Archive for ‘Ethics’

March 5th, 2014

“Under Our Skin” – The Must See Documentary

by Max Andrews

Under Our Skin is an amazing documentary about Lyme Disease and those who suffer from it. It’s available to watch for free on Hulu (I know many places around the world don’t stream Hulu so you may want to try to find it somewhere else). It doesn’t talk about the conspiracy behind Plum Island (US government animal testing facility off the coast of Lyme, Connecticut… There may be good reason to blame the government for this disease but I won’t discuss that issue here). It focuses on the problem of healthcare in the US, the imbalance of the government and insurance companies, the corruption of policy makers, and the greed of those who patent advances and not make it available for others to benefit from. Here’s the trailer.

February 18th, 2014

Q&A 39: Ethical and Epistemic Dilemmas in Education

by Max Andrews

Q&A GraphicQuestion

Dear Max,

I understand you are very busy but this is very serious and if you could please spend some time reading this email it would be appreciated. You helped me about a year ago greatly through Reasonable Faith with regard to philosophy of the mind. I truly appreciated your words.

Please allow me to share a little about my background before I get to the point. I am a Christian who lives in Australia, I have a deep passion for apologetics and philosophy and have been teaching myself in my spare time for almost 2 years nearly every day. I have worked as a software developer for almost 20 years, these skills have greatly honed my analytical thinking.

Recently I learned that our school is implementing the PYP & MYP program from the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) also known as the World School. I had suspicions of this program because of its heavily secularized origin. This alerted me to do some research and suffice to say my findings are alarming. The problem with it is illustrating its deceptiveness via its pragmatic methods.

February 3rd, 2014

Q&A 37: Homosexuality and Ethical Semantics

by Max Andrews

Question

Hello. I just read your answer concerning whether homosexual acts are sinful even if homosexual attraction is innate. I agree that the question of innateness doesn’t touch the moral issue. Your main reason for regarding homosexual acts as sinful appears, in that essay, to be scriptural.

My question is this: Do you think that in all cases, moral imperatives indicated in scripture also have an adequate secular defense? The current problem about homosexuality appears to be the difficulty of formulating a reason to condemn it that doesn’t rest on scripture. People will argue, correctly, that homosexual acts are no more harmful than other behaviors that no one regards as immoral. And harm, or the clear potential for harm, appears to be the tripwire that makes an act subject to moral scrutiny in the first place.

November 17th, 2013

What if God Commanded Rape?

by Max Andrews

One of the common objections to theistic, deontological ethics is the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This inevitably brings up questions like:  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer.

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

November 7th, 2013

An Ethic of Love

by Max Andrews

This is an ethic proposed by Søren Kierkegaard based out of 1 Pt. 4.8.

Hiding by Not Discovering

Hiding:  “[Love] does not discover sins; but not to discover what still must be there, insofar as it can be discovered—that is hiding.”

Discovery:  Reveals sin and increases the multitude of sin.

“To make discoveries even with regard to evil, with regard to sin and the multitude of sins, to be the shrewd, sly, foxy, perhaps more or less corrupt observer who can really make discoveries—this is highly regarded in the world.” It is not that any discovery of sin is bad or itself a sin, but rather the attitude that seeks out sins in others and relishes in their discovery is.

October 7th, 2013

Universal Virtues – A Problem for Ethical Relativism

by Max Andrews

Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman are psychologists who’ve done research concerning the underlying virtues of societies and cultures. Their conclusion was that there are several key virtues that every culture recognizes. The problem that many observers will notice is that the cultures’ attempt to display or act out these virtues may be misplaced, which often results in the ethical relativist’s denial of objective ethics.

June 6th, 2013

Q&A 25: Assessing the Harm Principle

by Max Andrews

Question:

Mr. Andrews,

Often when using Dr. Craig’s version of the moral argument, the humanist will object that God is not necessary for at least one objective moral value: the harm principle, i.e. pain is bad. While I’m tempted to retort back that naturalistically speaking, there is nothing to say pain is objectively bad, the humanist will say that the harm principle is an objective moral value by which other things can be measured. This is so because no humans like pain and those that do only take pleasure in mild forms of pain. How might I solve this problem?

Thank you,

Nolan

Answer:

Hi Nolan,

It’s difficult for me to see why the naturalist (or humanist) will place this principle above every other moral fact. It’s nothing more than an attempt to make a categorical exception to objectivity. If this harm principle is objective then certainly it still falls within the parameters of requiring explanation within the moral argument.

April 28th, 2013

The Eudaimonistic Ethic

by Max Andrews

Aristotle’s ethic was eudaimonistic, which was later developed by Thomas Aquinas.  Evil is the negation of good and requires no ontological grounding and it is the case that everyone always acts according to what they believe is good.  Thomas’ meta-ethic was that being and goodness are the same in reference but differ only in sense.  He follows Aristotle in making the connection between goodness and desirability.   “The formula of the good consists in this, that something is desirable, and so the Philosopher [Aristotle] says that the good is what all desire.”[1]  Although all things desire goodness, not all things capable of pursuing goodness and pleasure with understanding understand what really is good; it is possible for creatures with intellect and will to desire an apparent good as a real one.[2]  Thomas states that something is desirable in two ways, either because it is good or because it appears good.  Of these, the first is what is good, for an apparent good does not move by itself but insofar as it has some appearance of good; but the good moves by itself.[3] Desirability and pleasure is an essential aspect of goodness.  The perfection of anything is goodness and perfection is attained in actuality, “As regards nature the good of anything is its actuality and perfection.”[4] 

April 26th, 2013

If God Does Not Exist Then Nothing is Wrong

by Max Andrews

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1821-1881), a story of four brothers in Russia is a grim description of the reality of what the world would look like if God were not to exist.  One brother, Ivan, an atheist, tells another brother that there are no objective truths, specifically that there are no moral absolutes.  Ivan’s brother then kills his father, an act that obtains no condemnation if God does not exist.

This can be understood as ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ), (Let Eg represent the existence of God, ϕ for any action, and W for wrong), also known as Karamazov’s Theorem.  It is necessarily true that if God does not exist then any action cannot be wrong.  It may also be true if a conjunct of rightness is inserted into the theorem.  This ultimately leads to moral nihilism—a nonexistence of value.  Without God, everything is permitted.  Nothing can be praised and nothing can be condemned.  This world, as Dostoevsky understands it, is a world of nothingness.

April 12th, 2013

Sam Harris’ Equivocation on “The Good”

by Max Andrews

In Sam Harris’ recent books, The Moral Landscape and Free Will, he has attempted to redefine normative statements.  He equates human well-being with the good and that which does not contribute to human well-being is not the good. In The Moral Landscape Harris states,

“Questions about values are really questions about the well being of conscious creatures… I want to develop a science of human flourishing.”[1]

The problem here is equating human flourishing with the good.  Why is that? Why not the well-being of cats, dogs, or sponges? Such attempts to ground objective axiological facts leaves one with specieism—a bias and special treatment for the homo sapiens sapiens species and a suppression of other species.  Certainly science can account for how we come to know certain axiological facts but it cannot account for their grounding.  I’m not saying human well-being isn’t good since good categorically encompasses human well-being but such an account for objective morality does not satisfy the demands of a robust axiology—namely, the problem of deontology.  Additionally, how could one know what increases the well-being of conscious creatures?