Essay talk:Godless morality

From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

IT DOESN'T BEG THE QUESTION DAMMIT! Otherwise, very good. Interesting reading. Scarlet A.pngpathetic 17:01, 25 March 2011 (UTC)

'Beg your pardon, but the verb "to beg" has other uses than the name of a logical fallacy.[1] --ZooGuard (talk) 17:08, 25 March 2011 (UTC)
Of course it does: it leaves open the question of what is right and wrong. ĵ₳¥ášÇ♠ʘ No comment 00:31, 26 March 2011 (UTC)
Indeed. Very interesting. That said... it is possible for theists to be moral for the sake of it, with God's approval being a potential side-benefit. - Gameboy (talk) 00:48, 26 March 2011 (UTC)
(1) I would use "prompts the question" instead, just to avoid confusion.
(2) If you have yet to turn this in, you might want to be sure your professor is a fan of Prof. Singer before you cite the slimeball as an authority on moral questions.
(3) "alter" -> "altar." Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:02, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

Can someone write the parallel essay on 'Godly immorality'? (talk) 14:22, 6 April 2011 (UTC)

Maratrean's viewpoint[edit]

I think the real issue with "Godless morality" is meta-ethics. So it is useful in this discussion to clearly distinguish meta-ethics from normative and applied ethics.

Many people want to adopt some kind of objective meta-ethics - that ethical statements can be objectively true, and known to be as such, in a similar way as factual statements (but not necessarily exactly the same way). Now, one can still have normative/applied ethics without objective meta-ethics, but it is harder. If one admits ethics is just an expression of subjective feelings, one loses a lot of one's rhetorical power in substantive ethical debates with others - if your position is just a consequence of your own feelings, well my own feelings are different, so I have no reason to listen to you.

I don't think atheism in itself makes much of a difference here - it rules out some objective meta-ethical theories (e.g. those who see ethics as rooted in God's will or nature), but they leave others. However, atheism is very often coupled in practice with materialism and positivism, and it is much harder to adopt an objective meta-ethics in conjunction with these. The only even remotely objectivist meta-ethic open to a positivist materialist would be a naturalist one, but naturalist meta-ethics have grave difficulties - if you define "good" to mean e.g. "the greatest happiness to the greatest number", well, someone else is free to define good differently (e.g. "whatever is best for the Communist Party"), and there is no way one definition can be said to be objectively better than another (see also G.E. Moore's open question argument). So, naturalist meta-ethics has the same practical problems - in terms of trying to participate in ethical debate - as subjectivist forms of meta-ethics does.

So, while I don't think there is a problem with atheist morality per se - but in practice atheism is most commonly united with materialism/positivism - and there is a real problem with materialist/positivist morality, and that is the difficulty in maintaining an objective meta-ethics.

Morality, if God knows everything, has already been pre-ordained, set into action before you even knew your own existence. The omniscience of a higher power wipes out morality from good to merely to being an action, pre-determined though divine knowledge before it happened. Morality without god, however, transcends this nuisance of omniscience. - I believe the Goddess Maratrea is the source of all morality; and she knows everything - with her perfect memory, she remembers everything that anyone has ever done or seen, for in circular time she used to be everyone. But, I don't see how her great knowledge makes morality impossible - evil acts are still evil, even though she knows them and wills them to be and be as such; they are evil because they are not good-in-themselves, but only good for the good they produce. The goodness or evil of an act is a property of the act itself, whether the actor could have done otherwise is not ultimately relevant. A painting is a good or bad painting, even though the painting has no power or choice to be other than what it is.

A great person is the one who is good because, deep in their heart, they enjoy seeing other people happy. The most admirable human is the one that gives happily, knowing that another person will receive happily. The greatest good is performed not for acclaim, not because it is the will or in the view of a cosmic power, but because it is great to do good. - I believe that we should do good, not because Maratrea will reward us after death - she rewards good and evil alike - but because we love the good for being good, for we love goodness itself. Yet, goodness itself is in my belief identical to her very nature, thus in loving the good for its own sake, we are in fact loving her.

Complicating the statement that God wants us to be moral is the truism that it is impossible to know the will of any god, due to the impossibility of definite communications with such an entity - I do believe we can know the will of Maratrea; although I do not propose here to go into detail on this issue. Let me instead discuss the other side of the coin - how can anyone know what is ethical? It seems to be a truism that no one can know what is ethical, since everyone just believes their own prejudices or preferences to correspond to universal ethics, and unlike factual matters, there are no objective tests that can be performed to determine what is ethical and what is not. If this is an argument against religious ethics, it is equally an argument against non-religious ethics too. --(((Zack Martin))) 08:02, 9 April 2011 (UTC)