The Moral Argument for the existence of God
- A POSTERIORI, INDUCTIVE ARGUMENT
- trying to prove that most people have a broadly similar understanding of what is right and wrong despite the cultural differences between them. e.g. everyone would regard incest as wrong.
- 3 possible explanations for the existence of morality:
Morality as derived from God
H.P. OWEN'S ARGUMENT
- the existence of objective moral laws suggests that there is a divine law-giver who wrote these laws. In his book "The Moral Argument for Christian Theism" he says "it is impossible to think of a command without also thinking of a commander".
- his point was that since commands and laws do not write themselves, they must either be brute facts, requiring no explanation, or put there by God. Since the fact that these laws exist itself requires an explanation, he concluded that they must have been put there by God.
- This reasoning is supported by Dom Trethowan who described objective laws as "far from being self-explanatory"
CARDINAL NEWMAN'S ARGUMENT
- he deduces God's existence not from objective moral law but from the fact of conscience. "The voice of conscience....implies that there is One to whom we are responsible".
- For Newman, the conscience is like an inner voice that guides our behaviour and produces feelings of guilt and shame. He takes the view that the conscience is the voice of God within us, the point at which the human meets the divine in everyday life. From the conscience, Newman infers the existence of God.
Morality as objectively pointing towards God
DOM TRETHOWAN'S ARGUMENT
- his argument rejects the use of logic to establish God's existence. Instead he interpreted morality as a religious experience, which points towards God.
- everytime we make a moral decision we choose between possible courses of action. A sense of obligation guides us to make this choice. Trethowan traces this obligation to the fact that each person has value. A sense of value thus underpins each moral decision.
- If we accept that people have intrinsic value, then there must be a source to this value. Trethowan takes this to be God. "We have value because we receive it from a source of value".
- the value instilled by God in His creation thus explains the obligations that we feel. The moral experience, with its sense of experience is thus an indirect experience of God.
KANT'S ARGUMENT (analysed Aq's 4th way and devised proof for God on morality)
- Kant believed that God's existence could only be established through faith, as opposed to logic.
- his enquiry into relationship between religion and morality beings with him considering his own beliefs about nature of morality. He reasoned that in a perfect world, behaving morally should lead to happiness, since happiness should be the natural reward for virtue. However this doesn't happen in our world so he reasoned:
- there must be something else that motivates people to behave morally, other than the possibility of immediate happiness.
- argued people must be subject to an objective sense of obligation, which compels them to behave in a certain way, regardless of the consequences. He argued that there were certain, rationally discoverable laws which we are bound to follow because this is our duty: these laws are the categorical imperitives.
- he then considered whether any further conclusions could be drawn from his discovery that morality is a matter of applying rational thought to discover categorical imperitives.
- effectively he was asking "If I experience this sense of objective obligation, what else must I implicitly be accepting to be true?"
- he argued that there are 3 such assumptions: freedom, immortality, and God.
- FREEDOM-> if we feel obliged to fulfil a certain duty, then we must have the freedom to fulfil it.
1) we all have sense of innate moral awareness-from this we are under obligation to be virtuous.
2) an 'average' level of virtue isn't enough- we are obliged to aim for the highest standard possible.
3) true virtue should be rewarded with happiness.
4) there is an ideal state where human virtue and happiness are united (summum bonum).
5) moral statements are prescriptive- "ought" implies "can".
6) humans can achieve virtue in a lifetime but it is beyond us to ensure we are rewarded with happiness.
7) therefore there must be a God who has power to ensure that virtue and happiness coincide.
Kant's argument does not postulate that God is necessary for morality but that GOD IS REQUIRED FOR MORALITY TO ACHIEVE ITS END. "therefore it is morally necessary to assume the existence of God".
AQUINAS'S FOURTH WAY
- based on Plato's theories of the forms where contingent realities of the human mind is aware of pale copies of greater, unseen reality.
- in the case of the goodness found in human beings and in the contingent world this is all a reflection of the supreme goodness of God to whom contingent beings owe their lesser goodness.
- Aquinas does not specifically refer to morality here and what he fails to do is to give a clear indication of how "good" can be defined. All he says is the supreme source of Goodness.
- will strengthen any believer's belief in God already.
- those who believe will reasonably trace their notion of right and wrong back to that of God. Newman's may appeal to those who already worship the God of the Bible as the Bible shows a God who is very much in control of his world. He "writes his covenant upon our hearts". If this is true then our own consciences may appear to stem back to God.
- those moral arguments based upon objective laws might appeal to those who already accept unconditional, a priori laws.
- Summum Bonum-> is it real? Just because it is not illogical does not make it real. Why should the SB be the highest good? Must virtue be rewarded with happiness? Is the uni fair? If God secures the SB, why be moral? Does the SB introduce a teleological element to an otherwise deontological ethical scheme?
- Why God?-> Do inconsistencies/lack of agreement on moral issues undermine a single ethical source? Brian Davies-Kant seems to have argued his way to a 'Kantian minded angel'. Might there be an alternative explanation for morality?
- Other explanations for duty-> there may be other explanations for a feeling of duty other than the categorical imperitive. What about he feeling of obligation for a society?
- Is there an objective moral law?-> e.g. theories such as Situation Ethics. If morality is not objective, there cannot be one single source (God)
- It is not even proof-> even Kant admits this saying "my conviction is not logical but moral certainty".
- moral laws may not be objective or about obeying moral duty. For Joseph Fletcher ignoring individual circumstances will lead to callous and unsatisfactory actions.
- Kant's assumption that ought implies can only proves that it is logically possible to bring about the summum bonum.
- BRIAN DAVIES-> Kant assumes that only God can bring about the summum bonum but it could equally be brought about by "a pantheon of angels".
- EUTHYPHRO DILEMMA-> if something is good because God commands it good, the content of morality seems arbitrary and dependant on God's whim-certain moral actions could have been deemed otherwise immoral had God willed it. Furthermore this reduces God's goodness to his power- to say that God is good simply means that he is capable of enforcing his commands. However, if the latter is true and God commands something because it is good then God is no longer necessary for an ethical system to work- the almighty Sovreign becomes subordinate to a higher law.
- FREUD-> our sense of duty and moral awareness can be explained by socialisation. Kant said that our sense of duty was based on reason, whereas Freud argued that our conscience was a product of the unconscious mind or super ego of the human psyche.
- distinguished between 3 components of human psyche: 1) ID (basic instincts and primitive desire) 2) EGO (perceptions of the external that makes us aware of the 'reality principle' one's most outward part and personality. 3) SUPER EGO (unconscious mind which praises you for good actions and the conscience which makes you feel bad for bad actions).
- our moral awareness cannot be of divine origin because of the differing opinions to ethical issues- we would then not debate over ethical issues as we would all think the same. Our conscience is developed during childhood.
- if conscience is the voice of God as Kant believes you would expect it to be consistent. Kant's concept of an absolute moral code enforced by God does not explain the Yorkshire Ripper who claimed to follow voices in his head? or the differing views on issues such as abortion or Euthanaisa.
- Conscience is not truly objective and therefore has a human not divine origin.