Are you an essentialist or a voluntarist?

Seven questions, followed by three possible outcomes:

Upon what should human (rights) laws be based?

☐Humans should stop making baseless laws (at best, the base is impossible to know) and let nature take its course. (N/S)

☐Human (rights) laws should reflect the fallible will of legislators, per culture, or reflect laws which are constructs of human evolution. (V)

☐Human (rights) laws should reach across cultural boundaries and reflect discovered, essential moral standards. (E)
________________________________________
Is moral truth created or discovered?

☐There is no discoverable essential moral truth, and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)

☐Moral truth is not essential to reality, but is created-a construct of will or nature. (V)

☐Moral truth is essential to reality, discovered with our reason and intuition. (E)
________________________________________
How is moral truth discovered?

☐We discover moral truth with our reason (rules out error) and intuition (resonates). (E)

☐We create moral truth with our will, or it is a construct of nature. (V)

☐There is no discoverable essential moral truth, and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)
________________________________________
What is the source of what is “good”?

☐There is no discoverable, essential “good” and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)

☐Human will is the source of what is “good”, God’s will is the source of what is “good”, or “goodness” is a construct of human evolution. (V)

☐God wills in accordance with his good, loving nature—he is what is essentially good (He did not have to develop virtue, but is the virtue he helps us to develop). (E)
________________________________________
For whom is moral truth (happiness/goodness/love) “true”?

☐There is no discoverable essential moral truth, and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)

☐Moral truth is relative to individual, group, or all humans, and will not survive them. (V)

☐Moral truth is common ground discovered by all with a rationally intuitive conscience. (E)
________________________________________
Is purpose/virtue created or discovered?

☐Essence precedes (human) existence-our purpose/virtue exists to be discovered in the eternal (God’s essence is his existence, and vice versa). (E)

☐There is no discoverable essence (purpose/virtue), and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)

☐Either purpose is a construct of human evolution, or “existence precedes essence” (Sartre) and we create our own purpose individually (according to Sartre, appealing to human nature or Authority is a cop-out). (V)
________________________________________
How and why should we be or behave with the Other and self?

☐How we should be, what we should do, the ultimate end, is Golden Rule love (God). (E)

☐There is no discoverable essential moral truth, and we are under no obligation to a construct. (N/S)

☐The answer is defined by self or group, or is a construct of evolution. (V)
________________________________________
If you mostly answered (N/S)—
You are a nihilist or skeptic. You either think there is no moral truth, created or discovered, or you think it is impossible to know what is true when it comes to morality. If you think there are things that are really, truly wrong, like abuses of the church, or napalming babies—you might want to rethink your position. If you have ever felt wronged or felt someone else was wronged—you might want to rethink your position. If you have ever admired someone for their good character—you might want to rethink your position. You may “believe” there is no discoverable moral truth—but you live as if you “know” there is discoverable moral truth. Really, you are an essentialist at heart, since you will not allow for a temporary, artificial construct to pass as truth.

If you mostly answered (V)—
You are a voluntarist; your convictions are floating over an abyss. You think moral truth is created, not discovered, or you ‘discover’ it where it cannot be found. If you value love as the highest good, you don’t think it is an eternal good discoverable by all rationally-intuitive consciences, but that it is self- or group-defined, or a construct of evolution. You either believe that our purpose is a construct of human evolution, or that “existence precedes essence” (Sartre) and we create our own purpose individually (that appealing to human nature or Authority is a cop-out). If God is in this picture, He arbitrarily wills that something is good, rather than being the essential source of goodness and willing in accordance with his good nature, but you most-likely believe that goodness is a construct of human will, or human evolution. You either believe human (rights) laws should be based in the arbitrary will of God, the fallible will of legislators, per culture, or that they should reflect laws which are constructs of human evolution. Since you do not acknowledge essential moral truth, your position reduces to nihilism, which violates your rationally-intuitive conscience.

If you mostly answered (E)—
You are an essentialist, standing on solid ground. You believe moral truth is essential to reality, discovered with our reason (rules out error) and intuition (resonates)—rather than created by human will or evolved with human nature. You believe that how we should be, what we should do, the ultimate end, is Golden Rule love (God). You believe happiness/love/goodness is common ground discovered by all with a rationally intuitive conscience: loving the Other as we love ourselves. You believe essence precedes existence-our purpose/virtue exists to be discovered in the eternal, whose essence is his existence, and vice versa. You believe God wills in accordance with his good, loving nature—He is what is essentially good (he did not have to develop virtue, but is the virtue He helps us to develop). You believe human (rights) laws should reach across cultural boundaries and reflect discovered, essential moral standards.

http://theswordandthesacrificephilosophy.blogspot.com/2008/08/appendix-d-quiz-are-you-essentialist-or.html

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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