Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

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Canis_Dirus
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Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Canis_Dirus » 2018-05-01 11:45pm

So last week or something, I walked into my Christian friend's Discord server and challenged him to a debate on Divine Command Theory, with my position being as follows:
Canis_dirus wrote:Divine Command Theory as a basis for morality is flawed and retarded.
Anyway, the debate wandered a bit, but here it is so far. Comments, tips, etc are welcome and would be appreciated. It feels like basically this is going the route of talking past each other, or at least not getting anywhere, since he keeps rehashing the same "You can't have a non-relative basis for morality without God" and me pointing out that you can based on common things that occur in humanity, similar to how natural science laws are based off common things in nature.

(also, there was another person named Celo commenting, which I've edited out for brevity and to focus on Stone)(also the guy's name is Stone)
Stone - Last Saturday at 7:34 PM
What God commands is based off his character, and because He is the ultimate good, therefore his commands will be good. They apply to us morally because we are made in His image. Unlike animals, people have moral expectations for other people. But we don't say that animals are good or evil. They just do things. Divine Command Theory is too simple.
If I don't capitalize the Divine pronoun, it's because I read KJV, which doesn't capitalize it either.

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 7:41 PM
What you've just described, where God commands us to do things because he is good and wants us to do good, is exactly one of the standard options of DCT. Which means it has the same flaw, that if God is good, it means there is some definition of good that he does not define, and he is therefore redundant because it can be found without him.

Stone - Last Saturday at 7:45 PM
what do you mean by "standard options" of DCT? As far as I'm aware, DCT has only to do with God's commands in and of themselves; essentially it's might makes right. Saying that His commands are morally correct because they are grounded in His nature is different, as well as why they apply to us but not animals (at least not in the same way)

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 7:50 PM
Divine Command Theory is that morality is derived from God's commands.
It has three options, which are as follows:
Something is right because God commands it
or
Something is right because it's right, and God commands us to do it because he is good and wants us to do right things
or
God is the source of additional moral tenants, apart from a few basic ones which are fundamental
------
"His commands are morally correct because they are grounded in His nature"
This sounds an awful lot like the second option

Stone - Last Saturday at 7:51 PM
where are you sourcing this from?

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 7:53 PM
My class
Those options are Euryphro's questions (well two of them with an added third option added later), based off of the basis of the theory, which is what is right is what God commands

Stone - Last Saturday at 7:53 PM
Ah.

Celo - Last Saturday at 7:53 PM
I see it as God being an image of what's right while also being an executor - he placed the laws there because while some can discover certain morals on their own, others can't, and if there weren't any written Word on it, there would be constant bickering and fighting
like what's going on right now with this pointless debate where no one will change their mind in the end

Stone - Last Saturday at 7:54 PM
I'm neither a scholar nor a theologist, but here I have an article which you might find helpful:
https://creation.com/what-is-good-answe ... ro-dilemma
Read it thoroughly.

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 7:56 PM
"I see it as God being an image of what's right while also being an executor - he placed the laws there because while some can discover certain morals on their own, others can't, and if there weren't any written Word on it, there would be constant bickering and fighting"
But that means God is redundant... and you don't need him
"like what's going on right now with this pointless debate where no one will change their mind in the end"

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:26 PM
"However the true God of the Bible is infinitely more powerful and knowledgeable. Indeed, He is totally sovereign, and perfect goodness is an essential part of His character, not something outside Him.
Thus the dilemma can be shown to be a false one. God indeed commands things which are good, but the reason they are good is because they reflect God’s own nature. So the goodness does not come ultimately from God’s commandments, but from His nature, which then results in good commandments. As Steve Lovell concluded in ‘C.S. Lewis and the Euthyphro Dilemma’ (2002):"
In a nutshell:
>God commands things which are good
>they are good because God is good and the things are like God, ie good
How is this any different than option two of Euthyphro's dilemma, which is that God commands us to do something because it's right?
Even if God is fundamentally right, that means that right can be independant of him, and he just is someone who always chooses the thing that's right.
And if you want to take it the other way: what's right is a reflection of God, or essentially what he would choose, then that has the same issues of the first option (it's right because God commands it), which is that right starts getting quite arbitray.

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:37 PM
Canis, you have repeatedly said that using DCT, including in the very specific ways I have defined it, is bad and wrong.
You say it's not a good idea.
Why?
The finer points have been addressed. His standard of good doesn't change because of His immutability.
We are specially related to those standards because we are made in His image.
I think you just don't like the idea on emotional grounds. It doesn't feel right to you.

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:39 PM
Because depending on which 'option' you choose:
-Right is arbitrary: no reason to follow God's arbitrary laws, I can do what I want which is way easier
-Right is independant of God: don't need to spend time worrying about God and all the things that come with that. I'll pursue the standard
-third option is basically the second in what it leads to

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:40 PM
That's not correct.
Because God's standard is THE standard, by which we define right and wrong. We understand morality exists especially when things are done to us.
If someone steals something from you, you demand justice. Why?

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:41 PM
I demand justice because I want my stuff back and/or compensation for the thing I've lost. Because I have time and effort and other resources in it.
Stone - Last Saturday at 8:41 PM
Because you are made in His image. And as for the second point, God's standard includes pursuing God.

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:41 PM
and stealing on principle causes problems for society

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:42 PM
Stop right there
What is inherently right or wrong about causing problems for society?
Why does that matter?

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:42 PM
Simple: the more society progresses, the better off I am

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:42 PM
But why is that right?
And the opposite wrong?

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:43 PM
I mean from a basic survival instinct, if something benefits you, then why would you not do it?

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:43 PM
That's not the same thing.

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 8:49 PM
Also
Why is it 'THE standard'? That's what I'm getting at. If you do it because it's what God wants: right is arbitrary. If it's because it's good and God likes good: then you pursue good things and God is unneeded
You have yet to address this
--
the thing with there being other people is addressed by my statement that society progressing benefits me. Furthermore it arguably benefits me more if it's ordered and not left to people doing whatever they want.
Because let's face it, a situation like The Purge might be nice short term, but what if I need to go to the doctor? Everyone's too busy stealing and being chaotic to do medecine and get more advanced treatments.
Feeling good and getting compliments =/= being better off
Would not people agree that being better off would be more able to pursue the things that make you happy? Including long term?
--
How are instincts difficult to explain?

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:50 PM
I have addressed it.

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:51 PM
You may call it arbitrary, but once you get that high up, it can't really help but seem that way. God is the standard because of His nature, and we are made in His image and thus His standard transfers to us.
Say there were some other ultimate standard
By what authority would it actually be the ultimate standard?
Would not that also be a very big arbitrary standard?

Stone - Last Saturday at 8:53 PM
Also, what is essentially morally right about being happy? Why does that matter? What is wrong with society crumbling into nothing? You're telling me the same thing. WHY is self-preservation a moral good?

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 9:21 PM
Well I mean if we're going to make arbitrary standards, we could do better than that
--
Variation doesn't disprove survival instincts though. Especially when we don't rely completely on instinct and can make decisions based on reasoning, so those instincts can get overridden.
Try to show that 99% of all sane humans don't instinctually desire to preserve their own lives and the lives of their families/offspring, just as an animal does.
--
We're defining good here. That's the idea. My very original post was that DCT is flawed and not a good basis for morality, ie defining good.
Good matters because we base things like laws and how we act off of them.
Preservation of society is good from a standpoint of self-interest: a better more advanced society will be able to do more for you than a crumbling one, especially if you look past short term stuff
I say self-preservation is good because that's likely what most people would agree with. Remember we're trying to find a moral standard here that works for everyone.
--(edited)
I should point out that the logic that both are guilty because the act requires two is flawed, since it's perfectly possible to force another to do stuff or to do stuff to them whether they want it or not. But hey retards in third world countries...
Nice strawman there... I wasn't saying that self preservation is the only important thing. Because yes that's bad if you apply that as a society. I'm saying that tha a good motivation for wanting society to be better is self-preservation (and that of wanting to be better off)
And since we want society to be better off, rape does not do this: it causes emotional scarring, leads to unwanted pregnancy (wasted potential in what the girl could have done, like curing cancer), etc
A murder for drugs is due to addiction... which involves messed up biochemistry. That's hardly survival instinct (and when I mention said instinct I mean properly functioning not messed up ones like a druggie)
Speaking of which, if you use the Bible for a moral basis, it says nothing about drugs. But humanism or another more universal basis would...
@Celo @Stone

Canis_dirus - Last Saturday at 9:40 PM
Obviously not everyone will be satisfied, but you can include a lot more than if you use DCT and it's derivatives
That's the point. And you can do it without all the extra religion stuff, like going to church, tithes, scripture, etc
Already you have greater efficiency, and a lot better basis than "God says do this"
--
It says to 'honor God with your bodies'. Honoring could just have well meant sacrificing some of your blood to God...
If you use both together, then that bans hallucigenics....which are not even close to the entire spectrum of drugs that could be considered 'bad'.
--
To expand on the first section: appealing to standards like make society better because it benefits you is more universal than follow my interpretation of religion. Because then you're doing it because you like it better or it feels good. You're picking and choosing
Not so with making society better, you're using the nearly universal thing that people share: self interest and the interest of their families/offspring
Anyway, I have to go to bed, so please PM me with what you're typing and I'll respond tomorrow :)

Stone - Last Sunday at 10:38 AM
In response to your post above Celo's penultimate (as of this post):
No, we actually can't do better than that as far as objective standards go. | I don't disagree with this. | Actually I thought this was about where the standard of good lies, not defining what it is. But it has turned into the latter. And yes, good does matter partly for that reason. Also, I would rather say that preservation of society is helpful to self-interest, but not necessarily morally correct. Also, just saying that something is good because the majority agrees is no closer to an objective moral standard. It's simply a larger arbitrary standard. And while finding a standard that works for everyone may be your goal, my goal is showing you what the correct, true moral standard is, not what happens to accommodate the largest amount of people.
Darn, that needs some spaces.
doo dee doo
Rape follows from the reproductive urges. It makes sense to produce as many offspring as possible to ensure survival of your line. | The Bible actually does command that you must have no idols in your life, in both the Old and New Testaments. An idol isn't just a carved figure; it's anything that you put above God in your life. Addiction qualifies as this. Also, humanism is the farthest thing from a universal moral basis, especially contrasted with an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God. ||| In response to your latest post: Assuming you are referring to humanism, humanism fails greatly because it assumes that people are basically good. But that's a faulty presupposition; people are basically bad. Why do we have police officers? Why do we lock our doors? Why do people do horrible things like shoot up schools? Because people are more inclined to do evil than to do good. People aren't machines that can simply be programmed to do "right" if they have the right rules. Also, it appears you don't understand the purpose of attending church, giving tithe, or Scripture.
People attend church to be around other believers, to be edified, and to encourage and check one another. Tithe is acknowledging that God owns everything, that what you have is a gift, and giving a part of it back to Him. Scripture is Special Revelation of God to man.
Hold up, not done.
doo dee doo
Canis, you know very well that "honoring God with your bodies" did NOT mean cutting yourself for God. Why would you say something like that? | Appealing to standards like "make society better" is no better than supposedly choosing a religious interpretation, because it depends who is in charge. Nazis and Communists used humanism as a basis for morality, and that ended terribly. Furthermore, you're assuming that religious truth is subjective to feelings. That isn't the case. We can use historical and observational science to test what the Bible says, and if it meets the tests, then it is reasonable to conclude that what the Bible says is reliable. But this is another issue, albeit related. Furthermore, you still haven't explained to me WHY making society better, and meeting peoples' basic desires, is a moral good, and the opposite a moral evil.

Canis_dirus - Last Sunday at 10:54 PM
The conversation/debate has wandered a bit indeed...
Alright I'm a little unsure of your formatting, so I'm going to assume the division lines are your seperation between sections
Show that we cannot do better. This entire time, both you and Celo have insisted that morality is inseperable from God, but as I just pointed out to Celo, morality is used and explored in great detail every day by people who have zero religion (athiests and agnostics). Why? Because it's quite possible to have morality and understand it without God, and it's a better idea to do so because God and religion introduces extra factors that many people already disagree on, and allows arbitrary stuff like "God says we should do this" rather than "We should do this for these logical reasons...."
The original thrust I made was DCT being bad, which deals with how you define good. It has wandered a bit due to examples used.
The idea is not that it's morally correct to preserve society, but it is morally correct to focus on policies and actions that help rather than hurt people. Personally, humanism springs to mind as a good source for this: "thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Humanist beliefs stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems."
Right here is a great example of a way to define good by emphasizing universal things like common human needs, and valuing life.
Perhaps I've done a less than good job making it clear, because I'm trying to argue generally without choosing an alternative theory, but there we go.
The self interest part stems from why one would bother with this, that's egoistic altrusim, which is that helping others helps you, because we're benefited by being part of society, and the more people there are able to properly contribute, the better other people and therefore society can help us.
Alright, now that I've hopefully made it clear what I've been trying to get at with the self interest and society stuff...
Rape is usually a power thing in many cases, and even when it is from an urge to reproduce or at least do something pleasurable, it would still be wrong under the humanist theory and from an egostic altruism perspective. Which I mentioned above.
Alright fair enough on the addition part.
I mean, going off of something based around common human needs and all that seems a lot more objective and grounded in solid reality than basing your moral system off of a 1000+ year old book filled with numerous historical errors, edited multiple times in multiple versions with sometimes outright horrible stuff in it that people conveniently ignore AND/OR basing your morals off of some invisible entity (who's existence is by nature unscientific) that you claim exists because you feel like it is true.
I mean that's like arguing that we should believe the Earth is flat because an old book tells us its so and you have faith and feel in your heart it must be true. Versus using the physical scientific tools and mathematics to see that oh it's actually not flat but a spheroid.
You do realize that school shooters, criminals, etc are not represenative of the population? In fact they are a minority. Going off of the 2013 global homicide rate alone as a very simplistic example, you'll find that it's 6.2 out of 100,000 people. That's .0062 percent. In fact if I take the largest crime rate in the US for instance, 2450.7 out of 100,000, that's 2.45 percent.
The average person isn't perfect, but you're making a rather hasty generalization if you think they are presupposed to be bad. In fact, research shows that humans tend to instinctually take actions that help others, provided at least that their own survival needs are met.
Yes people attend church and all that for those reasons. You missed the point of what I was saying when I bring it up, which was that if you can find an alternative source for morality (and you can) you don't need to worry about all the extra religious stuff. It's fluff, unneeded, etc. You can if you want to, but you don't have to.
See my response to Celo about the cutting thing.
You might get Nazism when you don't apply humanism to everyone, just a special group. Although I'm not sure how you'd get that even then if you're emphasizing human value. See my statement above meant to clear up the confusion about society and such.
Well, with most popular ones at least, a large part of the religion is reading from a holy text, praying, and talking about it. Praying and anything you recieve is subjective by nature. After all, it's about how you feel and what comes into your mind. That's pretty sketchy. And if you want to bring up other people feeling the same way, remember how there's different churches for people with different views? You're hanging out with people who think the same way as you, which just confirms how you feel, and you're taught by teachers who see things that way.
Historical tests using science don't validate the Bible. In fact, science doesn't support the Bible at all. Starting with the historical accuracy, which fails badly especially in the Old Testament. Analysis of the text in the New Testament, for intance the writings of Paul, suggest that it wasn't a single person but multiple attributed to one, in much the same way that the Psalms weren't all written by David, but are attributed to him.
Making society is a means to an ends, it's not inherently good. The intrinsic good is people being better off. Which is based off of the near universal desire by people to be in a good position in life and make that position better.
@Stone

Stone - Last Monday at 2:10 PM
Okay, canis, I've read over your latest post, and here is my rebuttal.(edited)
To start, you have misconstrued the statements of both myself and Celo.
I have never stated that atheists and agnostics cannot be good, moral people.
In fact, one would expect that people made in the image of God would have a sense of morality. If atheists and agnostics acted as vile as they possibly could, that would be good proof that their position is correct. I have asserted that there is no logical basis for morality apart from God. Which brings me to my next point.
Humanism is very similar to socialism and communism, and assumes, as you stated, the basic goodness of humanity. But that is a faulty presupposition. People are basically bad, not good. You've quoted some statistic about crime rates (which I would like to see) but you haven't touched issues like lying, lust, and general issues of the heart. People may behave well insofar as they don't get arrested, but that doesn't mean that they aren't basically sinful.
Humanism, when tried on massive scales, such as in Russia and China, in socialism and communism, tends to bring about terrible results.
Because if people have no greater moral obligation than "I shouldn't hurt others because it might be bad for me" then when someone powerful takes over, they may have no problem with doing evil because they themselves are safe.
History is a great testament to this fact, again especially in Russia and China, and Cuba.
You keep stating the same thing over and over again: helping people and improving living conditions is an intrinsic good.
But why?
Why do those things matter? WHY is that a moral good?
You've given me either selfish reasons "it helps me" or majority reasons "it helps others"
but those are simply smaller and larger arbitrary reasons
Why does it matter what happens to our society? Where does morality stem from?
Because the underlying presupposition to your ideas is actually one that I agree with:
Human beings have an intrinsic value.
Now, leaving alone the issue of Biblical historicity, because that is a massive one (though I have plenty of literature and articles to refer to you, if you'd read them)
I'll leave you with this question:
Why do human beings have any intrinsic value?
P.S. The point is not to find a morality that works for everyone, the point is to find true morality, regardless of who wants to follow it.
Oh, one more thing, I have not and would not claim that God's existence can be proved scientifically, nor can it be disproven scientifically. There are some things that science cannot prove, such as the validity of science itself.

Canis_dirus - Last Tuesday at 5:08 PM
"Celo the Time Dilation - Last Saturday at 7:57 PM
we don't need Him for morals so much as our lack thereof
Stone - Last Saturday at 8:40 PM
Because God's standard is THE standard, by which we define right and wrong.
Stone - Last Sunday at 10:38 AM
No, we actually can't do better than that as far as objective standards go.
Celo the Time Dilation - Last Saturday at 8:03 PM
The Bible states that the Word is written on everyone's hearts (Jeremiah 31, Hebrews 10)"
No, not directly. But you have (as shown in these sampling of quotes) both stated that humans inherently derive their morality from God, and their is no other universal or even close to objective standard. Essentially you posit that without God one can't have morality.
And yet, those who don't really have a religion, such as athiests and agnostics, do have morality.
You then claim that they come up with this morality because God just writes it on their hearts, programming it in. But if that is the case, then humans already have morality programming in and religion and God are therefore unneeded since you already have the tools needed. This actually ties nicely to Euthyphro's trilemma...
I keep pointing out that alternatives to DCT such as humanism can be be logically derived, in the case of humanism being based off of common human needs and seeing humans as good. I'm not sure how else to put it, but suffice to say if you were figuring out a way to organize things, and you could base it off of an old book and feelings, versus what you know works for people here and now, would it not be logical to go off of what you know works for at least most people here and now?
You claim that basing things in this way cannot be truly objective, because it seems arbitrary to define common human needs and such as good, but you're missing the forest for a tree. The way that the system is represented might in some ways be arbitrary, but it is just a formal recognization of something that exists already whether you believe it or not.
Show that people are basically bad, not good. Prove this. I've given some statistics, sourced here:
Global Homicide Rate https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_c ... icide_rate
Crime Rate in US (total property crime rate used) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_ ... ted_States
Give some evidence to back up your claims, since you're so insistent on apparently dismissing my examples out of hand, or concede the point. Because even if people are imperfect, that doesn't mean they're inherently bad. Any more than one might say that someone is a 'bad person' (the generic bad person without getting too technical), just because they make mistakes but are otherwise very caring, altruistic, etc. And the amount of people who do things that would arguably make them a 'bad person' are a small percentage of the population. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Just because two things are similar does not mean they are the same. This is a logical error.
The definition that I've been using for humanism thinking, "stress the potential value and goodness of human beings, emphasize common human needs, and seek solely rational ways of solving human problems." cannot be used for communism nor socialism of the type seen in the USSR and China. Something more along the line of corrupted utilitarianism can, but nowhere have I posited yet that things such as "ends justify means" and the like are true, and stuff like that is required to get those systems that you've described.
I didn't say the only moral obligation was that "it might be bad for me". I'm defining humans as intrinsically valuable essentially. And I'm using egositic altruism as additional motivation besides thinking of people as valuable, since some people are more self absorbed that others of course (and before you try to say being self absorbed means people are inherently bad, show that meeting your survival needs and taking care of yourself first is inherently wrong). Obviously leaders in the USSR, Cuban, and Chinese systems of government, for all their words, don't see people as inherently valuable as humanism would say they are, they just see them as resources. Or at least aren't using humanism as much as utilitarianism.
I define helping people and improving living conditions as instrumental good, because people are the intrinsic good. Defining people as intrinsically good is simply a description of the near universal phenomena that people tend to value others (since humans are social creatures). This tendancy can of course be overshadowed by self preservation of course, but it is still there. It's a description of an objective phenomena, just like physics is simply a description of the world and how it works.
A good true morality would be one that matches the natural one that people seem to have, building off of it to a code that can be applied to all situations. Which is exactly what I've been trying to get at. DCT does not do this, one only needs to look at the Bible (Jericho-kill an entire city because they don't follow your way of life and don't want to give the land to you that they live in).
You said "We can use historical and observational science to test what the Bible says, and if it meets the tests, then it is reasonable to conclude that what the Bible says is reliable." in your last post. Historical and other scientific evidence does not support the Bible, which is what I was getting at. No one said anything about God, just the Bible.
Also, science at it's core is about a rational way to find out things. And from that perspective it can arguably validate itself, because it's findings are checked against reality and when found consistent, added to the knowledge base.
Life asked Death, "Death, why do people love me but hate you?"
Death responded, "Because you are a beautiful lie, and I am a painful truth."

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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-03 08:43am

I think I see least one assumpiton I think the divine command theorists are relying on heavily and implicitly, that you did not go after:

Namely, the premise that morality has to come from authority.

If one does not have a concept of morality separate from the concept of authority, then Socrates' creative way of tying Euthypros into knots doesn't put much of a dent in one's mindset. Because the knot-tying relies on the idea that morality is just this thing, either a meaningful thing or a meaningless thing, but in either case a thing that has an existence in and of itself.

Whereas to someone who thinks that moral status comes from being blessed and favored by authority, with the best status coming from the best authority...

Well, the Euthypro dialogue doesn't make much more sense than reasoning "So, either the traffic laws are purely arbitrary, and I'm under no obligation to follow them, or the traffic laws exist independently of government authority, and I can rederive them myself from first principles."

Because traffic laws are pretty clearly social constructs. There's no compelling reason why we all drive on the left side of the road versus the right; it matters that we all pick a side and use it consistently but it doesn't matter WHICH. It doesn't matter that red means 'stop' and green means 'go' or the other way around, as long as we're consistent. The specific choice of traffic laws we follow is defined for us by authority, and we basically just accept it because the alternative is anarchy.

If a smarter government came in and proposed new, better traffic laws somehow, we would be wise to immediately do away with the old ones and switch to the new ones.

The concept of authority-based morality is that morality from a qualitatively superior 'more authoritative' authority is inherently better than one from a lesser authority, and that the idea of morality existing without a sourcing authority is as chimerical as the idea of there being some kind of free-floating, primordial traffic laws that existed at the dawn of the universe before anyone had built a road or a car.

Or that's how I understand it.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Esquire » 2018-05-07 11:45am

What are the premises of the debate? Because if one side is taking it as written that there's an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God-on-high whose dictates are never in contradiction with themselves and who always has the best interests of humanity at heart (with any of the many cases where this is clearly not true being due to our lack of omniscience and/or to being rooted in spiritual factors not directly accessible to humans), you can't really have a productive discussion if your own premises are different. Aquinas would be useful reading here; the Summa Theologicae are basically about this sort of problem.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Knife » 2018-05-08 12:38am

1) you guys are going back and forth with muddied definitions. What is a moral, what is a moral system?

2) you are also dancing around what is objective and subjective.

3) He is in essence claiming a god that is making subjective moral pronouncements (not a moral system since the pronouncements go against each other and god's actual actions in the bible) and calling the result an absolute objective moral.

4) As opposed to that, a moral system would be based on one or a few subjective conditions, then you can make objective decisions on them for a system. Off the top of my head, Matt Dillahunty usually uses 'well being' for that basis. Life is generally better than death, no pain is generally better than pain, so forth and so on. None are "Absolute" and are subjective. But if you agree that well being is good, then everything coming after is objective. Murder is objectively against well being. Theft is objectively hurting someones well being. So on and so forth.
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But as far as board culture in general, I do think that young male overaggression is a contributing factor to the general atmosphere of hostility. It's not SOS and the Mess throwing hand grenades all over the forum- Red

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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-08 10:23am

Regarding your point (4), you can always spin out something like that until you land back in subjective territory, sadly. For instance, robbing someone is objectively contrary to their well-being... but is confusing someone contrary to their well-being? We can easily imagine circumstances where it would be, but also where it would not, and it starts coming down to specifics and feelings. Likewise, is trying to undermine someone's trust in their friends an attack on their well-being? What if you have reason to think they are dangerously, excessively trustful?
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Knife » 2018-05-09 11:30am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-05-08 10:23am
Regarding your point (4), you can always spin out something like that until you land back in subjective territory, sadly. For instance, robbing someone is objectively contrary to their well-being... but is confusing someone contrary to their well-being? We can easily imagine circumstances where it would be, but also where it would not, and it starts coming down to specifics and feelings. Likewise, is trying to undermine someone's trust in their friends an attack on their well-being? What if you have reason to think they are dangerously, excessively trustful?
That goes back to the subjective beginning. In general no pain is better than pain. But it's not always true. Some people like a bit of pain in their sex, and it's not against their well being. So that gets to the point of a moral absolute, which I would posit does not exist. The very fact that different cultures have different morals, and even the existence of moral dilemmas speak to the point that none of it is absolute.
They say, "the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots." I suppose it never occurred to them that they are the tyrants, not the patriots. Those weapons are not being used to fight some kind of tyranny; they are bringing them to an event where people are getting together to talk. -Mike Wong

But as far as board culture in general, I do think that young male overaggression is a contributing factor to the general atmosphere of hostility. It's not SOS and the Mess throwing hand grenades all over the forum- Red

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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Canis_Dirus » 2018-05-10 12:44pm

I apologize for the somewhat late response, and thank you guys for responding.
Simon_Jester wrote:I think I see least one assumpiton I think the divine command theorists are relying on heavily and implicitly, that you did not go after:

Namely, the premise that morality has to come from authority.
That's a good idea, I definitely plan to work with that
Esquire wrote:What are the premises of the debate? Because if one side is taking it as written that there's an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God-on-high whose dictates are never in contradiction with themselves and who always has the best interests of humanity at heart (with any of the many cases where this is clearly not true being due to our lack of omniscience and/or to being rooted in spiritual factors not directly accessible to humans), you can't really have a productive discussion if your own premises are different. Aquinas would be useful reading here; the Summa Theologicae are basically about this sort of problem.
I think Stone is taking it as written that there's a benevolent, omniscent, etc God.
Which is why I'm not trying to attack the existence of a God, but I am trying to attack his notion at the moment that there are better sources for a more universal moral code than pulling from the Bible.
Knife wrote:1) you guys are going back and forth with muddied definitions. What is a moral, what is a moral system?
Neither of us defined a moral or a moral system
Knife wrote:2) you are also dancing around what is objective and subjective.

3) He is in essence claiming a god that is making subjective moral pronouncements (not a moral system since the pronouncements go against each other and god's actual actions in the bible) and calling the result an absolute objective moral.

4) As opposed to that, a moral system would be based on one or a few subjective conditions, then you can make objective decisions on them for a system. Off the top of my head, Matt Dillahunty usually uses 'well being' for that basis. Life is generally better than death, no pain is generally better than pain, so forth and so on. None are "Absolute" and are subjective. But if you agree that well being is good, then everything coming after is objective. Murder is objectively against well being. Theft is objectively hurting someones well being. So on and so forth.
I was going off the idea that you can make subjective representations of objective phenomena. For instance, zero is a subjective symbol used to represent the objective concept of nothing.

In other words, you can make the subjective call that humans are intrinsically good, based on them being the species defining the system, and then say okay here are these things which most humans agree are good or positive, such as not being killed (objective phenomena).
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Esquire » 2018-05-10 10:09pm

Canis_Dirus wrote:
2018-05-10 12:44pm
I think Stone is taking it as written that there's a benevolent, omniscent, etc God.
Which is why I'm not trying to attack the existence of a God, but I am trying to attack his notion at the moment that there are better sources for a more universal moral code than pulling from the Bible.
Unless you want to go the 'the Bible contradicts itself, therefore it clearly isn't literally the uninterpreted Word of God" route, you aren't going to get anywhere if those are his priors. Assuming an omniscient omnibenevolent God makes it logically impossible that He'd say anything that wasn't completely true and/or in our best spiritual interest; if it looks otherwise, that's just people being non-omnisicent or any of several kinds of misguided/nefariously motivated. This is a huge concession you're making, let's be perfectly clear here - you're basically admitting that "it's ineffable" is a valid response to questions of morality or logic.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-11 07:55am

Well, there's another line of attack, which reduces to "manifestly, God does not provide us with precise guidelines for what to do in every situation. Firstly, the bulk of the 'law' in the Bible is entirely ignored by practicing Christians, insofar as it's supposedly just for Jews and/or is obsolete now that the Messiah has come and gone. Secondly, many novel situations that are simply not considered by the Bible are found in our everyday life today- there's not a lot of room in a strictly Biblical-derived law code for things like insurance liability or corporate law.

Whatever purpose the Bible serves, it simply does not and clearly was not intended to serve the purpose of being a precise set of instructions for how to live. About the best a divine command theorist Christian can hope for is to derive valid moral principles from the divine commands, then apply them using fallible human reason... but at that point the divine command theorist is opening themselves up to some of the other counterpoints we've already discussed. Such as "so, are the moral principles good because God commands them, or does God command them because they are good" and "so, what is unique about the Bible that makes it a better instructional tool for understanding moral principles, given that many of its core figures behave immorally and that its core text often has to be interpreted very, very carefully to derive these principles?"
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2018-05-11 09:42pm

One thing I might do is actually attack your opponent FROM his own theology. Go back to Genesis.

Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"

However you want to take Genesis, as literal truth or allegory, the message is actually pretty clear. The conscience of human beings is equivalent to that of God. Therefore, morality is not derived from God, but exists externally to him and is binding upon God, it is merely the knowledge of good and evil that humanity lacked before original sin.

It is thus entirely possible for God to commit evil acts, to command evil acts etc.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-12 12:26am

Huh.

That's... clever, in my opinion.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Alyrium Denryle » 2018-05-12 05:39am

Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-05-12 12:26am
Huh.

That's... clever, in my opinion.
It's actually pretty clear that it's the position taken by C.S. Lewis in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, because Aslan (God) was bound by the Deep Magic just as much as the Ice Queen.

In fact, it's basically the only way the crucifixion can make any sense at all. It isn't that God sacrificed himself to himself to atone for the sins that he defined. It's that something about existence that transcends God required that sacrifice both to wash away mankind's sins, but likely his as well. Which explains the change in his behavior between old and new testaments. God was reborn as much as those who accept the sacrifice of Christ are.

Then you get to Revelation and the whole thing breaks down into incoherent ravings. And that all presupposes that God exists which is definitely an open question.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-13 12:25pm

Alyrium Denryle wrote:
2018-05-12 05:39am
Simon_Jester wrote:
2018-05-12 12:26am
Huh.

That's... clever, in my opinion.
It's actually pretty clear that it's the position taken by C.S. Lewis in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, because Aslan (God) was bound by the Deep Magic just as much as the Ice Queen.

In fact, it's basically the only way the crucifixion can make any sense at all. It isn't that God sacrificed himself to himself to atone for the sins that he defined. It's that something about existence that transcends God required that sacrifice both to wash away mankind's sins, but likely his as well. Which explains the change in his behavior between old and new testaments. God was reborn as much as those who accept the sacrifice of Christ are.
Well, there's also the "Christus Victor" theory in which God was basically trolling the Devil into killing an un-killable person, thus violating his [the Devil's] role in creation and breaking his [the Devil's] authority under divine law to dominate the fate of humanity.

To switch to (a slight variation on) Lewis's allegory, one might suppose that the Deep Magic under which Jadis has the authority to kill Aslan is negated by the Deeper Magic stating that if Jadis ever kills an innocent or a categorically un-killable being, her authority is rendered moot.

On the other hand, this view doesn't really make sense either unless we start from the premise that God is bound by SOMETHING external to himself, be it morality or just a measure of internal/logical self-consistency.

(Aquinas, for instance, was fairly solid on the point that "God can do anything" does not imply, for instance, "God can do X while simultaneously not doing X.")
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Canis_Dirus » 2018-05-14 12:44am

Alyrium Denryle wrote:Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"

However you want to take Genesis, as literal truth or allegory, the message is actually pretty clear. The conscience of human beings is equivalent to that of God. Therefore, morality is not derived from God, but exists externally to him and is binding upon God, it is merely the knowledge of good and evil that humanity lacked before original sin.

It is thus entirely possible for God to commit evil acts, to command evil acts etc.
That is clever, although earlier in the debate, I mentioned blood sacrifice in response to a person who briefly jumped in and mentioned a scripture about honoring God with our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) since by itself it is ambiguous. I was met with utter incredulity.
I expect that I will get a similar reaction here, and they'll just dismiss it as the wrong interpretation, and I'd have to really back that up.
Although I suppose merely saying humans have reasoning enough to distinguish between good and evil might be workable.
Simon_Jester wrote:Well, there's another line of attack, which reduces to "manifestly, God does not provide us with precise guidelines for what to do in every situation. Firstly, the bulk of the 'law' in the Bible is entirely ignored by practicing Christians, insofar as it's supposedly just for Jews and/or is obsolete now that the Messiah has come and gone. Secondly, many novel situations that are simply not considered by the Bible are found in our everyday life today- there's not a lot of room in a strictly Biblical-derived law code for things like insurance liability or corporate law.

Whatever purpose the Bible serves, it simply does not and clearly was not intended to serve the purpose of being a precise set of instructions for how to live. About the best a divine command theorist Christian can hope for is to derive valid moral principles from the divine commands, then apply them using fallible human reason... but at that point the divine command theorist is opening themselves up to some of the other counterpoints we've already discussed. Such as "so, are the moral principles good because God commands them, or does God command them because they are good" and "so, what is unique about the Bible that makes it a better instructional tool for understanding moral principles, given that many of its core figures behave immorally and that its core text often has to be interpreted very, very carefully to derive these principles?"
I'm definitely going to be using this. He seems to have contradicted himself by asserting that humans have morals written on their hearts, but it's corrupted since humans are evil so they can't do everything, but then later claims that humans are totally corrupted. Plus he's admitted that the New Covenant (New Testament) supersedes the Old Law of the Jews, and it has less arbitrary laws, but they are still there. I intend to exploit this.
Esquire wrote:Unless you want to go the 'the Bible contradicts itself, therefore it clearly isn't literally the uninterpreted Word of God" route, you aren't going to get anywhere if those are his priors. Assuming an omniscient omnibenevolent God makes it logically impossible that He'd say anything that wasn't completely true and/or in our best spiritual interest; if it looks otherwise, that's just people being non-omnisicent or any of several kinds of misguided/nefariously motivated. This is a huge concession you're making, let's be perfectly clear here - you're basically admitting that "it's ineffable" is a valid response to questions of morality or logic.
I'm currently taking the route of God being redundant due to humans being able to derive morality themselves, which is a better way than using religion based on the Bible.
I'm not sure how to attack the existence of God directly. I can attack biblical historicity and use DCT to smack around using God as a moral basis, but I don't really know how to disprove divine existence due to the metaphysical nature, apart from Occam's razor. And at that point, I know it's going to just get ignored on the basis of faith tied into God being necessary for morality to exist, therefore God exists, etc.

----------------
Simon_Jester wrote:(Aquinas, for instance, was fairly solid on the point that "God can do anything" does not imply, for instance, "God can do X while simultaneously not doing X.")
As an aside, I've actually been a little curious about this topic, as related to omnipotence.
If God is omnipotent, and that is taken to mean he can do anything, why could he not do X and not do X at the same time? Would not such a being be capable of violating logic?
The application of course being God creating a rock he can't lift, and then him lifting it anyway.
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Re: Debating Divine Command Theory (and more)

Post by Simon_Jester » 2018-05-14 08:01pm

Just to address the omnipotence point...

What it comes down to is that 'omnipotent' doesn't mean that all statements of the form "The omnipotent being can ___________." are true. It means all coherent statements of that form are true, but it does not somehow require that the statement "the omnipotent being can purple monkey dishwasher" be true. Because "They can purple monkey dishwasher" isn't even meaningful, it's pure gibberish. Saying "God can purple monkey dishwasher" isn't a statement about what God can do, it's a statement about your own ability to make up random absurdities and preface them with the words 'God can.'

In the same sense, "God can create a triangular quadrilateral" is incoherent and meaningless. The phrase 'triangular quadrilateral' doesn't actually define anything, it's just a pair of words mashed together that, while meaningful separately, are meaningless in each other's context. The statement "God can create a triangular quadrilateral" isn't me making a statement about the power of God, it's a statement about me proclaiming my ignorance of mathematics and inability to string together words into coherent phrases and sentences.

The same extends to any other thing that is logically impossible, as opposed to merely hard to do. The notion of God lifting a rock He cannot lift is inherently absurd and self-contradictory, and therefore irrelevant. For someone who takes God's omnipotence as a given, the simple fact is that there is no such thing as a rock God can't lift; that's what 'omnipotent' means. Any conceivable feat can be performed, so long as it is self-consistent, and the act of lifting a rock is inherently self-consistent.

Therefore, "a rock God can't lift" is a meaningless pile of words that doesn't describe any thing; it's a symbol without a referent. This doesn't represent logic as some outside force placing chains on God, it's simply that the infinite, plenary set of things God can do to or in (or for that matter outside) the universe contains only things that are coherent. Things that are gibberish are outside the set, but that makes the set no less complete.
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