TWO KINDS OF MORAL ARGUMENTS CONCERNING THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

(1)    Theoretical moral arguments:
Arguments that conclude that it is reasonable to believe that God exists because His existence is the best explanation for the existence, nature, and our knowledge of objective moral truths.  Such arguments assume or try to defend the view that there are objective moral truths.

(2)    Practical moral arguments:  Arguments that conclude that one ought to believe because of the moral value (intrinsic value, value to the believer and/or value to others) of believing that there is a God.  

We have already encountered this distinction in the readings by Lois Hope Walker and G.E. Moore.  C. S. Lewis’s moral arguments are mostly of the theoretical kind.


C. S. Lewis’s Main Argument

Lewis’s Premise (1): Everyone knows, and so believes, that there are objective moral truths.

Lewis: People blame, praise, and try influence things on the basis of the belief that certain things are really right and wrong – in some objective sense.  And it really is obvious that, e.g., cruelty is wrong.

Objection 1:  Many people deny that there is any objective right or wrong.

Lewis:  They are always inconsistent in that they go on believing and asserting such that, e.g. some actions are unfair and that there is sometimes such a thing as the “objectively right side” in a war.

Objection 2:  Our sense of morality is just a “herd instinct” that has developed (perhaps by evolution).

Lewis:  Morality sometimes commands that we act in accordance with the weaker instinct (e.g. to save a drowning man).  Morality sometimes requires that certain instincts be suppressed or encouraged in a way contrary to our natural impulses.  So it is implausible that morality itself is an “instinct”.

[Note that Lewis is assuming that we are sometimes aware of a conflict between instinct and the Moral Law – and so that the latter is perceived as objective.]

Objection 3:  Morality is a social convention, something that is put into us by education.

Lewis:  We believe that some societies are better than others and that there is such a thing as “moral progress” in a society.  How could there be such things if each society determines by its actual conventions what is right or wrong for it?  The fact that something has to be taught, e.g. mathematics, does not imply that it is not objective.  Ethical facts may be like mathematical facts.


Objection 4: Different civilizations and different ages have had quite different moralities.  This indicates that morality is relative, not objective.

Lewis:  Underneath many differences in particular moral codes there are common basis of moral principles.  For example, variants of the Golden Rule occur in very many different cultures.  Try to imagine a society where cowardice is admired and where double-crossing people who have been kind to you is a cause for pride.

There is much more to be said for, and against, all of these objections.  In particular, in connection with  Objection 4: One should observe that (a) disagreement in complex cases (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, and the like) is compatible with fundamental agreement in basic moral principles, (b) disagreement about non-moral matters can and does lead to moral disagreement and so does not necessarily indicate fundamental moral disagreement.  


Also concerning Objection 4: It should also be noticed (on the other side) that real cases of fundamental moral disagreement across and within societies do seem to really occur.


Lewis’s Premise (2): Objective moral laws are very peculiar in that they are quite unlike Laws of Nature and “natural” facts.

Objection 1:
Moral claims are merely expressions of preferences with a certain force, attempting to influence the attitudes of the listener, not the beliefs.  Hence the peculiar “Oomph” or moral flavor of such claims is to be explained by the effects that they have on attitudes.

Reply:  The examples concerning the Nazis and others strike us as not merely being concerned with attitudes.  We act, and talk, as if we took some moral claims to be actual facts of some kind.



Objection 2:  
Ordinary moral claims perhaps do purport to be objective, but in that case they are all simply false – there is no such peculiar properties as “goodness” or “rightness” are alleged to be, attaching to certain things and actions but are not observable by the senses.
 
Comment:  This is a coherent position.  Many ordinary judgments about right and wrong do seem to purport to be about something objective.  But if there are moral properties and moral facts, they are very different from “natural” facts of psychology or physics.  And it may be that there are simply no such mysterious facts. This objection agrees with the Premise 2 to the extent that it admits that if there were any objective moral facts, they would have to be quite peculiar.  But, it just denies that there are any such facts.



Lewis’s Premise (3):  The hypothesis that there is an intelligence behind, or beyond, the natural facts that implants the knowledge of right and wrong in us and serves as the foundation for the objectivity of such judgments is the best (or a good) explanation of our intuitions of objective moral facts.

Objection 1:  The best explanation for our so-called “intuitions” of moral facts is just that we are taught and conditioned by our parents and society to react to certain things in a positive or negative way.


Objection 2: Another possible explanation for our intuitions of moral facts is that the general principles are necessary truths of the same sort as mathematics and logic and that we know them “a priori” – simply by thinking about them.  One difficulty with this view is that it does not fit very well with a general naturalistic viewpoint.  Necessary truths and our knowledge of them seem “spooky”, quite unlike our knowledge of the world through the senses.

Conclusion:  The existence and nature of objective moral facts supports the existence of an intelligence behind them serving as their basis and foundation.

Observation:
This conclusion is only as good as Lewis’s claim, Premise (3), that the most (or a) reasonable explanation for the facts is the God-hypothesis.  Lewis himself does not provide any real explanation of how God is supposed to serve as the “foundation” of ethics.


LEWIS’S MORAL ARGUMENT RE-ASSEMBLED

Lewis’s Premise (1): Everyone knows, and so believes, that there are objective moral truths.

Lewis’s Premise (2): Objective moral laws are very peculiar in that they are quite unlike Laws of Nature and “natural” facts.

Lewis’s Premise (3):  The hypothesis that there is an intelligence behind, or beyond, the natural facts that implants the knowledge of right and wrong in us and serves as the foundation for the objectivity of such judgments is the best (or a good) explanation of our intuitions of objective moral facts.

Conclusion:  The existence and nature of objective moral facts supports the existence of an intelligence behind them serving as their basis and foundation.

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