Conversations with Angie: Should we trust our moral intuitions?
There was one severe weakness I found in the book, though. Koukl and Beckwith established to my satisfaction that just about every normal mentally healthy person, deep down inside, believes in objective moral values. Experience with dialoguing with relativists has confirmed it for me, and I have very little doubt at all. But the fact that we all BELIEVE in objective moral values doesn't necessarily entail that they exist. We could all be wrong. So the weakness I saw in the book is that it didn't really address the issue of whether or not we should trust our moral perceptions. But you can't really expect it to. The book wasn't particularly deep philosophically. It was just an introductory sort of book written for the masses--very basic.
In one chapter, Koukl argued that moral intuitions are similar to our intuitions about other things, like our immediate awareness of our sensory perceptions. While I agree that both are known by intuition (that is, they weren't infered from anything prior), I think there's a subtle difference between our immediate knowledge of our perceptions, and our knowledge of morality. I think I went into that in an earlier email where I broke intuitions into three categories--things we know due to first person subjectivity, things we know because they are rationally grasped, and things we know because that's simply the way we are (i.e. it's human nature). I think Koukl would've made a much better argument if he had compared our knowledge of morality to our knowledge of the external world. That's why I argued the way I did in my earlier email. We can know immediately that we have sensory perceptions, emotional perceptions, and moral perceptions. But how do we know that any of these perceptions correspond to something outside of our own brains? The only way we can know that is human nature. Our brains, whether designed that way, or evolved that way, are just build in such a way that unless we become philosophers and begin denying the obvious, we just naturally assume these things. It's human nature to do so. We assume we have emotions because there really are other people we're connecting with, and not just drones. We assume we have sensory perceptions because there really is a world out there to be percieved, and it's not all just a dream. We assume we have moral perceptions because there really is a difference between right and wrong, and it's not all just a matter of personal or cultural preference.
I think Koukl just sort of takes that for granted. He figures if he can get a person's moral intuitions to rise to the surface, then that's all that needs to be done. Tactically, I think he's right in the case of most people. But a more sophisticated thinker is going to point out, as you have, that while we may have moral emotions or intuitions, that doesn't necessarily mean that they correspond to anything outside our own heads.
I think the bottom line for you is to be honest with yourself. You have these moral instincts just like the rest of us do. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you think they're accurate. Should you trust them? Do you believe them? Or do you honestly just think they're all illusory? That's something you just have to answer for yourself.
Did I tell you I started a blog? I was thinking at some point I might post some stuff from some of the conversations we've been having. It has caused me to put my thinking cap on and write some stuff I might not otherwise have thought about.
Conversations with Angie: Angie questions Greg Koukl's assumptions