Argument from Moral Judgment and abstract values

Arguments for the Existence of God
by Metacrock - edited by JMT
Used with Permission

XXIII. Moral Judgment and Abstract Values.

[Note this argument differs from the previous moral argument in that that argument is based upon the explanatory power of the God Hypothesis for human nature in relation to moral motions--whereas this argument argues from the nature of the values of morality themselves and the abilities of minds to judgment. So the first argument deals with human nature and is really an argument from the way humans feel morally, this argument is based upon the ideas of morality and moral judgment themselves.]

A. Moral Values Require Absolute Truth or they are meaningless.

1) Moral values are either absolute or relative.

2) If Moral values are relative than they have no real binding force of decision beyond mere social contract or individual taste.

3) Genetic determinists try to ground ethics in necessary values derived from genetics such as the inherent need for cooperation.

4) If the only thing that makes something moral is it's value toward enhancing cooperation, and if a Nazi society fostered cooperation, a Nazi society would be moral.

5) If we cannot except an efficient society as moral on the grounds that in addition to efficiency it also did immoral things than the grounds for those other things as immoral must be provided.

6) Such grounds cannot be provided in genetics and culture than there must be other grounds for morality than just genetics and culture.

B. Possible Worlds Examples.

1) Nazism Triumphs.

Let's assume a possible universe in which the Nazis won World War II. They have exterminated all Jews, communists, liberals and some other groups they don't like. But of course they haven't exterminated the vast majority of groups they feel superior too because they want someone to do the jobs they don't want themselves. That means that even though Millions have died unjustly, only a relatively small percentage of the total human population has been exterminated.

*Because there was total world power by one regime there was no nuclear arms race thus the world did not sit on the brink of nuclear destruction.

*Because millions have been culled the population explosion is down.

* Because there was no communism and no USSR with nuclear weapons there is no possibility of nuclear terrorism.

* No Israel means no Arab/Israeli conflict and thus no Arab terrorism.

* Since the Nazis had some socialistic style programs everyone is taken care of and everyone is fed, housed, clothed, given medical care, jobs, and fulfilling work and artistic outlets for culture and recreation.

* Because the world population wasn't threatened in this culling, not chance of mass extinctions on the part of humanity other than the Jews of course.

Thus, society has achieved the greatest good for the greatest number. Now let's assume in fact that this Nazism was discovered by the ancient Greeks and came into existence and world domination with Alexander the Great. That means that the extermination of the Jews was a long long time ago. Everyone has been taught for 2000 or more years that the Aryans are the master race, that the greatest good for the greatest number means getting rid of pesky minority groups such as the Jews, and that everyone should work for the greater good. Now once and awhile some group of other is exterminated but by and large everyone is provided with a decent life, assuming they aren't exterminated. At no time is the population of humanity over all in danger, and in fact it is kept balance so everything is good.

2) Brains and Happiness.

Let's imagine another possible world in which a select group of "servants" are in charge of putting the brain of everyone not in the servant group in a special receptacle which keeps it alive and shocks the pleasure centers periodically so that it feels the greatest pleasure that it has ever felt. At one point this "servant group" was responsible for kidnapping and de-braining everyone on earth, but many years latter they have accomplished their task such that no one on earth not in the servant class is living in his/her body, but all are either brains or special breeders who give birth to new brains which are removed form the infants they are born into and raised in these special chambers never to know hardship or toil but always to be given the greatest pleasure humans can feel through the brain shocks.

Since behavior is all deterministic through genetics and no one is truly free anyway, and since the greatest good for the greatest number is the only ethical value that can be proven to have any meaning, is this not a moral society?

3) Captain Kirk's Dilemma.

Let's assume a possible world , not the earth, in which an alien species has evolved to become dominate on its planet, let us call it "Hitleria." On Hitleria there is total injustice. A tyrant rules by force, everyone is taught to obey. Members of the ruling families can do anything they want to anyone they want and no one can object. Anyone who has gained a higher position in this society through whatever means possible and moved up to the top of the bureaucracy has the authority to torture, kill, or maim in whatever way they choose anyone of a lower caste. The only rules which are observed are that they cannot do anything to harm the ability of the species to propagate itself and they must provide a basic level of economic security for the middle classes. Slavery exists, with auction blocks and the whole bit, but two classes of slaves. Class A are in total subjection, they can be killed at will with no fear of reprisals. And Class B, the larger group, has basic rights but are still property. Can we say "this is an immoral Society?" And do we use the enterprise to change it? Do we violate the prime directive?

4) A Simpler case.

What if an alien race wiped the human race completely and set up shop living on Earth. No humans around to call this unjust. Would it be unjust? Many skeptics will try to hedge this by saying "from our point of view it would be." But why should anyone care about our point of view when we would all be dead anyway? So what is the harm? If we can't say that it is unjust for everyone, from all points of view than we really can't say it is unjust at all. But, can we not say that?

C) Are any of these examples immoral?

If morality is relative and subjective with no ultimate truth value, if the only provable moral value is the greatest good for the greatest number. than both of these societies should be morally fine examples. Somehow I doubt that very many people will agree that they are, but why not? Both exhibit the greatest good for the greatest number and both assume a cultural bias in their favor. IN the Nazi example everyone would be taught from birth that the Aryans are superior and everyone would be taught to base morality upon that notion. So if the thing that makes something good is the group than why would these not be just societies? The only possible objections one could level against them would be that the acts themselves are intrinsically evil, but for that to be the case there must be a possibility of intrinsic evil to exist, and thus there must also be an intrinsic good.

In the case of example 3, the planet Hitleria, these are a foreign species, they are not even human. Is there system unjust? How could it be called unjust when that would be imposing human values upon another species?

D. The Denial of harm. Not many people will be able to deny the obvious injustice in all three examples. But while most will try to rationalize a relativist ethic as sufficient to condemn the example, some will simply argue "fine it could really be that way. That doesn't prove the existence of God, it just means life is tough and we are lucky to have a good social contract. We will call the first approach the rationalizing approach, and no 2 the Nihilistic approach.

1) The Rationalizing approach.

This approach would probably be to try and argue that through cooperation these societies would flourish all the more, or that the tyrannical nature of them would eventually break down thus demonstrating that natural evolution is the ultimate arbiter in restoring a moral balance. The argument runs something like this: Morality is the natural result of realizing that cooperation is better than not cooperating. This is all that is needed to produce a moral society. The natural ramifications of Tyranny would eventually cause it's breakdown thus proving that those who cooperate adapt to change and survive and those who don't don't' survive. Thus there is nothing intrinsically moral about morality it is just practical matter of survival and cooperation.

Answer: This in fact cannot be demonstrated. In fact human history itself argues against it. We have gone on with bloodshed century after century, epoch after epoch, as we grow more sophisticated economically and technologically and more democratic we also grow better able to destroy the world. We have not secured morality or the peace or safety of life for the vast majority of the species. Moreover, The important point is that in each example it is stipulated that the brutal societies have achieved an equilibrium such that they do not fall to greater desires for democracy. After all, Nazism is efficient and can provide good living conditions for the majority of its people although at the expense of others. But what does that matter if the society itself agrees to it? And the brains in the box can't do anything to rebel. The aliens are not human and thus this is their natural balance. This is the same dilemma Captain Kirk Faced on every episode of Star Trek. Weather or not we should actually violate the prime directive is another matter, however, can we say that it is an immoral society?

[I have discovered from arguing this on the Net already that skeptics (who usually think like utilitarians) cannot admit that the Nazi societies could be called moral, but neither can they agree that there must be some higher value involved than could be derived from nature. They always try to argue that merely nature alone, though the need for cooperation, provides all we need for morality, but they miss the point entirely. If morality is derived only from genes and culture, then a Nazi society could be moral. To get around this they always try to show that Nazi society would be inefficient but of course the Nazis were very efficient and if you were in the right group you could have a very good life in a Nazi world (as long as you said and did the right things). At this point they always introduce Happiness or individual desires as a means around this point. But those are intrinsic values not given in mere genetic inheritance. Thus they always have to bring in values which are good in themselves in order to justify the immorality of Nazism.]

2) The Nihilistic approach.

This is the approach of those who would say sure we can call it immoral by our standards but we do not live in these possible worlds, so all we can say is what we feel by our standards. There is no ultimate truth so we must simply leave them alone. This does not prove God exists because it may simply be that the world is a harsh place.

Answer: But that's just giving into fascism is it not? If we have to say "this is not good by our standards but we have no right to impose our standards such that we cannot even say it is unjust, period, than What meaning do our standards have at all? Of course the true Nihilist would disavow any standards, moral motions, or answers of any kind. But that is an untenable solution for most people, other wise the genetic determinist must agree that the Nazi society is moral and no one cares because "being moral" is of no importance.

E. The Basis of Absolute Morality.

1) For moral standards to mean anything they must be applicable across the board.

2) Very few people will be able to admit that these examples cannot be called unjust.

Logically if they are not unjust than the term has no meaning. this is so because these are very extreme examples. If the most extreme examples of injustice cannot be condemned than what meaning do standards have?

3) In each case the societies exhibited in the possible worlds met the criteria for a relativistic notion of morality and yet they prove that this is not good enough. the answer must be that there is an intrinsic truth content to the notions of Good and evil, since to withhold this judgment is to make the concepts of justice and injustice, good and evil, right and wrong, meaningless.

4) Since these examples do meet the criteria for a relativistic morality genetically based etc. and yet are still intrinsically unjust and wrong, it must be that the nature of right and wrong must be decided on some other basis than merely cultural acceptance and pragmatic social ends. The greatest good for the greatest number is not a fit standard for moral content.

F. The Link to God.

1) Since these examples indicate that there must be intrinsic good and evil, right and wrong, the intrinsic nature of right and wrong must be found in some higher standard that governs these things.

2) Moral judgment: Judgment requires a mind. This is so because morality must be understood through a judgment of the mind. This is why we have ethical thinking in the first place.

3) Since the moral law is not merely socially relative but must be intrinsic, and yet is not found in nature or in any naturally abstract principle, it must be the product of a mind. Of course it cannot be the product of any human mind or it would be relative.

G. The Logic of the Argument.

1) Moral Values must be intrinsic or they are meaningless.

2) To be intrinsic they must be the product of mind since only mind can render judgment.

3) They cannot be the product of mere human mind since that would make them relative.

4) Therefore there must be a transcendent mind which holds all moral judgment in its omniscient grasp.

By Metacrock. Used with Permission.
For more articles by the same author, see Doxa.