The statement above uses the word ‘nothing’ when referring to the existence of God being irrelevant to the concept of morality. Yet, why else would one act morally if not to achieve a sense of fulfilment? If there is no God then our views are all influenced by our surroundings such as society, culture and upbringing. This is what is interesting as within society, one has to argue that even though one may be influenced by society, society itself holds beliefs about right and wrong which derive from religious views. Even the complex justice system within society dates back to the influence of religion, so can one really state that morality is from society rather than God? When society itself is guided by laws influenced by beliefs of God itself. I hope to show that morality is influenced by the existence of God despite the criticisms given.
To begin with, Freud suggested that our moral ideas can be divided into three sections, the first of which is the ‘id’ – ones instinct to do so naturally by what is accepted as rational, such as trusting an opinion on a situation. The next is the ‘ego’ which is seen as the realistic part which someone believes is correct and realistic in the judgement of right and wrong. Finally, there is the ‘superego’ which is criticising the ego and which relies on the social conditioning of society and the concept of what one has been brought up to believe, through shaping our very beliefs into a combined view of morality rather than a natural instinct. This is a strong argument for Freud to make by giving credence to what Kant would say is innate pure reason and in doing so, opens up a chapter to where morality actually comes from. However, Freud takes away the very fact of what humans desire, that of fulfilment. Human beings are often criticised for looking into the future and worrying about consequences, and this is perhaps why such ethical theories such as Utilitarianism exist, for a sense of knowing what will happen. We as a society look for an end reward and a purpose, perhaps relating to Aristotle’s final cause and we as humans have a purpose to live our lives following the categorical imperative. But why do we do such a thing? For the hope of an achievement at the end? Yes, Freud can argue that we are influenced by society and the ‘superego’ explains how we are socially conditioned into right and wrong and yet what if this is the best way of achievement?, that which Kant describes as the ‘summum bonum’, where the moral are rewarded for their moral lives.
Society holds certain views which can be subjective when looking at the various cultures around the world but there is still an idea of an end goal to work towards and this is proven by God. God is needed as a reward and hope and of something else after our lives, otherwise there really is no point in being here. Bertrand Russell in his criticisms of the cosmological argument argues for stating that the universe is a brute fact and that humans are here and that is the end of it but then why haven’t we created corruption and disorder? Because of the concept of a greater good which can only come from one place – the influence of religion and the influence of God.
Kant says that ‘two things fill the mind with ever new increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above me and the moral law within’, making a reference to Isaac Newton and how if he can make scientific advances through pure reason operating a posteriori, from experience, then Kant could use practical rean operating a priori and so refers to the necessary requirement of moral law within us to find this form of rational reasoning.
When analysing this, it has a relation to how Kant is criticised for using God as a postulate rather than using the thoughts of Freud on society. Yet moral law within is seen by Kant to be evidence of God in the first place, otherwise where does the morality come from? Somebody has to decide what is right and wrong. When growing up, we will be punished for wrong and rewarded for right but does this not draw a parallel to Kants summum bonum? Being rewarded for acting rationally and morally and once achieved, one is rewarded at the end by achieving a sense of enlightenment and happiness.
In ‘groundwork of the metaphysics of morals’ Kant states that to ‘have the courage to use your own reason, that is the motto of enlightenment.’ This emphasises how using ones reason, perhaps from upbringing, which is in fact an ever going chain of influenced ideas from people’s understanding of morality which can only come from somewhere greater than human reason and which can be faulted into immoral acts. From somewhere outside the material phenomenal world, in the world of ideas (noumenal realm) where a God or creator of some kind instilled these ideas of morality and without this, could our world perceive killing as good for animals in order to survive? But why do we see killing as an objective wrong? Because we as humans have innate knowledge and we survive through rational thinking and by following our duty. This can then show why we are able to control so much of the world because we’ve followed our duty and in doing so have grown to understand more about the world and universe. So, without this innate knowledge which must have come from somewhere, we would only be striving for survival and this is why morality has something to do with God. God placed ‘the moral law within’ to guide us to our duty to eventually reach the ‘summum bonum’ This would appear to be logical.
Despite the possibility that there is no God, then even the postulate of having a God is unnecessary and the whole of Kants theory is floored. For we don’t know if following our duty leads to the ‘summum bonum’ and it is out of our control as we as humans have our limits. Maybe, morality does come from an intuitive influence but this could just be from experience and realising that something good can form a reward and an immoral act or intention causes something bad and therefore realising that certain things can be better to follow. However, even with this theory there is the recurring idea that reason has to come from somewhere. Morality can’t just be seen through experience for it takes reason to understand right and wrong and so something or someone must have ‘created’ a form of innate understanding of morality otherwise our society wouldn’t exist. So this argument is unsuccessful as Kant proposes a moral argument which explains why we act morally within society – it is the most ordered way of resolving our complex society. Humans aim for a purpose and if morality didn’t come without a reward, it wouldn’t exist.
To conclude, God is the postulate to resolve our society, God is needed to explain morality otherwise humans would not have developed and therefore morality has everything to do with God as without God, there is no morality – just a world of chaos in which there would be no desire for an end purpose, only to live for the present in whatever way we see possible.