December 2007

Hello! Thank you for responding to my earlier correspondence. I would love to continue the discussion, if you have the time. First off, you were correct in your first paragraph. Yes, if I ever saw any evidence that convinced me that God ever intervened in human affairs, I would definitely consider the question relevant. As it stands, though, no.

On to the idea of Bob. I agree somewhat with what you say, but reduced to a question of pure logic- completely amoral- it still would make sense for him to kill. After all, Bob killing his own boss does not equate to Bob being killed himself; that’s making the jump from a single situation to a universal logical rule. Bob would still kill because even if he didn’t (in our hypothetical amoral situation, assuming everyone else in the company is as amoral as he is) that would not ensure his own safety from someone lower on the totem pole. You say Bob values logic, but I think that’s a definite leap from making one’s own decisions based on a pure cost-benefit analysis. Basically, Bob would still kill his boss, because doing so would not guarantee that he be killed in turn, and his net benefit would outweigh his net risk.

A last point to make: this may sound like a quibble but I believe it’s important: you say that Bob would not want someone to kill him to increase their own standing, and thus would not do that himself; I think he would not want it to actually happen, but if he was purely logical, he would agree that there was nothing fundamentally (morally) wrong with it. He would say that the person has every right to try to kill him and he has every right to defend himself. He would likely also agree that his boss would not want to be killed, but he would still do it. Since two people can have mutually exclusive goals, in a purely amoral world what is logically beneficial to one person can be detrimental to another and since everyone’s decisions are ultimately self-centered, whoever is more adept at reaching their goals “wins.”

A short coda: the idea that universally held morality comes directly from God seems like circular reasoning to me, since one could define God as “the source of morality” and then say that morality then exists BECAUSE it comes from God. In any event Occam’s Razor dictates that a supernatural explanation for inherently non-logic-based ideas (such as morality) is less likely than a natural one.

Thanks for reading, and good luck in the new year to you!

Let’s continue talking about Bob. You are right that not killing wouldn’t prevent Bob from being killed. However, I believe that it is logically required that you cannot condemn others for thinking as you do. For this reason, if Bob thinks that killing is okay, he is logically required to think that being killed (for the same reason) is okay. This is not jumping from a single situation to a universal rule so much as it is maintaining philosophical consistency.

So if Bob kills, he has two choices. Either he can hold morally blameless anyone who tries to kill him (which I doubt he’d be willing to do), or he can admit that his philosophy is logically inconsistent and therefore wrong. If Bob goes ahead and kills for practical reasons, he cannot blame others for holding him morally responsible since it is logically provable that he is acting immorally.

I agree that this is an important question — in fact, it is at the heart of my assertion that morality can be completely derived from logic (in fact, I believe that a logical person is intellectually required to be moral). I agree that if Bob would say that another person has a right to (attempt to) kill him then he could be logically consistent, but I have trouble imagining a human honestly thinking that. To do so would be to also say that it would be moral for Bob’s boss to preemptively kill him as a defensive measure. Once we’ve gone there, it’s pretty much open season on everyone, and I think that any logical person would realize that society couldn’t function efficiently in such a situation.

Regarding universal morality, I think that the terms can be defined such that morality comes from God and there is no circular reasoning. One would have to be careful to rule out objective morality, though, and this is where I think most theists fail when making this argument.

Posted on December 28, 2007 at 8:40 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Morality

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