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What Are the Flaws of Moral Relativism? – Part 2

Post Author:  Darrell

Re-post from Aug. 4, 2010

According to Beckwith and Koukl, the second fatal flaw of Moral Relativism is as follows: Relativists are incapable of complaining about the problem of evil.   The problem of evil is commonly used by atheists to argue against the existence of God. The argument is often structured as follows:

1)      An all powerful God would be capable of stopping evil.

2)      An all good God would want to stop evil.

3)      However, evil still exists.

4)      Therefore, an all powerful and all good God does not exist.

The problem for the relativist is that this entire argument rests upon the third premise: the fact that true evil exists. The worldview of the moral relativist makes the existence of true evil impossible.  The existence of true objective evil is wholly contingent upon the existence of true objective morality.  If morality is dependent upon what an individual and/or community believes, then that which is evil is also wholly dependent upon what an individual and/or community believes.  In other words, there is no true objective evil for God to stop, for evil only exists in the minds of the individuals or community!

Flaw Number Three: Relativists cannot place blame or accept praise.  To the moral relativist, there are no external standards by which actions can be measured. However, both blame and praise necessarily require an external standard.  Praising or blaming someone for something implies that their actions are either right or wrong as compared to an objective external standard of right or wrong. For example, placing blame upon an individual for stealing your car implies that stealing is an objectively immoral action. However, if the morality of theft is dependent upon what an individual believes to be appropriate, then we have no external standard by which to judge the thief’s actions. Perhaps they believe stealing is acceptable, and as such, we are in no position to place blame upon them for doing something that is morally appropriate to them. The same thing can be said for praising someone. Giving someone praise for something implies that they did well when compared to an objective external standard of right or good. The moral relativist is unable to do this because to them no such standard exists.

Stay tuned! Flaws four and five will be coming in the next post.


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Comments

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    The second fatal flaw is itself fatally flawed. Here’s why:

    If the third premise fails because there is no objective evil, then there can be no objective good either. If there is no objective good, there cannot be an all good and all powerful God. Therefore, Koukl and Beckenwith must concede that there is no God in order to criticize the theodicy-based arguments for the non-existence of God.

    If this sounds silly, that’s because it is. Koukl and Beckenwith’s error is easily demonstrated by spelling out a couple of unstated premises.

    u1) If an all good God exists, that which is good is truly good.

    u2) If that which is good is truly good, that which is evil is truly evil.

    1) An all powerful God would be capable of stopping evil.

    2) An all good God would want to stop evil.

    3) However, evil still exists.

    4) Therefore, an all powerful and all good God does not exist.

    The fatal flaw has disappeared and the problem for the theist remains.

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer

    1. If the third premise fails because there is no objective evil, then there can be no objective good either. If there is no objective good, there cannot be an all good and all powerful God. Therefore, Koukl and Beckenwith must concede that there is no God in order to criticize the theodicy-based arguments for the non-existence of God.
    If this sounds silly, that’s because it is. Koukl and Beckenwith’s error is easily demonstrated by spelling out a couple of unstated premises.
    u1) If an all good God exists, that which is good is truly good.
    u2) If that which is good is truly good, that which is evil is truly evil.
    1) An all powerful God would be capable of stopping evil.
    2) An all good God would want to stop evil.
    3) However, evil still exists.
    4) Therefore, an all powerful and all good God does not exist.
    The fatal flaw has disappeared and the problem for the theist remains.

    Vinney, as long as we are multiplying premises, I would have to add at least 1 more for the non-theist position to be compelling. I would put it as

    2.5) Every event that can or will happen is now in the past, and static equilibrium has been achieved.

    If that is granted, and premise 3 is granted as true (and it is) then and only then is conclusion 4) upheld.

    If 2.5) is not maintained then the conclusion 4) is not proven.

    If I understand correctly, the Jewish position would be that the action of “God Stopping Evil” and correspondingly setting all to rights, exists in a future “Day of the Lord”

    The Christian position would be more that we are now in that time of change, and the process will be completed.

    Thoughts about why the supposed God (who I affirm, as you probably inferred) chooses to do it this way are beyond the scope of a brief post, although there has fuller treatment on here before. But suffice it to say that just arguing “Why would he wait until ce2010?” won’t do.
    A God who would so “set things to right” and abolish actual evil, not just prevent its occurrence a priori, must do so at a definite point (or period) of time. There must of necessity be some time before, during and after any such change.

    There is no reason in logic, only my own preference, that we should live in the 3rd portion of that time line rather than one of the other two.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Eric,

    I agree that my additions do not make the argument from evil airtight. I am not sure that yours would either. but I would have to give it more thought. I think Koukl’s objection is nonsensical though.

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer

    I ceertainly agree that my argument does not prove the existance of God. The only thing it does is nock the props out of the counter-argument, that the presence of evil positively disallows the existance of a God that is described as both all-good and all powerfull

    As such, I think the anti-god argument from evil is worthless. It only can satisfy those who already are convinced, logic-be-damned.
    Truth, however it falls, needs more durable stuff.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Eric,

    That sounds like typical apologetic claptrap to me. You only seem to recognize two possibilities: (1) the argument from evil “positively disallows” the existence of God, or (2) the argument from evil is “worthless.” How sad that all the philosophers and theologians who have struggled with the issue going all the way back to Job did not recognize how obvious the answer was.

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com rericsawyer

    Vinny, you seem to think that I say ANY argument against God, based on the presence of evil, is just silly; and further, that for me to hold such a position would show great arrogance, given that the issue has been wrestled with far less certainty by me betters.

    I agree with half of that. For me to proclaim that the answers were obvious, when others have found them elusive would be such a strange thing as to require explanation. Claiming some special insight, or a superior wisdom is about the least likely solution.

    But I do not agree with the first part of the statement; because I reject as shortsighted the “Epicurean argument” (or so I’ve understood it to be called), please do not think that there is nothing about the existence of evil that gives me pause. Because this one train is poorly reasoned does not imply for a moment that there are not other, vastly more powerful arguments derived from the existence of evil which could be brought to bear. There are.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Eric,

    When you write “As such, I think the anti-God argument from evil is worthless (emphasis added),” I don’t see any reason to interpret that as “As such, I think this particular formulation of anti-God argument from evil is worthless.” Moreover, your stated reason for assessing it as worthless is that it does not “positively disallow the existence of God,” which strikes me as silly. If an argument must be airtight in order to have any worth, then we might as well abandon philosophy altogether because very few arguments reach that level of certainty.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    I find your assertion against Kouki and Beckwith illogical.

    Kouki and Beckenwith are not arguing against the Theodicy argument here (although they might do so elsewhere in their works). Rather, they are arguing that a Relativist cannot make use of the Theodicy argument because the assumptions of the Relativist worldview are inconsistent with the premises of the Theodicy Argument.

    Your additional premises don’t actually improve the argument at all.

    To illustrate, let’s take the negative version. We are going to begin by applying the conclusion as the first premise. So, Premise (0) Is God does not exist.

    Assume Premise (u1) is true, and not only false but strongly true. So, that we rephrase premise (u1) as follows: “If, and only if, A good God exists, that which is Good is truly good.” This makes God’s existence both a necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of truly Good and Truly Evil phenomenon.

    Since God does not exist, there is no truly Good phenomenon. And, taking the strong form of premise (u2), there is no true evil either.

    Premises (1) and (2) are hypothetical conditionals, so we skip them. (Although, if I were offering a refutation of the argument, I would point out that those two premises are flawed in themselves.)

    Premsie (3) is presented as a factual assumption. Premise (3) says that evil exists. But our cumulative conclusion from (u1) and (u2) says that true evil does not exist. It is quite obvious that both statements are in direct contradiction.

    This is the fatal falw and Kouki and Beckenwith are trying to point out. This particular flaw does not affect the argument per se, but it affects the argument of an atheist who is also a relativist.

    In order to be consistent with relativism, which asserts that there is no true good or true evil, the relativist is compelled to adopt the stronger forms of premises (u1) and (u2), which results in the contradiction identified above.

    An atheist who is an objectivist, conversely, may avoid the problem by using the weaker versions of (u1) and (u2), whereby the conditions are merely sufficient, and not necessary. In which case, the theological counter-argument would be with premises (1) and (2), which Eric points out.

    P.S.: I used philosophical terms in this post because I assume that you know philosophy. If you don’t understand them, feel free to clarify.

  • Raphael Wong

    Correction: for para 4 -> “Assume that premise (u1) is not only true, but strongly true.”

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    By Koukl and Beckwith’s reasoning, neither they nor any other theist they can ever take the negative version of the argument because the non-existence of God is inconsistent with their worldview. Therefore they are incapable of criticizing the internal inconsistency of the relativist position.

  • Maury

    Wow. To the atheist, you are asking the wrong question… The question is NOT why does an ALL good and ALL powerful God allow evil; the question is why has an ALL good and ALL powerful God NOT allowed you to feel His full wrath for sin? Relativists claim that morals are man made when in truth it is evil that is man made and we should ALL be eternally greatful that the one true ALL good and ALL powerful God is also merciful and forgiving and with holding His judgement until His appointed time.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    By your reasoning of Kouki and Beckenwith’s reasoning, neither you or any other atheist can ever take the positive version of the argument because the existence of God is inconsistent with your worldview (assuming of course that you are an atheist of the New Atheist variety). Therefore you are incapable of criticizing the internal inconsistency of the theist position.

    If you think that the above paragraph is idiotic, I agree completely with you; and this should demonstrate how illogical your assessment of Kouki and Beckenwith’s argument is.

    In fact, as per Darrell’s review, Kouki and Beckenwith seem to exactly have taken the negative version in order to critique the argument. So, your assertion that they cannot ever take the negative version is … somewhat puzzling, to say the least.

    Perhaps, you would like to clarify?

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    According to you, K&B “are arguing that a Relativist cannot make use of the Theodicy argument because the assumptions of the Relativist worldview are inconsistent with the premises of the Theodicy Argument.” By the same reasoning, a theist cannot make use of an argument in which the non-existence of God is a premise because that premise is inconsistent with the the assumptions of the theistic world view. I do think that K&B’s argument is idiotic. I don’t think that anyone is precluded by their own world view from critiquing the internal consistency of any other world view.

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com DagoodS

    Koukl has three (3) problems.

    (1) We need to fully understand the different definitions being employed here. A relativist defines “evil” or immorality as “a breach of a moral code.” The absolutist defines “evil” or immorality as “a breach of an objective moral code.” (Normally “objective” meaning absolute. There is an argument even relativistic systems have objective morals—but I am trying to utilize the language of the authors.)

    See the difference?

    Relativist: breach of moral code.
    Objectivist: breach of objective code.

    Therefore, the Objectivist states, “Ha!—you can’t declare anything ‘evil’ because (by definition) ‘evil’ has to mean there is an objective code, and you don’t have one. Because I defined ‘evil’ in such a way to keep you out of the game.”

    Relativist still have “evil”—they just don’t utilize what an objectivist calls an “objective code.” (Again I am being pretty fast and loose here with terminology, which will come back to bite me in the butt, I am sure. I am attempting to communicate rather than bog this down in a philosophical dictionary.)

    Therefore, trying to declare, by definition fiat, that relativists do not have “evil” is a mere semantical assertion. Our definitions differ—once we understand that, the conversation progresses more profitably.

    We still have “evil.” We still can demonstrate a breach of our ethical code.

    (2) Humorously, that doesn’t even matter, because the argument (as good as the argument is) still works because the objectivist believes there is evil. We can slightly modify it to say, “For the sake of argument, we agree there is evil that is a breach of an objective code” in premise 3 and be left with the same position. Or is some objectivist theist going to argue premise 3 is incorrect? *wink*

    One can demonstrate an opposing position is illogical by granting all of the premises and show that one premise contradicts another, or can grant all the premises and demonstrate the conclusion (that the opposing position may not agree with) logically follows.

    (3) Even more funny is that this is not really an argument against God’s existence! At best it is an argument against a particular God—i.e. one that is both all-powerful AND solely moral. A God could easily still exist that is all-powerful, but not solely moral, or one that is solely moral but not all-powerful, or one that is neither all-powerful nor solely moral.

    All this demonstrates is a conflict between a theistic claim for two particular characteristics of a God. As if to say, “Our God is married and a bachelor.” We would say, “No such God exists. A God that is married can exist. A God that is a bachelor can exist. But not one that is both.” In the same way, once a theist admits evil exits, this becomes hard to square with an all-powerful, all-good God. (The Epicurean Question) But not every God.

    As to the third flaw listed—this is the same definitional difference mentioned above. (In fact, every flaw listed so far is simply an attempt to impose the Objective definition of evil on relativism. Merely stating it in three different ways.)

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com DagoodS

    Whoops. I wish we could edit comments. I meant to say:

    See the difference?

    Relativist: breach of moral code.
    Objectivist: breach of objective moral code.

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer

    Maury, I agree with you, of course. But it is a question of which truth we hold as “given” and then look at the consequences of that thought.

    The argument Bill quoted originally could perhaps be restated something like

    “Given the existence of real evil, how can an all good and all powerful God exist?”

    Yours (perhaps even more appropriately) may be stated

    “Given the existence of an all good and all powerful God, how can I exist?”

    Unfortunately, absent what we Christians may call “the quickening of the Holy Spirit” and resultant palpable sense of our own sin, such arguments sound pretty meaningless, because the initial “given” is the item on the table for examination.

    If I understand Vinney correctly, part of his objection to me and other theists is that this position, ‘God being on the table for inspection’ is to us so upside-down and offensive that we are unable to detach enough to make any objective sense. It is a powerful objection!

    I think that one of the points of the Incarnation is that the Godhead deigned to come low enough to be examined, to of His own will lower himself enough to step onto our examination table. And thus, many people, even non-christians, approve of Jesus. The final results of that examination say more even about humanity than about God, but that is more of an ‘in-house’ discussion.

    =============
    Vinney, no, I have no formal philosophy at all, just trying to pick up the shorthand as I go. What little “logic” I did receive academically, was strictly limited to applying Boolean algebra to computer circuits.
    I want to take some time to digest your points, it is a long way from automatic to me, and this work day promises to have its fill. Back to you as soon as I can, unless others do it better before.

  • Maury

    This dialogue will continue ad infinitum in a relativist cycle. Stop flexing your collective intelectual muscles because you are greatly obscuring the obvious. Relativisim is nothing more than MAN trying to justify HIS actions to asuage HIS guilt so that HE does not have to accept responsibility for HIS own immoral actions. WE (myself included) are ALL equally guilty of evil and immorallity and the thought of being held accountable is not easy to bear but none the less we (myself included) ALL will be.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Maury,

    Happily for me, if there is a God, it is He who will judge my motives and not you.

    More importantly, if there is a God, my intellectual muscles are a gift from Him. If there is any truth in the parable of the talents, then I have to think that I am better off exercising that gift to the best of my ability rather than burying it in the ground even though I run the risk of being wrong.

    Eric,

    I do not believe that any world view necessarily renders its holder incapable of detaching enough to make objective sense. I know both theists and atheists/agnostics with a marvelous capacity to apply an outsider’s perspective to their own positions. By the same token, I know both atheists and theists who seem incapable of thinking critically about their own positions.

  • http://rericsawyer.wordpress.com R. Eric Sawyer

    Thank you. Although not fatal, I do believe it is an objection with some teeth. Of course, it will bite either way!

  • Maury

    Vinny,

    Happily I will not be the one judging you either! Nor am I asking anyone to NOT think critically about anything but I firmly believe that there is a time and place for deep intellectual thought and criticism but also a time for simplicity as well. What concerns me is that too often we get bogged down in circular dialogues and miss seeing the forest for the trees. The culture in which we live today like it or not does not want to accept responsibility for its actions. It is always someone else’s fault. Example, lady spills coffee in her lap – McDonald’s fault; overweight kids – toys in kids meals fault; guy rapes a girl – her fault because of her attire. See my point?

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    And you have just made my point for me. :D

    DaGoodS,

    (1-6) In Summary, all the relativist can say is that “evil” is a breach of an ethical code held by any one individual. By that token, though, the relativist disqualifies himself/herself from critiquing other people’s actions. So, other people’s actions might be “evil” by the relativist’s personal ethical code, but they are “good” by those people’s ethical codes.

    In this way, the relativist is barred from compelling a change in other people’s moral behaviour because those people can always argue that such behaviour is “good” by their moral codes.

    So, the objectivist can acknowledge that the Relativist has a concept of evil, but still argue that the concept is toothless or useless because it is non-prescriptive.

    Semantic problem solved, and relativism still has a problem to deal with.

    (7) Whether an objectivist theist will claim that premise 3 is incorrect is irrelevant to whether the argument is logical or not. The actual truth of any argument’s premises does not affect the logic – at least the formal logic – of the argument.

    Incidentally, before you are too smug, I will say that I will be willing to argue that premise 3 is incorrect. Or, in more technical terminology: Evil has a mental degree of existence, but no real degree of existence, because it is the mere negation of good.

    So you have found your first objective theist who is wiling to argue against premise (3).

    (9) Before you snigger too much (the typical arrogance of atheists), consider that there is a semantical problem here. That is obvious in the atheist’s enjoyment of tagging an article “a” to the word “God”. But under theism, “God” refers to something different from “god”. By ignoring the distinction, the atheist makes a category error of the same kind you allege objectivists make of relativists.

    The core essence of God is Being, and this implies all the other characteristics that are prefixed with “all-” or “omni-”. Any god that does not exhibit any of these characteristics would only be partial being.

    “A God” wouldn’t be “God”.

    If God exists, evil must exist, because the existence of the Presence of God implies the existence of the absence of God, and that absence is evil.

    If you wish, I can elaborate more on this argument.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Maury,

    Of your examples, I am with you on the rapist being responsible for his actions regardless of the woman’s choice of attire. Regarding McDonald’s, I’m not sure things are so clear cut. A restaurant that operates a drive-through window is counting on the fact that its customers are going to drink their coffee while they are driving. I don’t think it unreasonable to hold McDonald’s responsible for serving coffee at a temperature that won’t cause third degree burns. As far as overweight children go, we generally don’t hold children to the same level of responsibility as adults when it comes to the choices they make. I don’t think it unreasonable to limit the ability of corporations to exploit the stupidity of parents to the detriment of their children.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    If your point was that K&B’s argument is idiotic, then I am happy to have helped.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    LOL!

    My point was that “I don’t think that anyone is precluded by their own world view from critiquing the internal consistency of any other world view.”

    Thus, your view of K&B being idiotic is idiotic and contradictory of your own approach.

  • http://sandwichesforsale.blogspot.com DagoodS

    Raphael Wong,

    Noted. I will utilize the term “God” rather than “A God” if you find that offensive or “sniggering.” It has to do with how I talk more than any type of snobbery.

    The argument would be, then: “God having the characteristics of all-powerful and all-good appears contradictory in the light of evil existing. God may have the characteristic of all-powerful but not all-good; God may have the characteristic of all-good but not all powerful; or God may not have either characteristic. Yet God could still exist.”

    Raphael Wong: Evil has a mental degree of existence, but no real degree of existence, because it is the mere negation of good.
    .
    I see a problem with this. Since you appreciate philosophical terms, do you mind if I avoid the terms “evil” and “good” and utilize “immoral” and “moral”? Thank you.

    There are four types of action:

    1) Moral – conforms to moral code;
    2) Immoral – violates moral code;
    3) Non-moral – irrelevant to moral code; and
    4) Amoral – not cognizant of a moral code.

    The fourth type—amoral—has to do with an action by an infant or incompetent person. Someone who is not mentally capable of understanding the moral consequences of their action. The third type has to do with a decision where there is no moral consequence. The traditional example is picking the color of your socks. It is a decision, but not one entailing a moral code.

    The problem with stating immorality is the absence of morality, is that it fails to differentiate between the last three types of action. Picking my sock color is absent of morality, too. Is it therefore immoral? A six-year-old who unties their shoe after mom asked them not to is an action absent of morality—is it immoral?

    It would seem ALL actions that are not moral (or, if you prefer the term “good”), even if neutral or mentally deficient, must be categorized as equally immoral (if you prefer—“evil”) as an immoral act.

    Immorality has to be (in my opinion) more than just the absence of morality.

    Raphael Wong: If God exists, evil must exist, because the existence of the Presence of God implies the existence of the absence of God, and that absence is evil.
    .
    If you could explain, it would be helpful.

    Here is where I have difficulty. In a previous paragraph, you indicated the core essence of God is Being. Wouldn’t the absence of God necessarily imply the absence of Being? And if evil is the absence of God, wouldn’t it equally be absent of Being and therefore couldn’t exist?

    Or are you saying something can exist apart from God? And if that thing exists apart from God—does it have Being?

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    This is getting tiresome.

    (1) K&B think that relativists are precluded by their world view from critiquing the internal consistency of theism.

    (2) In order to critique an argument, it is sometimes necessary for a person to assume arguendo that a particular premise is true even though the person doesn’t actually believe that this particular premise is true. Moreover, it may even be the ultimate purpose of the critique to show that the premise in untrue. There is nothing unreasonable about this although K&B seem to think there is when someone other than a theist does it.

    (3) I don’t think that anyone is precluded by their world view from critiquing the internal consistency of other world views.

    (4) I think that K&B’s argument is idiotic.

    I have no idea what part of this don’t you understand, but I am not sure that I particularly care at this point.

  • Maury

    “Forest” :)

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    (1) Okay, I apologize for getting you wrong.

    Still, perhaps you get that impression because of the way Darrell presented K & B’s argument. I am supposing that K & B, as academics, utilize somewhat better style of argument.

    It’s true that the Relativist Worldview doesn’t preclude the relativist person from making the argument from evil. However, in order to make that argument, the relativist has to at least step out of relativism for the sake of that argument. They have to assume an ex nihil state, not a state in which relativism is true.

    In the abstract, the relativist can make the argument. But on the level of implementation, there is an inevitable logical conflict.

    So K & B’s main point still stands: Relativism and the Argument from Evil contradict each other.

    (2) That is true.

    Unfortunately – and I know this from my experience of trawling atheist boards – many atheists tend to take the premises at face value, and not in arguendo. In fact, I am supposing that you yourself are only raising this point to claim that you are more philosophically well-versed than theists. Whereas, normally, or at least from your argument with Darrell, you would take the premises to be more than in arguendo.

    K & B are writing a book for a popular audience, not one that usually makes use of a sophisticated instrument as in arguendo. I very much doubt K & B wrote the book for academics.

    (3) Me too.

    (4) I disagree – for the reasons stated above.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    I don’t think that there is anything terribly sophisticated about assuming the truth of a premise for the sake of an argument. Theists do it every time they make an argument in the form “If there is no God, then . . . .” In fact, it is such a common occurrence that we don’t even notice it. Lawyers like Dagoods tend to make the “arguendo” explicit because they are very wary of having their words turned against them, but the rest of us don’t bother.

    I think K&B are exploiting the fact that “arguendo” is not usually made explicit by making a perfectly common rhetorical device sound like some sort of unsavory trick. C.S. Lewis sometimes gets credited for the argument that suffering poses as big a problem for the atheist as for the theist and while I don’t usually find Lewis persuasive, I think he makes his arguments with some subtlety and humility. I think K&B’s claim that there is some “fatal flaw” puts far more weight on the argument than it can possibly bear.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    (1) Not to us, no. But to people un-trained in philosophy, as well as those who don’t wish to be trained, this applies. Remember, using arguendo does imply an additional step in thinking, which we do not use in daily life.

    In daily life, we usually assume the truth of the premises de facto. You are not trying to contend that you yourself think in a philosophical mode all the time, are you? Even Rene Descartes admitted that that was impossible.

    K & B are writing for people like my grandmother, who are not sophisticated enough to learn and understand fancy Latin terms. (And she is not European or American, which makes that worse.) And most people don’t bother anyway.

    (2) Hmm, I would guess that K & B argued that these were serious flaws. “Fatal flaws” is a designation created by Darrell, not one that is necessarily present in the original text he is citing. It is Darrell, not K & B, who are marking these flaws as “fatal”.

    Unless you have read K & B?

    Incidentally, I agree with that argument of Lewis that you cited. But that’s another story.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Raphael,

    I haven’t read K&B’s book, but according to the table of contents, “Relativism’s Seven Fatal Flaws” is the title of a chapter.

    I agree that they are writing for people who may not recognize that a premise is being assumed for the sake of argument, but I think they are exploiting that lack of recognition.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    (1) Okay, I’ll concede that to you.

    (2) Hmm, perhaps they are, or perhaps they are just responding to that lack of recognition. I am beginning to wonder if their book is a “preaching to the choir” kind of book, a book meant to contain “Christian” street-cred instead of a proper philosophical argument. Like those books that go “The Philosophy of Kick-Ass” (referring to the movie, of course).

    When academics write popular works, they do tend to compromise on their logic. This is kind of akin to the Chronicles of Narnia written to be a kid’s bedtime fairytale, which gives Lewis more license to simplify characters than would be given to a writer of modern fiction. (Incidentally, something that Phillip Pullman does not get when he criticizes Lewis for being shallow in the Chronicles.)

    So given the target audience, the logic of the argument is sound.

  • Darrell

    Vinny and Raphael,

    Can a person assume an opposing position to make an argument? Of course. Beckwith and Koukl never claim that one can’t do this, nor is it my contention that this is not possible. However, even raising the issue of true objective moral evil (which the relativist must do in order to make the argument for the Problem of Evil) means that true moral relativism cannot be true.

    Why would the athiest even raise the Problem of Evil unless they realized they are appealing to something that is inherently known to all humans, namely, that evil exists? This very fact creates issues for the moral relativist.

    Darrell

  • Raphael Wong

    DaGoodS,

    (1-2) Good to hear that you don’t wish to be snobbish or sniggering. Nonetheless, the semantics, not the vocabulary is the issue. But let’s go back to that later.

    (3) As you wish. It doesn’t alter the major form of the argument.

    (4) I would like to point out that your definitions of morality are all problematic, because they depend on what “moral” means. So, essentially, I can re-phrase them to read:-

    (a) A Moral Action -> An action on a list of moral actions;
    (b) An immoral action -> an action that is contrary to a moral action;
    (c) A non-moral action -> An action which is not present on a list of moral actions;
    (d) An amoral action -> An action which is performed in the absence of knowledge of the list of moral actions.

    If my paraphrase is wrong, you may correct me.

    But there are two problems apparent from the list. Firstly, you have the Euthyphro Problem that applies to the “list of moral actions”: what makes the actions on the list moral? Secondly, (d) is not exclusive of (a), (b) and (c) in the court of philosophy. So by Ockham’s Razor, (d) is an irrelevant category.

    (5) Remember: We are talking philosophy – and metaphysics at that – not law. There also appears to be a cognitive bias in your reasoning: you seem to be taking “moral consequences” only in the negative.

    In my view, there are 3 types of moral consequences:-
    (1) Maintaining Morality (for “non-moral” actions)
    (2) Restoring Morality; (for “moral” actions)
    (3) Removing Morality; (for “immoral” actions)

    Under this scheme, selecting a pair of socks aims at consequence (1). An action like the Holocaust results in consequence (3), and something like donating to charity results in consequence (2).

    (6-8) Sure, I will explain.

    Yes, my point was exactly that evil doesn’t exist, because the term “evil” is a null pointer, to use a computer science analogy. And logically speaking, nothing is never something. In fact, this understanding that “nothing is never something” is a core foundation of a branch of logic called modal logic.

    What exists are actions that remove good from the world.

    In fact, a core Christian dialectic is that in each part that you are not Godly, you are essentially “dead”. Hell is Eternal Death.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    However, even raising the issue of true objective moral evil (which the relativist must do in order to make the argument for the Problem of Evil) means that true moral relativism cannot be true.

    I think you are clutching at straws Darrell. I can conceive of true objective moral evil whether it exists or not. Since I do not find the ontological arguments persuasive, I think that I can also conceive of God whether God exists or not. I can also argue that these concepts are inconsistent without affirming the truth of either one or determining the truth of either one. I don’t understand why a theist would want to argue that the truth of his worldview can be determined by a skeptic’s ability to formulate arguments. That seems to concede a great deal of subjectivity to that which the theist claims to be objective.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org Darrell

    Clutching at straws? Hardly.

    Why does the atheist use the problem of evil in the first place? Because the argument appeals to something which eveyone innately knows exists – evil. It is something that hits at the heart of virutally every human being.

    This creates huge issues for the moral relativist, for the existence of true evil strikes a fatal blow in their worldview.

    Darrell

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Darrell,

    Do you think that Job was an atheist? Do you think that all the theologians throughout history who have struggled with theodicy have been atheists? The reason I think you are clutching at straws is that your statements are descriptively absurd.

  • Maury

    Darrell,

    This is what I was refering to earlier… “relativist cycle”… it does not matter how many different ways you illustrate that relativism is “absolutely” self defeating you will never be right. Ultimately weather they will admit it or not they fall back on the statement what is true for you is true for you; and what is true for me is true for me. Even when the “absolute truth” says that their truth is a lie! Read the “Self Evident Proof”.

    Vinny,

    I have the utmost respect for you and by your posts you seem to be a very well read and intelligent person, but as I stated earlier you are all drastically over thinking this issue. Without an absolute moral giver “true” morals cannot exist; God has reveald Himself in creation so we are without excuse and Jesus Christ is the only way, the only “truth” and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

    Grace and peace from God the Father,

    Maury

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Maury,

    I appreciate that you are offering what you believe to be helpful advice, but in order to stop over thinking, I would have to think about what the right level of thinking is and I am sure that I would over think that too.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org Darrell

    Vinny,

    Your comment proves my point. The fact that people struggle with Theodicy demonstrates that they inherently know that evil exists.

    No evil = No struggle

    Once again, this is a fatal blow to the Moral Relativist position.

    Darrell

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Darrell,

    No, I haven’t proved your point and repeating that I have won’t make it so. Non-theists do not struggle with theodicy in the sense that theists do because for the non-theist the existence of evil presents no conflict with another cherished belief such as the existence of an all good and all powerful God. The term “problem of evil” refers to the problem that is presented when one wishes to believe in true objective evil as well as a God deserving of worship. When one does not believe in such a God, evil does not present that problem. It may raise other issues, but not that one.

  • http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org Darrell

    (Modified Comment)

    No need to be condescending Vinny. I realize that atheists don’t struggle with the Problem of Evil the way in which they charge the theist. My point was just that the reason atheists use the Problem of Evil against theists is because the concept of evil is virtually universal. This fact (the fact that the concept of evil is virtually universal) creates issues for the true Moral Relativist.

    No, I haven’t proved your point and repeating that I have won’t make it so.

    Repeat? Ummmm… guess what Sherlock, I only said it once, and in case you didn’t know, repeating would mean I said it more than once.

    Vinny, you are truly going in circles and it is getting tiresome. The main point of this post remains unrefuted. The “Problem of Evil” is utterly incoherent for the worldview of the Moral Relativist.

    Darrell

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Darrell,

    I didn’t claim that you had repeated that particular point, but since you had shown the tendency to repeat yourself on other points, I thought I would take a stab at moving the conversation forward. Obviously it did not work since when I explained why the problem of evil creates no conflicts for non-theists, you failed to respond to that explanation. Instead you simply repeated your assertion. I could repeat that explanation, but I assume that you would ignore it again.

  • Darrell

    Vinny,

    I modified my previous comment, and I did address your poiint.

    Darrell

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Darrell,

    Thank you for amending your comment.

    I don’t think that I have any quarrel with the notion that the existence of evil “creates issues” for the moral relativist, but “creates issues” is a very vague formulation and the leap from “creates issues” to “fatal flaw” is humongous. Moreover, I continue to maintain that the existence of evil creates much bigger issues for the theist who believes in an all good and all powerful God than it does for the non-theist. If you want to talk about facts, the fact is that it is theists who have most struggled with these issues throughout history.

  • Raphael Wong

    Vinny,

    I am guessing that you don’t actually understand the ontological argument, or rather that you understand it in a Bertrand-Russell kind of way, which is horrendously inaccurate.

    Ontological Argument aside, Moral evil is a concept. Since it is a concept, it exists as long as one can conceive of it. It also exists – in Cartesian terms – “clearly and distinctly” apart from the actions or effects that are labelled as such.

    Plus, if a skeptic can’t formulate a solid counter-argument against the Christian worldview, then under the court of law the theist is presumed innocent and the case is acquitted. The court of logic is not the only court there is.

    (Before you accuse me of being biased, “acquitted” is an agnostic result.)

  • Raphael Wong

    Darell,

    the real problem is that Vinny is engaging you on a theoretical level, while you are engaging him on a practical level.

  • tildeb

    The problem remains fatal to any notion of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent god if you change the slippery term ‘evil’ to the much more understandable term ‘suffering’.

  • tildeb

    The third criticism once again presents a false dichotomy between either an objective moral code or relativistic nihilism. And it’s easy to see that belief in a biblical version of an ‘objective’ moral code is just that: a belief not shared even by the majority of the world’s religious population.

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