Does different behaviour indicate different moral beliefs?

In a recent blog on the moral argument, I noted (in the comments) that in the real world we all find ourselves faced with certain moral facts, like the fact that we shouldn’t do unnecessary harm to others. Somebody objected to this, thinking that it was clearly not true. For example, the inquisitors harmed people and they thought it was right, right? So clearly they had quite different moral beliefs, and they did not think that we have a duty not to do unnecessary harm to people.

As I pointed out briefly in reply, this is a very hasty conclusion. The fact is, those inquisitors believed that, if they were successful, they would not be harming people in the long run but helping them. They did believe that we have a duty not to harm people. They just believed, rightly or otherwise, that their actions could be construed as ultimately good for people, rather than harmful.

I decided to write a new blog on this subject because it’s one that does come up from time to time in discussion on ethics, and I think it represents a common error: Does different behaviour on what we might think are moral issues prove that the people exhibiting that behaviour hold basically different moral beliefs from us?

It’s common, I think, for people to suppose that because things are done differently in different cultures or religions, or things were done differently in the past, those people must have held different moral values from us. I don’t think this is true. Here’s a fairly widely cited example: The famous political and social scientist of the turn of the twentieth century William Sumner observed the apparent diversity of moral beliefs reflected in widely divergent practices of different cultures around the world (such as slavery, cannibalism, wife swapping, infanticide etc), and drew the conclusion that this serves as evidence that morality itself is a purely relative construct, fabricated by a culture. When “ethnographers” (Westerners, of course) observe the behaviour of other cultures and proceed to “apply depreciatory adjectives to the people whom they study,” said Sumner, “they beg the most important question which we want to investigate; that is, What are the standards, codes, and ideas of chastity, decency, propriety, modesty, etc., and whence do they arise?”1 Sumner regarded the brute fact of apparent divergence in moral beliefs shown by differing behaviour from one culture to the next as “proof” that “ ‘immoral’ never means anything but contrary to the mores of the time and place.”2 This is simply a reckless way for Sumner to have stated it. If “immoral” really never means anything other than contrary to the mores of a given culture, then it would be meaningless to suggest, as the aforementioned “ethnologists” had, that some cultures encouraged immoral behaviour, since for behaviour to be immoral would mean that the behaviour was not endorsed by the culture. If this is just the meaning of the word moral or immoral, nobody could ask a genuinely open question about whether the practices of a culture are moral or not, yet people do ask just that. But Sumner’s wording could be tweaked a little so that he can be understood as saying something more comprehensible (although I do not want to say that it is more defensible), namely that what really and truly is moral depends on the mores of the culture in which one lives (and hence the relationship between the moral and the mores of a culture is not a semantic relationship but one of identity). And so, something is right just if the culture in which it is done approves of what is done.

While many who work in the social sciences like anthropology or sociology seem ready to immediately accept the explanation that this variety of behaviour exists because there really is an equally wide variety of basic moral commitments, philosophers have not been quite as ready to do so. As Francis Beckwith and Gregory Koukl note, “Sumner’s entire thesis hinges on his… claim… that each culture has a unique set of moral values.”3 This is just to say that the observation that Sumner thought should lead us to his conclusions about the meaning of morality was the fact that cultures have unique value sets. But the assertion that societies really do differ to such a great extent in their “core moral convictions,” Beckwith and Koukl say, is “not obvious,” even given Sumner’s observations about Eskimos. Take for example the Indians who do not eat cows. As Beckwith and Koukl explain:

In India, cows roam free because Hindus consider them sacred. In America we eat beef. At first glance it would seem we have conflicting values, but both of our cultures hold that it is wrong to eat other human beings. In America when Grandma dies, we don’t eat her, we bury her. In India Hindus don’t eat cattle because they believe the cow may be Grandma reincarnated in another form.4

In other words, what causes the different behaviour is not, at the bottom, a moral belief, but a factual belief, namely a metaphysical belief in reincarnation.5 Presumably, if the Hindus in question stopped believing in reincarnation, they would cease to have this objection to eating cows, or at any rate the objection might be expected to decline and eventually disappear. The reality is not that we are seeing radically different moral beliefs. Instead we are seeing radically different factual beliefs, and those beliefs are being responded to based on moral beliefs that we are actually likely to share.

Another example would be witch burning. We might be tempted to think that dumb, morally twisted people (i.e. Christians) used to burn witches, but we don’t do that now, so clearly we hold basically different moral beliefs. But this is much too hasty, and in the final analysis it is just false. Those who persecuted and burned (or drowned, hung or pressed) witches actually believed in the power of witchcraft to some extent. They believed that people who practised witchcraft possessed evil power and used it to inflict harm upon others in society. Now, we don’t share this belief, but we do share the moral conviction that people who inflict harm on society (e.g. those who deliberately spread disease or pollution) deserve to be punished. What is different is therefore not the moral belief in question, but rather the factual belief about the consequences of witchcraft.

Chiming in with Beckwith at this point, Charles Pigden concurs:

Do moral disagreements exceed factual ones? Consider current controversies between liberal social reformers and defenders of “the family.” True, they disagree morally – about the rights and wrongs of sexuality and the laws to which we should be subject. But they also disagree about factual issues. Polemicists for “the family” often suggest that chaos and/or dictatorship will ensue if “the family” is further undermined. Their opponents are less pessimistic. Controversialists differ about the likely results of various laws, the antiquity of the nuclear family, its naturalness, its tendency to drive people insane and its utility as social glue. Moral disagreements do not exceed factual ones here. Again, take differences between Friedmanite neo-conservatives and socialists of various hues. They disagree not only about the moral weight that should be given to the plight of the poor, but about the actual consequences of letting unfettered capitalism rip. The same goes for cross cultural conflicts. Moral disagreement is frequently marked by a wide divergence as to the nature of non-moral reality. Indeed, the moral practices of some remote societies often strike me as less bizarre than their factual beliefs.6

While Beckwith’s example of reincarnation has more to do with metaphysical factual claims, the factual claims that Pigden surveys have more to do with facts about consequences than metaphysical facts, filling out the picture that it is all kinds of factual claims that different people and cultures do not share in common.

This diversity of beliefs can lead to a diversity of behaviour, which might initially trick us into thinking that we are witnessing a diversity of quite opposed moral convictions, but this move is a hasty one. The bottom line is that while the different factual beliefs of different people might lead to all sorts of different behaviour, in itself this doesn’t imply that people hold radically different moral beliefs, and in fact I submit that on the whole our species agrees much more than it disagrees on fundamental moral matters.

1 W. G. Sumner, Folkways (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1940), 418.

2 Sumner, Folkways, 418.

3 Francis J. Beckwith and Gregory Koukl, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 44.

4 Beckwith and Koukl, Relativism, 45.

5 I distinguish here between moral beliefs and factual beliefs not out of a belief that moral claims are not descriptive of factual states of affairs, but out of convenience, to distinguish between moral claims and factual claims that are not moral ones.

6 Charles Pigden, The Reluctant Nihilist, Coursebook (Dunedin: University of Otago, 2004), 42.

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21 thoughts on “Does different behaviour indicate different moral beliefs?

  1. I believe CS Lewis said something in defence of burning witches, based on moral, not factual considerations. If there really were people in cahoots with the devil, and they really did seek to control and harm of other people…

  2. Ken, I don’t know why you do that “test” thing. Every time you do it, your post appears correctly (you’ve done it a few times in the past), and yet I still see you go to other websites and tell people that “Glenn doesn’t let me comment at his website.” I just don’t know why you do this.

  3. Obvious Glenn – I was checking because several of my comments had not got through in the past. I assumed (wrongly it turns out) that I was being prevented.

    Now I know that I aren’t. The problem probably arose before you switched servers and were going off line for some reason.

    If I might say it is the typical scientific response – to test whether one’s hypothesis is correct or not. This time I was wrong – and I have apologised for that. Now has my testing hurt you in any way? Rather childish to respond in this manner.

    (Bit ironic that Jason is telling you to ban me. After all you give this as the reason [someone telling you to – very convenient that]you closed off discussion previously preventing my reply. I was simply going to point out your mistake of claiming that the transcript of Gore’s film did not include the figure we discussed. The transcript did include the figure of course – and I have posted this figure on by blog in the review of Hansen’s book. It just doesn’t support your claim.

  4. An interesting response to my critique in the thread over whether by granting the theistic moral argument – expressed most compactly as “if there are moral facts, then a god is the most plausible explanation of them” – can eliminate or, at least, reduce the plausibility of the Evil God Hypothesis versus a Good God Hypothesis.

    However it misses the mark as a response to my criticism and introduces some other dubious issues related to our other discussion over whether the theistic moral argument is sound and valid, particularly over moral facts.

    It misses the mark because this post addresses a position that I clearly do not hold, namely moral relativism, clearly because one of my critiques of the theistic moral argument was that it requires moral relativism to be true in order to have a chance of working in a coherent manner. (That dispute not being over relative to whom, you obviously pushing forward your deity, but that any from of moral relativism is incompatible with their being moral facts of the kind being appealed to in the theistic moral argument. Further you obviously reject that most pernicious thesis of judgemental relativism and I am not saying otherwise).

    So there is not much to address about the large majority of the content of this post, presented above it is irrelevant to my critique. If this is not clear, hopefully the rest of this comment will make it so.

    First I will examine the issue with respect to moral facts and then I will finish with two related points as why this post fails that original criticism of mine. That still remains to be dealt with and, until then, your argument has no strength to refute Stephen Law’s EGH arguments.

    Granted that I thought we agreed that moral facts exist, that is a moral belief refers to states of affairs that exist and so is capable of being true or false depending on the relation between the belief and the relevant states of affairs, that is a moral belief is a species of as you, now qualify, as factual belief A puzzle since AFAIK there is no other kind. Now you go the other way by creating a dichotomy between factual beliefs and moral beliefs. But if, presumably one could infer from your post here, all moral beliefs do not refer to facts then you are now asserting that there are no moral facts!

    Trying to find a charitable interpretation of your claims, it seems that you are not talking about moral beliefs at all but about moral ends or desires and you are arguing that such ends or desires are near universally shared. If this is the case, we can leave your apparent equivocation over moral facts to the side for now.

    Unfortunately there are still issues with this, as previously noted in that tired cliché over the road to hell. It is not sufficient that someone has moral desires or ends, if they do not do their best to ensure that the beliefs upon which they formulate their intentions and actions are sound and true. If they do not, then the degree and severity of the deleterious outcomes of their moral actions undermines or, worse, negates those moral ends. To that degree they make their epistemic errors of recklessness, negligence or lack of foresight, moral errors or crimes. This is the criticism that you have failed, yet, to address.

    To finish appears that you are still operating on another morally dubious presumption, which I pointed out before. Suppose that there were in fact witches, that they are real. Similarly for the inquisitors’ victims, that those victims were not innocent but guilty of the crimes they were accused of. Neither responses, against witches or victims, from our (well at least mine) perspective, would be morally justified. It seems your presumption gives you, I have to say a deeply immoral license, in a most utilitarian like manner, to inflict great harm on those witches and victims, and their modern equivalent,out of all proportion to their crimes, all because a deity wants it that way. Please note whilst I have pointed a facet of your thinking with moral implications, this is not a personal attack. Here I am using you as an illustration to a point in general not just over you. If I could have found an impersonal way to express the above I would. Too many people think that way.

    Certainly these last two points are far better explained on the basis of an EGH than an GGH. It seems difficult to conceive how a GGH could have allowed states of affairs to occur, yet these are surely trivially plausible granted the EGH.

  5. Martin, seeing you are still stating that theistic moral arguments do not escape the EGH argument. I am still waiting for you to show me how, Adams moral argument and Laymans moral argument argument and Hares moral argument are such that “even if sound” they provide as much grounds for accepting EGH over a GGH. If you are going to claim that theistic arguments have this feature and then ignore the actual versions of this argument that have been made in the literature then your comments have been shown to be bluster.

  6. Martin, I never attributed relativism to you. All I noted is that you inferred from the behaviour of the inquisitors that they don’t hold the same moral belief about not harming people that I do. In this post, while I did mention relativism, my main purpose was to explain why the inference you made is a faulty one.

    For this reason I see no relevant critique in your comment in this thread, for what I have said does not suggest that, for example, burning witches is morally justified, all things considered. All I have said is that a person can still be confronted with the same moral facts as you and I (and this is what you had denied in the case of the inquisition) and yet behave in a way that I condemn.

    You must distinguish between issues that are not the same. As for your (now failed, I think) arguments about the “evil god” and the failure of the moral argument for theism, you might want to pop back into the thread in question and defend your position, which now looks rather soundly sunk.

  7. Matt

    “Martin, seeing you are still stating that theistic moral arguments do not escape the EGH argument.”
    I have just been addressing Glenn’s version and no others in these various threads, since I there have been no others presented. That version does not some much escape the EGH but rather fails to refute it, as Glenn otherwise claimed.

    “I am still waiting for you to show me how, Adams moral argument and Laymans moral argument argument and Hares moral argument are such that “even if sound” they provide as much grounds for accepting EGH over a GGH.”
    And I am still waiting for you to actually present one. I asked before to chose one (and I think said chose what you think is the best, as if you would not!). I would be more than happy to see one and discuss it with you.

    “If you are going to claim that theistic arguments have this feature and then ignore the actual versions of this argument that have been made in the literature then your comments have been shown to be bluster.”
    Come, come now. This is, at least, the third time I am asking to you present any one one of these arguments and until you do there is nothing to discuss. And this is the second time you have merely repeated the claim that these have been solved in the literature without providing the supporting evidence, namely any of the arguments themselves with, say, premises and conclusions – as Glenn long long ago did do when challenged by others over his theistic moral argument.

    Until you do at the very least what Glenn easily did, ironically the only bluster anyone can see here is coming from you.

  8. “Come, come now. This is, at least, the third time I am asking to you present any one one of these arguments”

    Martin, I share a certain frustration with Matt here. From time to time I see people ignoring arguments that have already been very well explained in the literature at some considerable length. They very confidently make claims that there are no such good arguments and they demand that the people they are talking to on the internet produce such arguments then and there.

    This is the position Matt is in with you. He has idenitifed that there are such arguments already. These arguments are lengthy (filling whole books) and very well explained, so it’s a bit disingenuous for you to demand that Matt reproduces the arguments that he is referring to. His only point was that you’re just assuming that these very careful and scholarly presentations have failed, but you don’t really say why.

    Maybe a clarifying question would help: Martin, do you consider yourself to be familiar with the literature on this subject, and have you read any of the authors Matt referred to?

  9. Glenn

    “Martin, I never attributed relativism to you.”
    This is quite correct, I read more into this post than was required. I should have realised that in comment debates seeds for new posts can be planted, I presume I, at best, might triggered this post but you were addressing a more general issue. Sorry.

    “All I noted is that you inferred fromt he behaviour of the inquisitors that they don’t hold the same moral belief about not harming people that I do.”
    And that is the point that I discussed and I though made clear in my previous comment.

    “For this reason I see no relevant critique in your comment in this thread, for what i have said does not suggest that, for example, burning witches is morally justified, all things considered.”
    The third point in that previous comment is likely to be the most contentious between us and it would be more productive and constructive to leave that aside.

    “All I have said is that a person can still be confronted witht he same moral facts as you and I (and this is what you had denied in the case of the inquisition) and yet behave in a way that I condemn.”
    On the one hand, granted a moral action such as murdering a person is wrong, and that clearly there are murderers out there, who do understand this yet still murder, this is trivially true. But then it is of no substantive consequence to our discussion.

    On the other hand, trying to understand how this can make a substantive difference in our debate it depends on what the moral facts were. The inquisitors had fallacious moral facts not the same ones as us, and it was not taking due care and precaution to ensure that they had secure and sound beliefs that are morally culpable for.

    “You must distinguish between issues that are not the same. As your your (now failed) arguments about the “evil god” and the failure of the moral argument for theism, you’d better pop back into the thread in question and defend your position, which now looks rather soundly sunk.”
    Since none of my key points have been answered and not even addressed but rather completely ignored in that thread this looks like another fallacy, I am not sure of the name but I am calling it the “I can’t hear you fallacy”. As for the bluster that Matt erroneously accused me of, possibly because he might really not know what it means, well you have presented a Grade A example of bluster in this quoted paragraph here! 🙂

  10. Martin, if you are just going to try to refute the replies given to your arguments in other threads by declaring that your claims have not been addressed, then that is fine. I am quite happy for people to see that.

    “But then it is of no substantive consequence to our discussion.”

    This is very clearly not true. The entire point that was being disputed, the point which prompted this blog post, was my claim that we do in fact find ourselves with moral facts, and I gave the example of the moral fact that we shouldn’t harm people. The only reason any disagreement came up about this is that you claimed that this was false, and you gave the inquisition as an example.

    So it’s quite obvious that this issue is pertinent to our previous discussion, and also that your attempted rebuttal by appealing to the inquisition failed.

    You may, of course, say again this time as you did last time, “none of my key points have been answered.” This of course, does not make it so, just as it did not last time.

  11. Martin, you stated that the moral arguments for theism if sound do not provide evidence that show that a good God exists. This suggests that you have (a) examined the moral arguments in the literature and (b) can show how they are such that even if sound they provide no reason for supporting an EGH over a GGH.

    Now, if you have done (a) then I don’t need to tell you what Adams, Hares and Laymans arguments are. Anyone who had actually studied the moral arguments would be familar with them.

    If you have not done (a) then your initial position was unwarranted.

    You seem to think that if you state that every version of X has feature P, this stands unless I can spell out in a combox an X that is not P, despite the fact that I did do this in a previous thread and you ignored it. Your claim is false. One is not justified in making a generalisation of this sort in the first place unless they have made a representative sample of X’s. The fact that you don’t know of Hares, Laymans, or Adams arguments shows you have not, so your blanket assessment of moral arguments is unjustified.

  12. “Martin, you stated that the moral arguments for theism if sound do not provide evidence that show that a good God exists.”
    No, I only granted the soundness and validity of Glenn’s version which was the not only the only one at hand, but more relevantly because it was Glenn that was claiming to refute Law’s EGH using his version of the theistic moral argument. Maybe he agrees with all other versions or may not, that would be relevant to that discussion.

    “This suggests that you have (a) examined the moral arguments in the literature and (b) can show how they are such that even if sound they provide no reason for supporting an EGH over a GGH.”
    Regarding (a) as is quite clear from my position in the thread specifically on theistic moral argument that any version of the theistic moral argument is incoherent, add, unless that incoherence is addressed, that is without equivocation or special pleading – which is all I have ever seen over many year, this remains so. Really that is the end of the matter.

    So,as for (b) if you want to make such an argument on behalf of one of those three or on your own behalf or with Glenn, then go ahead and stop waffling around.

    “You seem to think that if you state that every version of X has feature P,”
    No I did not just state I provided an argument to that effect. It appears you cannot tell the difference between stating that an argument exists or has been made is no the same as actually making it.
    “this stands unless I can spell out in a combox an X that is not P,”
    Duh! That is quite correct. Basic principle of reasoning, dear boy.

    “despite the fact that I did do this in a previous thread and you ignored it.”
    Sorry you need to check your facts. You have never spelt it out and still have not. If you are so confident that you can make an argument why do you keep on avoiding making it? I can only conclude that your position is pure bluster and that you cannot make a successful argument and you know it.

    “Your claim is false. One is not justified in making a generalisation of this sort in the first place unless they have made a representative sample of X’s.”
    Then you do not understand the argument I made. It is logically impossible for the antecedent of the moral argument “(if) moral facts exist” and the consequent ” (therefore) God is the most plausible explanation2 to both be true. That is all the justification anyone needs to reject the theistic moral argument.

    Apart from you first post which was interesting since then all I have been asking you to do is to spell it out but all you have been providing since is pure bluster and zero substance, you must be at four or five strikes by now. You are the weakest link, bye bye.

  13. “No, I only granted the soundness and validity of Glenn’s version”

    Uh, Martin, read Matt’s comment again. That comment of yours doesn’t really connect to it. You were replying to Matt’s obsevation that according to you, the moral argument that I gave, even if it is sound, doesn’t show that a good God exists. So why you would reply by saying that you granted the soundness and validity of my argument but not others seems pretty irrelevant.

    What’s more, you never granted the soundness of my moral argument. You called it incoherent and unsound, even though you chose not to explain exactly how it is incoherent, and your claim that it is unsound was never substantiated. You say here again that it’s actually logically impossible for all the parts of my argument to be true, so a logical proof should be easy, but you never gave one (feel free to offer one in the future). What’s more, you clearly contradict yourself here, since it can’t be the case that this contradiction exists within a sound argument, yet you have here granted thatthe argument is sound and also asserted that it contains a contradiction!

    If you changed your mind, you certainy didn’t tell me about it, but your comment in this thread is surprising to say the least.

  14. I missed a post from you Glenn you say:

    “Martin, I share a certain frustration with Matt here. From time to time I see people ignoring arguments that have already been very well explained in the literature at some considerable length. They very confidently make claims that there are no such good arguments and they demand that the people they are talking to on the internet produce such arguments then and there.”
    Since the main point of this extended debate was to examine your claim that the theistic moral argument refutes the EGH, it is quiet ridiculous to now argue that “well it has been solved by a few other people already and, no, we are not going to explain why. Just go and read some books.” That is a cop out if ever I saw one.

    “This is the position Matt is in with you. He has idenitifed that there are such arguments already. These arguments are lengthy (filling whole books) and very well explained, so it’s a bit disingenuous for you to demand that Matt reproduces the arguments that he is referring to.”

    Well given there was a significant flaw in Matt’s original comments since IIRC Hare’s Moral Argument is nothing to do with the Theistic Moral argument we are discussing and his incredibly brief explanation of those arguments looked full of holes as he presented them but I was not going to waste time addressing such fleeting statements unless he is prepared to actually develop them here. He has not and appears unable to do so. He does not have to write a book in a comment, just at least indicate that he knows what he is talking about.

    “His only point was that you’re just assuming that these very careful and scholarly presentations have failed, but you don’t really say why.” Well I have incidentally addressed one of his fleeting claimed arguments. I have argued in different ways that a GGH is likely an inference to a worst explanation and an EGH to the best explanation, yet Matt has made zero effort to apply his knowledge of those authors to show why this is incorrect, especially given that he made specific claim that one of these authors argued that a GGH was an inference to the best explanation.

    “Maybe a clarifying question would help: Martin, do you consider yourself to be familiar with the literature on this subject, and have you read any of the authors Matt referred to?”

    I am very familiar with the literature of the subject. I have read pretty much all major writing on ethics from Greece to the present day, (and most certainly Hare) and try and read as many contemporary papers as time allows.

  15. “Uh, Martin, read Matt’s comment again. That comment of yours doesn’t really connect to it. You were replying to Matt’s obsevation that according to you, the moral argument that I gave, even if it is sound, doesn’t show that a good God exists. So why you would reply by saying that you granted the soundness and validity of my argument but not others seems pretty irrelevant.”
    Not irrelevant at all. Why on earth should anyone grant the soundness and validity of an argument that has not been made? No reason at all.

    “What’s more, you never granted the soundness of my moral argument.” This is bizarre. Yes I have and repeatedly so but only and quiet clearly temporarily and purely for the purposes of debate in the thread regarding your claim over the EGH!!!

    “You called it incoherent and unsound,”
    In another thread where I am addressing the theistic moral argument obviously.

    “even though you chose not to explain exactly how it is incoherent,”
    You are getting very silly. I have repeatedly explained why it is coherent and have done just again in a couple of recent comments.

    “and your claim that it is unsound was never substantiated.”
    If you seriously think that ignoring my last comments in the relevant thread shows that my claims were not substantiated then I have to seriously;y doubt that you have a Phd in Philosophy as you claim. I suggest you take lessons in debating from William lane Craig, he would never make such silly claims as you are making here.

    “You say here again that it’s actually logically impossible for all the parts of my argument to be true, so a logical proof should be easy, but you never gave one (feel free to offer one in the future).”
    I already have.

    1. If A then not B
    2. B
    3. Not A
    A= Glenn-type God
    B= Moral facts
    (That is Modus Tolens if you don’t know)
    Of course have your opposite version of 1:
    1a: If A then B
    is what we are discussing. and that is where I am pointing out the contradiction. I am not interested in showing your god is logically impossible, one can remain a theist whilst still believing there are moral facts but not a theist of your kind, at least not without contradiction.

    And I have already and repeatedly pointed out the problems with 1A either equivocation (over B) or special pleading (over A).
    Of course both 1 and 1a and 1,2,3 boil down to the same contradiction in the end moral facts existing and morality grounded in god are mutually exclusively and cannot both be true.

    If all you have is the fallacy of ad nauseum and repeatedly refusing to understand what should be trivial for someone with a Phd in philosophy to get then you are clearly not interested in honest and rational debate.

    “What’s more, you clearly contradict yourself here, since it can’t be the case that this contradiction exists within a sound argument,”
    yet you have here granted thatthe argument is sound and also asserted that it contains a contradiction!”
    You are getting beyond silly. Obviously I granted the conclusion of theistic moral argument as this was one way to to asses your claim over significance for the GGH versus EGH. However since you kept introducing aspects of the theistic morals argument itself we both felt the need by you posting and me commenting) to address that directly and separately. It is quite possible to look at the implication of the conclusion of argument such as “If God is the ground of moral facts does this exclude an EGH” whilst still disputing the soundness and/or validly of the argument “If moral facts exist, then a deity is the most plausible explanation of them”. These are two separate discussions we have been having in parallel, as if you did not know.

    And to summarise where we are today if the theistic moral argument is inchoerent then it is irrelevant to the EGH (you cannot deny that!) and if it could be made coherent, sound and vlaid – that is accept the conclusion then an EGH is more likely than a GGH (which is one of our disputes of course).

    Really to display such a basic confusion after so many words from you is quite ridiculous. You cannot be making your points here with any seriousness. Your disingenuity and worse is enough evidence that you are incapable of honest rational debate. I will have to find interesting stimulating and worthwhile discussions elsewhere, there are none here.

  16. Martin, I find myself having to say again:

    1. If A then not B
    2. B
    3. Not A
    A= Glenn-type God
    B= Moral facts

    Just stating that you have proved anything of the sort is not the same as actually having done so.

    You have never even begun to show that any argument of the above form with your substitutions for A and B is sound. What is the point of just saying that you have? How about popping back into the thread where I modestly asked you to defend your claim, and cough up an argument? I have zero interest in your rhetorical rubbish about honesty. Let’s see the meat of your arguments of don’t even bother.

    Don’t tell me you have a proof. Give a proof.

    PS: I just checked the other threads, and you never granted the soundness or validity of my moral argument – for argument’s sake (or for any other reason).

  17. I am very familiar with the literature of the subject. I have read pretty much all major writing on ethics from Greece to the present day, (and most certainly Hare) and try and read as many contemporary papers as time allows.

    Really? Which of John Hare’s books that deal with God and morality did you think was the worst? Was it The Moral Gap or God’s call? And which book of Robert Adams do you have in mind? Was it Finite and Infinite Goods, or perhaps one of his shorter papers on Divine Command ethics?

    And how is it that you don’t think they offered arguments that involve the goodness of God (or at least you imply that they offered no such arguments)? How long has it been since you read these books?

    Martin, I call BS.

  18. Martin

    “Well given there was a significant flaw in Matt’s original comments since IIRC Hare’s Moral Argument is nothing to do with the Theistic Moral argument we are discussing”

    That’s irrelevant, Laws claim was that none of the contemporary moral arguments for theism are such that, if sound they provides evidence for a GGH instead of an EGH. I pointed out several arguments in the literature which are such that if they are sound do. The fact it was not Glenn’s is neither here nor there.

    “and his incredibly brief explanation of those arguments looked full of holes as he presented them but I was not going to waste time addressing such fleeting statements unless he is prepared to actually develop them here.”

    I have already addressed this, either you have read these arguments or you have not. If you have I don’t need to develop them do I, you already know what they are, have read them and assesed them. If you need me to tell you what they are you have not read them.

    You have stated that none of the moral arguments in the literature are such that if sound they do not support a good God. One can only justifiably make a generalisation like this unless they have read a representative sample of such arguments, granted there soundness and then found their conclusion does not support a good God. Seeing Adams, Hares, and Laymans would be included in any representative sample, you must have done this. So please provide us with the evidence for your claim. So again, if you accept that Hare, Layman and Adam’s arguments are sound how do they support an evil God.

    “He has not and appears unable to do so. He does not have to write a book in a comment, just at least indicate that he knows what he is talking about.”

    Nice bluff, knowing what you are talking about actually means being familar with the arguments you are talking about. Seeing you apparently are unfamilar with the moral arguments in the literature unless I tell you what they are I think the shoe is really on the other foot here.

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