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5 comments | Saturday, December 03, 2005

While perusing the net, I found a remarkable article by Kreeft. Under the subtitle “we live in two worlds”, Kreeft writes about moral subjectivism. Though I am not a Catholic, Kreeft has been a major influence in developing my Christian Philosophy. Kreeft has a way of eloquently chiding postmodern incoherence. Moreover, I think in this article, he really captured what we are experiencing today. He says:

Moral values have become both privatized and collectivized. On the one hand, the modern mind has fallen victim to what C.S. Lewis calls, “the poison of subjectivism”: the idea that morality is manmade, private, subjective, a matter of feeling, a subdivision of psychology. “I feel” replaces “I believe”. On the other hand, sociology has socialized and collectivized morality; consensus determines rightness or wrongness, and democracy becomes our religion: vox populi vox dei (“the voice of the people is the voice of God”). These two developments, privatism and collectivism, may seem contradictory, but they have happened simultaneously in the modern West.
He goes on to say (under “Moral Education Values Clarification”):

The one moral absolute in values clarification is that there are no moral absolutes, and the only thing forbidden is for the facilitator to suggest that his beliefs are true, or even to suggest that there is objective truth in the realm of values, for that would mean that some . . . are wrong, and that would be “judgmental,” the only sin. In fact, the very procedure itself teaches a nearly irresistible lesson: values are all up for grabs, are matters of individual or social taste; no one has the right to teach another here; values are “my” values or “your” values, never simply true values; values, in short, are not facts but feelings.
Values clarification, apparently, clarifies that there are no objective values. If this isn’t what’s permeating in today’s social mindset—I don’t know what is.

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Blogger harveyg said...

Hi BF,

1) I've posted a response to your last comment on my blog. Sorry, it's another long one that, I believe, responds to all your major points.

2) Re: This post. Just one simple question!

You quote Kreeft, when he described 'values clarification,' as saying ". . . values are all up for grabs . . . values are “my” values or “your” values, never simply true values."

What are the "true values" he is speaking of?

12/03/2005 8:33 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...

Sorry about the delayed response—I haven’t touched the computer in a while. Since your asking about Kreeft’s comment, I will try to give you what I think he meant regarding “true values”.

One must distinguish the concept of truth as objective (or the correspondence theory of truth), which is what truth is (metaphysics) from the justification of truth claims (epistemology). Empirical observations and inferences derived from them are ways to verify some truth claims, but they are not the only way. Moral claims are not known through empirical observation. Testimony is not identical to empirical observation either, and it is extremely important for knowledge. However, God has revealed some truths about himself in the creation that are empirically detectible. See Romans 1. He has revealed some truth through the conscience. See Romans 2. This is where “true values” come from.

12/07/2005 12:17 PM

Blogger DUB said...

As bleedingissac suggested in the comments at Evangelical Atheist (where you are impressively representing your side of the argument - not to say I agree, just that you present yourself well), morals, like language, are a set of standards that groups of people agree to agree on. We who see no significant evidence for a higher power usually explain the commonality of what constitutes as morals to simple empathy. You can of course argue where we got that empathy from, but we can volley ideas to infinite regress.

If, indeed, there is a universal standard oof morality that cannot be explained as human empathy, let us not stop at isolated cases of one individual psychopath. How do you explain entire cultures, the white, Christian throngs wwho supported slavery, Native American genocides, etc.?

Large crowds of people would stand and watch blacks being beaten, lynched, and burned, laughing and cheering in agreement all along. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of group think. These individuals may indeed not have been capable of such atrocities alone, but when a larger group of their peers demonstrated acceptability, they fell right in line.

I think this doesn't by far PROVE anything, but it does illustrate that collective agreement influences what is or isn't moral apprehensible.

1/08/2006 2:41 AM

Blogger Beowulf said...


Thanks for the comment. You bring a valid objection to the table. In the case of universals, I think something can be true for all, but not to all. This sounds a little confusing, but let me expand a little. In the case where some Greek civilizations killed their babies (for offerings I think), it was a consensus at the time; it doesn’t follow that what they were doing was morally correct (ever). To better explain—say there was one or even many civilizations that believed that 2+2=5. In this case, would 2+2=5? Of course not.

Morality can become sticky to deal with. I think the problem is that we often start with the complex rather than simple. So morality starts with the basic intuitions we all have, and just like math, we can get our sums wrong, but just because we disagree on some of the conclusions, it doesn’t follow that there is no right answer.

Of course, a lot more could be said. In the appendix of C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man has a reasonably sufficient list of studies/books that identify universal values in all cultures in all history.

As far as bleedingisaac’s thesis on language being deterministic of logic (not by logic), I think it has flaws. He brings some good points though with agreement on symbols and terms, but they just express and represent the thoughts—they don’t make them. We have to have the symbols and terms to communicate—and we need to agree on these to communicate, but logic in intuitive to knowledge without language, symbols and terms.

Lets take eastern logic. Bleedingisaac’s brought it up as an alternative logic—it really is not because it doesn’t work, and it’s not practiced by the professed. All it is is rhetoric. Hindus still look both ways before they cross the road.

If you ever want to disprove eastern logic to someone who professes it: ask them to get their check book (insist on it!). Tell them to write you a check for the balance, because for their worldview it is both their and not their, and in your worldview it is there (and you need it!) THEY WONT! Why not? Because this type of logic cannot be lived out in reality

If you disagree, jump in front of a truck, It is both their and not.

There is more that could be said about this, but I will leave it at that for know. I can intuitively reject this, but I want to think of a better way to articulate this and the words are just not coming. Thank again.

1/09/2006 3:46 PM

Blogger Beowulf said...

I need to work on my spelling

1/28/2006 3:29 PM


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