Our podcast guru Ed just did an interesting interview on the topic of morality and God. Check it out!
Kant said the two things that stir us with wonder are the starry skies above and moral law within. If we look up at the stars, for instance, we don’t see the randomness that is the really real, but rather the order of the constellations. Similarly, there is order with me and my actions, that my mind unconsciously legislates a rule that I accompany all of my actions morally, unlike hamsters or certain mentally challenged individuals who are not morally accountable in that way. But are morals objective even if God doesn’t give his authoritative stamp of approval or rejection?
In the bible it says Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. This seems to suggest goodness is a perception God receives, not something God actually does. But what about moral goodness? Can there be such a thing, or its opposite, without God?
Perhaps an important distinction to make is we are talking about moral judgments, and so we are asking after objective criteria for assessing and evaluating behavior. Are such criteria objective in other areas?
We see such criteria in judging fine wine. Each wine is judged on its own merits—color, clarity, aroma, bouquet, taste, aftertaste, and overall quality—rather than as part of a ranking. The relativity part comes in when someone hates the taste of wine, and so the criteria are not personally meaningful for them, but generally speaking the criteria are objective and reliable.
Similarly, the Six plus one Trait is a way of teaching, modeling, and assessing the instruction of writing. The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency. Again, you can hate reading narrative or report writing, but the criteria are what they are.
And, The 30 rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR include the right to asylum, the right to freedom from torture, the right to free speech and the right to education. It includes civil and political rights, like the right to life, liberty, free speech and privacy. Of course, you could close your eyes to this and fly into the twin towers on 9’11, or feed the Christians to the lions in ancient Rome, but we all know the golden rule cross culturally and throughout time and so the universal rights and freedoms are good standard.
There is the question, then, of moral sentiment, and so it is clear one act may presence horrifically to someone, and yet holy to another, given the 9’11 answer above. And so, maybe with Nietzsche we should get beyond the criteria of good and evil and ask instead what behavior contributes to personal and societal health.
Does God love it because it’s good, or is it good because God loves it? In another way, when we first start thinking about Justice, do we create Justice out of whole cloth, or un-cover what Justice is and always was? This latter stance is what Plato meant by recollection.