Why would any one think this question is meaningful? (below) Surely morality is only objective when your current language community agree on its precepts; I don't know any atheists that would claim an "objective morality" is a viable claim beyond this, and most lean towards accepting that moral systems are contingent upon cultural norms, as such they are relative. "In conversations with Christians (and members of other religious groups), more often than not I'm asked on what grounds atheism can claim to have an objective morality. This isn't a new question, but it is one I don't feel properly equipped to answer well. I think reason and our intuitions can aid us in finding objective moral truths, but I often find myself at a loss articulating a good defense. I do not find the theist's claim that morality depends on God's existence a good one, but I want to advance a better argument for why secular morality works out, and not just knock down their view. What's the general consensus among philosophers? Is...

Your question concerns Question 4929 , which you quoted. Have a look at the Morriston and Wielenberg articles that I linked to in my answer there. In the case of Wielenberg, you have an atheist who emphatically rejects the idea that "morality is only objective when your current language community agree on its precepts." Another example is Russ Shafer-Landau ( Whatever Happened to Good and Evil? , 2004; Moral Realism: A Defence , 2004). A great many atheist philosophers think that truth in ethics isn't relative to culture or community. It's a topic of much contemporary debate, as you'll see if you search the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy under "moral realism" and "moral anti-realism."

In conversations with Christians (and members of other religious groups), more often than not I'm asked on what grounds atheism can claim to have an objective morality. This isn't a new question, but it is one I don't feel properly equipped to answer well. I think reason and our intuitions can aid us in finding objective moral truths, but I often find myself at a loss articulating a good defense. I do not find the theist's claim that morality depends on God's existence a good one, but I want to advance a better argument for why secular morality works out, and not just knock down their view. What's the general consensus among philosophers? Is there a firm foundation for morality without God?

The literature on this topic is huge. Much of the work in theoretical ethics and metaethics in the last 200 years has been an attempt to provide a non-theistic foundation for morality, whether a foundation within ethics or a foundation outside ethics. If you look under "ethics," "metaethics," and "moral" in the table of contents of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (linked in the right sidebar of this site), you'll find dozens of entries that give non-theistic treatments of ethics and ethical issues. Two good recent journal articles on the non-theistic grounding of ethics are this one by Wes Morriston and this one by Erik Wielenberg . You might also find this forthcoming paper of mine to be relevant. Best of luck in your research!

Is there a way to prove that logic works? It seems that the only two methods for doing this would be to use a logical proof –which would be incorporating an assumed answer into the question– or to use some system other than logic –thus proving that sometimes logic does not work.

Even asking "Is there a way to prove that logic works?" presupposes that logic does work at least at the level of its most basic laws, such as the Law of Noncontradiction, because the question itself has meaning only if the most basic laws of logic hold. To put it a bit differently: No sense at all can be attached to the notion that logic doesn't work (or even sometimes doesn't work). See also my reply to Question 4837 and Question 4884 . So we have what philosophers call a "transcendental" proof of the reliability of logic: If we can so much as ask whether logic is reliable (provably or otherwise), then it follows that the answer to our question is yes . You might say that this proof won't impress someone who doubts the most basic laws of logic in the first place. But I'd reply -- predictably -- that no sense can be attached to the notion of doubting the most basic laws of logic.

Is Kant's project of reconciling freedom with an apparently deterministic nature still relevant given how Quantum mechanics does not (as I understand it) see nature as a deterministic totality?

In my opinion, it's no harder to reconcile freedom (free choice, responsible action) with determinism than to reconcile it with indeterminism. On the contrary, it may be easier; see, for example, this SEP entry . According to compatibilists, we can act freely even if determinism should turn out to be true and hence even if the indeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics should turn out to be false. But no one thinks that the truth of indeterminism (whether quantum indeterminism or some other kind) by itself would suffice to give us freedom. The debate is about whether indeterminism is necessary for freedom. In my view, incompatibilists bear the burden of showing that it is and have failed to discharge that burden.

Is it possible for a mathematical equation to both be fundamentally unsolvable and also have a correct answer?

I hope philosophers of math on the Panel will respond with more authority than I have. My understanding is that G ö del showed that arithmetic contains pairs of mutually contradictory statements neither one of which is provable within arithmetic. Assuming the standard logical law that exactly one of every pair of mutually contradictory statements is true, we get the result that some arithmetical truths are unprovable within arithmetic. I can't say whether those truths include statements to the effect that such-and-such is the solution to an equation, but if they do, and if their being unprovable within arithmetic makes the associated equations "fundamentally unsolvable," then the answer to your question is yes . Someone might reply that an unprovable arithmetical statement can't be true , but I think that would be to mistake truth for provability.

Would it be fair to say that philosophy is a manipulation of words, and that scientists deal with the relationship between language and extra-language observations? Thus "truth" would primarily be a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist. In the non-language (empirical) world truth would be infrequent because be empirical observations can rarely be one hundred percent verified.

To be candid, your question seems to embody some confusions. I'll try to address them in this reply. 1. I think it's fair to regard philosophy as the analysis (if you like, the logical manipulation) of concepts , although that view of philosophy is rejected by some philosophers. In any case, concepts can be expressed in any number of languages, so I wouldn't regard philosophy as the manipulation of words as such. 2. Scientists, as far as I can tell, don't in general examine the relationship between language and extralinguistic observations. Instead they try to explain or predict patterns of observations in as unified and elegant a way as they can manage. 3. I don't see how it follows ("Thus") from your first sentence that "truth [is] primarily a language concept according to which consistency between words would exist." First, what does "consistency between words" mean? Are "red" and "colorless" mutually inconsistent words because red and colorless are...

Would an omnipotent and omniscient being be bound by the laws of logic? If so, to what degree?

Yes. Completely. The tricky question is why . It's tempting to answer that necessarily everything is bound by the laws of logic because the alternative -- the claim that something isn't bound by the laws of logic -- is necessarily false. But, as I suggested in my reply to Question 4837 , no sense can be attached to the claim that something isn't bound by the laws of logic. So the claim can't be false , strictly speaking. Perhaps all we can assert is a wide-scope negation: it's not the case that something isn't bound by the laws of logic, just as it's not the case that @#$%^&*. Necessarily everything is bound by the laws of logic because the alternative is literally nonsense? I wish I had a better explanation!

In a classic episode of "Batman: the Animated Series" (called "Perchance to Dream"), Bruce Wayne discovers (spoiler alert) he is in a dream because he in unable to read a newspaper he picks up. At first there are some ordinary words in the headlines, but everything becomes a jumble of gibberish as he attempts to read more closely. He later explains his reasoning by claiming that reading is a function of the right side of the brain, while dreams come from the left. My first question is: is this just a clever plot device or does it hold any water neurologically? And second, if it were true, would it be an argument against I-could-be-dreaming-based skepticism? Finally, third, the dream Bruce is having is a pretty good one, involving lots of things he would like but can't have in the waking world. His murdered parents are alive again, he's going to marry a woman he loves, etc. Bruce says he can't accept it, however, because it "isn't real". If you grant that he could keep on living on the dream world,...

I'll try to answer the second of your three interesting questions. The proponent of the dream argument for skepticism (imagine rehearsing this argument to yourself) could say, "For all I know, this allegedly scientific claim about right and left hemispheres is merely more stuff from my dream; I can't tell that it's not. Even if it's a true claim, I can't know that it's true until I rule out the possibility that I'm merely dreaming it up." If so, then Bruce Wayne's reasoning wouldn't be an effective reply to the dream argument. This isn't to say that it's clear sailing for the dream argument. My view, for which I argue here , is that the dream argument is self-defeating unless it's no different from (and hence no improvement on) the evil demon argument.

Working off Kelsen, logic and rules of inference, as well as other rule based systems, are normative, "ought" based systems. If this is true, or even if it isn't, what reason do we have to take that logical rules are reasonable? In other words, why should one accept that rules of valid inference (of any system) as actually generating true responses from true premises?

To test a rule of inference, you can try to find counterexamples to it, cases in which the rule lets you derive a falsehood from true premises. Professor Vann McGee offered a well-known (and controversial) such attempt in this article . But there's no getting around rules of inference entirely. Even as you test one rule of inference you unavoidably rely on others. Because any attempt to answer the question "Why should we trust rules of inference at all?" will rely on reasoning, it will trust some rules of inference, whether or not those rules are made explicit in the reasoning. There's no way to get "outside" all rules of inference and see how they measure up against something more trustworthy than they are.

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