Moral Facts

I think this is a very perceptive piece on why students don’t believe there are moral facts. They’ve been taught that facts are measurable and everything else is just opinion. That’s really muddled thinking. The essay explains why. This doesn’t of course mean all moral facts are easy to discern or that we should just accept what we have been taught. We can question proposed facts, but not their existence. Christians (and most religious people) do have some strong reason to believe in moral facts because we have a source of moral authority to guide our thinking, even if there are ongoing disagreements on precisely what those moral facts are.

And just to prove how common such muddled thinking is, here’s a response entitled Why Schools Should Undermine Moral Teachings. It’s hard to know where to start, but the simplest place is to simply note that the response doesn’t really respond to the point – in fact, it seems to provide it. The author doesn’t say whether there are moral facts or not, but seems to imply moral beliefs are all opinions. The original article, I should note, said nothing about whether schools should question moral teachings, but instead focused on their rejection of the existence of moral facts. She doesn’t seem to understand what a fact is (it is something that is true – whether it is believed or not, not something that is believed by some, many, or all people). Note for example this part of her response:

The statement among all these examples hardest to relegate to the “opinion” category, “all men are created equal,” is anything but fact (moral or otherwise) in much of the world and arguably in our own country. It’s a powerful opinion, one that, like Tinker Bell, requires our most fervent belief to keep it aloft. It’s also an opinion that, again and again, has required us to set aside beliefs once held so true as to be considered self-evident. It’s an opinion — a value — that has itself evolved.

Note what has happened. She doesn’t question the criteria for determining whether something is a moral fact. That is sometimes a hard a difficult thing if you don’t accept religious authority or some other external standard. She just assumes if not everyone agrees it must be an opinion.

One other note. She assumes that by creating this free-wheeling, “everything is opinion” world “we all end up on the right side of history.” Right side according to whom and by what standard? The right side is just an opinion, isn’t it? History is filled with plenty of morally reprehensible things, but if those are only opinion, I guess it doesn’t matter if we go back to slavery, genocide, and more. As long as enough people hold those opinions strongly.

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