Why I changed my mind


I don’t see how you get from 3 to 4. Could you explain that?


Because a “set of Laws” can itself be evaluated by…what, a higher set? So you either have “no objective morality at all” or a Source of morality that is not a set of rules. Lewis makes the leap that the Source is a Lawgiver.

(John Dalton) #303

I don’t think that there is an “objective morality”, or that we need it to have morality–but that is a big leap. We must accept that the Lawgiver exists as a matter of belief, and it’s not explicit what the Law is. Obvious moral problems like punching people in the face can be dealt with by basing morality on obvious physical and rational truths. If the Lawgiver has also given us our ability to make moral evaluations, it’s hard to see how we could have any moral agency. It seems more like wishful thinking than reality–if one insists on the objective part. I don’t really understand the insistence on it, as opposed to a moral system that simply looks to give us moral guidance.


I would agree that it is a leap which is why I don’t see how you can get from 3 to 4, with 4 being God. It seems to hinge on the English words “law” and “lawgiver”, as if having the same three letters in each word means that they must be connected. It smells of conflation and equivocation.

If the “Lawgiver” were something as simple as logic and reason, that would be one thing. At least in my view, any being with the ability to feel empathy towards others and the ability to use reason and logic would arrive at a moral code all on their own. The way in which we judge morals is based on empathy and reason which gives rise to ideas of justice and fairness.

If we do follow the Moral Argument, you would also have to ask where the Lawgiver got those laws. It would seem that the Lawgiver would have to use something outside of itself to determine if the laws are good. If the Lawgiver simply chose morals at random with no source to guide them and programmed us to follow these arbitrary rules, does that sound like “goodness”? It seems that this would replace morality with obedience. It would also require an external set of standards outside of the Lawgiver to determine if his character was good.

I also don’t want to discount CS Lewis’ work sense he did make important and sincere contributions. Morality is a tough subject to dig into, and it has been a hotly debated topic since humans were able to debate.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #305

Here is the deal with me. Anyone who argues (on the one hand) for a universal morality, a standard of universal goodness that is ingrained in each human, and on the other, justifies killing the little kids and all of the Old Testament atrocities, is just a spinster. Yes, WLC is a skill orator, well versed in the Bible and philosophical concepts. However, that does not make him a genius and due to his allegiance to the Bible (and to the Holy Spirit) he is forced to defend the indefensible.


I think that’s a misuse of Lewis’s argument. He’s not saying that “because there’s a Lawgiver we can know all of objective morality”; he’s saying “because we have an innate sense of objective morality, we can posit a Lawgiver.”


I don’t necessarily disagree with you on that.

Not at all. Maybe I missed this part–the Lawgiver defines “good” by his character which is good. It’s not that he “has laws.” It’s that in his essence he defines what “good” is.


So you’re suggesting that you know what is objectively good and can pass judgment on what you read in the Bible? Based on what?

(John Dalton) #309

I understand what you mean, but it’s a weak argument. The difference between an objective morality that we can’t know and no objective morality isn’t apparent to me.

That’s begging the question. If we assume that we have “an innate sense of objective morality” then we need something to explain it. Why can’t we simply have an innate sense of morality? We seem to.

I don’t have to know what’s objectively good. But I can make moral assessments based on my life experience and knowledge of reality. Can’t we all? Could the Bible or any book have any moral value other than that of the diktat if we couldn’t?


How do you determine that his character is good? Doesn’t that require some moral standard outside of and independent of the Lawgiver?

(John Dalton) #311

I’ll try my hand at a theological tie-in here :astonished: I think @GJDS said I should once :slight_smile: “The tree of knowledge of good and evil” is certainly interestingly named in this context. Could a loss of absolute morality have been part of the fall? Certainly if God exists he surely has pretty strong opinions on the subject, which I can see as being as much as absolute to us. But we don’t seem able to access the opinions in a direct way. Could our moral sense be what we have to make do with as a result of the fall? Might have we had direct knowledge of a more perfect morality otherwise?


But…that’s not the argument…that’s the point. Lewis is not saying “there’s an objective morality that we all can know because there is a Lawgiver.”

Sure. I think we have fora like this because of curiosity on such questions. “That’s just the way it is” usually isn’t good enough for me. Consider though, that I grew up in a Christian context and all my struggles and questions were largely “from within.” For Lewis, though, that’s not the case. He approached Christianity from the outside, as an atheist. I’m sure this question had significance for him.

Again, “knowing what is objectively good” is not at all the point of the argument.

That’s not the point of the argument. The argument is not about “evaluating the Lawgiver.” The point is that the Lawgiver gives a reasonable source for our innate sense of morality.

(John Dalton) #313

But again, if we don’t know what is objectively good, what use is the existence of an objective good to us? What practical effect does it have? How does it inform our everyday moral assessments?

But it’s not the only possible reasonable source. Our ability to perceive the effects actions have on ourselves, group members, and others, combined with our evolution as social animals with strong innate feelings about proper interactions between people, serve amply.


Once again, that is tangential to the argument.

The argument is not “we pursue what is objective good.”

The argument is: since we all have an innate sense of good, how can we explain it? A Lawgiver. Thus: God exists.

The argument is not to “prove objective morality.” The argument is to prove the existence of God.

Lewis says no. Our evolutionary instincts are sometimes at odds. Self-preservation vs. saving the life of another–two instincts, one demonstrably stronger. And yet it is “good” to risk life to save the boy in front of the bus.

(John Dalton) #315

We don’t need a sledgehammer to explain a dent in my fender.

The argument is not to “prove objective morality.” The argument is to prove the existence of God.

Yet, one must show that the objective morality exists if the argument is to have any force.

Of course they are. But we are social animals. Our self-preservation instinct is not the only thing driving us, and much more so than any other mammal–arguably a key factor in our undeniable success in comparison to them.


No, but you look for a reasonable explanation. Don’t you? You might not track down the culprit in the parking lot if it’s not worth the effort to you, but if you came out of Walmart and your car was totalled the stakes would be higher.

For Lewis (and many others) the stakes are high.

And Lewis gives thought experiment evidence for that…as I’ve already mentioned. If there’s no objective morality, you have no legitimate complaint if someone punches you in the face. Not really.

Exactly the point. Competing instincts. And we evaluate somebody’s actions as “good” or “bad” in spite of the conflict of instincts. There is a “good” or “right” course of action and a “bad” or “wrong” course of action–but both courses of action are motivated by instinct.

So what makes the one course of action “good” and the other “bad”?


It seems sort of circular if the Lawgiver is defined as the source of the laws. If the Lawgiver is human reason and empathy, then I would agree that it is a reasonable source.


That creates more problems. If God doesn’t exist, then human reason and empathy are the results of blind chance and natural selection. Trustworthy? Valid? Objective?


Why would morality need to be objective? I’ve never understood that part of the moral argument, either. That seems to be more of a preference than anything else.

As to trustworthy and valid, it would seem that natural selection is a great mechanism for doing just that thing. If our brains were not capable of some level of reason then we wouldn’t survive very long, especially within a species that has become dependent on that very thing. We can also verify that our sense of empathy works by finding out how people really do feel, and for the most part human empathy appears to work just fine. I would also think that natural selection would select for an accurate sense of empathy in a species that requires social cooperation, such as that found in human societies.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #320

I think your last statement above (about ‘preference’) answers the first. If morality is not objective then ‘preference’ is indeed all it is … even if it is a long-ingrained widespread cultural preference, but only a preference nonetheless … nothing more than the emanations of our current cultural milieu. So in that sense, by definition then, there is no such thing as morality apart from objectivity. Either objective morality exists; or no real morality exists at all. What you would like to call “non-objective morality” we should instead call “current preferences of our local majority”.

One other thing was mentioned above:

Logic and reason cannot get you to any moral imperative of any kind. It has to have premises to work with that will come from quite outside of any logic or reason. Reason is a tool that helps thinkers get more efficiently to various intellectual destinations, but it can never (without critical imported premises to work with) provide you with an “ought” any more than a bicycle or automobile can tell you which restaurant you should go to. It may help you get there more efficiently to be sure; but it says nothing about whether your destination was good or bad.