Monday, February 07, 2011

Explaining Objective and Subjective Moral Values

This is a great text to
dig deep into the
moral argument as
presented by W.L.
In presenting William Lane Craig’s moral argument for God’s existence I used the following to explain objective moral values and subjective moral values. Consider these two statements.

1. Torturing and raping little girls for fun is wrong.

2. John believes that torturing and raping little girls for fun are wrong.

Both 1 and 2 are statements. As statements each describes a state of affairs. If the state of affairs they describe obtains, then the statements are true. If that state of affairs does not obtain, then the statements are false.

If 1 is true, it is true for everyone. If 1 is false, it is false for everyone. The same can be said for statement 2. That is, if it is true that John believes that torturing and raping little girls for fun are wrong, then it is true for everyone. If it is false it is false for everyone.

But even if 2 is true, this does not mean 1 is true. It only affirms that John believes that 1 is true. Therefore, on 2, the belief that one should not torture and rape little girls for fun is non-binding and, therefore, not objective.

Now if God does not exist the kind of ethical statements we have are only of the kind 2 represents. With no divine Lawgiver we are left with our own subjective beliefs about what is right and what is wrong. While we must admit things like “John believes… X is wrong,” which is not a moral judgment, we cannot arrive at the moral judgment “X is wrong.” Without a divine Lawgiver moral judgments are merely things we invent; i.e., they are subjective moral values. As such, they cannot be adjudicated in the sense of being morally binding.

It is for reasons such as this that the atheist philosopher Joel Marks affirms that, without God, morality does not exist. Since Marks believe there is no Commander God (i.e., a God who is perfectly good in essence and issues commands that are good), the metaphysical ground for morality is gone.