Is God really the foundation for good, or does that still commit the Naturalistic fallacy?

Ah… I think I follow… Sounds like you and Reggie (and I) may be talking past each other… he is (I believe?) using “universal” to refer to moral absolutes, or things that are objectively true or false morally, regardless of our individual beliefs.

If I understand you, you are speaking of universally held morals. I think he would grant that morals are not universally held.

So for that matter, I could find some intellectually-deficient people who would not agree with me regarding the multiplication table. Thus, I could in that sense say the multiplication table is not “universal,” in the sense of not being universally held.

Reggie, I believe, is using “universal” in the sense that we mean when we say the multiplication table is “universal.” 5 x 7 = 35 regardless of what country a person is from, what language they speak, what symbols they use for the numbers ( V x VII = XXXV). The fact that someone may not recognize it, or make a multiplication error, and falsely believe that 7 x 5 = 45, doesn’t in this sense keep it from being universally true.

In the sense Reggie is using the term, “5 x 7 = 35” is a universal truth, else we could not argue someone else was wrong if they said otherwise.

Without the God of the bible, the Christian biblical worldview. You cannot know anything.

WOW!.. this sounds a lot like… without my name you cannot know anything so everybody is completely ignorant except for me…

However, this unbounded arrogance and bigotry is completely and demonstrably wrong, of course.

And what is your basis of knowing it to be unbounded, arrogant, bigoted and demonstrably wrong?

Not only can I observe that people are capable of acquiring knowledge and information to do every kind of thing in the world without ever seeing the Bible or having any familiarity with any religious ideology, but I can also observe that those who have seen the Bible (or suffering exposure to any kind of religious dogma) do not show any greater ability to do things in the world.

In fact, there is more evidence that ideologies and dogma have a negative effect on the ability of people to acquire knowledge and thus accomplish things in the world.

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Ok…but I asked you, what is your basis of knowing it to be unbounded, arrogant, bigoted and demonstrably wrong?

I have already shown how absurd it is to define knowledge to be something only you can acquire, which is why we look for a more reasonable definition in what anybody can acquire by observation of the evidence. So rejecting your contemptible word games, I described the evidence which can be observed to show why your claim should be rejected by all reasonable intelligent people.

If you insist on such bizarre definitions to preclude this then the only thing you are proving is that a discussion with you is not worth our time.

Actually you didn’t. You just said, it is absurd. Principle of sufficient reason, my friend.

The bible says that ALL wisdom and knowledge comes from God. If as you say that people can get knowledge outside of God, then where is that source you speak of?

@MarkD @Randy

To me, moral relativism seems quite plausible when you first look at it. I began my investigations in ethics as a convinced relativist. But a particular essay, “The Challenge of Cultural Relativism” by James Rachels convinced me that there is more to morality than mere opinion. In the essay, Rachels examines a variety of cultural practices, including Eskimo infanticide and (as was discussed earlier in this thread) FGM, which he calls “excision” in the essay.

To Rachels, the question isn’t “is one cultural norm right and another wrong?” He is looking for a culture-independent way to gauge the rightness or wrongness of something. I think the essay does a fine job of what it sets out to do. Not only does he show that typical arguments for relativism are illogical, he presents a very compelling case that there is a culturally independent moral standard.

So (for me) the idea that moral standards are just expressions of cultural opinion goes out the window. The only two ethical theories I find plausible are moral nihilism (morality is nothing but a fiction) or moral realism (there is a real moral standard, independent of opinion, by which we can measure the goodness -or badness- of an action).

Here is a link to the essay:

And here is an excerpt if you’re interested:


The arguments made toward the end of the excerpt could also be made in favor of lobotomy if docility is thought to be so very conducive to domestic tranquility. Even among the tribe where excision is alleged to be something young girls look forward to as transition to adulthood I would condemn it just as I would any other surgery that is not medically justifiable. Clearly, in terms of the health of the women, it is contraindicated medically. For the same reason I condemn forbidding abortion where the life of the mother is put at risk by continuing with the pregnancy. I can respect a woman’s decision to take that risk for the sake of her unborn baby as hers to make, but I can’t accept that it is morally permissible for us to foist it on any unwilling mother to be.

Harm to individuals which is not justifiable in terms of their own good would seem to be a good candidate for a moral evil which transcends cultural norms. In the Sparrow novel by Mary Doria Russell, one sentient race -the Jana’ata- controls the breeding of another -the Runa- as its chief food source and labor pool. The society they create together is very well ordered and highly developed culturally, all made possible by careful breeding. The Runa understand and accept their fate at least until a pesky foreign visitor from earth arrives.

It is evil whenever individuals are harmed by others for the direct benefit of those others, even when some peripheral benefit can be identified for the ones harmed. It is different when an individual accepts risk or certain harm for the benefit of others; that we call heroism. Acculturating young girls to welcome incision doesn’t make it morally acceptable. The acculturation process which leads them to welcome the mutilation is itself an evil … at least for creatures such as us. We have no other example of sentient creatures capable of expressing a reasoned opinion on the subject, apart from those which we ourselves imagine as in Russell’s novel.

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help me out here, in the public discourse, and generally even in the academic, “Moral Subjectivism” and “Moral Nihilism” are used interchangeably. And I´d agree with that, since even a Moral Nihilist commits himself to some kind of pseudo-morality and just be it a hedonistic one. Nietzsche aimed for the progress of humanity. Anarchists want the ultimate freedom. Hedonists focus on their own happiness. So I´m tempted to either include Subjectivism into Moral Nihilism, since morality becomes a non-objective and thus rather illusionary or would describe Nihilism as a non-utilitarian Moral Subjectivism. Maybe you can clear things up a bit.

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I don’t mean to answer for @vulcanlogician Dillon. Hopefully he will answer your question since he is a much better student of philosophy than I ever was. He seems to read a philosopher or position to fully and fairly understand them where I nearly always only read things for the light they shed on my own questions.

From this …

… I infer that Dillon probably agrees with you that Subjectivism is a variant of moral nihilism or at least closer to that pole than to moral realism. Is that the way you see it too, Dominik?

For me the field of issues which provoke moral feeling extends between ones like excision where I would classify myself a moral realist to ones which are more grey than black & white, matters which some would classify as involving manners more than morals. But I do see them as lying on the same continuum.

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Thank you Mark, yes this is pretty much my view, too. If you ascribe Subjectivism as “the grounding” of morality, then you´re pretty much conceding its nonexistence. Of course, conscious experience are also subjective, but very much existent, but in the way we think of big-M “Morality” the concept requires objective aspects. Subjectivism would at best lead to a kind of symbiosis, but by its very nature this would be limited to a small group and offers no model whole societies could live by.

I recently ran across this commentary from Macdonald (through one of his characters: Wingfold) and thought it pertinent for this thread - regarding what a “truism” is. [It would have been pertinent for any thread where we discuss morality; this was merely the most recent and first thread I landed on in my quest for an excuse to plop this somewhere.]

A mere truism, is it? Yes, it is, and more is the pity; for what is a truism, as most men count truisms? What is it but a truth that ought to have been buried long ago in the lives of men–to send up forever the corn of true deeds and the wine of loving kindness–but, instead of being buried in friendly soil, is allowed to lie about, kicked hither and thither in the dry and empty garret of their brains, till they are sick of the sight and sound of it and, to be rid of the thought of it, declare it to be no living truth but only a lifeless truism? Yet in their brain that truism must rattle until they shift to its rightful quarters in their heart, where it will rattle no longer but take root and be a strength and loveliness.

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But are not both abortion and GM two different ways to allow sexual control over one’s body? Neither lead to a guilt free way of being sexually free. One says morally one can avoid sexual addiction, and the other says you can avoid the consequences of sexual addiction. Both absolve the male side of the equation and leave all the burden of the “sin” in the hands of the female. The point is that there is nothing free in free sex. All I am seeing is that males have washed their hands of the matter, and it is culturally the norm to let the female take the brunt of the issue that there is both good and evil in the act of reproduction. We seem to hate the authoritarian way of putting reproduction in a healthy relationship between two humans reproducing for good or bad for life. Culture will do what culture wants consequences regardless. Evil will happen one way or the other.

Moral nihilism and moral relativism are both forms of moral skepticism and are opposing views to moral realism. But some contemporary ethicists like to differentiate them for some good reasons. If you are a relativist, you think that morality is reducible to cultural norms or opinions. A nihilist, on the other hand, thinks moral judgments are reducible to feelings/emotional expressions OR are just plain wrong. It’s not really important what’s what in the grand scheme (IMO you are either a realist or you aren’t… but when you are in the philosophy biz, the categories help to organize the arguments against moral realism.

To me, the argument that morality is reducible to cultural norms is easy to refute. The harder arguments are the nihilistic ones that say either “there are no correct moral facts, therefore moral realism is false” OR “all moral judgments are expressions of an emotional disposition or are reducible to taste/temperament hence moral realism is false.” The former is error theory. The error theorist argues things like “science or other modes of objective observation will never discover a moral fact.” The latter (emotivism/expressivism) argues that moral judgments are merely emotional reactions (adultery–yuck!… rape-- gross!… murder–eww!).

There is more I could say about the distinction between relativism and nihilism, but I think the main thing is, it’s an organizational distinction rather than a principle difference. I hope that clarifies.

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