Is Desirism An Objective Moral Theory?

Luke Muehlhauser claims that desirism is an objective moral theory. I think it’s quite easy to demonstrate that this is an incoherent claim. Recall that Luke defines “objective moral value” thus:

…usually, the phrase “OBJECTIVE moral value” means something like “moral value grounded in something beyond the attitudes of a person or persons.” Right? If what you’re calling “moral value” is just based off somebody’s personal attitudes, that’s called SUBJECTIVE morality. [source]

Next, recall that in desirism, desires are the objects of evaluation, and that a desire is a “propositional attitude.”

Now, consider the following propositions:

A) Moral value based on personal attitudes is subjective morality;

B) Desires are the objects of evaluation in desirism;

C) Desires are propositional attitudes which vary from person to person;

D) Desirism is based off personal attitudes, hence, a subjective theory of morality.

It should be apparent that either A, B and/or C need emendations, else, D is a valid conclusion. I anticipate that Luke might respond by repeating the claim he made the first time I brought this to his attention:

…desire-based accounts of morality are not generally considered subjective when the desires being considered are all desires that exist. [Dr. Craig and Objective Morality]

What exactly does it mean to say “not generally considered subjective?” Is Luke alluding to a real-world consensus amongst the philosophical elite? Is that phrase supposed to carry some sort of weight or authority that I should assent to? Personally, I’m not concerned with what “people generally” or “philosophers generally” consider, about anything. I want to know – from Luke – how a system based on “somebody’s” attitudes is subjective, but a system based on “everybody’s” attitudes is objective.

Another rejoinder I’ve heard Luke use is the “desires of all sentient beings” distinction, but I still fail to see how this resolves the apparent contradiction. More, if a desire is a propositional attitude, is it accurate to say that all sentient creatures have desires? Further, if we answer that question in the affirmative, Lastly, what of the practical issues? Might we poll earthworms to see if we’re thwarting their desires? It seems to me that widening the scope to “all sentient creatures” simply complicates an already-complicated “theory” that proffers no numerical or technical explanation whatsoever [as an aside, desirism’s specific stance on non-human desires is hitherto unclear. Luke does appear to argue that desirism evaluates all desires that exist, which would include non-human desires – both lower animals – and any higher forms of intelligence should they exist].

At any rate, without a sound explanation for what appears to be an unavoidable conclusion, I’m going with the unavoidable conclusion: as delineated thus far, desirism cannot rightfully be called an objective theory by Luke’s current definition of objective moral value.

What do you think?

18 Comments

  1. TaiChi says:

    I think you’re right. Desirism does count as a subjective moral theory by Luke’s definition.

    On the other hand, I appreciate the kind of distinction Luke wants to make use of here: to call a theory of morality ‘subjective’ is to call its impartiality into question, and since impartiality seems to be an essential ingredient of any theory which would count as moral, to challenge its claim to being a theory of morality proper. Seen in this light, I think Desirism escapes the charge of being subjective – it is not partial to some subset of desires, but considers all desires – where God based morality may not – it only considers a very particular set of desires, those of God.

  2. cl says:

    Hey there.

    …to call a theory of morality ‘subjective’ is to call its impartiality into question,

    I agree.

    Seen in this light, I think Desirism escapes the charge of being subjective – it is not partial to some subset of desires, but considers all desires – where God based morality may not – it only considers a very particular set of desires, those of God.

    I disagree, on a few grounds:

    1) Desirist moral prescriptions are most certainly partial to a subset of desires: the desires that “people generally” have reason to promote. It is true that in theory, desirism advocates the theoretical evaluation of all desires that exist, but to date, this is a practical impossibility that even Alonzo agrees ought to be reserved for Archangel mode [cf. Practical Morality, CSA]. In practice, we get a “shooting from the hip” theory of morality that does not actually consider all desires that exist, and our definition of moral good is forever dependent on what fulfills the desires of “people generally.” Hence, at least as Alonzo practices it, desirism is partial to the desires of the majority. In fact “people generally” is just a euphemism for “most people,” and anyone who denies that the word majority is an accurate synonym for “most people” has a hard case to make.

    2) The DCT that I argue flows logically from scripture and not only considers all desires that exist, but also features the means to actually do so [an omniscient God]. This would meet the criteria of impartiality that you just laid out and I agreed with. IOW, God couldn’t ever approve of lying if somehow lying tended to fulfill other desires. Are you still sympathetic to Cartesian’s example? If so, then it’s easy to see how desirism can get things backwards precisely because of its partiality to “people generally.” In the same way we can choose to disregard God’s objective laws of physics and jump off a building, we can also choose to disregard God’s objective moral standards and live however we see fit. We can do either to our own peril, but this fact doesn’t preclude the objectivity of either. Such a morality would be fixed upon perfect knowledge of moral facts, and to me that’s just as objective as physics.

    There is a type of “God-based morality” that can be rightfully called subjective or partial to God’s arbitrary desires, and that’s the “based on God’s arbitrary attitudes morality” that Luke mistakenly attributes to WLC. You, myself and Luke all seem to agree that that DCT is subjective. However, that DCT isn’t the contender here.

    So, to summarize: even given your different angle on the distinction, desirism is still subjective because it is partial to the desires of “people generally.”

  3. TaiChi says:

    Desirist moral prescriptions are most certainly partial to a subset of desires: the desires that “people generally” have reason to promote.

    Partial in the sense that Desirism prefers or values these desires over other desires, yes. Partial in the sense that it unwarrantedly ignores all other desires, no – the unfavored desires are still considered in determining which desires are to be favored over others.

    In practice, we get a “shooting from the hip” theory of morality that does not actually consider all desires that exist, and our definition of moral good is forever dependent on what fulfills the desires of “people generally.” Hence, at least as Alonzo practices it, desirism is partial to the desires of the majority.

    It may be that Alonzo’s application of the theory is partial, but this does not mean that the theory itself is partial. If Alonzo’s reading off of moral facts from the desires of the majority is worthy of criticism, then it is Alonzo who should be criticized, and not the theory.

    The DCT that I argue flows logically from scripture and not only considers all desires that exist, but also features the means to actually do so [an omniscient God].

    So, I take it that you find ordinary Desirism partial because we lack the means to accurately apply it (by contrast, your DCT can be accurately applied and so avoids this criticism). But again, this may make the application of the theory by a particular individual partial without thereby making the theory itself partial. What a theory is and what we do with it are two different things.

    This would meet the criteria of impartiality that you just laid out and I agreed with.

    I think your DCT would, but then I don’t think your DCT is really a divine command theory – you don’t think God’s commanding X makes X a true moral prescription, instead you think that because x is a true moral prescription, God commands it. Luke’s criticism still aplies to genuine divine command theories.

    Are you still sympathetic to Cartesian’s example? If so, then it’s easy to see how desirism can get things backwards precisely because of its partiality to “people generally.”

    In Cartesian’s example, we still considered all the desires that existed, it just so happened that the desires which existed were, by and large, morally objectionable. So the problem wasn’t that Desirism was partial, it was instead that the whole idea of basing a moral theory off desires would be wrong-headed. (And yes, I still consider this to be a problem).

    There is a type of “God-based morality” that can be rightfully called subjective or partial to God’s arbitrary desires, and that’s the “based on God’s arbitrary attitudes morality” that Luke mistakenly attributes to WLC. You, myself and Luke all seem to agree that that DCT is subjective. However, that DCT isn’t the contender here.

    The emphasis on arbitrariness is (or should be) hyperbole: saying that God could’ve made child-rape morally permissible is a rhetorically effective way of emphasizing that a moral theory grounded in the judgments of a person fails to guarantee that the theory will have the right sort of content for a moral theory. One might say instead, not that God’s attitudes could have differed, but that we might have been wrong all along about what God’s attitudes were. And then what? Should we accept, if we somehow find that God commands child-rape, that child-rape is morally permissible? If not, then it appears moral value is not dependent upon God after all, and so God-based moralities are false.
    Again, I don’t take this to be a criticism of your view, because I don’t consider your view to be a divine command theory. I agree with you that this sort of criticism doesn’t touch your theory, while agreeing with Luke that DCT theories are subjective in the sense of being unacceptably partial.

  4. cl says:

    Partial in the sense that it unwarrantedly ignores all other desires, no

    Neither does the DCT I argue unwarrantedly ignore all other desires. It takes into account the effects of one on the other – and that with a level of perfection that desirism seems unlikely to ever come close to duplicating.

    the unfavored desires are still considered in determining which desires are to be favored over others.

    Again, the DCT I argue also considers the unfavored desires. Upon consideration of them, and their effects on other desires, and their correspondence with God’s perfect, non-contingent standard – they are prescribed thus.

    It may be that Alonzo’s application of the theory is partial, but this does not mean that the theory itself is partial.

    Desirism is partial in the sense we just agreed upon, and at least for me, the larger question is whether or not it is still subjective given the distinction you parsed out in your opening comment. That desirism is “not partial” in the sense that it “considers all desires that exist” does not entail that desirism is “not subjective.” Desirism considers all desires that exist, and desirism is partial to the desires “people generally” believe there is reason to promote. That set of desires – the desires that “people generally” have reason to promote – can accurately be referred to as, “the desires of most people,” or even, “the desires of the majority.” We agree that desirism is subjective given Luke’s definition, but I still deny that desirism can escape the charge given your distinction.

    If Alonzo’s reading off of moral facts from the desires of the majority is worthy of criticism, then it is Alonzo who should be criticized, and not the theory.

    I do criticize Alonzo. He doesn’t take it seriously. Both Alonzo and the theory deserve criticism, and I criticize both.

    So, I take it that you find ordinary Desirism partial because we lack the means to accurately apply it (by contrast, your DCT can be accurately applied and so avoids this criticism).

    No. I find desirism impractical because we lack the means to accurately apply it. I find it partial because it is forever biased towards the desires of “people generally.” I find it subjective because it is grounded in attitudes.

    What a theory is and what we do with it are two different things.

    Agreed. If you’d care to elaborate a bit more on the sentence you typed directly before that, I’m interested. The theory itself remains partial in the sense of “subservient to the desires of people generally.” That it also “considers all desires that exist” doesn’t nullify that partiality.

    I think your DCT would, but then I don’t think your DCT is really a divine command theory – you don’t think God’s commanding X makes X a true moral prescription, instead you think that because x is a true moral prescription, God commands it. Luke’s criticism still aplies to genuine divine command theories.

    That’s an issue of semantics. I respect no “official definition” of DCT as the “arbitrary attitude” version. I don’t know what a “genuine” DCT theory is, but Luke’s criticism does still apply to one type of DCT: the “arbitrary attitude” one that neither WLC nor myself endorse.

    In Cartesian’s example, we still considered all the desires that existed, it just so happened that the desires which existed were, by and large, morally objectionable.

    YES, that’s exactly what I’ve been getting at all along. Evil desires will tend to fulfill other desires if the “other desires” are primarily evil to begin with. Now, consider my DCT: like desirism, it too would have “considered all desires that exist,” then weighed them against God’s perfect standard, thus providing an objective way to veto Congress, so to speak. With my DCT, when “people generally” go wrong, there is an anchor that can restore them if fastened to. With desirism, when “people generally” go wrong, then what? Isn’t that’s what’s happened? Didn’t “people generally” have reason to wantonly promote the advancements of the industrial revolution for the past 150 years? We had no way of knowing then that what we thought would tend to fulfill other desires would actually end up thwarting many and stronger desires.

    So the problem wasn’t that Desirism was partial, it was instead that the whole idea of basing a moral theory off desires would be wrong-headed. (And yes, I still consider this to be a problem).

    With the exception that I do think desirism’s partiality was a problem in Cartesian’s example, otherwise, we’re 100% in agreement there, still.

    Again, I don’t take this to be a criticism of your view, because I don’t consider your view to be a divine command theory. I agree with you that this sort of criticism doesn’t touch your theory, while agreeing with Luke that DCT theories are subjective in the sense of being unacceptably partial.

    Well like I said, that’s semantics. Call mine divine morality theory or something else then. At the end of the day, it is still a theory in which God’s commands are our ultimate parameters of morality. You can agree with Luke that my ideas aren’t “genuine DCT,” but you can’t agree with Luke that he accurately represented WLC’s views in the CSU talk.

    All I’m concerned with is that, 1) my ideas are objective as you and I agreed; 2) desirism is subjective by Luke’s definition as you and I agreed; and 3) WLC doesn’t argue the ideas Luke attributed to him.

    I respect that you think desirism can escape the subjective charge given the aforementioned distinction, but I disagree for the reasons above. That desirism is not partial in the “considers all desires that exist” sense does not entail that desirism isn’t subjective, because it remains “subservient to the aggregate of desires,” and that seems like genuine subjectivity to me.

    But I’m glad to hear your input. FWIW, if you haven’t seen it, bossmanham and woodchuck64 had a similar conversation here.

  5. TaiChi says:

    Neither does the DCT I argue unwarrantedly ignore all other desires. It takes into account the effects of one on the other..

    I’m happy to allow that for both your DCT and Desirism. Above, you’ll find that I haven’t criticized your view – the most I’ve said is that it is not a divine command theory, which is not a substantial criticism.

    That desirism is “not partial” in the sense that it “considers all desires that exist” does not entail that desirism is “not subjective.” Desirism considers all desires that exist, and desirism is partial to the desires “people generally” believe there is reason to promote.

    Well, here I think you’re stretching the a word to cover a criticism: Desirism is no more partial than is democracy. But criticism here is fair, I agree: democracy sometimes gets it wrong when the people are wrong, and the same seems true of Desirism.

    Agreed. If you’d care to elaborate a bit more on the sentence you typed directly before that, I’m interested.

    I just meant to point out that the truth of a theory is not to be judged by the doings of its adherents.

    That’s an issue of semantics. I respect no “official definition” of DCT as the “arbitrary attitude” version.

    Neither Luke or I appeal to an “official definition”, for there is no such thing. Instead, there are moral theories which resemble each other in taking divine attitudes as truthmakers for moral propositions, and these theories have come to be known as divine-command theories. We refer to a tradition against which your theory looks significantly different.

    I don’t know what a “genuine” DCT theory is, but Luke’s criticism does still apply to one type of DCT: the “arbitrary attitude” one that neither WLC nor myself endorse.

    If I have him right, Luke’s criticism still applies to WLC. Craig locates the truthmakers for moral propositions in the nature of God, which suffers the same problem as I pointed to before: that we have no guarantee that God’s nature would found a theory we would recognize as moral. It does not apply to your theory, because you do not seem to take God’s nature as truthmaking of moral propositions. That’s to the credit of your position, and to the detriment of Craig’s.

    YES, that’s exactly what I’ve been getting at all along. Evil desires will tend to fulfill other desires if the “other desires” are primarily evil to begin with. Now, consider my DCT: like desirism, it too would have “considered all desires that exist,” then weighed them against God’s perfect standard, thus providing an objective way to veto Congress, so to speak.

    I can see the practical advantage you claim for your theory, but I can’t see any more reason to think it is true. A supercomputer allows us to apply a physical theory with precision, but it does not make that theory any more accurate for that. Similarly, a divine authority on matters moral may make our choices easy, but it cannot increase the accuracy of the theory which the divine authority uses in coming to its advice.
    Still, it might be a fair criticism of Luke and Alonzo, since they abet your kind of worry. It bothers me that they both stress the practicality of the theory, and are happy to mix alethic and pragmatic justification in their discussions of Desirism. For myself, I don’t think a Desirist needs to show that their theory is practical in order to show that it is true, but perhaps Luke and Alonzo think otherwise.

  6. tmp says:

    Actually, I believe that Alonzo dropped the concept of “moral good” at the same time that he changed the name of the theory from “desire utilitarianism” to “desirism”. He commented that he initially thought that desire fullfillment could function like intrinsic value, but later dropped the idea, and this definition of “moral good” is closely tied to that.

    Also, the fact that “people generally” desire something, does not make it “right”, it makes it a point of interest where you can, if you are so inclined, make a prescription that is both practical and useful to a lot of people. Albeit slightly wrong, beacause “people in general” is not “a person in particular”.

    In addition, the desirist definition of morality does not seem to include concepts like right or wrong. It’s moral realism in a sense that desirist morality deals with existing real world entities. It is not “moral realism” in a sense that it claims that the concepts included in commonly used definition of morality exist for real.

    It’s also objective in a sense that desires(or something analogous) are likely to exist for real. Then, we find what “people in general” desire, and make a (hypothetical) prescription based on that. But we do not make a (subjective) value judgement whether or not what “people in general” desire is “good”. On the other hand, defining “morality” without any real world entity as a guide(unlike, say, the theory of gravity) is an inherently subjective act, but the end result can still be objective by strict definition. Also note that the order in which these prescriptions are made is likely to stem from the subjective values of the person making these prescriptions. A serial killer could conceivably make practical prescriptions for serial killers.

    So in conclusion, desirism seems to state the blindingly obvious in a complicated way(having a good formalism could make it complicated but useful), and deals with a system so complex and chaotic, that any prescriptions that it can currently make will regress to the intuition of the one making the prescription. But it is technically objective and it is technically a moral theory. Of course, I may have completely misundertood. :)

    Oh, and your DCT has the whopper of a problem, that it only works if you believe that this exact god is real.

  7. cl says:

    Actually, I believe that Alonzo dropped the concept of “moral good” at the same time that he changed the name of the theory from “desire utilitarianism” to “desirism”.

    Other people changed the name, not Alonzo – I believe it was faithlessgod who actually came up with desirism – and Alonzo still touts this thing as a moral theory, so, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

    It’s moral realism in a sense that desirist morality deals with existing real world entities. It is not “moral realism” in a sense that it claims that the concepts included in commonly used definition of morality exist for real. It’s also objective in a sense that desires(or something analogous) are likely to exist for real.

    So, if I make up a theory called “lollypopism,” then, is my theory also “objective” and does it also count as “realism” because it refers to things that actually exist?

    But we do not make a (subjective) value judgement whether or not what “people in general” desire is “good”.

    Correct: the desirist makes a subjective value judgment about who to condemn as morally evil, and that’s anyone who doesn’t have desires that fulfill the desires of “people generally.” That’s a subjective theory.

    On the other hand, defining “morality” without any real world entity as a guide(unlike, say, the theory of gravity) is an inherently subjective act,

    I agree.

    …but the end result can still be objective by strict definition.

    I disagree. The only sense in which desirism offers anything “objective” is this: we have objects [people] who have desires. That does not make the theory objective in the sense that gravity is objective.

    …any prescriptions that it can currently make will regress to the intuition of the one making the prescription.

    I agree. This is exactly what we see when Alonzo goes on his judgment kicks.

    …it is technically objective and it is technically a moral theory.

    No, it’s not. It’s irrevocably subjective because it is anchored to attitudes, and it is not a moral theory by most people’s definition of the word moral theory.

    …your DCT has the whopper of a problem, that it only works if you believe that this exact god is real.

    Nonsense. It works if it’s true and fails if it’s false, regardless of what I believe.

  8. tmp says:

    “So, if I make up a theory called ‘lollypopism,’ then, is my theory also ‘objective’ and does it also count as ‘realism’ because it refers to things that actually exist?”

    If it does not make value judgements, and you are satisfied with being ‘realism’ only by strictest of definitions, YES. Moral realism, by definition, refers only to nature of ethical sentences(I was initially wrong about this). If you define “ethical sentence” narrowly enough, then you can trivially get moral realism. It no longer really MEANS anything, but it fits the definition.

    “Correct: the desirist makes a subjective value judgment about who to condemn as morally evil”

    Yes. Desirist-the-invidual, NOT desirism-the-theory.

    “and that’s anyone who doesn’t have desires that fulfill the desires of ‘people generally.'”

    Actually, for any invidual agent that would be anyone who does not have desires that fulfill the desires of that agent in particular. If you are a raving sociopath, then of course prescriptions made for an average agents do not apply to you.

    “That’s a subjective theory.”

    Not really. It’s a theory that says very little(like desirist moral realism is moral realism in name only). An agent has desires, and acts on them. The hypothetical average agent(people in general) has these desires, and the best way to go about realizing them is this(hypothetical prescription). No value judgements have been made, and the prescription can be shown to be objectively false(in regards to desires of that hypothetical average agent). There is, of course, a value judgement made in the fact that Alonzo does not make prescriptions about how to best go about pederasty, but that is outside the scope of desirism.

    “No, it’s not. It’s irrevocably subjective because it is anchored to attitudes, and it is not a moral theory by most people’s definition of the word moral theory.”

    *Shrug* If error theory can be called a moral theory, I don’t see the problem with calling Desirism a moral theory. I agree that it’s not a moral theory by most people’s definition, more like a mixture of psychology and sociology, but if a moral theory can be allowed to make statements about nature of morality, I don’t see why Desirism wouldn’t qualify. And you can deal with other people’s subjective matters objectively. For example, you can make a thousand people to fill a questionnaire and objectively tabulate the result. Now, if your result says 5% of people answer yes to “I like torturing kittens”, and you claim that those 5% are evil, THEN you are being subjective. The actual statistics are objective, your conclusions are not.

    “No, it’s not. It’s irrevocably subjective because it is anchored to attitudes,”

    This does not in itself make it subjective. I could objectively say that someone has attitude A, if I has some way of measuring it. Now, if I said that having this attitude is a good thing, then I would be subjective.

    “not a moral theory by most people’s definition of the word moral theory”

    Well, yes, but I have came under the impression that most people’s definition is wrong. Otherwise, we agree.

    “Nonsense. It works if it’s true and fails if it’s false, regardless of what I believe.”

    Yes, but it’s not very PRACTICAL if nobody believes it to be true and act on it. A bit like math; you have core axioms, and then you can show how everything follows. God(and a God with this exact set of traits at that) is pretty big axiom, and needs to be shown true before anything can follow.(Objective morality is pretty big in itself, but I understood that you have predicated this on God). You believe; it makes sense(I can follow your argument, I think). You don’t; and there can hardly even be a meaningful discussion. And it might be easier to get people to believe a smaller axiom.

  9. cl says:

    TaiChi,

    Above, you’ll find that I haven’t criticized your view – the most I’ve said is that it is not a divine command theory, which is not a substantial criticism.

    I agree. I find such claims more like semantic distractions than actual criticisms. To be honest, this has really gotten to me. It’s this constant “redefining” that obfuscates truth here. After all, if there is no “official definition” of DCT, I don’t see how you or Luke can say that “my DCT” actually isn’t DCT – but it sure is frustrating that you do. I’m not saying anything about anyone’s motives, I’m just saying that shooting at a moving target tires.

    Well, here I think you’re stretching the a word to cover a criticism: Desirism is no more partial than is democracy.

    I agree that desirism is no more partial than democracy, and I agree that both “get it wrong” at times. What word do you allege that I stretch, and what criticism do you allege that I stretch said word to cover? My concern is not over desirism’s partiality. It is over desirism’s subjectivity. You say the fact that desirism considers all desires that exist allows to escape the subjectivity charge. I don’t see a compelling argument or evidence to accept that. Can you make that case a bit more forcefully for me?

    I just meant to point out that the truth of a theory is not to be judged by the doings of its adherents.

    I agree, and I sincerely hope you believe that I know better. However, when a theory’s inventor has such obvious problems coherently defending the theory, I do believe that is grounds to question the veracity of the theory – not grounds to affirm or reject the theory, of course – but grounds to question its veracity. This is par for the course in real science.

    Neither Luke or I appeal to an “official definition”, for there is no such thing.

    I agree there is no such thing, yet, when you both come with criticisms like, “That’s not DCT,” you both seem to imply that there is some official definition I ought to assent to in order to call my ideas DCT. That’s the frustrating part; not so much with you, but Luke, who actually uses such semantics as rejoinders.

    …there are moral theories which resemble each other in taking divine attitudes as truthmakers for moral propositions, and these theories have come to be known as divine-command theories. We refer to a tradition against which your theory looks significantly different.

    How so? The only difference I see that “my DCT” rests on God’s non-contingent attitudes that correspond to facts, whereas “Luke’s DCT” rests on God’s arbitrary attitudes that correspond to whims. At the end of the day, any divine commands issued still stem from attitudes, do they not?

    If I have him right, Luke’s criticism still applies to WLC.

    Then, I don’t think you have him right. I’m willing to bet you any amount of money that if you asked WLC, “So, if God says ‘rape is good’ then is rape good? Is that what you believe?” — WLC will deny that Luke’s criticism applies. But hell, maybe I’ve got it wrong.

    It does not apply to your theory, because you do not seem to take God’s nature as truthmaking of moral propositions. That’s to the credit of your position, and to the detriment of Craig’s.

    AFAICS, my DCT is Craig’s. However, it is not the “arbitrary attitude” DCT Luke misattributes to Craig. When I say something like,

    …any decree issue by such a God is necessarily grounded in an empirical, mathematical evaluation of the moral calculus [inviolably executed via God’s omnipotence; correctly determined via God’s omniscience; benevolently motivated via God’s omnibenevelonce, and eternally stable via God’s incorruptibility].

    …the entire calculus is predicated upon God’s nature, don’t you think? If not, what’s the difference?

    Similarly, a divine authority on matters moral may make our choices easy, but it cannot increase the accuracy of the theory which the divine authority uses in coming to its advice.

    How can the accuracy of a theory promulgated by an omniscient God possibly be increased?

    It bothers me that they both stress the practicality of the theory, and are happy to mix alethic and pragmatic justification in their discussions of Desirism.

    That bothers me, too. The interesting question is, “Why does that bother me?” To be honest, I don’t know, but I tend to think that if they didn’t tout their “theory” as confidently as they do, and that if Alonzo refrained from using it to condemn whoever doesn’t share his own values – I would hardly care at all.

  10. TaiChi says:

    I agree. I find such claims more like semantic distractions than actual criticisms. To be honest, this has really gotten to me. It’s this constant “redefining” that obfuscates truth here. After all, if there is no “official definition” of DCT, I don’t see how you or Luke can say that “my DCT” actually isn’t DCT – but it sure is frustrating that you do. I’m not saying anything about anyone’s motives, I’m just saying that shooting at a moving target tires.

    lol :D You don’t see the irony in saying that these issues are “semantic distractions”, but wanting to persist in calling your theory a “divine command theory”? If it’s a semantic distraction, why not give in to the terminology being forced upon you?
    But, ok, if semantics is an issue after all, let’s at least do this properly. Here is the definition given in my introductory ethics book:

    Those who claim that God’s commands take precedence over reason-based morality fall into two distinct groups. On the one hand, there are those (divine command theorists) who maintain that there is no real conflict between God’s commands and genuine morality because whatever God commands is what is right simply because God commands it. In other words, the only reason something is right is that God commands it. Conversely, the only reason that something is wrong is that God forbids it. Thus, those in this tradition claim that there can never be a genuine conflict between religion and ethics because ethics just is what God commands. A corollary of this is that if God does not exist, then neither does ethics. This is the sense of Dostoyevsky’s dictum, “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted.” ~ Hinman, Ethics”

    I think that’s fairly unequivocal. And I think your theory doesn’t fall under this description – you think that things are right or wrong independently of God, though you think God has a special role to play in informing us of the moral status of our actions.

    I agree that desirism is no more partial than democracy, and I agree that both “get it wrong” at times. What word do you allege that I stretch, and what criticism do you allege that I stretch said word to cover? My concern is not over desirism’s partiality. It is over desirism’s subjectivity. You say the fact that desirism considers all desires that exist allows to escape the subjectivity charge. I don’t see a compelling argument or evidence to accept that.

    Well, Desirism is either partial or it isn’t. If you’re happy to say it isn’t, but want to insist that it’s still subjective, then fine. But now I don’t know why a theory’s being subjective counts as a criticism of that theory, and so I don’t know why it’s important that we agree that Desirism is subjective. Is there something bad about a theory’s being subjective, quite apart from it’s being partial?

    How so? The only difference I see that “my DCT” rests on God’s non-contingent attitudes that correspond to facts, whereas “Luke’s DCT” rests on God’s arbitrary attitudes that correspond to whims. At the end of the day, any divine commands issued still stem from attitudes, do they not?

    Sure they do. But you have God finding out some matter of fact, formulating an attitude on the basis of that fact, and then issuing a command in accordance with both attitude and fact. In other words, something other than God serves as truthmakers or grounds for moral facts in your view. Divine command theorists reject that – instead, they identify moral facts with God’s attitudes.

    Then, I don’t think you have him right. I’m willing to bet you any amount of money that if you asked WLC, “So, if God says ‘rape is good’ then is rape good? Is that what you believe?” — WLC will deny that Luke’s criticism applies. But hell, maybe I’ve got it wrong.

    Sure, Craig would say that. But then Craig wants to have it both ways: he’d both like to say that God’s attitudes determine moral truth, and also say that the content of a theory determined in this way would be recognizably moral, as God is wholly good. The problem is that the first claim here isn’t fixed until we know what God is like, and thus the second claim, that God is wholly good, can have no content independent of it. If so, we have no guarantee that a DCT is going to look like a moral theory.
    This is pretty easy to see if we just mock up an example to suit. Let’s say that we discover God does approve of child-rape. According to DCT child-rape is good. God’s also approves of his approval of child-rape, and approves of his other attitudes generally. Hence, by DCT, God too is good. Finally, God is necessary, so his approval of child-rape is not arbitrary but an essential characteristic of his nature.

    …the entire [moral] calculus is predicated upon God’s nature, don’t you think? If not, what’s the difference?

    The difference is in what’s making what true. You base the epistemology of morality off of God’s nature, whereas WLC bases both the ontology and epistemology of morality on God’s nature.

    How can the accuracy of a theory promulgated by an omniscient God possibly be increased?

    How can a theory suddenly become accurate, simply because an omniscient God employs it? It doesn’t. In fact, what God does has no bearing on the accuracy of the theory, which is why I don’t think your theory is any more likely to be true than a godless Desirism.

  11. cl says:

    lol :D You don’t see the irony in saying that these issues are “semantic distractions”, but wanting to persist in calling your theory a “divine command theory”? If it’s a semantic distraction, why not give in to the terminology being forced upon you?

    I did! I said, “Call mine divine morality theory or something else then. At the end of the day, it is still a theory in which God’s commands are our ultimate parameters of morality.” I really don’t care what it’s called.

    I think that’s fairly unequivocal. And I think your theory doesn’t fall under this description – you think that things are right or wrong independently of God,

    That’s just it: I don’t think that. Let me see if this helps: I agree that the definition you provided is unequivocal. I agree – barely – that “my” theory doesn’t fall under the description. [I put scare quotes because I lay no claim to originality though I’ve not heard it argued this way before]. It actually meets the description to a tee except for the myopic scope of the reasoning: “because God commands it.” That’s the only difference between your definition and what I’m talking about. Also, I can just as easily note that IEP defines DCT thus: “Roughly, Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is somehow dependent upon God, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands.” Of course, my ideas meet that definition to a tee. Ah, the pains of language, right?

    I’m more than willing to stop talking about definitions anytime. I remain unconvinced that desirism can escape the subjective charge in the manner you described. I still don’t see that.

    Well, Desirism is either partial or it isn’t. If you’re happy to say it isn’t, but want to insist that it’s still subjective, then fine.

    Well hold on, hold on — we’re using “partial” in two different senses here. Remember, I said I thought desirism was partial in the sense of subservient to the desires of people generally, but also impartial in the sense that all desires are considered. It’s not that I want to insist it’s subjective; it’s that it is subjective. We agreed it was “by Luke’s definition,” and I’m still waiting to be sold on your claim that it can avoid the charge in the manner you described.

    But now I don’t know why a theory’s being subjective counts as a criticism of that theory,

    Because Luke and Alonzo tout it as an objective theory.

    …so I don’t know why it’s important that we agree that Desirism is subjective.

    It’s not important. I find it a little reassuring, as in, “Okay, so maybe I’m not totally crazy,” but that’s about it. I do wonder why it’s marketed as an objective theory, though.

    Is there something bad about a theory’s being subjective, quite apart from it’s being partial?

    I don’t think either are conducive to an objective theory of morality, no. I don’t have an opinion on whether that’s “bad” or not.

    But you have God finding out some matter of fact, formulating an attitude on the basis of that fact, and then issuing a command in accordance with both attitude and fact.

    No no, see, that’s just it. That’s what I was saying a few paragraphs earlier: God doesn’t “find out” some fact that exists unrelated to God. God is both author and arbiter of moral facts. The only correct part in that sentence was, “in accordance with both attitude and fact.”

    In other words, something other than God serves as truthmakers or grounds for moral facts in your view.

    No. In my idea, God is the truthmaker, plain and simple. The truths that flow from God would not and cannot exist independently from God, and God is in a very literal sense bound to them. Of course, we can have a discussion about the import of that statement to the question of God’s sovereignty, but maybe another time.

    Sure, Craig would say that. But then Craig wants to have it both ways: he’d both like to say that God’s attitudes determine moral truth, and also say that the content of a theory determined in this way would be recognizably moral, as God is wholly good. The problem is that the first claim here isn’t fixed until we know what God is like, and thus the second claim, that God is wholly good, can have no content independent of it. If so, we have no guarantee that a DCT is going to look like a moral theory.
    This is pretty easy to see if we just mock up an example to suit. Let’s say that we discover God does approve of child-rape. According to DCT child-rape is good. God’s also approves of his approval of child-rape, and approves of his other attitudes generally. Hence, by DCT, God too is good. Finally, God is necessary, so his approval of child-rape is not arbitrary but an essential characteristic of his nature.

    No offense, but I honestly do not see what any of that was meant to accomplish. You’re still talking about the “arbitrary attitude” DCT. I’m talking about the “non-contingent attitude” DCT and Craig is on my side, I’m pretty sure. The minute you invoke a God that is not the God of the Bible the example loses relevance to what’s going on here, and I don’t see how Craig wants to have it both ways: the content of a theory determined by the non-contingent attitudes of the God of the Bible would be recognizably moral. I suspect it would also probably have some very anomalous spikes, too, and violate our intuitions from time to time. This is in fact what we find in the rest of creation.

    The difference is in what’s making what true. You base the epistemology of morality off of God’s nature, whereas WLC bases both the ontology and epistemology of morality on God’s nature.

    I’m pretty sure I cleared that up in the previous clarifications. Does what I said earlier clear this up? If not, I’ll try again.

    How can a theory suddenly become accurate, simply because an omniscient God employs it? It doesn’t. In fact, what God does has no bearing on the accuracy of the theory, which is why I don’t think your theory is any more likely to be true than a godless Desirism.

    Omniscient means “all-knowing.” A theory authored and employed by an all-knowing God would retain maximum accuracy at all times. Right? Or are you suggesting that an all-knowing God might forget or otherwise screw up part of the theory?

  12. TaiChi says:

    Well hold on, hold on — we’re using “partial” in two different senses here. Remember, I said I thought desirism was partial in the sense of subservient to the desires of people generally, but also impartial in the sense that all desires are considered. It’s not that I want to insist it’s subjective; it’s that it is subjective.

    I said Desirism is no more partial than democracy; I might as well have said that it’s no more subjective than democracy. I think you misname this criticism.

    We agreed it was “by Luke’s definition,” and I’m still waiting to be sold on your claim that it can avoid the charge in the manner you described.

    I don’t know why. I agree with you that Cartesian’s example is a challenge to Desirism, and the problem it raises seems to be the same as what you are calling the ‘charge of subjectivity’. If you mean something beyond that, you’ll have to tell me what it is.

    I don’t think either are conducive to an objective theory of morality, no. I don’t have an opinion on whether that’s “bad” or not.

    OK, then – it’s not important that we agree on this. So, I’ll say no more on it.

    No no, see, that’s just it. That’s what I was saying a few paragraphs earlier: God doesn’t “find out” some fact that exists unrelated to God. God is both author and arbiter of moral facts. The only correct part in that sentence was, “in accordance with both attitude and fact… No. In my idea, God is the truthmaker, plain and simple. The truths that flow from God would not and cannot exist independently from God, and God is in a very literal sense bound to them. Of course, we can have a discussion about the import of that statement to the question of God’s sovereignty, but maybe another time.

    Then I was wrong about your position. But what, specifically, is serving as truthmaker for moral propositions here? You deny that it’s God’s commands, but what else do you mean it to be?

    No offense, but I honestly do not see what any of that was meant to accomplish. You’re still talking about the “arbitrary attitude” DCT. I’m talking about the “non-contingent attitude” DCT and Craig is on my side, I’m pretty sure.

    Not at all. I stated quite clearly that God’s approval of child-rape would be essential to him, so this is anything but an arbitrary attitude.

    The minute you invoke a God that is not the God of the Bible the example loses relevance to what’s going on here..

    Why? Is the bible infallible? If so, what argument do you care to give for that which doesn’t assume the existence of the God standardly conceived of? If not, then isn’t it possible that the picture presented in the Bible of God is a false one, and so possible that God is the repugnent approver of child-rape I described?

    ..and I don’t see how Craig wants to have it both ways: the content of a theory determined by the non-contingent attitudes of the God of the Bible would be recognizably moral.

    So, morality is determined by God’s nature in some way or other (I’m unclear on the details). God’s nature is known by way of the Bible. And we know the Bible accurately represents God because… because God is good and is therefore not a deceiver, perhaps? But that’s hopelessly circular, and so provides us with no assurance of the theory’s moral content. I don’t see what argument could work here.

    Omniscient means “all-knowing.” A theory authored and employed by an all-knowing God would retain maximum accuracy at all times. Right?

    If God employed Newtonian mechanics to predict the development of the physical universe over time, then God could use the theory perfectly, but still err in the conclusions he reaches with it. That’s because the theory itself is less than perfectly accurate.
    Well, that was my point, when I thought you had God finding out the moral facts and informing us of them. I’m not quite sure how God’s omniscience plays a role in your theory now. Perhaps you think that God bases moral truths on certain facts about the world, and that his omniscience guarantees that he has the facts right and reasons correctly on their basis. Is that it?

  13. cl says:

    I said Desirism is no more partial than democracy; I might as well have said that it’s no more subjective than democracy. I think you misname this criticism.

    Well, then you leave me no choice but to assume you’re not listening to what I’m saying: I am not concerned – at least not in this argument – that desirism is “subjective” [as in unfair or impartial]. I am concerned that desirism is “subjective” [as in “not grounded in anything but human attitudes”]. So, my criticism isn’t misnamed so much as misunderstood. Which leads to,

    “We agreed it was “by Luke’s definition,” and I’m still waiting to be sold on your claim that it can avoid the charge in the manner you described.” [cl]

    I don’t know why. I agree with you that Cartesian’s example is a challenge to Desirism, and the problem it raises seems to be the same as what you are calling the ‘charge of subjectivity’.

    Whoa, hold on here: although not verbatim, you’re the one who introduced the phrase “charge of subjectivity” into this. You said,

    On the other hand, I appreciate the kind of distinction Luke wants to make use of here: to call a theory of morality ‘subjective’ is to call its impartiality into question, and since impartiality seems to be an essential ingredient of any theory which would count as moral, to challenge its claim to being a theory of morality proper. Seen in this light, I think Desirism escapes the charge of being subjective

    But see, you’re talking about “subjective” [as in unfair or impartial] and I’m talking about “subjective” [as in not grounded to anything but attitudes]. Unless or until you see the difference, or unless you can show me that I’m actually misunderstanding you, we’ll just be talking past each other.

    But what, specifically, is serving as truthmaker for moral propositions here?

    I’m inclined to answer two ways:

    1) Truth is true, so it doesn’t really make sense to force a regress and/or require an explanation for why something is true;

    2) God is the author of the moral propositions here.

    I stated quite clearly that God’s approval of child-rape would be essential to him, so this is anything but an arbitrary attitude.

    Right, and so, the minute you do that, you’re talking about a “God” that I neither believe in nor argue. Nonetheless, I’d at least like to see what you’re trying to convey, so let’s back that exchange up. You said,

    Craig wants to have it both ways: he’d both like to say that God’s attitudes determine moral truth, and also say that the content of a theory determined in this way would be recognizably moral, as God is wholly good.

    And – disapproval of your persistent use of “attitudes” aside – I’m saying, “So?” Nothing in “God authoring moral truths according to God’s perfect nature” precludes our recognition of a theory as “moral.” If you want me to buy that, I need something that demonstrates the inconsistency of the two propositions:

    A) God’s non-contingent nature determines morality;

    B) a theory determined in this way would be recognizably moral, as God is wholly good.

    “The minute you invoke a God that is not the God of the Bible the example loses relevance to what’s going on here..” [cl]

    Why?

    For the same reason that criticizing “arbitrary attitude” DCT isn’t relevant to Craig. To make an analogy, you don’t hear me arguing against evolution by introducing hypothetical evolutionary trees in other universes, right? Let’s focus on – and see if we can find any problems with – “my” ideas about morality as derived from the Bible. I put “my” in square quotes because really, I’m not departing too far from tradition here.

    So, morality is determined by God’s nature in some way or other (I’m unclear on the details). God’s nature is known by way of the Bible. And we know the Bible accurately represents God because…

    In my approach, the Bible is one of many ways to experience God’s nature. Especially in the context of our discussion on morality, I believe the Bible accurately represents God because Jesus summed up the entire law into two commands, one of which is directly relevant here: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And – here comes the crucial distinction – I do not offer that chain of reasoning as an argument for why anybody else should accept my ideas about God and morality. So when you say,

    But that’s hopelessly circular, and so provides us with no assurance of the theory’s moral content. I don’t see what argument could work here.

    The thing with truth is that it leaves us a choice: we can submit to it, and accept it, and trust it — or not. What is assurance, and how might another entity “provide” it? What you call “assurance” I call “faith,” and it’s more of a choice than the product of an equation or science. It makes no sense for a less-than-omnipotent being to require assurance from an omniscient, all-powerful, good God. Think about it: you and I, less than omniscient beings, are confronted by an omniscient, all-powerful, good God on some moral issue. What could possibly assure us? Either God “really does” know what God is talking about, or not. If God “really is” the highest authority on everything, then who or what are going to appeal to in order to fact-check God?

    Nonetheless, the assurance – my assurance, at least – is in the overpowering correspondence between what the Bible says and how reality is. Do I expect that to suffice for an atheist? Of course not. However, I will say that for me, Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself is recognizable as moral. How about you? Do you recognize that command as moral?

    If God employed Newtonian mechanics to predict the development of the physical universe over time, then God could use the theory perfectly, but still err in the conclusions he reaches with it. That’s because the theory itself is less than perfectly accurate.

    I disagree, and counter that human apprehension of the theory is what’s less than perfectly accurate.

  14. TaiChi says:

    I am concerned that desirism is “subjective” [as in “not grounded in anything but human attitudes”]. So, my criticism isn’t misnamed so much as misunderstood.

    Democracy isn’t based on anything other than human attitudes either. It is not, for that, properly called subjective.

    Whoa, hold on here..

    You find it some big issue that I misattribute the origin of a phrase, when we’ve both been using it, and the phrase is apt? Fine: amend it to “..the problem it raises seems to be the same as your problem of subjectivity”.

    But see, you’re talking about “subjective” [as in unfair or impartial] and I’m talking about “subjective” [as in not grounded to anything but attitudes].

    I realize that.

    On Truthmakers:
    1) Truth is true, so it doesn’t really make sense to force a regress and/or require an explanation for why something is true

    A truthmaker isn’t an explanation. It is what it says on the label – it’s what makes a proposition true. For example, that an apple falls to the ground when released from a height is to be explained by the law of gravity, but what makes it true is simply the apple’s falling to the ground.

    2) God is the author of the moral propositions here.

    I find that utterly mysterious, and you still haven’t answered the question. An answer to the question would be of the form “A moral proposition is made true by ___”, where you fill in the gap. That’s what I’m looking for.

    On DCT, and a problem with it
    “Right, and so, the minute you [say that God’s approval of child-rape would be essential to him], you’re talking about a “God” that I neither believe in nor argue.”

    It doesn’t matter that you don’t believe in that God. What matters is that it is possible that that God exists, and thus possible that the true morality fails to be anything like what we would recognize as morality. But it’s absurd that propositions like “Child-rape is morally permissible” might be part of the true morality. And so it’s absurd that moral propositions depend upon the nature of God.

    And – disapproval of your persistent use of “attitudes” aside – I’m saying, “So?” Nothing in “God authoring moral truths according to God’s perfect nature” precludes our recognition of a theory as “moral.” If you want me to buy that, I need something that demonstrates the inconsistency of the two propositions:

    A) God’s non-contingent nature determines morality;

    B) a theory determined in this way would be recognizably moral, as God is wholly good.

    You’re mistaken. I’m not arguing that DCT is inconsistent, as the logical problem of evil argues for the inconsistency of God’s goodness, power and the fact of evil. I’m arguing that your position would allow absurdity. It might happen that God turns out to be the thoroughly upstanding guy of repute, and that therefore the true morality turns out just as we had expected. But, equally, it might not. For all we know, God might approve of child-rape. Given that this could go either way, it’s really not a satisfactory meta-ethics.

    For the same reason that criticizing “arbitrary attitude” DCT isn’t relevant to Craig. To make an analogy, you don’t hear me arguing against evolution by introducing hypothetical evolutionary trees in other universes, right?

    If you were concerned with saying what evolution is, and what counts as an instance of that process, then you might well do so. Since we are here concerned with giving a theory of morality, which says what moral propositions are and what would make them true, it’s entirely appropriate to consider these possibilities. That’s why Cartesian’s example can’t be swept aside with the remark that it is far-fetched or hypothetical.

    In my approach, the Bible is one of many ways to experience God’s nature. Especially in the context of our discussion on morality, I believe the Bible accurately represents God because Jesus summed up the entire law into two commands, one of which is directly relevant here: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. And – here comes the crucial distinction – I do not offer that chain of reasoning as an argument for why anybody else should accept my ideas about God and morality.

    So, the bible accurately represents God because Jesus espouses moral truth in it, and this matches your presumption that God is good.
    As I thought: you beg the question (or would, if you were confident enough of your own reasoning to give it as an argument), and you have no way to rationally argue against the possible God I portray. That leaves open the kind of absurdities I’ve pointed to.

    Nonetheless, the assurance – my assurance, at least – is in the overpowering correspondence between what the Bible says and how reality is. Do I expect that to suffice for an atheist? Of course not.

    Then you are wrong to consider yourself so assured. You shouldn’t have any confidence in reasoning that begs the question.

    However, I will say that for me, Jesus’ command to love your neighbor as yourself is recognizable as moral. How about you? Do you recognize that command as moral?

    It’s an attempt, one which fails. The prescription to love one’s neighbours as oneself is impossible, and at least since Kant, the impossibility of a prescription has been taken to falsify it.

    I disagree, and counter that human apprehension of the theory is what’s less than perfectly accurate.

    Omniscience is not the ability to render any theory an accurate description of that which it which it describes; instead, it is knowing which theories, and thus which descriptions, accurately describe reality.

  15. cl says:

    Democracy isn’t based on anything other than human attitudes either. It is not, for that, properly called subjective.

    Yeah, and democracy is not, for that, “properly called” an “objective” theory either, is it? Comparing desirism to democracy only goes to support my point. Luke and Alonzo tout this thing as an objective theory about things that actually exist in the real world. As such, I am within reason to “properly” call it subjective.

    Besides, there you go with stuff like “properly called” again. What is that supposed to mean? Is that like calling something subjective while drinking tea and eating crumpets? How does one “properly” call something anything?

    You find it some big issue that I misattribute the origin of a phrase,

    No, I didn’t at all. It just threw me off when used the scare quotes. I had no problem with the phrase. You put it in scare quotes, then misattributed it to me, so I thought you had a problem with it – but you introduced it – and that’s what threw me off.

    I find that utterly mysterious, and you still haven’t answered the question.

    Well, then stop trying to force a regress where none is logically required! What “makes true” the fact that the sun exists? Is not the mere existence of the sun enough to “make it true” for you? If so, then in that same way, the fact that God authored moral parameters in accordance with divine nature makes them true [if it is in fact a fact]. That you find something “mysterious” says absolutely nothing except that you find something “mysterious.” You’re kind of mocking me because you believe I’m making a circular argument, yet here you are hinting of the argument from incredulity.

    “A moral proposition is made true by ___”, where you fill in the gap. That’s what I’m looking for.

    Yes, and, I already answered you: made true by the God who authored it into existence, in the same way I believe “the sun exists” was made true by the God that authored it into existence.

    What matters is that it is possible that that God exists, and thus possible that the true morality fails to be anything like what we would recognize as morality.

    Does it matter that pink unicorns might exist? Does it matter that there might be an alternative universe where evolution is different than in this one, hence possible that the true evolution fails to be anything like what we would recognize as evolution? Of course not. Unless I’m missing something, those are silly lines of argumentation. I don’t mean to be dismissive, but you need to make me see the import of what you’re asking. That a God defined by some other theology might decree morality that conflicts with our intuitions is a moot point. Hell, I already claim that we would expect anomalous spikes in the morality decreed by the God of the Bible, simply because we are not privy to the totality of knowledge.

    But it’s absurd that propositions like “Child-rape is morally permissible” might be part of the true morality.

    I agree, so why waste our time on what we both believe to be absurd? It’s as if you’re trying to object to my ideas by citing our agreement on how some other ideas fail. I just don’t see the relevance.

    But, to play devil’s advocate, why is child-rape absurd? To even make that claim is to imply an objective standard, is it not? If yes, why do you allow yourself the luxury but criticize me for similarly indulging? Every criticism you throw at me you can throw at yourself.

    You’re mistaken. I’m not arguing that DCT is inconsistent, as the logical problem of evil argues for the inconsistency of God’s goodness, power and the fact of evil.

    Hmmm… then, unless you’re using language unconventionally, you’re mistaken about what you’re actually saying. You said WLC “wanted to have it both ways.” When people say that, it usually implies a mutual exclusion of some sort, as in, “You can’t have it both ways.” If you are in fact not arguing that WLC is being inconsistent, then why did you criticize him for “wanting to have it both ways,” and what is your *actual* criticism?

    I’m arguing that your position would allow absurdity.

    But see, you’re not. You’re arguing that your hypothetical God that approves of child-rape entails absurdity, and I already agreed. You’re doing the same thing you did with your own POE: making up a possible state of affairs that is decidedly not the state of affairs the theist proffers, then proclaiming victory when said state of affairs is shown to be absurd. Then, you act surprised that I won’t assent!

    For all we know, God might approve of child-rape. Given that this could go either way, it’s really not a satisfactory meta-ethics.

    What does “could go either way” mean? Does it not mean contingent which is synonymous with arbitrary? You just told me that the example you offered was “anything but arbitrary,” yet here you are appealing to arbitrariness. ???

    If what the Bible says about God’s nature is true, then the God of the Bible cannot approve of child-rape. If a god does approve of child-rape, then it is not the God of the Bible.

    That’s why Cartesian’s example can’t be swept aside with the remark that it is far-fetched or hypothetical.

    Cartesian’s example addressed a real-world state of affairs. The only hypothetical aspect of Cartesian’s example was eliminating the rest of the world’s population in order to show the inadequacy of the desirist idea of good. You are attempting to say that my ideas would “allow absurdity” by saying something like, “Well, what if the God you believed in didn’t exist, but some other god with absurd attitudes did?” Well, then yeah, things would be totally different. I also wouldn’t be making the same argument if I had a Bible that told me child-rape was good.

    So, the bible accurately represents God because Jesus espouses moral truth in it, and this matches your presumption that God is good. As I thought: you beg the question (or would, if you were confident enough of your own reasoning to give it as an argument), and you have no way to rationally argue against the possible God I portray. That leaves open the kind of absurdities I’ve pointed to.

    You’ll see what you want to see. To “beg the question” is to use this – or a categorically equivalent – line of reasoning:

    A) God exists.

    B) How do you know?

    A) Because the Bible tells me so.

    B) How do you know the Bible is true?

    A) Because God wrote it.

    Now, go ahead and lay out in similar fashion the argument you think I’m making.

    Then you are wrong to consider yourself so assured. You shouldn’t have any confidence in reasoning that begs the question.

    Again, go ahead and lay out in similar fashion the argument you think I’m making.

    It’s an attempt, one which fails.

    That’s like arguing with a 2×4. You might be able to play with words enough to create a hypothetical universe where “loving one’s neighbor as oneself” fails, but to simply assert in the across-the-board manner that Jesus’ command “fails” in the real world is not a compelling argument whatsoever. It’s a bare assertion.

    Omniscience is not the ability to render any theory an accurate description of that which it which it describes; instead, it is knowing which theories, and thus which descriptions, accurately describe reality.

    And, an omniscient God would know which theories accurately describe reality. After all, the God in question allegedly created what you and I call reality.

  16. TaiChi says:

    Yeah, and democracy is not, for that, “properly called” an “objective” theory either, is it?

    Yeah, and democracy is not, for that, “properly called” an “objective” theory either, is it?

    Sure it is. The election of representatives of a populace is, in the end, based upon the preferences of that populace, but the process and results are themselves objective. Another example: 90% of people rate themselves as above-average drivers, and this is an objective fact, despite the data contributing towards it being the distorted views that drivers have of their own abilities. Desirism is similar – we have subjective inputs, but the outputs (moral prescriptions) are objective because they describe the existent subjective inputs.

    Besides, there you go with stuff like “properly called” again. What is that supposed to mean? Is that like calling something subjective while drinking tea and eating crumpets? How does one “properly” call something anything?

    I mean that you would be in error to call it subjective, and this because you would be using ‘subjective’ in a way which other people do not.

    Well, then stop trying to force a regress where none is logically required! What “makes true” the fact that the sun exists? Is not the mere existence of the sun enough to “make it true” for you? If so, then in that same way, the fact that God authored moral parameters in accordance with divine nature makes them true [if it is in fact a fact].

    Sure, the existence of the Sun is enough to make “the Sun exists” true. But I at least know what the Sun is, and so I know what is making the proposition true. On the other hand, I don’t know what ontology lies behind moral truths, and so I ask the question. To say that God authors them doesn’t really help me in this regard, since that leaves open what kind of thing he authors.

    Does it matter that pink unicorns might exist?

    Yes, in that it shows that unicornhood does not rule out its instances also being pink. Similarly, DCT does not rule out the absurdities I point to. A true theory of morality would, so that’s a problem.

    Unless I’m missing something, those are silly lines of argumentation.

    Yes, you’re missing something. A theory of morality gives us identity conditions for moral facts, by telling us what moral facts consist in. Identity conditions have consequences for how the actual world is to be described, but they also have consequences for how non-actual possibilities are to be described. For a theory of morality to be true, it must be correct in both of these respects, else what we have are not the identify conditions for moral facts, but mere correlation. (Classic example: renates (creaures having kidneys) correlate with cordates (creatures having hearts) in the actual world, but it would be false to analyze ‘renate’ as “a creature with a heart”). As DCT quite obviously misdescribes the facts in the scenario I’ve sketched, that’s sufficient to show that it’s false.

    I don’t mean to be dismissive, but you need to make me see the import of what you’re asking.

    I’m not going to lose much sleep if I don’t convince you. The style of argument given here should be familiar to anyone who’s read Descartes’ argument that his mind is not his body. It’s standard stuff.

    But, to play devil’s advocate, why is child-rape absurd?

    I never said it was absurd – it obviously happens. What is absurd is that it could be true that “child-rape is morally permissible”, a position I can hold despite being an error-theorist.

    To even make that claim is to imply an objective standard, is it not? If yes, why do you allow yourself the luxury but criticize me for similarly indulging? Every criticism you throw at me you can throw at yourself.

    As above: no, my claim doesn’t imply an objective standard, since I can be an error-theorist and still hold that a true moral theory would have to satisfy certain constraints, including constraints of content. Indeed, the only principled way of being an error-theorist is to think that such constraints apply, otherwise one would no grounds from which to argue that no moral theory is actually true.

    If you are in fact not arguing that WLC is being inconsistent, then why did you criticize him for “wanting to have it both ways,” and what is your *actual* criticism?

    I criticize him for wanting to have it both ways because he needs to argue from God’s nature to the content of morality, and from the content of morality to God’s nature. As for what my actual criticism is, that’s what I’ve been explaining this whole time. Alas, it seems you haven’t noticed.

    But see, you’re not. You’re arguing that your hypothetical God that approves of child-rape entails absurdity, and I already agreed.

    Hypotheticals are perfectly adequate to falsify what is supposed to be a theory of morality.

    You’re doing the same thing you did with your own POE: making up a possible state of affairs that is decidedly not the state of affairs the theist proffers, then proclaiming victory when said state of affairs is shown to be absurd.

    If you don’t see that my logical problem needs the lone God possibility to be coherent, then your misunderstanding of it is far worse than I thought. If, instead, you mean that I end up proclaiming that a world with God and evil is not possible, then what do you expect? I am, after all, trying to disprove God.

    What does “could go either way” mean? Does it not mean contingent which is synonymous with arbitrary? You just told me that the example you offered was “anything but arbitrary,” yet here you are appealing to arbitrariness. ???

    It means that we could find out that God approves of child-rape, or that he does not. It is epistemically possible. (And no, this doesn’t make God’s attitudes arbitrary – whatever attitudes he has, he has them essentially, it’s just that we cannot be sure of what they are).

    Cartesian’s example addressed a real-world state of affairs. The only hypothetical aspect of Cartesian’s example was eliminating the rest of the world’s population in order to show the inadequacy of the desirist idea of good.

    I’m not sure what example you had in mind, but I had in mind the one where some few Jews were being tortured on a gameshow for the entertainment of Naziland. Am I to take it that you think this gameshow, and these tortures, really tkae place somewhere in the world?

    Now, go ahead and lay out in similar fashion the argument you think I’m making.

    Since I’m not sure it even qualifies as an argument, I’m going to decline to do so.

    That’s like arguing with a 2×4. You might be able to play with words enough to create a hypothetical universe where “loving one’s neighbor as oneself” fails, but to simply assert in the across-the-board manner that Jesus’ command “fails” in the real world is not a compelling argument whatsoever. It’s a bare assertion.

    Perhaps it would be, if what I said was limited to what you quoted. Instead, I explained that the reason why it is false is that the prescription is impossible to fulfil.

    And, an omniscient God would know which theories accurately describe reality.

    Which is what I just said. Sheesh.

    Well, I think I’m done here. There are other things I need to get on with, so I’ll say goodbye for now, though I’ll read your reply if you post one.

  17. cl says:

    Sure it is. The election of representatives of a populace is, in the end, based upon the preferences of that populace, but the process and results are themselves objective.

    But – again – you’re using “objective” [as in fair]. My complaint is that desirism is not objective like real scientific theories are objective – and yet – Luke and Alonzo tout it like a real scientific theory.

    I mean that you would be in error to call it subjective, and this because you would be using ‘subjective’ in a way which other people do not.

    Which definition of “subjective” are you using there? Because, you already agreed that I was right to call desirism “subjective” [Luke’s definition]. Are you no longer agreeing with me?

    Sure, the existence of the Sun is enough to make “the Sun exists” true.

    Then, what’s the problem when it comes to morality? You don’t know what the sun is; you have a working idea. Do you have to know everything about something before you’re willing to accept it? Why wouldn’t the existence of a God who made humans to love one another also be enough to “make morality true” for you? How is that not special pleading?

    I don’t know what ontology lies behind moral truths

    Do you mean, “You don’t know what real-world entity lies behind moral truths?” Then, I’m going to say – again – that in my ideas, God is the real-world entity that lies behind moral truths. In the same exact way that God is the real-world entity that lies behind the truth of the sun’s existence. To accept one but not the other doesn’t seem consistent.

    Hypotheticals are perfectly adequate to falsify what is supposed to be a theory of morality.

    Of course they are. The catch is, you can’t use a hypothetical about a theory that flows from entity X to disprove a theory that flows from entity Y. That’s what you’re doing here. Construct a hypothetical using the God I argue, not the God I do not argue. Note that Cartesian’s example uses the standard desirist definition of good.

    I am, after all, trying to disprove God.

    Yes, that’s a very telling concession. IOW, you’ve entered this discussion with quite the confirmation bias. That makes me think I might be wasting my time. I’m here to figure out this mess between objective / subjective, and how it applies to morality. I didn’t realize you were here to simply reinforce your pre-existing disbelief.

    Instead, I explained that the reason why it is false is that the prescription is impossible to fulfil.

    That’s bare assertion. You didn’t explain anything. Had you, I would counter that it is certainly possible to love one’s neighbor as oneself. I know because on good days, I do it. You’re doing nothing but making assertions and then retreating when asked to support them.

    Well, I think I’m done here. There are other things I need to get on with, so I’ll say goodbye for now, though I’ll read your reply if you post one.

    Well, on the one hand, there’s no sense pounding sand, but on the other, I really hate it when people start a conversation then don’t want to finish it. I’m more than willing to put heavy thought-time into each comment, for as long as is necessary to either resolve the problems or at least come to an understanding. Honestly, I’d rather you not engage me unless it’s with similar intent, and if your sole point is to “disprove God” then I’m not interested at all.

  18. cl says:

    Hey TaiChi, strike this:

    I am, after all, trying to disprove God.

    Yes, that’s a very telling concession. IOW, you’ve entered this discussion with quite the confirmation bias. That makes me think I might be wasting my time. I’m here to figure out this mess between objective / subjective, and how it applies to morality. I didn’t realize you were here to simply reinforce your pre-existing disbelief.

    I was in error to say you “entered this discussion” with confirmation bias. You were speaking only in the limited context of your POE. Sorry about that.

    I stand by everything else, and really hope you can find the time to stand by what you wrote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *