Home » Intelligent Design » Plato’s warning (360 BC . . . yes, 2,350 years ago) on the inherent amorality, nihilism and ruthless factionalism rooted in evolutionary materialism

Plato’s warning (360 BC . . . yes, 2,350 years ago) on the inherent amorality, nihilism and ruthless factionalism rooted in evolutionary materialism

The worldview commonly described at UD as “Evolutionary Materialism” — roughly: the view that our cosmos from hydrogen to humans must be explained “scientifically” on matter and energy in space and time, evolving by forces of chance and necessity –  is nothing new. For, 2,350 years ago, Plato described it as a popular philosophy among those who saw themselves as the cutting edge elite in his day.

As he said in the voice of The Athenian Stranger in his dialogue, The Laws, Bk X:

[[The avant-garde philosophers, teachers and artists c. 400 BC] say that the greatest and fairest things are the work of nature and of chance, the lesser of art [[ i.e. techne], which, receiving from nature the greater and primeval creations, moulds and fashions all those lesser works which are generally termed artificial . . . They say that fire and water, and earth and air [[i.e the classical "material" elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art, and that as to the bodies which come next in order-earth, and sun, and moon, and stars-they have been created by means of these absolutely inanimate existences. 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 . . . .

He also saw the consequences of this thinking, and therefore warned in no uncertain terms:

[[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 . . .

This is exactly what we are seeing in our time: evolutionary materialism promoting radical relativistic amorality, manipulation of the balance of public views, ruthless factions that use amoral “might makes right” tactics, and a rising tide of abuse of those who dare to differ.  As, of course, the author of this post is currently experiencing through an episode of cyberstalking.

(SIDEBAR: I will not bother to share the current contents of my comments inbox, save to say that they are on the dossier on aggravating circumstances, and that they are foul, sadly reflective of unhinged, en-darkened minds joined to benumbed consciences that imagine that those who differ with them “must” be ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked, so they are free to slander as they please — as long as they think they can “get away” with it — in the teeth of libel law, and to threaten in the teeth of cyberstalking laws. They do not understand or care about the difference between liberty and destructive license,  and do not shun to boast of their shameful resort to the mafioso threat: we know you, where you are and where those you care for are. Worse, in my scan of the fever-swamps that are egging these on, I found but few voices of reason or conscience that cautioned: you are going too far, stop. I do thank those few who have tried to speak up for decency. But, the balance of the attitudes expressed is all too revealing about the force of Plato’s warning on what is liable to happen if such en-darkened, benumbed factions seize power. A point echoed by 100 million ghosts of victims of atheistical regimes over the past 100 years. We can hardly say that we have not been warned, or that we do not have historical exemplars to guide us. And, TWT, a word to you:  if you choose to publicly reveal your ignorance of the democides of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and all too many more, that simply reveals more about what  you really are. Wake up, man! You plainly do not understand the matches you are trifling with.)

Now, the root of this problem of amorality is the IS-OUGHT gap often thought to have been definitively discussed by Hume in his “guillotine” argument:

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. [A Treatise of Human Nature. London: John Noon. p. 469.]

That pretended “surprise” is inadvertently revealing, on many levels. Arthur Holmes therefore aptly retorts, echoing Elizabeth Anscombe:

However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise . . . .

R. M. Hare . . . raises the same point. Most theories, he argues, simply fail to account for the ought that commands us: subjectivism reduces imperatives to statements about subjective states, egoism and utilitarianism reduce them to statements about consequences, emotivism simply rejects them because they are not empirically verifiable, and determinism reduces them to causes rather than commands . . . .

Elizabeth Anscombe’s point is well made. We have a problem introducing the ought into ethics unless, as she argues, we are morally obligated by law – not a socially imposed law, ultimately, but divine law . . . [Ethics: Approaching Moral Decisions (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), pp. 70 – 72.]

The relevance of this comes out as soon as we consider the concept that we have rights; binding moral expectations that others should respect us as holding an innate, inalienable dignity:

If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly.  Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights.[p. 81.]

But, why should we consider that people have rights at all? The only enduring answer to this has been aptly summarised in the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, the 235th anniversary of which was celebrated just yesterday:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 . . .”

Or, digging in deeper, to the roots of this thought, we can trace how John Locke in Ch 2 Sect, 5 of his Second Treatise on Civil Government, cited “the judicious [Richard] Hooker” in the classic (but now largely neglected) 1594+ Ecclesiastical Polity:

. . . 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.

In short, the is-ought gap of ethics points to the question that rights and correlative duties arise from our being equally valuable as creatures of God. But such claims often do not sit well with modern or post-modern people, who wish to reject the moral argument to God.

But, as we look on and see the consequence s of that rejection, we can begin to ever more deeply appreciate the wisdom of the founders of modern liberty and democracy who grounded liberty in the premise of the inherently good Creator God, who made us all equally in his image and placed us under the moral government of the Golden Rule.

(F/N: If you imagine that the Euthyphro dilemma, so-called, drags such general theism anchored in an inherently good Creator God down into the same muck of amorality as materialism, I suggest you rethink in light of here and the onward linked.  [Note, this will still hold if God created by means of directing the course of nature over the 13.7 BY often said to have obtained for our observed cosmos, so please save your favourite anti Young Earth Creationism talking points, strawmen and red herrings for another venue, and as this is a worldview level philosophical -- primarily ethical -- discussion relevant to the design vs materialism  issue, kindly put away your "Creationism in a cheap tuxedo" talking points as well.])

In case you think I exaggerate the problem, let us hear prof William Provine of Cornell, in his now notorious 1998 Darwin Day address at the University of Tennessee, his home state:

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 . . .
This, plainly, speaks for itself, once we bear Plato’s grim warning and the moans of 100 million ghosts from the century just past in mind.
All I will add is that if we have no freedom of will, that necessarily includes no freedom to think, know and reason for ourselves, i.e. Provine here inadvertently underscores the self-referentially absurd and irrational nature of evolutionary materialism.  (And that means the attempted defence of the denial of significant freedom of the will Provine went on to put forward, collapses.)

Haldane, by the early 1930′s, knew better:

“It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.” [["When I am dead," in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

And, Will Hawthorne administers the coup de grace:

Assume (per impossibile) that atheistic naturalism [[= evolutionary materialism] is true. Assume, furthermore, that one can’t infer an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ [[the 'is' being in this context physicalist: matter-energy, space- time, chance and mechanical forces].  (Richard Dawkins and many other atheists should grant both of these assumptions.)

Given our second assumption, there is no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer an ‘ought’. And given our first assumption, there is nothing that exists over and above the natural world; the natural world is all that there is. It follows logically that, for any action you care to pick, there’s no description of anything in the natural world from which we can infer that one ought to refrain from performing that action.

Add a further uncontroversial assumption: an action is permissible if and only if it’s not the case that one ought to refrain from performing that action . . . [[We see] therefore, for any action you care to pick, it’s permissible to perform that action. If you’d like, you can take this as the meat behind the slogan ‘if atheism is true, all things are permitted’.

For example if atheism is true, every action Hitler performed was permissible. Many atheists don’t like this consequence of their worldview. But they cannot escape it and insist that they are being logical at the same time.

Now, we all know that at least some actions are really not permissible (for example, racist actions). Since the conclusion of the argument denies this, there must be a problem somewhere in the argument. Could the argument be invalid? No. The argument has not violated a single rule of logic and all inferences were made explicit.

Thus we are forced to deny the truth of one of the assumptions we started out with. That means we either deny atheistic naturalism or (the more intuitively appealing) principle that one can’t infer ‘ought’ from [[a material] ‘is’.

Given what has been going on over the past few days and weeks, the usual talking points on how atheists can be “good without god,” are pointless; for we can see for ourselves how they are plainly paralysed in the teeth of Internet thuggery by their fellow atheists, how they have no firm anchor for principles of thought and action that should tell them where to draw firm lines and stand by them.

We have been warned. So, now, let us heed the warnings from Plato to Hawthorne. END

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20 Responses to Plato’s warning (360 BC . . . yes, 2,350 years ago) on the inherent amorality, nihilism and ruthless factionalism rooted in evolutionary materialism

  1. Plato should have spent less time thinking and more time measuring the sizes of seeds and bird beaks.

  2. I think he was more concerned on the implications of how his mentor Socrates’ attempt to rescue Alcibiades helped bias the court that decided to prescribe the infamous cup of Hemlock.

  3. 3

    However we may define the good, however well we may calculate consequences, to whatever extent we may or may not desire certain consequences, none of this of itself implies any obligation of command. That something is or will be does not imply that we ought to seek it. We can never derive an “ought” from a premised “is” unless the ought is somehow already contained in the premise

    This is what drives me nuts about the argument from Sam Harris (and echoed by Elizabeth Liddle). They say that we can deduce morality using logic and reason, based on the golden rule, which to an extent is true, as long as it is a given that the golden rule OUGHT to be followed. For the materialist, this assertion is pulled out of thin air. WHY CAN’T THEY SEE THIS?!?!

  4. Perhaps, because that is the step that walks off the cliff into moral reductio ad absurdum . . .

  5. 5

    Kairosfocus,

    I’ve been reading at your website and your threads here and I have a question.

    According to this “objective morality” that you know exists, are homosexuals immoral?

    It’s a yes or no answer.

  6. Mr Roache:

    You are asking a loaded, complex, gotcha type distractive question that does not have a simple answer that will not be misinterpreted by those who are highly indoctrinated and polarised.

    Which you know or ought to have known.

    So, the question on its face, with the demanded yes/no dilemma type answer, is not honest but twisted.

    I have no option but to address it in that light.

    The first proper question, then, is: is there an IS that can ground OUGHT?

    If one is standing on a worldview that has no basis for ought — in the teeth of the issue that some of these same are among those shouting loudest for “rights,” the question then is, whether we are looking at simply the sort of manipulative and abusive factionalism Plato warned of. If for instance, evolutionary materialism is true then rights are simply emotional manipulation that produces whatever balance of power at a given time.

    As a descendant of slaves and as one from a country that had a small scale civil war over issues related to marxist agendas, that is a big red warning flag about evolutionary materialism and fellow traveller agendas or ideologies wearing lab coats and claiming the “right” to determine all serious matters.

    If rights are real, ought is real.

    And ought is only credibly rooted in the good Creator and God who would have made us — by whatever means he deemed suitable — in his image and set us under moral government.

    In which case, our sexuality would have a creational purpose. One that seems fairly obvious. if particular patterns of sexual conduct such as pornography and many other popular pastimes in our day cut across that purpose and wreak harm, then these would be objectively wrong, by the test in the Categorical Imperative: what would happen if a particular behaviour is universalised?

    (Morally unsound behaviours cannot be universalised, but must parasite off the fact that MOST people will not generally behave like that. The classic example of this is lying, say on checques, i.e. writing rubber checques. Having had ex-perience of a society where such became fairly common, the result was that the system of checques collapsed as a trustworthy instrument. And if lying more generally were universalised, communication would break down and society would break down, leading to chaos and destruction.)

    So, I think the answer to your question is to return it to you with that context of the CI, and ask you to let us know what would happen if this pattern of behaviour became the norm in society?

    The answer is fairly obvious as the experiment has been apparently tried at least once, and the attempt to redefine the institution of marriage and some recent court cases are fairly suggestive of likely consequences over the next several decades in our civilisation. (And BTW, notice, I am emphasising that it is behaviour that would be sinful if anything; certainly, some of the most saintly people I know have struggled with homosexual temptations from time to time. And I deeply respected a prof who was that way inclined and was in fact murdered by one of his young lovers. Similarly, a colleague and friend of that inclination, sadly, suicided.)

    Now, I have given you a reasonable answer, and I will ask the moderators to ensure that this thread is not threadjacked on a distractive and polarising side issue.

    The issue that needs to be addressed is in the original post:

    On evolutionary materialist premises, how do we ground ought? And, what is the consequence of the evident, inherent amorality of same?

    Notice, I am personally dealing with some of those consequences, which you have manged to neatly side-step, as though a mafioso-style threat against my family is of no concern to you and those you speak for.

    That, too, tells me volumes.

    Good day

    GEM of TKI

    F/N: A reference that will help give a broader understanding, pay particular attention to the case of the Sambia of new Guinea.

  7. 7

    According to this “objective morality” that you know exists, are homosexuals immoral? It’s a yes or no answer.

    By putting quotes around “objective morality”, would it be safe to assume you do not believe that there is such a thing? And by “it’s a yes or no answer”, would it be safe to assume indignation on your part if KF believes it to be wrong?

  8. Can someone explain to me how Darwinism has not selected against homosexuality?

    Does anyone doubt that there is a Darwinian explanation for homosexuality?

    Likewise if there were no homosexuality, does anyone doubt this would be predicted by Darwinian theory?

  9. Gentlemen:

    The question above is an intentional distractor, a red herring to be led off to the proverbial ad hominem laced strawman and ignited here or elsewhere with incendiary rhetoric.

    (I suspect, to produce the perceived “justification” for what has been done to my family. It is also at minimum, a tad suggestive on the likely profile of responsible parties or their associates. We already know that some associates hotly object to The Pink Cross Foundation’s expose of the destructive nature of porn, by former porn “stars.” Cf one of the posts at my blog that so stirred their ire, here. We are talking about something that seems to be implicated as a factor in 58% of divorces, per the divorce lawyers, folks. Follow the link in the opening words there and let us see what the former porn “stars” have to say about their former “trade.”)

    However, let us retain focus on the primary issue here, per Plato’s warning, and Provine’s admission, and Hawthorne’s warning.

    Notice, again, there has been no cogent response on that main issue in the original post.

    GEM of TKI

  10. Yeah, I’m going to pipe in only to throw in some support for KF’s wish here. I’m just another commenter, but man, I see some many threads get derailed. I can respect the wish to stay on-topic.

    Also, my condolences regarding that threat, KF.

  11. 11

    KF,
    In some ways I was testing your commitment to was a paragraph in your OP

    The relevance of this comes out as soon as we consider the concept that we have rights; binding moral expectations that others should respect us as holding an innate, inalienable dignity.

    I don’t disagree.

    You noted that I had asked the wrong question. You helpfully supplied another. I’d like to ask another, if I may. You are under no obligation to respond!

    The text I quoted would have to apply to all, equally, would you not agree?

    So same sex marriage, for or against? I don’t have a problem with it myself and it makes sense against the text I quoted.

    I won’t respond on this thread again unless you ask me to KF.

  12. 12
    William J. Murray

    What I often run into is the problem of differentiating between “the good” and “morality”.

    Morality is a description of “the good”. Since “the good” is a fundamental commodity of sentient existence, it is described differently from culture to culture; but just because such descriptions vary, doesn’t mean they are not describing the same thing.

    Because descriptions change and vary, doesn’t mean that what is being described changes. That is the difference between a subjectively described thing, and thing being subjective in nature.

    So, there is no such thing as “objective morality”, because morality – the description of the thing – is necessarily subjective. What is necessarily objectively existent is “the good” that morality does its best to describe.

    In the same way that I do not need science or experts to describe “gravity” to me in order for me to walk or work effectively in the world and avoid dangerous activities, I don’t need priests or experts to describe “the good” to me. It is revealed first through self-evident statements about good and not-good, and from those guideposts one can reason towards both necessary moral statements, and contingent moral statements. One can even generate a general theory of morality from such sources, such as the categorical imperative or the golden rule.

    So, in the case of any questions about specific moral questions, one need not ask others for their opinion, but can ascertain the moral conclusion on their own.

    However, that requires that morality describes an actually existent “good”, from which such logical inferences can be drawn and meaningfully debated. If there is no objective “good”, then there is nothing that would establish “the golden rule” as a general theory of good, and “might makes right” as evil, other than personal preference.

    If morality is describing a subjective commodity, then there is no sense calling it “morality” other than just to emotionally manipulate others.

    At the end of the day, you either think torturing infants for fun is objectively wrong, or you don’t.

  13. Mr Roache:

    The answer to your second tangential question, again, is best worked out through your taking the steps in the answer already given.

    You will note as well a link on a closely connected question on implications for our civilisation, which I am sure you and your ilk have followed up at my blog.

    It is you and your ilk who seriously need to address foundational questions: is there an IS that can ground ought?

    If there is not, then “rights” talk boils down to political manipulative, emotional appeal rhetoric.

    I therefore take serious notice how you have again evaded the main issue — given your scare quotes on “objective morality” above –and have again set a loaded tangent.

    Onlookers, we can safely infer from this (i) the centrality of the issues raised in the original post for what is happening with our civilisation, and (ii) those who are promoting evolutionary materialist secularism have no cogent answer to it, for their view boils down to some species or other of “might makes ‘right.’”

    So, (iii) their best rhetorical tactic, as we are seeing, is to try to change the subject, to something likely to polarise and becloud.

    Let us note, and let us take heed to what we are seeing.

    GEM of TKI

  14. At the end of the day, you either think torturing infants for fun is objectively wrong, or you don’t.

    Well, if you’re doing it for fun, sure. But what about if it’s done for science?

  15. Well, if you’re doing it for fun, sure. But what about if it’s done for science?

    Oh great. Another case of primitive morality holding us back from medical and scientific breakthroughs. Just because some people can’t let go of their “you shouldn’t perform experiments on orphan infants, it’s immoral” superstitions.

  16. 16

    KF,

    You will note as well a link on a closely connected question on implications for our civilisation, which I am sure you and your ilk have followed up at my blog.

    So If summarize your position as “If homosexuals are allowed equal rights at work and home including the right to marry and be recognized as a couple for tax benefits etc that puts civilization at grave risk”

    Would that be about it?

    It seems to me that that the answer can be much simpler then yours.

    Are gays immoral by definition? No.

    Should gay people have the right to marry each other and have that right enshrined in law? Yes.

    the centrality of the issues raised in the original post for what is happening with our civilisation

    What seems to be happening is that gay people are getting equal rights.

    Are you a supporter of that or not?
    ________

    ONLOOKERS, MR ROACHE IS CLEARLY PLAYING THE TROLL. KINDLY, DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.

    Mr Roache, FYI:

    Three strikes and you are out.

    You were warned about poisonously loaded tangentiality twice and ignored it.

    There is no evidence that you even have a basis for asserting a “right” above and beyond Plato’s Cave emotional and political manipulations in pursuit of ruthless agendas.

    I am in no mood to put up with such manipulations.

    Good day

    Bydand

    GEM of TKI

    PS: If the thread derails, I will gavel discussion and request evaluation of posting privileges for offenders. Having had my family threatened mafioso style, I am in no mood to entertain the trifecta fallacy atmosphere poisoning distractive game.

    F/N: Useful research, and as already noted, pay particular attention to the case of the Melanesian vs the Greek vs the Modern Western patterns. Ch 1 is a good initial discussion.

  17. Can’t even feed a troll something to choke on?
    ________

    Regrettably, no; as they thrive on attention and prolonging the distraction at the expense of attending to a deadly serious issue. Contact me through my always linked, and I will consider a new post; spammers, I will be ruthless, it is your side that tripped the nuke threshold by threatening innocent people. I am even restraining myself from a truly hot expose link on radical agendas.

  18. Null:

    Point.

    The nazis acted for science, and a certain Mr Kinsey did a few things with infants for science too, as Dr Judy Reismann exposed.

    GEM of TKI

  19. Onlookers:

    I respond here in the selling thread, to an attempt to take the side-track attempts in this thread elsewhere at UD, calling that thread back to order as well.

    GEM of TKI

  20. F/N: Mr Roache persisted with loaded tangential comments in the teeth of warnings, and I have denoted his comment formerly above as spam. GEM of TKI