Friday, November 21, 2014

Objective Moral Values and Duties Exist (Premise 2 of the Moral Argument for God's Existence)

Our back yard, on the river

In my MCCC Philosophy of Religion class this coming Tuesday I will be especially explaining and arguing for the truth of premise 2 in William Lane Craig's version of the Moral Argument for God's Existence.

The moral argument for God's existence can be made using atheists to support both premises. The argument goes like this.

Premise 1 - If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.

Premise 2 - Objective moral values and duties do exist.

The conclusion then follows deductively:

Therefore, God exists.

Atheistic justification of the first premise is seen here.

Atheistic support of Premise 2 is seen in, for example, this quote from atheist philosopher Colin McGinn:

When I assert 'this is good' or 'that is evil', I do not mean that I experience desire or aversion, or that I have a feeling of liking or indignation. These subjective experiences may be present; but the judgment points not to a personal or subjective state of mind but to the presence of an objective value in the situation. What is implied in this objectivity? Clearly, in the first place, it implies independence of the judging subject. If my assertion 'this is good' is valid, then it is valid not for me only but for everyone. If I say 'this is good', and another person, referring to the same situation, says 'this is not good', one or other of us must be mistaken... The validity of a moral judgment does not depend upon the person by whom the judgment is made... In saying that moral values belong to the nature of reality... the statement implies an objectivity which is independent of the achievements of persons in informing their lives with these values, and is even independent of their recognising their validity. Whether we are guided by them or not, whether we acknowledge them or not, they have validity... objective moral value is valid independently of my will, and yet is something which satisfies my purpose and completes my nature.

Many atheists defend moral objectivism. Here's atheist Russell Shafer-Landau:

Some moral views are better than others, despite the sincerity of the individuals, cultures, and societies that endorse them. Some moral views are true, others false, and my thinking them so doesn’t make them so. My society’s endorsement of them doesn’t prove their truth. Individuals, and whole societies, can be seriously mistaken when it comes to morality. The best explanation of this is that there are moral standards not of our own making.

Further, any argument against moral objectivism would be self-refuting. One would then argue this way:

1. There are no objective moral values (which is the same thing as to say moral values are only subjective), and 
2. one objectively ought to accept subjectivism.

Which is incoherent.

(Thanks throughout to Peter Williams' essay "Can Moral Objectivism Do Without God?")