Monday, July 02, 2012

The Euthyphro Dilemma

The Euthyphro Dilemma
have theology: Will Argue

Originally Posted (on CARM) by MikeWC View Post
This is a long post. The final paragraph is a summary of the argument, if you wish to just straight to it.

The Euthyphro dilemma can be briefly stated this way: either morality comes entirely from God, in which case it is changeable according to his will, or it comes from outside God, in which case God is unnecessary.

Actually I think he stated it wrong. I don't think the second horn of the dilemma is that if it comes from out of God morality is "unnecessary," but that God is not supreme. One thing that's going to figure big in my answer is this fact: The Euthyphro dilemma was applicable to the Greek gods only becuase they were not God in the sense that the Bible God is God, nor were they God in the sense that the God of Aquinas or Anslem is God or. Greek gods were contingent beings, they were not eternal, they were products of prior beings. God in the Christian sense is the eternal necessary aspect of all being. Thus That God is necessary and not contingent, and is not the produce of prior condition.

That makes a big difference because it is only the contingency of the Greek gods that gives them their relative nature and thus enables the Fates to outrank them in terms of power. That's where the entire dilemma stems from, that Zeus was subject to the fates. The God of Abraham, of Issac and of Jacob is not subject to any fates. The God of Christianity freed humanity from the cruelty of fate, and still frees us form determinism. This is so becuase the eternal necessary aspect of all being, is bigger than any deterministic aspect of being, which is only a contingency HE created in the first place.

Mike WC says:
There is an increasingly popular refutation of the old Euthyphro dilemma among apologists. It is an attempt to split the horns of the dilemma by creating a third alternative. The alternative is to identity the Good wholly with God's nature: being Good is one of God's essential attributes.

Without meaning to boast I think I really do I am the person who started that answer. I don't remember ever seeing it on the net before I gave it. Once I argued it a few times on prominent atheist boards people began to talk about it. In any case, "being good" is not a mere attribute of God as though it's on a par with being short or tall, fat or thin, it's based upon the nature of God. That is certainly no exaggeration; in the Christian tradition God is the basis of the good which stems from God's nature as love. St. Augustine said love is the background of the moral universe, and by that meant that God, as truth itself, as being itself is the basis upon which the good has meaning. Augustine put the forms in the mind of God, so anything like "the good" that under Plato would be a product of the forums would be a product of the Mind of God.

Mike WC: "This idea is meant to dissolve the dilemma by taking the pros of each horn, while eliminating the cons. Morality is not changeable according to God's will, because it lies eternally in his nature. And it is not outside God for the same reason." Here he more or less gets it right. What it really does is bring out the distinction between eternal necessary being vs. contingent beings. The contingent beings who are called "gods" only because they are more powerful than mortals and last longer (although they can die and hey have origins so they are not eternal), can't supply the ultimate basis for philosophical grounding that eternal necessary being does supply.

In answer to this point Mike says:

My argument is that this just creates a new dilemma. This refutation of Euthyphro depends on God having both a will and a nature. This may seem trivial, but let's draw out the consequences.In order for the refutation to stand, there must be a clear division between God's will and God's nature. If no such division exists, then then all this refutation has done is accept the first horn: God could change morality through his will.
I don't think there has to be a "clear division." There seems to be no problem with asserting that a consciousness has both a will and a nature. They are clearly two separate things, but one would be in line with the other as a nature would always govern the limits and capacity of a will. How could on demand something apart form one's own nature? Will is usually thought of as an expression of a nature. He is certainly going to have to furnish a reason for us to think this would be the case.

The problem with this atheist position is, ironically, it's Calvinistic-like implications. Calvin emphasized the will of God over and above creative wisdom (creative wisdom is God's nature). Like the good little fundies that atheists are they want o split off the will from nature when in reality will is just an aspect of nature. Think about it. The nature of a thing is the way it is. Now how can will be part of the way God is without being part of his nature?

Mike WC:
However, if this division is too rigid, then it falls to the second horn: you are positing a God that is, in effect, split. There is a divine will, and then there is a divine nature. The divine will answers wholly to the divine nature, which has no will of its own. When God issues a moral command, there is a gap between the decision to issue the command and the source of the command.

This is merely a false dilemma. The will of any being is part of that being's nature and works according to that nature. The nature of God is primarily love, so the will of God is based upon love. Are we ever given a reson to think that God's will is out of line with his nature? I think not. Ah but Mike shoots back with this classic assertion:

If God's nature has no will of its own, then it is it not collapsible into a Good outside and above God's will? And then, why can't humans just by pass God's will and just talk about the Good? In other words, the gap between will and nature is just a different version of the second horn of Euthyphro.Notice, he has not yet expalined by God can't have a will of his own as part of his nature?
This is what we call "begging the question." He's merely asserting a conclusion which he basis his premise, the conclusion that he wants to come to, then uses it as a premise to justify coming to it. In this classic move of circular reasoning he asserts the very point under contention as though it's a proof of his position (thus begging the question). If God's nature has no will of it own, he asserts. The problem there is it does, that's the whole point I've been making. Moreover, he can give us no other reason to assume this is the case except that "If this was the case. I would be right." God's nature has a will of it's own, it's called "God's will." That's what will is, it's an expression of our nature. There's no point in asserting that the nature has a second will that's in contradiction to the first will? Why assert that? He gives us no reason.

He asserts that the "gap between will and nature is just a different version of the second horn of the" dilemma. No it's not. Why would that be? The second horn is that there's a standard independent of God. Since that standard is God himself, it's not separate; WC is trying to turn that into a whole seperate person with real reason for doing so, there's no assume it. He asserts that this second is the gap but what gap? He has to first suggest why there would be a gap and has no done so.

Mike WC:
Perhaps you could say that God's nature is unknowable for humans, outside of God's willing revelation of himself. This does not solve the problem, however. If God has exclusive and exhaustive knowledge of his own nature, we must accept one of two interpretations of this.
We know God's nature; it's love. We know this through God's self revelation to us and our empirical experience of God's presence. It's a false dilemma. There is no dilemma. God moves to bring people into the sphere of his love. God is about love; this furnishes the background of the moral universe. He doesn't just hand down laws from on high,they are not arbitrary whims. The real problem of the dilemma is that on the one hand if good is just God's command with no independent standard then God is arbitrary and good is just a whim. If God is independent of the standard then he's not fully in charge and so is not God. The position I have taken resolves the problem because it says God's commands are not independent of Go but neither are they arbitrary whims, they are manifestations of purpose and wisdom in creation which harken form God's loving nature, that is the basis of the good. That is an answer we could not get from the Geek gods.

The rule keeping aspect of morality didn't work, and God tells us it didn't work (of he knew it wouldn't it was only a a ruse to show us why we have to internalize the values of the good--see Jer. 31/Heb 1:1). We employ the moral law placed inside us and we filter it through cultural constructs. That's what makes ethical and the morality of a culture, but the background against which all ethical moves are played out is God's divine love, aka agape. 2) God's nature is an object separate from his will,
conjecture not in evidence. That is merely the upshot of the subject/object dichotomy. He needs to learn some phenomenology becuase that just reduces God to an object. We can experience God's nature. We may not understand it intellectually but we can experience and we can intuit it. That's what mystics are about.

Mike asserts: "This is perhaps the only way out for the apologist, to claim that the Good is essentially unknowable for humans." God is beyond our understanding but that doesn't mean he's unknowable. you are confusing experiential knowledge with book learning and facts.

Mike WC
This does not solve the logical problem of there being a gap between God's commands and the source of those commands, however. Humans would be incapable of bypassing God's commands and revelation, but this is not because of a logical impossibility, but rather the infinitude of humanity.
Again he asserts a gap without giving us any reason to think there is one. He can imagine one based upon skepticism that is a far cry from proving there is one. It's just a product of his hermeneutic of skepticism. Logically linking God's commands to his nature f love resolves the problem complete because it means the standards is not separate from God nor is it an arbitrary whim, and there is basic reason ever given to imagine a gap. What I've said aboe about love as the background of the moral universe shows that a gap is not really possible becuase the whole concept of the moral apart form God's love is impossible. It would have no meaning as a moral universe. The moral law that God has placed upon our hearts is God's command in line with God's nature, God is not forging a moral law as a subject of higher power but is translating what is in his heart. speaking metaphorically of "heart."

The knowability issue is not really much of an issue. God is beyond our understanding intellectually but that's kind of knowledge we need to live morally. The kind of knolwedge we need is empirical knowledge of God's love and revelation knowledge of god's commands, although that is placed on the heart is available though natural theology. There are many theological methods and systems that would answer this arguemnt. One of them majors is the Eastern orthodox concept of mystical union which turns upon apoplectic theology (negative--don't say that it is but what ti's not).

Euthyphro dilemma is only an issue where God is contingent and there is a higher power. There is no higher power than the eternal necesasry aspect of being. In the OT he's called "I Am." In the NT he's called "Our father who art in Heaven."

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