This was probably one of the better debates I have watched. Kagan and Craig seemed to respect one another, and both men attempted to handle the other philosopher’s position with care and fairness. I found Kagan to give the most well thought out, and reasonable case for a Naturalistic Ethic that I have heard. I cannot really say who won this debate.
I came away from this debate asking questions instead of having questions answered. The two big ones are as follows:
1) On Kagan’s view objective morals exist, because of a social contract. Kagan put this forward as a thought experiment. If a group of people came together what would then need to have a contract? Kagan points to two things (that I can remember) a) The Veil of Ignorance and b) the bargainer’s must be reasonable. Kagan then asked, “What would the terms of a contract agreed to by reasonable people be?” Kagan then deduced that it would be wrong to rape the innocent, steal, murder, and etc. While this view has some plausibility I feel he lost it when he admitted determinism. Craig’s response I think is difficult to over come:
If a person is determined by physio-chemical processes, then the thoughts actions, and beliefs of that person would be no different than a tree growing a limb, or a rock rolling down a hill. In another words physical actions do not have moral value. Moral value seems to come from agents, but naturalism seems to destroy agent causation. I am not saying that these objections cannot be overcome, but they seem substantial to me.
2) Kagan posed some very good questions to Dr. Craig. Kagan pointed out that we can all ask why some action x is right given the conditions. For instance Kagan says rape is wrong based on his contractarian theory, because it would not be reasonable, and the state can punish the offender. Craig believes it is objectively wrong because God will punish the offender. What is the difference? What makes God’s law any more binding on the human community than the contractarian’s law?
Any comments would be appreciated. I found it interesting that Kagan gave a nod to the idea of sin in a naturalistic frame work.