A Quick and Easy Refutation of Theologically-Grounded Ethics?

According to many skeptics, including many philosophers, the idea that God is the foundation of morality can be refuted according to the Euthyphro dilemma (ED). Socrates, in Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue (10a), asked: “Is what is holy holy because the gods approve it, or do they approve it because it is holy?” In modern times this has been rephrased in various ways. Here’s one: “Is what is good good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?”

Is this a good objection? It all depends on the details. As I showed in an earlier post, “Taxonomy of Theistic Meta-ethics,” there are a variety of theories about how God or some fact about God might be the foundation for morality (or, to be more precise, moral properties). One of the oldest and simplest versions is the Divine Command Theory (DCT-D) of moral obligation: moral properties like required, permitted, and forbidden are metaphysically grounded in God’s commands. In my opinion, the ED is a successful objection to DCT-D. Probably most philosophers, including most theistic philosophers, would agree. But most theists–at least most theistic philosophers who write about metaethics–reject DCT-D as such. Indeed, while I don’t know this for sure, I suspect that the ED was one of the reasons Christian philosopher Robert Adams was motivated to develop his Modified Divine Command Theory (MDCT-D).

But, as shown by just a cursory glance at my taxonomy, there are many other theistic metaethical theories besides DCT–D. So even if ED refutes DCT-D, it doesn’t follow that all of the other theories have been refuted. Some philosophers–again, including some Christian philosophers–have argued that a modified version of ED can be used to refute MDCT-D. Even if that is so, however, that would still leave untouched other theistic metaethical theories, including Divine Will Theories (DWTs) and the Divine Nature Theory (DNT) of moral goodness.

Can the ED be modified in other ways to refute these other theories? Perhaps. But this needs to be shown, not assumed. Woe to the skeptic who naively assumes that trotting out the ED somehow refutes all of the various theories about how morality might depend on God!

My advice: if you’re going to make an objection to a theory, make sure your objection actually applies to the theory!

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Keith Parsons

    Jeff,

    The essential problem raised by the ED is how to negotiate between tautology and irrelevance when speaking of the goodness of God. If God is good, then God’s will must be good. If God’s will is good, indeed essentially good as theists claim, then some good-making quality or qualities must necessarily be predicated of God’s will. For instance, for Kant, what makes a will good is that it is a pure intention to act in accordance with the form of the Moral Law, i.e. to act upon a maxim that is consistently universalizable. For an Aristotelian, what makes a will good is that it aims at the realization of the human telos–human flourishing (eudaimonia).

    The problem raised by the ED is whether we are to define the good-making qualities in terms of God’s will. If we do define those predicates in terms of God’s will, then, to turn around and describe God’s will as good, would seem to risk tautology. If, on the other hand, those predicates are not defined in terms of God’s will, then we can, in principle, dispense with reference to God’s will when talking about goodness. Even if God is essentially good, and even if he, as creator, is the source of all goodness, the nature of the good-making predicates can be discussed without reference to God. In other words, it will be possible to develop a secular metaethical theory that explicates the nature of goodness with no essential reference to God, as, for instance, Kant does. I think that some version of the ED will therefore be a problem for any metaethical theory that holds that goodness is, in principle, inexplicable without reference to God.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      For the sake of discussion, let’s divide moral properties into two categories: (1) axiological properties (moral values) and (2) deontic properties (moral obligations). So we can pose two versions of the ED:

      ED1: Is what is good good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

      ED2: Is what is obligatory obligatory because God commands it, or does God command it because it is obligatory?

      Typically when we talk about divine command theories (modified or not), we are talking about DCTs of deontic properties. In other words, DCTs are typically theories about the metaphysical grounding of moral obligation ONLY, not moral obligation plus moral value.

      It seems to me that a divine command theorist has two routes to avoid the ED. The first is to adopt a “Divine Independence Theory” (DIT) of moral goodness and say that moral goodness is autonomous, i.e., not metaphysically grounded in God or God’s nature. The second is to adopt a “Divine Nature Theory” (DNT) of moral goodness and say that moral goodness is metaphysically grounded in God’s nature. Notice, however, that both approaches entail that neither God’s commands nor God’s will determines what is morally good (or bad).

      So in response to ED2, the divine command theorist could (and, I think, would) take the first horn of the dillema: what is morally obligatory is morally obligatory because God commands it. By itself, DCT-D (or MDCT-D) do NOT make God’s goodness a tautology since, by definition, DCT-D does not claim that divine commands are the metaphysical ground of moral goodness. In fact, divine command theorist could consistently affirm both DCT (or MDCT) and DIT. On that view, moral obligation would depend on God, while moral goodness would be independent of God. (I could be mistaken, but I think this is the route Robert Adams takes.)

      What about ED1? While I think I have found one author who advocates a divine command theory of axiology (DCT-A), that seems to be a rarity. The majority of theists who think moral values depend on God seem to endorse something like DNT. As I said, there may be a way to modify ED to get a good objection to DNT. But it’s clear that ED1 and ED2 won’t do the job.

      • sam

        To the extent that I could follow, it isn’t clear to me how DNT provides an objective source of morality. If someone argues that altruism is objectively good because we evolved altruistic instincts, she would be committing the genetic, or naturalistic fallacy.

        Similarly, if someone argues that rape & torture are objectively good because they issue forth from, or are metaphysically part of, the Divine Nature, it isn’t clear how you can derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’. Rape & torture _are_ part of the Divine Nature, therefore we _ought_ to rape & torture. Is this not a super-naturalistic fallacy?

        I dont’ see how theists find this an acceptable escape from the ED, but then I’m no philosopher.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Hi Sam — While most non-philosophers just think of “morality,” philosophers make a distinction between the good (moral values) and the right (moral duties or obligations). Some action can be morally good without being morally obligatory. For example, it might be morally good for me to donate all of my money to the poor, but I have no moral obligation to do that. That would be “above and beyond the call of duty” — what philosophers call a “supererogatory act.” So the first step when we talk about moral argument for God’s existence is to clarify which moral properties the argument is about.

          Take this version of WLC’s moral argument for God’s existence.

          (1) If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.

          (2) Objective moral values exist.

          (3) Therefore, God exists.

          This is an argument about moral values, not moral obligations. (In fact, Craig even refers to this argument as an axiological argument, i.e., a values argument.)

          WLC’s stated position is that objective moral values are rooted in God’s nature. In other words, Craig adopts what Steve Lovell and I call the Divine Nature Theory (DNT) of moral goodness. On his view, moral goodness is determined by the nature or character of God. Craig also adopts the modified Divine Command Theory of moral obligation (MDCT-D). In other words, moral obligations are determined by the commands of a loving God.

          So, on WLC’s view, we have two pieces of data to explain and two theories to explain them.

          #1: Moral values (explained by DNT)

          #2: Moral obligations (explained by MDCT-D)

          Let’s take moral obligations first. Here is ED2.

          ED2: Is what is obligatory obligatory because God commands it, or does God command it because it is obligatory?

          WLC seems to be committed to the view that what is morally obligatory is obligatory because God commands it. This is supposed to be a “bad” option for the theist, since it implies that literally anything could be obligatory if commanded by God. But, on WLC’s view, this isn’t a real option, since God is unable to command anything which is not morally good.

          So let’s turn to moral values. Here is ED1.

          ED1: Is what is good good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is good?

          Again, this version of the ED doesn’t apply to WLC’s position, since Craig never claims that God’s commands create moral values. So let’s try a new version of the ED.

          ED3: Is God (or His nature) good because His nature fulfills a standard independent of His will or nature, or is the fact that God has a certain kind of character itself the standard of goodness?

          Craig might reply that God is good because He is benevolent, merciful, and just. The question then arises: If God is good because he is benevolent, merciful, and just, then why do we need God’s nature to ground moral values? It seems that benevolence, mercy, and justice are doing the real work, not the fact that they are part of God’s nature (if, in fact, they are).

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Hi Jeffery,

            Craig claims that qualities like “compassion, fairness, generosity, etc.” are good because they’re found in God’s nature.

            I would say that Craig’s theory flies on the face of our moral sense, as hypothetical scenarios show.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Angra — Thanks for the link. Can you please elaborate on your last sentence?

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            You’re welcome. I meant that one can construct hypothetical scenarios without God, in which our intuitions are that some people and/or some of their qualities are good (e.g., let’s assume God does not exist, and consider a person who is just and kind to children; intuitively, those are good qualities).

            If you like, I post a link to an example I posted in a reply to Craig’s argument I wrote if you like, or if you prefer I can copy and paste it here (the example is not long, but the format, context and references would be lost, and the context is rather long)

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Angra — Posting a link or copying-and-pasting is fine with me.

            I’m not sure I understand where you’re headed with this though. You write:

            one can construct hypothetical scenarios without God, in which our intuitions are that some people and/or some of their qualities are good (e.g., let’s assume God does not exist, and consider a person who is just and kind to children; intuitively, those are good qualities).

            One worry I have about this response is that it seems to beg the question against Craig. Craig believes that God’s existence is necessary, so he rules out the metaphysical possibility of a world without God. But let’s put that aside. We seem to have a standoff between DNT theorists who want to say that moral values can only exist with God and critics who say that moral values can exist without God. Perhaps your point is that the conceivability of moral values without God is a reason for believing that moral values without God are possible?

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Okay, thanks, so here’s a link to the relevant part.
            I address the worry about the alleged metaphysical necessity of God there, but Craig himself, in order to defend his first premise, tries to appeal to intuitions in order to show that in scenarios in which God does not exist, there are no objective moral values and duties. My reply is that in scenarios in which God does not exist, intuitively there are. If there is anything wrong about making assessments in those scenarios, Craig’s defense of the first premise fails on account of that.
            Yes, granted, someone might bite the bullet and insist that DCT is true even if Craig’s argument fail. In that case, I would still say that there is nothing wrong in principle with making assessments in hypothetical scenarios in order to test philosophical theories without taking a stance beforehand on whether the scenario is metaphysically impossible, so whoever says that there is a problem in the particular case of testing Craig’s metaethical theory would have to argue for that conclusion.

            Regarding conceivability, I would go beyond that. I would say that it seems strongly counterintuitive that in such scenarios, the qualities in question would not be good, but they would be in the scenario in which God exists.

            Yes, granted, someone might say that they have a different intuition. But that might pretty much always be said.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Update: I further elaborated on the issue of the acceptability of making assessments in a scenario in which God does not exist. The link to the updated version is here (the link I provided earlier still works, in case someone prefers shorter version).

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            “Scanerio 1:God exists, and Bob is kind to children and just.
            Scenario S2:
            God does not exist, but instead there is a creator who doesn’t care about right or wrong, who created humans and other beings for his own personal amusement watching them struggle.
            Alice is even kinder to children than Bob is in scenario S1, and just as just as Bob is in scenario S1.”

            The problem here is you have phrased the examples in the indicative. “God does not exist”
            However, there is an important distinction which needs to be made between subjunctive and indicative conditionals. Consider:

            [1] If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy on November 22, 1963 then someone else did

            [2] If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy on November 22, 1963 someone else would have.

            [1] is an indicative and is pretty evidently true, but [2] is a
            subjunctive conditional and not obviously true. If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy his car would probably have passed by that day without incident.With an indicative conditional, the antecedent may or may not be true according to the speaker, the conditional simply indicates what is in fact the case if the antecedent is in fact true.
            However with the subjunctive conditional the speaker is speaking with a certainty that Oswald did shoot Kennedy and asks what counterfactual results would have occurred if this antecedent had not occurred. Now take the claim that:

            [1]’ If God does not exist then moral obligations do not exist

            [2]’If God did not exist then moral obligations would not exist.

            I agree that its intuitively obvious that [1]’ is false , if one is simply asserting the indicative conditional about what in fact that is case if God does not exist, then the denial of [1] is plausible. The problem is a DCT is compatible with [1]’

            What’s entailed by a DCT is the subjunctive conditional [2,] the person who asserts subjunctive conditional is asserting that God in fact does exist, and is asking what the world would be like if he did not. And its not obvious to me at all that [2] is false. If one accepts that God actually exists in the actual world, and nothing can come into existence or be sustained in existence without him then the claim that in worlds where God does not exist people exist with moral obligations is not obvious at all.

            This also explains my example about aristoleianism. When one distinguishes the indicative claim that : if atomism is false then water can exist without hydrogen. From the subjunctive claim, if hydrogen did not exist then water would not. One can understand why the counter example I provided above false to refute atomic theory.

            your examples are at best ambigious between the two.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            I address the matter of the conditional in my reply to Craig’s metaethical argument, in which he phrases his premise in the indicative. I do not object to that, since I think it’s a matter of style rather than substance – as long, of course, as one keeps in mind what the argument is about -, so I phrase my reply in the same manner, but that’s not a problem. I’m just using the same style as he’s using when addressing his argument – no fault in that.
            The disagreement is over substance, though, not style.

            So, if you raised the water example to illustrate that difference between the indicative and the subjunctive, I’m afraid you missed my point. While the use of the indicative may be unclear in some contexts, it was not so in the context of my reply to Craig’s metaethical argument, given that he uses the in which he uses the indicative as a matter of style in the second premise and considers scenarios using the indicative, and I specify that I’m considering scenarios without God in the way he’s doing so – plus, I specifically commented on the issue of style in one of the footnotes.

            So, I do realize the difference between indicative and subjunctive, and I also know that DCT is compatible with 1′ of course. The disagreement is about the subjunctive conditional, which Craig puts as an indicative.

            Now, you say it’s not obvious to you that at all that [2] is false. Well, I would say it is to me upon reflection at least. In my reply to Craig, I also do consider that someone might claim that they have different intuitions. As I pointed out there, I invite readers to make their own assessments.

            You also say that it’s not obvious at all that in worlds in which God does not exist, there are moral obligations. I would say that upon reflection, properly using our grasp of the terms and intuitions, it’s clear that in scenarios in which God does not exist there are moral obligations, since some entities would behave immorally (though in order to argue against Craig’s theory, it’s enough that entities would be morally good or bad in some such scenarios). [site note: I prefer 'scenarios' to 'worlds' just in case someone raises an objection to the use of worlds, based perhaps on some ontological views according to which talk of worlds is committed to some kind of ontology; I encountered such objections on line a couple of times. Yes, granted, someone might object to scenarios too, but that seems less probable - in any case, I argue against that]

            So, what we have is a disagreement, but not a confusion on my part between subjunctive and indicative.

            Incidentally, I added a few more scenarios and argumentation in support of my point.
            I do not expect our disagreement to go away, though, just as I would not expect to convince Craig himself; your views on this and many other issue are very similar to his, it seems to me.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            Angra, I think you missed my point about the subjunctive conditional. A subjunctive conditional differs from the indicative in that with an subjunctive the speaker grants that the antecedant is true, in the actual world, and asks what follows in counter factual situations.

            The problem is, as I suggested, if God exists in the actual world, then its true in the actual world that nothing could come into existence or be sustained in existence independently of God.

            So in a if God did not exist, no people would exist, no actions would exist, and I think in this situation its clear moral goodness and moral obligations would not exist.

            To get the conclusion you are proposing one has to assume that if God does not exist, people would exist and have certain psyological traits. But that seems to only be the case if you assume God does not exist in the actual world and hence you are not actually proposing the relevant subjunctive conditional. This kind of response only makes sense if the conditional is indicative.

            (This point btw is the basis of Wells and Baggetts criticism of Craig. )

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Matt,

            Sorry I had missed one of your replies, regarding the subjunctive conditional.

            Angra, I think you missed my point about the subjunctive conditional.

            Going by your most recent post, it seems so.

            A subjunctive conditional differs from the indicative in that with an subjunctive the speaker grants that the antecedant is true, in the actual world, and asks what follows in counter factual situations.

            Often yes, but it depends on the case.
            For example, someone may also consider counterfactuals from the perspective of other possible worlds as (say) those who propose a free will defense seem to do.
            Additionally, one may even consider subjunctive conditionals from scenarios such that one takes no stance as to whether they are possible, or even sometimes from impossible ones.

            The problem is, as I suggested, if God exists in the actual world, then its true in the actual world that nothing could come into existence or be sustained in existence independently of God.

            Under some definitions of God, sure.
            But it’s not clear to me that it follows from the GCB’s definition that Craig is using (i.e., that would need arguing).

            So in a if God did not exist, no people would exist, no actions would exist, and I think in this situation its clear moral goodness and moral obligations would not exist.

            I see. So, that’s what you were getting at. You’re right, I hadn’t understood your claim. I actually agree that if no agents existed, objective moral values would not exist, and objective moral duties would not exist, in the sense in which Craig uses the terms in the context of his metaethical argument.
            But I do not see how this is a problem for the objection I’m raising. If you like, I may put it this way:

            If God did not exist and some agents like the Dicks in my scenarios existed, then those Dicks would be morally bad people and would behave immorally. Those scenarios require no assumptions that contradict our intuitive grasp of moral concepts and/or moral intuitions.
            Also, they include no condition or set of conditions stating that it’s not the case that to be morally good is to resemble God in some way, or that it’s not the case that moral obligations are constituted by God’s commands, or any condition or set of conditions that entail, without any a priori assessments based on our intuitive grasp of moral concepts and/or moral intuitions, that it’s not the case that moral obligations are constituted by God’s commands, or that to be morally good is to resemble God in some relevant way – whatever that way might be.
            I do take our intuitive grasp of the relevant moral concepts and reflection – and moral intuitions, if needed beyond the intuitive grasp of moral concepts – as a proper guide to making moral assessments, and reckon on those grounds that in scenarios S3-S6, the Dicks involved are equally morally bad, etc., as specified above. After reaching that conclusion, I assess Craig’s ontological account, and reckon that it fails because of that reason; similarly, based on that conclusion, I reckon it’s not true as a universal claim that if God did not exist, then objective moral values would not exist. If God did not exist, in some scenarios objective moral values and/or duties would exist, and in some scenarios – like scenarios in which there are no minds at all – they would not.
            But the work here – i.e., the assessment on which I base the rejection of Craig’s account and first premise above – is done by an a priori assessment of some scenarios based on an intuitive grasp of moral concepts and/or moral intuitions, not just by conditions included in the definition of those scenarios and which do not need any such a priori assessment – which would be an improper way of objecting to Craig’s account.

            To get the conclusion you are proposing one has to assume that if God does not exist, people would exist and have certain psyological traits. But that seems to only be the case if you assume God does not exist in the actual world and hence you are not actually proposing the relevant subjunctive conditional. This kind of response only makes sense if the conditional is indicative.

            They would exist in some scenarios if we stipulate that, but not in others.
            I will need more time than I have to address the matter in greater detail, but for now, I will point out that:
            1. That limits the relevant subjunctive conditional to cases in which it’s assumed that God does not exist but not that other beings, like one of the Dicks, exists. But why would the subjunctive conditional in the context of a reply to DCT be limited in that fashion?
            2. A non-theist does not accept that If God did not exist, then no agents would exist, and I do not need to assume it in the context of my argument. Granted, a theist may well claim so, but then, it seems that that would have to be argued for separately.
            3. While the issue of whether DCT is true and whether a metaethical argument succeeds are different ones, your objection implicitly rules out Craig’s entire defense of the first premise of the metaethical argument, since the premise means (and is stated like that in the Craig-Law debate, in October, 2011; he also clarified that elsewhere (see below)) that if God did not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist.
            All of the arguments Craig gives in support of such premise are arguments in which God does not exist but some agents do. Yes, granted, a theist might try an inference to the best explanation ala Walls Baggetts. but in order to block my objection I’d say that they would need to argue for that (see above).

            (This point btw is the basis of Wells and Baggetts criticism of Craig. )

            Craig gives a brief reply to their book here. I’m afraid I can’t dedicate a proper amount of time to the matter at the moment.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            Angra

            First, its seems to me that for critique argument to
            work you have to assume theism is true for the sake of argument. Your argument is that if Craig’s thesis about the identity of goodness is true, then that has certain counter factual implications, and those implications are false. So in the context of this argument, you are assuming God does exist in the actual world and exploring the counter factual implications given that.

            Second, it seems to me your response compromises
            your objection question. You write

            That limits the relevant subjunctive
            conditional to cases in which it’s assumed that God does not exist but not that other beings, like one of the Dicks, exists. But why would the subjunctive conditional in the context of a reply to DCT be limited in that fashion? …If you like, I may put it this way: If God did not exist and some agents like the Dicks in my scenarios existed, then those Dicks would be morally bad people and would behave immorally. Those scenarios require no assumptions that contradict our intuitive grasp of moral concepts and/or moral intuitions.

            The problem is that this subjunctive conditional is
            compatible with Craig’s account of goodness and his DCT. Because, claiming axiological properties are identical with God’s nature and obligations identical with his commands, entails the counterfactul: if God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist.

            However, it does not entail that counterfactual if God does not exist, and human beings exist, then moral values and obligations don’t exist. So the denial of this latter conditional does not refute a DCT.

            While the issue of whether DCT is true and whether a metaethical argument succeeds are different ones, your objection implicitly rules out Craig’s entire defense of the first premise of the metaethical argument, since the premise means (and is stated like that in the Craig-Law debate, in October, 2011; he also
            clarified that elsewhere (see below)) that if God did not exist, objective moral values and duties would not exist. All of the arguments Craig gives in support of such premise are arguments in which God does not exist but some
            agents do.

            I agree those are separate issues, however I would say that any DC theorist (like myself) is commited to claiming Craig’s two premises are true ( or at least are true regarding obligations) even if they don’t function as a good theistic argument ( Philip Quinn makes this point) and for the record I am not convinced Craig has presented the argument the best way.

            However, in defence of Craig, it seems that in the relevant dialectical context he can argue this way. Suppose Craig provides arguments for the conclusion that that If God does not exist moral obligations do not exist, and he assumes as a premise that human beings can exist independently of God to do this. Unless his interlocutor is
            going to contend that humans cannot exist independently of God, they will have to accept the subjunctive conditional in question. [and if they reject the claim that humans can exist indepdently of God then he has a straightforward theistic argument from the existence of persons]

            (This point btw is the basis of Wells and Baggetts criticism of Craig. )

            Craig gives a brief reply to their book here.

            I know, I was attended session at the EPS at the panel where Walls and Baggett presented their critique of
            Craig and where he presented his extended response which that post is based on :-).

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Matt,

            I don’t assume beforehand that theism is true, or that it’s not. Rather, I make some considerations about the concepts of moral goodness, moral badness, etc., and based on that and some scenarios, I conclude that Craig’s claim about informative identification is in conflict with our said concepts.

            So, I’m not assuming that God exists in the actual world.

            That aside, in my experience it’s usually taken for granted that if God exists in the actual world (in the GCB understanding), then he exists necessarily. While I do not think this is crucial, in any case if it were, it would have to be argued for (and granted, someone might just define the word ‘God’ in modal terms to make sure he’s either impossible or necessary, but I think that that leads to coherency issues, other than the potential coherency issues in the GCB understanding).

            The problem is that this subjunctive conditional is compatible with Craig’s account of goodness and his DCT. Because, claiming axiological properties are identical with God’s nature and obligations identical with his commands, entails the counterfactul: if God does not exist objective moral values and duties do not exist.
            However, it does not entail that counterfactual if God does not exist, and human beings exist, then moral values and obligations don’t exist. So the denial of this latter conditional does not refute a DCT.

            I suppose you mean those as subjunctive conditionals?

            But my point is that the claim of DCT is not only about subjunctive conditionals, but rather, there is a claim of informative identification of moral goodness with resembling God, or something like that. My point is that the alleged identification flies on the face of our moral concepts. That does not seem to happen with the account of water in terms of H2O (see my other replies to your points), or with other accounts of informative identification.

            ETA: additionally, and upon further consideration of your formulation, given the informative identification, it seems also plausible that the second subjunctive conditional is also implied by DCT. Why would it not be?
            Perhaps a more precise formulation of what an account in terms of informative identification is would be required. In any case, I would go with my previous conceptual argument.

            I agree those are separate issues, however I would say that any DC theorist (like myself) is commited to claiming Craig’s two premises are true ( or at least are true regarding obligations) even if they don’t function as a good theistic argument ( Philip Quinn makes this point) and for the record I am not convinced Craig has presented the argument the best way.

            The theist would have to argue that if the GCB did not exist, no agents would exist.

            However, in defence of Craig, it seems that in the relevant dialectical context he can argue this way. Suppose Craig provides arguments for the conclusion that that If God does not exist moral obligations do not exist, and he assumes as a premise that human beings can exist independently of God to do this. Unless his interlocutor is going to contend that humans cannot exist independently of God, they will have to accept the subjunctive conditional in question. [and if they reject the claim that humans can exist indepdently of God then he has a straightforward theistic argument from the existence of persons]

            However, there is a problem with that. In the context of providing his arguments, he’s constructing scenarios in which our intuitive moral assessments say that those humans are behaving immorally, or in a morally good way, etc. Craig ignores that, but of course his interlocutors do not have to.

            In other words, Craig assumes scenarios where there are humans and there is no God, and Craig gives arguments [allegedly] in support of the conclusion that none of those humans would do anything immoral no matter what they do (for instance). But once those scenarios are assumed, his interlocutor may not only argue directly against his arguments, but also counter that our moral intuitions applied to those scenarios say that in those scenarios humans would be acting immorally, etc.

            For instance, in support of the second premise, Craig uses the example of the Holocaust, appealing to moral intuitions and/or our grasp of moral concepts to support the claim that the Holocaust was immoral and would have been immoral even if all humans believed otherwise. There is no problem with that, but what Craig does not point out is the fact that the same intuitions and/or grasp of the concepts also support the conclusion that the Holocaust was immoral, and would have been immoral even if humans were the only persons that actually exist.

            Yes, granted, a defender of Craig’s argument might say that his intuitions are different and doesn’t reach that conclusion. But for that matter, that move is always available – even someone rejecting the second premise might claim different intuitive assessments.

            As long as Craig considers those scenarios with God and without humans, the conclusions our moral intuitions or even grasp of moral concepts lead us to is a relevant matter that his interlocutors may bring to the table.

            Given that, and given how strong those intuitions are (yes, you or someone else might disagree on that; in that case, in the context of a debate his opponent may invite readers to make their own intuitive assessments, which is kind of what I would do), he’d be in trouble even if he had some significant evidence from those scenarios in support of his premise (but he doesn’t; he’s not even given good reasons for expecting that objective moral values (for instance) have a foundation in the relevant sense, let alone one that would meet the conditions he imposes on foundations).

            In short, the moment Craig considers a scenario with humans and no God, the use of our grasp of moral concepts and/or moral intuitions in those scenarios is surely on the table. Whether that use is also on the table as a means of arguing against Craig’s proposed informative identification is another matter.

            As I said earlier, I would say it’s plausible that it is, since it seems to show a conflict between our grasp of the concepts and the proposed informative identification. But even assuming that that is not the case (i.e., even assuming that it does not work against Craig’s DCT), it’s still usable against Craig’s argument in the dialectical contexts in which he makes his case.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            I have a strong intuition that if we lived in an Aristotelian world where atomic theory is false. Water would still exist.

            Does this mean water is not H20?

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            No, that does not work. I actually addressed that option in my reply to Craig.

            We do not have an intuitive means of properly ascertaining whether water is composed of. What we can tell, by means of our grasp of the terms and intuitions, is that we can’t tell a priori whether water is H2O (if you claim otherwise, then you’re pitting your odd intuition against modern chemistry; my money is on modern chemistry).

            On the other hand, we can properly make assessments in the case of morality, based on our own grasp of the terms. For example, if someone claimed that the ontological foundation of moral goodness is resemblance to a being – say, Pof –
            who is maximally powerful and maximally committed to eventually torturing all other intelligent beings for fun, we can tell by means of our intuitive assessment that that theory is false (clearly, this one would be even more obviously false than Craig’s).

            What I’m doing is applying the same method to Craig’s metaethical theory, as explained in the post I linked to. And yes, I know a theist can claim to have a different intuition, or no intuition at all. But for that matter, that can pretty much always be said, and for that matter moral disagreements
            abound, which would be no good argument against making moral claims. I invite readers to make their own assessments, but there is nothing improper about using our intuitions to test theories.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            I don’t think that response works.

            First, it’s true that we don’t have an intuitive grasp of
            properly ascertaining what water is constituted by. However, we do prior to any theorising about the nature of water have a lot of common-sense beliefs about water, by which to test any proposed theory as to its nature. We know for example that water is wet, that lakes, rivers and seas, contain water, that water is not posinous, that its clear colorless tastless liquid. It we know by intuition
            that water is identical only with water and not with the abstract object blue, and so on. We also have modal intutions about water.

            Our knowledge that water is H20 however is based on an inference to the best explanation. The theory that best explains these and numerous other facts about water is that water is H20.

            But the same is true with divine command meta-ethics. No divine command theorist I know of claims we have an intuitive means of ascertaining what constitutes moral obligations. Adam’s in fact rejects this claim. What
            they claim is that we have various common-sense beliefs about moral obligations. That its an objective property of actions, that it prescribes ourconduct, that it has overidding authority over us, that certain reactions
            rationally attach to violations of obligations such as guilt, blame, censure.That certain types of actions such as rape, theft, deception, murder and so on are contrary to our obligations, where as others such as telling the truth, seeking others good, are not. And so on.

            Divine command theorists maintian that our knowledge that moral obligations are identified with divine commands however is based on an inference to the best explanation. The theory that best explains these and numerous other facts about moral obligations are that moral obligations are divine commands

            Just as the theory that water is H20 is contrary to our modal intuitions that in a metaphysically impossible aristolean world where there is no hydrogen there would still be water. So a divine command theory contradicts your modal intiuition that in a metaphysically impossible naturalistic world, where there is no God, there would still be right and wrong.

            When we have a defensible theory about the nature of water which makes best sense of the commonsense beliefs we have, we don’t let modal intuitions about impossible counterfactuals where metaphysically false theories are true, refute the theory. So why should we with DCT?

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            First, it’s true that we don’t have an intuitive grasp of
            properly ascertaining what water is constituted by. However, we do prior to any theorising about the nature of water have a lot of common-sense beliefs about water, by which to test any proposed theory as to its nature. We know for example that water is wet, that lakes, rivers and seas, contain water, that water is not posinous, that its clear colorless tastless liquid. It we know by intuition
            that water is identical only with water and not with the abstract object blue, and so on. We also have modal intutions about water.

            I’m not entirely sure whether (or how much) we disagree on this (I’m not entirely clear as to how you construe ‘modal intuitions’, for example), though I think it might not be crucial.
            a. Some of those beliefs are not known to many people, today and specially historically (e.g. many don’t know that water fills oceans).
            b. I don’t know I would call them ‘modal intuitions about water’, but more about the term ‘water’. I would say that our grasp of the meaning of the term ‘water’ allows us to tell that if water is actually composed of XYZ, then it’s not possible that water may be composed of something else. (still, strictly speaking, we need empirical investigation for that too (e.g., what if it had turned out that the composition of water in different parts of the world was widely variable, etc.), but let’s say that under some usual assumptions we can say that).
            c. As for the issue of the color blue, I would say that our grasp of the meaning of the terms ‘blue’ and ‘water’ allows us to rule out that water is blue, etc.

            Our knowledge that water is H20 however is based on an inference to the best explanation. The theory that best explains these and numerous other facts about water is that water is H20.

            There is a difference between our knowledge about the composition of water and our knowledge that “water is H2O”; the former is discovered by science, the second is based on the first and an analysis of the meaning of the term “water”, but that aside, sure.

            But the same is true with divine command meta-ethics. No divine command theorist I know of claims we have an intuitive means of ascertaining what constitutes moral obligations.

            But that’s not the same. I’m not claiming or suggesting that any DCTist claims that.
            What I’m arguing is that we do have the means of making some assessments, which are sufficient to rule out some metaethical theories (I provided an example), and further, that Craig’s theory is one of those that we are in a position to rule out by means of reflection and our grasp of some of the relevant terms (moral terms in this case), which are in turn informed in this case by our moral intuitions.

            On the other hand, the theory that water is H2O is not one of the theories about water that we’re in a position to rule out – we have no such intuitions -, though you are correct that we can, for instance, rule out that water is the color blue, etc., so our grasp of the term ‘water’ also can be used to rule out some potential hypotheses. But not the hypothesis that water is H2O.

            Adam’s in fact rejects this claim. What
            they claim is that we have various common-sense beliefs about moral obligations.

            Sure. I don’t deny that, though I probably don’t agree with your views about what the common-sense beliefs are.

            That its an objective property of actions, that it prescribes ourconduct, that it has overidding authority over us, that certain reactions
            rationally attach to violations of obligations such as guilt, blame, censure.

            1. On the issue of objectivity, if by ‘objective’ you mean ‘mind-independent’, I do not know about that. I do think it’s the commonsense position (but that’s a starting place, not impervious to counterevidence if there were such evidence) that there is a fact of the matter as to whether, say, the Holocaust was immoral, or whether adult normal humans have a moral obligation not to torture people for fun, etc., and generally that moral matters are matters of fact, not matters of opinion.
            After analyzing Craig’s arguments in defense of the second premise, I would say it’s the commonsense position as long as it’s understood as my analysis concludes. If he goes beyond that, I would say that there seems to be no good reason to follow him. But a much more thorough analysis is in my reply to him.
            2. The expression ‘overriding authority’ is, in my experience, not precise enough to assess the matter at hand.
            3. If you’re saying that having feelings of guilt, blame or censure in all cases of violations of obligations is rational, sure. If you claim it’s necessarily irrational for any moral agent not to have them, I do not know about that. I think more knowledge of human psychology would be needed to address the matter (even if humans aren’t the only possible moral agents, they’re the ones we have access to).

            e.That certain types of actions such as rape, theft, deception, murder and so on are contrary to our obligations, where as others such as telling the truth, seeking others good, are not. And so on.

            I would agree that there are categories of actions such that all actions in the categories in question are immoral, and others such that no action in that category is. But I don’t agree with some of your categories, if they’re meant to be claims of necessity, or even that they’re actually so in practice in real life.
            For instance, I think not lying is sometimes against a person’s obligations (though not usually), I think that ‘theft’, ‘deception’, and ‘rape’ are overgeneralizations, and as for murder, I agree if you’re using the term in the moral sense rather than the legal sense, because in the moral sense, ‘murder is immoral’ is clearly analytical.

            Divine command theorists maintian that our knowledge that moral obligations are identified with divine commands however is based on an inference to the best explanation. The theory that best explains these and numerous other facts about moral obligations are that moral obligations are divine commands

            I don’t think that the inference is warranted for many reasons, but I was challenging the theory on intuitive grounds, using our grasp of moral terms – informed by our moral intuitions -, and that would include commonsense beliefs.
            Sure, I expect many theists to disagree with my points, though not all of them. So, they make their case, I make mine, and so on.

            Just as the theory that water is H20 is contrary to our modal intuitions that in a metaphysically impossible aristolean world where there is no hydrogen there would still be water. So a divine command theory contradicts your modal intiuition that in a metaphysically impossible naturalistic world, where there is no God, there would still be right and wrong.

            That’s relevantly different, because DCT goes against our intuitive assessments about moral goodness, badness, immorality, etc. (and thus, moral obligations), because we do have an intuition that in a scenario without God, some entities would be (for instance) morally bad, whereas the theory that water is H2O does not go against any intuitive assessments, since we do not have any intuitions that in a world without H2O, there would be water.
            Perhaps, there is some miscommunication going on about the meaning of ‘intuitions’. However, I do not want to say ‘commonsense beliefs’, because they require some reflection – but then, so do other beliefs you call ‘commonsense’, so we may be using the expression ‘commonsense beliefs’ somewhat differently as well. But still, what I’m using is commonsense beliefs and reflection as an argument against DCT.
            But the terms we use is not the issue. Rather, what I’m doing is using our grasp of some of the relevant terms (in this case, informed by our moral intuitions) to assess some scenarios, and argue that the scenarios fly on the face of those intuitions, whereas there is no such thing in the case of water.

            When we have a defensible theory about the nature of water which makes best sense of the commonsense beliefs we have, we don’t let modal intuitions about impossible counterfactuals where metaphysically false theories are true, refute the theory. So why should we with DCT?

            But there are no modal intuitions about impossible counterfactuals that are in conflict with the theory that water is H2O, so there is no way they would refute the theory.
            In particular, we do not have an intuition that in a scenario without H2O, there would be water.
            Rather, our intuition (which I say is the result of our grasp of the meaning of the term ‘water’ plus some other pieces of evidence and reflection) is that if water actually is composed of H2O (which we have no means of intuitively determine), then the liquid that would exist in other scenarios (like the Aristotelian world where there is no hydrogen) would not be water, even if it had some of the properties of water.
            On the other hand, my point is that our moral intuitions (or maybe more precisely, our intuitive grasp of moral terms, which is informed by moral intuitions) go against DCT.
            My way of arguing for that this time is by considering scenarios (which we have no good reason to assume beforehand are impossible, but that aside) in which God does not exist, but (say) Dick#5 or Dick#6 is a bad person, by means of an intuitive moral assessment, and furthermore, just as immoral as their counterparts in scenarios in which God does exist.
            Perhaps, another angle might help:
            Moral badness or goodness, unlike water, are property of agents. So, if agent A11 exists in scenario S11 and A11 is morally bad, and agent A12 exists in scenario S12, and the mind of A12 is an exact duplicate of the mind of A11, in the sense that A12 has the same beliefs, experiences, perceptions, feelings, etc., and always makes the same free choices in S12 as A11 does in S11 and believe that there results are the same, etc., then if A11 is morally bad in S11, then A12 is morally bad in S12, regardless of what exists in S11 or in S12 apart from those agents, and regardless of whether one of the scenarios is actual.
            On the other hand, if water is actually composed of H2O, then liquids in other scenarios that look the same to agents in those scenarios would not be water.

            We make those assessments by means of our intuitive grasp of the terms involved (i.e., the term ‘water’ and moral terms), in the case of moral assessments, informed by our moral intuitions.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            There are a lot of irrelevant peripheral points in their most based on miscommunication. But to avoid a tedious running through all of them I’ll focus on the issues of substance.

            But that’s not the same. I’m not claiming or suggesting that any DCTist claims that. What I’m
            arguing is that we do have the means of makingsome assessments,which are sufficient to rule out omemetaethical theories (I provided an example), and further, that Craig’s theory is one of those that we are in
            a position to rule out by means of reflection and our grasp of some of the relevant terms (moral terms in this case), which are in turn informed in this case by our moral intuitions.

            This simply asserts your position, that a particular intiuition refutes Craig’s theory. Seeing I contested that and offered an argument against it. Asserting it really does not count for much

            On the other hand, the theory that water is
            H2O is not one of the theories about water that we’re in a position to rule out – we have no such intuitions -, though you are correct that we can, for instance, rule out that water is the color blue, etc., so our grasp of the term
            ‘water’ also can be used to rule out some potential hypotheses. But not the hypothesis that water is H2O.

            But, I pointed to an intuition, the intuition that if Aristolteanism were true and atomism false water would still exist. That’s an analogous to your intuition that if
            atheism were true and theism false moral goodness would still exist. So in fact the two cases are the same. Again
            all your doing is simply saying “my claim is different” but that’s what I argued was not the case.

            I don’t think that the inference is warranted for many reasons, but I was challenging the theory on intuitive grounds, using our grasp of moral terms – informed by our moral intuitions -, and that would include commonsense beliefs.
            Sure, I expect many theists to disagree with my points, though not all of them. So, they make their case, I make mine, and so on.

            Again your simply asserting that you have done this. I offered an argument to the contrary. I pointed out a parallel appeal to intuition would rule out the theory water is H20

            That’s relevantly different, because DCT
            goes against our intuitive assessments about moral goodness, badness, immorality, etc. (and thus, moral obligations), because we do have an intuition that in a scenario without God, some entities would be (for instance) morally bad, whereas the theory that water is H2O does not go against any intuitive assessments, since we do not have any intuitions that in a world without H2O,
            there would be water.

            In the citation you respond to directly before this. I pointed out *do* have the intuitions that in a world without H2O, there would be water. I explicitly said that we have an
            intuition that in an Aristotelian world, (one where medieval Aristotelianism is true) as there would still be water.

            “. Rather, what I’m doing is using our grasp of some of the relevant terms (in this case, informed by our moral intuitions) to assess some scenarios, and argue that the scenarios fly on the face of those intuitions, whereas there is no such thing in the case of water. “

            Again I mentioned such an intuition, you mention that intuition we have about a counter factual situation where God does not exist and some non theistic view of the world is true. I mentioned an intuition we have about a counter factual situation where atoms don’t exist but some other non atomistic theory is true.

            But there are no modal intuitions about impossible counterfactuals that are in conflict with the theory that water is H2O, so there is no way they would refute the theory. In particular, we do not have an intuition that in a scenario without H2O, there would be water.

            Again I mentioned an intuition about an impossible counterfactual, you seem to think simply asserting there are none and ignoring the one I mentioned is a cognet rebuttal. Its not.

            Rather, our intuition (which I say is the result of our grasp of the meaning of the term ‘water’ plus some other pieces of evidence and reflection) is that if water actually is composed of H2O (which we have no means of intuitively determine), then the liquid that would exist in other scenarios (like the Aristotelian world where there is no hydrogen) would not be water, even if it had some of the properties of water.

            Ok, so the DCT theorist can respond, Rather, our intuition (which I say is the result of our grasp of the meaning of the term ‘obligation’ plus some other pieces of evidence and reflection) is that if obligations are identical with H2O (which we have no means of intuitively determine), then the phenomena that would exist in other scenarios (like the naturalistic world where there is no divine commands) would not be moral obligations, even if it had some of the properties of obligations.

            I fail to see any reason why this response is any more cogent for the DCT theorist than for the person who believes water is H20.

            On the other hand, my point is that our moral intuitions (or maybe more precisely, our intuitive grasp of moral terms, which is informed by moral intuitions) go against DCT.

            Yes and my point is parallel intutions go against water is H20

            My way of arguing for that this time is by considering scenarios (which we have no good reason to assume beforehand are impossible, but that aside) in which God does not exist, but (say) Dick#5 or Dick#6 is a bad person, by means of an intuitive moral assessment, and furthermore, just as immoral as their counterparts in scenarios in which God does exist.

            Yes and I considered scenarios (which we have no good reason to assume beforehand are impossible, but that aside) in which atomism is false does not exist, but yet water exists. It’s intuitively obvious to me that if Aristotles says theories of nature were true water would exist. After all that water was an element was in fact part of his theory.

            “Moral badness or goodness, unlike water, are property of agents. So, if agent A11 exists in scenario S11 and A11 is morally bad, and agent A12 exists in scenario S12, and the mind of A12 is an exact duplicate of the mind of A11, in the sense that A12 has the same beliefs, experiences, perceptions, feelings, etc., and always makes the same free choices in S12 as A11 does in S11 and believe that there results are the same, etc., then if A11 is morally bad in S11, then A12 is morally bad in S12, regardless of what exists in S11 or in S12 apart from those agents, and regardless of whether one of the scenarios is actual.
            On the other hand, if water is actually composed of H2O, then liquids in other scenarios that look the same to agents in those scenarios would not be water.”

            The divine command theorist could equally assert “ “On the other hand, if moral obligations are actually constituted by Gods commands, then actions in other
            scenarios that look the same to agents in those scenarios would not be wrong.”

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            This simply asserts your position, that a particular intiuition refutes Craig’s theory. Seeing I contested that and offered an argument against it. Asserting it really does not count for much

            1. In that part of my post, I was explaining that I was not claiming that DTCists were claiming that, but what I was arguing. I addressed your arguments in my post.
            2. Your arguments in some cases missed my points, making irrelevant ones instead. The proper reply to that part of your argumentation is to explain that that’s not what I’m saying.

            But, I pointed to an intuition, the intuition that if Aristolteanism were true and atomism false water would still exist. That’s an analogous to your intuition that if atheism were true and theism false moral goodness would still exist. So in fact the two cases are the same. Again all your doing is simply saying “my claim is different” but that’s what I argued was not the case.

            No, that’s not analogous at all, let alone the same.
            We can tell, by means of our grasp of the term ‘water’ that if scientists were mistaken and water were not H2O at the actual world – but, say, some atom, or H2O2, or whatever -, then water would still exist. But that does not affect the theory that water is H2O.
            But for that matter, you could say that if we were mistaken in our analysis based on our intuitive grasp of the concept of moral goodness and/or moral intuitions and moral goodness were resemblance to Pof, then if Pof did not exist, there would be no morally good people.
            That does not block the objection to the Pof theory on the grounds that we can tell, by our grasp of the relevant moral terms informed by our moral intuitions, etc., that regardless of whether Pof exists, some people would be morally good, bad, etc. Basically, if what you’re proposing were correct, then we would not be able to use our intuitive grasp of moral terms – informed by our moral intuitions – to rule out any metaethical theory.

            In the citation you respond to directly before this. I pointed out *do* have the intuitions that in a world without H2O, there would be water. I explicitly said that we have an
            intuition that in an Aristotelian world, (one where medieval Aristotelianism is true) as there would still be water.

            I would require more details on what you mean by “medieval Aristotelianism is true”, but unless you assume that at the actual world water is not H2O but something else, then you do not have an intuition that something that has superficial properties similar to those of water in some other scenario.
            By contrast, without making any assumptions beforehand about what moral goodness is, we can tell by our intuitive grasp of the terms that two entities in different scenarios whose minds are exact duplicates of each other in the sense I explained have the same moral properties regardless of what else might exist in those scenarios, so even if God does not exist, an entity would be morally good or bad, etc.

            Ok, so the DCT theorist can respond, Rather, our intuition (which I say is the result of our grasp of the meaning of the term ‘obligation’ plus some other pieces of evidence and reflection) is that if obligations are identical with H2O (which we have no means of intuitively determine), then the phenomena that would exist in other scenarios (like the naturalistic world where there is no divine commands) would not be moral obligations, even if it had some of the properties of obligations.

            You meant to say “obligations are identical with God’s commands”. But my point is that we can tell by means of our intuitive grasp of the terms, without assuming beforehand what our obligations are or what moral goodness is, that two entities in different scenarios whose minds are exact duplicates of each other in the sense I explained have the same moral properties regardless of what else might exist in those scenarios, so even if God does not exist, an entity would be morally good or bad, etc.
            On the other hand, the same move is not available in the case of water.

            The divine command theorist could equally assert “ “On the other hand, if moral obligations are actually constituted by Gods commands, then actions in other
            scenarios that look the same to agents in those scenarios would not be wrong.”

            True, and the Pof theorists could equally assert “On the other hand, if moral goodness is resemblance to Pof, then agents in other scenarios that looked the same to agents in those scenarios would not be morally good”.
            But the point is that the theory that water is H2O was not defeated by any a priori consideration, so there is no problem saying that if water is actually composed of H2O, then liquids in other scenarios that look the same to agents in those scenarios would not be water, and then argue that water is H2O on scientific grounds.
            But the theory about Pof, and DCT, were so defeated.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            No, that’s not analogous at all, let alone the same. We can tell, by means of our grasp of the term ‘water’ that if scientists were mistaken and water were not H2O at the actual world – but, say, some atom,
            or H2O2, or whatever -, then water would still exist. But that does not affect the theory that water is H2O.

            I agree, and we can tell from our grasp of the term moral obligation that if DCT theorists are mistaken and moral obligations are not divine commands in the actual world, then moral obligations would still exist. But that does not effect the theory that moral obligations are divine commands. Again an analogous line of argument applies in both cases

            But for that matter, you could say that if we
            were mistaken in our analysis based on our intuitive grasp of the concept of moral goodness and/or moral intuitions and moral goodness were resemblance to Pof, then if Pof did not exist, there would be no morally good people.

            That does not block the objection to the Pof theory on the grounds that we can tell, by our grasp of the relevant moral terms informed by our moral intuitions, etc., that regardless of whether Pof exists, some people would be
            morally good, bad, etc.

            The problem is I maintained we have a similar situation regarding water. When we reflect on our use of the term water, and various intuitions we see that in an impossible world where Aristotle was correct and water ( not atoms) was a basic element then water would exist.

            Basically, if what you’re proposing were correct, then we would not be able to use our intuitive grasp of moral terms – informed by our moral intuitions – to rule out any metaethical theory.

            That simply does not follow, pointing out that a particular intuitive judgement about an impossible world atheistic world, is analogous to an intuitive judgement about an Aristotleian world which we recognise to be unreliable. Does not entail that *all* moral intuitions are unreliable. That’s like arguing that because certain perceptual judgements are unreliable and don’t falsify our scientific theories we cant test scientific theories against observation.

            I would require more details on what you mean by “medieval Aristotelianism is true”, but unless you assume that at the actual world water is not H2O but something else, then you do not have an intuition that something that has superficial properties similar to those of water in some other scenario.

            By contrast, without making any assumptions beforehand about what moral goodness is, we can tell by our intuitive grasp of the terms that two entities in different scenarios whose minds are exact duplicates of each other in the
            sense I explained have the same moral properties regardless of what else might exist in those scenarios, so even if God does not exist, an entity would be morally good or bad, etc.

            You keep asserting this, but simply asserting the two cases are different doesn’t show they are.

            First, I think our understanding of terms does lead us to conclude that a world where earth fire and water are basic elements and not atoms, that water would exist. Does this refute the claim that water is H20?

            Second, Consider your duplicate argument about minds, I can give a similar argument about water. Moreover if I imagine a two worlds, A) one where Aristotle
            points to the Aegean sea and states that’s not made of atoms, and he is correct B) where a modern scientist points to the Aegean sea and says that’s H20 and he
            is correct.

            I fail to see any basis for claiming that the second duplicate argument requires additional premises before you can claim it refutes atomism and yet your argument does not.

            It seems to me what goes on in both cases is this, when we examine the phenomena in question, we come up with a theory that provides the best account of the nature of the phenomena in question. Once we have this we allow our theory to modify some of our intuitions about impossible counterfactuals. Intuitions after all confer prima facie justification on a proposition and this can be
            defeated when those intuitions are contradicted by the best theory of a given phenomena

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            I agree, and we can tell from our grasp of the term moral obligation that if DCT theorists are mistaken and moral obligations are not divine commands in the actual world, then moral obligations would still exist. But that does not effect the theory that moral obligations are divine commands. Again an analogous line of argument applies in both cases

            No, that’s not analogous at all, since I’m not assuming in my scenarios that DCT is false.

            I’m not including a condition that states that Craig’s foundational account is false in the definition of any of the scenarios I use, or any condition or set or conditions that on their own entail it, without any additional, a priori considerations that include objective moral values and duties.
            In particular, the definitions of some of scenarios in question do include the condition that God does not exist, but they do not include the condition that objective moral values and/or exist in those scenarios. Rather, I assess that they exist there based on some a priori assessments about some moral terms, and a priori judgments about the agents in the scenarios in question.

            The problem is I maintained we have a similar situation regarding water. When we reflect on our use of the term water, and various intuitions we see that in an impossible world where Aristotle was correct and water ( not atoms) was a basic element then water would exist.

            No, your argument about water is akin to my example in the reply to the Pof account, not to DCT.
            We may reject the Pof account going by our intuitive grasp of the relevant moral terms and reflection. Someone might say that in an impossible world in which our assessment against Pof theory based on an intuitive grasp of the concept of moral goodness was mistaken and also moral goodness is resemblance to Pof, moral goodness would not exist if Pof did not. But that does not block the objection to Pof theory. It’s simply a way of including in the scenario in question conditions that entail the intended result.
            Your water parallel does the same. In other words, in a your scenario, it is assumed beforehand, given the definition of the scenario, that H2O does not exist and yet water does. For that matter, that move is always doable – an objector can deny a hypothesis of informative identification by assumption -, but clearly not a proper objection to the hypothesis that water is H2O, because the scenario includes in its definition conditions that logically entail it on their own, and without any additional, a priori considerations about water, that water exists and is not H2O. In other words, your scenario is essentially denying that water is H2O.
            In contrast, my objections to Craig’s theistic metaethical account make no such moves. Essentially, I’m using our own intuitive grasp of moral terms in order to make a case against Craig’s account, which is a proper way of arguing. In particular, it is not the case that I assume that Craig’s account is false. Rather, I make no assumptions about either the relevant moral terms or the ontological foundation of moral values, etc., other than the fact that our intuitive grasp of the terms and reflection are a proper guide to making moral assessments, and reckon on those grounds that in some scenarios, the people involved are equally morally bad, etc., without including that as a stipulation. After reaching that conclusion, I assess Craig’s ontological account, and reckon that it fails because of that reason; similarly, based on that conclusion, one may properly reckon it’s not true that if God did not exist, then objective moral values would not exist.

            Basically, if what you’re proposing were correct, then we would not be able to use our intuitive grasp of moral terms – informed by our moral intuitions – to rule out any metaethical theory.

            That simply does not follow, pointing out that a particular intuitive judgement about an impossible world atheistic world, is analogous to an intuitive judgement about an Aristotleian world which we recognise to be unreliable. Does not entail that *all* moral intuitions are unreliable. That’s like arguing that because certain perceptual judgements are unreliable and don’t falsify our scientific theories we cant test scientific theories against observation.

            You misunderstand my point. I did not say that that would entail that all moral intuitions are unreliable. Rather, I said they would not be usable for ruling out metaethical theories. I said nothing about, say, first-order ethical claims about the actual world, which would not be affected just by the kind of argumentation you offered in your objection to mine (of course, to be more precise, they would still be usable work against some theories that are partially metaethical and partially first-order ethical theories).
            And the reason I’m saying that they would not work does not have to do with our moral intuitions per se, but rather, with the fact that you’re objecting to the kind of reasoning I’m using against DCT – though on further consideration, it seems you misunderstood my reasoning, so maybe you weren’t objecting to that after all, but to what you believed my reasoning was.

            Still, my central point remains (i.e., my argument against DCT, at least in Craig’s version (but it works for other versions too, with just obvious modifications).

            You keep asserting this, but simply asserting the two cases are different doesn’t show they are.

            I have explained that they’re different, in a number of posts. If some of my words were not entirely clear, my bad, but I clarified sufficiently already. You might want to argue that the difference that I explained is irrelevant, but you’ve not shown that, either.

            First, I think our understanding of terms does lead us to conclude that a world where earth fire and water are basic elements and not atoms, that water would exist. Does this refute the claim that water is H20?

            No, it does not. But you assume that a basic element is water and is a basic element. So, essentially your scenario rules out that water is H2O in that world by assumption, even though it exists.

            Second, Consider your duplicate argument about minds, I can give a similar argument about water. Moreover if I imagine a two worlds, A) one where Aristotle
            points to the Aegean sea and states that’s not made of atoms, and he is correct B) where a modern scientist points to the Aegean sea and says that’s H20 and he
            is correct.

            That’s not similar, for the following reasons:
            Despite the name “Aegean sea”, in those scenarios, there are two different objects, made of two different liquids with some similar properties (many of which are the properties of water), and some different properties (for example, they have different microscopic properties).
            But we have no way of intuitively reckoning that both liquids are water. Quite the contrary, that’s counterintuitive, and would go against our grasp of the relevant terms; sure, you can add the impossible conditions that both liquids are water even if they have very different microscopic properties. But that’s not at all similar to what I’m doing. Rather, my claim, and what I’m arguing for when I construct those ‘duplicate minds’ scenarios, is that we can tell based on our intuitive grasp of the relevant moral terms and reflection that whenever two agents in different scenarios are such that their minds are exact duplicates of each other in the sense I described, then one of them is morally good or bad if and only if the other one is – and to the same extent -; one of them behaves immorally if and only if the other one does and to the same extent, etc., and generally they have the same moral properties regardless of any other factors, and in particular regardless of whether certain other agents – be it God or even victims in the case of immoral behavior – exist in the scenarios in question.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Matt,

            Let me try to simplify, because I think the following is the crux of the matter, and this is getting overly long.

            You say:

            Yes and I considered scenarios (which we have no good reason to assume beforehand are impossible, but that aside) in which atomism is false does not exist, but yet water exists.
            It’s intuitively obvious to me that if Aristotles says theories of nature were true water would exist.

            After all that water was an element was in fact part of his theory.

            The key distinction is that when you consider such scenarios, you need to add a specific assumption stating that it’s not actually the case that water is H2O, or implying that.
            If you do not include that assumption in your scenario, and your scenario is simply a scenario in which there is something with properties similar to some of water’s properties but which is not H2O, then you don’t have any intuitions about whether there is water.

            On the other hand, when I consider scenarios in which God exists, and also scenarios in which God does not exist, I do not make any specific assumptions beforehand about what moral goodness or moral badness actually is, beyond the use of my intuitive grasp of the terms.
            Yet, I reckon, based on my intuitive grasp of the relevant moral terms, that agents whose minds are duplicates of one another in the sense I describe are equally morally bad.
            So, I’m reaching the conclusion that if God did not exist, there would still be in those scenarios morally bad people, immoral behavior, and so on, based again on my intuitive grasp of the relevant terms and reflection.

            If someone then posits Craig’s DCT, or a similar account, the theory in question flies on the face of that conclusion, which can be made a priori.
            On the other hand, you can’t (properly) a priori reach a conclusion that the theory that water is H2O would be in conflict with.

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            Angra

            I agree that is the crux of the matter. You write

            The key distinction is that when you
            consider such scenarios, you need to add a specific assumption stating that it’s not actually the case that water is H2O, or implying that. If you do not include that assumption in your scenario, and your scenario is simply a scenario in which there is something with properties similar to some of water’s properties but which is not H2O, then you don’t have any intuitions about whether there is water.

            On the other hand, when I consider scenarios in
            which God exists, and also scenarios in which God does not exist, I do not make any specific assumptions beforehand about what moral goodness or moral badness
            actually is, beyond the use of my intuitive grasp of the terms.

            I fail to see the difference here apart from
            arbitrary stipulation. Both scenarios are parallel.

            Scanerio A: impossible world where Naturalism
            is true and therefore God does not exist.

            Scanerio B: impossible world where Aristoteianism
            is true and therefore hydrogen atoms don’t exist.

            I see no reason why scenario A: must involve an assumption that it’s not actually the case that
            water is H2O. To get the conclusion that water exists. Whereas scenario B: does not involve the assumption that moral obligations are divine commands to get
            the conclusion that moral obligations exist. Certainly you have provided none other than simply asserting that the two scenarios are different.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Matt,
            You say:

            I fail to see the difference here apart from
            arbitrary stipulation. Both scenarios are parallel.
            Scanerio A: impossible world where Naturalism
            is true and therefore God does not exist.
            Scanerio B: impossible world where Aristoteianism
            is true and therefore hydrogen atoms don’t exist.

            Some differences between the scenarios I give and the ones you give:
            a. Actually, I’m not using a stipulation that Naturalism is true. I’m using, in some scenarios, the stipulation that God does not exist. But I do not need to stipulate that that is impossible. That does not seem to be a crucial difference, though.
            b. I do not assume that in those scenarios in which God does not exist, there is a morally bad person, etc.; in some of them, I reckon that one of the persons that I include, is as morally bad as the duplicate (in the sense of ‘duplicate’ I specify) in one of the scenarios in which God exists (which I actually consider to be impossible, if the concept of ‘God’ is defined in such a way that existence entails necessary existence; of course, I do not include in my scenario the stipulation that God is impossible under such a conception).
            But I do not include that the person in question is morally bad in the definition of the scenario. In fact, the scenario is not described in moral terms at all by definition, except to the extent that it denies the existence of a particular agent with moral properties (namely, God), but does not assert so.
            Sure, a theist may disagree with my intuitive assessment of the matter, and then I invite readers to make their own assessments and so on. But it’s not the same as making the assumption in the scenario.

            I see no reason why scenario A: must involve an assumption that it’s not actually the case that
            water is H2O. To get the conclusion that water exists. Whereas scenario B: does not involve the assumption that moral obligations are divine commands to get
            the conclusion that moral obligations exist. Certainly you have provided none other than simply asserting that the two scenarios are different.

            Scenario A involves the assumption by definition that water does exist, but hydrogen does not, and hence neither does H2O, so then water is not H2O.
            My scenario does not involve the assumption that a morally bad person exists. It involves an assumption that a person who behaves in certain ways exist. I’m using our intuitive grasp of moral terms to assess that a morally bad person exists there. In other words, all the work to that conclusion is being done by our intuitive moral assessments – commonsense moral knowledge, we might say, and reflection upon it.
            On the other hand, the conclusion that water exists but is not H2O in scenario A is not established by means of our commonsense knowledge about water and the concept in question. Rather, it is entailed right away from the stipulations.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Hi Matt — Disqus says that your comment is a reply to me, but I can’t figure out why. Did you mean for that to be a reply to me or to Angra?

          • http://www.mandm.org.nz Matt

            Hi Jeff, It was a reply to Angra, I think I posted it in the wrong thread.

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            Hi Jeff,

            I know this is a late response, but I’m very much interested in this. I have three questions and would be very grateful if you can find the time to reply.

            1.) It seems that ED3 is a solid response to the DNT theory that Craig espouses for moral values, but he tries an odd move to try and get out of the problem. In my reading on the topic (Link: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/euthyphro-dilemma ) and in his debate with Louise Antony he seems to try and respond to this criticism by saying that he is not making a moral semantic statement when he says goodness is grounded in god’s necessary nature. He then responds to the ED3 by stating that “god is the greatest conceivable being” and tries to use the same “moral semantics” dodge. I assume the only response here is to point out that god merely having those properties aren’t doing the grounding, as you did?

            2.) The second issue is related to Moral Obligations and MDCT-D. You say that Craig takes the first horn, but considers it unproblematic since god can’t issue evil commands.

            I think the issue here is that Craig also seems forced to admit that god can issue commands that we would find morally abhorrent since he defends the Canaanite Genocide (Link: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/slaughter-of-the-canaanites ). To quote Craig there, he says that god doesn’t have moral obligations and so he is permitted to take lives or kill even infants and children and that he can also command these actions and have them be morally necessary:

            Since God doesn’t issue commands to Himself, He has no moral duties to fulfill. He is certainly not subject to the same moral obligations and prohibitions that we are. For example, I have no right to take an innocent life. For me to do so would be murder. But God has no such prohibition. He can give and take life as He chooses

            What that implies is that God has the right to take the
            lives of the Canaanites when He sees fit. How long they live and when they die is up to Him.

            So the problem isn’t that God ended the Canaanites’ lives. The problem is that He commanded the Israeli soldiers to end them. Isn’t that like commanding someone to commit murder? No, it’s not. Rather, since our moral duties are determined by God’s commands, it is commanding someone to do something which, in the absence of a divine command, would have been murder. The act was morally obligatory for the Israeli soldiers in virtue of God’s command, even though, had they undertaken it on their on initiative, it would have been wrong.

            So in this sense it seems god could command things that we would consider to be objectively morally wrong. This would violate our moral intuitions, so wouldn’t that make the theistic explanation of those moral intuitions far less plausible?

            3.) The last question is related to the axiological argument, but also the problem of evil. If Craig or anyone takes up the DNT, then they hold that god possesses all good properties to their maximal degree. However, such a proponent would have to hold that god couldn’t act contrary to his nature – such a thing would be logically impossible. However, if that is the case then wouldn’t it follow that god has no moral free will? And if that is the case, then moral free will isn’t a part of god’s nature so then what grounds the goodness of moral free will?

            I would think that this kind of move eliminates the free will defense from the problem of evil, or the assertion that one requires moral free will in order to love. I’d really just like to hear your take on this and if you think it’s a valid critique.

            Thanks

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Hi, Counter Apologist,

            On the issue of point 2, if one includes Yahweh, it’s clear that he’s not morally good, let alone morally perfect. But a theist might reject that identification (though in practice, they rarely do, and Craig in particular doesn’t, of course).

            I would say that your point about the Canaanites is a very good one, though personally I would go further and say it’s one of the many ways of defeating Craig’s religion.

            By the way, Craig points to the killing of the infants, but says nothing about the horrible suffering many of them would have been subject to before dying at the hands of those Israelite soldiers, or the fact that even if the Israelite soldiers had witnessed that a powerful being commanded them to slaughter the Canaanite children, that would not have been a good reason to believe that the commander was morally good, let alone perfect, and so that would not have been a good reason to believe that the commander was God. For that matter, if a powerful being commands the extermination of a group of people, which would include the killing and the tremendous suffering of many innocents, etc., and on top of that gives the generally atrocious commands given by Yahweh in the OT, etc., one should not believe that the entity in question is morally perfect, or morally good, but morally wicked if the entity in question is a moral agent at all (else, just not morally anything), and one should not follow the command willingly.

            As I mentioned, a theist might separate Yahweh from God; I would say that it would still remain the case that humans would not have a moral obligation to commit a massacre like that just because a powerful entity commands them to do so, and should not believe that God commands them to do so just because a powerful entity does – and unless there is a sufficient threat from that entity that justifies it (like torturing the victims for eternity if they do not kill them), they would have a moral obligation to reject the claim and to refrain from committing genocide.

            Still, Craig does reply to Yahweh-based atrocities in one of his replies to Sam Harris in the context of their debates. He claims that there are many supporters of DCT who are neither Jews nor Christians – he fails to mention that most of those are Muslims, and the Quran is full of Allah’s atrocities as well -, and so allegedly the issue is irrelevant in the context of that debate and is not an objection to the DCT he defends in that debate. I would expect a similar move by Craig in reply to any objections based on the Bible, or a combination between the Bible and the Quran, etc.

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            Angra,

            Thanks for the replies. I think there are two issues here in terms of commands, one dealing with Yahweh and second dealing with the general deity.

            As for dealing with Yahweh at least in the context of debating the Christian god, then Craig has already signed up to the idea that genocide and killing of infants isn’t just command-able by a perfectly good god, but that such commands create a moral obligation. To say that this is compatible flies in the face of the moral intuitions Craig admits we have, and in fact he necessarily has to appeal to in order to demand an explanation of those intuitions. Here I think a general appeal to the best explanation would show that any specifically Christian appeal to MDCT would be false.

            As for the general move, this comes back more to Jeff’s original point in the debate really being on the grounding of moral values in general, since if we can show that they are grounded in and of themselves, we then have an independent set of moral goods we can “value”.

            In such a case there is a helpful illustration where we can ask what does god’s command add to the moral duty:

            I should be kind to humans.

            God commands that I should be kind to humans.

            If I value kindness in and of itself as established by ED3 (in Jeff’s post), then god’s command doesn’t change the moral fact of the duty, it merely adds non-moral incentives to follow the command such as the desire for reward or the aversion to punishment based on the fact that god is powerful, not that god is moral.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Counter Apologist,

            I agree on the Yahweh issue (i.e., that MDCT would be false), though I would go further and say that we can establish conclusively that Yahweh is not morally perfect, or even morally good, by means of clear moral assessments of many of his actions as depicted in the Bible (plus arguments to deal with liberal Christians, etc.), and also that in many cases, people ought to have disobeyed his commands, or at least not follow them willingly, etc., so I would say that that also defeats Christianity.

            On the issue of the Anselmian GCB (as the term “God” seems to be used in Craig’s metaethical argument), I would raise coherence objections, but that aside, I’m not sure what ‘grounded on themselves’ is. We’re talking about grounding in the sense of informative identification. Are you saying that there would be no further grounding?

            In any case, I would reject the claim that there is any burden on the non-theist. I addressed the matter in much greater detail in my reply to Craig, but briefly, just as in the cases of water and H2O and heat and molecular motion (two examples discussed in the context of Craig’s metaethical argument), the “ontological ground” in the sense of informative identification was not known for most of the history of our civilization and required a lot of development in physics and chemistry before it was developed (and there was no burden on those who did not have such a theory before that), the non-theist may simply say that she does not know, and it might take decades or centuries of development of human psychology to inform a proper philosophical theory.

            I would also reject Craig’s conditions for an ontological foundation, for a number of reasons.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Regarding point 3, I agree it’s a serious challenge. Given this post, Craig’s position seems to be that it’s good to have libertarian free will, and God has it, even if it’s logically impossible for him to do evil.

            His defense is not well supported, though.
            For instance, he claims that to create another morally perfect being would be to create another God, which does not follow on Craig’s conception of God (which is as obscure as ‘greatness’ is, but seems to require power in addition to knowledge and moral perfection). Craig also claims that that’s impossible because God is “essentially uncaused”, but he gives no good reason to believe that it’s not possible to cause a morally perfect being to exist.

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            Angra,

            Thanks for that, I hadn’t seen it before. I think it is laden with a number of problems, starting with the ones you pointed out. Craig would have to prove that it’s necessarily true that one can only be morally perfect if one is uncaused.

            Another large issue is that in Craig’s analysis he breaks the analogy with the electrodes. Notice he says:

            …humans have the inherent ability to choose evil or, better, lack the inherent ability to choose infallibly the Good. Even if they don’t sin, they can.

            I think there is a dilemma here:

            Having the ability to sin is inherently not part of god’s necessary nature, so on Craig’s defenses of the moral argument is “not good”. So humans were necessarily created “not good”, which invalidates the option he says is available in which all humans created always freely choose to do good.

            The only way out of that is to then say that committing the actual sin, rather than freely choosing that option but being unable to actually do it is what is actually “wrong”, however that seems to put Craig back in the original problem that his analogy was trying to get out of.

            That said, even if Craig found a way out of that dilemma I think that there’s still a large problem with his rejection of possible worlds where all created humans always freely choose to do the good because of some deficiency:

            We already know god’s “end game” of goodness, at least as far as humanity is concerned: Heaven.

            Craig can’t appeal to possible worlds where there are only a small number of humans that always freely choose the good as being “deficient”, since he would have to say that other worlds that ultimately have “more” people in heaven are “greater”. That is a problem however given his stances on actual infinites, since there is no limit to the number of people who would freely choose to accept god unless at some point god decides to stop creating humans with free will (ie the second coming, etc). But if god chooses to stop creating humans, he’s picked an arbitrary finite number of people who will end up in heaven.

            In the absence of actual infinites, the only way to make sense of a “greatest possible world” is one where ALL free humans that are created end up in heaven. But then we come back to the original problem where there are worlds where all humans always freely choose to accept god being the “greatest possible world”.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Counter Apologist,

            You’re very welcome – and thanks for the reply as well.

            I think that Craig would probably stick to his guns on the creation of humans that were not good, saying that it’s impossible to make creatures that are essentially morally perfect. But why would anyone believe so?

            Having the ability to sin is inherently not part of god’s necessary nature, so on Craig’s defenses of the moral argument is “not good”. So humans were necessarily created “not good”, which invalidates the option he says is available in which all humans created always freely choose to do good.

            [Speculating here]
            Craig might insist that it’s impossible to make creatures such that all of their nature is good, but that that does not imply that some of their choices will be not good. For instance, let’s say God creates a single human, and that human has the temptation to do evil (so, her nature is partially bad), but she chooses not to every time.

            That said, even if Craig found a way out of that dilemma I think that there’s still a large problem with his rejection of possible worlds where all created humans always freely choose to do the good because of some deficiency:

            Yes, that’s a problem too.

            We already know god’s “end game” of goodness, at least as far as humanity is concerned: Heaven.

            Right, if we include Christianity.

            In the absence of actual infinites, the only way to make sense of a “greatest possible world” is one where ALL free humans that are created end up in heaven.

            Craig claims that there say that there is no greatest possible world, so yes, it seems the number is picked by God arbitrarily (though Craig would probably say that there are good reasons to pick that number, and if he had picked another number, perhaps zero, there would have been good reasons for that too).

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Hi Counter Apologist —

            You wrote:

            1.) It seems that ED3 is a solid response to the DNT theory that Craig espouses for moral values, but he tries an odd move to try and get out of the problem. In my reading on the topic (Link: http://www.reasonablefaith.org… ) and in his debate with Louise Antony he seems to try and respond to this criticism by saying that he is not making a moral semantic statement when he says goodness is grounded in god’s necessary nature.

            Craig is correct when he says, about his own theory, that his theory is not a claim about the branch of metaethics known as moral semantics, but rather a claim about another branch of metaethics known as moral ontology. In other words, Craig isn’t claiming that “moral goodness” literally means correspondence with God’s nature. Rather, he claims that “moral goodness” is metaphysically grounded in God’s nature. In other words, if something is morally good, such as justice, Craig’s view is this: the fact that God is just is what it makes justice morally good. If there were universe identical to ours in every respect except that God did not exist or except that God existed but was not just, then justice would not be morally good.

            He then responds to the ED3 by stating that “god is the greatest conceivable being” and tries to use the same “moral semantics” dodge. I assume the only response here is to point out that god merely having those properties aren’t doing the grounding, as you did?

            Well, I happen to think Craig is correct to point out that his theory is about moral ontology, not moral semantics. But I have a hard time believing that Craig would use that point as a response to ED3. In fact, I just skimmed the link you provided and I don’t find a discussion of anything that resembles ED3. Did you post the correct link?

          • http://counterapologist.blogspot.com/ Counter Apologist

            Jeff,

            Thanks for the reply, I owe you and Angra quite a bit for the clarity on this topic.

            I’m admittedly a laymen when it comes to philosophy and I’m trying to study this stuff and I appreciate a bit of clarification on moral ontology, specifically on the last part. In light of that, ED3 does seem to be quite strong.

            As for the link, it was in the question but the questioner didn’t think it worked outside of having a standard of “goodness” apart from god:

            Questioner:

            But it seems that the atheist can now reformulate the dilemma to ask:

            ‘Is God’s nature good because of the way God happens to be, or is it good because it matches up to some external standard of goodness?’

            It seems to me that the answer to the reformulated dilemma has to involve something like the claim that God’s nature couldn’t be anything but good—i.e. that God’s nature doesn’t just ‘happen’ to be a certain way. But I’m not sure what it means to say this, since unless we have a concept of the Good outside of God, this doesn’t seem to amount to much…

            I suspect the concept of possible worlds might be helpful here. But I’m not sure how or why. My suggestion for an argument would go something like this:

            (1) God is, by definition, a maximally great being.

            To which Craig responds:

            Craig:

            God didn’t just happen by accident to be loving, kind, just, and so forth. He is that way essentially.

            You needn’t worry about “what it means to say this, since unless we have a concept of the Good outside of God, this doesn’t seem to amount to much.” For this is to confuse moral ontology with moral semantics.

            If it be asked why God is the paradigm and standard of moral goodness, then I think premise (1) of your argument gives the answer: God is the greatest conceivable being, and it is greater to be the paradigm of goodness than to conform to it.

            This was the same kind of move that Craig used in his debate with Louise Antony on morality when she pressed with a form of ED3, claiming that god was the greatest conceivable being.
            I hope I’m reading all this right, as I said I’m an amateur compared to you guys and Craig – so I really appreciate the answers you’re taking the time to provide.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          (… continuing my last reply)

          Craig might reply that God is good because He is benevolent, merciful, and just. The question then arises: If God is goodbecause he is benevolent, merciful, and just, then why do we need God’s nature to ground moral values? It seems that benevolence, mercy, and justice are doing the real work, not the fact that they are part of God’s nature (if, in fact, they are).

          In reply to that, one thing WLC could say is that the ED could be modified to apply to an atheistic view of objective moral values. For example, suppose that benevolence, mercy, and justice are objective moral values that exist. Are these moral values good simply because they are good, or is there an independent standard of goodness to which they conform?

          So, WLC might argue, Divine Independence Theories (DITs) have no actual advantage over DNT. Furthermore, he might argue, the chain of explanations (and groundings) have to stop somewhere. Why is the divine independence theorist’s stopping point any less arbitrary than the divine nature theorist’s?

          I don’t have much to say about that right now, other than to say that questions like these make me question if the ED is really the “killer objection” so many people think it is.

          • sam

            “In reply to that, one thing WLC could say is that the ED could be modified to apply to an atheistic view of objective moral values.”

            That strikes me as some kind of tu quoque fallacy. The fact that the ED might successfully defeat a nontheistic account of objective morality in no way detracts from the fact that it successfully defeats theistic accounts of objective morality.

            One could be a consequentialist & argue that exhibiting mercy upon someone about to initiate a nuclear holocaust would be immoral. Acts of mercy or benevolence are not objectively, intrinsically good. The independent standard of goodness to which moral values conform are the consequences they have upon the wellbeing of living, sentient beings. These standards are not objective in any universal sense & are relative to situation and context.

            The atheist, like Arif Ahmed or Stephen Law, isn’t necessarily committed to the existence of objective morality. Then again, I’m the amateur here, so I don’t claim to know what I’m talking about. Thanks for your response.

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            That strikes me as some kind of tu quoque fallacy. The fact that the ED might successfully defeat a nontheistic account of objective morality in no way detracts from the fact that it successfully defeats theistic accounts of objective morality.

            Sam — Good point about the tu quoque fallacy. One word of caution, however: we need to define what it means for the ED to work as an objection. The ED doesn’t show that theistic metaethics are false. It attempts to show that either theistic metaethics are arbitrary (if God could make literally anything morally obligatory) or unnecessary (if there is an independent standard of moral goodness or an independent source of moral obligation).

          • sam

            “The ED doesn’t show that theistic metaethics are false.” Yes, that’s correct, my bad.

            “It attempts to show that either theistic metaethics are arbitrary (if God could make literally anything morally obligatory)…”

            It seems to me that DNT would be as arbitrary as DCT. I’ll completely ignore DCT here because I don’t take it seriously. So I guess I’m focusing on axiological, not deontic, properties.

            WLC’s god is uncreated; his god didn’t create himself and didn’t chose what its nature would consist of. Those values which are part of its nature are thus arbitrary (I’ve never heard them be simply defined into existence successfully by a believable ontological argument).

            If the rape, torture & genocide initiated by WLC’s god is good because they are part of, and emanate from its divine nature (not because it commanded them), it isn’t clear to me how the divine nature metaphysically makes those activities good (or how we are epistemically supposed to arrive at this conclusion).

            Additionally, if we are considering WLC’s god, which presumably derives from an inerrantist, semi-literalist (when it’s convenient) interpretation of the xian bible, I believe I could argue that this particular theistic metaethic is false. Consider: PS 145:9 YHWH is good to all: & his tender mercies are over _all_ his works vs. PS 109:6-15, JER 13:14 And I will dash them one against another, even
            the fathers & the sons together, saith YHWH: I will not pity, nor spare, nor have _mercy_, but destroy them.

            If the word “all” means anything, then these two passages contradict one another and one of them is false. I could be a complete moral nihilist and not know if mercy is good or not and still know that this particular theistic metaethic is contradictory and thus false somehow. I sense some vacuous hermaneutics would get WLC off the hook, though.

            I could grant the existence of a god and the existence of objective morality for the sake of argument. It seems to me that the ED demonstrates that the existence of this _objective_ morality, not only does not, but cannot be grounded in the existence of a god (maybe just the judeo-xian god), whether through its nature or command. But again, I am naive and this isn’t my field.

          • https://docs.google.com/document/d/1al-RuUEVxHk3ldQQC8o0U5ES3T7MfnmxdaKjVAl0Zzc/pub Angra Mainyu

            Based on his arguments on a number of issues, especially moral progress, relativism, etc., I would say that Stephen Law is committed to the truth of Craig’s second premise.

            But here, I think one needs to be very careful about the meaning of the premise, what it entails and what it does not, etc.

      • Keith Parsons

        Jeff,

        I think ED1 that addresses axiological values is the central problem. How are we to have a non-tautologial understanding of God’s goodness? Again, the problem seems to be that axioloigcal properties, the good-making predicates that confer moral goodness upon morally good things, cannot be defined in terms of God’s will or nature or such attributions will be empty. For instance, if we say that God’s nature is essentially good, then it follows that axiological properties are evinced, indeed supremely evinced, in God’s nature.

        However, if those axiological properties are definiable only in terms of the divine nature, then saying “God’s nature is good” is tantamount to saying “God’s nature is God’s nature.” On the other hand, if good-making (axiological) predicates are definable without essential reference to God, then we can meaningfully assert that God’s nature is good, but only at the cost of separating the concept of axiological value from any essential reference to God’s nature. In other words, whatever properties confer moral goodness upon morally good things will have no conceptual connection to the nature of God, but will be independently specifiable. This, in principle, concedes the possibility of secular accounts of axiological value.

        But what about the “metaphysical grounding” of axiological properties in God’s nature? What could such “metaphysical grounding” be? If it means that, as creator, all good things come from God and would not exist without God, then this is fine but it fails to address ED1. ED1 is not about the origin of good things; it is about the essential nature of goodness. If God was the creator, then, indeed, without God the good-conferring predicates would have no application; there would be no good things. However, it does not follow that “good” entails God, and this is the whole point.

        If secular theories of axiological value are possible, then there is no reason that they cannot develop their own accounts of moral obligation.

        As for the suggestion that moral goodness is autonomous, i.e. not metaphysically grounded in God, this seems to give away the store. As a secular ethicist, my response would simply be “Thank you!”

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Hi Keith — Sorry for the delayed response. Although you reference ED1 repeatedly in your post, what you really seem to be defending is ED3.

          In response to ED1, it seems to me that a divine nature theorist (DNTist) could consistently take the second horn: God commands it because it is good. But, by itself, that doesn’t show that goodness is completely autonomous of God. All that shows is that goodness is autonomous of God’s commands. The DNTist could, again consistently, go on to say that goodness is determined by God’s nature. Since that is so, our DNTist would argue, it follows that goodness is still dependent upon God.

          You write:

          However, if those axiological properties are definiable only in terms of the divine nature, then saying “God’s nature is good” is tantamount to saying “God’s nature is God’s nature.”

          Again, this statement reinforces my impression that you are defending ED3 against the DNTist. Anyway…

          Your point here seems plausible. But I wonder how devastating it truly is. It seems to me the DNTist could make two replies.

          1. The “true, but so what?” reply. I don’t know if any theist would actually say this, but let’s suppose that the doctrine of divine simplicity is false. God is NOT his nature. Then the DNTist could reply: “You’re right, Keith. The statement “God’s nature is good” is a tautology, tantamount to “God’s nature is God’s nature.” But so what? Since God is not His nature, the statement “God is good” is not a tautology: it reduces to “God acts in accordance with His nature” which is no more tautologous than the statement, “Water is H2O.”

          (Okay, I’m not thrilled with this first point. But I’m interested in your reply anyway.)

          2. Why couldn’t this same objection be lodged against any standard? Suppose the meter bar in Paris was discovered, not invented. Somehow it became the standard for the length of a meter. An anti-metric philosopher comes along and says, “The statement “The meter bar is one meter long” is a tautology, tantamount to “The meter bar is the meter bar.” Presumably people would respond, “So what? The meter bar is the standard of a meter.” Similarly, why can’t the DNTist respond, “So what? God’s nature is the standard of moral goodness.” And your reply is?

          • Keith Parsons

            Jeff,

            I also have been delayed (Pesky students wanting
            their papers graded! Harrumph!). Let me respond to the two replies you have
            suggested to my following argument:

            However, if those axiological properties are definable
            only in terms of the divine nature, then saying “God’s nature is
            good” is tantamount to saying “God’s nature is God’s nature.”

            You say:

            “Again, this statement reinforces
            my impression that you are defending ED3 against the DNTist. Anyway…”

            I really think that we
            philosophers get carried away with the acronyms sometimes. It makes philosophical discussion, dense
            enough as it is, even harder to follow.
            Anyway, you continue:

            “Your point here seems plausible.
            But I wonder how devastating it truly is. It seems to me the DNTist could make
            two replies.”

            Here are your projected replies
            from a Divine Nature Theorist and my responses:

            “1. The ‘true, but so what?’
            reply. I don’t know if any theist would actually say this, but let’s suppose
            that the doctrine of divine simplicity is false. God is NOT his nature. Then
            the DNTist could reply: “You’re right, Keith. The statement “God’s
            nature is good” is a tautology, tantamount to “God’s nature is God’s
            nature.” But so what? Since God is not His nature, the statement “God
            is good” is not a tautology: it reduces to “God acts in accordance
            with His nature” which is no more tautologous than the statement, ‘Water
            is H2O.’”

            RESPONSE: I know that Thomas Aquinas and other
            august authorities have affirmed that God IS his essence, that is, that
            uniquely for God, esse and essentia are one. However, that kind of talk always made my
            head spin, so I will just leave it be and make no comment on whether God must
            be identical with his nature. My point
            does not require that such an identification be made. To hold that we can meaningfully affirm that
            God is good while we cannot meaningfully affirm that God’s nature is good seems
            a paradoxical position, even for a theologian.
            But I will let it be. This
            position will still entail that a MEANINGFUL metaethic, one that MAKES SENSE of
            the nature of axiological goodness, cannot be framed in terms of God’s
            nature.

            My point is that the claim that axiological
            goodness is in some sense metaphysically “grounded” in God’s nature can
            seemingly mean only one of two things: (1) that all axiologically good things
            come from God. God’s nature as creator
            entails that he is the ultimate origin of all things that possess axiological
            value. (2) The nature of God, or some
            elements of it, also constitute the essential nature of axiological goodness,
            that is, you can define “good” only in terms of predicates that also (partially)
            define “God.”

            For instance, we might want to say that the quality
            of human mercy that makes it good is that it conforms to the merciful nature of
            God. But in that case, what makes the
            merciful nature of God good (as, surely, it must be)? It can only be that God’s merciful nature conforms
            to God’s merciful nature. So, construing
            talk about the metaphysical grounding of goodness in God’s nature can mean (1),
            but this is irrelevant to my Euthyphro argument which is about the essential
            nature of goodness, not the origin of good things. On the other hand, if such talk means (2),
            then we seem to be right back to the problem of tautology when attempting to
            characterize the goodness of God’s nature.

            “2. Why couldn’t this same objection be lodged
            against anystandard? Suppose the meter bar in Paris was discovered,
            not invented. Somehow it became the standard for the length of a meter. An
            anti-metric philosopher comes along and says, “The statement “The
            meter bar is one meter long” is a tautology, tantamount to “The meter
            bar is the meter bar.” Presumably people would respond, “So what? The
            meter bar is the standard of a meter.” Similarly, why
            can’t the DNTist respond, “So what? God’s nature is the standard of moral
            goodness.” And your reply is?”

            RESPONSE: In the imagined example, a
            platinum-iridium bar of a certain length may have been discovered, but the
            decision to take it as the standard of measurement is a social construct. The bar happened to be of a convenient length
            for measuring things, so we collectively decide to take it as our standard
            (better than the king’s foot). Is this how
            God becomes the standard of goodness?
            God’s nature, as indicated by scripture, defines values that we find socially
            useful, so we collectively declare that these are the “true” values? Surely, there must be more to it than
            that.


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