into an emotional, off-topic display of sophistry at its best, what he constantly fails to do is actually show that our arguments are false. That there are other interpretations does not logically imply that we are wrong. Touchstoned needs to start engaging in the latter.
"So all this argument really signifies is that you cannot get your head around notions of "normativity" that aren't singularly tied to your theism. That's what presuppositionalism does to your brain."
Argumentum ad takemywordforit.
I had claimed,
PM: v) Many secularists don't think that secularists (or anyone for that matter) can account for norms in morality.
"Sure, and it's totally irrelevant. How does this observation attach at all? I might as well observe that some days the sky appears to be blue. Have I reached the point where I can try on Paul's triumphalist hat on, now?"
His answer: "That doesn't matter. You're wrong. Wrong. Wrong. No matter what, you're wrong. Did I say you were wrong?
My point: For Touchstoned to say that presuppositionalism is weak because it assumes that secular ethicists cannot account for norms is to say that the secular ethicists who make the exact same points are weak!
Now, Touchstoned may say, "Oh, but they can approach the conversation in a rational way, you cannot," suffers from at least two problems:
 The arguments must be judged for their merits, not for your mindset in approaching them. If my arguments are valid and sound, it matters not what I think about the debate I'm engaged in. If someone thinks that flat earthers cannot provide a good case for the pancake shape of the earth, and that flat earthers were irrational, that wouldn't change the arguments for the global shape of the earth.
 He can't provide any arguments to back up his oft repeated claims.
As always, its been a pleasure. Thanks for providing the fodder.
BECAUSE I GOT HIGH
It's like I don't care about nothin' man
Role another blunt, Yeah cuz
(Yeah x 2)
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Because I'm high, because I'm high
* The minority in the field don't label Bentham this way.
Posted by Error at 1:10 PM