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From Morality to God

Discussion in 'Christian Apologetics' started by Tree of Life, Oct 26, 2020.

  1. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    1. Whenever we engage in moral activity we presuppose a moral norm. By moral activity I mean moral discourse, moral evaluation, and the like. When we say that "Brionna Taylor deserves justice", "Black Lives Matter!", "stealing is wrong", or similar statements we are engaging in these things. All of this presupposes a moral norm. Whenever we make a moral evaluation we suppose that there is some moral standard of judgment out there that tells us what's right and wrong and we are appealing to that.

    When I say, for example, that "the fridge is broken - it ought not to be freezing the butter" I am appealing to a norm (a teleological norm). How do I know that it ought not be freezing the butter? I simply look at the manufacturer's guide to find out how the fridge ought to be working. The same happens in moral evaluation.

    2. Relative norms depend upon absolute norms. Whenever we engage in moral activity we are actually presupposing not just any norm, but an absolute norm. Countries write laws and impose them on their citizens. Laws are a kind of relative norm because they are always subject to evaluation at a higher level. Just because something is a law, does not mean that it's good, just, or wise. We may always ask of any law: "Is this a good law? Is this a just law?" We can all think of example of unjust laws (Jim Crow laws, for example). But in order for us to evaluate any relative norm (like a law), there must be some absolute norm. An absolute norm is one that is not subject to evaluation at a higher level. We can ask: "Is this law good?" because there's something above the law whereby we may evaluate the law. Perhaps it's the constitution. Maybe when we ask: "Is this law good?" we are asking if it's constitutional. But then we may also ask: "Is our constitution good and just?" On and on this goes until we arrive at some absolute norm that cannot be evaluated at a higher level. If there is no such norm, we could never evaluate any relative norms at all. It would make no sense to ask: "Is this law good?"

    3. Norms can only arise in personal contexts. Norms are only ever imposed by people. All relative norms that we know of are personal in nature. Behind every norm is a person or people who impose that norm. The fridge has a manufacturer that says how the fridge ought to work. The speed limit is imposed by a body of people. A nation's laws are imposed by people. Household rules are written and imposed by people. Every norm we can think of has a person or people standing behind it who have authority. It's very difficult to imagine an impersonal norm. What allegiance do we owe to the laws of physics, for example?

    4. An absolute norm could only come from an absolute person. A norm that is not subject to evaluation at a higher level could only come from a person who is not subject to evaluation at a higher level - an absolute person. When we are talking about an absolute person, we are talking about something like God.

    5. Therefore, whenever we engage in moral activity, we presuppose God's existence. If God does not exist there could be no absolute norms and thus no norms at all and all moral activity would be without meaning. Yet we find moral activity very meaningful. When we engage in it, we presuppose that God exists even if we resist this idea. We might simultaneously reject belief in God and accept belief in God while doing this.
     
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  2. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    A norm is just something that normally happens, is usual or typical. We expect norms to be followed because they usually are. A fridge doesn't freeze the butter normally, not because the manufacturer says so, but because that's what we've generally experienced. People expect other people to cooperate with each other because that's what we've all generally experienced.

    I want to get a job naming kitchen appliances. That sounds easy. Think about it: toaster, blender, freezer... You just say what the thing does, and then you add "er". "So what's this thing do?" "Well it keeps things fresh" "Well then that's a fresh-er. I'm going on break!"
     
  3. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    According to Webster's dictionary that is the 3rd definition. This seems accurate. "Pattern" or "average" isn't the primary meaning of "norm."

    I'm pretty sure we expect norms to be followed because they are enforced in one way or another. On the other hand we expect probabilistic averages to obtain because of the nature of statistics, not because "they are usually followed." For example, people don't "follow" the average life expectancy of ~80 years. They die without any regard for the norm, and yet the pattern holds.
     
  4. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    Hmmm. So when I look at a road sign that says "35mph", is that there to describe the speed that people normally travel on that road? Is that all that it means?
     
  5. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    @Moral Orel "Normal" is not purely descriptive. It is prescriptive. A norm does not simply describe what usually happens, but prescribes what ought to happen.
     
  6. LightBearer

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    It's normal because the manufacturer designed and built it that way, not to freeze the butter. It's not a random outcome, it's purposeful.
     
  7. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    It's the first definition according to Google when I search "norm definition" and they cite Oxford English Dictionary.
    You and ToL have the same problem of putting the cart before the horse. We enforce rules that we write because humans don't like other humans deviating from the norm. Why are we enforcing norms in the first place?
    Human lifespans follow the pattern, yes. I don't think that sounds weird.
     
  8. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    Nope. "Normal" is descriptive and nothing more. Doesn't the Bible say over and over that it's normal for people to do evil but they ought to do what God says?

    It's normal for people to be concerned with the safety of other people. We write laws and enforce them to prevent deviation from the norm.
     
  9. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    Ok so it seems that you believe that norms are only ever descriptive. There is no reason, then, that I ought to follow norms - especially if I don't want to. You get around my argument in the OP by saying that there are no prescriptive moral norms and there is no way that the world or people ought to be. If this is the case, then there is no way that God ought to be and thus we cannot say that God is evil. This undercuts some of your arguments in other threads dealing with the Problem of Evil, doesn't it?
     
  10. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    It doesn't freeze the butter because it is built not to. That isn't why it's "normal" to not freeze the butter. It's "normal" because manufacturers are usually successful at building fridges the way they intend to.

    Imagine if fridge manufacturers were inept and their fridges worked poorly and froze the butter most of the time. Their intent would be to make fridges that don't freeze the butter, but what is normal is frozen butter.
     
  11. zippy2006

    zippy2006 Dragonsworn

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    Okay, interesting.

    We don't enforce all norms, and we don't see deviation from norms as categorically problematic. We only believe some norms ought to be enforced. See below regarding your equivocation.

    The OP is talking about morality and hence is talking about normative prescriptions that appeal to the intentionality of rational agents. The norm of average life expectancy has nothing to do with the intentionality of rational agents. It isn't binding, it isn't enforced, it isn't related to volition, and therefore no one will be punished or looked down upon if they deviate from such a pattern. You are equivocating between a descriptive pattern and a prescriptive standard. Both are norms in a certain sense, but the OP is clearly talking about the latter.

    Edit:

    This is the counterexample that disproves your thesis. If a legislative norm can be erected contrary to a general pattern, then clearly norms are not synonymous with general patterns.
     
  12. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    Oh, now you want to talk about what I said in the other thread? Go back there and answer the question I asked you a bunch of times.

    But no, these comments don't undercut anything else I've said because I haven't said people ought to be good or ought not to be evil. I've said that God isn't good if he doesn't do X, sure. But without saying that doing good is the correct thing to do, then there's no problem.
     
  13. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    And by "good" do you mean "normal" or "what usually is the case"? When you say that God isn't good, do you mean that God doesn't behave how gods usually behave? If so, I don't see much of a problem here.
     
  14. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    But doesn't 35mph have a prescriptive force? It's not a purely descriptive statement. "35mph" says that you may not drive over 35mph. It's a prescriptive norm that carries some relative authority.

    And secondly, should we always prevent deviation from "the norm" as you define it? Considering human history, slavery is fairly "normal". It's what usually happens. Slavery was very "normal" in pre-civil war America. Yet a growing number of people believed it was wrong. How may we morally evaluate something like slavery especially when it is "normal", "usual", and pervasive. According to your understanding, there is no way to morally evaluate it.
     
  15. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    We only enforce the norms we feel very strongly about.
    I'm not the one equivocating, that's why I started with defining "norm". Both of you guys are going back and forth between examples that use things humans choose and things we don't choose, but claiming "norm" is prescriptive for human behavior.

    Human lifespan is useful as an example though. Deviating from the norm of dying of old age still affects folk's emotions. We're less sad the older the person is, aren't we? We say things like "He shouldn't have died so young" when the deceased deviate from the norm, don't we? You see how it's human emotion that permeates all of this and propels us to make statements of "ought"?
     
  16. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    No and no.
     
  17. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    So what do you mean when you say "good" and "evil"?
     
  18. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    That sign means you'll get a ticket if the cops catch you exceeding the speed limit.
    Huh? You're the one saying that the norm is prescriptive, not me.
     
  19. Moral Orel

    Moral Orel Proud Citizen of Moralton Supporter

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    This is the topic of the other thread. Go back there and answer my question, I'd love to talk about it.
     
  20. Tree of Life

    Tree of Life Hide The Pain

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    (Because there is a relative norm).

    I'm saying that when you make moral statements, you are assuming prescriptive norms. Of course we could take "normal" in the descriptive sense. But you seem to be saying that there are only ever descriptive norms and there are no prescriptive norms. It sounds like you're saying that we can only ever describe the world as it is and we cannot speak of how the world ought to be. But maybe I'm misunderstanding you. Please clarify if I'm misreading.
     
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