You start by bringing up the discovery/invention debate mathematicians have been having for literally centuries and casually asserting it away, going with the invention crowd and against such luminaries as Galileo, Pythagoras, and Plato.
Math may be a bad example for you to use here, MiC, because it is not objectively true that - for example - 1+1=2. The axioms which underly our familiar arithmetic are logically arbitrary. They could be anything.This of course is a huge topic and could spawn a whole 46 page debate on it's own, so it ought to suffice to say that I'm a platonist; I think mathematical truths are objectively real.
I didn't say that math was subjective. I said that the axioms which underlie it are subjective. That is different. The artithmetic system which arises from the selected axioms, necessarily
arises from them. There is one correct answer, once the axioms are selected. The system of logic by which this happens is objectively real, an aspect of reality. But that doesn't make the axioms objectively true. If they could be established as objectively true, then they wouldn't be axioms.
<snipped the vacant appeal to authority>
You go on to assert your way out of another conundrum, that being subjective morality has no basis to act because morality, under a subjective set of assumptions, does not say anything about the real workings of the universe. In response to my "That's a pretty anemic morality you got there" you say:
What I just said contradicts the conclusion you just drew from it. In fact, the point of what I said is that subjective morality only seems anemic from your paradigm, with your assumptions in play.
Your point seems to be that one can act on one's (subjective) morality and be perfectly consistent. Of course you can. I can drink chocolate milk based on nothing more than my subjective opinion that it's tasty. I can plan ahead to acquire more chocolate milk, I can secure additional funds for the means to acquire chocolate milk, I can construct elaborate plans to secure a future rich in chocolate milk.
However, without assuming that morality is universal and objective, the way we actually treat morals is odd. We condemn societies that don't agree with us on moral precepts, in some cases even going to war to stop a nation from committing genocide, for example. If morals are nothing more than subjective opinions this is truly bizarre behavior. We would never do the same over any other subjective opinion, why do we do it over a disagreement over supposedly subjective morals?
It is odd when one acts from the assumption that "oughts" are to be treated, logically, as objective facts. I was not "asserting my way out" of the conundrum, MiC. I was simply stating that I do not share that assumption, and indeed that I cannot share that assumption without contradicting my belief in subjective value.
The point is not that subjective moralists do not act on their opinions. They do so all the time, but when they do, they are implicitly assuming, even if they can't see it, an objective, universal set of morals. If you were to truly be consistent about subjecitve morals and thus act on them the same way you act on other opinions, yours would be an anemic morality indeed.
Those "subjective-moralists" who assume what you say they assume, have a contradiction to deal with, and that contradiction comes into play well before they actually go to engage in an action based on their values. Such a person as you describe would believe that entitlement-to-action is objective
. Yet, entitlement-to-action is value-based - a statement of morality in itself. Thus, under a consistent subjective-morality view, it, too, is subjective. The contradiction you indicate has not been demonstrated to exist under a view of value as being consistently subjective. Since that is the position I hold, your critique does not impact me.
But hey, maybe I'm wrong. Let me bring in my hypothetical materialist in again, with a different opinion than you about, say, theft. He's proud of the fact that he's managed to embezzle money from his employer. Can you, using nothing other than your materialism and your subjective morality, convince him he was "wrong?" (Whatever "wrong" means.) Or are you forced at the end of the day to say you and he disagree, and since such disagreement is symmetrical, you are just as wrong as he is. The fact that (I predict) you're forced at the end of the day to come to a mere disagreement, that you are just as wrong for not stealing as he is for stealing, is what I mean by anemic morality.
That would be the case whether or not he is a subjective- or objective-moralist (you still have not established a logical relation between supernaturalism and morality, btw). An objective-moralist would simply believe himself or herself to be objectively justified, whereas the subjective-moralist would understand himself or herself to only be acting on his or her own authority.
If you wish to draw a distinction based on having an objective view of morality, versus a subjective view of morality, then you need to eliminate other variables from the comparison. The moral views of the person whose behaviour is under examination must be identical in both cases. To do otherwise would be akin to showing in-practice that Ford trucks stay in better shape than a comparable Chevy truck by comparing a new Ford to a used Chevy.
Let me rephrase this so you know I understand your point. You're saying I start with my own opinion about what "Just" means, and then since I assume God is good, I assign this quality "Just" that I just made up to Him. Same goes for "Kind", "Merciful", "Moral," and even "Good" itself. In other words, because God is imaginary, I'm simply assigning my morality to Him. S.P.A.G. at it's finest.
Not quite. "God is imaginary" does not enter my reasoning. I was assuming the objective existence of a god for the sake of argument, but found that it made no logical difference. Look at your own (accurate) paraphrase that I underlined above - does it assume an imaginary god in any way? I don't see that in there. I certainly didn't think it in my own reasoning, on my end. So where do you draw it from?
This attack fails on the one little phrase "because God is imaginary." Your argument takes as an assumption that God does not exist, and then goes on to prove the Christians morality is subjective. Well, of course it is! You just assumed our source of morality out of existence! I'd congratulate you in the same way I'd congratulate a mad prisoner defining the Sun out of existence by scribbling the word 'darkness' on his cell wall, to borrow an analogy from the venerable Mr. Lewis. In fact, let's take that same prisoner and show how the exact same argument applies to his situation as well:
Step #1: None of this "light" stuff you sunists keep on making up, so let's make some.
Step #2: Define "light" and "bright" and "shiny" subjectively according to one's own opinions.
Step #3: Assert the presence of a "light" and "shiny" sun.
Step #4: Forget what we did in Step #2, as it is an inconvenient memory.
See above. Perhaps I was unclear in my original wording. I did not assume objective morality not to exist in line #1. I said that in line #1, we don't have any yet
. As in, we don't have any to work with
until we decide on it. Assigning the qualities you mentioned before to your god is an act of subjective preference. If you don't already have a subjective idea of what "just" means, then saying "God is just!" is meaningless. If you decide that God's will defines justice, then that is a subjective personal decision. I don't see a way out of that, frankly.
The rest of your post you devote to deconstructing my hypothetical talk to your hypothetical Christian who defies God himself, and is sounding more and more like an atheist. When I said "If you're gonna play ball in the Christian neighborhood you play by Christian rules." I meant it - if your hypothetical Christian really is a Christian she ought to act like one.
"She" works. Though, I would like to point out a critical flaw in your parameters here. If the moral opinions of the woman in question are not relevant to correct moral reasoning (as they would not be, if objective morality is real with God in the picture), then it cannot matter whether she agrees with God. The same reasoning would hold true no matter what.
I will clarify. You gave an hypothetical earlier discussing the behaviour of a "materialist" who held that morals were subjective. Obviously, in the case of an argument as to whether the guy should have stolen, it mattered whether the guy thought stealing was wrong
. Why? Because given subjective morality, his own morals would be key to any moral argument made to him.
Presumably, your point was that this would be different if a god was in the picture. Yet here we are, and you are insisting that the moral opinions of the woman in our current hypothetical need to be in sync with God's in order to convince her...that God's morals are right
. How is this different?
You - the one addressing the woman - have value-set X, which we will take as being equivalent to God's value-set (i.e., you agree with God on every moral value). The woman has value-set Y, which is somehow different. The only way you can make a moral argument to her is if she had already adopted value-set X - i.e., if she already agreed with you. You have basically said that no moral argument can take place unless everyone's values are already in complete agreement, which would negate the need for a value-change argument in the first place. Thing is, the same thing could be said in the earlier hypothetical.
If the "materialist" thief had the same values as I do, then I would be able to convince him that his actions were wrong according to the subjective values he already holds.
To the extent that the values of two individuals are shared, those values can be treated - in discussions between those individuals - as though they are objective truths, no matter what they actually are.
Our hypothetical Christian would understand that when Christians talk about morality we always start with God. Morality consists in discovering God's Will for us, the same way a platonist discovers mathematical rules instead of inventing them. Morality is not created arbitrarily and then patched up by saying "God wants me to do this." He says creation is His, and that He is 'allowed' to dictate morality; He claims absolute sovereignty over it. I can and do start here, and in order to stay true to the hypothetical Christian you created, you cannot cry foul.
So you have declared that the hypothetical Christian must agree with a certain set of values (God's) in order for you to be able to argue that those values must align with God's. Sounds pretty flimsy to me. If those values were objective truths, then you wouldn't need to assume this. You have failed.
Let me skip a defense of the author analogy. Like any analogy it can be stretched too far, a fact you aptly demonstrated.
A false analogy is a false analogy. Don't put the responsibility for your failings off onto me.
Christianity, properly practiced, does not judge God. It starts with God and takes his will for us as the definition of "Good." The atheist usually shrieks here that if God willed it wanton Murder would be just as Good as not murdering is now. Well, yeah. But he doesn't, and he won't, so it's not. Indeed, Christians discover that morality is so much more than the pathetic rules we're discussing here. "Don't murder?" Please, that's 101 morality. Graduate into what the rest of us enjoy every day - a profound grattitude for the heaping blessings of Bach, working ankles, the Cross, rainbows, science and math, Carbon Leaf, Jesus Christ -- our Lord and Savior, beer, SQL databases, iPods, soft and dewey grass, Halo III and Starcraft II, tigers - the list goes on. The longer I live the more I am in awe of God and his Goodness. Judge Him?? I bend the knee, and am grateful for the chance to do so.
Deciding that "God is the Good" is a subjective declaration. A part of being Christian, as you define the word? Perhaps. But it is still your decision to be that "proper" Christian - and you are judging already what a "proper" Christian is. Will you try to say that "God defines what a proper Christian is"? If so, then you are engaging in circular reasoning, since whether God can objectively define what a proper Christian is, is one of the issues directly under argument.
Ultimately your whole argument rests on an assumed rejection of Plato's "Good." Christians, philosophically, try to discover Good, to discover God's will. It is this philosophical position that allows us to answer with consistency why certain things are good and certain other things aren't. Your conclusion, that we make it up, is to assume that Plato's Good, that God himself does not exist. It's an assumption that leads to a dry and bitter life. Drop it. Come up into what the other 2.2 billion of us are enjoying every day, and welcome.
I prefer the humility of realizing my own opinions for what they are, rather than projecting them to be absolute truths of the universe.
I reject Plato's "God is the Good" claim, because that is merely his opinion - his judgment. He has judged God to be the Good. It is his preference, as indicated by the necessity for him to declare it at all.
Finally, I want to strenuously object when you say I sit on his throne. Perhaps I do, I struggle to do less so every day.
Hardly. Your moral position is an excuse to do exactly that. The idea that your moral values might be your own would require too much humility, so you must declare them to be God's, as well.
However, by asserting that morality is subjective you are asserting that your personal opinion is <objectively> ultimately more important than anything or anyone else when it comes to morality.
I added and emphasized the subtext assumed by your wording. That is not the case, MiC. If it was, then I would be in contradiction with my own beliefs. This is the same mistake you made earlier in the post.
Murder, Theft, what-have-you is wrong not because you are submitting to some higher authority but only for the arbitrary reason that you don't like it.
The only authority I have, meagre as it is, is my own. I do not pretend to be acting on a "higher" authority, whatever that means. I am small. I am a mere human. I have but my own authority, and it extends but a little ways. I realize that my values are logically arbitrary. Your pride prevents you from admitting the same of yours. Instead, for some reason you must be able to act with what you see as the authority of a God. You're not that big, MiC.
Your breathtaking assertion is that there is none higher than you, you and you alone ultimately decide what you shall decide is "good" and as "bad."
That is a misleading statement, MiC. My assertion is that "higher" is meaningless in this context. See above. I am small.
In his own pathetic, constrained, philosophical way, our hypothetical materialist is god. None shall, indeed, none can convince him that his actions are wrong, if he wills it it is Good. From where I sit, that looks a heckuva lot like sitting on God's throne.
Of course it does. In your pride, it's the only perspective you understand.