Archive for the ‘God the ground of morality’ Category

There can be no source for …moral judgments except the scientist himself

October 11, 2009

The scientist can now play God in his role as wonder-worker, but can he – and should he – also play God as moral arbiter?…F. In traditional religion, morality was held to derive from God, but God was only credited with the authority to establish and enforce moral laws because He was also credited with supernatural powers of creation and destruction. Those powers have now been usurped by man, and he must take on the moral responsibility that goes with them.

Edmund Leach, “We Scientists Have the Right to Play God,” The Saturday Evening Post, November 16, 1968, p. 16

Moral sense innate to all men

September 11, 2009

Man was destined for society. His morality, therefore, was to be formed to this object. He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this. This sense is as much a part of his nature, as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality… The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or less degree. It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. This sense is submitted indeed in some degree to the guidance of reason; but it is a small stock which is required for this: even a less one than what we call Common sense. State a moral case to a ploughman and a professor. The former will decide it as well, and often better than the latter, because he has not been led astray by artificial rules.

Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1787.

Yet Jefferson sees morality in terms of its benefits to society, primarily it seems here. This is seen to in this quote:

God has formed us moral agents… that we may promote the happiness of those with whom He has placed us in society, by acting honestly towards all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own.

Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, 1814

I sincerely… believe… in the general existence of a moral instinct. I think it the brightest gem with which the human character is studded, and the want of it as more degrading than the most hideous of the bodily deformities.

Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Law, 1814. ME 14:143 similar quotes here

Morality is relative when morality is human.

September 11, 2009

Morality is relative because morality is human.

David Starkey, Soul of Britain, 2000, BBC1

But how does he know morality is (of) human (origin)? His conclusion, ‘morality is relative’, follows from the premise ‘morality is human’; but this is a major claim to knowledge – ironically, an omniscient claim.

Why should one tell the truth if it’s to one’s advantage to tell a lie?

Wittgenstein, aged 8 or 9 in Wittgenstein, Ray Monk, p.3

No reason if morality is human.

I feel murder is bad, but maybe you don’t

September 11, 2009

Take any action allow’d to be vicious: Willful murder, for instance.  Examine it in all lights, and see if you can find that matter of fact, or real existence, which you call vice . . . You can never find it, till you turn your reflexion into your own breast, and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which arises in you, toward this action.   Here it is a matter of fact; but ’tis the object of feeling, not reason.

David Hume

Since there is nothing but one person’s ‘disapprobation’ and another’s approval of an action, then there is not higher standard by which to judge. I like chocolate ice-cream, you like vanilla – there isn’t a ‘right’ flavour. I don’t like murdering children, some people do. (‘Ought’ is not derived from ‘is’.)

If all I can do, as Hume is saying, is look within, then the child killer may feel justified. Ultra relativism is the end product.

There are no moral phenomena, only a moral interpretation of phenomena.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 108

How to behave when one does not believe in God or reason

September 11, 2009

I am not a philosopher, because I don’t believe in reason enough to believe in a system. What interests me is knowing how we must behave, and more precisely, how to behave when one does not believe in God or reason.

Albert Camus, address to foreign students in Aix-en-Provence, in Olivier Todd, p.408

Francine, Camus’ 2nd wife (he had numerous lovers, yet was wounded when he himself ws betrayed), said to him: ‘How can you write about love when you are incapable of it? ibid.,p.405

Why should I ask God to make me good when I want to be naughty?

September 10, 2009

Probably upon no subject ever discussed through the length and breadth of the globe has there been expended a fiercer hubbub of words than upon this— the foundations of morality. ‘Why should I ask God to make me good when I want to be naughty?” asked the little girl. All the wise men of the world are put to silence by this childish query. A parliament of philosophers will not resolve it. When we set out in search of an answer we are, like the rebel angels in Milton’s Pandemonium, in wand’ring mazes lost.

W. Macneile Dixon,  The Human Situation

The eternal problem of the basis of morality

September 10, 2009

The universe is not absurd in itself, any more than it is yellow or sugary: it simply is. Life and the world have a meaning for the believer who has a code of conduct in the Gospels based on the word of Christ. Camus’ anguish came from the fact that no morality was imposed by an atheist or agnostic’s world…For Camus, truth existed in the sciences, but not a single truth…Both (Sartre and Camus) confronted the eternal problem of the basis of morality if one does not believe in God.

Camus’ biographer, Olivier Todd, pp.145, 156

Needless to say, neither found that basis and no one ever will.

When I invoke words such as ought I appeal to a standard

September 10, 2009

When I invoke words such as ought and good I at least seek to appeal to a standard which has other and more authority.

MACINTYRE, Alasdair, A Short History of Ethics, (1967) p.265

I have no answer

September 10, 2009

When I ask myself why I have always behaved honourably, ready to spare others and to be kind whenever possible, and why I did not give up doing so when I observed that in that way one harms oneself and becomes an anvil because other people are brutal and untrustworthy, then, it is true, I have no answer.

Sigmund Freud, writing to James Putnam, neurologist

To say, ‘I have no answer’ to the question, ‘Why should I be good?’ is hardly a small matter. It leaves the sort of vacuum that coercion or anarchy (or both) will fill – as we see.

God the source of ethics

August 24, 2009

Is “the . . . holy . . . beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods?

Plato, “Euthyphro,” The Works of Plato, ed. by B. Jowett (New York: Dial, n.d.) 3:77.

Now the Christian has a ready answer to this question. Not only is the God of Christian
theism the Governor of the world; He is also the final Legislator. It is His will that
establishes the rightness or wrongness of all human deportment. His will determines the
norms of morality. Nothing is right or wrong in and of itself. An act is right if God says
it is right, wrong if God says it is wrong. There is no law outside of or above God which
distinguishes between piety and impiety. Hence, for the Christian the answer is
obvious—a thing is holy because God loves (decrees) it as such

Robert Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed,
1979) 82.

Goodness is not independent of God by which He can be judged, rather goodness and morality flow from His character.