Posts tagged ‘ethics’

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 22nd, 2013

Q&A 19: Calvinism and Free Will

by Max Andrews

Question:

Hey! My name is Josh. I’m a young college student by day (and christian apologist by night, jokes). But in my personal life, apologetics is important to me.Aside from that, I have a question I think you could help me with. I’m a Calvinist (hold the tomatoes) because I think, Biblically, it’s the most accurate putting together of scriptural truth (basically the best systematic theology). My problem is this:
Total Inability and free will. How are we morally responsible if we cannot choose otherwise? And since no one seeks God (Romans) and no one can come to Christ unless the Father brings them (John 6), how is it that we can really talk about free will? How would this be the best possible world where most free creatures choose Christ, when they cannot choose Him unless He first removes their inability? It seems that it doesn’t matter what world God created becaue technically speaking, He could remove the inability from all people, resulting in everyone freely choosing Christ. I hope my questions make sense. I’m eager to hear your response.Keep up the good work. I love your website!God Bless :)

Answer:

Josh,

Thanks for your question. Since I’m not a Calvinist my answer will probably be a little different from what you were anticipating. First, I’ll respond to you question from within the Calvinist system (as best as I can). Then I’ll give you  my response and thoughts on the issue as a Molinist.

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?

February 25th, 2013

Q&A 12: How Can We Know God is Good and Not a Sadist?

by Max Andrews

Question:

Mr. Andrews,
Philosophically, How can we know God is good and not like some form of a sadist who will just torture everyone in hell when they die? Didn’t CS Lewis once try to argue that evil is not created but a lacking of good, could you shed some light on this? Couldn’t it just be said the other way around too, that good is lacking evil? Then who knows what sort of entity (good or evil) ultimately rules the universe? What philosophical reason is there to believe that God is the entity that is all powerful and all good?
 Thanks,
Brandan

January 4th, 2013

We Have a Moral Obligation to Follow the Evidence

by Max Andrews

evidence2I consider myself a moderate evidentialist when it comes to epistemology.  There is a sense of deontology to it in that one ought to base their beliefs corresponding to the evidence; however, there is a sense in which one may hold a belief without sufficient evidence and still be rational.  The source of truth is the objective prime reality and our knowledge should correspond to the truth of reality.  My epistemology yields my theology in the sense of scientific theology.  What I know about reality is what I know about God.[1]

Everything that we know is intuitive or experiential.  Intuition will be discussed later but the knowledge gained is from sensory apparatus’.  The characters read on paper are only the result of photons reflecting off of the paper and the photoreceptors in the eye receiving that information.  All knowledge cannot be deemed sensory only since it seems feasible that a person with a sensory handicap or no functioning sensory apparatus’ may still be justified in believing in his own existence by intuition (as well as moral truths).  The task of justification, or determining the truth of p, must meet the criteria of an inference to the best explanation (IBE).

Consider the following definition for justification:

            S is justified in believing p = S possesses sufficient evidence for p to be true.

November 28th, 2012

The New Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is an argument David Baggett developed, which argues for the existence of a perfectly moral person. I used this in the VT debate on the existence of God. (I highly recommend Baggett’s book co-authored with Jerry Walls Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.) This version of the moral argument is an abductive version. I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument. You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig. I believe this argument is better and I’d like to see it used more often. (See below for my method behind abduction.)

The advantage of this argument is that nature is included in the argument for the morally perfect person. Usually it is depicted as nature vs. God (or a morally perfect person). That argument, I believe, gives too much to the naturalist. Here’s the argument:

  1. There are objective axiological/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
    read more »

August 7th, 2012

The Contingency of Commands

by Max Andrews

The ethical realist objector [to DCT] claims that it is possible for God to command rape in some possible world, or in an impossible world close to the actual world, making it obligatory for all moral agents, whereas rape is still morally bad in that same world, thus, making DCT arbitrary and is defeated.

The nonstandard semantics objection to the arbitrariness of DCT suggests that there is an impossible world, however close to the actual world, in which God commands rape or the torture of innocent children.  Approaching the objection from an explanandum-driven consideration, would a contingent command be an adequate objection?

Consider the following contingencies of a command:

(CONTCOM)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ)]

(CONTCOMʹ)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cg~ϕ)]

The objector to divine command theory assumes that ϕ can be any command and could thus look like:

(CONTCOM″)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ ∙ ◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ ∙ ◊Cg~ϕ)]

(CONTCOM‴)   ∀ρ[(◊~Cgρ ∙ ◊~Cg~ρ) ∙ (◊Cgρ ∙ ◊Cg~ρ)]

August 7th, 2012

The Arbitrariness Objection to Divine Command Theory

by Max Andrews

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)]

The arbitrariness objection claims that [for example] if God commanded moral agents to rape then the action of committing rape would be obligatory to all moral agents.[3]  The objector assumes an inference in the form of the argument stating that ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ) may also be applicable in the sense that ϕ could refer to rape (ρ). 

July 11th, 2012

At Least on Average, A Human Life is Good

by Max Andrews

Reblogged from Alexander Pruss.

A stranger is drowning.  You know nothing about the stranger other than that the stranger is drowning.  You can press a button, and the stranger will be saved, at no cost to yourself or anybody else.  What should you do?

Of course you ought to press the button.  That’s simply obvious.

But it wouldn’t be obvious if at least on average a human life weren’t  good, weren’t worth living.  If on average, a human life were bad, were not  worth living, you would have to seriously worry about the likely bad future that you would be enabling by saving the stranger.  It still might well be right to pull out the stranger, but it wouldn’t be obvious.  And  if on average a human life were neutral, it wouldn’t be obvious that it’s  a duty.

So our judgment that obviously a random stranger should be saved commits us  to judging that at least on average a human life is good (or at least will be  good).

Now suppose we get exactly one of the following pieces of information:

  • The stranger is a member of a downtrodden minority.
  • The stranger is currently a hospital patient (and is drowning in the bathtub of the hospital room).
  • The stranger’s mother did not want him or her to be conceived.
  • The stranger is economically in the bottom 10% of society.

None of these pieces of information makes it less obvious that we should save the stranger’s life.  This judgment, then, commits us to judging that on average the life of a member of a downtrodden minority, or of a hospital patient or of someone whose mother did not want him or her to be conceived, or of someone economically in the bottom decile is at least on average good.