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Old 07-17-2006, 11:03 AM   #121
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As usual Yolland, your responses are articulate and well thought out. You definitely add value to every thread you post in.

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This is what troubles me most about the type of argument you are making. How could an objective moral law be applied without getting into the realm of subjectivity, contingencies, rationalizations and qualifications based on particulars? And if the application requires venturing into this realm...well then, as the ethicist MacIntyre famously asked, Whose justice? Which rationality? You are getting into a potentially infinite regress of authority as to upon which interpretive stance, and which set of facts about the particular situation at hand, you are going to base your application.
The idea is that if Objective Moral Laws do exist, it is our duty as humans to try and understand them and apply them. The questions of “Whose justice?” and “Whose rationality? Ultimately does have an answer, and it seems we are closer to answering these questions than 4,000 years ago. We will never have the answer 100%, but the alternative seems to be subjectivity – which I think leads to an unlivable situation.


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Originally posted by yolland


Stating that, e.g., "murder is objectively wrong" is not like stating Pythagoras' theorem; that is always and everywhere true in precisely the same way, and does not need to be qualified or contextualized with regard to particular right triangles. By contrast, in order for "murder is wrong" to amount to anything more than an impotent assertion with regard to a particular case, you must first define what murder is, which in turn creates a need to define what innocence is, what homicidal intent looks like, and why any arguments presented in the muderer's defense cannot withstand rational scrutiny. In other words, it seems to me, you will have to rely on precisely the same sorts of thought processes you are criticizing A_W and melon for presenting as authoritative.
If murder is an objective moral law, and it is not being universally applied – is this because the moral law does not exist – or is it because of a breakdown in perspective, adherence, or ignorance of that law). Pythagoras' theorem is a good example – it was objectively true before I learned about it. I can subjectively decide what to do with it, but that will have no bearing on its truthfulness.


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Originally posted by yolland

By what authority can an atheist, a humanist, or a utilitarian claim a given thing wrong...well, by what authority can you claim it wrong? By the universal objective moral laws whose proper applications unfortunately cannot be universally objectively known, as evinced by the fact that we cannot agree on how to apply (or even derive) them?
The atheist, humanist, or utilitarian have only human authority to rely on in regards to objective moral laws (if they agree there is such a thing). As a Christian, Christ is my starting point. The fact that His laws are not universally applied properly – is a fault of humans not the laws or Law giver.

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Originally posted by yolland

I realize this does not address the question of whether objective moral laws exist one way or the other. But it seems to me that you are not making a very convincing case for why anything particularly meaningful follows from it if they do. You keep citing the Holocaust as an example--what precisely is the hypothetical objective moral law that you would argue it violated?
That’s okay if you are convinced. I know I am not the most “convincing” writer or speaker. I like to throw ideas out there and discuss them. Many times I come away from threads like this with a better understanding of other views (and even my own views).

The Holocaust is an extreme case of murder and cruelty – which is why I cite it. The holocaust is recent and most people (outside the Middle East) accept it as a historical event. However, if it makes some people uncomfortable, I don’t mind using another example.


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Originally posted by yolland

I cannot readily think of one against which an opposing argument could not be made, on the basis of Nazi ideology, that said law was not violated. Of course you could and would retort that said counterargument--the Dolchstosslegende, eugenics, etc.--cannot withstand rational scrutiny; and you would probably also argue that even if it could, the solution advocated was nonetheless unjustifiably disproportional to the threat thus posed, and sets an unacceptably dangerous and destructive precedent for how to respond to other threats of logically comparable magnitude, etc. But again, I do not see how this is substantially different from the sort of argument A_W or melon might make about why it was wrong, nor do I see how it makes your authority compellingly greater than theirs. In all three cases, I would have to rely on reason to evaluate the argument made, and in no case could I absolutely rule out the influence of subjective or historically contingent biases (partiality towards other Jews; reflexive association of fascism with violence and tyranny; greater and prior familiarity with a very different set of ideas about genetics, WWI-era German history and Jewish history; fear of legal and political systems which prioritize the interests and autonomy of the state over those of individuals; etc.) upon my evaluation.
Anybody can find “some” reason for doing what they do. Otherwise, most wouldn’t do it. Connecting a few dots of logic together without trying to understand the greater picture is dangerous in my view. I think that melon and wanderer have connected a few dots, but have not gone on to explain the bigger picture. That stop with human opinion. I may not have put together a compelling argument, but that doesn’t mean the big picture does not exist and that it isn’t useful.

Since your post on the Pharisees a few weeks ago, I’ve done some looking into them. You are right; much of what they taught is very similar to Christianity. And like Christians, they believed that a law would only be a human opinion if was not anchored into an infinite-transcendent being (please coirrect me if I am wrong) I have a similar opinion.
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Old 07-17-2006, 03:49 PM   #122
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Here's a question I like to ask people regarding the topic:

Let's assume that we have no God. Who care if the Earth exploded?
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Old 07-17-2006, 04:17 PM   #123
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I would.
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Old 07-17-2006, 06:01 PM   #124
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LOL. I mean after it blew up. Are you an astronaut?
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Old 07-17-2006, 06:33 PM   #125
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No, but I do like to let my imagination soar among the stars

If the world blew up how could it possibly matter? Unless you are going to claim that the God you worship has a side-project somewhere.
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:46 PM   #126
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I've had a few days to think about this subject, and I'm actually willing to reverse course a bit. One of the lessons of history is that to leave a void in discourse is to concede to your opponent, more or less. Despite the fact that I believe that I have more than adequately explained, through logic, why "objectivity" does not exist, I was aware at the time that my argument was based on a semantical distinction. I was willing to create laws based on "subjective consensus," so whether one wants to call their set of rules "objective law" or "subjective consensus" is of no real concern to me.

I take an example from science. "Science," itself, is based on uncovering factual, objective data. However, originating from science is the concept of "inherent uncertainty," where it is a given that any "scientific law" is open for change, as long as evidence has been shown to justify such change. As such, it could be said that "objectivity" is paradoxically defined by "inherent uncertainty." I'm willing to accept such a paradox.

Now as for how to define the so-called "Objective Moral Law," I believe it is important to outline what hasn't worked. Foremost, what hasn't worked is theocracy. No theocracy has ever survived free of corruption or cruelty. Likewise, no theocracy has ever been stable or prosperous. A theocratic government is as "ideal" as communism, where too much trust is put into ideology, and it is assumed that such an ideology is not only perfect from the onset, but will also remain unperverted in the execution.

However, in all instances, one thing is clear: no matter what the form of government is, whether it is capitalism, communism, theocracy, imperialism, despotry, or even anarchy, a certain percentage will set themselves up as "the leaders," live a lavish lifestyle far out of pace with the lifestyle of their citizenry, and then bastardize any form of ideology to maintain their iron grip on power.

As such, when it has been stated that democratic capitalism is the best form of government, I agree with this statement. It is by no means a perfect form of government, but compared to all the alternatives in history, it is the only one that has checks and balances built-in to prevent mass corruption. Of course, if you have a government that ignores and/or changes those checks and balances as to make them ineffective, then I would argue that you're no longer talking about a "democratic capitalism," and, instead, have created something along the lines of despotry. But that's probably a different discussion for a different day.

As such, in defining "Objective Moral Law," the first thing we can eliminate from consideration is religion. Jewish theocracy failed in the Old Testament, with Israel having been conquered more than once and the rulers themselves not portrayed as all that upright. Christian theocracy was a colossal failure, from the fall of the Roman Empire to corrupt European monarchism. Even the Catholic Church itself, when it was a monopoly on Western religion, failed so miserably as to cause the Protestant Reformation. And the last vestiges of global theocracy today, Islamic theocracy, has breeded nothing but fanaticism, cruelty, and intolerance. As such, I shudder over the idea that "Objective Moral Law" has any place in religion.

That is not to say that religion should be eliminated. Communism proved the failure of that idea. And, in many ways, the debate has really not been formulated all that well. However, we have gone from progressively abstract dualism to dichotomies that are slightly more specific. In the most amorphous of dualistic concepts was the idea of "good versus evil." However, every person, even the most "evil" of person, sees themselves as a crusader looking to correct an injustice. As such, the struggle between "good and evil" is not an important distinction to make. After all, both Israel and Hamas would say that they are fighting evil.

Over time, we also have the dualism of "liberal versus conservative" and "religious versus atheist." What defines someone as a "liberal" and a "conservative" changes dramatically through time. As such, it does not pass the test of history. "Religious versus atheist" may seem to be a compelling argument, considering today's rather hot-button world, but, again, the test of history dismisses even that. If religion disappeared tomorrow, it would not stop internal disagreement (after all, who would need secret police then?). Likewise, eliminating atheists would not stop it either. Medieval Christianity is full of examples of colorful clergymen who were never contented with the status quo. On one hand, we have William of Ockham, the English monk who gave us "Occam's Razor," and on the other, we have clerics like Martin Luther, whose disagreements ran so strong as to rip Christianity into pieces.

Perhaps a better dichotomy would be to say that we are in a world divided by traditionalists and futurists. That is, we have those who fear change and those who embrace it. This one, I believe, would stand the test of time, as, regardless of your religious beliefs or your political affiliation, we are always divided between those who cling to a time gone by and those who dream of building a new world all their own.

And that's where we run into trouble defining "Objective Moral Law." Traditionalists cling to what they believe is the past in regards to morality, and even go so far as to romanticize the past, imagining a reality that never existed. This is where we get such fiery language saying that "we've tried relativism and we've failed." This is in spite of the fact that "relativism" is as much an amorphous phantom as "good versus evil"--that is to say that it is so vague as to be utterly meaningless. It was probably that "vagueness" that put me off to the term, "objectivity," in the first place.

In the end, if we are to define "Objective Moral Law," it must be done through logic and reason, without regard for (religious) tradition. Like capitalism, it may not be a flawless system, but the alternative has already failed the test of history. And any notion of "Objective Moral Law" must always be put under the scrutiny of "inherent uncertainty." Otherwise, like communism or the Christian Coalition, it will be open to corruption by a power-hungry elite who will use the notion of an unquestioning "moral law" to cement their power and lifestyle permanently to a public who no longer cares to question their leadership.

But again, that is not to say that religion has no place. It certainly has place in your own moral life, but in terms of public policy, it should have no place at all. History has proven time and time again how disastrous it is to ever mix religion and politics.

Melon
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:47 PM   #127
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
Let's assume that we have no God. Who care if the Earth exploded?
Let's assume that there is a God. Why would God care if the Earth exploded?

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Old 07-17-2006, 08:48 PM   #128
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Because He loves us.

The God I believe in at least.
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Old 07-17-2006, 08:53 PM   #129
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Because He loves us.

The God I believe in at least.
But the traditionalist Christian puts no ultimate value into the Earth or any other creation besides mankind. And if, upon death, only mankind has eternal life, I ask again why God would care if the Earth blew up?

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Old 07-17-2006, 09:48 PM   #130
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You're implying that God may not care if we died because we'll live on eternally anyways. God is the only one who can decide if we die, none of us will die before God's time for us has come. But to say he doesn't care if we die is silly IMO. The thought of anyone going to Hell pains Jesus more than just about anything methinks.

My point is that without a God NO ONE would care if Earth exploded (except maybe aliens, if you believe in that stuff heh heh).
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Old 07-17-2006, 09:49 PM   #131
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon

But again, that is not to say that religion has no place. It certainly has place in your own moral life, but in terms of public policy, it should have no place at all. History has proven time and time again how disastrous it is to ever mix religion and politics.

Melon
The Founding fathers thought the mixing of public religion and politics essential to a free nation (thousands of quotes available upon request) but in their wisdom established a wall between Church and State to protect us from both religious and secular extremists.

"The balance between the promise of the Declaration of Independence, with it's evocation of divine origins and destiny, and the practicalities of the Constitution, with it's checks on extremism, remains perhaps the most brilliant American success."
---Jon Meacham American Gospel

Interesting post by the way.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:30 PM   #132
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
You're implying that God may not care if we died because we'll live on eternally anyways. God is the only one who can decide if we die, none of us will die before God's time for us has come. But to say he doesn't care if we die is silly IMO. The thought of anyone going to Hell pains Jesus more than just about anything methinks.

My point is that without a God NO ONE would care if Earth exploded (except maybe aliens, if you believe in that stuff heh heh).
You may want to re-read your post because it doesn't make a lick of sense.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:33 PM   #133
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
Here's a question I like to ask people regarding the topic:

Let's assume that we have no God. Who care if the Earth exploded?
I would, I happen to like my existence and property.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:35 PM   #134
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Religious Theocracy, Communism, Nazism versus the Open Society - Popper was right.
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Old 07-17-2006, 10:37 PM   #135
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Quote:
Originally posted by shart1780
You're implying that God may not care if we died because we'll live on eternally anyways. God is the only one who can decide if we die, none of us will die before God's time for us has come. But to say he doesn't care if we die is silly IMO. The thought of anyone going to Hell pains Jesus more than just about anything methinks.
To know the mind of God or at least project is the same thing that people have been doing all through history, God doesn't decide if we live or die - it is the cutoff of oxygen to the brain that does that, caused by the bullet through the heart or the breakdown of age.
Quote:
My point is that without a God NO ONE would care if Earth exploded (except maybe aliens, if you believe in that stuff heh heh).
Right assuming that everybody ceased to exist then nobody would be around to care, can you face that or is it more comforting to have Kim il Yaweh looking over all of us from cradle to grave?
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