Friday, August 05, 2005

Conversations with Angie: emotions and human nature as clues to moral knowledge


Yeah, I do have something to say in response, and this is probably coming more from the fact that I'm very familiar with Greg Koukl's way of thinking than just from reading that book. The underlying assumption Koukl has is that everybody already believes in objective moral values. These emotional appeals are meant just to get people to realize it--to be honest with themselves. The responses people give to things like torturing babies for fun are not MERELY emotional, either. Emotions are only what cause the moral intuitions to rise to the surface, but once they do rise to the surface, then the people begin to object to torturning babies for fun on the grounds that it's wrong--that it ought not be done. They don't just say, "Yuck, I don't like that, it makes me feel bad" etc. They think it's wrong and ought not be done. Before you can dismiss emotions as merely emotive, you first have to account for the basis of those emotions. Why do people get emotional about torturing children for fun? Judging by the way they respond to it, it seems pretty evident that they object because they think it's wrong, not because they happen not to like it, or it turns their stomach or anything like that.

I'll grant that it's human nature to have these kinds of reactions. That's why this whole moral philosophy is called "natural law." It's the way people are. But the question is whether human nature is fixed in such a way that it can apprehend true information about the world. I think it is, and I mentioned a few reasons why in an earlier email. It's human nature to be able to grasp that if my cat is pregant, then it's false to say my cat is not pregant. It's human nature to grasp these basic laws of logic--the law of non-contradiction. It's human nature to be able to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. It's human nature to be able to communicate, and understand each other. All of these things are human nature. Whether we developed these capacities by way of design or natural selection has little bearing on whether or not these capacities get us in touch with reality.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie: Should we trust our moral intuitions?


daleliop said...

Do you still check your e-mail these days?

ephphatha said...

Dale, I just sent you an email. I had a busy weekend.

daleliop said...

Oh, that's alright, thanks. I was just curious if your account was still active.