The Moral Arguments: A Rejoinder

Recently I began a delightful discussion/debate concerning two versions of the moral argument for the existence of God with my friend Tyler Dalton McNabb. His opening post can be read here. My first response can be read here and his followup response here.

In response to Tyler’s latest post, I’d like to start by pointing out that there are two central issues at play in this discussion. One regards the nature of morality itself and the other regards the “proper function” of our faculties and our ability to access truth.

As of right now, I hold firm to the position that the true nature of morality is undecidable. I contend that this is enough to neutralize the classical moral argument, so I’ll focus more on the epistemological version.

Now, while I hesitate to agree that belief in objective moral values and duties is warranted (since “warranted” is a technical term that still isn’t adequately understood), I will admit that belief in objective moral values and duties can be reasonable. Where I think the epistemological argument truly fails is premise (1):

If NE is true, belief in objective moral values and duties cannot be warranted.

Tyler conceded that premise (1), so stated, is false, since it is possible on NE that our faculties be such that they can access truth and form corresponding true beliefs. What Tyler seems to resort to is something like the following:

Let \alpha represent the actual world (at least with respect to our perspective). Furthermore, let W be the event that belief in objective moral values and duties is warranted on NE in \alpha. Then

P(W) < \frac{1}{2}

which says that the probability of W being the case is less than 50%. If this is the case, then it is more reasonable to think that one is not warranted in believing in objective moral values and duties in \alpha. But is this really the case?

First, I’m not sure that there is a well-defined probability measure here. For instance, if there are infinitely many universes, then infinitely many of them have beings with the right cognitive equipment to access truth.

Second, Tyler says that he sees no reason to think that our cognitive faculties are reliable. This is strange to me, since I see every (well maybe not every) reason to think that our faculties are reliable. Why?

(a) This may be a necessary part of consciousness. That is, being conscious may very well entail the ability to form true beliefs and to check them on some level.

(b) We can test our faculties against real life. The fact that we don’t die and the fact that we can successfully navigate our world environment attest to the fact that our brains produce true beliefs.

For these reasons, I think the epistemological argument fails to go through. It is entirely possible, even likely, that our cognitive faculties are reliable even on NE. At this point, I’ll now pass the ball back to Tyler.

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One comment on “The Moral Arguments: A Rejoinder

  1. […] Ryan’s latest post, Ryan seems to think that we cannot be sure of the true nature of morality. Because of this, he […]

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