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65 of 77 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction for non-academics, March 5, 2000
This review is from: Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air (Paperback)
When you keep in mind the purpose of this book -- a practical guide to arm Moral Objectivists against three types of Moral Relativism (cultural/descriptive, socially prescriptive, and individual/ethical relativism) -- it does a pretty good job. Not everyone does Philosophy, yet who doesn't encounter relativist arguments in almost every facet of life. Dealing mainly with Moral Relativism (only touching on Epistemological and Ontological Relativism), Beckwith and Koukl's book helps to make sense of what's really at issue, using concrete examples and crisp refutations. Many readers will find utility in Chapter 7, "Relativism's Seven Fatal Flaws" (a covenantal coincidence in the sevens?) and Chapter 14, "Tactics to Refute Relativism". Some of their arguments could have been fleshed out a little more. Also, a chapter on the Rise of Relativism outlining the influence of key figures past and present would have been useful to many. All in all, an easy-to-read and satisfying work that many non-relativists will find very useful in upper high school and junior college, as well as at dinner table debates. Of course, convinced relativists won't read this book, but it will help to clarify things for those who haven't thought much about these things. Another boost for those out to Save Civilsation.
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Showing 1-9 of 9 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 27, 2008 7:03:34 AM PDT
When you keep in mind the purpose of this review - to convince potential readers that this book does a pretty good job-- it does a pretty lousy job. In contrast to the reviewer's smug and condescending assertion, some relativists have read the book, and it turns out to be remarkable indeed, although not in the way its authors and the present reviewer intend. As I note in my review and subsequent comments, the authors believe that moral truths are objective facts discoverable by "intuition," which is "a foundational way of knowing that does not depend on following a series of facts or a line of reasoning to a conclusion. Instead, intuitional truth is simply known by the process of introspection and immediate awareness...Intuitional truth doesn't require a defense--a justification of the steps that brought one to this knowledge--because this kind of truth does not result from reasoning by steps to a conclusion. It's a truth that's obvious upon consideration" (p56). The problem that these authors and the present reviewer, along with the other cheerleaders for this book, fail to realize is that if the foundation for supposedly objective moral truths is the intuition, introspection, and immediate awareness of every individual, which are by definition impossible to support by reason or argument, how does this differ from moral relativism? If this is the best job that those who are out to Save Civilization can do, they've lost. Fortunately, civilization will in fact go on quite well in spite of them.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2010 9:43:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2010 9:54:27 AM PDT
Ok, Mr. Koplin: go ahead and gather a statistically measurable sample of literate individuals who regard Adolph Hitler as more moral than, say, Theresa of Calcutta, and then I'll consider whether it's really correct that the authors' resort to intuition leaves them in the same place as moral relativism.

If you can't, I'll have to accept the authors' claim that intuition leads us to universally-acceptable moral absolutes, a place that moral relativism could never lead in a million years.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2010 11:45:07 AM PDT
How would a "statistically measurable sample of literate individuals," by which I assume you mean people whose moral qualifications you find acceptable, prove that their or your or Koukl/Beckwith's intuition produces "universally-acceptable moral absolutes"? How would the fact that a majority vote of people you deem qualified to vote might agree with some of your values prove that those values are "universal"? And what about moral views you might disagree with, or do you really think that there is "universal" agreement with your intuition on abortion, capital punishment, stem cell research, clerical celibacy, etc.? Atrocities have been committed by the religious and the irreligious in the name of supposed absolute moral truths that exist beyond the need or possibility of reason to judge. The claims of the present authors in defense of an "intuition" beyond reason don't support the existence of "universal" values; they provide a cover for subjectivism masquerading as absolutism.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2010 7:46:23 PM PDT
Ok, then, we'll play your disingenuous little game for a second. Produce just ONE human being not already certified insane who would agree that Adolph Hitler is more moral than, say, Florence Nightingale. Just one.

You can't, and you know it. You know as well as I do that it has nothing to do with what *I* deem; NOBODY will take that position. And you know as well as I do what that demonstrates.0

You're a fraud, and relativism is a fraud.

Have a great life.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2010 8:58:30 PM PDT
I can produce more than ONE such human being, and I will: tens of millions of Germans during the 1930s. And because the authors of this book claim that moral values don't rest on reason, the authors have no basis for claiming that one person's moral intuition is more valid than another's.

I do have a great life, and your defense of absolutism is an incoherent mess.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2014 8:35:15 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2014 8:36:30 AM PDT
William says:
Philip Koplin your argument is nihilistic.

You effectively argue there is no objective truth. Intuition you argue as unprovable and therefore not objective fact. Your argument is not just a criticism of natural law, objective morality, the argument also a criticism of "laws" of physics. Is the criticism correct?

Do we know of physical laws as objective? Shocking as this answer maybe, no we do not. There is no objective truth in physics. Then how can we send a rocket to the moon consistently? How can we know the lights will turn on in our home when we "flip the switch"? Scientific method and theory falsibility are our only window into "objective" truth.

All we have are our intuitions to discern objective fact which then create theories. The theories are valid if the theories make predictions which are testable. If the experiments produce results contrary to the prediction, the theory is false along with the intuition creating the theory. If the theory is not proven false then the theory is "truth" until new predictions are made to be tested.

And the theory can be used in practical application (such as rockets to the moon and turning on a light switch which in principle are theory experiments continuously performed) until a new more effective theory is found. This technique of discovering "truth" is the scientific method.

What is my point? Mr. Koplin you make the statement there is no objective truth. Such a statement is trivial which no one will argue. Can the "intuition" necessary for natural law create a testable hypothesis? Your discussion with Philip Weingart shows the answer is yes. Since all tests require degrees of confidence including physics experiments, what degree of certainty do you require to reject intuition as a valid source of common humanity morality? No experiment can be subject to zero uncertainty.

Philip Weingart's point of the intuitive reaction to Hitler's morality is a valid experiment. Your point about Germans in the 1930s is a question of information. Removing the issue of information, take the question to start with unambiguous facts of post 1945 as the time to poll humanity of Hitler's morality. Weingart's argument wins.

Intuition as a guide to common human morality is experimentally not false, and is a good theory to guide moral human action until proven otherwise by a better theory.

Do you Mr. Koplin offer a testable theory better than natural law to guide human action?

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 4, 2014 10:37:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 4, 2014 12:23:28 PM PDT
Please quote "the statement there is no objective truth." Actually, don't bother, I haven't said it, and besides, even if I had, it would be irrelevant to the present discussion, which isn't about every possible sort of knowledge, but about one particular kind of knowledge, that about the supposedly objective nature that some people ascribe to their moral values.

Your intuition might contradict the intuition of others about the morality of, say, slavery (something the Bible accepts, as many Christians did for many centuries), but I would like to see the "testable hypothesis" you can derive from it on whether you are objectively right and people who might have disagreed with you are objectively wrong.

Your suggestion is pointless that we ignore everything that people believed before a certain date in order to find some moral value in which everyone believes. If we rule out people who disagreed with us on the grounds that they were part of a different culture at a different time, how is our result universal? Besides, many people in the world today still advocate for policies like Hitler's that promote the degradation and even murder of others who they consider undesirable for reasons of race or religion.

What universal "objective facts" about morality has your or anyone else's intuition discerned that have been tested experimentally and found to be confirmed?

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2014 12:25:23 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2014 12:27:45 PM PDT
One doesn't need to test for objective or absolute moral facts experimentally. Empirical knowledge is NOT the only kind of knowledge. It's only one kind of knowledge.

You have spoken against the existence of objective or absolute moral truths. To do so is to say that there are no absolute moral truths. But to make that assertion is itself to make an absolute assertion about moral truths. In other words, there are no moral truths - except this one. As you can see this is an inherently contradictory statement, or a self refuting statement if you prefer. According to the basic metaphysical principle of non-contradiction, on which all reality rests, such a statement cannot possibly be true. What is not true is false.

So, the assertion that there are no absolute moral truths is false. This means that the converse MUST be true. In other words, there ARE absolute moral truths.

The only way out of this is to say 1) reality does not exist, 2) the principles of logic are flawed and not to be relied on, or 3) the whole notion of morality does not actually exist at all - it is a mere illusion (which means there is no such thing as good or bad). Are you prepared to live with any of those possibilities? I think not.

And so, asuming that reality exists, the principles of logic are sound, and that morality as a concept does in fact exist, then there are and must be absolute moral truths.

But what are those truths? This is a much more pressing question. We can know these through the natural law. If such a thing as human nature exists, then natural law is that which is accord with that nature. So, we can come to know absolute moral truths through an analysis of human nature. What does it mean to be human? Despite emotions and disagreements that cloud the inquiry, there are objective truths to be discovered here. And so we can come to learn what those absolute moral truths are.

The far more interesting question is, "What is the source of those absolute moral truths?"

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2014 11:24:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 11, 2014 9:48:46 AM PDT
Your premise is false, and so your efforts to derive logical conclusions from it are pointless. An assertion about the possibility of objective moral truths is a statement about a particular type of knowledge claim -- the claim made by some people that they know and can show that their moral values are objective. A statement questioning claims to this sort of knowledge is not self-contradictory, because such a statement is not in itself a moral claim: it offers no specific guidance about what sort of behavior is moral or immoral in a given situation. Since you haven't proven anything I've actually said to be logically false, the converse of what I've actually said is not necessarily true.

In fact, I haven't made even the claim that objective moral truths are logically impossible. What I have pointed out is the absurdity in the authors of the present book saying that their intuition provides an "objective" foundation for how they and other people should behave, an intuition that yields an immediate awareness of right and wrong that by their explicit account is not derivable from reasoning, which means that they offer no way for anyone else to evaluate why they, the authors, should be considered objective arbiters of moral truth. In particular, they fail utterly to explain why their intuitions and immediate awareness should be considered "objectively" correct and those of people who might disagree with them -- even other absolutists, but of, say, a different religious orientation -- are incorrect, except to say that those who disagree have something wrong with them, which is a ridiculously dim defense of the "objectivity" of their own views.

Of course morality as a concept exists. We're talking about it. The interesting question indeed is how you know that the "absolute" and "objective" moral truths you seem to believe you can derive from pondering the "natural law" that derives from your supposedly objective understanding of human nature are in fact absolute and objective.

{ps. I apologize to the author of this review if I've inadvertently highjacked the comments section to his review. Although comments explicitly addressing what I've said here might be appropriate in this section, any new set of comments addressed to me might be more appropriately addressed to my review of this book, at}
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