RE: [asa] Dawkins new book - objective

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Date: Tue Oct 27 2009 - 10:22:15 EDT

The Viet Nam story is a poor example because the argument was about a future judgment, so killing a person nearby proved nothing. But if the Christian was trying to say consequences were in the here and now, then obviously yes, he was wrong, and unfortunately proved wrong by the worst possible means. In that case, his stupid argument resulted in an unnecessary death in an effort to prove it wrong.


From: [] On Behalf Of David Clounch
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2009 9:53 PM
To: Gregory Arago
Cc: Thomas Pearson;
Subject: Re: [asa] Dawkins new book - objective

Tom said:

It's not at all clear to me why a "materialist-naturalist" cannot lay claim to objective moral values, purposes and meanings in approximately the same way. They may not be universal or grounded in an unassailable source, but that doesn't disqualify them from being objective.

I am reminded of 'doc', my friend who was walking along a road in Viet Nam. He was arguing with a south viet regular army officer about philosophy and life. Doc had asserted there is an objective moral law to which we will be held accountable. The army man pulled his 45, pointed it at a villager that was in a rice paddy at the side of the road. He killed him. He then turns to my friend and says "no there isn't". "It doesn't matter that I killed him, and nobody will ever punish me for doing so. In reality life is dirt cheap, as I have just demonstrated."

I would submit that the vietnamese soldier was correct, except in one case. There is an afterlife and a judge. Objectivity will be demonstrated to all of us, and it doesn't really matter if we acknowledge it today. The only thing acknowledgement could do is affect how we live today.
But materialists deny the afterlife and the judge. So by their definition there is no objective moral law. What is it to which they are going point to? Can they point to something that would have given pause to those kids at Columbine? I don't think materialists can possibly believe in anything that would have dissuaded those gunmen. Maybe I am wrong. Show me that materialism and nihilism are not lovers (and the case where the materialists are taking a lot of drugs doesn't count).

Dave C

On Sun, Oct 25, 2009 at 11:32 PM, Gregory Arago <<>> wrote:
hi Tom,

don't think we've met or dialogued before, so just want to first say: hello!)
yes, i'd say you're missing something in your 'analysis'.

first, maybe you could answer a question: is the reality of the Holy Spirit 'objective'? if so, then how do you 'know' it? (and please feel free to treat this as a rhetorical question and just to answer to what is written below)

i think you've missed Schwarzwald's main point about materialism-naturalism, by focussing on some particular phrases. perhaps you could add what you mean by those 'ideologies' in order to meet the point more directly? do you accept the 'reality' of such ideologies in the minds/hearts/bodies of people today?

what if we called such values, purposes, meanings, etc. as 'extra-natural' or 'extra-material,' 'supra-natural' or 'supra-material' instead?

also, it seems the discussion of 'subjective/objective' by Georg Simmel might help here (e.g. "On Individuality and Social Forms"). this might offer new language for your view that 'objective' means 'public.' i'd suggest there is much more to speak about than to make such an equivocation. it is as a sociologist that i suggest this, noting with respect your background in history and philosophy given in your 'signature'.

warm regards,
From: Thomas Pearson <<>>
Sent: Mon, October 26, 2009 6:58:35 AM
Subject: RE: [asa] Dawkins new book
On Saturday, Ocotber 24, 2209, "Schwarzwald" wrote:

>>>For materialist-naturalism, objective moral values, purposes, and meanings are not available even potentially.<<<

I don't see why not -- unless, of course, you have inflated the meaning of "objective" to include particulars that don't belong to a strict definition of "objective," such as (1) grounded in an unassailable source and/or (2) universal in scope and application. But neither of those are required in order to achieve objectivity. I'm assuming that "objective" means something like "public," or "not simply residing in, or justified by, the subjectivity of a particular individual."

>>>And by this I mean, insofar as someone says "Well, perhaps there are objective and external/fundamental moral values, purposes, and meanings to life and reality", they are rejecting the materialist-naturalist worldview. To even search for these things is to question or reject the truth of the stated philosophy.<<<

But why should anyone believe that anything such as "external/fundamental moral vlaues, purposes and meanings to life and reality" is necessary for something to be objective?

For example: on our campus, as on most university campuses, we have a policy against plagiarism. It is a public, objective policy, justified by its connection to other university policies, and to roughly similar policies at many other schools. But its objectivity is not based on the fact that it has a universal application (it doesn't), nor on possession of any sort of "fundamental/external values, purposes and meanings to life and reality" (it certainly isn't). It is objective because it is a promulgated rubric that governs our common life together in this particular community.

It's not at all clear to me why a "materialist-naturalist" cannot lay claim to objective moral values, purposes and meanings in approximately the same way. They may not be universal or grounded in an unassailable source, but that doesn't disqualify them from being objective.

Am I missing something here?

Tom Pearson

Thomas D. Pearson
Department of History & Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
Edinburg, Texas

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Received on Tue Oct 27 10:22:40 2009

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