Merry Christmas everyone!
We have nice discussion with Matt M and Richard in the comments of the post Why Should We Care?
It is really simple issue, so let me repeat it…
Given that I have atheistic/naturalistic outlook there doesn’t seem any reason why I should prefer pleasure over pain, that I should value rational agency, value my or others’ life goals, value helping people over killing them, etc…
Richard answered that people in fact do have certain values and interests. So given that I have ones, acting according to those is rational.
But we know that people can have all kind of values and interests. And acting rationally in relation to those values and interests might make them fly airplanes into buildings, get countries into wars, take weapon and go into rampage at school, and so on. So, pointing to me, a random atheist, with random values and interests, that I in fact have some interests and values and that it is rational for me to act according to those, isn’t much of a help. Especially if one wants to argue that people shouldn’t fly airplanes into buildings, or kill other people.
On that Richard says that we should take in account interests of other people. But that kind of answer again negates the importance of our already having some values and interests. As this is one value (of caring of other people’s interests) that people might not happen to have. So, we haven’t move in relation to the original question.
Matt, on another side agrees that the atheism/naturalism can’t provide reasons for us caring about those things. Either you have those in you, or not. They aren’t rationally defensible. Matt, however points that this problem is not related merely to atheism, but to any other stance towards the universe. Even if there is Flying Spaghetti Monster that created us, for example, with the purpose of creating pasta, it doesn’t follow from the very act of creation with a purpose that there is a reason that we should in fact do that.
But, I think for people that are not limited to naturalism, there are still some options available. Some time ago, I gave this short argument for objectivity of morality:
1. World is a rational place. (It makes sense)
2. What is rational can be in principle understood.
3. From 1 and 2 => the world can in principle be understood.
4.Moral judgment of a rational agent in specific situation depends on agent’s understanding of the world (including the understanding of the situation)
5. From 4 and 3 => because the world in principle can be understood, in principle there is an ideal moral judgment (or… there
is objectively right way to act, connected to the full understanding of the world)
Now, given the naturalistic/atheistic premise, the full understanding of the world of an ideal rational agent (5) can’t fully determine its moral judgment, as it appears that some basic values are required for the moral judgment which values don’t come from the understanding of the world, but from things like natural selection. That is what me and Matt agree on, and what Richard seems to disagree on.
The issue is however if (5) is problematic in any case. But it seems to me, that a theist can hope for (5), because he thinks that the world has different ground. The ground in the naturalistic case is inanimate matter without any inherent values, in which the sentient beings appear as mere contingency. But theism can hope that the world has some identity of rationality and love within its ground. In such case it does seem that that comprehending, or getting in “contact” (so to say) with this kind of ground will be enough to give ground to moral values too, without any contingency.
Anyway, thanks for the comments on that post, and helping me to get better view on those things.