Ethical Morons

Recently in the last year or so I have heard two or more bad arguments for abortion that uses utilitarianism ethics; and so, I decided to address it. This is not so much about abortion (it just happens to make a convenient topic to use), as it is about the irrational use of utilitarian ethics to manufacture any ethic.

What God commands is Christian ethics.[1] Ethics need the other ultimate questions of epistemology, metaphysics, anthropology, logic and theology, in order to be intelligent. They do not come from a vacuum. The Christian worldview solves all the problems non-Christian worldviews have with ethics, because it is by God’s command, which is revealed in an invincible starting point of knowledge.

As has been discussed elsewhere, Romans 1 and 2 teaches us that when men suppress God’s truth, they cannot rationally give an argument for it. They are morons.[*] They suppress the only sound starting point and have no rational way to argue why they are so stupid. This is what we see here in the category of ethics.

First, Ethics are a conclusion from the other ultimate questions of one’s systematic philosophy.  In this sense epistemology is greater, because without it, there is no knowledge of ethics to discuss. Without a description of reality, then there is no context for ethics. Without anthropology there no need for ethics. Therefore, one’s ethics are true, if the whole philosophy is true.

Second, to conclude an ethic (What I ought to do) from descriptive statements of reality is invalid. It is a non-sequitur; it imports information not contained in the premises.  Scripture often reveals the metaphysics behind why God commanded such and such, but metaphysics is not a direct conclusion into category of ethics. To go from an “is” in the premise to an “ought” in the conclusion is invalid.  It would be a categorical error. It would be like saying “All apples and dogs,” are the same category. “Therefore, if a dog barks then so do apples.”  Even though God created all people–after Adam–to be born into sin (metaphysics) it would be invalid to conclude that what we ought (ethics) to do is follow sinful actions. Rather, what we ought to do is follow God’s commands. His command is to repent and be born again as a new creation in Christ.

 

Utilitarian Ethics: Aren’t’ fairytales nice?

Utilitarian ethics make two bad mistakes in the broad viewpoint. First is that it is a non-sequitur in the category mistake it makes from ontology to ethics. This irrational combining of categories leads to 4-term fallacies, equivocation fallacies, and metaphoric fallacies.

The other mistake is that such ethics are determined by the “end goal,” from man’s speculations. To define an end goal needs many abstract concepts. That is, without divine revelation telling one, what the end goals are, why they are the way they are, and commands to follow them, man is left with endless irrational rabbit trails trying to make them up himself. By starting from himself (empiricism/observations), man’s epistemology is already irrational and already an abyss of skepticism. Then, to add to this the complications of determining abstract concepts of, what is a measure, what is  valuable, what is an “ought,” adds irrational leaping of categories on top of more irrational leaping of categories without end.

Atheist often mock Christians for being, a myth, childish magic, and being nothing more than made up childish fantasy. Yet, if ethics begin with man’s starting point, then we are left with superstitious, and irrational-supernatural leaps of categories, that are piled on top of each other. ” All ontology is ethics, therefore, all anthropology is epistemology.” “The law of contradiction is a cat, therefore all cats are green.” Aren’t’ fairytales nice? If I can obliviate categories like this, then I should be able to deny the law of contradiction, right? Yet, I cannot. Those who start with man and naturalism for ethics are lost in endless dreams of fantasy. On the plus side, they might be good for writing sci-fi books, but are morons when they try to speak of truth.

Below is a bullet point outline from my College textbook on Teleological ethics by Michael Krogman.

TELEOLOGICAL THEORIES

Defined: Any theory of morality asserting that the rightness of an action is determined by its consequences (moral values [moral rightness and wrongness] are determined by non-moral values happiness, utility, etc.])

Etymology: From the Greek word telos meaning “end” or “goal”

AKA: Consequential theories or consequentialism

Determining factor of morality: Consequences

Purpose of morality emphasized: Alleviate suffering and promote flourishing

Proponent: Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism.[2]

Now Krogman will correctly state that end goal ethics starts with naturalism, or that it, it must start with man’s speculations of descriptions of himself and broadly of reality. Hedonism is one such proposed use of this theory.

Type: Naturalistic {i.e. ontology/metaphysics}

Naturalistic ethics are theories of moral obligation based on and derived from nature (including human nature or the way things are). {That is, from ontology, a different category of ethics is irrationally manufactured}

…..Determining morality: Hedonistic calculus {Hedonism is one form of naturalistic ethics, but it could just as well be the opposite. That is, for some it might be how much you suffer is the best end goal. Or it could be, the end goal of the least amount of harm to people.}

Duration: How the pleasure lasts.
2. Extent: The of individuals who experience the pleasure.
3. Certainty: How likely the pleasure is to take place.
4. Intensity: How strong the pleasure is.
5. Nearness (“propinquity”): How near at hand the pleasure is.
6. Ability to produce more (“fecundity”): The more fruitfulness of the pleasure to produce additional pleasures.
7. Purity: The freedom of the pleasure from resulting/attending pains

Application: Democratic forms of government are typically grounded upon utilitarian thinking. {Then most democratic ethics are therefore irrationally stupid.}[3]

Krogman correctly points out that incurable fallacies of naturalism necessarily applies to ethics derived from naturalism.

Naturalistic ethics commit naturalistic fallacy. {I.E. This commits the informal fallacy called, a Category mistake, by going from ontology to ethics.}

(a) Naturalistic ethics.

(1) they Confuse a natural property (pleasure), with a non-natural property, (goodness).
(2) They mistakenly equate factual judgments (pleasure, ‘is’ descriptive) with value judgments, ( good, “ought”, prescriptive).[4]

(b) Naturalistic ethics are counterintuitive (justify heinous actions): If what is, is right then nothing is wrong.
Example: Raping women is “natural” for a serial rapist.

… The natural and non-natural properties are conflated

(a) The should is the is; the value is the fact. {The ought is an ontology} [5]

 

No Lifelong Conscience

Below is Vincent Cheung from an email correspondence The topic was about abortion. I bring this up here because this person was using a modified Utilitarian ethic method to justify abortion. That is, instead of the typical hedonism, which says, “If enough pleasure, then X is ok,” it said, “If no lifelong conciseness, then X is ok.” (ok = being what you “ought,” or can ethically do). It should be a good exercise to go over.

The end goal is “lifelong conscience,” and I suppose its weighed against amounts of suffering vs happiness. But if there is no “lifelong conscience,” then these utilitarian measurements never apply to such a person. Conclusion, all this person did was find a more roundabout way to be moronic.

I put their argument as a chain modus ponens. Vincent, in his response, then shorted it for more precision.

“(P) If the mother aborts the unborn life, (Q) then it prevents a lifelong conscience from ever happening. (Q) If a lack of lifelong consciences happens, (R) then abortion is (ethically) ok.”

Notice Krogman’s 7 ways in which a hedonist tries to define their terms. The issue as I have said before, is that there is no logical/sound way to define them from a human starting point. Now, notice how Vincent attacks, with questions, this same issue in this modified argument.

1. If no lifelong conscience, then OK to abort.
2. No lifelong conscience.
3. Therefore, OK to abort.

There are too many unstated assumptions and/or unanswered questions here. There is so much missing that if I were to speak with this person, I would need to ask about these things to truly evaluate the argument itself. If the professor thinks that this is sufficient, then this would indicate to me that this person is in fact quite unprepared to make a case.

Both #1 and #2 need to be conclusions from previous arguments. Why is it that “if no lifelong conscience, then OK to abort (#1)”? And why do we think that if aborted, then “no lifelong conscience (#2)”? The two arguments to establish these premises need to be stated so we can evaluate them. I suspect that this would increase the hassle exponentially.

But even before that, what in the world is “lifelong conscience”? Does the professor mean consciousness? or something else? Also, what is the significance of “lifelong”? If it is not significant, then why include it? Is it included to curtail the issue of whether a fetus has consciousness (so that even if it does, it would not matter because to abort would prevent “lifelong” consciousness, or “conscience”)?

Is the significance of this “lifelong conscience” all or nothing, or measured by degrees? That is, if zero consciousness would mean zero guilt, would any consciousness mean maximum guilt? Or does the guilt increase as the victim grows older? If so, is killing children better than killing adults? Or does the guilt decreases as the victim grows older? But if I kill an eighty-year-old man, he has already lived out most of his “lifelong conscience,” so should not that reduce my guilt instead?

Or again, is this an all or nothing thing? If it is, then again, what is the significant of “lifelong”? Why say lifelong, instead of “any”? And if it is an all or nothing thing, then the issue of whether a fetus has consciousness cannot be avoided, and the professor would need yet another argument with true premises to advance the original argument — namely, to establish premise #2.

Speaking of premise #2, does “lifelong” include only this life, as if to deny the immortality of the soul? If it is denied, then the professor would need YET another argument to establish #2. If immortality is assumed or at least permitted, then the professor would need to establish that it does not matter for the argument in order to establish #2. Otherwise, abortion would not prevent a “lifelong conscience,” but only rob this conscience of its time in this life — the whole lifelong period.

If the professor does not believe that a fetus has consciousness, but abortion prevents any consciousness, then doesn’t this reduce the guilt of genocide? That is, I would only be guilty of killing the people that I killed, and not for ending a whole race, since I would have prevented everybody’s “lifelong conscience.” Killing two people to end a whole race, even if on purpose, would be the same as killing two random people.

(How does this apply to animal extinction, if it does? That is, if I kill the last pair of polar bears, would I be guilty of killing two polar bears, or also of causing the extinction of polar bears? Yes? No? Why?)[6]

Lastly, Averted Potential Suffering

Recently, abortion advocates have been using children in foster care to justify abortion, because some have bad experiences in them. In essence, averted potential suffering—like magic—gives a new category of an “ought.” This is again the fallacy of a category mistake. “Apples are chairs, therefore, clouds are candy.” When dealing with truth, fairytales are without use.

I will deal with this in a similar way Vincent did above. This example is similar to Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism, but is stated from a negative viewpoint (averted suffering), rather than a positive attaining of happiness.

J.1. If potential suffering is averted, then abortion ok.
J.2. Potential suffering is averted.
J.3. Thus, abortion ok.

There are many, many things wrong with this. As with a propositional argument, for it to be sound the “if…then,” connection must be necessary and not just sufficient. Premise J.1. would need further arguments to justify such a claim.

How much potential suffering being averted needs to be averted in order to justify the killing of a baby? If a baby is a human, then if I believe your future has a good amount of potential suffering, then do I now have the right to kill you? How much is needed to make such a choice? How is suffering measured? What type of suffering? All these would need more arguments to support them.
Moreover, If the epistemology used is not the Christian starting point and deductions, then is the axiom empiricism and science? When has David Hume’s attacked of empiricism ever been answered? Science still uses the fallacy of affirming the consequent; thus, all science is false (but that is for another post).

Also, if I believe rhinos were to experience future suffering, would it be ok for me to genocide them to avert potential suffering?

 

———-Endnotes————-

[*]The Greek word here in context of Romans 1 is morons, and not merely foolish or unwise. There are two Greek words translated as fools in the N.T. One means to be slow-minded or unwise; Jesus used this for His disciples. They were trying to believe but were slow at it. The other word means a moron, and Jesus Christ used it for those who opposed Him. In context of Romans one, the unbeliever is willfully suppressing God’s truth, by using God’s truth written on their souls, and so they are morons. They are like those who try to deny the law of contradiction by using it

[1] (see my essay, The Bible is Philosophy, and Scripture & Logic : Why is Pharaoh Punished? And Jesus’ Prayer: God’s Command is God’s Will; And also to Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology )

[2] Michael Krogman, Ph.D. Life’s Fundamental Questions, An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy. 2016.  Pg23. {} added by author

[3] Michael Krogman, Ph.D. Life’s Fundamental Questions, An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy. 2016.  Pg23. {} added by author

[4] Michael Krogman, Ph.D. Life’s Fundamental Questions, An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy. 2016.  Pg23. {} added by author

[5] Michael Krogman, Ph.D. Life’s Fundamental Questions, An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy. 2016.  Pg23-24. {} added by author

[6] Vincent Cheung. From an email exchange.

 

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