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An Open Letter to the Atheist Ethicist

Posted on Apr 10, 2009 by Tom Gilson

An open letter to Alonze Fyfe, “The Atheist Ethicist.”

CC: Any atheistic, agnostic, or skeptical reader with an interest in ethics

Greetings, Alonzo,

You have remained strangely silent on the matter of reading opposing views, after I have asked you several times (starting here; also here and here) whether that is something you have made your practice. I raised the question because you had said theistic faith was evidence-free and unreasoning, and I suggested a set of authors for you to read in rebuttal of that opinion. Because of your silence, I wonder now more strongly than ever whether you have done much serious reading in theism.

Not long ago Nick Matzke (recently of the National Center for Science Education) challenged me for not having read “the basic references on the morality/evolution/human nature topic.” Though actually I’ve read a fair amount of secular ethical theory, I had not read evolutionary-based ethical theory. I responded with a trop to the library to obtain the two books he’d recommended, via interlibrary loan. This was the outcome, so far at least.

So today I challenge you with a list of theistic reading that’s much shorter, and more to the point of your  chosen subject area: to read some of the best standard works on theistic ethics. I don’t see how you can be an “atheist ethicist” without understanding the contrasting view.

Where to begin? The standard on Christian ethics is of course the New Testament. It is the center and source of Christian belief on the topic, and it is also where we read the life of the man many through the ages lived the life that shines as the most ethical ever lived, with the greatest ethical teaching. I’m going to suggest a few pages to you to start with, actually:

  • The Sermon on the Mount, Mathew chapters 5-7, and the parallel in Luke 6.
  • The trial of Jesus Christ (commemmorated today, Good Friday, in the Western church), in Luke chapters 22 and 23, and John chapters 18 and 19. In both of those locations you might as well keep reading and see how it comes out, since you’re so close to the end of each of those books at that point anyway.
  • The life of Christ in its shortest written expression, the book of Mark.
  • And finally from the original source, the ethical teaching of Paul, in the book of Romans. Much of Romans is about how to live an ethical life, in view of the acknowledged difficulty of remaining consistent in it (see chapter 7). I can guarantee you’ll find Romans a distinct intellectual challenge, and specifically a challenge to your opinion that theists do not reason through their beliefs.
  • Because of the external references and allusions in Romans, you’ll need a commentary (most people do) to guide you through. This one by F.F. Bruce, a top NT scholar, would be a great choice.

I strongly recommend a good modern translation for the Bible readings: English Standard Version (online here) or the New International Version or New King James Version (online here).

Once you get through this, I would suggest you add to it C.S. Lewis’s very short (still not asking a lot of you) but powerfully argued book The Abolition of Man, for a more contemporary treatment of ethical questions in context of atheism. His Mere Christianity, a modern classic, would also be very good.

Am I asking a lot of you? Actually, if you do not do this you are not asking enough of yourself. You really can’t write on atheistic ethics without knowing the contrasting views. I’m not asking anything of you that I haven’t done myself, anyway. I don’t read everything anyone suggests, obviously, there’s a limit; but I’ll rarely take a position of knowledge on a topic without having read the best on both sides of it. Frankly, when I’ve skipped that step, I’ve been called on it, as with Nick Matzke above. That’s to be expected, and it’s entirely fair.

The list I gave you has multiple items, but  it won’t add up to more than maybe forty to sixty (estimated) pages of reading in the Bible, plus a commentary for reference and two relatively short books. It’s hardly a beginning, really, for someone who claims some knowledge on ethics in context of the atheism/theism question. You owe it to yourself, really; without it you seriously truncate your own expertise.

I’ll look forward to hearing back from you on this. Again, if this is the kind of thing you’ve already done, I’ll be interested to hear that, too.

With warm regards,

Tom Gilson

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207 Responses to “ An Open Letter to the Atheist Ethicist ”

  1. AlonzoFyfe says:

    I have answered your question by pointing out that the \opposing views\ you are talking about are not opposing views at all. They are not even relevant.

    Your assertion to the contrary is based on a fallacy of equivocation.

    You wrote: I raised the question because you had said theistic faith was evidence-free and unreasoning.

    I did not say that. I said that when theistic faith is evidence-free and unreasoning then it cannot be used as justification for policies that are harmful to the life, health, and liberty of others.

    I will leave it up to you and others to debate how much \theistic faith\ is, in fact, grounded on good evidence and reason.

    So, you tell me whether any of these \opposing views\ you mentioned argued that evidence-free, unreasoned beliefs provides legitimate justification for doing harm to others.

  2. Tom Gilson says:

    First, Alonzo, thank you for addressing the actual question I asked. Up until now it was not at all clear—it was not even stated—that your point regarding irrelevance was an answer to this question.

    Second, from your first post on this, you equated faith-based morality with evidence-free belief:

    That is done by demonstrating the role of faith-based testimony in criminal court – against allowing prosecutors to call witnesses who declare that, as a matter of faith without evidence, they believe that the accused is guilty and the jury should deliver such a verdict…. Similarly, not only does the Prosecutor next summon a Catholic to the stand to declare, “I declare as a matter of unreasoned faith that the accused is guilty,”…

    The word “relevant” does not appear in any of the discussion following this post. You tried to bring it in later, to which I replied you were using a definition of faith that is itself irrelevant to any actual intellectually engaged person of faith, and that this would be another great opportunity for you to find out what people who experience and live by faith say it means. Hence my repeated call for you to read in this area.

    Third, I note that you have addressed my question but still have not answered it. You have not yet indicated any familiarity with theistic literature. It’s up to you, of course, but I would suggest that my broader point is relevant to anyone who takes a position of knowledge on ethics within the context of an atheistic/theistic debate, which you have done. It would behoove you to know what other people—the best of them—think about the topic. From your answers I still seriously wonder whether you have taken the time to do that. And I wonder if you have thought how that might affect your credibility as one who can write knowledgeably on your topic.

    But as I said, it’s up to you. I know I couldn’t claim knowledge on a topic without reading the best of both sides. It would strain my conscience, and where it didn’t do that (as in the recent case with Matzke where there was relevant literature I didn’t know I had missed because I was unaware of it) it would be quickly pointed out by the loyal opposition commenting here.

    (Loyal opposition is a very good thing, by the way. I don’t usually agree with the atheists who often visit here—and yesterday I even got a tad frustrated with one who I thought kept missing what I was trying to convey as a main point in a discussion—but I will always welcome them. I appreciate your welcoming me to your blog, too.)

  3. Alonzo Fyfe says:

    Second, from your first post on this, you equated faith-based morality with evidence-free belief

    Yes I did, using a very common definition of faith commonly understood by native English speakers.

    Your response was to say that some types of faith are reason and evidence-based.

    My answer is that this is fine, but I am not addressing those types of faith. As it turns out, I would consider “evidence-based faith” to be a contradiction in terms. However, that is merely a semantic dispute that has no substantive implications. There is no natural law governing the meanings of terms, so semantic disputes inevitably go nowhere.

    However, whether we call a claim “faith” or not, if somebody is using the claim to justify policies that harm the life, health, and liberty of others, then he has an obligation to be cross-examined. Such a person cannot claim immunity on the grounds that it is insulting for anybody to question his beliefs.

    Third, I note that you have not yet indicated any familiarity with theistic literature.

    I have twelve years of college-level study in moral philosophy which includes an understanding of the philosophy of religion. My area of focus was on moral philosophy so I am most familiar with those aspects of the philosophy of religion that overlap with moral philosophy.

    Most moral philosophers consider religious claims irrelevant to moral philosophy on the basis of the Euthyphro argument. Though I know that some people claim to have found a hole in that argument, I have not found an argument for relevance that is not substantially flawed.

    Effectively, for the concept that God is good to make sense, then goodness must be something that even outranks God – a set of standards that even a God must subject himself to is to be counted as good. Since goodness outranks God, one does not need to study God to study goodness.

    This is the position that I take in my blog. I do not participate in arguments for or against the existence of a God or the nature of a God. I consider the debate to be irrelevant. There are already a million web sites devoted to that topic and one more will not make a meaningful contribution.

    However, there are very few sites on the internet that focus specifically on moral issues from assumption that no God exists. So, that is what I focus on.

  4. Tom Gilson says:

    I would consider “evidence-based faith” to be a contradiction in terms. However, that is merely a semantic dispute that has no substantive implications.

    It has great implications for the relevance of your argument, because even if “evidence-free faith” may be a dictionary definition (I don’t know where it is, but if it were), it would still not be relevant to most of the believers I associate with. It’s a common stereotype of faith, but I doubt most of those who hold it would feel so free to make similar pejorative stereotyped assumptions about Blacks and Jews. It’s no more accurate of Christians I have spent most of my life with than certain offensive stereotypes are true of certain ethnic groups. But stereotypes do persist, don’t they?

    if somebody is using the claim to justify policies that harm the life, health, and liberty of others, then he has an obligation to be cross-examined. Such a person cannot claim immunity on the grounds that it is insulting for anybody to question his beliefs.

    I agree on this.

    On your third point, I disagree with your assessment of the Euthyphro argument, but I do thank you for responding. That was helpful.

  5. Daniel says:

    As it turns out, I would consider “evidence-based faith” to be a contradiction in terms.

    It isn’t. Just because a term has a common usage does not mean that common usage is correct. Evidential faith is at the heart of Christianity, even if the colloquial meaning of faith has been distorted over the years.

    Biblical faith is nothing more than trust based on available evidence.

  6. Holopupenko says:

    Daniel:

    You are largely correct. I, like Tom, was surprised (frankly, I was stunned) by the self-serving way faith is portrayed by Alonzo—both here in Tom’s blog and in his own. The mistakes Alonzo makes I expect from atheists ignorant of philosophical nuances and theological verities (a common thread running through most of their comments), but not from someone who ought to know better.

    The battle is largely one over the bounds of reason. Reason employs perception and the tools of logic to become of aware of (actually, to know) reality according to a plethora of factors, so that to be “reasonable” means, in a deep sense, to become aware of reality writ large. Alonzo (and others of the loyal opposition) a priori attempt to limit the human capacity to reason for a number of reason: (1) to meet preconceived notions (faith is bad), (2) to support particular world views (naturalism), (3) or simply out of emotional needs. They are, again in a deep sense, pessimistic and narrow about the human capacity to reason, whereas Christians in particular are optimistic and expansive. (Of course, Christians are often prone to make mistakes across the spectrum—from mind-numbing fideism to rational-ISM, but this does not take away from the nature of the battle.)

    So, what we get from them is a narrowing to one or another epistemological approach (method) which, of course, then narrows their ability to grasp all of reality. (From the a priori epistemological narrowing we then see (among other things) the predictable and terribly obtuse ontological limitations… but that’s for another comment.) “Evidence-based faith” for Alonzo is a contradiction precisely because of his own secular faith-based commitment to unsupportable a priori principles: if one limits their fishing net pitch to 30cm on a side, then one is free to conclude no fish exist smaller than 30cm… but that person would be a fool.

    Perhaps most infamous are the various scientific methods (as understood by the modern empirical sciences) willy-nilly applied to all knowledge… otherwise known as scientism. This, of course, is self-defeating for such a position cannot explain itself: a privileging of MES-obtained knowledge over knowledge that can be reasoned to (obtained) from MES knowledge is a self-serving, self-defeating absurdity… but its emotional appeal to those who “want things simple” is breathtaking. Think about it: many of the MESs as well as disciplines such as mathematical logic, linguistic analysis, psychology, sociology, etc., are limited in the formal and material objects they study, and in fact in many cases are mutually exclusive (physics studies objects in motion, biology studies life, etc.) Physics cannot be given a truly fundamental epistemological and ontologically-oriented position because then there is no such thing as life. To do so would be, quite literally, to make a totalitarian claim to explain existence. Then, there’s the cute epistemological-level fallacy of composition: “well, if physics isn’t epistemologically fundamental then certain all the MESs together are,” which, of course, fails its own criterion: such a claim is not an MES claim in the first place.

  7. AlonzoFyfe says:

    Daniel

    It isn’t. Just because a term has a common usage does not mean that common usage is correct.

    Actually, yes it is.

    The meanings of terms are decided by social conventions. A writer’s job is to anticipate the ideas that a particular term will cause to spring up in the mind of the reader – and the common usage of a term is what best predicts the ideas that will spring up in the minds of the reader.

    Meanings change over time. The original meaning of the term “planet” was “wandering star”. Planets were thought to be no different from stars except for the fact that they move.

    The original meaning of “atom” was “thing without parts”. We now hold that atoms have parts (electrons, neutrons, and protons).

    The original meaning of “malaria” is “bad air”. It was originally thought that malaria was caused by bad air. People would use perfume and incense as a way to prevent catching the disease.

    It makes no sense to say that people today are using the terms incorrectly. The fact of the matter is that people today have agreed upon a different meaning for the terms – a different common usage.

    Holopupenko

    “Evidence-based faith” for Alonzo is a contradiction precisely because of his own secular faith-based commitment to unsupportable a priori principles:

    Which “unsupportable a priori principles” would that be?

    The mistake is made when people confuse disputes over the meanings of terms with disputes of substance. Getting caught up in disputes over definitions is a red herring – a way for those who have no clear understanding of an issue to muddy the waters.

    In other words, there is no natural law of meanings that dictates what a word must or cannot mean. There is only social convention.

    The rules of logic allows anybody to stipulate whatever definition they please. There are no limits on stipulated definitions.

    The two things that are prohibited are (1) shifting the definition of a term in mid-sentence (the fallacy of equivocation), or (2) attempting to define something into existence (the ontological fallacy). After defining a term, the question of whether that term then refers to something real is a matter of observation.

    If I wanted to stipulate that when I use the term “Napoleon” then I am referring to my pet dog no principle of logic dictates that I am prohibited from doing so.

    If you can demonstrate that I shifted the meaning of my terms or that I attempted to define something into existence, you would have an objection against me.

    If not, then you are simply using the fallacy of objective meanings to cloud the issue.

    However, I cannot go from this definition to say that Napoleon lost the battle of waterloo (because my pet dog did not lose the battle of Waterloo) or that Napoleon exists (if, in fact, I have no pet dog).

  8. Tom Gilson says:

    The discussion continues on Alonzo’s blog also, where I ask Alonzo whether he has indeed possibly switched topics midstream. If as he says definitions are what they are by convention, then as he says, it behooves us in philosophical discourse to at least be clear as to which one we are using at which time. This is the mistake I believe he has been making. Is he arguing against “the faith,” or against the faith of some ignorant unthinking adherents of the faith?

    But this is just by way of reference to a comment I left there at the linked location.

  9. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

         You are precisely correct, and Alonzo—while destroying objective meaning (again, because of a priori commitments… including a terribly disordered view of what logic is)—nonetheless feels perfectly justified in believing that his assertions about meaning actually have objective meaning beyond the reach of any “social convention.” Remember, he’s the one accusing me of employing the “fallacy of objective meaning” while he himself wants us to believe his meaning in saying this is objective. This is a deeply, deeply unreasonable (at it’s deepest, chaotic… and ultimately about power) and disordered view of reality, and I assure you that unless Alonzo figures this out, there is no possible way for meaningful discussion to proceed.

         Here’s an example of a gross mistake on Alonzo’s part: “The mistake is made when people confuse disputes over the meanings of terms with disputes of substance.” Really? First, this betrays a lack of understanding of what “meaning” is (the form of the object considered). Second, again, Alonzo presupposes that he can cross the divide of his “social construct” criterion for meaning to advance his position objectively. Sorry—no “get out of jail free” card for him, for Alonzo doesn’t want to admit that his own criterion—the translation of meaning over social conventions (or economic conditions if you’re a Marxist or over power grabs if you’re a postmodernist, etc.)—compromises the very assertion he wants us to believe is, well, true. And this is precisely the problem: truth is reduced to a social construct rather than a transcendental (like good, beauty, oneness, etc.) Alonzo assumes that the content of a definition can always be reformulated in other languages, cultures, societies, economic groups, genders, etc. with an utterly new meaning. ALL discussion must cease, because to provide a trivial example: “catness” IS preserved invariantly no matter what group observes a furry, tailed, four-legged, pointy eared creature.

         Here’s another example: “The rules of logic allows anybody to stipulate whatever definition they please. There are no limits on stipulated definitions.” Absurd and repugnant nonsense. Try using Alonzo’s own criterion against this assertion of his… actually, don’t—you’ll only end up in a crash and burn scenario. The “Napoleon” example is a joke: whether or not “Napoleon” can be applied to an historical figure or to a dog is irrelevant because meaning doesn’t “reside” in a word but in the object considered.

         The mistakes Alonzo makes would—I’m being quite serious—embarrass an undergraduate philosophy major. I have no interest in wasting time with such nonsense promulgated as allegedly being “meaningful.”

  10. Sorry to butt in here, but I’m just wondering if perhaps it would help advance the conversation if all parties simply AGREE that “faith” in this discussion (and not necessarily elsewhere) will mean what Tom says and not the definition Alonzo takes from the lazy use of the many.

    LG

  11. Daniel says:

    The meanings of terms are decided by social conventions.

    You’re suggesting that the meaning and intent of a word written in the first century somehow changes based on how the word comes to be used in the twentieth century?

    That’s nonsensical. We need to judge meaning and definition based on the intent of the original writer, not by what the same word may happen to convey 2,000 years later. I’m appalled – you’d be laughed out of a textual criticism convention.

  12. Tom Gilson says:

    Or an ethical philosophers’ conference.

  13. Tom Gilson says:

    @Lawrence Gage:

    I’m not sure that Alonzo wants to do that. This afternoon I left a question for him to that effect: is he really just talking about the evidence- and reason-free faith of some stereotyped subgroup of Christians?

    The follow-up, of course, is this: If so, why? What’s the value in that? Why would he not want to address the real thing, or faith at its most intellectually robust? Suppose the University of Michigan’s varsity basketball team took on some fraternity team at Michigan State University. Would their winning prove that U of M is better at basketball than MSU?

    Maybe I came in to the middle of his discussion and missed something. I’ve left him the question because I don’t want to misunderstand his intent. He hasn’t answered yet.

  14. frank says:

    To clear the air without going into all the linguistics and philosophy of language:

    The common majority use of a word is not its only or even primary meaning, ESPECIALLY WHEN DESCRIPTIVE NEEDS COME INTO PLAY

    Why insist on the common english usage of a word in an anaylytic discussion about a technical matter? Its like bashing Eistien’s theories based on the common everyday use of the word “time”

  15. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    Some of the contributions to this string are too close to the intellectual despair we sensed in our postmodernist commenter (was his name Jacob?) from about a year ago…

  16. SteveK says:

    In other words, there is no natural law of meanings that dictates what a word must or cannot mean. There is only social convention.

    The rules of logic allows anybody to stipulate whatever definition they please. There are no limits on stipulated definitions.

    Wow. This is disordered thinking. Ideas point to things that we experience in reality. If a thing can be represented by Idea X and Idea -X at the same time and in the same way (because of social convention) then either the law of non-contradiction is false, the thing doesn’t exist or your statement above is false. Pick one.

  17. Tom Gilson says:

    Disordered thinking? Yes, and the theory he has been trying to promote with it is astonishingly disordered.

  18. faithlessgod says:

    The problem of the term “faith” is that is ambiguous and indeterminate. Modern and ancient religious usage of faith highlights one meaning over others – belief without evidence or a desire to believe regardless of evidence.

    Now this begs the question of what can count as “evidence”. The court analogy that Alonzo was using was designed to distinguish this. It is not sufficient to assert evidence based on such faith. The, let us call it, tentative evidence, if it exists, must stand on its own, regardless of the faith of those presenting it, and be scrutinised to the same standards as any other evidence. The question is is it really evidence and, if and only if so, then what are its implications in the judgement of the court.

    Much data might be claimed as evidence but fails to make the grade to count as legitimate evidence. If tentative or purported evidence fails the standard of legitimacy then it is irrelevant how much faith is used in support for it, it is still illegitimate. If it passes the standard of legitimacy, then faith for, or against, this evidence is still irrelevant. Either way faith is irrelevant and this is the point Alonzo was making.

    Now if you or anyone here wants to assert there is evidence backing your faith, that it is say, a reason or support for your faith, then such claimed evidence can and must be scrutinised independenly of faith itself.

    The “evidence” you have argued for here and on Alonzo’s blog does not stand up independently of your faith in it. It is not really evidence or legitimate, I would call it pseudo-evidence.

    So what evidence do you have that supports your faith? Nothing in what you asked Alonzo to read and I have long ago read is remotely convincing as legitimate evidence, it is pseudo-evidence.

  19. Tom Gilson says:

    Hmmm…

    The problem of the term “faith” is that is ambiguous and indeterminate.

    The definitions in use can be evaluated, however, which is what I have been doing; and more precise definitions can be developed.

    Modern and ancient religious usage of faith highlights one meaning over others – belief without evidence or a desire to believe regardless of evidence.

    Are those your two choices? What’s the difference? I don’t agree with either.

    The “evidence” you have argued for here and on Alonzo’s blog does not stand up independently of your faith in it. It is not really evidence or legitimate, I would call it pseudo-evidence.

    I haven’t actually argued any evidence on this thread or on Alonzo’s blog. (I’ve done a lot of that kind of thing elsewhere, though.) I don’t know what it is you have judged and found wanting.

  20. Pete says:

    Tom,

    I wonder if the tone of your open letter reflects the Christian ethic which you are so eager to defend.

    Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work…he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.(Titus 1:7)

    In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

    I encourage you to also demonstrate the faith by shedding some of your ego. Consider the onlookers. Humility befits the one whose expertise lies elsewhere.

  21. faithlessgod says:

    “I haven’t actually argued any evidence on this thread or on Alonzo’s blog.”
    This has been the whole point of Alonzo’s argument- what counts or justifies evidence. Just because someone’s faith is either the basis for saying it is evidence or they argue that certain evidence is such as to bring about or support the faith they have, either way faith itself insufficient to determine as to what counts as evidence in a court of law.

    In addition building on this above point, making faith-based arguments and expecting special dispensation (double standards) to make such arguments – as to what counts as evidence – is an entirely unjustifiable moral grounds for decisions of moral import.

  22. Tom Gilson says:

    Pete, thank you for that reflection. I’ll be thinking about it very seriously.

    faithlessgod, I have not said that faith itself is sufficient “determine as to what counts as evidence.” My point has been that when Alonzo said that faith was unconnected with evidence or reason, he was not speaking of the kind of faith that I have known, both in my own experience and in that of most other Christians I have known. In saying “I haven’t argued any evidence,” my point was that I have not picked up specific strands of evidence and argued it. I haven’t thought that this was the place to do it. You could look at some of my own work in this here or here.

  23. MedicineMan says:

    Alonzo,

    I’m sorry, but I have a hard time understanding how this isn’t a blatant self-contradiction:

    “I consider the debate [over God’s existence] to be irrelevant…However, there are very few sites on the internet that focus specifically on moral issues from assumption that no God exists. So, that is what I focus on.”

    So, whether or not the assumptions behind non-theistic morals are even true is irrelevant? I would say that the question of God’s existence is pretty relevant when your moral system is based on an assumption that He does not exist. I can understand why you don’t want to consider the question, but I can’t see how you harmonize those two attitudes.

    Having browsed your site, I’m also getting the same impression as Tom, which is that you have an immature, poorly developed sense of what “faith” means to actual believers. In fact, you seem to favor a very caricatured, just-so-story, self-serving sense of the opposition. That’s especially emphasized by your unwillingness to discuss which, if any, Christian philosophers you’ve actually bothered to read.

    A quick browse is a quick browse, so I could be wrong, but you seem to be just one more person who doesn’t bother to learn what the “other side” actually believes. Yet, you insist on using assumptions about that “other side”, most likely ones you’ve gotten from sources who agree with you. An unbeliever like Melvin Konner, for instance, is hardly a good source for a definition of what ‘faith’ means to a believer. That’s a pretty good example of “faith lacking evidence”, don’t you think? How else could you use such a patently absurd definition of “faith”?

    You rightly criticized Sam Harris for ducking a valid question here. I would say that deflecting the question of whether or not you bother to read opposing views deserves equal scrutiny. And, so does the use of a definition of “faith” that’s valid exclusively in the fantasy world of the New Athiests. If I defined “atheists” as “immoral, hedonistic, violent, psychopathic perverts,” I don’t think you’d accept a weak excuse like “I’m just using that in my own writings.” It would be inaccurate to the edge of dishonesty, because the implication is quite clear (and you don’t overtly note that you’re defining ‘faith’ differently than believers do every time you use the term).

  24. MedicineMan says:

    Pete,

    I’m constantly surprised to hear people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins talk about how religion is supposedly of-limits for criticism, that it’s never really been critiqued before. Then, they start quoting Hume, Kant, Sartre, Nietzsche, and so forth.

    At the same time, though, I’m even more surprised when people respond to posts like Tom’s with the kind of comment you made. Challenging someone’s beliefs, approach, or knowledge isn’t inherently insulting. Noting where someone else has made an error is not a matter of “ego”. The same Bible you’re quoting also tells believers to seek truth, search for understanding, and separate what is real from what is false (1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11, Proverbs 13:16, for instance).

    Alonzo has made some pretty obvious (and apparently, pretty long-running) errors in his approach, and has been evasive in his answers. There’s nothing disrespectful or egotistic about bringing that up.

  25. faithlessgod says:

    Tom

    My point has been that when Alonzo said that faith was unconnected with evidence or reason, he was not speaking of the kind of faith that I have known, both in my own experience and in that of most other Christians I have known.

    This has been your argument all along but it makes no difference to the points that Alonzo was making and I have repeated here. This is just playing semantics.

    To clarify and expand, the facts are that what should count in the court is the evidence alone not the faith on which it is based nor supported by. Faith cannot sway the balance or distort the scrutiny of the evidence, whatever it is and whatever you mean by faith. That is it.

    Now if you think that your faith is connected with some evidence and reason then it is that evidence and reasons which is what will be scrutinised in a court of law, with no double standards involved.

    If you think or expect to have a double standard in your favour, such as a special dispensation because it is a faith-based reason or protection from criticism because it upsets the person of faith to be criticised, these are the types of things that Alonzo was quite correctly campaigning against and such expectations are immoral especially with regard to policies that cause harm to others.

    It is the expectation, invocation or defence of such special status for faith-based reasons – as regards faith not evidence (however they relate) – which Alonzo recommends, quite correctly, needs to be condemned. These types of arguments are immoral and are no basis to especially defend, support or endorse actions that can cause harm to others and anyone who supports such arguments deserves to be criticised and condemned for using such methods and arguments, in addition to what ever evidence they offer for their position.

    Your mis-interpretation that people of faith must be excluded from offering evidence is not what Alonzo argues, only that they – people of faith – have no special status in offering their evidence for scrutiny.

    For example, if the evidence offered is that “God commands it”, “it is in God’s nature and that is always good and why god commands it”, “it is written in a book authored by God and that is my justification”, “God revealed to me this is why it should be so” or anything like that then such evidence and reasons must be exposed to the same scrutiny as any other evidence in support or against a policy that can harm others. Such types of purported or tentative evidence would fail to pass muster and count as legitimate evidence in a court of law and should be dismissed as illegitimate or pseudo-evidence and reasons.

  26. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Medicine Man

    Let me address the different issue to that which I am addressing Tom on this blog and here which is about the point of studying opponents views.

    You addressed your post to Alonzo but he is not here now. I will provide my answer, Alonzo may or may not agree with me (I might be mistaken but I think he would agree).

    I’m sorry, but I have a hard time understanding how this isn’t a blatant self-contradiction:

    “I consider the debate [over God’s existence] to be irrelevant…However, there are very few sites on the internet that focus specifically on moral issues from assumption that no God exists. So, that is what I focus on.”

    So, whether or not the assumptions behind non-theistic morals are even true is irrelevant? I would say that the question of God’s existence is pretty relevant when your moral system is based on an assumption that He does not exist. I can understand why you don’t want to consider the question, but I can’t see how you harmonize those two attitudes.

    This is not what Fyfe is arguing. Ethics does not address the existence or not of the gods, but as to whether they are relevant to morality. Simplistically since Socrates Euthyphro argument we know they have not been. Fyfe addresses morality directly and considers what could possibly be relevant. The existence or not of the gods is directly irrelevant. There is a relevance but it is indirect and secondary. This is in the sense of how the gods is used to provide the veneer of authority, legitimacy and justification for certain actions, specifically when used to claim them as moral when they are immoral.

    Having browsed your site, I’m also getting the same impression as Tom, which is that you have an immature, poorly developed sense of what “faith” means to actual believers. In fact, you seem to favor a very caricatured, just-so-story, self-serving sense of the opposition. That’s especially emphasized by your unwillingness to discuss which, if any, Christian philosophers you’ve actually bothered to read…And, so does the use of a definition of “faith” that’s valid exclusively in the fantasy world of the New Athiests.

    Whilst Fyfe might be accused of using reforming definitions in ethics, indeed he openly and deliberately does so and argues as to why, when it comes to “faith” he does no such thing. He is relying on the bog standard problematic version of faith, the one that specifically excludes or ignores evidence. As I have already said here, if you think there is evidence to support your case, your faith is irrelevant, the evidence can and must be considered on its own merits.

    A quick browse is a quick browse, so I could be wrong, but you seem to be just one more person who doesn’t bother to learn what the “other side” actually believes.

    I address this in my post I linked to above.

    It does not matter what anyone believes directly, what matters is how they act based on their beliefs and desires. Indeed the moral value of beliefs, like anything else, are evaluated based upon their affect on the desires of both the person who possesses those beliefs and those that they affect as a result of such beliefs.

  27. Tom Gilson says:

    By the way, fg, you misattributed a quote on your blog. I didn’t write all that you said there that I did.

  28. faithlessgod says:

    Mis-attribution duly noted and corrected. Please see that post for an update. Sorry.

    Also you have provided interesting seeds for a few blog posts of my own. Thanks. I will post them when I have time.

  29. The argument over the proper definition of “faith” seems pointless. (The apparently ironic definition in Hebrews 11:1 argues strongly for Alonzo Fyfe’s interpretation.)

    The real point is Daniel’s assertion that “Biblical faith is nothing more than trust based on available evidence.”

    The truth of this assertion would undermine Fyfe’s point in a much deeper way than merely criticizing Fyfe’s pejorative usage of “faith”.

    However, the idea that evidence supports the truth of the Bible is… highly controversial at best. It’s not enough to simply assert that religious faith is evidence-based; such an assertion is susceptible to rigorous and unambiguous demonstration.

    Having read most of the items cited in the post, none of them provide any evidentiary basis for believing the Bible is actually true. Furthermore, the evidentiary apologetics of writers such as McDowell, Craig and Swinburne are so deeply deficient as to be without probative value.

  30. Tom Gilson says:

    Barefoot: your opinion of the probative value of apologetics is… highly controversial at best.

    Note that there is a reason evidence has not been given in this post: it was not the topic. You can find it elsewhere on this blog and in libraries of other material. But I think you probably knew that already.

  31. Barefoot: your opinion of the probative value of apologetics is… highly controversial at best.

    Indeed. But it’s the crux of the biscuit.

    Note that there is a reason evidence has not been given in this post: it was not the topic.

    Neither, really, is the definition of faith. The stated topic of your post is the content of Christian morality.

    It appears that you and your commenters actually agree with Fyfe’s crucial statement: “[W]hen theistic faith is evidence-free and unreasoning then it cannot be used as justification for policies that are harmful to the life, health, and liberty of others,” because you assert that theistic faith is not in fact evidence-free and unreasoning. Therefore, you rebut the underlying argument that theistic faith should be relevant in law and ethics, and thus open the door to criticism of the rebuttal.

  32. (Actually, the real semantic question is over the definition of “evidence” and its correct interpretation.)

  33. faithlessgod says:

    Barefoot Bum

    “(Actually, the real semantic question is over the definition of “evidence” and its correct interpretation.)”

    My point exactly!

  34. SteveK says:

    Barefoot (and faithlessgod),

    (Actually, the real semantic question is over the definition of “evidence” and its correct interpretation.)

    This definition/interpretation can’t be based on evidence since that is what you are trying to define. Do you define this on blind faith? No. You do it by reasoning.

  35. faithlessgod says:

    Steve K

    This is why Fyfe introduced the court analogy, under which a single standard is applied as to what qualifies as evidence to count for or against a decision and this is different to the standard of the decision which is dependent on the type of court, e.g in a civil case on a balance of probabilities and a criminal case being beyond reasonable doubt.

    Barefoot Bum is right to point what I have already been arguing for the issue is over evidence not faith. Faith cannot be used to lower the standard as to what counts as evidence or to admit non-evidence such as hearsay – e.g. a personal revelation would surely fit in that category – into the decision making process. (I called such claimed or supposed evidence pseudo-evidence). If there is evidence then there is no faith required. If there is no evidence then faith cannot help.

    This, of course, begs the question granted the view of a number of commentors and the blog author here as to the importance of faith, if all your faith is based on evidence why is it deemed so important to your religion? With such a definition as yours it serves no useful purpose, surely it would be more sensible to stop using this term and avoid the type of confusion that has led to the comment thread?

  36. Tom Gilson says:

    fg, your closing paragraph shows again that you are not getting what the word “faith” means to a Christian. You are still setting evidence in opposition to faith. That is what I have been trying to say is not the case. Faith is trust based on knowledge. The analogy I’ve been using is that of eating in a restaurant. I have faith that the food served is nutritious, not poisoned or otherwise doctored up. I am not observing the food as it moves from farmer’s field to processing to the kitchen to my table, but I have enough knowledge of the process to be able to trust the result.

    Faith in God is like that. I know God’s character and his promises because of experience with God, and because of reasoned reflection on the available evidences (which includes my experience with him, of course).

    So why is faith so important? Are you married? Do you trust your spouse? Is that trust based on knowledge of your spouse? Is that trust based on prior evidence of your spouse’s trustworthiness? Is that trust important to your relationship? What kind of relationship would it be without it? Christianity is above all a relationship with God characterized by trust in him.

    In view of that, I think your second paragraph, in which you also pit faith against evidence, is to some extent irrelevant to the matter under discussion, being based on a false premise as it is.

    Beyond that, though, there is in all of this discussion a presumption that faith in God through Jesus Christ is mistaken, unsupportable, wrong, because not everyone agrees with it. The presumption is that unless the factors brought into ethical decision-making are acceptable to all humans involved in the process, then they should not be brought in. But if you have rejected the revelation brought forth by the God of the universe, and I have accepted it as the gift from him that it is, does that make his revelation false and inapplicable? Does that render God himself unqualified to have an ethical opinion?

    I want to state this carefully so as not to present myself as better than those who disagree. My motto on this blog is that Christians do not hold the truth, the truth holds us. We believe there is truth and falsehood with respect to the existence and nature of God. We do not believe it is our own virtue or specialness that has allowed us to develop and hold this truth as if we contained it. We believe rather that to accept the truth as it is requires a posture of humility toward that truth.

    So I say there is such a thing as truth with respect to God, that he has revealed it, and that I have no choice in the matter but to accept it for what it is. Thankfully it is a good and delightful truth, for he is a good God who has made himself known. It is his goodness, not mine, that allows me or any other Christian to see his truth.

    Having said that, I must say with humility before the truth, that I must accept the truth as the truth, and that those who deny the truth are wrong. To say that ethical decisions can (and must!) be made apart from God’s revelation is wrong, for it is based on a false basis for decision-making, one that excludes God.

    I do not expect you to be persuaded by that, for you do not accept the truth of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. I do not intend to try to take the time to argue you into believing it. What I might hope to do, though, is to cause you to see that what I have presented here is logically possible and coherent, that there is nothing internally contradictory in the position I have taken.

    I wish you could also see that, properly interpreted and applied (no specious, poorly informed and poorly reasoned ramblings-on about culturally conditioned Old Testament regulations), God’s ethic is one of love, respect, goodness, truth, and virtue expressed toward one another and toward him. One reason to accept God’s revealed ethic, in other words, is because it is good.

  37. faithlessgod says:

    Hi again Tom

    fg, your closing paragraph shows again that you are not getting what the word “faith” means to a Christian. You are still setting evidence in opposition to faith. That is what I have been trying to say is not the case. Faith is trust based on knowledge.

    I have always understood it to be that. The question being the quality of the knowledge on which it is based.

    Your restaurant does not require faith in the religious sense. There are plenty of suitable synonyms for different contexts trust, confidence, hope to be used as appropriate. However all of these are inferences and not more important than the data, evidence or knowledge on which they are based. When one asks why one has confidence, trust or hope in X, one is asking for evidence and reasons as to why one has made such an inference. Now if all you mean by faith is as is in your restaurant example, then it should hardly hold the importance with which you regard it in your religion.

    Consider the salesman or other person with possibly dubious intentions who asks you to trust him. This should get you more aware of whether there are indeed justified reason to trust him. The request or demand for trust or confidence immediately casts doubt on whether such trust or confidence is warranted. This can only be answered by going g=behind the inference.

    Faith in God is like that. I know God’s character and his promises because of experience with God, and because of reasoned reflection on the available evidences (which includes my experience with him, of course).

    The questions remains do you have “enough knowledge of the process to be able to trust the result”? Assurances from you are insufficient to ensure this is so, how can you demonstrate this? That is it does not matter what you “know” it matters whether you can demonstrate it is some impartial fashion to public scrutiny. If you cannot, this remains a subjective knowledge or opinion and nothing more. It remains on the level of hearsay and should be dismissed as legitimate evidence.

    You continue to equivocate over faith. One can easily use trust and confidence etc, without needing to employ any special form of faith in trusting one’s spouse. Then again surely the record of breakups or relationships is good evidence against the reliability of such a faith as you are making out yours to be of a similar type? Trust and confidence are not infallible and so neither is faith. One needs to ascertain the degree of reliability of any claim and relying just on faith, on one’s subjective knowledge, especially given our understanding of heuristics and biases provided by cognitive psychology, makes such claims without support highly dubious.

    Christianity is above all a relationship with God characterized by trust in him.

    Your religion can be characterised however you want. That is none of my concern. My only concern is how such beliefs could be used to support actions that harm others. Do you admit that claims based on religious faith alone – however defined – are insufficient to count as evidence in an impartial court where one’s beleifs need to be left at the door in order to determine the truth of the matter at hand?

    In view of that, I think your second paragraph, in which you also pit faith against evidence, is to some extent irrelevant to the matter under discussion, being based on a false premise as it is.

    I disagree. Unless you accept that faith is not necessary and can be dangerous in determining the facts of the matter in matters of public policy.

    Beyond that, though, there is in all of this discussion a presumption that faith in God through Jesus Christ is mistaken, unsupportable, wrong, because not everyone agrees with it.

    This is not a presumption I make. I do not argue that this on not everyone agreeing with it. I argued that it is based on the divergence of conclusion between faiths with there being no independent objective way to determine which if any is correct. They could be contradictory – in which case one is correct or contrary in which case all might incorrect. The only honest and ethical conclusion to draw is that they are all most likely wrong, unless new evidence can show otherwise.

    The presumption is that unless the factors brought into ethical decision-making are acceptable to all humans involved in the process, then they should not be brought in.

    I have made no argument to this effect. The job of the court is to determine to the best of its ability what are the relevant facts of the matter to inform its judgements. There should be no basis to lower the standards of determining these facts because some has can only make a faith-based argument. Surely this is the only honest and ethical position to take on this issue?

    But if you have rejected the revelation brought forth by the God of the universe, and I have accepted it as the gift from him that it is, does that make his revelation false and inapplicable? Does that render God himself unqualified to have an ethical opinion?

    What revelation? I have rejected no such thing. Actually I have had a revelation but usually regard it is inappropriate to use in discussion…. but since you brought it up.

    My revelation makes it quite clear that there is no such thing as your (or any) God. Now on what basis should people listen to your revelation over mine or vice versa? None at all. Argument from revelation cannot count as evidence in making any court decision, whoever has the revelation and whatever the revelation implies. It is of course possible that your revelation is 100% correct and mine 100% false or vice versa but unless there is something in addition to such subjective claims these can only count for nought in such deliberations.So I do not use my revelation in any debates usually and do not see why anyone else is justified in doing so either.

    I want to state this carefully so as not to present myself as better than those who disagree. My motto on this blog is that Christians do not hold the truth, the truth holds us.

    Well the motto on my blog is “Do not sacrifice truth on the altar of comfort”. How do you know that you are not mistaken about the truth that holds you? What disconfirming evidence could there be that if it existed would make you drop your faith? If you have none then this does not qualify as truth in the relevant rational-empirical sense which is being debated here. Everyone has variable metaphysical views but these do not count as evidence.

    We believe there is truth and falsehood with respect to the existence and nature of God.

    So do I.

    We do not believe it is our own virtue or specialness that has allowed us to develop and hold this truth as if we contained it.

    I agree

    We believe rather that to accept the truth as it is requires a posture of humility toward that truth.

    I still agree. Humility is required to discover truth of the matter as one needs to transcend one’s preferences, prejudices and perceptions, to do otherwise is to arrogantly assume the superiority of your perceptions, preferences and prejudices over others.

    So I say there is such a thing as truth with respect to God, that he has revealed it, and that I have no choice in the matter but to accept it for what it is.

    You can believe whatever you want to believe, I have no interesting in dis-abusing you of your beliefs. Nor anyone else. And I expect the same attitude to my beliefs. However beliefs are not the issue here – these are just useful tools, if they stop working get some better ones.

    The issue is as to whether yours, mine or anyone’s beliefs lead to causing harm to others. Arguments from faith and arguments from revelation have had a long history of leading to harm to others. We have long learnt that these are insufficient as evidence and reasons in the formation of social policies. It may be that your have the most correct beliefs on the planet but from what you have argued so far, we can never know and this is insufficient to enact policies in accordance with just your beliefs.

    Thankfully it is a good and delightful truth, for he is a good God who has made himself known. It is his goodness, not mine, that allows me or any other Christian to see his truth.

    Now you have made god’s goodness that is under question. Granted that he exists and you have the best access to him, it is still an ethical question as to whether what God recommends is good or not. Merely him claiming is still insufficient otherwise we end up back at Euthyphro. It cannot be the case that whatever God claims is good is good. Such goodness is arbitrary and capricious. This is why moral philosophy long ago rejected theistic based morality.

    To say that ethical decisions can (and must!) be made apart from God’s revelation is wrong, for it is based on a false basis for decision-making, one that excludes God.

    Not at all. If God exists he is not excluded. He can be ethically judged like anyone else. No-one is above the law.
    Unfortunately you have yet presented no argument to show that your conception of him, her, it or them is better than anyone else’s and unless you can it is more reasonable to suspend judgement this contribution to the facts of the matter.

    I do not expect you to be persuaded by that, for you do not accept the truth of God as revealed in the Old and New Testaments.

    No I do not but even if I did that is still not sufficient for me or anyone to presume that god is above ethical evaluation.

    I do not intend to try to take the time to argue you into believing it.

    Truth is not about what you or I believe, it is about what actually exists.

    What I might hope to do, though, is to cause you to see that what I have presented here is logically possible and coherent, that there is nothing internally contradictory in the position I have taken.

    There are an infinite amount of logically possible and coherent philosophies. So what? I never expected you to think otherwise. Again many other of other religions and sects claim to have a quite logically possible and coherent philosophy. The argument from logical possibility is still a subjective issue and again fails to objectively discriminate between alternatives.

    I wish you could also see that, properly interpreted and applied (no specious, poorly informed and poorly reasoned ramblings-on about culturally conditioned Old Testament regulations), God’s ethic is one of love, respect, goodness, truth, and virtue expressed toward one another and toward him. One reason to accept God’s revealed ethic, in other words, is because it is good.

    In order to see this we look at policies based on such subjective knowledge of God but past and present have repeatedly found it wanting. I do not know and would not presume or psycholgise what policies you endorse but certainly stereo-typical Christianity (as well as other theistic religions) past and present has endorsed many unjustifiable immoral policies that harm others, which either makes the gods’ goodness highly dubious or indicates these are policies enacted by humans who claim or invented the gods as means to legitimise their prejudices.

  38. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom (et al.)

    I think you are acting as if the word faith, because it is often applied to Christians, means that Christians are the ones who should define this word. I don’t expect that you actually believe that. Faith means what common usage dictates it means, and like all words it is flexible.

    Of course, Faithless God and Barefoot Bum are correct about the real semantic question here. The problem that I see, from your original post with Alonzo, is that it appears you are pursuing a logical line that reads a) because Christians define Faith as trust based on knowledge, and b) Christians have faith, c) there is evidence, worthy of knowledge, for faith. I don’t think we need a flow chart to see where the problems are here.

    On the other hand, if I am mistaken about your position, I think I could accept a definition that reads something like “Faith is trust based on on what is believed to be knowledge.” And if that is all you are protesting for then I can agree to that.

    If, however, you contend that the evidence for faith constitutes knowledge, then the claim and the burden of proof are yours, and your definition of faith remains contingent on that argument. In fact, your definition for faith depends almost entirely on the quality of your evidence – knowledge is only as strong as the evidence.

    I have more than perused this site, and I have read enough of the works of Craig et al., to believe that there is no piece of evidence that supports a claim for the great tenets of the Christian religion.

    I challenge you or anyone here to present what you believe is the strongest evidence for your faith, and I am confident it will be easily demolished. Hence, the common definition of faith.

  39. Holopupenko says:

    Tom:

    This discussion, only somewhat correctly, repeatedly returns to the point of what counts as evidence. (Tony repeats the a priori limitation of what counts as evidence like the demolished record player it is.) But in a broader sense, as explained earlier (http://www.thinkingchristian.net/2009/04/an-open-letter-to-the-atheist-ethicist/#comment-12484), it returns to the mind-numbing a priori reduction of knowledge to what is epistemologically acceptable to atheism. This is why faithlessgod unwisely wants you to believe that the red herring of “quality” is the issue (hence loading the game in his favor for a privileging of MES-knowledge, i.e., scientism) rather than admitting there are kinds of knowledge which, among other things, readily acknowledge ontological kinds. “Quality” is a poor non-technical term that is better handle by correspondence to reality. “Kind” of being is an ontological distinction. Faithlessgod doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he’s bandying around terms in an amateurish way while trying to sound relevant and impressive… which, by the way, is on an emotional level quite comforting—contra his own motto. (Here’s a beauty: “There are an infinite amount of logically possible and coherent philosophies.” Huh? A foolish, unsupported assertion… at best.)

    A critical thinker picks up on this game immediately, for critical thinkers are not satisfied in resting on their laurels. That’s why, by the way, why these guys are always insisting (incorrectly) that “faith” is a “flexible” term (with the further implication that it is by its definition is culturally-dependent): it is set up to provide them the flexibility they need to play their own game, while denying people of faith any relevance to what they say.

    Your last comment touches upon this: it’s not just “faith” that is self-servingly removed from discussions by atheism, but also transcendentals such as “good” (the one you mention), the “true,” the “beautiful”… and quickly following upon these such hugely important concepts as dignity, right and wrong, evil (except when it suits their purposes), etc., etc. I don’t have to explain to you how all these concepts—not just faith—are attacked by atheism or reduced to a sick caricature of what they really are. Illicit presuppositions are inserted, condescending implications of “ambiguity” are imposed (witness Steven Pinker’s crude characterization of dignity as a “stupid idea” simply because he holds it is less “scientifically” clear than, for example, “force”), epistemological limitations are imposed in order to justify ontological narrowness, extremely condescending a priori limitations are imposed upon the human capacity to reason beyond immediate sensory-accessible data, etc., etc.

    It is an evil game because atheism is an evil thing: it is a deep privation of good because it rejects the source of all good. At a deep level, it is extremely taxing to battle atheism because one battles something that by its nature frenetically orbits nothing. (One feels like one emerges dripping with “something wrong” when one enters into arguments with atheists.) It is a true mark of genius of Satan that he employs our own energies against ourselves. It is an encounter, as evidenced in Milton’s Paradise Lost with an evil so deep that it seeks to have being destroy its own beingness. So, when you, Tom, employ terms like “good” to hint at God’s character, witness atheists react violently to the mere mention of terms atheism’s own limitations can’t deal—and won’t deal—with… and hence you battle with artificial self-serving constructions such as “statistical predictability” or “moral relativism,” etc., etc.

    Christians have an “out” in which atheists could find real peace, but there’s nothing short of God’s grace that will move a person’s will if it is disordered due to the manipulation of reality (by disordered reasoning) to suit his/her own self-centered needs. Until God’s grace grants the gift of faith to an honest seeker of truth, we must continue to witness (to the point of martyrdom) to the best of our ability and to the end of our strength and love… and to be confident in a faith perhaps nicely captured by the last line of Dante’s Inferno: E quindi uscimmo a riveder le stele (And so we emerged again to see the stars).

  40. faithlessgod says:

    Holopupenko

    This discussion, only somewhat correctly, repeatedly returns to the point of what counts as evidence. (Tony repeats the a priori limitation of what counts as evidence like the demolished record player it is.)

    The question as to what counts as evidence is an empirical question not a priori but a posteriori (Bearing in mind I am Quinean with regard to this issue).
    Tom’s arguments from faith, logical possibility and revelation were once accepted as legitimate evidence as the basis for knowledge of the world. They are no longer acceptable a posteriori as a result of their unreliability in leading to coherent and consistent independently testable conclusions.

    But in a broader sense… it returns to the mind-numbing a priori reduction of knowledge to what is epistemologically acceptable to atheism.

    Atheism is nothing to do with the issue at hand. The same argument applies whether you are a theist or an atheist. It is what should be epistemologically acceptable to anyone involved in public policy formation and execution.

    This is why faithlessgod unwisely wants you to believe that the red herring of “quality” is the issue (hence loading the game in his favor for a privileging of MES-knowledge, i.e., scientism) rather than admitting there are kinds of knowledge which, among other things, readily acknowledge ontological kinds.

    Yes you sure look like an expert on wisdom based on your comment I am replying to here ;-)

    Rather than make an empty rhetorical claims maybe you can show
    a) why suddenly the issue that has been debated now on three blogs and 5 different posts is now a “red herring”. The debate has always been about the quality of the evidence.
    b) where I have argued for “scientism”?
    c) where have I ever denied ontological pluralism?
    Empty rhetoric – and you think you are wise?

    “Quality” is a poor non-technical term that is better handle by correspondence to reality.

    I vary my way of making points to avoid repeating myself, quibbling over this term is just an avoidance of addressing the underlying issue.

    “Kind” of being is an ontological distinction. Faithlessgod doesn’t know what he’s talking about because he’s bandying around terms in an amateurish way while trying to sound relevant and impressive… which, by the way, is on an emotional level quite comforting—contra his own motto. (Here’s a beauty: “There are an infinite amount of logically possible and coherent philosophies.” Huh? A foolish, unsupported assertion… at best.)

    If you had the remotest understanding of logic and mathematics you would be embarrassed to have made your last sentence. Clearly you don’t have such knowledge but that does not stop you being “wise” does it?

    A critical thinker picks up on this game immediately, for critical thinkers are not satisfied in resting on their laurels.

    Such as requiring more than arguments from faith, revelation and logical possibility?

    That’s why, by the way, why these guys are always insisting (incorrectly) that “faith” is a “flexible” term (with the further implication that it is by its definition is culturally-dependent): it is set up to provide them the flexibility they need to play their own game, while denying people of faith any relevance to what they say.

    Ahh shucks. It was you or your comrades who insist on the term being flexible (and so open to equivocation), I prefer clear definitions where possible but then Tom complained about Fyfe’s and ours clear but inflexible definition of a specific kind of faith… Guess you like it both ways…

    Your last comment touches upon this: it’s not just “faith” that is self-servingly removed from discussions by atheism, but also transcendentals such as “good” (the one you mention), the “true,” the “beautiful”… and quickly following upon these such hugely important concepts as dignity, right and wrong, evil (except when it suits their purposes), etc., etc.

    You clearly are addressing someone else now. How about you focus on what is being argued for rather than make things up. Otherwise known as a straw man amongst your other errors.

    I don’t have to explain to you how all these concepts—not just faith—are attacked by theism or reduced to a sick caricature of what they really are. Illicit presuppositions are inserted, condescending implications of “ambiguity” are imposed (witness Holopupenko’s crude reduction of rational-emprical reason to “scientism” simply because he holds it is less “religiously” clear than, for example, “spirit”), epistemological limitations are imposed in order to justify ontological wideness, extremely condescending a priori limitations are imposed upon the human capacity to reason with sensory-accessible data, etc., etc.

    The rest is more of a rant that does warrant any further reply. Not really any real argument in any of your comment was there?

  41. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Alonzo’s words are the same ones that both you and I quoted. He’s assuming that God does not exist as a foundation of his moral system – therefore, whether or not God actually does exist is extremely relevant.

    Your perception of Euthyphro is not only shallow, but very outdated. Even Plato (I think) saw that there was a third option, so the “dilemma” is a false one. Option three is that God IS good, by identity, not just by adjective. In other words, Euthyphro falsely assumes that morality is either above or below God. If God and “the good” are literally the same thing, then God’s commandments are as much expressions of His essential nature as edicts for our conduct. This possibility, by the way, also underscores why His existence is profoundly relevant to any system of ethics or morality.

    Fyfe defines faith in a way that’s alien to actual believers – but he’s not reserving that definition for his own blog. When he talks of this caricatured faith, he implies and imputes that straw man as the actual action performed by believers, such as here, where he tries to argue why religion and science cannot be reconciled. He’s overtly assuming that his definition of faith is the one that must be applied to religion, and he makes no effort to note that he defines the word in a way totally contradictory to the way it’s used by believers.

    He’s not just saying that evidence-free faith is a problem, he’s implying that there is no other kind of faith in religion.

    If there is evidence then there is no faith required.

    Wrong. That’s why courts talk about “reasonable” and “unreasonable” doubt. Evidence and proof are not always the same thing. When you can’t “prove” something but have good evidence to believe it’s true, you’re exercising faith. There is no faith in mathematics and logic – everything else requires some measure of it. The object and the degree might be different, but the act is the same.

    I, for one, am not arguing for a flexible definition for the word, and I’m not so sure the other believers are, either. We’re simply arguing that your specific, inflexible definition is wrong.

  42. MedicineMan says:

    Barefoot:

    Maybe you can help me, but I’m having trouble finding the phrase “without any evidence”, “without evidence”, or something similar in Hebrews 11:1. While you’re explaining that, check out the philosophical context of the Bible, which in this case uses “sight” to mean “proof”. In other words, faith is belief without proof, not belief without evidence.

    If you’re going to quote scripture, at least take the time to read it first.

    The Bible discusses the importance of rationality, investigation, and thoughtful consideration – including an ability to separate truth from fiction – in a way that makes this attempted hijacking of the term “faith” not only sophistic, but all but blatantly dishonest.

    True, this post has not exhaustively laid out all data supporting every book of the Bible. But then, your dismissal of evidentiary apologetics makes it pretty likely that no evidence is ever going to matter, anyway. That sounds a lot like the old line that no evidence of miracles is possible, because miracles are impossible, so any evidence for them can’t be real, so since there is no evidence, we can’t believe in miracles.

  43. MedicineMan says:

    All:

    For those mentioning about the courtroom standard, are you familiar with the work of Simon Greenleaf?

    I’m also noting that, despite claims that the silly definition of “faith” used by Fyfe is reserved for his blog, it’s constantly being applied here by the non-believers as though religion MUST involve ONLY that kind of evidence-free belief. It’s so ingrained that even when it’s made clear that believers don’t use the word that way, there’s still an insistence that all religion is evidence-free by definition, e.g. here:

    Your restaurant does not require faith in the religious sense.

    So, we’re going to magically create a(nother) new definition of faith that we can apply to religion, and pretend that this distinction has a basis in reality.

  44. MedicineMan says:

    Tony:

    I cannot believe that you could make this argument:

    Faith means what common usage dictates it means, and like all words it is flexible.

    So, if 300 years from now, the word “Tony” means “raging pervert”, then everyone must agree that you are (were) a raging pervert, since common usage dictates the meaning of the word, and all words are flexible. The Biblical representation of faith cannot be crammed into the evidence-free mold that Fyfe is trying to fit it into.

    You (and others) seem to be insisting that faith cannot in any way be associated with evidence.

    I wonder if you’ve ever considered the evidence comprehensively. Your argument (especially asking for the “strongest” evidence) gives me the impression that you want to look at each piece separately, reject anything that does not (by itself) prove God, and then move on to the next. You’re standing with your back to a beach claiming that there’s not enough sand to make a castle.

  45. Tony Hoffman says:

    Medicine Man,

    You wrote:

    So, if 300 years from now, the word “Tony” means “raging pervert”, then everyone must agree that you are (were) a raging pervert, since common usage dictates the meaning of the word, and all words are flexible.

    The quote above has nothing to do with my point, which is that words are flexible. You seem to be denying that words are flexible, which is absurd. Per your example, gay did not mean homosexual a hundred or so years ago, but it is commonly understood to include that meaning among its definitions today. Are you trying to say that this phenomenon is wrong, therefore it must not be so? If not, what is the point of your quote above? And how did you construe it from what I wrote?

    I wonder if you’ve ever considered the evidence comprehensively. Your argument (especially asking for the “strongest” evidence) gives me the impression that you want to look at each piece separately, reject anything that does not (by itself) prove God, and then move on to the next. You’re standing with your back to a beach claiming that there’s not enough sand to make a castle.

    I have considered the evidence in whole and in part. I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. But forgive me for recognizing a trend. And that is that no evidence on par with that used in a court proceeding, in whole or in part, exists for what you believe about the Christian God.

    I see that you have ignored my challenge. I imagine it will be deemed off topic, inappropriate, not expressed in good faith, that addressing it will take too much time, etc. And much time, and many more words, will pass. And the challenge will wait to be answered. And for that reason, and until that time, I will agree with Alonzo and so many others that faith is without (and in many instances against) the evidence.

  46. Tony Hoffman says:

    Medicine Man,

    I think that you may want to reconsider using Simon Greenleaf as a credible source for the legal validity of the Gospel authors. It’s either that or ask William Lane Craig to quit demolishing the man’s credibility.

    Greenleaf wrote this about Luke:

    That Luke was a physician, appears not only from the testimony of Paul, but from the internal marks in his Gospel, showing that he was both an acute observer, and had given particular and even professional attention to all our Savior’s miracles of healing. Thus, the man whom Matthew and Mark describe simply as a leper, Luke describes as full of leprosy; he, whom they mention as had having a withered hand, Luke says had his right hand withered; and of the maid, of whom the others say that Jesus took her spirit came to her again. He alone, with professional accuracy of observation, says that virtue went out of Jesus, and healed the sick; he alone states the fact that the sleep of the disciples in Gethsemane was induced by extreme sorrow; and mentions the blood- like sweat of Jesus, as occasioned by the intensity of his agony; and he alone relates the miraculous healing of Malchus’s ear.

    And yet even Craig admits:

    Now who was this author we call Luke? He was clearly not an eyewitness to Jesus’s life.
    (http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/rediscover2.html)

  47. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,
    Whatever else is going on in this thread, your last two quotes have very little to do with one another – let alone represent Craig as contradicting Greenleaf in anyway.
    Is there more?

  48. faithlessgod says:

    Hi MedicineMan

    First of all although we continue to disagree I do appreciate you thoughful responses as opposed to Holopupenko who seems incapable of constructing arguments.

    Alonzo’s words are the same ones that both you and I quoted. He’s assuming that God does not exist as a foundation of his moral system – therefore, whether or not God actually does exist is extremely relevant.

    Alonzo does not assume the non-existence of god as the foundation of his moral system. His moral system is built on real world entities that is all.

    The existence of god is not the issue in ethics the issue is his relevance to ethics and if god exists he is not above ethical evaluation.

    Now you claim there is a third option in Euthyphro that god is identical to good. This confirms that you find unacceptable the “it is good because god commands it” horn. However your variant is not a third option. This is still a Divine Command Theory in ethics and Euthyphro still applies. In this case it is:

    Either it is good because it is in god’s nature or it is in god’s nature because it is good.

    If you take the first horn you have exactly the same problems as in the command version of the Euthryphro.

    If you insist the God is identical with the Good then God cannot at be anything else, which is a quite radical redefinition of God. Still I can accept this stipulation but this still begs the question of identifying such good and knowing it is good. It is not sufficient to claim this one still has to provide evidence that this is the case. And such evidence has to be of a decent standard – using argument from faith, revelation and logical possibility do not make the grade as already discussed.

    Plato (I think) saw that there was a third option, so the “dilemma” is a false one.

    Methinks you think wrong? First it was Plato who presented Socrates’ Euthyphro argument to the world and second he argues against the possibility of a god as you perceive it, arguing instead that it could be at best a demiurge and (Platonic) Good is above this creator deity.

    This possibility, by the way, also underscores why His existence is profoundly relevant to any system of ethics or morality.

    Apart from the criticims noted above, possibility is not a sufficient criterion to make it relevant to ethics. Plausibility and liklihood are and, again, the unrelaibility based on the types of evidence presented so far mitigate against the relevance of this possibility.

    Fyfe defines faith in a way that’s alien to actual believers – but he’s not reserving that definition for his own blog.

    He is using the bog standard definition of faith that is problematic that is all. As I have repeatedly said and what it is you need to directly address is: If there is evidence then no faith is required (in a court of law anyway), if there is no evidence then faith is an invalid substitute and should be rejected. This is another dilemma but taking either horn faith should not be used in forming judgements in a court of law.

    Now please show on which horn the contradictory or non-straw man definition of faith you use lies. AFAICS this is just a semantic shell game. How about you address this challenge, it has been the same one all along and has not changed.

    He’s not just saying that evidence-free faith is a problem, he’s implying that there is no other kind of faith in religion.

    No he has not and I am repeating that it is only evidence-free faith that is the problem. However else you want to use faith personally is your choice. However in public discourse
    I expect coherent and consistent usage and no equivocation.

    If there is evidence then there is no faith required.

    Wrong. That’s why courts talk about “reasonable” and “unreasonable” doubt.

    I already noted that the decision making process has differing standards in the formation of judgements but this is independent of acertaining as to what counts as evidence

    Evidence and proof are not always the same thing.

    Duh!We can either talk about proof in a pragmatic sense or just reserve it for logic and math. In the latter case we are concerned with the soundness, validity and strength of premisses and inferences.

    When you can’t “prove” something but have good evidence to believe it’s true, you’re exercising faith. There is no faith in mathematics and logic – everything else requires some measure of it. The object and the degree might be different, but the act is the same.

    And you equivocate. I have have zero use for evidence-free faith and I for consistency reserve that term for such evidence-free reasoning. Where there is evidence I have trust, confidence or hope all to a degree and none absolute. You can choose to call that faith but it makes no difference, the question is still about the quality of the data does it meet the standard required to be accepted as evidence in a case? However much you or I has confidence, trust or faith in the data should not count in ascertaining whether this data qualifies or not.

    A final point here is I am not here to debate the existence or not of your god nor to dis-abuse of your god beliefs. I am only interested as to what should count in public discourse in making public policies that can affect believers and non-believers alike. No-one has made an argument as to why the public position should not be neutral to such questions, yet the implication here is that you would prefer that it not be neutral and to be biased towards your beliefs. No-one has indicated what could possibly justify this and until anyone does this is a highly unethical position to take and should be condemned.

  49. A lot of comments. I’ll confine myself to making a few points.

    The question is not what is “correctly” meant by evidence (or faith), but whether atheists and theists mean the same thing. We are, after all, trying to actually communicate with each other.

    Skeptics such as myself do not eliminate god(s) a priori. We might make other a priori assumptions different from Christians’ that lead us to different conclusions, i.e. atheism. Examining those a priori assumptions is, of course, directly on point.

    It is definitely the case that how skeptics define and use evidence cannot be made on an evidentiary basis. It’s uncontroversial that both skeptical atheists and theists make some a priori metaphysical assumptions. The content of those assumptions is the substance of the controversy. Typically, skeptics make only methodological assumptions; our ontology is only that which can be supported by that methodology. We also try to assume a priori only that which our physical consciousness forces us to assume, such as the primacy of perceptual experience and the value of simplicity (loosely defined) — pain hurts, regardless of my philosophy, and I know my cognitive resources are finite, and quite limited.

    As to transcendentals, they are accepted or rejected on a methodological basis. But simply because the specifically transcendental sense of some characteristic, such as goodness, cannot be supported methodologically does not deny all senses of that characteristic.

    I am still quite curious precisely how theists would a) define evidence, b) define how conclusions are drawn from evidence and c) put forth an evidentiary case for the existence of the Christian God and c) put forth an evidentiary case for the non-existence of Allah or Krishna.

  50. Tom Gilson says:

    Actually I agree with this:

    If you insist the God is identical with the Good then God cannot at be anything else, which is a quite radical redefinition of God.

    MM was not being very careful when he wrote that. But Euthyphro has an answer regardless. It is a dilemma only if there are only two horns. The two horns assume that either goodness precedes God (logically or chronologically) or God precedes goodness (logically or chronologically). There is a third position, however, which is that goodness is an eternal attribute of the eternal God. Thus God is good, and goodness is eternally a descriptor of God, along with other descriptors.

    The Euthyphro dilemma moves quickly to a set of what-ifs. If goodness were whatever God said it might be, then goodness could be quite different than it is. By this third horn we can resolve that question. Goodness is not arbitrary, it is fixed in the eternal character of God. What-ifs are irrelevant; goodness is what it is already and its definition will not change, for God’s character does not change.

    So the dilemma is not a dilemma, and the what-ifs of Euthyphro are irrelevant. As far as I can see the issue is resolved.

    Still I can accept this stipulation but this still begs the question of identifying such good and knowing it is good.

    You can either accept as good the good that we know, or you can imagine some other possible world where there is a different good. And then you would have to imagine yourself or some other entity judging between the good of that world and the good of this world, and pronouncing one of them the real good. But that’s a god-like ability. And since the Euthyphro dilemma begins ex hypothesi with the assumption of God, who is both infinite and necessary, your other possible world is also ruled by this same God, and it would necessarily be he who judges good between worlds. In fact this renders absurd and impossible the conception of another possible world where a different good applies.

    Or you have another option. You can look at God’s good and pronounce it bad on your own authority. God has a term for people who do that. They are wrong. And in being wrong, they miss out on the experience of true goodness, which is a tragic thing not to experience.

    Now this, my friend, is tiresome:

    As I have repeatedly said and what it is you need to directly address is: If there is evidence then no faith is required (in a court of law anyway), if there is no evidence then faith is an invalid substitute and should be rejected.

    It has been repeatedly addressed. If you’re a reader at Alonzo’s blog, in my first comment there I linked to here.
    I brought it up again in
    this comment on his blog, and again here, here, here, and here. On this thread, this topic has been addressed by several of us here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. That’s at least sixteen times. Isn’t that quite enough already? We’ve addressed it.

    Perhaps you meant to say, “what you need to address in a manner that satisfies me.” But what no objector/skeptic/atheist has done here, in spite of attempts like Tony’s here, has been to show that the dictionary definition for faith rules over the historic Biblical understanding of Christian faith.

    I don’t know why this is hard to see. Atheists and skeptics are saying of us Christians, “If you have faith, then it is evidence free, and if there is evidence, then it is not faith.” We have explained that even though faith defined in such a way may be some persons’ kind of faith somewhere, it is not our kind of faith. We have used Biblical illustrations, we have used modern-day personal analogies, we have used definitions, and we have described it from our own experience. Still you continue to tell us that we are wrong about it.

    Is there only one definition of faith? Is it necessarily contained in the short, condensed version of a dictionary definition? Here’s an exercise for you to try. Here are links to two definitions of evidence: Link One and Link Two. Link One is the dictionary definition, about 60 words long for the noun form. Link Two is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and runs over 15,000 words.

    Now suppose you’re talking about evidence with someone who has thought it through to the extent of digesting, understanding, and for many years living with it on the level of the SEP treatment. Are you going to say to that person, “no, you don’t understand evidence if you think it means anything other than what it says at dictionary.com”? Are you going to tell this person that evidence means what it says at dictionary.com, and it can never mean anything else? Yet this is what you’re doing with the term “faith.” You’re saying that we should always use your dictionary definition and not the one that applies to the actual faith that we have studied, known, and practiced! How strange!

    And you equivocate. I have have zero use for evidence-free faith and I for consistency reserve that term for such evidence-free reasoning

    We’re not equivocating. We’re setting forth a definition and applying it consistently. It’s only equivocation if you insist that your definition belongs in the picture at the same time, and if you think we’re switching back and forth between the two, which is decidedly not the case.

    You must realize by now that I too (and other Christians writing here) have zero use for evidence-free faith. I don’t know of anybody who thinks very much of it at all. I don’t know any Christians who think it’s worth anything. I’m not even sure if there is such a thing as evidence-free faith; I’ve never seen it instantiated in any person I’ve associated with, at least not as it applies to faith in God. If you want to use that term for evidence-free reasoning, then you are talking about something other than Christian faith. You are talking about some irrelevant kind of faith practiced by I-don’t-know-who.

    Why on earth do you keep insisting on using a definition that doesn’t apply to anybody in the real world? You’re off in your own little world playing mind games, shooting down the evidence-free faith of people who don’t actually exist. You can refute those imaginary people all you want, I don’t care. But somehow you’ve fooled yourself into believing you’re refuting us Christians in the process. You aren’t, because what you’re refuting is something we don’t believe in or practice either.

  51. Tom Gilson says:

    Good questions, Barefoot Bum. I hope you’ll stick around, because they cannot all be answered in one thread. I could make a series out of answering them, and I just might.

  52. Tom Gilson says:

    faithlessgod and any others to whom this may apply, I want to pause a moment to direct you to Point 5 in the Discussion Policies, and to the link there that explains why I hold to that guideline.

    Whether you agree with that guideline or not, I ask you to recognize that by violating it you belittle One whom I consider worthy of love, admiration, respect and yes, worship above all others. You probably don’t take well to anyone belittling people you love either.

    (The Discussion Policies link is always prominently displayed above the comment box.)

  53. I’ll subscribe for a while and see what happens.

  54. faithlessgod says:

    Medicine Man

    So, we’re going to magically create a(nother) new definition of faith that we can apply to religion, and pretend that this distinction has a basis in reality.

    No magic required at all. The basis in reality is simple some people use faith as an alternative to evidence and some do not. I am reserving the use of the term faith for the former not the latter, this is for clarity and communication. You know exactly what I mean when I use it. For the latter types I use trust and confidence.

    Now since you have so much difficulty over this terminology lets drop it, as it serves no useful purpose here. The question is over evidence and not over confidence, trust, faith however these terms are defined.

    We have data, facts, relevancy and evidence. We have a range of data presented here and there are a number of questions to ask of it.
    a) Does any of this data count as a fact?
    b) If it is a fact is it relevant?
    c) Evidence comprises of relevant facts
    d) Inferences can and should only be drawn from such evidence (relevant facts).
    And all of this applies in a just court of law or equivalent with all the data exposed to public scrutiny and is required to convince impartial and unbiased agents to the level of either a balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt. However that judgement process is not what we are examining here, it is only the judgement process to establish what the relevant facts are. Indeed we can now drop “evidence” too as a problematic term just focus on (a) and (b).

    So the question becomes what could as relevant facts in matters of deciding public policy especially those that can materially cause harm to others.

    What Tom has argued for is most certainly data – revelation and logical possibility.

    1) It possibly a fact that what Tom claims is logically possible is indeed logically possible – a logical analysis could establish if this is indeed the case or not. Let us suppose that Tom’s claim pass the test of logical scrutiny and what he claims is logically possible is logically possible. We then need to ask as to whether this is relevant.

    The problem is there are numerous alternate logical possibilities say from the Jew, the Muslim and the Buddhist for example that lead to conflicting conclusions. For example the Jew thinks there can be multiple covenants with Yahweh whereas the Christian thinks Jesus is the only way, the Muslims thinks theirs is the final way and the Buddhist thinks there is no god for there to be any covenant with and salvation is not dependent on such a being.

    Now if one is relevant they all are but they are all contrary so the only consistent conclusion is that is not relevant no further fact can be established let alone be relevant.

    2) Similarly it is a fact that Tom (and presumably others here) have revelatory experiences – well some might be lying, but there has to be a fact in order to establish they are lying even if this is only possible in theory – although fMRI scans could resolve this. However such facts are yet not relevant. Anyway let us grant them.

    The problem is then what are the inferences that can be made from such experiences. Now there is more data presented, what are the facts here, if any. Here we have a problem. Different revelatory experiences lead to different inferences – Jews use it to support Yahweh, Christians to as support for God, Muslims as support for Allah and Buddhist as support that Yahweh, God and Allah do not exist or are deluded. So there is no way we can use this data to establish any facts of the matter as to whether a god exists, what it is and whether it is telling the truth or is deluded and so on. Since there are no facts the issue of relevancy is… irrelevant.

    So so far nothing offered has been established as relevant facts that can count in the judgement of the court. So there is, so far, no justification to using any of this data in causing harm to others.

    In addition we can say that this data cannot count as evidence in such a court. And we can say that anyone who insist that this data is evidence is using faith-based reasoning. Or not. It (this whole paragraph) does not matter.

    Back to you.

  55. MedicineMan says:

    Tony,

    The Greenleaf passage you quoted is from the beginning of his “Testimony of the Evangelists”, where he explains some of the establishing facts about each gospel. Greenleaf’s considering these books and their validity as evidence in a court of law. Nowhere does he claim Luke was an eyewitness. In fact, if you had actually read the book (which I’m sure you have not), you’d note that just one page prior he had discussed Luke’s first (chronological) appearance in scripture in reference to Paul.

    Craig isn’t giving some deep, mysterious, uncovered fact. The Bible itself tells us Luke wasn’t an eyewitness, but a historian. So that’s at least two books that would have made this argument look as silly to you as it does to those of us who pay attention, had you bothered to read them. Good to see you’ve

    considered the evidence in whole and in part. [And] will continue to do so for the rest of [your] life.

    Copy-paste does not count as “consideration”, Tony. I can’t help but recognize a trend, as well, which is critics of the Bible who don’t actually ‘consider’ anything, beyond whether or not the source agrees with them. They just regurgitate someone else’s argument without the slightest thought.

    This is why you won’t find many takers on your pseudo-challenge. If you can’t be bothered to take five minutes to now what you’re criticizing before you start copy-pasting, why should I believe that you’d really consider anything that was presented to you at all?

    Please, though, continue to “demolish” these claims.

  56. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Alonzo does not assume the non-existence of god as the foundation of his moral system.

    Then why did he say this?

    However, there are very few sites on the internet that focus specifically on moral issues from assumption that no God exists. So, that is what I focus on.

    And, can’t you see that you make the same atheistic assumption in this?

    His moral system is built on real world entities that is all.

    Please.

    I have to disagree with you and Tom that my statement is a “redefinition” of God. I don’t see that your version, Tom, is really different than mine. God is perfect, and part of the perfection is a lack of contingency. He is not subject to or dependent on anything else – He owes His existence to nothing outside of Himself. He is literally the standard for everything. That goes hand-in-hand with immutability, since a perfect entity cannot change and still be perfect. The moral standards of right and wrong are all based on God, not some external standard that God conforms to. This is why I said that we can consider God and “the good” (or the ultimate standard of morality) as identical.

    There’s nothing problematic about saying God “can’t be anything else”, if by that you mean His nature cannot change or be different than it is.

    I’m aware that everything we know of Socrates we get from Plato, but I thought I recalled Plato mentioning a third option.

    I made a clear statement that there is a third option, and that option is the one I choose. Why would I be required to pick one of your two faulty options?

    I have have zero use for evidence-free faith and I for consistency reserve that term for such evidence-free reasoning… I am reserving the use of the term faith for the former not the latter, this is for clarity and communication.

    But when your definition is not only contradictory to the way it’s actually been used for millennia, and is still used today, then there’s nothing consistent about it. It’s extremely unclear when the word you’re using has clear, well-established implications that do not fit your pet definition. If you want to imply that action (evidence-free belief), pick a different word. That’s what a person truly concerned with objectivity and clarity would have done.

    Fundamentally, both theists and atheists assent to believe in some things that they cannot prove, but have reasons to believe. Personally, I think the evidences for the reliability of scripture, and the resurrection, absolutely crush those for abiogenesis, for instance. I think science is doing more to support the reality of God than just about anything else, and the rhetorical gymnastics that leading atheists are doing to avoid that conclusion only strengthens this impression.

    I’m certainly not going to get into a long debate on specific evidences in this thread. It’s not a topic I’m fearful of, and it’s one I’ve discussed at length many times before. However, not only is it not the point at hand, but (as Tony Hoffman so helpfully demonstrated), I have good reasons to think that such evidences would go in one ear and out the other. I’m also seeing a lot of bet-hedging in your comments, making me feel that you’re attempting to preemptively word curl so that you can prejudicially pick and choose which evidence to certify, based on whether or not it supports your view.

  57. faithlessgod says:

    Tom

    I answered the second half of your post in my previous reply. Now to the first half.

    It is a dilemma only if there are only two horns.

    If there are three horns then it is a trilemma.

    The two horns assume that either goodness precedes God (logically or chronologically) or God precedes goodness (logically or chronologically).

    I disagree. The first horn implies that good is external to god whereas the second horn implies it is internal to god. (I use the lower case to refer god in the generic sense not your specific God, when I refer to your specific God I call it God, as I call the Jewish version Yahweh and Muslims Allah, when I want to refer all three – and more – I talk about god or the gods as I am doing here. It is possible I might have slipped up on this usage in previous posts but this was not intentional).

    There is a third position, however, which is that goodness is an eternal attribute of the eternal God. Thus God is good, and goodness is eternally a descriptor of God, along with other descriptors.

    Then good is still internal to God and this is still the first horn of the dilemma: To rephrase with your God
    Is it good because it is an eternal attribute of God or is it an enternal attribute of God because it is good?

    The Euthyphro dilemma moves quickly to a set of what-ifs. If goodness were whatever God said it might be, then goodness could be quite different than it is. By this third horn we can resolve that question. Goodness is not arbitrary, it is fixed in the eternal character of God. What-ifs are irrelevant; goodness is what it is already and its definition will not change, for God’s character does not change.

    How does your God know if he is mistaken, and, if he is, he still cannot change his character, so he is not omnipotent then? How do you know God cannot be mistaken, do you take his word for it? How does God let alone you know that what is in God’s character is good. Why does is it important that this is eternal. God might have told you he is good or this is an attribute of him but why should you believe him? We need some independent means of establishing this otherwise not only is this still the first horn but it is even worse than the arbitrary God as usually supposed. Even God himself cannot change in the light of new evidence. Of course I guess you might argue that God is omniscient and so cannot be mistaken. But how do you know that, he told you? Your read it in his character? How do you detect this goodness? What is an attribute, what makes it good? How can one tell?

    Most importantly how can any of this data be assessed to determine what the facts and relevance are?

    So the dilemma is not a dilemma, and the what-ifs of Euthyphro are irrelevant. As far as I can see the issue is resolved.

    Until you can provide data that can be established as fact to some degree this still looks like the problematic first horn, indeed a worse one than the original command one.

    You can either accept as good the good that we know, or you can imagine some other possible world where there is a different good.

    No you still have not explained what good is and how we can impartially determine what is good. And I do not need to imagine some other possible world. Nor is it about acceptance it is about data, facts,relevance and inferences.
    I am only interested in this world and to determine in some relevant sense what is good.

    And then you would have to imagine yourself or some other entity judging between the good of that world and the good of this world, and pronouncing one of them the real good. But that’s a god-like ability.

    I have to imagine no such thing. Sorry you have not established why the determination of good requires a god-like quality. The process of judgement should be no different to any other empirical enterprise that does not require god-like qualities why should it here?

    And since the Euthyphro dilemma begins ex hypothesi with the assumption of God, who is both infinite and necessary,

    No its does no such thing. The original Socrates version addressed to Euthyphro did not require an infinite and necessary god, your position requires an additional argument not addressed nor assumed by the Euthyphro.

    Or you have another option. You can look at God’s good and pronounce it bad on your own authority. God has a term for people who do that. They are wrong. And in being wrong, they miss out on the experience of true goodness, which is a tragic thing not to experience.

    I do not need to pronounce it good or bad on mine anyone else’s authority. I can can only determine what people like you claim to be good and evaluate such claims as one one any other such claims, against the authority of objective reality. You might, speaking on behalf of God, call it wrong to do so but then again where is your data to establish would could count as relevant fact to determine if your judgement is valid or not?

    PS Note horns got switched in this reply. It should be quite clear who is referring to what though.

  58. faithlessgod says:

    Medicine Man

    Alonzo said:“However, there are very few sites on the internet that focus specifically on moral issues from assumption that no God exists. So, that is what I focus on.”

    Fair enough. He did write this recently and I did wonder over his phrasing as this is different to what he has said in the past. Regardless the position I and he take is an a postereori one with regard to God and ethics. We do not assume eiher atheism, theist, deism etc. to start our enquiry.

    And, can’t you see that you make the same atheistic assumption in this?

    Not at all, I take no position a priori on this. I seek the most compact, efficent and effective set of methods as my starting assumptions and nothing more.
    I avoid metaphysics where possible which is pretty much all the time unless I am involved in a debate such as here.

    I said: “His moral system is built on real world entities that is all.”

    Please.

    And your point is? Do you prefer morality not built on real world entities? I should hope not.

    I have to disagree with you and Tom that my statement is a “redefinition” of God.

    I will leave you debaet that with Tom. I am only concerned over the issue of Ehythyphro.

    I made a clear statement that there is a third option, and that option is the one I choose. Why would I be required to pick one of your two faulty options?

    It does not matter how clear you think your statement is you need to address my point that you have yet to show it is a third option. It remains the first horn (cant remember how these have been listed) that is “it is good because it is in God’s nature”. This also begs the question as to what is God’s nature or whatever you use, as if it is immutable, perfect and unchangeable it looks nothing like a being’s nature at all, nor an attribute of any kind of plausible being. You seem to be talking about something more like a perfect eternal rock that cannot be eroded.

    I have already addressed all these evidence and faith semantics issues in another comment.

    Fundamentally, both theists and atheists assent to believe in some things that they cannot prove, but have reasons to believe. Personally, I think the evidences for the reliability of scripture, and the resurrection, absolutely crush those for abiogenesis, for instance.

    Your personally believe whatever you want but unless you demonstrate this with data, fact andf argument you have no case worht considering.

    I think science is doing more to support the reality of God than just about anything else, and the rhetorical gymnastics that leading atheists are doing to avoid that conclusion only strengthens this impression.

    Well I ain’t interested in rhetorical gymnastics and have made a considerable effort to avoid this. On the other hand this and your last quote looks like pure rhetorical gymnastics. Maybe you were looking in the mirror?

    I’m also seeing a lot of bet-hedging in your comments, making me feel that you’re attempting to preemptively word curl so that you can prejudicially pick and choose which evidence to certify

    Okay I no longer doubt that you are definitely looking in the mirror.

    If you can produce an argument I will address you otherwise I will ignore this low quality rhetoric in the future. At the very least you can try and improve your rhetoric if you can make no argument on these points or how about sticking to arguments you are attempting to make such as over Euthyphro.

  59. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony and Medicine Man,
    One doesn’t have to have read the whole book; just the very next paragraph:

    He does not affirm himself to have been an eyewitness.; though his personal knowledge of some of the transactions may well be inferred from the “perfect understanding” which he says he possessed. Some of the learned seem to have drawn this inference as to them all, and to have placed him in the class of original witnesses; but this opinion, though maintained on strong and plausible grounds, is not generally adopted. If, then, he did not write from his own personal knowledge, the question is, what is the legal character of his testimony?

    Then Greenleaf goes on to answer that last question.

    Neither Greenleaf nor any Christian I have ever known treats Luke as, or requires him to have been, an eyewitness to the events in his Gospel.

  60. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    My point (and the ‘please’ afterwards was implying, “give me a break”) was that by saying that a system is based on “real-world” entities, and therefore God is irrelevant, you’re implying that God is not real. Once again, whether or not God exists is relevant to ethics and morality, no matter how you slice it.

    Your first horn only begs the question when you assume that God could be different than He is, and so morality is something He’s subject to (that He could be im-moral). As both Tom and I have said, albeit in different ways and with perhaps different perspectives, option three is that God and morality are inseparable. That’s not Divine Command, since God can’t change His morality without ceasing to be perfect (i.e., changing Himself).

    I have debated epistemology, evidences, science, and philosophy with innumerable atheists. Caution lights come on when I start seeing stuff like this:

    a) Does any of this data count as a fact?
    b) If it is a fact is it relevant?
    c) Evidence comprises of relevant facts
    d) Inferences can and should only be drawn from such evidence (relevant facts).
    And all of this applies in a just court of law or equivalent with all the data exposed to public scrutiny and is required to convince impartial and unbiased agents to the level of either a balance of probabilities or beyond reasonable doubt. However that judgement process is not what we are examining here, it is only the judgement process to establish what the relevant facts are. Indeed we can now drop “evidence” too as a problematic term just focus on (a) and (b).

    In most circumstances, those would be reasonable questions – actually, they’re elementary. As you said, “duh”. However, in my prior experiences discussing this with atheists, pedantry like that always, repeat, always turned out to be a setup for rationalizing away evidence that they can’t otherwise handle. That which conforms to atheism gets a free pass on issues of relevance and “factuality”, that which does not gets the cold shoulder.

    Greenleaf is just one example of how evidences for the Christian faith are compatible with a court-room type standard, but the typical response is to make ad hoc special rules that disqualify anything supporting religion. Before long, we’re pre-defining anyone with faith as “biased” (which Fyfe has more or less done), only records that speak negatively of faith as “impartial” and so forth. I’m quite sure commenters here, such as SteveK, Holopupenko, and Tom can attest to similar experiences.

    After all, you’re suggesting that God’s existence is irrelevant to morality and ethics, that you reserve the right to define terms devoid of the context in which they’re actually used, implying that contradictory views imply universal irrelevance, and attempting to just “drop” terms when it becomes clear that you can’t defend definitions for them that aid your cause.

    I hate “word doodling”, “rhetorical gymnastics”, “filibustering”, whatever you want to call it. It’s been my experience that atheists turn into contortionists when really pressed to apply the same standards of epistemology to their own views as they do to religious ones. What you’ve said so far just looks like a setup for more of the same. Thanks, but no thanks.

  61. SteveK says:

    Re: Euthyphro
    My understanding is you have the same suposed dilemma with respect to Logic as you do Good. Take Euthyphro and substitute one term for the other and see what you get.

    Seems to me the only way to resolve both is to consider it as Tom and MM have been discussing via the third option – which is the Christian understanding. Naturalism has NO ability to resolve either so I’m not sure what all the crowing is about.

    The two-horned dilemma is a false one in both cases.

  62. Tom Gilson says:

    fg,

    The problem is then what are the inferences that can be made from such experiences. Now there is more data presented, what are the facts here, if any. Here we have a problem. Different revelatory experiences lead to different inferences – Jews use it to support Yahweh, Christians to as support for God, Muslims as support for Allah and Buddhist as support that Yahweh, God and Allah do not exist or are deluded. So there is no way we can use this data to establish any facts of the matter as to whether a god exists, what it is and whether it is telling the truth or is deluded and so on. Since there are no facts the issue of relevancy is… irrelevant.

    Can the data as you are employing them establish that we ought to determine our ethics on the assumption that there is no God? I think you may be proving more than you intend with this approach.

    I disagree. The first horn implies that good is external to god whereas the second horn implies it is internal to god.

    Where the good resides is not the point of the Euthyphro problem. The point is that if God gets his sense of good from something other than himself, it is logically prior to him or (perhaps I could have better said) it rules over him; his sense of goodness is subordinate to some other good (wherever it is). The other horn is considered problematic only in that it opens the door to any arbitrary choice of the good on God’s part; that he could have said any old thing was good or bad.

    Then good is still internal to God and this is still the first horn of the dilemma

    No. The first horn states that good is decided by God arbitrarily and that he could choose anything whatever to be good. This is not the case with the God of the Bible. God’s goodness is not arbitrary, and not even a choice he makes. God’s goodness is an internal and unchanging facet of his character.

    Is it good because it is an eternal attribute of God or is it an enternal attribute of God because it is good?

    It is good because it is an eternal attribute of a good God.

    You speak of the third way I’ve proposed as a “third horn of a trilemma.” I don’t mind if you call it that, but it seems rather unnecessary to use that language, because this “third horn” is distinct from the first two, it avoids the supposed logical trap they represent, and it is satisfactory and good.

    How does your God know if he is mistaken, and, if he is, he still cannot change his character, so he is not omnipotent then?

    He knows he is not mistaken because he knows everything (omniscient). His omnipotence has never been conceived as “God can do anything.” It has always been “God can do anything that is consistent with his character.” God cannot contradict himself.

    How do you know God cannot be mistaken, do you take his word for it? How does God let alone you know that what is in God’s character is good.

    I take God’s word for it because I trust his character as being true and trustworthy, that he wouldn’t lie. This trust is based on the evidences already alluded to. But he doesn’t just let me know. His character is revealed in his word, and even his moral nature can be apprehended through each person’s witness of conscience—only partially, and prone to human error.

    Even God himself cannot change in the light of new evidence.

    What could possibly be new evidence to one who created everything and knows everything? He started out suitably well equipped with knowledge and wisdom, I assure you.

    No you still have not explained what good is and how we can impartially determine what is good. And I do not need to imagine some other possible world. Nor is it about acceptance it is about data, facts,relevance and inferences.

    This is a problematic passage for me, in that it is terribly naive philosophically. It doesn’t address why I raised the point I raised. “How we can impartially determine what is good” is the very point of the possible worlds (modal logic) argument I brought forth here. And there is no such thing as determining the good without accepting the good.

    Sorry you have not established why the determination of good requires a god-like quality.

    But you have asked us to explain how we would judge whether God’s goodness is really good! To judge a god requires someone who can apprehend the thoughts, intentions, and actions of a god. And this is the context in which the possible-worlds question was raised. (Are you familiar with modal logic? That might be the problem.)

    … against the authority of objective reality.

    What if objective reality includes the reality of a God who says you are wrong? Have you proven that it doesn’t? (Back to the first question of this comment.)

    MM, my disagreement with your definition comes from its appearing to make “good” the entire and complete description of God, as an equivalence with God. I don’t think you intended to say that, but it seemed to me that was how it came out. God is described by more than “good,” and “good” does not always apply to God (though all goodness derives from God, not all goodness is God.)

  63. Tony Hoffman says:

    Medicine Man,

    You wrote:

    The Bible itself tells us Luke wasn’t an eyewitness, but a historian.

    The Bible doesn’t tell us that Luke was not an eyewitness. It tells us that Luke had been tasked with recording a history. (Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was a pre-eminent historian and wrote extensively about RFK, and he was also a witness to many of those events he recorded, e.g.)

    Greenleaf’s considering these books and their validity as evidence in a court of law. Nowhere does he claim Luke was an eyewitness.

    He does not rule it out. In fact, he invites its possibility.

    Greenleaf wrote:

    If, therefore, Luke’s Gospel were to be regarded only as the work of a contemporary historian, it would be entitled to our confidence. But it is more than this. It is the result of careful science, intelligence and education, concerning subjects which he was perfectly competent to peculiarly skilled, they being cases of the cure of maladies; subjects, too, of which he already had the perfect knowledge of a contemporary, and perhaps an eyewitness…

    He does not affirm himself to have been an eyewitness.; though his personal knowledge of some of the transactions may well be inferred from the \perfect understanding\ which he says he possessed. Some of the learned seem to have drawn this inference as to them all, and to have placed him in the class of original witnesses; but this opinion, though maintained on strong and plausible grounds, is not generally adopted.

    I did, however, overstate the contradiction between Craig and Greenleaf. One makes a definitive statement, the other is ambiguous, but I was wrong in saying the two are in clear conflict. (I had read Greenleaf’s introduction to his Testimony of the Evangelists a few months ago. When I read the Craig article Tom had cited earlier I was struck by Craig’s frank assessment of Luke’s relation to the events of the Gospels, and, remembering the descriptions of Luke’s medical knowledge brought to bear on stories of Jesus I browsed back to Greenleaf and copied and pasted the section I cited.)

  64. MedicineMan says:

    Tony,

    That Greenleaf is open to the logical possibility does not mean he implies it as a point of concern. As he said, it is not generally accepted that Luke was a direct witness, because of the nature of the scriptural context we have about Him.

    I don’t know why you’d be so struck by what Craig said; this is hardly controversial information.

    I assume this is still “demolished” credibility in your eyes, though? Or has it been downgraded to “severely damaged” or maybe “scratched”? Nothing kills credibility like two people saying compatible, but not totally harmonious things, right?

  65. faithlessgod says:

    Hi guys I think this thread has run its course, I will sum all this up as best I can.

    Starting at the end getting onto questions of Euthyphro is going too far off topic. Nonetheless this interests me as I do not think anyone has shown this mysterious third alternative to the two horns. Medicine Man’s attempts at this are very unclear and even Tom Gilson has criticised him for this. The only clear argument from Tom was:

    There is a third position, however, which is that goodness is an eternal attribute of the eternal God. Thus God is good, and goodness is eternally a descriptor of God, along with other descriptors.

    This makes no sense since the Euthypro framed according to Tom’s notion of the relation between God and good is:Is it is good becuase it is an eternal attribute of the eternal God or is it an eternal attribute of the eternal God because it is good? Where is the third horn?

    Anyway this issue is moot since, for the purposes of argument here only, we can grant that there is a third horn which resolves this dilemma. How is this meant to make any difference to the core issue at hand?

    Recall what started this off and what I have been pursuing in the thread still, that started on Alonzo’s blog, is the challenge that an argument from faith should not have and does not deserve any special justification, dispensation or protection in a court of law, especially when making judgements over policies that can harm others. No-one so far has presented the slightest justification for this, presuming that you do think there should be a bias in your favour – but if you do not think this then there is nothing to debate! A successful resolution of Euthyphro does provide such a justification either.

    Since surely the only just and ethical position to take is that people of faith – any faith and arguments from faith – have no special status in such deliberations. A purported Euthyphro resolution can be invoked by any theists of any faith and these can disagree – as I have already pointed out – and, in addition, still this says nothing about those faith which reject god, for whom Euthyphro is not an issue and for those theists who take the unproblematic horn anyway.

    So an Euhtyphro resolution does not help the underlying core issues.

    The issue of faith and evidence is much of a red herring upon consideration, my fault for letting me be lead astray by you on this. You are quite entitled to define faith your way but still you have not provided any justification for special consideration of an argument from faith. The only evidence in support of your faith that makes sense here has been Tom’s argument from revelation or logical possibility but again there has no justication provided for why this should have special dispensation in such legal processes. (Reminding everyone, of course, although I think some of you had forgotten this, is that it is it not your religion, faith, evidence or grounds for faith that is on trial but rather the test of a policy that can cause harm to others)

    All in all there seems to be a concerted resistance to answer the most basic question underlying all this, which implies that many of you do think it correct to have double standards in your favour when it comes to such judgements on policy to which the only honest response to recommend still remains is that anyone who does think this – and this applies only to them – deserves to be condemned for promoting unjust and unethical distortions of the justice system.

  66. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Both in regards to Euthyphyro and your courtroom issue, you’re creating false crises where none exist.

    With Euthyphro, you continually insist, despite our statements to the contrary, that morality must be definable separate from God. The third option eliminates this problem, and therefore there is no dilemma. It’s not particularly mysterious, it’s just a question of a false assumption. You’re demanding an “or” when there logically can be a “both”.

    With regards to evidence, no one is defending “evidence-free faith” because no one is promoting that definition of faith in the first place. No one is arguing a different standard for policy decisions, though I did reference Greenleaf as an example of why belief in Christianity (and the associated God) is supported by evidence worthy of courtroom examination.

    I note that the only attempt to answer that, which is quite relevant to the point you are attempting to make, was Tony Hoffman’s demolition of collision with Craig.

    If there are legitimate evidences for Christian beliefs, then those beliefs have a legitimate place in discussions of a policy’s benefit or harm. More importantly, just because a position happens to be compatible with faith does not automatically make it incompatible with policy making. You are tilting at windmills; believers are not engaging in the action you are attempting to condemn (decision-making based on no evidence).

    So, unless you’d simultaneously like to debate why you want to teach children to be hedonists (since we can define atheism as above), then there really is nothing to debate – other than the absurdity of pet definitions. Actually, your concerted effort to avoid defending your wish to teach children to be hedonists implies that you really wish to do this. Right?

  67. faithlessgod says:

    Well some comments passed whilst I was writing my last reply.

    I find this Euthyphro interesting even though it is really off the original topic that got me to this blog. So anyway:

    Steve K

    My understanding is you have the same suposed dilemma with respect to Logic as you do Good. Take Euthyphro and substitute one term for the other and see what you get.

    Sorry not sure what this is meant to mean, Maybe you could actually formulate an argument? BTW I do think the Euthtphro can be applied elsewhere if this is all you mean and I use it to criticise gene-based morality and moral relativism too.

    Seems to me the only way to resolve both is to consider it as Tom and MM have been discussing via the third option – which is the Christian understanding.

    It is the establishment of this supposed third option that is under debate. I can only consider it if there are three horns but both MM and Tom’s do not have three options AFAICS. However I will reply to thier latest comments after this reply.

    Naturalism has NO ability to resolve either so I’m not sure what all the crowing is about.

    This is quite irrelevant to whether a theistic-based morality is justified or not. And I do not know what specific naturalistic morality you are criticising I use Euthyphro to criticise some naturalist theories too as just noted above. The fact that I do does not mean that no naturalistic theory is possible, that is the mistake of a hasty generalisation.

    The two-horned dilemma is a false one in both cases.

    This has not been shown here yet wrt to DCT, what is the other case to which you refer?

  68. Tom Gilson says:

    fg and all,

    Medicine Man’s attempts at this are very unclear and even Tom Gilson has criticised him for this.

    I didn’t criticize MM in quite that way. I hope my explanation clarifies that.

    Where is the third horn?

    It is in the fact, already patiently explained at least twice, that God’s eternal goodness eliminates the possibility of him choosing arbitrary goods, and also in his not being subject to some good defined by anything other than himself.

    Recall what started this off and what I have been pursuing in the thread still, that started on Alonzo’s blog, is the challenge that an argument from faith should not have and does not deserve any special justification, dispensation or protection in a court of law, especially when making judgements over policies that can harm others.

    I haven’t tried to argue the point you stated here, because I did not think that was the topic under discussion at all. As I read it, the question was not whether “an argument from faith should … have … any special justification.” The question as I read it was whether persons who have faith should be excluded from speaking.

    Somebody later tried to clarify the point, that persons may speak from a faith position if they support that position with evidence, but that was not the way Alonzo first presented it. He said that any faith-based position is evidence-free and reason-free. We continued to argue that at length here, and I hope we have come to a reasonable resolution that does not depend solely on Merriam-Webster as a third-grader would do.

    So from my perspective the main questions have drifted from:

    1. Should any person with a faith perspective be barred from speaking to any ethical issues?

    to

    2. Does a faith-based perspective necessarily mean an evidence-free and logic-free position?

    As you have correctly noted, the Euthyphro question was more or less a side issue. I acknowledge that several times when asked for the evidence that supports faith, I have punted to other resources, including other blog items I have written, and I have not attempted to present those evidences here. That too would be off the current topic, in my opinion.

    You say that the question was whether faith should be granted any special dispensation. I think what you mean by that might be something like this: “Should a faith-based perspective that brings no supporting evidence with it be allowed to speak in court as if it had supporting evidence?”

    But as I said on Alonzo’s blog, and I think also here (though I don’t remember and I’m not bothering to re-check) that question is moot, because where qualified thinkers with a faith perspective come to the table to discuss ethics, they come with evidence.

    All in all there seems to be a concerted resistance to answer the most basic question underlying all this…. [Thus some persons with the stated views] …. deserve to be condemned for promoting unjust and unethical distortions of the justice system.

    Do you mean the question of evidence? No, there has been no resistance to answering this at all. I’ve linked to answers more than once. I haven’t re-written those answers here (did you really expect me to?) because it’s unnecessary in view of the fact that the material, which is lengthy, has been provided elsewhere in easy reach. You are far too quick to condemn, my friend!

    By the way, another link I haven’t provided previously is “The Core,” to be found in the sidebar, or here for extra convenience.

  69. SteveK says:

    faithlessgod,

    Sorry not sure what this is meant to mean, Maybe you could actually formulate an argument? BTW I do think the Euthtphro can be applied elsewhere if this is all you mean and I use it to criticise gene-based morality and moral relativism too.

    I am applying Euthyphro to what I call Naturalistic Command Theory for the naturalist, and the supposed dilemma is devastating to objective reasoning, just as it is with objective morality and anything similar. In my opinion this emphasizes the real solution, which is the third option we’ve been talking about. The third option only works with God since naturalism can’t bridge the “is-ought” gap in any of these situations.

    OK, since you want an argument, I took the dilemma from here and adapted it to the logical laws of reasoning. Tell me where the argument fails.

    The Naturalists Dilemma for Objective Reasoning:
    (1) If naturalistic command theory is true then either (i) logically sound/valid reasoning is the product of naturalistic means because it is logically sound/valid, or (ii) logically sound/valid reasoning is logically sound/valid because it is the product of naturalistic means.

    (2) If (i) logically sound/valid reasoning is the product of naturalistic means because it is logically sound/valid, then it is logically sound/valid independent of naturalistic means.

    (3) It is not the case that logically sound/valid reasoning is logically sound/valid independent of naturalistic means.
    Therefore:

    (4) It is not the case that (i) logically sound/valid reasoning is the product of naturalistic means because it is logically sound/valid.

    (5) If (ii) logically sound/valid reasoning is logically sound/valid because it is the product of naturalistic means, then there is no reason one ought to rely on naturalism’s logical soundess/validity.

    (6) There are reasons one ought to rely on naturalism’s logical soundess/validity.
    Therefore:

    (7) It is not the case that (ii) logically sound/valid reasoning is logically sound/valid because it is the product of naturalistic means.
    Therefore:

    (8) Naturalistic command theory is false.

  70. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tom

    Can the data as you are employing them establish that we ought to determine our ethics on the assumption that there is no God? I think you may be proving more than you intend with this approach.

    Huh? That is not the purpose of establishing what are relevant facts in a court of law with a decision over a policy that causes harm to others.

    The other horn is considered problematic only in that it opens the door to any arbitrary choice of the good on God’s part; that he could have said any old thing was good or bad.

    No that is a conclusion to the particular version of what a god commands as opposed to what the gods love or what is an eternal attribute of a god. The general issue is that it is arbitrary and subjective if it is without rational foundation or analysis, in your version in the sense that anything could be an eternal attribute (whatever that means).

    No. The first horn states that good is decided by God arbitrarily and that he could choose anything whatever to be good. This is not the case with the God of the Bible. God’s goodness is not arbitrary, and not even a choice he makes. God’s goodness is an internal and unchanging facet of his character.

    No, being an internal and unchanging facet (whatever that means) does not mean it is not arbitrary with respect to what is good and bad, only that whatever it is cannot change. Indeed the unchangeable aspect only makes the horn worse not better, at least where God has a choice he could choose the good over the bad, in your version he cannot change.

    It is good because it is an eternal attribute of a good God

    You speak of the third way I’ve proposed as a “third horn of a trilemma.” I don’t mind if you call it that, but it seems rather unnecessary to use that language, because this “third horn” is distinct from the first two, it avoids the supposed logical trap they represent, and it is satisfactory and good.

    But this is still the problematic horn! You have offered no third choice only that you now think this horn is not problematic due to the fact that God cannot change, but I fail to see why the inability of God being able to change alleviates the problems of this horn. And what on earth do you mean by “satisfactory” and “good” in “it is satisfactory and good”?

    You then go o beg the question as you can only rely on God’s word when it is that is in question. God might be omniscient but cannot change his character so even if he could see the evils that could come from his character he could do nothing about it.

    In general static “nature” of such a being is like no logically conceivable being. However we are no wandering far too far fro the original theme and I am only interested in your supposed solution to the Euthyphro argument. The rest of your description of God does not appear logically coherent, it is not the type of thing that could possibly exist. More importantly and relevantly:

    This is a problematic passage for me, in that it is terribly naive philosophically. It doesn’t address why I raised the point I raised. “How we can impartially determine what is good” is the very point of the possible worlds (modal logic) argument I brought forth here. And there is no such thing as determining the good without accepting the good.

    First this is not an answer to my question to phrase it another way, there is no explanatory transparency to saying the good is an eternal attribute of God, what on earth does this mean? What is good is the crux of the matter you have merely assigned a subjective label to that of some (all?) eternal attributes, what are these eternal attributes, are they all good, or only some. Your looks like an arbitrary definition. Now what on earth do you mean by accepting the good, how do you know this is the type of thing that is possible to accept. You need to explain what you mean by “good”. And what has any of this to with modal logic. This is not a logical question but an ontological one.

    But you have asked us to explain how we would judge whether God’s goodness is really good! To judge a god requires someone who can apprehend the thoughts, intentions, and actions of a god. And this is the context in which the possible-worlds question was raised. (Are you familiar with modal logic? That might be the problem.)

    I used to tutor on logic at undergraduate level many years ago. None of this is about modal logic and possible worlds. To judge a god requires the same capacities as to judge any other being and you don’t need a god-like ability to judge any other being, so why should you require a god-like ability to judge a god? Quite a strange argument you are making here.

    What if objective reality includes the reality of a God who says you are wrong? Have you proven that it doesn’t?

    It is not up to me to prove he does not, it is is up to you to prove that he does. Until you do I have no reason to beleive this. I feel we are talking about cross-purposes here. First this was not a debate about the existence or not of God but only the presumption of special dispensation for people of faith by people of faith in a court of law. Secondly I have been interested in Euthyphro, and this assumes the existence of a god and one does not need to debate such a god’s existence or not. Now this is turning into a discussion abut God’s existence, well I am familair wiht all the standard arguments and none pass muster to show that God actually exists. You are entitled to believe whatever you want but in debates on public policy that harms others there has to be standard of what is acceptable and just because you, me or anyone believes something, if there no means to demonstrate it, then it should be rejected.

  71. faithlessgod says:

    Medicine Man, for someone who claims not to like rhetoric and word salad you sure are an expert at generating some yourself!

    More importantly, just because a position happens to be compatible with faith does not automatically make it incompatible with policy making.

    That has never been the argument here

    You are tilting at windmills; believers are not engaging in the action you are attempting to condemn (decision-making based on no evidence).

    Then answer the question is whether anyone who uses an argument from faith or an argument from revelation in a court room should be entitled to special dispensation, altering the standards sof evidence and protection from criticism. This has been the only issue here. If you think they are not entitled to any form of double standard then there is nothing to debate. So how about a black and white answer from you?

    Ad hominem criticism edited out by site-owner

  72. Tom Gilson says:

    fg, you’ve made a great statement to introduce what I think Steve has been trying to say:

    The general issue is that it is arbitrary and subjective if it is without rational foundation or analysis, in your version in the sense that anything could be an eternal attribute (whatever that means).

    You’re making the good subject to rational foundation or analysis. Does that come rationality from naturalism? Or does naturalism come from it?

    Apart from that, how can you show that the only way to determine the good is through rational foundation or analysis? Perhaps the good is a necessary and fundamental thing, an aspect of the character of God? How is that self-contradictory? How does rational foundation or analysis get to rule over the good?

    No, being an internal and unchanging facet (whatever that means) does not mean it is not arbitrary with respect to what is good and bad, only that whatever it is cannot change. Indeed the unchangeable aspect only makes the horn worse not better, at least where God has a choice he could choose the good over the bad, in your version he cannot change.

    I addressed that with my possible worlds analysis above, which you did not seem to understand. I ask you to try again.

    But this is still the problematic horn!

    No it isn’t! Because it avoids the ability for God to choose any arbitrary thing to be the good! I’ve said this often!

    And what on earth do you mean by “satisfactory” and “good” in “it is satisfactory and good”?

    See the possible worlds argument above.

    God might be omniscient but cannot change his character so even if he could see the evils that could come from his character he could do nothing about it.

    What evils? See the possible worlds argument above.

    First this is not an answer to my question to phrase it another way, there is no explanatory transparency to saying the good is an eternal attribute of God, what on earth does this mean?

    I had better ask you to re-phrase the question, because to me this is not hard to understand. Please let me know more specifically where the problem is.

    And what has any of this to with modal logic. This is not a logical question but an ontological one.

    Do you know what modal logic is? Was it part of the tutoring you say you did? Why do you not respond to the modal argument I presented, instead of just saying it doesn’t apply? (And is there a decent way to carry out an ontological argument without employing at least some kind of logic?)

    To judge a god requires the same capacities as to judge any other being and you don’t need a god-like ability to judge any other being, so why should you require a god-like ability to judge a god?

    Sigh. Because in order to judge a person’s intents, actions, thoughs, and so on, you should be able to understand them. (Didn’t I say that already?) That requires a god.

    It is not up to me to prove he does not, it is is up to you to prove that he does.

    Ah, the old burden of proof thing. Look, it’s your team that said certain people ought to be kicked out of the discussions on ethics. It’s your initiative to say that the vast majority of the human race gets duct tape placed over our mouths on these issues. You’re the one who’s saying we have nothing to offer. I think you owe it to us to establish at least some reason to believe our own approach is faulty.

    First this was not a debate about the existence or not of God but only the presumption of special dispensation for people of faith by people of faith in a court of law.

    I think you missed what I wrote about this in my most recent comment.

    . Now this is turning into a discussion abut God’s existence, well I am familair wiht all the standard arguments and none pass muster to show that God actually exists.

    None of them prove his existence apodictically, if that’s what you mean. But they do provide a high level of plausibility, even likelihood, for his existence. And arguments against naturalism show its complete implausibility. (I’ll go so far as to add “in my opinion,” though you in your absolute knowledge on the topic did not see fit to do that yourself.)

    Finally,

    You are entitled to believe whatever you want but in debates on public policy that harms others there has to be standard of what is acceptable and just because you, me or anyone believes something, if there no means to demonstrate it, then it should be rejected.

    As I told Alonzo, you’ve wrapped yourself up in knots from the beginning on that one. Can you reject faith-based thinking without causing harm in the process? Describe to me in practical terms just how you’ll do that. Duct tape? Shouting us down? Locking us up? This whole thing was ridiculous from the start: “In the name of reducing harm, we’re not going to let faith-based perspectives into the conversation.” Even if faith-based perspectives were not rationally and evidentially supportable (which they are) the whole thing is a one-sentence reductio ad absurdum.

  73. faithlessgod says:

    SteveK

    I have no idea what on earth you mean by Naturalistic Command Theory.

    Anyway you basic configuration makes not sense:

    The Naturalists Dilemma for Objective Reasoning:
    (1) If naturalistic command theory is true then either (i) logically sound/valid reasoning is the product of naturalistic means because it is logically sound/valid, or (ii) logically sound/valid reasoning is logically sound/valid because it is the product of naturalistic means.

    A= logically sound/valid
    B= naturalistic means
    (i) A is the product of B because of A
    - A is the product of something else becuase of itself?

    (ii) A is the product of A becuase of B
    - A is the product of itself because of something else?

    This makes no sense. Maybe you could clarify this?

  74. Tom Gilson says:

    Then answer the question is whether anyone who uses an argument from faith or an argument from revelation in a court room should be entitled to special dispensation, altering the standards sof evidence and protection from criticism. This has been the only issue here. If you think they are not entitled to any form of double standard then there is nothing to debate. So how about a black and white answer from you?

    I hope my most recent comment to you clarifies what has really been at issue.

    By the way, where in blazes did this “protection from criticism” canard come from??? Alonzo brought it up early on, and my first response was “bring it on!”

  75. faithlessgod says:

    This is fun! And great because I was not able to work on my wharehouse spacee today. Still this isrobably my last reply for while. Off ot watch Lost and then much work to the next few days.

    Anyway:

    You’re making the good subject to rational foundation or analysis. Does that come from naturalism? Or does naturalism come from it?

    Of course, in order to understand anything we subject to rational analysis, what is the issue here? What has naturalism got to do with this?

    Apart from that, how can you show that the only way to determine the good is through rational foundation or analysis?

    How can you show it is not without using reasons and arguments otherwise your surely position is self-defeating?

    Perhaps the good is a necessary and fundamental thing, an aspect of the character of God?

    If this is the case why can this not be rationally analysed? Anyway how could the good be a necessary and fundamental thing, explain how you think this is possible?

    How does rational foundation or analysis get to rule over the good?

    A strange turn of phrase “rule over”. What makes you think that rational analysis rules over anything?

    No it isn’t! Because it avoids the ability for God to choose any arbitrary thing to be the good! I’ve said this often!

    The question of “choice” is a red herring. This is only one way for it to be arbitrary not the only one, as I have said before. The original version of the Euthyphro was over what the gods love and does not require that they have a choice as to what to love. It is still arbitrary as to what they love or what are the eternal attributes of God.

    I had better ask you to re-phrase the question, because to me this is not hard to understand. Please let me know more specifically where the problem is.

    I am waiting for an explanation of what good means and you have given me none, hence my request for explanatory transparency. If I were to say good is gerphumfl, you could certainly asks what this means and s that it is not explanatorily transparent. Just saying it is an eternal attribute does not yet mean anything. What type of attribute what is that makes it good?

    Sigh. Because in order to judge a person’s intents, actions, thoughs, and so on, you should be able to understand them. (Didn’t I say that already?) That requires a god.

    Therefore since you don’t understand your God, so how do you know he is telling the truth?

    Sigh, the burden of proof thing. Look, it’s your team that said certain people ought to be kicked out of the discussions on ethics.

    Sigh.This is an entirely different issue, as I have said before. Ethics is not about proving or disproving the existence of the gods but about understanding morality. There is no prior rational basis to exclude the gods from ethical evaluation and ethics can consider this question, whether or not the gods have been shown to empirically exist.

    It’s your initiative to say that the vast majority of the human race gets duct tape placed over our mouths on these issues.

    Sigh. Again I say no such thing only that everyone should be subject to the same single standard and there should be no double standards in favour (or against, but it is the former that is far more prevalent) people of faith in matters of public morality.

    I think you owe it to us to establish at least some reason to believe our own approach is faulty.

    The many unethical actions based on such kinds of beliefs in the past and present.

    Can you reject faith-based thinking without causing harm in the process?

    I am only concerned with faith-based reasoning that can cause harm. If it does not then there is no issue. The same principle applies to any type of reasoning. When there is a clash of harms one seeks to reduce the one that is at cause.

    Describe to me in practical terms just how you’ll do that. Duct tape? Shouting us down? Locking us up?

    No I do not recommend using such methods as endorsed by some religions, do you? Only to the degree that faith-based (or any other type) reasoning causes harm one can first use morality to discourage such harms and then and only the if this fails for egregious types, legal means.

    This whole thing was ridiculous from the start: “In the name of reducing harm, we’re not going to let faith-based perspectives into the conversation.”

    Only in your head as you presumably wanted to avoid the key issue and so chose to address a different topic. So this is not the case at all. For example, it is only by allowing freedom of speech – i.e. no duct tape- that harmful reasons can be discovered, criticised and discouraged and for their to be moral progress in societies.

    Even if faith-based perspectives were not rationally and evidentially supportable (which they are) the whole thing is a one-sentence reductio ad absurdum.

    Then I suggest you address the real questions not the one you have made up. Whether a perspective is rationally and evidentially supportable is not the issue, plenty others might not be either but if they do not cause harm, then this is not an ethical concern?

  76. Tom Gilson says:

    fg, your responses indicate to me that no matter what I write, you won’t understand. Seriously. You’re asking all these questions about “what does x have to do with it?” If you understood what I was writing you might at least be able to disagree, but you can’t even do that if you don’t see how it connects. For example, “What makes you think that rational analysis rules over anything?” The answer to that is, that if the good in God is not good in itself or in his character, but is only good if rational analysis decides (rules, in the legal sense), then rational analysis rules over God and the good. But that is but one example of many I could have chosen from your comment. I really don’t think we’re getting anywhere, and I don’t think it’s worth continuing to try.

  77. Tom Gilson says:

    By the way, fg, I think I’m being clear with what I write, but even if these failures of understanding are my fault, all I can think of doing is to apologize for that. The result is the same either way: this isn’t working.

  78. Tony Hoffman says:

    Medince Man,

    You wrote:

    I assume this is still “demolished” credibility in your eyes, though? Or has it been downgraded to “severely damaged” or maybe “scratched”? Nothing kills credibility like two people saying compatible, but not totally harmonious things, right?

    Which I completely deserve. I have my problems with Greenleaf, but clearly Craig does not share the depth of my concerns.

    All,

    I think Faithless God’s argument, that we should all agree on the type of religious evidence that is admissable, is a better one than anything I’ve brought up on this thread. And, of course, the Eurythro Dilemma is endlessly interesting. I’ll try and catch up soon, but it looks like the comments just above mine are pointing to a wind down.

  79. faithlessgod says:

    For example, “What makes you think that rational analysis rules over anything?” The answer to that is, that if the good in God is not good in itself or in his character, but is only good if rational analysis decides (rules, in the legal sense), then rational analysis rules over God and the good.

    Not at all. Rational analysis has discovered many things I fail to see why it cannot be used to discover what can be considered good.

    I really don’t think we’re getting anywhere, and I don’t think it’s worth continuing to try.

    Fair enough. I do not have the time to pursue this much more anyway. You have certainly given me a few seeds for me to post about and I will ensure that that I make no mis-attributions :-)

    May the force be with you!

  80. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    You may want to consider that the reason folks like FG and me think that your solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma is circular is not because of a failure to communicate or comprehend properly but because the argument is, in fact, circular.

    You can look at God’s good and pronounce it bad on your own authority. God has a term for people who do that. They are wrong.

    And I have a term for that. I call it the 2nd horn of the Euthyphro Dilemma. And it remains circular because it assumes what it sets out to prove (that God is good).

  81. Tom Gilson says:

    That’s the first time the charge of circularity has been brought here with respect to Euthyphro. fg didn’t say that, and you haven’t either, until now, and at this time with nothing but bare assertion. So why would I have any reason to suspect that’s the reason you consider it circular—since no one has even brought it up??

    No, Tony, I wasn’t using that in that way in the argument. I understand that God’s goodness must be established in ways other than what I said there.

    You must understand what this portion of the argument was trying to accomplish. First, it was explicitly approaching the question of God ex hypothesi, i.e., this is what proceeds from the starting point of there being a God, if there is a God. It wasn’t an argument for God.

    Second, the purpose of this part of the argument was to show that under that assumption, it’s absurd to suppose that one could “look at God’s good and pronounce it bad on your own authority.” That’s not circular either.

    The whole thing was framed in a possible worlds argument that fg did not seem to catch on to, and I’m not sure you have either. I urge all readers to do some googling on possible worlds logic or modal logic.

  82. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    Begging the question and circularity are widely considered the same thing.

    The Possible Worlds argument is a different argument, and I think it’s a distraction; it supersedes / forestalls a question of arbitrariness, but the second horn cuts in more ways than one (how do we know God is good? etc.). Hence, the dilemma.

    Are you suggesting that there is some aspect of your argument that only modal logic reveals, or that a diagram of modal logic of your argument would reveal that it is somehow not circular?

  83. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Then answer the question is whether anyone who uses an argument from faith or an argument from revelation in a court room should be entitled to special dispensation, altering the standards sof evidence and protection from criticism.

    If I repeatedly say, “we are not making that argument…that is not what Christians believe, etc,” then what else are you looking for? Pretending not to understand something easy to infer is just as much an act of contortionism as anything else. To add the gold star, you threw in one of the most patently absurd canards, the “protection from criticism” line. All in the midst of acting as though you have nothing to answer for, and we have not answered anything.

    Perhaps I haven’t been as verbose as others, but since many of these comments are made in parallel, I guess I didn’t think it was really necessary to re-type them. Then again, as Tom noted, you don’t seem interested in considering anything not explicitly typed out here.

    You either don’t understand what I/we’re saying, or you’re deliberately evading it. Either way, I’m not particularly concerned about your assessment of my reasoning abilities.

  84. MedicineMan says:

    Tony,

    When examining X, arguing that the properties of X don’t create dilemma Y is not circular. Euthyphro, as used here, assumes that God exists, and that assumption has to remain consistent with the actual deity in question. Just as has happened with “faith”, there is an attempt to re-define an important part of a question in a self-serving way.

    The problem posed in both horns of Euthyphro is a God separate from the standards of morality -either above or below. Look at it objectively, and you should see that insisting that there cannot be a resolution using the third option is circular itself. (God must be above or below morality…so He’s either above or below morality).

    And, has been noted, if that kind of dilemma exists for theism, then it exists for atheism as well. It’s actually worse, as is being explained.

  85. Tony Hoffman says:

    Medicine Man,

    The problem posed in both horns of Euthyphro is a God separate from the standards of morality…

    No, I think that the problem is that either Morality is separate from God or morality is of God. That is the dilemma. I think Tom’s supposed solution has misled you about the nature of the dilemma.

  86. MedicineMan says:

    Tony,

    Nothing Tom said misled or confused me because I’d already heard of and resolved Euthyphro before this thread. His solution and mine are only really different in choice of terminology. I didn’t see his version as contradicting me. If I recall (this response comes in a time bind), he only charged me with rhetorical recklessness…for which I’ll denounce him at the next regional meeting of our evidence-phobic, criticism-fleeing cabal of superstition. (I can’t think of a humorous acronym for that).

    If God is good because He’s moral, Morality is above Him. If morality is something He can arbitrate as He sees fit, it’s below Him, thus the dilemma. The (false) quandry is whether morals are arbitrary or God is not ultimately authoritative.

    Option three says there is no above or below – there is a necessary unity between who/what God is and what is good/right/moral. It is not a matter of who fits where in a hierarchy.

    Thus morality is not arbitrary, because it cannot be changed and is defined according to the character of God, who both exhibits and declares the criteria of goodness. That’s not a dilemma.

  87. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,
    I don’t quite get your recent reformulation of the dilemma. You have pretty much restated the solution (morality is of God) and called it the problem. Given that the claim of the dilemma is that it supposedly makes morality either a standard external to God or it makes morality something which God arbitrarily approves of could you explain how your formulation maintains a challenge to the theist or moral realist?

    Thanks.

  88. SteveK says:

    faithlessgod,
    Below is another attempt that I think more accurately parallels the original Euthyphro dilemma, here – only in naturalistic terms. The term ‘naturalistic means’ that I refer to is whatever process nature used to arrive at the concept of rational thought.

    Where does the argument fail?

    ——————————————
    The Naturalists Dilemma for Objective Reasoning:
    (1) If naturalistic means theory is true then either (i) logical reasoning is determined by naturalistic means because it is logical, or (ii) logical reasoning is logical because it is determined by naturalistic means.

    (2) If (i) logical reasoning is determined by naturalistic means because it is logical, then it is logically independent of naturalistic means.

    (3) It is not the case that logical reasoning is logical independent of naturalistic means.
    Therefore:

    (4) It is not the case that (i) logical reasoning is determined by naturalistic means because it is logical.

    (5) If (ii) logical reasoning is logical because it is determined by naturalistic means, then there is no reason to care about the logical reasoning that naturalistic means have produced [based on the same Euthyphro problems of arbitrariness, emptiness and abhorrence - or in this case, illogic].

    (6) There are reasons to care about the logical reasoning that naturalistic means have produced.
    Therefore:

    (7) It is not the case that (ii) logical reasoning is logical because it is determined by naturalistic means.
    Therefore:

    (8) Naturalistic means theory is false.

  89. faithlessgod says:

    SteveK

    Below is another attempt that I think more accurately parallels the original Euthyphro dilemma, here – only in naturalistic terms.

    The where is “good” in this?

    The term ‘naturalistic means’ that I refer to is whatever process nature used to arrive at the concept of rational thought.

    An entirely different issue and regarldess of its conclusion cannot have any affect on issues and problems with the Euthryphro under discussion since each token Euthyphro argument stands or falls on its own. So none of this relevant here.

    Where does the argument fail?

    The argument what you stated looks like nonsense. It is certainly no argument I have ever made. Anyway whether you can make sense of it or not it is nothing to do with the questions at hand.

    Unless you can establish relevancy for this with respect to the Euthyphro under discussion I will ignore this from now on. Also note reformulating it with respect to good is still irrelevant to the Euthyphro under discussion especially since I have already said I use Euthyphro myself to criticise certain naturalistic theories of good.

  90. faithlessgod says:

    Tony and Tom

    Tony’s argument that Tom was using circular reasoning is quite correct although it was not directly about the Euthyphro argument, at least as I understood it, Tony.

    If A offers a definition D for X and B criticises A by saying that D fails as definition for X, A cannot say that according to D, B is wrong. Well they can but it would be circular reasoning.

    That is exactly what God or God’s representative Tom was doing in saying that any ethical evalaution of God, if it disagrees with God’s view on the matter, is wrong according to God. So what?

    And Tom surely it is very surprising for someone who has been harping on about modal logic to make such a basic error of logic.

  91. faithlessgod says:

    The topic under consideration in this thread, although I had been trying to keep it on the straight and narrow, has been much like trying get rid of the bubble under some plastic, when you push it does not disappear but moves somewhere else.

    Anyway this has devolved or evolved into a discussion of the ever interesting Euthyphro which I am happy to engage in. Can we keep focused on this topic or at least limit the area in which the bubble can move? ;-)

    I will address this core issue in my next post when I have time.

  92. Tom Gilson says:

    fg,

    Sometimes when I’m reading blogs or comments, I jump too quickly to writing an answer when I haven’t fully read what I’m responding to. I wonder if you and Tony have been doing that. You’re both saying I’m arguing in a circle to prove that God is good. I invite you to re-read what I’ve written. There has been nothing in here in which I’ve tried to prove that God is good. (Not that that would be a bad thing to discuss, but it would be a bad thing to do it with poor logic or in a context where other things are being worked on.)

    I’ll elaborate on that now.

    This:

    If A offers a definition D for X and B criticises A by saying that D fails as definition for X, A cannot say that according to D, B is wrong. Well they can but it would be circular reasoning.

    Fails to account for the fact that I was speaking ex hypothesi. For purposes of exploring an hypothesis, it is entirely legitimate to stipulate the hypothesis as provisionally true, and then to consider what implications follow if indeed it is true. That’s exactly what I have been doing in my responses to Tom Clark lately: I’ve stipulated naturalism provisionally as true, and I’ve been considering what implications follow from that.

    Further: in comment 80 Tony wrote,

    You may want to consider that the reason folks like FG and me think that your solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma is circular is not because of a failure to communicate or comprehend properly but because the argument is, in fact, circular.

    That would have made a whole lot more sense if somewhere along the way Tony or you or anybody had actually said that you considered the argument circular, and if some argument had been presented.

    Well, Tony did bring one forth, and speaking of going in circles, I’m going to answer it again even though I already have. Tony wrote,

    And I have a term for that. I call it the 2nd horn of the Euthyphro Dilemma. And it remains circular because it assumes what it sets out to prove (that God is good).

    No, it did not assume what it set out to prove, because it did not set out to prove that God is good. It set out to prove that the Euthyphro dilemma’s two horns do not constitute the whole space of possibilities. There is a third possibility, which is that God and good are co-eternal, and that therefore goodness need not be (the first horn) ethically, logically, temporally or in any other way prior to God, or that (the second horn) God’s pronouncement of the good might be arbitrary.

    In other words, what I’ve been trying to prove is not that God is good, but that the Euthyphro dilemma does not succeed in showing that the goodness of a hypothetical or real God is necessarily incoherent. I hope you can see that those are two completely different assertions.

    Let me say it again, just to give the spinning wheel one last (I hope) spin. The Euthyphro Dilemma says there are only two options for God and good, if there is a God, and that neither one is acceptable, because by one option God is not really God (the prior ethic is, in some sense), and by the other option, good could be any arbitrary thing God says it is.

    I answered by saying there are three options for God and good, if there is a God, and that the third option avoids both of those criticisms.

    Nowhere in there did I set out to prove that God is good, or even that God exists. I could bring forth arguments to that end, and in other contexts I’d be happy to do that, but I wasn’t doing that this time.

    Now, please let’s stop running in circles by accusing me of running in circles trying to prove something that I was never trying to prove.

  93. Tom Gilson says:

    By the way, it’s been said that my third horn is the same as one of the Euthyphro horns: that the good is good just because God said it was. This is not so. What I am saying is that the good is good not be God’s decree, which could change, but by God’s character, which cannot.

    The difference between these two is best illustrated by the complaint that follows from the Euthyphro statement that if the good is good just by God’s decree, then God could decree anything to be good. That really seems to be the only practical (though yet hypothetical, for sure) problem with this horn of the dilemma.

    There is another metaphysical complaint that could be associated with the same horn: that if goodness is only what God decrees it to be, then there is nothing in God per se that is really good; God is not originally good in himself. Good is his invention ex nihilo, as it were. He didn’t have to create it, and if he hadn’t created it, he himself wouldn’t be good because good would be meaningless.

    The third horn I’ve presented has nothing arbitrary to it, so it is free of the first problem, and it presents God as eternally good, which frees it of the second problem associated with that horn of the dilemma.

    In other words, it’s not the same as that horn at all.

  94. MedicineMan says:

    Tom beat me to saying this:

    Fails to account for the fact that I was speaking ex hypothesi. For purposes of exploring an hypothesis, it is entirely legitimate to stipulate the hypothesis as provisionally true, and then to consider what implications follow if indeed it is true.

    An additional detail is that you can’t waffle on the properties of God once you assume He exists. If you’re going to try to apply an argument to the Christian God which hypothesizes that He exists, you can’t then argue that using the Biblical/Christian properties of God is circular, ad hoc, or otherwise invalid. A god with different properties is not the God being hypothesized, and sticking to a single definition during analysis is hardly circular.

    Faithlessgod,

    One reason the naturalistic version of Euthyphro is worth considering is that it would be evidence that naturalistic (no-God) assumptions about morality or ethics are false, or at least meaningless. If that would disqualify “faith” from your courtroom standard, then it would do the same to “naturalism”.

    I don’t recall seeing you respond to my question about Greenleaf, which is on-topic and very legitimate.

  95. faithlessgod says:

    When Socrates was challenging Euthyphro over piety he was asking for a definition of piety, one that is explanatorily transparent and non-circular (yes Tony you are right about this although your critique of Tom I just posted about was a different example of circular reasoning).

    Euthyphro’s third definition of pious was along the lines of “What all the gods love is pious, and what they all hate is impious”. Socrates was still trying to show this was both circular and explanatorily opaque, that it fails as a definition of pious and that it might be an attribute of the gods – that what they love is pious – but this attribute is not the same as what is pious and it is not an explanation of what pious is. Hence the dilemma:

    “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods ?”

    Taking the second horn is to confuse this attribute of the gods with piety and provides no reason as to why what they love is pious, the fact that if there is no reason can be restated as in the relation between them is arbitrary. Still it might be correct but we cannot know that, not without any reason. If one takes the the first horn however one has still not explained piety only assumed that this is what the gods (must) love. The question of what piety means or what the term piety refers to still needs to be answered Without such answers, Euthyphro’s definition is circular and explanatorily opaque.

    This is why I say the peculiar issue of such an attribute being fixed in God is a red herring it has no bearing at all on resolving the dilemma. This is also why I say calling it an (eternal) attribute or equivalent is not a solution, since it is exactly this issue that was being addressed by Socrates (and us now) all along.

    What I usually see in such debates are semantic shell games. I note one that no-one has used the example below and use it to illustrate the problems I wish to avoid without putting anyone active here on the spot. And I also want to head off at the pass any divergences as in this example.

    Some argue that they do not subscribe to Divine Command Theory and advocate something called Divine Nature Theory. So they can take the first horn of the dilemma in “the good is commanded by god because it is good” and say that what this good is, is or is in God’s “nature” – e.g. “fundamental oughts” or “eternal attributes” etc. Note this is different to the claims of having a third horn made here, at least as I have understood them.

    The problem is that this still considered a Divine Command Theory in ethics and renaming it Divine Nature makes no difference. This plays on the idea of “command” in Divine Command Theory, when all that is a metonymic label for any type of theistic theory that derives good from the gods – in other words this is a semantic shell game. The dilemma still applies to their representation of the relation between good and the gods.

    Finally to expand on this point (and leaving behind the semantic issue of Divine Nature Theory), the Euthyphro dilemma is a logical structure that can be filled in by whatever way the relation between the good and the gods is being argued for by the proponent.

    So all the following are equivalent:

    “Is the good commanded by god because it is good or is it good because it is commanded by god?”

    “Is the good loved by god because it is good or is it good because it is loved by god?”

    “Is the good desired by god because it is good or is it good because it is desired by god?”

    “Is the good willed by god because it is good or is it good because it is willed by god?”

    “Is the good in god’s nature because it is good or is it good because it is in god’s nature?”

    “Is the good an eternal attribute of god because it is good or is it good because it is an eternal attribute of god?”

    and so on and so forth.

    All are circular, fail to explain – that is in any explanatorily transparent fashion – what is good and provide no reason for why anything is good or bad in other words the definition is arbitrary.

    So when I see the so-called solutions offered by Tom and MM they have not resolved this issue at all. Neither has provided an explanatorily transparent description of good and both are relying on a circular and arbitrary pseudo-definition of good. “Good” has not been explained. No indication as to what “good” is has been offered. They have certainly not demonstrated any necessary or any other type of connection between God and the good.

  96. Paul says:

    “There is a third possibility, which is that God and good are co-eternal, and that therefore goodness need not be (the first horn) ethically, logically, temporally or in any other way prior to God, or that (the second horn) God’s pronouncement of the good might be arbitrary.”

    I’d like to focus on the positive claim of what this third option is. It does no good defining the third option in negative terms (“it is not the first horn, it isn’t the second”).

    What is “co-eternal” in non-negative terms? The only thing I can take from that word, in terms of its constitutent parts, is that God and good are both eternal, which doesn’t seem to create a third option. Eternity doesn’t address whether goodness or God come before each other *logically.*

    Does “co-eternal” mean something other than the sum of its parts?

  97. faithlessgod says:

    As usual in this active blog other posts have arrived whilst I was constructing my last comment, which you can take as the clearest the statement of my approach to Euthyphro.

    I will as briefly as possible address any points that have been raised in this intervening comments not already addressed in my last comment.

    Tom said:

    . You’re both saying I’m arguing in a circle to prove that God is good. I invite you to re-read what I’ve written. There has been nothing in here in which I’ve tried to prove that God is good.

    My post on Tony highlighting your circular reasoning was not addressed to any purported claim that “God is good” nor to any ex hypothesi issue. It was only addressed to your rather pointless argument that if criticise God I must be wrong. In my last post I do address another circularity issue directly related to Euthyphro but I have not discussed this before and this has no bearing on your “God says I am wrong” point.

    In the same comment:

    That would have made a whole lot more sense if somewhere along the way Tony or you or anybody had actually said that you considered the argument circular, and if some argument had been presented.

    I can’t speak for Tony but I have not said this before but have now in my last post and presented an argument.

    In Tom’s next comment:

    The difference between these two is best illustrated by the complaint that follows from the Euthyphro statement that if the good is good just by God’s decree, then God could decree anything to be good. That really seems to be the only practical (though yet hypothetical, for sure) problem with this horn of the dilemma.

    I have never made this argument and hopefully have made clearer in my last post why this is another red herring. The issue in Euthyphro is not dependent on God’s decrees and I already argued this before – referring to the original Euhtyphro in terms of being “(must) be loved by the gods”. How about you address this point rather than ignore that I had already made it? That way our conversation can at least progress?

    MedicineMan

    Said nothing useful on Euthyphro.

    One reason the naturalistic version of Euthyphro is worth considering is that it would be evidence that naturalistic (no-God) assumptions about morality or ethics are false, or at least meaningless. If that would disqualify “faith” from your courtroom standard, then it would do the same to “naturalism”.

    This, as I have already said, is a stand alone issue compared to the current debate on the God version of Euthyphro.

    Momentarily back to the original topic, what is the relevance of naturalism here? We are talking about the legal process of a court in terms of establishing relevant facts which is a question of methods not metaphysics. Plus I have seen no naturalistic version of the Euthyphro – SteveK’s looks like non-sense – so I have nothing to judge if it bears any relevance to such court processes.

    I don’t recall seeing you respond to my question about Greenleaf, which is on-topic and very legitimate.

    This was a debate you had with someone else. I did not read this. There is enough volume of comments here as it is.

  98. Charlie says:

    Hi Paul,
    Your request for more information ignores what’s already been said. You have selected one sentence regarding God, good and eternality and are acting as though that is the sum of what has been said about the three. Tom has already answered your belated request for “non-negative” terms many times over.
    Nowhere has it been said, implied, or left to the imagination that God and good are two separate and co-eternal “parts”.

  99. SteveK says:

    Plus I have seen no naturalistic version of the Euthyphro – SteveK’s looks like non-sense – so I have nothing to judge if it bears any relevance to such court processes.

    If that’s all it takes to dismiss an argument then why didn’t you say so? Euthyphro looks like a non-sensical false dilemma so there’s no real dilemma here, as Tom and others have been saying.

  100. faithlessgod says:

    SteveK

    If that’s all it takes to dismiss an argument then why didn’t you say so? Euthyphro looks like a non-sensical false dilemma so there’s no real dilemma here, as Tom and others have been saying.

    I am not dismissing your argument, you first have to make one. I haven’t foggiest idea what you are on about or what the point is in your previous comments. Whereas Euthyphro is a well recognised 2,500 year old argument that I am addressing wrt to Tom and MM. Maybe I missed others I dunno there are too many comments in this thread.

    So, apart from anything else what one earth is the relevance of your “argument” to anything we have discussed here, in particular the God based Euthyphro? From what I can understand in what you have said (that is not the “argument” itself), it has none whatsoever.

  101. SteveK says:

    My attempt to adapt the argument was to show that naturalism faces major dilemmas of its own. One could generalize Euthyphro and apply it to seemingly inumerable concepts of the mind and their causes, resulting in the same so-called dilemma.

    If Euthyphro creates a problem with a rational being as the subject, then it is equally problematic, if not moreso, with a mindless, random process as the subject.

  102. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Make up your mind. Did you want to get to the topic you mentioned here, or not?

    We are talking about the legal process of a court in terms of establishing relevant facts which is a question of methods not metaphysics.

    You’re performing the philosophical equivalent of “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” wrt Tom and my statements on Euthyphro. Now the same wrt courtroom evidence. I was attempting to show how this evidence-based issue has relevance, and how Christian ideas have a legitimate place in that kind of system.

    I (openly) posed my question on Greenleaf specifically because we were talking about courtroom-style acceptance of evidence. If there are evidences of that quality for the Christian faith, which Greenleaf argues that there are, then those facts are relevant when making moral and ethical decisions, according to your standards.

    Naturalism is relevant here because you said this:

    Arguments from faith and arguments from revelation have had a long history of leading to harm to others.

    And the same is true for naturalism. You also said this:

    …moral philosophy long ago rejected theistic based morality.

    This is not only misleading, but clearly implies that your moral philosophy is atheistic, since I’m quite sure it’s not polytheistic; and besides which you claim on your own website to be a naturalist, and say:

    As a naturalist, I have no need of supernatural hypotheses. Nature is all of one piece and everything that is, is in it and realised in it, is caused by and dependant upon nature and nature alone. That is all there is.

    Side note: if your view of nature, as stated above, is acceptable, why can’t the same be said of God, as per Euthyphro? That statement implies that “good” is not something above or below nature, but is an integral part of it. How can that be acceptable for “nature”, but not for God?

    So, if what Greenleaf says matches the kind of evidence you expect of others, I’m unfortunately sure that you’ll find a reason (as per my prior reservations) to ad hoc your way out of it. Respond as you see fit, but as you said, there are plenty of comments already, and I’m sure you’ll continue to brush off my replies, anyway. So the last word is yours, from my end.

  103. faithlessgod says:

    SteveK

    My attempt to adapt the argument was to show that naturalism faces major dilemmas of its own.

    Well we are not discussing naturalism here, this is changing the subject. The is an irrelevant point.

    One could generalize Euthyphro and apply it to seemingly inumerable concepts of the mind and their causes, resulting in the same so-called dilemma.

    As I have already said, at least twice, I do this myself. However this has no effect on the challenge it poses with respect to God that we are discussing here. Again an irrelevant point.

    If Euthyphro creates a problem with a rational being as the subject, then it is equally problematic, if not moreso, with a mindless, random process as the subject.

    This seems quite incoherent, Euthyphro can be applied to a variety of claims for what good, piety or other values are – none of which are random processes, “mindless” possibly yes – if they were (random processes) then by definition there would no issue over the arbitrariness of the first horn.

    All in all you have to show that such an argument is relevant to anything being discussed here.

  104. faithlessgod says:

    MM said:

    Make up your mind. Did you want to get to the topic you mentioned here, or not?

    “We are talking about the legal process of a court in terms of establishing relevant facts which is a question of methods not metaphysics.
    You are being disingenuous and using sophistry, since you surely have read that both Tom and I agreed that discussion was getting nowhere and we are now discussing Euthyphro.

    I am only answering you because your rhetorical content is not high, yet it is still there as in:

    You’re performing the philosophical equivalent of “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” wrt Tom and my statements on Euthyphro.

    As I have recommended before if your don’t like empty rhetoric, you should stop doing it yourself.

    Now the same wrt courtroom evidence. I was attempting to show how this evidence-based issue has relevance, and how Christian ideas have a legitimate place in that kind of system.

    This has got nowhere till now since you have been going “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you” to my arguments there. See is this the type of rhetoric you are asking for? I am learning from the master.

    I (openly) posed my question on Greenleaf specifically because we were talking about courtroom-style acceptance of evidence. If there are evidences of that quality for the Christian faith, which Greenleaf argues that there are, then those facts are relevant when making moral and ethical decisions, according to your standards.

    Well I have been asking for ages for such evidence and I have yet to see any that would pass muster under public scrutiny. So, reluctantly, even though the topic has moved on, what are these relevant facts?

    Naturalism is relevant here because you said this:

    “Arguments from faith and arguments from revelation have had a long history of leading to harm to others.
    This has nothing to do with naturalism.

    And the same is true for naturalism.

    This makes no sense, it looks like the conclusion of an argument but what are the premises and inferences?

    “…moral philosophy long ago rejected theistic based morality.
    Yup, that is correct.

    This is not only misleading,

    How? I was only stating a fact that any unbiased student or professional in ethics could confirm.

    but clearly implies that your moral philosophy is atheistic, since I’m quite sure it’s not polytheistic;

    This is a deeply mistaken way of categorising such moral philosophy. It is not the way it is because I nor anyone else does not believe in god, since many theists (the utilitarian Sidgwick springs to mind) would and have argued also such types of moral philosophy. So it makes no sense to label this “atheistic” moral philosophy.

    “As a naturalist, I have no need of supernatural hypotheses. Nature is all of one piece and everything that is, is in it and realised in it, is caused by and dependant upon nature and nature alone. That is all there is.”
    I do say this on my site but this is not even a legitimate ad hominem since I have not assumed nor relied upon metaphysical naturalism – which is what that above statement is about – in these arguments nor do I need nor intend to.

    Side note: if your view of nature, as stated above, is acceptable,

    I have never and I am not asking you to accept it and such metaphysics – whether of a naturalist or supernaturalists nature – should have no bearing in the processes of a court (I am sure I have said this before).

    why can’t the same be said of God, as per Euthyphro?

    This is a non sequitur. As you know I have also repeatedly said that the existence of the gods is not an issue in ethics and this is what we have been discussing. Again your conclusion does not follow from your premises.

    That statement implies that “good” is not something above or below nature, but is an integral part of it. How can that be acceptable for “nature”, but not for God?

    That statement implies no such thing. One possibility is moral nihilism saying that “good” is not integral to “nature” either, another is Moore’s intuitionism/non-naturalism (which is not supernaturalism), another is Hare’s universal prescriptivism and so on and so forth.

    So, if what Greenleaf says matches the kind of evidence you expect of others, I’m unfortunately sure that you’ll find a reason (as per my prior reservations) to ad hoc your way out of it.

    You do seem to be an expert at ad hoc reasoning yourself given the above attempted arguments? How about you actually provide an argument here rather than make insinuations?

    Respond as you see fit, but as you said, there are plenty of comments already, and I’m sure you’ll continue to brush off my replies, anyway. So the last word is yours, from my end.

    I have eaten my own words in terms of only addressing the substance not the rhetoric of your replies. There was some substance here (just) that warranted a reply. I suggest you increase the substance/rhetoric ratio otherwise I will address only the likes of Tom, who, whatever our differences, has a very high substance/rhetoric ratio and does not let his passion for his position overwhelm his civility in debate – that is a master you should learn from. And no, this paragraph is not ironic, since it is not itself rhetoric as any impartial observer could check by reading the prior comments :-)

  105. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Despite what you may or may not think, I just recognize that as soon as I get to a point of not really caring what your next response might be, I’d be wasting your time and mine to pursue further conversation.

    I agree, wholeheartedly, that other observers can come to a reasonable conclusion about who’s approaching the conversation in an evasive or unreasonable way. Tom, who you rightly assess as a reasonable and rational person, has had a lot to say about your stumbles in this regard.

    I must say, also, that the one slipping into ad hominem might want to be careful who he accuses of allowing passion to erode his civility. Counter-examples to show the absurdity of a position are neither rhetorically empty, nor uncivil.

    :), indeed.

  106. faithlessgod says:

    Medicine Man

    I must say, also, that the one slipping into ad hominem

    As you did in your last comment as I showed. Still I also empahsied that your reference to a statement on my bog was if anything a legitimate ad hominem, which, if correct you were quite entitled to make. I argued that it was not correct that is all, not that it was an abusive ad hominem. Look up the difference.

    might want to be careful who he accuses of allowing passion to erode his civility.

    Well I am not interested in psychologising any further the reason for your emtpy rhetoric.

    Counter-examples to show the absurdity of a position are neither rhetorically empty, nor uncivil.

    No they are not. But it was not your counter-examples I was complaining about. It was where I was noting that your accusations of rhetoric where immediately accompanied by own your rhetoric as if your claim excused you from the same standards you supposedly applied to me.

    Uncivil or not debating with you is unproductive due to the low substance/rhetoric ratio of your posts. I am not interested in meta-conversations such as this response you have obliged me to create.

    So from now on I will address Tom and anyone else who does not do what you do. If you have anything substantive to contribute someone else can remake your point.

    This conversation is terminated.

  107. Tony Hoffman says:

    Charlie,

    Charlie,

    I was away traveling all yesterday, and I haven’t caught up on this discussion.

    Given that the claim of the dilemma is that it supposedly makes morality either a standard external to God or it makes morality something which God arbitrarily approves of could you explain how your formulation maintains a challenge to the theist or moral realist?

    I think the problem is that there’s no way to step back and confirm that God’s commands are also good; you have to assume that God is good, but that doesn’t really address the dilemma — I think the solution basically reformulates to a tautology.

    I have to catch up, though.

  108. Jacob says:

    Side note: if your view of nature, as stated above, is acceptable, why can’t the same be said of God, as per Euthyphro? That statement implies that “good” is not something above or below nature, but is an integral part of it. How can that be acceptable for “nature”, but not for God?

    Perhaps this is a James Kirk “what would God need with a starship” moment, but…what would God need with morality? Let me put it this way: I would say that we’re quite bound to our natural world and to its characteristics. Morality as it is currently constituted only exists because of the way in which our universe exists. But when it comes to God, we are dealing with a being that isn’t a part of the same world we are. There might not be any time, any consequences…any concept of morality. This to me seems like the most likely conception of God: one who we can’t necessarily relate to because we don’t have the necessary concepts or tools to understand him. Because when we try to say that goodness is an important characteristic of God, we are making massive assumptions about things that aren’t even in our vocabulary.

    But, of course, you have to believe in a good God if you presuppose Christianity, which is what I want to talk about next. I believe faithlessgod meant that saying “God’s goodness is arbitrary” and “good is merely an eternal characteristic of God” are functionally the same things. For example: what if God ordered someone’s death? Is this a good act? What makes this good? Is it not based upon shifting, arbitrary factors? Let me get out in front of the argument a bit, for the response will obviously be that God’s perfect will leads to perfect actions. What I’m trying to say, however, is that the act itself is not necessarily good.

    Therefore, we have to define “goodness” quite explicitely. For God could be justified in doing anything, even if we find it morally questionable. Would he simply be doing evil for good? What if God does act A, but act B was a better choice? Does this make him less good? How much evil is he allowed to let happen anyway, and when does he become less good for allowing it to happen? People always abdicate rational thought here, for whatever happens is simply God’s will. But I have a hard time believing that God couldn’t do better in this world. And that leads to a different argument in which we could discuss whether God’s supposed actions are really all that great.

  109. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,

    I think the problem is that there’s no way to step back and confirm that God’s commands are also good; you have to assume that God is good, but that doesn’t really address the dilemma — I think the solution basically reformulates to a tautology.

    Now that’s a completely different question though, isn’t it?
    The supposed dilemma, designed against a coterie of warring, capricious and bickering “gods”, does not address the question of whether or not we are assuming God is good or whether or not we can actually know His attributes. That question is answered by theology, philosophy and nature.
    You say the fact that good is an attribute of God doesn’t really address the dilemma but it does – it renders it moot. You even demonstrated why when you said that morality is of God as opposed to being something external that He approves.
    The fact is rather the opposite of what you have said here, and that is that the dilemma doesn’t address God.

  110. Tony Hoffman says:

    Charlie,

    Now that [there’s no way to step back and confirm that God’s commands are also good]’s a completely different question though, isn’t it?

    I don’t think it’s so much a different question as it flows naturally from the dilemma. (I’ve explained before that I’m not philosophically inclined, but I have to admit that Socrates guy was good.)

    I think Faithless God has done a much better job of expressing my inchoate discomfort with the supposed Christian resolution of the ED. If I could go back and insert (Yeah! Me, too!) into his paragraphs, I would.

  111. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,

    . (I’ve explained before that I’m not philosophically inclined, but I have to admit that Socrates guy was good.)

    He was, wasn’t he? Aquinas was no slouch either. Nor Anselm.

    I think Faithless God has done a much better job of expressing my inchoate discomfort with the supposed Christian resolution of the ED. If I could go back and insert (Yeah! Me, too!) into his paragraphs, I would.

    Fair enough. Not me.

  112. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tony, Charlie and Paul

    The problem between that Socrates has with Euthyphro (if we translate it into our parlance) is the Socrates argues that Euthryphro has failed to provide an explanatory definition of good.

    Socrates formulates the dilemma to show the problem with identifying good with an attribute of any being, let alone the gods or God. (a) Such an identity rendered via a because clause is explantorily opaque not transparent and so is arbitrary.(b) by the argument from analogy looking at \the state of being carried\ shows that good is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property of a being. The Euthyphro dilemma was formed to highlight these issues.

    So what has happened with the various \third horns\ is not that they are solutions but they are restating the problem that led to the formulation of the Euthyphro dilemma. Hence me stating the Euthyphro dilemma given those offered opaque inherent property definitions. The dilemma works for any such opaque inherent property definitions – with or without gods and for the attempted definition of any value not just moral good – hence my use of it elsewhere such as against gene-based morality.

    So the various answers I have seen offered here are not an alternate solution but an indication of an ignorance of the problem that led to the Euthyphro dilemma in the first place!

  113. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,
    Thanks for your attempt to clarify.

    Socrates formulates the dilemma to show the problem with identifying good with an attribute of any being,

    I’ve read the dialogue several times and I don’t recall any reference to the identification of the good with an attribute of any being.
    Specifically, when your refer to the dilemma above you discuss Euthyphro’s third definition, restated by you as:

    “What all the gods love is pious, and what they all hate is impious”.

    In that comment you discuss attributes but I don’t see the relation you are drawing.
    The pious here is not an attribute of the gods, but is external to them.
    The only attribute of the gods identified here is the capacity to love piety. That does not make piety itself an attribute of the gods, nor of any being, so that is not the rationale that Socrates is attacking here.
    When Socrates uses the term “attribute” he is referencing not an attribute of the gods but an attribute of holiness itself. In fact, he wants not an attribute of holiness, but the essence.
    But Euthyphro’s answer can only give him the attribute (that of being loved by the gods) without explaining its nature or its essence.

    However, when we move away and try to apply this dilemma to God we find it fails because grounding goodness in God’s nature does not rely on the causal relationship as does Euthyphro’s case; goodness is not goodness because it is in keeping with God’s nature, nor is it part of God’s nature because it is good. There is no causal relationship here.
    Neither do we suffer the failure of providing only an attribute of goodness by finding its ground in God. Its being determined by its conformity to the perfection of God’s necessary nature is not merely an attribute of goodness, but rather its essence, the whole of what it is. As opposed to Euthyphro, we are not merely giving an attribute, nor are we giving a mere example of what would be considered “good” (in fact, we are avoiding doing so at all as this is another question altogether – the one Tony would have us approach), but rather, we are saying exactly what “goodness” is.

    On the other hand, when we look at the dilemma as it is normally presented against Christian morality (and as you stated it – ” It cannot be the case that whatever God claims is good is good. Such goodness is arbitrary and capricious.”), not as formulated by Socrates, and are asked about the external standard versus the arbitrary we find neither applies. Goodness is not external to God at all, but is actually an attribute of His, of which He is the standard, source and paradigm.
    Neither is it arbitrary for an objective and eternal standard exists.

    In neither formulation does the dilemma affect the case for morality grounded in God.

  114. Jacob says:

    But doesn’t that definition lack any sort of explanatory power whatsoever? At least when you say that God is infinite in all necessary capabilities, it’s a concept rooted in a basic quantifiable understanding. But goodness is contingent on a standard. If I ask what goodness is, what do you say? That it’s simply God’s nature? That’s not very useful. There has to be something more. Goodness alone doesn’t tell you anything unless you address how that standard can be reached.

    You might even argue that goodness itself is an arbitrary concept. Christians have carefully laid out stipulations for an attribute such as perfect power, but goodness merely seems to exist ambiguously: whatever God does is considered good because you’ve already supposed that it has to be good. So I say that how we define it has everything to do with how we address it. For instance, what is a heterosexual marriage in context of God’s goodness? What makes this marriage good? What is it about his character that makes it good? Or did he simply call it good? At best, you’re admitting that you can’t define it, and I think that has serious repercussions, as we can’t even address the standard for goodness except in God’s actions. At worst, it is sort of arbitrary. So I think that the argument needs clarity here.

  115. Charlie says:

    Hi Jacob,
    You are right. There is much more to say about goodness.
    But the first thing to say here is that Euthyphro failed where the Christian doesn’t and that for us Socrates presents a false dilemma.

  116. Jacob says:

    Well I’ll say that if goodness can only be arbitrary, then it’s functionally the same thing, and there is no third option. So the dilemma is still pertinent. But the dilemma is merely the start of the argument. If there are issues beyond it, then we should address them.

  117. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Charlie

    Thanks for an entirely relevant reply, I hope our conversation can be productive.

    I’ve read the dialogue several times and I don’t recall any reference to the identification of the good with an attribute of any being

    IIRC, Socrates develops an argument by analogy with the property of being carried (except that Socrates lacked the passive voice which made the argument more tortuous and we can simplify using the passive voice). The implication, quite correct in my view, is that “goodness” is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property or an attribute of an object, and this certainly includes the attribute of any being. This is one of the reasons that Socrates formulated the specific dilemma he asked of Euthyphro.

    The so-called benign third-horn replies I have seen here make the issue worse rather than better. Rather than point to a specific attribute and make an identification of the good with that, such as “being loved”, “being commanded or decreed”, they just say, in some entirely mysterious, non-explanatory and arbitrary fashion, that the good is identified with an eternal attribute, which says even less not more than the type of identification that Euthyphro was making! It is arbitrary to make this identity with any such attribute, and we need to know, at the very least, what the attribute is.

    Using the passive voice we can say “the state of being loved by the gods” is the attribute that is identified with the pious, but this is clearly not an inherent property of the gods. That is what the original token of the dilemma highlighted and that is what any other version of identifying the good with god needs to address.

    Socrates is not asking for the essence of goodness (or piety) since goodness, following the carrying argument, is not the type of thing that has an essence. He is asking for an explanation of what good (or piety) is, knowing this.

    Neither is the issue over a casual relationship, although that is a possible answer for some concepts of course. It was the identity claim he was directly addressing and so the answers here which make new identity claims suffer from the same problem.

    Its being determined by its conformity to the perfection of God’s necessary nature is not merely an attribute of goodness, but rather its essence, the whole of what it is

    Then you need to, at the very least, explain what is God’s “nature” is, regardless of whether it is necessary or not, which is irrelevant here. How can the essence of an non-inherent property be identified with an unspecified and mysterious “nature”? How can an non-inherent property have an essence at all?

    On the other hand, when we look at the dilemma as it is normally presented against Christian morality (and as you stated it – ” It cannot be the case that whatever God claims is good is good. Such goodness is arbitrary and capricious.”), not as formulated by Socrates, and are asked about the external standard versus the arbitrary we find neither applies.

    How it is applied against the definitions proffered in this thread is the issue. A mistake others at least have made is to assume that the above is the dilemma itself, and in so doing, they have addressed a caricature of the dilemma. The key arbitrariness here is the identification of good with an “eternal attribute” or the essence of God’s nature. It make no sense – given good is not an inherent property – and explains nothing. So it fails as an explication of good.

    We are saying exactly what “goodness” is.

    Yes this was the equivalent answer that Socrates sought from Euthyphro, so he could answer the charge of “impiety”. You have not provided an explanation of good that I have seen yet. Maybe you could present your version of your claimed resolution and we could look at that?

    In neither formulation does the dilemma affect the case for morality grounded in God.

    So are you saying that if you cannot provide an acceptable resolution to the dilemma, it makes no difference to your case?

    [Others here have left for important business elsewhere, as Euthyphro did 2,500 years ago ... ;-) ]

  118. Tom Gilson says:

    My garage-cleaning project Saturday morning turned into an entire re-organizing of files and bookshelves, so I’m just now getting back to these discussions. There’s some interesting stuff going on.

    Jacob, your question at 7:44 am about explanatory power is a good one. I’m especially intrigued by this:

    At least when you say that God is infinite in all necessary capabilities, it’s a concept rooted ina basic quantifiable understanding. But goodness is contingent on a standard.

    That’s a great summary of what we’ve been telling relativists here through literally years of discussion. I assume you are not yourself a relativist.

    If I ask what goodness is, what do you say? That it’s simply God’s nature? That’s not very useful. There has to be something more.

    Correct again. The something more is God’s actual character as he has revealed it. So how does this relate to heterosexual marriage, for example? How long an answer do you want? I could refer you to Ephesians 5, where Paul describes how marriage reflects the relationship between Christ and the church. I could discuss how the Trinity is a perfect union of equal persons, who despite their equality in power, worth, importance, Godhood, etc. nevertheless relate to one another in disparate roles, where the Son submits to the Father, and the Spirit glorifies the Son; and that marriage and family in some way also reflect this relationship of unity among equals with disparate roles. I could open up another subject I do not have time to develop, which is the acceptance if difference and antithesis in relationship. I could obviously talk about procreation, and the opportunity to love and nurture one’s offspring, and to learn about life, growth, development, discipline, forgiveness, and so on through the experience of parenthood.

    Now, what is it about God’s character that makes it good? As Tony noted earlier, “there’s no way to step back and confirm that God’s commands are also good,” or as you, Jacob, also said earlier, “God could be justified in doing anything, even if we find it morally questionable.”

    I have three ways to address this. One is to refer to the possible worlds argument I already gave, which you can find by doing a search on this page for “possible world.” Second, if God does something we find morally questionable, then he is doing something consistent with his perfectly good nature, that is beyond our imperfect awareness and understanding to recognize. That’s perfectly likely in the case of an infinite creator God and finite creatures.

    More fundamentally, however, God is not inviting you or me to step back and confirm that his commands are also good. He is the creator, we are the creatures, and to say we ought to be double-checking him on whether he got that right is to make the most fundamental mistake of them all: to place ourselves in the position of God ourselves. It’s the mistake Eve made, it’s the mistake Lucifer made, it’s the fundamental sin of pride that all of us commit.

    If you would think it’s your place to judge God’s goodness, then you would have to find another putative source of goodness from which to make that judgment. In a universe God created, where are you going to find that? And when he asks you, “what led you to think you were a better judge of what is good than I am,” how will you answer? When he goes on to add, “You have also committed the most fundamental rebellion against me,” how will you answer that?

  119. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,

    Thanks for an entirely relevant reply, I hope our conversation can be productive.

    And you yours.

    The implication, quite correct in my view, is that “goodness” is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property or an attribute of an object, and this certainly includes the attribute of any being.

    I don’t see this at all. As I said above, I don’t see him referring to piety, or goodness, as an attribute whatsoever. Please show me this reference so I can be corrected and amend my claim.

    As an alternative, is there a version that you have presented that we can discuss?
    You’ve said:

    Merely him claiming is still insufficient otherwise we end up back at Euthyphro. It cannot be the case that whatever God claims is good is good. Such goodness is arbitrary and capricious.

    And our conception of God avoids the charge of caprice.
    You also said:

    Either it is good because it is in god’s nature or it is in god’s nature because it is good.

    But this makes the error of presuming causality.
    Neither of these claims applies to God as God’s nature is not caused by goodness, nor is goodness caused to be a part of it. It is necessarily and eternally true that God is good and the standard of goodness.

    You then stated the problem this way:

    The first horn implies that good is external to god whereas the second horn implies it is internal to god.

    . But, as Tom answered, that is not the question or concern of the dilemma. The standard avoids both horns by being non-arbitrary and by its dependence on God.

    Using the passive voice we can say “the state of being loved by the gods” is the attribute that is identified with the pious, but this is clearly not an inherent property of the gods.

    Exactly. Which is why your use of the word “attribute” as though Socrates was preemptively answering us is misplaced. You are talking, as was he, about an attribute of that which is pious, the thing loved, not about an attribute of the gods. This thing, which is in a certain state, either caused that state (by being worthy and bringing about the gods’ love) or had that state arbitrarily caused by the gods (who have placed it into a state of being loved). What Socrates shows is that these two do not describe the same thing and at best give us an attribute of goodness/piety, but do not tell us what it is.

    Socrates is not asking for the essence of goodness (or piety) since goodness, following the carrying argument, is not the type of thing that has an essence. He is asking for an explanation of what good (or piety) is, knowing this.

    Socrates does, in fact, want the essence of piety, and not merely examples nor merely an attribute:

    Thus you appear to me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence-the attribute of being loved by all the gods. But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness.

    We, on the other hand, have told you what the nature of holiness is; it is that which is in conformity to God’s nature. It is not made to be in keeping of God’s nature, nor is God’s nature altered to include it – the standard is eternal.

    Then you need to, at the very least, explain what is God’s “nature” is, regardless of whether it is necessary or not, which is irrelevant here

    I suppose I do, if we want a full accounting of what the “good” is. But I do not need to do so to render the dilemma a false one. All we have to do is show that there is no standard above God to which He conforms, and that goodness is not arbitrarily determined by God, such that it could be anything else. I believe these are answered, and have been from the outset.

    . A mistake others at least have made is to assume that the above is the dilemma itself, and in so doing, they have addressed a caricature of the dilemma.

    I am willing to address whatever you say the dilemma is. I’d rather not jump back and forth between one characterization and another, however.
    Perhaps you can restate so I do not misunderstand exactly what the dilemma is in a form that we can stick to and tell me how this is a challenge to the Christian conception of morality.

    Maybe you could present your version of your claimed resolution and we could look at that?

    I have given it. But perhaps, as you say, I am ignorant and don;t understand the dilemma. So I will await your clear clarification of it before I reapply my resolution.

    In neither formulation does the dilemma affect the case for morality grounded in God.

    So are you saying that if you cannot provide an acceptable resolution to the dilemma, it makes no difference to your case?

    No, I am saying the dilemma is resolved by demonstrating that it is false – whether by not addressing God or by not offering exhaustive options.

    Others here have left for important business elsewhere, as Euthyphro did 2,500 years ago

    Not exactly as he did. In Plato’s story Euthyphro left because he couldn’t answer the question. In fact, Socrates’ question had been answered for thousands of years already, he just had the misfortune of not having encountered the One Eternal God rather than mere caricatures of Him.

  120. Tom Gilson says:

    fg,

    The implication, quite correct in my view, is that “goodness” is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property or an attribute of an object, and this certainly includes the attribute of any being.

    Is there some reason that an eternal personal God, the foundation of all reality, of which Plato had no conception, might not be an exception? Because I think that goodness is quite likely to be a property of a person, if defined properly (which I will not attempt to do here).

    It is arbitrary to make this identity with any such attribute, and we need to know, at the very least, what the attribute is.

    But we do know what the attribute is, for God has revealed what his goodness is. If you think it’s arbitrary, then do you think maybe there could be a better alternative? If so, see the end to my previous comment.

    Now to be honest I’m not sure I’m following your argument exactly, so if that missed your point, I ask you to try again.

  121. faithlessgod says:

    Correction

    I mis-represented Socrates position regarding the essence of piety. His argument led to my point that I still make and affirm, but it is not in the original dialogue. He is saying that whatever the essence of piety is (where I think essence in the broad sense is understood as the meaning of the term piety) it is not and could not be an attribute or inherent property of an object (or being for that matter) – which I read as essence in the narrow (and your) sense.

    So saying the essence of good is identical with the essence of God which is what I think Charlie was arguing for does not help. We then need to know what the (narrow) essence of God is (as would Socrates) but, I think that since Charlie is arguing this essence contra Tom (who says it is an eternal attribute) is not an attribute, or inherent property, he needs to explain what essence could be – without using any such attributes or properties. This appears to be an incoherent position.

    Regardless it is still the case that good is not the type of thing that could be an essence in the narrow sense of this term, as I think Charlie is using it, and as Socrates was showing in the original dilemma.

  122. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tom

    My previous Correction post was following up my previous one now I see there are various replies including yours. Maybe I need to clear my browser cache more often!

    Is there some reason that an eternal personal God, the foundation of all reality, of which Plato had no conception, might not be an exception?

    In order to make it an exception you would need to show it is the type of thing that could the property of a being.

    Because I think that goodness is quite likely to be a property of a person, if defined properly (which I will not attempt to do here).

    Until you show how it could possibly be such a property you have provided no reason to justify your argument.

    But we do know what the attribute is, for God has revealed what his goodness is.

    Well then what is this attribute, if it not being loved by or commanded by etc.? How can any inherent attribute make any difference in this dilemma?

    If you think it’s arbitrary, then do you think maybe there could be a better alternative?

    Yes I do but that is irrelevant to this argument. This argument we are discussing either stands or falls on its own, regardless of whether I or anyone else hold that there is a non-arbitrary explanation of good.

    Now to be honest I’m not sure I’m following your argument exactly, so if that missed your point, I ask you to try again.

    Anyway the argument in a nut shell is Socrates was asking Euthyphro to provide a explanatory definition of good and used the dilemma to show the problem with a definition that identified good with an inherent property. Your riposte has been to provide another definition with the same problems as the one that Euthyphro addressed. Your emphasis on the fixed element (eternal) is irrelevant and, with all due respect, the fact that it is just an (un-described) attribute rather than a specific one as in the dialogue makes your answer more vague.

  123. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Charlie

    But perhaps, as you say, I am ignorant and don;t understand the dilemma.

    As far as I know I have never accused you of ignorance and am not doing so now.

    I wrote my correction before I read your latest comment which, not surprisingly, picked up on my error. Moving on from that to address the substance of your reply:

    I don’t see this at all. As I said above, I don’t see him referring to piety, or goodness, as an attribute whatsoever. Please show me this reference so I can be corrected and amend my claim.

    “what is loved by the gods” where “loved” is the attribute. It was the “state of being carried” argument that made this point. In modern terms good is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property.

    And our conception of God avoids the charge of caprice.

    Irrelevant to the issue here.

    I suppose I do [explain "nature], if we want a full accounting of what the “good” is. But I do not need to do so to render the dilemma a false one.

    If you are not even attempting to provide an explanation of “nature” then, in a sense, the issue of the dilemma does not (yet) apply!!! :-) If you are not even providing a definition of moral good then why should I or anyone else agree with you? In such a case, you have not provided an argument yet. This “definition” is most certainly an arbitrary stipulation on your part, if that were the case.

    All we have to do is show that there is no standard above God to which He conforms, and that goodness is not arbitrarily determined by God, such that it could be anything else.

    No this is not the challenge of the dilemma. To repeat it is about providing an non-arbitrary explanatorily transparent definition of good. The issue of arbitrary I am addressing is not due to God but due to you assigning good to God in an arbitrary fashion, that is one without a justifying reason. It is the lack of such a reason that is an issue.

    But this makes the error of presuming causality.
    Neither of these claims applies to God as God’s nature is not caused by goodness, nor is goodness caused to be a part of it. It is necessarily and eternally true that God is good and the standard of goodness.

    Socrates created these “because” clauses to show exactly what the problem with the identity claim made by Euthyphro and you is. It was not to show that one “causes” the other but that they are not identical (except by an arbitrary stipulation of course) and this is due to the referentially opaque context, this is what these “because” clauses demonstrate. These are not co-extensive terms as they do not retain the same truth value under substitution under a truth-conditional theory of meaning. The type of identity relation you present is not referentially transparent nor can it be (that is another implication of the dilemma)

    We, on the other hand, have told you what the nature of holiness is; it is that which is in conformity to God’s nature. It is not made to be in keeping of God’s nature, nor is God’s nature altered to include it – the standard is eternal.

    We are not talking about holiness, you can define that as you like, that is not my concern. The standard being eternal or not is a red herring. It is a non-issue. We are talking about moral good, presuming that is what you meant to write, the dilemma still applies:

    “Is it good because it conforms with god’s nature or does it conform with god’s nature because it is good.”
    This still has the same problems as your definition does not explain good due to referential opacity and so is arbitrary and circular.

  124. Tony Hoffman says:

    As opposed to Euthyphro, we are not merely giving an attribute, nor are we giving a mere example of what would be considered “good” (in fact, we are avoiding doing so at all as this is another question altogether – the one Tony would have us approach), but rather, we are saying exactly what “goodness” is.

    I am pretty sure that the supposed “solution” to the problems of the ED locates goodness in God’s character (whatever that means), and says it is eternal and unchanging, but this doesn’t really do anything to alleviate the horn of the dilemma that makes God’s character arbitrary. “It is what it is” is not an explanation.

    Later you write:

    We, on the other hand, have told you what the nature of holiness is; it is that which is in conformity to God’s nature.

    You are not telling us anything about the nature of holiness. You are telling us that holiness is synonymous with something that is similarly opaque. If you were to make a list of 20 of descriptions of God’s nature, with one that does not belong, what criteria could we use to find the one that does not belong?

    Tom,

    I think your last comment basically admits that there is no Chrisitan solution to the ED, and that it is somehow wrong of us to wonder about the dilemma.

    And when he asks you, “what led you to think you were a better judge of what is good than I am,” how will you answer? When he goes on to add, “You have also committed the most fundamental rebellion against me,” how will you answer that?

    The quote above reads to me like a caution to those who would employ reason in a direction that is found to be uncomfortable – we don’t ask that question because God doesn’t want us to ask that question. That’s not really an answer, it’s a threat.

    I remain in agreement with FG here; it appears that the Christian resolution to the difficulties the ED presents to its theology is to replace the word “goodness” with “God’s character.” It appears to be a shell game. It changes the dilemma to reading “Is God’s character loved by God because it is God’s character, or is God’s character God’s character because God’s character is loved by God?”

  125. Jacob says:

    I always thought that Christians wanted it both ways. They want to employ reason except when it becomes uncomfortable to question God (I always thought that God suffered those who questioned him, but that’s just me). The problem is this: we cannot quantify God directly, so we must use other methods. I have even seen many Christians describe God’s characteristics using attributes from our very universe. But if God suddenly becomes a mysterious being who never has to answer for anything, then the truth is unknown to us, and that’s one less method by which we can come to know God. God’s work on earth becomes obfuscated. If I actually reason that the highest possible good isn’t being done, then am I intellectually wrong in concluding that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist? What if I do mistake it for arbitrariness? It also seems to me that you can say the opposite: we’re actually misunderstanding God because we have trouble relating to him.

    Regarding your possible world argument: the problem is trying to imagine a perfect good with which to judge the others. Like I was saying, we can at least imagine the concept of an all-powerful God. But an all-good God? You’re relying on characteristics that cannot necessarily be scaled. What is it that makes these characteristics perfect? Are they being expressed perfectly? There might be other perfectly legitimate facets of certain characteristics. And as I understand it, God is God because there is nothing greater, so there is nothing to improve or change. So if you have two possible worlds, is there such a thing as the “real good”? Can the good simply be adjusted? I can’t even imagine the full implications here, so I’ll just wait for your response.

    Lastly: I anticipated that you might say marriage is a reflection of the unity of God, but I was really trying to ask what constituted a sin in this regard. There are all sorts of things about marriage and sexuality that seems far more contingent on the human condition than any perfect standard.

  126. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,

    I don’t see this at all. As I said above, I don’t see him referring to piety, or goodness, as an attribute whatsoever. Please show me this reference so I can be corrected and amend my claim.

    “what is loved by the gods” where “loved” is the attribute. It was the “state of being carried” argument that made this point. In modern terms good is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property.

    Right. So piety, goodness, holiness, etc., is not an attribute of anything in Euthyphro.
    It is in Christianity.

    Here you confirm what I’ve been saying, that “loved” is the attribute of piety, not of the gods.

    And our conception of God avoids the charge of caprice.

    Irrelevant to the issue here.

    Since their are two horns of the dilemma I take this as relevant. Are you removing one horn, that of caprice and arbitrariness, in this statement?

    If you are not even providing a definition of moral good then why should I or anyone else agree with you? In such a case, you have not provided an argument yet. This “definition” is most certainly an arbitrary stipulation on your part, if that were the case.

    But I am providing a definition of moral good. That is, to be in keeping with God’s eternal nature. Since His nature is neither arbitrary nor external to him the dilemma does not apply. As you say, it does not apply by the very definition of God and of good. God is not as the pantheon but rather is the Creator, Sustainer and Ground of all existence in all possible worlds.
    Neither is the stipulation arbitrary on my, or anyone’s part, because we have it on good authority, and by good argument that this is the case.

    To repeat it is about providing an non-arbitrary explanatorily transparent definition of good. The issue of arbitrary I am addressing is not due to God but due to you assigning good to God in an arbitrary fashion, that is one without a justifying reason. It is the lack of such a reason that is an issue.

    I will take this as what you want to discuss of the dilemma, but this is not the dilemma. Socrates was not accusing Euthyphro of being arbitrary in assigning his definition of goodness, but showing that that definition did not define but rather gave one attribute of holiness.
    Neither is this how the dilemma is posed to the Christian. It is not that the Christian is being arbitrary or capricious in defining good in this way but that to do so makes the good arbitrarily determined by God’s will, love or command. Again, this is not the case.

    So your concern here, I presume, is not the dilemma, but that you think I have no justifying reason to define good as an eternal attribute of of the perfectly holy God?

    Socrates created these “because” clauses to show exactly what the problem with the identity claim made by Euthyphro and you is. It was not to show that one “causes” the other but that they are not identical (except by an arbitrary stipulation of course) and this is due to the referentially opaque context, this is what these “because” clauses demonstrate.

    True, he was showing that the single statement created two non-identical claims and resulted in knowing nothing about the essence but rather, at best, an attribute. He showed that the definition could not be correct because it created this dilemma of two possible reasons/causes.
    His identity claim does not touch Christianity because our solution does not create or reduce to two different reasons/causes.

    We are not talking about holiness, you can define that as you like, that is not my concern

    I’m sorry, but I thought we are. We have freely substituted for Euthyphro’s “piety” the word “moral”, “good”, “ethical”, “goodness”, etc. And here I have used the substitution that Socrates himself used, “holiness”.
    I am not defining a new word here or giving you a new meaning, but telling you how we have defined the same concept in use throughout.

    I was about to say that this confusion would not exist if you were to clarify exactly what dilemma we are to be discussing.
    But then I noticed you did so in your final paragraph:

    “Is it good because it conforms with god’s nature or does it conform with god’s nature because it is good.”

    Goodness itself is of God’s nature – it is an eternal, necessary, non-arbitrary, attribute of it.
    As I said (with a typo which I am fixing):

    It is not made to be in keeping of God’s nature, nor is God’s nature altered to include it – the standard is eternal.

    Perhaps I’ve thrown you off with the word “conforms” however. Of course God’s nature does not conform in an active sense to God’s nature, nor does an attribute, nor, therefore, does the moral standard of goodness – the moral standard of goodness is not logically subsequent, nor antecedent, to God’s nature, but is, in this respect, identical with it.

    Where the word “conformation” does its most good is when you apply it, like Socrates wanted to, to a situation among moral agents which must be judged. The action then, is good insofar as it is in conformity to God’s nature – the unchanging standard of goodness.
    Here you may apply your questions, get your answers, and find there is no dilemma.
    Is this action “good” because it conforms to God’s nature or does it conform to God’s nature because it is good?”
    The former.
    This questioning does not result in the dilemma that Euthyphro faced.
    Whereas the good thing “loved by the gods” was put in a state of being loved by the love of the gods the good thing conforming to God’s nature does not enter this state by an act of God or His nature applying that conformity. The thing possesses that conformity, that measure of goodness, of itself by comparison to the standard of goodness.
    Nor does it require nor warrant the conformity, as the good in Euthyphro does of the love of the gods, which requires in that case a standard to which the good attained and which the gods must recognize. Instead, the same answer applies; the thing deemed to be good has that measure of goodness of itself by comparison to the standard of goodness.
    Since the same is true in both cases there is no contradiction and our discussion of goodness does not reduce to a description of an attribute of goodness (as opposed to an attribute of the action or thing being judged in the case above) as it did in the case of piety in Euthyphro’s encounter.

    =====
    Hi Tony,

    I am pretty sure that the supposed “solution” to the problems of the ED locates goodness in God’s character (whatever that means), and says it is eternal and unchanging, but this doesn’t really do anything to alleviate the horn of the dilemma that makes God’s character arbitrary.

    Then it is not arbitrary because God’s nature is not arbitrary, it is eternal, unchanging and necessarily perfectly good – else He wouldn’t be God and we’d be talking about something else.

    You are not telling us anything about the nature of holiness. You are telling us that holiness is synonymous with something that is similarly opaque.

    I am telling you exactly what it is. Against Socrates, I am not merely giving an attribute or an example.

    If you were to make a list of 20 of descriptions of God’s nature, with one that does not belong, what criteria could we use to find the one that does not belong?

    Do you not know? Divine revelation, whether special or general, reason, conscience, etc.
    This is why we are discussing God, the rational Mind that created and sustains all of existence and has entered into a relationship with His Creation, rather than a capricious coterie of “gods” or an irrational “nature”.

  127. Charlie says:

    “Is God’s character loved by God because it is God’s character, or is God’s character God’s character because God’s character is loved by God?”

    The question of being loved, or being dear, the sinker for poor Euthyphro, is not an element in our exercise.

  128. Tony Hoffman says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Thanks for engaging for so long in this discussion, and doing your usual thorough job of explication on the topic.

    Then it (God’s character) is not arbitrary because God’s nature is not arbitrary, it is eternal, unchanging and necessarily perfectly good – else He wouldn’t be God and we’d be talking about something else.

    Then God would appear to have no will. Really, you make it sound as if God is a prisoner of his nature, which makes it sound like your solution comes too close to the 1st horn for your claiming to have avoided it altogether.

    I am telling you exactly what it [the nature of holiness] is.

    Except that your have told me nothing about the nature of holiness other than (I think) that it can be perceived by us, which makes me think that you favor the 1st horn again.

    Among the problems that I see with your solution to the ED is that it presents a God few Christians would recognize, but more importantly it doesn’t explain how it is that we can know that God is good. The truth is we still have to ultimately take God’s word for it (which parallels the 2nd horn), or we can somehow verify it ourselves (which evinces the 1st horn), and for that reason, and despite all the gymnastics and word play, the Dilemma remains very alive (at least for me).

  129. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Guys

    This is an interesting examination of the ED.

    A number of points.

    Just because one can put any definition of moral good into this type of dilemma structure does not mean the resultant horns exhibit the same problems as the original or canonical dilemma. I think we all agree on this?

    So the question here is that by putting your definition of moral good into this structure, is as to whether your definition suffers from the canonical problems of these two horns rather than possibly being benign or unproblematical. Okay?

    The canonical issue is as to whether an explantorily transparent definition of moral good has been provided. Now if has been successfully provided then it is another question as to whether it is correct but that is outside the ED and can be considered after the ED challenge has been met. The ED challenge is about the necessity of providing such a definition, the question of its sufficiency is outside the scope and and consequential debate is contingent upon a succesful refutation of the ED for a given definition. Without such a refutation of the ED, the question of sufficiency cannot be explored – or rather, it is pointless.

    The canonical ED attempts to show, for a given definition of moral good that does fall victim to it, that one horn fails to provide a reason as to why it is moral good and that there is no non-circular reason, in other words no reason, why this is moral good. The other horn shows that there is a reason why its morally good but only at the cost of showing that the notion of moral good provided is not itself a definition of the moral good.

    There are two distinct definitions being offered here: Tom’s moral good is an eternal attribute of an eternal God and Charlie’s moral good is identical with God’s nature or essence. Tony and I are arguing that neither overcomes the challenge of the ED, Charlie and Tom obviously disagree.

    My argument (I think Tony agrees but he is making his own case himself) is that in both cases the challenge of explanatory transparency has not been met and instead, quite bizarrely, even more opaque definitions have been offered than in the original dialogue – and then offered as a supposed third horn and benign solution to the problem!

    Tom has proved a range of circular arguments but has failed to give a proper non-circular reason why his definition is correct. He has also failed to show how his offered definition is the type of thing that could be the definition of moral good, rather than an example of moral good. By avoiding make clear which attributes of God is the standard of moral good, it is more opaque than any of Euthyphro’s definitions who did, at least, point out specific attributes. So this certainly fails the ED challenge.

    Charlie, by refusing to divulge what God’s nature is at all is therefore providing, with all due respect, an even worse definition of moral good than Tom. It is an entirely mysterious claim and completely opaque as to what moral good means now. It does not avoid the problems of Tom’s definition but is instead an unsuccessful evasion (as opposed to a successful avoidance of Tom’s problems) of the issue regarding Tom’s definition. And the ED was always over the identity relation not the causal relation so I fail to see how that argument is relevant.

    Tom and Charlie have variously explored a number of red herring issues here which whether raised by Socrates or others since do not affect the dilemma per se. They are red herrings in that they are all, I think, questions of the sufficiency not necessity of the definition which is not relevant to the ED itself.

    These are mostly over the fixed as opposed to variable basis of moral good addressing the “arbitrary and capricious” accusation over the command/decree version of moral good. Whether this is due to being “perfect”, “necessary”, “eternal”, “immutable” and so on, none of this makes any difference here.

    The issue over arbitrariness here is simply that neither has given a non-arbitrary non-circular reason why their definition of moral good could be correct.

    P.S. A new red herring is over holiness. We are simple not discussing this. If you want to make moral good identical with the holy, that is another discussion (and, to be frank, one that I have zero interest in).

  130. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,
    Thanks for your comment and compliment. I’m enjoying this exchange immensely and appreciate your contributions and tone.

    Then God would appear to have no will. Really, you make it sound as if God is a prisoner of his nature, which makes it sound like your solution comes too close to the 1st horn for your claiming to have avoided it altogether.

    1) Not at all. All persons exercise their will in accordance with their nature. Freedom to choose does not entail violating or transcending your nature.
    In fact, there is no foundation for morality if it is contingent upon a completely unconstrained will.
    2) But having God constrained to will consistent with His eternal and perfect nature is nothing like the first (or second) horn of the dilemma.

    Among the problems that I see with your solution to the ED is that it presents a God few Christians would recognize, but more importantly it doesn’t explain how it is that we can know that God is good

    I don’t know which Christians wouldn’t recognize God (although what I discussed might rub Muslims the wrong way). I believe I am presenting God as we know Him from the Bible, as Catholic philosophers and scholastics would recognize and as Reformed theologians describe. What do you think is un-Godlike about Him?

    The truth is we still have to ultimately take God’s word for it (which parallels the 2nd horn), or we can somehow verify it ourselves (which evinces the 1st horn), and for that reason, and despite all the gymnastics and word play, the Dilemma remains very alive (at least for me).

    Yep, we do both. We know what goodness is because God has told us, and has given us both Reason and a conscience. We also know Who God is by His Self- revelation in His Word. This does not cause us to fall victim to ED.

    ===

    Hi fg,

    So the question here is that by putting your definition of moral good into this structure, is as to whether your definition suffers from the canonical problems of these two horns rather than possibly being benign or unproblematical. Okay?

    But when you put the definition of moral good into the form you get no dilemma, whether canonical or not.
    This has been demonstrated many times, including for your most recent iteration.

    Now if has been successfully provided then it is another question as to whether it is correct but that is outside the ED and can be considered after the ED challenge has been met.

    Without such a refutation of the ED, the question of sufficiency cannot be explored – or rather, it is pointless.

    1) There are many interconnected issues which can wait.
    2) The dilemma need not be refuted (which we’ve done). In fact, one can choose one horn or the other and then discuss the sufficiency of his answer. We don’t need to choose either horn, for our statement of goodness does not entail the dilemma.

    The canonical ED attempts to show, for a given definition of moral good that does fall victim to it, that one horn fails to provide a reason as to why it is moral good and that there is no non-circular reason, in other words no reason, why this is moral good

    I don’t quite agree with this. Whether or not you’ve properly represented the dilemma here, this doesn’t mean that just any attempt to show that reasons don’t exist, or are opaque, or involve circularity is a proper application of the dilemma or that said failures resulted from creating such a dilemma. Ok?

    Tom’s moral good is an eternal attribute of an eternal God and Charlie’s moral good is identical with God’s nature or essence.

    Then I’ve been unclear. I have not said, nor intended to say, that God, nor His essence , is wholly identical with goodness, nor any other attribute of His. I thought I’d carefully qualified in what way moral goodness is indentical to an aspect of God’s essence. Tom and I are saying the same thing – along with every other contemporary Christian whose solution I’ve read (and going back at least to Augustine).
    God possesses a nature and this nature has attributes – one of which is His goodness. God’s nature is known to us through objective revelation, albeit, incompletely.

    Charlie, by refusing to divulge what God’s nature is at all is therefore providing, with all due respect, an even worse definition of moral good than Tom.

    I do not need to divulge God’s nature for two reasons. 1) It is there for all to see in His revelation. 2) It is unnecessary in defeating the dilemma. The dilemma, indeed, is defeated and by moving to, I’m sorry to say, red herrings about exactly what God’s nature is and what specific attributes are under discussion, the admission is made.

    The definition of moral good is complete as it stands and defeats all aspects of the dilemma.
    All that is left is the question of locating particular goods and measuring them against the standard and ground. But this is not part of the answer. ED does not ask for examples or degrees but for a definition. Such a definition has been provided.

    A new red herring is over holiness. We are simple not discussing this. If you want to make moral good identical with the holy, that is another discussion (and, to be frank, one that I have zero interest in).

    It is not a red herring (deliberate attempt to change the subject or to mislead) to discuss the same thing and use a different word for it. If you don’t like the word as a synonym, as explained upon your first charge, as used by Socrates as a synonym, and as used by me to avoid the boredom of using the same words and phrases over and over again then disregard it and put back in any of the other synonyms we’ve been using, eg., piety, goodness, good, ethical goodness, moral, etc.
    Nor is it a red herring to defend the grounding of God against the accusations of the actual Euthyphro dilemma for that is the subject – and the only one you said you wanted to discuss at this point. Your accusations of red herrings here and there are misguided.
    As is your reformulation of the dilemma vis “opaqueness”. The dilemma results only from a definition of moral goodness which itself entails two inconsistent premises – thus the dilemma; you must select one of two horns, but not both, and, therefore, cannot claim any definition which itself entails both horns.Our definition does not. Nor does it entail either horn.
    Any restatement of the dilemma as such has to recognize this and cannot fall away to anything else. If you think that the definitions are circular, or opaque then you have a different argument than that posed by the Euthyphro dilemma. Any of these can be answered in their own right but since this line of questioning and the accompanying charge is about the dilemma they are irrelevant to the issue at hand.

    Your claim that God’s nature must be explicated in order to defeat the dilemma is another.

    The issue over arbitrariness here is simply that neither has given a non-arbitrary non-circular reason why their definition of moral good could be correct.

    And this is a different question than the charge of arbitrariness as it results from failing to answer the dilemma. This is a different argument and not all arguments about definitions and reasons arise from a failure to answer the dilemma.

  131. SteveK says:

    Charlie,

    The dilemma results only from a definition of moral goodness which itself entails two inconsistent premises – thus the dilemma

    In that respect would you say it’s similar to a loaded question? It wasn’t deliberately made out to be a loaded question, but the false premises kind of took it in that direction. I think we struggle understanding the third option, but that difficulty should not mean the option is not a real and viable option. Especially in light of divine revelation, which as you pointed out, has been understood this way for centuries.

  132. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Charlie

    Tom and I are saying the same thing – along with every other contemporary Christian whose solution I’ve read (and going back at least to Augustine).
    God possesses a nature and this nature has attributes – one of which is His goodness. God’s nature is known to us through objective revelation, albeit, incompletely.

    Okay so now you are both saying that in God’s nature one of its attributes is goodness? This completely fails as definition of moral goodness as the ED is designed to demonstrate. Another way of saying this without using the “because” clauses that caused some prior confusion

    “Is moral good identical with the attribute called ‘moral goodness’ in God’s nature or not?”

    If one says yes one has failed to give a definition of moral good, that is one is none the wiser as to what moral goodness means.
    If one says no then a definition needs to be sought elsewhere.

    The first horn here (I think I stated this in the non-classical order) show the same problem of a lack of (non-circular) reason why this is so, the second horn here shows that a reason must be found elsewhere.

    And you have failed to address the key point (the “carrying” argument) that moral goodness is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property of anything, let alone a god.

    You have not only failed to provide a definition of moral good one that is referentially transparent, it is not only referentially opaque but incoherent. It is not better than anything proposed by Euthyphro it is far worse that Euthyphro’s definition (but of an equivalent kind) that led to the ED.

    Both these points were captured in the ED, that is why Socrates created it!(I just re-read the dialogue to check).

    It does not matter how many theologians have said this, if it does not resolve or bypass the ED, then it does not. What you or anyone has to do is provide an referentially transparent and coherent definition. The ED can be applied to any definition (with or without a deity) of the type that you have presented.

  133. Tony Hoffman says:

    FG (et al.), I was about to ask a (probably stupid) question but I think I might have the answer so I’ll just throw it out there and see what you (and the others) think.

    If I understand you correctly we can see how the ED can be used to “cut to the chase” on definitions. For instance, if I think about the buffalo, and the property of hairiness I could use an ED-styled construction like this:

    “Is the buffalo hairy because it has hair, or are things hairy because they’re like a buffalo?”

    I think that we see there that the answer is the first horn – we can imagine a shaved or hairless buffalo (not that we’d want to). And maybe more importantly, we understand that hairiness is an attribute that is not exclusive to buffalo.

    If I’m about right then thank you for helping me understand the ED a lot better. And if, (more likely), I’m mangling the logic and/or misapplying the ED, I’d like to know what I’m doing wrong.

    The reason I bring this up is because it’s been nagging at me that while I find the Christian solution to the ED to be so unsatisfying I was also wresting with other, unrelated instances where it would not have the same result. In other words, if my example above, the ED is not just a universal acid that shows the hoplessness of all definitions, just the few problematic ones.

  134. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tony

    In other words, if my example above, the ED is not just a universal acid that shows the hoplessness of all definitions, just the few problematic ones.

    If ED was a universal acid it would be a useless device. It focuses on showing what the problems are with a certain type of definition – certain pseudo-definitions that look like definitions but are not (whether it can handle all members of this class I do not know).

    I think there is some cross-purpose traffic going on since I look at the original dialogue as having implications about defining values in general – the fact that it happens to be about piety and its relation to the gods or, here, about moral goodness and God, is, in this sense incidental. Of course to our opponents here the relation with respect to God is crucial, I guess.

    With all due respect, not sure your hairy/buffalo example was a good one, unclear as it was. Apart from anything else hairiness could be an inherent property we are talking about values which are not and can not be an inherent property.

    It does no good (sic) to assert that a non-inherent property is an inherent property and fail to describe what that inherent property is and/or to let it be described in a circular fashion. It is certainly that type of pseudo-definition that fails the ED challange as I keep on pointing out here.

    The ED applies to any value definition done in terms of inherent properties of objects whether possessed by the gods, genes, human nature or society for example. It shows that on one horn there is no reason for the definition – it is arbitrary – and on the other – that a reason and so proper definition must be found elsewhere.

  135. SteveK says:

    Tony:

    For instance, if I think about the buffalo, and the property of hairiness I could use an ED-styled construction like this:

    “Is the buffalo hairy because it has hair, or are things hairy because they’re like a buffalo?”

    In case you were wondering, this is where I was going with my adaptation argument wrt logic.

    ============

    Fg,

    With all due respect, not sure your hairy/buffalo example was a good one, unclear as it was. Apart from anything else hairiness could be an inherent property we are talking about values which are not and can not be an inherent property.

    What do you mean when you say X is an inherent property? In what way is hairy-ness an inherent property that good-ness is not? Inherent property of what, exactly?

  136. faithlessgod says:

    Hi SteveK

    What do you mean when you say X is an inherent property? In what way is hairy-ness an inherent property that good-ness is not? Inherent property of what, exactly?

    Hairiness is the type of thing the could be an inherent property of an object, in this case the objects being species like buffalo, other mammals and so on. Goodness like any other value is not the type of thing that could be the inherent property of object.

    This is Socrates “carrying argument” that led to the formation of the ED to demonstrate that point, amongst others.

    I think we struggle understanding the third option, but that difficulty should not mean the option is not a real and viable option.

    That is what is being debated here. If there are three supposed options maybe someone could present the three horns of the trilemma – with the unproblematic third horn – for one of their definitions of moral goodness and we can see if there are really are three options or not.

    Especially in light of divine revelation, which as you pointed out, has been understood this way for centuries.

    This is completely irrelevant to the debate at hand.

  137. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,

    Okay so now you are both saying that in God’s nature one of its attributes is goodness?

    Not just now, but all along.

    This completely fails as definition of moral goodness as the ED is designed to demonstrate.

    Whatever ED was designed to do, it does not cause the failure of this definition.

    “Is moral good identical with the attribute called ‘moral goodness’ in God’s nature or not?”

    Here you are causing a problem where none exists by conflating two things. Yes, God’s goodness is identical to God’s goodness. But your question implies two different views of moral goodness, then eradicates that difference in order to make the definition a mere restatement.
    The moral good, as pertains to a moral agent, God’s subject, refers to that agent’s obligation to act/think in accordance with the eternal standard of goodness. This standard is an attribute of God’s nature. An action is good, a person is good, a thought is good, as determined by its measure against this standard. The standard is coeternal with God and is an attribute of it which is to say it is identical to God’s nature as His nature pertains to moral goodness.

    If one says yes one has failed to give a definition of moral good, that is one is none the wiser as to what moral goodness means.

    As you can see, one is the wiser. He knows that moral goodness does not mean, for instance “brings the most happiness” or “was for the greatest common good” or “is what I say it is” or “helped the species survive” or “is different for everyone” or “is arbitrarily determined by a capricious god”, etc.

    And you have failed to address the key point (the “carrying” argument) that moral goodness is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property of anything, let alone a god.

    I’ve ignored this because you said you wanted only to talk about the ED and have not shown me that this has anything to do with it. Where did Socrates claim this in the ED, how does he demonstrate it and how do you defend it? I’ve seen nothing to make me accept it as part of the ED, let along believe it to be true.
    Since we are talking about God, and in the conception of God goodness is just the kind of thing that can be an attribute of His essential character (an “inherent property”) then that God can be the ground of moral goodness.

    It does not matter how many theologians have said this, if it does not resolve or bypass the ED, then it does not.

    Too right. And the fact that it does solve the problem means it matters not if even just one theologian have said this (even if he weren’t as great a thinker as Augustine or Aquinas or a professor of philosophy as are others who say it) or even how long ago Socrates made the argument.

  138. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Charlie

    Yes, God’s goodness is identical to God’s goodness/

    The question is is moral goodness identical to God’s goodness, you can’t assume what you are trying to prove. You could show that if we know what God’s goodness is then there would at least a referentially transparent definition. You have offered none. You have nothing but circular and arbitrary reasons or no real reason, what ED is meant to show. It looks like a definition but is not.

    But your question implies two different views of moral goodness, then eradicates that difference in order to make the definition a mere restatement.

    My complaint is that you are indeed offering a restatement and providing no clarity on the meaning. You have separated out reference from meaning, substituting opacity for clarity.

    The moral good, as pertains to a moral agent, God’s subject, refers to that agent’s obligation to act/think in accordance with the eternal standard of goodness.

    Therefore this “obligation” is not itself an attribute of God’s nature. You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”.

    This standard is an attribute of God’s nature.

    This is entirely opaque, unlike Euthyphro you have failed to even state what this atribute is.

    So you have provided no “is” nor no “ought”.

    An action is good, a person is good, a thought is good, as determined by its measure against this standard.

    A standard is not the type of thing that could be an attribute of an being. One can say what this being does sets the standard for X, it is an exemplar of X, the only one. However that is a stipulation which is in need of justification or reason and it is the stipulation which states the standard not the being to which it refers, the standard is not in the being itself.And you cannot provide any non-circular non-arbitrary justification.

    The standard is coeternal with God and is an attribute of it which is to say it is identical to God’s nature as His nature pertains to moral goodness.

    You could just as easily say that moral evil is coeternal with God and is an attribute of it which is identical to God’s nature as pertains moral evil.

    Both definitions are arbitrary as you can provide no justificatory grounds ot differentiate these claims.

    These various points are related to the ED in that the ED shows you have failed to provide a non-arbitrary transparent coherent definition of moral good. Now as to whether such a definition is correct or not that is another question. However until you can provide a transparent coherent non-arbitrary definition there is no possibility of establishing its correctness.

    Your solution fails to avoid the challenge of ED.

  139. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,

    The question is is moral goodness identical to God’s goodness, you can’t assume what you are trying to prove.

    You haven’t changed this question at all.
    The moral goodness that is identical to God’s goodness is God’s moral goodness. There is nothing to prove here. We cannot even be talking about two different things here when you phrase it like this as this is but affirming that when we say that God is good we are saying that His goodness is the eternal standard and that it is inseparable from Him.
    This is not the definition, but is necessary for the definition.

    You have nothing but circular and arbitrary reasons or no real reason, what ED is meant to show.

    You keep saying this but this means nothing. I have plenty of reasons and real ones at that.
    We noted this previously:

    So your concern here, I presume, is not the dilemma, but that you think I have no justifying reason to define good as an eternal attribute of the perfectly holy God?

    I will take this as what you want to discuss of the dilemma, but this is not the dilemma.

    But you are not asking for reasons and we are not discussing reasons. All we are doing is discussing the defeated ED.
    It is defeated in every formulation that you have provided, including your last:

    “Is it good because it conforms with god’s nature or does it conform with god’s nature because it is good.”

    I said then, but I see by our points at the beginning of this comment that I’ll need more now:

    Goodness itself is of God’s nature – it is an eternal, necessary, non-arbitrary, attribute of it.

    So here we have the point that God is good. He is eternally and necessarily so, as opposed to arbitrarily. But you’ve removed the horn of caprice so we can move on from there. By your latest comments I am going to glean now that what you really want to know is something akin to this: is the goodness recognized in an act or thought of a moral agent (one of the things you refer to as moral goodness) identical to the goodness of God’s nature (the other thing you refer to as moral goodness)?
    The answer to this, if I’ve rephrased your concern properly, is “no”. The agent is recognized and affirmed as moral, or his action or thought is, by comparison to the standard of goodness, which is an attribute of God’s nature.

    But I think you understand this as we move through your comment to the discussion of obligations.

    Therefore this “obligation” is not itself an attribute of God’s nature. You can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”.

    I don’t know what the ought/is divide has to do with this, but no, my obligation to act is not an attribute of God’s nature.
    (As I reread this I think I’ll amend it – although neither is relevant to ED.
    I think, with regards to many moral obligations, I find that the obligation is fundamental. As the moral law is an essential law of the universe, as are the laws of physics and logic, I find that obligation is an attribute of, at least, Creation. But that will take some unpacking and untying not necessary for our encounter here.)

    A standard is not the type of thing that could be an attribute of an being.

    You keep making these assertions about what can and cannot be attributes.
    Why can God’s goodness not be an attribute of His?
    Why can this goodness not be the standard by which the actions of moral agents are deemed good?
    Oh wait … it seems you agree.?

    One can say what this being does sets the standard for X, it is an exemplar of X, the only one.

    But maybe not quite as you continue (aside: note that what this Being does is determined by what this Being is, so it is His being, not His action, determining the standard)…

    However that is a stipulation which is in need of justification or reason and it is the stipulation which states the standard not the being to which it refers, the standard is not in the being itself.And you cannot provide any non-circular non-arbitrary justification.

    You say the standard is not in the Being itself but I can see no reason for this assertion. I could use analogies to demonstrate that an attribute can be standard but that seems so unnecessary and may only muddy the waters.
    Obviously, your real concern here is what I noted in the comment referenced above, and that goes to the rationale and justification.
    So let us gather again.
    The good is neither determined arbitrarily by God’s love of an action, nor is it determined by some standard outside of God.
    The dilemma is dead.
    Why is it dead? Because the standard of goodness is God, He is the source of goodness and is the paradigm and standard of goodness by which the other actions are measured.
    He is not entirely identical with goodness, for God is even more than this, but His goodness, and thus, the standard by which moral actions are determined, is essentially and inseparably part of His necessary nature.
    There is nothing in here of the caprice or lack of sovereignty implied in choosing either horn of the dilemma.

    So once again “arbitrariness”, although it was irrelevant and dead, it is applied back upon me as thought this returns us to the dilemma because my reasons for asserting or believing this are deemed unfit or non-existent.
    They are not, of course, but they are irrelevant to the above death of the dilemma.

    If you want, for some reason, to move on to discussing what the elements of that nature are, or want to know what the standard entails we can do so. But know that we are no longer discussing ED.

    You could just as easily say that moral evil is coeternal with God and is an attribute of it which is identical to God’s nature as pertains moral evil

    No, you could not do this. God is necessarily good, not evil. If moral evil is coeternal with God we cannot even have this discussion.

    Note as well that you were asked and reminded that we are not discussing the pantheon or some demiurge, we are discussing God (thus the proper pronoun). So theology, as well as philosophy, tells us we can’t say just as easily that moral evil is coeternal with God.

    But now you are attempting to argue philosophical matters far beyond Socrates and hapless Euthyphro.

    If you want to abandon your claims to ED and do so we can.

    Both definitions are arbitrary as you can provide no justificatory grounds ot differentiate these claims.

    Your certainty about what I can or cannot do with regards to irrelevant matters seems a little … arbitrary.

    These various points are related to the ED in that the ED shows you have failed to provide a non-arbitrary transparent coherent definition of moral good

    You’ve included many adjectives in your description of what ED requires, but ED has shown none of the above.

    Your solution fails to avoid the challenge of ED.

    I think this is correct. It meets it head-on and defeats it.

    Your remaining challenge has reduced to describing God, giving reasons to believe He is good, and, probably at the bottom of all that, proving to you that He exists.
    Euthyphro is useless to this endeavour and might as well be dropped. Your questions stand on their own and owe nothing to the cover of Euthyphro which no longer applies. Euthyphro, as you guys like to say, adds no information.

  140. Tony Hoffman says:

    Charlie,

    You keep saying this [that your reasons are circular and arbitrary] but this means nothing.

    But you definitions do appear circular and/or arbitrary, and this does mean something about your claim to defining goodness and/or solving the ED.

    Goodness itself is of God’s nature – it is an eternal, necessary, non-arbitrary, attribute of it.

    This is still either arbitrary in that God’s nature is determined to be good without reference to anything else.

    I don’t know what the ought/is divide has to do with this, but no, my obligation to act is not an attribute of God’s nature.

    The obligation to conform to obey God’s nature is a moral one – why “ought” we conform to God’s nature? It would appear that the only way one ought to conform to God’s nature is the source of all morality, which you say is God’s nature. That’s both circular, and arbitrary.

    You say the standard is not in the Being itself but I can see no reason for this assertion.

    The reason the standard cannot be in the Being itself is because the standard would thus be arbitrary, and you are claiming to avoid both horns. We have no reason to think that God’s nature is good (besides throwing up our hands and declaring “it is good”) even if it could be, somehow, determined that God is the source for the good as well.

    The good is neither determined arbitrarily by God’s love of an action, nor is it determined by some standard outside of God.
    The dilemma is dead.

    I think the dilemma is both very, very good, and still alive (truly I’m coming to appreciate this thing in a number of new ways). It’s a classic, and even if Socrates didn’t predict all of these arguments it appears that his dilemma is more than capable of withstanding these new reformulations.

    Because the standard of goodness is God, He is the source of goodness and is the paradigm and standard of goodness by which the other actions are measured.

    This is the second horn again. That you hold God would not ever change his mind is only a component of what makes the second horn arbitrary. But it remains arbitrary because the only one determining what is good is God. With your statement above you have not resolved the dilemma, but declared yourself attached to the second horn. (I think this is the horn that’s most problematic for those who claim to have solved the ED, but I believe it’s still there.)

    But know that we are no longer discussing ED.

    I think that you and others are picking up where Euthyphro left off, and that the arguments you give still run afoul of the ED. (Although I, for one, find nothing particularly unlikable about the first horn, and hardly consider it a horn myself.)

    No, you could not do this. God is necessarily good, not evil. If moral evil is coeternal with God we cannot even have this discussion.

    I don’t’ see why this would necessarily be the case.

    If you want to abandon your claims to ED and do so we can.

    And you are welcome to relinquish yours anytime as well. But if we feel that you are completely failing to resolve the issues of circularity and/or arbitrariness in your sol-called solution to the ED why would we want to abandon valid claims in favor of what we think are invalid ones?

    I am certain that we should not move on because I see no validity to the Christian claims of having found a solution to the problems of the ED, and to do so would imply that the solutions you (and others) have offered here are valid.

    I have a feeling that this post may have run its course. I have enjoyed it quite a bit, however.

  141. faithlessgod says:

    Charlie and Tony

    I will try and cover ground not already answered by Tony although he has done a good job demolishing your position.

    The challenge to Euthyphro by Socrates was for an at least sound (that is transparent and coherent) definition of “moral goodness” (in our case) and Socrates formulated the ED to demonstrate the poverty of the preferred definition – to show that it fails as a definition.

    The response here seems to have been to deal with the problems of an opaque and incoherent definition that lacks anything but arbitrary and circular reasons, that is no real reasons, by presenting a more opaque and incoherent definition and asserting, without foundation, this solves the challenge, which displays a (technical) ignorance of the problem rather than a novel resolution of the ED and is a very bizarre method of argument and one that blatantly fails.

    Your certainty about what I can or cannot do with regards to irrelevant matters seems a little … arbitrary.

    The certainty is of the only kind that is possible, logical, and it is not irrelevant and I have given reasons and argument, it is certainly not arbitrary (correctness is another issue but you have not met that challenge). As usual making an assertion without foundation is… an assertion without foundation. Nothing to see here.

    But you are not asking for reasons and we are not discussing reasons. All we are doing is discussing the defeated ED.

    The ED has not been defeated and the ED is all about reasons. We are discussing reasons, your answer can provide no real reason why it is a valid definition and that is what the ED is designed to show.

    “Your solution fails to avoid the challenge of ED.”

    I think this is correct. It meets it head-on and defeats it.

    Your reasoning is quite unsound and invalid to come up with that conclusion using my statement as a premise. From other points you have made I think you are far better than that.

    So theology, as well as philosophy, tells us we can’t say just as easily that moral evil is coeternal with God.

    This is quite irrelevant to the point I made over “moral evil”. Since I thought it was you who wanted to avoid going beyond the ED question, on what basis can you can you invoke this in answer to my “moral evil” point> Regardless if you ado and you have, your argument is still viciously ciruclar and fails, indeed, to repeat, as the ED is designed to show.

    Your remaining challenge has reduced to describing God, giving reasons to believe He is good, and, probably at the bottom of all that, proving to you that He exists.

    If you cannot give any reason that he is good then we have no reason to beleive that he is good and any claim you make that he is, by definition, arbitrary.

    We are not debating the existence of the gods, this is not relevant to this discussion, it is stipulated that there is some god for which it might be possible that it could pass the ED challenge. As to what that god is that is another question, to defeat the ED is only to establish the possibility of good being determined by a god. It is this that you have failed to do.

    Similarly to me accepting that there could be a resolution of this dilemma, in order charitably engage in this debate, you have to also have to not presuppose your answer and allow the possibility that you cannot resolve it but to reason towards it. However all your arguments seems to presuppose your answer and are viciously circular and so arbitrary in this context.

    There is not much more to say that Tony has not already dealt with. Unless you can provide a transparent coherent definition of moral goodness, which you have failed to date, we are all none the wiser as to what your “moral goodness” means and the ED is used to demonstrate that this is not a real definition, which it more than adequately does in your case.

    Tony said:

    I have a feeling that this post may have run its course. I have enjoyed it quite a bit, however.

    I agree to all this. I do appreciate your attempts, Charlie (and Tom), to answer our questions even though both Tony and I, as would any unbiased observer, agree your attempts have failed. Like Tony this has increase my understanding and appreciation for the power of the ED.

    Thank you.

  142. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,

    But you definitions do appear circular and/or arbitrary, and this does mean something about your claim to defining goodness and/or solving the ED.

    You can’t just say this, you have to show it.
    On the other hand, ALL definitions are circular in a sense and arbitrary in a sense. At the very least they are self-referential in the sense that they use a common language and expect readers to know that language, and the referents contained, etc.
    For example, define dog. Why, it’s a carnivorous mammal. That presumes knowledge of carnivores and mammals, as well as the ability to read and understand the words. But it’s a member of Canis whateveritis. This tells you nothing and is merely circular. Well, it’s a canidae like a wolf or a jackal. This tells you nothing but gives examples and a points to another circular term.
    Yes, all definitions presume some knowledge. We presume you already know something about God and have some examples and a sense of goodness.

    This is still either arbitrary in that God’s nature is determined to be good without reference to anything else.

    God’s goodness is demonstrated by pilosophical reasoning, common experience and His own revelation.

    The obligation to conform to obey God’s nature is a moral one – why “ought” we conform to God’s nature?

    There are several reasons and there are different degrees of obligation. The lowest level is that we are obligated to obey the laws of nature, as we are the laws of physics and logic – we are obligated to behave consistent with the nature of the universe . Ultimately, however, and since this is difficult to demonstrate and since we can do so without it (thus, it was an aside note above) this comes down to God’s will and nature and relies upon the same justification of the greatest obligations – it pleases God, and He demands/commands it.
    Of course if I leave it at that we will waste one more round of comments as you will claim that that puts us back on the horn of caprice, which it doesn’t. God does not demand or command or find pleasure arbitrarily, but in keeping with the necessary, eternal, perfectly good attribute of His nature in which we find our standard.
    Two horns, two failures, no waiting.
    1) It is not arbitrary as it could not have been otherwise.
    2) There is no standard for goodness outside of God to which we, or He, must appeal. The “good” has no existence beyond God, so there is no explanation for which God is a superfluous intermediary.

    The reason the standard cannot be in the Being itself is because the standard would thus be arbitrary, and you are claiming to avoid both horns

    No, that offers no reason.

    We have no reason to think that God’s nature is good (besides throwing up our hands and declaring “it is good”) even if it could be, somehow, determined that God is the source for the good as well.

    Yes we have. we have many. It is a toss of the hands to keep asserting that we haven’t.

    I think the dilemma is both very, very good, and still alive (truly I’m coming to appreciate this thing in a number of new ways). It’s a classic, and even if Socrates didn’t predict all of these arguments it appears that his dilemma is more than capable of withstanding these new reformulations.

    No, it clearly fails and has from Tom’s first answer on this thread. Not one defence of the dilemma has touched the responses we’ve provided.

    This is the second horn again

    False. It is not arbitrary but in keeping with the ground of all goodness and the nature of the Creator of all reality.

    But it remains arbitrary because the only one determining what is good is God.

    That which determine what is good is always going to be only one thing. God is the only plausible thing capable of doing so and couldn’t have been otherwise.
    Your argument against the ground of morality in Christian theism is reducing to “there is no good and cannot be”. We will then be agreed on one point – without God there is no good.

    I don’t’ see why this would necessarily be the case.

    You can look it up if you like. So far I hope we don;t have to go this far off the rails to demonstrate that we are not talking about the ED at this point.

    And you are welcome to relinquish yours anytime as well

    And so’s my mamma.
    If you don’t want to discuss the ED, which is defeated, and pursue questions about the various attributes of God, examples of the good, why God is the necessary Being and what this means, why we can’t trust reason under a demiurge, etc., then we can. But these are not necessary and I’m not that interested in moving on when the ED is already defeated.

    I am certain that we should not move on because I see no validity to the Christian claims of having found a solution to the problems of the ED, and to do so would imply that the solutions you (and others) have offered here are valid.

    I have a feeling that this post may have run its course. I have enjoyed it quite a bit, however.

    I too am certain we ought not move on but you guys continue to make the attempt. You say to move on would be to imply our argument has worked, and I say it is a proof that our argument has held. And the fact that you guys keep tryign to move on demonstrates this.

  143. Charlie says:

    Hi Tony,

    But you definitions do appear circular and/or arbitrary, and this does mean something about your claim to defining goodness and/or solving the ED.

    You can’t just say this, you have to show it.
    On the other hand, ALL definitions are circular in a sense and arbitrary in a sense. At the very least they are self-referential in the sense that they use a common language and expect readers to know that language, and the referents contained, etc.
    For example, define dog. Why, it’s a carnivorous mammal. That presumes knowledge of carnivores and mammals, as well as the ability to read and understand the words. But it’s a member of Canis whateveritis. This tells you nothing and is merely circular. Well, it’s a canidae like a wolf or a jackal. This tells you nothing but gives examples and a points to another circular term.
    Yes, all definitions presume some knowledge. We presume you already know something about God and have some examples and a sense of goodness.

    This is still either arbitrary in that God’s nature is determined to be good without reference to anything else.

    God’s goodness is demonstrated by pilosophical reasoning, common experience and His own revelation.

    The obligation to conform to obey God’s nature is a moral one – why “ought” we conform to God’s nature?

    There are several reasons and there are different degrees of obligation. The lowest level is that we are obligated to obey the laws of nature, as we are the laws of physics and logic – we are obligated to behave consistent with the nature of the universe . Ultimately, however, and since this is difficult to demonstrate and since we can do so without it (thus, it was an aside note above) this comes down to God’s will and nature and relies upon the same justification of the greatest obligations – it pleases God, and He demands/commands it.
    Of course if I leave it at that we will waste one more round of comments as you will claim that that puts us back on the horn of caprice, which it doesn’t. God does not demand or command or find pleasure arbitrarily, but in keeping with the necessary, eternal, perfectly good attribute of His nature in which we find our standard.

    The reason the standard cannot be in the Being itself is because the standard would thus be arbitrary, and you are claiming to avoid both horns

    No, that offers no reason.

    We have no reason to think that God’s nature is good (besides throwing up our hands and declaring “it is good”) even if it could be, somehow, determined that God is the source for the good as well.

    Yes we have. we have many. It is a toss of the hands to keep asserting that we haven’t.

    I think the dilemma is both very, very good, and still alive (truly I’m coming to appreciate this thing in a number of new ways). It’s a classic, and even if Socrates didn’t predict all of these arguments it appears that his dilemma is more than capable of withstanding these new reformulations.

    No, it clearly fails and has from Tom’s first answer on this thread. Not one defence of the dilemma has touched the responses we’ve provided.

    This is the second horn again

    False. It is not arbitrary but in keeping with the ground of all goodness and the nature of the Creator of all reality.

    But it remains arbitrary because the only one determining what is good is God.

    That which determine what is good is always going to be only one thing. God is the only plausible thing capable of doing so and couldn’t have been otherwise.
    Your argument against the ground of morality in Christian theism is reducing to “there is no good and cannot be”. We will then be agreed on one point – without God there is no good.

    I don’t’ see why this would necessarily be the case.

    You can look it up if you like. So far I hope we don;t have to go this far off the rails to demonstrate that we are not talking about the ED at this point.

    And you are welcome to relinquish yours anytime as well

    Yeah, I know, and so’s my mamma.
    If you don’t want to discuss the ED, which is defeated, and pursue questions about the various attributes of God, examples of the good, why God is the necessary Being and what this means, why we can’t trust reason under a demiurge, etc., then we can. But these are not necessary and I’m not that interested in moving on when the ED is already defeated.

    I am certain that we should not move on because I see no validity to the Christian claims of having found a solution to the problems of the ED, and to do so would imply that the solutions you (and others) have offered here are valid.

    I have a feeling that this post may have run its course. I have enjoyed it quite a bit, however.

    I’m glad you’ve found certainty. I too am certain we ought not move on but you guys continue to make the attempt.

  144. MedicineMan says:

    Not that I’m expecting an answer, but…

    For the skeptics, what is a “non-arbitrary explanatorily transparent definition of good”? I.e, please define good in a way that meets this criteria. I presume that not only can it be done, but that you already know such a definition.

  145. faithlessgod says:

    Charlie

    “But you definitions do appear circular and/or arbitrary, and this does mean something about your claim to defining goodness and/or solving the ED.”

    You can’t just say this, you have to show it.

    We have repeatedly, for example in your latest comment:

    God’s goodness is demonstrated by pilosophical reasoning, common experience and His own revelation.

    You cannot employ his own Revelation in your argument with it being viciously circular.

    Note a virtuous circularity nor the fact that ultimately the assignment of linguistic terms to features is trivially arbitrary, is not what is meant by circular and arbitary here and to highlight this, as in your last comment, is equivocation.

    Your argument against the ground of morality in Christian theism is reducing to “there is no good and cannot be”. We will then be agreed on one point – without God there is no good.

    Neither Tony nor I have made such an argument, nor, IIRC given what we have said, can your inference drawn nor your conclusion be made.

    If you don’t want to discuss the ED, which is defeated, and pursue questions about the various attributes of God, examples of the good, why God is the necessary Being and what this means, why we can’t trust reason under a demiurge, etc., then we can. But these are not necessary and I’m not that interested in moving on when the ED is already defeated.

    Still waiting to see what this claimed defeat of the ED is. The reason I do not wish to carry this on is that this is getting tedious and repetitive. Until you provide a transparent definition of good, which necessarily requires to you show what and how an attribute of God could be meaningfully defined morally good, you have no case.

    I too am certain we ought not move on but you guys continue to make the attempt.

    Only because you have failed to make a case and there is no indication that this will change.

  146. faithlessgod says:

    Charlie one final point (in the hope that this conversation can progress).

    “The reason the standard cannot be in the Being itself is because the standard would thus be arbitrary, and you are claiming to avoid both horns”

    No, that offers no reason.

    If you think that any value based standard can be an attribute of a being, any being, at the very least demonstrate that possibility by using an argument for analogy or equivalent. I would be very interested to see what you can come up with.

  147. SteveK says:

    fg,

    You cannot employ his own Revelation in your argument with[out] it being viciously circular.

    External objects ‘reveal’ themselves to us, not with words, but in the way they inform our senses. Is it circular to refer to this ‘revelation’ as the means through which you came to know the object was in fact the object?

  148. Charlie says:

    Hi MM:

    Not that I’m expecting an answer, but…
For the skeptics, what is a “non-arbitrary explanatorily transparent definition of good”? I.e, please define good in a way that meets this criteria. I presume that not only can it be done, but that you already know such a definition.

    I was wondering if this question was worth asking myself.


    I already answered it by allusion earlier, so here are some options. Goodness is: 1) that which increases happiness 2) that which maximizes pleasure 3) that which helps the species survive 4) that which our society approves 5) that which the individual approves 6) that which most people would say is good 7) that which is for the common good. etc.

    ====

    Hi fg,

    I will try and cover ground not already answered by Tony although he has done a good job demolishing your position.

    He has? That’s news to me. But good information, I guess.

    which displays a (technical) ignorance of the problem rather than a novel resolution of the ED and is a very bizarre method of argument and one that blatantly fails.

    Ignorant, bizarre and a blatant failure; the level of discourse is improving by the moment.
    Since I’ve take your latest and best iteration (along with all the rest of them) of the dilemma and demonstrated plainly that it does not apply this paragraph falls on deaf ears.



    We are discussing reasons, your answer can provide no real reason why it is a valid definition and that is what the ED is designed to show.

    It can indeed. It defines the thing in question, illuminates its essence, and is unaffected by the dilemma created by Euthyphro’s definition.


    as philosophy, tells us we can’t say just as easily that moral evil is coeternal with God.

    

This is quite irrelevant to the point I made over “moral evil”. Since I thought it was you who wanted to avoid going beyond the ED question, on what basis can you can you invoke this in answer to my “moral evil” point

    You are going beyond the ED to raise the issue. You are supposed to be answering with regard to the God that we are positing when we answer Socrates’ question and that God, described by the Christian who answers the question, cannot just as easily be considered evil.

    If you cannot give any reason that he is good then we have no reason to beleive that he is good and any claim you make that he is, by definition, arbitrary.

    The reasons are myriad and they are unnecessary to show that the dilemma has failed to dent the definition.

    
As to what that god is that is another question, to defeat the ED is only to establish the possibility of good being determined by a god. It is this that you have failed to do.

    Sentence one, correct – sort of.
    Sentence two, incorrect.
    Overall, all Socrates did vis the ED was show that the definition “the good is that which is loved by the gods” is actually a self-contradicting statement. It did nothing to demonstrate, or even question, whether or not a god, much less God, can be the determiner of good.
    



    There is not much more to say that Tony has not already dealt with.

    Good, because, contra your assessment, Tony didn’t dent my case, let alone demolish it.

    I agree to all this. I do appreciate your attempts, Charlie (and Tom), to answer our questions even though both Tony and I, as would any unbiased observer, agree your attempts have failed.

    The appeal to the unbiased observer gambit is unimpressive. I bet about ten times as many observers would agree with me. But I lack the clairvoyance to assure this.

    Like Tony this has increase my understanding and appreciation for the power of the ED. 
Thank you.

    You are very welcome. 


    .

.



    You cannot employ his own Revelation in your argument with it being viciously circular.

    Yes, you actually can employ His revelation to prove His goodness and no, it is not viciously circular. It could only be circular if you were to presume I was using His Revelation to prove He exists, or if I were using His revelation to prove His revelation. I am not. God testifies to His own attributes and we can point to this to demonstrate that God has these attributes as described.

    Socrates and Euthyphro say nothing about this and, in fact, Socrates was more than willing to take, for the sake of argument (as you have to if you want to challenge this case) the existence of the gods and man’s ability to know them as factual. As you are challenging not God’s existence but His utility, if He exists, as the ground for morality you have to accept for the sake of argument His existence. If you are going to talk about God, and not some other concoction, you have to accept the Christian God as portrayed by Christianity when we appeal to Him as the ground of morality. And that God has revealed Himself as the Creator of all being, the Lord and Sovereign over all Creation, and as eternally good. He has also shown us much of what it means that He is good and what our obligations are with regard to this goodness.

    
Your argument against the ground of morality in Christian theism is reducing to “there is no good and cannot be”. We will then be agreed on one point – without God there is no good.

    

Neither Tony nor I have made such an argument, nor, IIRC given what we have said, can your inference drawn nor your conclusion be made.

    Whatever you recall you are not the arbiter of what can be inferred or concluded. Tony said that the fact that I am referring to only God as the determiner of the good makes the position invalid.

    But it remains arbitrary because the only one determining what is good is God

    But, as I explained in the passage you are quoting, it is impossible that good exists without there being something which is the only determiner of the good. If this were a valid complaint against referring to God then it would be a valid complaint against ay referent, and would mean that there can be no good. 


    
Still waiting to see what this claimed defeat of the ED is.

    So you’ve said. But you’ve seen it a hundred times.
    Luckily, I have no problem repeating it for the hundred and first.
    Euthyphro’s definition was shown to create a contradiction whereby it implied two separate and contrary things – thus the dilemma.
    Our definition of good, does no such thing.
    Euthyphro’s gave what amounted only to a possible attribute of goodness.
    Ours doesn’t – it provides its essence.
    Euthyphro could really only give examples of what was good.
    Examples are irrelevant to my case.

    The reason I do not wish to carry this on is that this is getting tedious and repetitive.

    It certainly is – which is why my predecessors on this thread chose to attend to more important things long ago.

  149. faithlessgod says:

    Charlie

    Overall, all Socrates did vis the ED was show that the definition “the good is that which is loved by the gods” is actually a self-contradicting statement.

    No it was to show that such a definition lacked a transparent reason – which is required for any value definition – hence it was not a definition.

    The reasons are myriad and they are unnecessary to show that the dilemma has failed to dent the definition.

    The ED is designed to that a reason, that is required for a value definition, was lacking. You are now admitting that there is no reason in your definition, your case is lost QED

  150. MedicineMan says:

    Charlie,

    Unless there is some acceptable definition for good that’s “non-arbitrary [and] explanatorily transparent”, then the whole argument being presented against our answer to the so-called dilemma turns into a sort of koan. That’s one reason I’m not expecting an answer. I would think those who see ED as so useful should have a solution for their own views. If they don’t, then all they’re really doing is asking nonsense questions. If their own question can’t be answered on their own terms, then it’s just a philosophical filibuster.

    I’d also be interested to see how logic fares against this version of the ED, again according to this standard which has been insisted on. That’s already been brought up, but answering it was avoided like the plague (surprise, surprise).

    There’s also no intractable problem in defining things in relationship to God. It’s the same kind of logical progression you get with the Cosmological argument: there has to be a start to the chain somewhere. Every definition, as you said, is dependent on other definitions. At some point, you have to have something to anchor them to, somewhere to stop the regression, or everything’s arguing in a circle.

    It might help if you (re)ask the question about providing a “non-arbitrary explanatorily transparent” definition of good, because that would sidestep the other reason I wasn’t expecting an answer. Don’t be shocked if the answer amounts to, “I don’t have to”.

  151. SteveK says:

    MM

    I’d also be interested to see how logic fares against this version of the ED, again according to this standard which has been insisted on. That’s already been brought up, but answering it was avoided like the plague (surprise, surprise).

    I tried, but nobody was interested. Perhaps in another post. I’m not sure how it would fare, but I’d genuinely like to hear the arguments on both sides.

  152. Charlie says:

    Hi fg,

    No it was to show that such a definition lacked a transparent reason – which is required for any value definition – hence it was not a definition.

    No, it was to show that the definition given was internally inconsistent. Ours is not. All ours presumes is that people who question whether or not God can be the ground of morality know what they mean when they use words to communicate.

    The ED is designed to that a reason, that is required for a value definition, was lacking. You are now admitting that there is no reason in your definition, your case is lost QED

    QED is used at the and of phrase to show that a proof has been concluded. It loses its impact when it is attached to rhetorical assertions which do not follow from the evidence.

    I’m sorry, but all you are doing in gainsaying the Christian claims about God and morality and cloaking this in the respectable and storied Euthyphro dilemma. But your challenge is not the ED and it does not arise from the ED. There is no dilemma created by our explanation or definition and it falls upon neither horn of the dilemma’s supposed consequences. The definition that a dog is a member of family Canidae is a perfectly good definition and just because you may not know what Canidae is does not mean that we have encountered a dilemma – and particularly not Euthyphro’s.
    And while examples are not definitions, and do not tell you what the essence is of the thing defined there is nothing wrong with pointing to examples to demonstrate the species of things whose essence is given in the definition. If we ever get to the point where it is appropriate to give such examples they will be found in abundance. But of course you already know what they are.
    =====

    Hi MM,
    I suspect as well that “I don’t have to” is the exact answer we would receive.
    This is the end result of all our forays into this hyper-skepticism. As Steve pointed out early on, this kind of naysaying destroys reason (as does the demiurge), logic, and everything else it touches. The arguments used to argue against God here, as elsewhere, destroy everything and we see one of Tony’s objections would do away with “goodness” altogether.
    The ‘non-arbitrary demand’ against the definition is particularly susceptible since, aside from being tautologous, they are also ALL arbitrary. That does not mean they can not be real and do not provide us a means to truth.

  153. Tom Gilson says:

    Tony,

    This is still either arbitrary in that God’s nature is determined to be good without reference to anything else.

    This has been addressed above. Did you miss it? I’ll restate in a different way.

    You say later that if the standard were in God alone, the standard would be arbitrary. What does arbitrary mean in this context, however? In the Euthyphro formulation, “arbitrary” means that God could have chosen any old thing to be good or bad, and that therefore it is logically conceivable that, by God’s command, murder could have been a general good. It means that even tomorrow he could change his mind and make it good, and because there is no definition of good besides God’s decree, then it would be incontestably good.

    This is absurd, we all agree. But what is it that’s objectionable about it? You seem to say that because God is the ultimate test of goodness, and there is nothing against which to test God, then his goodness is “arbitrary.” Note, though, that his goodness is absolutely not arbitrary in the sense that he could have chosen anything at all to be good, or in the sense that he could change his mind about the good later this afternoon. God’s goodness is certainly not arbitrary in that sense, for it is fixed in his nature.

    So if you are tracking with us here, you are left with just one sense in which God’s goodness could be called arbitrary, which is just that there is no higher standard to test God’s goodness, and to agree that it is good.

    Surely you recognize, though, that you are asking for the absurd here. Suppose there were a higher standard than God, competent to declare his goodness really good. What would be the test for that standard? There would have to be a higher standard yet to test the test. And that standard, too, would either stand on its own as “good,” which you seem to find objectionable, or else it too would be subject to some higher standard. And you can see where this must lead. Either the buck stops somewhere, or it stops nowhere but lands in an infinite regress.

    So we theists say the buck stops with God, the only eternal existent, the creator of all that there is. This is not arbitrary; it is quite reasonable and sensible.

    And we theists also say that holding God’s goodness up for judgment, as you seem to want to do, is to rebel against our creator and sovereign. It is to trifle with the infinite majesty of God, even to set ourselves up as gods over God.

    Those who suppose they can judge God’s goodness can expect him to return the favor. He will judge our own relative goodness. And those who rebel against his own goodness should not expect the outcome of that judgment to be favorable. It is the most eternally dangerous thing you can undertake to do.

  154. Tom Gilson says:

    Charlie, because of time constraints I’ve responded to Tony just now without having read your intervening comments. Everything I’ve said is probably redundant to what you wrote, and if so I apologize.

  155. Charlie says:

    Hi Tom,
    I don’t think it is as it is well beyond my responses.
    Thanks for checking back in.

  156. SteveK says:

    Those who suppose they can judge God’s goodness can expect him to return the favor. He will judge our own relative goodness. And those who rebel against his own goodness should not expect the outcome of that judgment to be favorable. It is the most eternally dangerous thing you can undertake to do.

    Well said, Tom. Reminds me of the often-quoted C.S. Lewis:

    “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside. I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man “wishes” to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved just as the blessed, forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”

    The first shall be last and the slave shall be free.

  157. Jacob says:

    Tom Gilson -

    I would love to move beyond the ED myself. It has relevance, but it’s not entirely applicable, and if faults can be found elsewhere, then just as well. And I think that there is one obvious question: how do you know if goodness itself is not arbitrary? I’ll pick up where I left off last time. God is supposed to be perfect and, as I understand it, incapable of being changed, for he is the greatest in all possible aspects. So following up on your possible worlds argument: could there be a world in which the nature of God changes without any loss of goodness? If so, then goodness is not objective but is merely subjective.

    Because God kills and takes away and doesn’t always tell the truth; under different contexts, they would be considered murder, thievery, or lies. We must establish why the greatest good is always being done in each circumstance, and that might be difficult if there are certain aspects of God that cannot be expressed perfectly. He can’t always be just if he’s being merciful, for instance. Or perhaps the concept of justice itself is arbitrary. What is just? God’s nature. But what is God’s nature? Justice? We could also probably establish a similar circular argument for obedience, but there are many issues to deal with, so I’ll stop there. I will agree that it’s difficult to find standards in order to affirm God’s goodness, but we must establish that such things are possible first.

    P.S. Usually I’m very careful with my arguments in order to make sure that they’re air tight, but right now I’m just actively wondering. If there are solutions, I’m genuinely curious to know. I’ve always actually accepted the third argument that the Christians give in response to the ED, so this is the first time I’ve considered the problems with it.

  158. Tony Hoffman says:

    All,

    I feel like Michael Corleone. I try and get out, but I keep getting dragged back in…

    I was waiting to see if FG would address the question about definitions because it was his words you were quoting (although I agree entirely with them) and because I am sure he would do a better job of addressing the question. (It seems similar to what I was wondering above with my buffalo and hairiness question — I think after butting one’s head against the ED for awhile it’s normal to wonder if it doesn’t just make any definition seem inadequate, what it’s limits are, etc. I have been wondering the same thing as we talk about it.)

    Anyway, seeing as how you might misconstrue my lack of reply or a long delay as an indication of disingenousness in this discussion I’ll try my explanation. I’ll say beforehand that I’m not speaking authoritatively here — I’m just trying to piece together an answer to a question I’m wrestling with as well.

    Reading up on the ED the other day I came across these examples (which I’m paraphrasing from memory, so I might get this wrong):

    Ex 1: Do we drive on the right side of the road because that’s the correct side to drive on, or is the right side of the road correct because we chose it?

    Ex 2: Did Einstein declare that E=MC(squared) because it’s correct, or is it correct because Einstein declared it?

    In example 1, the obvious answer is the second horn – our choice to drive on the right side was essentially made because of arbitrary reasons. In example 2, the answer is the first horn – E = MC(squared) independent of Einstein’s first declaring it.

    In both cases we also have to work toward some kind of illumination of the word correct – what is the reason that we chose the answers we did.

    In the first example I would start to define correct to mean “that which a politically decisive group determines is the required course, method, answer, to be followed.” We could refine this, and I think, work out a better, agreed-upon definition . In the second example I would start to define correct as something that is repeatable and that is independent of individual or group caprice – that it would survive experimentation, etc., that it could be used to predict future behaviors, etc.

    My definitions above are not so important – I think it’s obvious that we could reach adequate definitions for the word “correct” as it relates the two dilemma examples I gave above.

    As I understand it “good” is a value, and yet the Christian solution to the ED defies definition of the word “good” in a way that my examples using “correct” do not. It fails to provide a reason for saying what is good – it just says, because it’s good (based on God’s nature, etc.). And I think there’s something odd about the failure to even attempt a definition of good here in the so-called Christian solution. And it’s my guess that it’s because of the Christian discomfort with accepting either horn of the dilemma (which I wouldn’t find so discomfiting, btw — I just disagree with the pronouncements that the ED has been defeated).

  159. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tony

    I have been putting my time on this thread to some positive use and writtne two post. The first is here http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2009/04/socrates-versus-euthyphro.html
    and the second will be published tomorrow.

    You have been very clear in your comments.

    And I think there’s something odd about the failure to even attempt a definition of good here in the so-called Christian solution.

    This is more than odd, it is the whole issue in a nutshell. Ironically IIRC Charlie offered a number of non-theistic definitions that IIRC do pass Euthyphro, that is they are possible definitions of good and one can proceed to see if they can be correct, which is impossible with the invlaid definitions offered by Charlie and Tom(I think they fail this latter question but this is not the issue here)

    Tom:
    I also note that Tom is still addressing what I call the repugnant conclusion in my post, which is a caricature of the dilemma not the dilemma proper.

    Charlie, Tom etc:

    Anyway I am happy to continue this debate further provided they watch the video in my post and deny the conclusion of the Christian in it – be warned he takes the repugnant conclusion of the second horn of the command version quite unabashedly. That is to deny they would do the same based on how their “definition” supports this denial. If they cannot then AFAICS their “definitions” are nothing other than a wolf in sheeps clothing and their arguments a failure to avoid the repugnant conclusion in addition to not being a valid definition.

  160. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod,

    So, where was your non-arbitrary, transparent definition for “good”, which meets whatever standard ours does not? I haven’t seen one in any of your comments, nor in your linked post.

    If you cannot provide a definition for good that meets your own criteria, then your criticism is invalid. At the very least, it’s hypocritical.

    If you’re suggesting that the responses Charlie suggested here are valid, I’d love to hear how.

    Oh, and that video was an absolute train wreck. If you think that’s well-reasoned or well-informed, there are deeper issues at work here.

  161. MedicineMan says:

    Or, to put it another way:

    If you cannot (give the definition of good) then AFAICS your objections are nothing other than a wolf in sheeps clothing and your arguments a failure to avoid the conclusion that there is a valid “third option” which satisfies Euthyphro.

  162. Tom Gilson says:

    @Tony Hoffman:

    It fails to provide a reason for saying what is good – it just says, because it’s good (based on God’s nature, etc.).

    Given a personal, infinite, creator God, what’s the failing with that? What’s wrong with using the foundation of all reality as a basis for understanding some of reality?

    And I think there’s something odd about the failure to even attempt a definition of good here in the so-called Christian solution.

    Ethical good is that which comports with God’s good character, revealed through the Bible. A further explanation would be rather lengthy, but then I think we’ve done some of that already, haven’t we? I could refer you at minimum to the Ten Commandments and the two Great Commandments. They’re not on this thread, but they are on very recent one, and much more explicitly on another very recent one.

  163. MedicineMan says:

    Faithless,

    In regards to the video, anyone who’s bothered to actually read the Bible recognizes those accusations as viciously and embarrassingly ignorant. The first impression that they give is of someone who has not actually read those passages, because the passages themselves don’t say anything of the kind. This person is vomiting back what they’ve swallowed from someone else.

    The verses in Joshua, Deuternonomy, and 1 Samuel are all in the context of warfare, and the same books that describe these events also describe the Israelite’s methods of warfare. In short, they involve clear and repeated warnings about the coming attack, giving civilians plenty of time to flee. Those who stayed behind were the hardest of the hard, and justifiably identified as current or future threats. The nations under attack are profoundly evil – these aren’t sudden sneak attacks on pacifists and poets.

    In regards to Numbers, mention of “rape” is pure skeptical fantasy. There is no mention, hint, or suggestion of such a thing. In fact, Mosaic law required captured women to be treated with an extensive list of rights and protections.

    The video’s use of Psalm 137 is easily the most overt demonstration of total ignorance. The entire chapter is only 9 verses, so in less than 60 seconds, one can see that this is not a command of God by any stretch of the imagination. The Psalm is a lament, and a plea for God to take revenge on Babylon. Since it’s in the voice of the Psalmist, once cannot claim that the words are God’s command. Also, note that the Psalmist is asking for Babylon to be punished with the same actions they perpetrated on Israel, which apparently included smashing infants.

    So right off the bat, this person is operating from willful ignorance. I say willful because five minutes of actual reading would have removed almost all of his accusations. Then again, the video owner is citing a popular atheist, so for him it must be worth swallowing and regurgitating without checking.

    Philosophically, the video is a horrible mess. Given all of the atrocities rationalized by the idea that man is the ultimate measure of morality (e.g. Pol Pot and Stalin), the argument that defining good by God is somehow dangerous runs pretty thin.

    I could replace anything atheists use to define morality and make the same objection this person does about God-based morals – that they’re dangerously susceptible to the justification of “anything”. Let alone the actual question of what is logically consistent with the moral commands of the entity in question. After all, if you want to believe that rape is right, and atheism or naturalism, or whatever gives you the framework to say that there is no real right or wrong, or that rape somehow does not qualify as immoral in your case, then you’ll rape. His attempt to make Christianity sound more “dangerous” than other alternatives is not just shallow, but hypocritical.

    And then we get the cherry on top, that “there is no evidence that Christianity is true”. Right. None at all.

    Faithlessgod, given all of your talk of logic and philosophy, I find it hard to believe that you think there’s anything factually or philosophically worthwhile in that video. Imagine a video where someone says, “Sam Harris says rape is a good thing that he would protect,” or “Richard Dawkins thinks child molestation is good for boys,” and you get an idea of how absurdly sophomoric this person’s comments are.

    Perhaps you can address those failings in “the next post”, along with your non-arbitrary, transparent definition of “good”.

  164. Jacob says:

    Tom Gilson -

    I still hold that goodness is not like, say, knowledge, which is a concrete concept. Goodness merely says how much, and we still need a standard based on actual concepts. I would really appreciate it if you could respond to my previous comment. It would help to know why an act is good when God commands it based on specific, unalterable characteristics.

  165. Tony Hoffman says:

    FG,

    I have enjoyed reading your Scott Pruett posts over the last few days, and I had added your site to my browser. I very much appreciate your insight and engagement on this topic.

    Medicine Man,

    You wrote (to FG):

    So, where was your non-arbitrary, transparent definition for “good”, which meets whatever standard ours does not? I haven’t seen one in any of your comments, nor in your linked post.

    If you cannot provide a definition for good that meets your own criteria, then your criticism is invalid.

    FG had declared he will stop responding to your comments for reasons he described above. I think that your comment buttresses his decision — you are asking for something he never promised, and has nothing to do with the claims made here that Christians have resolved the ED. (I also think that a reading of his comment 159 shows that Charlie’s supplied list is a valid start, so I bet you could use one of those. But that is irrelevant to this discussion, as I will explain below.)

    The claim is that the Christian has resolved the ED. FG and I contend that this does not appear to be true. We are not saying that we have resolved the ED ourselves, and asking us to provide definitions and arguments for a claim we are not making seems like a distraction.

    Tom,

    I see that you have addressed some of my comments in at least one recent comment. It’s getting late, but I will try to reply tomorrow.

    Everyone, I think this has been, and may continue to be a great discussion. I hope that we can all restrain from letting the inevitable prickliness of our antagonistic viewpoints get in the way of the discussion progressing any further.

  166. MedicineMan says:

    Tony,

    If FG wants to act petulantly, that’s his choice. When I noted that he had devolved into (unreasonable) ad hominem, and linked to his comment # 71 where he did so, he responded with a mis-directed lecture about logic. This, after accusing me of letting passion erode my civility. Ignoring the question is still ignoring the question, and others have brought up the same basic idea that I have.

    Whether he promised a response or not is irrelevant. My counter-question is very valid, and if it cannot be answered then all of the objections you and FG have made to our answer to the ED are vacuous. FG clearly stated that, in his opinion, the ED was the reason that religious claims were irrelevant to moral philosophy. See his comment #3. I don’t know what discussion you are following, but I’d say that makes this relevant, and here is why:

    Perhaps, as the conditions have been defined by FG, there is no definition for good in relation to God that suits his oft-repeated requirements. But, if there is no possible definition for good, God or not, as it is approached by FG (and yourself), then this objection fails. The ED cannot be claimed as a valid reason to ignore religious claims on moral philosophy if there is no possible solution for it. An impossible answer makes the ED a koan. Furthermore, FG was very, very explicit (repeatedly so) that the “failure” on our part was to provide a “non-arbitrary, transparent definition”.

    So, if FG cannot provide one, then his claim that ED gives cause to reasonably reject religious claims in moral philosophy is self-defeating. An impossible definition makes every approach invalid, not just religious ones.

    In other words, this is the equivalent of saying, “your system cannot answer question X under conditions Y, so it is irrelevant.” However, if your own system (or any system) can’t do it either, then such an objection is pointless.

    That’s not a distraction. It’s a completely justified and worthwhile question. If you or FG cannot or will not answer it, then perhaps you shouldn’t be quite so impressed with the ED’s supposed impact on these kinds of discussions. Or, you should consider that the solutions presented are more valid than you are giving them credit for.

    If you’re seriously arguing (either to yourself, or here) that any of Charlie’s presumed answers can possibly meet a standard of “non-arbitrary and transparent”, as well as your own objections about circularity, I think you need to consider again.

  167. faithlessgod says:

    Medicine Man

    Ignoring your pathetic bleating with the usual noise, rhetoric and ad hominem in your comments to me, I will addressing the only point of substance, at least there was one:

    Perhaps, as the conditions have been defined by FG, there is no definition for good in relation to God that suits his oft-repeated requirements.

    No these are not my requirements, they were Socrates’ as written by Plato. It is not me who is misinterpreting this dialogue and the resultant dilemma.

    But, if there is no possible definition for good, God or not, as it is approached by FG (and yourself), then this objection fails.

    No all this dilemma shows is that your type of definition is not a valid definition. That is all that is required to show you do not have a case. There have been a few potentially valid definitions (not correct in my view and presumably yours too) mentioned here but none involved God.

    The ED cannot be claimed as a valid reason to ignore religious claims on moral philosophy if there is no possible solution for it.

    Just because you cannot come up with a solution for it does not mean other cant. Some do hold there is no practically correct definitions of moral good e.g. non-cognitivists, I disagree. Regardless, whether there are or are not, does not alter the fact that you have failed the Euthyphro challenge and you have no justification for invoking God to support your moral claims.

    My second post on this is up http://impartialism.blogspot.com/2009/04/god-and-euthyphro.html

    Now unless someone can come up with some new way of dealing wiht this challenge, which does not involve mis-understanding it, mis-addressing it, and repeating errors already noted, then I have nothing else but to provisionally conclude that no case has been sucessfully made and there is no need to respond further.

  168. MedicineMan says:

    Faithlessgod:

    Just because you cannot come up with a solution for it does not mean other cant.

    Apparently, you’re not one of them. Let’s not pretend that the answer, “I don’t have to answer that, and other people might have somewhere else” would be accepted by you coming from someone like myself or Tom.

    You’ve failed the counter-challenge, so your objections to our answers to the ED have no justification. I’m contending that your requirements run the risk of making all possible definitions invalid, and therefore your phrasing of the ED is a nonsense question.

    Here, as in your second post, you keep insisting that there can be only the two options that create the dilemma, despite our clear indications that the third option is logically different and rationally defensible. You won’t (and probably can’t) give a version of good that makes your criticism of the third option valid, so your refusal to admit that there are more than two options is what it is: an irrationality.

    I think we can conclude, more than just provisionally, that you have no real answer to our statements on ED, and all of this nonsense about non-arbitrary, transparent, non-circular definitions is just empty noise. That is the cornerstone of your objections, but you can’t even defend it as a valid foundation. If all possible sides of an argument are invalid, then the argument is pointless, and you’ve done nothing to show that your concept of this issue has any meaning.

  169. MedicineMan says:

    Hah! Comment #71, #167, and now troll accusations. Who’s the one with an ad hominem problem, again?

    You’re making some strong claims, and I’m asking you for some support for their relevance. Insisting that you’re above answering certain questions is not an answer to those questions. You can’t demand that one side defend the reasons for their position and expect a free pass on yours.

  170. faithlessgod says:

    Apparently, you’re not one of them.

    Yes I can but whatever answer I give, correct or not, does not alter the failure for you to give a transparent definition of moral good. It is that claim that is being examined here and not any other, to pursue something else does alter the fact that you currently have no case.

    Let’s not pretend that the answer, “I don’t have to answer that, and other people might have somewhere else” would be accepted by you coming from someone like myself or Tom.

    It certainly would if it were in the context it was not relevant to the topic at hand. If I think it is relevant it would be up to me to establish why. So in this case it is up to you to establish why and you, so far, have not.

    You’ve failed the counter-challenge,

    Since you have yet to establish there is no counter-challenge to fail, this an false premise and conclusoio.

    so your objections to our answers to the ED have no justification.

    Even if the above premise were true, this is a non sequitur.

    I’m contending that your requirements run the risk of making all possible definitions invalid, and therefore your phrasing of the ED is a nonsense question.

    I have already answered this and will repeat this once more and if you do not address these points but repeat your contention without substantiation – which requires answering these points – I will ignore any future statements on this.

    Charlie has mentionend some non God based definitions., some of which pass the ED. Whether they do or do not, does not alter the fact that yours fails and so none of the conclusion you like to draw from your claim are justified.

    Here, as in your second post, you keep insisting that there can be only the two options that create the dilemma, despite our clear indications that the third option is logically different and rationally defensible.

    I hav asked to see a list of the three options side by side and then we can examine if there really are three. This is all you have to do if you are interested in constructive debate.

    You won’t (and probably can’t) give a version of good that makes your criticism of the third option valid,

    I am offering no criticism of the mysterious “third option” – which I have yet to see – based on my or anyone’s definition of good. So providing it would be irrelevant.

    so your refusal to admit that there are more than two options is what it is: an irrationality.

    Tut, tut. You cannot resist non-substantive points can you. Stop looking in the mirror. I repeat all you have to to get this conversation moving constructively is list the three options side by side and we can examine them.

    I think we can conclude, more than just provisionally, that you have no real answer to our statements on ED,

    You can conclude what you want, you still have failed to make a case.

    and all of this nonsense about non-arbitrary, transparent, non-circul
    And you have thereby transparently admitted you do not even understand the point of the ED, which is very good evidence that your claims to have solved it are false.

    That is the cornerstone of your objections,
    It is indeed.

    but you can’t even defend it as a valid foundation.

    No I am relying on Plato and Socrates for that.

    If all possible sides of an argument are invalid,

    Speak for yourself I do accept your admittance that your side is invalid, but certainly see that mine is well supported.

    then the argument is pointless, and you’ve done nothing to show that your concept of this issue has any meaning.

    Since you have shown that you do not understand what we are discussing and have admitted that your position is invalid, it surely correct that you have no case and the case is closed.

  171. SteveK says:

    fg,

    Yes I can but whatever answer I give, correct or not, does not alter the failure for you to give a transparent definition of moral good.

    Please share your answer so we can evaluate it. You think theists have failed to solve the ED (I disagree) so let’s move on to your naturalistic solution.

  172. MedicineMan says:

    FG,

    I do accept your admittance that your side is invalid, but certainly see that mine is well supported.

    Admittance of what, again? For someone who asked for an argument, you’d think you’d recognize if-then statements fairly easily. And is there anything you won’t claim is off-topic just because it might contradict your view? I don’t think you actually read anything I write anymore, I think you’re just throwing a philosophical temper tantrum. You did exactly what I was concerned you would: play word games to avoid having to defend the indefensible.

    At this point, you’re so badly misunderstanding the basic structure of the arguments and counter-points being made that I have to agree with others (and the sentiment Tom expressed in this comment) that legitimate conversation with you is impossible.

  173. Tom Gilson says:

    @Jacob:

    I heard your request for a response to that comment. I’ll try to do that soon.

  174. Tom Gilson says:

    fg, you wrote,

    Now unless someone can come up with some new way of dealing wiht this challenge, which does not involve mis-understanding it, mis-addressing it, and repeating errors already noted, then I have nothing else but to provisionally conclude that no case has been sucessfully made and there is no need to respond further.

    Sigh. There seems to be some unbridgeable divide of logic here, because I have been thinking the same thing from my side. I really can’t see how your responses to our responses to Euthyphro hold water, and I think it’s because you haven’t taken seriously what we’re saying.

    Tell me this: is the crux of the issue not in this word “arbitrary”? And has it not been answered with this, for example?

    Then there is this from Tony,

    As I understand it “good” is a value, and yet the Christian solution to the ED defies definition of the word “good” in a way that my examples using “correct” do not. It fails to provide a reason for saying what is good – it just says, because it’s good (based on God’s nature, etc.).

    That’s so close to what we’re saying it’s almost scary. I’m not at all sure what you mean by “‘good’ is a value,” so I won’t try to deal with that part of it. As to the rest, God’s nature is good, period. All else that is good is good to the extent that it accords with God’s nature. Any attempted requirement to push the definition back further than that is absurd. That, too, has already been covered.

    There was a significant complaint raised about theists “not even attempting to define what is good,” and no acknowledgment whatever of the answer I gave, nor of the fact that this definition has not been lacking. fg had said of this, “This is more than odd, it is the whole issue in a nutshell.” If that’s the whole issue, then why isn’t the issue resolved? But I don’t think you really meant that, or else you would have to agree it’s been settled.

    And no one has answered the question, “Given a personal, infinite, creator God, what’s the failing with [considering his character to be definitional of good]? What’s wrong with using the foundation of all reality as a basis for understanding some of reality?”

    So, unless someone can come up with some answers that do not involve mis-understanding the questions, mis-addressing them, or repeating errors already noted, then I have nothing else but to provisionally conclude that no case against theism has been successfully made.

  175. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tom

    I have asked a number of question for which I have seen no answer and answers to which would move on this debate constructively.

    The main question being, to quote myself:

    I have asked to see a list of the three options side by side and then we can examine if there really are three. This is all you have to do if you are interested in constructive debate.

    There are quite a few others but that the very least this question needs to be answered.

    Tell me this: is the crux of the issue not in this word “arbitrary”?

    No this is not the crux, it is the fact that the second horn provides no *reason* why what is declared morally good could possibly be morally good. It is the lack of the type of reason that could constitute a definition of good that Socrates is challenging Euthyphro over.

    And has it not been answered with this, for example?

    and from that comment we get:

    In the Euthyphro formulation, “arbitrary” means that God could have chosen any old thing to be good or bad, and that therefore it is logically conceivable that, by God’s command, murder could have been a general good

    I have repeatedly said this a conclusion from taking the second horn, I am now calling this the \repugnant conclusion\ some Christians accept this – as in that video and others, presumably you do not, otherwise you have no need to develop such divine nature variants. As I have said before the idea of a fixed nature is a red herring and IIRC is never addressed in the original dialogue, it is just not relevant in solving the challenge set by Socrates

    I’m not at all sure what you mean by “‘good’ is a value,” so I won’t try to deal with that part of it.

    This is the whole crux underlying the dialogue! How can you say you do not understand that good is a value term, what else could it be?

    All else that is good is good to the extent that it accords with God’s nature.

    This is a circular (given every responses on that) and arbitrary assignment of the standard of good, that is a claim, by fiat, that whatever is in God’s nature is good, but it is not a definition of good. No constitutive reason as part of the definition of good has been provided to show that this could possibly be true.

    Any attempted requirement to push the definition back further than that is absurd

    It is not absurd, it is exactly what the ED was designed to demonstrate.

    Reading your comment link this claim absurd requirement of mine (and Socrates) has not been addressed, you are assuming that God sets the standard and there is no higher one. But it is the very claim that God sets the standard that is being questioned. You cannot, whilst this is under question, just assume that this is so as the answer. That is absurd or more technically here question begging.

    “Given a personal, infinite, creator God, what’s the failing with [considering his character to be definitional of good]

    His or anyone else’s character is not the type of thing that could be definitional of good or of any other value term. To argue as you do is to assert an incoherent definition. Again as I have repeatedly said Socrates addressed with his carrying argument.

    What’s wrong with using the foundation of all reality as a basis for understanding some of reality?”

    That God is as you claim is another question entirely and you cannot assume it here to support your case, that is circular reasoning, another point implied in the dialogue.
    We are not talking about using some foundation for some understanding, we are talking about a definition that could have a meaningful referent, natural or supernatural. One cannot and should not assume a metaphysical position for the ED, nor does one need to deny a specific ontology in answer. Metaphysics is not the issue here.

    There was a significant complaint raised about theists “not even attempting to define what is good,”

    Quite correct and this still applies, you linked to:

    Ethical good is that which comports with God’s good character, revealed through the Bible.

    This is only saying that God is the only exemplar of ethical good, this is not a definition of ethical good. And the same complaint was levelled by Socrates at Euthyphro and illustrated using the ED as in:

    \Is it ethically good because it is in comportment with character (as revealed in the Bible) or is it in comportment with God’s character (as revealed in the Bible) because it is ethically good?
    Here, this first horn is still in need of a non-circular non-arbitrary reason whereas in this second horn the reason is to be found elsewhere – in the definition of ethical good which has not yet been provided – exactly like the original ED. As I asked at the beginning of this comment and I have repeatedly asked before, where is the horn or alternative to these two options? Please show it rather than beat around the bush.

  176. Tom Gilson says:

    Okay, I’ll give at another shot.

    The three “horns” of this triceratops are as follows. The first two come from Plato’s formulation, though in my own words. The third is the theistic resolution.

    1. There is some standard that defines goodness for all of creation including God; God is good because he meets that standard

    2. Goodness has no standard except in God’s own decrees; thus he could at his own whim arbitrarily declare just anything to be good, and there would be no other standard that would say that it wasn’t good.

    3. Goodness is an eternal aspect of God’s eternal nature, and its definition and instantiation in God is eternally unchangeable. It is part of his character which is itself unchangeable, and thus is not subject to whim.

    The difference between (3) and the other two formulations is that in (1), God is subject to something other than Himself,and in (2) the good may be arbitrary. Neither is true in (3).

    Now you say that the arbitrariness of (2)

    is not the crux, it is the fact that the second horn provides no *reason* why what is declared morally good could possibly be morally good. It is the lack of the type of reason that could constitute a definition of good that Socrates is challenging Euthyphro over.

    Now in the dialogue from which this came, Socrates says,

    Thus you appear to me, Euthyphro, when I ask you what is the essence of holiness, to offer an attribute only, and not the essence-the attribute of being loved by all the gods. But you still refuse to explain to me the nature of holiness. And therefore, if you please, I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what holiness or piety really is, whether dear to the gods or not (for that is a matter about which we will not quarrel) and what is impiety?

    So yes, he is asking for a definition of piety or holiness, which in our terms we may speak of as the good, but he’s asking for it only in the terms of his dilemma. He’s not offering “(3) None of the above,” but in my view (and many others) that presents a false dilemma; there really is a “(3) None of the above.”

    So then what is the definition of the good? The answer for humans is that it is the character of God. (For the ultimate answer to that question, God’s own “definition” of good, see below.) To this you responded,

    As I have said before the idea of a fixed nature is a red herring and IIRC is never addressed in the original dialogue, it is just not relevant in solving the challenge set by Socrates.

    If Socrates never thought of the gods having a fixed character, then so what? We’re talking about the Christian God here, whose character is unchangeable. How could the very thing we are talking about be a red herring?

    This is the whole crux underlying the dialogue! How can you say you do not understand that good is a value term, what else could it be?

    What I did not understand was what relevance your statement there had for the rest of the discussion. It’s too vague; I didn’t know what to do with it.

    [I wrote] All else that is good is good to the extent that it accords with God’s nature.

    [You responded] This is a circular (given every responses on that) and arbitrary assignment of the standard of good, that is a claim, by fiat, that whatever is in God’s nature is good, but it is not a definition of good. No constitutive reason as part of the definition of good has been provided to show that this could possibly be true.

    Circular? No. Here’s why. If this were an argument in which I was attempting to prove that God is good, and I were saying “God is good, therefore … we can conclude that God is good,” that would be circular. But this is not that kind of discussion. This is a discussion that starts with, “If there is a God, can we present some kind of coherent way of viewing God and his goodness that does not fall prey to the failings of the Euthyphro dilemma?” Circularity does not apply to an argument of that sort.

    I’ll expand further on that. When some conclusion C is being sought that depends on premises P or evidence E, then C cannot be part of P or E or included in them; otherwise there is circularity.

    Now my position in this discussion, my conclusion C, is that a coherent statement (3 above) relating God to goodness can be made, in which God is neither subject to some external standard of goodness, and in which goodness is not based on what God may arbitrarily decide. Well, in this discussion I haven’t brought in any external set of evidence E for C or even for (3), so I don’t think it’s circular on that basis. Is my conclusion C then based on some set of premises P that (circularly) include C?

    Here we must carefully distinguish between C and (3). Statement (3) includes the premises (P1) God is eternal, (P2) God’s eternal nature includes goodness, (P3) God’s character and goodness are unchangeable, and so on. If I were arguing from (P1), (P2), (P3), etc. that God is therefore the standard of goodness, that would be circular. But I haven’t been doing that in this discussion. I’ve been arguing C, that (P1), (P2), (P3), etc. taken together provide a coherent statement of God’s relationship to goodness.

    It could hardly be logically illicit or circular to refer to Premises (P1, 2, 3, …) in developing an argument that Premises (P1, 2, 3, … ) fit together coherently. How could you ever talk about the coherence of some set of propositions if you were not allowed to speak them in the process??

    Next:

    I had said it is absurd to attempt to push the definition of good back any further than the foundation of all reality. You answered very pithily,

    It is not absurd, it is exactly what the ED was designed to demonstrate.
    Reading your comment link this claim absurd requirement of mine (and Socrates) has not been addressed, you are assuming that God sets the standard and there is no higher one. But it is the very claim that God sets the standard that is being questioned. You cannot, whilst this is under question, just assume that this is so as the answer. That is absurd or more technically here question begging.

    And here you show quite clearly that you are mixing up C and (3). I am arguing C, that it is not incoherent to speak of God in the way theists do. You say,

    “But it is the very claim that God sets the standard that is being questioned.”

    Close, but not quite. The accurate statement, with respect to the issue from Euthyphro (man I wish that guy’s name would type more easily than it does!), would be this:

    “It is the very claim that it is coherent to speak of God as setting the standard that is being questioned.”

    I have already spent several paragraphs on this difference, so I hope you see it clearly. It is a very crucial distinction. The same answer applies to this other statement of yours, by the way:

    That God is as you claim is another question entirely and you cannot assume it here to support your case, that is circular reasoning, another point implied in the dialogue.

    I do not have to assume that God is as I claim, in order to support my position that if God is as I claim, then there is no logical incoherence in his relationship to the good. (That is all I need to show in order to answer Euthyphro.) I really hope that is sufficiently obvious by now, and that this charge of circularity never comes back again, for clearly it is a charge that could only apply against some other kind of argument, not the one I’ve been presenting here.

    But you will still ask what the good is in these terms. Socrates’ carrying argument does not seem to me to speak against God’s character being definitional of the good. This is because Socrates did not understand God as theists understand God. He makes a point of which precedes the other, the carrying or the state of being carried. That has little relevance to a beginningless, changeless God. Nothing in his character or passions (I use the term loosely here to accommodate Socrates in it) has to precede anything else.

    In the same context he asked, “Is not that which is beloved distinct from that which loves?” God as we understand him (3 above) is not composed of parts, however; his goodness is an aspect of who he is, not a part of who he is. So he has eternally instantiated goodness. His character is the model of goodness, the demonstration of goodness, the picture of virtue. It is the example that those who would be good must follow.

    So perhaps his goodness is not definitional in the schoolbook sense that “a definition must always rely on external concepts; you cannot define a word by using the word to define itself.” You said later that a definition must have “a meaningful referent.” But God does not “define” goodness for himself in that way. He just is good (according to (3)). Humans may define good, of course, by saying something like, “The good is that which is in accord with God’s character.” That is a meaningful referent. But the good existed, instantiated in God, before any such thing as a definition for it was called for. God was not looking up “good” in the dictionary.

    So this leaves just one final potential question: how do we know that God’s goodness is the real goodness? The answer is quite simply that there is no real anything at all except what is based in God. There is God and his creation, and nothing else; creation was his idea, so there is no other possible source of good, no other possible standard by which to test God. By virtue of his being eternally infinite, or infinitely eternal, he himself is and must be the standard. If you want to imagine some other possible good than that of God, then I refer you (again) to the possible worlds argument I have already made, for this comment has gone long enough.

    And for my last remark here, I move beyond hypothetical discussions of (3) and C. I caution you (as I have already) against setting yourself up as a god above God, sitting in judgment on him.

  177. Tony Hoffman says:

    Tom,

    You wrote:

    Given a personal, infinite, creator God, what’s the failing with that [just saying “it’s good because it’s good (based on God’s nature, etc.]? What’s wrong with using the foundation of all reality as a basis for understanding some of reality?

    Nothing if you accept the second horn. But it appears contradictory to say that you both accept the second horn (good is just based on God’s nature) and that you don’t accept the second horn (that this is not arbitrary).

    In the Euthyphro formulation, “arbitrary” means that God could have chosen any old thing to be good or bad, and that therefore it is logically conceivable that, by God’s command, murder could have been a general good. It means that even tomorrow he could change his mind and make it good, and because there is no definition of good besides God’s decree, then it would be incontestably good.

    I believe that this is a flawed understanding of the ED that presents a strawman version that the Christian solution then “defeats.” Whether or not God chooses what is good or whether or not God can contradict himself isn’t important; it’s that we accept that what is based on God is good without any other way of examining this assumption.

    Here’s a simple way of stating it; how does the Christian know that the nature of God is perfectly good? The only way we can know this is that we assume that this is true (begging the question), or that we take God’s word for it (good is what God commands). That is arbitrary – there’s no other standard that we can refer to in which we can examine the claim of God’s perfect, good nature.

  178. Tom Gilson says:

    That is arbitrary – there’s no other standard that we can refer to in which we can examine the claim of God’s perfect, good nature.

    I’m fine with that–why aren’t you? Cannot the God of all the universe, the one eternally infinite person, your creator and mine, have the right to speak what is good?

    And have you thought yet about the infinite regress argument I have presented previously, that whatever you use to examine some standard of goodness must itself be examined, ad infinitum? The argument you present here not only stands against God’s being the measure of goodness, but against there being any such thing as goodness at all.

    Here is why. Either there is some standard of goodness or there is none. If there is no standard of goodness, then there is no goodness at all. If there is a standard, then there must be some measure of goodness. But if that measure of goodness must be measured against another measure of goodness, and another, ad infinitum, that would be absurd. So if there is any goodness at all, there must be some standard of goodness that is ultimate, that is not measured by some other standard. An eternal infinite creator God is an awfully good candidate for that, don’t you think?

  179. Holopupenko says:

    Tony:

    Regarding God as good (actually, one of the names of God (a philosophical term of art) is Goodness itself), see the Summa Theologica, Part I, question 5 (goodness in general), question 6 (the goodness of God). Also, question 2-4, 7-13 would be worth reading.

    On the other hand, if revealed knowledge is rejected out of hand as allegedly “arbitrary” or “subjective” or illicitly subject to the epistemological criterion of other forms of knowledge (say, to MES scrutiny), then you’d be wasting your time… and ours. In any event, you’re still way off the mark regarding Tom’s overall Euthyphro point.

  180. SteveK says:

    Wow, Tom, that was a most awesome, and logical, explanation of the third option!

  181. Jacob says:

    Tom Gilson -

    We’re talking about the Christian God here, whose character is unchangeable.

    Which is what I’ve been asking. Is there a way in which we know that goodness cannot be adjusted? This refers to Holopupenko’s point too because Aquinas refers to good as that which is desirable, which is perfection. But when we deal with the characteristics of God, how do we define perfection? This sort of gets at the problem here…

    The answer is quite simply that there is no real anything at all except what is based in God.

    …but you haven’t yet established why there is only one possible standard. I have already addressed your possible worlds argument twice. That argument asks for a better good, but I’m not making that distinction, for I’m asking merely for a different good. In such a way God could change and there could be different versions of “real”. Because for every act God has ever committed, there could not be a more perfect way of handling things under your paradigm. But what makes it perfect when God acts with vengeance instead of mercy? What does it mean to act toward a perfect and ultimate goodness?

    I’m trying not to get too abstract here so that one cannot simply use as an excuse God’s unknowable nature (I’ve already said my piece about that). I’m simply wondering whether goodness as a conept is arbitrary and subjective to begin with.

  182. faithlessgod says:

    Tom

    Thank you for addressig my question.

    “None of the Above”

    1. There is some standard that defines goodness for all of creation including God; God is good because he meets that standard
    2. Goodness has no standard except in God’s own decrees; thus he could at his own whim arbitrarily declare just anything to be good, and there would be no other standard that would say that it wasn’t good.
    3. Goodness is an eternal aspect of God’s eternal nature, and its definition and instantiation in God is eternally unchangeable. It is part of his character which is itself unchangeable, and thus is not subject to whim.
    The difference between (3) and the other two formulations is that in (1), God is subject to something other than Himself,and in (2) the good may be arbitrary. Neither is true in (3).

    Ok I need to do what in database design we would call normalisation, as charitably as possible, and see what we get.

    What you appear to be doing is:
    A) throwing in two definitions of the “standard of good” (lets call this “standard” for short): in (2) the old divine decree version and in (1) and (3) your divine nature one and mixing up different type of relations between the term and its definition. This is misleading so we need to clear that up.
    B)Secondly you seem to be confusing the subject here it is good or the standard of good not God’s goodness, it is how God’s goodness that relate to good that is under question.
    C)Third you are talkning about a standard not good itself.

    A) What you seem to be getting at is something like (1)God meets a standard (2)God defines the standard (3)God is the standard? However we cannot have different types of relations, it i one realtion we must consider between God and good. Meets does not make sense but defines does so we get (1) God does not define the standard (2/3) God defines the standard – how God does it is not the issue in the definition.

    B)Still the above makes “God” the subject whereas, to resolve Socrates challenge, we need “good” to be the subject. So lets say (1) Good is independent of God (2) Good is defined by God (3) Good is (some aspect of) God. However 2 and 3 again collapase with respect to (in)dependence so this becomes (1)Good is independent of God (2/3) Good is dependent on God.

    So what you seem to doing is mixing up a defition with the creation of the content of the definition. It does not matter here how God does whether it is a decree or an identity. Eitherway I do not (yet) see a third “None of the Above” option.

    C) You have not offered a definition of moral good, only stated it can be found in a standard. I imagine Socrates asking Euthyphro. “Is it the standard becuase it is good or is it good becuase it is the standard”. In other words yuo have not provided the “essence” or “nature” i.e. meaning of good.

    “I will ask you not to hide your treasure, but to tell me once more what goodness is, whether identical to (some part of) God’s nature or not (for that is a matter about which we will not quarrel) and what is evil?”

    Fixity

    If Socrates never thought of the gods having a fixed character, then so what? We’re talking about the Christian God here, whose character is unchangeable. How could the very thing we are talking about be a red herring?

    Because if it had been brought up by Euthyphro Socrates would surely have argued it was not relevant to the treasure the Eutyphro was hiding. The definition being aksed for here does not demand nor prevent that the solution be of a fixed form or not. That is simply a different issue.

    Value

    I said:This is the whole crux underlying the dialogue! How can you say you do not understand that good is a value term, what else could it be?
    You said:What I did not understand was what relevance your statement there had for the rest of the discussion. It’s too vague; I didn’t know what to do with it.
    This seems a strange avoidance. What else could good be but a value term. Not answering this is one possible reason why your answer appears vague and, with all due respect, muddled.

    Circularity

    Circular? No. Here’s why. If this were an argument in which I was attempting to prove that God is good, and I were saying “God is good, therefore … we can conclude that God is good,” that would be circular. But this is not that kind of discussion. This is a discussion that starts with, “If there is a God, can we present some kind of coherent way of viewing God and his goodness that does not fall prey to the failings of the Euthyphro dilemma?” Circularity does not apply to an argument of that sort.

    If you are simply saying you do not need to address the charge of circularity, then charge of an arbitrary definition naturally follows. Unless you meet this challenge that is provide a relevant reason for the definition that is not viciously circular then your definition is arbitrary. So circularity is certainly one of the key issues in the ED.

    Further on that: when some conclusion C is being sought that depends on premises P or evidence E, then C cannot be part of P or E or included in them.

    Agreed

    Now my position in this discussion, my conclusion C, is that a coherent statement (3 above) relating God to goodness can be made, in which God is neither subject to some external standard of goodness, and in which goodness is not based on what God may arbitrarily decide. Well, in this discussion I haven’t brought in any external set of evidence E for C or even for (3), so I don’t think it’s circular on that basis. Is my conclusion C then based on some set of premises P that (circularly) include C?

    Yes it is. You are asserting the identity relation (and misleadingly explicitly comparing this with a subject and a decision relation) and when asked for a reason as to why this is a conclusion you have jsut stated it is an assumption and there is no further P or E to support C. If C therefore C.

    Here we must carefully distinguish between C and (3). Statement (3) includes the premises (P1) God is eternal, (P2) God’s eternal nature includes goodness, (P3) God’s character and goodness are unchangeable, and so on. If I were arguing from (P1), (P2), (P3), etc. that God is therefore the standard of goodness, that would be circular. But I haven’t been doing that in this discussion. I’ve been arguing (C) that if (P1), (P2), (P3), etc. taken together provide a coherent statement of God’s relationship to goodness.

    You are starting with some (undefined) notion of goodness – see my emphasis – and then just pointing or restating to it in (3). It is a claim by fiat and circular unless you can show why the premise P2 is whbat it is – where the treasure is now hidden! But this is exactly what the ED was designed to challenge:

    P2 ED:”Is it good becuase it is contained in God’s Nature or is contained in God’s nature becuase it is good?”

    It could hardly be logically illicit or circular to refer to Premises (P1, 2, 3, …) in developing an argument that Premises (P1, 2, 3, … ) fit together coherently. How could you ever talk about the coherence of some set of propositions if you were not allowed to speak them in the process??

    Now you have just hidden the issue in the premise P2. That now becomes the subject of the ED.

    This reply is long enough and is sufficient to identiy problems for us to discuss further. I will reply to your other points later and if they are relevant.

  183. Tom Gilson says:

    fg,

    Regarding your A and B, I simply do not agree with what you wrote. I don’t know how to put it other than this: what you assert about my arguments is not what is in my arguments; it’s just not there. You and I will continue to disagree, I’m sure, and I’ll let other readers decide for themselves, and for that purpose I refer them to the original argument, as I do not think it needs repeating.

    As to C, the definition of good, that came later in my comment.

    Regarding Fixity, you said it was a red herring, I asked how the very nature of that which was under discussion could be a red herring, and you really didn’t answer. You just said that if Euthyphro had brought it up, Socrates would have called it a red herring. I doubt that quite sincerely.

    This seems a strange avoidance. What else could good be but a value term. Not answering this is one possible reason why your answer appears vague and, with all due respect, muddled.

    OK, good is a value term. Did I deny that? Was I avoiding something? I just said I didn’t know why you brought it up. I didn’t know what role that had in your argument.

    As to circularity, you simply haven’t understood the distinction between C and (3). I think I was quite clear. I don’t think C is an identity relation; perhaps you can elucidate.

    Now if you say that I have not brought forth premises or argument to support C, then that’s not a circularity charge, that’s an unsupported argument charge. My argument for C, briefly, is that there is no contradiction or incoherence in its premises taken together. If you are going to rebut C, you do not do so by charging it with circularity, you do so by finding some contradiction or incoherence among its premises.

    Note: I have a busy day ahead, this may be my last chance to work on this today.

  184. faithlessgod says:

    The rest of my reply.

    Coherence

    And here you show quite clearly that you are mixing up C and (3). I am arguing C, that it is not incoherent to speak of God in the way theists do.

    No the coherence I am addressing is that this is not a definition of good and to assert that it is is incoherent.
    You rephrased my statement as you said: “It is the very claim that it is coherent to speak of God as setting the standard that is being questioned.”
    I am not disputing that but this is not the issue.

    But you will still ask what the good is in these terms. Socrates’ carrying argument does not seem to me to speak against God’s character being definitional of the good.

    This is exactly what it does.

    This is because Socrates did not understand God as theists understand God. In the same context he asked, “Is not that which is beloved distinct from that which loves?”

    Exactly! And it does not matter what God is unless you define all the properties of being away which you attempt to do below. Then it is not God in any meaningful sense we are talking about at all. he implciatin of Socarates argument is that good is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property of an object, let alone a being, let alone god, let alone God. The object of loving – the beloved – is distinct from the being which does the loving and neither is loving of itself. Like carrying, loving and any other value term – including moral goodness- is, although Socrates did not explicitly say this (because he lack the passive voice?), we can call these for clarification, extrinsic, relational properties. So to assert a relational property as an inherent property is incoherent.

    Ground of Reality

    God as we understand him (3 above) is not composed of parts, however; his goodness is an aspect of who he is, not a part of who he is.

    So you are rendering God as so entirely unlike anything else there is no basis to for any analogical reasoning from what we know. Which disqualifies you from any of the following claims:

    So he has eternally instantiated goodness. His character is the model of goodness, the demonstration of goodness, the picture of virtue. It is the example that those who would be good must follow.

    And all these terms I have emphasised indicate you have not defined goodness only assumed that God has this in some entirely mysterious – opaque – fashion and all such terms are rendered meaningless if God is an entity with no parts, it could not even be an entity! The usual task of a definition is to explain what a terms means and not to say that it is entirely ineffable this is what you seem to be doing here and then contradicting yourself.
    And given your mysterious notion of this “being” you have no way to deny that one could equally say that moral good is in God’s nature and so is everything else, surely by including everything this this ends up saying nothing?

    So perhaps his goodness is not definitional in the schoolbook sense that “a definition must always rely on external concepts; you cannot define a word by using the word to define itself.”

    No that would be circular wouldn’t it?

    You said later that a definition must have “a meaningful referent.” But God does not “define” goodness for himself in that way. He just is good (according to (3)).

    Therefore there s no reason therefore this is still the good old second horn of the original ED!

    Humans may define good, of course, by saying something like, “The good is that which is in accord with God’s character.” That is a meaningful referent. But the good existed, instantiated in God, before any such thing as a definition for it was called for. God was not looking up “good” in the dictionary.

    You are making the mistake of reifying good.

    So this leaves just one final potential question: how do we know that God’s goodness is the real goodness? The answer is …

    Following through from my moral badness point made here and previously one could just as easily say
    “How do we know that God’s evil is the real evil? The answer is quite simply that there is no real anything at all except what is based in God. There is God and his creation; creation was his idea; there is no other possible source of evil, no other possible standard by which to test God. He is the standard, by virtue of his being eternally infinite, or infinitely eternal.”

    And for my last remark here, I move beyond hypothetical discussions of (3) and C. I caution you (as I have already) against setting yourself up as a god above God, sitting in judgment on him.

    I am doing no such thing. Non-one need to be a god to judge others, to presume this as a requirement and to deny the ability to question the authority – to stifle the possibility of discussion – which is the underlying implication of what you have just said -I should be scared of questioning God – this is the path of tyranny. Further, you have already said it takes a god (or god-like ability) to judge God therefore you cannot know with any certainty any of your claims. You nor anyone else can have any knowledge of God.

  185. faithlessgod says:

    Tom in reply to your latest reply. I was merely rendering your representation into something precise and in so doing this third alternative keeps on disappearing.

    I too am busy today (every day) I wan to pursue this but will put a t stop to my discussion on the other thread.

  186. Tom Gilson says:

    Here’s one last (for today) quick thought that came to me this morning.

    The Euthyphro problem may be restated thus:

    1. Does God look in some dictionary for the definition of good, so that he can meet it? or
    2. Does God get to write his own dictionary definition of good, with no other referent to say whether he got it right or wrong?

    The theist’s answer is neither. God doesn’t use a dictionary.

    For people like us, who do need a dictionary, we can write a definition that says “the good is that which is in accord with God’s character and nature.” But God himself just is in accord with his own character and nature; or we might say that before creation when it was just God, all of reality (God himself, that is) was in accord with his character and nature. That was it, and it was good.

    We err when we attach to God the human characteristic of needing to check something out by reference to something else. If there is any goodness at all, there must be some final point of reference for that goodness. (I argued that a couple of comments prior to this one, #179.) God is that final point of reference for himself and for all.

  187. faithlessgod says:

    Here is my last reply today.

    we might say that before creation when it was just God, all of reality (God himself, that is) was in accord with his character and nature. That was it, and it was good.

    Prior to “creation” good and bad did not mean anything. You cannot both assert that God has no parts and is the ground of being – good or bad or anything else could not exist there. You cannot also assert that he his also a being with as a character and nature as this contradicts your ground of being and no parts arguments. All you are doing is creating a completely opaque definition of good by relying on a completely opaque notion of God (and about whom you have implied you have no knowledge of) – you have explained absolutely nothing and that is what Socrates would most certainly have complained about.

    captcha: flies off

  188. Paul says:

    I just have to say that this has been an epic conversation, one of the best on this blog,, forgive me for not contributing, but others are doing just fine and I hope they continue.

    I also have to say that, while I agree that the theists have not resolved the ED, Tom’s #177 post was excellent. It moved the discussion forward, it directly addressed previous questions and issues, was substantive, etc. It was reasoned even if I disagree with some of its reasoning.

  189. Tom Gilson says:

    flg, re: comment 186,

    You rephrased my statement as you said: “It is the very claim that it is coherent to speak of God as setting the standard that is being questioned.”
    I am not disputing that but this is not the issue.

    But I think it is. As I understand ED, the problem is that the relationship between God and the good cannot be stated coherently. If that problem can be resolved, the ED is resolved.

    Exactly! And it does not matter what God is unless you define all the properties of being away which you attempt to do below. Then it is not God in any meaningful sense we are talking about at all.

    But I have not defined all the properties of being away. This is a strange argument you make!

    he implciatin of Socarates argument is that good is not the type of thing that could be an inherent property of an object, let alone a being, let alone god, let alone God.

    But why does he assert this? Because of an analogy of carrying, where the carrying precedes the being carried. God being eternal (past and present) there is no preceding. He has the property of being good just because he has that property eternally. Socrates’ analogy is misplaced in this case.

    So to assert a relational property as an inherent property is incoherent.

    Socrates’ analogies rest on verbs: love and carry–transitive verbs, in fact, which require an object, so that a subject-object relationship is implied in them. “Good” is not a verb, especially not a transitive verb, it’s an adjective, a descriptor. I don’t see why it must be a relational property. Why cannot God be inherently good?

    So you are rendering God as so entirely unlike anything else there is no basis to for any analogical reasoning from what we know. Which disqualifies you from any of the following claims …

    You made quite a logical leap there, with no explanation. Because God has no parts, we can know nothing whatsoever about him? How does that necessarily follow?

    In fact, God is in many ways unlike anything we know, except that he has created humans in his image, which includes things like sharing in attributes like personality, moral awareness, intellect, volition, free will, and so on.

    It is therefore not impossible to make claims about God. To say that we can know nothing about God, or say nothing true about God, is to say that the omniscient omnipotent God could never quite figure out a way to let his creatures know anything about himself. That’s just not the case. He has revealed enough of his nature to us that we can say we know some things about him truly, though certainly not exhaustively.

    So everything you say from that point about God’s being opaque is just not the case.

    “How do we know that God’s evil is the real evil? The answer is quite simply that there is no real anything at all except what is based in God. There is God and his creation; creation was his idea; there is no other possible source of evil, no other possible standard by which to test God. He is the standard, by virtue of his being eternally infinite, or infinitely eternal.”

    Evil is not a creation of God; it is a privation of the good. There is no evil in God.

    Further, you have already said it takes a god (or god-like ability) to judge God therefore you cannot know with any certainty any of your claims. You nor anyone else can have any knowledge of God.

    I am not judging God when I agree with him. To judge him is to pronounce him wrong. And of course I have already explained that knowledge of God is not impossible.

    [I wrote]You said later that a definition must have “a meaningful referent.” But God does not “define” goodness for himself in that way. He just is good (according to (3)).

    [You responded] Therefore there s no reason therefore this is still the good old second horn of the original ED!

    Do you think so? Then explain what it is about the second horn that is objectionable in the case of a God who is eternally and unchangeably good. If the reason behind goodness is a good God who is the basis for all meaning and existence, then what is to complain about?

  190. Tom Gilson says:

    flg, re: comment 188,

    There are a whole lot of unsupported assertions in there.

    At this point I think I’ll add in another layer of explanation, which I’ve been thinking about including for a day or two. God has no parts, and is of one essence, but he exists in three Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have something here that is beyond our understanding, but not something that is contradictory; for his oneness is in essence, and his tri-ness is in persons.

    Being eternally triune, God exists eternally in relationship with himself. There is a relationship between the persons of the Trinity. “God is love,” it says in 1 John, and because of the Trinity that was true before he created something other than himself to love. Similar things could be said about other aspects of God’s character.

    I deny that I have implied we have no knowledge of God. I addressed this in the previous comment. In the case of the Trinity, there actually is something beyond our knowing or comprehension. God is certainly far beyond our complete comprehension. But that does not prevent him from communicating truly to us—truly, but not exhaustively.

  191. Tom Gilson says:

    Paul, thank you for your encouraging observations!

  192. Tom Gilson says:

    @Jacob:

    Which is what I’ve been asking. Is there a way in which we know that goodness cannot be adjusted?

    We know because of God’s self-revelation on this.

    re: your comment 157:

    I think that there is one obvious question: how do you know if goodness itself is not arbitrary?

    What do you mean by arbitrary? If it means that goodness could be re-defined at any moment with nothing to stop God from doing that, we know that God will not do that, for that would be a denial of his own self, his own character. If arbitrary means that there was no external referent for God in defining goodness, I’ve addressed that already in pointing out that God did not define goodness for himself, he just was and is good. It’s not God but humans who require definitions. If arbitrary means that the lack of an external referent prevents us from assessing whether God’s goodness is real goodness, then you’re starting to walk the path of infinite regression I described earlier.

    God’s goodness has no external check or referent on it. Granted. If that means “arbitrary” to you, then I would say that word hardly applies to the source and basis of everything that has ever existed.

    could there be a world in which the nature of God changes without any loss of goodness?

    God is already maximally good. To “lose” goodness or to “gain” goodness—neither is possible for a maximally good person. For God to be different in another possible world than he is in this one is an interesting suggestion. I’m not sure how far I want to go into this, but here’s the bare bones of it: if God is infinite and maximally perfect in this world, then he is the same God in all possible worlds, for if that is true of God, there are no possible worlds that are actually possible with a different God than this one, or no God at all. That’s not the whole argument. If you want to follow that further I’ll try to find you a link to it; or maybe you can just see how the conclusion follows from the premise.

    We must establish why the greatest good is always being done in each circumstance, and that might be difficult if there are certain aspects of God that cannot be expressed perfectly.

    Not just difficult, impossible. It would take God’s knowledge to be able to accomplish that. We cannot do that in every circumstance. We can know God well enough to trust that it is true in each circumstance, however, even though we cannot prove it. We have evidence of God’s maximal goodness, and we can extrapolate that to cases where we cannot see exactly how it works out that way.

    But this is not about Euthyphro so much. The resolution of the ED as applied to the God Christians worship has three steps:

    1. To show that the dilemma has an out; to outline at least the possibility of a non-contradictory, coherent third horn.
    2. To describe the kind of God to which this might apply.
    3. To demonstrate that this God exists.

    But the ED is actually resolved after step 2. Step 3 is important in many respects, but not with respect to resolving the ED.

    He can’t always be just if he’s being merciful, for instance. Or perhaps the concept of justice itself is arbitrary. What is just? God’s nature. But what is God’s nature? Justice? We could also probably establish a similar circular argument for obedience, but there are many issues to deal with, so I’ll stop there

    Have you read the book or Romans in the New Testament? In there it explains how God can be both just, and the justifier of those who have sinned (which means among other things to show mercy). It’s a challenging read but very worthwhile.

  193. Charlie says:

    Nice work, Tom.
    You are the epitome of grace and patience.

  194. Jacob says:

    @Tom Gilson:

    You’re still assuming goodness. You do this in two places: you use revelation as if goodness is completely evident, and later on you use the qualifier of “if” to establish goodness in all possible worlds, like maximal goodness has already been assumed; but that’s the entire issue we’re arguing. Nor can we consider evidence unless we know exactly what we’re looking for. Normally such an assumption wouldn’t bother me terribly if it was the only option, but there are a few problems here:

    1. We have opened up an interesting avenue of inquiry: at which point can we presuppose the existence of God and his character? I don’t want to get too broad, as we have the other post to talk about the disparate elements of evidence, but certainly there is a point in your argument where we merely reduce God to an utter mystery. Paul says that God is evident so that no man is with excuse, but how can that be if we don’t even have a readily understood standard? One would need access to the Bible and centuries worth of accumulated theology in order to understand him and make sense of his attributes; obviously, this is access that many people do not have, now and in the past.

    Even worse, a firm understanding of Christian theology doesn’t always clear things up. There are many people who profess to know the goodness of God’s perfect will, but if the standard cannot be understood, and if God himself is justified through his perfection, then what of the people who are absolutely convinced that they are channeling God’s will? They will justify their actions as God’s perfect will. Usually this is harmless; “God wants me to marry Susan” or “God wants me to go to Yale”. But it can result in people trying to impose certain standards on others or perhaps silly little men trying to interpret every disaster as God’s wrath upon humanity. Or it could even be taken to its worst conclusions. What are you going to say to them? That God never did any of these things? So it’s desirable to set direct, obvious parameters here.

    2. Maybe there is no clear definition of goodness because objective goodness is impossible. Can you rule that possibility out? That to even feel or act is a subjective experience, incapable of being taken to a perfect end, which is what I mean by arbitrary. Even if you were to take an emotion like love and say that such a thing can exist perfectly within the essence of being, we all have different ways of expressing it or balancing it with other characteristics.

    I asked this question here: is there an objective good for every situation? For if we equate goodness with perfection, then goodness cannot change. As an example: if God punishes, there is no other way in which he could punish. Otherwise his mind would be changed. But if his nature is the very foundation of existence, then there is nothing to change.

    Yes, I have read Romans, but I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I’ll refrain from going further for now, as I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

  195. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tom

    This s a very interesting debate I will try and sum up where we are and I am going to make separate comments on distinct points so they can be addressed individually.

    Focus: Good or God?

    This is more an observation rather than a debate point. The issue here is that our focus should be what is moral good – this is the explandum. The explanans is the answer. Euthyphro and you and offering god as part the explanans. However what seems to be happening is you changing the subject to as if I am asking for a definition of god and you are offering your definition God as the explanans to that question. My only interest in your God is as to whether it can provide a definition of good. As far as I can see the question is over a possible defition of moral good in term of god. Once that is established one can look to see as to whether your God can fit that possible explanation. That is after Euthyphro is resolved , if it is.

    So all I need is for you to show how god could be part of the explanans. Certainly you can draw off your understanding of your God and you might have the position that no other god could do this. That this is the only way to resolve the dilemma. I am guessing this is your position.

    Incoherence

    Still I only have interest in your definition of your God to the degree it might resolve the dilemma and no more. All I ask is what are these aspects(?) or attributes(?), that is all that is should be required here. The issue of incoherence is that you have not provided a coherent explanation of the relevant aspects of God that can answer this question. You say that:

    God is the ground of being and a being
    God is three beings and one
    God has no parts but has attributes and aspects
    You have knowledge of God but are unable cannot judge God

    These are all contradictory and render your definition of God incoherent and to base a definition of moral good on an incoherent concept is… incoherent. But I am not here to debate your definition of God. And the issue of incoherence is different to the issue of transparency and opaqueness (I will address that in another comment).

    What results is that you keep on moving the goal posts or it is like getting rid of a bubble underneath clingfilm, it moves around but does not go away.

    So here I am asking you to provide the coherent relevant features (?) of your God, that is required to, in your view, satisfy a definition of moral goodness and no more. Once I have that I can then address the other interesting points you have raised.

    If I can form other questions in parallel to this question I will do so. I will check after I have posted this comment.

  196. faithlessgod says:

    Hi Tom

    This is getting too messy to write in a series of comments. I am writing a blog post. Will add a comment when it is up.

  197. Charlie says:

    Hi Tom,
    Speaking of blog posts … when you put this much time into a comment or series of comments I think it would be worth your while to adapt such a comment more regularly into new posts. Since you’ve put the effort into the writing anyway it might be a good way to get at two birds.

  198. Paul says:

    I’m finally going to weigh in.

    Doesn’t “arbitrary” mean, for the ED, not that God could change what is good, but that good is whatever he decides/declares/defined it to be, even if it is decided/declared/defined eternally because it is part of his nature.

    Tom, would you consider that there is/was a limitation on what good could have been from God’s perspective? Could what is good, as defined by God, have been different, even eternally?

    Edited: I’m trying tease the changing part of “arbitrary” out of the sense of the word, leaving only “without limitation to be defined” behind.

  199. Charlie says:

    Still could …

  200. Charlie says:

    Hi Paul,
    I’ll pretend I’m Tom and give the answer I expect from him. He can correct me if he sees a nuance I’m missing, but but I’m going by what Augustine, Aquinas, the nominalists, Plantinga, Craig, etc. have said (and contra Descartes and, I would think, Islam).

    Tom, would you consider that there is/was a limitation on what good could have been from God’s perspective?

    Yes.

    Could what is good, as defined by God, have been different, even eternally?

    No. That’s what ‘arbitrary’ means to get at in this sense.
    For my point, this is why I’ve emphasized that God is The necessary Being, and that goodness is of His necessary nature.

  201. Tom Gilson says:

    I suppose so, with a little re-working (re: comment 202)

  202. Charlie says:

    It’s worth a thought. But at this point would cause more work, rather than saving on it.

  203. Paul says:

    If there was/is a limitation on what good could have been for God, where does this limitation come from?

  204. Tony Hoffman says:

    All,

    I’ve had a busy couple of days and I’ve only just had time to peruse the latest batch of comments.

    Tom,

    I believe throughout much of this discussion you are still confusing the ED’s central inquiry – to disclose the nature of goodness, or how we know and define goodness – with an argument for or about the existence and nature of God. Clearly, the ED does not seek to disprove God – it assumes God. (It has implications about God, but those are secondary.)

    That’s why questions or statements like these are completely beside the point:

    Cannot the God of all the universe, the one eternally infinite person, your creator and mine, have the right to speak what is good?

    and

    So, unless someone can come up with some answers that do not involve mis-understanding the questions, mis-addressing them, or repeating errors already noted, then I have nothing else but to provisionally conclude that no case against theism has been successfully made.

    The (current form of the) ED doesn’t make a case against theism. It asks, given theism, how do we know what is good?

    I believe your claim to be avoiding circularity is based on your reframing the dilemma to be about imagining a godlike explanation that avoids the horns without answering the actual question. If your third horn is seen as a response to the question raised in the ED, then it remains circular.

    You wrote:

    This is a discussion that starts with, “If there is a God, can we present some kind of coherent way of viewing God and his goodness that does not fall prey to the failings of the Euthyphro dilemma?”

    But I think this basically reframes the question so as to avoid the ED, rather than respond to it – by that measure, lots of things don’t fall prey to the ED, but to present a way out you have to answer the question first. In other words, I don’t think the ED asks, Can we conceive of a way that goodness could exist that would make goodness unchanging and part of God? It basically asks, How is goodness known?

    If your explanation three, the so-called third horn is to be read as a response to the ED, you have indeed made a circular argument – you have assumed that goodness is defined by God’s character — “Goodness is an eternal aspect of God’s eternal nature…” This presumes to know what goodness is (without defining it). So you have inferred the crucial part of the conclusion – that we know goodness is good because it’s good – by stating it in your premise, and that, as FG has so ably pointed out, is viciously circular.

    Circular? No. Here’s why. If this were an argument in which I was attempting to prove that God is good, and I were saying “God is good, therefore … we can conclude that God is good,” that would be circular. But this is not that kind of discussion. This is a discussion that starts with, “If there is a God, can we present some kind of coherent way of viewing God and his goodness that does not fall prey to the failings of the Euthyphro dilemma?” Circularity does not apply to an argument of that sort.

    I addressed this above. Saying that good is good is not an explanation, and it is circular. If you do not explain why good is good, you have attached yourself to the second horn, and admitted that God defines good. This does not disprove Christianity, mind you – it just lays out the logic of the system.

    I do not have to assume that God is as I claim, in order to support my position that if God is as I claim, then there is no logical incoherence in his relationship to the good. (That is all I need to show in order to answer Euthyphro.) I really hope that is sufficiently obvious by now, and that this charge of circularity never comes back again, for clearly it is a charge that could only apply against some other kind of argument, not the one I’ve been presenting here.

    To answer Euthyphro you have to explain how you know what is good, and you have to do it in a way that doesn’t beg the question. By not defining good, and by having God be the standard of good, you are the one who is choosing the second horn / inviting the “turtles all the way down” regression.

    You can either accept as good the good that we know, or you can imagine some other possible world where there is a different good. And then you would have to imagine yourself or some other entity judging between the good of that world and the good of this world, and pronouncing one of them the real good. But that’s a god-like ability. And since the Euthyphro dilemma begins ex hypothesi with the assumption of God, who is both infinite and necessary, your other possible world is also ruled by this same God, and it would necessarily be he who judges good between worlds. In fact this renders absurd and impossible the conception of another possible world where a different good applies.

    I hadn’t responded to this because I don’t see it as explaining any issue that is part of the ED. I assume the Christian God with respect to the ED, and possible worlds is not an issue that FG or I or anyone else here who is skeptical about the Christian solution to the ED has raised.

    I apologize for contributing so late, and for echoing, more feebly, FG in this discussion. I just didn’t want my silence to seem like I was acquiescing to your most recent determinations on the topic.

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