Continuing the Debate

Here’s Wright’s initial response to me, and my response to him:

Mr. Wright:

[Quoting me here]“I’m not sure why a meaningful life is one lived according to virtue. I decide I want to live my life as a career criminal, the dramatic Flambeau from the Fr. Brown stories (which I started reading yesterday). I know there is a right and wrong, I just don’t care. Why should I?”

I do not understand how this is on topic. A life lived according to virtue is meaningful by definition, since it is a good life where one does good rather than a bad life where one does bad.

In order to refute this point, you would have to argue that a good life doing good is meaningless, or, specifically, that something other than knowledge of virtue is necessary for a meaningful life.

The example of a man who knows that virtue exists but chooses to live a life of vice does not refute this argument for the same reason it does not refute the Theist argument. Both atheist and theist agree than men have free will and can freely decide to be evil and miserable. This fact is a given. It is neither here nor there.

It is irrelevant to the question of whether an atheist living in a universe where virtue exists but God does not can live a meaningful life.

Let me pick out this line:

In order to refute this point, you would have to argue that a good life doing good is meaningless, or, specifically, that something other than knowledge of virtue is necessary for a meaningful life.

That, in fact, is exactly what I’m arguing right now. In fact, I’m arguing even more than that. I’m arguing that for the atheist, there is NOTHING in the entire universe that can make their life meaningful. Absolutely nothing.

I don’t see where the “ought” is in regards to morality. Say I discover that, hey, I can do good! And do evil! All right!

Now why am I obligated to?

More specifically – If there is no God, why should I care if I don’t do good? There is no reason.

On the flip side, if there is a God doing good matters, because God is the person (in an analogical sense) who decided what God and bad actually mean.

It’s the difference between being dropped on a chessboard and finding a rulebook, and having somebody come in and actually try to win the game. The atheist may know the rules, but winning or losing ultimately makes no difference, whereas for the theist, we are playing for somebody. Winning matters because it matters to the maker of the game, who in this analogy is also the player.

That got convoluted. Let me try again.

Say I find a chessboard and a book of rules. I now know how to play chess. I even know rules exist. But just because I know that doesn’t mean I need to play chess the right way. I can make up my own rules. Why not? Win or lose I’m going to ultimately end up in the same place.

Now let’s say I find this chessboard and rulebook again, only this time I know that somebody designed the rulebook and the chessboard, and that winning the game has eternal consequences besides my immediate enjoyment. All of a sudden I’m much more concerned about making the right moves, because if I don’t play the right way I’ll lose. And if I lose, there are eternal consequences.

See the difference?

(It occurs to me now that thinking of morality without regard to any consequences at all is nonsensical. We can do good without regard to the consequences, but the consequences need to exist or good has no meaning.)

EDIT: Actually, there might not necessarily need to be eternal consequences for the people committing the acts, only the game designer in this analogy, because he has a vested interest in seeing his creations work correctly. Thus figuring out how it works and having his machines work is something we need to figure out just because, you know, that’s how we work. That’s how God designed us to work.

Otherwise we’re dealing with a brute fact, which just makes no sense at all.

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