Craig, Kagan, and Significance
May 4, 2011 — 12:46

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Afterlife Existence of God Links  Tags: , ,   Comments: 112

I’ve now watched this debate between William Lane Craig and Shelly Kagan twice: once alone and once with interested ethics students (for extra credit!). It’s very good, and Kagan pushed buttons on Craig’s arguments in many of the ways I thought that his arguments should be pushed.
There’s an intuition that if there is no God or afterlife, then life loses its significance. Paul writes, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'” (1 Cor. 15:32b). The author of Ecclesiastes (2:15-16) writes

Then I thought in my heart, ‘The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?’ I said in my heart, ‘This too is meaningless.’ For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

Craig has written,

Mankind is a doomed race in a dying universe. Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever did exist. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same. The same blind cosmic process that coughed them up in the first place will eventually swallow them all again. (Reasonable Faith, p. 59, 1994 edition).

Many existentialist philosophers have seemed to agree with this line of thinking. You get this impression from Sartre, Camus, and Nietzsche.
Kagan calls this into question. In his closing statement, in the last minutes of the recording, he says,

It seems to me that one essential point of disagreement between Craig and me is something that I asked about several times. It’s this move that, to my mind, is the move from the thought that, without theism, then our actions don’t have eternal cosmic significance, to the conclusion that, therefore, without theism our actions don’t have significance – objective, moral significance. That just seems to me to be a mistake. It seems to me that if I love somebody, the reality of that loving relationship is valuable, of real value, of genuine objective value, and it’s not in any way threatened by the fact that I will die, my wife will die, my children will die ,and eventually the universe will come to an end. The fact that billions and billions of years from now, it’s all going to be the same doesn’t mean it’s all the same now. I certainly want to concede that if you’re looking for this kind of cosmic significance, atheism’s not going to provide it for you. But that wasn’t the subject of tonight’s debate. The subject of tonight’s debate was whether you needed that kind of cosmic significance to have morality, and on that issue, I’m quite confident that the answer is ‘no’.

I take Kagan to be insightfully calling into question this premise:
1) If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.
And I must say that (1) still has a strong pull on me. Yet, Kagan’s reasoning in his quote here (and throughout the debate) seem compelling as well. I was wondering if anybody had arguments either for or against (1).

Comments:
  • BlakeG

    Allegedly, this wasn’t a debate. Craig wrote in one of his weekly Q&A’s “I did respond briefly to Prof. Kagan’s view, Alexander, but I didn’t press the point because our hosts with the Veritas Forum had made it very clear to me that they were not interested in having a knock-down debate but a friendly dialogue that would foster a warm and inviting atmosphere for non-believing students at Columbia. The goal was simply to get the issues out on the table in a congenial, welcoming environment, which I think we did. […] the view that Kagan defended is that it is not really his view at all! He is a radical consequentialist,…”
    You can read the rest here: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=7259

    May 4, 2011 — 13:39
  • I think the issue is that from an Atheist perspective one can find significance in their life in a limited fashion, that much is true, but it is only subjective significance because it is grounded in finite persons rather than an infinite and eternal God. Kagan seems to admit this though.
    What I would say, however, is despite whether we can find significance in our lives apart from God is not really the point of this debate. The point is is there any objective way to ground morality in a world without God? The answer is no. Because while we can all establish our own significance according to our subjective point of view and we can likewise establish our own morality, there is no reason for the next person to accept your subjective significance or morality.
    If then morality is to really exist in any kind of objective sense it must then exist outside of subjective finite people who disagree, it must be grounded in God’s own nature. So if there is no God, there is no objective morality, just self made meaning that no one else is obligated to accept.

    May 4, 2011 — 13:56
  • Andrew Moon

    Blake,
    Thanks for clarifying.
    Jacob,
    Read Kagan’s quote carefully; he thinks that his love for someone is of objective significance even if everything will come to an end. So, I hope it is clear what Kagan is claiming.

    May 4, 2011 — 13:59
  • As Craig has said in other debates where his hands weren’t tied by the Veritas people, the kind of “meaning” and “significance” Kagan talks about in that quote is made up. Kagan invents it in his own mind. He pretends his family and his life mean something. How is this any better than an imaginary friend?

    May 4, 2011 — 14:08
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Andrew,
    You ask about (1) “If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.”
    Craig’s idea you quote above does not seem to entail (1). Rather I think the issue is about the *kind* of value x has on the theistic and on the naturalistic worldview. In that quote at least Craig speaks of “significance”, not of objectivity. On theism nothing good can be lost; for something to be good is to partake in God’s nature and is thus indestructible. On naturalism, on the contrary, all good will be lost. On theism there is justice; on naturalism there isn’t and much evil will get away and much good will be in vain. Thus, theism and naturalism entail an entirely different way of experiencing the world. I think ultimately Craig’s argument is this: Does the way you experience the world comports better with what is the case on theism or with what is the case on naturalism? For if the former, then, all other things being equal, it is more reasonable to embrace theism.
    I find that Kagan’s quote is eloquent and heartfelt, but find it hard to accept at face value. Surely the value and significance of one’s loving relationship with, say, one’s children *is* affected by the belief that all will die and disappear in the end. That a naturalist feels that there is great value and significance in such loving relationships despite one’s belief that all will die and disappear in the end only shows how naturalists experience life in a similar way that theists experience it, and thus, kind of paradoxically, reinforce Craig’s argument. Kagan feels there is objective moral value in his loving relationships, but it is hard to see how objective moral values fit within a naturalistic reality. It seems then that we all experience reality as being God-structured, or at least in a way that makes sense if one assumes a God-structured reality.

    May 4, 2011 — 14:23
  • I wonder if it matters here whether you’re a presentist or an eternalist. If you give drink to the thirsty at t0, then according to an eternalist your giving a drink to the thirsty at t0 will always be just as much a part of reality as it was at t0, even if the human race disappears.
    St Paul may simply be talking about what view is most stable without a belief in an afterlife. It could well be that a view like Kagan’s is somehow not stable. Wish I had time to develop this quick thought, but I need to grade modal logic exercises.

    May 4, 2011 — 14:29
  • Gregory Lewis

    It seems to me then if you are some sort of 4D theorist, then (1) seems highly implausible*. For the fact of the universes amoral doom does not mean there are paths the universe can take to this doom that differ in some morally salient ways (Universe as eudamonia until the heat death versus universe as gulag, etc.), and it seems the choices one makes towards which sort of path the universe tracks would be morally significant. I guess (pardon horrific misuse of maths), you should be morally interested in the time integral of the universes ‘moral score’ instead of its final value. If so, the moral significance of doing good things, or having good things around (loving relationships, art, whatever) seems straightforward. But I am wrong often.
    *I confess I find (1) highly implausible regardless of commitments to A- B- or other theory of time, but that shows little besides intuitions vary.
    P.S. Perhaps this is unseemly, but I do not really buy Craig’s remarks about the debate/discussion/whatever (see BlakeG’s comment at the top). Given that a) I didn’t see him being particularly ‘easy’ on Kagan (his questions and replies seemed to be aimed at ‘knocking down’ Kagan’s position), and b) not being easier on Kagan than Kagan was being easy on him, and c) the general consensus that Kagan ‘beat’ Craig, Craig’s remarks seem a bit too similar to a bested prize fighter’s “Naw, we weren’t really fighting properly! I was told to go easy on him!”

    May 4, 2011 — 14:46
  • Eric

    What I find interesting about the way you phrased the premise that Kagan is rejecting:
    1) If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance
    is that it seems to clearly separate two distinct TYPES of moral value: the ‘eternal and cosmic’ and the ‘objective’, and that the value of the former seems to be clearly assumed to be the superior form of moral value. But both are (pace the argument) moral values.
    To Dianelos’ comment about love: “it is hard to see how objective moral values fit within a naturalistic reality”…it seems like a thoroughgoing naturalist could easily incorporate love (and any other moral emotion and moral state) into their naturalism. Making naturalistic claims about love, what it is, and what it means (by plumbing phenomenological states, psychology, etc) would not necessarily diminish the claims about what kind of thing love is. You could even claim (as some have) that love is an irrational state and still claim it has value without accepting a God-structured reality.

    May 4, 2011 — 14:50
  • Jarrett Cooper

    The name of the debate should’ve been called ‘Does the Absence of God Entail Nihilism.’ Craig has two conditional assertions. 1) If God exists then objective moral values and duties do exist. 2) If God does not exist then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
    I think Kagan uses the word significance to push though (his) objective morality. However, I don’t see how it follows. I don’t see how an individual having significance on something therefore follows that objective morality exists. Only thing that follows from one having significance on something is that one values such and such.
    I’m sure Craig would affirm that objective morality (values, duties, etc.) exists on theism even if there was no afterlife. So, Craig’s argument doesn’t hinge on significance per se. But rather on the grounds as to what actually gives things moral worth. Craig believes without God–the perfect standard of goodness–there would be no such thing as the Good, and therefore no morality as such. The line of thought I’m trying to make is that when we speak of morality we speak as if there is an ideal standard of Good out there, and if God doesn’t exist then such a standard of the Good doesn’t really exist. (I guess one could argue for Platonism and say that the Good can exist apart from God.)
    One thing to note is the word objective. I’ll read on atheist blogs that Craig changes the word objective. Objective is traditionally understood to mean independent of attitudes and opinions of persons, but Craig uses it to mean not-dependent on human beings (independent of human opinion). If the former is true then even with God there is no objective morality. Because morality is based in God who is a person. Any thoughts on this? (Luke Muehlhauser of commonsenseatheism noted this after the Craig vs. Harris debate.)

    May 4, 2011 — 16:04
  • I have to say that I find myself pulled towards (1), at least if one drops the word “cosmic” (call this (1′)), despite the plausibility of the subjunctive conditional:
    2. If our love had no eternal consequence it would still have objective moral significance.
    I think (1′) is an intuition a lot of people pre-theoretically have. So it would be nice to have a charitable account of the pull towards (1′).
    Here is one such account. As a contingent matter of fact, God has so arranged things that all things that have moral significance have eternal cosmic consequence. God then has embedded in us a correct intuition that only things of eternal cosmic consequence have moral significance, in order that this claim might inspire us as we deal with “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”.
    This account lets us explain a couple of things:
    A. Why a lot of people have this intuition.
    B. Why there are no good arguments independent of theism for this intuition.
    C. Why many atheists lose this intuition. (The intuition is only plausible when conjoined with theism.)
    Note, by the way, that (1′) is compatible with (2) if we interpret the conditional in (1′) as material, which is basically what I am doing above.

    May 4, 2011 — 16:50
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Craig wrote:
    “Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever did exist. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same.”
    I don’t know what “ultimate” amounts to, so let’s delete that for now. If someone can explain its significance, that could be helpful. Until then, consider the following:
    “Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no difference whether it ever did exist. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same.”
    Let’s assume that individual mosquitoes have no significance and that swarms don’t either. What would Craig say in response to this argument?
    (P1) If any human exists for a limited duration, that human has no significance whatsoever.
    (P2) If something has no significance whatsoever, it has no moral value.
    (C1) If any human exists for a limited duration, it has no moral value.
    (P3) We exist for a limited duration.
    (C2) We have no moral value.
    I take it that he’d reject (C2), so he’d have to reject a premise. (P2) looks solid–if something has moral value, it matters to morality and that’s a kind of significance (one that mosquitoes lack). Sure, Craig will deny (P3), but this puts him in a strange position for two reasons. The first is an epistemic worry. How confident can Craig (reasonably) be that (P3) is false? Not so confident, I take it, that it’s not an open epistemic possibility for him that (~P3). And so he considers what he should think about his own children if he discovered that (for whatever obscure reasons there are) God decided that Craig’s children would only exist for billions of years and then be annihilated. So, should Craig concede that even if he knows everything there is to know about their mental life and their metaphysical constitution, he can’t rule out the possibility that his children are literally worthless until he can rule out that God might let them perish in a few billion years? That’s insane.
    Second, if he rejects (P3) and (C2), he presumably thinks that we have value, but only because we will never be annihilated. Sort of reminds me about the joke about the New York restaurant–the food sucks and there’s so little of it! How can we come to have value if our lives would be valueless if God decided in the distant future to annihilate us? It’s an odd sort of view that says that our lives have value only if they’re never ending but an intrinsically same life would be valueless if it differed only by virtue of having a shorter duration.
    [This line from Craig always reminds me of this deep thinker Stone Phillips once interviewed (here)]

    May 4, 2011 — 17:18
  • Jarrett Cooper

    @ Clayton Littlejohn,
    I’ll try and take a stab at what “ultimate” means. I take it to mean that regardless what happens in the universe, the universe will come to the same fate (in this case heat-death).
    I think this is a good analogy: You know the video game Mario Brothers. Well, when you play the game it makes no difference how you play because when the game is over it’s OVER. So, ultimatley, it makes no difference how you played the video game. However, even though there is no ultimate difference how you played, there are still differences. For example, you may collect more points or even make it to a higher level, but none of this matters because, ultimately, when the game is over it’s OVER. The fate of the video game is the same no matter how many points you earned and how many levels you beat, it makes no difference how poorly or well you played.
    The same line of thought would go towards our life in this universe. (This is why I said the name of the debate should’ve been called ‘Does the Absence of God Entail Nihilism.’)

    May 4, 2011 — 19:19
  • I don’t think the issue has to do with the relationship between eternal moral significance and (non-eternal) objective moral significance. Nor do I think it has to do with the relationship between cosmic moral significance and objective moral significance.
    Perhaps the moral significance of an action/life/event/person is everlasting: the holocaust does not get less bad by becoming more past, for example; my love for my wife does not get less good by becoming more past either. (And I would think that any presentist worth her salt will work hard to respect this intuition, quick arguments from the nonexistence of past events and past loving not withstanding.) So perhaps it is right, in this sense, that all objective moral significance is eternal moral significance. I don’t see anything in Kagan’s remarks to suggest that he denies this.
    I’m not sure what it means to say that the moral significance of an action/life/event/person is cosmic. But I doubt it is right to say that the holocaust is less morally bad when we take the long and wide view, or that my love of my wife is less good when we take the long and wide view. I know that there is a temptation to make this judgment: from the long view, these matters seem so *small*. But I suspect that temptation is based upon a mistake, and that proper appreciation of the moral value of something requires a perspective that is neither too close nor too far. But this says more about our inability to keep track of actual values when we try to take the cosmic perspective (or when we are narrowly focused on our own lives) than it does about the actual values themselves.
    In any case, the argument against the atheist here seems instead to be focused on eternal consequences—not moral consequences, just consequences. Billions of years from now, all traces of the holocaust, and all traces of my love for my wife, will be “swallowed up”. Billions of years from now, its all going to be the same. The intuition is that actions/lives/events/persons don’t matter unless they have an everlasting impact. And I really don’t see why we should think this. It seems wrong in the case of morally bad events—as if we could lessen the evil of some past event by erasing its causal traces. And it seems wrong in the case of morally good events too: as if, because they are forgotten, they become less good.
    -David

    May 4, 2011 — 20:22
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Quick question about Craig’s view (for those who know his work better than I do).
    Consider:
    1) If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.
    I take it that Craig might endorse something like this. Earlier, I floated the suggestion that if someone had moral significance, this was a kind of significance, so anything with no significance, has no moral significance. Suppose that’s right. Since Craig rejects universalism (at least, I think he does), is it Craig’s view that there are some persons who will not have the sort of eternal life with the right relation to God to have eternal, cosmic moral significance?
    If so, does he think we can eat these people? Use their organs? Torture them for fun? I read on his site where he takes a very rhetorical shot at Kagan because of Kagan’s consequentialist commitments. Just curious how he avoids these sorts of implications.

    May 4, 2011 — 20:58
  • David P

    Clayton,
    “Your response is that unbelievers “did not ask to be created, and had they been presented with the stark choice of Non-Existence and Eternal Conscious Torture they would undoubtedly choose Non-Existence.” This response seems to miss the thrust of my answer. Of course, the damned would prefer not to have been created! Obviously! But my question is why such persons’ freely rejecting God should be allowed to prevent the blessedness and joy of those who would freely accept God’s salvation? These people shouldn’t be privileged over those who would love and want God. So long as God gives sufficient grace for salvation to every person He creates and wills that person’s salvation, then I can’t see that God is less loving for creating a worlds with less than universal salvation rather than refraining from creation of free creatures altogether. (Recall that we’re assuming that there are no worlds feasible for God to create which involve universal salvation without overriding disadvantages.) But if it is not less loving, then what’s the problem supposed to be?”
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8691

    May 4, 2011 — 21:30
  • Justin

    “Since Craig rejects universalism (at least, I think he does), is it Craig’s view that there are some persons who will not have the sort of eternal life with the right relation to God to have eternal, cosmic moral significance?”
    Is there some reason to think that if Universalism is false, then there are people with no eternal, cosmic significance?

    May 4, 2011 — 23:10
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Hi Justin,
    “Is there some reason to think that if Universalism is false, then there are people with no eternal, cosmic significance?”
    No, I don’t think so. But, does Craig think so? I thought he might accept the following argument:
    (P1) A person’s life can have eternal, cosmic significance only if that person exists for all eternity and comes to stand in the right relation to God.
    (P2) Those who reject Christianity won’t satisfy both conditions.
    (C) Thus, the lives of such persons have no significance.
    He might reject both premises. Hard to say. I don’t think (P1) is the slightest bit plausible, but then we have to ask what explanation Craig would offer in support of his claim that there’s an important connection between (i) living a life of eternal, cosmic significance and (ii) God and afterlife. I’ve tried to hit on the two parts of his account that could ground the relevant values–eternal life and the right relation to God. My worry is that it’s not true that every person would (on C’s view) have both. So, if possession of both is required for having significance and having moral significance entails having significance, we have a potential objection to C’s account.

    May 5, 2011 — 0:06
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Eric,
    I agree that “a thoroughgoing naturalist could easily incorporate love (and any other emotion and moral state) into their naturalism”. Indeed here’s how it is done: The naturalist will call upon two premises for which already very strong scientific evidence exists, namely:
    N1: All mental states exactly correlate with physical states. In other words there is a translation table between physical states and mental states in all their glorious subjective dimensions.
    N2. The universe is physically closed.
    So, for example, the naturalist can in principle explain on purely mechanistic grounds how come Kagan has loving relationships and also feels that they are highly significant. That’s conceptually trivial, and I agree represents no problem whatsoever for naturalism.
    The difficult question I mentioned above was “how objective moral *values* fit within a naturalistic reality”. So the question is how to fit within naturalism the value itself, or, indeed, how to explain on naturalistic terms what “value” (or “significance”) actually means. It seems that on the naturalistic view these concepts can only refer to Kagan’s feelings, but Kagan himself insists that loving relationships have “real value”, which presumably means something over and beyond his feelings about loving relationships. Why do I think that on the naturalistic view these concepts can only refer to feelings? Because on naturalism there is nothing else out there but physical states and the mental states that supervene on them; all evolving through a blind and purposeless mechanical process.
    Thus the issue of whether loving relationships will last for ever is not particularly relevant. It is not essential for Craig’s argument that on theism loving relationships do have an eternal cosmic dimension or significance, and thus for Kagan to insist on this point confuses the issue. Craig’s argument hinges only on the belief that moral values are *real*, in the sense that they go over and beyond our feelings and beliefs. In his speech he used the example of the Holocaust to illustrate what virtually everybody intuitively agrees with, namely that the Holocaust was really evil, notwithstanding the fact that the Nazis who perpetrated it thought and felt it was good. And that it would remain evil, even had the Nazis won the war and brainwashed everybody else into thinking and feeling that the Holocaust was good. If Kagan agrees that moral values are real in this sense (and it seems he does), then he should explain what in a naturalistic reality makes such values real. What is the good-making property in a naturalistic reality? What is it that makes patterns of physical state transitions which correlate with feelings of joy “better” or “more valuable” than patterns of physical state transitions which correlate with feelings of pain? What is it that makes patterns of physical state transitions that we call “loving relationships” more significant or more valuable than other patterns we call “digestion” or “the wind blowing over the sea” (even if one assumes that all such processes will stop some time in the future)? This, I think, naturalists have consistently failed to explain.
    Now, let’s turn the table. The theist too can explain how come people have loving relationships and feel they are highly significant. The theistic explanation will use the same physical principles that the naturalistic explanation does, but will go much deeper. It will explain why or for what purpose God, the author of physical nature, created it in such a way that such relationships do obtain and are deemed significant. And, further, theism will explain what the good-making property of such loving relationships is, namely (in my view) that they further God’s purpose in creation.
    Thus in the place where in naturalism one finds a gaping conceptual hole, one finds in theism an explanation that brings everything together. That’s why I think that the argument from morality (or from objective moral values as Craig puts it) is indeed one of the strongest arguments for theism and against naturalism.

    May 5, 2011 — 4:24
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Jarrett,
    You write: “One thing to note is the word objective. I’ll read on atheist blogs that Craig changes the word objective. Objective is traditionally understood to mean independent of attitudes and opinions of persons, but Craig uses it to mean not-dependent on human beings (independent of human opinion). If the former is true then even with God there is no objective morality. Because morality is based in God who is a person. Any thoughts on this?”
    Obviously there is a huge metaphysical distance between the person of God, who is the ground of all being and the cause of all existence, and us, created and contingent persons. On theism the very fabric of reality (to use Mackie’s expression) is personal, and thus of a moral nature. Our choices can thus go against or with the implicit moral grain of reality. In the former case our choices will be against God’s purpose, will ultimately be against our profit, and are called “evil”. In the latter case our choices will further God’s purpose, will ultimately be for our profit, and are called “good”. By explaining what the background standard is against which choices are measured, theism offers a so-called “objective” metaethical theory.
    Thus, Hume’s famous “you can’t get an ought from an is” only applies to naturalism. On theism, the “is” (by being ultimately personal and thus of a moral character) entails the “ought”.
    Also, as Craig often insists, it is important not to confuse the epistemic with the ontological problem. The ontological problem is about what grounds moral values, or, if you prefer, what makes moral truths. The epistemic problem is about how to find out moral truths. Christians are committed to the belief that one can learn at least in part about moral truths from God’s revelation in creation, and especially from Christ’s moral teaching. But this does not mean that something is morally good or evil because Christ (or God) says so, or that what makes something good or evil is Christ (or God) saying so. The latter views reflect I think a gross misunderstandings of Christianity.

    May 5, 2011 — 5:20
  • Eric

    Dianelos,
    I agree with you that the main problem that lurks here is a defense of some form of ethical objectivism. I am personally skeptical about cognitivism in ethics, so I imagine that the effort to provide ethical objectivity fails from both theistic and non-theistic fronts, but one point you made stuck out at me. You say:
    “It seems that on the naturalistic view these concepts can only refer to Kagan’s feelings, but Kagan himself insists that loving relationships have “real value”, which presumably means something over and beyond his feelings about loving relationships”
    I’m not sure if I’m supposed to read this as a claim about Kagan’s own feelings or about human feelings more generally. If it’s the former, I am in agreement: the value of love can’t be just egoism. But I don’t know if I would agree with the latter…I think the naturalist could tell a story about how love (represented, for instance, by Kagan’s own feelings PLUS those of the people who he loves PLUS the ways his love affects the world, etc…) is valuable even if it isn’t linked to some divine purpose. I agree with you that the same story will also have to explain how misguided cases of love or views of the good can be wrong (for example, how Nazi views of the ‘good’ can be misguided) and that might be a harder part of the story to tell, but I don’t think it’s impossible.
    I appreciate your reply, by the way.

    May 5, 2011 — 8:52
  • Clayton:
    In regard to your first argument, it is quite possible to be more sure of p than of q, even though one believes that p relevantly entails q. Hence, it is possible to think moral significance metaphysically requires eternal life, but to be more sure of moral significance than eternal life.
    Some people think that mental life metaphysically requires having X. Of course, presumably these people are more sure of the fact that they have a mental life than of the fact that they have X. For examples, take X = matter, soul, causal efficacy, or functional characterization. There is nothing inconsistent in this pair of attitudes.
    Likewise, Craig can hold that moral significance metaphysically requires eternal life, while being more sure of moral significance than of eternal life.
    However, if one does hold that, then one shouldn’t argue that atheists should not think there is moral significance. One should argue, instead, that if atheism is true, there is no moral significance.
    As to your second argument, I can’t speak for Craig, but I do not think there is any difficulty in denying P1. Moral significance can be both positive and negative. Now, take three eschatological views:
    1. The traditional view: there is an eternal heaven and an eternal and non-empty hell, and everybody ends up in one of the two.
    2. Universalism: everyone goes to heaven.
    3. Annihilationism: everyone is either annihilated or ends up in heaven.
    On views 1 and 3, our lives clearly can have eternal consequence–they determine whether we spend eternity in heaven or in hell (case 1) or whether we live eternally or not (case 3). On view 2, whether our lives have eternal consequences depends on whether everybody in heaven is equally happy. One could have a version of universalism on which some people are more happy than others in heaven, and the eternal degree of happiness depends on our earthly lives.

    May 5, 2011 — 9:50
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Alex,
    I still don’t have a clear sense what Craig’s view is. Three questions:
    Q1: Would the life of a sentient creature with mental lives similar to ours have no significance if that creature would someday be annihilated or failed to stand in the right relation to God?
    Q2: Could something have no “ultimate significance” and still have inherent moral value?
    Q3: Is it metaphysically possible on Craig’s view for a person to fail to stand in the right relation to God to have a life of significance?
    I think the view that there are persons like us with no inherent moral value is a rather abhorrent view. So, how does someone like Craig avoid it? Whatever that answer is, how is that answer not available to the atheist?

    May 5, 2011 — 11:53
  • Alex: You wrote, “it is quite possible to be more sure of p than of q, even though one believes that p relevantly entails q.” Isn’t there a Dutch Book argument against the rationality of that state of mind (or does “believes that” avoid the argument)?

    May 5, 2011 — 12:00
  • The “intuition that if there is no God or afterlife, then life loses its significance” is not an intuitive sense that I share. In fact, it seems to me that it would be the other way around. If there is an omnipotent deity controlling every facet of existence, then I am merely a cog in its plan, and my life doesn’t exist and my seeming choices don’t make a difference. If I’m going to have an infinitely long afterlife when I die at the end of this life, my century or so on this planet seems like a blink of an eye, and it doesn’t much matter how I spend these paltry few years. Life becomes more like a dull waiting room, just passing the time before the afterlife.
    I think Kagan’s argument which you quote makes a lot of sense. Something does not have to have cosmic/ infinite significance to have any significance. Significance isn’t a binary condition.

    May 5, 2011 — 14:33
  • Aaron Bartolome

    Consider two claims: “Unselfishly loving other people is good and meaningful,” and “Torturing children for fun is bad.” I think that these claims are necessarily true (and I hope you do too!). The size of human beings relative to the size of the universe, and how long we live relative to how long the universe will exist is irrelevant. If the universe were the size of our own solar system, would our actions become more meaningful? Or if the universe were to exist for only 30 billion years instead of 100 billion years, would our actions become more meaningful? Of course not.
    But what makes these claims true (assuming that they’re true)? Maybe moral realism is true, i.e., some ethical truths are necessarily true, in the same way truths of math/logic are true, and their being true does not depend on the motivations/preferences/commands of any being whatsoever. Or maybe the truth of these claims are determined by what we would prefer/desire if we were rational or adequately informed.
    Some people want to say that these claims are true because of God. That is, torturing children for fun is wrong/bad because God forbids it, or because God prefers that we prefer that it not occur, or maybe because it does not resemble God in some way. But not just any kind of God will work on this theory. We don’t want to say that a cruel God who hates some people for no reason, for example, can ground moral values/obligations. So we have to restrict it to a certain kind of God, a God that is perfectly loving.
    The problem with that, however, is that it is viciously circular. The concept of love presupposes a concept of good, to love another person requires desiring what is good for that person. So we cannot say that what is good is determined by what a loving God prefers or desires, and then explain loving in terms of desiring what is good.
    I think Craig is wrong. Even if God does not exist, some things are still objectively good/bad right/wrong.

    May 5, 2011 — 20:01
  • shane

    Alex: What’s really happening is that someone can rationaly believe p more certainly than “if p then q.” After all, if both could be believed with equal certainty, one would have to accept p and q with equal certainty.

    May 6, 2011 — 0:54
  • shane:
    It’s not just a question of the comparative degrees of belief in p and necessarily(p→q). Suppose that I accept p to degree 0.97, and I accept necessarily(p→q) to degree 0.99. Then if I have no additional evidence for or against q, I will presumably accept q to degree about 0.96, which is less than 0.97.
    Clayton:
    I at least answer yes to the first two questions. But one does have to distinguish the subjunctive and modal from the indicative conditional questions. For instance, we might have a correct divinely-implanted quantified indicative conditional belief:
    1. (E)(If E lacks ultimate significance, E lacks moral significance).
    But (1) is compatible with the falsity of:
    2. If love lacked ultimate significance, it would lack moral significance.
    I wonder if some theists don’t move from the correct intuition that (1) is true to implausible claims like (2).
    Another possibility, is a thought like this–a not uncommon thought, I suspect:
    3. If none of our actions are of ultimate significance, reality deep-down doesn’t care about us.
    4. If reality deep-down doesn’t care about us, probably our lives are without meaning.
    Maybe the intuition behind 4 is simply an anti-naturalistic intuition–that it is unlikely that there would be instantiations of values in a reality where nothing cared about us deep-down. Or maybe there is something here like this.
    Anyway, the conditional probability in 4 is epistemic, so we don’t get any subjunctives like that if reality deep-down didn’t care about us, probably our lives would be without meaning.
    (“Reality deep-down doesn’t care” rules out such hypotheses as monotheism, certain varieties of polytheism, axiarchism and pantheism.)

    May 6, 2011 — 8:47
  • Matthew G

    I think the lack of ultimate significance (or a moral order, as Robert Adams has it) is demoralizing, but I don’t see why I would need to endorse (1). I think all I need to say is that the lack of ultimate significance is demoralizing, and leave it at that. A man’s death, in terms of ultimate significance, is no different than the death of an insect or plant. But I don’t have to deny that there is some moral significance to a human being.
    I think Craig makes his statement in the context of arguing that life is absurd on atheism. In that same essay he argues against there being objective moral value on atheism, but they are different arguments. Kagan basically concedes that the “significance argument” is right; he then says that the “objective moral value argument” doesn’t follow from it. But Craig never claimed it does. And I don’t think St Paul was claiming that either; I think Ecclesiastes, Paul, Craig, etc. are just pointing out that it would be demoralizing if atheism were true.

    May 6, 2011 — 9:43
  • Andrew Moon

    thanks for the comments everybody! I won’t have time to respond to most of them.
    Matthew G,
    It may be that R. Adams is right and that belief in the lack of ultimate significance is psychologically demoralizing, but that just doesn’t seem to be what Craig is saying. Consider the quote I made above, “Because the human race will eventually cease to exist, it makes no ultimate difference whether it ever did exist. Mankind is thus no more significant than a swarm of mosquitoes or a barnyard of pigs, for their end is all the same…” Craig doesn’t merely seem to be pointing to how its demoralizing; he seems to be endorsing something like (1).

    May 6, 2011 — 11:53
  • Matthew G

    I guess I would say that my last post is what Craig SHOULD argue for if he wants to talk about atheism and ultimate significance. I think (1) is probably false; I don’t see any reason to think it’s true. I think Craig is right that on atheism we are of no more ultimate moral significance than a horsefly, but it doesn’t follow that we are of no moral significance. Perhaps Craig is equivocating significance and ultimate significance. His essay, “The Absurdity of Life Without God,” contains a few different arguments, and I think he often crams them together in order to get a bloated conclusion for each argument.

    May 6, 2011 — 14:02
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Eric,
    You write: “ I am personally skeptical about cognitivism in ethics, so I imagine that the effort to provide ethical objectivity fails from both theistic and non-theistic fronts.”
    I think that naturalism pretty much implies non-cognitivism in ethics, because there is no explanation of what “value” means or refers to in a naturalistic reality. There is no value-making property in a naturalistic reality. Which brings to the surface a probably unconscious sleight of hand that one often observes when naturalists discuss ethics, namely that they use value language giving the impression that it is meaningful after all. So, for example, when Craig asks Kagan about what in a naturalistic reality makes people special and objects of moral concern Kagan answers that people are capable of doing calculus, writing poetry, falling in love, etc, and these are the valuable things which make people special and objects of moral concern (that’s near min 47 of the video). The perhaps unconscious sleight of hand here is to answer by pushing the problem one step deeper. After all, what is it in a naturalistic reality that makes the capacity of doing calculus, writing poetry, and falling in love – which we all see are valuable things – valuable? Indeed, when Craig insists on this very point, Kagan’s answer (if I understand him correctly) is that what makes something valuable is what a social contract negotiated between perfectly rational people (ideally behind Rawls’ veil of ignorance) would specify. But this answer once again only pushes the problem one step deeper. We all see that rational ethical thought is good and thus trustworthy, but what is it in a naturalistic reality that makes rational ethical thought good and thus trustworthy?
    But perhaps Kagan’s point is a different one. Perhaps he wants to define what value propositions refer to, and thus put an end to iterative questions about what makes something good in a naturalistic world. So he posits that something is good to the degree that a committee of ideally rational people says so. Apart from the committee bit (which given ideal rationality is not required anyway) his idea reminds me of theistic command ethics. Now on naturalism there is no difference between rationality and intelligence. Suppose then in a naturalistic reality one would ask a committee of ideally intelligent people some question about value. Would the committee be able to answer it? I think it wouldn’t for two different reasons, the first related to an epistemic vicious circle, and the second related to a methodological vicious circle. First, the committee would ask what “value” means, and being super-intelligent they wouldn’t accept some vague answer. And to tell them that “value” is what they decide it is would rightly be deemed absurd. But let’s overlook this point and assume that the committee puts itself to work on some difficult task, say to decide ethical questions between the well-being of humans and the well-being of animals, or between our present well-being and the well-being of future generations. Or whether it is good to kill a child if by doing so one saves a thousand. To answer such questions requires at some point a value judgment. But if value is grounded on what that committee says, then on what basis will the committee advance when going forward requires a value judgment? In conclusion, it seems that Kagan expects too much from intelligence. Intelligence can’t ex nihilo create values in a reality in which they don’t naturally exist.
    “I think the naturalist could tell a story about how love (represented, for instance, by Kagan’s own feelings PLUS those of the people who he loves PLUS the ways his love affects the world, etc…) is valuable even if it isn’t linked to some divine purpose.”
    But how can the naturalist tell any story about what is valuable in one case but not valuable in another, before explaining what the meaning of “valuable” is? Or, how can I answer to what you write above, when I have no idea what “valuable” means in a naturalistic reality? In conclusion it seems to me then that much of naturalistic argumentation is kind of parasitic on nomenclature which is grounded only on the theistic worldview, and it is only for this reason that it sounds meaningful. It seems to me that the consistent naturalist must embrace non-cognitivism. In a naturalistic reality the ideally intelligent members of Kagan’s committee would immediately resign declaring their task unintelligible.
    “I imagine that the effort to provide ethical objectivity fails from both theistic and non-theistic fronts”
    Why so? After all it is easy to explain what makes something valuable in a theistic world, namely the degree to which it resembles God. So, for example, to say that Halle Berry’s face is more beautiful than Winston Churchill’s means that the experiencie of meeting God is closer to the experience of meeting Berry’s face than Churchill’s. To say that it is morally better to help our enemies instead of taking revenge on them means that by choosing the former we become more similar to God (or, in Christian terms, to Christ) than if we choose the latter. In a theistic reality all value is grounded in the nature of God. In other words, all value propositions about x refer to a similarity or closeness relationship between x and God. The value-making property of x is its relevant similarity or closeness to God. Halle Berry’s face is beautiful in that it reflects God’s beauty, to choose to help one’s enemies is right because it reflects God’s character, to recognize that x is beautiful or is right is to recognize how similar x is to God, and so on.
    An interesting implication of the relationship between value and God is that in any reality in which values exist, that reality must be personal and indeed theistic according to St. Anselm’s definition. Here’s the argument: Values (objectively) exist. If something exists then it must be grounded on what is ontologically ultimate. Values only make sense in a personal context, therefore what is ontologically ultimate is not less than personal (in the sense that is such that personal values can be grounded on). Now for St. Anselm’s bit: Suppose what is ontologically ultimate is in some respect less then the greatest conceivable thing. Then, some x may conceivably exist the value of which in that respect exceeds what is ontologically ultimate. But then a property of a conceivably existing x is not grounded on what is ontologically ultimate, which is impossible. Therefore what is ontologically ultimate is not less than personal and also the greatest conceivable thing. Which we call God.

    May 6, 2011 — 17:37
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Aaron,
    You write: “The problem with that, however, is that it is viciously circular. The concept of love presupposes a concept of good, to love another person requires desiring what is good for that person. So we cannot say that what is good is determined by what a loving God prefers or desires, and then explain loving in terms of desiring what is good.”
    I agree that to love another person entails desiring what is good for that person.
    I wouldn’t say that what is good is determined by what God prefers or desires. What is good is determined by its resemblance or closeness to God. God, being loving, desires the good for all of us, and thus desires that we be close to Him/Her.
    Finally, I don’t think it makes sense to explain loving in terms of desiring what is good. Love is not something to be explained; it is an essential nature of what is ontologically ultimate.
    So I don’t see the circularity you claim. I can’t even imagine how any circularity may exist. On theism the ontologically ultimate is the greatest conceivable person. All values that contingent persons or things may have are grounded on, or measured against, God’s respective nature. I don’t see how in his ontological picture even the mere potential for circularity arises.
    Come to think of it, a circularity may only exist internally, within the nature of God. But a being with problems of internal circularity would not be the greatest conceivable being, so that can’t be the case either.

    May 6, 2011 — 18:15
  • Aaron Bartolome

    Hi Dianelos,
    Thank you for the comments! Saying that God is the greatest conceivable being commits you to saying that there are objective standards for what makes something (absolutely) better or worse. For example, you have to agree with the following:
    (1) God is perfectly loving because it is better to be perfectly loving than not.
    But then you can’t also hold the following:
    (2) It is better to be perfectly loving than not because God is perfectly loving.
    Here’s the thing: If you hold (1), then you have to say that there are objective standards, independent of God, for what makes things better or worse. It is better to be perfectly loving than not, and this is true no matter what! This would be true even if God did not exist, and even if God never desired or commanded anything to anyone.
    But if you hold (2), then you have to say that God sets the standard for what makes things better or worse. If God were cruel, then it would be better to be cruel than not! And if God did not exist, then nothing would be good/bad or better or worse.

    May 6, 2011 — 22:20
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Hi Aaron,
    Thank you. I am happy to be here. I used to envy the ancient Athenians who could just walk to the market square and discuss philosophy, but this blog is even better! For one thing I can take my sweet time to think before responding.
    I think the difficulty present in your (1) and (2) is that they use “because” in two different senses. (1) uses it in a strictly epistemic sense, but (2) uses it in a primarily ontological sense.
    Let us start with (2) “It is better to be perfectly loving than not because God is perfectly loving.” Here the “because” represents the application of an ontological fact or rule, namely that something is good to the degree it resembles God. Thus, what makes it good to be perfectly loving is that by being so one resembles God. More specifically the closer one is to being perfectly loving, the better. So, the question that (2) responds to is an ontological one, namely “What makes being perfectly loving better than not?”
    Now, I suppose one could suggest an epistemological question too, namely “How do you know that it is better to be perfectly loving than not?”, and the answer would be: I know that God is perfectly loving. I know that the more I resemble God the better. Therefore I conclude that to be perfectly loving is better than not.
    Let us now consider (1) “God is perfectly loving because it is better to be perfectly loving than not.” What question is this an answer to? It seems to me that it can’t be the answer to an ontological question, for one is not asking “What makes God perfectly loving?”. This can’t possibly be the question because the nature of God, the ontologically ultimate, is not analyzable. Indeed in my understanding this is the meaning of God’s simplicity. (Should one interpret (1) in the ontological sense, i.e. that the fact that it is better to be perfectly loving is what makes God perfectly loving – then I’d say that (1) is clearly false for it denies God its ontologically ultimate status.)
    Rather, (1) can only be the answer to an epistemological question, namely “How do you know that God is perfectly loving?” And the answer would be: I know that God is the best (aka greatest) conceivable being. I know that being perfectly loving is better than not being perfectly loving. Therefore I conclude that God is perfectly loving.
    In general, there is a dialectic between ontology and epistemology: The effectiveness of epistemology is grounded on ontological facts, but one’s knowledge of ontological facts is grounded on epistemology. There is a circularity here alright, but not a vicious one as long as one is clear whether the discourse is about how things are, or about how one knows how things are.
    I find it useful to build a detailed ontological side, and then consider what it implies for epistemology. If you think about the latter I trust you’ll see that what we need in order to have knowledge about God is to be created such as 1) to be unable to think of God as less than the greatest being we can conceive, and 2) to have some minimal perception-like cognitive power to distinguish good from evil (or great from little, or beautiful from ugly). It is by that power we “see” that love is better than hate, and that the kind of universal/unconditional/self-transcending love that Christ realized is the greatest of all. And thus, without being able to actually see God, we can confidently conclude that God is loving in the same way.
    Two last quick comments. You write: “If God were cruel, then it would be better to be cruel than not!”
    I think that sentence is unintelligible, because God is not cruel. I mean a cruel god should not be called “God” in the first place. Theistic metaethics rest on the nature of God. To point out that the same metaethics will not work in a world in which the ontologically ultimate is not God but X, is irrelevant.
    “And if God did not exist, then nothing would be good/bad or better or worse.”
    Yes, exactly right. Or at least to my knowledge nobody has yet offered a viable theory about what would good/bad or better/worse be in a world not based on God. In a previous post I have proposed an argument according to which in any world in which values exist God is the ontologically ultimate. If that argument is successful it proves that there can’t possibly be values (good/bad, better/worse) in a world without God, in which case of course it is no wonder that nobody has succeeded in offering a theory about how values may exist in a world without God.

    May 7, 2011 — 17:02
  • Wes Morriston

    Although Craig muddles the issue, his considered position seems to be that even if there were objective values and duties in a godless world, human life would lack “ultimate significance” because “it all comes to nothing in the end.” By “ultimate significance,” Craig means “eternal rewards and punishments.” (At least that’s what he stressed in his debate with Kagan.)
    This is supposed to be relevant to morality in the following way. Without eternal rewards/punishments, not only would moral motivation be undermined, but it would be positively irrational (Craig actually says it would be “stupid”) to do the (objectively) moral thing when it conflicts with self-interest.
    That’s not the same as endorsing Andrew’s

    1) If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.

    Craig does indeed claim that God is necessary (and sufficient) for objective moral value. But he has separate arguments for that, which I critically discuss in an article forthcoming in Religious Studies. (It can be found at http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/DoesGodGround.pdf .)
    As I say, though, Craig muddles things sufficiently to make it appear that he is endorsing something like Andrew’s (1). He often seems to be arguing that if what we do won’t matter billions of years from now, then it can’t matter now. Kagan (quite rightly) calls him on this fallacious bit of reasoning.
    Pace Bernard Williams, I would very much like to live forever. (Maybe with an opt-out provision, though!) But if someone saved my life, thereby enabling me to live for another (say) twenty years, I’d be extremely grateful. I wouldn’t say, “No matter; I’m still going to die eventually.” Even if death is the END, the person who has saved my life has done something that (to use Kagan’s phase) “matters perfectly.” As Thomas Nagel says, life is good; and more life is better, even if it doesn’t go on for ever. (All else equal, of course.)
    Sometimes, Craig just doesn’t seem to “get” this.

    May 9, 2011 — 10:33
  • Wes:
    You attribute to Bill Craig the idea that: “Without eternal rewards/punishments, not only would moral motivation be undermined”.
    I wonder if this fits with Protestant soteriology. It does fit if motivations follow non-causal decision theory, since Protestants do not deny that there is a correlation between right action and eternal reward. But if motivations follow causal decision theory, then it doesn’t seem that this fits with Protestant soteriology.
    Since Bill is a Protestant, this is a problem for him, isn’t it?
    Of course, there are varieties of Protestant soteriology, so maybe Bill has one that does allow him to say that. Or maybe he likes non-causal decision theory.

    May 9, 2011 — 11:05
  • Paul Torek

    Danielos,
    Hume’s famous “you can’t get an ought from an is” is inadequate from either a theistic or non-theistic perspective. It relies on two unacceptable premises: that there are some is-free oughts, and that all ises are ought-free.
    On a non-theistic view too, the “is” is personal – that is, persons are among what is. Reality is [i]ultimately[/i] personal in the sense that the final account will have to admit personality into its ontology – which is the sense that counts.

    May 9, 2011 — 14:44
  • Matthew G

    By the way, on his website, Craig has responded to some of the points in this discussion. Oddly enough, he did it 32 weeks ago. Yeah, he’s that good. Here’s the link:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8392&printer_friendly=1

    May 9, 2011 — 14:46
  • I have never understood the appeal of the argument that god is somehow required for objective morality/moral significance or anything of that ilk. Either there is (are) a (or some) god(s) of some sort or there isn’t (aren’t). Suppose there is some god. Call it “The Big Cheese” or TBC for short. Either TBC is perfectly good or s/he/it isn’t. If TBC isn’t perfectly good, obviously TBC’s existence has nothing to do with the existence of morality. (Maybe this isn’t obvious. Perhaps morality somehow depends on a less than perfectly good being in the following way: morality is the nature of TBC plus. Plus what? More goodness? But, without an independent standard of goodness, what could “more goodness” mean? Like TBC but more so? I hope it’s clear that this is hopeless.) So, suppose TBC is perfectly good. Now, the claim that TBC is perfectly good might be a substantive one, because there is a standard of goodness independent of the existence of TBC. In this case, TBC’s existence again has nothing to do with the existence of morality. So, suppose instead that the claim that TBC is perfectly good is somehow analytic, because TBC embodies or creates or exemplifies or whatever (pick your favorite relation from your favorite attempt to answer the Euthyphro problem) goodness. So, without TBC, there couldn’t be goodness. But why should anyone care about goodness as so described? Of course, they might care prudentially, if TBC set up a system of rewards and/or punishments. But that’s not moral motivation.
    Theists (of a certain type) seem to be saying that goodness, this really important thing that we should all care about, is ontologically dependent on this being. Why should (other than prudentially) we care about what is ontologically dependent on this being? It can’t be because this being is good. I hope we can all recognize the vicious circularity there. (This is probably just the Euthyphro problem. But there’s a good reason for that. Despite all the fancy footwork of modern philosophy of religion, it’s never been satisfactorily answered.) Besides, why not just accept the existence of goodness but not TBC? It involves less than accepting the existence of TBC. You get out of the problem of evil, for a start. That goodness exists in no way entails, or even suggests, that things are generally good, let alone really really good, or even as good as they could be. Unlike TBC, goodness doesn’t have knowledge or power. Between two hypotheses, (i) that TBC exists and somehow grounds goodness, or (ii) that only goodness exists, (ii) is clearly better supported by the evidence. This still leaves the question of why we should care about goodness/morality. That’s possibly the most difficult question in all philosophy. But the point is that believing in goodness without TBC leaves you no worse off for answering this question than believing in goodness with (and probably somehow dependent on) TBC. Perhaps it’s just a brute fact that morality is important. If so, it’s certainly no harder to swallow than the supposed brute fact that TBC is important (in the sense that caring about what is somehow dependent on TBC’s nature is important). Of course, you could pull a semantic trick and simply declare that goodness is god. Fine by me. I remember a great paper by Rod Long, in which he argues that god is the logical order of the universe. Also fine by me. I suspect, though, that neither of these accounts of god will satisfy my theistic friends.

    May 9, 2011 — 15:05
  • “Besides, why not just accept the existence of goodness but not TBC? It involves less than accepting the existence of TBC.”
    One advantage of the God theory over the goodness-only theory might be that God can explain both (a) how goodness facts are grounded, and (b) how we know goodness facts (e.g., because God creates us in such a way that we will likely have some basically correct beliefs about what is good, and does so in such a way that these beliefs have a chance of being knowledge rather than merely true belief), while the goodness-only theory might only explain (a).
    While I don’t accept a divine command theory, I think there are versions that overcome some or all of the problems you point out. Here’s a story based largely on my understanding of my colleague Steve Evans’ account. Start with this Anscombian thought: Let’s grant (at least for the sake of argument) that theism isn’t needed for grounding virtue facts. So without theism we can have facts such as that running indiscriminately away from danger is cowardly and hence vicious. Add that without theism, or at least apparently without theism (it might be that theism is in the end needed for explaining everything), we can have axiological facts, like that virtue and virtuous pleasure are good things to have, that vice and suffering are bad things to have, etc.
    Now, suppose you’re still puzzled, as Anscombe in “Modern Moral Philosophy” thinks you should be if you’re not a theist, about the idea of obligation. You realize of course that it’s better to be virtuous than to be vicious, but this axiological fact doesn’t yield an account of obligation. (Some people think the overridingness is the particularly puzzling feature here.)
    So, now you bring God in to explain obligation facts, thereby plugging a gap in virtue ethics. Since you already have on the scene good and bad, and virtue and vice, we can describe God as a perfectly virtuous creator who seeks our good without circularity. You answer the Euthyphro question of why God commands or wills as he does by saying that the things he commands or wills are good principles for us to be commanded to live our lives by. And then you say that God’s commanding or willing these things grounds their being obligations rather than merely good principles.
    On the Evans picture, you still have a connection with virtue–the virtue of gratitude when combined with the benefits received from God makes it virtuous for you to abide by God’s will.
    OK, I don’t endorse this story myself (I don’t have the feeling that others do that there is something particularly puzzling about obligation–I think all normative stuff is puzzling), but it doesn’t seem to me to be obvious that all accounts of this sort are useless.

    May 9, 2011 — 17:19
  • Andrew Moon

    Hi Wes,
    It’s nice to hear from you, and thanks for the Craig exegesis.
    You say, “By “ultimate significance,” Craig means “eternal rewards and punishments.”” And then you take Craig’s considered view to be something like
    2) There are some moral actions x such that if x results in no eternal reward or punishment, then it would be (prudentially) irrational to do x.
    rather than (1) (even though he gives the impression of holding to (1)).
    I wonder if there’s another way of interpreting “ultimate significance”; perhaps he interprets it as “everlasting effect”. Here are some examples. My helping the orphanage with my donation helps the orphanage keep from going bankrupt; this in turn contributes to the orphanage helping children for generations to come. Compare this with my donating to the orphanage, the children being helped, but then the orphanage shutting down next year. There was a lasting effect in the first case but not the second. And there is some sense in which I want to say of the latter case, “Well, it was all for nothing; the orphanage ended up shutting down anyway.” Now, perhaps we could take Craig to be saying that, without God and an afterlife, our moral actions won’t have an everlasting effect, one where we can’t say, “Well, it was all for nothing. The universe ended up shutting down anyway.”
    So, I wonder if another way of interpreting
    1) If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.
    Might be as
    3) If x does not an everlasting moral effect, then x does not have objective, moral significance.
    Of course, Kagan could equally question (3) as he did (1). Furthermore, you could say in response to my second orphanage example, “But at least you helped them for that year! That in itself was valuable!” And that seems to be the sort of response one should make. Still, (3) seems to be another precise way of interpreting (1).

    May 9, 2011 — 18:19
  • dan

    I don’t understand why Craig is taken seriously. His view that we need God and eternal life and eternal punishment for our actions to be morally significant is just plain silly. Kegan, with great restraint, correctly dismissed his view as silly. It’s a silly view.
    Kegan pointed to the contractarian view, as an example, of a non-theistic basis for getting objective morality. There are terms that we, rational beings (behind a veil of ignorance) would agree to. It is an objective fact that these terms exist. It is wrong to violate any of these terms. Moral rightness and wrongness has to do with whether we abide by or don’t abide by these terms. What is non-objective about this?
    On a Kantian view, rightness and wrongness has to do with treating people merely as a means. there is an objective fact about whether some actions involve using people merely as a means. So then some actions are objectively wrong. So then, there is objective significance to some of our actions. Am I missing something here?
    Given certain facts about us humans and other sentient beings, there are objective reasons for not treating us in certain ways, e.g., killing for fun, raping, lying to, etc. If one does anyways, she does something there are objective reasons not to do. She has done something objective wrong and significant.
    What does any of this have anything whatsoever to do with there being a God or whether people wind up burning in hell forever?

    May 9, 2011 — 21:01
  • Aaron Bartolome
    May 10, 2011 — 0:57
  • dan

    I don’t want to be a bad guy, but seriously, why can’t we get a serious philosopher arguing for the theistic side instead of Craig, e.g., Plantinga, Rea? Kagan is a subtle careful thinker and we could have had a very serious and productive discussion about issues that we philosophers care deeply about. Craig looked bewildered by Kagan’s elementary textbook replies about the possibility of objective morality without God. This is intro to ethics stuff.
    Craig makes a 20 minute presentation about objective morality not being possible without God then Kagan gets him to take all of that back within 2 minutes of their discussion. Come on! That’s simply not acceptable. Under examination from Kagan, Craig changes the subject at least twice. First, after conceding that objective morality was possible (after 2 minutes of grilling), he contends that there is no reason to be objectively moral without God. What? This is nonsense. Kagan could hardly keep a straight face.
    Second, Craig doesn’t know how to respond to further questioning so he suddenly wants to talk about determinism and whether it undermines the significance of our actions. What is this? If the veritas forum wanted to call on someone of Kagan’s stature then they should’ve paired him up with someone he could have a grown up discussion with.

    May 10, 2011 — 2:20
  • Anonymous

    Here are some theses worth separating:
    * God exists.
    * We shall have personal immortality.
    * We shall be punished or rewarded for the moral quality of our lives.
    * There are objective facts about the moral quality of our lives.
    None of these have any prima facie connection to each other. You could easily have the first without the second, the second without the third, the third without the first, etc. The only exception I see is that perhaps the third presupposes the fourth, which (if true) jeopardizes the view (perhaps Craig’s view) that the reverse is true (i.e., that the fourth presupposes the third).
    Also, it’s important not to conflate atheism with naturalism.
    Also: what about animals? Surely if anything is objectively wrong, it’s objectively wrong to torture animals. Surely if anything is objectively bad, the suffering of animals is objectively bad. But does Craig think that animals shall have personal immortality? Does he think that they will be punished or rewarded for the moral quality of their lives? I presume not.
    Finally, Craig needs a solution to the Euthyphro dilemma, and he needs a non-question-begging argument against ordinary non-theistic moral realism. As yet I’ve seen none.

    May 10, 2011 — 4:27
  • Anonymous

    One last thing: won’t Craig’s view lead to the unwanted conclusion that nothing we do is intrinsically wrong? After all, if the wrongness of an action does not follow from its intrinsic nature (as a triangle’s properties follow from its intrinsic nature), because wrongness only comes about once God has performed additional acts (e.g., made commands, decided against annihilating human souls at death, instituted rewards and punishments), then that wrongness is not intrinsic to the action. This seems to be a general problem with divine command theory.

    May 10, 2011 — 5:16
  • Tony Lloyd

    P1 If x does not have eternal, cosmic moral significance, then x does not have objective, moral significance.
    Not only do I think that P1 is false, I think it trivially false.
    Just how good does P1 sound if you apply the same form to other attributes?
    “P2 If x does not have eternal, cosmic mass, then x does not have objective mass”
    “P3 If x does not have eternal, cosmic destructiveness, then x is not objectively destructive”
    What’s the difference with moral significance?
    I can see there would be a difference were the eternal and cosmic to be necessary for moral significance. But this is a stretch, even for the theist. God is eternal (necessarily so, if you’re a theist) and (according to divine command theory) necessary for morals. But it is not in virtue of His being eternal that God is necessary for morals. (There are plenty of things that make me “me”, were they different then I would not be me. I am, for instance, a man who supports Everton Football Club. My being a man is necessary for my being the father of my children, my supporting Everton is not. It is, in part, in virtue of being a man that I am a parent and not at all in virtue of my supporting Everton.)
    Of course you can just decide that the eternal and cosmic is what you’re interested in, to the exclusion of all else. But compare that to similar judgements on actions. Most of us lead pretty unremarkable lives. When we go there’s only a small group of people who will even notice. We won’t have made our mark on history, there will be no statues, films, school courses about us. What significance we have had is very local, we work, we raise families, we have friends, we do things for the local community and very temporary.
    Some are driven to “greatness”, some think their lives wasted if they don’t have statues, films and school courses about them. Some of these people sneer at people like us: us who think that our pathetic jobs, families, friends, and communities are “significant”. These type of people subscribe to:
    P4 If a life does not have long lasting worldwide significance then the life has no significance.
    But that kind of thinking is pathological. Isn’t Craig’s position just as pathological?

    May 10, 2011 — 7:21
  • Anonymous

    I’m firmly on Kagan’s side of this debate against Craig. But Dan’s contribution makes the debate seem easier than it is.
    Dan (on May 09) points to contractarianism and Kantianism as moral positions that do not require God and according to which there is objective right and wrong. He is correct that according to these positions there is objective right and wrong. But that doesn’t show that there is objective right and wrong any more than a moral theory identifying moral rightness and wrongness with rocks shows that there is objective right and wrong. To show what he wants we need to see reasons to think that one of the theories is correct.
    I take it that the debate isn’t about *whether there are moral theories* according to which objective right and wrong do not require God. Surely Craig knows that there are such theories.

    May 10, 2011 — 7:39
  • Geert A

    My 2 eurocents:
    “3) If x does not an everlasting moral effect, then x does not have objective, moral significance.”
    Well, why not reduce this even further to: if x has no eternal effect, then x is not significant.”
    I think this is the gist of the idea. It simply tries to force the conclusion “If God does not exist, then nothing is of any significance.”
    It all comes down to this equation:
    1) effect of X is temporary, so it is has worth in timespan (t)
    2) effect of Y is eternal, so it is has worth in timespan (infinite)
    3) Compared to Y, the value of X is (t) / (infinite) = (infinitely small)
    4) (infinitely small) = objectively (nothing)
    However, (4) simply does not hold. We are (almost) infinitely small in the universe and even knowing that I don’t get humbled into insanity (as a certain guide to the galaxy would suggest)
    Moreover, this is valid only if:
    1) any effect can be eternal at all, which is unproven
    2) the value (of morality in our case) is measured by its effect (close to utilitarism; good intentions in itself have no value), which is debatable.
    3) this value is -among other things- proportionate to the duration of its reward, making the reward of Y disproportional.
    As a sidenote: considering (2), this attitude towards morality seems very cynical indeed. Because it seems to say: if I don’t get a reward, a completely disproportionate reward no less, I have no reason to be righteous.

    May 10, 2011 — 7:51
  • dan:
    “His view that we need God and eternal life and eternal punishment for our actions to be morally significant is just plain silly. Kegan, with great restraint, correctly dismissed his view as silly. It’s a silly view.”
    Normally, I refrain from arguments from authority. But an argument from authority can be useful for showing a position isn’t silly. There is something like the idea that we need a lawgiver and sanctions for the idea of moral obligation to make sense in Anscombe’s “Modern Moral Philosophy”, and a lot of people have taken Anscombe’s paper quite seriously.
    Anonymous:
    “Here are some theses worth separating”
    I agree they are worth separating.
    But while they are logically separable prima facie, there are probabilistic connections between the theses. Gabriel Marcel has somewhere observed something like this: if we focus on the uniqueness of someone we love, we will see the idea that this person will permanently cease to exist as a truly cosmic evil. I think there is a lot to this, and hence P(eternal life for all persons | God exists) is very high, assuming God is taken to be a perfectly good and omnipotent being. Likewise, it is quite prima facie plausible that there is strong moral reason to reward and punish in accordance with the moral quality of a life, and so P(reward and punishment for the moral quality of a life | God exists and objective facts about moral quality) is moderately high. Finally, God is supposed to be a being that is perfectly morally good, and his perfect goodness is in no way dependent on our minds (maybe this is a corollary to aseity). Thus, the existence of God entails the existence of moral facts not dependent on our minds. So P(objective moral facts | God exists) is high and maybe even one. And P(there are objective moral facts about the quality of our lives | there are objective moral facts) is fairly high, and remains high if we add “God exists” into the condition.
    So, the first of the four theses makes each of the next three at least moderately probable.
    There are incremental confirmation relations between the other theses. (E.g., just reward and punishment, while perhaps not requiring eternal life, requires at least some life after death, since not everyone is justly rewarded and punished in this life, and at least raises the probability of eternal life.) In general, all the four theses seem to be positively correlated.

    May 10, 2011 — 9:32
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Hi Alex,
    Thanks for your replies. Sorry for not getting back earlier. You said that you answered “Yes” to my Q1 and Q2, which means that you don’t think having inherent moral value is a nec. condition for having ultimate significance. That’s fine, but if that’s Craig’s attitude, then I fear that Kagan et. al. are right that he’s just shifting the discussion away from morality to this nebulous and ill-defined notion of ultimate significance.
    You never answered my Q3 and your answer to Q1 was suitably qualified so you end up saying that there’s a kernel of truth to the claim that if someone doesn’t stand in the right relation to God, their lives have no ultimate significance. Let’s shift the talk back to moral status or value, for a moment.
    What I still can’t see is whether Craig thinks the following is metaphysically possible:
    (*) There’s a creature with a mental life like ours or our children that has no moral value by virtue of the fact that it doesn’t stand in the right relation to God. (In other words, it is a contingent feature of creatures with these sorts of mental lives that they stand in the right relation to God to have moral status.)
    Thoughts?

    May 10, 2011 — 10:00
  • To take the argument from the opposite direction, I’ve never really understood how God was supposed to solve the problem of the meaning of life. Here are a couple of parables that encapsulate the puzzle:
    Divine Angst: The Parable of God’s Existential Crisis
    God was happy until one day he realized an awful truth: Even he could not conjure up objective meaning and purpose in a world that doesn’t already contain it.
    And on that day he realized that his existence was objectively meaningless; and all he could do was postulate a meaning for himself…
    The Parable of God’s Retirement
    What with the sun’s being about to enter its red-giant phase, God realized it was time to get the End Times rolling. (He had always thought that the imminent, literal end of the solar system would be a reasonably clear sign to everyone. But anyway…)
    First, then, the tribulation. The Antichrist induced war among all men. Then came pestilence. Famine. Earthquakes. Surviving populations fled to caves to escape the molten fragments of planet and moon and star hurtling toward earth. The wicked were slaughtered, rendering the seas boiling cauldrons of human blood and viscera. In short, just the kind of wholesale ghastliness one would expect from the penultimate stage of any lovingly plotted eschatology.
    But then the Messiah returned to earth. And the dead were resurrected. And the sinners were forever banished from the cosmos. And the rest were invited to join God in Heaven, for all eternity.
    And so all of God’s work was complete.
    And then God pondered: Well, what now?

    May 10, 2011 — 10:27
  • dan

    Anonymous said:
    “I’m firmly on Kagan’s side of this debate against Craig. But Dan’s contribution makes the debate seem easier than it is.
    Dan (on May 09) points to contractarianism and Kantianism as moral positions that do not require God and according to which there is objective right and wrong. He is correct that according to these positions there is objective right and wrong. But that doesn’t show that there is objective right and wrong any more than a moral theory identifying moral rightness and wrongness with rocks shows that there is objective right and wrong. To show what he wants we need to see reasons to think that one of the theories is correct.
    I take it that the debate isn’t about *whether there are moral theories* according to which objective right and wrong do not require God. Surely Craig knows that there are such theories”.
    Thanks for these comments. My point in posting was that people are making this issue way harder than it is and paying way more attention to Craig’s views and arguments than they deserve. They should be dismissed out of hand.
    If Craig knew about these theories, then why was he so bewildered when Kagan suggested one of them during the debate? First, he objects to contractarianism by asking “what if someone chooses not to enter into the contract”? Sounds like something a (earnest)freshman (who doesn’t quite get it the first time) would ask in one of my intro to ethics classes. Kagan had to patiently explain to him that’s not what the theory was about.
    second, as I pointed out, when Kagan brings up contractarianism and the possibility of making sense of an objective morality, Craig concedes that point. He then changes the subject and his new main contention then is that even if we can make sense of an objective morality, without God, there isn’t any motivation to be moral. Recall their discussion about morality and prudence coming apart.
    Your claim about one of these theories having to be correct is, sorry to say, confused. First, even Craig recognizes that demanding that Kagan demonstrate that one of the proposed moral theories be correct would be requiring too much. Kagan doesn’t need to defend Contractarianism or any other theory to rebut Craig. Rather, as he and Craig both see, he merely needs to put forward one way of making sense of an objective morality without God. For according to Craig, there is no way to make sense of an objective reality apart from God. There can be no objective grounds we can appeal to. There can only be non-objective grounds.
    I know the principle of charity probably requires that I give to Craig and his views more credit than I am giving them. But, maybe not. How to be charitable here? Craig, with a straight face, asks Kagan what moral difference there could be on a naturalistic world view between humans killing each other and lions killing each other. I thought Kagan was going to fall out of his seat at that point. Craig thinks that an atheist has no resources she can call to get a difference between the two cases.

    May 10, 2011 — 10:39
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Alex, my main point about the four theses was their separability, and we agree on that. But I’d like to spell out a worry I have about your suggested probabilistic connections. According to radical ‘anything goes’ divine command theorists (e.g., Ockham, Descartes, Arnauld), God exists and whatever God does is good simply due to the fact that God is the one doing it. But then we cannot judge 2, 3, or 4 to be likely given 1: i.e., even on the supposition that God exists, neither personal immortality nor divine sanctions nor objective moral facts about the quality of human lives can be reasonably expected to follow. There is nothing obviously improbable about the view that God would annihilate human souls at death absent reward or punishment, having deemed our lives to be of no moral significance whatsoever. Or at least we cannot assume that this is improbable without begging certain questions at the center of the debate.
    That said, I’m personally more interested in another question from my post: the question of how Craig’s view can accommodate the moral significance of animals without courting immortal animal souls.

    May 10, 2011 — 10:55
  • Wes Morriston

    Hi Andrew,
    If your orphanage folds right away, then your efforts might better be directed toward something else. But suppose the orphanage does a great job with many children for several generations. In that case, you’d hardly say your efforts were wasted. The fact that the orphanage doesn’t last forever just seems irrelevant.
    As I see it, then, a variation on your orphanage example provides a clear counterexample to the claim that:

    (3) If x does not an everlasting moral effect, then x does not have objective, moral significance.

    As far as Craig interpretation is concerned, I was merely reporting what he explicitly said when Kagan pressed him on the “eternal/cosmic significance” point. He insisted that this claim should be understood in the context of his “third” point – the one about “moral accountability.” He agreed that he was talking about eternal rewards/punishments, and then went on at some length about about this. Without eternal rewards/punishments, he said, morality would often clash with self-interest. It would then be irrational to do the moral thing. Why so? Because (as he agreed in response to a question from Kagan) good people are rewarded and bad people are punished. Eternally.
    Craig then got into trouble because (as he revealed in response to another question), his “Christian” view is that we are not held accountable for all the wrong we’ve done and are not treated in accordance with our just deserts – at least not if we get on board with Jesus, on whom God “poured out” all of his “wrath” against us. Craig never seemed to see how poorly this fit with the rest of what he was saying. It was an embarrassing moment for him, but to judge from his post-debate comments, he seems to have regarded it as a great opportunity to “witness.”
    Craig’s moral accountability claim isn’t easy to interpret, but I’m pretty sure he was saying that self-interest “should” trump morality in a godless world. What kind of “should?” It’s hard to say. If it’s the “should” of prudence (=self-interest), then Craig’s claim reduces to the triviality that when self-interest conflicts with morality, then it’s in your self-interest to go with self-interest. That can hardly be what he meant to say.
    At this stage of the argument, he was not challenging the claim that there could be objective values and duties in a godless world. His claim was that even if there were, it would be sometimes (often?) be irrational to do the moral thing. What does that mean? There’s a good article on this by Donald Hubin in the recent book based on the Craig/Kurtz debate – the one titled, Is Goodness Without God Good Enough? Hubin does quite a good job of deconstructing this part of Craig’s argument.

    May 10, 2011 — 10:56
  • dan

    Hi, Alex
    I’m not sure what to say about Anscombe’s paper. I’d have to know what the main claims and arguments were. But, the claim that every law requires a lawgiver is not only false, it is obviously false.
    My suspicion is that even if Anscombe’s views are not silly, that does not affect in any way the contention that Craig’s is.

    May 10, 2011 — 10:58
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Wes writes about Craig: “Without eternal rewards/punishments, he said, morality would often clash with self-interest. It would then be irrational to do the moral thing.”
    So Craig is going further than the view that, absent divine sanctions, there would be no rational justification for living morally. He’s saying that, absent divine sanctions, living morally would be positively irrational. But I think this leads to serious trouble. I’ll quote Catharine Trotter Cockburn on Thomas Johnson: “But if it was not only indifferent, but unwise and really unfit for a moral agent to be just, to be grateful, faithful to a trust, or any way beneficent to his fellow creatures, before God commanded it, as this adventurous writer asserts; on what grounds can God be supposed to have commanded it at all?”
    Applied to Craig: if living morally is in itself irrational, then why would God reward it? That is, if the overall balance of reasons favors a life of riotous debauchery over a life of moral excellence, then what justification could God have for punishing the former and rewarding the latter? Shouldn’t his sanctions correspond to the reasons there are? It’s one thing to say that God imposes an order of practical reason where none existed naturally. But it’s quite another to say that God imposes an order of practical reason that reverses the natural order of practical reason.
    Even if Craig retreats to the view that there is no order of practical reason prior to divine sanctions, I think he faces trouble. As I said above, legitimate sanctions seem to presuppose moral obligations that can provide the sanctions with their justification, which means these sanctions cannot be a prerequisite for moral obligation as a whole. But his current view seems to push God’s sanctions past the problematic ‘without justification’ zone and into an egregious ‘contrary to all justification’ zone.

    May 10, 2011 — 11:31
  • Chad Carmichael

    I think the proponent of DCT should reply to Alastair by suggesting that the claim that God is good is substantive (though the fact it reports is fundamental, at least relative to other facts about what’s good), that all the facts about the goodness of things other than God are grounded in facts about God, and that we should care about goodness (i.e., about doing good, knowing what is good, being good, etc.) because it is good to care about goodness. Finally, I think the proponent of DCT should say that the fact /that we should care about goodness because it is good to care about goodness/ is, like all facts about the goodness of things other than God, grounded in facts about God. I think nothing Alastair said rules out this view. I’m particularly interested to hear why Alastair thinks (if he indeed does—it’s a little hard to tell from what he wrote) that “a standard of goodness independent of the existence of” God is needed by anyone who thinks that the claim that God is perfectly good is a true, substantive claim.

    May 10, 2011 — 14:24
  • A minor side point: I clicked through on Blake’s link in the first comment, and saw that Craig accuses Kagan of dishonesty, of “affecting a position he himself regards as false”:

    By the way, the curious thing about the view that Kagan defended is that it is not really his view at all! He is a radical consequentialist, who holds that the moral value of our actions is determined solely by the consequences of our actions. […] Kagan admits that this sort of consequentialism is not only widely rejected by ethicists but is wildly implausible as well. I suspect that’s why he chose not to articulate and defend his real views in our dialogue but to affect a position he himself regards as false, namely, the view that the moral thing to do is whatever ideally rational persons would agree one ought to do.

    But Kagan isn’t here hiding his real view: he’s a metaethical Kantian (morality is a matter of adopting universalizable maxims that all rational agents would agree to) and a normative consequentialist. See his “Kantianism for Consequentialists,” in Allen Wood’s edition of Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals (Yale University Press, 2002).

    May 10, 2011 — 14:35
  • Andrew Moon

    dan,
    Small point: Craig IS a serious philosopher, and I think that his best philosophical work has been on the Kalam Cosmological Argument, philosophy of time, and philosophical theology; his stuff’s been peer-reviewed and published in journals such as Australasian Journal of Philosophy and Analysis. That’s probably why, in general, he is taken seriously. From what I know, his work in ethics is outside of his major areas of professional publication.

    May 10, 2011 — 15:44
  • Andrew Moon

    ah, my (3) is the same as Alex Pruss’s (1′), which he distinguished very early in the discussion. Yeah, the orphanage case does seem to be a counterexample to (3) (or (1′)).

    May 10, 2011 — 15:49
  • dan

    Thanks Andrew for that.
    I should have made it clear that my comments were only about Craig’s performance against Kagan. That performance was abysmal.

    May 10, 2011 — 16:42
  • Kris

    I watched the debate and the Q&A. My jaw dropped when Craig decided to change the subject and ask Kagan about free will. He said something like “Do you believe in Fee Will? You need free will for morality, and God for free will.” QED, Kagan. QED.
    It was the sort of move that you would expect from someone who had a tincture of philosophy but who was more interested in “winning” a debate in front of an audience of lay-people than having a serious, on-topic discussion about philosophy. Kagan rightly slapped this down as a distraction and as a topic that would require a debate of it’s own. I was surprised that someone as respected as Craig would say something like that.

    I was kind of confused by Craig’s remarks about animals. Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine that there is a planet where there are non-human animals that are smarter than apes but not as smart as adult humans. They are social, emotional, and rational with rudimentary technology. They form agreements with each other and would appear to live under the social contract, though sometimes some individuals break the rules of that social contract in times of stress.
    Suppose (1) We don’t know whether God loves or cares about these creatures. In fact, one day they’ll all be destroyed and we don’t know if God cares. In that case should we say a.) we know their lives aren’t significant, b.) we don’t know whether their lives are significant, or c.) we do know that there lives are significant. I’m on board with c.) and that makes me think autonomy, emotions, and s degree of rationality are sufficient for being morally significant and the lack of cosmic significance doesn’t imply anything. I take it that in case (1), where we don’t know what God thinks, Craig would have to be in favor of b.) or c.)
    But maybe b.) is not so unreasonable. After all, b.) just says we don’t know who or what is significant, and maybe we don’t know.
    Now suppose (2) that we know that God does not love these creatures. In that case, I would still say that c.) their lives are significant and we have learned something shocking about God. However, Craig seems committed to saying that a.) we now know that their lives are not significant. (God help any aliens that Craig might encounter.)
    To me a.) isn’t really defensible. If God didn’t find these creatures lives to be significant, then God is wrong. Rather God should find their lives to be significant, important, and worthy of love, because they are rational, emotional, social, etc.
    That is, Craig’s position seems to walk right into a modified version of the Euthyphro argument where we substitute “significance” for “goodness.” Are lives significant because God finds them to be so or does God find lives to be significant because they are so. The former option, which Craig favors, makes significance too contingent and too arbitrary. God could make your life or all lives insignificant by fiat. But that can’t be.

    May 10, 2011 — 17:45
  • Wes Morriston

    Hi Chad,
    I have two questions for you.
    1. In what “facts about God” are the “facts about the goodness of other things” grounded?
    2. What kind of “grounding” do you have in mind?

    May 10, 2011 — 18:33
  • Chad Carmichael

    Hi Wes!
    1. I don’t know. I think that DCT proponents can disagree about this. A really straightforward approach would be to say that it’s the fact that God is good which grounds the goodness of all the good things other than God. (Note that I think Craig wouldn’t go this way–like I said, disagreement is possible among DCT views here). This straightforward approach is problematic if you think that the fact that God is good can’t be fundamental, or if you confuse fundamentality with triviality. But why think that God’s being good can’t be fundamental? This version of DCT would still have the benefits that Alex mentioned: the epistemological benefit and the explanation of the ground of goodness (or at least goodness among created things). I hasten to add that there are other options worth exploring in addition to this straightforward view. (BTW, I’m not a proponent of DCT. I just think that for some reason it gets short shrift.)
    Here’s another idea: the fact that it is good to perform action A in circumstances C is grounded in the fact that, if God were in circumstances C, he’d perform A. I take it that someone might respond to this by saying that, if this were true, they’d see no reason to perform A in C (since they don’t care what God would do in any case). My reply: (i) I don’t see why you have to care about the ground of the fact that it would be good to perform A in C, or have any opinion about its ground, in order to accept the fact that it would be good to perform A in C, and thus have a reason to perform A in C (namely: because it’s good to perform A in C!) and (ii) I’m sure that lots of people like Craig will have a story to tell about why you should care about what God would do in any case, and no doubt different DCT views will say different things. The particular answer that a given proponent of DCT favors will depend on their view of theological matters and on what positive arguments they offer for DCT.
    2. I have in mind the notion of grounding that has recently been getting a lot of attention in the metaphysics literature from people like Kit Fine, Jonathan Schaffer, Gideon Rosen, and lots of others. I’d particularly recommend Rosen’s recent piece, although I don’t accept everything he says there. The usual examples of grounding: the fact that {Socrates} has a philosopher as a member is grounded in the fact(s) that Socrates is a philosopher and a member of that set; the disjunctive fact that Wes is a philosopher or I’m a monkey’s uncle is grounded in the fact that Wes is a philosopher; the fact that Dan is a bachelor is grounded in the fact that he’s an unmarried eligible man. It’s supposed to be a non-causal notion of explanation that is important in metaphysics. Lots of interesting metaphysical theories are easily formulated in terms of grounding (e.g., physicalism can be formulated as the view that everything is grounded in the physical facts).

    May 10, 2011 — 19:27
  • Andrew Moon

    Wes and Chad,
    There’s a nice Phil Studies paper on grounding relations by Karen Bennett
    http://courses.cit.cornell.edu/kb383/papers.html
    called “Construction Area: No Hard Hat Required”. (I actually didn’t read the paper, but I heard hear present on it at a colloquium; it was quite interesting).

    May 10, 2011 — 19:53
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Paul,
    You write: “ On a non-theistic view too, the “is” is personal – that is, persons are among what is. Reality is *ultimately* personal in the sense that the final account will have to admit personality into its ontology – which is the sense that counts.”
    Right. Well, I sympathize with this view. Indeed I don’t see why a non-theist should not embrace some kind of dualism. Now given that the concept of value entails a distinction between worse and better, one arrives at the conclusion that the ontologically must ground that distinction too, i.e. not only be personal but be personal in a way that favors greater value over lesser.
    If, moreover, one asserts the value of personal responsibility (or the value of creativity for that matter), one is led to the premise that what is ontologically ultimate must be such for (libertarian) freedom to be grounded. Which pretty much negates naturalism and its premise that the ontologically ultimate is of a mechanical nature. At this point it becomes difficult to distinguish a non-theism which is personal, value seeking, and non-mechanical – from theism. If the way to make non-theism more intellectually viable is to move it towards theism the question arises of why not abandon non-theism altogether.
    My argument here is this: It seems that in order to make sense of the human condition one must step by step come closer to classical theism. The only way for the non-theist to resist this development is to at some point affirm that our experience of life is illusory, in the sense of implying falsities (which ultimately lead to theism). But given that all our knowledge is grounded on our experience of life, to affirm that our experience of life and its implications are illusory at some level, comes close to representing an epistemic self-defeat for non-theism. So the non-theist faces an unattractive dilemma: Either affirm that according to scientific naturalism our brain is massively fooling us in matters metaphysical or else look for an alternative to scientific naturalism. The first choice looks bad once one realizes that scientific naturalism itself is a metaphysical theory. And the second choice looks like a slippery path towards the tenets of classical theism. It will be interesting to see whether non-theists will manage to find some viable middle way.

    May 11, 2011 — 5:32
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Chad, I don’t think your suggestions will help theists escape the problem. For if theists may help themselves to fundamental moral facts or unexplained reasons to care about something, then nontheists may help themselves to the same thing (e.g., that it is a fundamental moral fact that torture is wrong, that we have reason to care about torture). And then God is once again unnecessary for morality.

    May 11, 2011 — 7:51
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Alastair,
    You write: “But why should anyone care about goodness as so described?”
    Because choosing what’s good is self-transformative, it makes us more similar to God, and thus makes us better. Choosing what’s good is purifying and sanctifying. And choosing what’s evil has the opposite effect on one’s nature, it debases and defiles it. (That major dynamic property of the human condition plays a foundational role in so-called soul-building theodicies, such as John Hick´s Irenaean theodicy.)
    Let us now consider some follow-up questions:
    But why should one care about becoming better in that sense?
    Because being better in that sense is a better existential position to be in. It’s a position characterized by a kind of self-nourishing joy, by the experience of good things such as love, beauty, and truth – and the absence of bad things such as fear, self-pity, and egoism. It is another major fact of the human condition that choosing good over evil is a deeply and enduringly satisfying experience.
    And why should one care about such experiences, no matter how deeply positively they are experienced?
    Because that’s the way we are created. We are created such as to desire and value and hope such good things for ourselves; we feel satisfied and at peace only when feeling we are good. Which, given theism’s metaethical understanding, means that we are created so as to desire and value and hope to be how it is like when we are close to God. “Be as perfect as God in heaven” says Jesus in the Gospels, and it is a very good command, indeed a very good piece of advice that friends should give to each other.
    And why are we thus created?
    Because God who created us, loves us dearly and thus desires the best for us, which means that we should be close to Him/Her. But precisely because God desires the best for us, S/He desires that we arrive at this state of closeness by our own free will and not coerced in any way if at all possible. God desires for us to become like Him/Her, and also know and love Him/Her, by our own free will. A personal state for which one has personal merit is closer to God and thus has more value than a personal state for which one has no merit. Which necessitates the creation of world in which the attainment of such a state is possible. (Which is how the Ireneaen theodicy explains the existence of evil, including the relative hiddenness of God.)
    And why does God desires all these things for us?
    Because that’s how God is. And as God is the ontologically ultimate, here the buck stops. In any case, the closer one comes to God, and thus the more one realizes the purpose of one’s creation, the clearer one realizes how beautiful creation is. And all past suffering one may have passed through before understanding the beauty of creation is forgotten in the same way that the pain of childbirth is forgotten by the mother who gazes at the beauty of her child.
    You write: “It can’t be because this being is good.”
    Actually to respond to your original question by “Because it is good” would be the short answer, but perhaps too short.
    You write: “I hope we can all recognize the vicious circularity there. ”
    I certainly can’t see any vicious circularity. Indeed I claim that there can’t be any vicious circularity in theism’s metaethical account, because it is a descriptive account. Vicious circularities are potential faults in epistemic accounts only, such as saying: “I know A because of B, and I know B because of A”. Descriptive accounts such as “A happens because of B, and B happens because of A” are not viciously circular. In fact such feed-back or integral descriptive accounts are quite common, say in the physical science. So, for example, there is no vicious circularity in saying that bodies A and B attract each other because they are close, and that they come close because they attract each other.
    You write: “Besides, why not just accept the existence of goodness but not TBC?”
    Because it fails to describe an ontology that fits with our experience of life. (Incidentally, God has been called by many names, but this is the first time I hear the name “TBC”. Being a big cheese lover myself I find it kind of suggestive.)
    You write: “Between two hypotheses, (i) that TBC exists and somehow grounds goodness, or (ii) that only goodness exists, (ii) is clearly better supported by the evidence.”
    I think that when the evidence of the human condition (which is really all the evidence there is) is seriously considered, (i) is much better supported, indeed fits perfectly well. (ii), in contrast, only works to the degree that it avoids rendering moral talk nonsensical.
    You write: “I remember a great paper by Rod Long, in which he argues that god is the logical order of the universe.”
    That’s a fine expression, which I at least find quite satisfying. But as “universe” is kind of ambiguous (many people use “universe” to refer to naturalism’s view of reality) I’d rather say that God is the logical order of the human condition. By “human condition” I refer to all the evidence there is, to the whole set of data objective or subjective public or private we have, to the whole of humanity’s experience of life in all its glorious and miserable dimensions.
    Thinking about this idea I’d say that God is the ultimate order of the human condition. On this view naturalists simply fail to realize the presence of any order in the human condition which lies beyond the mechanical order present in physical phenomena. That failure is not an error; the error consists in assuming that there is no deeper order than the physical order present in the human condition. The physical order is quite impressive and useful in practical terms, but also superficial and relatively insignificant for one’s understanding and indeed for one’s well-being.
    One final point, and sorry for my wordiness. The existential order described above is all there for theists and non-theists alike. It’s not like non theists live in a different reality, so we all feel God’s attraction and experience the existential consequences of our giving in or resisting that attraction. The only difference is that theists at least vaguely know what’s happening, whereas non-theists respond in kind of a blind fashion to the deepest order present in the human condition. Those like Kagan who sense that there is some objective ground of goodness, or rather decide that it is unreasonable to suggest that there is no such objective ground of goodness even though everybody senses it, try to conceive and describe some mechanism that would account for it. I think such an effort can’t possibly succeed, but I fully understand and appreciate the impetus behind it.

    May 11, 2011 — 11:16
  • Chad Carmichael

    I take it that you’re saying that the versions of DCT I sketched would leave DCT unmotivated. I don’t agree. It was only what I called the “straightforward approach” that claimed that God’s goodness was fundamental. The other view I described doesn’t have this feature. And I think both versions of DCT I sketched would at least have the epistemological benefit often claimed for DCT. And both versions I described would also preserve another motivation commonly provided for DCT–that moral facts in nature are (to use Mackie’s term) “queer”. So, in short, one of the versions I mentioned doesn’t have fundamental goodness, and both versions would retain the usual motivations for DCT.
    As for unexplained reasons, I don’t think I sketched a DCT view that involves unexplained reasons, did I?

    May 11, 2011 — 12:11
  • Donald Pruden

    To “bossmanham”: Kagan, his wife, family and life are real. The “imaginary friend” comment is an insult and a pointless one at that. It is a hard claim to make that God is not an “imaginary friend” and that prayer is not only ritualized communication with an “Imaginary Friend”. “God does not heal amputees; He does regrow lost limbs.” Our social relationships are real and have significance on that basis. My wife is real, my friends are real and I value them — all without the help of an “Imaginary Friend”. It will all pass away in time, but so what? It matters now, while I live and share the planet with other people. It may even matter to people in the future. Or not. But now, it does. And not just to me.

    May 11, 2011 — 15:28
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Chad, as for the ‘fundamental moral facts’ version, I don’t see that it has any special advantages. I’m not sure what epistemic benefit you have in mind (I can’t find it in Alex’s comments), but I’ll guess you mean that DCT allows for the possibility that God might reveal moral truth to us. If so, then I’d say that this possibility is allowed for regardless of DCT: whether morality depends on God’s will or on something else entirely, still he might reveal moral truth to us. And I wouldn’t think this offers DCT an epistemic advantage over nontheistic views: for any domain of truths (e.g., mathematics), God might reveal those truths to us, but that doesn’t seem to give theism an epistemic advantage over atheism with respect to each and every domain of truths. And as for the ‘queerness’ point, that surely doesn’t offer DCT any advantage over non-naturalistic moral realism, and in any case it makes the contentious assumption that Mackie is right about otherworldly metaphysical commitments being built into ordinary moral thought.
    As for the second version, I was wrong to think it involved unexplained reasons. Instead, perhaps I should say that it too involves fundamental moral facts, and that it fails to differentiate itself from the first version. For while the first version holds that “God is good” is a fundamental moral fact for which no further explanation can be given, the second version seems to hold (roughly) that “actions which God would perform are good” is a fundamental moral fact for which no further explanation can be given. After all, I don’t think the view attempts to provide any account of why God should be emulated in the first place (and surely “because God is good” is an answer mired in vicious circularity). Thus, just as the first version seems like no improvement over a nontheistic view which takes (e.g.) “friendship is good” as fundamental, so too the second seems like no improvement over a nontheistic view which takes (e.g.) “utility-maximizing actions are good” as fundamental.

    May 11, 2011 — 17:10
  • Kenneth

    @ Tim O’Keefe: Your observations are spot on, Craig appears to be unaware that moral theory has at least two levels, normative and metaethical. His reconstruction of Kagan’s consequentialism is also very bad.

    May 11, 2011 — 17:18
  • Andrew Moon

    Kenneth,
    “His reconstruction of Kagan’s consequentialism is also very bad.”
    Could you say a little bit what’s bad about it? That’s a big claim you’re making.

    May 11, 2011 — 18:18
  • Chad Carmichael

    Thanks for the reply!
    I guess the epistemological benefit is supposed to be this: that if God both created us and is such that facts about him ground the moral law, then he is in a position to create us in a way that our moral beliefs largely coincide with the moral law. So we have an explanation of why our moral beliefs are largely correct. This may be a somewhat general point: any time there is an epistemologically troubling domain, if you can ground in in the nature of God, then you have a way to solve the epistemological problem. So it isn’t just that God can reveal something to us; it’s that a domain that is epistemologically troubling is made only as problematic as God’s self-knowledge (which I guess is supposed to be not problematic, or not in the same way).
    As for “queerness,” what you say is perhaps correct. I don’t see a benefit over non-naturalistic moral realism here either. But the DCT-ist could press epistemological objections against non-naturalistic moral realism, and urge DCT as the best competitor that deals with the “queerness” of moral facts.
    I’m not saying that I think the normal motivations given for DCT are compelling. I don’t after all accept DCT. But your criticism of the normal motivations for DCT seems to me different from the usual “this is a stupid view because euthyphro dilemma” dismissal that DCT usually receives. That was my main point.
    About the second view, I think you’re right that it doesn’t end up working out very well. But you say “I don’t think the view attempts to provide any account of why God should be emulated in the first place.” I think this isn’t right. The reason why one should emulate God on this view is that it is good to emulate God. And the fact that it is good to emulate God, on this view, is grounded in the fact that it is what God would do. The problem comes when we wonder why God would perform a given action A in circumstances C. Here, we want to say that he would do this because it would be good, but it seems we cannot say this, because it leads (given the view) to the claim that he would do it because it’s what he would do, which seems absurd insofar as grounding is irreflexive.

    May 11, 2011 — 23:01
  • Josh Downs

    In reference to premise one, it seems that the problem happens when theists assume the anthropology that theism seems to imply while evaluating the proposal of meaning without God. What I mean is that, by affirming (1), the theist is saying that the kind of meaning that really counts, human beings being what they are and all, is the ultimate kind. Lesser meaning–the moral, objective kind the atheist wants to put forward–isn’t even meaning in this construct. That’s because even in the midst of the debate, the theist is bringing his own criteria for what’s actually commensurate with human beings given their status as created specially by God, or, if that is left out, their still quite lofty status. Make them highly advanced animals, specially developed to understand the cosmos which “coughed them up,” but accidents nonetheless, and you might have different expectations and, thusly, levels of satisfaction with regard to meaning. But you’ll still have meaning.
    I’m a theist and I do believe we can have that kind of ultimate meaning, but, for an atheist, making the meaning less doesn’t extinguish it, it seems to me. It’s surely the case that we can just talk about degrees of meaningfulness without laying the trump card by way of an imported anthropology, one which affirms a big view of humans and thus is dismissive of any view of meaning which is seen not to do justice to that.
    In brief, maybe we can say the atheist’s sense of meaning doesn’t do justice to humanity, but to say that, strictly speaking, it just isn’t meaning seems like semantic bullying. “You have orange juice, but since it’s not from Florida, it’s not orange juice. Bodyslam.”

    May 12, 2011 — 6:48
  • Kenneth

    @ Andrew Moon:
    Here’s, in part, what Craig had to say of his debate with Kagan: “He is a radical consequentialist, who holds that the moral value of our actions is determined solely by the consequences of our actions. He believes that we are morally required to perform any action, no matter what it is, if it will eventually lead to the best result overall, the best defined in terms of human flourishing. If torturing and raping a little girl leads to greater human well-being in the end, then that’s what you’re morally obligated to do.”
    This, of course, is a description of classical or act-utilitarianism, of which consequentialism is a part. But consequentialism, on its own, does not imply all of what is outlined by Craig above, only classical utilitarianism does. Consequentialism, for Kagan, suggests the right action is the action that promotes the best overall results (i.e., the good) for all involved. But consequentialism does not stipulate what that good is, it merely tells us that we ought to pursue the good, whatever the good happens to be. In order to get to what Craig believes Kagan’s position is, we would have to adopt a fairly flatfooted conception of welfarism in addition to Kagan’s consequentialism. Unless I’m mistaken, Kagan does not accept a flatfooted welfarism as his theory of the good, so Kagan can and does avoid the criticisms cited above.

    May 12, 2011 — 13:09
  • Andrew Moon

    Kenneth,
    Gotcha, thanks for responding.

    May 12, 2011 — 22:29
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Craig’s use of divine command theory was only in order to ground the existence of moral duties to God, and not in order to ground the existence of moral values, which is the central issue. The debate’s subject matter “Is God necessary for morality?” was quite broad and gave Craig the opportunity to try and ram as much theistic sense as possible into the debate. But by doing so I think he also confused the issue, for it gave Kagan the opportunity to make some valid points.
    The central issue is that moral values are easily grounded on theism, whereas, apparently, they cannot be grounded on naturalism. I think Craig would have been more effective if he had insisted on just one point: That those who clearly see the existence of moral values (as he and Kagan do) have on reflection a compelling reason for embracing theism. Craig could have used his time to point out that the naturalistic metaethical theory of contractarianism which Kagan proposed fails, because its mechanism for deciding ethical questions depends on what “good” means in a naturalistic world, which the theory does not specify. (Surely, in a naturalistic world it makes no sense to ask a committee of perfectly rational people to decide the truth value of some proposition “X is good” and also decide what “good” means.) Had Kagan offered instead consequencialism the way Kenneth above defines it, namely as the suggestion that “the right action is the action that promotes the best overall results (i.e., the good) for all involved […] whatever the good happens to be”, Craig could have pointed out that it suffers from the same problem, namely of not explaining what “good” means. By speaking about how theism deals with so many of the issues related to morality Craig missed the opportunity to hammer on the point that the concept of “good” appears to be ungrounded on naturalism, and that therefore any talk about morality within a naturalistic worldview is rendered meaningless. Incidentally, the criticism here is not that naturalists fail to offer a reductive account of moral values, i.e. of how to reduce moral facts to physical facts, but that they fail to successfully explain what “good” means in a way that fits within the naturalistic worldview.
    So, moral duties to God are a secondary issue. Indeed I don’t quite understand the point of explaining to an atheist how moral duties to God are grounded. (Not to mention that even some theists may not feel as strongly as Craig does about the issue of moral duties to God. Indeed, I personally do not quite grasp in what sense a created being has moral duties to her creator. I’d say that the opposite makes more sense.)
    The same goes with proposition (1) about which Andrew started this thread. Here again Craig introduced a secondary issue, namely that on theism some values have a *kind* of significance which does not exist on naturalism. In his Q&A 179 post Craig calls this kind of significance “ultimate significance”. Now, if one sees that some values (e.g. one’s love to one’s children) do have this kind of ultimate significance then one has one more reason to prefer theism over naturalism. But this secondary issue gave Kagan the opportunity to argue that many things are clearly significant even though they have no effect to final states of affairs in the cosmos. Which is to fudge the issue by the way, because without explaining how the concept of “good” fits in a naturalistic reality, a naturalistic philosopher has no business speaking about any kind of “significance” in the first place. Curiously enough naturalistic philosophers often speak in ways that only make sense in a theistic reality, while giving (or perhaps having) the impression that they are making a point for naturalism.
    The moral of the story is that when one debates one should concentrate on the one strongest issue. It’s better to argue by explaining one good argument, than by trying to cover in the same amount of time other less powerful arguments. To do the latter only gives the opportunity to one’s opponent to exploit the weaknesses of the superfluous arguments thus giving the impression that all of one’s arguments have a similar weakness. As the ancient Greeks said, “ouk en to pollo to eu” – meaning “not in quantity lies perfection”. So, even though I don’t feel that Craig “lost” the debate, I do think that he allowed Kagan a stronger showing than the subject matter permits.

    May 13, 2011 — 5:53
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Dianelos,
    In order to make a case against naturalistic moral realism, wouldn’t Craig have to address the actual work of metaethicists? I mean people like the Cornell realists and Frank Jackson and Peter Railton and the neo-Aristotelians. It would be misleading to simply say in a debate that naturalists have no way of explaining what ‘good’ means when there are oodles of philosophers who claim to provide just that kind of explanation.

    May 14, 2011 — 9:14
  • If I missed something in all the comments, I apologize. Having just watched the debate, Craig failed to press Kagan on what he meant by “morally significant”. Craig stated his position, and Kagan asserted that it did not rationally follow that the difference between cosmic and something less than Craig’s premise made an act morally insignificant. I would have appreciated more engagement on exploring the nature of the acts and what it takes for something to be morally significant. Saying that it is merely rational to think so begs the question. Craig got close to pushing the point but backed off which was disappointing.
    As a moral agent, with free will (according to Kagan) why am I morally compelled (or what is my moral duty) to assent to the moral significance of an act? (I imagine he would say it is my rational duty) Yet, Kagan’s example of “saving a life” was weak given that it assumes “saving” and “life” are objective goods. However, in a purely naturalist perspective, saving and life are subjective goods since the opposite of both in nature would not entail a necessary evil and qua human nothing is added since what is in question is not the capacity to be a moral agent but the value of the life saved (something Kagan admits to in his animal comments). Thus, not saving a life could be just as good as saving a life.
    Is Kagan’s way out a kind of biological emotive determinism whereby my “feeling” of good and evil corresponds to a rational good that I can perceive of an act alien to any cosmic, theistic meaning? In other words, Craig says you can’t have morals without God, and Kagan says we can’t but not have morals as the type of animals that we are.
    Which might make Craig’s “free will” question even more relevant.

    May 14, 2011 — 9:19
  • Wes Morriston

    Chad: Consider the following “goodness facts”.
    Socrates is good.
    God is good.
    Why think that the first of these facts is metaphysically grounded in the second? My own inclination would be to say that Socrates is good in virtue of being wise and courageous so on — that his goodness is grounded in his possession of these (and no doubt other) good-making features. Of course, you might go on to ask, “In virtue of what are these features good-making?” Presumably that’s where God’s goodness comes in. But it’s not yet clear to me how you think the good-makingness of wisdom and courage might be “grounded” in the goodness of God.
    Some people think that God IS the Good, or that God’s moral nature IS the Good; and that other persons are good to the (limited) degree to which they relevantly resemble God. Is that perhaps the sort of thing you have in mind?

    May 14, 2011 — 14:50
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Brent wrote:

    However, in a purely naturalist perspective, saving and life are subjective goods since the opposite of both in nature would not entail a necessary evil and qua human nothing is added since what is in question is not the capacity to be a moral agent but the value of the life saved (something Kagan admits to in his animal comments). Thus, not saving a life could be just as good as saving a life.

    Isn’t this just begging the question against naturalistic moral realism? Why exactly couldn’t a naturalist hold that life has objective value?

    May 14, 2011 — 15:52
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Anonymous of 4:27,
    I tend to agree that Craig did not actually offer a positive argument against naturalistic moral realism, but instead concentrated on explaining how well theistic moral realism works. Starting at min 27 he only offered what appears to be arguments from incredulity. On the other hand this was a discussion or debate, and I’d have expected Kagan to make the best case for naturalistic moral realism. Kagan, whose field of specialization is moral philosophy and who must have known of the work of the philosophers you mention, chose to offer contractarianism. If he thought some other metaethical theory was stronger then I suppose he’d have offered it instead.
    You write: “It would be misleading to simply say in a debate that naturalists have no way of explaining what ‘good’ means when there are oodles of philosophers who claim to provide just that kind of explanation.”
    The fact is that some naturalistic philosophers from Hume to Mackie argued that the case for naturalistic moral realism is hopeless, and naturalistic philosophers today who believe in moral realism offer different theories with no agreement in sight. I don’t think one can reasonably expect Craig to discuss all the current work one by one within the confines of a debate. In any case, why don’t you point out the best idea you know of about how to fit the meaning of “good” within a naturalistic reality? This interests me because I have two arguments against naturalistic moral realism which, if successful, entail that no such naturalistic idea can work. The first argument, which I sketched in a post here dated May 6, tries to derive theism as an implication of moral realism. If that argument is successful it proves that no naturalistic solution exists since naturalism and theism are mutually exclusive. The second argument goes roughly like this:
    Assume that in a naturalistic reality moral values do exist and thus that some particular state of affairs A has an intrinsic good making property G, and that some state of affairs B has an intrinsic evil making property E. Given the causal closure of our universe, A was caused by a previous state A1. Given that nothing comes from nothing A1 must also have the good making property G. Similarly B was caused by B1 which must have the evil making property E. Thus we arrive at a causal chain {A, A1, A2, …} all the elements of which have the property G, and at a causal chain {B, B1, B2, …} all the elements of which have the property E. Given that our universe is not only causally closed but has also a beginning in a singularity, there must exist some point in the past where some state of affairs An is identical to some state of affairs Bm. But that state of affairs would have both the good making property G and the evil making property E, which is a contradiction.

    May 14, 2011 — 17:21
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Dianelos, I think both your arguments turn on fairly contentious premises. The first argument turns on the premise that “Values only make sense in a personal context”, a premise which needs some initial support and then a way to account for the value possessed by non-persons like animals (and perhaps the beauty and majesty of inanimate nature). The second argument turns on the causal principle that a cause must always pre-contain what is contained in the effect, a premise which many or most post-Hume philosophers would question and which runs into trouble with the sort of reducible properties most congenial to naturalistic moral realism—since water need not be pre-contained in its causes, then why expect that goodness (or its naturalistic realization) must be pre-contained in its causes?
    When it comes to sheer numbers, naturalists tend to favor moral realism over anti-realism: the PhilPapers survey puts it at 49.1% realist and 38.1% anti-realist. And while there may be little agreement among naturalistic moral realists, there is also little agreement among moral anti-realists, and among metaethicists generally. So I still think it would be seriously misleading to suggest to an audience that the broad Hume-to-Mackie anti-realist tradition is somehow representative of the philosophical views of naturalists (as opposed to being one important tradition among others).
    As for a semantics for naturalistic moral realism, the most prominent views are the Kripke-Putnam causal theory defended by Richard Boyd and the Lewisian network analysis of Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit.
    (As a merely historical note, I think Hume was much more concerned to refute the theological rationalism of Clarke and Balguy than any naturalistic form of moral realism. Indeed, the is-ought paragraph has “the being of a God” as one of the examples of an ‘is’.)

    May 14, 2011 — 18:32
  • Chad Carmichael

    I find it helpful to separate two questions (which I don’t mean to suggest you confused!). The first question is: If Socrates’s goodness is grounded in God’s goodness, then how can the fact that Soc is good be grounded in the fact that Soc is wise (etc.), as we’d ordinarily think? The answer is that his being wise (etc.) will itself have to be grounded in facts about God. I think there isn’t any clear problem about making a case for the claim that Soc’s being wise (etc.) could be grounded in facts about God, given that God is the creator and sustainer of Socrates (as the theist says).
    For the second question, it will be helpful to use brackets to form the names of facts, so that [A] will be the fact that A. The second question can then be put like this: what grounds [[Soc is good] is grounded in [Soc is wise (etc.)]]? This is a hard question, and I didn’t have anything in particular in mind when I was sketching versions of DCT above. Maybe something like one of your suggestions about God being “the good” or about God-likeness can be made to work. But what if the DCT-ist says this: /nothing/ grounds facts like this; it’s fundamental that [Soc is wise (etc.)] grounds [Soc is good]. This view about the fundamental nature of facts about “good-making” seems to me consistent with the basic DCT idea that the goodness of things other than God is grounded in facts about God.

    May 14, 2011 — 20:01
  • What I said is that life couldn’t be an objective “good”. I did not say it couldn’t be valuable. A child as a sex slave has value as a sex slave, but a sex slave is not good. So, I can admit that life would have value for a naturalist but having value does not compel me to judge a thing as good.
    Moreover, what does the naturalist mean when they say “life”? Do they mean energy? Do they mean a sentient being? A state of molecular relation?
    What if I don’t save your life? Who cares? You do but you are gone. The universe burps and moves on. I reject the social contract, and in fact find myself actually relieved to learn that the contract doesn’t oblige me to save your life. So, if I can see no natural reason or socio-political reason to act, why act? If I do save your life, I can say that it is good, but all I’ve done is asserted it. Since not saving your life is as preferable as saving your life, neither is good objectively.

    May 14, 2011 — 20:42
  • Dustin Crummett

    Dianelos: water has the property “being wet” but the singularity wasn’t wet.

    May 15, 2011 — 10:25
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Brent, thanks for the clarification and apologies for any unintentional misrepresentation, but I don’t see how your clarification helps avoid the charge of question-begging. Why exactly couldn’t a naturalist hold that life is objectively good? Or that we have conclusive objective reasons to save a life? After all, the doctrine of naturalism says nothing pro or con about objective goodness. Naturalism says only that, if there is objective goodness, it belongs to the natural world like any other natural property.
    (I went with life rather than human life or sentient animal life just for convenience’s sake: I would presume that the question of what exactly it is that’s objectively good is irrelevant to the current topic of whether naturalism is compatible with robust moral realism.)

    May 15, 2011 — 11:48
  • Wes Morriston

    Chad: Your answer to the first question you distinguish sounds like “causal” grounding to me. If God makes something and gives it good-making properties, then of course God is responsible for the fact that it is good. An atheist might cheerfully accept that claim. After all, for any x, if x causes something to have good-making properties, then x will have caused it to be good.
    The second question is the important one. But I’m not sure I understand the suggestion you make at the end.

    what if the DCT-ist says this: /nothing/ grounds facts like this; it’s fundamental that [Soc is wise (etc.)] grounds [Soc is good]. This view about the fundamental nature of facts about “good-making” seems to me consistent with the basic DCT idea that the goodness of things other than God is grounded in facts about God.

    Suppose [Soc is wise, etc.] grounds [Soc is good], and there is no need for any further ground. Then we don’t need to bring God into the picture at all.
    But maybe what you meant was this. [[God is wise, etc.] grounds [God is good]] grounds [[Soc is wise, etc.] grounds [Soc is good]], and it is THIS fact about grounding that needs no further ground.
    If that is the view you’re floating, then I don’t immediately see what advantage it might have. The simpler view would be that God’s goodness is grounded in his wisdom, etc., that Soc’s goodness is grounded in his wisdom, etc., and that BOTH of these grounding facts are fundamental. In which case, neither is grounded by the other.
    (BTW, you talk about the DCT. But nothing in here seems to reference divine commands. I myself think there’s a lot to be said for taking the DCT to be a theory of moral obligation, and not a general theory of the good. Of course, a God-based theory of the good could be combined with a divine command theory of moral obligation.)

    May 15, 2011 — 11:56
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    I’d be curious to know how many have listened to Craig’s presentation. I’ll transcribe what seem to be the important steps in his argument.
    On Moral Value:
    My first claim is that if there is no God, moral values are not objective in that sense. Traditionally, objective moral values have been based in God who is the highest good. He is the locus and paradigm of moral value. God’s own holy and loving nature supplies the absolute standard against which all actions are measured. He is by nature loving generous just faithful kind etc.. and thus if God exists, objective moral values exist.
    But if God does not exist, what basis remains for objective moral values? In particular, why think human beings would have moral worth? On the atheist view, human beings are just accidental by products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infintesimal speck of dust called the planet Earth lost somewhere in a mindless and hostile universe where we are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time.
    On atheism, I can’t see any reason to think that human well-being is objectively good anymore than insect well-being or dog well-being or monkey well-being. On a naturalistic world view, moral values are just the buy product of evolution and social conditioning. Just as a troop of baboons exhibit cooperative and even altruistic behavior because natural selection has determined it to be advantageous … so their primate cousins have developed similar behaviors for the same reasons …
    The objective worthlessness of human beings on a naturalstic world view is underscored by two implications of that world view. Materialism and determinism. Naturalists are typically materialists who regard man as a purely animal organism. If there is no mind distinct from the brain, then everything we think and do is determined by the input of the five senses and our DNA. There is no personal agent. Without freedom, none of our choices are morally significant… What moral value does a puppet have?
    On Moral Duty:
    Secondly, if God does not exist, objective moral duties do not exist. Duties have to do with whether something is right or wrong. Now, you might think at first that the distinction between right and wrong is the same as the distinction between good and evil. But if you think about it, you can see that this is not the case. Duty has to do with obligation, what I ought to do … Obviously, you are not obligated to do something just because it would be good for you to do it. …
    Now, my claim is that God does not exist, we have no objective moral duties. To say we have objective moral duties is to say we have certain moral obligations regardless of whether we think we do. Traditionally, these are thought to spring from God’s commands such as the 10 commandments …These flow necessarily from Gd nature. On this foundation, we can affirm … and condemn…
    But if there is no God, what basis remains for objective moral duties? On the atheist view, human beings are just animals and animals have no obligation. When a lion kills a zebra, it kills the zebra but doesn’t murder the zebra … There is no moral dimension to these actions, they are neither prohibited nor obligatory. If God does not exist, why think we have any moral obligations to do anything? Who or what imposes these duties upon us? It is hard to see they are anything more than a subjective impression
    I just felt like I watched a very unfunny version of Ali G, but you can skim the highlights transcribed here if you’d care to. The transcriptions aren’t perfect. I can’t type quickly enough to get everything down, but I think I captured the essentials of whatever Craig’s arguments were for two claims about God and morality.
    If I understand Craig’s arguments correctly (and I’m not sure that I do), it seems that he’d say that anything that was the product of an unguided, naturalistic process has no moral value whatsoever. Now, I would have thought that Craig would agree that there are material processes that could produce duplicates of our children. He seems prepared to grant for the sake of discussion that a material duplicate of one of us could have a mental life indistinguishable from our own. Yet, such creatures would have no moral value. So, if there were swampkids, we’d have subjects with the same biological and psychological profiles as our children. I think his view is that such creatures have no value. That’s the reductio of his view on moral value, right?
    Let’s turn to his discussion of moral obligation. Moral values give us reasons. Reasons ground obligations. He doesn’t seem to think that God is necessary for recognizing the reasons there are if there are reasons or having the power to respond to them if aware of them. So, God’s not necessary for obligations unless there’s more to an obligation than an adult with a mental life like ours realizing that there’s overall reason to A in light of the relevant moral values having the ability to act on the judgment that he should A. Since there’s not more to obligation, I take it that his second line of attack can only succeed if his first does. Which it doesn’t.
    I stopped watching the discussion between Kagan and Craig because it made me uncomfortable. So, if there’s some subtle and important feature of Craig’s position that I missed, I apologize.

    May 15, 2011 — 15:32
  • Andrew Moon

    Hey Clayton,
    I fixed the tagging. I had to add the html tags to each individual paragraph to make it work. I hope I italicized the correct parts.

    May 15, 2011 — 16:05
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    Hi Andrew,
    Thanks for fixing that,
    C

    May 15, 2011 — 16:26
  • Anonymous of 4:27 AM fame

    Clayton, not to beat a dead horse (!), but I think the value of animals can make your point for you, without recourse to swampkids. Of course, Craig’s comments indicate that he might bite the bullet on animals, claiming that they have no value whatsoever. But then he’ll have a very hard time explaining why it’s clearly bad when they suffer and why it’s clearly wrong to hurt them.
    Of course, instead of finding counterexamples to the principle, we could simply ask that some support for it be provided in the first place.

    May 15, 2011 — 17:14
  • Chad Carmichael

    Wes: I agree that it sounds sort of causal the way I put it, and that’s not what I meant. You surely know more about this than I do, but isn’t there some idea in theology about “living and moving and having our being” in God that suggests something more than just that he causally interacts with us? Something more like grounding? That’s what I had in mind. It seems to me likely that there are several theological options here for the average theist. If there’s some conceptual or theological problem here, that would be a problem for the view.

    Suppose [Soc is wise, etc.] grounds [Soc is good], and there is no need for any further ground. Then we don’t need to bring God into the picture at all.

    If by “no need for any further ground” you mean “no need for any further ground of the fact [Soc is wise, etc.],” then this is not the view I was suggesting. I was saying that the fact [Soc is wise] might further be grounded in facts about God, and thus, by the transitivity of grounding, that we could still say that Soc’s goodness is ultimately grounded in facts about God, and “proximately” grounded in facts about his virtues.
    If, on the other hand, by “no need for any further ground” you mean “no need for any further ground for the fact that [[Soc is wise (etc)] grounds [Soc is good]]” then you’re right that this is the view I was suggesting, but I don’t see why God doesn’t make it into the picture here, since facts about God are still said to ultimately ground [Soc is good] (as well as [Soc is wise]). The idea is that all the facts that explicitly mention grounding are fundamental, but the facts that don’t mention grounding–e.g., the facts about what things are good–will still be ultimately grounded in God. So God’s still part of the picture.
    As for “DCT” I accept the point and maybe I should stop using it. But the main motivations for DCT are still preserved on the sort of view I’m suggesting, right?

    May 15, 2011 — 19:34
  • Anon 4:27 AM,
    First, let’s all admit that avoiding all question begging when commenting on a video and not dialoging with an interlocutor is not likely to happen. Nonetheless, thanks for the discussion…

    Why exactly couldn’t a naturalist hold that life is objectively good? Or that we have conclusive objective reasons to save a life? After all, the doctrine of naturalism says nothing pro or con about objective goodness.

    As to the last comment in this quote, doesn’t that in effect admit that naturalism is neutral to objective goodness?
    I can grant you as a naturalist that you believe in objective moral good. However, let’s assume I’m a naturalist. Can you grant that I, as a naturalist, do not believe in objective moral good? If not, why?

    May 15, 2011 — 22:01
  • Clayton Littlejohn

    I too worry that WLC can’t tell the difference between beating dead horses and living horses, but he might say some handwavy things about the role God plays in producing animals so he can explain why it’s wrong to throw bags of kittens into a river. (If that’s what he thinks. I shouldn’t presume he thinks this is wrong.)
    You’re right, though, would’ve been nice if he offered reasons. My jaw dropped when he said something to the effect that he couldn’t see why it would matter morally that an action harmed an innocent person if there were no God.

    May 15, 2011 — 22:47
  • Wes Morriston

    Chad– You write:

    If, on the other hand, by “no need for any further ground” you mean “no need for any further ground for the fact that [[Soc is wise (etc)] grounds [Soc is good]]” then you’re right that this is the view I was suggesting…

    Yes, that is what I meant. So the question is: Where do you think God comes into the picture? You say:

    …the fact [Soc is wise] might further be grounded in facts about God, and thus, by the transitivity of grounding, that we could still say that Soc’s goodness is ultimately grounded in facts about God, and “proximately” grounded in facts about his virtues.

    If I’m reading this correctly, you think the goodness of a person (whether divine or human) is grounded in the possession of various other morally significant properties – virtues like wisdom and kindness and justice. So where does God come into the picture? It goes like this.
    1. [God is wise] grounds [Socrates is wise].
    2. [Socrates is wise] grounds [Socrates is good].
    3. Therefore, [God is wise] grounds [Socrates is good].
    Assuming I have this straight now, I think you need to say more about the first premise – what it means and why we should believe it. Clearly not all Socrates’ properties can be “grounded” in God in this way. For example, [Socrates is mortal] is not grounded in [God is mortal]. So is it only facts about properties Socrates (to some degree) shares with God that are grounded in this way? But why think that even they are?

    May 16, 2011 — 11:21
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    In respect to the grounding relationships of Socrates’ properties my understanding is as follows:
    (1) God is wisdom, and thus the ground and measure of all wisdom.
    (2) God is goodness, and thus the ground and measure of all goodness.
    (3) Socrates is wise because (or to the degree that) his wisdom resembles God’s wisdom.
    (4) Socrates is good because (or to the degree that) Socrates resembles God.
    (5) In that Socrates’ wisdom resembles God’s wisdom, Socrates resembles God.
    (6) Therefore, Socrates is good (in respect to wisdom).
    Similarly, consider the following:
    (a) God is perceptual beauty, and thus the ground and measure of all perceptual beauty.
    (b) One’s perception of meeting Socrates does not resemble one’s perception of meeting God.
    (c) Therefore, Socrates is not good (in respect to one’s perception of meeting him). Which grounds Socrates’ physical ugliness.
    As far as Socrates being mortal:
    (A) God is life, and thus the ground and measure of all life.
    (B) Socrates’ physical body is mortal, and in this does not resemble God.
    (C) Therefore, Socrates’ physical body is not good (in respect to life).

    May 16, 2011 — 16:30
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Anonymous of 4:27,
    Thanks. I think that animals, and also plants, and even stones, have some value and are thus proper objects of moral concern. When I wrote that “Values only make sense in a personal context” I simply meant that for X to have value there must be something conscious or mental for X to be valuable for. A reality which lacks consciousness also lacks things of value. I thought that much is fairly uncontroversial. In any case what’s interesting in that first argument is its second part the conclusion of which is theism, namely that the metaphysically ultimate is not less than the greatest conceivable being. The entire first part could be substituted by the premise that materialism is false.
    As for the second argument, it does not use the rather strong principle that a cause must always pre-contain what is contained in the effect. Rather it points out that if an X will cause Y and Y is good then X too is good, precisely because it causes the good Y. Here’s an analogy: Let’s consider big diamond of great value. If there was a machine (batteries included) which caused the production of that diamond just with the throw of a switch then that machine has (at least) as much value as the diamond. And if that machine was caused by a team of engineers working on a factory floor, that latter system has (at least) as much value as the machine. And so on. Thus, the much weaker premise I am using in the second argument is that if an effect has value its cause has (at least) as much value. The above example is about positive value, i.e. something good, but I think a similar case can be made for negative value, i.e. something evil.
    I didn’t mean that Hume to Mackie are dominant in contemporary naturalistic metaethics, and I find it interesting that most naturalistic philosophers are moral realists, despite the (I think) incontestable fact that moral realism is problematic on naturalism. (I always thought that we all have a perception like moral faculty, which is not easy to deny or to ignore.) Rather, my point was that when there is so much and so deep disagreement then one has at least weak evidence against the premise that the naturalistic metaethical project is truth tracking. In any case I shall study the philosophers you mention; I am curious to see what solutions they came up with.

    May 16, 2011 — 16:39
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Dustin,
    You write: “water has the property “being wet” but the singularity wasn’t wet.”
    Right, so?
    Perhaps you mean that as long as there is no suggestion of how to ground the wetness of water (which is a mental fact) on the nature of the singularity, and given that there is no wetness in the singularity, that singularity cannot coherently be considered to be the metaphysically ultimate. If so, I agree.
    But perhaps you mean the opposite: That given that the singularity can be properly considered to be the metaphysically ultimate even though it is not wet and neither can wetness be grounded on it, it follows that the nature of existents is independent from the nature of what’s metaphysically ultimate. If so, I disagree. “Nothing comes from nothing” is for me a self-evident epistemic principle. If you cannot ground X then you must posit X as an essential property of what’s metaphysically ultimate. Or, perhaps better: As long as you have no idea about how to metaphysically ground X you should posit X as an essential property of what’s metaphysically ultimate.
    Now the issue at hand is X=goodness. There is a third option which is to posit that goodness does not exist, but this entails both moral and rational nihilism. In that latter case naturalism may still be true, but it won’t be rationally defensible.
    In other words, in all worlds one of the next three propositions is true:
    1. Goodness is an essential property of what is metaphysically ultimate, and thus grounds all other things that are good.
    2. Goodness is not an essential property of what is metaphysically ultimate, but there is a way to ground all other things that are good.
    3. There are no good things.
    Suppose the actual world is naturalistic. Then (1) appears to contradict the very definition of naturalism and can safely be discarded. (2) corresponds to naturalistic moral realism. (3) renders naturalism to be rationally indefensible. No wonder most naturalistic philosophers pick (2).

    May 16, 2011 — 16:49
  • Andrew Moon

    I mentioned Bennett’s work earlier. In the talk she gave, she was defending the view that causality is actually a species of the grounding relation, that instances of x causing y, even when the causation happens diachronically, is best understood as a species of the same sort of grounding relation we see throughout metaphysics. I believe the paper’s called “Building and Causing”, see here
    http://courses.cit.cornell.edu/kb383/papers.html , but she unfortunately doesn’t have it up.

    May 16, 2011 — 17:01
  • Dustin Crummett

    Dianelos, I wasn’t treating wetness as a mental property, but let’s not quibble over that. Let’s say, instead, cylindricality. My glass is cylindrical, but there was a time when nothing was cylindrical. Cylindricality is a weakly emergent property–one which is constituted by lower level properties.
    So, if the naturalist wants to identify goodness with, say, pleasure, they just need to give us a materialist theory of mind (of course that may not be possible–but that’s a different argument.) Then the singularity doesn’t need to have any good or evil making properties at all–just the properties that, in certain contexts, constitute good and evil making properties.

    May 16, 2011 — 19:47
  • dan

    Is Craig a good faith philosopher seeking above all else to arrive at the truth about the cosmos, God, morality, etc. or is he just a shill for right wing christian fundamentalism?
    with regards to the discussion time between Craig and Kagan. Clayton says that he couldn’t watch it because it made him uncomfortable. I couldn’t stop. I enjoyed and even relished watching Craig get publicly embarrassed. A trained philosopher spouting off one in(s)ane argument after another needed shaming. Kagan, thankfully, gave him what he deserved.
    This is not an ad hominen attack on Craig’s arguments. The silliness of the arguments speaks for itself. This is rather an attack on his motives. He was there that night to grind an axe. What makes me say that? Check out this performance where he compares homosexuality to heroine or alcohol addiction.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOBsUP0N3tQ
    He needs to be publicly shamed for this as well.
    How is this relevant to the discussion here? He is not someone we can trust to put forward a good faith presentation on behalf of the theistic side. We need someone arguing for that side who will display the virtues of a philosopher (someone who will argue in good faith and whose ultimate allegiance is to the truth). We need someone else. For that is the only way we can have a serious and reasonable and productive discussion about these very important matters that we all care deeply about.
    I don’t doubt that Craig is a perfect gentleman in many aspects of his life. But, in matters about God, faith, morality, he simply has no credibility.

    May 17, 2011 — 1:48
  • Dear Dan,

    This is not an ad hominen attack on Craig’s arguments

    One of my favorite techniques for introducing an ad hominem. [insert] I will not do “x” [/insert], therefore when I do “x”, I am not doing “x”.

    How is this relevant to the discussion here? He is not someone we can trust to put forward a good faith presentation on behalf of the theistic side. We need someone arguing for that side who will display the virtues of a philosopher

    I really could care less, I just want to know what he said. The history of philosophy is marked by great thinkers who demonstrated far less virtue than Craig (although I won’t add Craig to that list by a long shot so maybe we should give him a break as a footnote of a footnote of a footnote on Plato). Do we want recourse to every great thinker who equivocated homosexual sex with illness? Every psychologist? You can say his ideas are archaic but its a strawman to then say the rest of his philosophy is rubbish.
    Further, what virtue of the philosopher is shaming his interlocutor? Is that philosopher interested in truth or chest thumping?
    Nevertheless, I will agree with you that the “debate” was a weak showing by Craig. It wasn’t the triple crown by Kagan either. Both made quite a few assertions without follow up; maybe because of the forum likely because Craig wouldn’t stay on topic. However, I do not think he had a per se axe to grind, but rather the grinding sound we could all hear was his dull axe which I think is his over commitment to DCT and all that is metaphysically implied.
    That being said, I agree as well that I would have preferred someone in field to argue for the theistic position instead of someone out of field and a popular “apologist” of sorts. However, being an apologist doesn’t disqualify you from being a philosopher (St. Justin Martyr, St. Thomas, et. al) nor being a philosopher prohibit you from having ideaological convictions.
    Cheers

    May 17, 2011 — 8:57
  • dan

    Come on Brent,
    You’ve got to do better.
    Here is an ad hominem on someone x’s argument.
    X sucks so his argument is no good. That is not how I argue, right? I said that the awfulness of his argument speaks for itself. I gave no rebuttals to his arguments in that post. Why? Everyone on this thread has already pointed out (in a hundred different ways) how truly awful they are.
    The question then is what explains a trained philosopher putting forward such terrible arguments. Here is an explanation. He is shill for right wing fundamentalism. The link to where he disgracefully insults and puts forward misinformation about our homosexual brothers and sisters is exhibit A. He really does show his true colors there.
    “equivocated homosexual sex with illness?”
    “but its a strawman to then say the rest of his philosophy is rubbish”.
    Do you know what a strawman is? And, do you mean “equated”? Come on, Brent.
    The ignorance of past thinkers provides no excuse for the same kind of ignorance now. Even serious thinkers, like ptolemy, thought that the sun revolved around the earth, for instance. Given where science was and given the tools available to him, that was excusable. But, given where science is now, there is no longer an excuse. Only the defiantly ignorant believe that today.
    That someone as educated as Craig would say the stupid and offensive things that he does about homosexuality now suggests that he is not intellectually honest. He is playing to the fundamentalist right.
    So, going forward, if we are going to talk about these serious issues in a serious manner, we need someone serious arguing for the theistic side. Craig is clearly not that guy.

    May 17, 2011 — 15:44
  • dan

    Also, I don’t wish to shame Craig as a way of winning an argument against him. No need for that.
    He needs to be shamed because he deserves it. I think it is objectively good to give to people what they deserve.

    May 17, 2011 — 15:55
  • Dan,
    Agreed about Craig as not being the right choice. I thought you were questioning his motivation and as such discrediting his philosophy. Sorry, if I misunderstood. By Craig’s argument do you mean his opening comments or the loosely termed “debate” with Kagan? I didn’t find his opening comments to be pure stupidity, but I did find his interaction with Kagan to be poor.
    Do you wish to discredit/shame any person prima facie who argues from the “right wing”? What about the extreme fundamentalist “left wing”?
    And, to my comment about a strawman, I meant “equated” and an “ad hominem” instead of “strawman” which I only noticed after hitting submit. Sorry about the mix up but thanks for your charitable reading.
    Hope to do a better job editing next time…

    May 17, 2011 — 16:09
  • Andrew Moon

    Alright, I think that’s enough discussion about the pros and cons of “shaming William Lane Craig” and Craig’s views on homosexuality. An in-depth discussion of that topic is sufficiently outside of my purposes for this post that I am going to delete any comments on that topic.

    May 17, 2011 — 23:30
  • Andrew Moon

    Steve Maitzen writes the following:
    “A propos of Craig on “ultimate significance,” I hope it’s all right for me to link to my own short, Thomas-Nagel-inspired article on the topic:
    http://philosophy.acadiau.ca/tl_files/sites/philosophy/resources/documents/Maitzen_OGUP.pdf

    May 18, 2011 — 13:58
  • Dianelos Georgoudis

    Dustin,
    If you meant “wetness” in the sense of “liquid” then the naturalist can fairly easily ground the property of being liquid on the singularity, even though the singularity has not that property. Now you introduce the property of “cylindricality”, and I am prepared to agree that cylindricality makes sense at the absence of consciousness (in a world without consciousness there would still exist cylindrically shaped objects), and also that (with some difficulty) the property of cylindricality can be grounded in a naturalistic world, even though the singularity does not possess that property. I am not claiming that in order for a property to be grounded the same property must belong to what’s metaphysically ultimate.
    Now you write: “ So, if the naturalist wants to identify goodness with, say, pleasure, they just need to give us a materialist theory of mind (of course that may not be possible–but that’s a different argument.) Then the singularity doesn’t need to have any good or evil making properties at all–just the properties that, in certain contexts, constitute good and evil making properties.”
    True. I think I now understand what you are saying. Above I claimed that I have two arguments that show that there is no way to ground goodness in a naturalistic reality. In the first argument I used the premise that goodness must be a property of what’s metaphysically ultimate. You dispute this, and argue that perhaps there is a way to ground goodness on a naturalistic metaphysically ultimate which does *not* have the goodness property. If so I think you are right. As the first argument stands, it only shows that moral realism can only be true in a naturalistic reality in which the metaphysically ultimate does not possess the goodness property. Which is a lesser but still interesting result.
    But I think I can improve the first argument thus: If S1 has the goodness property, then the S2 which caused it must also have the goodness property, precisely because it caused the good S1. Ultimately what causes all S’s in a naturalistic reality is the singularity, which therefore must have the goodness property too. If one identifies the singularity with what’s metaphysically ultimate (as it seems you do, and I agree it is a reasonable assumption on naturalism) then what’s metaphysically ultimate in a naturalistic reality must have moral properties.

    May 19, 2011 — 2:26
  • Edward T. Babinski

    Dear Wes Morrison, Your online papers look fascinating!
    http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/selected-papers.html
    See also my blog entry on the use of the word “objective” in relation to morality/ethics:
    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2011/09/word-objective-is-overused-when-it.html
    And my paper on Exaggerations of Biblical Proportions (addresses some points Copan relies on)
    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/10/exaggerations-of-biblical-proportions.html
    Thanks! Nice to have discovered your work!
    Everyone here probably already knows about Thom Stark’s challenge to Copan.

    September 30, 2011 — 22:06