Moral Argument Against The Existence Of God – God and morality are often thought to go hand in hand. Religious believers usually assume moral superiority over atheists, sometimes claiming outlandish things like “if you don’t believe in God, what reason do you have not to kill your neighbor [or do some other morally repugnant act]?” Where does this moral superiority come from?

Part of the answer is cultural and educational. when I challenge students to defend moral viewpoints, they often refer to the religious orders they learned in school or from their parents. This suggests to me that, at least until they reach university, moral or ethical principles are usually conveyed in their religious packaging. But part of the answer is also philosophical. Over the centuries, many philosophers have defended the idea that morality depends on the existence of God.

Moral Argument Against The Existence Of God

Moral Argument Against The Existence Of God

Let’s call anyone who advocates such a dependent relationship a proponent of the “moral argument” for God. What I want to address in this post (and the next) are the various ways these proponents cash in on this addiction. In doing so, I am largely guided by an essay I read recently by Peter Byrne entitled Kant and the Moral Argument in the collection Major Thinkers in the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Geoffrey Jordan. As you can tell from the title, the essay is mainly about Kant’s moral argument to God, but in the process it has some interesting insights into the nature of moral arguments and their flaws.

Philosophical Disquisitions: Moral Arguments For God (1): Evidential Forms

Perhaps the most useful thing about Byrne’s essay is how he frames his discussion in terms of the classification of moral arguments. He argues that religious defenses of the relationship between God and morality tend to come in two main flavors: evidentiary and non-evidentiary. Similar distinctions exist in many branches of religious philosophy: think of the problem of evil and its logical and evidential varieties, or the classic distinction between a priori and a posteriori proofs of God, but “evidential”/”non-evidential”. labels have some definite meaning in the context of moral arguments.

Evidential arguments. These are arguments that emphasize the existence of some moral fact (E) and claim that God is the best explanation for E. This lends some support to the existence of God.

There are many examples of such arguments in the literature. We’ll discuss the general hypothesis in a moment, but most moral arguments for God’s existence take this form. They start from the observation that moral facts have some interesting property or characteristic; then they go on to claim that only God can explain that quality or attribute.

Non-evidential arguments. These are arguments that emphasize some moral goal or end and claim that God’s existence is necessary if that goal or end is to be fulfilled.

Clarifying Arguments For God, Part Three: Moral

Non-evidential arguments are rarer. You may not be aware of it, but if you read much philosophy of religion, you’ll likely come across versions of this argument. Kant’s moral argument for God takes this form, for example, and will be discussed in part two. William Lane Craig has also defended versions of this argument. He sometimes claims that justice or responsibility is possible only if God exists. I have discussed his arguments in this regard on previous occasions.

As I say, most moral arguments for God’s existence take an evidentiary form. They begin with some observations on moral facts, e.g. some puzzle about their supposed obligation or necessity or moral properties. day. their metaphysical strangeness. They then claim that God is the best basis/explanation for those puzzling properties. They all work from a moral realist perspective, that is, from the assumption that moral facts are true.

Burr takes the following version as the basis for his discussion. It comes from the work of Robert Adams.

Moral Argument Against The Existence Of God

The second premise of this argument requires a little unpacking. Adams’s defense focuses on the contrast between natural, scientific, and moral facts. Natural, scientific facts are obviously objective. they are capable of intersubjective evaluation and verification (or falsification if you prefer) and can be confirmed through observation and experimentation. Consider the case of water H

Can Atheists Be Moral?

. This is something that can be tested through chemical experiments. A similar process of investigation and evaluation is possible for other natural and objective facts. More importantly, the ontological properties of natural and objective facts have a distinctive character that makes them eligible for such inquiry.

The problem is that moral facts are very different from this. Where is the experience that tells you torture is wrong or pleasure is good? Where do you “see” good and bad? It seems that moral facts are in a completely different ontological field from natural facts. And yet, at the same time, the statements “torture is wrong” and “pleasure is good” seem like self-evident, objective truths. Their objectivity must be based on something other than the natural world. That is the underlying motivation (2).

Having explained premise (2), the rest of the argument is relatively easy to follow (even if you reject it). Premise (3) claims that God is the best explanation for the objective and non-natural quality of moral facts. One reason for this is that he is (according to most conceptions of God) a non-natural being. Another is that he has the right kinds of qualities (authority, goodness, etc.) to create binding moral norms. Theories of divine commandment are commonly invoked to support this premise.

The conclusion will then follow based on probability. Technically, a bridging premise would be required, presumably “if X is the best explanation of E, and E is a fact, then E gives good reason to believe X”, and you could question that bridging premise, but I will ignore that technicality in what follows.

What Is The Moral Argument For The Existence Of God?

The first is to challenge premise (1) or (2) and deny the existence of “objective” moral facts. There are several different ways to develop this response. You can reject the entire position of moral realism on which the argument rests. You may believe that moral facts simply express our attitudes or feelings about, for example, certain actions or situations. Alternatively, you can challenge the objectivity of moral facts. It all depends on what one means by “objectivity,” of course, but if we assume that it means “independence of mind” (ie, moral facts exist independently of moral observers), then the general answer would be to adopt a constructivist conception of moral facts. . . According to constructivism, moral facts are constructed from mental attitudes. This does not mean that moral facts are incapable of being true or false; rejecting objectivity does not mean accepting base relativism, it just means that they are ontologically dependent on certain mental states. Whatever its precise details, however, we can call all such responses to the argument non-realist responses because they tend to negate the traditional approach to moral realism.

Another way to respond to the argument is to argue that there are alternative (better) explanations of moral facts. One possibility here is that moral naturalism is plausible. In other words, these moral properties are not as ontologically strange as they first appear. Just as water can be reduced to more basic chemical constituents, so moral facts such as the badness of pain can be reduced to natural facts. That, in any case, is the promise of naturalistic theories such as Frank Jackson’s moral functionalism. An alternative possibility, which I have explored several times on this blog, is non-naturalistic moral realism. According to this view, moral facts are not reducible to natural facts, but this does not mean that they are best explained by God. On the contrary, they are a kind of sui generis, metaphysically basic, feature of reality. A common analogy is to mathematical realism of the Platonic order.

Finally, you can respond to the argument by rejecting the claim that God provides a good explanation for moral facts. The superficial problem with addressing God in this context is that they have a mystical feel to them. Moral facts are considered ontologically mysterious, so of course they must be explained by appealing to another ontologically mysterious being (God). We can use the bigger mystery (God) to explain the smaller one (moral facts). This is unfair, though, because theists try to provide some explanation of how God explains moral facts, often by appealing to some version of the Divine Command Theory. The problem of such appeals is twofold.

Moral Argument Against The Existence Of God

Euthyphro problem. They are vulnerable to the classic Euthyphro dilemma, according to which divine precepts cannot explain the non-accidental nature of moral facts. Theists defend themselves from the classical Euthyphro by using modified Divine Command theories. These modified theories argue that certain fundamental properties of God (specifically his divine nature) constrain the moral commands he can give, and therefore allow them to avoid the problem of contingency. But these modified theories are vulnerable to revised versions of the Euthyphro dilemma. I have explored this further in the past.

The Ontological Argument: Existence As Perfection

Backward problem in order

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