Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

"Cosmology, Theology and Meaning" - Tim Maudlin

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • #16
    Thank you very much for your detailed reply but I have no choice but to cut through your reply because an answer to your every contention would take enormous space and would not accomplish much I rather prefer to go to the heart of the problem.

    Thomistic Ethics works based on this idea. The degree of goodness (as defined by Thomists) of anything is the degree that it has has actualized its final cause. Now the important questions is why achieving given final causes (Thomistic goodness) should be considered morally good?

    To make this point clear I give an example. I as human being based on my nature need to consume meat which implies that I need to cause pain and misery to an living animal and takes it life so that I can survive. Based on Thomism this is counted as good. The fact that I kill an animal to survive is counted good. However, who would not say to themselves, that the world would have been a better place had we not had to take another being's life to survive? That fulfilling our nature (achieving our final cause) in this regard is bad?

    To make it even more clear, I ask another question, is using contraceptive against human nature, is homosexuality against human nature?
    Even if you say that it is against one's nature, I see no reason why we should not/cannot reject our nature. I absolutely see nothing morally wrong.
    Last edited by nojoum; 04-02-2019, 06:07 PM.

    Comment


    • #17
      To make this point clear I give an example. I as human being based on my nature need to consume meat which implies that I need to cause pain and misery to an living animal and takes it life so that I can survive. Based on Thomism this is counted as good. The fact that I kill an animal to survive is counted good. However, who would not say to themselves, that the world would have been a better place had we not had to take another being's life to survive? That fulfilling our nature (achieving our final cause) in this regard is bad?
      Again I am not looking to get between the discussion between you and FZM but I guess a little clarification remark on this statement from you would be helpful.

      It seems you are trying to make a particular axiological claim here that the world would be on balance better had such and such state of affairs wouldn't have obtained. Are you suggesting that there shouldn't be any such principles in our Ethical theories that imply these sort of worldly affairs?

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Calhoun View Post

        Again I am not looking to get between the discussion between you and FZM but I guess a little clarification remark on this statement from you would be helpful.

        It seems you are trying to make a particular axiological claim here that the world would be on balance better had such and such state of affairs wouldn't have obtained. Are you suggesting that there shouldn't be any such principles in our Ethical theories that imply these sort of worldly affairs?
        Yeah. At least it must be shown that a certain worldly affair even if bad, is unavoidable. This is the least that ethical theories can do and even in this case they should justify why a certain good is desirable despite the bad that comes with it. But in no way, I am suggesting that this is the only thing that ethical theories should take into consideration.
        Last edited by nojoum; 04-03-2019, 09:08 PM.

        Comment


        • #19

          Hi Nojoum,

          Okay.

          I think there is one main question, that of whether the Thomistic first cause arguments for God, if successful, have any moral relevance.

          This would be about whether the metaphysics behind the first cause arguments entail the Thomistic view on essentialism and morality, or whether another view of morality and the good could be substituted.

          There may be other questions, like the problem of evil, or general relevance of theistic morality (were you arguing for moral Platonism here?)

          Thomistic Ethics works based on this idea. The degree of goodness (as defined by Thomists) of anything is the degree that it has has actualized its final cause. Now the important questions is why achieving given final causes (Thomistic goodness) should be considered morally good?
          The final causes of a thing are what the substance aims at fulfilling via natural inclination and desire. This is one meaning of the term good. Another meaning of the term good; Thomists are already committed to the existence of essences and final causes in all existing natural substances, and that humans can recognise at least partially what these are. The terms goodness and badness are used to describe the way in which things either instantiate or fail to instantiate the essence of the kind to which they belong.

          Human morality is concerned with what is good for creatures with a human nature.

          It would be interesting to know what kind of criteria Thomistic views on goodness and morality are supposed to meet. Like comparing it with other analyses of what goodness is and what morality is. Otherwise it can be like those discussions with sceptics where a challenge is made but there are in fact no 'goalposts'.

          To make this point clear I give an example. I as human being based on my nature need to consume meat which implies that I need to cause pain and misery to an living animal and takes it life so that I can survive. Based on Thomism this is counted as good. The fact that I kill an animal to survive is counted good. However, who would not say to themselves, that the world would have been a better place had we not had to take another being's life to survive? That fulfilling our nature (achieving our final cause) in this regard is bad?
          I can see that factory farming and consuming too much meat can be understood as bad and consuming meat of any kind is less than perfect (having a need for any food at all is a less than perfect situation), but humans killing animals for meat in other circumstances I don't understand as being so bad and without goodness that it makes the existence of humans (and all other carnivorous creatures) unjustifiable. In Thomism I think humans killing animals for food would be good for humans but would diminish the good in the animals.

          To make it even more clear, I ask another question, is using contraceptive against human nature, is homosexuality against human nature?

          Even if you say that it is against one's nature, I see no reason why we should not/cannot reject our nature. I absolutely see nothing morally wrong.
          This is not directly relevant to the natural theology parts of Thomism, because these points are open to debate. Even when the divine revelation aspects of Thomism are taken into account they are open to debate, especially the contraception one.

          I wouldn't believe such a strong assertion that contraception is never morally wrong or that homosexual acts are never morally wrong.


          Comment


          • #20
            I am still confused to be honest. But I still think that Thomistic ethics does not take into account the state of affairs, rather it is a theory based upon individuals,in some sense egotistic and selfish. In the case of human beings, we are just lucky that humans are social whereas Thomistic ethics in itself does not have such notions. This is why I am bothered by it. To be honest, how would Thomistic ethics condemn murder if through murder I become closer to my other final causes (e.g, I kill someone to get their money which then helps to have a better education, family ,etc)?. It is just the case that we humans happen to have a nature that makes us feel bad if we kill someone. But if humans did not have this guilty feeling in them, how would Thomism prohibit murder? I just dont see it happening. But I would argue that murder is bad not because humans have that guilty feeling but because there is sort of objective standard of Justice, kindness, love and etc which should respected and sought (and are external to God).

            You say that final causes are things that once achieved results in flourishing of human beings. But our knowledge of what flourishes human beings is a posteriori not a priori. Now if you apply this to the case of homosexuality what do you find? Both partners are happy, no harm is done to them or society or anyone else. If you are being rational, you would have to say there is nothing wrong with being homosexual. The same thing is true about contraception. This ultimately means that human biology is sometimes irrelevant to what makes humans flourish or basically their final causes.
            Last edited by nojoum; 04-03-2019, 06:52 PM.

            Comment


            • #21
              I would argue that murder is bad not because humans have that guilty feeling but because there is sort of objective standard of Justice, kindness, love and etc which should respected and sought (and are external to God)
              Interesting, something that FZM might be interested in here might be how do you think Euthyphro dilemma equivalent for this particular view should be avoided. Why do you think whatever standard is there must be respected and sought?

              And another thing, what do you mean by "harm"? And do you think doing no harm is sufficient for moral permissibility?

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                Interesting, something that FZM might be interested in here might be how do you think Euthyphro dilemma equivalent for this particular view should be avoided.
                I don't think I can really justify or prove those standards anyway. I also have a feeling that any sort of arguments start with a set of axioms (that you can't prove but is generally accepted) and morality is no different. However, if objective morality (goodness) exists and by some means I have stumbled upon the standards of goodness, then they pass the Euthyphro dilemma.

                Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                Why do you think whatever standard is there must be respected and sought?
                Even if objective moral standards exists, I cannot say why humans are obliged to follow them. I think it's a matter of choice. Should defiance of those standards be punished? I don't know., maybe it should not be punished.

                Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                And another thing, what do you mean by "harm"?
                Well in this case (homosexuality), even I am not sure what sort of harm one can mean. Honestly, I see no way homosexuality in itself would be a harm (maybe, if we are near extinction and somehow we need more reproduction). But generally, what I mean by harm is the sense of the word used in everyday life. Maybe there is harm if you are not fulfilling your potential (in the usual sense of the word), if it is preventing you from having satisfaction in life, regarding society it can be if you are not carrying obligations towards the society.

                Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                And do you think doing no harm is sufficient for moral permissibility?
                I honestly never thought about it that way. Since I know I am prone to mistakes, I avoid making principles like that. I try to evaluate moral issues case by case by ( I have not developed a systematic approach). At the moment, I cannot think of a concrete situation where doing no harm is not sufficient. Maybe, there are situations which are not harmful in the sense of the word that I explained earlier but are still against the objective standards I mentioned earlier (love, justice, kindness and etc). In these case for sure, not being harmful is not enough. You need to help me out here man! Too tiried
                Last edited by nojoum; 04-03-2019, 08:57 PM.

                Comment


                • #23
                  Right, interesting. So many things could be said about your views here in general, but especially in making comparison FZM should keep these in mind I think.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Calhoun View Post
                    Right, interesting. So many things could be said about your views here in general, but especially in making comparison FZM should keep these in mind I think.
                    I did some extensive edits to my previous comment. Pls have a look again!

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      I think FZM has done a good job presenting Aquinas's views and, like Calhoun, I have no desire to interfere with his conversation with nojoum.

                      But I want to highlight the type of hypothetical situation that I think is implicit in a lot of nojoum's examples, which is that where following our natures or not perverting our natural ends leads to bad consequences. (e.g. having sex without contraceptives leads to more people and our planet is already massively overpopulated in terms of the number of people our resource base can support.)

                      I think the Catholic reply is: fiat justitia, et pereat mundus. All ethical theories have situations like this that they have to face up to and, as a staunch non-consequentialist, I agree that at some point we have to draw the line. I'm just not sure that not wearing a rubber is where to draw it. (Catholic natural lawyers, of course, have various arguments that they would raise at this point, like the perverted faculty argument, and their views about the survival of the soul after death aren't irrelevant either.)

                      Ay, for doubtless I am old, and think gray thoughts, for I am gray:
                      After all the stormy changes shall we find a changeless May?

                      After madness, after massacre, Jacobinism and Jacquerie,
                      Some diviner force to guide us thro' the days I shall not see?

                      When the schemes and all the systems, Kingdoms and Republics fall,
                      Something kindlier, higher, holier—all for each and each for all?

                      All the full-brain, half-brain races, led by Justice, Love, and Truth;
                      All the millions one at length, with all the visions of my youth?

                      All diseases quench'd by Science, no man halt, or deaf or blind;
                      Stronger ever born of weaker, lustier body, larger mind?

                      Earth at last a warless world, a single race, a single tongue,
                      I have seen her far away—for is not Earth as yet so young?—

                      Every tiger madness muzzled, every serpent passion kill'd,
                      Every grim ravine a garden, every blazing desert till'd,

                      Robed in universal harvest up to either pole she smiles,
                      Universal ocean softly washing all her warless Isles.

                      Warless? when her tens are thousands, and her thousands millions, then—
                      All her harvest all too narrow—who can fancy warless men?

                      Warless? war will die out late then. Will it ever? late or soon?
                      Can it, till this outworn earth be dead as yon dead world the moon?


                      Lord Alfred Tennyson. (Locksley Hall Sixty Years After.)

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by nojoum View Post

                        I did some extensive edits to my previous comment. Pls have a look again!
                        Yes, I just checked, All interesting points. Again much could be said but I think it would be better if FZM would make his post keeping your points in perspective. What I would like to emphasize it that something like Euthyphro like objection is faced by every ethical theory.

                        And I think it would be better that mods move this post to Philosophy section.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          This thread is now in the Philosophy section.

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            I think FZM is doing a good job at explaining how a thomist could argue that God is good. So I don't mean to derail that particular discussion you guys are having, but I'd suggest nojoum to be open to other arguments for God's goodness, especially since I don't think that is a difficult part of the "gap problem" (arguing that the First Cause is God). Personally, I have never been much troubled with the specific task of proving Divine Goodness; I was always more focused and interested on immateriality and (especially) intelligence, agency or personhood. To me, showing that the First Cause was (in some sense) a personal or intelligent being was pretty much sufficient, in part because I've always held that, thomistic arguments aside, Divine Intelligence or Personhood makes a derivation of Goodness or moral excellence very plausible, or at least significantly strengthens arguments to that effect.

                            Here are some examples (but please keep in mind that these are just very brief sketches, they can be further developed and defended):

                            A) if God is omniscient (or very intelligent), then he should know moral truths, virtues, and so on. So how could He fail to be moral or fail to care about values? If God is wise, then of course He will also be good. In a nutshell, this is Samuel Clarke's argument for God's goodness. God is infinitely knowledgeable, powerful and wise, so moral perfection follows right away. He cannot be subjected to vices or anything of that sort. The idea of a God who is omniscient and omnipotent and yet is amoral or immoral is just bizarre. At least if morality is objective, it just doesn't seem to make sense;

                            B) Another argument. If God is an agent, He is plausibly not indifferent towards morality. But then the idea of a morally perfect God would be the simplest one; we could always ask why God would have this or that imperfection, why would He not be perfectly moral, etc. A perfectly good God is simpler and therefore more problable, and avoids some arbitrary issues;

                            C) Related, there are arguments to the effect that "maximal greatness" would be the best explanation as a Divine Foundation for the universe, and God's other attributes would flow from it. See for instance Joshua Rasmussen's work;

                            D) I personally am convinced something like love or the diffusiveness of the good are the best explanations for
                            the First Cause's act of creation. Here one can follow Pseudo-Dyonisius and Aquinas; I think this idea should be more well-known;

                            E) Teleological considerations and arguments make it probable that the First Cause not only is intelligent, but good. It has a preference for harmony, order, and so on; it created a universe that is beautiful, allows for the development of life, and intelligen beings that can appreciate beauty, etc. The cosmological argument isn't all alone in natural theology after all, and (relevantly) I also think there are specific teleological arguments that attach to the cosmological one or that are strengthened by it. And of course the problem of evil would be an issue, but there's theodicy and then one has to evaluate all of the data;

                            F) There are also moral and religious experience arguments that support the idea that there is an Absolute Moral Authority, or that the Ground of Existence or the Absolute is loving, good, perfect, etc. And the cosmological argument, if sound, strengthens these arguments (since, for instance, it would arguably establish the existence of an absolute Ground of Being which religious experience independently reports).

                            These are some examples. They're independent arguments, but some can also support each other in a cumulative case to make it even stronger. Again, these are just sketches, a better defense would require much more space, but I hope they at least give you an idea that there are interesting arguments for God's goodnes even apart from the classical thomistic ones. I personally find them very plausible.

                            in my view, one thing to keep in mind is the existential significance of the cosmological "question". The cosmological argument is asking why there is something rather than nothing (whether this is cashed out in terms of modal contingency, act and potency, essence and existence, etc). But this "something" whose existence sparks our curiosity to the point of asking the question isn't just some irrelevant, neutral object. Look around you. It is a reality full of meaning, order, morality, lives, experiences, beauty, frustrations, fears, virtues, stories, etc. We want an explanation for *that*, and the best explanation.
                            Last edited by Atno; 04-04-2019, 05:58 AM.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              I am still waiting for reply from FZM. But for the moment, I give a short reply to Atno; we can pick up the discussion with Atno or anyone else who is interested after one more week.

                              Dear Atno,
                              Thank you very much for taking the time to give a detailed reply. Unfortunately, none of your arguments, except F, seem to be addressing the euthyphro dillemma. At best your arguments would demonstrate that God is moral, yet they fall short of proving that God himself is the foundation of morality (i.e, that Moral standards are not external to God). I would be happy to pick up the conversation later while being focused specifically on the euthyphro dilemma.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I did not know you were discussng the Euthyphro dilemma. I thought you were talking about how difficult it was to go from "there being a God" to "this God is morally good" and how the leap from deism to theism would be difficult, etc, as you said in the first page. My brief arguments here are supposed to show that God is moral and good. Although you can use F as an argument for God being the ground of morality, also.

                                I don't care too much about discussing the Euthyphro dilemma, mostly because I don't think it is a good objection to theism. I mean, if we are convinced there is a God, and my arguments above establish that God is moral and good, why would we bother with Euthyphro (besides philosophical interest)? There is a God, and this God is perfect and good, and he cares about morality and us. Why should it matter much whether moral standards are external to God? In this case, they would be abstract norms of "what is fitting" (as Samuel Clarke would say) and God would be perfectly consonant with them. Should this stop, say, an atheist from becoming a theist once he has become convinced there is a good and moral God? I don't see it.

                                And even if someone thought Euthyphro was a serious objection to theism, if they thought moral norms could not be external to God, then that wouldn't be a big problem either. If we have independent, strong arguments for a good God, then we can justifiably conclude a good God exists and there is a solution to the Euthyphro dilemma (if they think the dilemma is a problem), perhaps a solution beyond our ken. If I have strong independent arguments for theism, then a fortiori I have reasons for rejecting objections to theism even if I don't know of specific indepndent answers to such objections. Unless these objections seem to me to threaten and overpower my own positive case for theism, of course.

                                So I don't think Euthyphro is a good objection to theism. It is philosophically interesting, yes, but it's not strong grounds for not believing in a good God, or at least it isn't if we have independent arguments for a good God (as I think we have; I gave several examples of some sketches).

                                That being said, I think a solution along thomistic lines of God being the Good Himself (because of being absolute Being), and ethics being about the conformity of rational beings to their intrinsic ends ("moral norms") could provide a solution to Euthyphro.

                                Comment

                                Working...
                                X