What is Morality?: Error Theory (Part 1)

Note: This is a long post. As with any post like this, I will initially just present the point of view without any criticism to it. But I think it’s a topic that is of potential interest in a backhanded sort of way.

In my previous posts on “what is morality?” I went over the many difficulties of trying to define morality. We found that we do not view morality as:

My final conclusion was that morality was something that had to be accepted on faith. Continue reading

On Being a Believing, Traditional Mormon in an Amoral, “Nuanced” World

By any standard, I am still in the bloom and pluck of life, being only 35 years of age currently.  My physical health is outstanding, my hair is not going prematurely gray, and by contemporary American standards I am fit and within my recommended weight limit.  Financially I am fine (although “secure” is probably not the appropriate word).  I have a brilliant, loving wife and special children.  Truly, there is much to be thankful for.

And yet…I have sobering moments of reflection in which I survey the climate and landscape and resist shudders of despair.  By nature I am not overly pessimistic; I truly believe that over time, the good guys eventually win.  I look forward, with an eye of faith, to the time when righteousness will cover the earth as the waves cover the sea. Continue reading

What is Morality?: What Morality Isn’t

In a previous post, David Deutsch explained why he felt utility was not a good basis for moral justification. I’m going to now give my own thoughts on this, as well as exploring several other possible explanations for morality that ultimately fail.  Warning: this is a long post.

I think the problem with a utilitarian approach to morality is that once we boil down morality to utility we’ve effectively created a basis for when we should and shouldn’t follow morality. But this would fly in the face of our moral intuitions which, as I pointed out in this post, by definition we see as applying at all times to all people. 

As always, the best way to dismiss an argument isn’t to argue against it, but to follow it to its logical conclusions and see if we can accept them. So let’s follow this through logically and see what plays out. Continue reading

What is Morality?: David Deutsch on Morality

In my last post, I ended by asking this question: What we really need is a way to justify (i.e. explain) morality without having to appeal to morality via a circular argument.  

I wanted to take a bit of an aside now and give some interesting thoughts from physicist and philosopher David Deutsch. Don’t expect any perfect answers here, but he does (I feel) point us in the right direction so I’m going to include an extended quote from him. (All quotes taken from The Fabric of Reality, p. 359-362)

Bear in mind that David Deutsch believes strongly in objective morality. But here, he muses about the problems of trying to work it into a scientific framework. Continue reading

Constructed Morality – Plus the Meaning of Life

In my last post, I pointed out that ‘subjective morality’ is a meaningless statement – to everyone. Those that usually invoke it are generally people trying to argue that some other group of people is making a moral issues out of something that is really a preference. (I used the example of sex outside of marriage.) Therefore, the argument that morality is subjective is primarily used as an objective moral argument.  

And, as was pointed out in this post, people that claim morality is subjective are ultimately going to undermine their own arguments with their actions. They will still treat certain moral issues – the ones that they believe really are moral issues – as if they are objective moral issues.  

I think more needs to be said now about just how deeply rooted the idea of objective morality is to all of us. Morality and Meaning seem to be deeply tied in our minds in some way. 

We freely speak of out ‘better angels’ and ‘wanting to be a better person’ without flinching. And even die hard atheists speak of ‘the sanctity of life’ or ‘the evils of slavery’ and do so without having to explain it first. 

And more to the point, we fight for what we believe without a second thought.  Continue reading