November 09, 2014

The Moral Argument: Objective Moral Values

In the second premise -- the second sentence -- of the moral argument, we state that "objective moral values do exist".  What does that mean?

There are three things that make a free choice good or bad: the act, the intention, and the circumstance.  Dr. Kreeft reviews these at the beginning of his 2002 talk on Moral Theology and Homosexuality.

Three Parts

Dr. Kreeft goes on to describe these three in terms we reviewed at the very beginning: objective and subjective, and absolute and relative.

Acts are objective and absolute.  An act is objective; it isn't subject to opinion. If something happened, we may disagree on what we think we saw, but we must agree that only one thing happened. If I saw the car run a red light, and you saw them go on a green light, only one of us can be right.

Intentions are subjective and absolute.  An intention is subjective; it is subject to opinion. Two people can do the same act to the same recipient, but they can do it with different intentions. If I shove my child against the wall, it may be abuse, if I have no reason; or it may be good parenting, if I'm protecting him from a falling glass or a hot stove.

Circumstances are objective and relative. A circumstance is objective; it isn't subject to opinion. Circumstances are only one thing at a time. A circumstance is, however, relative. It may be different to different people -- what one person can afford, another can't, for example.

Objective Moral Values

There is a place for subjectivism -- in the intentions. The moral argument, however, centers on objective moral values.  What, then, is the objective part?  It's what's left: the acts and the circumstances.

Why is this important?  Well, in the moral argument, we argue that "objective moral values do exist". What do we mean by "objective moral values"?  We mean values regarding either moral acts, moral circumstances, or both.  I see no reason why it can't be both.  We're stating, in that second premise, that moral acts and moral circumstances exist.

We're stating that there are objective acts -- when a thing happens, it happens for all people and doesn't change based on opinion or preference.  We're stating, also, that there are objective circumstances -- that the situation in which that thing happens is an objective thing. Different people may react different to those circumstances, but they're there.

That seems inarguable. Things happen, and they happen objectively -- outside of personal imagination, opinion, or desire.

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