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If Theism is True, is Nihilism False?

I recently saw this on Twitter, and thought it worth discussing:

I like Counter Apologist, but this is akin to saying “When people say ‘God doesn’t exist’ they’re more than likely saying ‘I don’t want to submit to God.'” Rather than engage in gratuitous armchair psychologizing, we should just take what folks say at face value.

So here’s the Nihilism Thesis:

(NT): Nihilism is false iff* theism is true.

Should we accept (NT) and if not, why not?

To grapple with this question, we should say something further about the two concepts, nihilism and theism. For the purposes of this discussion, these are my definitions:

Nihilism: The belief that there are no objectively true principles of moral value,  obligation, meaning, or purpose and thus life is objectively meaningless.

Theism: The belief that the ultimate necessary principle of all existence is a maximally great and perfectly good person who created and sustains all things and who is the objective ground of human meaning and purpose.

Based on those definitions, should we think that (NT) is true or false? Or should we be agnostic? And what about the definitions themselves? Are they adequate? If not, why not?

*In case you were wondering, iff is not a typo; rather, it is a nerd-abbreviation for “if and only if.”

Dr. Randal Rauser

Written by

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of many books including What on Earth do we Know About Heaven? (Baker, 2013); The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (InterVarsity, 2012); Is the Atheist My Neighbor? (Cascade, 2015); An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything (Prometheus Books, 2016); and his most recent book, What's So Confusing About Grace? (Two Cup Press, 2017)"Randal also blogs and podcasts at RandalRauser.com and lectures widely on Christian worldview and apologetics.

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  • >Based on those definitions, should we think that (NT) is true or false?

    Based on these definitions we should not think NT is true or false, because these definitions do not tell us whether or not there can be "objectively true principles of moral value, obligation, meaning, or purpose" if there are no deities. We need to know this to take a position.

    So yes based on these definitions, we should be agnostic on NT.

    >And what about the definitions themselves? Are they adequate? If not, why not?

    I don't know what context Rauser us thinking of to consider the adequacy of these definitions.

    I can say, in general, that is not how I would define nihilism, or theism.

    I would define nihilism as: " the belief there is no meaning to anything"

    And theism as "the belief there is at least one god."

    The question of "meaning" is, I would say inherently psychological and personal, even emotional. Something has meaning to me if it has an effect on my values, morals, desires, irrespective of whether they do to others or objectively. I would say meaning then is subjective. Because one has subjective meaning is what matters, if one cannot have subjective emotions, values, desires, it will make no difference to anyone whether the meaning of something was proven objectively true. By contrast if something is valuable and meaningful personally to one, I don't see what context it would matter that it was proven to have objective impersonal meaning.

    I think clearly John was making a psychological conjecture .

    • Mark

      By contrast if something is valuable and meaningful personally to one, I
      don't see what context it would matter that it was proven to have
      objective impersonal meaning.

      Take human rights for example. Are you saying that it doesn't matter that owning another person is objectively immoral? It's subjectively immoral to you (I assume) and I, but some persons that are owned and some persons that own other persons may see it subjectively moral. Giving something an objective immoral impersonal meaning protects persons against subjective psychological conjecture. The only thing not included in your context is proof. I'm not sure what an acceptable proof would look like to a nihilist.

      • >Are you saying that it doesn't matter that owning another person is objectively immoral?

        I'm saying there is no objective morality. It matters if it is subjectively immoral.

        >but some persons that are owned and some persons that own other persons may see it subjectively moral

        True. And Americans fought their bloodiest war over this dispute.

        >Giving something an objective immoral impersonal meaning protects persons against subjective psychological conjecture.

        It would if it was the case but there is no such objective impersonal meaning. Because human values are inherently personal, and accordingly subjective .

        >The only thing not included in your context is proof.

        Proof of what? To be clear, I would never use the term nihilist to describe myself. My life is filled with meaning and purpose, and the term as commonly used implies no meaning or purpose, subjective or objective. But as defined here I do not think there is any objective or impersonal meaning or purpose to human life.

        • Mark

          >Proof of what?

          A logical proof of an objective immoral impersonal meaning. I've never seen one that doesn't have a logical breakdown without the presupposition of the classic theist God and natural law. Not saying it doesn't exist, I just haven't seen a compelling one. Every atheistic logical proofs for morality I've studied eventually takes an ironic philosophical leap of faith for the purpose of not taking a leap of faith.

          >My life is filled with meaning and purpose, and the term as commonly used implies no meaning or purpose, subjective or objective. But as defined here I do not think there is any objective or impersonal meaning or purpose to human life.

          Am I reading this correctly?: I have a colloquial X, but in reality there is no X. Meaning, as defined, is meaningless, yet my life is filled with it.

          >Something has meaning to me if it has an effect on my values, morals, desires, irrespective of whether they do to others or objectively.

          On your morals (omitting value & desires which can easily be objectively biological i.e. breathing or completely subjective i.e. jazz): You describe meaning as a second order qualia to your particular (desires, values and) morals, which you assert are subjective. What determines your moral judgment is either emotional or logical intuition. If it is logical can it never be objective as you suggest?

          • >A logical proof of an objective immoral impersonal meaning.

            Well of course that's missing, I think I've been clear my position is there is no such thing.

            >Am I reading this correctly?: I have a colloquial X, but in reality there is no X. Meaning, as defined, is meaningless, yet my life is filled with it.

            I never said I had colloquial anything. I said I have subjective meaning. And there a subjective meaning is real and my life is filled with it.

            >You describe meaning as a second order qualia to your particular (desires, values and) morals, which you assert are subjective.

            Yes, I wouldn't call morals qualia, but as I said things are meaningful to me based in my values, desires, emotions.

            >What determines your moral judgment is either emotional or logical intuition.

            I don't really know for sure. I know that when I speak of motality, what I'm always talking about what people should do to further human well being. I can make assessments as best I can on how to further this. So I would say my judgment is logical, but the logic takes into account my emotions, and values, and my understanding of those of others and tries to determine the outcome that best supports maximal wellbeing.

            In terms of morality of course one can be objective in terms of what constitutes well being. I didn't understand that to be in dispute. What is disputed is why human we being is the paramount moral value. And further why is it, irresoeirres of how anyone feels or thinks about it, I.e. why is the paramount objective moral value .

            To which I say it isn't objective, other than it guides most human thinking and it is pretty rare if ever that we have a moral act that on balance reduces human well being, it seems to be a value that is inherent in most humans, but not all. So I agree this is a subjective moral value.

          • Mark

            >I never said I had colloquial anything. I said I have subjective meaning. And there a subjective meaning is real and my life is filled with it.

            Okay, colloquial: (of language) used in ordinary or familiar conversation; not formal or literary

            >My life is filled with meaning and purpose, and the term as commonly used implies no meaning or purpose, subjective or objective.

            Maybe you can see why I was confused.

            > So I would say my judgment is logical, but the logic takes into account my emotions, and values, and my understanding of those of others and tries to determine the outcome that best supports maximal well-being.

            I said emotional because if your son is playing in the waves at the beach and you hear the Jaws song, you're going to make an emotional moral judgment to pull him out of the water. That's understandable. I would too. Just saying that moral judgments are often emotionally based. Conversely logical moral judgments remove the emotion, well as best we can. But some moral judgments like is it not okay to torture babies for fun seem to be objectively true because we cannot find a way it is objectively not true without another layer of moral dilemma, like torture this baby for 5 minutes or I will kill your entire family.

            Here is where you take the philosophical leap of faith: describing moral judgments as a commodity of maximized human well-being. Like an accountant might value currency (maximized, reduced). Well-being is not quantifiable and comparable value wise the way capital is on a balance sheet. While it sells books for Sam Harris, it is a philosophical and scientific face plant.

          • Ok, yes, as I understand the term "subjective" to be commonly used, that's the kind of meaning I have, and I have lots abd it's real. Are you using "subjective" to mean imaginary?

            >Maybe you can see why I was confused.

            Yes, you were thinking the term I was referencing was "subjective", but the term I was talking about was "nihilism". It makes sense if you read it as follows:

            >My life is filled with meaning and purpose, and the term ["nihilism"]as commonly used implies no meaning or purpose, subjective or objective.

            >Jaws song, you're going to make an emotional moral judgment to pull him out of the water.

            I really don't think I would. If I saw a shark I would, and that would be a logical judgment informed by an emotional attachment, it would be a moral act in my morality.

            >seem to be objectively true because we cannot find a way it is objectively not true

            Sure all moral judgments "seem" to be objectively true, if that's your definition of "objective" then ok I accept your version of objective morality. But I would have thought it would be defined as "absolutely the case irrespective of what it seems like to individuals".

            >Well-being is not quantifiable and comparable value wise the way capital is on a balance sheet.

            I agree. But we can make assessments about well being and suffering most of the time. Sometimes it's unclear, sometimes we are biased by cognitive biases.

            >While it sells books for Sam Harris, it is a philosophical and scientific face plant.

            It's utilitarianism, it's a pretty well respected area of philosophy of ethics, as are others. If be happy to discuss why I prefer it if you like.

            I don't like parts of Harris' view of it, particularly calling well bebeing an objective goal.

          • Mark

            Thanks for the clarification BGA. I agree utilitarianism is common. I also see the problem of Harris' end goal. Here's a few of my problems with utiltarianism: 1) It could require injustice to an innocent individual if the right moral decision benefits everyone overall. 2) It ignores means and means matters morally. 3) It ignores motives and motives matter morally 4) How persons assign value to the variables in a moral decision is subjective and thus all it really is is moral relativism. In such case the beliefs of Nazism is deemed true and their practices right relative to their moral framework, just assign a negative value to a Jew. Americans did the same with fetuses in 1973. Edit Done. Cheers BGA!

          • On 1, it depends what you mean by "justice" I don't think I would ever call it just if the outcome on balance degraded Human well being.

            On 2, if you are saying utilitarianism ignored means and only assesses ends, this is not the case. Or at least for me.

            3 I'm not sure what role you are thinking motives play, but to the extent they affect well being, utilitarianism takes them into account. If the do not, then why should I care?

            4, as opposed to what exactly .I have heard no alternative objective moral goal or objective way to assess moral questions.

            Yes the nazis thought they were acting morally as do ISIS, as did crusaders and Andrea Yates. It asses those as wrong and can explain why

            But please after taking swipes at my morality and indirectly comparing me to the Nazis, please demonstrate a moral goal that is demonstrably objective and a way to make objective moral assessments.

          • Mark

            Hey BGA, sorry I've been away from the CPU for a day. I don't want to imply your moral compass is akin to a Nazi. As a Catholic I ascribe to natural law and as such I believe that the goodness of God is imprinted into your soul. I know you believe that is rubbish, yet without talking past each other for a second, I charitably offer you my apologies if I at all seemed crass. With any moral code, taken to extremes, inconsistencies are bound to manifest.

            1/ If a judge in a small town has the entire town rioting over a falsely accused rapist not being imprisioned, a utilitarian judge could be bound to provide injustice to the accused in order to create maximal well being for the town.

            2/ & 3/ When does the end result of maximal well-being get ignored and is that still utilitarianism?

            4/ I'm Roman Catholic. As such I ascribe reality's existence to an eternal presence who created the cosmos and begot a divine/human son to change the course of humanity and this divine man formed a religious society that is protected from error to be an infallible moral teacher. Swipe away at that :)

            But consider this, even if there are no gods, and this belief is only in the conscious delusion of billions of people over two millennia, without it what would the world look like? This simple carpenter's son were simply never born and all his followers for the last 2000 years wiped out of history. No Paul the apostle, no Augstine, no Aquinas, no Benedict, no Francis Bacon, no Caperinicus, no Riccioli, no Kirchir, no Ignatius of Loyola, no Lemaierte, no Martin Luther King. Every time you click a hypertext link, thank Fr. Busa. That's a pretty powerful delusion.

            Lastly, it is most especially powerful for the unlucky who get nothing but injustice and suffering in life. The delusional belief in the beatitudes gives their life purpose and joy i.e. Josephine Bahkita or Therese of Lisieux. I'll let you have the last word BGA, but again my apologies on any inference I made on your moral character. Cheers! Feel free to swipe away at my tradition. Catholics... befriending persecution since 33AD.

            Edit done.

          • >a utilitarian judge could be bound to provide injustice to the accused in order to create maximal well being for the town.

            None wouldn't. A judge is bound by the secular ethics of his job, not to do so. Under up i would likely assess there to be more harm in providing a false judgment and imprisoning someone falsely, even given rioting. But there might be many more factors to consider. What is the harm from the rioting. Would convicting remove that harm? and so on.

            >2/ & 3/ When does the end result of maximal well-being get ignored and is that still utilitarianism?

            It's never ignored, individuals need to assess all the different consequences of a decision, as best they can. Utilitarianism says pick the outcome that maximizes well being and reduces suffering.

            4 ok you believe that. If you can demonstrate it is true, and that there is some kind of objective moral standard, I guess that comes from this moral teacher, I will believe it too. But as this hasn't been demonstrated to me, I can't derive any morality from this belief of yours.

            >if there are no gods, and this belief is only in the conscious delusion of billions of people over two millennia, without it what would the world look like?

            Exactly like it does. Just like there are billions who believe you are wrong, and morality is inscribed in the Qu'ran, or in other religious beliefs.

            >That's a pretty powerful delusion.

            It's not a delusion, it's an unjustified belief, and it's a huge one, yes. But you already believe most people, throughout history, have held the wrong beliefs about deities, you even believe soo many Christians are wrong about Christianity. So you can understand how these massive and wrong beliefs can arise.

            >The delusional belief in the beatitudes gives their life purpose and joy i.e. Josephine Bahkita or Therese of Lisieux...

            Sure lots of people attribute meaning and purpose to their beliefs in their mythology. And we are back to the topic of this piece by Rauser instead of moral systems. As I said, my life is filled with meaning. I wouldn't say I have a purpose... Like I don't think I'm here to fulfill a role for someone else's plan, and I don't see what would be good about being such a cog.

            Ok this is the penultimate word. You've provided no reason for me to believe in any gods or question that utilitarianism is the best moral system, that there is any objective moral standard.

            But the last word is that I've found you a respectful and engaging interlocutor and I hope we can pursue further discussion. If you Reddit, I'm active on debate an atheist.

            https://www.reddit.com/user/briangreenadams

  • Sample1

    When people say atheism entails nihilism they're more than likely saying "I'll be really sad if I couldn't believe I'm immortal and will eventually live in paradise." — Counter Apologist

    Like the author, I take this reflection at face value. I’m not sure, however, if the author acknowledges the content as an expression of true experiences. I do.

    Elsewhere my online presence was said to be taking place in a den of iniquity. For those who don’t want to google the definition, it means immoral and grossly unfair.

    Atheism, for the six hundred sixty sixth time, is defined with just a few words. Hint: nihilism doesn’t factor into the definition. It is transferable for use, with a little tweak, even to Christians. Christians who lack belief in Odin/Vishnu/Isis, etc., are apolytheists (lack belief in polytheism). Would anyone seriously conjecture that apolytheists are nihilists or that nihilism is even on offer for an article, ipso facto, because one was an apolytheist?

    Nihilism, iniquity, et al. It’s getting pretty old. Racist-like even. Believe me, we get it. We are the boogeymen, the disordered, the untrustworthy. Will we be told that directly to our faces? YMMV. Regardless, articles such as these are a tap root reinforcing unhelpful stereotypes that keep atheists down.

    I recommend it’s removal from this site. I’ll also note this article is filed under Atheism/God. Maybe it belongs under God but I object to the atheism designation.

    Mike
    Edit done.

    • Rob Abney

      I prefer the Bunny Lebowski definition: "Uli doesn't care about anything, he's a nihilist".
      Mike, you are definitely not a nihilist.

    • I thought the article was more directed at theists: "If you don't like it when the bad thing is done to you, don't do it to others."

      If you really want to dispatch the rest, you could look into the Bible describing the Israelites as being more evil than the surrounding nations, or into the fact that the abolitionists in antebellum America were generally heterodox if not heretical. Jesus himself was persecuted and crucified by orthodox conservatives.

      If I were to argue for any general superiority of Christians over atheists, it would be that Christians possess superior resources for internal criticism. It is, after all, filled with lone people criticizing the establishment—religious and political. It would be fun to attempt such an argument with a willing atheist participant.

  • Logike

    I am inclined to say that NT is false because of the Euthyphro Dilemma. To say that objective morals require an ontological ground outside themselves, say, in the fact that God created/commanded them, which is a non-moral fact, would make morals arbitrary. NT is just relativism of a theistic kind. So I don't think it can establish objectivity in the way some people (like Craig, e.g.) think it does.

    Personal meaning/purpose, on the other hand, tends to be more subjective, I think.

    • To say that objective morals require an ontological ground outside themselves, say, in the fact that God created/commanded them, which is a non-moral fact, would make morals arbitrary.

      On this basis, the very laws of nature appear to be non-objective. After all, the multiverse could have generated different ones (modulo the anthropic principle). They are, therefore, arbitrary†. I don't know what can count as 'objective' in your scheme; you seem to have destroyed the word.

      † Or given that the multiverse doesn't have the acceptance that general relativity does, I could say "They are, therefore, not known to be non-arbitrary."

      • Logike

        The laws of nature are typically thought to be contingent truths, not necessary truths like morals, in which case, the former require grounding and the latter do not. So I am not sure the analogy holds. What further explains why murder is wrong other than the fact that it violates a person's natural rights or causes a person harm? I don't see how saying "because God said so" explains anything here.

        By the way, E's special and general theories of relativity are not *truth-relative* theories like DTC and Moral Relativism are, because the speed of light is absolute in the former.

        • Wait, are you expecting God's morality to be 'necessary' or 'objective'?

          As to basing morality on the harm principle, to what extent have you or others intensively studied whether that works, empirically? I am inclined to suspect it is a contingent matter; perhaps reality permits the silver rule to suffice in lieu of the golden rule, but what if it doesn't? What if we humans were meant to self-give of our differences to each other, rather than be careful not to impinge on each other?

          • Logike

            Neither. If God's command, decree, whatever you want to call it, explains the wrongness of murder, then the wrongness of murder is neither objective nor necessary.

            I take "x" in "x is objective" to apply to propositions. And, again,

            (O) a proposition is objectively true iff it is true independent of a person's decree and independent of his belief that the proposition is true (relativism is the opposite of this).

            But you presumably hold that,

            (R) "murder is wrong"--a proposition--is true only because God says so.

            Therefore, "murder is wrong" is not objectively true. This follows from (O) and (R).

            Also, if morality is created, then morality only contingently exists. But I have trouble understanding what it means for right and wrong to be created in the first place because moral facts, like mathematical and logical facts, are timeless facts about Universals. Saying that 2+2=4 "is created" sounds odd to me for the same reason.

            Unfortunately, I don't know what you mean by morals "not working empirically."

          • LB: Wait, are you expecting God's morality to be 'necessary' or 'objective'?

            L: Neither. If God's command, decree, whatever you want to call it, explains the wrongness of murder, then the wrongness of murder is neither objective nor necessary.

            You appear to be omitting the possibility that God declaring something makes it so, in physical reality. That is, his words bring about the thing to which they correspond. I have an intuition that those who reject creatio ex nihilo might not be able to tolerate words creating reality. I myself had serious problems with Orson Scott Card permitting this in Xenocide; wasn't he allowing arbitrary magic in the door? This ties into "Whatever you ask in my name, it will be granted to you.", but that takes us off-course. The key here is words being able to create reality and shape it, without them necessarily being primordially created and shaped by reality.

            But you presumably hold that,

            (R) "murder is wrong"--a proposition--is true only because God says so.

            Your presumption is incorrect. Re-read the other thread; I believe I have been consistent in connecting word to reality.

            Also, if morality is created, then morality only contingently exists. But I have trouble understanding what it means for right and wrong to be created in the first place because moral facts, like mathematical and logical facts, are timeless facts about Universals. Saying that 2+2=4 "is created" sounds odd to me for the same reason.

            Christians will generally say that God necessarily exists, is necessarily good, and thus morality is necessary. I don't find this compelling so for the sake of discussion, I'm happy to allow for morality to be as contingent as our particular laws of nature. But to focus too much on what is necessarily true is to denigrate created reality. According to Claude Tresmontant, denigrating reality is precisely what much ancient Greek thought did: matter can only approximately attain to the Ideas and true salvation comes from being freed from matter. Evil is located in the mismatch and for it to be fought with further creation was madness. "“All change,” writes Aristotle, “is by its nature an undoing. It is in time that all is engendered and destroyed.... One can see that time itself is the cause of destruction rather than of generation.... For change itself is an undoing; it is indeed only by accident a cause of generation and existence.”[3]" (A Study of Hebrew Thought, 25; quotation is from Physics, IV, 222b)

            Western philosophy has long been obsessed with the a priori, with what is necessarily true. This almost certainly comes from the Greeks. But for the necessary to be more important than the contingent is for universals to be more important than individuals. Such thinking is inherently dehumanizing. At best you can hope to be re-absorbed into The One. There could be no 'morality', here. Morality has to do with relations between individuals who do not consume each other, nor merge with each other. In positing God as the truly and only necessary but also declaring him unknowable in essence, Christianity saved us from resting in such dehumanizing universals and freezing history according to contemporary, limited, contingent, categories of thought.

            Unfortunately, I don't know what you mean by morals "not working empirically."

            I took you to be proposing the harm principle as the basis for morality. Was that a fair inference? If so, I'm willing to admit that in some possible worlds, the harm principle / silver rule would suffice. I'm not convinced that it is a necessary truth that it suffices in all possible worlds. Are you?

          • Logike

            "You appear to be omitting the possibility that God declaring something makes it so, in physical reality."
            --And that's just Divine Command Theory. But the 2nd order proposition "murder is wrong" is not about physical reality. It is about metaphysical properties or universals. I already mentioned that this is the source of your confusion. The proposition "murder is wrong" ascribes the property of wrongness to those *types* of killing actions which count as murder. But types are not tokens (particulars) in the physical world. Now if one said instead, "John's killing of Bill is murder (and therefore wrong)," THEN one would be asserting a statement about a particular in physical reality, namely, John's action of killing Bill, certain empirical properties of which, say, lacking provocation or lacking reasons of self defense, merit the additional ascription "unjust killing" or murder. The metaphysical property "unjust killing" or "murder" supervenes on the physical property of unprovoked killing; it can't be reduced to it. You simply can't cash out 2nd order statements about universals into 1st order statements about particulars. It's been tried already and the attempts invariably fail. Read Armstrong's criticism of Quine's attempt to do just this.

          • Yes, by now it is clear that you're asking for 'necessary' morals, not 'objective' morals. I don't know what it means to interact with a 'necessary' moral and so I don't really know what such a thing is. The only kind of moral I know how to talk about is one that is rather like F = ma, so that's how I've been talking about them.

            You can go ahead and say that the morals in some Platonic realm are thus and so, but that's going to appear to me like Catholics saying that morality is thus and so appears to your standard atheist: common sense† amidst statements of arbitrariness cloaked in something else.

            † I just mean common opinion, not Absolute Truth™.

          • Logike

            "I don't know what it means to interact with a 'necessary' moral and so I don't really know what such a thing is."

            --Well, we don't interact with moral principles and concepts in the same way our body interacts with physical objects. We interact with them in the sense that we come to recognize them and then decide to act or not act on them. Moral principles are just true beliefs captured in a proposition like "murder is wrong" or "ceteris paribus, happiness is better than misery." The wrongness or rightness of an action, and the appeal of happiness together with the aversion toward misery, might or might not be causally sufficient for us to do or to avoid doing something. But I don't think any further legislating command like "do x!" or "don't do x!" is needed to propel the will into action like Kant thought was provided by the CI.

            "We can go ahead and say that the morals in some Platonic realm are thus and so, but that's going to appear to me like Catholics saying that morality is thus and so"
            --Sure. I get this. Again, every string of propositions linked by ground and consequence terminate in a proposition that is fundamental and that has no further grounding yet that remains justified. I just think Divine Command Theory terminates in the wrong place because it is a form of moral relativism, while terminating in Platonic universals does not have this problem.

          • Ben Champagne

            I don't see how you can justify that Divine Command Theory terminates in a form of moral relativism. Please clarify.

          • Logike

            Western philosophy has long been obsessed with the a priori, with what is necessarily true. This almost certainly comes from the Greeks. But for the necessary to be more important than the contingent is for universals to be more important than individuals."

            --I don't see how that follows. We don't even *have* a morality without our moral judgments also resting on necessary principles universally applicable to all who find themselves in the same circumstances. From knowing "John's killing of Bill is wrong," how do we also know that "Ron's killing of Bob is wrong" without also knowing that both actions share the same property, namely, murder, and that murder is wrong? Knowing the moral status' of John's and Ron's particular actions presupposes knowledge of universals. You can't dispense with them.

          • We don't even *have* a morality without our moral judgments also resting on necessary principles universally applicable to all who find themselves in the same circumstances.

            How do I causally interact with 'necessary principles universally applicable'?† I'm sensing exactly the interaction problem that plagues mind–body dualists. Do I … "just know" those principles? That seems increasingly implausible given how much the mind is associated with the brain and how the brain is explained by evolution. I get the obvious Kantian vibe in your words, but you have some reading to do if you are unaware at how Kantians have an incredibly hard time accounting for how the Categorical Imperative is binding.

            † I recently asked approximately the same question; feel free to answer it in only one place.

            From knowing the contingently true "John's killing of Bill is wrong," how do we also know that the contingently true "Ron's killing of Bob is wrong" without also knowing that both actions share the same property, namely, murder, and that murder is wrong?

            How do I know whether I should be blind to whether a member of Homo sapiens is born or unborn when it comes to ending the organism's existence? How do I know whether infanticide is acceptable up to the point where the member of Homo sapiens can fear death? (A quick death need involve no pain, no suffering.) How do I know whether sufficient birth defects (say, Down Syndrome) warrants ending the organism's life? Your question only looks easy where the matter has been settled by uniformity of opinion. We Homo sapiens used to think that offing Bob is ok if he's not one of us. Did we suddenly become able to grasp Platonic Ideas? When I put on my physicalist hat, that just looks like a bunch of woo-woo, along with Jesus rising from the dead.

          • Logike

            Are you saying we cannot grasp Platonic ideas? Our knowledge is imperfect, but surely we don't all live in total ignorance!

            The binding problem only arises because Kant grounded the categorical imperative in a legislating Will that was binding for, yet transcending all, particular wills, suggesting some super-human Will or supreme lawgiver. But for non-Kantians imperatives are conditioned by goods such as happiness or virtue or the non-violation of a person's rights. So the binding problem vanishes.

            Yes, the interaction between mind and body is a problem, but hylomorphism doesn't save the day here. It still recognizes duality; it just buries it under more metaphysical chatter. As a person, I am both soul and body, but that still doesn't explain how my soul interacts with my body.

          • Are you saying we cannot grasp Platonic ideas? Our knowledge is imperfect, but surely we don't all live in total ignorance!

            I question whether that is the right way to think about knowledge. I think material reality is rather more important than Plato did. That includes individuals with all their quirks, minus the way their being has been corrupted by evil.

            But for non-Kantians imperatives are conditioned by goods such as happiness or virtue or the non-violation of person's rights. So the binding problem vanishes.

            Do 'happiness' and 'virtue' and 'rights' all exist in some Platonic realm, in your view?

            Yes, the interaction between mind and body is a problem, but hylomorphism doesn't save the day here.

            I haven't advanced hylomorphism. I'm saying that you have yet to posit a way for people to causally interact with the necessary morality you think should qualify as the only morality.

          • Logike

            "I think material reality is rather more important than Plato did. That includes individuals with all their quirks, minus the way their being has been corrupted by evil."

            --I would say material and metaphysical reality are both important. I wouldn't be so brash as to denigrate one over the other. But...

            "Do 'happiness' and 'virtue' and 'rights' all exist in some Platonic realm, in your view?"
            --As universals, types, yes. But their tokens, i.e., particular happy and virtuous people together with their rights, exist in the physical realm.

            "I'm saying that you have yet to posit a way for people to causally interact with the necessary morality you think should qualify as the only morality."
            --First, successfully resolving the mind-body problem is not a condition for being justified in arguing that Divine Command Theory would be a morally relative (not morally objective) theory. Not just dualists; even monists have problems explaining away appearances, but philosophers on all sides still offer arguments on the metaethical issue of objectivism vs. relativism.

            Second, I will just repeat what I said above: we don't causally interact with moral principles and concepts in the same way our body causally interacts with physical objects. We interact with moral principles in the sense that we come to recognize them and then decide to act or not act on them. Moral principles are just true beliefs captured in a proposition like "murder is wrong" or "ceteris paribus, happiness is better than misery." The wrongness or rightness of an action, and the appeal of happiness together with our aversion toward misery, might or might not be causally sufficient for us to do or to avoid doing something. But I don't think any further legislating command like "do x!" or "don't do x!" is needed to propel the will into action like Kant thought was provided by the CI.

          • Logike

            "How do I know whether..."
            --That depends. Some knowledge is empirical, other is innate. Why are we discussing moral epistemology now? The status of NT above does not rest on our moral epistemology. It is perfectly possible that we were ALL ignorant of which candidate moral principles were the correct ones, yet still debate whether moral principles were objective (independent of God's commands) or relative (dependent on God's commands). What you are bringing up is irrelevant. One could consistently hold that no one knows which moral principles are correct while holding that moral principles, if they exist, are objective (or relative).

          • I am entirely uninterested in an ontology, moral or otherwise, if you have no epistemology whatsoever to accompany it. Similarly, plenty of atheists are entirely uninterested in God if the theist cannot actually talk about how one gets to know God.

          • Logike

            "I'm not convinced that it is a necessary truth that it suffices in all possible worlds. Are you?"
            --Yes, I am, because absent reasons for thinking sometimes murder is ok *under the exact same conditions* in other possible worlds, murder is never ok--(necessary). On the other hand, it is perfectly easy to imagine the conditions being different in another possible world making natural laws different such as f=ma/2--(contingent).

          • L: Unfortunately, I don't know what you mean by morals "not working empirically."

            LB: I took you to be proposing the harm principle as the basis for morality. Was that a fair inference? If so, I'm willing to admit that in some possible worlds, the harm principle / silver rule would suffice. I'm not convinced that it is a necessary truth that it suffices in all possible worlds. Are you?

            L: Yes, I am, because absent reasons for thinking sometimes murder is ok *under the exact same conditions* in other possible worlds, murder is never ok. On the other hand, it is perfectly easy to imagine the conditions being different in another possible world making natural laws different.

            You didn't answer my question about whether the harm principle / silver rule is necessarily sufficient to generate a workable morality. What you did say is essentially that the definition of 'murder' would be the same in all possible worlds, but that leaves entirely open the question of praxis, as I explained and just illustrated.

          • Logike

            "You didn't answer my question about whether the harm principle / silver rule is necessarily sufficient to generate a workable morality"

            --It works so far. We punish criminals for murder all the time because harming innocent people for no justifiable reason is wrong. Am I missing something here?

          • Logike

            You say, ".. God declaring something makes it so," which I presume you mean you believe this. But then you say that I misrepresented you by ascribing to you the belief that, (R) "murder is wrong"--a proposition--is true only because God says so." But this appears to me to be asserting (essentially, not precisely) the same thing. You just add the qualification "...in physical reality." But whether God makes something so in physical or metaphysical reality, the point made in my very first post about theistic relativism and arbitrariness stands. This is mainly why I don't think the issue at stake is being properly broached.

          • LB: Wait, are you expecting God's morality to be 'necessary' or 'objective'?

            L: Neither. If God's command, decree, whatever you want to call it, explains the wrongness of murder, then the wrongness of murder is neither objective nor necessary.

            LB: You appear to be omitting the possibility that God declaring something makes it so, in physical reality.

            L: You say, ".. God declaring something makes it so," which I presume you mean you believe this. But then you say that I misrepresented you by ascribing to you the belief that, (R) "murder is wrong"--a proposition--is true only because God says so."

            If God's words form or shape reality, then something isn't true 'merely' because God said so or 'only' because God said so; they're true because reality now manifests so. Can you see the difference? If reality manifests something, then that something is 'objective' per your definition:

            L: "Objective" as I am using the term means "is or is not the case independent of a person believing/​thinking it so." So, "murder is wrong" is true independent of god/​persons thinking it so.

            This becomes blindingly obvious when we think of God deciding what physical laws to use in creating our universe, settling on F = ma for nonrelativistic, low-gravity situations. What is in his mind for how things work gets turned into objective particles and fields. I'm presupposing a kind of inertia to reality in saying this. Once reality is created, F = ma is now 'objective'. If you disagree, then your definition of 'objective' is wrong and you need to change it appropriately.

            But whether God makes something so in physical or metaphysical reality, the point made in my very first post about theistic relativism and arbitrariness stands. This is mainly why I don't think the issue at stake is being properly broached.

            Take some responsibility for your focus on 'objective' when you actually cared about 'necessary'. And as to that word 'arbitrary' you keep using, I suggest you back it up with an exemplar of something non-arbitrary. This doesn't suffice:

            L: Again, every string of propositions linked by ground and consequence terminate in a proposition that is fundamental and that has no further grounding yet that remains justified.

            As far as I can see, you've flagrantly begged the question: how can something be 'fundamental' and yet 'justified'? I asked you "How have you not essentially replaced 'God' with Plato's Form of the Good?" and you have yet to answer that question, even though you responded to that comment. My best guess is that you see humans being 'arbitrary' and therefore all persons are 'arbitrary'—including God. Assuming you are consistent this model faces a problem: where humans saying things doesn't make them so in many cases, you apparently assume that God saying things always makes them so.

      • Logike

        "Objective" as I am using the term means "is or is not the case independent of a person believing/thinking it so." So, "murder is wrong" is true independent of god/persons thinking it so.

        • Mark

          How is murder wrong to a nihilist? The act of killing another has no moral character to a nihilist; it is just the parameters of what it is, the meaningless end of a life. You've just sleight of hands a moral determinate to that act and called it objectively true. I think that is special pleading.

          • Logike

            Mark, of course a nihilist doesn't believe in objective moral truth. I am contending with the question of whether atheism entails nihilism, not whether nihilism is true, or what a nihilist believes is true.

        • Why could God not have encoded morality into the fabric of reality at a level as deep, or even deeper, than the laws of nature? Why could his words not properly correspond to created reality? Euthyphro has the problem of not recognizing creatio ex nihilo; that came from Judaism/​Christianity.

          • Logike

            Luke, because what is right and wrong would be arbitrary, analogous to "might makes right," or, "morals are cultural or individual creations." This is a kind of moral relativism, just with a theistic twist.

            A created reality is a contingent reality, meaning that a created reality might not have existed, or, that it at one time did not exist. But mathematical, logical, and moral truths/realities are (typically) not understood to be this way (unless you're the philosopher Quine). Without going too far into this subject, just notice how absurd it would sound if someone were to say, "2+2 at one time equaled 5," or, "murder might have been ok if God commanded it to be ok." Both sound counterintuitive to our ears. That's why "2+2=4" and "murder is wrong" are taken to be necessarily true, i.e., true at all times and in all possible worlds.

            The idea of "creation ex nihilo" doesn't count against necessary truths/realities, if there is such a thing. It only comes into play with contingent truths/realities. But maybe you don't think murder is always and necessarily wrong? Do you think if God said "murder is sometimes ok" that murder in this case *would* be ok?

          • Luke, because what is right and wrong would be arbitrary, analogous to "might makes right," or, "morals are cultural or individual creations." This is a kind of moral relativism, just with a theistic twist.

            You seem to be oscillating between whether morality needs to be 'objective' or 'necessary'. If morality is encoded into the fabric of the universe just like the laws of nature, then either it is 'objective' or 'objective' has no meaning.

            But mathematical, logical, and moral truths/realities are (typically) not understood to be this way (unless you're the philosopher Quine).

            Mathematical and logical truths are purely instrumental; they have no normative force whatsoever. And yet, morality cannot possibly be that, else you'd pull moral systems off the shelf just like you do with mathematical systems: when it's convenient for the tasks and purposes at hand.

            … just notice how absurd it would sound if someone were to say … "murder might have been ok if God commanded it to be ok."

            People never say it like that. The Hutus in Rwanda first characterized the Tutsis as 'cockroaches'. The Nazis first characterized the Jews as 'pigs'. Pro-life folks will point out that the unborn humans are [sometimes] characterized as 'parasites' by pro-choice folks. Humans throughout history have generally been ok with killing those outside of the tribe—and sometimes eating them afterward. Or do you dispute these empirical facts?

            The idea of "creation ex nihilo" doesn't count against necessary truths/​realities, if there is such a thing.

            Are you saying the theist cannot establish 'objective' morality or 'necessary' morality? In your original comment, you spoke in terms of 'objective', 'arbitrary', and 'subjective'. Note that 'contingent' ≠ 'arbitrary'. Ambiguity is introduced if we think that personhood is necessarily arbitrary and capricious, for then subjectivity is necessarily arbitrary and capricious and we ought found nothing on it. But then we've snuck in a necessary truth in order to claim there are no necessary truths. For more, I suggest a look at ObjectiveBob's interview of David Bentley Hart (transcript):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSHoDqF0xaY

            Do you think if God said "murder is sometimes ok" that murder in this case *would* be ok?

            If God were to merely say "F = ma/2", that wouldn't make it the case. Only if his saying so were to actually change the laws of nature to make that so, would it be the case. The same goes with your example.

          • Logike

            "Morality is encoded in nature."

            --You may want to cash this out. Do you mean the moral properties of good, bad, right, wrong are physical properties? I actually think they are metaphysical properties. So I suspect you are confusing 2nd order propositions expressed as general principles (which are necessarily true) with 1st order propositions about particular actions (which are contingently true).

            "Murder is wrong"--ascribes the property of wrongness to those types of actions which count as unjust killing. This is necessarily true, and true even if the empirical world never existed.

            "John's killing of Bill is murder (and so, wrong)."--ascribes the properties of murder and wrongness to the empirical act of John's killing Bill. And this proposition is only contingently true, because the *way* (say, without provocation) in which John killed Bill empirically *makes* his killing a form of murder (and therefore wrong).

          • I suspect you are confusing 2nd order propositions expressed as general principles (which are necessarily true) with 1st order propositions about particular actions (which are contingently true).

            In that case, all of the contentiousness has been moved to praxis: just how do we apply the general principle? Nothing has been solved. Your necessary truths become formal systems which can be pulled off the shelf when convenient, and put back on the shelf when inconvenient. I say the only way to really solve this problem is to have a person who has perfect praxis, who can causally interface with us and not just show but help us improve our own praxis. The complexity of how to apply general principles is no less complex than full personhood. Christians claim there is only one full, complete, perfect person. That person offers to give of himself to us, but we have this tendency to think we are quite sufficient thank you very much.

            You ostensibly reject all the above, so I will ask you how I can causally interact with a necessary truth. For a more elaborate form of the question, see the Phil.SE How does a realist account for causation between universals and particulars?. If you do not identify as a 'realist', then perhaps you need to say a bit more about yourself and what you believe before this conversation can move forward much.

            [Edit: I added a blockquote to indicate the original way you started your comment, as I was responding to that.]

          • Logike

            "Mathematical and logical truths are purely instrumental"
            --I am not sure what this means or how it counts as an objection to what I said. Applied math is a tool, yes. But pure mathematics deals with necessary truths. 2+2=4 is necessarily true independent of states of affairs in the physical world. You would be hard pressed to find a consensus of mathematicians who thought otherwise.

            "Are you saying the theist cannot establish 'objective' morality or 'necessary' morality?"
            --Yes, because there is nothing to be established with regard to necessary truths in the first place. Contingent truths are another matter.

            "Note that 'contingent' ≠ 'arbitrary'."
            --True. But relative, not objective, pretty much means arbitrary. This is the main criticism of relativistic moral theories, for which Divine Command Theory is an example.

            "If God were to merely say "F = ma/2", that wouldn't make it the case."

            --Really? I guess I am misunderstanding what the word "command" means in the popular theistic view known as Divine Command Theory, which NT expressed above *is* . Or maybe you don't understand the theory. Or maybe you like to evade the point by splitting hairs

            "Only if his saying so were to actually change the laws of nature to make that so, would it be the case."
            --This is just a roundabout way of saying what I said, even though moral law is not the same thing as natural scientific law. The former prescribe what free agents "ought" to do. The latter describe what nature "does" or "must" do. Not the same thing.

            "The same goes with your example."
            --so you agree?

            "People never say it like that. The Hutus..."
            --? But that's just what "contingent" means in the extant philosophical discourse. It doesn't matter what the Hutus say.

          • Do you believe it to be "splitting hairs" to distinguish between the objective/​subjective dichotomy and the necessary/​contingent dichotomy? I have been careful not to claim that morality is 'necessary'; I made this quite clear with my "Christians will generally say that God necessarily exists …" I took your original use of the following underlined words—

            L: I am inclined to say that NT is false because of the Euthyphro Dilemma. To say that objective morals require an ontological ground outside themselves, say, in the fact that God created/​commanded them, which is a non-moral fact, would make morals arbitrary. NT is just relativism of a theistic kind. So I don't think it can establish objectivity in the way some people (like Craig, e.g.) think it does.

            Personal meaning/​purpose, on the other hand, tends to be more subjective, I think.

            —to mean that you were talking about what is 'objective', not what is 'necessary'. F = ma is objective but not necessary. When I asked if morality could be like F = ma—true of our reality but for all we know not necessarily true of all possible realities—you said no "because what is right and wrong would be arbitrary". But this is critically ambiguous, because F = ma is arbitrary in one sense and not in another. If God created our reality, then in a crucial sense "might makes F = ma"! (cf. your "might makes right,")

            Your handle, Logike, is Esperanto for "logically" and Old French for "logic; reasoning". You apparently think very highly of mathematics, which includes logic. And yet, when I try to clearly distinguish between two very different dichotomies, an alter ego emerges and accuses me of "splitting hairs". When I take pains to clarify just what I mean by "God saying it makes it so", I get insulted instead of thanked for careful clarity. Why?

          • Logike

            "Do you believe it to be "splitting hairs" to distinguish between the objectiv e/​subjective dichotomy and the necessary/​contingent dichotomy?"

            --No. "Splitting hairs" was in reference to your affirming God "speaking" morality into being and then your apparently denying the same holds for the possibility of him "speaking" f=ma/2 into being. I couldn't tell if your issue was with the word "speaking" or the content of the above. I am still not clear what your main objection even is. Please don't take my remarks out of their contexts. Thanks.

          • "Splitting hairs" was in reference to your affirming God "speaking" morality into being and then your apparently denying the same holds for the possibility of him "speaking" f=ma/2 into being. I couldn't tell if your issue was with the word "speaking" or the content of the above.

            Are you talking about this:

            LB: If God were to merely say "F = ma/2", that wouldn't make it the case. Only if his saying so were to actually change the laws of nature to make that so, would it be the case. The same goes with your example.

            ? I underlined a word you may have missed.

            Please don't take my remarks out of their contexts.

            My apologies; I was so lost on what I might have split hairs on that I erred.

          • Logike

            "My apologies; I was so lost on what I might have split hairs on that I erred."
            --No worries. My use of the term might not have been accurate in the first place. I was confused about what you were saying.

          • Logike

            "But this is critically ambiguous, because F = ma is arbitrary in one sense and not in another. If God created our reality, then in a crucial sense "might makes F = ma"! (cf. your "might makes right,")"

            --I would agree with that assessment. The posit, "God created f=ma" in response to the question whence f=ma and not f=ma/2, doesn't in fact explain why he created f=ma rather than f=ma/2. Hence the arbitrariness. Perhaps a better job could be done be theoretical physics in time. But again, I don't think f=ma is analogous to "murder is wrong" in the first place. The latter bottoms out in moral explanations that are basic and don't require anything further. Yes, some fundamental truths are obvious. Even theists have to stop somewhere. I just think they stop at the wrong place.

          • The posit, "God created f=ma" in response to the question whence f=ma and not f=ma/2, doesn't in fact explain why he created f=ma rather than f=ma/2.

            Correct. But then you never meant 'objective' even though you used the term in your original comment.

            Perhaps a better job could be done be theoretical physics in time.

            You've done nothing to demonstrate that this is even logically possible. Why can't there be a metaverse which generated the multiverse which generated our universe? And so on. And so scientists throw up their hands and say anything—anything that they believe can be modified. I'm not convinced they're correctly describing what they do, but nobody knows how to talk positively about whatever real knowledge is being gained as paper after paper is published. Since any of it or all of it could be overturned, is any of it true?

            But again, I don't think f=ma is analogous to "murder is wrong" in the first place. The latter bottoms out in moral explanations that are basic and don't require anything further.

            Erm, this doesn't explain why they are the way they are. Don't demand things of other systems of explanation that you cannot provide with your own. How have you not essentially replaced 'God' with Plato's Form of the Good?

          • Logike

            "Correct. But then you never meant 'objective' even though you used the term in your original comment."
            --Yes I did. Go reread my further explication of this.

            "You've done nothing to demonstrate that this is even logically possible"
            --Insofar as we know, anything is logically possible until it is demonstrated to be otherwise. Are you sure you know what "logically possible" means? It's just a default assumption in the absence of a logical proof by contradiction. Yes, first appearances can be epistemically justified even if they turn out to be wrong. The burden of proof is on the person claiming logical impossibility, not logical possibility.

            "Why can't there be a metaverse which generated the multiverse which generated our universe?"
            --Insofar as I know, this appears to be logically possible. I have no qualms with it so far.

            "Erm, this doesn't explain why they are the way they are."
            --Erm, exactly. Because no explanation is needed in the first place for moral truths that are foundational.

          • Mark

            Euthyphro has the problem of being a false dilemma; at least to Thomists:

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/10/god-obligation-and-euthyphro-dilemma.html

            "...the dilemma is a false one – certainly from the point of view of Thomism, for reasons I explain in Aquinas. As with all the other supposedly big, bad objections to theism, this one rests on caricature, and a failure to make crucial distinctions. First of all, we need to distinguish the issue of the content of moral obligations from the issue of what gives them their obligatory force. Divine command is relevant to the second issue, but not the first. Second, it is an error to think that tying morality in any way to divine commands must make it to that extent arbitrary, a product of capricious divine fiat. That might be so if we think of divine commands in terms of Ockham’s voluntarism and nominalism, but not if, following Aquinas, we hold that will follows upon intellect, so that God always acts in accordance with reason. Third, that does not entail that what determines the content of morality and God’s rationale for commanding as He does is in any way independent of Him."

          • It'd probably take me a while to unpack all that and I'm not sure it hits the heart of @disqus_NFGq1hKCHK:disqus's contention. See here:

            L: Are you saying we cannot grasp Platonic ideas? Our knowledge is imperfect, but surely we don't all live in total ignorance!

            I currently suspect the better response is that of Claude Tresmontant in A Study of Hebrew Thought, about the Hebrews valuing matter and creation and genesis whereas all these things are negative and fallenness and degradation to the Greeks. Furthermore, the Christians says knowledge increases via relationship, whereas Plato thinks humans are incidental (see Socrates' maieutics) and the real stuff is contemplating divine thoughts. I see a value in Platonic Forms and all they stand for, but only an instrumental one.

          • Logike

            "Hebrews valuing matter and creation and genesis whereas all these things are negative and fallenness and degradation to the Greeks."
            --This is quite a caricature, not to mention ill-informed when much of early Christian thought was borrowed from the Greeks. Edith Hamilton, renowned scholar, wrote The Greek Way in which she outlined why the optimism and individualism of the Greeks was unparalleled by anyone else in the world. And the world-denying asceticism of the desert Catholic mystics alone yields a different interpertation. Interestingly, the above contention fails to be obvious after reading Nietzsche's opposing diagnosis in the Geneology of Morals and the Birth of Tragedy as well: the Hebraic tradition is a religion of slaves that needed to find way to redeem its suffering in a world beyond, whereas the Greeks affirmed life in all its misery for it's own sake in Dionysian Tragedy. Judeo Christianity also reversed good and evil in reaction to its oppressors, the nobility and strength of which was evidenced in earlier high aristocratic cultures. I am not saying Hamilton and Nietzsche were fully right, but they made good points. So if you think such a simplistic division holds between the Hebrews and the Greeks, I'm afraid you have understood neither. Also, Neoplatonisn holds that everything proceeding from The One, including the World, was Good, relegating evil to non-being, a viewpoint Augustine himself still maintained even after his conversion from Neoplatonism. What about the life denying negative path of the Christian Dionysus the Aeperogate? The devout attention Aristotle gave to the beauty and workings of the physical world? One can think of countless counterexamples to such sharp divisions.

          • In playing Greeks off of Catholics and perhaps Protestants instead of ancient Hebrews, you've already missed so much. Now you're right that no empirical dichotomy is airtight, but the next step is to really dig into the material and I won't derail this thread with that until the comments section on this article is long dead. Feel free to check back within a few weeks if you want to read Tresmontant's book and give me something approximately equal to read in response.

  • Craig Roberts

    Sometimes 'true' vs. 'false' just can't cut it. For example: if somebody is laboring under the illusion that life sucks, does life infact indeed suck? Can it be an illusion? Life would of course suck if you thought it did, but is it possible that you are wrong?

    Sucks to be wrong. But in the case of the nihilist he should be delighted to be wrong. He just doesn't know it.

    • Do you know of any work which contrasts "viewing things differently" with "things actually being different"? I like how Jacques Ellul states the matter:

      It must be remembered, of course, that hope is more than a vague hope that things will be better tomorrow, or a stupid obstinacy that it will work out successfully next time, or confidence in human nature that it will survive the next test too after getting through so many, or the assurance which is based on a philosophy of history. Hope is none of these things. It does not rest of man or on objective mechanisms. It is a response of man to God's work for him. (The Ethics of Freedom, 12–13)

      At least in Protestantism, one could caricature conservatives/​orthodox as emphasizing "things actually being different" and liberals as emphasizing "viewing things differently". A marked exception to this, according to Alister McGrath, is Emil Brunner: raised a liberal Protestant, he was unwilling to abandon focus on the subjective in the way that Barth seemed to. But he knew the objective mattered rather more than his tradition allowed. (Emil Brunner: A Reappraisal, 11–12)

      There is also a socioeconomic dimension to this discussion: I would wager that those who are sufficiently well-off are rather more willing to declare "I create my own meaning!" than those who are scraping by. I think it's established that the poor are more likely to be religious than the well-off. If self-created meaning does not result in a long-term sustainable culture (sub-replacement birth rates, anyone?), then might that be an important thing to talk about and investigate? That failure might take a few generations shouldn't dissuade the scientifically-minded, nor the biblically-minded. Those who are truly selfish can of course ignore what will happen [on Earth] after they die.

      • Craig Roberts

        Interesting as always Luke. Thanks for that. I think there is a reason that rich people are described (and describe things they covet) as "decadent". In the literal translation it means, "in a state of decay". Why rich people should crave decaying chocolate cake I can't imagine. God bless.

  • I agree with you on not psychologizing, but what has your question to do with what Counter Apologist said? He doesn't claim that in fact theism entails nihilism.

    As to your question, I don't think theism entails nihilism. Neither however do I think it would necessarily entail value objectivism. In fact, if all values ultimately stem from God's mind, I think they are necessarily subjective. Naturally of course I reject Rauser's definition.

  • Edmund Jones

    Presenting a dilemma with your extreme definitions sounds like promoting a point of view.