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The mutilation of Bibi Aisha — a test case on the objectivity of moral judgements

Several days ago, UD news raised the above case, and the response of a class of students, as a test case on the objectivity of morality. Further details — and a shocking picture of a beautiful but mutilated girl that we all need to examine, painful or not — are here.  In deference to sensibilities, I will ensure that the shocking graphic is below the fold.)

The key issue on the table was posed in this clip from the teacher (who it seems has done research on moral education in today’s climate of radical relativism):

. . . I was not prepared for their reaction.

I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture.

They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.”

Of course, since this case cuts to the quick of today’s radical relativism and its dismissal of the objectivity of morality, we have had a considerable exchange, much of it on various tangents, often quite loaded.

In response to such exchanges in recent days, particular with a commenter I will here call XYZ, this morning I have made a comment, and I now wish to headline it here, as I think it is sufficiently relevant to be brought to general attention. (Pardon how I have had to begin by addressing the now “standard” talking point originally championed by MF  that I am “incomprehensible” so can be brushed aside. This ever so handy talking point is, however, plainly unjustified and uncivil shunning behaviour.  Yes, these are difficult matters to think through, and will take time to work out, but they are real issues and the perspectives raised trace to some leading lights of the ages. So, with all due respect, they need to be squarely faced not dodged on a handy excuse.)

Clipping from the discussion thread here on:

______________________

>> . . . since I am going to have to deal with some potentially hot-button issues, let me first off be explicit: I appreciate the fact that you [XYZ] are willing to dialogue, and that you seem to have an interest in the question of morality.

(I will leave it to the informed and fair-minded onlooker to see whether or no I am so utterly obscure and unclear that I can be branded as incomprehensible and dismissed. Let’s just say that since I am actually following a main line of ethical thought championed by leading lights of our civilisation for centuries and more, I doubt that I am really incomprehensible; but what I am summarising cuts across what is now commonly championed by the materialist magisterium, intelligentsia and nomenklatura, and so disagreement and loaded but fundamentally fallacious talking points will create a fog of polarised disagreement that may well lead to the perception of incomprehensibility. So, the many who are caught up in that fog, will find it hard to follow. But, please, let us take it step by step.)

So, we may as well face hot button no 1: do you notice [XYZ] how your comments above rush off on a multitude of poisonously loaded tangential issues?

Pardon, that is symptomatic as I just summarised, and easily explains a lack of understanding: you have been immersed in an environment that is hostile to objective morality, and has all sorts of talking points designed to distract and stir hostility. This is not an atmosphere in which coherent thinking on serious and in parts difficult issues, is likely to be fruitful. Suffice to say that, for generations, serious people have thought through and written soberly and solidly on the themes you have raised.

But, Hot-Button 2: since the proper question is the grounding of objective morality, I will not here deal with most of your side-issues and talking points.

Let us focus on the case in the original post as a key, revealing case study, one that has clearly hit a raw nerve. First things first then, as the flak is a sign that one is near the main target, etc.

In particular, let us focus the comment by the teacher:

. . . I was not prepared for their reaction.

I had expected strong aversion; but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused. They seemed not to know what to think. They spoke timorously, afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize any situation originating in a different culture.

They said, “Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.”

In steps of thought:

Bibi Aisha -- mutilated by members of her --update, in-law --family for the "crime" of fleeing an abusive marriage where she was literally treated like an abused animal

1 –> We see a clear atmosphere of politically correct, radically relativist intimidation suppressing the natural response — a cognitive judgement that rests on the implicit recognition of human dignity, leading to a feeling of revulsion and outrage over wrong done to the innocent, or against “punishment” in utter disproportion to anything that could have provoked it — that his should not have happened.

(Remember, this is a young girl, Bibi Aisha, who for fleeing an abusive marriage in which she was treated like an animal (and kept with animals!), was [update: hunted] down and caught by her [update: in-law] family, and then had her nose and ears cut off, then was left in the mountains for dead.)

2 –> So, we see a clash between the almost instinctive recognition that we have rights, in the face of massive violation of rights — the full equivalent of rape . . . — and the sort of multiculturalist steeping in radical relativism, backed up by the implicit power of the current establishment that now rules the roost in our public square. {Added, Dec 9th, from Time} Let us now hear what happened to this young lady at the hands of her in-laws and (evidently) the Taliban they seem to have been involved with. For, we must have the courage to face what happened squarely, as a first step to moral clarity:

The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband’s house. They dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan, ignoring her protests that her in-laws had been abusive, that she had no choice but to escape. Shivering in the cold air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her spouse and accuser. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn’t run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Later, he would tell Aisha’s uncle that she had to be made an example of lest other girls in the village try to do the same thing. The commander gave his verdict, and men moved in to deliver the punishment. Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose. Aisha passed out from the pain but awoke soon after, choking on her own blood. The men had left her on the mountainside to die.

This didn’t happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year. Now hidden in a secret women’s shelter in the relative safety of Kabul, where she was taken after receiving care from U.S. forces, Aisha recounts her tale in a monotone, her eyes flat and distant. She listens obsessively to the news on a small radio that she keeps by her side. Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban is the only thing that elicits an emotional response. “They are the people that did this to me,” she says, touching the jagged bridge of scarred flesh and bone that frames the gaping hole in an otherwise beautiful face. “How can we reconcile with them?” . . . [Baker, Aryn: "'Afghan Women and the Return of the Taliban, " Time, Mon Aug 9, 2010.]

2a –> The context for this is the traditional tribal customary law, baad, whereby in PAYMENT for serious crimes (murder, rape, adultery, fornication . . . ) committed by male relatives, young girls are handed over to the aggrieved clan, through the mediation of a local council.  In the words of a UNHCR sponsored journal article (with my notes added from a comment below):

Baad is an ancient tradition in Afghanistan, dating back to the days when no central legal authority existed [--> that's back to the 1930's . . . ], and conflicts were settled through the tribal system.

Slowly the practice became widely accepted, even though there is no religious or legal basis for it [--> customary law, is law, often more powerful than law from a weak state, and once marriage is implicated, there is religious sanction by the clergy who are involved, and through popular religious thought; i.e. at minimum, we see a need for a reformation here]. When a man kills, rapes, or has sexual relations with someone other than his wife [--> notice the emphasis on sexual cases; whatever happened to the idea that if I am guilty of a crime, I should pay for it? So, subtext: we are dealing with a way to protect the wealthy and powerful in wrongdoing by handing over an innocent girl in "payment"], a local council [--> So, the respectable and powerful in the community are implicated] can step in to mediate. Lesser offences can usually be settled by the exchange of money, perhaps a few sheep or a cow. But the standard penalty for a serious crime is for the offender’s family to part with a girl, who is given to the victim’s family. [--> STANDARD, as in customary law]

Often the girl given in baad is little more than a slave [--> Unwilling to admit the full shocking truth, so a euphemism is used: she is traded as property and put under the power of another to the point where she may evidently be freely abused] ; she can be beaten or mistreated, or even killed. Much domestic violence in Afghanistan can be traced back to the tradition of baad, according to human rights activists. [--> So, the respectable members of the community councils and the clergy who shape the popular thought on such matters MUST know this; we can infer a climate of intimidation and implied threat of retaliation, probably violent]

“Baad is a negative tradition with no legal or moral basis,” said Judge Sayeed Mohammad Sami, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission for the north. “A human life can never be traded away. It will take a long time and much hard work to get rid of this terrible practice.” [--> Come on now, Judge: "traded away" INTO SLAVERY; this is human trafficking and enslavement]

According to Judge Sami, 571 cases of violence had been recorded in the north over the past year. Out of these, eight were attributed to baad. However, he added, the number could be much higher, since many families do not report such incidents. [--> climate of intimidation and retaliation]

Baad is illegal, said Mah Gul Yamam, a legal expert at the Afghan Human Rights Organisation.

“According to the laws of Afghanistan, a perpetrator bears personal responsibility for his crimes,” she said. “This responsibility cannot be transferred to others. But unfortunately, in Afghanistan, when a man commits a crime, it is the females that have to bear the punishment.” [--> Think about that!]

Baad is against the criminal code of Afghanistan, punishable by up to two years in jail, she explained. But unfortunately, no legal action can be taken unless the woman or girl who is given away makes a complaint. [--> In a climate of intimidation and retaliation, were we see how running away to find refuge in one's home can lead to mutilation and attempted murder, then shunning and trying to starve out the family, for the crime of letting the girl who survived the mutilation seek effective refuge] Females are often reluctant to initiate criminal proceedings against their relatives, and, indeed, can be physically coerced into complying with the demands of baad. [--> intimidation and violent retaliation]

“There is a dysfunction in the law,” said Mah Gul. “Baad must be recognised as a crime.” [--> but it is, just there is no effective enforcement in the teeth of popular custom]

Afghanistan’s legal system is plagued with corruption and inefficiency, and is in no condition to dispense justice. [--> a failed state, and the west is about to walk away, KNOWING what will happen, which indicts our own elite culture and its radical relativism, especially the major media that have played on our own sentiments to get us to do things that make no good sense] Despite the efforts of the international community, which has poured millions of dollars into judicial reform over the past seven years, many Afghans choose the traditional structures when things go wrong.

Tribal or jirga justice is swift and almost universally accepted – but it has the disadvantage of perpetuating many of the society’s long-standing abuses against women.

Malaly Roshandil Usmani, head of the Women’s Rights Advocacy Association, told IWPR that women whose rights have been violated are in no position to make a complaint. [--> SLAVES have no effective resort]

“Organisations working in the field of women’s rights should not have to wait for women to come to them,” she said. “They need to find these women and work with them.”

Many women do not know their rights, she explained, and still more are prevented from exercising those rights.

3 –> {Returning to the original post} Note, as well, that our feeling of revulsion here, is driven by a cognitive judgement and an implicit, almost instinctive worldview perception of the moral significance of the human individual [the point of the clip above from Paul in Rom 2 (cf here)], one that has been encouraged in our civilisation over many centuries by the Judaeo-Christian tradition and many reformers who have stood solidly in that tradition, open Bible in hand.

4 –> But, the new magisterium, for 2 – 300 years, has been assiduously labouring to knock that scripture-driven enlightenment out of our minds, hearts and consciences. That is why our current climate of discussion is so saturated with litanies of stoked-up outrage and angry out of context misreadings, that would push the God of the Bible, the scriptures, and those who take them seriously in the dock, the agenda being revealed by the striking lack of balance and refusal to recognise the sterling contribution made by adherents of that same tradition for thousands of years.

5 –> There is a name for that: scapegoating, in service to bigotry. However, that is not the main focus, so we note it and put it to one side. (Onlookers, you may want to start here and here, to begin to put this issue in balance.)

6 –> Let us focus the main matter, by looking at what our intuitive recognition that something has gone seriously wrong here is telling us: this young miss has rights, even is she has been wayward, and those rights have been massively violated, tantamount to rape — multiplied by the fact that the destructive mutilation of her face is visible for life.

________________
(F/N: I don’t know if it may be possible to support or if necessary start a plastic surgery fund to restore such faces [to the extent possible], and the bodies of those scarred with sulphuric acid by Taliban Terrorists for the crime of going to school etc, and a similar fund to begin to do something to help respond to the gynaecological problems faced by the girls seriously harmed by so-called female circumcision. Let me pass this one to an Aid Agency specialising in that part of the world. The teacher and his class would be a good point to begin.)

7 –> So, we come to the issue that we have an instinctive, intuitive reaction that tells us that people have inherent rights tracing to our dignity as equals with moral worth. But is this simply a subjective perception inculcated by cultural and historical accident, without warrant on evident facts and reasoning? That is, is it objective? (Where, since we are subjects, ALL human experience is, almost by definition, subject-IVE. But equally, we subjects can and do know many things on warrant, that makes these things objective, not merely empty and delusional perceptions.)

7a –> {Added, Dec 9} Another clip from a comment below, will help put this in context and underscore the seriousness of what is on the table, for in fact such cultural relativism was precisely one of the defences offered at Nuremberg, and was sharply rebutted by appeal to innate recognition of the law above laws, the laws of human nature:

I pointed out the painful truth, that cultural relativism — and for that matter, radically relativist, inherently amoral evolutionary materialism with its inescapable IS-OUGHT gap — has no answer to Hitler’s horrors.

And, I did not pick this by accident or as an evasion, it has a very specific historical relevance. At the Nuremberg trials, I am informed (e.g. cf here and here — which opens up the issue of just how wide the holocaust really was, e.g. the no 2 victim group were the non-Jewish, largely Catholic Poles, at some 3 mn [where half of the Jewish victims were also Poles]), the precise “who are you to judge us” defense of following lawful orders issued by legitimate authority within the culture was used.

The only way that could be broken was by appealing to higher law, i.e. natural law, the objective law of human nature that we all know and which stands in judgement over us all. We are under the government of natural law, the law of our nature. From this, the only worldviews that are credible are those that ground OUGHT in a foundational IS.

Let me quote, giving US Supreme Court Justice and chief American prosecutor Robert Jackson’s devastating reply, pp 50 – 51 in the first linked:

In The law Above the Law, John Warwick Montgomery describes [the Nazi] argument: “The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and they therefore ought not rightly be condemned | because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (emphasis added).4

But the tribunal did not accept this justification. In the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief counsel for the United States at the trials, the issue was not one of power — the victor judging the vanquished — but one of higher moral law. “The tribunal rises above the provincial and the transient,” he said, “and seeks guidance not only from International Law, but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence, which are assumptions of civilization . . . . ” 5 [Beckwith, Francis, and Koukl, Greg, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Baker (2005 printing) pp. 50 - 51; Judge Jackson's words emphasised. HT, Google Books.]

And, similarly, that was how slavery was broken, and it is how we will have to look at Bibi Aisha’s case. For, you see, I am a descendant of slaves, and Bibi Aisha was bonded as a hostage wife, in effect a slave under the “baad” custom, in payment for the murder of a member of her in-laws clan by a cousin of her father . . .

8 –> {Returning to the original post} Now, in grounding rights as a platform for liberty and justice in government, John Locke answers this from a theistic perspective by citing “the judicious [Richard] Hooker” in his Ecclesiastical Polity, 1594+, as I cite in the IOSE:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80, cf. here. Emphasis added.]

9 –> Notice, how this crucially pivots on the instinctive understanding of one’s moral worth, and on the linked recognition of the equality of the other as just as much made in God’s image; from which all else follows on serious reflection. The US Declaration of Independence of 1776 (echoing the earlier Dutch DOI under William the Silent of Orange, 1581) draws this out to the level of a polity, clarifying the issue of rights (and their Creational roots) and the balance of just powers of Government based on the informed consent of the governed:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . .

10 –> The pivotal concept here is self-evidence: things that are so, are necessarily so, and are seen to be patently such on pain of absurdity, once one understands clearly what is being discussed. Here, once one is willing to acknowledge the moral dignity and equality of people, on their Creation by God, all else plainly follows and leads on to the right of reformation of bad government, or if necessarily its replacement and correction if it is stubborn in wrong and abuse.

11 –> So, the issue of rights and thus of objective morality finally rests on our being made with a certain moral worth by our inherently good Creator. Indeed, “rights” may then be defined/summarised as: binding moral claims for respect that we make on one another, rooted in our fundamental equality, dignity and worth as human beings. (Such is prior to any negotiated entitlements we may make, premised on the principles that we have such rights.)

12 –> This is of course a hot button point.

13 –> For, in the name of “science” and in the linked name of separation of church and state, with a one-sided litany of real and imagined complaints on theocracy and bomb throwing terrorism or tyranny and torture or witch-hunting tossed in, we are being programmed to red flag reference to anything that smells like a Divine Foot in the door of our public square.

(And, don’t you dare point to the track record of regimes driven by amoral scientism in atheistical or neo-pagan forms over the past 100 years. Don’t you dare raise the issues of racism, the Aryan man highest evolved race myth, elite classism, social darwinism, the eugenics movement initiated by Darwin’s cousin Galton and led by his son Leonard, or the push for abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, or the Gulags, mass slaughters and the holocaust. Don’t you dare ever point out the historic lines of descent from Darwin through Haeckel and co and on to the Prussian/German Militarists and the Rape of Belgium in WW I, then to the holocaust under a soldier (now turned dictator for life) who — surprise (not) — had served in that area, a generation later. Added, Dec 7, his remarks on that rape of an innocent nation that foreshadowed what would happen in the 1940′s : “The old Reich knew already how to act with firmness in the occupied areas. That’s how attempts at sabotage to the railways in Belgium were punished by Count von der Goltz. He had all the villages burnt within a radius of several kilometres, after having had all the mayors shot, the men imprisoned and the women and children evacuated. “ [Secret Conversations] Don’t you dare ever point out Heine’s grimly prophetic warning from the 1830′s premised on how once the subduing talisman of the cross was ever shattered in GERMANY through the skeptical speculative and natural philosophers, the ancient demonically irrational berserker battle lust and fury would rise again and wreak havoc across a continent and beyond. Don’t you dare ever point out how H G Wells — a student of Huxley, Darwin’s bulldog — wrote a whole series of science fiction novels that warned of the way science out of moral control could lead to serious abuses. Don’t ever, ever ever point to the key passages in Chs 5 – 7 of Darwin’s Descent of man, including his cool prediction of genocide that was not immediately balanced by a response to the moral hazard he identified. No, no, no, evolutionary materialist secularism and its fellow neopagan and apostate Christian travellers are sacred cows, not to be touched. No, no, no, you must shut up and stop your ears to the moans of over 100 million ghosts from the regimes of the past 100 years.)

14 –> But, Plato, 2,350 years ago, put his finger on the root problem, in The Laws, Bk X [and I see over many, many months that you and others from your position have not responded to this in any serious way above]:

[[The avant garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say . . . The elements are severally moved by chance and some inherent force according to certain affinities among them-of hot with cold, or of dry with moist, or of soft with hard, and according to all the other accidental admixtures of opposites which have been formed by necessity. After this fashion and in this manner the whole heaven has been created, and all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [--> note the evolutionary materialistic philosophy] . . . .

[[T]hese people would say that the Gods exist not by nature, but by art, and by the laws of states, which are different in different places, according to the agreement of those who make them; and that the honourable is one thing by nature and another thing by law, and that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [[Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. (Cf. here for Locke's views and sources on a very different base for grounding liberty as opposed to license and resulting anarchistic "every man does what is right in his own eyes" chaos leading to tyranny.)] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [[ Evolutionary materialism leads to the promotion of amorality], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [[Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality "naturally" leads to continual contentions and power struggles; cf. dramatisation here], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is, to live in real dominion over others [[such amoral factions, if they gain power, "naturally" tend towards ruthless tyranny; here, too, Plato hints at the career of Alcibiades], and not in legal subjection to them . . .

15 –> In short, evolutionary materialism is a longstanding philosophy on the nature of reality and how it has come to be, which is inherently utterly amoral and radically relativist, leading directly to the absurdity that “the highest right is might,” when we all know that the right is often not on the side of the might.

 

16 –> This reduction to patent moral absurdity is a big part of the reason why evolutionary materialism was rejected in classical times, even though paganism was not much of an improvement. (NB: In the earlier part of his remarks, not quoted above, Plato — ever mindful of what had happened to Socrates, subtly distances himself from that paganism and hints at his own distinctive idealism. In the linked above, you can also see how after the part clipped above, he goes on to argue to the creation of the world by a good power through a cosmological design inference.)

17 –> What has happened in our time, is that in the name of science, such evolutionary materialism has donned the holy lab coat, and thus draws cultural power from the prestige of science. It is even trying to question-beggingly redefine what science is, in its own image, through so-called methodological naturalism. never mind, that such ideologisation of science would decisively undercut the credibility of science as an objective, evidence led, empirical search for the truth about our world.

18 –> But, as Provine documented in the infamous Darwin Day address at U of Tenn, 1998, this is what is lurking just beneath the apparently calm surface:

Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent . . . .

The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them. Human free will, however, is another matter. Even evolutionists have trouble swallowing that implication. I will argue that humans are locally determined systems that make choices. They have, however, no free will . . .

19 –> The key reduction to absurdity lies in point 5. If we are not significantly free to decide and choose responsibly, we can neither think rationally nor decide and act ethically, we are playthings of genes, memes and other forms of conditioning. So also, the scientific and cultural elites dressed in the holy lab coats, philosopher’s academic gowns, and the suits of statesmen, are just as enmeshed in the spider’s web of irrationality, and so rationality, science, and responsibility collapse in a mare’s nest of self-referential contradictions.

20 –> Such evolutionary materialist thought is inescapably incoherent, absurd and necessarily false. We need to begin again to build a worldview on sounder grounds, and here is a 101 on how to do that.

21 –> Now, we can return to the issue of the objectivity of right and wrong, with that major distraction off the table.

22 –> We can notice, from simply how we quarrel, that we instinctively and by consensus, recognise that we are under moral government. For, we do not generally refuse to admit that we have definite moral obligations, we appeal to them and try to shift blame, or excuse ourselves etc. As C S Lewis points out in the opening argument and opening words of his well known Mere Christianity:

Every one has heard people quarrelling. Sometimes it sounds funny and sometimes it sounds merely unpleasant; but however it sounds, I believe we can learn something very important from listening to the kind of things they say. They say things like this: “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?”-”That’s my seat, I was there first”-”Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm”- “Why should you shove in first?”-”Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine”-”Come on, you promised.” People say things like that every day, educated people as well as uneducated, and children as well as grown-ups. Now what interests me about all these remarks is that the man who makes them is not merely saying that the other man’s behaviour does not happen to please him. He is appealing to some kind of standard of behaviour which he expects the other man to know about. And the other man very seldom replies: “To hell with your standard.” Nearly always he tries to make out that what he has been doing does not really go against the standard, or that if it does there is some special excuse. He pretends there is some special reason in this particular case why the person who took the seat first should not keep it, or that things were quite different when he was given the bit of orange, or that something has turned up which lets him off keeping his promise.

It looks, in fact, very much as if both parties had in mind some kind of Law or Rule of fair play or decent behaviour or morality or whatever you like to call it, about which they really agreed.

And they have. If they had not, they might, of course, fight like animals, but they could not quarrel in the human sense of the word.

Quarrelling means trying to show that the other man is in the wrong. And there would be no sense in trying to do that unless you and he had some sort of agreement as to what Right and Wrong are; just as there would be no sense in saying that a footballer had committed a foul unless there was some agreement about the
rules of football.

Now this Law or Rule about Right and Wrong used to be called the Law of Nature. Nowadays, when we talk of the “laws of nature” we usually mean things like gravitation, or heredity, or the laws of chemistry. But when the older thinkers called the Law of Right and Wrong “the Law of Nature,” they really meant the Law of Human Nature. The idea was that, just as all bodies are governed by the law of gravitation and organisms by biological laws, so the creature called man also had his law-with this great difference, that a body could not choose whether it obeyed the law of gravitation or not, but a man could choose either to obey the Law of Human Nature or to disobey it.

23 –> In short, here we have a nigh-universal consent that comes out in our most heated moments, when our guard is down, that we live under common moral government that pivots on our inherent moral worth and equality, so there is a general rule of fair play that we should all respect.

24 –> Why on earth should we not take this consensus as pointing to an objective reality, just as we have a universal consensus that nonsense is nonsense and 2 + 3 = 5, not just in particular cases, but on pain of absurdity, always and necessarily?

25 –> The answer is of course that we are caught up in the poisonous fog of evolutionary materialist amorality, in a context where we tend to confuse the philosophy of materialism dressed up in a lab coat, for science.

26 –> But, for 2,350 years and more we have had excellent reason to know that the very obvious absurdity and chaos flowing from such amorality is good reason to reject that pretender out of hand, and that the very orderliness and careful organisation of our evidently contingent cosmos points to its source in a designer that lies beyond it.

27 –> And in our time, the evidence of a definite beginning and of fine tuning that sets the observed — the only observed — cosmos to a carefully balanced operating point set up to facilitate C-chemistry, cell based life underscores the soundness of that longstanding judgement.

28 –> So, the reasonable man or woman will accept the force of the consensus that we are under moral government as a testimony of fact, and will then see that the only serious worldview that can provide an IS that can ground OUGHT as an objective duty, would be an inherently good and wise God and Creator. (Indeed, that careful balance is the proper answer to the modern attempts to resurrect the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called as an objection to ethical theism, cf here for details.)

29 –> So we have a serious worldview option capable of working with the actual scientific evidence — as opposed to the atheism dressed up in a lab coat that would establish itself as today’s equivalent of a theocracy, an atheocracy, even trying to question-beggingly redefine science itself in that pursuit — that grounds morality objectively, as being rooted in our inherent nature as morally valuable, created beings endowed by our common wise and good Creator with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, as well as to our dignity, persons, innocent reputation, property etc.

30 –> On the strength of that view, we can then see that this case in view, the mutilation of Aisha, is a straightforward one of violation of the dignity of a person, which is plainly and objectively wrong and inexcusable. Just as gang raping and/or torturing her — actually this is a case of torture and is fully equivalent to gang rape — would be blatantly wrong.

31 –> The tradition and culture that sponsors such egregious wrong has much to answer for, and should therefore be drastically reformed.

32 –> And, with these foundational principles firmly in place, we can then proceed to deal with more complicated and difficult cases, such as what happens when, in a world where evil doers can gain horrendous power and set out on destruction and oppression, we may have to face the challenge that for all the horrors that inevitably accompany a war, a relatively small war now is better than a much bigger and hard to win one later, to contain or stop the rising wave of evil. As opposed to, a war is “good.”

33 –> And that is the context for the longstanding Judaeo-Christian ethical view that there is such a thing as a good reason why the civil magistrate is armed with the sword in defence of the civil peace of justice, never mind the temptation that that poses for such to turn tyrant.

34 –> In short, when for six weeks in summer, your nation’s manpower has been locked up in the teeth of an invading army, and the champion Goliath stands forth, there is a reason for a 16 year old lad to stand forth with a sling shot in his back pocket and five stones. (Goliath had four brothers, and evildoers like that are almost always liars, so he was ready for them too.)>>

_______________________

I would be remiss if I were not to put up one last clip, on where this all points (ane where many are ever so desperate NOT to go), from Greg Koukl:

The presence of evil in the world is considered by some to be solid evidence against the existence of God.  I think it proves just the opposite.  The entire objection hinges on the observation that true evil exists “out there” as an objective feature of the world.  Therein lies the problem for the atheist.

To say something is evil is to make a moral judgment, and moral judgments make no sense outside of the context of a moral standard.  Evil as a value judgment marks a departure from that standard of morality.  If there is no standard, there is no departure.

Evil can’t be real if morals are relative.  Evil is real, though.  That’s why people object to it.  Therefore, objective moral standards must exist as well.  This discovery invites certain questions.  Where do morals come from and why do they seem to apply only to human beings?  Are they the product of chance?  What world view makes sense out of morality? . . . .

The first thing we observe about moral rules is that, though they exist, they are not physical because they don’t seem to have physical properties.  We won’t bump into them in the dark.  They don’t extend into space.  They have no weight.  They have no chemical characteristics.  Instead, they are immaterial things we discover through the process of thought, introspection, and reflection without the aid of our five senses.

This is a profound realization.  We have, with a high degree of certainty, stumbled upon something real.  Yet it’s something that can’t be proven empirically or described in terms of natural laws.  This teaches us there’s more to the world than just the physical universe.  If non-physical things–like moral rules–truly exist, then materialism as a world view is false

There seem to be many other things that populate the world, things like propositions, numbers, and the laws of logic.  Values like happiness, friendship, and faithfulness are there, too, along with meanings and language.  There may even be persons–souls, angels, and other divine beings.

Our discovery also tells us some things really exist that science has no access to, even in principle.  Some things are not governed by natural laws.  Science, therefore, is not the only discipline giving us true information about the world.  It follows, then, that naturalism as a world view is also false.

 Our discovery of moral rules forces us to expand our understanding of the nature of reality and open our minds to the possibility of a host of new things that populate the world in the invisible realm.

 Second, moral rules are a kind of communication.  They are propositions:  intelligent statements of meaning conveyed from one mind to another.  The propositions are in the form of imperatives, commands.  A command only makes sense when there are two minds involved, one giving the command and one receiving it.

There’s a third thing we notice when we reflect on moral rules.  They have a force we can actually feel prior to any behavior.  This is called the incumbency of moral rules, the “oughtness” of morality we discussed earlier.  It appeals to a person’s will, compelling him to act in a certain way, though he often disregards its force and chooses to disobey.[1]

Finally, there is a deep discomfort that is felt when we violate clear and weighty moral rules, an ethical pain, making us aware that we have done something wrong and are deserving of punishment.  This sense of guilt carries with it not just the uncomfortable awareness of wrong-doing, but also the dread of having to answer for our deed . . . .

Our options are limited to three.  One:  Morality is simply an illusion.  Two:  Moral rules exist, but are mere accidents, the product of chance.  Three:  Moral rules are not accidents, but instead are the product of intelligence.  Which option makes most sense given our four observations about morality?

Some want to argue that morals just don’t exist.  They’re nothing but illusions, useful fictions that help us to live in harmony.  This is the relativist’s answer.  This view is not an option for those who raise the problem of evil . . . .

Some take a second route.  They admit that objective moral laws must exist, but contend they are just accidents.  We discover them as part of the furniture of the universe, so to speak, but they have no explanation, nor do they need one.  This won’t do for a good reason:  Moral rules that have no ground or justification need not be obeyed . . . .  Commands are communications between two minds.  Chance might conceivably create the appearance of a moral rule, but there can be no command if no one is speaking.  Since this phrase is accidental, it can safely be ignored.  Even if a person is behind the communication, one could ignore the command if it isn’t backed by appropriate authority . . . .

Only one answer remains as a possible source of morality.  If morality is not an illusion and not the product of chance, then morals must be the result of an intelligent designer.  Universal moral laws that have genuine incumbency require an author whose proper domain is the universe, who has the moral authority to enforce his laws, and the power to ultimately mete out perfect justice.

What is the best explanation for the existence of morality?  A personal God whose character provides an absolute standard of goodness is the best answer.  An impersonal force won’t do because a moral rule is both a proposition and a command, and these are features of minds.  Ethicist Richard Taylor explains:

A duty is something that is owed….but something can be owed only to some person or persons.  There can be no such thing as a duty in isolation….The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God.  The words remain, but their meaning is gone.[3]

 Only one option makes sense of each observation about morality:  a personal God, who is the creator of both the material and the immaterial domain.  Moral laws suggest a moral law giver.  His laws are a communication of his desires, imperatives expected to be obeyed.  [More . . . ]

So, I believe we have some fairly sobering reflection to do. END

U/D, Dec 7:  News details updated on further research.

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83 Responses to The mutilation of Bibi Aisha — a test case on the objectivity of moral judgements

  1. I’m not sure what “radical relativism” means, but there is a case for moral relativism that can be summarized as follows:

    a. We are all already relativists in our daily lives.
    b. Relativism is descriptive, not prescriptive; it is not itself a moral system but a condition of moral agents (plural) acting in the world.
    c. Relativism does not entail moral equality between either acts or viewpoints.
    d. Moral relativism does not preclude making, legislating, or enforcing moral behavior.
    e. Relativism enables a necessary flexibility in assessing and evaluating moral acts, and improving moral law.

    In fact, if one is not a relativist, how does one condemn the “mutilation”? Were not the perpetrators enforcing divinely-sanctioned law? Yes, they were indeed acting according to an “objective” moral standard, as surely as the nation of Israel was in the slaughter they perpetrated in Deuteronomy 20:10-20.

    If one’s theory is that morality is divinely given, then one has nothing to say about either of the two cases above, except perhaps “Hallelujah.”

    One can be a relativist and then defend both cases. One can be a relativist and condemn both cases. But one cannot not be a relativist.

  2. Great post and I agree 100% with the conclusion, the only option that makes sense of morality is a personal God. (Found in the theistic worldviews of both Christianity and Judaism).. I’m not completely sure if this is an accurate depiction, but his (God’s) moral laws might be a result of his (God’s) character, a reflection, so to speak. After all, we were made in the image of God and are his image bearers…

  3. KR:

    Thanks for your thought.

    Let us not forget what this is, from the original description (as linked by News) of what was done to this young miss:

    Aisha was the Afghani teenager who was forced into an abusive marriage with a Taliban fighter, who abused her and kept her with his animals. When she attempted to flee, her family [--> it seems from other sources, this is her in-laws] caught her, hacked off her nose and ears, and left her for dead in the mountains. After crawling to her grandfather’s house, she was saved by a nearby American hospital.

    Going to Wiki, we learn the photo is from a Time cover in 2010, and we get more details:

    Aisha’s father promised her to a Taliban fighter when she was 12 years old to satisfy an obligation, in a practice known as baad. She was married at 14 and abused. At 18, she fled the abuse but was caught. Her father returned her to his in-laws. To discourage kidnapping in the village, they took her into the mountains, cut off her nose and her ears, and left her to die.[1] Some sources dispute the role of any members of the Taliban in her mutilation at the time it happened.

    The Daily Beast adds — pardon, I don’t track this sort of stuff:

    Aisha’s 60-year-old father, Mohammadzai, is himself hiding with relatives, fearful that other Afghans will hold it against him that his daughter has left for the U.S. Speaking to The Daily Beast by phone, Mohammadzai said he fled his village after people stopped speaking to him, and refused him work to support his family. What he wants, he said, is for Aisha to return to Afghanistan, and for her tormentors to be punished, although he is doubtful that those who maimed his daughter will be brought to justice.

    “I would like to live with my daughter in Kabul and will work to feed my family members there,” he said. “I’m afraid no one will be willing to marry my remaining three daughters, if the culprits who hurt my daughter are not punished.”

    “This arrest gives hope to all Afghan women that their perpetrators will be brought to justice—that sooner or later criminals will be punished.”

    Last year, Aisha’s husband’s uncle cut off her nose and ears while her husband tied her down. Her crime in their eyes? She had brought shame on them, when she ran away after enduring severe beatings at the hands of her husband and his family. Her mother died when Aisha was only a child, and to settle a family dispute (a murder committed by her father’s cousin), she was married away around the age of 13.

    From Worldpressphoto:

    Bibi Aisha, 18 . . . was disfigured as retribution for fleeing her husband’s house in Oruzgan province, in the center of Afghanistan. At the age of 12, Aisha and her younger sister had been given to the family of a Taliban fighter under a Pashtun tribal custom for settling disputes. When she reached puberty she was married to him, but she later returned to her parents’ home, complaining of violent treatment by her in-laws.
    Men arrived there one night demanding that she be handed over to be punished for running away. Aisha was taken to a mountain clearing, where she was held down, and had first her ears sliced off, and then her nose. In local culture, a man who has been shamed by his wife is said to have lost his nose, and such treatment is considered punishment in kind. Aisha was abandoned, but later rescued and taken to a shelter in Kabul run by the aid organization Women for Afghan Women, where she was given treatment and psychological help. After time in the refuge, she was taken to America, where she received counseling and reconstructive surgery.”

    It seems that the pressure of international exposure led to some action by the police, but, from a further Time article:

    The revelation that the only man ever arrested in connection to the brutal maiming of Afghan teen Bibi Aisha has been set free a mere six months after being taken into custody should not come as a surprise. Dismay and frustration, to be sure. But given the current state of justice in Afghanistan, not to mention official disregard for women’s rights (or human rights, for that matter), it’s a wonder anyone was picked up in the first place.

    Aisha’s father-in-law, Suleiman, was accused of participating in the horrific act that saw Aisha’s husband and brother-in-law cut off her nose and ears in retaliation for running away from her abusive in-laws. After initially confessing his role to the local police, he has now recanted, according to the Uruzgan Provincial Attorney Ghulam Farouq, as reported Monday in the New York Times. Farouq gave two reasons for the release, one that Suleiman did not cut off her nose himself (he just held her down, by her account) and that there was no one in Afghanistan to press the case, since Aisha is now in the United States awaiting reconstructive surgery . . .

    Thank God, Wiki goes on to note that “Shortly after Time’s cover ran, Aisha was flown to the United States to receive free reconstructive surgery.” That is the only good news in this sorry and horrific mess.

    My immediate question, is, how many other young ladies like this are out there? What can we do? (I await a response from the agency I contacted.)

    After that, we need to think soberly about our duties of care in this and similar matters. Especially if international pressure does get responses. And if slacking off of pressure then leads to the sort of lapses reported above. Can you imagine, in a world of video teleconferences, the absence of the victim led to in effect dropping the case?

    That means we need to cry out, loud and long, and refuse to accept evasions, excuses, undue delays or distractions.

    (I won’t even more than mention the giving of a daughter as a bride, in hostage for a murder, which predictably leads to an abusive situation. Or, how the reaction to exposing this horror was to shun and starve the family of the victim. Something is deeply rotten here, through and through, and profound reformation is plainly called for.)

    Finally, we also need to look deep in our own hearts, and ask ourselves some pretty pointed questions on what it means when we deny the objectivity of OUGHT, regardless of implications for our preferred worldviews. For, if oughtness is objective, the only viable worldview is one that has a foundational IS that grounds ought.

    That calls for a serious reappraisal of what has been promoted or enabled in our civilisation, in the name of science and in the name of education.

    And, I want someone to tell me straight, after examining what has been done to this young lady, that “OUGHT” is merely a matter of subjective judgement or feeling, and how he continues to hold that view.

    Enough is enough.

    GEM of TKI

  4. Mr Tanner:

    Kindly respond to the case on the table.

    If you wish to argue that the assertion that this OUGHT NOT to have happened — as opposed to what was done or what some may wish to imagine about it, is merely subjective, and has no objective basis, kindly explain this, while looking Bibi Aisha in the eye.

    Good evening.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: Due note is taken of the attempted atmosphere poisoning distractor, and your attention is directed to where such are addressed in the original post [cf. point 5]; which you artfully ignored. Given the seriousness of the case on the table, such distractive tactics will not be further entertained.

  5. “Relativism enables a necessary flexibility in assessing and evaluating moral acts, and improving moral law.”

    Really? Says who?

  6. Kairosfocus,

    In my view, for all your impassioned effort and thousands of words, the most you have succeeded in demonstrating is that many people act AS IF there is an objective moral law (which naturally corresponds to their own particular brand of morality). This does not demonstrate that an objective morality actually exists.

    In point #24, you make the comparison to mathematical truth. This is telling, because mathematics is the one and only branch of intellectual endeavor in which there is virtual unanimity among its practitioners. No mathematician doubts that the fundamental theorem of calculus has been proved, nor even that Godel’s famous theorem is true. This is strong evidence that mathematics actually does provide us with objective truth (although mathematical truth is effectively empty, but that is another discussion).

    There is nothing like that kind of agreement with regard to morality, even among those whose profession it is to study such things. To me, this is strong evidence that either 1) there is no objective morality, or 2) if there is, it is effectively impossible for us to know what it is.

    Some examples:

    1. In Catholic moral teaching, the use of contraception during sex is immoral. In most protestant sects, it is not. Also in Catholicism, sinning “in thought” is still sinning, a view not shared by many other Christian sects.

    2. Many people view it as moral to execute a convicted murderer (“an eye for an eye”). Many others regard it as immoral (“thou shalt not kill”).

    3. Abortion: many Christians regard abortion as murder. Many others, even many Christians, do not so regard it, but rather regard it as immoral to forcibly deny a woman her freedom of choice in the matter.

    4. Even within the same Christian sect, there is often disagreement regarding moral questions, witness the recent schism in Episcopal Church generated by the 2003 ordination and confirmation of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

    I could go on in this vein for pages, literally. The point is this: if there actually were an objective morality, ordained by God, then surely He would have made it possible for men and women of good will and serious intent to discover what it is. But clearly He has not. The fact that a few cases, such as the plight of Bibi Aisha, generate a more or less universal moral response in the West, does not alter the fact that with regard to many, many moral questions, there is no agreement on the answer. The obvious conclusion is that, unlike in mathematics, there is no objective moral truth.

    In the “Conversations with God” series of books, God, speaking through the pen of the author, Neale Donald Walsch, says point blank that in His eyes there is no such thing as right and wrong in a moral sense, there is only what works and what doesn’t work, depending on what it is that you want to be, do, and have. He goes on to say that if what you want is a world of peace, harmony, and love, and if you want to live a life that is full of love, deeply satisfying, and consonant with your True Nature, then live each moment in the question, “What would Love do now?” Furthermore, the answer to this question will be found within your own heart, not in any book. This is not morality at all, for it is not rule based. It is a way of living that is open ended, because each moment is unique, unlike any other, so the answer to the question, “What would Love do now?” will be unique, appropriate to that moment only.

    I bring up “Conversations with God” not so much to demonstrate its truth (although I personally hold almost everything in those books to be true), but rather to show that there is an internally consistent philosophical system in which God exists yet there is no objective morality.

  7. Why on earth should we not take this consensus as pointing to an objective reality, just as we have a universal consensus that nonsense is nonsense and 2 + 3 = 5

    There are many reasons why someone may not equate a consensus with objectivity. In fact, in most cases – we don’t. There’s a consensus that Mozart and Beethoven are great musicians, and Michelangelo and de Vinci are great artists, and Shakespeare is a great writer – but at the same time I think most people recognize that, as universal as those assessments are, they are still subjective.

    While thinking about the issue of “objectivity” vs “subjectivity”, it occurred to me that a test as to whether a question has an “objective” answer or not might be to ask whether it’s possible, at least in principle, to create a machine that would give the correct answer to the question. (This idea just occurred to me so there may be problems with it I haven’t thought of).

    A machine that can add “2 + 3” is easy enough – any first year computer science student can write a program to do that. It’s also easy to envision a machine where you can give it two substances and it can tell you which substance is harder, or heavier, or larger, etc.

    But I can’t envision a machine that can tell us whether Bieber or Beethoven is the better composer, or whether I or Shakespeare is the better poet. The same goes for questions on morality.

    While trying to think of a possible argument someone might have to this particular test of objectivity, I pictured someone declaring that they love their children, but a machine can’t test for that and, yet, it’s surely an objective fact. I think most people recognize such feelings as subjective; but some people seem to equate “objective” with “real”.

    Perhaps this is why some people are so offended by the idea that morality isn’t objective? Because, for some reason, they are equating “objective” with “real”? The love I have for my wife is real, but it doesn’t bother me to say that it’s subjective.

    Saying something is “just” a feeling and subjective doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – what’s more powerful or real in our lives than feelings? I would say that what happened to Bibi Aisha is wrong – and that’s as real and truthful as the love I have for my wife.

    Just a thought.

  8. BD:

    Again, please look Bibi Aisha in the eye, and tell her, there is no real OUGHT-NOT driven by the inherent moral worth and dignity of the human being that addresses her case. Then, explain why.

    As for your specifics, it is true that in any number of disciplines, where there is objective warrant for claims of truth, there are disputes and mistakes. Even, in Mathematics.

    Let me therefore clip here what I clipped in the other thread, from Clarke and Rakestraw, on morality and ethics, so such issues can be set in proper context for a more serious engagement, once you have answered the direct challenge this thread poses — and this is not a mere matter of emotion, it is vital (as in, look at victims and survivors of Hitler’s holocaust and tell them there is no OUGHT-NOT there serious):

    Principles are broad general guidelines that all persons ought to follow. Morality is the dimension of life related to right conduct. It includes virtuous character and honorable intentions as well as the decisions and actions that grow out of them. Ethics on the other hand, is the [philosophical and theological] study of morality . . . [that is,] a higher order discipline that examines moral living in all its facets . . . . on three levels. The first level, descriptive ethics, simply portrays moral actions or virtues. A second level, normative ethics (also called prescriptive ethics), examines the first level, evaluating actions or virtues as morally right or wrong. A third level, metaethics, analyses the second . . . It clarifies the meaning of ethical terms and assesses the principles of ethical argument . . . . Some think, without reflecting on it, that . . . what people actually do is the standard of what is morally right . . . [But, what] actually happens and what ought to happen are quite different . . . . A half century ago, defenders of positivism routinely argued that descriptive statements are meaningful, but prescriptive statements (including all moral claims) are meaningless . . . In other words, ethical claims give no information about the world; they only reveal something about the emotions of the speaker . . . . Yet ethical statements do seem to say something about the realities to which they point. “That’s unfair!” encourages us to attend to circumstances, events, actions, or relationships in the world. We look for a certain quality in the world (not just the speaker’s mind) that we could properly call unfair. [Readings in Christian Ethics, Vol. 1: Theory and Method. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002), pp. 18 – 19.]

    I trust this clears up the context in which a serious and informed discussion will need to take place.

    That context for serious discussion, will engage the issue as to whether we really have inherent, unalienable core rights, the heart of the OUGHT question. (Cf original post and the introductory lecture here.)

    GEM of TKI

  9. GUN:

    Pardon, but I must put the same challenge to you as to LT and BD:

    please look Bibi Aisha in the eye, and tell her, there is no real OUGHT-NOT driven by the inherent moral worth and dignity of the human being that addresses her case. Then, explain why.

    As to the OP point you clipped out of its context of responding to an extensive cite from Lewis’ opening argument on what the way we habitually quarrel by appealing to a binding fairness principle reveals (the very fact that you clipped the number off is thus telling . . . ) and challenged just above, let us note what it actually says in context:

    23 –> In short, here [in Lewis] we have a nigh-universal consent that comes out in our most heated moments, when our guard is down, that we live under common moral government that pivots on our inherent moral worth and equality, so there is a general rule of fair play that we should all respect.

    24 –> Why on earth should we not take this consensus as pointing to an objective reality, just as we have a universal consensus that nonsense is nonsense and 2 + 3 = 5, not just in particular cases, but on pain of absurdity, always and necessarily?

    25 –> The answer is of course that we are caught up in the poisonous fog of evolutionary materialist amorality, in a context where we tend to confuse the philosophy of materialism dressed up in a lab coat, for science.

    26 –> But, for 2,350 years and more we have had excellent reason to know that the very obvious absurdity and chaos flowing from such amorality is good reason to reject that pretender out of hand, and that the very orderliness and careful organisation of our evidently contingent cosmos points to its source in a designer that lies beyond it.

    27 –> And in our time, the evidence of a definite beginning and of fine tuning that sets the observed — the only observed — cosmos to a carefully balanced operating point set up to facilitate C-chemistry, cell based life underscores the soundness of that longstanding judgement.

    28 –> So, the reasonable man or woman will accept the force of the consensus that we are under moral government as a testimony of fact, and will then see that the only serious worldview that can provide an IS that can ground OUGHT as an objective duty, would be an inherently good and wise God and Creator. (Indeed, that careful balance is the proper answer to the modern attempts to resurrect the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called as an objection to ethical theism, cf here for details.) . . .

    Do you notice the issue of context, the generally acknowledged moral worth and rights to fairness of the individual human being, and the linked point that the mere consensus is not the target of my remarks, but that the consensus raises the issue that it points to the reality?

    In addition, all human knowing, judging, evaluating, appreciation etc — all conscious human activity [and a lot of subconscious activity too] — will be inherently subjective, i.e. it is in the inner world of a self-aware subject. That is not the issue, the issue is whether all of this inner world is mere delusion, or whether there is warrant that allows us to in cases confidently apprehend the truth, i.e. whether there is objective knowledge.

    In short, the subjectivity argument proves either too much or too little. If there is objective truth in math or science etc, or in common-sense reality, there is objective truth which opens the question that there is such objective warrant in morals too. If there is no such thing as objective warrant then your whole case collapses in self-referential absurdity.

    One thing that is not properly on the table, is to pretend that where you do not like there to be objective warrant, you can swivel your logic — oops, that is already a tool about warrant — to object that human cognitive behaviour is subjective, then swivel back and provide warrant where you like it. That is self-refuting selective hyperskepticism.

    As for the case of aesthetics, let us just say that aesthetic judgements and warrant are real, and once major works arrive at classical status, the judgement has remained more stable than judgements in science.

    And, indeed, there are principles of beauty that seem to be objective and transcendent, e.g focus, nobility (which implies a basic respect for the dignity of humanity and creation), harmonious symmetry with eye-catching variety and surprise [remember the little beauty spot that ladies used to asterisk in to draw attention to a particular feature? or the impact of the classic Afghan girl's unusual EYES in that classic photo, itself a solution to the problem of evil in aesthetics?], detail without busy-ness, order not chaos, elegant economy, entasis, etc.

    What is the case is that beauty is probably irreducibly complex, but so is mathematics. And, mathematics (and physics) in many respects works by beauty too:

    1 + e^(i*pi) = 0

    . . . is an object of surpassing mathematical beauty.

    So, no, beauty is not only in the eyes of the beholder or the ears of the listener, or there would be no sound principles of beautiful composition.

    And, again, please look Bibi Aisha in the eyes, see the way her beauty was willfully and violently marred as a way of taking revenge for her expose of the evil that had been visited upon her — imagine, her crime was to “dishonour” the family that had abused her, treating her, a hostage bride, as an animal; by exposing the abuse — and tell her, why, there is no OUGHT-NOT that was violated in your case.

    She may be too polite to give you the sound box across your face that you would deserve for that. (And, if you consider such an insult, consider that she did not receive a mere box across her face. Thank God, she is getting a chance at reconstructive surgery. I hope someone is able to sponsor her family to get out of the trap they are in.)

    Please, please, please, think again.

    GEM of TKI

  10. 11

    I feel compelled to address the examples given as proof that objective morality does not exist in Christianity. Although relativism has snuck into the Christian faith as well, a cursory search of the Bible with an understanding of design in nature would provide definitive answers to which group is more correctly aligned with the correct truth or a more fitting definition of truth-ultimate reality.

    1. In Catholic moral teaching, the use of contraception during sex is immoral. RESPONSE: If we study the anatomical structures of the male and female genitalia and respective reproductive organs, an elementary school child could conclude that the best explanation for their existence is the reproduction of the human species. Therefore, any device that would interfere with that purpose could be considered to go against the design intent of the Creator, and therefore, OUGHT not to be used. In most protestant sects, it is not. Also in Catholicism, sinning “in thought” is still sinning, a view not shared by many other Christian sects. RESPONSE: I am under the impression that “most” Christian “sects” would subscribe to the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus Christ. The standard Jesus set was the example he gave (I am paraphrasing) regarding lusting after a woman in your mind is equal to actually committing adultery.

    2. Many people view it as moral to execute a convicted murderer (“an eye for an eye”)THIS PHRASE IS CONTINUALLY MISQUOTED OUT OF CONTEXT-THE BIBLE DOES NOT TEACH THIS. Many others regard it as immoral (“thou shalt not kill”)THE BIBLE DOES TEACH THIS.

    3. Abortion: many Christians regard abortion as murder. Many others, even many Christians, do not so regard it, but rather regard it as immoral to forcibly deny a woman her freedom of choice in the matter. SEE COMMENTS FOR NOTE 1 ABOVE REGARDING THE INTENT OF THE DESIGNER REGARDING PREGNANCY. Disturbing the zygote or destroying the fetus would again be interference with the intent of the Designer as evidenced by an elementary study of that process. THERE ARE ALSO numerous scriptures regarding the value of human life and a passage in the Bible regarding the Designer knowing the fetus while in utero.

    4. Even within the same Christian sect, there is often disagreement regarding moral questions, witness the recent schism in Episcopal Church generated by the 2003 ordination and confirmation of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire. AGAIN, refer to note 1 regarding the intent of the Designer. I will attempt to address this issue without too much descriptive language that would violate the good taste of this website. Let’s just state that coitus can only be accomplished between a male and female. Sodomy grossly violates the Designers intent for the specific anatomical structures required for that behaviour. Even without the Judeo-Christian scriptures prohibiting this behaviour, from a purely scientific standpoint…scratch that… From a purely materialist viewpoint, we can easily conclude that homosexual behaviour was not part of natural selections “purpose” for those structures. Furthermore, a species engaging soley in that behaviour would, within one generation, become extinct so we can logically conclude it is not a evolutionary viable behaviour. Therefore, any Christian “sect” endorsing homosexual behaviour is choosing to ignore vital teachings of the widely accepted Judeo-Christian text and also is denying the scientific evidence which supports the intent of the designer. Applying the “what would love do now?” concept in this situation would mean encouraging the human individual struggling with this un-natural behaviour to re embrace the original intent of the Designer, or in the case of materialism, deny the illogical behaviour that does not result in the spread of the individual’s dna according the purposes and laws of the great materialistic prophet, Darwin. Funny, does “love” even exist in the materialistic worldview???

  11. F/N: Some may wonder why I responded so strongly to the side-issue being raised. Let me briefly comment. For two months now, in thread after thread at UD, this issue has been raised and responsibly discussed at length. In the above, before even addressing my own points and questions, I pointed to some of that discussion, as brought together in one place. All of this was simply ignored or brushed aside in haste to poisonously distract, as can be seen from the utter want of responsible interaction with the discussions linked from points 4 – 5 above. For cause, I consider this disrespectful and contemptuous at this stage. And, it is our turn now, to raise key questions and ask for sound or at least responsible answers.

  12. Pardon a vanished original post for the moment, something seems to have gone wrong. Reported.

    Just in case, here it is:

    +++++++++++++

    U/D: Looks like “it’s a feature not a bug.” I had used a square bracket in a caption, which caused the post to vanish. Let’s hope this is easily corrected by the good folks at WP!

    KF

  13. F/N: The issue is of course not intensity or niceness or otherwise of one’s feelings. If we have no inherent moral worth so that OUGHT is not a real principle in our lives, then our feelings are of no weight whatsoever, in Herr Schicklegruber’s words, a cat has no warm feelings towards a mouse. And then what happened to Bibi Aisha is just a matter of what happens to the loser in a power struggle in a world where might makes ‘right.’ That, is what is at stake in the end. We need to think very seriously about where subjectivism points.

  14. UR:

    I can understand your sense of urgency to respond to specific tangential challenges. However, I must note that the point of these is inherently to distract and to pull us into a poisonous crocodile death roll fight.

    After two months of such, I am sick and tired of the underlying contempt, cold cynicism, disregard for truth and fairness, and general supercilious irresponsibility that I have too often found, cf here on.

    It is high time to turn around and put those who play these games — and those who are helplessly caught up in the radical relativist spider-web — in front of Bibi Aisha, and ask them what they have to say to her about the OUGHTNESS of what happened to her, why. Is OUGHT real, or merely a subjective perception? If it is, what follows from that? If you think not, what then follows?

    A direct challenge to deal with a concrete case study like this, is — I believe — the hard medicine that opens the door to liberation from the tyranny of “might makes ‘right’.”

    GEM of TKI

  15. Here is an argument by Peter Kreeft, in his defense of Moral Absolutism, as taken from his paper “A Refutation of Moral Relativism” that’s worthy of serious consideration!

    First the pragmatic argument from consequences. If the relativist argues against absolutism from its supposed consequences of intolerance, we can argue against relativism from its real consequences. Consequences are, at least, a relative indicator. They are clues. Good morality should have good consequences, and bad morality should have bad ones. Well, it’s exceedingly obvious that the main consequence of moral relativism is the removal of moral deterrents. Just as the consequences of “do the right thing” are doing the right thing, so the consequences of “if it feels good, do it” are doing whatever feels good. Takes no PhD to see that. In fact, it takes a PhD to miss it.

    Moral societies last

    All immoral deeds and attitudes, with the possible exception of envy feel good. That’s the main reason we do them. If sin didn’t seem like fun, we’d all be saints. Relativism has never produced a saint. That is the pragmatic refutation of relativists. The same goes for societies. Relativism has never produced a good society, only a bad one. Compare the stability, longevity, and happiness of societies founded on the principles of moral relativists like Mussolini, and Mao Tse Tung, with societies founded on the principles of moral absolutists like Moses and Confucius. A society of moral relativists usually lasts one generation. Hitler’s thousand-year Reich lasted not even that long.

    I think the following quotation should be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ACLU, the National Teacher’s Association, Hollywood, and all network TV executives:

    Everything I have said and done is these last years is relativism, by intuition. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, that all ideologies are mere fictions, the modern relativist infers that everybody has the right to create for himself his own ideology, and to attempt to enforce it with all the energy of which he is capable. If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories, and men who claim to be the bearers of an objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than fascism. —Benito Mussolini

    8. Argument for Absolutism: Tradition
    Second, the argument from tradition. This argument should appeal to egalitarians who argue against absolutism because they think it is somehow connected with snobbery. It is exactly the opposite. Absolutism is traditional morality, and tradition is egalitarianism extended into history. Chesterton called it “the democracy of the dead, the extension of the franchise to that most powerless of classes, those disenfranchised not by accident of birth but by accident of death. Tradition counters a small and arrogant oligarchy of the living, those who just happen to be walking around the planet today.

    Absolutism is the norm in human history

    To be a relativist, you must be a snob, at least on this centrally important issue. For you stand in a tiny minority, almost totally concentrated in one culture: the modern west; that is, white, democratic, industrialized, urbanized, university-educated, secularized, apostate, post-Christian society. To be a relativist, you must believe that nearly all human beings in history have ordered their lives by an illusion. Even societies like ours that are dominated by relativistic experts’ popular opinion still tends to moral absolutism. Like the Communists, relativists pretend to be the party of the people, while in fact scorning the peoples’ philosophy. In fact, for a generation now, a minority of relativistic elitists who have gained the power of the media have been relentlessly imposing their elitist relativism on popular opinion by accusing popular opinion—that is, traditional morality—of elitism.

    9. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Experience
    Third, there is the argument from moral experience. This is the simplest and, I think, strongest argument for moral absolutism. In fact, it is so strong that it seems like an unnatural strain to put it into the form of an argument at all—it is more like primary data. The first and foundational moral experience is always absolutistic. Only later in the life of the individual or the society does sophistication sometimes suggest moral relativism. Every one of us remembers from early childhood experience what it feels like to be morally obligated. To bump up against an unyielding moral wall. This memory is enshrined in the words “ought,” “should,” “right,” and “wrong.”

    Everyone experiences moral obligation

    Moral absolutism is certainly based on experience. For instance, let’s say last night you promised your friend you would help them at 8:00 this morning. Let’s say he has to move his furniture before noon. But you were up ’til 3:00 am. And when the alarm rings at 7:00, you are very tired. You experience two things—the desire to sleep, and the obligation to get up. The two are generically different. You experience no obligation to sleep, and no desire to get up. You are moved, in one way, by your own desire for sleep, and you are moved in a very different way by what you think you ought to do. Your feelings appear from the inside out, so to speak, while your conscience appears from the outside in. Within you is the desire to sleep, and this may move you to the external deed of shutting off the alarm and creeping back to bad. But, if instead you get up to fulfill your promise to your friend, it will be because you chose to respond to a very different kind of thing: the perceived moral quality of the deed of fulfilling your promise, as opposed to the perceived moral quality of the deed of refusing to fulfill it. What you perceive as right, or obligatory—getting up—pulls you from without, from itself, from its own nature. But the desires you feel as attractive—going back to sleep—push you from within, from yourself, from your own nature. The moral obligation moves you as an end, as a final cause, from above and ahead, so to speak. Your desires move you as a source, as an efficient cause, from below, or behind, so to speak.

    All this is primary data, fundamental moral experience. It can be denied, but only as some strange philosophies might deny the reality immediately perceived by our senses. Moral relativism is to moral experience what teaching of Christian Science is to the experience of pain and sickness and death. It tells us these experiences are illusions to be overcome by faith. Moral absolutism is empirical. Moral relativism is a dogma of faith.

    10. Argument for Absolutism: Ad Hominem

    We protest when treated immorally

    Fourth, there is the ad hominem argument. Even the relativist always reacts with a moral protest when he is treated immorally. The man who appeals to the relativistic principle of “I gotta be me,” who justified breaking his promise of fidelity to his own wife, whom he wants to leave for another woman, will then break his fidelity to his relativistic principle when his new wife uses that principle to justify leaving him for another man. This is not exceptional, but typical. It looks like the origin of relativism is more personal than philosophical. More in the hypocrisy than in the hypothesis. The contradiction between theory and practice is evident even in the relativist’s act of teaching relativism. Why do relativists teach and write? To convince the world that relativism is right and absolutism wrong? Really right and really wrong? If so, then there is a real right and a real wrong. And if not, then there is nothing wrong with being an absolutist, and nothing right with being a relativist. So why do relativists write and teach? Really, for all the effort they’ve put into preaching their gospel of delivering humanity from the false and foolish repressions of absolutism, one would have thought they really believed this gospel.

    11. Argument for Absolutism: Moral Language

    Fifth, there’s the argument from moral language. This is a very obvious argument, used by C.S. Lewis, at the very beginning of Mere Christianity. It is based on the observation that people quarrel. They do not merely fight, they argue about right and wrong. This is to act as if they believed in objectively real and universally binding moral principles. If nothing but subjective desires and passions were involved, it would be merely a contest of strength between competing persons. Or between competing passions within a person. If I’m more hungry than tired, I’ll eat; if I’m more tired than hungry, I’ll sleep. But we say things like, “That isn’t fair.” Or, “What right do you have to that?” If relativism were true, moral argument would be as stupid as arguing about feelings. “I feel great.” “No, I feel terrible.”

    People live as if they believe morality is real

    In fact, the moral language that everyone uses every day—language that praises, blames, counsels, or commands—would be strictly meaningless if relativism were true. We do not praise or blame non-moral agents like machines. When the Coke machine steals our money without delivering a Coke, we do not argue with it, call it a sinner, or tell it to go to confession. We kick it. So when some of our psychologists tell us that we are only very complex machines, they are telling us that morality is only very complex kicking. This is so absurd it hardly deserves an argument. I think it deserves a spanking, which is only practicing what they preach: kicking, but more honestly. The argument is simple. Moral language is meaningful, not meaningless. We all know that. We know how to use it, and we do. Relativism cannot explain that fact.

    Postscript: Cause and Cure
    Finally, most importantly of all, my postscript. What is the cause, and cure of moral relativism? The real source of moral relativism is not any argument at all, and therefore its cure is not any refutation of an argument. Neither philosophy nor science nor logic nor common sense nor experience have ever refuted traditional moral absolutism. It is not reason, but the abdication of reason that is the source of moral relativism. Relativism is not rational, it is rationalization. It is not the conclusion of a rational argument. It is the rationalization of a prior action. It is the repudiation of the principle that passions must be evaluated by reason and controlled by will. That is the virtue Plato and Aristotle called self-control. It is not just one of the cardinal virtues, but a necessary ingredient in every virtue. That classical assumption is almost the definition of civilization. But romanticists, existentialists, Freudians, and many others have convinced many people in our culture that it is oppressive and unhealthy and inauthentic. If we embrace the opposite principle, and let passion govern reason, rather than reason govern passion, there is little hope for morality or for civilization.

    The cure requires more than an argument

    Obviously, the strongest and most attractive of the passions is sexual passion. It is therefore also the most addictive and the most blinding. So, there could hardly be a more powerful undermining of our moral knowledge and our moral life than the sexual revolution. Already, the demand for sexual freedom has overridden one of nature’s strongest instincts: motherhood. A million mothers a year in America alone pay hired killers, who are called healers or physicians, to kill their own unborn daughters and sons. How could this happen? Only because abortion is driven by sexual motives. For abortion is backup birth control, and birth control is the demand to have sex without having babies. If the stork brought babies, there’d be no Planned Parenthood.

    Divorce is a second example of the power of the sexual revolution to undermine basic moral principles. Suppose there were some other practice, not connected with sex, which had these three documentable results. First, betraying the person you claim to love the most, the person you had pledged your life to, betraying your solemn promise to her or him. Second, thereby abusing the children you had procreated and promised to protect, scarring their souls more infinitely than anything else except direct violent physical abuse, and making it far more difficult for them ever to attain happy lives or marriages. And thirdly, thereby harming, undermining, and perhaps destroying your society’s future. Would not such a practice be universally condemned? Yet, that is exactly what divorce is, and it is universally accepted. Betrayal is universally condemned unless it is sexual. Justice, honesty, not doing other harms—these moral principles are affirmed, unless they interfere with sex.

    We are designed for joy

    The rest of traditional morality is still very widely believed and taught, even in TV sitcoms, soap operas, and Hollywood movies. The driving force of moral relativism seems to be almost exclusively sexual. Why this should be, and what we should do about it, are two further questions that demand much more time and thought than we have available here and now. But if you want a very short guess at an answer to both, here is the best I can do. I think a secularist has only one substitute left for God, only one experience in a desacrilized world that still gives him something like the mystical, self-transcending thrill of ecstasy that God designed all souls to have forever, and to long for until they have it. Unless he is a surfer, that experience has to be sex. We’re designed for more than happiness; we’re designed for joy. Aquinas writes, with simple logic, “Man cannot live without joy. That is why one deprived of true spiritual joys must spill over to carnal pleasures.”

    Drugs and alcohol are attractive because they claim to feed the same need. They lack the ontological greatness of sex, but they provide the same semi-mystical thrill: the transcendence of reason and self-consciousness. I do not mean this merely as moral condemnation, but as psychological analysis. In fact, though they sound shocking, I think the addict is closer to the deepest truth than the mere moralist. He is looking for the very best thing in some of the very worst places. His demand for a state in which he transcends morality is very wrong, but it’s also very right. For we are designed for something beyond morality, something in which morality will be transformed. Mystical union with God. Sex is a sign and appetizer of that. Moral absolutists must never forget that morality, though absolute, is not ultimate. It is not our Summum Bonum. Sinai is not the Promised Land; Jerusalem is. And in the New Jerusalem, what finally happens as the last chapter of human history is a wedding between the Lamb and His bride. Deprived of this Jerusalem, we must buy into Babylon. If we do not worship God, we will worship idols, for we are by nature worshippers.

    Finally, what is the cure? It must be stronger medicine than philosophy, so I can give you only three words in answer to this last and most practical question of all. What we can do about it? What is the cure? These three words are totally unoriginal. They are not my philosophical argument, but God’s biblical demands. Repent, fast, and pray. Confess, sacrifice, adore. I know of no other answer, and I can think of nothing else that can save this civilization except Saints.

    Please be one.

    For more on this see the book:
    A Refutation of Moral Relativism

  16. I do indeed argue both that what happened to Bibi Aisha was morally wrong and that “wrongness” is based on the personal and cultural ethics of my upbringing.

    By the same token, I can only assume (and I know you will agree) that the mutilators themselves will argue that they performed a morally justified act against Aisha, who herself acted most immorally.

    Now, I see little profit in this after-the-fact moralizing. Aisha may not well care whether what was done to her was subjectively or objectively right according to her culture. Neither may she care whether Western sensibilities are shocked and offended by the mutilation. What Aisha needed before her face was carved up was for someone to defend and protect her. Whether derived subjectively or objectively, a legal prohibition against punitive disfigurement was what Aisha needed.

    I have responded to your “challenge.” Now, please respond to my question, and please do try not to be relativistic:

    If Bibi Aisha’s attackers were acting upon divinely-sanctioned rules governing punishment of transgressions, on what basis do you dare to oppose the punishment?

    I will further ask, respectfully, that you be brief and pointed in your comments, as I find your long-winded prose tiresome.

    I sincerely await your response.

  17. Please note that I have asked for a response to a hypothetical question. It’s not a red herring or a strawman type question but rather one whose question allows us to raise and sort through some of the issues with objective moral values, universal morality, and moral relativity.

    So, if the question that’s been asked could be answered straightforwardly, that would be great.

  18. 19

    Whether or not one can prove that moral rules reflect objective values is not the point. There are many axiomatic propositions that must/should be accepted, such as the principles of logic and “I exist”, whether or not we can prove them.

    The question is if we should consider what morality describes – the good – as an objectively existent commodity, and not relative (whatever any of us happens to find “good”).

    As the Robert Duvall character in Secondhand Lions says, “There are some things a man must believe whether they are true or not.” If we believe that good is relative, and that consequences to moral/immoral behavior are arbitrary (you might get caught and punished, you might not), then we must accept that all things are ultimately permissable, and we have no principled right to condemn any behavior, or any principled reason to live by any other maxim than might makes right.

    If we hold, however, that “the good” is a fundamental quality of god that even god cannot change (like logic), then “the good” becomes a fundamental feature of our existence – like logic. 1+1=2, no matter that someone claims that god said otherwise. Similarly, mutilating someone because they were raped is wrong, regardless of what anyone claims god said, and regardless of if god himself says otherwise.

    God cannot change what is good, and what is not good, just as god cannot make 1+1=5, not because those commodities are greater than god, but because they are fundamental, essential aspects of god. We must hold this axiom to be valid or else anything is justifiable, even if by saying “god told me so”, and if we do not, we have no principle by which to assert that a thing is wrong, even if someone says “god said so”.

    Because different cultures or individuals have contradicting moral rules doesn’t mean that what morality attempts to describe isn’t objective; it just means that our subjective attempts to describe that good via moral statements can fail and contradict each other, much as eyewitness accounts describing a suspect can contradict each other. Because they contradict each other doesn’t mean the suspect didn’t objective exist, and didn’t have objectively existent features.

    Some moral rules are self-evidently true, such as “It is always wrong to torture infants for personal pleasure”. That someone disagrees that it is a self-evidently true moral statement doesn’t matter any more than if someone disagrees that A=A is a self-evidently true statment; we must and should hold it as valid.

    Not all moral statements are self-evidently true. Some are provisional, logical extrapolations of self-evidently true statemetns. Some are contingent. Some are just general principles that depend upon other factors. Sometimes discerning the moral choice is extremely difficult; that does not mean that the good which morality attempts to describe does not objectively exist.

    We must behave as if “the good” is an objectively valid commodity, and that there are necessary (not arbitrary) consequences to moral/immoral behavior, even if we admit that our subjective attempts to understand it are often problematical and can fail.

    If we do not, we slip into the dark despair of moral relativism and an essentially meaningless existence.

  19. Zoe:

    Some very sobering thoughts.

    Of course, there are absolutist extremes and traditional cultural views and ways that are also destructive, as we are seeing with the extremists who mutilated Bibi Aisha.

    We all have some very serious reflection on morality and the practice of morality in the community to do.

    God bless ‘em, we also need a few saints.

    KF

  20. WJM:

    Sobering thoughts.

    I actually think that we can start where CSL did, from the fact that even in our hot disputes, we normally understand ourselves to be under moral government, and under a respect and fairness principle.

    Then, we can ask, what postulates make for a world in which that makes good sense?

    That soon tosses up Hume’s IS-OUGHT gap and the only viable solution: there must be a foundational IS of our world that grounds ought.

    One viable candidate, the inherently good and wise Creator God. So, generic ethical theism makes good sense.

    We may then debate details and traditions and scriptures, but the foundation is plain.

    Or else the abyss of horrors and chaos yawns open before us. As we see not only in what happened to a lovely young miss, but from how the issue is being handled. (And we don’t even need to bother with the foaming hate sites. They have nothing to offer.)

    And, this has been the view of leading lights for millennia.

    GEM of TKI

  21. Bruce David:

    I could go on in this vein for pages, literally. The point is this: if there actually were an objective morality, ordained by God, then surely He would have made it possible for men and women of good will and serious intent to discover what it is. But clearly He has not. The fact that a few cases, such as the plight of Bibi Aisha, generate a more or less universal moral response in the West, does not alter the fact that with regard to many, many moral questions, there is no agreement on the answer. The obvious conclusion is that, unlike in mathematics, there is no objective moral truth.

    When one looks at the Gospels, what one sees is Jesus exhorting his listeners to simply use common sense. Objective morality is the presence within ourselves of that which we call ‘common sense’. And the common sense we have in this life is: “don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” This is completely harmonious with Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

    In the case of Bibi, just ask yourself this question: “Would you want someone to cut off your nose under any circumstances?” The answer is obvious. What about her husband and his behavior? The question becomes: “would you want someone to beat you severely for small infractions of a rule?” Again, the answer is obvious. Ethics is not morality. Sharia might be an “ethical” code; but in many respects it sure doesn’t seem to be moral at all.

    This “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t want them to do to you” forms, perhaps, the foundation of morality in its entirety. From this one central principle—intuited by all humans—rises a structure of moral imperatives. So, this moral structure ends up being entirely like mathematics in that certain fundamental premises must be given, and then a systemic way of thinking is applied to the starting principles. Logic guides both processes; yet, when it comes to morality, not only logic but wisdom is needed.

    The problem of varying moral codes then becomes this: who is wise and who is not?

    In the context of this fundamental, common-sense approach to morality, the case of Bibi Aisha comes down to this: is it wise, and, therefore, just to treat Bibi in the manner in which she was treated? I conclude that Sharia Law lacks wisdom, and so, it will naturally be lacking in true morality. IOW, what they did to Bibi was wrong. It was immoral.

    I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with that, are they?

  22. In short, you say wrongness is a matter of cultural opinion.

    So, Hitler’s genocide was okay — perfectly legal under applicable German law and orders tracing to legitimate, elected authority, and you have no basis other than might makes right to arbitrate between cultures.

    Game over, and we know you for what you are.

    Just about what Plato pegged 2350 years ago.

    Thanks for the warning.

    Good day.

    GEM of TKI

  23. I did not say nor did I imply that Hitler’s genocide was “okay.” As someone of Jewish upbringing, I think you’ve said something very hurtful and stupid.

    What Hitler did, however was in fact legal. He made it so, and many “moral” institutions either helped out or looked the other way while he sought to rid himself of people he considered undesirable.

    Now, quid-pro-quo Clarice: respond honestly to the question I asked you. If you do not, we will know you for we already know you are.

    But thanks for being brief in your last evasion.

  24. PaV:

    Thanks for some significant thoughts.

    I note, though, it may not just be Sharia, it seems local blood feud tribal customs may be implicated.

    The “baat” [oops, baad] custom that demanded a hostage bride due to a cousin of the father murdering someone from the other clan sounds like a blood feud-resolving custom.

    but, it is evident that, as Locke highlighted, a good dose of “the judicious [Canon Richard] Hooker” is called for.

    Odd, but telling, how this 400 year old, very relevant observation keeps on being pointedly ignored by objectors in their haste to spin out objections and denigratory dismissals:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80.]

    Bibi Aisha is a co-heir with us of humanity.

    She should never have been in effect parcelled out as a hostage bride — though, her father evidently seems to be too poor to have power to stop that. She should have been welcomed by her new family, not treated to beatings and being kept with the animals. The neighbours — who must have known what was going on — should have stood up to the abuse, and the police should have intervened decisively. When she fled back to her father, she should not have been handed back on a promise of better treatment, though the subtext of violent intimidation (and even possible terrorism) is obvious. She should not have been mutilated and left to die. And, when she got to her grandparents and found succor, then the matter became an international outcry, the villagers should have been ashamed, instead of shunning and trying to starve out an obviously poor family by refusing to offer work. When the police did act, they should not have dropped the charge, and the international bodies should have kept the pressure up on maximum intensity. Her father and three sisters — and, perhaps, grandparents — should have been granted refugee status as well, and the family should have been resettled elsewhere. Maybe, Time Magazine, which splashed Bibi’s photo on its cover, can still get that done.

    Not one of these issues is a disputable matter of cross cultural differences, every one is a basic matter of recognising that we are all equally morally valuable by virtue of being human, made in God’s image. And, any attempt to justify the above in the name of God is a patent abuse of the name of God, aka taking God’s name in vain [the real meaning of that commandment].

    That is why this case is so powerfully telling, and so plainly demands a lot of soul searching and reformation, across both the cultures in Afghanistan and those in our own civilisation.

    GEM of TKI

  25. PS: Since there seems to be a significant amount of darkened understanding at work, let me also draw attention to a much older writer in Hooker’s tradition, Paul:

    Rom 2:1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things . . . .

    14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

    13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”[a] and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”[b] 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law . . .

    In short, core morality is clear enough, stamped in our hearts [whatever our creed] and the direct implications of neighbour-love are clear enough (why C S Lewis was able to highlight such striking parallels in moral thought across cultures across space and time); our problem is that we like to play self-serving one upmanship games with it.

    So, the issue is not whether the matter is plain to people of good will, but much more directly challenging: are we consistently of good will?

  26. Here is Peter Kreeft’s intro to his “A Refutation of Moral Relativism” a sound moral absolutist position, founded on historical human experience across the walk of life.

    Introduction

    Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day defined a good society as one that makes it easy for you to be good. Correlatively, a free society is one that makes it easy to be free. To be free, and to live freely, is to live spiritually, because only spirit is free—matter is not. To live spiritually is to live morally. The two essential properties of spirit that distinguish it from matter are intellect and will—the capacity for knowledge and moral choice. The ideals of truth and goodness. The most radical threat to living morally today is the loss of moral principles.

    Relativism is the single most important issue of our age.

    Moral practice has always been difficult for fallen humanity, but at least there was always the lighthouse of moral principles, no matter how stormy the sea of moral practice got. But today, with the majority of our mind-molders, in formal education, or informal education—that is, media—the light is gone. Morality is a fog of feelings. That is why to them, as Chesterton said, “Morality is always dreadfully complicated to a man who has lost all his principles.” Principles mean moral absolutes. Unchanging rocks beneath the changing waves of feelings and practices. Moral relativism is a philosophy that denies moral absolutes. That thought to me is the prime suspect—public enemy number one. The philosophy that has extinguished the light in the minds of our teachers, and then their students, and eventually, if not reversed, will extinguish our whole civilization. Therefore, I want not just to present a strong case against moral relativism, but to refute it, to unmask it, to strip it naked, to humiliate it, to shame it, to give it the wallop it deserves, as they say in Texas, America’s good neighbor to the south.

    How important is this issue? After all, it’s just philosophy, and philosophy is just ideas. But ideas have consequences. Sometimes these consequences are as momentous as a holocaust, or a Hiroshima. Sometimes even more momentous. Philosophy is just thought, but sow a thought, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. This is just as true for societies as it is for individuals.

    How important is the issue? The issue of moral relativism is merely the single most important issue of our age, for no society in all of human history has ever survived without rejecting the philosophy that I am about to refute. There has never been a society of relativists. Therefore, our society will do one of three things: either disprove one of the most universally established laws of all history; or repent of its relativism and survive; or persist in its relativism and perish.

    How important is the issue? C.S. Lewis says, in The Poison of Subjectivism, that relativism “will certainly end our species and damn our souls.” Please remember that Oxonians are not given to exaggeration. Why does he say “damn our souls?” Because Lewis is a Christian, and he does not disagree with the fundamental teaching of his master, Christ, and all the prophets in the Jewish tradition, that salvation presupposes repentance, and repentance presupposes an objectively real moral law. Moral relativism eliminates that law, thus trivializes repentance, thus imperils salvation.

    Ideas have consequences

    Why does he say, “end our species,” and not just modern Western civilization? Because the entire human species is becoming increasingly Westernized and relativized. It is ironic that America, the primary source of relativism in the world today, is also the world’s most religious nation. This is ironic because religion is to relativism what Dr. Van Helsing is to Count Dracula. Within America, the strongest opposition to relativism comes from the churches. Yet a still further irony, according to the most recent polls, Catholics are as relativistic, both in behavior and in belief, as non-Catholics. Sixty-two percent of Evangelicals say they disbelieve in any absolute or unchanging truths, and American Jews are significantly more relativistic and more secular than Gentiles. Only Orthodox Jews, the Eastern Orthodox, and Fundamentalists seem to be resisting the culture, but not by converting it, but by withdrawing from it. And that includes most Muslims, except for the tiny minority who terrorize it. When Pat Buchanan told us in 1992 that we were in a culture war, all the media laughed, sneered, and barked at him. Today, everyone knows he was right, and the culture war is most essentially about this issue.

    We must define our terms when we begin. Moral relativism usually includes three claims: That morality is first of all changeable; secondly, subjective; and third, individual. That it is relative first to changing times; you can’t turn back the clock. Secondly, to what we subjectively think or feel; there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so. And thirdly, to individuals; different strokes for different folks. Moral absolutism claims that there are moral principles that are unchangeable, objective, and universal.

    We should examine the arguments for moral relativism first, and refute them, to clear the way for the arguments against it. So first, I will refute each of the common arguments for relativism, and then relativism itself.

    1. Argument for Relativism: Psychological

    The first argument is psychological. In practice, psychological reasons—that is, psychological becauses, subjective personal motives—are usually a more powerful source of moral relativism than logical becauses—that is, objective logical arguments. So we should ask, what is the main motive for preferring relativism? Since our deepest desire is for happiness, and since fears correspond to desires, it is probably the fear that moral absolutism would make us unhappy by making us feel guilty. So we call moral absolutism unloving, or uncompassionate. Turned into argument, it looks like this: Good morality has good consequences, bad morality has bad consequences. Feelings of unhappiness and guilt are bad consequences, while feelings of happiness and self-esteem are good consequences. Moral absolutism produces the bad feelings of guilt and unhappiness, while moral relativism produces the good feelings of self-esteem and happiness. Therefore, moral absolutism is bad, and moral relativism is good.

    Moral laws maximize happiness

    The answer to this argument is first of all that absolute moral law exists not to minimize, but to maximize human happiness, and therefore it is maximally loving and compassionate, like labels, or roadmaps. You’re not happy if you eat poison or drive off a cliff. But what about guilt? Removing moral absolutes does indeed remove the sense of guilt, and this sense obviously does not make you happy in the short run. But guilt, like physical pain, may be necessary to avoid greater unhappiness in the long run, if it is realistic, that is, in tune with reality and not pathological. So the question is, does reality include objective moral laws? If it does not, guilt is an experience as pointless as paranoia. But if it does, it is as proper as pain, and for a similar reason: to prevent harm. Guilt is a warning in the soul, analogous to pain as a warning in the body.

    The relativist’s argument also has a question-begging assumption. It assumes that feelings are the standard for judging morality. But the claim in traditional morality is exactly the opposite: that morality is the standard for judging feelings. Finally, if the argument from self-esteem versus guilt is correct, it logically follows that if rapists, cannibalists, terrorists, or tyrants feel self-esteem, they are better persons than if they feel guilty. That Hitler’s problem was a lack of self-confidence. Some ideas are beyond the need for refutation, except in universities.

    2. Argument for Relativism: Cultural Influence

    A second argument for relativism is the argument from cultural relativism. This argument seems impregnable. The claim is that anthropologists and sociologists have discovered moral relativism to be not a theory but an empirical fact. Different cultures and societies, like different individuals, simply do, in fact, have very different moral values. In Eskimo culture, and in Holland, killing old people is right. In America, east of Oregon, it’s wrong. In contemporary culture, fornication is right; in Christian cultures, it’s wrong, and so forth.

    Descartes noted in A Discourse On Method that “there is no idea so strange that some philosopher has not seriously taught it.” Similarly, there is no practice so strange that some society has not legitimized it; for instance, genocide, or cannibalism. Or, so innocent that some group has not forbidden it; for instance, entering a temple with a hat on, or without one. So anyone who thinks values are not relative to cultures is simply ignorant of the facts, so goes the argument.

    It is not always right to obey the culture

    To see the logical fallacy in this apparently impregnable argument, we need to look at its unspoken assumption—which is that moral rightness is a matter of obedience to cultural values. That it is right to obey your culture’s values. Always. Only if we combine that hidden premise with the stated premise—that values differ with cultures—can we get to the conclusion that moral rightness differs with cultures. That what is wrong in one culture is right in another. But surely, this hidden premise begs the question. It presupposes the very moral relativism it is supposed to prove. The absolutist denies that it is always right to obey your culture’s values. He has a trans-cultural standard by which he can criticize a whole culture’s values. That is why he could be a progressive and a radical, while the relativist can only be a status-quo conservative, having no higher standard than his culture. My country, right or wrong. Only massive, media, big-lie propaganda could so confuse people’s minds that they spontaneously think the opposite. But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, “You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed.” The relativist could only say, “Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that’s all.”

    We must distinguish subjective value opinions
    from objective values

    The second logical weakness of the argument about cultural relativism is its equivocation on the term “values.” The moral absolutist distinguishes subjective opinions about values from objectively true values. Just as he distinguishes objective truth from subjective opinions about God, or about life after death, or about happiness, or about numbers, or about beauty, just to take 5 other non-empirical things. It may be difficult, or even impossible, to prove these things, or to attain certainty about them, or even to know them at all. But that does not mean they are unreal. Even if these things could not be known, it does not follow that they are unreal. And even if they could not be known with certainty, it does not follow that they could not be known at all by right opinion. And even if they could not be proved, it does not follow that they could not be known with certainty. And even if they could not be proved by the scientific method, it does not follow that they cannot be proved at all. They could be real, even if unknown; known, even if not certainly known; certainly known, even if not proved; and proved, even if not scientifically proved.

    The basic equivocation in the cultural relativist’s argument is between values and value opinions. Different cultures may have different opinions about what is morally valuable, just as they may have different opinions about what happens after death. But this does not entail the conclusion that what is really right in one culture is really wrong in another, any more than different opinions about life after death entails the conclusion that different things really happen after death, depending on cultural beliefs. Just because I may believe there is no Hell does not prove that there is none and that I will not go there. If it did, a simple and infallible way of salvation would be simply to stop believing in Hell. Similarly, just because a good Nazi thinks genocide is right does not prove it is, unless there is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so. But that is the relativist’s conclusion. It cannot also be his premise without begging the question.

    Cultures do not differ totally

    There is still another error in the cultural relativist’s argument. It seems that just about everything that can possibly go wrong with an argument goes wrong with this one. The argument from facts doesn’t even have its facts right. Cultures do not, in fact, differ totally about values, even if the term values is taken to mean merely value opinions. No culture has ever existed which believed and taught what Nietzsche called for: a transvaluation of all values. There have been differences in emphasis, for instance, our ancestors valued courage more than we do, while we value compassion more than they did. But there has never been anything like the relativism of opinions about values that the relativist teaches as factual history.

    Just imagine what that would be like. Try to imagine a society where justice, honesty, courage, wisdom, hope, and self-control were deemed morally evil. And unrestricted selfishness, cowardice, lying, betrayal, addiction, and despair were deemed morally good. Such a society is never found on Earth. If it exists anywhere, it is only in Hell and its colonies. Only Satan and his worshippers say “evil be thou my good.” There are indeed important disagreements about values between cultures. But beneath all disagreements about lesser values, there always lies an agreement about more basic ones. Beneath all disagreements about applying values to situations—for instance, should we have capital punishment or not—always lies agreement about values—for instance, murder is evil since human life is good. Moral disagreements between cultures as well as between individuals would be impossible unless there were some deeper moral agreements, some common moral premises. Moral values are to a culture’s laws something like what concepts are to words. When you visit a foreign country, you experience initial shock. The language sounds totally different. But then beneath the different words you find common concepts. And this is what makes translation from one language to another possible. Analogously, beneath different social laws, we find common human moral laws. We find similar morals, beneath different mores. The moral agreement among Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates, Solomon, Jesus, Cicero, Mohammad, Zoroaster, and Hammurabi is far greater than their moral differences.

    3. Argument for Relativism: Social Conditioning

    A third argument for relativism is similar to the second, but is more psychological than anthropological. This argument is also supposedly based on scientifically verifiable fact. The fact is that society conditions values in us. If we had been brought up in a Hindu society, we would have had Hindu values. The origin of values thus seems to be human minds themselves, parents and teachers, rather than something objective to human minds. And what comes from human subjects is, of course, subjective, like the rules of baseball, even though they may be public and universally agreed to. This argument, like the previous one, also confuses values with value opinions. Perhaps society conditions value opinions in us, but that does not mean society conditions values in us, unless values are nothing but value opinions, which is precisely the point at issue, the conclusion. So the argument again begs the question.

    Society conditions opinions,
    but not objective values

    There is also a false assumption in this argument. The assumption is that whatever we learn from society must be subjective. That is not true. We learn the rules of baseball from society, but we also learn the rules of multiplication. The rules of baseball are subjective and manmade. The rules of multiplication are not. Of course, the language systems in which we express any rules are always manmade. But the human mind creates, rather than discovers, the rules of baseball, but the mind discovers, rather than creates, the rules of multiplication. So the fact that we learn any given law or value from our society does not prove that it is subjective. Finally, even the express premise of this argument is not fully true. Not all value opinions are the result of social conditioning. For if they were, then there could be no non-conformity to society based on moral values. There could only be rebellions of force, rather than principle. But, in fact, there are many principle non-conformists. These people did not derive their values wholly from their society, since they disagree with their society about values. So the existence of moral non-conformists is empirical proof of the presence of some trans-social origin of values.

    4. Argument for Relativism: Freedom

    A fourth argument is that moral relativism alone guarantees freedom, while moral absolutism threatens freedom. People often wonder how they can be truly free if they are not free to create their own values. Indeed, our own Supreme Court has declared that we have a fundamental right to define the meaning of existence. This is either the most fundamental of all rights if it is right, or the most fundamental of all follies if it is wrong. This is either the wisest or the stupidest thing the court has ever writ. This was the casing decision. Please remember what Casey did in Casey At The Bat.

    Freedom cannot create values,
    because freedom presupposes objective values

    The most effective reply to this argument is often an “ad hominem.” Say to the person who demands the right to be free to create his own values that you too demand that right. And that the value system that you choose to create is one in which his opinions have no value at all. Or, a system in which you are God, and rightly demand total obedience from everyone else. He will quickly protest in the name of truth and justice, thus showing that he really does believe in these two objective values after all. If he does not do this, if he protests merely in the name of his alternative value system, which he has created, then his protest against your selfishness and megalomania is no better than your protest against his justice and truth. And then the argument can only come down to brute force. And that is hardly a situation that guarantees freedom.

    A second refutation of the relativist’s argument from freedom is that freedom cannot create values, because freedom presupposes values. Why does freedom presuppose values? Well, first because the relativist’s argument that relativism guarantees freedom must assume freedom is really valuable, thus assuming at least that one objective value. Second, if freedom is really good, it must be freedom from something really bad, thus assuming some objective good and bad. And third, the advocate of freedom will almost always insist that freedom be granted to all, not just some, thus presupposing the real value of equality, or the Golden Rule.

    But the simplest refutation of the argument about freedom is experience. Experience teaches us that we are free to create alternative mores, like socially acceptable rules for speech, or clothing, or eating, or driving. But it also teaches us that we are not, in fact, free to create alternative morals. Like making murder, or rape, or treason right. Or making charity or justice wrong. We can no more create a new fundamental moral value than we can create a new primary color, or a new arithmetic, or a new universe. Never happened, never will. And if we could, if we could create new values, they would no longer be moral values. They would be just arbitrarily invented rules of the game. We would not feel bound in conscience by them, or guilty when we transgressed them. If we were free to create “Thou shalt murder” or “Thou shalt not murder” as we are free to create “Thou shalt play nine innings” or “Thou shalt play only six innings,” then we would feel no more guilty about murder than about playing six innings.

    As a matter of fact, we all do feel bound by some fundamental moral values, like justice, the Golden Rule. We experience our freedom of will to choose to obey or disobey them, but we also experience our lack of freedom to change them into their opposites. We cannot creatively make hate good, or love evil. Try it, you just can’t do it. All you can do is refuse the whole moral order. You cannot make another one. You can choose to rape, but you cannot experience a moral obligation to rape.

    5. Argument for Relativism: Tolerance

    A fifth argument, equally common today, is that moral relativism is tolerant, while absolutism is intolerant. Tolerance is one of the few non-controversial values today. Nearly everyone in our society accepts it. So it is a powerful selling point for any theory or practice that can claim it. What of relativism’s claim to tolerance? Well, I see no less than eight fallacies in this popular argument.

    First, let us be clear what we mean by tolerance. Tolerance is a quality of people, not of ideas. Ideas can be confused, or fuzzy, or ill defined, but that does not make them tolerant, or intolerant, any more than clarity or exactness could make them intolerant. If a carpenter tolerates 3/16 of an inch deviation from plane, he is three times more tolerant than one who tolerates only 1/16 of an inch, but he is no less clear. One teacher may tolerate no dissent from his fuzzy and ill-defined views—a Marxist, let’s say—while another, say Socrates, may tolerate much dissent from his clearly defined views.

    Second, the relativist’s claim is that absolutism, belief in universal, objective, and unchanging moral laws, fosters intolerance of alternative views. But in the sciences, nothing like this has been the case. The sciences have certainly benefited and progressed remarkably because of tolerance of diverse and heretical views. Yet science is not about subjective truths, but about objective truths. Therefore, objectivism does not necessarily cause intolerance.

    Third, the relativist may further argue that absolutes are hard and unyielding and therefore the defender of them will also be hard and unyielding. But this is another non-sequitor. One may teach hard facts in a soft way, or soft opinions in a hard way.

    Fourth, the simplest refutation of the tolerance argument is its very premise. It assumes that tolerance is really, objectively, universally, absolutely good. If the relativist replied that he is not presupposing the objective value of tolerance, then all he is doing is demanding the imposition of his subjective personal preference for tolerance. That is surely more intolerant than the appeal to an objective, universal, impersonal, moral law. If no moral values are absolute, neither is tolerance. The absolutist can take tolerance far more seriously than the relativist. It is absolutism, not relativism, that fosters tolerance.

    Fifth fallacy: It is relativism that fosters intolerance. Why not be intolerant? He has no answer to this. Because tolerance feels better? Or because it is the popular consensus? Well suppose it no longer feels better. Suppose it ceases to be popular. The relativist can appeal to no moral law as a dam against the flood of intolerance. We desperately need such a dam, because societies, like individuals, are fickle and fallen. What else will deter a humane and humanistic Germany from turning to an inhumane, Nazi philosophy of racial superiority? Or, a now-tolerant America from turning to a future intolerance against any group it decides to disenfranchise. It is unborn babies today, born babies tomorrow. Homophobes today, perhaps homosexuals tomorrow. The same absolutism that homosexuals usually fear because it is not tolerant of their behavior is their only secure protection against intolerance of their persons.

    Sixth fallacy. Examination of the essential meaning of the concept of tolerance reveals a presupposition of moral objectivism, for we do not tolerate goods. We only tolerate evils in order to prevent worse evils. The patient will tolerate the nausea brought on by chemotherapy in order to prevent death by cancer. And a society will tolerate bad things like smoking in order to preserve good things like privacy and freedom.

    Seventh, the advocate of tolerance faces a dilemma when it comes to cross-cultural tolerance. Most cultures throughout history have not put a high value on tolerance. In fact, some have even thought it a moral weakness. Should we tolerate this intolerance? If so, if we should tolerate intolerance, then the tolerance objectivist had better stop bad-mouthing the Spanish Inquisition. But if we should not tolerate intolerance, why not? Because tolerance is really good, and the Inquisition was really evil? In that case, we are presupposing a universal and objective trans-cultural value. What if instead, he says it is only because of our consensus for tolerance? But his history’s consensus is against it. Why impose on ours? Is that not culturally intolerant?

    Eighth, finally, there is a logical non-sequitor in the relativist argument too. Even if the belief in absolute moral values did cause intolerance, it does not follow that such values are not real. The belief that the cop on the beat is sleeping may cause a mugger to be intolerant to his victims, but it does not follow that the cop is not asleep. Thus, there are no less than eight weaknesses in the tolerance argument.

    6. Argument for Relativism: Situationalism

    A sixth and final argument for relativism is that situations are so diverse and complex that it seems unreasonable and unrealistic to hold them to universal moral norms. Even killing can be good if war is necessary for peace. Even theft can be good if you steal a weapon from a madman. Even lying can be good if you’re a Dutchman lying to the Nazis about where you’re hiding the Jews. The argument is essentially this: Morality is determined by situations, and situations are relative; therefore, morality is relative. A closely related argument can be considered together with this one that morality is relative because it is determined by motive. We all blame someone for trying to murder another, even though the deed is not successfully accomplished, simply because its motive is bad. But we do not hold someone morally guilty of murder for accidentally killing another. For instance, like giving sugary candy to a child he has no way of knowing is seriously diabetic. So the argument is essentially that morality is determined by motive, and motive is subjective, therefore morality is subjective.

    Morality is partly, but not wholly, determined by situations

    So both the situationist and the motivationist conclude against moral absolutes. The situationist because he finds all morality relative to the situation, the motivationist because he finds all morality relative to the motive. We reply with a common-sense distinction. Morality is indeed conditioned, or partly determined, by both situations and motives, but it is not wholly determined by situations or motives. Traditional common sense morality involves three moral determinants, three factors that influence whether a specific act is morally good or bad. The nature of the act itself, the situation, and the motive. Or, what you do; when, where, and how you do it; and why you do it. It is true that doing the right thing in the wrong situation, or for the wrong motive, is not good. Making love to your wife is a good deed, but doing so when it is medically dangerous is not. The deed is good, but not in that situation. Giving money to the poor is a good deed, but doing it just to show off is not. The deed is good, but the motive is not.

    However, there must first be a deed before it can be qualified by subjective motives or relative situations, and that is surely a morally relevant factor too. The good life is like a good work of art. A good work of art requires all its essential elements to be good. For instance, a good story must have a good plot, and good characters, and a good theme. So a good life requires you do the right thing, the act itself; and have a right reason or motive; and that you do it in the right way, the situation. Furthermore, situations, though relative, are objective, not subjective. And motives, though subjective, come under moral absolutes. They can be recognized as intrinsically and universally good or evil. The will to help is always good, the will to harm is always evil. So even situationism is an objective morality, and even motivationism or subjectivism is a universal morality.

    The fact that the same principles must be applied differently to different situations presupposes the validity of those principles. Moral absolutists need not be absolutistic about applications to situations. They can be flexible. But a flexible application of the standard presupposes not just a standard, but a rigid standard. If the standard is as flexible as the situation it is no standard at all. If the yardstick with which to measure the length of a twisting alligator is as twisting as the alligator, you cannot measure with it. Yardsticks have to be rigid. And moral absolutists need not be judgmental about motives, only about deeds. When Jesus said, “Judge not that ye not be judged,” he surely meant “Do not claim to judge hearts and motives, which only God can know.” He certainly did not mean, “Do not claim to judge deeds. Do not morally discriminate bullying from defending, killing from healing, robbery from charity.” In fact, it is only the moral absolutist, and not the relativist, who can condemn judgmentalism of motive, since he alone can condemn intolerance

  27. kairosfocus:

    I applied my view of objective morality to Sharia simply because that is what we were dealing with.

    I’m Catholic. Catholic moral teaching has allowed states wide latitude in using capital punishment for many centuries, only recently changing its views, saying that capital punishment should be used only as a last resort, and only in the case of real potential harm to society at large if it is not used.

    There’s a certain wisdom afoot here. We understand much better now just how psychologically harmed individuals can be based on poor socialization. Likewise, the Church reflects in its new thinking a deeper sense of the ultimate dignity of all mankind.

    But the Church has made mistakes over the centuries, too. So, if I say that Sharia Law is lacking in morality, I’ve just given a hint that this applies to the Catholic Church as well; as it does to other Christian denominations, and to other religions. My main point was, really, that what presents itself as a moral code, might not, in fact, be the case.

    I’m in a terrible hurry. Sorry.

  28. Zoe..

    Great read! Thanks for posting that..

  29. Kairosfocus:

    “I trust this clears up the context in which a serious and informed discussion will need to take place.”

    With all due respect, this requirement begs the question. The quoted passage asserts that a moral judgement says something about the world, not just about the mind of the person making the judgment. This is one of the fundamental tenets of your position with which I disagree. I regard the portions of the “Conversations with God” series of books in which God speaks as God actually speaking through the author, just as you regard the Bible as the revealed word of God. In those books, God states flat out that there is no such thing as right and wrong [in a moral sense], only what works and what doesn’t work, given what you want to be, do, and have. If there is no right or wrong in God’s eyes, then to me that means clearly that an assertion of right or wrong by someone reveals what they hold as true only, nothing about the nature of reality itself. Thus, your expecting me to accept your definition of the context within which discussion will take place is effectively demanding that I surrender a major part of what I hold to be true in the matter.

    Similarly for your statement, “That context for serious discussion, will engage the issue as to whether we really have inherent, unalienable core rights, the heart of the OUGHT question.” Again, I disagree. I do not see that “ought questions” emerge from the question of unalienable rights. Back when I believed in morality, my moral beliefs were not based on the rights of anyone else. Rather, they were statements of what it was OK or not OK for me to do. If I felt that I ought not to strike a defenseless person, for example, it was not out of a sense that defenseless people have an unalienable right to not be struck. Rather, it was that my own integrity demanded that I not do so. It was about me, not about their rights. I am not alone in this. Kant’s categorical imperative, for example, does not derive from a consideration of unalienable rights.

    Furthermore, the very notion of “unalienable rights”, like many moral tenets that appear clear and simple in the abstract, begins to become very much less so the more closely it is examined. Take the notion that everyone has an unalienable right to life, for example. This will be true until it isn’t. The man convicted of a capital crime, we say, will have abrogated his “unalienable” right. But has he? Not everyone agrees with this. Has the man who breaks into my home and begins to steal my belongings thus abrogated this right? I submit that the answer is not clear. When the leadership of the US decided to invade Iraq, they automatically suspended the unalienable right of every soldier in the Iraqi army to life, as did every member of our armed forces who agreed to follow orders and go over there to fight with lethal force.

    Or how about the unalienable right to liberty. In this country, a person can have that right suspended by the state merely for being in possession of a small quantity of the leaves of a certain plant, or for many other acts that many people find utterly innocuous.

    Or take the case of Bibi. Her husband’s uncle, presumably, would say that she abrogated her right not to be mutilated by running away from her husband and thus bringing shame on him. What argument could you give him that God disagrees, other than your and others’ feelings of moral outrage? Can you really argue that your outrage has a direct link to God’s will and his does not? And please, I am not in any way trying to justify his and her husband’s actions. I am merely pointing out the inherent difficulty in any attempt to prove objective morality from anyone’s feelings of outrage.

    So the question is, does the phrase “unalienable rights” really have any precise meaning at all?

    So you see, your demanding that I accept your version of the proper context for this discussion is in fact a demand that I accept your view of the nature of morality. For me to do so would render it impossible for me to represent my own views accurately. You, being one of the moderators of this forum, of course have the power to shut me up, if you so choose. However, to do so, I submit, would be an abuse of that power, which as I understand it, was instituted in order to enforce civil discourse, not to silence opposing views.

    Regarding your question of whether I could look Bibi in the eye and “tell her, there is no real OUGHT-NOT driven by the inherent moral worth and dignity of the human being that addresses her case,” if I should find myself in conversation with her, I would generate as much love and compassion as I could, and I would decide what to say or not say based on the answer I got to the question, “What would Love do now?” IF the question of the morality of what she suffered arose in the conversation, and IF I felt, based on her demeanor and my own intuitive sense, that she had healed enough from her ordeal to be able to hear it, I would explain to her that I regard EVERY human being, having been made in the image and likeness of God, as having inherent worth and dignity, and that therefore the most appropriate way for us all to relate to each other is from love, and that I definitely believe that it was not love that motivated what she suffered at the hands of her husband and his uncle. IF I felt that she could hear it, and if it were appropriate to the conversation we were having, I might also explain to her my beliefs about moral right and wrong and why I hold them, as well as the larger context in which those beliefs are held.

    But you still haven’t addressed my fundamental objection to the notion that there is an objective moral reality which can be known, namely that if this were true, then as is the case with mathematical truth, there would be consensus regarding what that moral reality is among all reasonably intelligent, knowledgeable people who have attempted in good faith to apprehend what it is. The fact that there is no such consensus (I have given numerous examples of the failure to reach such a consensus already, and could easily supply many more.) therefore implies either 1) there is no objective moral truth, or 2) there is, but it cannot be known. In the first case, morality is actually subjective; in the second, it is effectively subjective.

  30. Ultimately Real:

    Giving a bunch of arguments for why you hold particular moral views does not address my fundamental point, which, in very brief summary, is that the fact that there is no consensus on these questions argues (convincingly, in my view) against the notion that there is any kind of objective morality. See my comments above for a more thorough discussion.

  31. PaV: You said, “When one looks at the Gospels, what one sees is Jesus exhorting his listeners to simply use common sense. Objective morality is the presence within ourselves of that which we call ‘common sense’. And the common sense we have in this life is: “don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” This is completely harmonious with Kant’s Categorical Imperative.”

    1. How do you get objectivity out of common sense? Different peoples’ common sense is going to come up with different answers to the same moral questions. That sounds a lot like subjectivity to me.

    2. I believe the recommendation from “Conversations with God” is far more powerful than the Golden Rule. It is, as I have already said, “In each moment of Now, act according to the answer to the question, ‘What would Love do now?’”

    3. There are situations in which the Golden Rule breaks down. For example, if I committed a murder that I felt was justified for whatever reason, I would not want to be executed or even punished for it. Therefore, by the Golden Rule, I cannot punish anyone for committing a murder that they feel was justified.

  32. William, you said:

    “If we do not, we slip into the dark despair of moral relativism and an essentially meaningless existence.”

    I do not agree with your comments, but I would like to report that nonetheless I am not in dark despair, nor do I experience my existence meaningless, nor am I a moral relativist (since I do not believe in morality at all).

    See my other comments for a more thorough exposition of my beliefs regarding morality.

  33. William,

    Also, you said several times words to the effect of “regardless of what someone claims God said.”

    In the first place, Walsch had a conversation with a being who spoke through him and claimed to be God. Walsch simply compiled the conversation into a book. I decided on my own that it really was God speaking, based on the quality of the message, and how deeply it resonated with my own being.

    Secondly, all who believe in any kind of revelation are in the position of believing what someone else has recorded that God said (unless of course, we have had the experience of a direct communication from Him, which I make no claim to have done.) Christians believe what the authors of the various books of the Bible have recorded, and Muslims believe that the word of God as it came to Mohammed is recorded in the Koran, etc.

  34. please look Bibi Aisha in the eye, and tell her, there is no real OUGHT-NOT driven by the inherent moral worth and dignity of the human being that addresses her case. Then, explain why.

    But, I just explained why I think it is real. I’m not sure how it could be any more “real” than it already is. I don’t see how it could be somehow more “real” if God created us.

    I wonder if you would look Bibi Aisha in the eye and tell her that what happened to her may or may not be wrong – depending on how the universe came to be.

    Do you notice the issue of context, the generally acknowledged moral worth and rights to fairness of the individual human being, and the linked point that the mere consensus is not the target of my remarks, but that the consensus raises the issue that it points to the reality?

    I thought (and hoped) it was an explanation for what you mean by “objective morality” (since that’s what I kept asking for and never got an answer to, and I guess I still haven’t. I’m starting to think that it’s one of those words that some people like to add to certain things because they think it gives it more “oomph”).

    We are all similar beings with empathy, and so it seems like common sense (to me) that there would be a universal basis of fairness, rights, morality, and standards, etc due to the inter-subjectivity. Why think it points to something else?

    As for the case of aesthetics, let us just say that aesthetic judgements and warrant are real, and once major works arrive at classical status, the judgement has remained more stable than judgements in science.
    And, indeed, there are principles of beauty that seem to be objective and transcendent, e.g focus, nobility (which implies a basic respect for the dignity of humanity and creation),

    Interesting; it appears now that you are defining “real” as “objective” (hard to tell). So if someone says that love, beauty, etc are “subjective” do you read that as them saying that they aren’t “real”?

    As with morality, is beauty subjective if evolutionary materialism is true but objective (whatever that means here) if we were created with purpose by God?

    So, no, beauty is not only in the eyes of the beholder or the ears of the listener, or there would be no sound principles of beautiful composition.

    Obviously there are common patterns, in many things, that we consider “beautiful”. That shouldn’t be surprising since, again, there’s an inter-subjectivity at work.
    But interestingly, there are things that seem to follow all the rules and yet are not considered beautiful or interesting at all. And then there are things that seem to break all the rules and are judged to be beautiful.

  35. PaV, some pretty sobering thoughts, and in fact I have hesitat6ions on the death penalty myself. You speak of the sort of reformation I have in mind, and may such continue! KF

  36. BD:

    Thanks for commenting, especially as you are helping to focus the issue of warrant.

    I invite you to first pause and look at the discussion here on (also cf the note here on epistemology and warranted, credible truths as start-points for objective knowledge), to see how worldview foundations can be laid, which set the basis for all considerations of warrant.

    Next, common sense speaks to a certain approach of the proverbial sensible and unprejudiced man in the Clapham bus stop and how he would make sense out of a situation. Wiki:

    Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.”[1] Thus, “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as, “the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way” . . .

    In that context, by the way, in Common Law (which is related!) there are certain contexts in which a man may kill in self defence or in defence of the innocent, of upon sufficient provocation in a situation that he reasonably deems himself to be in that sort of situation, and be deemed excusable.

    But, the concept is closely tied to duties of care to warrant his beliefs and choices and acts. So, if one is not intellectually deficient or befuddled, or insane, and does not do duties of care sufficient to show that one ought not to have acted in a certain way, one is guilty.

    Wiki on duties of care:

    In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The claimant must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability . . . . Duty of care may be considered a formalization of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities held by individuals towards others within society. It is not a requirement that a duty of care be defined by law, though it will often develop through the jurisprudence of common law.

    This issue of mutuality in the community, including the community of all people who share the same human nature, immediately removes sane, religiously motivated terrorists from any excuse or justification on the assertion that they claim God told them or some religious authority guided them. Just as the Nazis were guilty of war crimes even through obeying orders of alleged legal officers and politicians, such terrorists are guilty should they for instance hijack a planeload of travellers and crash it into an office building; as happened on 9/11. That would have obtained even if they had crashed a hijacked military transport into a building full of officers and soldiers in a real war situation where the terrorists are legal combatants, not in effect pirates. For, such would be murder of prisoners. A suicide attack on a warship where a legitimate state of war exists, and one is a legal combatant, is a different matter, e.g. the Japanese Kamikazes of WW II.

    What we are dealing with today in the case of the IslamIST terrorist movement, is piracy, pure and simple. There are no letters of marque tracing to legitimate authority, which takes responsibility for the behaviour of combatants acting in its name.

    Coming back, objectivity is not to be confused with absolute truth, it is about reasonable warrant, leading to the common (and the usual scientific) usage of knowledge: credible, reliable, tested opinion or belief subject to correction in principle but typically confidently held to be right in fact, often sufficiently so that one would be irresponsible not to act on it. That is, warranted, credible belief (sometimes to moral certainty), as opposed to justified, true belief — strong form knowledge.

    It is in this context that we may look again at Locke’s cite from “the judicious [Canon Richard] Hooker”:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, 1594+, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80.]

    Here we see the recognition that we are all human beings, of similar constitution and equal moral worth. This, is held to be manifestly true on pain of absurdity on its denial. In that context, we are invited to consider how we wish to be treated — a matter easily observed from how we finger-point when we quarrel, and from how we react when we or those we care sufficiently about are abused or threatened — and it is concluded that we love ourselves (and those close to us).

    The first magic step is to extend the human circle of love to the other, including those in the out-group. The second, is to highlight the fairness principle of mutual respect in light of our common constitution and legitimate self-interest. We immediately see that we are under moral government, a rule of OUGHT.

    From that oughtness, stems a warranting framework for some very familiar rules, that boil down to: do no harm.

    (The usual problem is that we want no harm done to us, or those we care about; but we are a lot less concerned for the other, especially the sufficiently distant or different. But, let us never forget that Cain killed Abel, his brother, so to speak.)

    Now, of course this raises the issue of a warranting worldview that grounds ought-ness.

    The sensible solution is to accept moral government as a fact, and then see what sort of worldview best explains it. Such a view has in it a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. The only serious candidate is an inherently good, wise, reasonable Creator God and just (but merciful) Lord.

    In short, generic ethical theism is a very reasonable worldview. (We can leave debates over particular traditions for another time and place. The above worldview warrant link shows why I and other orthodox Christians hold our own to be well warranted.)

    In that context, we can describe and assess moral views and ethical frameworks, recognising that we do err, but can apprehend truth. So, diverse views on moral subjects need not entail that radical relativism is true, and indeed, in many cases apparent differences on moral opinion are really different assessment of perceived facts. There is a core consensus of the binding nature of morality that holds far and wide, starting with the fairness principle.

    And, it is quite clear that might does not make right.

    GEM of TKI

  37. Thanks for the insights. Sobering and enlightening. Of responsible length, and worth every minute to read through then ponder and re-read — to get this supremely important matter right.

  38. F/N: organic MD on common sense:

    Common sense means paying attention to the obvious. This is not as easy as it sounds. We all have vivid imaginations, and we tend to get lost in our fantasies.

    When fantasy replaces common sense, life becomes farcical and even tragic. Life is a series of ordinary events that follow the laws of logic and probability. These ordinary events are indifferent to our fantasies and require the careful, accurate navigation of common sense . . .

    (His black tongue story is well worth the read . . . )

  39. Mr Tanner

    Please stop playing the innocent, hurt victim. Innocent, and victim, you are not.

    I pointed out the painful truth, that cultural relativism — and for that matter, radically relativist, inherently amoral evolutionary materialism with its inescapable IS-OUGHT gap — has no answer to Hitler’s horrors.

    And, I did not pick this by accident or as an evasion, it has a very specific historical relevance. At the Nuremberg trials, I am informed (e.g. cf here and here — which opens up the issue of just how wide the holocaust really was, e.g. the no 2 victim group were the non-Jewish, largely Catholic Poles, at some 3 mn [where half of the Jewish victims were also Poles]), the precise “who are you to judge us” defense of following lawful orders issued by legitimate authority within the culture was used.

    The only way that could be broken was by appealing to higher law, i.e. natural law, the objective law of human nature that we all know and which stands in judgement over us all. We are under the government of natural law, the law of our nature. From this, the only worldviews that are credible are those that ground OUGHT in a foundational IS.

    Let me quote, giving US Supreme Court Justice and chief American prosecutor Robert Jackson’s devastating reply, pp 50 – 51 in the first linked:

    In The law Above the Law, John Warwick Montgomery describes [the Nazi] argument: “The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and they therefore ought not rightly be condemned | because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (emphasis added).4

    But the tribunal did not accept this justification. In the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief counsel for the United States at the trials, the issue was not one of power — the victor judging the vanquished — but one of higher moral law. “The tribunal rises above the provincial and the transient,” he said, “and seeks guidance not only from International Law, but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence, which are assumptions of civilization . . . . ” 5 [Beckwith, Francis, and Koukl, Greg, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Baker (2005 printing) pp. 50 - 51; Judge Jackson's words emphasised. HT, Google Books.]

    And, similarly, that was how slavery was broken, and it is how we will have to look at Bibi Aisha’s case. For, you see, I am a descendant of slaves, and Bibi Aisha was bonded as a hostage wife, in effect a slave under the “baad” custom, in payment for the murder of a member of her in-laws clan by a cousin of her father. let me cite Wiki, noting the illustrative example they chose:

    Baad is a traditional practice of settling disputes in Pakistan and Afghanistan among Pushtun tribes [1] in which a young girl is traded to settle a dispute for her older relatives. This may involve being used as payment for a financial dispute, as a means to avoid larger or longer-lasting arguments and grudges.[2] A famous example is Bibi Aisha,[3] who was subsequently mutilated when she fled the abuse that girls sometimes suffer from their new families under baad.

    The practice is of course a custom, and is sanctioned by the popular religious culture [contrary to the excuse Wiki tries to put up]. As I have highlighted, the practice is plainly a form of slavery.

    So, if you want to play hurt victim cards, my card is that this is a case of abusive slavery that we are dealing with. As, should have been obvious from details supplied.

    The neat little snidely poisonous talking point rhetorical games are over, and we have to deal with some ugly realities.

    That is what the ghosts of over 100 million victims of amoral, radically relativist regimes from the century just past are moaning out to us, if we will listen.

    GEM of TKI

  40. BD:

    Pardon, but you have made a gross error.

    The mere fact of disagreement does not overturn the point that there may be a warranted, credibly true conclusion.

    All it means is that this is an area of controversy and disagreement.

    I invite you to consider, carefully the implications of Hooker’s analysis, and its roots in both the Judaeo-Christian tradition and the classical philosophical tradition, to see just how one may warrant specific moral claims on principles that are objective and generally acceptable. Cf 10 on, especially 10.2.1, which is addressed to you.

    Let me at least clip Hooker as cited by Locke, again:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80.]

    Note how in 10.1 I apply it to the case of abusive child bride slavery in “payment” for a blood debt between clans that is the focus of the original post:

    Bibi Aisha is a co-heir with us of humanity.

    She should never have been in effect parcelled out as a hostage bride — though, her father evidently seems to be too poor to have power to stop that. She should have been welcomed by her new family, not treated to beatings and being kept with the animals. The neighbours — who must have known what was going on — should have stood up to the abuse, and the police should have intervened decisively. When she fled back to her father, she should not have been handed back on a promise of better treatment, though the subtext of violent intimidation (and even possible terrorism) is obvious. She should not have been mutilated and left to die. And, when she got to her grandparents and found succor, then the matter became an international outcry, the villagers should have been ashamed, instead of shunning and trying to starve out an obviously poor family by refusing to offer work. When the police did act, they should not have dropped the charge, and the international bodies should have kept the pressure up on maximum intensity. Her father and three sisters — and, perhaps, grandparents — should have been granted refugee status as well, and the family should have been resettled elsewhere. Maybe, Time Magazine, which splashed Bibi’s photo on its cover, can still get that done.

    Not one of these issues is a disputable matter of cross cultural differences, every one is a basic matter of recognising that we are all equally morally valuable by virtue of being human, made in God’s image. And, any attempt to justify the above in the name of God is a patent abuse of the name of God, aka taking God’s name in vain [the real meaning of that commandment].

    That is why this case is so powerfully telling, and so plainly demands a lot of soul searching and reformation, across both the cultures in Afghanistan and those in our own civilisation.

    I want to argue that people may indeed differ with this, but that when we look at the arguments in light of such a case as this, the objections reduce to self-referential absurdity.

    There is, and can be no justification for what happened to this young miss, in the teeth of the evident fact that she is our moral equal, given that when our necks are on the line, we directly imply by our behaviour in quarrels that we do hold these principles, at least when they are in our favour.

    Our real problem is that we define in-groups and out-groups, and we want to apply different standards to both; self-servingly and, frankly (this is by way of confession, as we all struggle here), hypocritically.

    Paul is ever so tellingly right:

    Rom 2: 1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?

    5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will give to each person according to what he has done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism . . . .

    13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [cf here on and here on for why I think that not only generic ethical theism but specifically the Christian form of the Judaeo-Christian worldview, is warranted.]

    I think we all have some very serious thinking to do as we look young Miss Bibi Aisha — God grant her successful surgery, healing and recovery from an obvious case of post traumatic stress disorder (she seems to suffer flashbacks that put her in a near catatonic state) — in the eye.

    Oh, God, what have we all done? Have mercy on us and soften our hearts so that our minds may be enlightened in the face of her pain.

    GEM of TKI

  41. F/N: Onlookers, in the original post and in several places in the thread, I have taken time to lay out at responsible length [and have linked other discussions], the reason why I hold — and why this case so aptly demonstrates — the objectivity of morality. I and others, e.g. cf Zoe’s citation below and PaV’s contributions from here on, have also taken time to give responsible responses to the usual radical relativist talking points that seek to undermine the objectivity of morality.

    From Mr Tanner, this has repeatedly met sneeringly supercilious dismissals and personalities, which in my considered opinion are not only willfully and rudely disrespectful, but are ill-justified and a case of calculated atmosphere-poisoning.

    Therefore, please understand why I insist that he not be allowed to thread-jack.

    Yes, there are always many complex and difficult issues in moral reasoning, but the case of Bibi Aisha is not one of them; this one is blatant and goes to the heart of both why objective morality is a bedrock principle of sound moral thought, and exposes the utter bankruptcy of moral-cultural relativism.

    I insist, that until we are willing to acknowledge that 2 + 3 = 5, we are in no fit condition to deal with multi-variable calculus.

    When Mr Tanner and ilk first acknowledge that 2 + 3 = 5, we can progress to more complex cases with some confidence that we are dealing with a responsible discussion, not distractive and poisonous, disrespectful rhetorical talking points intended to confuse and polarise, rather than to clarify.

  42. F/N 2: It should be obvious that Bibi Aisha’s attackers were acting under the blood-feud customs of the Pushtun. And, I have made it plain that if they imagined themselves to be acting under divinely sanctioned law, they were acting in deception and patently absurd delusion.

    This is not a case of the destruction of the power centres of a civilisation gone hopelessly bad as a plague upon the earth — the fate of Nazi Germany — that also unfortunately embroiled the sufferings of many ordinary people. No, this young girl at age 12 was promised as PAYMENT for a blood debt because a cousin of her father had murdered someone from the other clan. At 14 (or possibly 13), she was transferred, the transfer being legalised and given a veneer of religious and civil respectability by making her a “wife” . . . so statutory rape is plainly involved too. The bankruptcy of the whole, being plain from how, for four years, she was subjected to beatings and kept with the family animals. Yes, treated like an animal. Then, when she fled and got home, she was hunted down and demanded back, with a “promise” of better treatment. but no, she was taken to the hills and held down and tied down, a gun put to her head and her ears then her nose were cut off. The uncle of her so-called husband who was held then released once the heat was off, reportedly showed off her nose in the village. She was left to die in the hills, but managed to crawl to her grandparents, who got her to a hospital and rescue centre.

    For this “crime,” her family were then shunned and deprived of work in the village, threatening starvation to an obviously poor and powerless family that had no mother.

    The obvious answer to all of this, driven by the Golden Rule, is from what Locke cited from “the judicious [Anglican Canon Richard] Hooker,” in grounding principles of liberty and democracy in his 2nd essay on civil government:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80.]

    So, to any who would pretend that this treatment was sanctioned by divine law, I would say: thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”

    Or, in a more modern rendering: you must not misuse, dishonour and abuse the name of God.

  43. F/N 3: I need to put forward a proposal, in brief. Could this horrible custom of a hostage slave-girl “wife” be formally designated human trafficking and enslavement under International Law and treated — as it should be — as a crime against humanity? At minimum, that would make the refugees from such subject to the principle of sanctuary (which BTW, is enshrined as long ago as the OT law).

  44. BD: On the precise contrary, the above — from the original post on — demonstrates that there is knowable, objective moral truth, but that it is often inconvenient to the powerful or those implicated in what hey have every reason to know is wrong. So, too often, every effort is made to duck its telling force. Do, work your way through Hooker’s wise counsel, in context. If you deny that moral truth is knowable in a great many relevant cases, such as this one, kindly justify your claims while looking Bibi Aisha in the eye. KF

  45. BD: Pardon, but you need to reckon with the issue of false teachers and false prophets, and seducing but deceitful spirits. Wisdom is justified by her children, and folly is exposed by hers. In this case, we must all reckon with the force of the command, that we must not misuse the name of God. Then, work through Hooker’s argument and its context from the original post and the thread, Then, look Bibi Aisha straight in the eye and explain your answer. KF

  46. GUN:

    This is a busy morning.

    if the cosmos — and this is absurd and a sampling theory monstrosity — is the product of chance and necessity, with no design at its core and foundation, we have no purpose and no value, so there would then be no good and no evil above and beyond might makes “right.” As Plato pointed out as you can read in the OP and in onward linked discussions.

    The patent absurdity of that, is itself a strong proof that such evolutionary materialism is wrong and destructive, as Plato pointed out 2350 years ago. Evo mat is therefore not even on the table for serious discussion; no mind how its advocates love to dress themselves up in the holy lab coat and pretend otherwise.

    The only serious worldviews worth seriously discussing are those in which there is a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT. The only serious candidate is the inherently good, wise Creator God and just Lord. before whom Bibi’s tormenters and those who deceived them in turn will account.

    next, on Hooker, i have shown a framework for objective analysis of morality, toied tot he lomng tradition of reasoning ont eh inherent moral value of the human being. This is vindicated on the patent and obscene absudities that follow from its denial, i.e as the US Founders declared, these truths are self evident. but of course there are always ever so many who will back an absurd claim if there is an advantage in it for them or those who butter their bread, or if they have been taken in my deceptive talking points.

    And, I have pointed likewise to sound and objective principles of aesthetics, which is tangential so I will not further go down that line.

    GEM of TKI

  47. 48

    Which is why, Bruce, I said we must accept that good is good regardless of what god, or any being appearing to be god says.

  48. 49

    Bruce,

    Lack of consensus about something is not evidence it doesn’t exist or isn’t true. The question, IMO, is not if we can prove that morality refers to an objective, fundamental good, but rather if we should accept that it does axiomatically.

    I note the careful way you word your statements:

    IF the question of the morality of what she suffered arose in the conversation, and IF I felt, based on her demeanor and my own intuitive sense, that she had healed enough from her ordeal to be able to hear it, I would explain to her that I regard EVERY human being, having been made in the image and likeness of God, as having inherent worth and dignity, and that therefore the most appropriate way for us all to relate to each other is from love, and that I definitely believe that it was not love that motivated what she suffered at the hands of her husband and his uncle. IF I felt that she could hear it, and if it were appropriate to the conversation we were having, I might also explain to her my beliefs about moral right and wrong and why I hold them, as well as the larger context in which those beliefs are held.

    In terms of “how you feel” and “your intuition”, avoiding terminologies that would imply objective judgement against the person that harmed the woman, and offering your views only as an alternative “feeling”.

    The problem is, if the person that harmed the woman “felt” it was “an expression of love” to do what he did, his act is as legitimate as yours by your standard of “how you feel”; futhermore, since you apparently don’t even hold that “acting from love” is an objective standard to defend, why can’t one choose – legitimately – to act out of hate? Or vengeance? And with equal authority “feel” that it was the best way to express “god’s hate” or “god’s vengeance”?

    Your position validates anyone feeling any way and justifying it however they feel like justifying it, because it offers no universal, axiomatic principle or objective commodity by which views about how to behave can be judged. It offers no self-evidently true and axiomatically valid, universally binding commodity by which one can assess and evaluate their impulses and potential choices.

    Ideas have consequences. Operating off of feelings and promoting what is essentially an amoral subservience to feeling over assumed, axiomatic, discerning principle categorically allows anything at all – including the original mutilation, and whatever the justification for it was.

    Promoting amoral subservience to feeling (whatever feeling the individual picks) is like advocating we let all the animals in the zoo loose. I don’t think that’s a wise choice when it comes to promoting a rational and good society.

    I’m glad you don’t live in existential despair. When I was amoral, I didn’t either – at least for a while. Over time, though, it crept up on me.

  49. William,

    You talk about “the good” as a attribute of God. Then you move on to morality, including such statements as, “Some moral rules are self-evidently true, such as ‘It is always wrong to torture infants for personal pleasure’.”

    Show me how you derive the objective truth of that statement from “the good” as one of God’s attributes.

  50. KF,

    Kindly refrain from laying Christian dogma on me. I don’t buy it. I was given the capacity to discern truth by God, and I will use that capacity to the best of my ability. I read “Conversations with God” and I hear the ring of truth. I read the Bible and I see truth co-mingled with a lot of error. I see this issue of “false teachers” as simply an attempt to prevent people from using their God given power to comprehend the truth, thus locking in an adherence to accepted dogma. No thank you!

  51. 52

    You don’t derive self-evidently true statements from anything. That’s why they are called “self-evidently” true.

    All arguments and worldviews begin – at some point – with a priori assumptions and self-evidntly true statements, or else we could never begin anywhere. Logic begins with A=A; there is no proof for it because it and the other logical principles are what is used to prove other things. There is no proof for “I exist” or “my mind can produce valid statements”; those axioms must simply be assumed.

    The same is true with morality; it must begin with axiomatic, self-evidently true statments that are ground the reasoning thereof. Self-evidently true statements are not derived from anything; other inferences and conclusions are derived from them.

  52. 53

    An example of a self-evidently true moral statement is “It is always wrong to torture chidren for one’s personal pleasure”.

  53. 54

    Correction, I mean’t to say:

    “The same is true with morality; it must begin with axiomatic, self-evidently true statments that serve as the grounds for the reasoning thereof. Self-evidently true statements are not derived from anything; other inferences and conclusions are derived from them.”

  54. BD:

    Pardon, but I think you are being a bit unfair, inaccurate and testy.

    I have precisely NOT “laid Christian dogma” on you.

    Dogmatics would be about a creedal exercise, like the Nicene creed, which I have not hitherto raised. Nor do I intend to argue it here. I have pointed, on links for those who may wish, where I argue that the Christian form of Judaeo Christian theism is well warranted, as is my worldview right, but I have exactly not argued for such here.

    Perhaps, by “dogma,” you mean that I have argued for objectivity and warrant as grounding knowledge, especially in moral judgements. FYI, those are philosophical matters, and they are presented as arguments on self-evident truths in light of comparative difficulties, that ground weak-form knowledge, the usual form of knowledge we deal with. (Objectively justified outright undeniably true belief is a rather exotic breed.)

    Those claims and issues are rather generic and not at all peculiarly Christian, e.g. my favourite definition of truth is from Aristotle: what says of that which is, that it is, and of what is not, that it is not.

    I have also pointed out that deception is a possibility that we must face frankly, as indeed is an acknowledged fact troubling aspects of the history of our civilisation. This is not exactly news or peculiarly Christian, Plato’s parable of the cave is in part about communities in the grips of systemic delusion. This is probably the root of the characteristic Western preoccupation with enlightenment.

    What I also did when I turned to the question of objectivity in moral judgements, was to cite to you a philosophical argument by Hooker, which he set in the explicit context of that Bible thumping fundy, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. NOT: a pagan work, by a pagan philosopher, for the history challenged.

    Yes, the clip also speaks to the Golden Rule, but that particular piece of the Judaeo-Christian tradition is also assented to in one form or another by any number of people from any number of traditions. And indeed in the Judaeo-Christian context the premise of seeing ourselves as fundamentally equal and of moral significance, is held to be a common property of humanity. That is, it is EXPECTED to be generic.

    What I have argued for more generally is that a generic ethical theism is a well warranted worldview foundation, and have pointed to how the evolutionary materialistic alternative, as exposed by Plato, is patently inescapably amoral and out of synch with our experience of ourselves as morally valuable and morally governed creatures.

    In the clip I have used, Plato is specifically arguing in the context of his pagan culture. I do not have to agree with all of Plato, to see that he has some serious points.

    And, when it comes to apprehending moral truths, the key steps that we are equally human and equally morally valuable, so to be respected in light of the “walk in your shoes” exercise at the heart of the Golden Rule.

    From this, the following quite reasonably flows, as Hooker cited from Aristotle:

    as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . .

    I have pretty directly applied this to Bibi Aisha, but in fact I think the case here — though at first we may not tend to think about it that way — is one of crimes against humanity starting with human trafficking, slavery, forced sham marriages, abuse, and torture.

    Those are identifiable crimes against humanity (though somehow the news stories I saw seemed to tiptoe around those issues), and I think Bibi Aisha should be talking with some human rights lawyers about that.

    GEM of TKI

  55. WJM:

    I think we need to clarify the self evident truth [SET] concept.

    SET’s are indeed not based on other truths, they are true in themselves and are seen to be so on understanding what they are saying. Not only that they are true, but that they MUST be true, on pain of absurdity if we attempt to deny them.

    For instance, that we cannot affirm and deny the same thing to be true and false in the same sense at the same time and context is something that if we try to deny we tie ourselves up in knots. Similarly, “error exists” is self-evident. Try to deny it and you end up giving an example.

    That we ought not to torture innocent children for our pleasure is self evidently true, as can be seen from denying it. Once we recognise the moral worth of children. And of course, this thread is more or less about a case in point, sadly, shockingly exposing the absurdity that results from its attempted denial or suppression.

    GEM of TKI

  56. 57

    Over at Elizabeth Liddle’s blog, I’ve run into a group that deny any self-evident truths exist. Try holding a rational argument with people that won’t even admit that A=A is a self-evidently true statement.

  57. KF,

    “Thanks for commenting, especially as you are helping to focus the issue of warrant.”

    You’re welcome. Thanks for the acknowledgement.

    I clicked your first link above and read until a reached point “j” where he is summarizing the basic theist case, which begins, “Going further, as morally bound creatures…” This is the crux of the whole discussion, in my view, and the place where fundamental disagreement between you and me exists. I do not accept that we are morally bound creatures. Why not? Because I have it directly from God (through Neale Donald Walsch) that there is no [moral] right and wrong, only what works and what doesn’t work, given what you want to be, do, and have.

    (Note: it is basically impossible to understand how this could be so without understanding the larger context in which this statement occurs, particularly Who We Really Are, what is our true home, and most importantly, the purpose of life on earth. I have attempted to give some of this context in my various posts over the last couple of years, but I can’t really do it justice in the limited space. There are eight volumes in the series, after all.)

    So when you write,

    Coming back, objectivity is not to be confused with absolute truth, it is about reasonable warrant, leading to the common (and the usual scientific) usage of knowledge: credible, reliable, tested opinion or belief subject to correction in principle but typically confidently held to be right in fact, often sufficiently so that one would be irresponsible not to act on it. That is, warranted, credible belief (sometimes to moral certainty), as opposed to justified, true belief — strong form knowledge.

    you are presupposing that morality exists, and that we can discover through experience and reason what it is. But if morality does not exist, except in our minds, as I contend, then any assumption that we can discover what it is will obviously be in error.

    Furthermore, you are using a meaning of “objective” which is different from my understanding. To me, to say that something is objective is to say that it has existence independent of our minds, eg, in external reality or in the mind of God. When I claim that there is no objective morality, I am claiming that morality does not exist in external reality nor in the mind of God, and thus it exists only in our minds.

    In 7.2.1, you give a long litany of things that should have happened with Bibi Aisha that didn’t. You conclude with,

    Not one of these issues is a disputable matter of cross cultural differences, every one is a basic matter of recognising that we are all equally morally valuable by virtue of being human, made in God’s image. And, any attempt to justify the above in the name of God is a patent abuse of the name of God, aka taking God’s name in vain [the real meaning of that commandment].

    That is why this case is so powerfully telling, and so plainly demands a lot of soul searching and reformation, across both the cultures in Afghanistan and those in our own civilisation.

    With all due respect (and I fully understand your passion and your outrage), this does not demonstrate the objectivity of moral values, not in the sense that I have defined it.

    In Conversations with God, God recommends living in the open question, “What would Love do now?” I stated earlier that I find this to be much more powerful than the Golden Rule. Allow me to expand on that a bit. The Golden Rule is self referential. I decide what to do based on what I would want in a given situation. But what I would want may not always be what another would. “What would Love do now?” looks to the other. It includes caring, compassion, and spontaneity. It requires one to be aware and alert to the needs of the moment. It’s harder–I can easily know what I would want; it’s not so easy to see what is most appropriate for another’s needs and wants. But it is more alive, and ultimately far more satisfying, in my experience.

    I answered your question regarding whether I could look Bibi in the eye and tell her my views in 5.1.1. But let me state it a little differently here. I have no problem with explaining why I do not view morality as real to her from a theoretical perspective. However, were I actually facing her, what I would say would depend entirely on what I felt was the most loving thing to say. If it seemed that the only result in expressing my views would be to cause her more pain, then why would I? What would be the purpose?

  58. A=A is a tautology, not a truth. It is a trivial statement.

    Try making a nontrivial statement that is self-evidently true.

  59. 60

    WJM, I have been watching your conversation over there with interest. Nicely done.

    Of course, my conversation there has been stuck in neutral for some time now. But I still check in.

  60. William,

    1. If you don’t need “the good” as one of God’s attributes to derive morally true statements, then why did you bring it up?

    2. I beg to differ. “It is always wrong to torture chidren for one’s personal pleasure” is not a self evidently true proposition because it depends for its truth on the existence of objective morality. If there is no objective morality, then one cannot assert objectively true moral statements. The existence of objective morality is exactly what’s at issue here.

  61. WJM: The truth is, they expect their own identities to be stable, so they are only playing at rhetorical games that they do not really understand. And P, no, that an entity is stably itself is not an empty tautology. It has pretty serious consequences. GEM of TKI

  62. BD:

    What happened to Bibi Aisha is a cluster of crimes against humanity, starting with human trafficking and enslavement via a forced sham marriage, then onwards from there. Baad is plainly very bad news.

    The REASON why she was treated like that, is that she is seen as socially dead, a no-account slave with no value or validity — no rights — in herself, and her father is a poor man with no power to defend her. (Might makes “rights” . . . )

    Do you not see where denial of our being under moral government rooted in a fundamental equality and moral worth is leading you? (As in reductio ad absurdum. [Which BTW is the underlying point in my draft course page.])

    Does it not concern you?

    GEM of TKI

  63. KF: “Do you not see where denial of our being under moral government rooted in a fundamental equality and moral worth is leading you?”

    It should be quite clear by now that I most definitely affirm the worth and fundamental equality of all human beings. I don’t accept that this implies an objective morality, however. In fact, I put it to you that the existence of my spiritual/philosophical perspective provides a counterexample to the assertion that objective morality necessarily follows from belief in the existence of God coupled with belief in the equality and worth of all people.

    And I can tell you that I know a number of people whose spiritual perspective is the same as mine, and none of them would ever do what was done to Bibi Aisha. Such an act is inconsistent with the spiritual stance of anyone who takes the Conversations with God books seriously. This spiritual perspective includes ideas such as the Oneness of all life so that what we do to another we do to ourselves, that we are made in the image and likeness of God, including that unconditional love is our essential nature, that unconditional love is inconsistent with judgment, condemnation, and punishment, that all human beings are equally special in His eyes, and more.

    Furthermore, history has shown quite convincingly, I believe, that belief in “being under moral government rooted in a fundamental equality and moral worth” is no guarantee that a person will not be responsible, directly or indirectly, for people being treated as Bibi was, or worse. One has only to look at the history of any religion to see that this is so.

    So no, I am not worried about where my spiritual views are leading me.

  64. Bruce David:

    PaV: You said, “When one looks at the Gospels, what one sees is Jesus exhorting his listeners to simply use common sense. Objective morality is the presence within ourselves of that which we call ‘common sense’. And the common sense we have in this life is: “don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you.” This is completely harmonious with Kant’s Categorical Imperative.”

    1. How do you get objectivity out of common sense? Different peoples’ common sense is going to come up with different answers to the same moral questions. That sounds a lot like subjectivity to me.

    Well, I agree with you that objectivity and subjectivity are opposite poles. Objectivity, in this case, is the absence of subjectivity, much as evil is the absence of good, not an entity in and of itself. When we strip away all that is subjective—which, obviously, can come to us through the manner in which we’ve been “socialized”, including, of course, the religious creed we’ve been given—then, and only then, do we arrive at what is objectively moral. I think we only have a handful of such “intuitions”; all else is derived. “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you,” is one of these objective intuitions.

    2. I believe the recommendation from “Conversations with God” is far more powerful than the Golden Rule. It is, as I have already said, “In each moment of Now, act according to the answer to the question, ‘What would Love do now?’”

    Well, this is rather subjective, isn’t it? IOW, you need to describe “Love”, and then you’re required to assess the demands of “Love” in terms of the circumstances you find yourself in.

    First, I think “Don’t do to others what you would not want them to do to you” is pretty much what “love” is all about. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. (And, of course, the moral question is: “If I had been waylaid by bandits, and lay dying on the side of a road, would I want people to just pass me by and go on without doing anything for me? I think we all know how we would answer that question.

    Second, St. Augustine wrote in the early 400′s: “Love, and then do what you will.”

    This is indeed wonderful advice within the Christian dispensation. However, it requires a certain acculturation, whereas the above question relative to the Good Samaritan Parable does not.

    3. There are situations in which the Golden Rule breaks down. For example, if I committed a murder that I felt was justified for whatever reason, I would not want to be executed or even punished for it. Therefore, by the Golden Rule, I cannot punish anyone for committing a murder that they feel was justified.

    When phrased and posited in that way, yes, there is a problem.

    But, let’s be more specific.

    If someone came at me with a gun that appeared loaded, with a look on his face that suggested he was very angry and was ready to kill me, and, yet, having a gun myself, I pull it out, aim it at the assailant, tell him to drop his gun, leave, or I will shoot; if I then see his trigger finger about to pull the trigger, and I shoot first, killing him, then the question to be asked is:

    “If I came at someone with a loaded gun, and an angry look on my face; and if the person I’m going towards pulls out a gun, tells me to either drop the gun, leave, or he will shoot me, and I then decide to pull the trigger anyway, would I want that person to defend himself?” My answer is “yes”. He should defend himself, just as I would defend myself if I were in that same position. This is an objective assessment. But the objective can be transcended by the subjective; and it can also be trampled asunder by the subjective.

    But that’s another story.

  65. If humans were designed to serve a purpose or attain some end, then a “good” act is one which brings them closer to that end and a bad act is one which takes them farther away from it. Under the circumstances, morality, which is the code of conduct that defines good actions, must clearly be objective because it describes behavior that facilitates a progressive realization of the worthy ideal for which they were made, which is another way of describing behavior that is “proper” to human nature.

    If, on the other hand, humans were not designed to serve some purpose, then there can be no such thing as an objectively good act or an objectively bad act since there can be no final destiny to win or lose–no objective purpose to fulfill or frustrate–no behavior that is “improper” for human nature. Under the circumstances, all that is left for such purposeless beings is the subjective, individualistic, make-it-up-as-you-go-along morality, which always leads to a war of all against all and produces the derivative philosophy of “might makes right.” The weaker individual “prefers” not to be slave, the stronger individual “prefers” the alternative, which means that power makes the final decision.

    In that context, the tyrant can justify his actions on the pragmatic rationale that only power can bring order to the chaos. Thus, anyone who embraces moral relativism is really arguing on behalf of tyranny because they are, by definition, arguing AGAINST the proposition that there is any objective moral code to which the tyrant ought to be hald accountable.

  66. PaV,

    Let’s look at the Golden Rule first. Your answer to my #3 doesn’t address the issue. Suppose a man kills his wife and her lover in a premeditated murder that he felt was entirely justified, since she was being unfaithful to him with her lover. My contention is that since I would not want to be punished if I committed a murder that I believed was justified, I cannot, by the Golden Rule, punish this man. Your example doesn’t address this.

    There is a further problem with the Golden Rule, and that is that what I would or would not want done to me may not be what another would want or not want done to them. For example, let’s say I want nothing but the truth from anyone I am in any kind of relationship with, wife, lover, friend, colleague, or family member–no “white lies”, no evading the truth out of not wanting to hurt my feelings, etc. Others may not share that desire, and may be quite distressed by me if I go around ruthlessly laying my true feelings and perceptions on them no matter what.

    On the other hand, if I relate to them out of “What would Love do now?”, and if I am at all perceptive, I will know when the truth is welcome and when it is not, and even more to the point, when the situation calls for the truth and when it does not, and act accordingly.

    You said,

    2. I believe the recommendation from “Conversations with God” is far more powerful than the Golden Rule. It is, as I have already said, “In each moment of Now, act according to the answer to the question, ‘What would Love do now?’”

    Well, this is rather subjective, isn’t it? IOW, you need to describe “Love”, and then you’re required to assess the demands of “Love” in terms of the circumstances you find yourself in.

    No, it is not necessary to describe love; in fact it would be counterproductive. Everyone knows what love is because it is an aspect of who we are, derived from our having been created in God’s image and likeness. Acting from love is the most natural thing in the world; it is spontaneous, creative, compassionate, and powerful. It is the opposite of intellectual analysis, and the best way to make a real difference in the world.

  67. According to God, speaking in Conversations with God, everything that happens on earth is aligned with His purpose for creating the world and us. There is nothing that happens here that is not in line with His purpose.

    Now I know from prior conversations with you that you will not understand how this could be, and that you will make no attempt to actually understand what this could possibly mean, so I am not going to get into a discussion with you about it. Nonetheless, it happens to be true.

    There is more betwixt Heaven and Earth than is dreampt of in your philosophy.

  68. I understand your philosophy very well. You think that I am God and that you are God, which means that every time we disagree, God is disagreeing with himself and that you are disagreeing with God.

    Further, you think that everything that happens is part of God’s purpose, and that the mutilated girl is God, which means that the mutilation was part of her purpose.

    Each time I bring this madness to light, you claim that I don’t understand its deeper elements, as if there could be any depth to it. Meanwhile, you had not one word to say about my argument–not one word.

  69. You see, Stephen. You make no attempt to discover what I could mean by that or how it could possibly be true that everything that happens on earth is aligned with God’s will. No, you simply attack from your position of lack of understanding.

    I rest my case.

  70. I must have clicked the wrong “Reply” button. See #15 for my response.

  71. Does this mean that you no longer think that I am God?

  72. At this stage in your spiritual development, you are one of the parts of God that hasn’t yet become aware of its true nature and the true nature and purpose of creation. In time you will. It’s guaranteed. God wishes every soul/part of Himself eventually to come into that awareness, and so it will come to pass, in the fullness of time.

  73. BD (and for others, too):

    Pardon, but we need to recall what has been happening over the past few days.

    For instance, above, you have clearly and explicitly denied the objective reality of right and wrong, instead substituting the pragmatic relativism, what “works.”

    As fair comment: that is exactly what leads you on in a reduction to absurdity. And redefining right and wrong subjectively and presenting this rhetorically as though it answers to the problem offers no escape.

    Sorry, the matters on the table are far too dangerous to allow such resorts to stand.

    I say so in the name of a lovely young lady horribly mutilated, and whose case we cannot seem to find the moral clarity and gumption to take up.

    For, the case of Bibi Aisha, sadly, shows that when one has sufficient power and no willingness to acknowledge the fundamental equality of human beings leading to a recognition of moral worth and duties of respect and care, then “what works,” is what Plato highlighted 2350 years ago as such an absurdity that it needed no further explicit comment: “the highest right is might.”

    So, if one’s view on morality cannot pass the Bibi Aisha test, it is utterly absurd and even dangerous.

    In direct contrast, I have cited the pivot in Locke’s argument, on which he erected the basis for modern democratic self-government of and by a free people: that we are fundamentally equal and have reciprocal duties of respect and care, such that if we would be treated well we must be careful to so treat others.

    A point he brought to the table by citing the Anglican Canon, Richard Hooker:

    . . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [[Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [[Eccl. Polity, 1594+, preface, Bk I, "ch." 8, p.80.]

    I find it highly interesting and revealing that this point has plainly struck a raw nerve, as above you falsely accused me of dogmatism, which — as you must know — are fighting words today. Nor, have you acknowledged my correction of a load3d false accusation.

    Which is itself telling.

    What I have been saying, again and again, is that the concrete case of Bibi Aisha is revealing of the underlying problem.

    For, here, we have a case where a traditional tribal custom [no, it does not seem to be an actual component of Sharia, though the general attitude to women in that system of law is sadly not helpful], baad, is tantamount to human trafficking, enslavement, forced sham marriage, forced CHILD marriage (so, statutory rape), leading to abuse and worse, much worse.

    Let me again cite Wikipedia, as a handy summary:

    Baad is a traditional practice of settling disputes in Pakistan and Afghanistan among Pushtun tribes [1] in which a young girl is traded to settle a dispute for her older relatives. This may involve being used as payment for a financial dispute, as a means to avoid larger or longer-lasting arguments and grudges.[2] A famous example is Bibi Aisha,[3] who was subsequently mutilated when she fled the abuse that girls sometimes suffer from their new families under baad.

    Look at the highlighted terms.

    This is not a “cultural” issue, this is a GIRL (look Bibi Aisha in the face, please) — notice, the sexual overtones — being used as PAYMENT in settlement of disputes.

    Human trafficking, with sexual overtones, creating enslavement and in this case and probably many others, forced marriage and abuse.

    This is a nest of crimes against humanity.

    Start with the issue of human trafficking and slavery, if you cannot figure out why I say that.

    if that is too hard to see, start with the word and idea of PAYMENT.

    A GIRL, handed over to a hostile group, in PAYMENT of disputes.

    And yet, in the teeth of easily accessible evidence of CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY — and we need to talk to lawyers about this — we see how cultural relativism driven by the penumbra of evolutionary materialism dressed up in the holy lab coat is eating out our ability to see clearly then stand up decisively, red flag what is going on and respond appropriately to a patent case of enslavement and horrific abuse, with exploitation of the poor and obvious sexual components. (And, someone needs to find out if so-called female circumcision is involved too.)

    Also, I insist, we are dealing with crimes against humanity here, tied to an obvious modern day form of human trafficking and enslavement.

    So, the real issue on the table, the elephant in the middle of the room, is: what is blinding so many to the otherwise obvious?

    Let me cite an article from a journal affiliated with the UNHCR (which will repay reading), duly noting all the delicate disclaimers UNHCR — a sadly corrupted body — has prefaced:

    Baad is an ancient tradition in Afghanistan, dating back to the days when no central legal authority existed [--> that's back to the 1930's . . . ], and conflicts were settled through the tribal system.

    Slowly the practice became widely accepted, even though there is no religious or legal basis for it [--> customary law, is law, often more powerful than law from a weak state, and once marriage is implicated, there is religious sanction by the clergy who are involved, and through popular religious thought; i.e. at minimum, we see a need for a reformation here]. When a man kills, rapes, or has sexual relations with someone other than his wife [--> notice the emphasis on sexual cases; whatever happened to the idea that if I am guilty of a crime, I should pay for it? So, subtext: we are dealing with a way to protect the wealthy and powerful in wrongdoing by handing over an innocent girl in "payment"], a local council [--> So, the respectable and powerful in the community are implicated] can step in to mediate. Lesser offences can usually be settled by the exchange of money, perhaps a few sheep or a cow. But the standard penalty for a serious crime is for the offender’s family to part with a girl, who is given to the victim’s family. [--> STANDARD, as in customary law]

    Often the girl given in baad is little more than a slave [--> Unwilling to admit the full shocking truth, so a euphemism is used: she is traded as property and put under the power of another to the point where she may evidently be freely abused] ; she can be beaten or mistreated, or even killed. Much domestic violence in Afghanistan can be traced back to the tradition of baad, according to human rights activists. [--> So, the respectable members of the community councils and the clergy who shape the popular thought on such matters MUST know this; we can infer a climate of intimidation and implied threat of retaliation, probably violent]

    “Baad is a negative tradition with no legal or moral basis,” said Judge Sayeed Mohammad Sami, head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission for the north. “A human life can never be traded away. It will take a long time and much hard work to get rid of this terrible practice.” [--> Come on now, Judge: "traded away" INTO SLAVERY; this is human trafficking and enslavement]

    According to Judge Sami, 571 cases of violence had been recorded in the north over the past year. Out of these, eight were attributed to baad. However, he added, the number could be much higher, since many families do not report such incidents. [--> climate of intimidation and retaliation]

    Baad is illegal, said Mah Gul Yamam, a legal expert at the Afghan Human Rights Organisation.

    “According to the laws of Afghanistan, a perpetrator bears personal responsibility for his crimes,” she said. “This responsibility cannot be transferred to others. But unfortunately, in Afghanistan, when a man commits a crime, it is the females that have to bear the punishment.” [--> Think about that!]

    Baad is against the criminal code of Afghanistan, punishable by up to two years in jail, she explained. But unfortunately, no legal action can be taken unless the woman or girl who is given away makes a complaint. [--> In a climate of intimidation and retaliation, were we see how running away to find refuge in one's home can lead to mutilation and attempted murder, then shunning and trying to starve out the family, for the crime of letting the girl who survived the mutilation seek effective refuge] Females are often reluctant to initiate criminal proceedings against their relatives, and, indeed, can be physically coerced into complying with the demands of baad. [--> intimidation and violent retaliation]

    “There is a dysfunction in the law,” said Mah Gul. “Baad must be recognised as a crime.” [--> but it is, just there is no effective enforcement in the teeth of popular custom]

    Afghanistan’s legal system is plagued with corruption and inefficiency, and is in no condition to dispense justice. [--> a failed state, and the west is about to walk away, KNOWING what will happen, which indicts our own elite culture and its radical relativism, especially the major media that have played on our own sentiments to get us to do things that make no good sense] Despite the efforts of the international community, which has poured millions of dollars into judicial reform over the past seven years, many Afghans choose the traditional structures when things go wrong.

    Tribal or jirga justice is swift and almost universally accepted – but it has the disadvantage of perpetuating many of the society’s long-standing abuses against women.

    Malaly Roshandil Usmani, head of the Women’s Rights Advocacy Association, told IWPR that women whose rights have been violated are in no position to make a complaint. [--> SLAVES have no effective resort]

    “Organisations working in the field of women’s rights should not have to wait for women to come to them,” she said. “They need to find these women and work with them.”

    Many women do not know their rights, she explained, and still more are prevented from exercising those rights.

    Nonsense!

    This is a straightforward case of abuse of power leading to enslavement and KNOWING endangerment of young girls, including forced sham marriages. And, our own cultural elites are perfectly willing to go along with this, instead of recognising that allowing a nest of such abuse to grow like a cancer is a danger to us all, as the 9/11 events so clearly demonstrated. It looks like we are going to wait until a nuclear 9/11 happens.

    This is a capital example of why we need to recognise the obvious: all of us, male and female, old and young — and, frankly, in the womb or in the hospital ward on the feeding tube — are equally human. So, if we each apprehend and recognise that we have a certain dignity that rises above a bit of trash on the sidewalk, and OUGHT to be treated with dignity and respect (cf C S Lewis in the original post above on what happens when we quarrel), then the same must in all reason extend to the whole human family. Even, to our dead.

    In short, OUGHT is real, and binding for all, or else we slide down a slippery slope that ends up in a brutal war of all against all, in which the upshot is “might makes ‘right’.” Precisely the absurdity of the radical cultural and political relativism embedded in evolutionary materialism that Plato exposed 2350 years ago.

    So, we need to wake up and get to work on crimes against humanity. And, to expose the roots of the choking weeds that obscure the otherwise patent fact.

    Let us again hear Judge Jackson at Nuremberg in reply to the Nazi defence, on where such absurd relativism can go, and why it is and must be utterly rejected:

    In The law Above the Law, John Warwick Montgomery describes [the Nazi] argument: “The most telling defense offered by the accused was that they had simply followed orders or made decisions within the framework of their own legal system, in complete consistency with it, and they therefore ought not rightly be condemned | because they deviated from the alien value system of their conquerors” (emphasis added).4

    But the tribunal did not accept this justification. In the words of Robert H. Jackson, chief counsel for the United States at the trials, the issue was not one of power — the victor judging the vanquished — but one of higher moral law. “The tribunal rises above the provincial and the transient,” he said, “and seeks guidance not only from International Law, but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence, which are assumptions of civilization . . . . ” 5 [Beckwith, Francis, and Koukl, Greg, Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air, Baker (2005 printing) pp. 50 - 51; Judge Jackson's words emphasised. HT, Google Books.]

    We must wake up and recognise that there is a serious danger afoot in our civilisation and world, and do something decisive about it.

    Going beyond, it is patent that the only morally reasonable worldviews are those that have a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, on pain of reduction to such amoral absurdities. So far, given Hume’s challenge and the Euthyphro dilemma, the only serious candidate on the table of comparative difficulties is the inherently good, reasonable, just and wise Creator God.

    And, therein lieth the rub.

    For, it is quite, quite plain that many would prefer amoral absurdities and chaos, to submitting to the wise and just rule of the God who is evident from the world around us and from the flickering light of the candle of conscience within.

    We have no excuse.

    As the apostle Paul warned, long ago now.

    GEM of TKI

  74. F/N: I have added clips from the Time article and the UNHCR commented journal article to the original post. I believe these readings will further help us clarify our thinking. KF

  75. SB, well said. A sad indictment of where we have now reached in our culture. KF

  76. BD, you simply reveal here, the way your pantheism or panentheism leads to moral reductio ad absurdum. KF

  77. PaV:

    My own angle, from 7 in the original post (please note also 7a that I added from a comment above):

    7 –> So, we come to the issue that we have an instinctive, intuitive reaction that tells us that people have inherent rights tracing to our dignity as equals with moral worth. But is this simply a subjective perception inculcated by cultural and historical accident, without warrant on evident facts and reasoning? That is, is it objective? (Where, since we are subjects, ALL human experience is, almost by definition, subject-IVE. But equally, we subjects can and do know many things on warrant, that makes these things objective, not merely empty and delusional perceptions.)

    I think this balance is important.

    GEM of TKI

  78. I think I may have an answer to this dilemma.

    As I see it, here are the important points:

    1: Bibi Aisha ran away from her TALIBAN husband.

    2: The Taliban are very religious and seek to obey God.

    3: Bibi’s family is also probably very religious and seeks to obey God.

    4: The students, being Canadian, are probably also religious and understand the importance of obeying God.

    5: Being religious, those students probably believe that religion is the source of all objective morality.

    6: Religions are well known for promoting and/or approving behavior that would strike the average person as being very immoral. See the brouhaha that broke out when william Lane Craig defended God’s order to slaughter all of the Canaanites for an example. Many clueless atheists think genocide is quite immoral, but believers know better.

    7: Craig correctly defended himself by saying that althought it might be immoral for you or him to engage in genocide, those moral strictures do not apply to God or those doing His will.

    8: Those students also know that it’s the height of immorality to refuse to do God’s will.

    9: It is very possible that God, who puts the husband above the wife in marriage, believes that Bibi deserves substantial punishment for defying Him by running away from her Godly approved husband.

    10: Honor mutilation has a long history in Afghanistan and God has never struck a mutilator down so it is very possible that God really does approve of such mutilation.

    11: Therefore, being religious themselves and respecting religion and knowing that:

    11a: Following God’s will is THE most important duty of all.

    11b: Disobeying God’s will is the worst sin possible.

    11c: God may very well have desired the mutilation since:

    11c1: He’s known to have desired the genocide of the Canaanites.

    11c2: He puts the husband above the wife and considers wifely disobedience to be sinful and deserving of punishment.

    11c3: God is known to be vengeful.

    Therefore:

    12: The students may very well have thought that perhaps God did desire the mutiliation of Bibbi and since it IS moral for all people at all places and all times to do God’s will, they were reluctant to criticise the mutilators.

    Of course, a Godless atheist will probably just ignore all this and say the mutiliation was a barbaric and brutal act. But they don’t have Absolute Morality so they don’t know any better.
    _____________

    DM: Have you seriously thought about what we are dealing with here, i.e a cluster of crimes against humanity leading to the mutilation of a young lady based on a TRIBAL blood feud resolving custom? Have you even tried to understand what John Locke was citing from Canon Richard Hooker, as a ground for rights, liberty and justice in the community? Have you paused to reflect on what it means when we are cautioned not to abuse the name of the Lord, plastering over wickedness or folly with the name of God? Have you bothered to reflect on what the Hebrew Prophets or Jesus had to say — including to the eminent and respectable religious leaders of their time, or for that matter why there have been waves of reformation led by godly people, Bibles in hand, such as that which ended slavery in the Caribbean between 1787 and 1838? Your remarks just above show very little sign of serious, balanced reflection, and a lot of a want of basic respect of concern to be fair or reasonable. Indeed, frankly, they come across as ill considered and in very poor taste, trying to score strawmannish, viciously caricatured rhetorical points expressive of your animus against God and ill-considered contempt towards religious people — they “must” be ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked. As such, the remarks tell us a lot about how atheists of your ilk think and behave, and it is not pretty. Please, think again, and do a LOT better next time. KF

  79. 80

    Bruce David,

    What difference does it make if Stephen is aware of his true nature or not? What difference does it make if he understands you or not, or makes any attempt to do so? By your own words, all of those events and conditions are aligned with God’s purpose.

    Why bother calling attention to Stephen’s “attack”, or his “lack of understanding”, or his “stage of development”, when all of those conditions are in perfect alignment with God’s purpose? Why get involved in a debate about morality at all, if everyone involved and all statements offered are perfectly aligned with god’s purpose?

    If you are not trying to accomplish some good here, as defined by helping and not hindering god’s purpose, what are you trying to accomplish? You can’t be trying to help god’s purpose, because everything that occurs is in alignment with that purpose already.

    Or are you just here to irritate people with whitewashed, “spiritual” condescension about their lack of spiritual development and about how they can’t understand the perfect nature of existence and so “attack” you? Do you recognize the obvious passive-aggressive tendency here?

    Here’s a question: if you saw an adult beating a child with a tire iron, would you intervene, or would you tell yourself that it, too, is aligned with god’s purpose and walk on? Here’s my answer, which woke me up out of my Conversations With God, more-spiritually-advanced-than-you stupor: it’s wrong to beat children with tire irons. Period. It doesn’t serve any good plan, period. It’s our duty to intervene, period.

    Here’s something I wish you’d consider, Bruce. Let’s say that it is true that most crime is never solved. Let’s say that it is true that most of the forensics we see on TV is entirely fictional. Let’s say you have a friend who has criminal tendencies, but refuses to act on them because after watching CSI shows for years, he believes that pretty much all crimes are solved by such techniques and he would surely be caught.

    Would it be a good thing to tell your friend the truth – that most crimes are never solved, and that all that CSI stuff on TV is BS? Furthermore, let’s say it is true that everything that occurs is all part of god’s perfect purpose; do you think telling your friend that if he chooses to steal or murder it’s all part of the good … is a good idea? That there is no existential penalty for it – that, in essence, killing, brutalizing, stealing, cruelty – it’s all good, because it all is ultimately perfectly aligned with god’s purpose?

    You’re promoting a dangerous ideology, Bruce, even if it were to be true. And the kicker is, there is no reason for you to promote it, because it’s not going to make anything better, because everything is perfectly good as-is, according to your philosophy.

  80. WJM, this discussion reminds me of a dispute I once had with a Marxist philosophy professor in graduate school, who was arguing on behalf of “social transformation.” Explaining that history is determined by an economic class struggle, he assured me that a dictatorship of proletariet would follow, inevitably leading to a utopian society. If, I asked, history is determined by this process, what is the point of of pushing for a revolution? Couldn’t the process be trusted to provide the desired outcome without any interference on our part? That was the end of the discussion. The difference between most college professors and some of the bloggers who visit here is that the former know when their points have been refuted and they at least show enough good sense to change the subject.

  81. I’ll just pick off the low hanging fruit:

    –”It is very possible that God, who puts the husband above the wife in marriage, believes that Bibi deserves substantial punishment for defying Him by running away from her Godly approved husband.”

    God doesn’t put the husband above the wife, except in minds of radical Islamists, none of whom are being defended here. Objective morality is not synonymous with rigid ideology.

    –”Honor mutilation has a long history in Afghanistan and God has never struck a mutilator down so it is very possible that God really does approve of such mutilation.”

    The second clause does not follow from the first.

    –”Following God’s will is THE most important duty of all.”

    Only if it really is God’s will.

    –”He’s (God) known to have desired the genocide of the Canaanites.”

    God did not “desire” the genocide of the Canaanites.”

    —”Of course, a Godless atheist will probably just ignore all this and say the mutiliation was a barbaric and brutal act. But they don’t have Absolute Morality so they don’t know any better.”

    That mutilation is a barbaric and brutal act is simply a fact that needs no interpretation and about which no one would disagree. The question is whether such acts are objectively wrong, to which the atheist has no answer.
    _____________

  82. Onlookers:

    This thread was put up three days ago.

    It raised a crucial question, based on a concrete case: are moral judgements objective, in the context of a case of what has turned out to be outright crimes against humanity, starting with human trafficking and enslavement.

    Again and again, it has come out very directly, that advocates of evolutionary materialism are unable to provide an objective base for OUGHT. Their worldview has no foundational basis in an IS that can carry the weight of ought. So, they have repeatedly sought to exploit our moral intuitions and sensibilities, and also to derail the thread, sometimes with outright rudeness. In short, by their actions, they have shown that their views reduce to might makes ‘right.” Which in the face of the horrible things done to this young lady, is plainly not good enough.

    Just above, DM has tried to derail the discussion, to try to get back to the line of manipulative and poisonous talking points that have been brought up over and over again for the past two months, regardless of responsible answers. Nowhere do we see any responsible engagement of responses that can be looked at simply by going to the links in point 5 in the original post.

    So, I am left to conclude that there is no answer on the merits, and there is no way that a frank answer can be given that runs like: no there are no objective morals, so it is all a matter of feelings and manipulation and power.

    Instead, there is an intention to divert to polarisation.

    We can take it that such is a sure sign that the evolutionary materialistic position is inescapably amoral and morally absurd.

    The point has been made.

    So, since someone who really needs answers to the sort of out of context strawman caricatures of ethical theism above, can find them elsewhere, I think the time has come to close down comments for this thread. Beyond this point, the thread serves as reference.

    Let me provide some basic short remarks on the points DM raised, just before I do that:

    1 –> BAAT — which is technically illegal in Afghanistan — is actually a tribal, blood feud resolving custom, but one that reflects serious defects in the popular worldview and associated religious sentiments in that part of the world.

    2 –> As I have repeatedly stated, it is a mark of a need for reformation, and a challenge to the religious and civil leaders there to lead reformation.

    3 –> Now, DM is trying to pervert and polarise our understanding of role relationships of men and women in marriage, apparently not realising that the classic Pauline text on this, from Eph 5, shows some quite interesting balances: mutual respect and submission to Christ, duties of self-sacrifice and cherishing — husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and died for it.

    4 –> Treat like an animal, enslave, abuse and mutilate, is simply nowhere near the actual teachings, which are easily accessible so this is a willful, poisonous, false accusation.

    5 –> Similarly, there is a warped view of authority and submission, which are key elements of any good order in the home, community, business, institution and government. Given that Christ submitted to His Father, and in the same context of Phil 2, his essential identity of nature is strongly affirmed, differing roles in no wise imply superiority or inferiority of being.

    6 –> But of course submission to human authority — respect for office — does not imply blind obedience in wrong doing or the like. Authority is in the end moral, and principled protest, correction and even civil disobedience to the point of peaceful martyrdom are longstanding Christian positions in the face of authorities gone sufficiently wrong. Christ himself and eleven of twelve apostles are cases in point.

    7 –> All of this is history, vitally important history on the rise of civil liberty that DM wishes to brush aside in haste to poison the atmosphere. Such behaviour is shameless, willfully uncivil.

    _________

    So, now we know the all too typical evolutionary materialist reply to the challenge to address the evidence that morality is objective, that we are under moral government, and that this points to the only potentially sound worldviews being those that have in them a foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.

    Rage, venom, willful distortion, mockery, false accusation and turnabout rhetoric.

    So, let us understand what is at stake for our civilisation if we choose to go down that road.

    In short, we need to see what is going on, and turn back before it is too late.

    Good night

    GEM of TKI