Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Postulating Moral Possibilities

Judy walked along the well traveled streets taking in the vast array of merchandise on display at the market. Large succulent peaches caught her eye and she neared the produce vendor. The sweet aroma of fresh juicy peaches filled her delicate nostrils.

“How much for these,” she asked pointing to the desired fruit.


“Four dollars a pound,” retorted the gruff voice of the vendor.


“Four dollars!” Judy exclaimed, thinking his prices too steep. She could still smell the tantalizing fragrance of the peaches. They were her favorite fruit. However, she was a very frugal person. . .


“Will you accept three dollars per pound?” She asked hopefully.


The man eyed her with dripping annoyance; “Three-Fifty,” came the booming voice.


“Thank you” she retorted jubilantly despite his sorry disposition. He motioned for her to select her peaches. She picked up a bag and began to fill it with her peaches. Then she handed it to the vendor for him to weigh, hoping she would not exceed three pounds.


She watched as the vendor sat her bag of peaches upon the scale with his right hand. He was leaning so close to it. Her eyes fixed on his left hand, almost imperceptible, but there it was, he was adding weight to the scale. The nerve of him, she thought as she glanced at the calculation rising to five pounds. She knew full well there was no five pounds of peaches in that bag. Maybe he just wasn’t paying attention.


“That will be $17.50,” his gruff manner pulling her out of her thoughts.


“No, I’m sorry, but there isn’t five pounds of peaches in that bag” Judy responded indignantly.


“You saw the weight madam”


“I also saw your left hand on the scale.”


“What of it?” He snapped.


“What of it?” she repeated, her astonishment rising. “What of it? I’ll tell you what of it. It is wrong, that’s what.”


“Who are you to tell me how to run my business?”


“You must be fair to your customers.”


“Why? I make more money my way.”


“But it’s wrong.”


“So you say.”


“Not just me, everyone knows that’s not right, it’s stealing.” She was unnerved at this point.


“Lots of people steal” he argued.


“That doesn’t make it right.”


“It’s right to me,” he countered.


“You don’t determine right and wrong.” Judy insisted.


“And you do?” he scoffed.


She looked at him askance. She was unprepared for this verbal assault on her philosophy of right and wrong. She just wanted peaches. How had this turned into a philosophical debate?


“The law,” she retorted, “the law says it’s wrong.”


“Who’s law?” He questioned.


“The law of this city . . . this country!” Judy exclaimed.


“I don’t care about the law.”


“You ought to.”


“Why?”


“Because you just ought to, everyone knows that.” Judy exasperatedly retorted.


“Look, young lady, if you can’t come up with a better reason why I “ought to” other than because “everyone knows that” I see no reason to waste my time further with you.”


Judy stared at him. The audacity of this man, she thought. Tears filled her eyes and she glanced around the busy market place trying to decide if she should just walk away or if there was some greater standard of morality to which she could appeal. Her eyes fell on a small ceramic of Moses and the Ten Commandments. She brightened and turned back to the vendor. Just then a loud siren came out of no where.


The market place began to slip away into a memory of sorts . . . the sound was getting louder and louder. Suddenly she opened her eyes and smacked off her alarm clock. She sat up thinking about her dream. The answer is “God” she mused to herself, “God is why you ought to. He’s the one that is the standard of goodness.”

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does the existence of god matter to this story at all?

Karla said...

We've been over this. If there is no reference point there can be no objective moral judgment. Without an infinite self-referential constant of good (God) we cannot judge between good and evil. It would be like a ship upon the water with no compass and moving stars. It would be lost with nothing constant to guide its way. How would one know north from south with no reference point by which to determine the difference?

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"We've been over this. If there is no reference point there can be no objective moral judgment."

Yes, we have and I've already pointed out to you that we have falsified this by creating objective moral standards that are not based on god. Try again.

"Without an infinite self-referential constant of good (God) we cannot judge between good and evil."

So you claim, but it is not a claim that you can or have backed up. Do I need to have a self-referntial constant of smelliness (god) in order to judge between good smells and bad smells?

"It would be like a ship upon the water with no compass and moving stars."

Only if your assertions were valid, which they are not. The fact is we can use facts about the natural world in order to create objective guidelines. Remember, objective is not the same as absolute and objectivity does not necessarily have to come from god. This is an elementary point that you should have grasped by now. The only reason that you haven't, I'm guessing, is because you don't want to cede any ground to me at all.

"How would one know north from south with no reference point by which to determine the difference?"

Is god the reference point for North and South, or do we use a natural reference point that is objective?

Karla said...

Aesthetics such as smells, taste, and art don't need a infinite reference point. Such things are relative. I don't like the smell of coffee others think it is a good smell.

A ship out in the the middle of the ocean does need a constant reference point. Not an infinite reference point, but one that is unchanging. If the stars were in constant flux and if one did not have a compass there would be no way to know north from south at night.

With morality we are talking about something very different. There has to be a reference point that is outside of our personal preferences and outside of ourselves. If our reference point is the law of the land then those in other lands are not bound to it. There would then be nothing wrong with what happened on 9/11 because the terrorist lived by different laws. We would have no right to hold them accountable for their actions by our laws. There has to be something outside of the laws of society. Even Nietzsche understood that without God there was no moral standard for all people and morality was merely relative. postmodernist say morality is community based. One community cannot judge another's morality. So if the community next door is selling children into slavery we have no cause to judge them.

Vicki G. said...

I loved this story Karla. I could practically smell the peaches and feel the character's frustration over the vendors lawless attitude. Keep them coming!

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"Aesthetics such as smells, taste, and art don't need a infinite reference point. Such things are relative."

Why not? If good and bad need a reference point, then why not anything else?

"A ship out in the the middle of the ocean does need a constant reference point. Not an infinite reference point, but one that is unchanging. If the stars were in constant flux and if one did not have a compass there would be no way to know north from south at night."

So, you basically cut and pasted what you said, and I'll do the same. Is god the reference point for North and South, or do we use a natural reference point that is objective?

"With morality we are talking about something very different. There has to be a reference point that is outside of our personal preferences and outside of ourselves."

Your contention that it must be based on god is what is lacking!

There are non-god based objective moralities. I've already pointed some out to you. Why do you act as if they don't exist? They disprove your point. You can't honestly persist in this point without dealing with the existence of these philosphies.

Karla said...

Anything that is not relative needs a reference point. If something is aesthetic it is relative. Smells, tastes, visual beauty, are all relative and subjective.

Are you honestly comparing good and evil to aesthetics?

I say coffee smells bad. Another says it smells good. The like or dislike of the smell is based on subjective personal preferences.

I don't think you wish to relegate morality to that level where one person can like to steal and another does not like stealing. So for the one it is good and the other bad? I don't think so. It is not the same thing as aesthetics. There has to be a standard, a reference point. What is it, if it is not God?

Anonymous said...

"Anything that is not relative needs a reference point."

How do you know that smells are relative?

"Are you honestly comparing good and evil to aesthetics?"

I don't know, I'm asking you how you know the things that you assert.

"I say coffee smells bad. Another says it smells good. The like or dislike of the smell is based on subjective personal preferences."

OK, so we are getting somewhere. You can present an argument when pressed for it. I see where you are going and that is not bad. Now, how do you know that morality is not relative?

"I don't think you wish to relegate morality to that level where one person can like to steal and another does not like stealing."

No, I'm not advocating that, but relative things are not necessarily unable to be codified in an objective way.

"There has to be a standard, a reference point. What is it, if it is not God?"

What is the reference point we use for navigation with a compass? What is the reference point we use for hotness of a pepper? What is the reference point we use for all ideas that we objectively set? The reference point we use is the natural universe! Everything else leads inexoribly to the relativism that you decry, including your claims to morality that is god based! What's to stop someone from claiming that their god's morality is different from what your god's morality is and that their's is better than your's? What to stop a fellow Xian from claiming that your interpretation of your shared god's morality is wrong and that their interpretation is better? You like the smell of coffee but the other Xian likes the smell of people being killed for offending the lord. How can you tell the difference?

Karla said...

"What is the reference point we use for navigation with a compass?"

You are positing having a compass. What is the moral compass? Where did it originate?

"The reference point we use is the natural universe! Everything else leads inexoribly to the relativism that you decry, including your claims to morality that is god based!"

How does the natural universe give us a reference point for morality? What is it?


"What's to stop someone from claiming that their god's morality is different from what your god's morality is and that their's is better than your's? What to stop a fellow Xian from claiming that your interpretation of your shared god's morality is wrong and that their interpretation is better? You like the smell of coffee but the other Xian likes the smell of people being killed for offending the lord. How can you tell the difference?"

What's to stop someone? Anyone can do as they please even if they are wrong. Nothing stops them from ignoring logic, reason, evidence, experience, reality etc. They are free to do so, just because they do doesn't mean there isn't one way. What stops me from not believing in gravity? I can ignore the facts that I am bound to the earth by gravity.

I recently read a story of a man who didn't believe he was alive. He believed he was dead. Doctors tried to convince him otherwise. Finally they got him to agree that the dead don't bleed. Then they pricked his finger and showed him the blood indicating that he was indeed alive. He respond, "oh my, I guess dead people do bleed!"

People can ignore the truth and make up things and call it God, that doesn't mean it's true. The written authority is the Bible. We can know that only what lines up with it is true and what does not is not true. Thus all other religions while some of their teachings often line up with truth, are not true as a whole. All of them teach that works gain you favor with God and bring about salvation from God or the gods. Christianity teaches that God doesn't require works for our debt is paid already. If biblical Christianity is true then by default anything that contradicts it is false. If God says someone told them it was okay to hate their enemy we would know this is not what God told them because the Bible says to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. We have a written standard. Yes people can ignore it, twist it, and all kinds of things that doesn't mean it's not true.

Anytime you think I am misstating something you have said you are quick to correct me. Obviously you believe there is a right way to interpret something and a wrong one and that I ought to know how to hear what you are saying. God can illuminate the truth of Scripture to us by His Holy Spirit. The Bible says that the Spirit leads us in all truth so when we think we understand something the Bible says and it isn't what God intended He can tell us. We can still ignore that, but that's our free will at work.

Just because people believe a lot of different things doesn't mean there isn't a true way to believe. There aren't counterfeits if there isn't a real. There is no real $3 bill so there are no counterfeit $3 bills. There are real $20 bills and counterfeits for it. Should I stop using $20 bills as real money because a bunch of counterfeits exist? W

Anonymous said...

"You are positing having a compass."

Compasses are pretty much standard instruments for ships...you introduced the idea!

"How does the natural universe give us a reference point for morality? What is it?"

The same way it does for anything else, by being discernable and repeatable, etc. We create precepts based on the facts of the natural world and then create objective standards based on them. I've already pointed this out to you multiple times.

"What's to stop someone? Anyone can do as they please even if they are wrong. Nothing stops them from ignoring logic, reason, evidence, experience, reality etc. They are free to do so, just because they do doesn't mean there isn't one way. What stops me from not believing in gravity? I can ignore the facts that I am bound to the earth by gravity."

So, your morality is built on facts? Which ones? Are they facts that come from natural sources that can actually be verified, or are they completely unverifiable revelations that have no more weight than anyone else's revelations?

"People can ignore the truth and make up things and call it God, that doesn't mean it's true."

And, they claim that this is exactly what you are doing, just as you claim they are doing it.

"The written authority is the Bible."

They claim that the written authority is their holy scripture.

"We can know that only what lines up with it is true and what does not is not true."

This is a logical fallacy called begging the question. What is true is true. The question is whether the Bible lines up with what is true, not the other way around.

"Thus all other religions while some of their teachings often line up with truth, are not true as a whole."

How convenient for you that you assume the Bible and your religion as correct and then use that assumption to "prove" that all other religions are wrong, but wholly logically fallacious. And, BTW, other religionists do the same thing with your religion.

"All of them teach that works gain you favor with God and bring about salvation from God or the gods."

This is a well-worn canard of Xian apologetics which is simply not true. Even if it were true, being unique in some aspect doesn't make Xianity true.

"If God says someone told them it was okay to hate their enemy we would know this is not what God told them because the Bible says to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us."

Except for all the parts where god does tell others to slaughter their enemies and rape their daughters, etc. (Seems pretty hateful to me.)

"We have a written standard."

Which you have to interpret. How do you know your interpretation is better than any other?

"Yes people can ignore it, twist it, and all kinds of things that doesn't mean it's not true."

How do you know that you aren't the one twisting god's intent?

"Anytime you think I am misstating something you have said you are quick to correct me. Obviously you believe there is a right way to interpret something and a wrong one and that I ought to know how to hear what you are saying."

In those instances, I happen to know the actual interpretation that is correct. We don't know which interpretation god intended.

"The Bible says that the Spirit leads us in all truth so when we think we understand something the Bible says and it isn't what God intended He can tell us."

Of course, you've also posited the existence of demons that also have this power, and you've never given a clear answer as to how you can tell one from another.

"Just because people believe a lot of different things doesn't mean there isn't a true way to believe."

And, how does one choose which one when all these claims have as much evidence as the others, which is none, because they are all based on personal revelation?

"There aren't counterfeits if there isn't a real."

Are you making the argument that because people have conceptions of god and because those differ that at least one of them will be counterfeit and that this somehow proves that god exists?

Karla said...

"Compasses are pretty much standard instruments for ships...you introduced the idea!"

I spoke of a ship lacking a compass. How would they find their way if there was no point of reference such as fixed stars to guide their path.

"The same way it does for anything else, by being discernable and repeatable, etc. We create precepts based on the facts of the natural world and then create objective standards based on them. I've already pointed this out to you multiple times."

This answer doesn't tell me what he point of reference is, what the standard is?

Kevin DeGraaf said...

"Anonymous", you're wasting your time.

Karla is mired deep in delusion and is blinded to the fact that morality has nothing to do with her invisible friend in the sky and everything to do with human compassion, empathy and reason.

You and I and others have defended this obvious point ad nauseum, but Karla's mind is completely closed by her blind allegiance to a god that does not exist except in the imaginations of brainwashed believers.

Let her tell stories of frustrated fruit purchasers, as if a new spin on old arguments will convince any rational people to start believing in Gawd despite all the evidence showing the foolishness of that belief. Let her dogmatically reference the Ten Commandments as if they were a meaningful basis for morality. Let her continue to throw out long-refuted "proofs" of the Big Sky Daddy to which she so desperately and childishly clings.

You and I know better. She will never learn. Even in my Christian days, I was never as hard-hearted as she is.

Karla said...

Kevin, so it's open minded to be an atheist and closed to be a Christian?

I think one ought to close their mind around truth and except nothing less than truth. So one ought to be open minded until they find truth and then closed to non-truth.

Also would you expect someone who claims to know God exist to be dislodged by a few atheist arguments to the contrary? That's like saying I would be closed minded if I stood by my husband's love in the face of people who wish to undermind that fact.

Would I be more credible if I was out here giving an apologetic for a belief system I didn't fully accept as truth? I think that would be suspect if that were the case.