Archive for ‘Ethics’

March 25, 2012

What if God Commanded You to do Something Wrong?

by Max Andrews

While at the VT Debate on the existence of God one of the atheists’, in passing, briefly mentioned the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This came up in the Q&A as well.  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer. (Also, see my moral argument I presented at this debate).

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

*∀= for all…, ☐=necessarily, ◊=possibly.  For instance, RIGHT is read as for all actions, ϕ, ϕ is right if and only if God commands ϕ.

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March 24, 2012

VT Debate–The Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is David Baggett’s moral argument* for the existence of a perfectly moral person I used in the VT debate on the existence of God. (I highly recommend Baggett’s book co-authored with Jerry Walls Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.) This version of the moral argument is an abductive version. I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument. You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig. For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

  1. There are objective axiological/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.

In essence, it seems that there are objective moral facts and this asks the question, “What’s the best explanation for these facts?”

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January 20, 2012

A Response to the Problem of an ‘Evil God’ as Raised by Stephen Law

by Max Andrews

The following is a guest blog post by Michael Rundle. Michael has a BA in Theology with Honors (PGCE).  His area of research is in the philosophy of René Descartes and twentieth century theology.

__________

Stephen Law has suggested that arguments such as the cosmological and teleological arguments could serve equally well to support an evil god hypothesis.

He says:

The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”1

This reminds me of the evil demon in Descartes’ Meditations. However, whereas Descartes was introducing the evil demon hypothesis for epistemological reasons Law is raising the evil god hypothesis as a challenge to theism. His challenge is for theological reasons.

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December 26, 2011

Auctoritas–A Response to the Geisler Controversy

by Max Andrews

I have been reviewing, critiquing, and commenting on the controversy between Norman Geisler and Mike Licona for a few months now and I haven’t commented on it for a while hoping that all of this would soon pass.  With much dismay I was terribly wrong and it appears to have gotten much worse.  There are several happenings I would like to reveal and discuss some new critiques of the situation.  For my previous posts please see:

My Support and Endorsement of Mike Licona

The Disputatio–A Response to Norman Geisler in Defense of Mike Licona

In Promptu Ponere–A Response to Norm Geisler’s Petition Against Mike Licona

A Response to Tim Rogers and the Geisler Camp

Caveo Cavi Cautum–A Second Look at Geisler’s Petition Against Licona

Tekton’s Geisler Carol Cartoon

Tekton Ticker recently released a satirical version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol depicting Licona as Bob Crachit and Geisler as Scrooge adopting a plot driven towards this controversy over inerrancy rather than Scrooge’s distain for Christmas.  I’m not going to offer much critique on this simply because this shouldn’t have warranted the response from an SES alumnus as it did. You can see Tekton’s response here.  However, I cannot ignore its absurd response completely but here are the six reasons why Tekton should/would be brought before the school for review:

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December 23, 2011

Thomistic Ethics and the Evil God Challenge

by Max Andrews

I finally weighed in with my thoughts concerning the evil God challenge set forth by Stephen Law.  My original post argued for two primary principles: 1) evil is the negation of good and requires no ontological grounding and 2) that everyone always acts according to what they believe is good.  (1) Certainly may appear as a mere assertion and it may be reversed and hence the problem of good.  I won’t be defending (1) in this post but I would like to explicate (2) more because I believe it is much stronger and (1) follows from (2) logically later on.

Thomas’ meta-ethic was that being and goodness are the same in reference but differ only in sense.  He follows Aristotle in making the connection between goodness and desirability.   “The formula of the good consists in this, that something is desirable, and so the Philosopher says that the good is what all desire.”[1]  Although all things desire goodness, not all things capable of pursuing goodness with understanding understand what really is good; it is possible for creatures with intellect and will to desire an apparent good as a real one.[2]

Something is desire in two ways, either because it is good or because it appears good.  Of these, the first is what is good, for an apparent good does not move by itself but insofar as it has some appearance of good; but the good moves by itself.[3]

Desirability is an essential aspect of goodness.  The perfection of anything is goodness and perfection is attained in actuality, “As regards nature the good of anything is its actuality and perfection.”[4]  Again, following Aristotle, goodness appears in the notion of that which desire culminates:

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December 21, 2011

Responding to the Evil God Challenge

by Max Andrews

Stephen Law has been setting forth his case for the evil God challenge.  It has been a recent topic of discussion in the blogosphere and there have been several articles written about it.  The argument is formulated in a way that mirrors the moral argument for the existence of God.  If objective morality is true then this morality is grounded in God.  Law argues that if objective evil is true then it is grounded in an evil God. (That’s the basic outline of the argument but please see more here).  I haven’t read much of anyone’s responses to the challenge so I apologize if I’m repeating someone.  I’ve been hesitant to participate in this discussion because I hoped it would pass over but here are my thoughts.

The reason why I waited so long to chime in on this discussion was because I didn’t think the argument was a very good argument.  I have two primary contentions for why this is an incoherent argument.  My first is that the argument requires there to be a genuine ontology for evil and my second follows Thomas Aquinas in that everyone always acts according to what they believe is right.

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November 22, 2011

Ethics of Belief

by Max Andrews

W.K. Clifford summarized his deontic model of rationality when he stated, “it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.  If a man, holding a belief which he was taught in childhood or persuaded of afterwards, keeps down and pushes away any doubts which arise about it in his mind… the life of that man is one long sin against mankind.”[1] I will need to clarify a few of the nuances to Clifford’s epistemic ethic.  I would part ways with Clifford in his sea-worthy ship story with regards to his alternate ending (see below).  The ship owner is not responsible or equally guilty for the shipwreck even though it never happened.  Such counterfactuals are absurd to consider as having deontic statuses since they do not pertain to reality.  I would merely suggest that someone’s wrongfulness for believing upon sufficient evidence is congruent and the wrongfulness is not congruent to the consequent of actions taken based on that belief.  William James’ position states that it is permissible to believe upon insufficient evidence and, perhaps, even obligatory for us to believe on insufficient evidence.  I disagree with James (see my argument for justification for the contrast).

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November 10, 2011

The Free Exchange in the Marketplace of Ideas

by Max Andrews

The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.”  I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue.  This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching.  I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true.  Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.

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November 6, 2011

The Types of Commands in Divine Command Theory

by Max Andrews

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                         ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                       ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)  [2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

The arbitrariness objection claims that [for example] if God commanded moral agents to rape then the action of committing rape would be obligatory to all moral agents.[3]  The objector assumes an inference in the form of the argument stating that ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ) may also be applicable in the sense that ϕ could refer to rape (ρ).  What would make the command arbitrary is the truth of the counterfactual:  If God did command rape then there would be a moral obligation to rape.[4]  If this counterfactual were true then it would serve as a defeater for DCT.  The objection is not a defeater for the existence of God; it is a defeater for the DCT’s model of deontological ethics.

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