Which leaves us again with the central point... it might be a valid criticism for some non-secular ethical systems compared to some secular ethical systems but it is not intrinsic to secular ethical systems compared to non-secular ethical systems. Remember, the claim that was made was that secular ethics (without qualification, so all secular ethics) are superior to non-secular ethics (again without qualification, so all non-secular ethics).
Let me clarify what I mean. I am not saying that every instance of secular morality is better than every instance of non-secular morality. I agree that claim is fatuous, and thus I am not making it. My claim is that secular morality is systemically better, in that secular morality has everything that non-secular morality has, except for many limitations, like the outside imposed moral standard. Here is a link to a lecture that I think people should watch all the way through, but the good stuff starts in part 2/6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKdDFCJKBrs&index=2&list=PL4119AEC250E7777E
I don't particularly like the "according to some" best caveat here. As above, the discussion was on the basis that secular ethics are superior to non-secular ethics, not that some secular ethics are superior to some non-secular ethics. The caveat seems like a way to walk away from that.
I addressed this with my clarification of my claim. And Ďaccording to someí is the way we set a standard. If people donít agree on it, we canít have a standard for anything. That means the Ďsomeí have to agree, usually a majority.
Regardless, the view taken above would seemingly exclude all deontological or virtue theorists from being viewed as secular ethics and even certain consequentialists. Moreover, there is a certain utilitarian flavour to several religious ethical systems... notably William Paley when it comes to Christian utilitarianism... which would seemingly fit into the above point.
Any view that claims to get its morals from a deity or revered mortal (in the case of Buddhism) is not secular. That clears it up. If those moral theorists have a holy outside standard, they canít be viewed as secular.
In addition, the standard criticisms of consequentialist/utilitarian ethics would likewise appear here; is-ought, open-questions, the utility monster etc etc.
How about you state those criticisms in this thread. Iím not arguing with Wikipedia.
I'm well aware of Epicurus dilemma and could happily cite the common counter-arguments given ("dark is the absence of light", "free will" etc etc) but that gets away from the point in question. As previously, there is a school of non-secular thought that doesn't hold that certain acts or things are moral "because God said so" but because they're an intrinsic part of God and the universe was created as an expression of God. As such their approach to deontological ethics is not a "divine command" theory but instead about discovering these moral facts; an approach that many secular ethics approaches likewise take.
Again, post those arguments here. And as far as your arguments about divine command theory: You first have to demonstrate the existence of God and his intrinsic nature to forward this view. Even if this were all true, there is no practical difference between God literally saying what is moral and Godís very nature denoting what is moral. The followers of this god would still be taking their morals from an outside force instead of working them out on their own. Of course, evidence shows that men, and not God, wrote all of the religious texts in the world, so these systems you speak of simply take their moral guidance from a group of bronze and iron age mortals. Your claim that there are secular ethics approaches that even consider the Ďintrinsic nature of Godí is definitionally false.
Then again we return to the first point; there is nothing intrinsically better about all secular ethical systems compared to all non-secular ethical systems. Once more, I do not dispute that some systems of secular ethics are superior to some systems of non-secular ethics; my objection is to the idea that secular ethics are intrinsically superior to non-secular ones.
The clarification handles this point.
Can I also just note that the way the discussion is jumping between metaethics, normative ethics, jurisprudence and sociology (and back again) makes it somewhat difficult to follow.
All of those things are germane to the subject and are intertwined with the subject matter. They all matter to moral systems and thus cannot be excluded from the discussion. I donít understand how you can claim to separate them or that I am jumping around. Please elaborate.
This seems somewhat incoherent; you're putting forward a legal positivist theory (in broad terms that the authority of law derives from its legal source, not its content) in the context of non-secular ethics when one of the key points of legal positivism is that ethics and the law are separate, if connected, things and to discuss the authority of law in the context of ethics or morality is a folly and failure of language.
Can you explain where I claimed that ethics and the law arenít separate? We base some of our laws on ethical standards, but they arenít intrinsically tied to one another. And I wasnít discussing laws as they pertain to ethics, but to society. Iím sorry if that was unclear.
Shall we try to codify this into a more useful structure for the debate rather than leaping all over the shop? In the context of secular ethics:
1) What, in the context of morality/ethics, do terms like "wrong", "right", "good" and "bad" actually mean?
2) How do we discover this?
3) What is the nature of a moral judgement?
4) How do we move from discussing a factual statements about what is to ethical statements about what we ought to do?
5) Why should one be moral?
With those points noted we could start moving into normative ethics and looking at the standards of a right or wrong action.
Listen, Iíve just been responding to arguments. I am not creating the structure of the arguments being posed to me, so I canít easily impose order on the conversation. So claiming that I am Ďleaping all over the shopí is disingenuous. Iíd be glad have a more structured debate, but the purpose of this thread was to get peoples opinions and start a discussion. Naturally, people arenít going to get together and spontaneously have a 18-way structured debate with a moderator. Iím happy to respond to your numbered list, but you canít expect the discussion to stay numbered and you canít accuse me of switching subjects, because the nature of this discussion will cause the subject to change often.
1) Things that are Ďrightí and Ďgoodí are things that benefit people and society. ĎWrongí or Ďbadí things harm people and society.
2) We decide individually and in societal groups, based on the effects of various action. If an action generally beneficial, we decide that it is good. If an action is generally harmful, be decide that it is bad.
3) A moral judgement is when an individual or a group decides whether an action or group of actions is good or bad, beneficial or harmful.
4) We can move from what is to what ought to be by deciding ourselves what ought to be. There is no other way to decide what we ought to do than to figure it out ourselves.
5) Because being moral benefits everyone around you. If everyone is moral, you will receive approximately the amount of moral behavior that you put out. That means, that if society is generally moral, people will be constantly taking actions that benefit the group.
Of course, as I qualified before, you and I might be able to have structured back-and-forth, but that wonít translate to the entire discussion.
Well, that's kinda my point - belief or lack of belief in a deity does not correlate in any meaningful way with the quality of one's character or moral reasoning. In short, "Secular moral systems are superior!" is an extremely broad and fundamentally indefensible statement. I do think secular reasoning provides a better toolkit for approaching morality, so it's certainly possible to build a better system, but to assume system X is superior to system Y just because X is secular and Y is theistic is blatantly succumbing to the halo effect.
You're forgetting belief-in-belief. And there are still more civil and less provocative ways to say that than 'delusion'.
Is Christmas even primarily religious any more? Yes, it originated as such, but I suspect that the overwhelming majority of people who celebrate it do so entirely without a church of any sort - it's an excuse to get together with your family, exchange presents, and have some warm fuzzy feelings. At least, this is the case in my area - is it that different elsewhere? (Yes, I know there are people who cite its religiosity as an excuse to get offended. No, I don't think they constitute anything approaching a majority. They're fighting a battle that was lost years ago.) And, well, if it's primarily secular... where's the offense?
For that matter, even if it is religious... I'm still with Oniya. Would you get offended if I wished you a happy Canada Day, or would you recognize that, though my culture is not yours, I'm hoping you have a good time?
You nailed it, while contradicting yourself a little. Secular morality has a better toolkit for approaching morality. To clarify again, I am claiming that secular morality is systemically superior, and not that all secular societies are superior to all non-secular ones. A better toolkit (system) is the only thing secular morality needs to be superior if belief or lack of belief play no necessary role in character and moral reasoning. If both secular and non-secular people have the same character and moral reasoning (They donít always, but for the sake of argument, we will say they do), the person with the better toolkit for deciding questions of morality will end up with a better chance to be moral.
First of all, I donít think delusion is really offensive. Delusion is a natural part of having a human brain, and to claim that you canít be delusional is to be arrogant. Second of all, as far as the truth of the discussion goes, someone being offended by a statement doesnít make it false. Of course if someone I want to befriend is offended by what I say to them, I have to stop saying that thing to them, right?
If I say that your belief in belief is unfounded, is that really less offensive than saying the you are delusional? If your position is unfounded, that means that you came to the wrong conclusion, which is a jab your intellect. Saying someone is delusional doesn't make that claim. I think itís a little oversensitive to hold the view that if something is offensive, it shouldn't be said, but like I said, I will be adjusting my language in the future. If someone on this forum doesn't want me to say they are delusional, I wonít. But I will kindly not argue with someone who isn't prepared to have their views, specifically the view of ďI am not delusionĒ, challenged.
It doesnít matter if Christmas is primarily religious anymore, although I would claim that is most certainly is, at least in the US and especially where I live. It can be taken or delivered as a positive religious message, and that is insensitive. I thought you were interested in curbing offensive language?
Canada day isnít a religious holiday, so the comparison is apples vs. oranges. Wishing me merry Christmas is assuming that I am Christian or not caring whether I am or not. Wishing me happy Canada Day isnít assuming anything about me.