First, some tidying up: You don’t need all your premises to get your conclusion. Premises 2, 4, and 5 are fluff. They don’t carry any weight in your argument, you can just drop them and your conclusion still follows from the remaining premises.
So, the leaner version of your argument looks like:
1) The qualities that make us human begin to exist in the brain.
2) Morality is a quality that makes us human.
C.) Therefore, morality begins to exist in the brain.
I am aware of that. My argument was reviewed by a friend and he told me the same exact thing. I put up the longer version because in debates with Christians, less does not equal more most of the time. However, you are correct; that same version sits in my draft box though.
Obviously, this argument is valid, that is, its conclusion follows from its premises. So the next question is if it’s a sound argument, that is, are its premises true? As I try to think about the premises, I find I don’t get very far:
Can you explain, for the sake of this argument, just what it means to say of X that X begins to exist? I think I have a pretty clear and intuitive definition in mind of what the phrase means, and I might as well spell it out:
X begins to exist if and only if there is a time T at which (i) X exists, (ii) T is the first time at which X exists, (iii) X does not exist timelessly, and (iv) X’s existing at T is a tensed fact.
- but see, then I can’t imagine why you would attempt to show that morality begins to exist. So this confuses me. What are you trying to say?
This bit may confuse you, but bear with me here. One can make an argument and not necessarily agree with it and at the moment, I don’t know if I agree with my own argument; a conclusion cannot easily be made concerning morality as there are a few philosophical schools and one can easily spend a lifetime weighing them philosophically, especially without a belief in a god. However, in the argument, I’m working from the presupposition that morality begins to exist. The theist also works from that presupposition and concludes that it must begin to exist in god to therefore exist in us (i.e. if god does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist). My argument attempts to show that if morality begins to exist, it begins to exist in the brain. Of course, an infant has no concept of morality; however, said infant must have a normal brain upon developing in order to develop morality or in order for morality to begin to exist. The diminishing or absence of morality has been observed in people whose brains do not function normally thus implying that a normal brain has a lot to do with someone’s adherence to the laws, which aren’t respected unless a person feels that the laws deserve respect; only moral individuals know why they should respect the law. In other words, the law may help in deterring immoral behavior, but it is the person who decides to be deterred; hence why we have criminals — most of them are not deterred because from the onset they are not moral and hence do not respect the law.
Additionally, it would help if you were clear on just what you mean by “morality.” It seems to me that morality is that set of facts about actions that say of those actions “A is morally right,” “A is morally wrong,” “A is morally permissible,” and so on.
That’s exactly what I mean by morality. Those set of facts about actions that say of those actions “A is morally right and B is morally wrong” begin to exist in the brain. In other words, when a child is enculterated, these set of facts begin to exist in their conscience, which is itself a byproduct of multiple normally functioning regions in the brain. Thus, for simplicity’s sake, morality begins to exist in the brain.
On the face of it, then, it seems implausible to say that morality is a quality that makes us human. I mean, colloquially you could get away with it, but it’s strictly incorrect, such a set of facts wouldn’t have this property makes things human. Instead, you’d want to say something like “The ability to act as moral agents is a quality that makes us human.”
I would agree with you. I did have trouble with the phrasing. However, what you said isn’t anymore correct. There are people who don’t have the ability to act as moral agents; are they not human? In any case, I would like to thank you for pointing that out. I need to work on rewording that bit in the argument in order to be clearer. Perhaps, the qualities that make us normal human beings begin to exist in the brain. Of course, that would lead to the question: what is normal? However, I feel that such semantic dabbing is useless. Is a pedophile normal? You would say no; so would I. Is a serial killer normal? You would say no; I would agree. Are psychopaths normal? You would say no; I would agree. We agree because of social convention; thus, what is normal and what is not isn’t a matter of discussion. I find that it is intuitive and thus should be mutually accepted in any discussion where the term normal is used. Therefore, the revised argument would appear as follows:
P1 The qualities that make us normal human beings begin to exist in the brain.
P2 Morality is a quality that makes us normal human beings.
C Therefore, morality begins to exist in the brain.
Something like that rephrasing would be more defensible, I think, and maybe (maybe) this is what you mean. But then once more it becomes utterly baffling why you would set out to prove that our ability to act as moral agents is linked in some important way to the brain. It won’t do any work towards atheism, if that’s what you’re thinking.
To the contrary, it would do work toward atheism because it would serve as an argument for objective moral ontology without god. It would be another way to respond to the Moral Argument for God without resorting to relativism and nihilism. Unfortunately, the obdurate Christian will always reject an objective moral ontology that doesn’t include his/her god. Sam Harris wrote an entire book outlining his view of objective morality (The Moral Landscape); Richard Carrier devoted a post to objective moral ontology. I’m sure others have as well and they are all rejected by the obdurate Christian because god isn’t included. Now, I’m not accusing you of that, but I hope that isn’t the case.
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