Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 22. 14th September 1972
The other day in the caf someone handed me a piece of rubbish called "The Jesus Peoples Press" Among the fire and brimstone and "I saw the light" testimonials I was pleasantly surprised to find an article which appeared to contain reasoning. In case any readers were taken in by it, or led to believe that the ostrich-like views expressed in the paper are supported by a shred of reason, I would like to point out that the argument is completely fallacious. The article, entitled "Why morality?" purports to prove that there are absolute God-Given moral standards.
|1.||That moral standards are whatever standards are adopted as moral standards by the majority of people in a given society.|
That moral standards are whatever standards are dictated by a given person's conscience.
The author then quite rightly states that these views are refuted by the following objections.
|3.||That there is an absolute Moral Law. But in fact there is another alternative which he has not considered.|
That moral standards are whatever standards are adopted as moral standards by a given group. This view gets over objection (i) since a dissenter in a society will in general belong to some smaller group whose standards conflict with those of the rest of society, and thus his dissention may still be moral.
Now the author (who understandably does not sign his name) raises another objection which applies to both views (4) and (1):
Given view 4., such a thing as Anti-Semitism could be considered moral in certain situations. Since Anti-semitism is obviously immoral in all situations, view 4. is mistaken.
This objection hinges on an ambiguity in the word "moral" In the first sentence it is used in the sense of "moral relative to some group" and in the second sentence it is used in the sense of "What I or what most people nowadays consider to be moral." If the use of "moral" is made consistent in either of these senses the objection does not go through.
The last step of the argument fails for reasons which are almost too obvious to state.
There is no reason to suppose that absolute moral standards would have to originate from anything, any more than physical laws, and (b) if it is a universal truth that everything does originate from something else then the question "Where does this Moral Creator originate? remains to be answered. And is it moral to try and win converts to a position which must ultimately be a matter of faith by pretending it is based on reason by using spurious arguments like this one?