Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
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11-10-2013, 06:21 PM
Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
Hi! I’m new around here. I’m an atheist, but I frequently read apologetic arguments because I genuinely enjoy argumentation (and like to see what the "other side" is saying these days). I was reading Answering Atheism by Trent Horn and got to the normally groan-inducing moral argument. I’d like some feedback on one of the points the author makes. In the chapter, Horn addresses the Euthyphro dilemma in the same way as many apologists (like Craig):

Quote:[The Euthyphro dilemma] boils down to this: Either an act is wrong because God says so, or God says an act is wrong because it is wrong. The first option makes God a cosmic tyrant… The other horn of the dilemma… seems to make morality something that exists outside of God and is not under his authority or control…

The most satisfactory response to the Euthyphro dilemma is to “split the horns” of the dilemma and say that right and wrong flow from God’s perfect character, and not his will. An act isn’t good because God commanded it, and neither did God command the act merely because the act is good. God commanded the act because he is the Good! Because God is a perfect and infinite being who exists without limit or flaw, then he will necessarily only command good acts that correspond with his perfect nature. The Catechism teaches that God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary: “In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.”

Now, at this point, I’m thinking that this just pushes the problem one step back. Is God’s nature good because it just is, by definition, or is God’s nature good because we’ve evaluated it to be so using some outside criteria? Or, to put it another way, if it were in God’s “perfect character” to command rape, would rape be moral?

Horn anticipates this objection, and responds with:

Quote:Of course, an atheist could say, “But how do you know God’s nature is good?” This is like asking, “How do you know a meter is 39.4 inches long?” The reason a meter is that long is because that is just how long the meter bar, or a bar of platinum and iridium in France, is. That bar is what it means to be “a meter long” in the same way that God’s nature is what it means to be “the perfect good…” Asking “Is an action good because it is what God commands, or is it what God commands because the action is good?” should leave us puzzled, for they are the same thing: God’s command, and the good itself, flow from God’s perfect, loving, and unchanging nature.

Later, in an imaginary dialogue, Horn writes, “God is the kind of being who lacks nothing. Since he’s perfect and lacks nothing in his being, he is the fullness of goodness itself.”

I have a few thoughts on how I would respond, and, as I haven’t encountered this last move before, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

It seems to me that, the way we normally talk, “good” (as applied to people) is always some kind of analysis of a person’s actions. Why we would call those actions good is debatable, but it is a person’s actions—and their consequences—that morality is concerned with. When we say that someone is a “good person,” we mean that their actions are good. To say that someone’s nature is good, apart from actions, seems like confusion. I’m not even sure how to make sense of that.

Maybe what Horn means is that, because God knows everything, and is maximally concerned with the well-being of humans, he would always know what is best for us and would always command good things (even if we couldn’t tell they were good at the time). But this would just mean that God is in a unique position to inform us of what is good, and then we’re back on the second horn of the dilemma.

Thoughts? Have you ever heard a theist give an intelligible explanation of how God’s “nature” could be good?
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11-10-2013, 06:33 PM (This post was last modified: 12-10-2013 02:13 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 06:21 PM)Brickparade Wrote:  Hi! I’m new around here. I’m an atheist, but I frequently read apologetic arguments because I genuinely enjoy argumentation (and like to see what the "other side" is saying these days). I was reading Answering Atheism by Trent Horn and got to the normally groan-inducing moral argument. I’d like some feedback on one of the points the author makes. In the chapter, Horn addresses the Euthyphro dilemma in the same way as many apologists (like Craig):

Quote:[The Euthyphro dilemma] boils down to this: Either an act is wrong because God says so, or God says an act is wrong because it is wrong. The first option makes God a cosmic tyrant… The other horn of the dilemma… seems to make morality something that exists outside of God and is not under his authority or control…

The most satisfactory response to the Euthyphro dilemma is to “split the horns” of the dilemma and say that right and wrong flow from God’s perfect character, and not his will. An act isn’t good because God commanded it, and neither did God command the act merely because the act is good. God commanded the act because he is the Good! Because God is a perfect and infinite being who exists without limit or flaw, then he will necessarily only command good acts that correspond with his perfect nature. The Catechism teaches that God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary: “In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.”

Now, at this point, I’m thinking that this just pushes the problem one step back. Is God’s nature good because it just is, by definition, or is God’s nature good because we’ve evaluated it to be so using some outside criteria? Or, to put it another way, if it were in God’s “perfect character” to command rape, would rape be moral?

Horn anticipates this objection, and responds with:

Quote:Of course, an atheist could say, “But how do you know God’s nature is good?” This is like asking, “How do you know a meter is 39.4 inches long?” The reason a meter is that long is because that is just how long the meter bar, or a bar of platinum and iridium in France, is. That bar is what it means to be “a meter long” in the same way that God’s nature is what it means to be “the perfect good…” Asking “Is an action good because it is what God commands, or is it what God commands because the action is good?” should leave us puzzled, for they are the same thing: God’s command, and the good itself, flow from God’s perfect, loving, and unchanging nature.

Later, in an imaginary dialogue, Horn writes, “God is the kind of being who lacks nothing. Since he’s perfect and lacks nothing in his being, he is the fullness of goodness itself.”

I have a few thoughts on how I would respond, and, as I haven’t encountered this last move before, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

It seems to me that, the way we normally talk, “good” (as applied to people) is always some kind of analysis of a person’s actions. Why we would call those actions good is debatable, but it is a person’s actions—and their consequences—that morality is concerned with. When we say that someone is a “good person,” we mean that their actions are good. To say that someone’s nature is good, apart from actions, seems like confusion. I’m not even sure how to make sense of that.

Maybe what Horn means is that, because God knows everything, and is maximally concerned with the well-being of humans, he would always know what is best for us and would always command good things (even if we couldn’t tell they were good at the time). But this would just mean that God is in a unique position to inform us of what is good, and then we’re back on the second horn of the dilemma.

Thoughts? Have you ever heard a theist give an intelligible explanation of how God’s “nature” could be good?

Great question. No I have not.
Somewhere here, we've talked about this.
He seems to have missed the essential POINT of the dilemma.
The point is, the "standard" has to be EXTERNAL to the deity, to apply to the deity, and that refutes the deity as creator of Reality. A deity can't only exist in Reality, as as total required participant, if the deity is the creator of that very reality in which it is required to exist.

“God is the kind of being who lacks nothing. Since he’s perfect and lacks nothing in his being, he is the fullness of goodness itself.”

The thing is, if a deity "lacks nothing", then it has to be good AND evil. It cannot "encompass" only PART of Reality, (as the "eternal" nature of it's being), because if it encompasses only PART of reality, it (has always), existed as the opposite to the evil. That means evil always had to exist as long as the good deity did. His deity participates in only PART of Realty. Since forever, evil is external to it. as the opposite of it's "goodness", (or the definition is nonsense, and linguistically meaningless) The god can't be the creator of ALL of Reality, if it only participates in only 1/2 of it, as long as it existed, by definition. Without it's opposite, "goodness" is meaningless.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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11-10-2013, 06:36 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 06:21 PM)Brickparade Wrote:  Hi! I’m new around here. I’m an atheist, but I frequently read apologetic arguments because I genuinely enjoy argumentation (and like to see what the "other side" is saying these days). I was reading Answering Atheism by Trent Horn and got to the normally groan-inducing moral argument. I’d like some feedback on one of the points the author makes. In the chapter, Horn addresses the Euthyphro dilemma in the same way as many apologists (like Craig):

Quote:[The Euthyphro dilemma] boils down to this: Either an act is wrong because God says so, or God says an act is wrong because it is wrong. The first option makes God a cosmic tyrant… The other horn of the dilemma… seems to make morality something that exists outside of God and is not under his authority or control…

The most satisfactory response to the Euthyphro dilemma is to “split the horns” of the dilemma and say that right and wrong flow from God’s perfect character, and not his will. An act isn’t good because God commanded it, and neither did God command the act merely because the act is good. God commanded the act because he is the Good! Because God is a perfect and infinite being who exists without limit or flaw, then he will necessarily only command good acts that correspond with his perfect nature. The Catechism teaches that God’s almighty power is in no way arbitrary: “In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.”

Now, at this point, I’m thinking that this just pushes the problem one step back. Is God’s nature good because it just is, by definition, or is God’s nature good because we’ve evaluated it to be so using some outside criteria? Or, to put it another way, if it were in God’s “perfect character” to command rape, would rape be moral?

Horn anticipates this objection, and responds with:

Quote:Of course, an atheist could say, “But how do you know God’s nature is good?” This is like asking, “How do you know a meter is 39.4 inches long?” The reason a meter is that long is because that is just how long the meter bar, or a bar of platinum and iridium in France, is. That bar is what it means to be “a meter long” in the same way that God’s nature is what it means to be “the perfect good…” Asking “Is an action good because it is what God commands, or is it what God commands because the action is good?” should leave us puzzled, for they are the same thing: God’s command, and the good itself, flow from God’s perfect, loving, and unchanging nature.

Later, in an imaginary dialogue, Horn writes, “God is the kind of being who lacks nothing. Since he’s perfect and lacks nothing in his being, he is the fullness of goodness itself.”

I have a few thoughts on how I would respond, and, as I haven’t encountered this last move before, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

It seems to me that, the way we normally talk, “good” (as applied to people) is always some kind of analysis of a person’s actions. Why we would call those actions good is debatable, but it is a person’s actions—and their consequences—that morality is concerned with. When we say that someone is a “good person,” we mean that their actions are good. To say that someone’s nature is good, apart from actions, seems like confusion. I’m not even sure how to make sense of that.

Maybe what Horn means is that, because God knows everything, and is maximally concerned with the well-being of humans, he would always know what is best for us and would always command good things (even if we couldn’t tell they were good at the time). But this would just mean that God is in a unique position to inform us of what is good, and then we’re back on the second horn of the dilemma.

Thoughts? Have you ever heard a theist give an intelligible explanation of how God’s “nature” could be good?

As a theist I subscribe to a view that God ultimately determines what is good and what is evil.
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11-10-2013, 06:46 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 06:36 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  
(11-10-2013 06:21 PM)Brickparade Wrote:  Hi! I’m new around here. I’m an atheist, but I frequently read apologetic arguments because I genuinely enjoy argumentation (and like to see what the "other side" is saying these days). I was reading Answering Atheism by Trent Horn and got to the normally groan-inducing moral argument. I’d like some feedback on one of the points the author makes. In the chapter, Horn addresses the Euthyphro dilemma in the same way as many apologists (like Craig):


Now, at this point, I’m thinking that this just pushes the problem one step back. Is God’s nature good because it just is, by definition, or is God’s nature good because we’ve evaluated it to be so using some outside criteria? Or, to put it another way, if it were in God’s “perfect character” to command rape, would rape be moral?

Horn anticipates this objection, and responds with:


Later, in an imaginary dialogue, Horn writes, “God is the kind of being who lacks nothing. Since he’s perfect and lacks nothing in his being, he is the fullness of goodness itself.”

I have a few thoughts on how I would respond, and, as I haven’t encountered this last move before, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.

It seems to me that, the way we normally talk, “good” (as applied to people) is always some kind of analysis of a person’s actions. Why we would call those actions good is debatable, but it is a person’s actions—and their consequences—that morality is concerned with. When we say that someone is a “good person,” we mean that their actions are good. To say that someone’s nature is good, apart from actions, seems like confusion. I’m not even sure how to make sense of that.

Maybe what Horn means is that, because God knows everything, and is maximally concerned with the well-being of humans, he would always know what is best for us and would always command good things (even if we couldn’t tell they were good at the time). But this would just mean that God is in a unique position to inform us of what is good, and then we’re back on the second horn of the dilemma.

Thoughts? Have you ever heard a theist give an intelligible explanation of how God’s “nature” could be good?

As a theist I subscribe to a view that God ultimately determines what is good and what is evil.

That's not the point. The POINT is, unless your deity is totally capriciously irrational, the STANDARD for the determination has to "exist", and the question is "where did that come from ?" No one cares what you believe, irrationally. Clearly you also don't get the dilemma. Weeping

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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11-10-2013, 07:02 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
So... Female is evil? Consider

This Horn guy, he got a girlfriend? A mother? I wonder how they feel about that shit. Dodgy

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11-10-2013, 11:00 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 06:46 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  That's not the point. The POINT is, unless your deity is totally capriciously irrational, the STANDARD for the determination has to "exist", and the question is "where did that come from ?" No one cares what you believe, irrationally. Clearly you also don't get the dilemma. Weeping

To say something is moral or immoral is to make a judgment about that thing. Judgments can't exist without judges. When ever you have multiple judges the possibility exists that those judges will disagree. With that in mind I expect that my morality will not always agree with God's morality. I can accept that God is both all good and a tyrant. He is all good because he is the ultimate judge...his judgments supercede mine. He is tyrant because His morality isn't my morality. There is no dilemma.
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11-10-2013, 11:39 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 11:00 PM)Heywood Jahblome Wrote:  
(11-10-2013 06:46 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  That's not the point. The POINT is, unless your deity is totally capriciously irrational, the STANDARD for the determination has to "exist", and the question is "where did that come from ?" No one cares what you believe, irrationally. Clearly you also don't get the dilemma. Weeping

To say something is moral or immoral is to make a judgment about that thing. Judgments can't exist without judges. When ever you have multiple judges the possibility exists that those judges will disagree. With that in mind I expect that my morality will not always agree with God's morality. I can accept that God is both all good and a tyrant. He is all good because he is the ultimate judge...his judgments supercede mine. He is tyrant because His morality isn't my morality. There is no dilemma.

Thanks for the thoughts, both of you.

The point of the Euthyphro dilemma is to show that morality is not objective if grounded in God. To be fair, some theistic philosophers do "bite the bullet" and essentially say, "Yup, whatever God says goes." In that sense, for them, Divine Command Theory is subjective, but they'll go with it because God is, as Heywood has said, "the ultimate Judge."

Heywood, do you consider God-based-morality to be objective? Or do you consider it subjective, but worth following because God is the author? I realize we might end up with purely semantic differences ("what does objective mean"), but I'm curious nonetheless.
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11-10-2013, 11:54 PM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 06:33 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  The thing is, if a deity "lacks nothing", then it has to be good AND evil. It cannot "encompass" only PART of Reality, (as the "eternal" nature of it's being), because if it encompasses only PART of reality, it (has always), existed as the opposite to the evil. That means evil always had to exist as long as the good deity did. His deity participates in only PART of Realty. Since forever, evil is external to it. as the opposite of it's "goodness", (or the definition is nonsense, and linguistically meaningless/ The god can't be the creator of ALL of Reality, if it only participates in only 1/2 of it, as long as it existed, by definition. Without it's opposite, "goodness" is meaningless.

The theist's snappy answer to that is: "Evil is just a lack of good. It isn't actually a PART of reality. To say that God lacks evil means that God lacks a lack of good. This isn't actually a deficiency."

Now, I've never bought into the "evil as a privation of good" definition myself. It seems that some evils are like this ("letting someone starve is a lack of caring"), but others are not ("malaria is the presence of parasites," "war is the presence of violence between countries").

What I keep thinking is that "goodness" doesn't seem like a property, but more like a potential evaluation--this action increases suffering, or that action couldn't be applied universally, etc.
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12-10-2013, 12:06 AM
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 11:39 PM)Brickparade Wrote:  Heywood, do you consider God-based-morality to be objective? Or do you consider it subjective, but worth following because God is the author? I realize we might end up with purely semantic differences ("what does objective mean"), but I'm curious nonetheless.

I don't think it matters. In determining whether to follow God-based-morality one should look at the costs of following it or not following it. Will God send me to hell if I steal a loaf of bread to feed my family? If God will send me to hell, I'll look for another way to feed my family. If God won't do anything, I'll grab the loaf(assuming the need is great) and sleep with a clear conscious...even if God hath commanded against it.
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12-10-2013, 12:51 AM (This post was last modified: 12-10-2013 08:04 AM by Bucky Ball.)
RE: Responding to a Catholic Critique of the Euthyphro Dilemma
(11-10-2013 11:54 PM)Brickparade Wrote:  
(11-10-2013 06:33 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  The thing is, if a deity "lacks nothing", then it has to be good AND evil. It cannot "encompass" only PART of Reality, (as the "eternal" nature of it's being), because if it encompasses only PART of reality, it (has always), existed as the opposite to the evil. That means evil always had to exist as long as the good deity did. His deity participates in only PART of Realty. Since forever, evil is external to it. as the opposite of it's "goodness", (or the definition is nonsense, and linguistically meaningless/ The god can't be the creator of ALL of Reality, if it only participates in only 1/2 of it, as long as it existed, by definition. Without it's opposite, "goodness" is meaningless.

The theist's snappy answer to that is: "Evil is just a lack of good. It isn't actually a PART of reality. To say that God lacks evil means that God lacks a lack of good. This isn't actually a deficiency."

Now, I've never bought into the "evil as a privation of good" definition myself. It seems that some evils are like this ("letting someone starve is a lack of caring"), but others are not ("malaria is the presence of parasites," "war is the presence of violence between countries").

What I keep thinking is that "goodness" doesn't seem like a property, but more like a potential evaluation--this action increases suffering, or that action couldn't be applied universally, etc.

No. The definitions of good and evil are irrelevant. "A lack of good" is no better or no different, and is not the point. (And BTW, a negative is every bit a part of Reality as the positive, even if you DEFINE something to be that. The POINT is not the definition, but that they are NOT THAT SAME THING). Even if "god is the *ultimate judge*, there exists a standard against which the *judgement* is made, ((even if it's just "god is just ultimately (himself) good")). There is no "judgement" if it's not *judged against* a standard. The word "judge" has a meaning. If not, they can't use that word. It has a real meaning. If there is no standard, there can be no judgement, just capricious invention. Either the word "judge" has a meaning or it does not. The word cannot be used, with an invented special meaning. The only alternative is that there IS no "standard" and it's "divine whim", or "capricious divine irrationality". That is not a moral system. Moral caprice is not goodness. That's the point of the dilemma.

Evil "as a lack of good" is no different, and no better. If the words "good" and "evil" (or "good and lack of good" or even just "good" by itself) have (real) linguistic value, (or they actually MEAN something), then they have definitions, and that means they are different, and not the same thing. They are NOT THE SAME THING, and that is the point. If they have definitions, (at all) there exists a standard for the difference. THAT is the point of the dilemma. There is NO way out of this. However you want to define "good" and "evil" is irrelevant. All you have to do is ask them, "Are good and evil the SAME THING ?". (They will never say "yes".) If they are NOT the same thing, the dilemma stands, (as there exists a standard, ....whatever it is), and they have not, and can not satisfactorily answer the question. The fact there is a difference at all, (no matter how it's defined), is the dilemma.

The dilemma also works to demonstrate their definition of their god is worthless.
To say "god exists" means that from eternity, (as long as their deity existed), there was "non-existence", concurrently. Reality encompasses BOTH. Their deity, from eternity, only participates, necessarily, in part of Reality. Is their deity the creator of Reality ? Did their deity create "non-existence" ? If their deity "exists", as long as it existed, non-existence also was in the structure of Reality, and it couldn't have created ALL of Reality, if it participates, of necessity in only part of it. If their deity did not create BOTH existence and non-existence, and exists, (and not *not* exists), then there exists a structure in Reality it did not, and could not have created.

Edit: In deference to our resident troll, Blowjob, I will amend the second to last sentence in paragraph one to "They would never agree that moral caprice is the same as goodness", just to give his trollishness a little peace.

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