A Couple Clarifications

1) I’m not actually a divine command theist, and I don’t think my conclusions necessarily lead to that point. The moral law comes from God’s nature, but there still need to be consequences for breaking it. That doesn’t make it arbitrary.

2) This is important, so pay attention: When I say the moral law needs to have consequences for it to be a moral law, I am not saying that the only reason to obey the moral law is fear of consequences.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s say I am building a house for my family and me. A crazed philosopher comes up to me and says, “Why do you need a house anyway?”

Confused, I answer “Because without a house my whole family will be stuck sleeping in the cold, outside, which can be potentially dangerous. We need some sort of shelter.”

And so the philosopher smugly replies, “So you are saying that the only reason to build a house is because it provides shelter! Are you sure you want to make that claim?”

Except, no, that’s not what I’m saying. There are all sorts of reasons to build a house. Some reasons even higher and more important than the shelter reason in some ways – like providing a loving home for my family.

But for it to even be a house it needs to fulfill the basic function of protecting me from the elements.

Likewise, there are many reasons to obey the moral law, the highest being “Love of God”. But for it to even be a moral law there need to be consequences for breaking it.

Make more sense?

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14 Responses to A Couple Clarifications

  1. vishmehr24 says:

    All acts have consequences. Some good, some bad. Non-moral acts such as eating a particular ice-cream have consequences, could be even pretty dire.
    Following moral l aw could get you killed. And you may not even get the “reward” of heaven. (the case of virtuous pagan)

  2. vishmehr24 says:

    Your argument appears to be evolving.
    First it was
    “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.”

    Now
    ,”I am not saying that the only reason to obey the moral law is fear of consequences.”
    Anyway, the world is so set up that links between acts and consequences are not clear-cut. It is specifically so that man would not obey God for the fear of consequences.
    That is, moral act is specifically that is done for “right reason:” and not for fear of “bad consequences”. Your talk of consequences drain morality of its specific meaning.

    God does right things freely, if one may speak in a loose fashion. Thus, to become like Him, we need to learn to do right things freely, that is because they are right. And not because they are good for us. For that would be just trade. We obey God because He gives us good things. That is paganism.

    • Your argument appears to be evolving.

      I don’t think those two sentences contradict each other.

      • Syllabus says:

        I don’t think those two sentences contradict each other.

        This seems obviously false. The sentences in question are:

        We need to be punished if we break the law, and rewarded if we do not… or else there is no reason to follow it.

        and

        I am not saying that the only reason to obey the moral law is fear of consequences.

        You are saying that the only reason to obey the moral law is the expectation of punishment and reward. Punishment and reward are consequences of actions. Therefore, the only reason to obey the moral law is the expectation of consequences, which literally is fear of consequences. Unless you’re drawing a totally semantic distinction between expectation of consequences and fear of consequences, in which case you’ve expressed yourself poorly. So yeah, they’re mutually exclusive.

      • You are saying that the only reason to obey the moral law is the expectation of punishment and reward. Punishment and reward are consequences of actions. Therefore, the only reason to obey the moral law is the expectation of consequences, which literally is fear of consequences. Unless you’re drawing a totally semantic distinction between expectation of consequences and fear of consequences, in which case you’ve expressed yourself poorly.

        That would be it, and I did express myself poorly, mostly because I was still thinking things through. But going over my posts again I still wouldn’t take back anything I wrote point blank. I am trying to get things set in my mind, though, so expect some confusion.

  3. Samuel Edwards says:

    I appreciate the clarification. Your position in this post seems more tenable than the previous one.

  4. Ilíon says:

    Off topic: I see your work is mentioned by Mr Evil himself Vox Day

  5. Scholar-at-Arms says:

    Malcolm, it seems to me that your arguments here and at SciFiWright depend very heavily on the notion of punishment, or consequences, for wrong action. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be shifting back and forth between “punishment” (with the corollary notion of a punisher) and “consequences” (which carry no such corollary) as following upon unvirtuous conduct. May I suggest that the first notion supports your arguments in favor of the necessity of theism much more strongly than the second, but that the second is more generally true?

  6. Mark Citadel says:

    May I ask why you reject Divine Command Theory?I recognize that the Moral Law must be inherent in God’s nature so as not to be arbitrary, but is it not accurate to say that we come to know this nature through God’s communication with man , His commandments to us?

    • Good question. Divine Command Theory is the theory that it’s moral just because God says so. I’d reply that it’s not just because God says so, but because it’s God’s nature. If you look through the archives you’ll see, for example, that I think it is impossible for God to actually have ordered the slaughter of the infants in the OT, no matter how it may appear.

      • Mark Citadel says:

        Thanks for explaining that. With regard to the Canaanite slaughter, is not a possible justification that God could have commanded it, knowing that it would not be carried out. For instance, it seems on many occasions that only those who didn’t flee before the armies of Israel would have been killed. God may have of course known that the women and children might flee the cities beforehand.

        Also, another explanation I have considered is if God may have commanded that the infants be killed to prevent some potential greater evil that He was aware of due to his omniscience. If there was a person we knew was on course to murder several innocent people, would we not be justified in killing him beforehand? Obviously we are limited in our knowledge of what people may or may not actually end up doing, but God will know this without error.

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