Ilion said something that made me think, and the more I think about it the more right I think he is.
The gist of it is this: The only reason to make sense of an ought when it comes to morality is self-interest.
Please try and follow this train of thought, because I’m going to elaborate and I hope this makes what I’m trying to say clearer. Don’t start picking on that sentence until you get what I’m trying to say.
Let’s say God exists and he creates a moral law that we can discover. Well and good. But what does it mean for a law to be moral?
It means it has to ought. It means that this is a thing we should do.
But if the moral law is an indifferent deist God, or a Platonic brute fact, why should I care?
To put it another way, if a sociopath feels no guilt when he kills, what’s the problem? There are no consequences for it.
In order for a moral law to make sense, there has to be a consequence. We need to be punished if we break the law, and rewarded if we do not. We have to be, or else there is no reason to follow it.
When the Saints devote themselves to becoming more like God what that means is they’re trying to reach a point where they want what God wants all the time, every time – in other words, to become happier and happier about following the moral law that God created.
Aquinas is dead on that there is a moral law – a natural law – that we can discover by observing the world around us, and we don’t need God to find it. But it also doesn’t matter unless there are consequences for breaking it.
For most people with most things, the consequences are simply inbred. To be forced to the point of an abortion, one must put oneself through all sorts of mental gymnastics, and even then mothers will feel crushing guilt.
In other words, there’s a consequence.
But there’s a problem. Unless there’s a consequence for everyone, we have no reason to condemn the psychopath.
So, we need punishment and reward: Heaven and Hell.
There’s a reason we look at the psychopath as insane. Man is designed to follow the moral law, but the psychopath is broken. And yet, we don’t care unless he starts harming other people.
So the atheist can discover…a thing. He can say, “Hey, it looks as if there’s this thing people are compelled to follow”.
But he has to deny that the law is in any meaningful sense morality, which means there’s no meaning, which means nihilism.
Or, he can become a theist.
I’ll try to elaborate later on.