Transcendental argument for God’s existence: your response

You say, “Assuming logic and rationality is necessary for any kind of argument or discussion.” Forgive the tautology here, but assuming logic and rationality is necessary for any logical or rational discussion. There are other kinds of discussions – emotional appeals, for example. But, limiting ourselves to only logical, rational discussion, as scientific communities aspire to do, then your statement is correct, and in fact that is one of the main points of TAG! If we want to engage in rational debate, then let’s start by assuming that logic and rationality exist and see what that entails, necessitates, or requires. TAG argues that some basic notion of God is required. (In this way, it follows the format of other transcendental arguments in philosophy, like those of Immanuel Kant.) The main thrust of TAG is to show that, on assuming premises that most people do already, God is already there!

In hindsight, then, on what foundation can we make the logic and rationality assumptions, ones which we take for granted on a daily basis? The intellectual tools that we can’t help but use lead us to God. Consider the contrapositive of TAG: if God does not exist, then the argument would argue that the universe could not exhibit the standards of logic and rationality which are so foundational to our daily lives. For a Christian, this should not feel like an overly ambitious statement, for we know that all that we have flows from God and His provision.

Now, on to a few other points. Your comment has helped me realize a few things: first, the use of the word “universal” needs some more clarity. Here, I intend universality (in morality) to mean that the moral principle applies to all people, not that all people agree that the principle is a moral. It is universal in its application and authority, not in its agreement. In fact, none of these 3 is universal in the latter sense. There is not universal agreement about logic (for example, some hold to the “law of the excluded middle,” and some do not), or rationality (for example, different philosophical schools which disagree about what constitutes proper reason). Universality in agreement is not what I am after, but universality in application. Thank you for pointing out this vagueness.

Secondly, on the personal nature of morality, what TAG needs is just the existence of at least one moral standard which is personal (and the other characteristics mentioned). For the purposes of TAG, morality which is not inherently personal could exist. (I happen to believe that all morality is ultimately personal because anything morally wrong offends our personal God, but of course this is not part of the argument – it is a “hindsight view” which would be a blatant circularity). So, if you agree that at least one personal moral exists, then that premise of TAG is met. Again, I thank you for identifying this area of improvement in the argument.

Why is morality included as a premise? I have a few thoughts here. First, the “formal” one. The structure of TAG is a logical argument, so it could include anything at all as a premise. The discussion would be whether or not the premises are accepted, but there need not be justification for why they are chosen. The point is what those premises imply in the conclusions. If the premises are accepted and the argument’s reasoning is logically valid, then the conclusion is unavoidable, regardless of why the premises were chosen initially (if there was a reason at all!).

But seeing as how you would like an intuitive reason for morality’s inclusion…morality is one of the authoritative standards that people inevitably appeal to. Implicit in so many discussions is a notion of what someone ought to do or think or say (or ought not to do or think or say). A notion of “moral ought” seems to be baked into humanity. Logic, rationality, and morality together are the “big 3,” in my opinion. Thus, these 3 are chosen because they are foundational to our everyday experience. But I’ll reiterate that the real question is what those premises, if accepted, imply: TAG claims that it is the existence of (some kind of) God.

And finally, if you find apologetics destructive of your faith, then I think you can ignore them. What I want most is for each of us to have saving faith in Christ, and I recognize that the Holy Spirit can accomplish that in many different ways in a person’s heart. Apologetics have been very useful to me and many others, but I won’t twist anyone’s arm to care about apologetics if they are counterproductive to the real goal: faith in Christ in that person’s heart.

As you say in the second sentence, TAG does not argue that God is required for logic and rationality. Rather, it just assumes it. Without a solid argument demonstrating the necessity for God the thesis falls apart.

In that case . . .

If God exists then there shouldn’t be peanut butter. There is peanut butter, therefore God does not exist.

If we don’t have to justify our premises then what is the point?

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I’ll reply to both of your posts here. You ask “If we don’t have to justify our premises then what is the point?” Of course, if someone rejects the truth of one or more premises of the argument, then those premises need to be supported if the listener is to accept the argument. But that is not the question I was answering. I was asked why the morality premise was included, not if the morality premise should be accepted as a true statement. Why a premise is included does not (formally) have to be justified, though often people would like an informal, intuitive reason for its inclusion, so I offered one when asked. Whether the premises are themselves true statements is a separate issue. The 3 LRM premises of TAG are considered by many people to be modest and uncontroversial, so I did not spend time supporting them initially (for space considerations). Some support for the morality premise is given below, but I recognize that universal agreement on things even as basic as whether or not humans exist is not possible (incidentally, “humans exist” is something else that TAG implicitly assumes but which I never supported, nor even stated; a complete list of assumptions, if even possible, would be so cumbersome and impractical that no one would even read the argument. I think genuine knowledge can be gained without exhaustive lists, but I digress.)

Certainly, the objectivity of morality is rejected by some. In fact, I recall that you and I have discussed this point at length in the past already. I’ll give it a little time here.

First, I disagree with the statement “morality is subjective because it is based on the subjective human experience.” If we are trying to answer the question, “is morality objective?” then whether or not morality is based on the subjective human experience is precisely the issue (and I think it isn’t based there). You give examples to try to support your claim, but there’s a problem.

The anthropocentric arguments for subjective morality focus on a subset of moral disagreements (across times or cultures or individuals), and then conclude that all morality must have the same characteristic of subjectivity. That is an unjustified leap. Such arguments attempt “proof by example,” which is not proof but a logical fallacy. A person could not formally prove that “All S are P” by giving many examples of S which are in fact P. Just one counterexample is needed – just one instance of a personal moral which applies to all people at all times – and the premise of TAG is met. (In reality, I think there is more than one, but the argument only needs one to establish the existence of a standard. In particular, I am not adopting an entire moral code for the purposes of the argument, Christian or otherwise.) As my counterexample, I often use something rather extreme, like “killing a stranger for pleasure is always morally wrong for all people at all times.” (Note that I am indeed calling such a killing wrong and not just impractical or against societal preferences.) Usually, this is enough to establish the morality premise of TAG as nearly everyone agrees with that statement. In any event, I have not encountered someone who is willing to go to bat for its negation (something like “killing someone for pleasure may or may not be morally wrong” just doesn’t have a lot of supporters!).

The universality of morality refers only to humans, not necessarily to animals or aliens, as these latter creatures do not possess personhood to the same extent that humans do (perhaps an alien could, in theory, but there’s no need to speculate on their nature). The personal nature of morality is the crucial characteristic, and that same characteristic differentiates humans and animals. (Animals exhibit behaviors which some label as “moral,” and while I’m uncertain if I support the use of the term there, regardless, the moral systems of humans are more highly developed in a way that reflects the difference in personhood.)

I agree with you when you say, “What morality implies about the universe is that there is a sapient species that has emotions and the capability to empathize with others of the same species.” However, this does not mean that a sapient, empathetic species is the only implication of morality. Suggesting so creates a false dichotomy. TAG offers another implication of morality (with logic and rationality). Thus, your statement is correct, but does not weaken TAG (or affect it in any other way).

Now, you make a different point with your “God implies no peanut butter” example. Of course I am not claiming that any premise can justify any conclusion. “God implies no peanut butter” isn’t fallacious because of a lack of support for its premise, but because its core implication has no steps of reasoning. Arguments consist of definitions, premises, steps of reasoning (the connection from premises to conclusion), and the conclusion. “God implies no peanut butter” excludes (intentionally) steps of reasoning; that argument is unrelated to the truth or falsehood of its premise because the premise is never used later in the argument. TAG includes steps of reasoning, so we have to determine if its steps are valid. I believe they are (perhaps there are holes in my presentation – I started my original post for help in finding some – but at least I think the argument could be made into a valid presentation).

You sort of allude to TAG’s steps of reasoning elsewhere when you say that you “don’t see how” the existence of the LRM premises lead to concluding the existence of God. Similarly, “Without a solid argument demonstrating the necessity for God the thesis falls apart.” But the steps of reasoning in TAG are the connection from the premises to the conclusion. Essentially, each of LRM lead to a universal standard which, as the argument goes, leads to a single “location” (identified as a person, according to the premises’ characteristics) which house them all, and that person meets our rather reductive definition of God, hence the conclusion. I gather that you reject something about these steps, but so far your comments appear to ignore them entirely rather than critique them.

I wonder, then: play along with me, and accept the premises of the argument, even if for only a moment. If the premises are correct, do you see a logical invalidity in the argument? We could speculate as to what might occur in a possibly different universe (maybe 2+2=5?), but doing so has no effect on the argument, neither invalidating it nor strengthening it. We simply can’t say that we know the answers to those questions (I happen to think that without God, there would be no intelligibility in the universe at all, if it could even exist in the first place, so we couldn’t even form questions about triangles or arithmetic. Seeing as how we have no accepted basis for judgment on hypothetical universes, we can’t make progress in our current discussion about TAG with such speculation.) As a logical argument, if TAG has definitions which are agreed upon, premises which are accepted, and valid logical steps proceeding from the premises, then the conclusion must also be accepted. So, if you will grant me the premises, what do you consider insufficient in the other elements of the argument?

If a moral applies to all people at all times it does not mean it is objective. It only means that we share the same subjective morality because we are all humans.

An objective morality is one that exists independent of any human. The very fact that you justify morality by appealing to the opinion of humanity only supports my claim that morality is subjective. If morality were objective it is entirely possible that some action would be morally true even if every human disagreed with it.

The problem of your argument is that if someone stated that killing someone for pleasure was objectively moral then you would claim that it is moral.

Yet more evidence that morality is subjective.

Just as there are no steps between “there is logic and reasoning” to “God exists”.

You haven’t shown that any person must exist for reason and logic to exist.

The whole point is that you haven’t demonstrated the validity of the premises.

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Context matters. I was explaining why I wasn’t going to question the assumption of logic and rationality for this discussion about this argument.

Given that restatement, I’d say your conclusion – that the source of morality is personal because some moral standards are personal – is a non sequitur. By ‘moral standards are personal’ you seem to mean only that the object of moral or immoral actions is (in at least some cases) a person. I see no logical connection between that premise and the conclusion. The object of some moral/immoral actions can also be an animal or (as I suggested previously) an inanimate object. Presumably you would not conclude that the source of morality is an animal or a pristine lake, would you?

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“Context matters.” Certainly, and I did not mean my comment to be taken as nitpicky. In fact, I expected (knew) that you were referring to our “aspirationally” logical/rational discussion, but I don’t know what might need clarification for others who are reading. There’s a fine line between being clear and nitpicky, I suppose. Sorry if I crossed that line.

“[Y]our conclusion – that the source of morality is personal because some moral standards are personal – is a non sequitur.” My intended conclusion is not that the source of morality is personal because some moral standards are. The conclusion is simply that (at least some) moral standards are personal. If there is a personal, objective moral standard, then the standard itself would have to possess the characteristics of personhood (and at least as much personhood as is evident in the moral acts which rely on or demonstrate the standard). It’s a characteristic of the standard; though the act and the object could also possess personhood, that isn’t part of the claim. It’s the standard which, later in TAG, meets the definition of God. That is, God Himself, the person of God, is the moral standard; the standard is not something external to Him, whether above Him, below Him, or equal to but distinct from Him. The standard is part of His nature.

By rationality there have been infinite universes - space-time bubbles - from eternity and therefore there always have been infinite universes concurrently too. Order, including in morality, does not require meaning: there is no Euthyphro dilemma.

You’re right, objective morality means that it exists independently of humanity, and I should have included that in my description. I was emphasizing the “universal applicability” feature of morality since your argument for subjective morality relied on the fact that there are moral disagreements among different people and cultures. However, your argument seems to have shifted emphasis, now noting (accurately) that universal agreement on even just one moral act isn’t enough. It appears that you agree that my example of “killing people for pleasure is wrong” is universally agreed upon (or at least as close to universal as can ever be achieved).

It’s true that objective morality would mean, in theory, that every human could agree that X is morally right and yet be incorrect on the basis of the objective standard. (In practice, I don’t believe this happens because God writes His law on our hearts – Romans 2:14-16 – but I agree that it is in theory possible: let God be true and every man a liar! Romans 3:4).

Interestingly, the quote that you linked to does not use this as a reason that objective morality doesn’t exist, but a reason that we wouldn’t want objective morality to exist. That difference is vital; more on that in a bit.

Significantly, the desire to affirm/choose a subjective morality simply so that we have moral autonomy over ourselves itself suggests a “second level” objective moral principle: it asserts that autonomy in moral choices is good. That is a moral assertion! If that assertion is just the opinion of the person making the claim, then there is nothing to compel anyone else to agree with it. If, however, it is asserted with the intent to convince the reader to agree (as appears to be the implication, for why else would the author spend the effort and time writing it in the first place?), then it appeals to a standard which is independent of the author and the reader. If that standard is subjective (not independent of humanity), then still no one could be objectively faulted for disagreement; one could be subjectively faulted, i.e. “I don’t like that you deny that moral autonomy is good,” but that’s different than saying “you are wrong to deny that moral autonomy is good.” Even if I were the only human who ever lived who disagreed with that assertion, if there is no objective standard (independent of humanity) to which I am accountable, then others can say that they don’t like my choices, but they cannot call my choices wrong. If one would reply that, “you should comply with assertion X for reason Y,” it assumes that reason Y is something with the moral authority to compel me to (this is more than saying, “if you don’t comply, you will be punished,” for that is a pragmatic and not an inherently moral reason; to say that I should do something in the moral sense of “should” is to imply a standard of “moral should” to which all humans are accountable – an objective standard). With no objective standard by which to judge, no one has a real reason to prefer one moral judgment to another, for as soon as they try to introduce a reason to agree with them, they assume that the reason has authority to apply to you, no matter who you are, what you want, or how you feel. That implies the standard to which they appeal is external to humanity (it supersedes human thoughts, desires, will, and plans), and therefore is objective.

The blog you linked to has the same problems. For example, in the paragraph beginning “Subjective does not mean that anyone’s opinion is ‘just as good’,” it mentions the notions of “good” and “strong.” This appeals to a sense of good and strong which, if not objective, are literally without meaning. If my idea of “good” is different than yours, how can we choose between us which one is “right?” If the answer has to do with common agreement, then we have only determined which of our ideas is more popular, but that has nothing to do with being right. It relies on precisely the thing it argues against. I see other issues with it, for example questions like, “even if morality were objective, how would we know what the right morality is?” [my paraphrase], or pragmatic decisions which ostensibly would be eased by accepting subjective morality, both of which are red herrings. And the claim that a God-based objective morality would either be below Him or above Him, which creates a false dichotomy – morality which is part of His nature is neither, and since He is separate from humanity, a morality rooted in His nature is objective because it is external to humanity. And there are others, but my main point here is not to respond to that blog.

In summary, I find that arguments for subjective morality clandestinely sneak in objective morality in order to argue against it.

It seems our disagreement may come down to what is meant by labeling someone else’s actions to be morally wrong. If I call something wrong and merely mean that I (and possibly a large number of others, even up to all of humanity) don’t like it – well, this to me is a misuse of the word “wrong.” In this context, I use the word to mean that there is something which compels that person to not behave that way for the sake of the act itself; the act is inherently wrong, regardless of the practical consequences and (collective) feelings. It means there is a core, inherent attribute of that act which ought not to be done. Such a scenario cannot arise without an objective standard. Without an objective stick to measure against, nothing can be inherently right or wrong. Thus, if anything is morally “wrong” in this sense, it must be objectively wrong.

When I use my “killing for pleasure” example, I use it with that intent: not to justify objective morality, but to show people that they already believe in it. (I’m glad you brought this up because in hindsight my intent with that example wasn’t clear.) This example shows that the vast majority of people already believe there is a standard “out there” which is authoritative and independent of human opinion. They see that they already believe that killing for pleasure is not just unpopular, but it’s flat out wrong (meaning there is an objective standard, external to all humanity), even if a great deception were to sweep the world and change everyone’s mind. That example is about revealing what people already think, and it by itself is not meant as rational support for an objective morality. Once a person recognizes they agree with those statements, then the premise of TAG is met.

A quick word about the “animals and aliens:” the fact that human morality doesn’t apply to animals or aliens (that we know of) reflects the unique, higher moral complexity of humans. Of all the creatures we know and as far as we have observed, only humans have that level of complexity, which is why human morality is different. Humans are made in the image of God, unlike all other creatures (that we know of). Thus, human morality applying only to humans doesn’t weaken the claim that the morality is objective. After all, even if other species or aliens had completely different morality than humans, the present discussion is only about whether human morality is independent of humans – that was our definition of “objective.” Morality (or lack thereof) of other creatures is irrelevant.

You and I have been down this road before, and frankly I don’t have much confidence that either one of us is going to convince the other. What disturbs me is that the reason you cited to support subjective morality: so that human desires can reign supreme. This is a deadly spiritual desire, and it is precisely why the Bible says that some will deny Jesus (because they “love darkness rather than light, for their deeds were evil,” says John 3:19). They try to make themselves into the “supreme being” in their lives. It doesn’t end well for them (Romans 1:18-19). You are made in God’s image and He loves you, and therefore so do I. Because of that, @T_aquaticus, and for your own sake, I don’t want you to go down that path. I present TAG and the supporting statements for that purpose.

If I understand this correctly, I can start with a subjective morality. However, if I write the subjective morality down and convince other people to follow it then the subjective morality turns into an objective morality. Is that what you are saying?

Perhaps I am different than you, but a find a lot of meaning in my subjective emotions. I still don’t understand why you seem to think subjective is the same as meaningless.

How could we know that a morality commanded by God is actually moral? All you have done is kick the can down the road.

Why would you have to believe in an external standard in order to believe that killing for pleasure is wrong? Do you have to be told that killing for pleasure is wrong, or do you already sense that within yourself?

If morality was objective then the same rules would apply no matter what image you were created in. If morality is different because humans are different then morality is subjective because it is based on the wants and needs of humans.

What disturbs me is that you want to replace morality with obedience to rules. If morality isn’t based on what humans want and need then what good is it?


No one here, no one, denies Jesus because they “love darkness rather than light, for their deeds were evil,”. That is a disgustingly evil thing to say. Nothing about @T_aquaticus, nothing that they have ever said indicates they are going down that path or ever could. Your perversion of ‘love’ is grandiose and revolting.

A moral system, call it X, cannot justify itself to someone outside of that system (this is not a matter of the opinion of the person outside of that system, but of rational justifiability, regardless of whether someone holds to it or not). It would have to use a moral principle that is external to any (and therefore every) other system; for else it only holds rational force within itself. If X is a subjective morality based upon human opinions/feelings/desires, whether individual or collective, then X cannot justify itself to anyone with a different opinion/feeling/desire. Therefore, if one intends X to be justifiable, the justification must be external to X, therefore external to any possibly different opinion/feeling/desire, and therefore external to the entire collective human opinion. This criterion for sufficient justification meets the definition of objectivity. Justifiability means objectivity.

Now apply this to subjective morality, or for concreteness to a particular subjectively moral system, X. The issue is that it leaves itself only two options: either X is or is not justifiable. If it is not justifiable, then it is pointless, paternalistic, and outright authoritarian to try to impose it on anyone not already using it as their system (if it’s not justifiable, then it can’t be said to be better than any differing opinion). If X is justifiable, then as the previous paragraph shows, X is not subjective after all, thus leading to a contradiction. Thus, to affirm that morality is subjective but also claim that one moral system is better than another is to contradict oneself. This leaves subjective morality no choice but to equally affirm all moral “opinions.” Subjective morality leads to either self-inconsistency or total moral chaos (any moral feeling is equally legitimate, so killing for pleasure is just as moral as helping the poor or as doing nothing at all; no moral distinction could be made among different behaviors if there is no justifiability).

Numerous times in your previous replies, and in the blog that you linked, there have been attempts to justify the use of subjective morality. For example, the blog says, “Subjective does not mean that anyone’s opinion is ‘just as good,’ ” and your reply asks “ How could we know that a morality commanded by God is actually moral?” and “If morality isn’t based on what humans want and need then what good is it?” Each of these make the implicit claim that one (subjective) moral system can be justified over some potential competitor. Thus, these arguments for subjective morality, as soon as they label anything with “should,” “moral,” “good,” “bad,” “right,” “wrong,” “proper,” etc., assume justifiability, and thus appeal to an objective standard. (Even the societal discussions which lead to changes in subjective societal standards attempt to use objective standards to convince others who disagree on a particular moral point.) The arguments for subjective morality rely on objective standards in order to argue against them.

One particular element of subjective morality that seems to be argued for: that adherence to the (subjective) societal standard is better than refusal to adhere. If that principle is part of the subjective system, then as noted above, it cannot justify itself from within itself. You can’t say “you should listen to the rules because one of the rules says you should listen to the rules.” On the other hand, it that principle is outside of the moral system, then it uses an objective standard. So, if we want to say that someone should adhere to the societal standards, that “should” claim would have to have a reason outside of the societal standard. This uses an objective standard.

The same discussion applies to other reasons that are given to choose one moral principle over another. “There’s a rational/pragmatic reason to choose X over Y,” or “this moral principle is better for the long-term health/existence of society/the world/the universe,” etc. These attempt to justify a moral principle, and thus still appeal to moral principles outside of a given subjective system; they assume that what is rational, pragmatic, more likely to lead to the promulgation of humanity, more likely to help the universe survive longer, etc. is better. But why should those things be better? If the answer is simply because that is what humans have decided after millennia of discussion, then there is still no standard by which to tell someone that they should live by it. If a person’s very question is “why should I care if I help society thrive?” then your answer cannot be “because your adherence helps society thrive.” That would be using the system to justify itself. You still need a standard outside of the system if you are to justify the system.

Even the attempts to convince others that subjective morality exists assume that there is a principle which others “should” agree with, which assumes that the person’s moral argument is justifiable, which requires an objective standard.

You ask if I have meant, “if I write the subjective morality down and convince other people to follow it then the subjective morality turns into an objective morality.” I think the current explanation shows that this is not what I meant. As we’ve agreed, an objective standard could exist and yet every single human could disagree with it. My point was that if one makes any moral determination, including even the attempt to convince someone that morality is subjective, then that person already holds to objective morality (this is not to say that because the person believes it, then it becomes true; no, it’s laying out the person’s options: either make no moral determinations at all, or hold to objective morality).

Any moral determination of the above sort (along with logic assumed, so that contradictions are disallowed) thus implies an objective moral standard, and therefore would be sufficient to establish the morality premise of TAG.

This has implications for your questions such as, “How could we know that a morality commanded by God is actually moral?” This is not actually what I argued for in TAG, nor is it asserted in its premises, and it’s not quite the position I hold personally. So discussing this departs somewhat from my original topic, but I’ll address it. I hold that objective morality is defined by God’s nature – it’s not commanded by Him arbitrarily, and He is not answerable to or accountable to it. Since He is separate from His creation, His nature is external to humanity, and therefore it is an objective standard. And since His nature defines it, the question of whether or not that morality is “actually moral” is vacuous. It would be like asking if the constitution is constitutional; it defines the characteristic itself.

Now, your replies to that usually take the form of follow up questions like, “what if God’s morality is something that we don’t like?” or “how can we know that the morality we are using in society is actually God’s?” or “how can we determine where our day-to-day sense of morality comes from?” These are good, legitimate questions (I won’t address them here for space and for the sake of a focused discussion, but they really are worth pursuing at another time). But it has to be understood that they are irrelevant to whether or not an objective morality (in this case, one defined by God’s nature) exists. Whether or not we like the truth does not change the truth. Any moral determination of the kind described above, including the kinds in your replies so far, would require an objective standard, and that’s enough for TAG.

My comment was in response to a reason I had for concern over T_aquaticus’s (apparent) response to God, according to warnings given by Jesus in Scripture. I do not claim to know the condition of T_aquaticus’s heart (that is only for God to determine), nor was I pronouncing judgment (that is God’s place, not mine). When one sees a person doing something that one thinks is dangerous, the loving thing to do is to alert them, and even encourage them to change. Jesus does this in John 5:14 and 8:11. Obviously, I don’t claim Jesus’ authority, but if I see what I deem to be a dangerous spiritual attitude or behavior, it is a Biblical command to bring that concern to the person (Galatians 6, James 5). But even if you think I was wrong to write my previous comment, can you offer me a gracious, gentle rebuke instead? I would appreciate that grace from you.

No mate, sorry. I’ll be gracious to you, but not that vile, damnationist belief that you cannot help. You are innocently spouting loveless - graceless - fear.

Rules are necessary as measuring sticks. If our hearts are in the right place, we are already are ‘following the rules’ implicitly. Like the suitor bringing flowers to his beloved. He doesn’t do it because he has to, to follow the ‘rules of love’, but because that is where his heart is. And then there are traffic rules. If our hearts are in the right place, we don’t chafe under them – we want to protect children in a school zone. Some rules we need to be educated in, too, like pleasing one’s spouse (or what safe speed limits are).

Loveless fear. Should we fear the police? Not if we are loving well and graciously obeying the rules. Loveless fear comes in when we are not lovingly obeying the rules.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
1 John 4:18

What is the most important rule?

That seems barely to rise to the level of an argument. You’ve slid from ‘some moral standards involve actions directed at persons’ to ‘some moral standards are personal’ (which is quite an odd way of expressing your starting point) to ‘the moral standard is a person’. Similarly, some moral standards involve actions directed at nonhuman animals would imply that the moral standard is a nonhuman animal.

You could instead have started with the observation that moral agents are always persons, and that therefore the moral standard must be a person. This strikes me as a better argument but still fallacious. Moral agents are also always human, which I doubt you would take to mean that the moral standard is a human.

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I would suggest that no such moral system exists. All of our functioning moral systems that exist today are subjective. We can’t point to anything in morality that exists outside of humanity. Religious scriptures? Written by humans. Why is one religious moral system followed over another? Human subjective opinion.

If a moral system did exist outside of humanity, how would you justify a claim that it is morally true? Immorality could also exist outside of human, so how do we differentiate between moral and immoral in this context?

The appeal is to a shared subjective opinion. The way you justify a subjective morality is by finding agreement through free debate and free consent.

However, an objective morality is just what you describe. People should be forced to follow an objective morality no matter how they feel about it because it is objectively moral.

The standards are empathy, sapience, and the human experience.

Perhaps you could give us a functioning example of objective morality and we will discuss how it holds up.

So for all we know God’s nature could be immoral and we wouldn’t know it? Following commands is not morality.

Also, who defines what God’s nature is? From what I have seen, humans do.

If you can’t determine if something is immoral or moral using your standards, then why call them standards?

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Then He commands it for a reason and it is those reasons which distinguish it from the arbitrary dictates of social convention. Of course we would have to examine those reasons since the devil has reasons for the things he commands as well.

In other words, dictated by the whims of those who dictate this so-called nature.

The thus the “do as I say but not as I do” morality of the hypocrite is enshrined and given a stamp of “divine authority.”

So since the nature of the devil is external to humanity His commands are therefore an objective standard. And such a refutation of any challenges to his “morality” is exactly what I would expect to hear from the devil.

Of course, I am not siding with @T_aquaticus . I think there are objective aspects to morality to be found in the reasons why some things are better than other things. I would justify a claim to better morality in the demonstration of how it makes for a better community and life for those in it. He thinks that is only a subjective difference and I think it is measurable.

I think this comes down to what is meant by an “object” X being personal or having personhood. I have been using these terms to mean that X possesses sufficient personal characteristics. (I recognize that what constitutes “sufficient” is not rigorously defined. After all, some nonhuman animals and some robots could be said to possess certain personal characteristics, but not enough to call them persons. Where the sharp line is and what’s in the “personhood set” I’m not sure I can define at this moment. I welcome suggestions for improvement there.) Of the 3 claims that you attributed to me (‘some moral standards involve actions directed at persons,’ ‘some moral standards are personal,’ and ‘the moral standard is a person’), I have meant instances of the first one to illustrate the truth of the second, and considering the above definitions, I view the second and third as equivalent.
Perhaps a more precise way to state the claim would be that the ultimate moral standard possesses the moral characteristics of the actions involved, or else it could not be the standard for those actions (the standard might also possess many other, possibly unrelated, characteristics). If those characteristics were not part of the nature of the standard, then the standard would have to “borrow” those characteristics from somewhere else; but then that “somewhere else” would be the real moral standard. This would lead us to contradict our assumption that the standard in question is the ultimate standard. This is why I connect “some moral standards are personal” to “some moral standards are persons” (that is, they possess sufficient personal characteristics).
Now, by virtue of the uniqueness portion of TAG that there cannot be multiple ultimate standards, any level of personhood present in any moral act must be present in the same moral standard. Thus, the one standard would possess as much personhood as the collection of all moral acts. Further, other moral standards (such as those governing any nonhuman morality) must have their moral characteristics also wrapped up in the same standard as above. These nonhuman moral characteristics, whatever they may be, supplement and do not contradict the personal characteristics which the standard possesses. The standard is still unique. Thus even allowing for the existence of any nonpersonal moral acts does not introduce the problem of having some other standard be a nonhuman animal.

“I would argue that no such system exists.” My argument was about any moral system, whether subjective or objective, whether of humanity or some other moral creatures. If any kind of morality exists at all, then we can collect some subset of the moral principles into a moral system. My argument applies to both objective and subjective systems, and I intended it to show an incoherence, a contradiction, in subjective moral systems.
There must be some ultimate moral standard. If there were no standards at all, then there would be no morality. And if there is at least one moral standard, then among the existing standards, one of them must be the highest (I’m assuming there are finitely many standards). My TAG argument simply selects whichever standard is the highest, and the argument proceeds from there.
“The appeal is to a shared subjective opinion.” Could we define the ultimate moral standard to be “shared subjective opinion?” Let’s start that way and see what happens. What if a majority of people then disagree with that statement? We are led to a contradiction: the statement would have us affirm the shared opinion, but that shared opinion would have us then affirm the negation of itself. So this definition is not robustly coherent.
Further, even if somehow a majority of people always agree that shared subjective opinion must be the standard, there is nothing to obligate universal agreement. What if (hypothetical) Bob refuses to agree? Sure, the majority who are in agreement can punish him (lightly or severely), but that doesn’t solve the problem. Why would the majority be right to punish Bob? They would be appealing to the moral principle that Bob ought to follow their agreed upon morals even if he doesn’t like them. This appeal is to a moral principle. If it were not an objective principle but were instead part of their subjective system, then as Bob refuses to be part of their system, this principle by definition does not apply to him. In that case, they would be punishing someone just because they, collectively, agree to. Bob wouldn’t be objectively guilty of anything. If he is only subjectively guilty, what right does the majority have to inflict punishment? If they have no right to do it, then by definition they are wrong to do it. If they have the right, is that right part of their subjective system? If so, then once again it does not apply to Bob, so their right would not extend to him. And if they have the right objectively, then that right is an objective moral principle. Shared subjective opinion cannot deal with disagreement in a logically consistent manner.
If shared subjective opinion were defined to be the ultimate moral standard, then consider changes in societal opinion. If societal opinion changed, it would be possible to ask which opinion is better (the old or new), but that would mean we are measuring both by something higher, meaning that neither one is ultimate, a contradiction. Or it would mean that there is a time dependence in morality, that genuine right and wrong actually changes over time (for example, atrocities of ancient civilizations would have actually been right at the time – not just accepted or tolerated, but right. They no longer are, but they were then. I don’t see this being argued for). Since societal and individual opinions do change, in order to avoid these problems, the standard must be based on something outside of itself, thus be objective.
About shared subjective opinion, the meta questions can be asked, “what makes shared subjective opinion the standard? By what (other) standard can it be declared the standard?” If there is another one, then shared subjective opinion is not the standard after all, and we have a contradiction. If there is no other standard, and shared subjective opinion is the self-defining ultimate standard, then the argument fails for (at least) the reasons in the previous paragraph.
“So for all we know God’s nature could be immoral…” If He is the definition of morality, then no, by definition He could not be immoral. This is what it means to be the definition. It would be like me saying that the definition of the best music is being the most like John Coltrane; in that case, John Coltrane’s music is the best. Whether or not the definition makes logical sense is another matter, and that is why here I try to show that defining morality via shared subjective opinion is logically incoherent.
Your question about God’s potential immorality seeks to evaluate the definition with an apparently deeper definition, but this is a contradiction. My original TAG argument is selecting the ultimate definition, one which has nothing higher by which it can be judged by definition. The definition is just the definition; if we seek to evaluate that definition by some other standard, then we have contradicted ourselves by using that second set of criteria as the “real” definition.
I think what you mean is that God’s nature might be something that we humans don’t like. That is quite a different observation. I think there are aspects of God’s nature that some people don’t like (for example, many resist Him as being their master, and indeed I believe all resist Him in some ways – Romans 3:23), so this is more than just hypothetical. Indeed, if God exists, then this would be an immense spiritual problem. Since I do believe the Christian God exists, I encourage others to avoid this and to accept Jesus’ atoning of our resistance of God. But this is all beside the point of TAG. Any morality, even subjective morality, must be defined by something. If you say the definition is societal agreement, then the same questions that you asked of God could be asked of societal agreement: could it be “actually immoral” and we not know it? What I try to show in the above paragraphs is that defining morality in shared subjective opinion leads to irredeemable intellectual conclusions.
Similarly, you ask if God could be “actually immoral.” Again, this seeks to evaluate God by a higher standard, which is a contradiction, but let me add to my comments above. Your definition of “actually immoral” is presumably “against what (a certain) society (currently) agrees upon.” In other words, you think that God should bend to society instead of the other way around. This means that you have assumed that humanity itself is the ultimate standard, the supreme authority: this makes humanity into “God,” according to the definition in TAG, thus assuming that a God external to humanity is impossible. Being an assumption, it is made before the argument even begins. That assumption is therefore neither rationally unbiased nor neutral in a discussion about whether or not a God external to humanity exists. It is not a better starting place than anywhere else.
“The standards are empathy, sapience, and the human experience.” I have similar comments here. You imply that these are objective standards, but then objective morality exists. If these are subjective standards, then someone can disagree with and even oppose them while maintaining moral innocence.
“Also, who defines what God’s nature is?” If God is the ultimate standard, as I have defined Him to be in this argument, then He is self-defining. If He is defined by something else, then that something else is actually the ultimate, so that something else was actually God all along, and again we arrive at a contradiction. The ultimate existence, whatever you call it, must be self-defining.
It seems that much of this comes down to the proper use of the definitions as given in the argument.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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