Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Morality Cannot be Based on God's Rules

There has been a lot of talk lately about morality with and without God, and which worldview steals from whom. I want to set the record straight here, and demonstrate exactly how a theistic morality steals from an objective, atheistic morality. In this blog entry, I will be comparing objective morality with (what else?) Christian theistic morality.

Objective, atheistic morality begins with the axiom of existence. In other words: I exist. From this axiom, we can ascertain the value of existence, or the value of life. In fact, the value of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence. This is because it is impossible to conclude that one's existence as bad or undesirable without first conceding that it is indeed valuable and precious. If someone says, "It is bad that I exist, and I should not exist," they are making a big mistake, for in their mere act of concluding such a thing, they are presupposing the value of their own existence. This is because one cannot make such a conclusion without existing in the first place, and if one were to not exist, it would be impossible for them to conclude that it is good that they don't exist! Human morality cannot be used to conclude that humans should not exist, for without humans, there would be no human morality to use to reach that conclusion.

With me so far? Good. Now an objective, atheistic morality says that what is moral is what is good for you. It also says that what is good for one human is good for all humans, since all humans exist in the same reality and all the rules apply universally. In fact, if a rule cannot be applied universally, then it is not really a rule. So the only moral "rules" that exist are the rules that apply universally.

From here, the objective, atheistic morality says that all moral justifications have to be based on one's own self-interest. I presuppose the value of my existence, I operate under the same moral rules as everyone else, and my moral choices involve me choosing the action that best serves my self-interest. Self-interest is a powerful concept, and is indeed essential to morality. Through self-interest and universality, I can say that it is wrong for me to coerce someone because it is wrong for me to be coerced. If I commit a coercive action against someone, then I am implicitly stating that it is ok for me to be coerced. I would be violating my own self-interest, and therefore would be acting immorally.

This moral code is objective because it looks at the facts of reality and one's own existence. This moral code is atheistic because it requires no God, requires no afterlife, and requires no immaterial entities or dimensions for its use.

Theistic morality, on the other hand, says that you should obey God because either he tells you to, or you will roast in Hell, or a combination thereof. In my appearance on The Atheist Hour, Pastor Gene Cook said that we should do what God says because He says so and because we should be devoted to Him and obedient to Him. When I pressed Gene further, he admitted that Hell is a punishment for those who fail to follow God's word. But then I took it a little bit further. You see, the Christian morality does not admit the concept of self-interest; it does not recognize the axiom of existence and how we conclude one's inherent worth in their own existence. The Christian moral code steals from the objective, atheistic moral code. It steals the concept of self-interest, and it steals the concept of the inherent value of one's own existence.

In other words, all Godly/theistic moral systems presuppose the objective self-interest based morality as a foundation, and their theistic moral systems are nothing more than accessories, despite the fact that they masquerade as being foundational.

Here is an example dialogue where anyone can expose the theistic moral problem I described above. I managed to quickly sneak it in on Gene Cook's show, but he didn't want to dwell on it. I suggest you try it with your own local Christian and see what results you get!

Atheist: What's your morality based on?

Christian: God and His holy word. What's yours based on?

Atheist: My own self-interest. In fact, so is yours. You just fail to recognize it. May I ask for what reason would you follow God's holy word?

Christian: Because he says so and because you have to love Him.

Atheist: But why should I care what God says or follow his commands? What will happen?

Christian: He will forgive pretty much all your sins if you believe in Him, but you will be cast into Hell if you don’t believe and submit to Him.

Atheist: So your moral code is a carrot/stick approach, huh? Sounds like coercion to me. But you still haven’t given me an "ought," Christian. Why should I care if I get sent into Hell and burned forever and cast away from God?

Christian: Because pain hurts and nobody wants to be hurt or destroyed.

Atheist: But why? Why should I care if God hurts me or destroys me and I feel pain because of Him?

Christian: Ummmm... because God tells you to?

Atheist: And where does the Bible say that you should presuppose the value of your own existence and avoid pain and destruction? You see, you have no reason to follow God's word, or care what he does to you, without the foundational objective morality that I have presented. The only reason you follow God's word is because you presuppose the value of your own existence and happiness. The value of your own existence and happiness is the foundation of your moral system, and your Christian morality is nothing more than an accessory that is wholly dependent upon the foundation of your own self-interest for it to have any meaning.


Christians sometimes claim that atheistic morality steals from theistic morality. This is simply not true. I've just demonstrated that theistic morality is not even a moral system at all because it is not foundational; it is an accessory to the foundational moral code of self-interest from which it steals.

Morality is about each of us making the best choices for our lives. Morality is not about wholly submitting to another conscious entity a priori, regardless of how omnipotent or omni-whatever that entity is. And the only way you can even justify wholly submitting to another entity is by taking it to the foundation and showing that this submission would be the best choice for one's life. But either way, morality can only be based on principle(s), not specific commands or third-party entities. Morality is founded upon the principle of rational self-interest, not on some creator God, nor his dictates.

27 comments:

UberKuh said...

cont...

Christian: Oh, shit, you're right!

---

Oh, sorry. Guess I was sleeptyping.

Great post, Aaron.

BJ said...

Aaron you said:
Objective, atheistic morality begins with the axiom of existence. In other words: I exist. From this axiom, we can ascertain the value of existence, or the value of life.

I have a question...How from this axiom can you leap from, I exist to value or self-worth? It does not follow that because I exist, therefore I have value? Does dog crap have value because it exist? Did aborted fetus' have value because they once existed? It may very well be the case that Objective atheist morality begins with the axiom: I exist, but thats where it ends. After that you are being Arbitrary in your choice to give yourself value as well as arrogant. Why do you get to decide if you have value, maybe I should decide that for you.

you said...
In fact, the value of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence. What? That is nonsense...

Perhaps the worthlessness of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence.

you continued...
This is because it is impossible to conclude that one's existence as bad or undesirable without first conceding that it is indeed valuable and precious.

I must admit that I do not understand this jargon...I can't conclude that existence sucks without conceding that it does'nt? Why not? Why can't I start out a "tabula rasa" and have grown with an abusive, drug addict mother and father, and been sent to a foster home and from there prison for killing my parents in an act of vengence, and conclude that, to exist is to be miserable...A is A...thats axoimatic from my experience, and I only know my experience, oh and by the way I am an atheist. Is that objective too?
I assert....
You could'nt conclude that one's existence is indeed valuable and precious without conceding that one's existence is indeed bad or undesirable....does this reversal of your conclusion refute your opening assertion?

"the value of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence."

Christian said...

As for as I've understood it, and I think we all can agree on this: From the facts that you exist and you that perform actions in order to keep it that way i.e eating, one must conclude you find your life of some value regardless of whatever sad state it might be in. Therefore by existing you acknowledge that your life have value so being around to say that your life is worthless kind of proves you wrong.

What about those that commit suicide one might ask. Well usually you kill yourself becasue of your miserable living conditions not because of a genunie desire to die. However I confess that this have an "ad hoc" feeling to it.

However assuming I've got the ideas your subscribing to right Aaron, how do we derive the universiality principle?
And also I don't see that it follows from it that you have to treat every human equal, only "peers". For example say that I for some reason conclude that a certain group of persons are of less value than another group and that inferior group should be disposed of in order to make more room for the better one. Also how do conclude that animals have less value? Because I assume that the objective moral isn't saying it's amoral to eat a beef. Also how do we come to the "one right" of ownership? If we agree on that humans all should exist wouldn't it be beneficial to deny gun ownership to regular persons? Also you previously said "I am leaning towards full self ownership at conception" how does this work if it were to come into with the mothers self-ownership? I certain individuals rights stronger towards other at certain times?

BJ said...

Aaron you said:
With me so far? Good. Now an objective, atheistic morality says that what is moral is what is good for you. It also says that what is good for one human is good for all humans, since all humans exist in the same reality and all the rules apply universally. In fact, if a rule cannot be applied universally, then it is not really a rule. So the only moral "rules" that exist are the rules that apply universally.

I dont know if you realize it or not but that is a stolen concept fallacy. This is describing a Kantian Deontological/Utilitarian ethical system. This may fool your naive readers, but I know what a hack smells like, and this is the work of a true hack. You see, it does not work to take to leaky buckets(Deontological/Utilitarianism) and try to make a new bucket without holes. All you will get is a big leaky bucket. Now Aaron, if you want to say this is your Subjective system of athiestic morality, fine, but dont try and pretend that you in your mind can pull off some universalizable maxim for all humans to live by. This attempt however is typical of Ayn Rand and hacks like her.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi BJ,

Aaron you said:
Objective, atheistic morality begins with the axiom of existence. In other words: I exist. From this axiom, we can ascertain the value of existence, or the value of life.


Totally.

I have a question...How from this axiom can you leap from, I exist to value or self-worth?

Easily. I explain it all in detail in the second paragraph, which is the paragraph you quoted me from.

It does not follow that because I exist, therefore I have value?

Yes. BJ, for you to even be able to make a judgement on whether or not you exist, you have to exist in the first place. You cannot conclude the worth (or worthlessnes) of your existence unless you exist to do it. Therefore, you have to presuppose the value of your own existence in the very ACT of making a judgement of the value of your existence. So if you are to say that your existence has no value, you have already conceded defeat in the mere act of judging your value.

Do you understand?

Does dog crap have value because it exist?

Unlike humans, dog shit cannot have value to itself because it is not a conscious entity. But that dog crap has value to many different living things, if nothing else.

Did aborted fetus' have value because they once existed?

Most aborted fetuses are simply a collection of cells and they are themselves not a singular conscious entity when aborted. But any conscious life form has an axiomatic value to itself.

It may very well be the case that Objective atheist morality begins with the axiom: I exist, but thats where it ends.

And how would you support this assertion?

After that you are being Arbitrary in your choice to give yourself value as well as arrogant. Why do you get to decide if you have value, maybe I should decide that for you.

You simply dont understand. I do not decide if I have value. It is not for me to decide! It is axiomatic. It is a brutal fact of reality and it is not determined by me. It is, at most, only there for me to recognize.

Its like a law of nature in a sense. BJ, I cannot "decide" if I have value to myself any more than I can decide if gravity will pull me to the Earth. It is simply the way it is, and I can choose to recognize it or not. It is important that I recognize the truth of the value of my own existence, for if I dont, then I will be much less likely to continue existing. And the problem with ceasing to exist is that when you no longer exist, you are no longer able to make statements like "I have value" or "I dont have value."

you said...
In fact, the value of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence. What? That is nonsense...


How is it nonsense BJ? Youre making an empty claim. Please support your assertion.

Perhaps the worthlessness of one's own existence is just as objectively true as the fact of one's own existence.

Care to explain how? I have explained the reasons for my statements and the logic behind them. You on the other hand are making statements like this without supporting them. If you could explain HOW ones worhtlessness is just as objectively true as the fact of ones existence, I would love to read it.

you continued...
This is because it is impossible to conclude that one's existence as bad or undesirable without first conceding that it is indeed valuable and precious.


Totally. You concede that your existence is valuable every time you USE your existence, and that includes condemning your own existence. You cannot condemn your existence without first existing, and therefore conceding the inherent value of it.

I must admit that I do not understand this jargon...I can't conclude that existence sucks without conceding that it does'nt? Why not?

Because the mere act of making decisions, judgements, and thinking about anything at all, requires your conscious existence. Every time you execute a conscious act, like thinking or judging or whatever, you are implicitly expressing the value of your existence. You cannot condemn your existence if you dont exist.

Let me use some analogies to help you out:
Every time you use money, you implicitly admit its value
Every time you use medicine, you implicitly admit its value
Every time you consent to sex, you implicitly admit its value
And every time you think, observe, judge, or act, you admit the value of your conscious existence.

It would be pretty hypocritical, for example, to see a communist invest money in a stock market, or to see a vegan eating a hamburger, right? Well the same thing applies here. It would be pretty hypocritical to see someone who thinks existence is inherently evil/wrong to be using his own existence to reach that conclusion, right? Its the same thing as the vegan eating a hamburger while they fight for animal rights.

Why can't I start out a "tabula rasa" and have grown with an abusive, drug addict mother and father, and been sent to a foster home and from there prison for killing my parents in an act of vengence, and conclude that, to exist is to be miserable...A is A...thats axoimatic from my experience, and I only know my experience,

No. In that scenario, you would have a failure of perception. In that scenario, existence itself wouldnt be bad, but the coercion of your abusive parents and a state foster organization that shuffled you around to random families. Your existence wouldnt be wrong, but the specifics of your existence.

Heres another analogy to fit your above scenario: playing poker isnt objectively bad, but you can be dealt an objectively bad hand. In that case, you cannot correctly conclude that the game of poker is miserable and wrong, but that your crappy hand of cards is disadvantageous to you.

oh and by the way I am an atheist. Is that objective too?

I think so. Being an atheist is like recognizing objective reality for what it is. So youre off to a good start.

I assert....
You could'nt conclude that one's existence is indeed valuable and precious without conceding that one's existence is indeed bad or undesirable....does this reversal of your conclusion refute your opening assertion?


Again Im going you have to ask you to support that assertion. You see BJ, I didnt pull my moral conclusions out of my ass, I rationally and logically recognize the proper conclusions based on the objective reality that I exist in. Therefore, your assertion needs to be supported by rationality and logic based on the objective reality that you exist in, which is the same objective reality that I exist in.

So if you want to assert that one needs to presuppose the evil of ones existence before one can call it valuable, fine, but I will think you are making it up out of thin air unless you provide support and reason for your conclusion.

So BJ, what do you consider yourself, a moral relativist? What is your moral code as an atheist if you dont subscribe to an objective morality?

Also, I think alot of your protesting here has to do with the fact that you dont understand what Im saying when I "jump" from the axiom of existence to the value of existence. I hope that the things I posted justn ow help you understand what Im saying there, but let me know either way because its important that you understand what Im saying, because it would be kinda silly for you to either reject or accept what I said if it doesnt make sense to you. These ideas are kindof abstract and foundational and are hard to grasp at first. I know it took me awhile before I understood these things.

Aaron Kinney said...

Hi Christian!


As for as I've understood it, and I think we all can agree on this: From the facts that you exist and you that perform actions in order to keep it that way i.e eating, one must conclude you find your life of some value regardless of whatever sad state it might be in. Therefore by existing you acknowledge that your life have value so being around to say that your life is worthless kind of proves you wrong.


Totally. You got it! Im glad that I was able to write this stuff in a way that some people would understand. I ekpt rewriting this post because its hard (at least for me) to make these things complex abstract ideas sensical in a word processor, know what i mean?

What about those that commit suicide one might ask. Well usually you kill yourself becasue of your miserable living conditions not because of a genunie desire to die. However I confess that this have an "ad hoc" feeling to it.

Yes, its an easy answer. Suicide is usually impulsive (think: impulse buy) and involves not a true desire to no longer exist, but a desire to escape the misery one is in, and the person simply sees no other way to end the misery but to end ones own life. Or sometimes they want attention and are making a call for help so to speak, but usually it has to do with miserable conditions. Not only that, but lots of people that commit suicide believe, unfortunately, in an afterlife.... oh no!

However assuming I've got the ideas your subscribing to right Aaron, how do we derive the universiality principle?

We derive it from science and logic. Scientific laws and rules of logic must apply universally, across the entirety of existence, or else they wouldnt be laws. If we went to Mars and found that it had no gravity, then we have to throw the law of gravity out the window. If we go to another galaxy and find that, in that galaxy, matter/energy is not conserved, then we have to throw the law of the conservation of matter/energy out the window! If we go to another part of hte universe and find that, over there, A does not = A, then we have to throw logic out the window!

So, since laws about science and logic must be universal (indeed all laws of nature must be universal, or else they are not laws), then so do laws about morality since they are natural laws that are discovered through science and logic.

But if you want a more detailed explanation of the universality principle, I suggest you check out the esteemed Francois Tremblay's excellent post about it at Goosing the Antithesis, and the post is entitled: The Moral Razor. In that post, Francois talks about universality, assymetry (spelling?) and other things that have alot to do with our conversation of morality here.

And also I don't see that it follows from it that you have to treat every human equal, only "peers".

Why only peers? Arent non-peers also "human"? What makes you as a human qualified to be treated differently than another human? I assert that all humans exist in the same reality, we all need the same things for survival and prosperity, and we are all the same kind of being, and we therefore all need to apply the same rules to ourselves universally.

For example say that I for some reason conclude that a certain group of persons are of less value than another group and that inferior group should be disposed of in order to make more room for the better one.

I would say that you are wrong. No group of people should be "disposed of" regardless of their attributes. To "dispose of" a human, or group of humans, is coercive, and coercion is immoral, period.

Besides, in your act of disposing of some people, you implicitly state that it is OK for others to dispose of you. And that would be antithetical to your presupposition of the value of your own existence. Thats a big no-no.

Also how do conclude that animals have less value?

I dont.

Because I assume that the objective moral isn't saying it's amoral to eat a beef.

Nope!

Also how do we come to the "one right" of ownership? If we agree on that humans all should exist wouldn't it be beneficial to deny gun ownership to regular persons?

No. First of all, how do you define "regular persons" and other persons? All humans are "regular" and all are entitled to the same rights.

It doesnt matter if its guns, knives, baseball bats, or your own bare knuckles, there is no validity to any argument that restricts the posession of objects that can be used to defend oneself. It is impossible to say that an object (like a gun) is immoral, for morality only applies to ACTIONS. So the only thing you can ban is a type of action, not an inanimate object. There is no objective argument to justify the restriction of gun ownership or any weapon ownership.

Also you previously said "I am leaning towards full self ownership at conception" how does this work if it were to come into with the mothers self-ownership?

Well, a mother has a right to her own womb and she can do with it whatever she wants to, and she is not obligated to rent it out to another entity. So in an objective, individualistic morality, abortion is still foundationally protected.

I certain individuals rights stronger towards other at certain times?

Can you rephrase this one? I dont understand what you said in this sentence...?

Aaron Kinney said...

Hey again, BJ,

I dont know if you realize it or not but that is a stolen concept fallacy.

How is it stolen? univerality is a scientific and logical principle.

This is describing a Kantian Deontological/Utilitarian ethical system.

How so? Please support this assertion. Please explain to me how this is Kantian because I dont understand your claim.

This may fool your naive readers, but I know what a hack smells like, and this is the work of a true hack.

Oh, so now youre attacking me huh? Lets look here: I have supported all my assertions, and you have only made unsupported claims in the two comments you posted on this blog entry. You have also offered no actual corrections or alternatives to the moral system that I have presented; instead you have only brought questions and criticisms, which is perfectly fine, but when you are in that position, you should watch who you are calling a hack. Im being respectful to you and I think you should be respectful to me too.

You see, it does not work to take to leaky buckets(Deontological/Utilitarianism) and try to make a new bucket without holes.

I dont even know what "Deontological/Utilitarianism" means. I havent read much Kant either, and I dont like him. Maybe the principle of universality has similarities to the "Deontological/Utilitarianism" you are talking about, but the principle of universality is a foundational logical tool that is used in science and physics and logical thinking and everything. Its very common, its not exclusive to Kant, and I didnt pull it from "Deontological/Utilitarianism" either.

So if you could support your assertion I would appreciate it.

All you will get is a big leaky bucket.

How so? In what ways is my objective moral code "Deontological/Utilitarianism"?

I dont think its utilitarianism at all. My objective moral code is derived mostly from Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden's "Objectivism," with a splash of libertarian moral statements that were previously expressed by Stefan Molyneux. Im sure youve heard of Rand, but ever hear of Nathaniel or Stefan? Objectivists dont much like Kant or utilitarianism for the record, so I think its strange that you pulled Kant and Utilitarianism up.

Now Aaron, if you want to say this is your Subjective system of athiestic morality, fine, but dont try and pretend that you in your mind can pull off some universalizable maxim for all humans to live by.

LOL you are getting ridiculous! More empty claims. The moral system I presented in this post is not subjective in any way. It is objective and I demonstrated it. If you want to argue with me that its subjective, fine. I am willing to defend my system and I am also willing to be proven wrong. But you have to start doing more than making empty claims, BJ.

Youve only made empty claims and asked me lots of questions. Youve also admitted that you dont understand what Im saying when I connect the axiom of existence to the value of existence, so its pretty amusing to see you make such claims and judgements about my moral system when you already conceded that you dont understand it!

BJ, youve been asking questions, which is good. Youve admitted you dont understand everything Ive stated, and I have tried to help you understand it in my previous comments post to you. If you still dont understand how I get from the axiom of existence to the value of existence then I will be happy to explain myself more. And if there are errors in my conlusions and such, I am willing to have you point them out to me, provided that you support your assertion and dont just make an empty claim, as you seem to like to do.

But if you start insulting me then Im going to either insult you back or just ignore you. I dont know why I get the feeling that my moral statements pissed you off, but please try not to get mad at this stuff. Also, you are going to have to tell me about this "Deontological/Utilitarianism" and how it relates to what I said about universality, because I dont know what it is youre talking about.

Also, I linked it before for Christian, but if you want to see where I learned about universality, you need to read the esteemed Francois Tremblay's recent post at Goosing the Antithesis entitled Moral Razor. In that post, Francois explains universality, symmetry, and how it relates to morality. I doubt youll find much Kant in there ;)

And if you have a moral system that you support and live by and consider to be the truth, Id love to hear about it.

BJ said...

Aaron, I think thee has been some confusion.
1) Iam not an atheist...I guess I was unclear when I said that professing atheist, to be moral agents, would have to arbitrarilly make up an ethical system and in my example I was stating that you started by precluding that value to your existence, whereas I(hypothetically if I were an atheist) would preclude non-value to my existence, and it would have the same Objective thrust, which is subjective, as yours does. I might be mistaken and arguing a strawman..I admit this. However, Ethics is one of my favorite topics in Philosophy, so I want to be clear on what you are saying.

2)I posted my two comments before I saw your first response to me. It appears that you think I posted my second after your first response.

3)Let me explain where I believe this stolen concept fallacy is commited....you said
Now an objective, atheistic morality says that what is moral is what is good for you. It also says that what is good for one human is good for all humans, since all humans exist in the same reality and all the rules apply universally. In fact, if a rule cannot be applied universally, then it is not really a rule. So the only moral "rules" that exist are the rules that apply universally.

Now in this paragraph are two of the most famous and borrowed from ethical systems since the 19th century. In fact most ethical arguments are based on these two(sometimes Aristotle's Viryue Ethis is used as well) and sometimes are both employed in an argument. They are Kant's Deontological Ethic and Jeremy Bentham/John Stwart Mill's Utilitarin Ethic.
Kant proposed an ethical system that sought out to find "maxims" that could be universalizable without being reduced to an absurdity. i.e, suppose you say " it is wrong to tell a lie" and I ask why and you respond "because if we lie to each other communication will break down and fail" and I say okay. Now can you apply that maxim universally? Yes, because communication is necssary for human existence to rendered intelligible. Now remember these are thumbnail sketches of these two systems. If you can universally apply a maxim, it now is called a "categorical imperative". This is what deals with the universal rule portion of this paragraph, and what I believe is stolen from Kant.
Your rule "what is moral is what is good for you" is stolen in a subtle sense from Mill and Bentham. Utilitarian Ethic says that morality is what provides the greatest pleasure or good to the greatest number. For instance, in a room with 25 men and 1 women it would be acceptible morally to have sex with the women dispite her objection to there want or need, because the number of men who want her sexually out numbers her. I see a close parallel with this and your ethic.
Just because we exist in the same reality deoes not mean that what is good for you is good for me. I might be happy when I steal from you and happy if I am stolen from. That seems a little absurd, but it is acceptible as an alternative to you ethic.
I just read through your 4th and 5th paragraphs and I am now convinced that you are infact using a Kantiam ehtic without knowing it. I might even argue that you and Kant are using a Christian Ethic of "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." And you may be right that God is not needed to support your claim but you do need immaterial entities to hold to it and that would be logic. Without logic , as you claim to be using to argue your point with me, it would be impossible for you to argue at all. You know this. So your statrement that no immaterial beings are required is falsified and you must concede this coclusion you have drawn. The reason I say that any attempt at morality for an atheist is arbitrary is because an Absolute standard of right and wrong, good or evil, you get the picture, is needed, and cannot be supplied by your worldview. I understand your need to be moral and your demands for morality from others for it is a serious matter. You maintain there is no god, thats fine, but atheism is not just "any ol'"belief. Just as you chose wether or not you want a beer or a joint, there are consqences and for what seems like any ol choice. And Aaron, your refusal to submit to God will always render your experience subjective and from there will lead to skepticism. Thats because if God doesnt exist, then you are alone in this universe. And you do not have the right to tell others how to live or what to believe. Anytime you assert something as moral or immoral you are doing it based on your own inner subjective prejudice,arbitrally, and without warrant.
You also right that we Christians do not admit to the concept of self interest, because we are to be servants. We obey God because we delight in his law and character revealed in the pages of sacred scripture. We are only worht as much as God says we are, which is alot since the Son died for us. We have an Absolute to appeal to for moral conduct, you have only yourself(subjective). As a Christian I dont presuppose that I have value and therefore I follow a carrot so that I burn in hell, I presuppose that God values me, hence the doctrine of redemption. Apart from that I have know Reason to believe that existence has value, or that my self-interest is nothing more than an attempt to have power over others. Which is what Nietzche said morality was, a will to power. I recommend you read, if you havent already, what other atheist have said about morality to get a greater grasp. Sartre, Nietzsche, Hobbes, and Camus would be a good primer.
Lastly, I would like to ask you a question pertaining to this sentence.

"Morality is about each of us making the best choices for our lives. " I dont see how you can call your system Objective. This is almost a word for word definition for Ethical Egoism. At best your system can be called Absolutist Subjectivism. That is because you claim your own self-interest to be absolute becuase that is all there is, "your" happiness.

Aaron Kinney said...

BJ,

Aaron, I think thee has been some confusion.
1) Iam not an atheist...I guess I was unclear when I said that professing atheist, to be moral agents, would have to arbitrarilly make up an ethical system and in my example I was stating that you started by precluding that value to your existence, whereas I(hypothetically if I were an atheist) would preclude non-value to my existence, and it would have the same Objective thrust, which is subjective, as yours does. I might be mistaken and arguing a strawman..I admit this. However, Ethics is one of my favorite topics in Philosophy, so I want to be clear on what you are saying.


Okay yes there was some confusion. I thought you were an atheist. When you talk about precluding the value of your existence if you were an atheist, you cannot say that has an objective thrust, nor can you say that my moral code is subjective. MY moral code is not subjective any more than the law of gravity is subjective. And if you were an atheist and precluded the non-value to your existence, you would simply be making an error inyour perception and conclusion, akin to a scientist concluding that gravity pushed matter away from matter instead of attracting it.

For a moral code to be objective, it needs to logically correspond to the facts of existence. Concluding that existence is not valuable does not logically correspond to the facts of existence.

2)I posted my two comments before I saw your first response to me. It appears that you think I posted my second after your first response.

What happened was I saw both of your comments already posted and responded to them seperately. You posted both times before I read and responded to them.

3)Let me explain where I believe this stolen concept fallacy is commited....you said
Now an objective, atheistic morality says that what is moral is what is good for you. It also says that what is good for one human is good for all humans, since all humans exist in the same reality and all the rules apply universally. In fact, if a rule cannot be applied universally, then it is not really a rule. So the only moral "rules" that exist are the rules that apply universally.


Okay.

Now in this paragraph are two of the most famous and borrowed from ethical systems since the 19th century. In fact most ethical arguments are based on these two(sometimes Aristotle's Viryue Ethis is used as well) and sometimes are both employed in an argument. They are Kant's Deontological Ethic and Jeremy Bentham/John Stwart Mill's Utilitarin Ethic.

Okay. I wasnt aware of any of those previously. I dont know much about utilitarianism, but I do know that atheists who have the same moral system as I do reject utilitarianism completely.

Kant proposed an ethical system that sought out to find "maxims" that could be universalizable without being reduced to an absurdity. i.e, suppose you say " it is wrong to tell a lie" and I ask why and you respond "because if we lie to each other communication will break down and fail" and I say okay. Now can you apply that maxim universally? Yes, because communication is necssary for human existence to rendered intelligible. Now remember these are thumbnail sketches of these two systems. If you can universally apply a maxim, it now is called a "categorical imperative". This is what deals with the universal rule portion of this paragraph, and what I believe is stolen from Kant.

Thank you for explaining. I now see what you were saying before when you claimed I stole from Kant. Im not too familiar with Kant though so I dont know exactly how to reply to you about this. I do know however that the universality principle I talked about is something I learned from science (in terms of the laws of nature) and I learned how to apply it to morality through the writings of Stefan Molyneux and Francois Tremblay. So while this univerality thing Im talking about may have alot in common with Kant's writings, I was unaware of the similarities and I did not obtain my views on it from any of his work.

Your rule "what is moral is what is good for you" is stolen in a subtle sense from Mill and Bentham. Utilitarian Ethic says that morality is what provides the greatest pleasure or good to the greatest number.

Well I cal already say that I disagree with this correlation you are asserting. My main beef with Mill and Bentham (I never heard their names before; Im just going off what you told me about them) is that they say "greatest number." I disagree completely that morality is what is the best for the "greatest number" for that is collectivist and democratic in nature, both of which I reject completely.

My moral code is different from Mill and Bentham in that I state "what is moral is what is good for the individual making the moral choice," and the concept of "greatest number" never comes into play in my moral code. For example, if I can take an action that benefits everyone on Earth but kills me, then I would conclude that the action would be immoral. Furthermore, the concept of "greatest number" violates the principle of universality and symmetry which I consider foundational to identifying what is and is not a moral action.

For instance, in a room with 25 men and 1 women it would be acceptible morally to have sex with the women dispite her objection to there want or need, because the number of men who want her sexually out numbers her. I see a close parallel with this and your ethic.

You may see a close parallel, but I must state right now that I would not consider the above scenario to be moral. Your scenario justifies coercion based on the benefits of 25 men vs the disadvantage of 1 woman. But my moral code says that coercion is wrong in all circumstances, period. My moral code says that for these 25 men (it could be 25 or 1 or 100 men; the number is irrelevant in my moral code) to rape the woman is coercive and immoral. Also, the rule of universality and symmetry applies, so that when these men rape the woman, they implicitly state that it is ok for others to rape them against their will. This coercive action of rape is detrimental to all parties involved.

I think I know what youre talking about now when you say "utilitarian," for the act of the 25 men raping the one woman would be justified on utilitarian grounds. My objective moral code wholly rejects such a concept. Coercion is coercion and it is always bad, period. There is no justification for raping a woman or initiating any coercive act against anyone ever.

So I dont see any similarities between my moral system and what you claim for it to resemble.

Just because we exist in the same reality deoes not mean that what is good for you is good for me.

Interesting. Why do you think this is so? How can you support this statement? I can say, in refutation of this statement, that you and I are both humans, we both operate in the same reality, and we both require the same things for survival and prosperity. I dont see any difference in the facts of existence that would justify this kind of statement you made...?

I might be happy when I steal from you and happy if I am stolen from.

True, for a short time, until reality hit you in the face. If you enjoy to steal and be stolen from, you wouldnt enjoy it for long because it would lead to your destruction sooner or later, and once you are destroyed, you will not be in a position to enjoy (or hate) anything.

See, an objective morality says that, objectively, it is bad for you to steal or be stolen from. The fact that it makes you happy only points to an error in your perception, not in the objective reality that you exist in. And regardless of what makes you "happy," it WILL in fact be detrimental to your being if you steal and let yourself be stolen from.

Heres another more extreme example: You may enjoy feeling pain. Maybe feeling pain makes you happy. But if you keep trying to feel pain and keep hurting yourself, objectively, it wil lbe bad for you regardless of how happy it makes you. Your happiness derived from pain would be a mistake in your perception. Because eventually you will want to feel your arm broken or feel a bullet enter your body, but these things would be objectively bad for you, so much so that they may destroy you! So, objectively, violence is bad for you, and the fact that someone may like to feel pain is irrelevant to the immorality of violence.

That seems a little absurd, but it is acceptible as an alternative to you ethic.

It is an alternative, but it is not acceptable. It will lead to the destructon of the individual that embraces it, regardless of how much they like it.

I just read through your 4th and 5th paragraphs and I am now convinced that you are infact using a Kantiam ehtic without knowing it. I might even argue that you and Kant are using a Christian Ethic of "do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."

So far I dont think my moral code has anything to do with Kant, according to the Kantian things you have explained to me so far, but I am still willing to entertain the idea. If you keep providing me with examples of how my moral code is similar to Kant's, I will be glad to read what you have to say.

But my moral code is definitely not the Christian one of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." No way no sir. My moral code is "do what is objectively good for you." As far as treating other people is concerned in my objective morality, I think its more of a negative than positive claim, and it would be something like "do not initiate coercive acts against others, for coercion is objectively immoral." Do you see the difference between my negative claim of how to treat others, and the positive claim of how Christianity says to treat others?

And you may be right that God is not needed to support your claim but you do need immaterial entities to hold to it and that would be logic. Without logic , as you claim to be using to argue your point with me, it would be impossible for you to argue at all. You know this. So your statrement that no immaterial beings are required is falsified and you must concede this coclusion you have drawn.

No. Logic is purely material, as are the laws of nature and everything else in existence. I am a materialist, and I hold that logic is material, as is everything else.

The reason I say that any attempt at morality for an atheist is arbitrary is because an Absolute standard of right and wrong, good or evil, you get the picture, is needed, and cannot be supplied by your worldview.

And why do you think this? I feel that I have demonstrated that it can, and I feel that I ahve indeed supplied the objective morality. So far I havent read anything from you that refutes my claims about objective morality. If reality is objective, and the laws of nature are objective, then what makes morality any different? Isnt morality a kind of "law of nature" that would be in the same category as logic or the laws of physics? All of these things are objective and concrete, and it is our job not to MAKE any of these rules, but to IDENTIFY and ACKNOWLEDGE them.

I understand your need to be moral and your demands for morality from others for it is a serious matter. You maintain there is no god, thats fine, but atheism is not just "any ol'"belief. Just as you chose wether or not you want a beer or a joint, there are consqences and for what seems like any ol choice. And Aaron, your refusal to submit to God will always render your experience subjective and from there will lead to skepticism. Thats because if God doesnt exist, then you are alone in this universe.

Oh boy here we go. You are going to make a bunch of empty assertions about my morality being subjective and my need for God, without actually refuting any of the things I said about why my morality is objective, not to mention how I demonstrated that morality cannot originate with God. And to top it off, you are making all these conclusions while mistaking my moral code for some utilitarianism/Kant code that I just now showed is quite different and in opposition to my objective moral system.

And you do not have the right to tell others how to live or what to believe.

I dont have the right to coerce them. I do have the right to tell them what objective morality is. (Im now assuming youre a theist...) Your God does not have the right to coerce humans into doing anything. I assume you believe in a reward/punishment system contained within an "afterlife" after the human body dies right?

Anytime you assert something as moral or immoral you are doing it based on your own inner subjective prejudice,arbitrally, and without warrant.

And anytime a scientist identifies a law of nature, they are doing it based on their own inner subjective prejudice, arbitrally, and without warrant, right? Yea, fuck gravity! Fuck the conservation of matter/energy. I dont need to eat food anymore to live! I dont even need to breathe to live! Its just those prejudiced idiots trying to tell me how to live my life, but everything is relative so I can choose not to eat or breathe, and Ill be just fine! In fact, I am now going to choose that gravity doesnt apply to me, and I will be able to fly away just on a thought. Youre totally right, BJ!

Pure absurdity, BJ. What is moral or immoral is a concrete objective fact. All I am doing is identifying what is and is not immoral; I am NOT determining or choosing what is moral or immoral.

You also right that we Christians do not admit to the concept of self interest, because we are to be servants.

Ohhhhhh, so you ARE a Christian. ;)

I contend that your concept of "servant" is immoral. It is inherently asymmetrical because it contains a master/slave relationship. Your concept of being a "servant" is immoral and inhumane because it endorses coercion, it violates the law of universality, it is asymmetrical, and it is not based on self-interest.

Why do I feel like Im the only one supporting my assertions around here? Ill totally concede that you brought support for your Kantian/utilitarian talk and you did provide some good details on a few things, but aside from that your main claims appear as-yet-unsupported to me, namely:

1) Aaron's moral code is subjective
2) The Christian moral code is objective

In regards to your claim that I was ripping off Kant, you did support that claim, but I then refuted it and pointed out the fundamental differences between the Kantian/utilitarian morality and my objective morality.

We obey God because we delight in his law and character revealed in the pages of sacred scripture.

And why do you delight in his law and character?

We are only worht as much as God says we are, which is alot since the Son died for us.

It cant be that much since he considers all humans to be slaves and cursed everyone with original sin, can it? How can God condemn you morally for something you didnt do? That is illogical and nonsensical.

We have an Absolute to appeal to for moral conduct, you have only yourself(subjective).

Wrong on both counts. Please provide support for both of these claims. Why is my moral code subjective and why is yours objective? I contend that it is the opposite, since the Christian moral code comes fro the dictates of a conscious being, while my moral code comes from the non-snetient objective facts of existence.

As a Christian I dont presuppose that I have value and therefore I follow a carrot so that I burn in hell, I presuppose that God values me, hence the doctrine of redemption.

Eeeeeeew. Thats so gross, it makes my skin crawl. But you are falling into the trap that I showed in my pretend atheist/christian dialogue in my post. BJ, why do you care if God values you? Why do you care if you go to heaven or hell? Why do you care if you follow Gods commands and if he rewards or condemns you?

Apart from that I have know Reason to believe that existence has value, or that my self-interest is nothing more than an attempt to have power over others.

LOL I find it funny what you just said. "my self-interest is nothing more than an attempt to have power over others." You seem to imply that "power" is equating with "coercion." If so, I disagree completely. It is fundamentally impossible for the initiation of coercion to be beneficial to one's own self interest. But if the power you speak of is not coercive, then its fine, but its not the essence of your self interest. Self interest involves you choosing actions that benefit you the most... it does NOT fundamentally involve how much "power" you have over others. Self interest, in regards to other people, more directly involves "cooperation." But do you, BJ, consider "cooperation with others" to be the same as "power over others"? I guess it depends on how you look at the word "power."

Which is what Nietzche said morality was, a will to power. I recommend you read, if you havent already, what other atheist have said about morality to get a greater grasp. Sartre, Nietzsche, Hobbes, and Camus would be a good primer.

Ive read some Nietzche but I find his writing style boring and too artsy fartsy. Besides, I disagree with alot of his views. But I would like to read some Sartre and Hobbes. Thanks for the recommendations.

Lastly, I would like to ask you a question pertaining to this sentence.

"Morality is about each of us making the best choices for our lives. " I dont see how you can call your system Objective.


Its objective because all humans exist in the same reality with the same set of rules so we all need the same objective moral system. Imagine a monopoly game: all the players are playing by the same rules, so each players self interest is based on the same moral system as the others.

This is almost a word for word definition for Ethical Egoism.

Ethical egoism sounds alot like the objective moral code that Rand and Branden and others like to trumpet. Sounds like ethical egoism is alot closer to my moral system than anything Kantian/utilitarian.

At best your system can be called Absolutist Subjectivism. That is because you claim your own self-interest to be absolute becuase that is all there is, "your" happiness.

Nope. I think youre straw-manning my position. Again let me use some analogies. In the next paragraph Im going to ask myself some questions, and answer yes to each of them. It hopefully will show you the logic behind my claims that morality is objective. If you disagree with any of my "yes" answers, then let me know and tell me why the answer should be a "no" instead. But if you agree with any of my "yes" answers, please let me know that you concede for that particular question. Sound good? Here we go:

Do all humans operate under the same laws of physics? Yes. Is Physics objective? Yes. Do all humans exist in the same reality with the same rules? Yes. Is reality objective? Yes. Do all humans require the same moral code for prosperity (non-coercion, freedom, etc...)? Yes. Is morality objective? Yes.

BJ, nothing I have said in support of my moral system can be taken as subjective, because nowhere did I ever state that any human exists in a different reality with different rules than any other human. We all operate under the same rules in the same reality, and morality is the same for everyone just as reality is the same for everyone. Thats why its objective.

So BJ, I now have some questions for you:

1) Is your Christian morality objective? Why or why not?
2) Why does it give you pleasure to follow Gods rules?
3) Why do you care if you end up in heaven or hell?
4) Can you explain what it is about my moral code that is subjective?
5) Can you provide a logical reason for anyone to presume the non-value of their existence?
6) Do you understand what I mean when I say that you have to presuppose the value of your existence before you can begin to condemn it, or does this still not make sense to you?

Paul Manata said...

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/01/on-rufuting-someone-by-arguments-from.html

Aaron Kinney said...

Thanx Manata! Always nice to hear from you.

captainbueno said...

Let's see if I understand this ancient code of true morality:

If I then have to choose between:

1) saving the lives of two elderly people, but losing my life in the process
2) saving the life of a one year old infant, but losing my life in the process
3) saving my own life while two elderly people and a one old infant die

What does this morality tell me to do and why?

Paul Manata said...

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/01/aaron-kinney-mayan-master-of-map.html

Jim Jordan said...

Hi, Aaron
Your post was thought-provoking if not accurate. My response to it turned into a long post in itself. It is at www.moralscienceclub.blogspot.com The title of the response is "Intro to Atheistic Objective Morality". I agree with bj that your morality is not objective.
Take care,
Jim

Young Physicalist said...

How convient that you write a post on morality, as I have written an essay on ethics. I do not believe we can truly have a completely objective ethic. There will be on preposition that feeling happy is good (happiness is freedom from pain, pleasure, and enrichment with knowledge). I do, however, view some minor unhappiness, as long as the consequences are good, is justified. For instance, taxation will cause some trivial unhappiness. However, it will equally give everyone a better chance at being happy.

The Atheist Messiah said...

Christian morality presupposes evil and sin as a condition for existence.

So if you want to split hairs about an objective atheistic morality
(upon realization of existence by the individual) and the inherent natural morality typically adopted by the individual based on environment and social experience, that's fine, but the Christian moral worldview fails because of its antagonism to existence and individuality while requiring its adherents to profess belief in individual unworthiness and sinfulness in a reality that requires neither.

Francois Tremblay said...

"For instance, taxation will cause some trivial unhappiness. However, it will equally give everyone a better chance at being happy."

No it doesn't. What a horrible example.

Jim Jordan said...

atheist messiah
"Christian morality presupposes evil and sin as a condition for existence." This is false. The Bible clearly begins without sin or evil in the world. It was not part of God's plan, but man's plan. They are not a "condition for existence" but a side effect of it.
It is important to study Christian moral principles before trying to refute them.
I for one would like to see a positive atheist worldview exegesis that isn't just an attack on Christianity. Let me know of any links to such an article, should it exist.
Good luck, Jim

Young Physicalist said...

Aaron Kinney (the Atheist one) I remember you said you may giver Aaron Christian Kinney a post, despite his lesser.... arguing skills. I think now is the time, if you check out the recent comments on his new blog (http://kinney.wordpress.com/) you will be astonished. He calls science itself a "lie".

Anonymous said...

I think that our christian Aaron is projecting

Paul Manata said...

http://presstheantithesis.blogspot.com/2006/01/assert-aynisphat.html

Aaron Kinney said...

Let's see if I understand this ancient code of true morality:

If I then have to choose between:

1) saving the lives of two elderly people, but losing my life in the process
2) saving the life of a one year old infant, but losing my life in the process
3) saving my own life while two elderly people and a one old infant die

What does this morality tell me to do and why?


It depends on what your values are. In other words, it depends on how important those other people are to you. And it also depends on how the coercion (threats of death) are occuring. There is a possibility that this could be a false trichotomy. There may be a 4th choice, such as kill the one threatening you and the innocent peoples lives.

Aaron Kinney said...

What I meant to say was "kill the one threatening your life and the lives of the other innocent people."

That reads better.

The Atheist Messiah said...

jim jordan said:

"The Bible clearly begins without sin or evil in the world. It was not part of God's plan, but man's plan. They are not a 'condition for existence' but a side effect of it."

Everything is a part of man's plan. There is no God and the bible is an inept combination of arrogance and stupidity. Nor did I say sin and evil was a condition for existence. I said the need for sin and evil is inherent in the practice and psychology of Christianity. This has nothing to do with being necessary for existence; if only in the sense that the existence of Christian morality depends on sin for its continued practice and existence.


"It is important to study Christian moral principles before trying to refute them.
I for one would like to see a positive atheist worldview exegesis that isn't just an attack on Christianity. Let me know of any links to such an article, should it exist.
Good luck, Jim"

I would say it is important to study religion and to study everything including religion with an open mind.

Any atheistic worldview will be considered an attack on Christianity simply because Christianity is counter-intuitive to reality and religion in general is counter-productive to how we live a meaningful, happy and moral life. Once you take God out of the equation, it is considered an "attack" on Christianity.

I'm more apt to believe in your wishes for me to have "good luck" than to believe in your God. But then luck is just another form of superstition too.

DUB said...

I think there is some disagreement on the definition of the word "value" here.

There's another Aaron Kinney? Interesting. I wonder if Manata is obsessed with the other one too.

damn, Manata...three posts in quick succession about AK again, hunh? Yet you never got around to even one about me. I feel left out.

I must really be missing something about this whole libertarian thing, 'cause the more and more I see of it, the more I hate it and think libertarians are elitist, out-of-touch asses.

Jim Jordan said...

Atheist Messiah
I asked for an exegesis of atheistic reality that isn't simply an attack on Christianity and you gave me a simple attack on Christianity.

Everything is a part of man's plan. There is no God and the bible is an inept combination of arrogance and stupidity.

Very articulate. I have studied the Bible in a BSF study group every week for 5 years now and find it to be an infallible aid to navigating through this life (perhaps you should join a Bible study!). As far as the "need" for sin and evil there was no need before we screwed everything up in trying to be equal with God. Sin and evil are real. They are our babies. That's why God has to pay our ransom (redeem us) from the dangerous fallacy that we can be Him.
I repeat, an exegesis of atheism that isn't an attack on Christianity.
Good luck (means "may God guide you"),
Jim

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... How very sad your life must be Aaron.