Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Singer! So what?

Koukl on Singer's metaethics: edited transcript of a podcast in answer to a question regarding a Singerian atheist and his view that an objective morality can exist without God.


When atheists claim an ethical basis for an action, they usually cite something objective that is not morality.

Morality entails obligations. We are obliged to do something by something that is outside of ourselves, that is grounded outside of ourselves. If it is not grounded outside of ourselves it is not objective. If it does not entail ethical obligation it is not morality.

Singer's relies on axioms (Sidgwick's?): fairness, for conscious beings (animals too), least amount of suffering.

Singer here has  given examples of things we are morally obliged to do: fairnes and least suffering. I don't know what 'fairness' is acccording to him. It entails a certain definintion of something as to how goods are distributed (that is, ethical 'goods') but it also smuggles in a moral obligation in trying to defend morality. What is it that makes fairness a moral obligation? And why is it that we have to create the least amount of suffering? Why can't we create the most amount of suffering?

People are going to say that its obvious that less suffering is better than more suffering; but better in what sense? Better in a pleasure sense? Yes, in that way, but in a moral sense? That's another question.

Even if they said it was obvious in a moral sense, they've confused some categories now because I would agree that it's better in a moral sense. I would say it's obviously better in a moral sense. However, that doesn't tell us why it's obligatory for us to do that. It tells us that we know it's better but to whom or to what are we morally obliged?

We are morally obliged to conscious beings according to Singer but who is obliging us regarding conscious beings?

This is called the grounding question.

Objective morality: when I say God is the moral standard of the universe and he creates moral principles [by the nature of who he is and by this what is groundingly real] that I am obliged to him to obey [to be consistent with what is real and who I truly am], I have just grounded and made sense of my moral obligation in an objectives sense, whether you agree or not.

Singer is not grounding his principles in any way, he merely declares fairness as a moral good [asserts them without basis, except for some posited affective inclination, but so what]. But who says? His grandmother? Did he just make it up? Is it his culture's view that we shouldn't have suffering for people? He says it is obvious that we shouldn't. Yes, it might be obvious that we shouldn't cause suffering, but I want to know what causes it to be wrong. That's the grounding issue.

This is what no amount of atheistic thinking can accomplish for morality. It simply cannot ground objective obligation in a godless world [that is, in a closed material system of impersonal cause and effect].

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