Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Group 5: Las Noches del Dia


Also described as so on the site for The Euthyphro Dilemma, trying to expand this argument is much like beating a dead horse. But I suppose the majority of us can humor ourselves a little, eh?

My dilemma with this dilemma was the statement 'Either God is the origin of moral principles, or it isn't.' Maybe I'm breaking this down a little too much, but if this God were the creator of moral principles, which vary endlessly, wouldn't there be in fact multiple gods? I want a root definition for 'Euthyphro''s 'good', or else I'm stuck on the thought that the God we speak of is some selfish superhero that morphs himself like an amoeba just for kicks, or that he may just have multiple personality disorder and has frantically run out of medication. I guess what I'm getting at is this: What about cultures without morals like those of our own? Are those practices they partake in 'evil' because there is a God that punishingly wills it to be so? Do we classify them as evil because they are opposite of our perception of a loving God? Lastly, if we had no 'evils' to compare the 'good' with, would we know what the meaning of 'good' was at all?

For a discussion question,
'In Plato's dialogue "Euthyphro", who is Euthyphro being questioned by on the nature of holiness?
A: Socrates!


  1. Unless someone was a moral relativist, we would typically say there aren't different morals for different people. Different thinkers will vary on the question of whether we can ever have true certitude as to what the force of moral principles are or all their specifics, but we tend to say that things can't be 'wrong' for some people but 'right' for others.

    I think what most people mean when they talk about the 'morals' of other cultures are specific expressions of societal behavior and values. But as many philosophers pointed out, morality if it exists must be broad and general, because individual circumstances will necessarily vary and no two will be precisely the same - it would be impossible to formulate moral rules to cover every concievable contingency.

    And usually, not always, but usually, whenever people point to something that is considered 'moral' in one culture but 'immoral' in another and say "see, there are different morals for different people" there are a few possibilities for what is happening. Typically though (in my opinion) what has happened is that if you ignore the specific details of the behavior and look at WHY that culture does the thing it does, you find that they are working from some broader more general principle on which we can all agree... but somewhere along the way their thinking about how to apply that general principle to the specific case diverges.

  2. Theologians will argue that without belief in God and subsequently the Divine Command Theory, there is no grounding for morality, i.e., no objective foundation for moral beliefs. These theologians charge that followers of competing faiths and non–believers, if they are moral, are so by a matter of luck or chance because they ultimately lack any moral grounding.

    Euthyphro makes the argument: Does God command it because it’s good or is it good because God commands it? The burning question is ‘goodness’ distinct from God.

    I think the answer to that question is this: How do we know God is good to begin with? Even if we presuppose a god, the proposition ‘God is good’ is not clear because it is elliptical and smacks of question-begging.

    It’s certainly not a matter of linguistic identity. We can say God is good but we wouldn’t say a friend who did a good deed, “That was God of you.” He have to have some prior understanding of goodness to even understand what attributes we cosign to any god.

    Therefore, one has to make a judgment about the goodness of their particular god prior to a commitment of blind faith and eternal worship. So, it follows that there would have to be some independent way to determine the goodness of anything, including actions of capricious gods over the last several thousand years. (For more along this line of thought see “Ethics without God” by Kia Nielsen.)

    Moreover, if the Bible is the perfect word of the Christian God, on what basis do Christians determine that some passages are allegory or metaphor? Doesn’t that judgment seem distinct? And, can you think of any divine revelation from God that you disagree with? If atheists are accused of Biblical literalism, maybe Christians are reading too much into it as well. It could be that the divinity of Jesus and the Resurrection are simply parables.

    1. The silly part is that Jesus and the Resurrection ARE just stories. The historical Jesus was not named Jesus, and the Resurrection came from some clumsy horseman's "vision". All of the stories in the book were written by man, for man. God isn't there at all...but for the sake of this discussion, let's pretend (hah) that God does exist and it is the being described in the Bible. I can't think of anything that God did that was good in the first testament. He created things, but that is not an act of good or evil unless you look into the events that follow from the moment of creation. Even then, though, I see little good for mankind from God.

      The only good that comes from any divine being is the patriarchal comfort that you won't just disappear when you die. That's not that good, either. If whatever theory about death is true, rejoice because now you get to exist some more after wasting your human existence on worship (which, if you're a Christian, is what you continue to do for eternity in heaven...yay?). If it is false, however, you have not only wasted your human life, but now it's all for nothing. Congratz. This comfort treats adults like children, telling them that everything is going to be okay when we really have no idea if it will or won't be. You gonna' die and nothing can stop it...I don't think the "good" thing to do is tell everybody that death is something you should focus your life on (ex: getting into heaven) on the off chance that some fairy tale is true and you'll go somewhere magical. It would be "good" to tell people that death is inescapable and that there is no certainly as to whether we have an immortal soul, but we're alive now and we should cherish that.

      (also think it's funny that the "loudmouths" of group 1 are loud everywhere, even cyberspace...)

    2. I'm officially adding 'clumsy horseman's vision' to my list of pithy idioms! :)

  3. I think Jamie touches on something important when he questions the "why" aspect of specific moral practices. Lacking even a basic knowledge of how the world works, ancient peoples acted in ways that were consistent with their best knowledge about human well-being. As our knowledge has increased, our view of morality has evolved along with it. Better informed decisions lead to better informed morality.

    Disagreement over specific moral questions may always be with us, but as has been the case over and over, education goes a long way towards increasing moral behavior.

  4. I think Rachel's right: if divine command theory were true, the reasonable reverse inference would be polytheism (or else Divine schizophrenia). Fortunately it's not. But at least half of all vocal Intro students, in my experience, still think it's true. (Most of them like Pascal's Wager, too.)