Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Does morality depend on God? (Updated)

Not the way many people think it does.  A reader asks me to comment on this post by Trent Dougherty over at The Prosblogion.  Dougherty notes that if someone accepts Aristotelian essentialism, it seems to follow that he ought to allow that morality can have a foundation even if there is no God.  For from an Aristotelian point of view, what is good for a human being, and thus how we ought to treat human beings, is determined by human nature, and human nature is what it is whether or not there is a God.  Well, I think Dougherty is more or less right about that much, though I would qualify what he says in ways I’ll explain presently.  And as I’ve argued elsewhere (e.g. in The Last Superstition), it isn’t atheism per se that threatens the very possibility of morality, at least not directly.  Rather, what threatens it is the mechanistic or anti-teleological (and thus anti-Aristotelian) conception of the natural world that modern atheists are generally committed to, and which they (falsely) assume to have been established by modern science.
  
Keep in mind that from an Aristotelian point of view, teleology or final causality is immanent to the natural order in a way it is not immanent to artifacts, in the manner explained in my recent post on nature versus art.  To borrow an example from that post, a hammock made out of liana vines does not have its hammock-like function inherently, but only relative to an artificer who imposes it from outside.  The vines themselves, by contrast, do have their liana-like tendencies inherently, just by virtue of being liana vines.  The liana-like tendencies follow from their nature or substantial form, whereas the hammock-like tendencies do not, but result from a merely accidental arrangement (in the technical Aristotelian sense of “accidental”).  And so what is good for a liana vine – that is to say, what constitutes its flourishing as the kind of living thing it is (taking in water and nutrients, exhibiting such-and-such a growth pattern, etc.) – is determined by the ends that follow upon its nature or substantial form. 

Now, natural law theory as understood in the Aristotelian-Thomistic (A-T) tradition presupposes this understanding of natural objects.  Human beings, like every other natural substance, have a nature or substantial form, and what is good for them -- what constitutes their flourishing -- is determined by the ends or final causes that follow upon having that sort of nature or substantial form.  But just as we can normally determine the efficient causes of things without making reference to God, so too can we normally determine the final causes of things without making reference to God.  And thus, just as we can do physics, chemistry, and the like without making reference to God, so too can we do ethics without making reference to God, at least to a large extent.  For we can know what is good for a thing if we can know its nature, and we can know its nature by empirical investigation guided by sound (A-T) metaphysics.  At least to a large extent, then, we can know what the natural law says just from the study of human nature and apart from any sort of divine revelation.  That’s why it’s the natural law.  Goodness, or at least the possibility of it, is just natural to us (as Philippa Foot might say).

Now of course, human beings, liana vines, and everything else could not from an A-T point of view exist even for an instant unless God were conserving them in existence.  They also could not have the causal power they have even for an instant if God as first cause were not imparting that causal power to them at every moment.  All of this is (I would say) what the A-T versions of the cosmological argument, rightly understood, establish.  Similarly, human beings, liana vines, and other natural phenomena couldn’t manifest the teleology or final causality they do even for an instant if God weren’t continually “directing” them toward their ends.  That is (I would say) what the Fifth Way, rightly understood, establishes.  But just as A-T versions of the cosmological argument don’t entail that natural objects don’t have real causal power, so too the Fifth Way does not entail that natural objects don’t have inherent teleology.  To use the traditional metaphysical jargon, the reality of “secondary causes” is perfectly compatible with the A-T idea that all natural causes must ultimately at every moment derive their causal power from God; A-T firmly rejects occasionalism.  Similarly, the reality of immanent or “built in” teleology as Aristotle understood it is perfectly compatible with the idea that all teleology ultimately derives from God.  

“Ultimately” is the key word here.  It is because secondary causes are real that natural science is possible.  When we study the physical world, we are studying how physical things themselves behave given their nature, not the capricious acts of God.  And it is because immanent teleology is real that natural law is possible.  When we study ethics, we are studying what is good for human beings given their nature, not capricious divine commands.  Ultimately the facts studied by science and the facts studied by ethics depend on God, because everything depends, at every instant, on God.  In that sense, science, ethics, and everything else depend on God.  But proximately ethics can be done at least to a large extent without reference to God, just as natural science can.  In that sense, many moral truths would still be true even if, per impossibile, there were no God -- just as the periodic table of the elements would be what it is even if, per impossibile, there were no God.  (All of this is discussed in chapter 5 of Aquinas.  And see the first half of this article for a sketch of A-T natural law theory.)

Now that doesn’t mean that God is irrelevant to ethics; far from it.  For one thing, only part of the natural law can be known without reference to God.  For example, that murder, lying, adultery, dishonoring parents, etc. are contrary to the good for us can be known from an examination of human nature alone.  But the fact that God exists naturally has moral implications of its own, and since for A-T the existence of God can also be known through natural reason, there are certain very general religious obligations (such as the obligation to love God) that can be known through reason alone, and thus form part of the natural law.  (Indeed, these are our highest obligations under natural law.)  Then there is the fact that the natures of things, including human nature, derive ultimately from those ideas in the divine intellect which form the archetypes by reference to which God creates.  (In this way morality is for A-T neither independent of God nor grounded in arbitrary divine commands, as I explained in a post on the Euthyphro objection.)  Furthermore, for A-T, a complete account of moral obligation requires reference to God as legislator (even if moral obligation can proximately be explained by reference to the natural end of the will).  Finally, divine revelation is also needed for a complete account of everyday moral life.  For one thing, divine revelation discloses certain details about morality that the human intellect is too feeble reliably to discover on its own.  For another, some aspects of the natural law are so demanding that many people are capable realistically of living up to them only given the hope of a reward in the hereafter, of the sort divine revelation promises.  (Again, all of these issues are discussed in Aquinas.  See chapter 8 of the first volume of Michael Cronin’s The Science of Ethics for a useful treatment of the proximate and ultimate grounds of moral obligation.)

All the same, since to a large extent the grounds and content of morality can be known from a study of human nature alone, it follows that to a large extent morality would be what it is even if human beings existed and God did not.  For, again, morality is not based in arbitrary divine commands any more than scientific laws are expressions of some arbitrary divine whim.  From the A-T point of view, “divine command theory” (or at least the crude version of divine command theory that takes the grounds and content of morality to rest on sheer divine fiat) is, I would say, comparable to occasionalism, and similarly objectionable.  (Cf. my recent post on Ockham.)

As I say, then, atheism per se is not a direct threat to the very possibility of morality.  Someone who denied the existence of God but accepted Aristotelian essentialism could have grounds for accepting at least part of the natural law.  So too could someone who endorsed an atheistic form of Platonism (if there could be such a thing).  But to opt for a completely anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the world -- one which holds that the natural order is entirely mechanistic and that there is nothing beyond that order -- is, the A-T philosopher would argue, to undermine the possibility of any sort of morality at all.  For it entirely removes from the world essences and final causes, and thus the possibility of making sense of the good as an objective feature of reality.  (See The Last Superstition for details.)  And since modern atheism tends to define itself in terms of such a radically anti-teleological or mechanistic view of the world, it too is to that extent incompatible with any possible morality.

UPDATE: Frank Beckwith comments on Dougherty here.

76 comments:

Anonymous said...

But doesn't human nature necessarily have its origin in God?

If so, then the difference between A-T theists and non-A-T theists seems to be just an intermediate step.

No God -> no human nature -> no morality

vs.

No God -> no morality


Or to argue from a second, slightly different angle, I note the following statement of Dr. Feser's:

"Rather, what threatens it is the mechanistic or anti-teleological (and thus anti-Aristotelian) conception of the natural world that modern atheists are generally committed to.."

But there is no possibility whatsoever for an Aristotelian conception of the natural world to be true and God not to exist. Hence,

No God -> no teleology -> no morality



---
---


It appears that the only way one can style oneself an "atheist" while believing in the reality of human nature or teleology generally is by having a metaphysical worldview that, right off the bat (i.e. at an obvious and fundamental level), is internally inconsistent.

Anonymous said...

Prof. Feser (and other commenters),

Some friends have recommended me Alasdair MacIntyre's book After Virtue as the best piece on virtue ethics.

I have read your books on A-T philosophy and have an OK basic understanding of ethics, in the sense that I "get" the basic of most modern schools of thought, and popular concepts like the is-ought problem and the naturalistic fallacy.

Do you think this is enough of a background to read this lengthy tome? If not, can you recommend me some auxiliary readings?

(Sorry for the tangential post)

185346 said...

Forgive me if I haven't read any of your other posts. I've just stumbled across this blog.

However, can't we create a "selfish" system of morality that still achieves most, if not all, of what we consider "good"? For example, what if I were to consider "good" to be that which is beneficial to me. Then, I list a few items that I consider beneficial to me. This includes living a long, healthy life, and having offspring that also has long, healthy lives. Now, I might be able to achieve this by acting in what would generally be considered an unethical manner, i.e. murdering/raping/pillaging all those around me, but wouldn't my goals be much better achieved by participating in a society that agrees to protect every participant? The advantages of such a system would be far more numerous than that of a system where each person is acting "unethically" by common standards.

It seems to be that this would create a system of morality completely divorced from any supernatural requirements. It is dependent simply upon what I want out of life. Therefore, would one not be able to create a completely valid atheistic moral framework?

DNW said...

Just a couple of randomly occurring comments that probably should have been saved for after carefully reading the full post, rather than being prompted by the comments, but ...

It seems pretty clear that almost all systems of ethics hinge on some question of ends and their "goodness". Whether these ends are teleological in the sense of being internal to the structure of the being or organism, or are some supposedly a posteriori (the best term I can think of off the top of my head) construction, is the question most often taken to be at issue in informal socio-politically tinged discussions.

But the question for the conventionalist or existentialist or the utilitarian [does anyone take Kantian ethics without Kantian transcendentalism and idealism seriously?] is what makes their "good" an objective good, other than their "objectively determinable" stipulation and will that it be taken by others as such?

I mean you can say that you want a distributive justice paradise on earth, and that such and such a series of controls placed on humans will tend to bring about that end. But so what, if I say "Screw your social justice paradise"? I recall here for example a professor who was walking us through the Philosophical Investigations, asking something along the lines of " What if you accept the fact value dichotomy [we had just gone through "Language Truth and Logic" prior] do you say to someone who simply doesn't think it's wrong to kill some number of annoying people, if the consequences are felt to be minimal"?

Can one prove it is a "good" that weak males deserve a ride on the backs of the stronger, rather than be simply cut out of the field of interaction and consideration?

Seems to me that once these questions are pressed the goodness of the utilitarian ( and other similar interpretive styles)notion of "good" either disappears as a good; or is revealed as a part of arguments covertly appealing to some kind of teleological justification; even if it is not much more than the elevation of the notion of sentiment.


So, you want to see less sexual dimorphism, more emotional sensitivity, and higher taxes.

So what?

Josh said...

Anon #2:

Right and Reason is a great Ethics textbook in this tradition. Clear and aimed at the newbies, like myself. I have After Virtue as well, but it seems to be partially a treatment of virtue ethics, partially a treatment of the historical abandonment of the system.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Josh. I'll look it up.

lurk said...

Feser, perpetually arguing with atheists.
First Coyne and now Dougherty.

This is no argument for atheism, but after awhile you have to think "there are alot of intellectuals that disagree with me, maybe it's I who am wrong!!"

Jake said...

First Coyne and now Dougherty

Dougherty is not an atheist

Anonymous said...

This is no argument for atheism, but after awhile you have to think "there are alot of intellectuals that disagree with me, maybe it's I who am wrong!!"

Oh really? If you think that's a good argument (I don't), then you might want to consider your position.

Also, Dougherty is no atheist.

Jake said...

But to opt for a completely anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the world -- one which holds that the natural order is entirely mechanistic and that there is nothing beyond that order -- is, the A-T philosopher would argue, to undermine the possibility of any sort of morality at all.

I don't think this is correct. The naturalist could hold the view that human nature is what it is through the blind processes of mechanistic, Darwinian evolution, but still come the same conclusions as the A-T philosopher regarding morality based on that nature.

lurk said...

"Dougherty is not an atheist".

Oh, just a theist who argues that God is unnecessary for morality?
Sure.

I'm a Raiders fan who cheers for the 49ers instead.

lurk said...

"Oh really? If you think that's a good argument (I don't), then you might want to consider your position."

I clearly said it wasn't an argument. Simply an observation.

Anonymous said...

Oh, just a theist who argues that God is unnecessary for morality?
Sure.

I'm a Raiders fan who cheers for the 49ers instead.


--

A shameful post. Does he have to be an atheist in order to question the validity of that position? Sorry, but that's just ridiculous.

And please re-read Feser's post. He's partially agreeing with him!

Jake said...

lurk,

Look at the Prosblogian post in question (http://prosblogion.ektopos.com/archives/2011/07/ethics-without-.html). If you scroll down the comments, you will see Dougherty says,

Nevertheless, since I think God is metaphysically necessary, I think nothing would exist if God didn't exist. And so I am dealing in substantively true counterpossibles as, i take it, are the folks who say "If there were no God, there would be no objective ethics."

If you look at other posts he has made, it is clear he is a theist.

Mr. Green said...

185346: It seems to be that this would create a system of morality completely divorced from any supernatural requirements. It is dependent simply upon what I want out of life. Therefore, would one not be able to create a completely valid atheistic moral framework?

No; only an incompletely valid atheistic moral framework. That's the point: given human nature, moral principles follow immediately. The only reason that following "what you want" is able to work at all is because you, and all human beings, are so constituted in a certain way; a way that makes societies and common standards, etc. possible in the first place. However, once you start down that road, it inevitably continues on until you reach God. You can try to escape that conclusion by backing up enough, but you'll have to back up all the way past morality (if it's possible to back out of the "God branch" at all). Why can't we have human nature without God? Well...

Jake: The naturalist could hold the view that human nature is what it is through the blind processes of mechanistic, Darwinian evolution, but still come the same conclusions as the A-T philosopher regarding morality based on that nature.

He could, but he would be implicitly contradicting himself. A pile of rocks doesn't have a nature; the arrangement is merely accidental. You can't disrupt their "flourishing" by knocking them over or rearranging them — one arrangement is as good as another; you might like one more than another, but there is nothing in the rocks themselves that makes one grouping better than another. But if we are all just "piles of atoms" (randomly arranged by evolution or whatever), then we also have no objective natures. There's no way a human being is "supposed to" be, if there's no "supposer". A nature in the relevant sense requires intent or purpose rather than chance, i.e. a Creator. (Or, arguably, a chain of creators, with God, in typical Aristotelian fashion, as the First Creator.)

Consider it this way: it is natural (i.e. part of human nature) to have ten fingers. If you have nine fingers, or eleven, that is not natural — not in the sense of "supernatural" (it doesn't require a miracle; an ordinary random mutation in your biological makeup could have led to your growing the wrong number of fingers), but in the sense of not conforming to the way humans are supposed to be, i.e. according to their substantial form. In other words, if you have the wrong number of fingers are you de-formed. But a chance process cannot produce substantial forms, only accidental ones (like the arbitrary arrangement of rocks). How can you say that the mutation giving you nine fingers is "wrong" if having ten fingers is only itself the result of a different random mutation? There is no absolute or objective ground for such a judgement; only that it is "different". Likewise, without a purposeful nature, all you can say is, "Personally, I dislike murdering/pillaging/having nine fingers, but that's just me."

Daniel Smith said...

Ed: "Similarly, human beings, liana vines, and other natural phenomena couldn’t manifest the teleology or final causality they do even for an instant if God weren’t continually “directing” them toward their ends. That is (I would say) what the Fifth Way, rightly understood, establishes."

I'm trying to reconcile the Fifth Way with your definitions of Platonic, Aristotelian, and Scholastic teleological realism, given in your article "Teleology - A Shopper’s Guide".

From that article:

"Platonic teleological realism holds that the irreducible teleology manifest in nature is extrinsic, entirely derivative from an outside source. Natural phenomena as such are not teleological, but they have been ordered to certain ends by (say) a divine mind."

"Aristotelian teleological realism holds that teleology or final causality is intrinsic to natural substances, and does not derive from any divine source."

"Scholastic teleological realism... [says that] final causes are indeed immanent within or intrinsic to natural substances... [but] the existence of final causes must ultimately be explained in terms of the divine intellect."

To me, Aquinas is not saying that teleology in nature is inherent to it. If he is, then doesn't the whole "cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed" argument fail?

It would seem you agree with me when you later say:

"Again, Aquinas’s claim is a very strong one; he is saying that an unintelligent object cannot move toward an end—cannot have a certain outcome as its final cause—unless directed by an intelligence."

Yet, just above that you say:

"The acorn can be known to be “directed at” the oak entirely independently of the question of God’s existence"

I guess I just don't understand - in light of the Fifth Way - how nature can have teleology that is both independent of God and ultimately dependent on Him!

Please explain further!

185346 said...

Mr. Green:

So what then of evolutionary principles? It seems that human beings are constituted in such a way that encourages us to create societies to protect ourselves. You seem to declare that that is the work of a deity.

However, that is quite well explained by evolutionary theory. The process of evolution has been acting upon us ever since a few of our ancestors got together for mutual protection, and has reinforced the creation of societies in animals that find benefits from it. This doesn't appear to invoke any supernatural elements.

Mr. Green said...

185346: It seems that human beings are constituted in such a way that encourages us to create societies to protect ourselves. You seem to declare that that is the work of a deity. However, that is quite well explained by evolutionary theory.

Evolution is pretty much irrelevant to this point. It doesn't matter whether we were engineered by aliens, or evolved, or suddenly appeared all at once. Thomistic metaphysics shows that regardless of such details (though important questions in their own rights), reality traces back to God, because from any kind of cause and effect we can deduce an Ultimate Being. (You said you were new here, but Prof. Feser has lots of posts about these and other Thomist fundamentals.) So it depends on God in the same sense that everything ultimately does.

On the other hand, we can narrow our focus to a specific context. That's the point of the post — even though physics, say, relies on and points to God, you can do ordinary physics without mentioning God in your equations. Similarly, you can do moral reasoning — such as concluding that it is not good to go around committing adultery — without explicitly speaking of God. However, to make sense of it qua moral reasoning it must be based on something that can ground a true morality, which turns out to be God whether we acknowledge it openly or take it for granted.

Hence my point about needing a fixed, objective nature: it may indeed be the case that "evolution" has brought us to the point where we naturally (there's that word again!) create societies that provide protection, etc. But that doesn't make it morality. If somebody comes along who says, "I don't care if I get punished and go to prison, I'm gong to murder you anyway!" what are you going to do? Say "I don't want you to murder me"? (I doubt that he cares.) If we had an objective, absolute foundation for morality, you could at least say, "But that would be wrong, it's against your nature." If we evolved by chance (or got here any other way that was by chance — again, the details don't matter, just the chance), then he'll simply respond, "No, my 'nature' is to kill you!" You can't say he's wrong, because "human nature" — or the lack thereof — isn't fixed; maybe he's just more evolved than the rest of us!

We can, of course, decide to imprison killers anyway, say, because we value a community where people get to live for the longest overall lifespan, or something, but that choice is arbitrary if it's all ultimately based on chance. We could instead decide to organise a society based on physical strength (it's OK to kill someone if you use your bare hands), or on economic prosperity (rich people are allowed to kill poor people), or on making you feel all warm and fuzzy (no killing anyone ever, and you can't even say anything mean about someone, even if it's true). But the only way to ever argue that one set of principles is right or better is to appeal to a higher standard, so either we deny that morality proper exists, or else we acknowledge that higher standard.

185346 said...

Mr. Green:

I guess that I did not make it quite apparent in my original post. I would be arguing from the perspective that there is no such thing as morality proper. Someone could, in fact, come up to you and say, "I'm going to murder you!", and you would not have any objective moral grounds to tell him that he is wrong. However, relative to his own interests, you would in fact have a moral framework to tell him that he is doing something "wrong", i.e. something that is not beneficial towards himself.

In the end, an arbitrary choice would be exactly what it is. However, each person existing has arbitrarily decided that they wish to maximize the benefits that they receive during their lifespan. There is no inherent reason that this is better or worse than any other choice. However, this arbitrary choice leads to some non-arbitrary logical conclusions.



So, you mention a higher standard. If I were to give you that God exists, that he is all-powerful, has existed forever, and all-knowing, and whatever other properties of God that you wish, why does that mean that God gets to set a standard? Why does morality then derive from him? Why is what God says good?

I have argued this point with other people before, and I've gotten answers such as God is love, God is all-powerful, God is perfect, God created us. None of these has given me a satisfactory answer.

The perfection one seems to be promising, but fails to address a fundamental problem. Perfection implies a standard. Whose standard, then, are we applying to God? His? An arbitrary point. Ours? If God created us, then God could very well have just created us so that our perfection matches his nature, again making it arbitrary. Is there a higher standard still that we can apply to God? Why do we need God then? Isn't that standard a moral grounding?

The creation/all-powerful argument seems similarly lacking. I read it as the ultimate in might makes right thought. If God is all-powerful/created us, that makes what he says right. This hardly seems any better than any other moral framework.



As far as using the word natural to describe our society-building tendencies, what I mean is this. For some creatures, it is beneficial to each individual to join together as part of a society. For some other creatures, it is not. Sharks, for example, have not banded together to form cities.

What creatures do and and do not partake in such activities as forming societies, and do other various habits depends upon particular characteristics of them. These characteristics have been bestowed upon them by evolution acting upon their ancestors. It is natural for us to form societies, and sharks not to, simply because the random process of evolution has been filtered through a sieve called the environment, and has acted upon every living creature to create a set of "natural" actions for that creature.

Will said...

@185346: Your confusions are all cleared up here:
http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

Verbose Stoic said...

lurk,

"Oh, just a theist who argues that God is unnecessary for morality?
Sure."

[cracks knuckles]

So, wanna argue why that's so odd with a theist who really does argue that, like me, and things he can justify it theologically, at least for Christians?

t said...

Ed: "But proximately ethics can be done at least to a large extent without reference to God, just as natural science can. In that sense, many moral truths would still be true even if, per impossibile, there were no God -- just as the periodic table of the elements would be what it is even if, per impossibile, there were no God."

Well OK, but what I find lacking here is the subjective motivation. Let me try to explain. Let's suppose that I'm a rapist. Raping brings me pleasure. Now, I could accept everything you say about human nature; I could accept that rape is contrary to my human nature, etc, but for me there is still an open question: why would I care? In particular, why would I care that some things are consistent with my human nature, while others are not, even if I accept that they are really so (and there is a compelling case to accept that, as Ed presents in his texts)? I could perfectly accept the theoretical truth: yes, raping makes me a bad instance of human person. But so what? Why shouldn't I say: I can live with that? What is my subjective motivation to care about that? Raping brings me a pleasure, so I'll go for it.

So, some subjective motivation is, in my opinion, needed, to make me care. But I don't see how can it be done without reference to eternity and God as the rewarderer. There is some reason why all traditional A-T ethics manuals begin by considering perfect happiness (beatitude) as human last end and emphasise that it is attainable only with God in eternity. And if this is so, it seems to me that ethics without reference to God is not really possible. Without reference to "God's arbitrary whim" - yes, but with no reference to God at all - I don't see how.

George R. said...

Francis Beckwith:
“Miller is indeed correct that Aristotle's view does not entail God's existence, since living organisms and their intrinsic purposes informed by their natures may just be brute facts of the universe for which no explanation is required.”

I’d just like to thank Frank Beckwith for stating plainly what I believe is the biggest hoax in Aristotelian scholarship. The idea that Aristotle taught that living things could be just “brute facts of the universe” is completely ludicrous; yet how many professional philosophers are convinced it is so? But hey, maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about; maybe I’m just an amateur; maybe the expert scholars have uncovered the proof for their thesis that I’m just not aware of. If so, let them produce the evidence. Let them cite the relevant passages. But they won’t be able to, of course, because their thesis is nothing but an urban legend.

Jake said...

Mr. Green,

Thanks for the answer. Upon further reflection, it seems obvious that the naturalist must at least hold to some sort of essentialism, i.e. that there is some sort of essence of what it is like to be human, in order to have an objective morality. I'm not sure, though, that I would agree that an Aristotelain concept of teleology is necessary. A sort of mild platonic naturalism would seem sufficient.

Pattsce said...

T,

I think you stopped short in your analysis there. You bring up the "so what?" objection, but you don't apply it to what you claim is the solution to it. That is, So What if God exists and wants to reward me for being a good person and punish me for being a bad person? What if I just don't care about that stuff? What if I say, "Okay, God exists; He is the creator of the universe, and He told me not to do this; He said I'd suffer forever if I did do it; oh well, I still think it's worth it." Even if God appeared to me personally and told me exactly what to do, I could still say, "it's still worth it to do what I want to do."

God existing and giving laws doesn't necessarily overcome the so what? question---not without essences. "Because God said so" does not Really explain why I should or should not do something unless there is something about my nature that says I can't ignore good. This, at least from what I understand, is where the existentialists get all their force. And they get that force because they deny essences.

So, as it stands, you have to appeal to something like essences to get to any sort of objective morality. And essences, when you look just at them, don't Require God's existence---not in the "if God didn't exist and tell us what was right/punish us for what was wrong, it wouldn't be right/wrong" way you're arguing here.

Incidentally, in response to your "so what?" question: the human will is aimed at good; that is its essence. When given any choice, a human will always choose what it perceives as good. It can't not do that; it can't choose not to care, because that is the nature of the will.

While an individual may be Wrong in what he seeks/may be wrong about what good actually is, he is still seeking it because he thinks it's good. He can't say "so what?" to the question of good. He can merely be incorrect in his determination of the good. That is, all he could claim is "I personally think rape is better for me here than not raping" but he would be objectively wrong based on the nature of a human.

All the same, he's already playing the good/bad game, despite his claims to the contrary.

t said...

Pattsce,

maybe I wasn't completely clear in my original post, so let me try to clarify.

I do NOT argue in the way "if God didn't exist and tell us what was right/punish us for what was wrong, it wouldn't be right/wrong".

I don't remember I mentioned that God has to TELL us what's right or wrong.

No, I said I accept everything Ed said about essences. So, it should be clear that I do NOT deny essences. On the contraty, I fully accept them. I just think they are NOT ENOUGH to direct my will all by themselves.

So, you see, because I accept essences, I do not think that God has to TELL us what's right or wrong; we CAN know that just by considering these essences. But I do maintain that God must EXIST and be known as my ultimate end if that knowledge of right and wrong is going to have any influence on my conduct. Because, in my experience, human will is not directed toward what is good in itself in some abstract intellectual sense, but, as you well said, toward that which is perceived as desirable. So, if essences are to direct my will, I should first perceive that it is desirable to act in a way that is consistent with my human nature. But can I perceive this without considering eternal happiness and God? You see, I am not denying essences, I just think there is additional requirement needed.

If I am a rapist, rape brings me pleasure, and that is, by definition desirable. Avoiding rape, on the contrary, brings me nothing but frustration (which is, by definition, undesirable). Now I might well understand that rape is contrary to my nature, and that avoiding rape would be much more in line with the same nature. But I suppose I would still prefere the former, because I perceive it as desirable, while the later I perceive as undesirable and so I will try to avoid it. Yes, of course I am already playing "the good/bad game". I do NOT even claim the contrary. I am just claiming I need a motive to perceive this nature-based right as desirable. But because it is not desirable to such person in this life, the only way that I can think of to make it desirable is by reference to the next life and God.

And I must confess I do not understand your remark "Okay, God exists; He is the creator of the universe, and He told me not to do this; He said I'd suffer forever if I did do it; oh well, I still think it's worth it."
Of course nothing is worth suffering *forever*. If you deny this, I would suggest you haven't sufficiently contemplated meaning of "forever".

Gail F said...

"But to opt for a completely anti-essentialist and anti-teleological view of the world -- one which holds that the natural order is entirely mechanistic and that there is nothing beyond that order -- is, the A-T philosopher would argue, to undermine the possibility of any sort of morality at all."

Which is exactly what that sort of atheist says: There are no real laws or ends, and hence no morality. There is only what we decide to do or be. They do not seem to be alarmed that, if this were true, someone other than them might do the deciding...

Anonymous said...

Reverse the question. "Does God depend upon morality?" or does God define morality?

185346 said...

Will:
It seems to me that that blog post assumes much. For example:

"Now God, given the perfection of His intellect, can in principle only ever command in accordance with reason, and thus God could never command us to do what is bad for us."

Why not? That statement assumes that what is good for us is what God wants. Good is entirely dependent upon a goal, and the statement presumes one of God's goals is to not do something that is not beneficial for us. Why is that so?


"For as noted above, God can only ever will in accordance with reason, and it would be perverse and irrational to will to create some thing without willing what is by its nature good for that thing."

This doesn't clear it up. Can't God have created us simply so that he could "do bad" to us? Why not? Perverse implies a moral standard, which God apparently creates, so it is begging the question to state that. It is not irrational either, if God takes it as an axiom that he wishes to will us into existence to "do bad" to us.

Mr. Green said...

T: So, some subjective motivation is, in my opinion, needed, to make me care. But I don't see how can it be done without reference to eternity and God as the rewarderer. There is some reason why all traditional A-T ethics manuals begin by considering perfect happiness (beatitude) as human last end and emphasise that it is attainable only with God in eternity.

Well, we need to remember that "happiness" in the sense of contentment or eudæmonia doesn't just mean "having fun", so we can't directly conclude some type of eternal reward. But really it comes down to the simple fact that acting morally means acting rationally, since to violate one's own nature is obviously irrational (possible, because of free will, but nonetheless irrational).

You might then ask, "Why should I be rational?", but of course that doesn't make sense. It's asking for a reason to be reasonable — either you're not interested in being reasonable, in which case there's no point giving you reasons; or else you are interested in being rational, in which case you're already there.

Mr. Green said...

Jake: Upon further reflection, it seems obvious that the naturalist must at least hold to some sort of essentialism, i.e. that there is some sort of essence of what it is like to be human, in order to have an objective morality. I'm not sure, though, that I would agree that an Aristotelain concept of teleology is necessary. A sort of mild platonic naturalism would seem sufficient.

I think that works, yes. However, I would of course go on to argue that a sufficiently robust platonism does inevitably lead to some sort of divine mind to hold the Forms. (Which is of course the direction that neo-platonists ended up, not to mention the A-T branch of platonism!) So ultimately, I think we end up in much the same place (maybe a bit more Augustinian than Thomistic or something...).

Roy IV said...

I like how that guy lurk disappeared when he realized he made a oopsy.

Mr. Green said...

185346: I would be arguing from the perspective that there is no such thing as morality proper.

OK, in that case, yes, if you give up morality you at least don't have to worry about contradictions in your moral theory! And some philosophers do come out and bite that bullet. Most people are loath to give up morality wholesale, though. And if we had the same structures in place (society, police forces, etc.), then maybe we would have similar results even if nobody believed in morals. (As you say, there would still be consequences for acting "badly".)

If I were to give you that God exists, that he is all-powerful, has existed forever, and all-knowing, and whatever other properties of God that you wish, why does that mean that God gets to set a standard? Why does morality then derive from him?

God's cosmos, God's rules! As Creator, he gets to make them up, just as an inventor or artist gets to define what his invention is for or what his art is about. (The analogy isn't perfect, because inventors and artists have to work within the real world, which is independent of them, whereas there is nothing else beyond God, so he can create without any constraints.) It wouldn't be fair to take my invention and if it doesn't chisel very well, to say, "This is a bad invention" — if I was inventing a screwdriver. If it fulfills that purpose of driving screws well, then it's "good", and if not it's "bad". Since God is omnipotent and doesn't make mistakes, whatever he invents will be good in that sense (which is the only sense that can apply).

It's perhaps misleading to say God "sets" the standard — by creating human nature (or screwdrivers, etc.) a certain way, that just is morality. That's why Euthyphro's dilemma doesn't apply to natural law theory: there isn't human nature on one side, and God's commands on the other; the only command is God's commanding, "Let there be <human nature>". Once that nature exists, then it simply is the standard for morality. If we didn't have free will, we couldn't go bad, we couldn't help but follow our natures (just as a rock is always "good" at acting like a rock). Since we do have free will, we can deviate from that nature, and that's what being bad is.

The creation/all-powerful argument seems similarly lacking. I read it as the ultimate in might makes right thought. If God is all-powerful/created us, that makes what he says right. This hardly seems any better than any other moral framework.

It's not so much about "might" though, as in "God can cream us, so we'd better do what he says!" It's that "God defined us, so it's only rational to do what he says!" (Indeed, if you don't, it's really your nature that will get you, not God — just as trying to use a screwdriver as a chisel will end badly.) If our (pseudo-)natures were merely random, then no one way of acting would be more rational than any other. (There would be relative forms of rationality, insofar as doing X would lead to Y, but there would be no single standard to appeal to for anything like moral behaviour as opposed to merely practical behaviour. Even the laws of society would of course be only a form of might making "right".)

Anonymous said...

>>Mr Green said: ...not to mention the A-T branch of platonism!


What is this? I've never heard of such a thing until now.

185346 said...

Mr. Green:

"If it fulfills that purpose of driving screws well, then it's "good", and if not it's "bad". Since God is omnipotent and doesn't make mistakes, whatever he invents will be good in that sense (which is the only sense that can apply)."

I would agree with you that an all-powerful God would most certainly be able to make something that is "good" at something. Good in this sense, being efficient at completing a particular task. However, that doesn't tell us anything about the morality of the task in the first place. Why is what God creates something to do "right"? If God creates something that achieves a task perfectly, and that task is sending you to eternal torture and pain, just because that amuses him, is that then good?

So, say that I was all-powerful, and whatever other attributes you wish. Say I create a universe with a piece of wood with a nail partially pounded into it. Say I then create a self-swinging hammer with free will. I then tell this hammer to pound in the nail. The hammer refuses to do so. Who is morally correct in their actions? Me? Why am I right in doing any of the actions in the first place? Isn't this just the ultimate case of might makes right?

"Once that nature exists, then it simply is the standard for morality."

Why? What makes that better than any other standard? That seems to be completely arbitrary. Why didn't God choose the opposite of that standard?

"God defined us, so it's only rational to do what he says!"

Why is it rational to do that? I will agree, for example, that if you wish to go to heaven, then it would certainly be rational to do so. However, what if I wish to go to hell? Then it would be completely rational to do the opposite. It seems like it's completely dependent upon what axioms you decide to choose.

"If our (pseudo-)natures were merely random, then no one way of acting would be more rational than any other. (There would be relative forms of rationality, insofar as doing X would lead to Y, but there would be no single standard to appeal to for anything like moral behaviour as opposed to merely practical behaviour. Even the laws of society would of course be only a form of might making "right".)"

I would agree with this conclusion, even if the premise is switched around to include the existence of God. I think that rational thought is entirely dependent upon what axioms you wish to use.

machinephilosophy said...

@185346

There is a sense in which self-interest is inescapable. Whatever one believes, one's -self- is in charge of what is to be considered true or proper or best under the circumstances, and so on. And one's own criteria and values get preferred treatment for the self's own self-preferred reasons, grounds, or motives. So in a sense, it's self-interest all the way, however qualified and circumspect and rational it may or may not be.

Pattsce said...

T,

I apologize if I misunderstood or misrepresented your position. You seem to be arguing that while morality does not depend on God (in the way I criticized), God gives the (only) Reason for being moral.

This was not the point of Prof. Feser's post, so I think that's why I was confused. All the same, I do not think this first-person "I need a subjective motivation to be moral" argument is a correct position---or at least not fully. Your position seems to be something like utilitarian calculus with eternal damnation as a variable. That is, you seem to be arguing that a person only has a reason to be moral if he is rewarded or punished by a god for his behavior. If I am misrepresenting you again, I apologize.

I do think this position, for many people, is a bit disturbing. I often hear atheists criticize religious people for acting "only for a future reward." I think this criticism is right. There is something truly unvirtuous in this sort of calculation and mindset. Most people, I think, feel blackmailed when they are coerced into doing something moral just because of some reward or punishment in the future. I think it makes sense that people rebel against this sort of thinking. In fact, I think there may actually be something virtuous about the person who chooses to do bad just to be free of being threatened into good behavior.

I also think this ignores most of the arguments being made here. You seem to be equating pleasure with goodness, and I think this is a real problem. Pleasure is not by definition good, even if it is "desirable." The human will is directed by its nature toward what it perceives as good, not what is pleasurable, though there is obvious overlap. What is good for a person is not necessarily what is pleasurable for him. A human does not need a subjective reason or motivation for seeking good; he just already does. Again, he may be objectively wrong in his evaluation of good, but at no point does he have a choice in deciding to seek it. (Obviously direct motivations exist that cause him to seek true, objective good, but that's not really the point. He is seeking good with or without motivation to do so, and that's all that's needed for morality.)

For example, the hypothetical rapist, like any human, is aimed at good. He may think the pleasure from the rape is good, but he would simply be objectively wrong. Because he is by nature seeking good as a rational being, he is simply making an incorrect evaluation of good in choosing to rape. I'm not saying if you just explain to him that he is making an incorrect choice he would suddenly stop raping; I'm simply saying that morality does not rely on him being motivated to be good, whether a god is the Best motivator there is.

I think that because you somehow think that his subjective desire must be fulfilled, you find it necessary to put God in there to create some sort of extreme pleasure or extreme pain at the end of the game in order to encourage his good behavior. Taken the other way, though, your argument seems to imply that if God didn't punish him at the end of his life (or whenever)/didn't exist, he Should commit the rape because it would probably bring him more pleasure/would be more desirable. I think that this is clearly wrong. His desire for good is what directs him to actual good; even outside motivations rely on this essential principle.

Your position also fails to address my original point, I think. If a person really pushed you and said, "Why should I care about being punished?" I don't think you've provided, at least from what a subjective motivation position would entail, a really good response. Even if you said, "You don't understand; it's going to be really, really bad!" the person could still say "Okay, I don't care; that's what I want. I find meaning in that sort of suffering."

Will said...

185346:

God, whose necessity is identical with Goodness, only ever wills for us to do what is consistent with our nature. As Feser puts it in Aquinas: 'What is objectively good and what God wills for us as morally obligatory are just the same thing considered under different descriptions'.

Anonymous said...

Yes, as an atheists there is no teleological view of the world. There is no God who caused books to be written (take your pick as to which one to follow) with ambiguous meanings that often have to be interpreted by listening to self appoint authority figures.

Instead ww find ourselves conscious in a vast, cold, uncaring universe withonly ourselves and each other for support. Does life have no meaning or purpose? Yes, if we wait on our knees for meaing from on high but not if we get off our knees and do something meaningful.

Anonymous said...

"Does life have no meaning or purpose? Yes, if we wait on our knees for meaing from on high but not if we get off our knees and do something meaningful"

Yes I agree. But we don't even need to get off our knees. We only need to discover what gives us meaning and purpose by way of neuroscience. We can then stimulate our frontal lobes in such a manner as to have meaning and purpose because that's where the illusion of meaning and purpose was put in by evolution. We can then be happy and fulfilled.

DNW said...

Anonymous the perceptive said to anonymous the ardent ...

" 'Does life have no meaning or purpose? Yes, if we wait on our knees for meaing from on high but not if we get off our knees and do something meaningful'

Yes I agree. But we don't even need to get off our knees. We only need to discover what gives us meaning and purpose by way of neuroscience. We can then stimulate our frontal lobes in such a manner as to have meaning and purpose because that's where the illusion of meaning and purpose was put in by evolution. We can then be happy and fulfilled.
July 21, 2011 8:42 AM "


LOL So true, 2nd anonymous. It's all in the mind, or rather the brain.

But in accordance with the explicated wisdom of the 7:28 AM anonymous, remind us why we should be happy and fulfilled; or, I guess more importantly, why we should care when some others are not?

Do for example, appetites have rights vis-a-vis, and claims upon, other appetite loci?

Or, is the solution found perhaps in mirror neuron enhancement?

Gosh, but what happens when the gain level is turned up too high? Is there an optimum level of manufactured sympathy?

Thank Gaia you at least are good at reading ardent materialist arguments and teasing out the meaning; since it all reads like Geek to me.

Anonymous said...

Yes I agree. But we don't even need to get off our knees. We only need to discover what gives us meaning and purpose by way of neuroscience. We can then stimulate our frontal lobes in such a manner as to have meaning and purpose because that's where the illusion of meaning and purpose was put in by evolution. We can then be happy and fulfilled.

I LOL'd hard at this post. 10/10 anon.

New age atheists: don't believe in God, just in ~the power of the mind~

whoaaaaaaa

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: What is this? I've never heard of such a thing until now.

Oh, by "the A-T branch of platonism", I was merely acknowledging that Aristotelianism is itself an offshoot of Platonism. The two are sometimes portrayed almost as opposites, because the Neoplatonists and Aristotelians took it in somewhat different directions, but of course if you contrast them against other philosophies (i.e., all the wrong ones), then their family resemblance is clear.

Mr. Green said...

185346: that doesn't tell us anything about the morality of the task in the first place.

But that question assumes there is something else beyond, against which we can measure the morality of that task — which doesn't make sense; it's like asking how we can measure the official platinum metre-stick in Paris (well, when it was the standard!) — it is standard, you measure other things against it, not it against something else.

Say I then create a self-swinging hammer with free will. I then tell this hammer to pound in the nail. The hammer refuses to do so. Who is morally correct in their actions?

You aren't right or wrong in this example (at least, given that there's no outside context in which you're acting; we're assuming (or ignoring) that you have any "nature" of your own to live up to). The hammer, though, has a nature it is supposed to conform to, and by (freely) failing to do so, it is acting immorally. "Might" doesn't really come into it — if somehow you could create the living hammer but were not mighty enough to do anything else to it, it would still be acting immorally.

What makes [the nature] better than any other standard? That seems to be completely arbitrary. Why didn't God choose the opposite of that standard?

Nothing makes it "better" than any other standard. The official platinum metre isn't "better" than the official kilogram; but it's the standard for measuring metre-sticks. In some sense it is arbitrary — i.e., from the outside, God could have created something else. But once he's created it, then that's the way it is.

If by "opposite", you mean why didn't God create some sort of anti-human-nature, who knows? Maybe there's a Bizarro-Superman universe out there where beating other people up is something good (and tickling them is torture) — that's fine, they have a different nature, so their moral rules will be different from ours.

(cont)

Mr. Green said...

(cont)

what if I wish to go to hell? Then it would be completely rational to do the opposite.

Any action will be rational, or not, relative to a specific goal, yes. If you want your teeth to fall out, then it's "rational" not to brush them, insofar as that is the logical conclusion of never brushing your teeth. But in the wider sense, it is not rational, because it is not rational to want your teeth to fall out in the first place. Similarly, it's not rational to want to go to Hell — understanding Hell not as some cartoony barbeque where God "sends" you, but rather the state you will find yourself in if you violate your nature badly enough [just as "toothless" is the state you will be in if you abuse your teeth enough].

If God creates something that achieves a task perfectly, and that task is sending you to eternal torture and pain, just because that amuses him, is that then good?

Now we can answer this: there's no moral sense of "good" that applies to God's creation here, because there is no standard He is acting against. We could use "good" to mean "God is acting in a way that is good for, i.e. in accordance with, your nature." And in that sense, it would be "good", because that's exactly what the example says. The catch, of course, is that "eternal torture" sounds bad to us, but that's only because our nature is not created for eternal torture. If that were my nature, if I were born into Bizarro World or the Addams family, then of course I would enjoy eternal torture, precisely because it fulfills my nature.

I think that rational thought is entirely dependent upon what axioms you wish to use.

Again, to a point. We can say, "If spacetime is Euclidean, then XYZ follows." Relative to that "if", the conclusion is true. Except spacetime isn't Euclidean, so the conclusion actually is false. We can pick our axioms in the sense of putting whatever we want in the "if", but since certain things — like spacetime or human nature — are givens over which we have no control, we have to accept the facts, or we will only be "relatively rational", which in the long run, is relatively irrational.

185346 said...

Mr. Green:

"But that question assumes there is something else beyond, against which we can measure the morality of that task — which doesn't make sense; it's like asking how we can measure the official platinum metre-stick in Paris (well, when it was the standard!) — it is standard, you measure other things against it, not it against something else."

Right; an arbitrary standard, though.

"Nothing makes it "better" than any other standard. The official platinum metre isn't "better" than the official kilogram; but it's the standard for measuring metre-sticks. In some sense it is arbitrary — i.e., from the outside, God could have created something else. But once he's created it, then that's the way it is."

I think that the meter stick is perhaps a more apt analogy than you intended. Certainly, once we've chosen the length of the meter stick, it is the standard. However, choosing that particular length for the meter stick was a completely arbitrary choice. This is my point exactly. Humans setting the length of the meter is exactly as arbitrary as God setting the moral standard. No more, no less. How else could it be?


"The hammer, though, has a nature it is supposed to conform to, and by (freely) failing to do so, it is acting immorally."

Why is it supposed to, though? Why should it conform to its nature? Why is that morally superior?



"If by "opposite", you mean why didn't God create some sort of anti-human-nature, who knows? Maybe there's a Bizarro-Superman universe out there where beating other people up is something good (and tickling them is torture) — that's fine, they have a different nature, so their moral rules will be different from ours."

This just seems to cement the arbitrary nature of morality. So, according to this hypothetical universe, we are the moral bizarros. We are anti-[their nature]. Who is objectively correct in this case? Us, or them? And if you say each according to their nature, then why so? Why is acting according to one's nature morally superior?



"But in the wider sense, it is not rational, because it is not rational to want your teeth to fall out in the first place."

Why not? Suppose I take as an axiom that I want my teeth to fall out, or that I want to go to hell. I don't believe that you can prove that I am acting irrationally, because to do so, you would have to demonstrate a contradiction in my reasoning somewhere. However, if I take as an axiom that I want my teeth to fall out, then you can't in any sense prove that I am acting irrationally by not brushing my teeth, because my reasoning is perfect according to my axiom(s). If I were to take good care of my teeth, *then* I would be acting irrationally, because it would violate one of my axioms.



"Now we can answer this: there's no moral sense of "good" that applies to God's creation here, because there is no standard He is acting against. We could use "good" to mean "God is acting in a way that is good for, i.e. in accordance with, your nature." And in that sense, it would be "good", because that's exactly what the example says. The catch, of course, is that "eternal torture" sounds bad to us, but that's only because our nature is not created for eternal torture. If that were my nature, if I were born into Bizarro World or the Addams family, then of course I would enjoy eternal torture, precisely because it fulfills my nature."

So, to boil this down a little bit more. What if God were to create something whose nature it is specifically to violate your nature? Would this be good or bad?

185346 said...

(cont.)

"Again, to a point. We can say, "If spacetime is Euclidean, then XYZ follows." Relative to that "if", the conclusion is true. Except spacetime isn't Euclidean, so the conclusion actually is false. We can pick our axioms in the sense of putting whatever we want in the "if", but since certain things — like spacetime or human nature — are givens over which we have no control, we have to accept the facts, or we will only be "relatively rational", which in the long run, is relatively irrational."

Specifically: "Except spacetime isn't Euclidean"

Prove it.

I could agree with something like "If our senses are accurate, then spacetime isn't Euclidean." One thing that I've noticed on this blog that is poked at is the idea that Empiricism is superior to other forms of inquiry. Although I believe that Empiricism has great benefits (empirically speaking, of course), I would agree that Empiricism cannot be proven to be superior.

With that in mind, again, I would say that rational thought is entirely dependent upon what you presume. Reason is merely the framework that one builds upon the foundation of the axioms that they choose. Building upside down or crosswise to somebody else's framework isn't inherently better or worse than building in accordance with them.

Out of interest in the subject, I went looking online in regards to a subject that I've been wondering about for a while, whether or not one can divide by zero, if one chooses to accept as an axiom that one can. It turns out that, yes, one can definitely construct a mathematical system in which one can divide by zero. In fact, it seems that much of our mathematical frameworks rely on simply picking the axiom that 1 != 0. This then rules out dividing by zero. It probably wouldn't be very useful to construct a system in which one could divide by zero; it is not something that one, in principle, would be unable to accomplish, however. This is exactly what I mean. If one chooses one's axioms as they will, one will arrive at any possible conclusion.

185346 said...

Will:

"God, whose necessity is identical with Goodness, only ever wills for us to do what is consistent with our nature. As Feser puts it in Aquinas: 'What is objectively good and what God wills for us as morally obligatory are just the same thing considered under different descriptions'."

Define "Goodness".

Why would God only ever will for us to do what is consistent with our nature? What if he doesn't want us to act in accordance with our nature anymore?

Why is what is "good" and what God wills for us the same? And why is that objectively so? Just defining them to be so doesn't answer any questions.

Will said...

@185346:

'Just defining them to be so doesn't answer any questions.'

It is not an attempt to settle the matter by terminological fiat; rather, the point follows of metaphysical necessity from the convertibility of the transcendentals.

Define "Goodness".

Briefly, since God is Being Itself, He is simple. It follows that when we speak of Him as being powerful, intelligent, good, etc., we are not describing discrete features; they are just different ways of referring to Being Itself.

Basically, Being = actuality = perfection = desirability = goodness. See Aquinas' demonstration in Summa I,5,1, 'Whether Goodness really differs from Being':
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1005.htm#article1

Why would God only ever will for us to do what is consistent with our nature?

What if he doesn't want us to act in accordance with our nature anymore?

Why is what is "good" and what God wills for us the same? And why is that objectively so?


Divine simplicity entails that God just IS perfect goodness, which just IS the divine will, which just IS immutable and necessary being, so there can be no question of God's willing something contrary to our nature, or of his will being arbitrary.

With respect, the reason your 'objections' are just questions is that you are ignorant of the requisite knowledge of Thomist ontology. I don't have the time to explain it all, and there are others who will do a much better job anyway. Chapter 10 ('Of God's Will and Love')of Garrigou-Lagrange's 'REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought' will help:
http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm#10

DNW said...

185346 said...

"Mr. Green: ...


However, choosing that particular length for the meter stick was a completely arbitrary choice. This is my point exactly. Humans setting the length of the meter is exactly as arbitrary as God setting the moral standard. No more, no less. How else could it be?"


185346, you should probably define at least for yourself, what you mean by "arbitrary". Certainly you are aware that the meter was an attempt to arrive at something approaching a natural, geophysical standard.

Perhaps the selection of one ten-millionth the equator to pole distance [and its gradual refinement and stipulation] was arbitrary in the sense that there is a logical possibility some other natural feature could have originally been selected such as the king's foot or thumb. But it is certainly not arbitrary in the sense of someone blindly creating a snippet of string behind their back, and then declaring it as the linear measure of all things.

One instance attempts to establish a reference based on some notion of a naturally significant proportionality such as a carpenter's measure or the earth; the other on a whimsey striving to reach a relatively random and nonrelational result.

If all you mean by arbitrary is, "not logically necessitated", then most everything to which we refer is in some sense arbitrary.

Similarly, you might want to revisit you own conception of the idea of the "good".

An etymological dictionary might be a useful place to start, as it would give you an idea of what other, perhaps naive people, meant, when they used the term historically.

As it is, you seem to be seeking to define good as only being "objectively" meaningful if it can be successfully defined from a position outside of its frame of reference and application. [And what can you possibly intend by "objective" if you do not mean something like intersubjectively ascertainable? Do you mean from a god's-eye viewpoint beyond a God?]

So, when, after reviewing the naive or root definitions, you then choose as you seemingly do, to ask why that which gathers together or sustains something in being, is any better than nothing at all, you will have redefined your own premisses, or as you have described them, arbitrary axioms.

How, and in what sense they are self-refuting and incoherent as I suggest they are, is another matter.

185346 said...

DNW:

"Perhaps the selection of one ten-millionth the equator to pole distance [and its gradual refinement and stipulation] was arbitrary in the sense that there is a logical possibility some other natural feature could have originally been selected such as the king's foot or thumb."

Exactly.

"If all you mean by arbitrary is, "not logically necessitated", then most everything to which we refer is in some sense arbitrary."

Again, I would agree with this statement. I have been arguing against a standard of morality that is logically necessitated. Establishing that there is a moral standard that is logically necessitated is the crux of what I am assuming everyone else has been trying to do.


"But it is certainly not arbitrary in the sense of someone blindly creating a snippet of string behind their back, and then declaring it as the linear measure of all things."

Certainly, the meter stick was a better choice, *for a given purpose*. It more than likely better served our purposes than blindly choosing a length of string. So, relative to our needs, one could argue that the meter stick was absolutely a better choice. But that's still absolutely relative to a given situation.

This is what I have been trying to point out. There is not an absolute measuring stick that is inherently superior to all other measuring sticks, for all situations. There are only measuring sticks that are superior, given a particular situation.


"Similarly, you might want to revisit you own conception of the idea of the "good"."

I have, and I have found what I had originally thought about it to be wanting. I had assumed that there could be something objectively "good". I have not yet found a satisfactory answer to the question of what could be considered objectively "good".

Also, every definition that I have ever heard of it, it either presumed an absolute moral standard, or was simply defined to be relative to a given situation. The latter definition I would agree with, and the prior definition is what I'm trying to point out assumes something that isn't necessarily true.

"As it is, you seem to be seeking to define good as only being "objectively" meaningful if it can be successfully defined from a position outside of its frame of reference and application."

If something is objectively true, it is true for all cases. If you need to define something inside of a frame of reference, then it most certainly isn't objectively true, otherwise you could simply discard the frame of reference.

An example, if you will. The statement, "1 cannot be divided by zero" is not objectively true, because if I take as an axiom that 1 = 0, then it can be shown that the previous statement is in fact false, which makes it only subjectively true.

"So, when, after reviewing the naive or root definitions, you then choose as you seemingly do, to ask why that which gathers together or sustains something in being, is any better than nothing at all, you will have redefined your own premisses, or as you have described them, arbitrary axioms."

That's a good question as well. Why is something better than nothing?

I don't understand what you mean by "you will have redefined your own premises". Are you saying that I am starting with some, and that by questioning whether there are any at all, I am redefining already existing ones? That doesn't seem to be making much sense; hopefully you can illuminate what you were driving at.

185346 said...

Will:

"Basically, Being = actuality = perfection = desirability = goodness. See Aquinas' demonstration in Summa I,5,1, 'Whether Goodness really differs from Being':"

I went to the linked article. It seems to immediately falter:

"The essence of goodness consists in this, that it is in some way desirable."

So, right off the bat, goodness is something that is entirely arbitrary. Things don't have inherent desirability. Desirability is relative to a given situation.


"Divine simplicity entails that God just IS perfect goodness, which just IS the divine will, which just IS immutable and necessary being, so there can be no question of God's willing something contrary to our nature, or of his will being arbitrary.

With respect, the reason your 'objections' are just questions is that you are ignorant of the requisite knowledge of Thomist ontology. I don't have the time to explain it all, and there are others who will do a much better job anyway. Chapter 10 ('Of God's Will and Love')of Garrigou-Lagrange's 'REALITY—A Synthesis Of Thomistic Thought' will help: http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/reality.htm#10"

I am unimpressed by the source that you give.

"Divine intelligence, knowing the Supreme Being, cannot be conceived without divine will, which loves the good, pleases itself in good."

Perhaps I am ignorant of the argument that demonstrates this, but why does the Supreme Being love the good? Because it is good, as you have defined it? That's rather tautological.

Will said...

185346:
So, right off the bat, goodness is something that is entirely arbitrary.
Yet again, your objection reveals your ignorance: the objectively desirable is not the same as the subjectively desired.

You need to learn about the convertibility of the transcendentals. Read Feser's Aquinas.

DNW said...

"I don't understand what you mean by "you will have redefined your own premises". Are you saying that I am starting with some, and that by questioning whether there are any at all, I am redefining already existing ones? That doesn't seem to be making much sense; hopefully you can illuminate what you were driving at. "


After originally previewing my post, I was sidetracked by a phone call and forgot to hyphenate "redefine", as "re-define".

I did not mean to imply, as I apparently did, that you would be altering your meaning in a way that contradicted your earlier thrust.

The altering I had in mind would be that you would re-limn the boundaries of your definition more fully conscious of the logical implications of conforming to your axioms.

This would have meant that you, after reviewing the naive or primitive meaning of the term "good", had restated your definition while accounting for and despite, that primitive but substantive meaning.


This I thought, would make clear to you that you had decided to reject an historically demonstrable human use of the term "good" for a crypto-metaphysical use of your own; which, you then claim cannot be defined satisfactorily, in order to leverage a subsequent attack on metaphysics.

So, do you see what I mean by logical implications?

Your demand that the adjective "good" not be "relative" to anything else in order to be objective, means that you do not actually challenge the teleological framework of the term good, but simply reject it out of hand for an idiosyncratic use of the term of your own.

I am thinking of your questions such as this:

"Why is what is "good" and what God wills for us the same? And why is that objectively so? Just defining them to be so doesn't answer any questions."


One other observation central to your line of questioning. I think that you should give a little more thought to your use of the term "objective".

Perhaps you can explain why you are using it as a functional synonym for "absolute".

Usually people can offer for a working definition of "objective" something along the lines "inter-subjectively verifiable in principle given such and such conditions" or some such notion.

However you seem to have conceived of the term "objective" as implying an existence concept transcendent to all contexts conceivable; which would be on certain views, a self-refuting formulation.

DNW said...

"If something is objectively true, it is true for all cases. If you need to define something inside of a frame of reference, then it most certainly isn't objectively true, otherwise you could simply discard the frame of reference.

An example, if you will. The statement, "1 cannot be divided by zero" is not objectively true, because if I take as an axiom that 1 = 0, then it can be shown that the previous statement is in fact false, which makes it only subjectively true."


I'm having trouble following your shifts between analytic and synthetic propositional distinctions.

The second paragraph claims to be a falsification example demonstrating the validity of the claims you make in the first.

But in order to supposedly falsify the objective claim of the second, you simply employ an analytic redefinition.

You are using an analytic example to buttress your supposedly empirical concept of the meaning of "objective" are you not?

185346 said...

DNW:

So, if I understand you correctly, you're saying that my statement about objectiveness follows from the definition, whereas my example is inherent in the definition? And that I'm simply changing the definition of the example to make it true?

If so, then I would disagree with that statement. We already take as an axiom that 1 != 0. From there, it can be shown that 1/0 is undefined. However, it is not inherent from the definition; it requires proof, given the axioms that we employ. So, the statement is already synthetic, not analytical. I'm simply pointing out that if we take a different axiom, such as that 1 can be or is equal to 0, then dividing by zero follows from that. Either way, it should still be synthetic.

185346 said...

Will:

"...the objectively desirable is not the same as the subjectively desired."

I would argue that there couldn't be such a thing as objectively desirable. For something to be objectively desirable, it would have to be desirable in all theoretically possible situations. Can you give me an example of something that matches that criteria?


"You need to learn about the convertibility of the transcendentals."

So, I looked this up. Here is one source that I found:
http://maritain.nd.edu/jmc/etext/cp21.htm

I understand what you mean by convertibility of the transcendentals. If something has one property, then it can be said to have the other transcendental properties. For the sake of argument, I'll accept that statement. However, there is still a giant problem. You declare that Good is a transcendental property. Well then, what is Good? At least for the source that I found, Good is simply defined as being completely relative (i.e., in terms of desirability, which as I'm saying above, is nothing if not subjective).

So basically, all you've done is say that one transcendental property is X, where is X is defined as desirability. This does not provide an objective definition, merely a subjective one. Whether or not you can convert other transcendental properties to that is irrelevant. You're still basing a moral standard on something that is entirely subjective.

Mr. Green said...

185346: I think that the meter stick is perhaps a more apt analogy than you intended. Certainly, once we've chosen the length of the meter stick, it is the standard. However, choosing that particular length for the meter stick was a completely arbitrary choice. This is my point exactly. Humans setting the length of the meter is exactly as arbitrary as God setting the moral standard.

As DNW points out, it's not "arbitrary" as in "capricious". God's decision to create human beings, as opposed to Martians or Lilliputians, is free. But I don't understand what distinction you're trying to get at, like trying to stir up a dichotomy where none exists. Yes, God is the one who gets to define human nature, that's the point, so what?

Why is it supposed to, though? Why should it conform to its nature? Why is that morally superior?

Because that's what moral superiority means. A hammer that strikes nails well is a good hammer. A screwdriver that drives screws well is a good screwdriver. A human being who does human-stuff well is a good human. It's all the same type of "goodness", it's just that humans have free will about what they do and hammers and screwdrivers don't. That's an important difference, so we have special words to refer to goodness (and badness) as applied to creatures with a will, and that is the terminology of morality. A good hammer is one that functions well, and if the hammer had free will about the matter, then it would be morally good for it to function well.

So, according to this hypothetical universe, we are the moral bizarros. We are anti-[their nature]. Who is objectively correct in this case? Us, or them?

That's like asking, which tool is objectively superior, the hammer or the screwdriver? Neither, they are different tools. If each one performs its proper function well, then it is a good tool. If it doesn't, then it's not. Far from making morality "arbitrary", this is what makes it objective. Human beings objectively are human. Bizarros objectively are bizarro.

Suppose I take as an axiom that I want my teeth to fall out, or that I want to go to hell. I don't believe that you can prove that I am acting irrationally, because to do so, you would have to demonstrate a contradiction in my reasoning somewhere.

The contradiction is that you are contradicting your own nature, just as using a screwdriver to hammer nails is a contradiction. (Not to mention doomed to failure.) If you have a certain nature, that simply means you are built to "work" a certain way; to try to work a different way is indeed irrational, just as it is irrational to hammer nails with a screwdriver.

So, to boil this down a little bit more. What if God were to create something whose nature it is specifically to violate your nature? Would this be good or bad?

Morally, it would be neither. You would try to follow your nature, and it would try to follow its. Now, beyond that, it would be irrational of God to do something like that — it would be like making a game with rules that weren't consistent with each other. Similarly, God couldn't want us to go against our nature, because "nature" already means "the way God does want something to be". To want us to be two different ways at the same time is irrational.

Mr. Green said...

Specifically: "Except spacetime isn't Euclidean"
Prove it.


Starlight that passes by a massive body gets deflected. But it's just an example; if you really are that suspicious of the geometry of spacetime, pick a different example! The point is that abstract reason may be free to pick and choose its axioms, but practical reason has to stick to the facts of reality, or it isn't very practical. There are facts of the matter, and what human nature actually is is one of them. You can't make yourself into a different kind of creature just by wanting to.

Establishing that there is a moral standard that is logically necessitated is the crux of what I am assuming everyone else has been trying to do.

Yes and no. There are no moral standards that are "logically necessitated" as in "follow immediately and purely from the laws of logic alone" — because from logic alone it does not even follow that any free creatures exist at all. However, if a given creature does exist, then that fact plus logic will necessitate a moral standard, because whatever nature that creature has provides the definition of its moral standards. It is contingent that that nature exists, but once it does, the rest follows by logic.

I have not yet found a satisfactory answer to the question of what could be considered objectively "good". If something is objectively true, it is true for all cases.So, right off the bat, goodness is something that is entirely arbitrary. Things don't have inherent desirability. Desirability is relative to a given situation.

I think we're running into a problem of definitions here. Desirability can indeed be said to be inherent, despite being relative to a situation. Something, say, an apple, can be desirable to a pig that wants to eat it, or to an artist who wants to paint a still life, so what is desired about the apple is relative to the one desiring. However, the apple is desirable even if at this particular moment it is not desired. The apple is able to be desired, by either the painter or the pig, because of the way the apple actually, objectively, factually is. The apple has certain properties, that are inherent to it, according to its nature, which are what make it desirable in various ways.
"Absolute" (as opposed to "relative") means that something does not depend on anything else. God is the only entity that truly and fully fits that definition. However, we can say something is "not relative" in a certain context — for instance, when speaking about morality the context usually refers to human beings, and in that sense morality is not relative because it does not depend on which human being you are. Across different kinds of creatures, morality could vary, but men are all bound by the standard of human nature (otherwise you wouldn't be a human being, you'd be some other kind of being).
"Objective" means "outside your head" (as opposed to "subjective", which applies only to a given subject). Morality is objective because the standard — human nature — is not something you made up, something particular to your mind. It is something real and "out there". (You might call it "subjective" from God's point of view since everything is "in God's mind", so to speak. That's why there is no objective moral standard for God to be under. But it's definitely objective for us.)

Thus morality is objective, and it is not relative, meaning that it is a fixed fact of reality that we cannot change, nor does it vary from person to person. Natural Law theory explains how moral standards can be grounded in God (as the creator of human nature) in a way that makes it a given, objective fact, thus agreeing with and expanding on the ordinary, common-sense view of morality.

Will said...

@185346:
You do not understand 'desire' in the relevant sense: Aquinas means that a thing desires its final cause , which is that to which it is directed by its nature . (For example, an acorn 'desires' to become an oak.) That a thing is directed towards the realisation of its good, i.e., conformity to its essence, is a necessary truth of metaphysics.

I understand what you mean by convertibility of the transcendentals.

You don't understand that they differ in sense but not in reference. If you did, you would see that something is good to the extent that it instantiates its essence.

Having, as you put it, just 'stumbled across this blog', you've got a lot of reading to do to understand some key metaphysical concepts. Even your example of a 'self-swinging hammer with free will' shows that you don't understand that will follows from intellect. Read Feser's Aquinas , or at least bother to use the search function on the blog.

Don C. said...

I read "After Virtue" in college. It was way over my head then, but the one thing that stuck with me was that we can get an "ought" from an "is" because the "ought" is part of the definition of the "is". I think this was a response to some overrated Scotsman.

StoneTop said...

"Thus morality is objective, and it is not relative, meaning that it is a fixed fact of reality that we cannot change, nor does it vary from person to person."
-Mr. Green

The evidence rather contradicts this... though there are certainly common moral themes those themes only exist because they produce stable societies (and thus are preserved) there are many different moral codes, most of which contradict each other at some point.

A good example would be the moral code of Orthodox Judaism vs the moral code of Buddhism. In Orthodox Judaism things like working on the Sabbath or cutting ones hair is immoral... while Zen Buddhism does not consider those actions to be immoral.

Another good example is the moral code of strict Vegans... who see the use of animal products, like wearing leather, as immoral (a view that many of those reading this post would probably disagree with).

Anonymous said...

StoneTop,

Are you saying that the diversity beliefs about morality is evidence that there are no objective facts about morality?

Mr. Green said...

StoneTop: "Thus morality is objective..."

The evidence rather contradicts this...


But the context was defining a moral system, not evaluating individual moral codes. In practice moral codes do differ in certain ways, but in order for them to try to be moral codes, there must be some framework of morality into which they fit. "Morality" in the ordinary sense of the word refers to an objective system, and Thomistic Natural Law theory describes such a system, one with a suitably objective and absolute ground. As to how we can know what moral code fits that system, and how to apply it, those are different questions. (Just as the existence of objective laws of physics is different from how we can find out what they are.)

StoneTop said...

"Are you saying that the diversity beliefs about morality is evidence that there are no objective facts about morality?"

-Anon

The only objective statements that can be made about morality are that humans develop codes of conduct to guide their interactions with other humans, and that different groups develop different moral codes (which includes discussion of specific moral codes).

It is like discussing value... which is subjective, even though the statement "humans have a concept called value" is an objective one.

DNW said...

StoneTop said...

"Are you saying that the diversity beliefs about morality is evidence that there are no objective facts about morality?"

-Anon

The only objective statements that can be made about morality are that humans develop codes of conduct to guide their interactions with other humans ..."


In aid of what?

StoneTop said...

Mr. Green,

That still leaves us hanging... as "humans construct moral frameworks" is an objective statement... but the frameworks themselves are still subjective (or the moral framework is defined so generally to be rendered useless).

You are also misrepresenting the "laws of physics"... the laws are just highly accurate (due to numerous trials) models of observed phenomena.

Further those models can be tested in a way that independent of the society in which a person finds themselves, while moral codes cannot similarity be tested: if I calculate the focal length of a lens and the Pope calculates the focal length of a lens we can then take the lens and test the focal length to find out who is more accurate... but the same cannot be said of "are homosexual acts immoral?"

StoneTop said...

DNW,

At its most basic level to aid in survival... in that by providing a set of rules to govern our interactions we 'know' what to expect from eachother: if you and I were to get into the same elevator we would be reasonably confident (based on prior experience and a knowledge our intersecting moral codes) that neither you nor I will try to stab the other person. As such we can both use the elevator without entering into a 'Mexican stand-off'.

Even things that may not seem to relate to direct interactions can serve to aid survival... the most obvious of which would be dress codes: a Ultra-Orthodox Jew meeting someone else who appears to follow the sect's dress code can be reasonably certain that the person they are interacting with follows their moral code.

It can even act as a signal to those who know about the moral code, but may not follow it themselves, that the person is likely to behave in a certain way: you meet a person who follows rules A, B, and C of a moral code therefore you increase the probability that the person will follow rule D of that moral code (go Bayesian Inference!)

StoneTop said...

Mr. Green,

To jump back a few posts you talk about a human being good by doing human things good (to paraphrase). And you compare this to a hammer being good because it is good for hammering.

Which makes no sense (to me). A hammers qualities can be objectively measured... while as doing human things good cannot be similarity defined.

A #2 pencil is not a good hammer... if we wanted to we could set out some nails and a board, then test if the pencil is "good" at hammering in the nails (measuring the number of strikes with the pencil it takes to get the head of the nail flush with the board perhaps).

Is a man who stones his daughter to death when he learns she is having sex outside of marriage doing human stuff good? While you would probably say no there are many who would say yes, and who would back up their claims with theological support.

travislambertwriter.com said...

I agree that a study of human nature can determine "what constitutes their flourishing" without reference to God. But on what grounds may it be asserted, apart from God, that one is morally obligated to promote human flourishing? Without moral obligation, can you really say that what constitutes human flourishing is identical to the content of morality? It seems that the very thing that makes it more than mere empirical observation, the very thing that makes it morality proper, is obligation.

StoneTop said...

But on what grounds may it be asserted, apart from God, that one is morally obligated to promote human flourishing?

One does not need to be concerned with "human flourishing" just ones own flourishing. Following a moral code, as well as encouraging others to follow the moral code helps keep an individual alive.

Without moral obligation, can you really say that what constitutes human flourishing is identical to the content of morality?

Moral obligation? Do you mean the "obligation" to act morally? In a sense we are obligated to act morally, in that if we do not act within the moral code of those around us we face a variety of negative actions by those around us.

Further since "human flourishing" is a rather nebulous term it does not always intersect with peoples moral codes.

DNW said...

Anon said:


"Are you saying that the diversity beliefs about morality is evidence that there are no objective facts about morality?"

Stonetop said:

The only objective statements that can be made about morality are that humans develop codes of conduct to guide their interactions with other humans ..."

DNW said:

In aid of what?



StoneTop said...

DNW,

At its most basic level to aid in survival... "



Yes well then, two comments from participants in this discussion.

One from persons of the school of 185346, and one from me.

From the 185346 mindset, we anticipate the rejoinder: Well, what makes survival a moral good? Or, How is survival justified as a good?


And of course from my point of view as we do concede that it is only survival that in the first place makes possible the ensuing associations with the development of those customs and rules for interaction that we call morals, nothing substantive is subsequently implied regarding who "should" be included or allowed to participate in this "system" of associations, or who, substantively, must be accorded respect or tolerance.

Nor can you infer that a value such as tolerance or support when applied to say, obviously life-incompetent persons, will produce a "better" life for yourself while these tolerance behaviors produce the more suppositionally pleasant life for those who are ex hypothesi, weaker.

The survival rule merely implies that if you or you and your allies - meaning those with whom you find associating congenial - do not have the power to win a social war, prudence will dictate behavioral restraint.

And plenty of people are fine with leaving it at that.

Some, like Garry Wills for example, have tried to make the civil trust argument that you have edged toward.

But they do not predicate this civil identification and trust as a good based merely on individual survival, but rather upon a more sketchy line of argument suggesting its utility in facilitating the increased production of other supposed personal and social goods and conveniences; a production and enjoyment which might or might not actually redound to the benefit of any particular person making a sacrifice of self-interest.

Basically, I would imagine that someone staking out your position would have to admit that if some such X person had the power to rid himself of Y without endangering his own survival or irremediably disrupting his relations with people he likes better, then the action would not be objectively immoral in any coherent sense of the term "immoral".

If then, taking this line of reasoning, the majority of a population agree it's OK to burn "witches" or homosexuals at the stake, and they do not lose so many potential computer scientists or lab technicians while doing so that it endangers their own survival, then it is OK to do so.

Or, at least, not "objectively" immoral.

Anonymous said...

StoneTop,

You misread my question: "Are you saying that the diversity beliefs about morality is evidence that there are no objective facts about morality?"

I wasn't asking you what you believe. I was asking why you believe it. It's a non-sequitur to say that "Beliefs about X vary, therefore, there are no objective facts about X exist," but I can't see that you've offered any other argument.

StoneTop said...

I wasn't asking you what you believe. I was asking why you believe it. It's a non-sequitur to say that "Beliefs about X vary, therefore, there are no objective facts about X exist," but I can't see that you've offered any other argument.

Err, yes I did...

I did not claim that there were no objective facts about morality... that we are discussing morality is an objective fact.

Another way to look at it...

Are there objective facts about Star Wars? Yes... but that does not mean that there are Jedi out there.

Anonymous said...

"Are there objective facts about Star Wars? Yes... but that does not mean that there are Jedi out there." <--- Except that no one is trying to prove there are Jedi by saying that there are objective facts about Star Wars. It doesn't follow from the fact that there people who believe there are objective facts about Star Wars that they also must believe that there are in fact Jedi in existence. One can believe believe one while not accepting the other. - Mark

Ben said...

Dr. Feser, you wrote: "Furthermore, for A-T, a complete account of moral obligation requires reference to God as legislator (even if moral obligation can proximately be explained by reference to the natural end of the will)."

What exactly do you mean by "legislator" here? Are you referring to the fact that morality is grounded in an immanent teleology, and that such teleology requires God, or are you referring to an independent feature of morality -- its obligation, or incumbency, or weightiness -- which would be an independent premise on which to argue for God's existence (i.e. besides efficient causality and final causality)?