Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Natural Capacity for Discovering the Supernatural Standard

A Natural Capacity for Discovering the Supernatural Standard

We can use our litmus to rule out ethical theories which do not pass as truth—one of those theories being ethical naturalism. If we stop where naturalists stop, acknowledging the moral sense without acknowledging the unchanging truth sensed by the moral sense, we make moral truth (and the being to
 which it corresponds) out to be a construct (50), which is, of course, a fiction [ought-is (82) fallacy of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E)].

In this section we are going to discuss how unchanging moral truth cannot be based in nature, then we are going to discuss how we have a natural (rationally intuitive) capacity for discovering (71) the supernatural standard. First, a dialectic (58, 66) to think about, which is very similar to the dialectic of L2:

The Super-Naturalist Dialectic

Thesis: If moral truth is beyond nature, then it has nothing to do with we who inhabit nature. However, there is no reason to believe there is anything beyond nature; moral truth is completely natural (philosophical naturalism) (see 50, 52, 53, 54, 66).
Antithesis: It is true that there is no reason to believe there is anything beyond nature, but making changing nature the basis for unchanging truth commits the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E) (nihilism).
Synthesis: That we hunger (57) for a ‘more’ that nature cannot satisfy, points to the existence of supernatural meaning—we hunger for transcendent meaning that exists immanently, or we would not hunger for it (essentialism). [ If it doesn’t exist (see Objection 5 in Appendix E if “if” sounds heretical to you), this ‘more’ commits the ought-is (82) fallacy of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), but that it ‘does’ exist is not its justification, which would commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification(70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). ] See Appendix F: Six Moral Realist Dialectics (Non-interchangeable).

Philosophical naturalists justify a particular morality (or ethical theory, see below) by suggesting that it merely serves evolutionary purpose. Note that beliefs, including beliefs about morality, are true or false independent of whether or not we have evolved a natural tendency to accept them. For example, we have a natural tendency to survive, but this tendency does not validate a belief that we should survive at all cost. Survival is an accident, according to evolution—not an essential purpose. This is to move from “is” (evolution) to “ought” (evolutionary purpose). That nature, even human nature, is a certain way does not require that it should be that way—nature cannot prescribe. If a natural tendency toward moral behavior is its justification, then the social behavior allowed by all other social animals, not just humans, is moral truth, as are the standards of those who claim (with scientific backing) that their antisocial behavior is natural and therefore justified [is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E)—not to mention that it is a contradiction to make antisocial behavior a standard for social behavior; see section on egoism]. Besides, those who say we ought to let natural selection take its course (a minority of naturalists) are implying our interference is supernatural selection, and since we are responsible for whatever action or non-action is taken (Sartre was right), natural selection becomes impossible when humans are present.

Nature cannot satisfy our hunger (57) for more. It only provides the capacity for creating man-made purpose or discovering (71) supernatural, essential purpose. Blind nature only provides the capacity for evaluating, it cannot assign value. Does it make sense to you that all of nature operates under “survival of the fittest” (2; 151)–but it is grounded in nature that humans should treat the Other as an end and not merely as means (which we will soon discuss) (54)? Rational empathy (51) and selflessness, or brutality and selfishness (“might makes right”) both aid in survival, and nature cannot tell us which one is morally superior, and so cannot tell us how we ought to be or behave, or to count the self and the Other interchangeably. So, answering that how and why we should be or behave with the Other and self is to fulfill evolutionary purpose (54)—isn’t saying anything meaningful (is a fuel tank full of air). In atheist Richard Dawkins’ words, “In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at the bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no other god. Nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is,” (24; 133)—as opposed to “ought” (however, see note 66). Again, according to evolution, survival is accidental, not our ‘purpose’. And if survival were the point, the last man standing would be the most moral man, making the existence of the Other unnecessary for a moral existence (failing L1.3, 70).

One might argue that if we cannot derive an ought from nature (is) (12), then why can we derive all valid oughts from God's nature (12)? The short answer is: we cannot. The long answer is that, while the Golden Rule describes God, corresponds to God, rather than committing the ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), it is not justified by God’s existence, or else it would commit the is-ought fallacy (12) of reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E). The Golden Rule is the “intuited value not definable in terms of something else…that ‘ought’ to be followed in one’s intentions and actions,” (1; 409) and which is the only theory which passes the fiery reason of the first part of our litmus. Naturalists (voluntarists by default, 70) decide some moral rules are more justified than others by measuring them against pre-existing (unjustified) norms, which are the end result of the “evaluative process” [value is (assumed to be) assigned, moral rules are (assumed to be) culturally constructed, rather than (acknowledged as) discovered (71)] (50). The Golden Rule is like the pre-existing norm of the naturalist, only, rather than committing the ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), it corresponds to an eternal God (“if” true, 82). Rather than being created (69)—it is discovered (71) value, rather than (apparently) added value. Let’s put all these thoughts into a dialectic:

The Anti-Reification Theism Dialectic

Thesis: Voluntaristic theism. God exists because, if he doesn’t, the answer to the question (hunger) of Ethics corresponds to nothing and commits the fallacy of ought-is (82) reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E).
Antithesis: Atheistic voluntarism/“essentialism”. To conclude God exists in order to give substance to a potential answer to the question (hunger) of Ethics commits the time travel paradox of the closed causal loop—just as an archaeological find making the past true commits that paradox (read Dummett). Though the thesis attempts to avoid committing the ought-is (82) fallacy of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E), it commits just that. Therefore, there is no good God, and the answer to the question (hunger) of Ethics is a construct or corresponds to something else.
Synthesis: Essentialist theism. Unless there is always a real being who always is and does what we should be and do, to which the answer to the question of Ethics (83) may always correspond (be true), then the answer, even if justified, commits the ought-is (82) fallacy of reification (69, 70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E). However, this conflicts with our hunger (57) being a rational hunger for true meaning, not a construct. See Appendix F: Six Moral Realist Dialectics (Non-interchangeable).

Some philosophical naturalists (46, 66) maintain that moral truth does not have to be absolute to be true, content to adhere to evolved moral principles they feel will no longer be applicable if humans go extinct. They maintain there are objective, discovered (71), yet evolving, absolutes (53) not anchored in the unchanging (the constant, the Logos), that came into being with humans and will evolve as humans evolve and cease existing when humans cease existing; that absolute, objective moral truth does not have to be essential. Such adaptable, anchorless standards cannot reasonably be considered absolute, or ‘perfect’ (69). If it is not “always” true that x (as long as humans exist)—then in what sense is x true? And if it is “always” true that x—then why is “x is always true” dependent on the existence of humans? A true standard for moral perfection (69) needs no further perfection or evolution. See points 1 through 17 at the beginning of the section “The Sword and the Sacrifice Philosophy” in this paper.

So, nature cannot be the basis for unchanging moral truth (ought), not only because it is an ‘is’ instead of an ‘ought’, but because it has potentiality and changes, whereas the fulfilled ought is pure actuality and never changes—it must always be. Heraclitus (late 6th century B.C.) and Cratylus (late 5th century B.C.), before evolution was a theory, said that everything is in a state of flux, which would imply “there are no unchanging absolutes, ethical or otherwise,” (1; 400) except that Heraclitus believed in “an unchanging logos [(28)] beneath all change and by which the change itself is measured. …that all men should live by this absolute law in the midst of the flux of life” and “Cratylus carried change so far that he destroyed the idea of change itself. When everything is changing and nothing is constant, then there is no way to measure the change,” (1; 400).

Consideration of Heraclitus’ unchanging logos sets us up for a dialectic (58, 66), the synthesis of which resembles the synthesis reached in the Super-Naturalist Dialectic:

Aquinas’ Immanent-Transcendent Dialectic

Thesis: All is immanent, all is one, nothing transcends; everything is just the same “thing”…“many” is an illusion (monism—Parmenides and Zeno, pantheists).
Antithesis: There are definitely different “things” (pluralism; Heraclitus and Cratylus, Plato, atomists like Democritus, Leucippus and Lucretius), but they have their being “in” the One—which transcends them (Plotinus; deism).
Aquinas’ synthesis: All that changes “has” its being (“has” its “thingness”) from the Unchanging (which “is” being, “is” “Thingness”), so that the Unchanging One (actuality with no potential, eternal, simple) does not only “transcend” the changing many (actuality with differing potential, temporal, composed), as deists believe, but is “immanent” (60) in it. The One is both transcendent over and immanent in the many.

This concludes our dialectic interlude. Keep “actual” and “potential” in mind—it will come up again when we discuss essence as it relates to virtue theory and existentialism—resulting in another dialectic diversion from Aquinas. At any rate, nature, and anything else that is always changing, cannot be the source of unchanging purpose and goodness.

That includes us. Being neither unchanging, nor self-sufficient, we cannot be the absolute source of discovered (71) moral truth. If humans are the source of true purpose and goodness, not merely its discoverers—why do we not will always in accordance with our good nature? There is not a single human who is an example of any standard or end perfectly (69) fulfilled—so such an end appears not to correspond to anything, to commit the ought-is fallacy (82) of reification (70) (see Objection 3 in Appendix E)… unless… there is a being whose nature is that end fulfilled [but not the end’s is-ought fallacious justification (12), of course, which would also be reification (70) (see Objection 2 in Appendix E)]. We intuit mathematical law, but are not the source of it. We hunger for food, but nutrients preexisted us. The same is true of moral truth or “the good”—rather than being its source, we intuitively hunger (57) for it.

The Hunger

Recall the synthesis from the beginning of this section: That we hunger (57) for a ‘more’ that nature cannot satisfy, points to the existence of supernatural meaning—we hunger for transcendent meaning that exists immanently, or we would not hunger for it. Though we may try, we cannot satisfy our hunger for more. On our own, apart from God, we adapt love (see Objection 16 in Appendix E) into what it is not, still perhaps calling it love, though it isn’t, or feigning to abandon it altogether, though we cannot…not without that part of ourselves dying. Often, we love from a lack [Diotima’s reasoning behind why Eros was not a god—he loved from a lack (5a)] because we are lonely and feel empty, but God loves and helps us to love from abundance because he is completely fulfilled and it is in his nature to pour out unmerited love (see Objection 1 in Appendix E).

Some argue that God, eternal Golden Rule love, is just an imaginary friend for those whose need for affiliation is unmet by those around them, but C.S. Lewis writes, “One thing, however, that marriage has done for me. I can never again believe that religion is manufactured out of our unconscious, starved desires and is a substitute for sex. For those few years H. and I feasted on love, every mode of it—solemn and merry, romantic and realistic, sometimes as dramatic as a thunderstorm, sometimes as comfortable and unemphatic as putting on your soft slippers. No cranny of heart or body remained unsatisfied. If God were a substitute for love we ought to have lost all interest in him. Who’d bother about substitutes when he has the thing itself? But that isn’t what happens. We both knew we wanted something besides one another—quite a different kind of something, a quite different kind of want. You might as well say that when lovers have one another they will never want to read, or eat—or breathe,” (39; 659). If we were the source of true meaning, or if there were ‘no’ true meaning, we would not hunger (57) for it.

The intuited expectations, or values, of God’s general revelation in nature, pointing to the eternal, are seen in “the striking resemblance of [the] basic ethical principles [of] … the great moral creeds of mankind's civilizations,” (9; 1; 362). This striking resemblance is due to our common humanity, our sharing the moral sense of Golden Rule love.

All humans hold expectations of how we ought to be treated by the Other, as evidenced in our feeling wronged when the Other, whom we assume (being a self, too) is aware of those expectations, defies them. We don’t react as if those expectations, those moral boundaries, were just “made up”. There are inappropriate ways to react to crossed boundaries (such reactions 'also' cross boundaries), and some boundaries are unreasonable expectations—only if there is a 'true' boundary. If you think there are things that are really, truly wrong (and we all behave as if we do)—like abuses of the church, for example—then you agree there is moral truth that anyone with a conscience (moral sense) can discover (71), and intuitively already knows. We intuitively live against nihilism, skepticism and subjectivism whenever we find ourselves criticizing or praising someone’s social behavior, and if they are from an Other culture (note that cultural revolutionaries are considered immoral by the implications of relativism because they are being intolerant of cultural norms), we are living against relativism (cultural voluntarism, 70).

If a voluntarist (a nihilist by default, because s/he does not acknowledge essential meaning) praises or criticizes an Other's social behavior, they are acknowledging shared created meaning while ignoring what our shared moral sense implies about moral truth (71)—like when Sartre (whom we will discuss later) prescribed moral responsibility [“In choosing myself, I choose man,” (5d)], without acknowledging the moral sense, the innate ability to detect essential good and its privation (absence), as an aspect of our common nature or essence, which he skips over with the shortcut use of “man”. Which came first, the rationally-intuitive conscience (moral sense), or that which it rationally intuits? In other words, we all live as if we know there is unchanging meaning and essentially objective morality. Something in each of us intuitively knows that we all share the same moral sense beneath and beyond our cultural applications and adaptations, that our senses are not deceiving us, and that we’re not just playing pretend and making it all up. To silence such a voice inevitably leads to a departure from reality (and social disintegration).

All of our senses evolved (26) because there was something very real to be sensed. The senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch in all of us imply that there is something very real to be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt.

A human with a normal childhood will develop a natural moral sense just as a seedling correctly nurtured will develop into a healthy plant. God knows if an individual’s moral sense is underdeveloped or lacking (51) due to childhood trauma or neglect—he knows who he has forgiven for that sin—and it isn’t the innocent child. That it is possible to influence an impressionable child’s development of conscience (moral sense) is why it is so important to cultivate their growing moral sense. We must be taught how to love, even though we already have the capability for Golden Rule love, for the same reason we must be taught math, even though we all reason mathematically to varying degrees. Mathematical truths do not change and grow as our awareness of them changes and grows, and neither does the standard for moral perfection (69). Whereas it is the work of physics to discover facts about nature that remain facts whether or not we have the ability to discover them, it is the work of the theories in ethics to define “good,” to study what it means for people to relate as we should, even if our moral sense is lacking or underdeveloped for whatever reason (51).

“If there is no God,” Pastor Tim Keller writes, and A.J. Ayer (1; 1910-1989) argued, “then there is no way to say any one action is ‘moral’ and another ‘immoral’ but only ‘I like this,’” (2; 153) (‘emotivism’). At first this criticism may make it seem like we should favor our intellect over our intuition when attempting to discover (71) the moral standard. It is, however, reasonable to ask: "If we have no feeling of moral approval or outrage, then do we really care about whether something is morally right or wrong? If we don't feel that it's wrong to harm a child, then how is logic going to persuade us? … Feelings such as disappointment, elation, grief, and even love are all responses to certain situations. They develop according to some inner logic; they don't strike at random. … A new breed of thinkers, including the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum (1947- ) (read more), hold the theory that our moral values do indeed have a strong connection to our emotions, but that doesn't mean the values or our moral decisions reflecting them can't be rational. According to this theory, there is a rational element within our emotional life that makes some emotional reactions reasonable and morally relevant, while others may not be,” (4; 10, 13, 15).

That “rational element” is our conscience, our moral sense, which is not removed from emotions (51), but governs them according to a moral standard. Guilt, or remorse, is a distinctly moral emotion which follows behavior that offends our moral sense, an emotion the anticipation of which motivates us not to commit morally offensive behavior in the future (55). Pastor Keller is not saying we should abandon our intuition and just do what God says is right—he is saying that moral truth cannot be “unchanging truth” if there is no unchanging God who “is” that truth. Emotivism (whim-morality) is what is left if there is no moral truth. So it seems reason is important in discovering (71) moral truth—but does that mean it is more important than intuition?

When discussing whether reason (thesis: logic or ethical rationalism if all by itself) or intuition (antithesis: love or emotivism if all by itself) plays a higher role in discovering (71) the moral standard (of how and why we should be or behave with the Other and self), think of intuition as an accelerating vehicle, and reason as the steering wheel and breaks—and the moral standard as the energy fueling the vehicle. Without the moving vehicle (intuition), there is nothing to govern. Without the governing (reason), the vehicle will be aimless and likely crash. Without the fuel, there is no motivation. Soil is less ‘designed’ to grow gardens than a vehicle to run on fuel, but we can also think of our intuition as the field in which the moral standard can either grow or die, and our reason helps to cultivate it or weed it out (see litmus). So our conscience, our moral sense, is rationally intuitive (synthesis of logic and love); reason and intuition are equally important in discovering (71) moral truth. Without intuition, we wouldn’t need or sense the highest motivation; without reason, we would not be able to choose or reject (litmus) what motivates us, and so would have no access to the highest motivation, which necessarily must be chosen (Golden Rule love). Voluntarists (70) suggest we create the fuel and flower, or that nature constructs it (though, again, perfection cannot be created, 50, 69)—essentialists suggest the fuel and flower have been around and will be around forever—Golden Rule love (God)—love that is not only the fuel, but the destination—for what the steering wheel (reason) is aiming, where the vehicle (intuition) was created to go (71). There is a logic to this Golden Rule love (logos), but logic alone (without love) is “a resounding gong, a clanging cymbal” (Paul)—keep this in mind, as it will come up again when we talk about Greek and Kantian rationalism. For now, let’s make this dialectic (58, 66) stand out:

The Love and Logic, “Law was Made for Man” Dialectic

Thesis: Logic or ethical rationalism if all by itself. Kant’s “man was made for law” thinking.
Antithesis: Love or emotivism if all by itself. Egoism’s “whatever results in my/our definition of happiness” thinking.
Synthesis: Logic and love (“law was made for man” thinking), reason and intuition (L1.1, L1.3). All legislation should conform to the Golden Rule.

One may agree with Bertrand Russell (31; 463) (1872-1970) and others that it is not philosophy when one approaches a question already knowing (especially knowing “intuitively”) the answer, but, perhaps, in ethics, anything this side of “Because I said so” is worth a shot? We can come to this inquiry with all of our presuppositions and put them through the fire of reason using our litmus, abandoning those ideas which are burnt up and replacing them with what will stand against the flame. “Some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that, though this is not an explicit ‘organized’ religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things. … All who say ‘You ought to do this’ or ‘You shouldn’t do that’ reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position,” (2; 15). This is true of all the theories studied in ethics, and so we shall put every theory through the fire of reason.

There certainly are socially-constructed and -reproduced values, some considered by voluntarism to be created "truth"—failing L2 (70). However, preceding and outlasting them all is an eternal standard we discover (71) rationally and intuitively: The uncreated, eternal, ultimate end (consequences) of both being (character) and doing (conduct), is Golden Rule love that endures all circumstances: love the Other as self—affectionately titled “The Sword and the Sacrifice Philosophy” (20). This standard did not have to compete in the marketplace of ideas to achieve its superior status, but always passes the test of intellectual, intuitional fire, whereas all other standards fail and are sandcastles for the tides (72). This paper uses the Moral Truth Litmus to survey how the major ethical theories answer the question, “How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?”—in other words, how they approach character, conduct and consequences, next to the Golden Rule. We will examine Greek virtue theory, Kant’s categorical imperative, Bentham and Mill’s utilitarianism, Sartre’s atheist existentialism, Rand’s egoism, and relativism, pausing intermittently to discuss legal justice, free will, and sin, concluding with the Golden Rule.

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