While skepticism in regards to truth showed up and was dealt with in antiquity, skepticism in regards to that which is ‘good’ has shown up in the modern world. If we knew what a good desire was, we would know what we should desire. If we knew what we should desire, we would know what we ought to do–giving us objectivity in truth.
In the article Judging our Judging, we spoke of David Hume asserting that we can’t determine goodness from descriptive statements. The skeptic claims that what is good for you may not be for me. They base the goodness on the emotional desires of someone rather than the object of goodness in and of itself; creating a relativistic bliss. I can believe what I want, I can do what I want because it is based on my given desires and my given emotions to those desires.
The way these skeptics chalk up their arguments makes it impossible to know whether anything is true or false. They leave it purely to preference. Because of this, there argument should not even be considered in the realm of truth! They are talking about fruits when the subject matter is meats. When we talk about the foundations of what is good, we must be able to talk about them in the realm of truth. We cannot be skeptical about what is good because we would be skeptical about truth itself. It is essential for the skeptic to open their mind to the realm truth, for, this is their gaping hole.
We need to determine what is a right desire. In order to determine this, we need to find out what we ought to desire. Can you see where to be skeptical about goodness is to be skeptical about truth? When we cannot determine what is good (based on personal opinion on whatever the whim of the day is), we cannot tack down what is true.
So, what is really good for us?
There are two types of desires: Natural and Acquired. Natural desires are based on human nature. Everyone desires to love and to be loved. Everyone desires to have daily sustenance. To wrap up this very brief list, everyone desires knowledge. These desires are cross cultural and span from age to age.
Acquired desires are those desires that are based on someone’s personal life experiences. In one culture, a boy attaining manhood by completing a rigorous challenge, hence his desire to complete that challenge to attain manhood in the eyes of his people. The desire for a boy to be a man is a natural desire, but the particular challenge set forth (and therefore the desire to complete that challenge) is an acquired desire. Or in another culture , the acquired desire is a two story house, with a white picket fence, two cars, a boat, and 2.1 children. These desires are obviously not cross cultural. But the point is that these particular desires we keep in our minds are driving factors in our behaviors and decisions.
Mortimer J. Adler in his book, Six Great Ideas, has brilliantly and simply linked the following two words for these desires. He separates them by ‘needs’ (natural desires) and ‘wants’ (acquired desires).
What is really good for us are the natural desires that every human being has. When we want what we need, we are wanting and desiring that which is good and therefore true. As Adler gives the example: “‘You ought to want and seek knowledge’ is universally and objectively true–true for all human beings–because it conforms to a right desire that is rooted in a natural need.”
The gaping hole of skepticism only brings us to factual knowledge that we gain about reality and IN THAT ALONE we CANNOT come to a conclusion where we can say, “I ought to…or I ought not to….” The oughtness of knowledge can only be validly carried on if it does NOT rely solely on factual knowledge ALONE. This is gaping because it cannot deal with those natural desires that are innate in every human being which then leads to universal truth–the very thing skepticism denies.
For Further Discussion:
Dr. R.C. Sproul on The Anatomy of Doubt