Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Conversations with Angie: The meaning of "objective moral values"


With these distinctions in mind, I think I can answer your question. This is what you said:
I guess it comes down to the claim that good and evil have to be objective. Maybe they do NOT have to be objective. Can't it just be true that humans created the moral systems as their societies developed, and that they are still legitimate and valid? Most people groups have created codes forbidding stealing and violence, etc., and specifying punishments for transgressors. Fundamentally, the codes are the same for most of the world's people groups (as far as which behaviors are acceptable and which ones are not - the punishments obviously vary more).

Yes, I would agree that different people and cultures can come up with rules they all agree on. They would be true in the sense of being real descriptions of that culture's values. But they wouldn't be true in the objective sense, because you might have another culture who has a different point of view. If morality depends on culture, then that's cultural relativism. One culture, for example, may condone slavery while another condemns it. So is slavery right or wrong? Well there's no objective truth to the matter. It's just a matter of whether a culture agrees with it or not. When a person in some culture says, "Slavery is wrong," they aren't really describing slavery if morality is only a matter of cultural convention. Rather, they're describing their culture's socially constructed view of reality. They're describing the subjective preferences and values of their culture. They're describing how their culture feels about slavery. But slavery itself is neither right nor wrong on that view.

If slavery itself were wrong in the objective sense, then it would be wrong whether any culture agreed with it or not. Just as the earth would be round even if we thought it was flat, so also would slavery be wrong even if we thought it was right, assuming slavery is wrong in the objective sense.

I hope it's clear now what I mean by "objective moral values." Whether any moral values ARE objectively true is what the second premise in the moral argument is about, so I'll talk about that another time. Right now I just want to stick to the first premise.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie:  If there is no God, then there are no objective moral values


At 7/26/2005 1:33 PM , Blogger daleliop said...

(This is off-topic)

A while ago, you talked about the reincarnation and the interaction between Jesus's divinity and his humanity.

Since Jesus was both God and man, would that limit his divine abilities when he was on earth? For example, God is omniscient, but man is not. Does this also mean that Jesus could have made mistakes during his time here?

Also, when do you think Jesus knew He was God and His father was God?

At 7/26/2005 9:23 PM , Blogger Steve said...

those are really good questions! I am very interested to hear Sam's analysis of that. From what i know of Christian history, some have said Jesus was 100% divine, the Catholics say half and half, and other denominations have other beliefs (like Unitarians, etc).

I would imagine that the extent to which Jesus performed the will of God, he was divine, and the extent to which he performed his day-to-day life he made mistakes. In other words, maybe he slept in on a day for his work as a carpenter, but he would never be late for a miracle. Thats just my non-philosophical opinion... I too wonder what Sam thinks!

I know from Ancient History that this was a big issue during the second, and third ecumenical councils in Nicea (c326-500AD) and other parts of the Byzantine Empire.

At 7/26/2005 10:06 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Earlier today I wrote a response, but somehow it got lost in cyberspace. I don't know what went wrong. I'll try again.

I vaguely remember Ronald Nash addressing this issue in one of his books. He argued that although being all-knowing is an essential aspect of being divine, it was not an essential aspect of being human. It was possible, then, to be both human and all-knowing.

I don't think being human necessariliy limited Jesus' abilities, but Jesus chose to divest himself of the use of his divine abilities (at least to some degree). Paul mentions this in Philippians 2. According to Paul, he "emptied himself," and "took on the form of a servant."

I said a little more about this subject on this blog.

At 7/28/2005 2:04 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

Thanks for your response(s). :)


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