Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whence Moral Law?

From Iota in a discussion of Humanism in Leah's blog:
1. Moral Law exists whether or not there is a god to tell us, thus no god is necessary to discover Moral Law.
Yes AND no.
The ultimate moral laws (emphasis on ultimate) are, in this theory, an emanation of God, of sorts. To say that they could exist without God is absurd, because they are OF God. It’s like saying my thoughts could exists without me.
But it’s true my thoughts can be accessed without you knowing me in person (say, via this comment, a book, a piece f software, etc.) In some circumstances you can even know next to nothing about me and still interact with something I created. Although the more you’ll want to understand how and why I created something, the more likely you are to find out something about me.
Similarly, moral laws can, in principle, according to this theory, be discovered to a significant extent without an accurate knowledge of God, so that a person is convinced they laws exist of themselves. That does not mean the laws exist without God but that the person perceives them as such
So yes, an atheists doesn’t, in principle, need to know God to follow at least a significant number of the right laws and, if they are sincere, be counted as righteous (Catholic concept of invincible and inculpable ignorance). But the laws are still from God.
There were, of course, and actually still are, cultures who think that it makes sense to say moral law is above and beyond the gods. But that depends on having a definition of god that Catholicism does not share: a kind of upgraded human. For an ancient example, see the Greeks (Fate was more powerful than all the Olympians). And, of course, it doesn’t explain how things could work that way (i.e. “Whence moral law?”)

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