The notion of objective morality is explored in this helpful video starring Dr. Peter Kreeft. Of particular interest is how the video deals with the notion that morality can be explained by evolution. This video is approximately 5 minutes. Enjoy!

4 COMMENTS

  1. Nate, you cagily avoided agreeing with or endorsing the views of Dr. Kreeft, so I’ll address him in absence. Since he’s not here, I’m going to call him Peter.

    I’M GOING TO ARGUE FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD FROM THE PREMISE THAT MORAL GOOD AND EVIL REALLY EXIST. THEY ARE NOT SIMPLY A MATTER OF PERSONAL TASTE. NOT MERELY SUBSTITUTES FOR “I LIKE” AND “I DON’T LIKE.”

    While I see no reason why the existence of good and evil would have any bearing on the existence of a god, I’m going to wish you great luck in just accomplishing the first part.

    LET’S START THEN WITH A QUESTION ABOUT GOOD AND EVIL: ‘WHERE DO GOOD AND EVIL COME FROM?” ATHEISTS TYPICALLY PROPOSE A FEW POSSIBILITIES.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa, Peter… I thought you said you were going to prove that they exist and now you’ve jumped ahead to where do they come from?

    I’m Paul and I’m going to prove that unicorns exist. Let’s start with the question, “Where do unicorns come from?” Unicorn-doubters propose a few possibilities…

    Peter, you do know that most thinking atheists deny objective good and evil, right? Why would we ever propose a source?

    I WILL SHOW YOU THAT NONE OF THESE CAN BE THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF MORALITY.

    I fully agree with you in advance, Peter. None of these will be a source for the thing I don’t think exists.

    WHY NOT FROM EVOLUTION? BECAUSE ANY SUPPOSED MORALITY THAT IS EVOLVING CAN CHANGE.

    Hold on, Peter. I hear Christians tell me that something was commanded or forbidden in OT times, but is now the opposite after the NT. That sounds like change. Boy, we’ve got a lot of shrimp-eaters to kill.

    FOR MOST OF HUMAN HISTORY, MORE POWERFUL SOCIETIES ENSLAVED WEAKER SOCIETIES, AND PROSPERED. THAT’S JUST THE WAY IT WAS AND NO ONE QUESTIONED IT. NOW WE CONDEMN SLAVERY. BUT BASED ON A MERELY EVOLUTIONARY MODEL, THAT IS AN EVER-CHANGING VIEW OF MORALITY, WHO IS TO SAY THAT IT WON’T BE ACCEPTABLE AGAIN ONE DAY?

    Peter, did you know that the Bible never condemns slavery? The Old Testament has rules about owning slaves (you can beat them as long as they don’t die) and the New Testament tells slaves to obey their masters. It’s not the Bible that made it unacceptable, it’s evolving morality. Is this REALLY the example you want to use?

    SLAVERY WAS ONCE ACCEPTED, BUT IT WAS NOT THEREFORE ACCEPTABLE. AND IF YOU CAN’T MAKE THAT DISTINCTION BETWEEN ACCEPTED AND ACCEPTABLE, YOU CAN’T CRITICIZE SLAVERY. AND IF YOU CAN MAKE THAT DISTINCTION YOU ARE ADMITTING TO OBJECTIVE MORALITY.

    Spoiler alert, Peter…. comparing two things is the definition of subjective. More later.

    WHILE REASONING IS A POWERFUL TOOL TO HELP US DISCOVER AND UNDERSTAND MORALITY, IT CANNOT BE THE SOURCE OF MORALITY.

    Agree. (Morality is subjective.)

    HOW CAN YOU SAY YOUR CONSCIENCE IS RIGHT AND HIMMLER’S WRONG IF CONSCIENCE ALONE IS THE SOURCE OF MORALITY? THE ANSWER IS YOU CAN’T.

    Agree. (Morality is subjective.)

    SOME PEOPLE SAY ‘HUMAN NATURE’ IS THE ULTIMATE SOURCE OF MORALITY. BUT HUMAN NATURE CAN LEAD US TO DO ALL SORTS OF REPREHENSIBLE THINGS. IN FACT, HUMAN NATURE IS THE REASON WE NEED MORALITY.

    Really agree. Wow… I’ve never heard of anyone claiming this. Straw-man?

    UTILITARIANISM IS THE CLAIM THAT WHAT IS MORALLY RIGHT IS DETERMINED BY WHATEVER CREATES ‘THE GREATEST HAPPINESS FOR THE GREATEST NUMBER.’ BUT TO RETURN TO OUR SLAVERY EXAMPLE: IF NINETY PERCENT OF THE PEOPLE WILL GET GREAT BENEFIT FROM ENSLAVING THE OTHER TEN PERCENT, WOULD THAT MAKE SLAVERY RIGHT? ACCORDING TO UTILITARIANISM IT WOULD.

    You’re close. Most utilitarianisms would say “greatest happiness while causing the least unhappiness”. When the happiness comes at the cost of unhappiness, some evaluation must be done. Some subjective evaluation.

    Your straw-man is embarrassing.

    WE’VE SEEN WHERE MORALITY CAN’T COME FROM. NOW LET’S SEE WHERE IT DOES COME FROM. WHAT ARE MORAL LAWS? UNLIKE THE LAWS OF PHYSICS OR THE LAWS OF MATHEMATICS, WHICH TELL US WHAT IS, THE LAWS OF MORALITY TELL US WHAT OUGHT TO BE.

    Peter… you can’t just assert or define moral laws into existence. You haven’t shown they exist. You haven’t even provided a single example of a moral law.

    BUT SINCE MORALITY DOESN’T EXIST PHYSICALLY…

    or at all

    ITS CAUSE HAS TO BE SOMETHING THAT EXISTS APART FROM THE PHYSICAL WORLD. THAT THING MUST THEREFORE BE ABOVE NATURE — OR SUPER-NATURAL.

    Cause??!? You haven’t even shown it.

    THE VERY EXISTENCE OF MORALITY PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF SOMETHING BEYOND NATURE AND BEYOND MAN.

    Did I fall asleep, Peter? When did you show us that morality exists? I’m serious. When?

    JUST AS A DESIGN SUGGESTS A DESIGNER, MORAL COMMANDS SUGGEST A MORAL COMMANDER. MORAL LAWS MUST COME FROM A MORAL LAWGIVER.

    $#%@%@$^%#$^ A moral command isn’t a moral law, Peter. Are you kidding me? You haven’t shown it and now I’m supposed to jump from that assertion to God?

    THE CONSEQUENCE OF THIS ARGUMENT IS THAT WHENEVER YOU APPEAL TO MORALITY YOU ARE APPEALING TO GOD WHETHER YOU KNOW IT OR NOT; YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT SOMETHING RELIGIOUS, EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU’RE AN ATHEIST.

    Another unsupported assertion, Peter. As you pointed out, morality is always changing, and is subjective and relative.

    You are taking advantage of the fact that most of the people listening to your video will have similar ideas about morality, which creates a subjective consensus. When a group of people share a subjective moral consensus, then any action can be objectively evaluated against said subjective consensus. This gives the illusion of objective morality and you are praying upon this intuitive illusion to attempt to assert an objective standard.

    I’M PETER KREEFT, PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AT BOSTON COLLEGE, FOR PRAGER UNIVERSITY.

    I’m Paul Ens, former Christian, and I’m super disappointed in you, Peter.

    • He’s arguing for the existence of God from the premise of the existence of good and evil. He didn’t try to prove that they exist because he presupposes they exist.
      I believe in God. But I agree with atheist often when it comes to these kinds of arguments. Pretty sure God can’t be objectively proven to exist. Subjective explanations are better at encouraging belief in God.

  2. -You’re close. Most utilitarianisms would say “greatest happiness while causing the least unhappiness”. When the happiness comes at the cost of unhappiness, some evaluation must be done. Some subjective evaluation.-

    This is called backdooring objective truths/morality. If there is no morality your feel good, sleep better “greatest happiness while causing the least unhappiness” is something you tell atheists so they have an excuse to accept what are truly objective morals. So whose happiness determines whose suffering. If the majority want to rape pillage and murder you think the minority that oppose have a higher moral standard? On what basis? On the belief that a walking bag of chemicals deserves anything. Who knew atheist had entitlement issues. People like you believe in abortion and euthanasia because we are just mechanistic machines with no souls but want to pretend that certain minority groups have rights if they will endure suffering. If all we are is animals then the only thing that matters is species survival. Anything that hinders that is useless. To believe that any imposed subjective morality is warranted for any reason is delusional in your worldview Paul.

    • THIS IS CALLED BACKDOORING OBJECTIVE TRUTHS/MORALITY. IF THERE IS NO MORALITY YOUR FEEL GOOD, SLEEP BETTER “GREATEST HAPPINESS WHILE CAUSING THE LEAST UNHAPPINESS” IS SOMETHING YOU TELL ATHEISTS SO THEY HAVE AN EXCUSE TO ACCEPT WHAT ARE TRULY OBJECTIVE MORALS.

      Could you provide me with an example of an objective moral principle, such that I might let the atheists know whom to give proper credit?

      SO WHOSE HAPPINESS DETERMINES WHOSE SUFFERING. IF THE MAJORITY WANT TO RAPE PILLAGE AND MURDER YOU THINK THE MINORITY THAT OPPOSE HAVE A HIGHER MORAL STANDARD? ON WHAT BASIS?

      In all human history, including now, the morality of any given group has been determined by the dominant faction — be it physically strongest, most powerful, majority in numbers or intellectual consensus. Whatever moral standard that the dominant faction establishes, that is the standard by which individual actions are measured. This was (and is) true of every village, kingdom, dynasty and country… from cannibalistic tribes to today’s most benevolent democracies and oppressive regimes.

      It’s actually true of all social species, from ants to penguins to apes to elephants to bats to dolphins.

      Note that I was clarifying the utilitarianist’s position, as misrepresented by Dr. Kreeft. I wasn’t claiming that the “greatest happiness / leave unhappiness” position is actually in practice anywhere — although I strongly believe that it should be.

      ON THE BELIEF THAT A WALKING BAG OF CHEMICALS DESERVES ANYTHING. WHO KNEW ATHEIST HAD ENTITLEMENT ISSUES.

      Deserve is an interesting word, but certainly one could attempt to evaluate merit between any given bags of chemicals. Such evaluation would, of course, be subjective.

      PEOPLE LIKE YOU BELIEVE IN ABORTION AND EUTHANASIA BECAUSE WE ARE JUST MECHANISTIC MACHINES WITH NO SOULS BUT WANT TO PRETEND THAT CERTAIN MINORITY GROUPS HAVE RIGHTS IF THEY WILL ENDURE SUFFERING.

      It is true that I do not see evidence for anything like a soul. And I am even more certainly against suffering, since I see no evidence that we have a life beyond this one. Are you FOR the suffering of some people, per chance?

      IF ALL WE ARE IS ANIMALS THEN THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS IS SPECIES SURVIVAL. ANYTHING THAT HINDERS THAT IS USELESS.

      You actually hit the nail on the head. Are you aware that social cooperation is one of the greatest survival advantages a species can have? The more sophisticated the interdependence, the better. Individual members who step outside the rules do harm to the whole tribe or species, so they are shunned… and their genes are less likely to carry on.

      We see this in people groups, but also in all the social animals I listed above (and many more, obviously).

      TO BELIEVE THAT ANY IMPOSED SUBJECTIVE MORALITY IS WARRANTED FOR ANY REASON IS DELUSIONAL IN YOUR WORLDVIEW PAUL.

      The survival advantages given to a social species are a great reason to warrant imposing a subjective morality upon a group, tribe or species who want to live on and thrive. It seems rather consistent in my worldview.

      Looking forward to proof of objective morals to set me straight.

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