Matthew Lawrence wrote in this question and gave permission to blog it and my answer below:
Hello Christian Apologetics Alliance. I would like to first off say thank you for the resources that you’ve given to me. This has helped me boost my faith up greatly.
Also I was wondering if you can please help me with an objection to the moral argument. I was talking to a skeptic online about certain arguments that can help prove God’s existence. Another skeptic came in and accused the moral argument of being fallacious. The skeptic says that it “asserts necessarily subjective concepts (all concepts are subjective and relative by definition) are in fact real things, which is the reification fallacy.”
Now I know something is fishy about his objection to the moral argument, but I can’t spot out where. Can you please help me?
Thank You Very Much!
Here’s my answer:
1. If all concepts are merely subjective and none of them correspond to reality, and if all assertion relies on our ability to conceptualize, then all assertion is reification and nothing is actually (known to be) real. That is an extreme skepticism that fails to explain scientific progress. Ask him if he thinks there are any “real” conclusions that are reached without employing conceptualization, and without reifying in the process.
2. The divine command theory, if the commands are not grounded in God’s essential nature, does in fact commit the fallacy of reification. The commanding is the reifying.
3. Not every version of the moral argument has the weakness pointed out in #2, but every atheist/skeptic who asserts objective morality which does not correspond to an always good being (God) in reality–fallaciously reifies their morality. If there is no God, there is nothing in reality to which moral truth is true, nothing which it describes.
4. If you’re dealing with a nihilist who thinks there is no moral truth, point out that various versions of the Golden Rule are discovered by every major culture in history; a sense of right and wrong, and a hunger for meaning, is innate–suggesting there is something good and meaningful in reality to satisfy it. Ask them if they think torturing babies for fun is okay, and walk away if they say anything but no–in that case, reason has left them. If they *do* say no, see the last sentence in #3.
5. Theists whose moral argument suffers from the weakness in 2, and atheists whose morality suffers from the weakness in 3, are both running up against something both Plato (with his justified-true distinction of beliefs) & Hume (with his is-ought distinction of moral reasoning) pointed out a long time ago: Knowledge, including moral knowledge, has to be *both* justified by good reasons *and* true by correspondence. Not all justified beliefs are true (justification does not pass for truth), and not all true beliefs are justified (truth does not pass for justification), and only when beliefs are both true & justified do you have knowledge. All else is reification.
A bit of follow up: It is possible that the mistake we are discussing is incorrectly labeled reification, but it is, indeed a mistake.