Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Apologists Appeal To Conditional Morality

The moral argument for God requires the existence of a moral realism that can only be sustained by a deity. To argue that moral facts exist, the apologist finds commonality between himself and the nonbeliever by highlighting mutual condemnation of certain actions. Common agreement does not prove a moral fact’s existence, it only shows a shared judgement, but thats the tactic that is most commonly used nevertheless. Commonality is usually reached with the condemnation of the act of murder.

What makes an act a murder? The act itself is killing. We could break it down further to the type of act be it stabbing or shooting or poisoning, but the method is not usually factored in. What makes a killing a murder are, at the minimum, four conditions.

1. The victim must be born human.
2. The victim has not expressed a specific desire to be killed.
3. The victim must not be posing a significant and direct threat to the acting party.
4. The acting party must have the intension to kill.

One could argue that the act being unlawful is another condition, but that could become circular in this context. One could also argue that malice is an essential aspect of the intension, but malice may be defined as “wrongful intension” which begs the question when the point of this is to determine the wrongness of the act. One could argue that a condition could take into account the guilt of the victim making capital punishment exempt from the label of murder. This last bit is perhaps a worthy condition, but I am omitting it for simplicity.

To demonstrate that the four conditions are required to reach consensus on the acts wrongfulness, here are examples that do not meet the conditions.

Example 1: An abortion does not meet condition one in that the human has not been born. Many consider abortion wrong, but very few consider it murder. 

Example 2: Assisted suicide is almost never considered murder, even if it is still illegal in some places.

Example 3: Killing in self-defense does not meet condition three and therefore is not considered murder.

Example 4: Accidentally running into a car that unexpectedly slammed the brakes is not considered murder even if someone in that car dies.

No we have an action with enough conditions built into it that the vast majority of people consider it wrong. Does commonality, or even universality, imply moral fact? No. To prove this I add one more condition.

5. The victim is oneself.

This hypothetical condition means that a killing is only a murder if you’re the one who is killed. I think we can all agree that we don’t want a world of people trying to kill us. Does this common agreement imply that the aversion of this extra specific murder is a moral fact? No. Survival instinct can account for it. Hell, becoming accustomed to life or being adverse to pain can account for it. Interestingly, this same reasonable aversion is enough even without condition five. Labeling the act of killing as something not allowed is the obvious move with just the first four conditions which make any co-habitat safer for all.

All the apologist has to point to a moral judgement being a moral fact, is the universality of it. As I’ve shown, we can get to universality (or near universality) with enough conditional baggage. Until the apologist can find some means to provide evidence for moral facts beyond appealing to the masses, their arguments for morality should never be taken seriously.

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