Saturday, April 09, 2011

William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris Debate "Does Good Come From God?"

William Lane Craig recently handily defeated Sam Harris in a debate titled, "Does Good Come From God?" (link to debate) Mr. Harris provided a very limited attempt to ground an atheistic morality in his opening speech. After that, virtually all of his arguments were simply either anti-theistic or simply anti-Christian. Those arguments were pretty clearly off the topic. In fact, they were demonstrated to be off topic in Sam Harris' own response to the very first audience question.

Mr. Harris' defeat was partly due to his approach of being unable to present any grounding for atheistic morality. Partly Mr. Harris' defeat was ensured by Prof. Craig's avoidance of reliance on the premise "God exists."

Mr. Harris' defeat was also partly due to the fact that his attempt to ground morality involved a significant and obvious category error. Mr. Harris argued that the worst possible world would be one in which all sentient beings suffered a maximum amount for a maximum duration. He argued that this "worst case" provides an objective reference point from which morality can be judged. However, that is not a maximally immoral universe, just a maximally unpleasant (for sentient beings) universe.

Prof. Craig pointed out this problem and Mr. Harris' response was extremely weak. He tried to argue that Prof. Craig has to grant Mr. Harris' premise because hell (the realm of the immoral) involves suffering and consequently the aim of mankind is to seek the pleasure of heaven as opposed to the misery of hell. However, this simply confuses the reward/punishment in a particular system with the means by which it is accomplished.

Moreover, for the atheist, this life does not provide heaven/hell-like reward/punishment. Often a person who causes great suffering receives little suffering himself in this life. Moreover, there is no obvious correlation (in this life) between reducing overall suffering and obtaining reward.

Therefore, as Prof. Craig pointed out repeatedly, while an atheist may have morals, he has no foundation for them. He cannot give a reasoned account of his morals. He may think that the Holocaust is dreadful, but he cannot give you an authoritative answer to the question, "Says who!" in response to his moral condemnation.

Mr. Harris didn't do himself any favors by essentially accusing Christians of being psychopaths (and then saying he wasn't doing that -- and then doing it again). However, Mr. Harris delivered his speech in a very calm and measured tone, and maintained his cool despite some fairly solid hits he was taking from Prof. Craig.

-TurretinFan

31 comments:

Exist-Dissolve said...

I think Craig "won" the debate, at least in regards to providing a more rhetorically compelling argument for his position. While I must give the benefit of the doubt that Harris' philosophical argument in his book is more rigorous than what was presented in the debate (I've not read it...yet), I think he performed poorly in the debate. He didn't soberly pursue his argument, nor did he deal directly (IMO) with some of the more interesting objections presented by Craig. Finally, he did not do his argument any good by his frequent and unnecessary expeditions into insults and caricatures that were not even central to the discussion.

However, in terms of the actual topic, I don't think either man dealt with the subject matter well. While I think that Craig was certainly more articulate in the defense of his position, neither really engaged the core aspect of the debate: e.g., moral objectivity qua objectivity.

For example, Craig argued that the objective basis of human morality is only intelligible as it is grounded in the existence and person of God. And while such a proposition--as indemonstrable as it is--might rhetorically describe a presumed objective, ontological foundation for morality, it does not actually describe how this same ontological framework can be objectively ported to human existence. In a sense, Craig makes a sweeping generalization about objectivity in relation to the eternal and temporal, but never defines the mechanisms by which the seemingly obvious boundary lines of these two realities might be bridged.

So in fundamental ways, although Craig was much more articulate in his argument than Harris, there is little difference in their views regarding the seemingly inherent impossibility of describing how an objective moral foundation can be appropriated in the subjectivity of human existence. Whether the objective foundation is presumed to be science or God, either perspective will inevitably rely upon the boundary-limited domain of human epistemology in the appropriation and application of moral principles. Therefore, the question of ultimate "objective" foundations for morality is really quite moot, for while the foundation of morality might be presumed to be objective, the apprehension and application of the same is not.

Jonathan said...

"Therefore, the question of ultimate 'objective' foundations for morality is really quite moot, for while the foundation of morality might be presumed to be objective, the apprehension and application of the same is not."

Huh? It looks like you're saying (in a very convoluted way) that whether or not there is right and wrong is irrelevant if we cannot know what is right or wrong.

But why can't the Christian just say "Because God has told us what is right and wrong."?

Jonathan said...

"While I must give the benefit of the doubt that Harris' philosophical argument in his book is more rigorous than what was presented in the debate (I've not read it...yet)"

Wouldn't it be odd that Harris, having a more rigorous philosophical case, wouldn't present it in his debate...

Ron DiGiacomo said...

Mr. Harris' defeat was partly due to his approach of being unable to present any grounding for atheistic morality.

That shouldn't have gotten very far with Craig since he doesn't seem too concerned with grounding future tense truth propositions of creaturely choices. :)

Exist-Dissolve said...

@Jonathan--

What I am saying is that I simply do not see a causal link between the proposition of "the objective ontology of morality as rooted in the existence of God" and the moral decisions of human persons. Philosophically, there's nothing there to bridge the gap in a way that applies the supposed objectivity of the former to the actual subjectivity of the latter in a way that can achieve the sort of objectivity in moral decision making that Craig (and others of his ilk) would suggest is possible.

After all, as I pointed out in my last comment, even if one presumes that there is, in fact, an objective basis to morality (which both Craig and Harris want to suggest that they do), neither thinker presented any framework for understanding how, in fact, this objective basis for morality is accurately translated into actual moral decision making by human persons. Regardless of whether one says the objective basis is "God" or "science," there remains no clear way to delineate precisely what this objectively entails, nor how it can be particularly applied. As with all things, it will come down to the opinion/interpretation/whatever of those who can rhetorically convince everyone else that they are right. But does this mean that the supposed "objectivity" of moral reasoning has demonstrated? Hardly. In fact, to the contrary I would argue that it actually disproves the contention.

Exist-Dissolve said...

@Jonathan--

"But why can't the Christian just say 'Because God has told us what is right and wrong.'?"

Christians are welcome to do that...but that's not the point. Simply saying that "God" told us what is right and wrong doesn't say anything "objective" about anything. After all, how can they demonstrate that God exists, and that God has communicated to them? The demonstration of the same will inevitably be a subjective exercise, which itself dismisses, or at least seriously diminishes, the usefulness of the "objectivity" upon which the question is based.

Exist-Dissolve said...

@Jonathan--

Wouldn't it be odd that Harris, having a more rigorous philosophical case, wouldn't present it in his debate...

Yes, I would--and do--certainly find that odd. However, as I haven't read his book, I will be gracious and assume that he spends less time in his book being angry and more time soberly analyzing his position and utilizing the best rhetorical tools available to explicate it.

But if this is the extent of his reasoning regarding moral origin theory, I think he's out of his league. While I certainly don't agree with Craig, in terms of this debate, he certainly trounced Harris, if, for nothing else, by staying above the fray of personal attacks and seeking to consistently establish his point. Craig's point is fundamentally flawed, IMO, but at least it is consistent and did not depend on petty sniping.

Jonathan said...

@Exist,

To your first post:

So you are saying "Granted that there are moral facts, how do we know that these moral facts have to do with things like humans murdering, raping, stealing, etc"? Is that what you are saying?

To your second post:

"Simply saying that 'God' told us what is right and wrong doesn't say anything 'objective' about anything."

Huh? Not sure what you mean here.

"After all, how can they demonstrate that God exists, and that God has communicated to them?"

Not sure what you would take to be a "demonstration." But anyway, persons like Craig clearly think they have good reasons for believing that God eixsts and that God has communicated to them.

"The demonstration of the same will inevitably be a subjective exercise, which itself dismisses, or at least seriously diminishes, the usefulness of the 'objectivity' upon which the question is based."

I don't know what this means. I take subjective to mean something that depends upon what humans think and objective to mean something that is a fact independently of what humans think.

But I can't make any sense out of your comment here.

Exist-Dissolve said...

@Jonathan--

So you are saying "Granted that there are moral facts, how do we know that these moral facts have to do with things like humans murdering, raping, stealing, etc"? Is that what you are saying?

Yes, or more pointedly, how do we translate the mind-independent (objective) "factness" of morality to the non-mind-independent realities of human moral decision making? If human morality is indelibly subjective, how does one propose that the proposition of moral objectivity be brought to bear upon embodied, human moral decision making?

Not sure what you would take to be a "demonstration." But anyway, persons like Craig clearly think they have good reasons for believing that God eixsts and that God has communicated to them.

Yes, they do in fact "think" that there are reasons for believing that God exists and that God has communicated to them. But this is not objectivity, so the entire premise of grounding morality objectively in God, science, whatever has yet to be shown to have any bearing whatsoever upon human morality. Now, of course, the "statement" of the same almost definitely has some bearing; but it does, in fact, establish that such an objective reality exists, nor that it is a demonstrable ground for human morality.

I take subjective to mean something that depends upon what humans think and objective to mean something that is a fact independently of what humans think.

I'm not talking about subjectivity in the classic caricature of "opinion." Rather, I'm using it as something of an antonym of objectivity. If objectivity is understood as truth which exists independent of mind (whatever that means), then subjectivity is knowledge/truth/reality which is understood via the mind.

But from the perspective of epistemology, it would appear that we really have no recourse to that which is objective, for anything which is independent of mind is categorically inaccessible to mind. The moment that that which is presumed to be objective is apprehended by mind, it ceases--from the perspective of epistemology, at least--to transcend mind. In this way, it is entirely possible that there is reality which exists independently of mind. The problem, of course, is that we cannot know of it in a strictly epistemological way, lest we immediately disprove the claim of objective existence per our epistemological apprehension of the same.

Therefore, even if God/science/whatever is presumed to be an objective ground for morality, there is conceivably no way in which we can epistemologically bridge the gap between the objectivity of this "grounded" morality and the subjectivity of human experience and decision-making.

Jonathan said...

I'm not talking about subjectivity in the classic caricature of "opinion." Rather, I'm using it as something of an antonym of objectivity. If objectivity is understood as truth which exists independent of mind (whatever that means), then subjectivity is knowledge/truth/reality which is understood via the mind.

But from the perspective of epistemology, it would appear that we really have no recourse to that which is objective, for anything which is independent of mind is categorically inaccessible to mind. The moment that that which is presumed to be objective is apprehended by mind, it ceases--from the perspective of epistemology, at least--to transcend mind. In this way, it is entirely possible that there is reality which exists independently of mind. The problem, of course, is that we cannot know of it in a strictly epistemological way, lest we immediately disprove the claim of objective existence per our epistemological apprehension of the same.

Therefore, even if God/science/whatever is presumed to be an objective ground for morality, there is conceivably no way in which we can epistemologically bridge the gap between the objectivity of this "grounded" morality and the subjectivity of human experience and decision-making.


If this is all you're saying (and if I understand it) then it doesn't look like you're saying anything interesting anyway.

All our knowledge is "subjective" in this sense of merely being apprehended by the mind. So all our scientific knowledge is subjective in this sense too, right?

Well do you think anything significant follows from this? If so, what? Are you just repeating Kant's claim that we can't have knowledge, ding an sich?


It looks to me like I could grant that our knowledge of moral facts are "subjective" in your sense, but still objective in the sense that we are apprehending facts that are true (or false) independently of what humans think.

Turretinfan said...

Exist-dissolve:

In your first comment, you wrote: "it does not actually describe how this same ontological framework can be objectively ported to human existence."

You seem to repeat a similar claim in some of your other comments. But, of course, that's a question of epistemology, not ontology. The reason that WLC did not address that point was that WLC was narrowly focused on the ontological question.

One point along those lines that you raised was this: "neither thinker presented any framework for understanding how, in fact, this objective basis for morality is accurately translated into actual moral decision making by human persons."

One would think you would be familiar with the Christian claims that God reveals Himself and His law to mankind. There's actually nothing particularly difficult about accepting this account - the only difficultly lies in rejecting it - in offering an alternative to it.

-TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

As for this rejoinder, "After all, how can they demonstrate that God exists, and that God has communicated to them? The demonstration of the same will inevitably be a subjective exercise, which itself dismisses, or at least seriously diminishes, the usefulness of the "objectivity" upon which the question is based. "

Of course, the usefulness of the objectivity is one thing, and the fact of objectivity is another thing. Distinguishing between the two is important.

Moreover, similarly, the demonstration of the objectivity and the objectivity itself are two different things. Again, clear thinking would be helpful.

Finally, of course, if you are going to consider the argument that "if God exists, then there are objective morals," you have to consider that God exists, for the purpose of investigating the question. It's not really a rebuttal to say, "But I'm not sure God does exist."

-TurretinFan

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Exist-Dissolve said:

However, as I haven't read his book, I will be gracious and assume that he spends less time in his book being angry and more time soberly analyzing his position and utilizing the best rhetorical tools available to explicate it.

If you're referring to The Moral Landscape on how science can determine morals, I've read it. I am sorry (truly) to say this, but it is rather daft. There is little to no interaction with standard philosophical material (by Harris' own admission, if I recall), leaving Hume, Mackie, MacIntyre, Mill, Bentham, etc., all passed over (except for a brief "argument" against the is/ought fallacy) in favor of question begging assertions and otherwise condescending rhetoric about how stupid religious people are. This was particularly disappointing as what Harris defends is repackaged utilitarianism, and he does nothing to address the seemingly intractable problems of incommensurability associated with the position.

Exist-Dissolve said...

If this is all you're saying (and if I understand it) then it doesn't look like you're saying anything interesting anyway.

Well, then I am in good company, as nothing interesting has been said since Aristotle :)


All our knowledge is "subjective" in this sense of merely being apprehended by the mind. So all our scientific knowledge is subjective in this sense too, right?

Unavoidably so, yes.

Well do you think anything significant follows from this? If so, what? Are you just repeating Kant's claim that we can't have knowledge, ding an sich?

I certainly think there would be significance, but those who desire to root human moral decisions in the farce of objectivity would certainly disagree.

It looks to me like I could grant that our knowledge of moral facts are "subjective" in your sense, but still objective in the sense that we are apprehending facts that are true (or false) independently of what humans think.

But upon what is the determination made that subjective moral "facts" (and interesting term to use in this context) correlate to "true" or "false" objective values? If the truth or falsity of the moral value exists independent of the mind, in what way can the same be apprehended by the same mind which it necessarily transcends? And would not the very act of apprehension of the objective, in fact, invalidate it as such?

I'm perfectly willing to allow that this or that moral "fact" may exist independently of thought. I just do not see any way in which it can be accurately or meaningfully applied within pure epistemology, much less the messiness of moral decision making.

Exist-Dissolve said...

You seem to repeat a similar claim in some of your other comments. But, of course, that's a question of epistemology, not ontology. The reason that WLC did not address that point was that WLC was narrowly focused on the ontological question.

Yes, Craig mentioned that several times, but I think it was a bit of a rhetorical dodge. To argue merely on the level of ontology is to not argue anything at all; he could have just as easily replaced the word "God" with "potato", and the end result would have been the same from the pure premise of ontology. This is necessary, for the meaningfulness of the ontological argument is only ultimately established when it is brought to bear upon human moral decision making, which is, while perhaps not exclusively, at least fundamentally epistemological.

We saw this operative principle at work in both thinkers' arguments, for both were ultimately arguing backwards from epistemological realities to ontological conceptions.

One would think you would be familiar with the Christian claims that God reveals Himself and His law to mankind. There's actually nothing particularly difficult about accepting this account

I agree, so long as "accepting this account" is not taken to mean that this "account" is to be understood as an "objective" fact. As a Christian, I certainly believe in divine revelation; however, I would not be so hasty nor foolish to suggest nor advocate that this revelation operates within the domain of "objectivity."

- the only difficultly lies in rejecting it - in offering an alternative to it.

I don't necessarily disagree...granted that "it" is not understood in the "objective" way for which both Craig and Harris tried--and failed--to argue.

Jonathan said...

I certainly think there would be significance...

Such as?

But upon what is the determination made that subjective moral "facts" (and interesting term to use in this context)

I didn't say anything about "subjective moral facts." I said that your sense of "subjective" as being apprehended by the mind is trivial and doesn't change the fact that what is being apprehended by the mind may be an objective fact.

If the truth or falsity of the moral value exists independent of the mind, in what way can the same be apprehended by the same mind which it necessarily transcends?

This looks like gobbly gook nonsense to me. Why should I think the mind can't apprehend a fact? Why should I think the fact is transcendent in such a way that it is not apprehensible by the mind?

And would not the very act of apprehension of the objective, in fact, invalidate it as such?

No. Why should I think otherwise?

I'm perfectly willing to allow that this or that moral "fact" may exist independently of thought. I just do not see any way in which it can be accurately or meaningfully applied within pure epistemology, much less the messiness of moral decision making.

Sorry, but I just don't see why anyone should think you aren't just spouting pseudo-profound gibberish.

Jonathan said...

Yes, Craig mentioned that several times, but I think it was a bit of a rhetorical dodge. To argue merely on the level of ontology is to not argue anything at all...

This appears to be premised off of an insistence that we just can't say anything meaningful about ontology (except that it is such that we can't say anything meaningful about it ;))

But I don't see why anyone should take you seriously in that.


As a Christian, I certainly believe in divine revelation; however, I would not be so hasty nor foolish to suggest nor advocate that this revelation operates within the domain of "objectivity." ... granted that "it" is not understood in the "objective" way for which both Craig and Harris tried--and failed--to argue.

And yet I don't see where you've successfully argued your point against them...

Exist-Dissolve said...

Such as?

A major reorientation of Christian moral theory, for starters.

I said that your sense of "subjective" as being apprehended by the mind is trivial and doesn't change the fact that what is being apprehended by the mind may be an objective fact.

To say that what is apprehended by mind (subjectivity) doesn't change the nature of objective facts is certainly reasonable; however, it is also meaningless. To say that subjectivity doesn't change objective facts is equivalent to not saying anything at all. The categorical chasm of meaning between the two proposed domains is so large that the influence of presumed objective facts upon subjective human epistemology cannot be demonstrated, no matter how strongly one might naively presume to the contrary.

This looks like gobbly gook nonsense to me.

Yes, I imagine it does.

Why should I think the mind can't apprehend a fact?

Why should you think that you can? You are the one positing the idea that the fact exists independently of thought...it is you who has injected thinking with that proposition. So upon what basis do you think you can transcend your own thinking--by way of thinking (absurd)--to apprehend facts that exist apart from thinking?

Why should I think the fact is transcendent in such a way that it is not apprehensible by the mind?

You need not think that it is. However, it should be patently obvious that such a claim of mind-transcendent-thinking would seem to beg some manner of demonstration. If you want to believe that you can epistemologically access truths that exist independent of mind, you are certainly welcome to abuse your mind in that way. However, perhaps you should back up a few steps and actually demonstrate that the same exist. It would seem to be a much more sane course to make epistemological claims about that which can be demonstrated (e.g., the existence of objective facts) before one pursues a course of discussing how these not-yet-established-principles influence human epistemology.

But of course, you will not be able to demonstrate any such thing. Rather, like all objectivists, you will eventually resort to baseless propositionalizing and, in your particular case, petty acts of slander that hide your inability to actually deal with the questions at hand.

No. Why should I think otherwise?

Why would the subjective apprehension of an objective fact not invalidate it? What is the mechanism of communication of content and meaning between the two? How does one demonstrate that the mind independent content of the
objective fact has been properly transferred to human knowledge? These are fundamental questions which need to be answered, but which you continue to skirt.

Sorry, but I just don't see why anyone should think you aren't just spouting pseudo-profound gibberish.

Another slight. How about actually engaging the question? Anyone can say that another person's thinking is inane...I have similar tendencies when I analyze what you've written. However, instead of stooping to the level of pointless dismissal, I'm trying to engage the argument and present my position and objections against yours. Are you capable of the same?

Jonathan said...

I'm trying to engage the argument and present my position and objections against yours. Are you capable of the same?

Looks to me like you're just giving a bunch of nonsensical assertions.

To say that what is apprehended by mind (subjectivity) doesn't change the nature of objective facts is certainly reasonable; however, it is also meaningless.

Where is your argument for this?

To say that subjectivity doesn't change objective facts is equivalent to not saying anything at all.

How so?

The categorical chasm of meaning between the two proposed domains is so large...

Where is your argument?

Why should you think that you can?

Because I take it as a matter of common sense that we have knowledge of objective reality. Is your only argument for the contrary this throwback question?

You are the one positing the idea that the fact exists independently of thought...it is you who has injected thinking with that proposition.

I think it's fair to say that Craig and Harris were taking it for granted (along with most other people) that such is the case. So it looks to me like it is you who has injected thinking with pseudo-profound nonsense. Now, maybe it isn't pseudo-profound nonsense, which is why I have asked so many questions. But so far you're doing nothing to overturn my opinion on that.

So upon what basis do you think you can transcend your own thinking--by way of thinking (absurd)--to apprehend facts that exist apart from thinking?

Why think my thinking has to "transcend" (whatever that means here) anything?

However, perhaps you should back up a few steps and actually demonstrate that the same exist.

I would no sooner think I need to convince the foolish solipsist.

Why would the subjective apprehension of an objective fact not invalidate it?

Why would it?

... petty acts of slander that hide your inability to actually deal with the questions at hand...These are fundamental questions which need to be answered, but which you continue to skirt.

I began by asking you some questions. Thus far, you've just responded by trying to shift the burden of proof... Should I take it then that most of this is just rhetoric?

Fredericka said...

Matthew D. Schultz wrote:

"This was particularly disappointing as what Harris defends is repackaged utilitarianism..."

I haven't listened to all the videos yet but Sam Harris' argument is incomplete to say the least. He proposes the Maximal Misery Universe in which every conscious creature experiences constant suffering. When polled whether they want that, respondents answer 'no,' because it's equivalent to asking 'do you want to be miserable?' All effort must thereafter be directed to avoiding the Maximal Misery Universe, which can only be avoided by maximizing human flourishing. But this is to apply the maxim, 'We are all miserable together, or we all flourish together.' If it were true that 'if you are miserable I am bound to be miserable too,' that in and of itself would be a powerful motivator to altruism, because I do not want to be miserable, and our fates are intertwined.

Does he make any effort in the book to prove this maxim or does he just assume it? It's up to him to prove life is not a zero sum game where the flourishing of some implies the misery of others. Just to propose the 'Mixed' Universe where outcomes are different throws out the start he was making towards morals. The link between my well-being and yours came through the fiction of the Maximal Misery Universe. By positing a world where only by lifting off you your sentence of misery can I avoid receiving the same sentence, he gives us a motive to act helpfully. But the Maximal Misery Universe does not exist, nor could our failure to act helpfully ever produce it. Might as well say, 'the goblins will get you if you don't watch out.'

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Fredericka writes:

Does he make any effort in the book to prove this maxim or does he just assume it?

It's worse than him just assuming it:

"Even if each conscious being has a unique nadir on the moral landscape, we can still conceive of a state of the universe in which everyone suffers as much as he or she (or it) possibly can. If you think we cannot say this would be "bad," then I don't know what you could mean by the word "bad" (and I don't think you know what you mean by it either). Once we conceive of "the worst possible misery for everyone," then we can talk about taking incremental steps toward this abyss: ...All we need to imagine is a scenario in which everyone loses a little, or a lot, without there being compensatory gains (i.e., no one learns any important lessons, no one profits from others' losses, etc.). It seems uncontroversial to say that a change that leaves everyone worse off, by any rational standard, can be reasonably called "bad," if this word is to have any meaning at all.

"We simply must stand somewhere. I am arguing that, in the moral sphere, it is safe to begin with the premise that it is good to avoid behaving in such a way as to produce the worst possible misery for everyone. I am not claiming that most of us personally care about the experience of all conscious beings; I am saying that a universe in which all conscious beings suffer the worst possible misery is worse than a universe in which they experience well-being. This is all we need to speak about "moral truth" in the context of science. Once we admit that the extremes of absolute misery and absolute flourishing--whatever these states amount to for each particular being in the end--are different and dependent on facts about the universe, then we have admitted that there are right and wrong answers to questions of morality" (The Moral Landscape [New York: Free Press, 2010], 39-40).

The book is really quite embarrassing. I recommend going to any local bookstore and reading the first forty or fifty pages (it will go by quickly; it is light) to see what kind of "arguments" Harris provides in defense of his position on morality.

Exist-Dissolve said...

How so?

To argue that subjectivity doesn't alter objective facts (as you've argued) would seem to require that one can, firstly, demonstrate precisely what the content of the objective fact under question is and, secondly, to show that this content is left unaltered when engaged or apprehended by the subjectivity of human epistemology.

However, since you (and everyone else) are incapable of demonstrating the existence and absolute content of any objective fact, arguing that the apprehension of the same by the subjectivity of mind is nothing more than blowing in the wind. Since demonstration of the accuracy of the argument is not able to be provided, the force of the argument rests entirely on your rhetoric. So you can bluster about the existence of objective facts and their supposed unaltered nature in re: the subjectivity of mind...but you do not have the appropriate rhetorical or philosophical tools to show that your thinking is anything more than some private neurosis.

Obviously, the same applies to anyone, including me. But that's precisely the point.

Where is your argument?

If the chasm is not unbridgeable, please demonstrate how it is. Please show how the truth of objective facts is accurately and unalterably apprehended by the subjectivity of mind.

Because I take it as a matter of common sense that we have knowledge of objective reality.

What does common sense have to do with anything? Common sense has encouraged some retrospectively ridiculous thinking throughout human history. Surely you would not presume that a self-evidently subjective concept such as "common sense" is supportive of your argument? If so, you are more naive than I originally thought.

I think it's fair to say that Craig and Harris were taking it for granted (along with most other people) that such is the case. So it looks to me like it is you who has injected thinking with pseudo-profound nonsense.

It looks like that because you are the victim of the common sense to which you appealed above. That particular philosophical hegemonies lead large numbers of people (and even societies) toward certain conclusions does not mean that the conclusions themselves are valid. The infatuation of the modern, Western mind with objectivism is a prime example. So in one sense, you cannot be blamed for feeling that the truth of objective facts is a part of common sense. In another sense, however, you are culpable for not questioning the merit of such a large and sweeping philosophical assumption.

Exist-Dissolve said...

Now, maybe it isn't pseudo-profound nonsense, which is why I have asked so many questions. But so far you're doing nothing to overturn my opinion on that.

There is very little chance that I or anyone else will be able to overturn your opinion. Given your reticence to seriously question (by means of taking of the challenge of trying to demonstrate the objective facts which you presume exist and are apprehensible by mind) the position in which you are currently entrenched, it's difficult to see an argument contrary to your way of thinking that is capable of overcoming the presumptions regarding human epistemology that you are clearly unwilling to question.

Why think my thinking has to "transcend" (whatever that means here) anything?

You can use whatever term you like. The point is that if objective facts exists, and--as you are arguing--they are capable of being communicated to the subjectivity of thought without alteration, then there must be some explanation for the mechanism by which this domain transfer occurs, as well as what criteria one will employ to demonstrate that the communication 1.) has occurred and 2.)that it has occurred in such a way as to preserve the nature of the objective fact AND present it within the context of the subjectivity of mind in a form that it correlative to the unaltered objective fact.

I would no sooner think I need to convince the foolish solipsist.

Again, you dodge actually dealing with the issues and turn instead to pointless rhetoric.

Turretinfan said...

"The point is that if objective facts exists, and--as you are arguing--they are capable of being communicated to the subjectivity of thought without alteration, then there must be some explanation for the mechanism by which this domain transfer occurs, as well as what criteria one will employ to demonstrate [that it is true]."

This seems naive at best. Suppose for the sake of the argument that objective facts can be communicated in a way that preserves their meaning. What about that hypothetical scenario logically entails either (1) that the phenomenon be explainable or (2) that the phenomenon be demonstrable?

- TurretinFan

Turretinfan said...

Re: this argument: "Even if each conscious being has a unique nadir on the moral landscape, we can still conceive of a state of the universe in which everyone suffers as much as he or she (or it) possibly can. If you think we cannot say this would be "bad," then I don't know what you could mean by the word "bad" (and I don't think you know what you mean by it either)."

Essentially that argument (perhaps even those exact words) appeared in the debate. The problem, of course, is that "bad" here means "unpleasant."

But "unpleasant" isn't a moral judgment. Nor is this maximally miserable world any less or more miserable depending on whether it was caused by a sentient being or not. In other words, the situation is maximally unpleasant (by definition) completely without regard to moral agency.

So, Harris is either left with making absurd statements (like saying that Tsunamis are immoral) or with no objective basis for his morality.

-TurretinFan

Jonathan said...

would seem to require that one can, firstly, demonstrate precisely what the content of the objective fact under question is and, secondly, to show that this content is left unaltered when engaged or apprehended by the subjectivity of human epistemology.

Looks like you *assume* that it's just *obvious* that a knowing subject alters objective facts. So you deflect my questions by asserting that I need to show that a knowing subject doesn't alter objective facts. But why should I make your assumptions, especially when your position looks nonsensical to me?

In order for you to know that the mind alters the fact, you have to know something about the fact (ding an sich), right? Which basically means you could never possible demonstrate your position. That, and your refusal to even try to engage the questions (aside from demanding that I prove the contrary), are why I take it as just nonsense "derpa derp deeep a derp" pseudo-profundity.

It isn't obvious to me that a knowing subject alters objective facts. That's why I've asked you for arguments. So why don't you demonstrate that the content of my knowledge isn't an objective fact? But instead of giving me reasons you give me these sophistical throwback questions.

If the chasm is not unbridgeable, please demonstrate how it is.

Right. So at this point it's pretty clear you have no arguments at all for your claims here. You're entire position is basically an argument from ignorance: "YOU CAN'T PROVE IT ISN'T! SO IT IS! NEENER NEENER NEENER!"

No point wasting my time with the rest.

Exist-Dissolve said...

Suppose for the sake of the argument that objective facts can be communicated in a way that preserves their meaning. What about that hypothetical scenario logically entails either (1) that the phenomenon be explainable or (2) that the phenomenon be demonstrable?

I'm not talking about demonstrating phenomenon. Such is a subjective act, never engaging the notions of objectivity. Therefore, it is not relevant to the discussion.

I'm talking about demonstrating that the nature of the supposed objective fact (which has supposedly been communicated in tact) has been translated to the subjective domain of mind. That is, if you claim that the content of your thinking is commensurate with objective facts, the force of your statement will be invariably proportional to your ability to demonstrate that this is, in fact, the case. If the surety of your position is based merely on your assertion that the content of your thinking is commensurate with objective facts, then the real foundation of your knowledge is not (presumably) objectivity, but rather your ability to convince others to believe that you speak the "truth", even while you yourself are incapable of demonstrating the same.

The old adage "knowledge is power" is actually inverted; the more appropriate designation would be that power is knowledge...

Turretinfan said...

E-D:

You don't seem to be keeping up with the conversation. Let me try to put it in simpler terms for you.

Assume that [X] is true. Why should it follow either that [X] can be explained or that [X] can be demonstrated? And if it does not follow, then isn't your request for explanation and/or demonstration just a red herring?

Here [X] = there are objective facts and those facts are communicated to subjects "unchanged."

-TurretinFan

Exist-Dissolve said...

Assume that [X] is true. Why should it follow either that [X] can be explained or that [X] can be demonstrated? And if it does not follow, then isn't your request for explanation and/or demonstration just a red herring?

Why should I assume it's true? That would require the pre-admission of the existence of objective facts before assenting to the assumption of this particular "truth".

Moreover, assuming the truth of the statement is to play into the philosophical nonsense that Craig attempted to pull when arguing for his nuanced view of the objectivity of morality in which he's allowed to personally define the domain of his "objective" truth and then impose it upon others, without bothering to establish why anyone should care or why his definition has anything actually objective about it.

Such an argument is as compelling as arguing that morality has an objective base in potatoes, but using rhetorical escape hatches to avoid the important question of whether or not potatoes are fitting grounds for morality (e.g., by virtue of having existence, person-hood, etc.).

Turretinfan said...

E-D

You would assume it to be true for the sake of examining the consequences of its truth.

After all, that's the only way that your demands for demonstration and explanation are even relevant to this discussion.

Apparently, you still don't understand that.

-TurretinFan

Fredericka said...

Matthew, thanks. I'll have to pick up a copy.