Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Moral Argument

The Moral Argument

This is a theory which relies greatly on the fact that just about everyone has a sense of moral awareness, involving feelings of right and wrong, and is almost undeniably linked with the conscience.
For a lot of people, the moral argument can be summarised in this quote from Aquinas’ Summa Theologica, and the forth of his Five Ways:
“We experience things that are noble, true and good. These things must take their reality from things that are more noble, true and good. To avoid an infinite regression, we must conclude that there is something that is the most noble, true and good. This is what we call "God".”


His proof is not so much a proof at all, as he believes it is impossible to prove with any theoretical knowledge that God exists. However, using “practical reason”, that is to say, reasoning involving an a posteriori reflection of the world around us, we can become almost undeniably certain that he is really real.
In brief, it goes:
People are compelled to be as moral as they possibly can, situations permitting.
To attain the “summum bonum” (the highest form of “good”, moral and generally) we must be wholly morally good, and it is necessary we attain this state.
However, we are only obliged to do something if it is entirely possible we can.
We cannot do this by ourselves though, we need some assistance!
Assistance from who?
Assistance from God!
Seeing as we feel obliged to attain this, there must be a God to ensure that we can!

This shiz, you see, is where Kant’s Categorical Imperative comes from. The necessities of duty for duties sake imply a summum bonum as a sense of overwhelming sense of moral obligation. This is neither to give us happiness nor to get closer to God, but “just because”.
He also says that obedience to this ought to relinquish unto us the highest good. Being this, it also happens to contain perfect moral virtue!
He notes that stringent morality is not always rewarded with a happy outcome or reward to the person involved. The highest good, therefore, rewards perfect virtue with perfect happiness.
Hinging on “ought implies can”, the fact that we feel morally obliged to attain the summum bonum means that it must be entirely possible for us to do so.
We cannot do this alone though. In being unable to bring about the highest good in this life, and in order to attain and bring about the “necessary connection” of perfect happiness with perfect moral act and intent we need the help of something which is capable of doing so.
But, we cannot do this at all on earth. S’impossible! So, there must be some way we attain it in a future life. As God is the “highest original good”, as dictated by Aquinas, he feels He can give us this! So, God can be assumed to exist.


Kant’s argument only works if we accept that there is a natural law that guides us morally. Take this away and the idea collapses quite thoroughly.
For Freud, our sense of moral obligation and conscience are both a product of the super ego, a creation of our own to set up restrictions between the ego and ID. The ID is the part of us that wants to rape and murder everyone. The ego represses this. The super ego acts to mediate this and the super ego internalises our violence and etc., and this is the voice of conscience.

More objections

Kant’s view implies moral law is completely apparent and objective, making ethical decisions which may lead to someone’s death are perpetuated by it. That ain’t right, surely?
As well as this, cultural relativism acts to illustrate it’s wrong.
There are other people who believe morals come from man, like Erikson and Fromm, who thinks we act morally as we recognise a sense of value in things we want to protect.
People aim for things which are out of their reach a lot of the time, says Brian Davies.
Just because it necessitates something that can bring about the summum bonum, it doesn’t mean it is our classical God.

H.P. Owen

It is daft to think of a command without a commander to give it! So as is moral law! Either this or they are just fact and require no explanation. As morals are not fact, there must be a law giver!


Morals = conscience given. Conscience = voice of the divine in everyday life. God = divine. Conscience = God. Morals = God.

Dom Trethowan

Morality is a religious experience. Moral judgements are based around the value of things to us. So people have intrinsic value? God gives it us.
Moral experience is thus an indirect experience of God.

Joseph Butler

He felt the judgements made by our conscience are completely different to any other decision we make, as they are not motivated in the least by the wish for good consequences.
He felt this was irrefutable proof of God, as it means morals are not things that come from us.

More dislikes

Evolutionarily, the idea of “reciprocal altruism” states that we do nice things to other people and act morally in the hope the same is applied to us and people are nice to us in return.
Psychology asks “if morality is the message of God, why is it so inconsistent?” The differentiations from person to person means the conscience cannot be the voice of God, and the belief that is it can be very dangerous! (see: the Yorkshire ripper).
Theories such as situation ethics state that objective moral law is callous, uncaring and lacks compassion for the individual. Surely we must consider the consequences of something to determine its morality?
If the law is truly objective than there is no room for considering consequence, regardless of how dire they may be. Doing so would undermine the system, meaning the law is not our soul duty and it means there is no need for a God in the system at all.
These arguments do not point us to the benevolent, all powerful God of classical theology, but more a law giving God, as described in Exodus.
This existence of a moral God may point to moral law, but moral law does not necessarily point back to a moral God.

No comments: