Argument Adjourned, Atheism and Amorality

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In his book Why Be Moral, Atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen admits the position that the new, angry Atheists like Sam Harris cannot bring themselves to do, that “Pure practical reason, even with good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.” Bertrand Russell, who above all things devoted himself to attempting to live according to reason alone, admitted that he could not account for morality by this method. If reason cannot complete the equation, where are we left to turn?

In every instance of moral decision, there is an evaluation of the opposite positions of good and bad. Moral affirmation cannot be an abstraction. The person who makes a moral evaluation assumes the intrinsic worth in himself and sees that intrinsic worth in the lives of others. In a world of matter alone, there is no intrinsic worth. A moral framework is necessary for the declaration of right and wrong, one which sets the standard for good and bad.

The existence and continued affirmation of a moral framework can lead us to only one conclusion. God exists and is the provider of this moral framework. We can lay it out as:

P1 Objective moral values exist only if God exists

P2 Objective moral values do exist

C God Exists

The arguments from reason for the existence and practice of morality (without God as the lawgiver) trend along the line of humanity doing things in the interest of the community and cooperation for the good of all. The problem is circular though; with an objective source of good and bad how will the billions of sovereign creatures agree on what is good and bad? Since one life (of matter alone) is of no more value than any other life, why would a person ever do anything but in their own self interest? These questions always lead us back to the top of the page.  

 

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3 thoughts on “Argument Adjourned, Atheism and Amorality

  1. I’d like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to a book: Beyond Good and Evil, by Nietzsche.

    An excerpt:

    2. “HOW COULD anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? or the Will to Truth out of the will to deception? or the generous deed out of selfishness? or the pure sun-bright vision of the wise man out of covetousness? Such genesis is impossible; whoever dreams of it is a fool, nay, worse than a fool; things of the highest value must have a different origin, an origin of THEIR own–in this transitory, seductive, illusory, paltry world, in this turmoil of delusion and cupidity, they cannot have their source. But rather in the lap of Being, in the intransitory, in the concealed God, in the ‘Thing-in-itself– THERE must be their source, and nowhere else!”–This mode of reasoning discloses the typical prejudice by which metaphysicians of all times can be recognized, this mode of valuation is at the back of all their logical procedure; through this “belief” of theirs, they exert themselves for their “knowledge,” for something that is in the end solemnly christened “the Truth.” The fundamental belief of metaphysicians is THE BELIEF IN ANTITHESES OF VALUES. It never occurred even to the wariest of them to doubt here on the very threshold (where doubt, however, was most necessary); though they had made a solemn vow, “DE OMNIBUS DUBITANDUM.” For it may be doubted, firstly, whether antitheses exist at all; and secondly, whether the popular valuations and antitheses of value upon which metaphysicians have set their seal, are not perhaps merely superficial estimates, merely provisional perspectives, besides being probably made from some corner, perhaps from below–“frog perspectives,” as it were, to borrow an expression current among painters. In spite of all the value which may belong to the true, the positive, and the unselfish, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life generally should be assigned to pretence, to the will to delusion, to selfishness, and cupidity. It might even be possible that WHAT constitutes the value of those good and respected things, consists precisely in their being insidiously related, knotted, and crocheted to these evil and apparently opposed things–perhaps even in being essentially identical with them. Perhaps! But who wishes to concern himself with such dangerous “Perhapses”! For that investigation one must await the advent of a new order of philosophers, such as will have other tastes and inclinations, the reverse of those hitherto prevalent–philosophers of the dangerous “Perhaps” in every sense of the term. And to speak in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers beginning to appear.

  2. Interesting quote but to what end? Nietzsche’s atheism is rigorous far beyond what the modern atheist is willing to accept. He was willing to walk the idea of no God out to the nihilism that is its only possible conclusion. You and the choices you make become the only arbiter of right and wrong. Are you willing to accept my choices for your life?

  3. Nietzsche as Nihilist? It would be well to remember one of the final lessons of Socrates, to rediscover what he had learned:

    “Accordingly I went to one who had the reputation of wisdom, and observed to him – his name I need not mention; he was a politician whom I selected for examination – and the result was as follows: When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and wiser still by himself; and I went and tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present and heard me. So I left him, saying to myself, as I went away: Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him. Then I went to another, who had still higher philosophical pretensions, and my conclusion was exactly the same. I made another enemy of him, and of many others besides him.”

    – Apology, by Plato

    More to the point; that is to say, to the end of which you speak: The above quote is a kind of material objection, calling into question both the predicates referenced in your argument above.

    Predicate 2

    P2 Objective moral values do exist

    Do they?

    In every instance of moral decision, there is an evaluation of the opposite positions of good and bad. Moral affirmation cannot be an abstraction. The person who makes a moral evaluation assumes the intrinsic worth in himself and sees that intrinsic worth in the lives of others. In a world of matter alone, there is no intrinsic worth. A moral framework is necessary for the declaration of right and wrong, one which sets the standard for good and bad.

    Consider:

    In every instance of moral decision, there is a desire for the invention of a hierarchy of values. If that Will to Morality is strong enough, hard enough, inhuman enough, it should encompass the immediate forgetting of the act of invention so performed to as to achieve the BELIEF OF MORAL OBJECTIVITY; that is to say, the belief in a contradiction. It is the nature of this Will to achieve a declaration of right and wrong, a declaration of the Will to Morality itself, the better to impose that Will upon others; in its most refined hardness and duplicity, to impose it even upon the self.

    P1 Objective moral values exist only if God exists.

    The objection here is not that the predicate is incorrect – only that it is delightfully, ironically misleading. If the Will to Morality is made the stronger by God, then all the more reason that the Will to Morality should invent Him. It is the belief in God that stems from the BELIEF IN MORAL OBJECTIVITY. To suggest otherwise is to put the cart before the horse.

    …. And disengaging from channeling the Nietzsche… now.

    ^_^

    There is a very real need to believe in morality as something that can be imposed on others. Humans are interesting in that they are one the only animal that cannot survive without fulfilling this need – to move beyond it would be to become something other than human.

    It is necessary to our survival. Giving our morality the feel of an Absolute Truth lends to the weight of the cudgel, increases its efficacy. For all my fondness to Nietzsche, my response is hardly Nietzschean. I seek to disarm morality of the weight of moral Absolutes, and I have thus made an enemy of the BELIEF IN MORAL OBJECTIVITY.

    Yet still I admit the need to impose morality on others – still human, all too human. I cannot weight the cudgel – but I can sharpen the scalpel.

    All morality exists not merely as an antithesis of values – it is a hierarchy, something still more. A hierarchy has both high and low, ‘up’ and ‘down’.

    Consider ‘up’. ‘Up’ is interesting. We both mean the same thing when we say ‘up’. But if I am in New Zealand, and you were in Japan, we would each be pointing in entirely different directions when we use the term – but still we would be applying the term for the same function, and applying it successfully.

    That is to say; the nature of what kind of action (direction) is moral (up), will change depending on the context (country) – but the need and function for morality (upness) is still universal to all contexts (countries), so neither is it utterly subjective.

    And as it is not subjective, it is sharp enough that it may be imposed on others. I may impose a different morality in different contexts, because I can define morality in a given context as a sum function of all the factors in that context. And I can still impose that morality on others in that context. But I can also resist others from imposing out-of-context morality onto me, where I sit safe within my domain: The context of the moment; Kairos.

    And although this subjugation of Kairos to the Moral Will is just as much an arbitrary preference as your bland assertion that “P2 Objective moral values do exist” (the subjugation of God to the Moral Will), it is at least to my credit that I have recognized and considered the arbitraryness, and included it in the form of the subjugation. Consider again the words of Socrates:

    Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful and good, I am better off than he is – for he knows nothing, and thinks that he knows. I neither know nor think that I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.

    Although, out of a deep fondness, I shall grant Nietzsche the last word in this entry:

    65a. One is most dishonest towards one’s God: he is not PERMITTED to sin.

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