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Old 5th November 2012, 04:44 PM   #1
Arangarx
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No "Right" and "Wrong" Without A Higher Authority

I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.
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Old 5th November 2012, 04:50 PM   #2
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Why is right right and wrong wrong if some god says so? Is it that gods opinion or is it that they just ARE? Why should I follow what this god says is right or wrong even if I disagree with it?
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:00 PM   #3
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If we accept the premise stated in the thread title as valid, the "higher authority" does not have to be divine. It can be the needs of the community as a whole, and/or the drive present in almost all humans towards altruism, which has an evolutionary basis.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:00 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by maggot9779 View Post
Why is right right and wrong wrong if some god says so? Is it that gods opinion or is it that they just ARE? Why should I follow what this god says is right or wrong even if I disagree with it?
I'm not asserting that something is right or wrong simply because someone says God says it is right or wrong, whether or not you believe in/agree with said God. I'm only asserting that we cannot apply the labels of right/wrong to another person's actions without an appeal to a higher authority. If person A kills someone, person B cannot say that what they did was wrong without a claim that some authority they believe is binding to both parties says so. At best they can claim that person A's actions have negative consequences.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:02 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by maggot9779 View Post
Why is right right and wrong wrong if some god says so? Is it that gods opinion or is it that they just ARE? Why should I follow what this god says is right or wrong even if I disagree with it?
In that same vein, if murder is wrong, why is it OK for god to say it's sometimes right? Look at the current mainstream protestant ideas about divorce, and tell me with a straight face that "right" and"wrong" are not subject to social norms, even among those who thing god tells them what to do.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:05 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Vortigern99 View Post
If we accept the premise stated in the thread title as valid, the "higher authority" does not have to be divine. It can be the needs of the community as a whole, and/or the drive present in almost all humans towards altruism, which has an evolutionary basis.
That is correct. The higher authority for the purposes of this discussion does not necessarily have to be divine. The important part is that is must be a mutually shared authority of what makes something right or wrong. Which is why in my OP I more specifically stated that we can only really call it "currently acceptable to society."
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:05 PM   #7
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Right and wrong are subjective, to a degree. Groups of humans collectively determine what is right and wrong. Curiously, many of the people I've encountered who claim access to an objective morality determined by a god or gods, will find excuses to dismiss various edicts from the claimed source of this morality, demonstrating that their "objective" morality is as subjective as anyone else's.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:05 PM   #8
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Morality evolved. It's a brain function like happiness and sadness. There's plenty of evidence of moral behavior in the animal kingdom. No god needed.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:07 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
That is correct. The higher authority for the purposes of this discussion does not necessarily have to be divine. The important part is that is must be a mutually shared authority of what makes something right or wrong. Which is why in my OP I more specifically stated that we can only really call it "currently acceptable to society."
I agree with that. We are a social species and our survival and well being is linked to the survival and well being of others in our social group.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:10 PM   #10
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You seem to be applying a continuum: wrong unacceptable neutral acceptable right. My question is why you need the outside ends? Is wrong somehow wronger than unacceptable? If so, how do you know?

Acceptable and unacceptable are good words, because they are clearly value judgments, and value judgments require an actor. Acceptable to whom? Unacceptable according to whom? The answers "society" or "your species" seem sufficient. There's no need to go leaping for absolute versions of the same judgments.

I prefer to use words that denote value judgments for things that are value judgments (murder is unacceptable), and reserve "right/wrong" to use as synonyms for "true/false" or "correct/incorrect" (1 + 1 = 3 is wrong). No power higher than agreement is required.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:11 PM   #11
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Welcome Arangarx. Stick around, you should have fun here.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:13 PM   #12
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For an even clearer illustration of how the ideas "right" and "wrong" are emergent, and changing, properties of societies rather than absolute truths, compare the way any of the following groups were treated in Biblical times (including by the writers of the Bible) with how they are treated today:

(a) slaves;
(b) women; or
(c) members of racial/ethnic groups other than those in power (often synonymous with (a)).
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:28 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.
I've had this discussion myself, and if by higher moral authority you are referring to the basic rights of man, I agree.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:40 PM   #14
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There being no god to pass the buck to, individuals will decide, rightly or wrongly, what is right for them, and their society with its laws.. will rule on that perception.
Eliminating god from the menu simplifies matters a lot.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:52 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.

This biggest issue with this line of argument is that it makes right and wrong arbitrary. "It is wrong because <higher power> says it is wrong" implies that the higher power could have determined that it was right, instead. If it isn't arbitrary on the part of the higher power, then it clearly has its origins elsewhere, and the higher power is just a puppet as well.

Mind you, I am a moral relativist, so as long as the determination between right and wrong can be justified, I am OK with rights and wrongs swapping places on occasion.
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Old 5th November 2012, 05:54 PM   #16
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I've personally reframed this issue in a way I find much more helpful.
I think in terms of healthy/unhealthy: this in regards to physical, mental, emotional, and social well being.

Of course within this there can be differences in priority and even conflicts.
But since I don't need to be a moral perfectionist or the "good guy." I am compassionate with myself and others for all the unhealthy behavior we are weak to.

Moral Authority isn't necessary for learning to be kind.
And people addicted to Moral Authority are often very unkind.
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Old 5th November 2012, 06:10 PM   #17
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Hmmm my nommed essay in the TLA addresses this specifically but from the Atheist perspective:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=246903

check it out.
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Old 5th November 2012, 06:31 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.
As a bit of a side note, you know about the Euthyphro dilemma?

As for your post... subjective morality is an interesting topic. Your assertion that arguing that something is "wrong" requires an appeal to a higher moral authority is, partially correct, though, on one level, at least. However, the higher moral authority is best explained by evolution/biology at its base and, in something of an emergent manner, society. Society often works as a stabilizing factor to propagate and promote similar arbitrary sets of values that tend to increase the success of the society. On a different level, versions of good and evil tend to be remarkably subjective in practice, depending on the assumptions used as bases to reach the conclusion that something is good or evil. Given that they are, quite obviously, constructs, they can be freely used accurately and potentially both for the exact same actions, so long as there is reasonable justification, which generally comes from differing sets of arbitrary bases.

To reference your murder example... I do have to ask, where's the line between what counts as good or neutral killings and bad killing, which is usually what people mean when they say murder? Do you think that it has or has not changed over time or been substantially different for various societies?
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Old 5th November 2012, 06:32 PM   #19
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You know what I love about skeptics? That we actually think about how these issues are derived. Religion wants you to turn off your mind.

I've always thought that the religionists who ask this question must be the ones who believe that human beings are inherently bad. I mean, there are so many foundations for moral judgments that don't involve God. The sociological (fitting in with the peer group), the evolutionary (need to maintain the tribe's trust), the practical (wrong leads to lack of friends or even jail), the emotional (treating others well often gives us a pleasant feeling).

I think the core nonauthoritarian reason for murder being considered wrong is a combination of the practical and the empathetic: if it's okay to kill people, then it's okay to kill ME, and I don't want to be killed.
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Old 5th November 2012, 06:41 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".
That's all there has ever been. The imaginary friend has no real power over our behavior.

I recently heard Kent Hovind say "without the fear of God I'd be raping, stealing, killing," and I believe he would be. That's the abysmal standard of morality people like him have. I've never been religion, and I've never been on a rampage like Hovind seems to long for.
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Old 5th November 2012, 06:53 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
That's all there has ever been. The imaginary friend has no real power over our behavior.

I recently heard Kent Hovind say "without the fear of God I'd be raping, stealing, killing," and I believe he would be. That's the abysmal standard of morality people like him have. I've never been religion, and I've never been on a rampage like Hovind seems to long for.
I absolutely agree. Without God or any fear of God, I refrain from raping, stealing and killing. I don't say this makes me some moral paragon. In fact, I think most people refrain from gross or even petty acts of evil regardless of their belief or lack of belief in God.

It's wrong to harm people. It's right to help them. By extension, it's wrong to harm a living thing if you can survive without doing so. It's also wrong to t=destroy the environment and to grossly pollute it. It's right to help the environment. All of these assertions I've just made seem axiomatic to me. I find them to be universally (as opposed to situationally) true, though not absolutely true (i.e. in every single case). I see all this as being true without having to believe in any sort of god.
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Old 5th November 2012, 08:06 PM   #22
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If God actually existed, I'd probably be in favor of raping, stealing, murdering, genociding, and so on, just to trash the **** out of God's beloved reality. Screw Him!

Trash it all! Tear it down! Tear it down!


ETA: No, I still wouldn't. However, it's the thought that counts.
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Old 5th November 2012, 08:10 PM   #23
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Heartattack And Vine
(Tom Waits 1980)
Liar liar with your pants on fire
White spades hangin' on the telephone wire
Gamblers reevaluate along the dotted line
You'll never recognize yourself on heartattack and vine

Doctor, lawyer, beggar man thief
Philly Joe remarkable looks on in disbelief
If you want a taste of madness, you'll have to wait in line
You'll probably see someone you know on heartattack and vine

Boney's high on china white, Shorty found a punk
Don't you know there ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk
Well this stuff will probably kill you, let's do another line
What you say you meet me down on heartattack and vine

See that little Jersey girl in the see-through top
With the peddle pushers sucking on a soda pop
Well I bet she's still a virgin but it's only twenty-five 'til nine
You can see a million of 'em on heartattack and vine

Better off in Iowa against your scrambled eggs
Than crawling down Cahuenga on a broken pair of legs
You'll find your ignorance is blissful every goddamn time
Your're waitin' for the RTD on heartattack and vine

Boney's high on china white, Shorty found a punk
Don't you know there ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk
Well this stuff will probably kill you, let's do another line
What you say you meet me down on heartattack and vine

Liar liar with your pants on fire
White spades hangin' on the telephone wire
Gamblers reevaluate along the dotted line
You'll never recognize yourself on heartattack and vine

Doctor, lawyer, beggar man thief
Philly Joe remarkable looks on in disbelief
If you want a taste of madness, you'll have to wait in line
You'll probably see someone you know on heartattack and vine

See that little Jersey girl in the see-through top
With the peddle pushers sucking on a soda pop
Well I bet she's still a virgin but it's only twenty-five 'til nine
You can see a million of 'em on heartattack and vine

Boney's high on china white, Shorty found a punk
Don't you know there ain't no devil, there's just God when he's drunk
Well this stuff will probably kill you, let's do another line
What you say you meet me down on heartattack and vine
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Old 5th November 2012, 09:13 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.

I'm against murder because I'd rather not be murdered.
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Old 6th November 2012, 01:43 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".

Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.

I'll take an extreme example, murder. I would wager that religious or not most sane people feel that murder is wrong/bad/unacceptable. Whether simply because "God said so" or "it's counter productive to the survival of the species", I'm pretty sure most of us are opposed to it. I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.

Keep in mind I am not advocating anarchy or abandonment of trying to lead a good life. This is not an argument that those who don't believe in God cannot have morals or be good people. This is simply an assertion that without an appeal to God or a higher power, or something that defines right/wrong or good/evil you can't label anyone's actions as such.
Of course even with a higher power, there is no true right or wrong either. Only what is 'currently acceptable to the authority' or more accurately 'only what society agrees is the correct interpretation of what is currently acceptable to the authority'

Right and wrong have to be assessed in a societal context otherwise they are meaningless; which is generally where religion falls down as they have a largely static definition of right and wrong which does not alter based on new information and/or changes in society.

Does the Bible have anything specific to say on illegal downloading? Do most of us in 2012 really need to know the 'right' way to slaughter an animal?

And yes, it is entirely possible to label someone's actions as wrong without the appeal to any higher authority. I probably do it at least half a dozen times a day. Its merely an expression of your own personal opinion. The problem is how you then convince others to share your view - the least possible convincing way to attempt it being the 'because God says so' justification
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Old 6th November 2012, 01:48 AM   #26
Last of the Fraggles
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Originally Posted by TimCallahan View Post
I absolutely agree. Without God or any fear of God, I refrain from raping, stealing and killing. I don't say this makes me some moral paragon. In fact, I think most people refrain from gross or even petty acts of evil regardless of their belief or lack of belief in God.

It's wrong to harm people. It's right to help them. By extension, it's wrong to harm a living thing if you can survive without doing so. It's also wrong to t=destroy the environment and to grossly pollute it. It's right to help the environment. All of these assertions I've just made seem axiomatic to me. I find them to be universally (as opposed to situationally) true, though not absolutely true (i.e. in every single case). I see all this as being true without having to believe in any sort of god.
I don't necessarily find them true but they are a good basis for the start of a discussion. At some point we find a common ground and agree the rules for society. These become culturally embedded and everyone starts to generally agree on them.

I don't think there is anything magical about murder, rape or theft but I don't want them to happen to me so I'm quite happy to go along with the idea that they are 'wrong' as, it seems, are most people.

Incidentally, has there ever been a single case of an atheist killing, raping or stealing and then justifying by claiming there is no God so these things are not wrong?
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Old 6th November 2012, 01:59 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".
People instructed by such higher authority steer planes into buildings, blow themselves up on public places killing innocents, burn others on the stake. Simply because they felt the others weren't "right" enough.
People choose their "higher authority" by themselves, projecting their ideals on it. They narcistically delude themselves into believing that their ideals reflect some divine will.

That doesn't mean though that "right" or "wrong" just depended on what's currently acceptable to society. There is empathy common to us which is neither dictated by a god nor by public opinion and which determines right and wrong. The believe that right or wrong must come from higher authority presupposes that everyone is a sociopath. But even if the world was full of sociopaths and one could then make them believe in a higher authority, the outcome wouldn't necessarily be "right", as the ones steering planes into buildings demonstrated.

Last edited by Verklagekasper; 6th November 2012 at 02:38 AM.
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Old 6th November 2012, 02:28 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Verklagekasper View Post
People instructed by such "higher authority" steer planes into buildings, blow themselves up on public places killing innocents, burn others on the stake. Simply because they felt the others weren't "right" enough.
People choose their "higher authority" by themselves, projecting their ideals on it. They narcistically delude themselves into believing that their ideals reflect some divine will.
This. It's all very appealing to talk about a higher power telling us what to do, but given the huge amount of disagreement between even the people who believe that to be true, what practical use would it be? Anyone advancing an argument like this should be made to define exactly what they mean by it:

How do we objectively determine the instructions of the higher authority? Show your working. Please answer with particular reference to slavery, circumcision and dietary laws, and variations in the "absolute moral code" over time.

Even if they can give a halfway convincing answer to that question, it will probably involve an appeal to the few things religions tend to agree on (don't murder, don't steal, etc), so the next question is how they know whether that moral code arose because of God, or because of basic community survival needs. And then, as mentioned above, there's Euthyphro.

Like the majority of apologetics, it only looks good until you subject it to examination, when it just crumbles away.
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Old 6th November 2012, 02:47 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I'm not asserting that something is right or wrong simply because someone says God says it is right or wrong, whether or not you believe in/agree with said God. I'm only asserting that we cannot apply the labels of right/wrong to another person's actions without an appeal to a higher authority. If person A kills someone, person B cannot say that what they did was wrong without a claim that some authority they believe is binding to both parties says so. At best they can claim that person A's actions have negative consequences.
How should it differ from applying other labels? Do we require a higher authority to label the sky blue?

"The sky is blue."
"That's just your subjective perception."
"Yes. And you can examine me -- my eyes, my sense of color, my nervous system -- and decide whether I am constituted to take a good measurement of the sky's color."
"But we need a higher authority than your opinion to settle the matter."
"Why? Isn't the matter settled in my own head to my own satisfaction?"
"Yes, but is the sky really blue?"
"Are you asking me? I said it was. From what perspective, other than my own, should I make such judgements? If I take an artist's opinion (who says it looks a bit more like a teal this morning) over my own as having more authority, am I not just judging the artist where before I judged the sky? By what authority am I now to label the artist as authoritative?"

Turtles all the way down.
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Old 6th November 2012, 02:48 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
Unless an individual or group of individuals accept some higher authority/power as the ultimate decider of "right" and "wrong" then the concepts really don't exist. They are merely terms joined to whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not.
Unless you can provide us with an example of a moral code provably handed down by this 'higher authority' then the choice is between whatever society at the time deems acceptable or not and whatever some guy in religious paraphernalia deems (or deemed) acceptable or not. I'll go with society thanks it's not perfect but at least it's more open to change.
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Old 6th November 2012, 02:54 AM   #31
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I think we need a new category: not yet determined.

So, for example, if you ask whether legalizing abortion is right or wrong, you can take a sense of the culture and say it isn't clearly either. The answer might be: 75% right and 25% wrong (or some such breakdown).

Or, alternatively, you could say, "As a people, we have not determined the answer yet, although as an individual, I think this..."

I like the idea that right and wrong can be discovered, instead of the usual requirement of having an immediate, eternal and unchallengeable answer at hand.
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Old 6th November 2012, 03:18 AM   #32
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Welcome to the forum Arangarx. You should know that we talk about this here on this forum on a nearly monthly basis, give or take. You know there are many things you consider wrong that you wouldn't based on your cultural upbringing. If you're from a society like mine in Oklahoma City, you probably feel marrying a third or fourth wife feels very wrong, intrinsically wrong. You may feel other people are permitted if they feel it's not wrong, but many people here find such a thing shameful.

You're saying there's a cut off point, and a magical cut off point when all is said and done. As if you acknowledge to a certain degree what you feel is right or wrong can be manipulated by upbringing and conditioning, but suddenly that degree stops when things are severely important to you. As if meaning or significance just magically floats around in the universe without an observer. This would only make sense in the mythological rule system of theism, where there is an authority observing all things which deems this concept, (which is all it is by the way, a concept) right or wrong.

Why do you think some cultural notions of right or wrong are subjective, and some are intrinsic to the universe?

My sense of right or wrong evolved, it is an emergent behavior, because being a social animal is a very successful and versatile niche made possible by our environment.

My sense of right or wrong, my conviction, it feels so strongly to me that I will not compromise it in any way to a point. You are mistaking the strength of your conviction for some kind of intrinsic character of the universe. You require that to be so, otherwise the strength of your conviction would not rationally match in your mind with the idea you're just like the people you disagree with on what's right or wrong, and that bothers you. But it shouldn't.

If you found out without any doubt that what you feel is right or wrong only feels that way because you were conditioned to feel that way, do you really think you would lose your appreciation for what is right or wrong? Would you harm your children? Your friends?

You're claiming there is a magical barrier in the universe which keeps you from doing that, and you feel that's logical?

Last edited by Halfcentaur; 6th November 2012 at 03:20 AM.
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Old 6th November 2012, 03:51 AM   #33
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Pretty much every thread about morality bogs down in the "relativist v absolutist" mire.
Rules for living would seem to be best if based on how we live and what we are.

Authority is what we make it, but facts are chiels that winna ding.
Start with objective truth and agreement on subjective truth may be possible, but if vested interests prevent agreement, then the only way to achieve moral certainty is probably to exterminate everyone who disagrees.
It's been tried, but it turned out the dissidents had more bullets.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:09 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by truethat View Post
Hmmm my nommed essay in the TLA addresses this specifically but from the Atheist perspective:

http://www.internationalskeptics.com...d.php?t=246903

check it out.
I fail to see how that post applies to this thread.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:11 AM   #35
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Originally Posted by Slowvehicle View Post
In that same vein, if murder is wrong, why is it OK for god to say it's sometimes right? Look at the current mainstream protestant ideas about divorce, and tell me with a straight face that "right" and"wrong" are not subject to social norms, even among those who thing god tells them what to do.
I don't think this one is very hard to explain even when religious. If you believe in God as the arbiter of what is right and wrong, then there really is no disconnect if God gives a blanket statement that you shouldn't do something but gives direct commandments/permission to do said act, such as killing. If I'm your boss and give a blanket "commandment" that thou shalt not use the laser printer, but then give one person permission, that's just how it is because I'm your boss. I know a laser printer is not on the same level of murder but I believe the concept holds.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:16 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by tsig View Post
I'm against murder because I'd rather not be murdered.
That's very selfish of you.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:35 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I will assert however that you cannot argue that murder is actually "wrong" without an appeal to a higher moral authority.
Murder is wrong on a pure economical standpoint too. A person which could have contributed is cut short and cannot contribute anymore, on the contrary disposition of the remain cost.

ETA: murder by abrupt removal of the person also weaken the societal connection, add distrust between people and very clearly if left uncontrolled lead to very small group of people (possibly loner) only.

Assertion has been falsified.

ETA: unless you see pure economical viewpoint, and social order (as opposed to chaos if people can be mrudered willy nilly) to be a higher authority but then you will be alone.

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Old 6th November 2012, 09:36 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Foster Zygote View Post
Right and wrong are subjective, to a degree. Groups of humans collectively determine what is right and wrong. Curiously, many of the people I've encountered who claim access to an objective morality determined by a god or gods, will find excuses to dismiss various edicts from the claimed source of this morality, demonstrating that their "objective" morality is as subjective as anyone else's.
I guess it all comes down to how one defines "right" and "wrong". I think as I've read the replies, what I've realized is that saying that something can't be defined as right or wrong without an appeal to a higher moral authority is almost a given, because the way I'm using the words it's basically a given. I'm using "right" and "wrong" to define what is or isn't morally acceptable regardless of public opinion, which actually narrows my definitions of what can define right or wrong to something higher than man.

Further down DallasDad mentioned that it seems I'm putting things on a continuum - wrong unacceptable neutral acceptable right. Actually the way I've always viewed things is on two independent spectrums.
Right - neutral - Wrong
Acceptable to society - neutral - Not Acceptable to Society

It seems to me that you either believe in God as the decider of right and wrong and follow those two independent scales or you you believe in man/society as the definer of right and wrong in which case the continuum becomes:
Acceptable or "Right" - Neutral - Not Acceptable or "Wrong"

As to people choosing which edicts of morality to follow or not follow (from the same moral source), I think that's just how people are. As they say, nobody is perfect.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:38 AM   #39
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Originally Posted by marplots View Post
I think we need a new category: not yet determined.

So, for example, if you ask whether legalizing abortion is right or wrong, you can take a sense of the culture and say it isn't clearly either. The answer might be: 75% right and 25% wrong (or some such breakdown).

Or, alternatively, you could say, "As a people, we have not determined the answer yet, although as an individual, I think this..."

I like the idea that right and wrong can be discovered, instead of the usual requirement of having an immediate, eternal and unchallengeable answer at hand.
.
And variable... Religious truths seem to change with time. Burn the Maid, create a saint, etc.
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Old 6th November 2012, 09:39 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Arangarx View Post
I've had this discussion with several people (and I'm sure this topic is not new to most skeptics) but I'm curious how people here will respond to the assertion that without a higher authority which decides what is right and wrong, there is no "right" or "wrong" only "currently acceptable to society".
What a load of horse ****. That's how i would respond. I'm perfectly able to hold opinions about what is right for me and wrong for me without being a brain dead idiot who believes in the divine.

How? Simple: If it's right for me, then it's right. If it's wrong for me, then it's wrong. If it's right for me but wrong for "society" then what does "societies" view matter beyond practicalities? Likewise if it displeases me, annoys me or outright hurts me but is "acceptable to society" then why should i care?
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