Lots of discussions have been going on in the past few weeks on the RF.org forums regarding the Moral Argument's premise #2 - specifically, on what basis can we affirm the existence of objective moral values and duties?
As I understand your argument for affirming this premise you say that, through your own moral experiences, you have a properly basic belief that objective morality exists. While some psychopath may claim to think its OK to torture a baby for fun, that does nothing to defeat the warrant you have based on your own moral experiences that it is wrong (always has been wrong and always will be wrong) to torture a baby for fun.
The detracters to premise #2 say this answer is an emotional response not an intellectual one and that an appeal to one's own sense of morality is no more objective than the person who thinks differently than you (and hence is subjective).
In your talk "What Happens When We Die" ( http://www.reasonablefaith.org/transcript/what-happens-when-we-die ) you say of those who had near-death-experiences, "One person's experience is just as real as the next person's, so how do you judge whose experience of heaven is really authentic?" By the same token, if my moral experiences tell me that something is wrong, but someone else senses otherwise - both experiences are just as real but are in conflict so we have the same conundrum in trying to decide which is really authentic.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean by "moral experiences" and sliding into applied ethics as a result. So my first question is:
1) Does "moral experience" mean what I sense is right or wrong in a given situation or does "moral experience" simply mean that "given any moral situation, there will be a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do, even though I may not know what they are". In other words, simply by virtue of thinking SOMETHING is wrong confirms premise #2 regardless of the difference of opinion on what that wrong thing to do actually is?
I can't help but think I am still missing something and it surrounds this concept of moral ontology vs. applied ethics. It seems when discussing the objectivity of morality, it often diverts to discussions around applied ethics (e.g. "some people think it is wrong to lie, even to save a life; others don't - therefore, morality is subjective"). You often claim premise #2 does not appeal to any situational or applied ethics but rather appeals to your own properly basic belief. But then my second question becomes:
2) What exactly IS this properly basic belief in that allows you to affirm premise #2? The examples given almost always involve a situation ("it is wrong to torture a baby for fun", "it is wrong to kidnap Africans and use them as slaves", "the Spanish Inquisition was wrong to torture people"). These examples appear to slide into appealing to applied ethics. Obviously, people at one time (even today perhaps) thought those were not wrong - but again, the appeal for warrant in believing premise #2 is that "those people that thought otherwise do nothing to undermine my own properly basic belief that they were wrong." But I go back to your quote on the near-death-experiences - every person's experiences are just as real as the next - whose "properly basic belief" is right and whose is false? What is this properly basic belief in, if not the truth of certain applied ethics ("it is wrong to murder a baby to stop it from crying").
I just can't put my finger on this concept of moral ontology and how it is separated from applied ethics; perhaps you can help clarify this in a different way than you have in the past.
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