Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Wrong to Force People Into Thinking They Are Wrong

In one of my Philosophy of Religion classes today I presented Craig and Copan's moral argument for the existence of God. Premise 2 of the argument is: Objective moral values (OMVs) exist. How do they argue for the truth of that? The answer is: OMVs are discovered rather than argued for. In other words, they are properly basic beliefs rather than evidentially proven conclusions.

For example: People who think it's OK to boil babies for fun are morally wrong. Why? Because I can see that boiling babies for fun is morally wrong, as you can too. And I don't see any reason to doubt this. But isn't that just one's subjective opinion? No. It is objectively true that boiling babies for fun is morally wrong. So anyone who thinks it's not morally wrong to do that is wrong. (Here the study of properly basic beliefs and noetic frameworks comes into play.)

One of my students objected to my saying this; viz., saying that I am right and people who think otherwise (in this example) are wrong. It seemed, to this student, arrogant of me.

I asked them, "Do you think I am wrong to claim that I am right and people who believe boiling babies for fun are wrong?" They said, "Yes."

"That's a very strong moral judgment. You think I am wrong." Does not that seem as arrogant as my statement?

It's very difficult to avoid making strong moral claims. The person who thinks it's wrong to force your opinions on other people are themselves forcing one of their opinions on us. It's instructive to note that such a belief ("It's wrong to force your opinions on others") is itself recent, narrow (not universally shared), and Eurocentric. A lot of people past and present don't believe such a statement to be true. It's a function of a certain noetic framework.

How about sharing your opinion that, say, some person is wrong because they believe ___? Surely that's not forcing an opinion on anybody. Or, saying something like, "Anyone who believes ____ is wrong." Is it wrong to do that? If it is, then it's self-defeating. If it's not, then there should be no problem when someone expresses such beliefs and even such knowledge claims.

Every knowledge claim marginalizes. That truth cannot be used to prove that, therefore, there are no knowledge claims at all.

(This is not exactly how my discussion today went. And, the student who dialogued a bit with me about this is one of the very best students in my class, and adds much to this particular class, to include asking questions that a lot of others are thinking but themselves dare not ask.)