Apologetics Recommended Reading: Morality of Particles?: Why Physicalism Fails to Account for Objective Morality || Apologetics Canada

Posted: December 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
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http://ift.tt/eA8V8J This is what I’m currently reading:

Morality of Particles?Why Physicalism Fails to Account for Objective Morality Physicalism is the idea that all that exists is particles in motion. (1)It is also called materialism and naturalism. Although, technically speaking, they are slightly different from one another, we’ll take them to be synonymous for our purposes here. (Many atheists are physicalists.) According to this belief, whatever exists in this world, if you break it down to its most basic parts, it can be measured by modern science at least theoretically: no god(s), souls, angels, or demons, period. What about objective morality, then? (2)From here on, when I say “morality,” I mean “objective morality” unless I qualify otherwise. Can physicalism account for objective morality? In other words, given physicalism, can there be real good/evil and right/wrong, the kind that is valid and binding regardless of people’s opinions? (3)Notice that I am not saying whether physicalists can be good people. I am asking whether we can even have objective morality itself on physicalism. I think not. Value and Duty In order for morality to make sense, we need at least two things: value and duty. Imagine for a moment what our morality would look like if one of these things were missing. Let’s suppose that we had no moral value. In this case, our duty would become arbitrary. If I were commanded not to torture a little baby for fun, it would not be because that act is evil (since value is missing) but because someone is simply prohibiting me from doing so. The difference between torturing a baby for fun and caring for a baby with love would be the same as driving on the left or right side of the road. We know such a thing to be absurd from our moral experience. Now, what if, this time, we had moral value but no moral duty? If duty were missing, then all we would have left is the distinction between good and evil. We would not owe to anyone to behave one way or another. This, also, is contrary to our moral experience. After all, all we need to do in order to appreciate this moral dimension to be on the receiving end of some evil act. (We all know that guy who weaves in and out of traffic like he is uniquely entitled to the use of the road while putting everyone else around him in danger.) Value and Duty on Physicalism So, then, can physicalism handle value and duty? I think not. First, let’s think about value. Remember I said earlier that, on physicalism, everything can be reduced to particles in motion? Let’s substitute dominos for particles and suppose that we have domino A and domino B. There are at least two scenarios. First, domino A can fall over and knock over domino B. Or else, domino B can fall over and knock over domino A. Now, which scenario is morally superior? Clearly, this question is absurd, because this is a non-moral event—it’s just physics at work. (4)Other possible scenarios—no dominos falling over, dominos being too far apart to knock each other over, etc.—don’t change anything in this regard. If we increase the number of dominos, does it change anything? A hundred dominos? A million? A trillion? It would just be more of the same. (5)I’ve heard an atheist acquaintance of mine say that rarity gives rise to value. For example, biological life ought to be valued because it is incredibly rare in the universe. Besides, each life is unique in that, once it is destroyed, the same life cannot be restored. However, rarity cannot be the standard by which to measure objective moral value when you can have good acts and evil acts both of which are rare. For example, the Jewish Holocaust was a relatively rare event in world history, and yet everyone agrees that it was evil. What about duty? Again, physicalism fails to account for it. Duty, simply put, is something that you owe, and you can only owe something to a person. Seashells don’t owe you anything, nor do you owe anything to the dinner table. But, if you borrow a book from your friend, you owe it to your friend to return the book. Since, given physicalism, there can be no persons, (6)For more on this, I invite you to listen to our Apologetics Canada Podcast episodes on the Zombie Culture. there can be no duty, either. A bigger problem for physicalism when it comes to value and duty is that physicalism can’t accommodate them in principle. According to physicalism, everything that exists is material things. Yet, value and duty are immaterial things. After all, what is the colour and length of value? Weight of duty? So, then, physicalism rules out a priori such immaterial realities as value, duty, personhood, etc. When these are ruled out, so is morality. (7)Remember that I’ve been talking about objective morality. Certainly, we can create our own moral framework—that’s not in question. However, subjective morality suffers from many critical flaws. Here is an interesting interaction between Ravi Zacharias and a questioner at the open forum at the University of Pennsylvania. http://ift.tt/1xEo2DQ In short, if physicalism is true, then morality is out the window. Notes   [ + ] 1. ↑ It is also called materialism and naturalism. Although, technically speaking, they are slightly different from one another, we’ll take them to be synonymous for our purposes here. 2. ↑ From here on, when I say “morality,” I mean “objective morality” unless I qualify otherwise. 3. ↑ Notice that I am not saying whether physicalists can be good people. I am asking whether we can even have objective morality itself on physicalism. 4. ↑ Other possible scenarios—no dominos falling over, dominos being too far apart to knock each other over, etc.—don’t change anything in this regard. 5. ↑ I’ve heard an atheist acquaintance of mine say that rarity gives rise to value. For example, biological life ought to be valued because it is incredibly rare in the […]

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