Thursday, April 22, 2010

Essay: The Euthyphro Dichotomy by Mariano Grinbank

The Euthyphro Dichotomy by Mariano Grinbank
Christianity is true because it splits the horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma.

In Plato’s Euthyphro, Socrates proposes a dilemma that calls into question the premise of theistic ethics:
1. Is something good because God proclaims it?
2. Or, does God proclaim it because it is good?

The points of the dilemma are:
1. Is something good merely because God proclaims it? In which case, goodness is arbitrary and God could interchange good and evil at a whim.
2. Is there something separate from God to which God adheres; does God have to act according to an ethical standard which is outside of Himself? In which case, God is not all sufficient and obeys a higher standard.
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Let us survey our options and see which concept best provides an absolute and imperative moral premise: an ethos.

Nature:
All claims to naturally evolving ethics can be logically disregarded since—as commonsensical or true as they may be—while there may be actions which help to ensure survival, since nature is not an ethical agent there is no natural ethical imperative. We could feed the poor or eat them.

Semantic Morality:
Ethics can be immediately grounded in human dictates but not ultimately. Humans can make epistemic statements about morality but not provide an ontological premise since—as this view presupposes the above under “Nature”—there is no objective, extrinsic ethical imperative. Thus, humans can, without recourse to God, declare certain actions ethical or unethical, even claiming that these are absolutes, but these are ultimately ungrounded assertions; they are semantic, intonated morality.
We concoct useful and survival assisting concepts but these do not amount to ethical imperatives. Also, this ethic is impotent, being established by humans who can only deal out justice if the evildoer is caught—its justice is restricted. On this view, ethics are based on majority rule; the fittest as it were. Justice in Nazi Germany differed from the Allied Forces’.

An aside: let us grant that the above (“Nature” and “Semantic Morality”) are valid and let us call these, for the sake of economy of words, “the naturalistic view.” Let us now pose the A-Euthyphro Dilemma:
1. Is something good because a naturalist proclaims it to be good?
2. Or, does a naturalist proclaim something to be good because it is good?

Does a naturalist determine what is good? In that case, what was unethical yesterday, is ethical today and may again be unethical tomorrow and thus, this is arbitrary and robs us of the ability to condemn anything since the moment we condemn one action and declare another virtuous they may be shifting like so much quicksand.

Or, are naturalists adhering to something outside themselves? They are, and this implies an ethical imperative which implies an ethical law, which implies an ethical law giver, administrator and adjudicator.

Now, to theologies:
Dualism:
Generally, two coeternal gods (two separate and distinct beings) consisting of a “good” and “evil” god. This is truly arbitrary as the subjective goodness of the one is measured against the subjective evil of the other and visa versa.

Strict Monotheism:
Envisaged is one single eternal being, one person, perfectly united, not in the least bit divided. Perhaps such a God lacked companionship/relationship and had to create someone with whom to enjoy that which it lacked.

Being alone in eternity, relationship is not a part of its nature, character or being. Thus, when this God creates beings it does not seek personal relations with them and thus, does arbitrarily concoct ethics for them. Such a God is capricious as it is not bound by relationship and since ethics is not intrinsic to its nature, ethical actions by this God are not guaranteed.

Pantheons, Polytheism and Henotheism:
These groups of gods are generally conceived of as having been created by one or two previously existing gods. Whether the many gods are eternal or created by others, they enjoyed relationships with each other. Yet, being distinct beings and persons, they are not famous for conducting ethical relationships with each other but are infamous for quarreling.
In the view of many gods who were created by other gods; the ancient gods somehow established an ethical law which is then external to the subsequent gods and is a law to which these gods are subservient.

Since they could enjoy relationships with other supernatural beings they were not generally interested in relationships with humans. They considered humans to be play things—they manipulate our fates or take human form to fornicate with us but there is little, if anything, in the way of ethical relationships.

Pantheism, Panentheism:
Essentially, this view postulates that God is the creator and creation. Thus, on this view God’s creations are, in reality, extensions of God. Therefore, on pantheism or panentheism ethics amounts to God dictating to God how God should treat God. God is the director, the actor and audience.

Trinitarianism:
In the Bible we are dealing with Trinitarian monotheism, a triune being: one God, one being, and yet, three “persons” (a being who exhibits characteristics of personhood) each is God, each is eternal, each is distinct and yet, each is the one God. One coeternal, coexisting, coequal being consisting of three “persons.”

This God is not alone in eternity, is not in relation to separate eternal beings and is in relationship to separate persons. Since each member of the Trinity is eternal, each has enjoyed eternal relationships. This God is not lacking in relationship. God enjoys a relationship that is both unified in purpose and diverse amongst the persons.

Resolving the Euthyphro Dilemma:
Ethics are based upon the Triune God’s nature. God’s nature is relational and benevolent, eternal and free from conflict. God enjoys relationships and encourages His creation to enjoy likewise relationships. Life consists of enjoying relationships with humans grounded upon the enjoyment of an eternal relationship with God.

Thus, the Triune God neither adheres to external, nor constructs arbitrary, ethics since they are an aspect of His very nature.

86 comments :

KnowItsTrue said...

Excellent essay! Based on your title I was expecting you to use the common defense of the Euthyrpho Dilemma (calling it a false dilemma because the third option is that God IS "the good") but you took it a step further. Its interesting to see how the other religions/worldviews fail when the Euthyphro Dilemma is turned on them. Excellent work!

Anthony Horvath said...

Nice Job, Mariano. I make a similar point, contending that arguing that the Dilemma somehow proves that there is no God has unfortunate consequences, because if there is no God, the Dilemma returns in force only now it rests on each individual human (ie, your Naturalist). So, if the Dilemma really amounts to supporting the conclusion that God doesn't exist, I suppose, since it now rests on our shoulders, it means that WE don't exist... uh, yea. Solipsism masquerading as an atheistic argument. :)

But I was really prompted to post here because I don't think you should include panentheism in your category with pantheism. Granting that some have really twisted panentheism, I still think it has got to be considered in a separate category and indeed is consistent with Trinitarianism.

I will simply submit Ephesians 4:6...

"...one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

This is simply to say that panentheism can be understood as giving a place to the neglected- but utterly orthodox- attribute of God, immanence. It is transcendence's forgotten kid brother, but is nonetheless a critical attribute of God.

"God is in all things" is really a much different animal than "God IS all things."

Peter Grice said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Grice said...

Anthony, I don't think that when panentheists say "in all things" they have the same thing in mind as when trinitarians say it. To be "in" "things" under panentheism is typically to hold that the Being of God is infused in matter. In contrast, the Immanence of Christian orthodoxy has to do with God's presence and power sustaining and affecting contingent being (matter included), but not conjoined/infused with it at the level of being.

So while I see your point and agree that panentheism makes some distinction (that's really what distinguishes it from pantheism), I wouldn't go so far as to say the distinction is compatible with trinitarianism. There is still continuity of being within panentheism, but under transcendent theism there is critical discontinuity between Creation/created.

Anthony Horvath said...

Hi Peter,

Good and thoughtful response. I think that we should be careful, though, in speaking of panentheists as a uniform group. There are some panentheists who are off their rockers. However, as I illustrated by use of the Ephesians passage, it is in fact proper and orthodox to refer to God as being 'in all things.' If we are careful to ensure that by this we do not mean 'is all things,' then strictly speaking, there is a sense in which we can- and should- say that God-is-in-all-things... in a word, panentheistic.

Just as Mariano had to draw a distinction between 'strict monotheists' and 'trinitarian' theists, we might find a need to draw a distinction between 'strict panentheists' and 'trinitarian panentheists.'

I would submit that given the Eph 4 passage, and others such as John 1:3 and Acts 17:28, some room will have to be made within trinitarianism for the presence of God 'in' all things.

Now, I would submit that the critical discontinuity between the Creation/created is not to be found at the level of substance ("conjoined/infused") but rather at the level of contingency. This seems to me to be the fatal flaw of the process theologians, who seem to reason that our universe and the created order are as much of a 'necessary' thing ('necessary' in the technical sense) as God is. That is nonsense at a number of levels and certainly can't be supported by the Scriptures. God is non-contingent. Creation is contingent. If God is 'in all things' it does not follow, for the orthodox Christian, that 'all things are non-contingent.'

I'd be interested in your take distinguishing immanence from the 'panentheistic' reading I have of the passages I have just mentioned. But maybe it is a conversation for another time.

Ken Pulliam said...

Mariano,

Thanks for your essay. I have a couple of problems with your position: 1) By pushing the issue back and saying that good is an intrinsic part of God's nature, you still haven't defined good nor how one can know what is good. Is something good because its intrinsic to God's nature or is God good because his nature is intrinsically good? 2) How can we make an estimate of the goodness of God apart from his actions? If his actions contained in the Bible and in nature are indicative of his character, then I would have to say that he is not all-good. He orders the killing of infants and toddlers, the stoning of homosexuals and rebellious children in the Bible and in nature, he sends natural disasters and disease which causes enormous suffering. Whatever definition of good that the believer adopts has to take these actions into consideration.

Anthony Horvath said...

"If his actions contained in the Bible and in nature are indicative of his character, then I would have to say that he is not all-good."

Hi Ken, when you say that you imply some standard against which to determine that God is not 'all-good.' But is 'good' merely something that YOU say is good? Or, if not, where did you get this standard?

David said...

"But is 'good' merely something that YOU say is good? Or, if not, where did you get this standard?"

So the killing of infants and toddlers, the stoning of homosexuals and rebellious children, and the sending of natural disasters and disease which cause enormous suffering are all good? Where did you get THIS standard?

KnowItsTrue said...

"Is something good because its intrinsic to God's nature or is God good because his nature is intrinsically good?"

Ken,

While I admire your thought process here I want to point out that what you provided here is not actually a dilemma (much less a false dilemma)

Take the Euthyphro Dilemma for example:

1. Is the good good because God wills it..
2. Or does God will it because its good?

Even though this is a false dilemma, as Mariano so eloquently showed us, it is obvious that both horns of the dilemma are concerned with the same object, "the good"

But in your dilemma you are referring to two different things:

1. Is something good because its intrinsic to God's nature...
2. Or is God good because his nature is intrinsically good?

The first horn refers to "the good" and the second horn refers to God. When you create a dilemma such as this, the two horns are not neccesarily mutually exclusive.

So to answer your dilemma:

1. Is something good because its intrinsic to God's nature...

Yes. God's nature is the ultimate standard by which everything else is measured.

2. Or is God good because his nature is intrinsically good?

Yes. This is a tautology, and therefore neccesarily true.

To the claim that God is NOT good, I would just echo what Anthony has said.

KnowItsTrue said...

David,

Is it illegal for a police officer to run a red light when he's code 3 (lights and sirens)?

God issues divine commands to us which constitutes our moral duties. But God doesn't issue divine commands to himself. These things you mention are things that would be wrong for someone to do in the absence of a divine command to do them.

David said...

KnowItsTrue,

So, you solve the problem of by definition. If God does it, then it's good. Doesn't matter what it is, it's good. Well, you can do this if you'd like, but it's not very convincing.

By the way, how does one know when one has received a divine command to commit genocide.

Anthony Horvath said...

Sorry David, you can't have it both ways. You can't sit around uttering moral judgments that you expect to be taken seriously by others without answering why we should adopt your moral standard. Do you condemn killing of infants and toddlers only because YOU say it is wrong? Seriously? Or do you wish to submit that others should believe it to be wrong, too? On what basis do you submit this?

Is something wrong because David says it is wrong or is it wrong because it is objectively wrong?

If it is the former, frankly I don't see the point in discussing the matter. It's just your opinion, nothing more.

If it is the latter, I'd be happy to discuss it further, but only after you've explained where this objective basis comes from which you are appealing to.

If the Dilemma is a valid argument it doesn't stop being valid after it is applied to theism.

KnowItsTrue said...

"So, you solve the problem of by definition. If God does it, then it's good. Doesn't matter what it is, it's good. Well, you can do this if you'd like, but it's not very convincing.

By the way, how does one know when one has received a divine command to commit genocide. "

David,

There are two reasons why you don't find this convincing.

1. You are still grounding "the good" in some external standard that you havent defined.
2. You are talking about God the way you would talk about just any other person.

For example, how stupid would it be for me to commit a crime and to say "well I did it, so therefore its OK"? The reason this would be absurd is because I have several standards above me which I have to answer to (including God's standard).

But in God's case, he IS the standard. There is nothing above God.

As for your question about how does one know that he has recieved a Divine command from God, well now your bringing epistemology into the argument. But nevertheless, I think it has its place in the argument.

Take for example the story of Lot's daughters who he offered to a mob so they can rape them instead of the angels he was had in his house. Perhaps Lot thought that God wanted him to do that, so he felt justified in offering his daughters in that way. The problem is God didn't command that, so Lot was wrong in this case.

David said...

KnowItsTrue,

It’s easy to say “but in God's case, he IS the standard, there is nothing above God”, but this is an untestable assertion, and there is no way to know if this is correct or if this is just something that we humans made up. It’s useful to say “God is the standard”, and we humans are good at inventing useful things. It’s easier to kill when you think that you are killing at the behest of God, but that doesn’t make it so.

It’s easy to say “God says it’s good, so it’s good”, but as your answer shows, it not very satisfying and NOT for the reasons that you presume (your reasons 1. and 2.). It’s not very satisfying for the reasons based on the example that you gave. It’s not very satisfying because you can’t tell if (1) Lot turned his daughters over to be raped because he thought God said to do this, but he was wrong or (2) yeah, God really said, “let the mob rape your kids”. So, where’s the standard? What is good or bad, right or wrong in this case? That’s just one example, but the same can be said of genocide and of all of the other things mentioned originally by Ken.

In theory, it’s easy to say something is good, because God said it’s good. In practice, it doesn’t work, there’s no evidence for this, and there’s no way to know if it’s correct or not. In practice, if you look at human history, it looks like moral codes, definitions of good and bad, etc., all look like something that humans made up. For example, God’s standard says genocide is bad…unless you want the land of Canaan…and then God says it’s good.

So, what’s God’s standard? It’s whatever we humans need it to be, because it’s really our standard with the God bit added to justify whatever needs justifying.

AH,

“Sorry David, you can't have it both ways. You can't sit around uttering moral judgments that you expect to be taken seriously by others without answering why we should adopt your moral standard. “

“ I'd be happy to discuss it further, but only after you've explained where this objective basis comes from which you are appealing to.”

Did I utter a moral judgment? I just asked if the killing of infants and toddlers, the stoning of homosexuals and rebellious children, and the sending of natural disasters and disease which cause enormous suffering were all good. You folks are the ones with the absolute objective moral standards of good and bad, you folks know the mind of God, so I was expecting that you would be able to tell me if these things are good or bad. Apparently, this is more of a challenge that I expected. Now you’re asking me if it’s good or bad, but I asked first. KnowItsTrue did provide an answer of sorts, but for reasons given, I don’t find it very satisfying.

I can provide a basis for describing things as good or bad, but they won’t be any more objective than your basis. You think you have an “objective” basis, but really, this is just a word that you attach to your particular conclusions about good and bad. Saying your basis is “objective” or “God’s standard” doesn’t make it so. I think that we can come up with some pretty strong arguments for why something is good or bad, but these aren’t going to be absolute truths. But that’s ok. I can’t give you an absolute objective basis for declaring something stinky, but I think that we can still draw conclusions about the relative merits of odors of roses and sewage.

KnowItsTrue said...

"It’s easy to say “but in God's case, he IS the standard, there is nothing above God”, but this is an untestable assertion, and there is no way to know if this is correct or if this is just something that we humans made up. "

You're mixing apples and oranges here. The point of Mariano's essay was to show that Christianity is the only world view that can withstand the force of the Euthyphro Dilemma while remaining internally consistent. Thats all we're saying. We don't have to validate our assertion with some external court of reason in order to prove that the assertion is consistent within our worldview.

And as far as external consistence, the point being made is that no other worldview is able to make sense of objective morals that we apprehend in our experience everyday. Your last comment...

"if you look at human history, it looks like moral codes, definitions of good and bad, etc., all look like something that humans made up."

...shows that you don't think that objective morality exists. This belief is definitely consistent with the Atheist worldview, but its definitely NOT consistent with the Atheist's life (or anyone else's life for that matter). We all know there there is something morally wrong with someone going to a mourge and raping a bunch of dead bodies and covering up the evidence so no one finds out. Christians know it and Atheists know it. The problem is that the Atheist can't give a cogent answer for why its wrong. Did anyone get hurt? Is there anything special about a dead body? Is there anything objectively wrong with rape? On Atheism, the answer is no.

The Christian has an answer. People bear the image of God and therefore are worthy of respect and dignity. Now you might say "This is just an assertion, you have no evidence of that." But for this argument to work, we only need to show that the Christian Worldview is internally consistent, Atheism is not.

David said...

"We all know there there is something morally wrong with someone going to a mourge and raping a bunch of dead bodies and covering up the evidence so no one finds out."

And genocide?

Peter Grice said...

Hi Anthony,

Interesting topic. I agree that panentheism isn't monolithic, and that at the very least a strain of it could be compatible with a strain of Trinitarianism (at the risk of straining at camels like Jürgen Moltmann and Philip Clayton!).

I do struggle to reconcile it with the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo, since classically conceived panentheism implies creatio ex Deo, that the world is an extension of God's being. (Of course when I say classically conceived I acknowledge that the category is still being formulated and is somewhat malleable, even as it is being applied retroactively to thinkers who didn't take up any explicit label).

But you suggested, I think, that orthodoxy's Creator-creature distinction [or discontinuity] might be about contingency rather than substance/being, which if true, would indeed seem to align the two more closely.

I may not be understanding the way you're using the terms, but I'm not sure I could make a hard and fast distinction between contingency and being, since (to me at least) contingency is about causal relation and that relation has to do with being/substance/ontology. So it characterizes being itself as discontinuous (in terms of necessary/contingent).

Commonly accepted definitions of panentheism run together along these lines: "the doctrine that the universe/world is in/within God (in some sense), even though God also transcends it (in some sense)."

In "Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers," [ http://www.amzn.com/0801027241 ] John W. Cooper devotes a final chapter to his personal view that panentheism and Christian orthodoxy ought not be reconciled. He writes (page 330),

"The classical understanding of God's immanence also includes providential divine concursus - God's continuously guiding, sustaining, and empowering creation. In classical theism, God can be absolutely immanent - unconditionally omnipresent in creation - precisely because he is absolutely transcendent. It is simply false to suggest that classical theism denies or ignores the immanence of God. ...Aquinas ...even uses the Platonic analogy of the body being in the soul... His unqualified ontological Creator-creature distinction, however, gives the analogy a much different meaning than it has in World-Soul panentheism.

In panentheism, God is only relatively immanent because he is only relatively transcendent. Classical panentheism makes God ontologically relative to creation when it posits the generation of the world as intrinsic to his nature. Modern relational panentheism goes further and makes his actual existence relative to creation: ontologically, time, space, and primordial cosmic energy are dimensions or modes of God's being or power, not absolutely distinct creations or artifacts. ...In spite of the immanence of all things in the panentheistic God, his presence, knowledge, and power are relative and limited, not complete, immediate, and unconditioned as in classical theism."

Peter Grice said...

To give the other side of things, Clayton implores us to begin "with an ontology of persons rather than of substances (more on this below in the context of the Trinity). Now, once we have moved beyond the definition of God as one substance in three persons (and humans as personal substances), we will need to think more deeply about what personhood means." Further down he elaborates: "As hinted above, the three persons are not unified within one substance, which is then kept ontologically separate from the multiple independent substances in the world. Instead, the three persons are to be understood as personal spheres of activity. As Joseph Bracken has argued convincingly, there is no reason why finite persons cannot be included within a personal sphere of activity that at the same time transcends it, whereas it is clear that one substance cannot include another substance."

- "The Case for Christian Panentheism" http://bit.ly/dB6JwY

But isn't he recommending an explicit departure from orthodox Trinitarianism? I confess ignorance as to what "personal sphere of activity" might mean as an alternative to a substance metaphysic -- but wonder whether Clayton's expression here might not be what you're getting at by distinguishing "contingency" from substance? Cooper would insist, however, that:

"The ontological Trinity exists whether or not the economic Trinity does. ...because God did choose to create, the ontological Trinity is the economic Trinity. There is some truth in Rahner's Rule." (p329) and also "God's actual supernatural existence infinitely transcends his immanence in the world, no matter how genuine, immediate, and enduring it is. In classical Christian theism, it ultimately makes no sense to speak of ontological proportion or "balance" between transcendence and immanence." (p328)

I believe this relatively recent issue dovetails with the historical theological debates over perichoresis and hypostatic union, though disappointingly may not help us resolve the number of angels able to spread their wings at the Planck length with room to spare.

In general I think the presence of biblical passages suggestive of immanence and/or panentheism don't in themselves resolve the issue either way, as the divinity is in the details, or, as the definitions attempt to fudge "in some sense," the issue is about in what sense does the Bible mean "in." Granted, Paul invokes the Stoic appropriation of "ontos" (ontology) or being, but I think it's clear he is doing some appropriating of foreign contexts for reinterprtation on a Christian worldview. If it may be legitimate to widen the lens a little, perhaps Paul intended to prepare ground for better acceptance of his controversial punchline about the resurrection, for the context of his quote speaks of a tomb being prepared for God yet unable to detain him:

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.

– Epimenides, Cretica

Another precaution here is to remember that the Bible also speaks of some being "in Christ" but others not.

I'm not sure if I've really added or clarified anything. By the way, I particularly enjoyed your recent essay, along with Miriano's above.

Ken Pulliam said...

Anthony,

How does one know what is "good"? I think Epicurus was basically right. Pain is bad and the absence of pain is good. How does one know that when someone hits them in the face that it is bad? How does one know that if someone steals your car that it is bad? One knows these are bad because they cause him pain. Then one extrapolates from that and applies it universally( i.e., the golden rule which btw was not original with Jesus).

Ken Pulliam said...

KnowitsTrue,

When you say:1. Is something good because its intrinsic to God's nature...

Yes. God's nature is the ultimate standard by which everything else is measured.

2. Or is God good because his nature is intrinsically good?

Yes. This is a tautology, and therefore neccesarily true.


I believe you are essentailly saying that you accept #1 from the Euthyphro dilemma.,. "Something is good because God wills it." You are just backing up one step to say that whatever God wills is grounded in his nature. But this doesn't solve the dilemma because if good is defined by God's nature, then murder could be good or torture could be good if it was God's nature to will such things. Thus the term good just becomes whatever God wills. So if God's nature were different, then the definition of good would be different.

Peter Grice said...

Hi Ken,

"Pain is bad and the absence of pain is good."

Suppose in a happily married couple, one partner decides to enter an ongoing affair. The other partner would be bitterly hurt if they knew, but they remain none the wiser. The cheating partner remains content with the situation.

Nobody is caused any pain, so is it fair to say that the affair is not morally wrong?

"the golden rule... was not original with Jesus"

But Jesus didn't teach consequentialism. It is clear that He taught something akin to Divine Command Theory, since his "version" of the "golden rule" was a summary of the Law. It is predicated on the notion that it is good and obligatory for us because it issues from our Creator. To equate this with similar-sounding constructs (as is very common) is actually to radically misconstrue it.

Unlike many forms of the so-called Gold and Silver rules, Jesus did not teach "Do unto others what causes them no pain, because after all, you don't want them to cause pain unto you!" Rather, he taught that the truly good neighbor was the selfless one. Love your enemies, and all that. Do it based on the imperative.

Instead I think that pain is unwanted/disliked. If you inflict pain, all you can infer from this fact is that you did something somebody didn't want you to do. Some may even want you to. Either way, it's merely descriptive. To call it wrong one has to import an outside standard.

Mariano said...

Great discussion all around by all.

Let us keep one thing in mind as those issue raised by Ken pertain to laws which the Israelites agreed to live by.
Now that the new covenant is in place and we are not Israelites, living in Israel, living in the theocratic (monarchically administered) kingdom of millennia ago; such laws are not in place. Also, we have no indication whatsoever that any divine command to commit genocide or any such things is to be expected in any way or at all, ever.

Now, when a nurse wanted to stab the, literally, newborn foot of my son I—for all intents and purposes the omnipotent father who could have stopped her—agreed, even whilst knowing the pain and suffering that it would cause him. But, I knew better than he, I knew the greater purpose, reason and meaning. This is why I allowed it—I caused it. God knows better than we.

This is why it is false that “Pain is bad and the absence of pain is good.” Pain can be a wonderful tool: when I put my hand on a hot surface the pain makes it so that I do not leave it there and have my hand burned to the point of uselessness, when I workout then pain means strength and growth, etc.

Now, we know that God did not want Lot to turn his daughters over to be raped because God condemns rape with capital punishment and because the minute Lot does so the angels interfere and take charge of the situation.

Also—and this the problem with using issues such as those that Ken brought up—as talking points; the few and restricted instances of genocide did not have to do with wanting the land of Canaan but due to the utter depravity of those nations. This is the grammatical and historical context.

“So, what’s God’s standard?...it’s really our standard with the God bit added to justify whatever needs justifying.” This is true to some extent, as far as manipulation goes, but false in that God’s nature and standard is relational and benevolent. Yet, I can be relational and benevolent and still blow someone’s brains out if they attack my family and no one in their right mind would condemn me as immoral for doing so in fact, I would be considered moral for doing so. “God so loved the world” that this motivates, if I may use that term, His commands and actions towards us even if we do not know it, see it, or agree with His methods.

So yes, there is an “absolute objective moral standards of good and bad” but the application differs. It is bad to “murder” but not to “kill” even though both are taking a life, etc.

Overall, the antagonists to the ethos/God position are affirming that with God there is no standard of “good” as when they ask “How does one know what is ‘good’?” they are affirming just that.

Anthony Horvath said...

Hi Peter,

I commend you for your full, thorough and thoughtful reply. I appreciated your willingness to turn my comments over slowly in your hand for consideration. I feel like a heel: I cannot return the favor. I must move on to some other projects. :( But I should like to speak about this with you in more detail at some time.

In my view, it would be wrong to say that God is fully immanent only because he is fully transcendent. I think the way the classical position has been expressed on this point paints the division between creator and creation too stark. We must remember that if creation exists as something wholly independent and completely 'outside' of God, then we are implying that there exists a sphere of reality that is, well, outside of God. This, by definition of God, is impossible! In contrast to the notion that God's immanence follows from his transcendence, I would submit that his immanence follows from the definition of God.

The real issue, in my view, is that we don't have a suitable model for helping us to wrap our head around it. But I take it back! I believe that I personally do have in mind a model that will satisfactorily cover all of the facts. I will be addressing it in more detail in my fiction before my non-fiction. (Book 5 of my Birth Pangs series, in particular http://www.birthpangs.com... which of course is only on book 2. :) )

Sorry, that's the best I can give you for now. Until next time, shalom!

Ken Pulliam said...

Peter,

In the affair analogy, there is always the potential that the affair will be found out, which should be enough to keep one from committing it they adhere to the Epicurean principle. But even if its not found out, an affair damages a relationship and if a person wants to continue in the relationship, then it would be bad to have an affair because it will cause hurt. Pain in the Epicurean ethic does not always involve physical pain but can include emotional pain as well.

The Epicurean principle can be extrapolated beyond just negative acts, i.e., what I should not do ("the silver rule"). If pain is bad, then not only should I not cause pain but I ought to try to alleviate it when I can, which is the positive aspect of the principle ("the golden rule"). While Jesus may have anchored the rule in a divine command, the point is that one does not have to do so. It something that can be readily discerned through reason without any appeal to a god.

Ken Pulliam said...

Mariano,

The fact that we are not Israelites and don't live under the old covenant does not mitigate the problem. If God could command genocide under the old covenant, then according to you, it was good because God commanded it and it is a reflection of his nature. To say that the Canaanites and Amalekties deserved it, is in my mind, misguided. Did the infants and toddlers of these people deserve it? The Amalekites were exterminated because of something their ancestors did 400 years prior. Would you deserve to be killed for something your ancestors did 400 years ago?

As for the example of your daughter, the Epicurean principle allows for temporary pain to be inflicted if the goal is for less pain in the future, but it has to be less future pain for the person upon whom the temporary pain is inflicted . The same with putting my hand on a stove, the temporary pain is good because it prevents more severe future pain for me.

You also did not deal with my point that by pushing the Euthyprhro dilemma back one notch, i.e., saying that good is based in the character of God, does not resolve the dilemma. You still are saying that whatever God's character is, is the definition of good which is no different than saying that whatever God commands is good. On this basis, rape, murder, incest, etc. could be good if it were consistent with God's character.

David said...

"We have no indication whatsoever that any divine command to commit genocide or any such things is to be expected in any way or at all, ever."

I'm not so sure about this. Until they arrived in Canaan, did the Israelites have any indication that God would be commanding genocide? I don't think the fact that you "see no indication" is signficant.

If God did it once, God can do it again at any time. God's rap sheet makes this clear. Commanding genocide appears to be just a part of God's "nature", and in fact, this is a trivial act for an entity that condemns humans to eternal torture for the slightest infraction of a code that can not possibly be followed. I don't doubt for a mintute that such an entity could order more rape, murder and genocide tomorrow. And of course, rape, murder and genocide would then be good.

bossmanham said...

The Epicurean rule defeats itself when two different individual's enter into a situation where it is impossible for them to both not be in pain. For instance, it causes some sociopaths great pleasure to kill people, but if he attacked someone he would be causing them pain. For them to resist or for us to tell him it is wrong to kill people would cause him pain. But wait, it's wrong to cause pain, so it would be wrong to try to stop him from causing pain...but it's wrong for him to cause pain. It's an incoherent ethic to hold to because of these contradictions it causes.

Peter Grice said...

bossmanham: indeed, and the absurdity is complete when a sadist finds a masochist. Their RATIONAL opting out of the Epicurean "good" while yet CONFORMING to the ethic's rule exposes that the system is inherently optional, and therefore preference-based. This makes it arbitrary in terms of meaningful moral concepts like obligation and justice.

Ken Pulliam said...

Bossman and Peter,

Of course there are always going to be people who due to mental illness are not going to "play by the rules." The exception only proves the rule.

Your system is not free from problems either. As already pointed out, if God's nature is what equals good, then anything God happens to do is by your system "good." That would include killing infants and toddlers and killing new brides who happen not to be virgins. Your god seems more akin to the sociopaths and sadists that both of you think disprove the Epircurean principle.

Peter Grice said...

Hi Ken,

The Epicurean system is in need of proof, not disproof. If one is going to ascribe "the good" to a descriptive state of affairs, and, hoping others won't notice the fudge, proceed to derive "rules" we ought to follow, then the imperative has been smuggled in, because it simply does not emerge from the premises.

You seemed to suggest that everyone should play along with Epicurus, and that those who don't are deviant or "mentally ill." But since the system lacks justification for ethical normativity, it cannot judge that those who disagree (sadists, for example) are a deviation from the norm. (The tacit appeal to majority opinion here is fallacious.)

In responding to the scenario I gave, where one spouse cheats and remains content indefinitely, while the other remains oblivious indefinitely, you were unable to rationally justify this as being wrong. Your points amounted to these: 1) if the cheating spouse does "adhere to the Epicurean principle," the prospect of getting caught "should be enough" to dissuade them; 2) an assertion that affairs do damage relationships where they are never discovered.

But of course 1) inovkes the preference-based/opt-in nature of the system, and does not address the issue raised, and 2) construes pain/harm in the most strained sense conceivable: some level of "damage" to the relationship so subtle that only the cheating spouse is really cognizant of it, but, you included, it is only "bad" if they want to continue in the relationship. This clause is very telling, since it contradicts the premise that it is wrong to cause pain/hurt/harm. Instead of that, you seem to be saying that it's perfectly OK to inflict emotional pain on a spouse if one has decided that they no longer "want" to "continue in the relationship."

Christian theism has its challenges to answer, but they are not fatal problems at all. Forms of deontological and absolutist ethics stand independently of Christian theism (for example they fit with theism in general), so that is something of a red herring. Consequentialist ethics, such as the Epicurean ethos, turn out to be non-starters in terms of supplying any grounds for anything actually being good or wrong, and therefore prescriptive, as opposed to mere subscription to description.

Peter Grice said...

Anthony: "But I should like to speak about this with you in more detail at some time."

That'd be great, when you have time. I'm traceable via contact @ thinkchristianity.com

"I would submit that his immanence follows from the definition of God."

My final submission: if God is defined in part as having necessary being [or self-existence] (an interpretation of "I am that I am"), then he lacks nothing. God is transcendent in relation to a contingent created order, and able to be immanent to it, but this remains true only while it exists [while he determines to sustain it]. What's contingent is epiphenomenal, and can only have causal efficacy upon God should he will to permit that. So my distinction is between God's necessary being, and transcendent/immanent being a relation to contingent being.

If on the other hand you meant the definition of God from our perspective ("our Creator"), then I can see immanence following on from this in the terms I just gave: as a relation. Which I think is the traditional conception of immanence, quite different from a panentheistic conception.

All the best with your writing!

bossmanham said...

As already pointed out, if God's nature is what equals good, then anything God happens to do is by your system "good."

The point is that God's nature IS the good, and therefore it becomes logically impossible for anything He does to not be good, since He cannot act against His own nature and His nature IS the good. Therefore He will only do good because He is the good. If there is something that doesn't strike us as good in what He commands or does, then we are mistaken or the person who says they are doing what God said is mistaken and God actually didn't say to do it.

I also want to point out that the proposition that "pain is bad" hasn't been justified in any way, as Peter points out. For that to be an objective reality, it has to be grounded in some facet of reality. Avoidance of pain may aid in survival, but it in no way garners any moral significance simply because of that fact. In fact, I would say that pain is a good thing, because without it we would surely die from exposing ourselves unknowingly to dangerous circumstances.

David said...

"The point is that God's nature IS the good, and therefore it becomes logically impossible for anything He does to not be good, since He cannot act against His own nature and His nature IS the good....If there is something that doesn't strike us as good in what He commands or does, then we are mistaken or the person who says they are doing what God said is mistaken and God actually didn't say to do it."

Brilliant. Define God as always good at all times and under all conditions. Doesn't matter if it's really so, just declare it to be so. Then, discount any evidence to the contrary by saying that it's human error. "If there is something that doesn't strike us as good", then it's our fault for "misinterpreting" the evidence or the alleged commands. At times it may look like God is bad or it may look like God's commands renders meanlingless such terms as "right" and "wrong", but don't worry, it just means that the humans got it wrong. Our bad. But what is the use or value of terms like "good" and "bad" if you can't figure out which term should be applied to genocide?

One can declare that "God's nature IS the good", but how would you know if you're wrong? Unfortunately, this is an unbeatable, untestable hypothesis, because any conceivable observation can be interpreted as supporting the hypothesis. But what if it's wrong? Like the song says...

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

One could be forgiven if one read the Old Testament and concluded that the character known as Yahweh is really just another human, a human with super powers and an anger management problem.

Ken Pulliam said...

Peter,

I am not arguing that the Epicurean principle is absolute or deontological. I think its an ethical principle not a moral absolute. I don't believe there are any moral absolutes even within the Christian system. Killing innocent people, which is usually defined as murder, is sometimes okay within that system. Lying is sometimes okay.

As far as the pain caused in the relationship of a couple that has an affair. It brings pain to both sides in that the relationship which is based on trust has been violated. Even if the other side doesn't know about the affair, they can sense that things are not right.

Ken Pulliam said...

Bossman,

When you say: The point is that God's nature IS the good, and therefore it becomes logically impossible for anything He does to not be good, since He cannot act against His own nature and His nature IS the good. Therefore He will only do good because He is the good, its no different than saying that whatever God commands is good. Which is the 2nd point in the Euthyphro dilemma. Pushing things back one notch to the character of God does not resolve the dilemma.

In addition, in your view, how would one know what is good? If God's nature is such that he can command the killing of innocents, then that must be good. If that is the case, then the word good has lost all of its meaning.

Peter Grice said...

Ken, I don't think you addressed my key point, which is that the Epicurean principle is an inadequate basis for a moral system because it is opt-out: it fails to provide any imperative (or moral ought). I say this, because assuming the imperative from the outset as it does, simply begs the question. One could take the same approach by slapping the label "good" on anything:

- the contentment of cockroaches is the good
- anything that causes harm/pain to cockroaches is bad
- anything that promotes cockroach flourishing is good
- therefore this is a perfectly reasonable moral theory: proof you don't need God to be nice to cockroaches

On the affair scenario, let us suppose that the affair is a one-night stand while their spouse is away for a month. The cheating spouse doesn't have much regret, but decides it would be best never to cheat again. By the time the non-cheating spouse returns home, they have all but forgotten about the episode. Their spouse remains oblivious because there is no perceptible change, and they live happily every after.

It seems to me the moral theory you outlined can't regard the affair as wrong, given that it caused absolutely no pain to the spouse.

Since you mentioned "killing of innocents," one could imagine a scenario where a person did this today without causing any pain to the child, and in a circumstance where no other person knew or cared. The theory you offered would seem to break down here, too. No pain, no wrong?

Would you be prepared to concede that the "killing of innocents" charge against God is only a problem on the Christian view, since on the Epicurean view "innocent" is a tacit appeal to justice predicated upon an objective standard for right/wrong, which the system fails to undergird? If not, how does it succeed in this regard?

Ken Pulliam said...

Peter,

the imperative in the Epicurean principle is to seek to avoid creating pain for yourself and others and by deduction to seek to alleviate pain and suffering when it does occur.

Back to the affair scenario, I think its impossible for a marriage relationship to be undamaged if one partner is hiding something as significant as betrayal of the marriage vows. It would create guilt in the offending party and even though the offended party does not know consciously that an affair has taken place, he or she can sense that the relationship is not quite as open and honest as it was before.

Peter your scenario in which one kills a child without causing pain is misguided and based on a woodenly literal meaning of the word "pain." To rob a child of its life causes hurt to the child, it causes hurt to those who love the child.

I agree that God ordering the killing of children is a problem within the theistic worldview. Its not a problem within an atheistic worldview because a wholly good deity is not postulated.

bossmanham said...

its no different than saying that whatever God commands is good. Which is the 2nd point in the Euthyphro dilemma

That's incorrect, Ken. The second point of the ED is that things are good because God proclaims that it is good. This point is different than that and the first point in that it says that things are good if they correspond to the nature of God, which is the Good. It's demonstrably different, and sufficiently splits the horns of this false dilemma.

In addition, in your view, how would one know what is good?

While that's a good question, it really bears no relevance to the issue. Just because we might not know what the good is doesn't mean that it is false that the good is what God's nature and essence is. That just doesn't follow logically. We are dealing with what the ontological foundation of morality is.

This question deals with the epistemology of morality, how we come to know what is good. I would say that many things are self evidently good or evil, right or wrong, due to the law of God written on our hearts. I think through natural theology also we can discern some basics of morality. I would also say that special revelation is a source. Actually, it's the best source of moral knowledge.

If God's nature is such that he can command the killing of innocents, then that must be good

Well you're presupposing that God did this, when the OT writers seemed to hint that these people were not "innocent". Furthermore, we would have to realize that some specific commands God has given that are good may only be for that specific instance. It may be objectively true that it was right and good for the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites at that moment in history due to a greater good that God perceived out of His foreknowledge. But absent that command that clarifies the goodness and rightness of the act, it would not be good or right to do. KnowItsTrue gave a good example to show this principle in action above.

To add even more support to this, our judgements about some of the commands that God has given that we perceive to be questionable are insufficient given our limited knowledge of the future. We do not have adequate knowledge to make the judgement of whether God had a morally sufficient reason to command or allow such things to happen.

David said...

"These people were not "innocent"."

Oooo, those evil Canaanite babies. They certainly weren't innocent. Let's bash in their heads. It's all good!

"We do not have adequate knowledge to make the judgement of whether God had a morally sufficient reason to command or allow such things to happen."

So...how do you know that a morally sufficient reason exists? You don't. All you've done is create a God with the traits that you want, and any contrary evidence is shrugged off on the grounds of "inadequate knowledge" or "insufficient judgement". Not very convincing.

Peter Grice said...

Ken,

"the imperative in the Epicurean principle is to seek to avoid creating pain for yourself and others and by deduction to seek to alleviate pain and suffering when it does occur."

Exactly as I said, the so-called "imperative" in that system is self-ascribed (opt-in), so it does not obligate a person as a moral duty. It has no ontic purchase. It fails to provide a person with a sufficient objective reason to act -- UNLESS they subscribe to the goal as their personal desire. One big problem with this is that it has no relevance to justice. On the basis of the system alone, one cannot condemn someone who would rather maximise their self-interest and harm others. So it is useless and meaningless as a moral system: we should just stop at mere preference rather than dressing it up in deduction from circular reasoning. This is what gives it no moral/rational purchase for the issue of killing babies on the atheist worldview [you chose not to argue how it does when invited]. The baby-killer simply opts out -- what does Epicurus have to say to condemn him?

With the affair analogy, you simply denied again that the exmaple I gave is possible, citing "guilt in the offending party" and for the other party, a "sense that the relationship is not quite as open and honest as it was before."

On the contrary, I think it's unrealistic of you to suggest a man couldn't have an affair and not feel guilt feelings. You had described the theory in terms of pain/harm: that seems an enormous stretch, but what are we doing talking about the "pain" of the "offender" anyway? The system has nothing moral to say to the person who is quite willing to take pain upon themselves [in order to obtain what to them is a greater pleasure]. To suggest otherwise sounds like pure unadulterated self-preservation, not a moral theory. As for the offended party, I maintain it is realistic for them NOT to have a vague "sense" that the relationship is "not quite as honest" as before. It is unrealistic to say this is impossible.

Ken Pulliam said...

Bossman,

You say: things are good because God proclaims that it is good. This point is different than that and the first point in that it says that things are good if they correspond to the nature of God, which is the Good. It's demonstrably different, and sufficiently splits the horns of this false dilemma.

They are no different. If good is what God commands or what God is, the fact is still that good in only as God defines it and thus anything could potentially be good, thus robbing the word of any meaning other than what God is or God commands.

Concerning the slaughter of babies in the OT, you say:Well you're presupposing that God did this, . I am not presupposing, I am reading this directly from the books of Joshua and 1 Samuel (15). Then you say: when the OT writers seemed to hint that these people were not "innocent". The infants and toddlers were not innocent? The Amalekites were not innocent? They deserved to die for what their ancestors did 400 years prior?

You say:Furthermore, we would have to realize that some specific commands God has given that are good may only be for that specific instance. How many times does one have to kill infants before it becomes a moral crime? If I do it once in a specific situation but not all the time--its okay? You say: It may be objectively true that it was right and good for the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites at that moment in history due to a greater good that God perceived out of His foreknowledge. So you are saying that "the end justifies the means"? I thought you had moral absolutes and it was only the atheist that practiced moral relativism? Its okay in your opinion to do evil so that good may come?

Ken Pulliam said...

Peter,

I agree that the Epicurean principle is not some type of objective ethical mandate. I never argued that it was. It seems that it is you and other theists who insist that there must be an objective ethical mandate. Epicurus simply said that man would live a happier and more fulfilled life if he adhered to his ethical principle. He didn't claim that it was an objective moral imperative.

As for the justice system, people enter into a social contract as described by Locke for the regulation and betterment of the society they live in. The laws in any given society are based on a number of different concerns most of them pragmatic concerns.

Regarding the affair, I would only suggest you speak to some marriage counselors or psychologists concerning the impact of an affair on a relationship even if the offended party is unaware. If the offending party does not experience guilt, then they obviously are not living by any sort of ethic.

bossmanham said...

David,

So...how do you know that a morally sufficient reason exists?

Because God tells us He does.

They are no different

They obviously are. God being the good is demonstrably different from God simply saying what is good and that being the good (in light of Him saying so; not because it corresponds to His nature). Not awknowledging the difference is hand waving.

the fact is still that good in only as God defines it and thus anything could potentially be good

No....it's only what God is. Good is what corresponds to His nature. Good is not simply good because He says so, but because it coincides with His nature.

Concerning the slaughter of babies in the OT, you say:Well you're presupposing that God did this, . I am not presupposing, I am reading this directly from the books of Joshua and 1 Samuel (15)

The presupposition I am referring to is that the people God had killed were innocent, you didn't mention the babies in that statement. I bring up the children later.

You say:Furthermore, we would have to realize that some specific commands God has given that are good may only be for that specific instance. How many times does one have to kill infants before it becomes a moral crime?

Wwithout a command from God, anytime would be immoral.

If I do it once in a specific situation but not all the time--its okay?

Only if that specific instance is when God commands it.

You say: It may be objectively true that it was right and good for the Israelites to kill all of the Canaanites at that moment in history due to a greater good that God perceived out of His foreknowledge. So you are saying that "the end justifies the means"?

No, I am saying that God has a morally justified reason for commanding the death of the Canaanites. The death of the Canaanites was good and there is an even better good that came out of it.

I thought you had moral absolutes and it was only the atheist that practiced moral relativism?

Acting as though the ends are what matter in moral decisions is not moral relativism, it would be more akin to utilitarianism. But that is not what I'm espousing. I hold to a mixture of deontological and virtue ethics.

Its okay in your opinion to do evil so that good may come?

I never said that. Inferring that from my statement is unjustified.

Perhaps this will clear up my position:

If our moral duties come about because of the commands of God (which flow from His nature which is the good) then we are obligated to follow those commands. So I have no right to take an innocent life because God has said so. However, God does not issue moral commands to Himself because He is the locus of morality. He can give and take life as He chooses. That's why we accuse people who think they have that right with "playing god." God is under no obligation to allow anyone to live any longer than He chooses.

So that means that God has the right to take the lives of the Canaanites whenever He sees fit. The problem isn't, then, that He took the lives but that He commanded the Israelites to take the lives. Now you'll say "so He commanded murder!?!?!" No. He commanded something which without a divine command would have been murder.

Said another way, unjustified killing is murder, but with a divine command we have a justifiable reason to kill. Therefore, a divinely commanded killing is not murder.

David said...

Good is what corresponds to His nature."

Once again we have an assertion with no evidence and no ability to test the assertion.

"Because God tells us (a morally sufficient reason exists)."

Oh, well, I guess that settles it. God tells us something is right and that a morally sufficient reasons exists. You hear the voice of God, and then it's right to do whatever the voice says. Whatever the voice says is good. Always listen to the voice.

Joshua heard the voice of God, so genocide was good...and he got a promised land as a bonus prize. (No conflict of interest there, eh?) We get divine commands to kill, so it's not murder. Well, that's all ok then.

You really believe this? God tells us what is moral? How? It's not murder if it serves a higher divine purpose? Wow. You do know that this is the reasoning of Nazis, yes?

Wanna guess what the voice inside my head says?

bossmanham said...

Once again we have an assertion with no evidence and no ability to test the assertion

We are all arguing about God and in the argument we must assume that we can conceive of the attributes of such a being if He exists. There are other arguments for arguing for His existence. This contention is an attempt to deflect attention from the current debate, David.

BTW can you run a test to confirm you are not a brain in a vat being stimulated to hallucinate the external world?

Oh, well, I guess that settles it. God tells us something is right and that a morally sufficient reasons exists

If God has infallible foreknowledge, then it would be reasonable to assume He knows if his allowances have morally sufficient reasons. How about showing me a problem with the idea instead of ridiculing it?

We get divine commands to kill, so it's not murder. Well, that's all ok then

Yes. That is because:

1) Unjustified killing is murder
2) A divine command to kill gives us a justifiable reason to kill.
3) ∴ a divinely commanded killing is not murder.

Please show a problem with the argument (and the elucidation above). So far all I've seen is an appeal to ridicule.

David said...

"So far all I've seen is an appeal to ridicule."

Then you're not reading closely. I've offered much more than ridicule, and I'm not getting much in the way of an answer.

"Please show a problem with the argument."

Here it is. Again. In your own words, "we must assume that we can conceive of the attributes of such a being if He exists".

Why must we make this assumption? Why? What leads you to believe that you can conceive of the attributes of an entity capable of creating universe? To steal a line from Darwin, a dog may as well contemplate the mind of Newton. And even in one could "conceive of the attributes", why assume that the entity is "good" or that the entity communicates what is good to a single species of millions on a single planet out of trillions? Why? I'm not trying to deflect anything. Your claim that God is good is central to the discussion and I'm trying to address this point.

I'm sorry I have to keep repeating this, but you continue to make assertions for which there is no evidence and means of testing. This is quite frustrating, and frustration can spawn ridicule.

You ask "can you run a test to confirm you are not a brain in a vat being stimulated to hallucinate the external world?" No, I can't, and that's exactly the point. I can assert that I'm a brain in vat, you can assert that God is good, and there is no way to know if either of us is right or wrong. So, what's the point? We can assert for the rest of our lives, but to no end. The problem is that some confuse their assertions with truth.

I said "we get divine commands to kill, so it's not murder, well, that's ok then."

And you said...YES?! It's OK?! You can kill if...there is what? A divine command?! Seriously?! This is the kind of thinking that flew planes into the WTC.

So, how is one suppose to respond to this? Frankly, ridicule is about the mildest type of response that I can generate.

So, this is the absolute truth offered by Christianity? This is your objective moral truth, the thing that make Christianity superior to all other philosophical and moral systems ever created? This is what makes you special?

You know, now that I've gotten a good look at your superior objective and absolute moral truths, I think I'll pass. I think I'll just continue to muddle on in my own flawed, relativistic way. I think I'll just continue to think for myself instead of becoming an apologists for genocide. Seriously, you really should take a close look at what you're attempting to justify.

bossmanham said...

Then you're not reading closely. I've offered much more than ridicule, and I'm not getting much in the way of an answer.

Nope, just reviewed all of your posts. Seen nothing but ridicule. Please, tell me where my logic is faulty.

Why must we make this assumption?

When you're arguing about a concept, it's helpful to be able to assume it is true for the sake of argument. If you want to argue against the existence of God, wait for a post about that. It's really off topic here. This post is about morality and the Euthyphro dilemma. For that dilemma one must assume the concept of God to present the dilemma. That's how argument works.

We can assert for the rest of our lives, but to no end

The example I gave of the brain in a vat was to show that there are some beliefs that are properly basic. The belief in the external world is one of those beliefs. Any evidence given would be less obvious than the actual perception that there exists an external world. Without an amazing defeater, one should believe in the external world without any other evidence.

The fact is that the presupposition you seem to have that for anything to be justifiably believed it has to be observable and testable is self defeating. Can you test and/or observe the proposition that "for anything to be justifiably believed it has to be observable and testable"? Of course you can't. Therefore it is not true, because that is at least one thing that you assume you don't have to observe or test to be true. Your whole contention is based on a false proposition.

And you said...YES?! It's OK?! You can kill if...there is what? A divine command?! Seriously?! This is the kind of thinking that flew planes into the WTC

So? Just because some people claim to have a divine command doesn't mean they do. Likewise, just because some people falsely believe they have a divine command doesn't mean no one has divine commands. Show me where the argument is faulty. You're just emoting at the moment.

So, this is the absolute truth offered by Christianity? This is your objective moral truth, the thing that make Christianity superior to all other philosophical and moral systems ever created? This is what makes you special?

Um, I've just been defending the third horn presented by Mariano which shows the Euthyphro dilemma false and why the killing of the Canannites was not evil. You've only appealed to ridicule and emotion. I've seen no substantive argument against what I've written on the subject being dealt with here. You also seem want to delve into a lot of red herrings.

David, it's impossible to deal with everything at once and it's inappropriate to do it here on this post which is about the Euthyphro dilemma. If you have serious specific questions on which you would like to discuss and or debate, please email me.

bossmanham@gmail.com

bossmanham said...

Also see this link for a closer look at this issue.

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5767

David said...

"The killing of the Canannites was not evil."

Look at what you're defending. Look at where the "third horn" leads. Look at what you've justified. Satisfied with the result? You don't see a problem?

How sophisticated does the counter-argument have to be when the argument is "genocide is good"?

bossmanham said...
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bossmanham said...

Look at what you're defending. Look at where the "third horn" leads. Look at what you've justified. Satisfied with the result? You don't see a problem?

No. I would if the Israelites killed the people without justification. If God exists and He gave this command, then it is not wrong.

How sophisticated does the counter-argument have to be when the argument is "genocide is good"?

Then it ought to be fairly easy for you to show that one of the premises in my argument is faulty. What is this defeater of my argument?

Incidentally, your consternation is actually evidence for God's existence. It shows that you hold to an objective morality. If God does not exist then objective morality does not exist. So you're basing your anger over this conclusion I've come to off of the nature of the God you don't seem to believe in.

David said...

New business.

“If God exists and He gave this command, then it is not wrong….What is this defeater of my argument?”

If. if, if. And you left out an if, namely, if God is good. The “defeater” of your argument is obvious. It’s based on unsupportable premises. Your argument fails, because your premises fail. God can’t be bad? Why not? You think that if you string together a set of untestable assumptions, assertions and ideas with no evidence, then your argument can’t be defeated? Ok, I guess.

(By the way, I’m not arguing God doesn’t exist. Obviously, God could exist and also NOT order genocide.)

I think your basic problem is that you’re looking at this as a logic puzzle and not as an actual human event (in reality, current archaeology suggests this never happened, but that’s a digression). Don’t think of it as a logic puzzle that must be solved to save your faith. We’re talking about human beings here, not pawns on a logic chess board.

Put yourself in Canaan, put yourself in the sandals of a two year old Canaanite boy. Your family is being slaughtered, your world is being destroyed, and you’re about to be swung in such a manner that your brains will be bash out against a wall. And someone says to you, “this is morally good”.

Really? You can actually say this is good? Again, if this is so, Christianity holds no appeal for me.

Also, I’ve read the Craig stuff before. It’s the SOS. Craig has two choices. Defend the indefensible. Or take a good, hard look at his beliefs. He’s not going to do the latter. His choice.

“Incidentally, your consternation is actually evidence for God's existence. It shows that you hold to an objective morality. If God does not exist then objective morality does not exist.”

More unsupportable assertions.

David said...

Old business (didn’t get to this last night due to the lateness of the hour).

“Seen nothing but ridicule. Please, tell me where my logic is faulty.”

As previously stated several times…your premises are faulty.

“If you want to argue against the existence of God, wait for a post about that.”

As previously stated, I’m not arguing against the existence of God. God can exist without commanding genocide. And God can exist and not be good.

“The belief in the external world is one of those beliefs…one should believe in the external world without any other evidence.”

Fair enough. And what does belief in an external world have to do with claim that a voice inside Joshua’s head said “commit genocide”? Doesn’t it occur to you that maybe that voice only existed in Joshua’s head, and that it lacked external existence?

“The fact is that the presupposition you seem to have that for anything to be justifiably believed it has to be observable and testable is self defeating. Can you test and/or observe the proposition that "for anything to be justifiably believed it has to be observable and testable"? Of course you can't. Therefore it is not true, because that is at least one thing that you assume you don't have to observe or test to be true. Your whole contention is based on a false proposition.”

You misunderstand. I’m saying that “testability” improves reliability and increases confidence in the claim. I’m going to have more confidence in something that can be proved to be false if it happens to be false. Lacking testability, I’m going to have much less confidence in the claim.

I think you are confusing “can’t be tested” with “not true” or “I now know it’s false”. I didn’t say that if a claim is untestable, then I know that it’s false. I’m saying that you can’t know either way. I wasn’t arguing that I know that God isn’t good. I was arguing that it’s impossible to know either way. God could be good, God could be bad, who knows? I can’t prove God is bad, you can’t prove God is good. The problem is that you are asserting “God is good” as if it’s an undeniable, absolute truth. But you don’t know if it’s true or not.

"So? Just because some people claim to have a divine command doesn't mean they do."

Correct. Now, apply this principle to Joshua, rinse and repeat.

“Likewise, just because some people falsely believe they have a divine command doesn't mean no one has divine commands. Show me where the argument is faulty.”

True, I can’t prove that a divine command has never been given at any time in human history.
But don’t you think it an odd coincidence that all of the false claims of divine command involve people and faiths that you disagree with and/or reject, but all the true claims of divine command involve people and a faith that you believe in? Think of all the people who have ever justified murder and genocide on the ground that God said it was good. Must be thousands and thousands of cases of this throughout human history. Of all of those cases, you think that only time that God really, actually said that genocide was good was when these acts were committed by Joshua or others described in documents that you hold sacred? Isn’t this called “special pleading”?

Given human history and human behavior, which is more likely? (1) The Creator of the Entire Universe stopped by the Earth to tell a single tribal leader that it’s good to commit genocide and this was, and remains, an absolute, objective moral good. (2) A typical Bronze Age tribe engage in typical Bronze Age warfare, a type of warfare in which one group steals the land of another group by killing every man, woman and child of the group possessing the desired land. I know that you believe that the answer is (1), but I don’t know how anyone can know much about human history and not chose answer (2). I can’t prove it’s answer (2), but I don’t believe that there is anything of value to be learned about morality from anyone who believes in answer (1).

bossmanham said...

If. if, if.

Arguments always start with 'if'. I've supported those premises. You have not shown why they are wrong.

And you left out an if, namely, if God is good. The “defeater” of your argument is obvious. It’s based on unsupportable premises. Your argument fails, because your premises fail

That isn't a defeater of anything. You need to provide reasons to believe that God could be not-good. So far all you've done is suggested the possibility. But the whole idea being presented is that God's nature is the good and whatever corresponds to that is also good. Commands God gives flow from His nature, which is necessarily good. Therefore saying God can be bad is like saying there can be a married bachelor. It's incoherent.

If God is not good, then that means that moral values are either relative, making your consternation of no consequence, or based in something else. But what can you base an abstract concept such as morality on? It seems that a mind needs to exist for morality to exist.

I think your basic problem is that you’re looking at this as a logic puzzle and not as an actual human event

I deny that you can separate the two. Actual human events involve logic.

Don’t think of it as a logic puzzle that must be solved to save your faith. We’re talking about human beings here, not pawns on a logic chess board.

You're assuming a lot about me. You haven't shown me a problem with my logic. If you can do that I'll reconsider my stance, but I haven't seen a problem with my argument and you asserting that there is doesn't create one.

Put yourself in Canaan, put yourself in the sandals of a two year old Canaanite boy. Your family is being slaughtered, your world is being destroyed, and you’re about to be swung in such a manner that your brains will be bash out against a wall. And someone says to you, “this is morally good”.

I might not enjoy it, but then God's purposes and man's purposes don't alway correlate. And who are you to make the value judgement that it was bad? What are you basing that claim on?

Further, you're assuming that the Canaanites were innocent bystanders. The Canaanites were evil people. Genesis 15:13-16 says "“Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. . . . And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites [one of the Canaanite clans] is not yet complete” (Gen. 15. 13, 16).

So God actually stays His judgement of the Canaanites for 400 years because their debauchery hadn't reached epic proportions yet. As William Lane Craig writes, "By the time of their destruction, Canaanite culture was, in fact, debauched and cruel, embracing such practices as ritual prostitution and even child sacrifice. The Canaanites are to be destroyed “that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deut. 20.18). God had morally sufficient reasons for His judgement upon Canaan, and Israel was merely the instrument of His justice, just as centuries later God would use the pagan nations of Assyria and Babylon to judge Israel."

So, I stand by the claim that it was good to destroy the Canaanites

bossmanham said...

As previously stated several times…your premises are faulty.

You haven't shown that they are. All you've done is ridicule and assert that they are. Sure an argument is false if the premises are faulty, and that is by definition. But you have to show that they are faulty or you aren't convincing anyone.

Fair enough. And what does belief in an external world have to do with claim that a voice inside Joshua’s head said “commit genocide”?

It shows that you claim that things need to be testable to be reasonably believed is false.

You misunderstand. I’m saying that “testability” improves reliability and increases confidence in the claim

So, just as we believe in the external world without being able to test it, so too can other things be basically believed without being tested. Going through a rational and logical progression could lead you to truth as much, if not more so, as the scientific process.

Testability is very helpful in the material scientific process and does help support theories. But we are speaking of an immaterial abstract concept, namely morality. It cannot be tested in that fashion because it is not material. It can be tested by the internal rational process, however.

I’m saying that you can’t know either way

That isn't true at all. Are you implying that a method of reasoning can't lead us to truth?

But don’t you think it an odd coincidence that all of the false claims of divine command involve people and faiths that you disagree with and/or reject, but all the true claims of divine command involve people and a faith that you believe in?

First off that's not obviously true, and second off odd coincidences don't prove anything. The fact is I'm a Christian and believe what the Bible says. That is the epistemic foundation on which I approach this subject. Since you have shown no weakness in this belief, I have no reason to question it.

David said...

"I've supported those premises."

No, you haven't. That's the problem.

Everything rests on these premises. These are your premises. It's your obligation to show that these are accurate and not something that you simply chose to believe because it makes you happy to believe them. It's not my obligation to disprove that which isn't testable.

I could say that God is a giant, three-headed, bug-eating invisible reptile, and this premise is just as strong as your premises. My premises have no more weaknesses than yours. And I will believe that God is a bug-eating reptile until you show me that I'm wrong.

Anyone can come up with untestable premises and draw conclusions. So what? This doesn't impress me.

"You need to provide reasons to believe that God could be not-good."

How about ordering baby killing in Canaan? Oh, right, the Canaanites were evil. Evil, evil babies. Kill them all. Just like those evil Jews in Germany. Kill them all, too. Do you know nothing of human history? Every genocidal maniac claims that the victims are "evil". And every genocide has it's apologists and justifiers. You're in good company.

"So, I stand by the claim that it was good to destroy the Canaanites."

Good for you. Jesus would be proud. Again, this only leads me to reject Christianty. A moral code that says genocide is good is not a code worth following.

"The fact is I'm a Christian and believe what the Bible says....Since you have shown no weakness in this belief, I have no reason to question it. "

And that's that. No point in continuing. God said, you believe it, that settles it. The voice in Joshua's head was the voice of the Creator of the whole damn universe. So, this is "faith".

It's like arguing with a rock. Of course you see no weakness. Like Craig, you have two choices, and you're not going to chose the option that would lead you to question your faith.

Believe as you wish. You have the faith of suicide bomber. Good for you.

bossmanham said...

I still haven't seen an argument.

1) If you believe that God did something evil in commanding the death of the Canaanites, you need to tell me what you are basing that moral judgment on. If it's just your own feeling that it is wrong, my feeling is it was not. What then? If there isn't a moral foundation on which you are basing the claim then it's of no consequence. It's wrong for you but right for me, and who are you to tell me what's right and wrong?

2) I have supported my premises by showing that your problems with them are of no value.

You say, "It's not my obligation to disprove that which isn't testable." No one is asking for you to. It has already been established that this is not testable in a scientific way from either of us, since we are discussing morality, which is not material and cannot be tested in this way. Can you show me a problem with my logic? If not then I have no reason to entertain your complaints.

I could say that God is a giant, three-headed, bug-eating invisible reptile, and this premise is just as strong as your premises. My premises have no more weaknesses than yours.

I'd need some evidence for why we should claim such creature is God. How could this creature create all space and time if, as being a bug eating reptile, this creature would be material? Since this creature is not timeless, how would it solve the problem of entropy or infinite regress? How is this creature sufficient as a foundation for all reason and intelligibility and morality?

If you answer that this creature solves all these problems, then it begins to sound an awful lot the God of the Bible, as a bug eating lizard cannot solve these issues.

"You need to provide reasons to believe that God could be not-good."

How about ordering baby killing in Canaan?


Again, if God is the good, then His commands cannot be bad. For your argument to trump mine, you need to show that the good is something other than God.

And you have ignored the issue of if God does not exist then objective moral values don't exist. If it is true that the God you don't believe in is not real, then your moral objection to the slaughter of the Canaanites is meaningless. But if the God you don't believe in, who is the Good, does exist and He ordered this act, then it was not bad.

Bit of a dilemma there. Can you answer it?

David said...

"I have supported my premises by showing that your problems with them are of no value."

Wishful thinking. You haven't shown that God is good, and you haven't shown that God ordered genocide. You've asserted without evidence or argument. You keep repeating the same premises, but this doesn't make them so.

All you've shown is that your marvelous system of absolute and objective truth and/or good embraces genocide as good. What good is an absolute, objective morality if it embraces genocide? Does one really need an absolute and objective defintion of "stench" to know that fecal waste stinks? You may keep your superior objective beliefs, personally, I can't stand the smell. If genocide is good is the conclusion of Christianity, I see no reason to accept it as anything other than just another flawed human invention.


"We are discussing morality, which is not material and cannot be tested in this way."

...Yes, leaving us humans to invent our moral codes as needed.

What's the basis for concluding that genocide is wrong? I don't want my people killed, you don't your people killed, we decide it's far better if we don't kill each other. You may say that this is "relativistic", but the overwhelming historical evidence says that this is where moral codes come from. It's comforting and useful to think that these things are handed done from above, but there is no evidence that this is how the world works.

"Bit of a dilemma there. Can you answer it?"

Sure. God exists, but God isn't good and/or didn't order the act.

My bug-eating lizard created time and space and then went on a bug-eating holiday, leaving the universe to take care of itself, and happy to let natural processes create species with intelligence. My lizard is not the God of the Bible, because my lizard does not wish to be used as a false justification for genocide by greedy, barbaric tribesmen in their quest to steal land and kill all those living on the land. My lizard knows that humans always seek to justify their actions by shifting the blame and/or responsibility to imaginary entities. "It wasn't our idea, the lizard made us do it." I like my lizard much more than your God of the Bible. Prove he doesn't exist.

bossmanham said...

You haven't shown that God is good, and you haven't shown that God ordered genocide.

If the God of the Bible exists, then my assertions are the case. Again, this boils down to whether God exists, which is supported by other arguments. This is a red herring.

All you've shown is that your marvelous system of absolute and objective truth and/or good embraces genocide as good

Straw man. Not all genocide is good according to God. If I am correct, then it is only the genocides described as God-ordained that are good. Unjustified killings of any kind are murder, and murder is evil.

What good is an absolute, objective morality if it embraces genocide?

Without objective morality, no genocide would be objectively bad.

Does one really need an absolute and objective defintion of "stench" to know that fecal waste stinks

That's a subjective judgment, since there may be some people that enjoy the stench of poo. It is objectively true, however, that feces does emit an odor. Whether it's pleasing to ones palate is a subjective judgment.

If genocide is good is the conclusion of Christianity, I see no reason to accept it as anything other than just another flawed human invention.

David, no one said that all genocide is good. You're committing a logical fallacy (hasty generalization).

Yes, leaving us humans to invent our moral codes as needed.

If this is true, then your disgust over my moral judgment is unfounded.

What's the basis for concluding that genocide is wrong? I don't want my people killed, you don't your people killed, we decide it's far better if we don't kill each other.

What if I think it's good to kill your people? Who says that's wrong?

You may say that this is "relativistic", but the overwhelming historical evidence says that this is where moral codes come from

This defeats your own position. Your whole argument has been that it would be wrong for God to do this, but if you are correct that morals are simply social evolutionary constructs, then my society could have evolved to say that this is an okay action. It robs your contention of any meaning.

On the bug eating lizard, you haven't shown how a temporal and material thing could create all time and space, for time and space would have to exist for it to exist.

You're simply in the process of robbing the words of all their meaning. See this clip for clarification.

David said...

"On the bug eating lizard, you haven't shown how a temporal and material thing could create all time and space..."

Oops, sorry, I forgot to mention that my bug eating lizard exists outside of time and space and is all-powerful. He's still on vacation, he still doesn't like humans using him as an excuse to commit genocide, and he may or may not be good.

"If the God of the Bible exists, then my assertions are the case. Again, this boils down to whether God exists, which is supported by other arguments."

See what you did here? You conflated the question of the reality of the "God of the Bible" with the question of the existence of some sort of unspecified god. A god-like entity can exist and still not be your "God of the Bible". The argument about the existence of God, any God, is a diversion.

"Not all genocide is good according to God. If I am correct, then it is only the genocides described as God-ordained that are good."

I don't believe I said that the conclusion was that genocide was ALWAYS bad, but ok, to put in the qualifiers, sometimes genocide is good and sometimes it's bad.

So, when is genocide good? Well, it's good when someone thinks that God is telling him it's good. It's good when an invisible deity whispers "kill" into the ear of a commander who covets the land of those to be killed. Of course, fallible humans are always able to figure out when God is commanding genocide and when it's really just their imaginations, right? Or as you would put it, "if Joshua thinks it's good to kill Canaanites, who says that's wrong?".

In other words, in the end, whether or not genocide is good or bad is subjective and personal. I say God said it was good, therefore, it's good. You say God didn't say that, therefore, it's bad. It's all a matter of subjective opinion, it's just that we place our opinions in the mouths of gods of our invention. Now, it sounds better when you say "God said kill", but that doesn't make it real.

"If this is true, then your disgust over my moral judgment is unfounded. This defeats your own position. Your whole argument has been that it would be wrong for God to do this, but if you are correct that morals are simply social evolutionary constructs, then my society could have evolved to say that this is an okay action. It robs your contention of any meaning."

Not at all. The are numerous examples of concepts, idea, codes, constitutions, etc., that are "subjective" and not absolute, and yet they have a very sound basis. On the other hand, if you assign absolute truth and objectivity to that which lacks both, then you end up embracing genocide as (sometimes) acceptable. The Old Testament is just the subjective opinion of late Bronze Age tribesmen, but if you confuse this with absolute truth or objective morality, then you must cease to think or feel as a human and you must declare certain genocidal events as "good". As I said before, you may keep this way of thinking. I'll continue to muddle with my subjective morality.

David said...

"Not all genocide is good according to God. If I am correct, then it is only the genocides described as God-ordained that are good."

Somehow, this sentence reminded me of a famous H.L. Mencken quote....

"There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong."

bossmanham said...

Oops, sorry, I forgot to mention that my bug eating lizard exists outside of time and space and is all-powerful.

Then you're no longer talking about a lizard. As I said, you're just robbing words of any meaning they may have. What you call a lizard, as I predicted, sounds just like God.

See what you did here? You conflated the question of the reality of the "God of the Bible" with the question of the existence of some sort of unspecified god

No, I said there are arguments that support said God.

So, when is genocide good? Well, it's good when someone thinks that God is telling him it's good

No, it's only good when God actually does tell someone to do it. You're appealing to ridicule again. And you still haven't told me why genocide is actually bad. You're importing a Christian ethic into an argument against Christianity.

In other words, in the end, whether or not genocide is good or bad is subjective and personal.

How would this follow from anything I've said? You're just arguing a straw man now.

It's only objectively good if God ordains it.

1) Unjustified killing is murder.
2) A divine command justifies killing.
3) ∴ A divinely commanded killing is not murder.

I say God said it was good, therefore, it's good.

No, God has to actually say it's good. You != God.

The are numerous examples of concepts, idea, codes, constitutions, etc., that are "subjective" and not absolute, and yet they have a very sound basis.

They're still person relative and wouldn't necessarily apply to everyone. See the definition of subjective.

On the other hand, if you assign absolute truth and objectivity to that which lacks both, then you end up embracing genocide as (sometimes) acceptable.

You've given no reason to think genocide is ever wrong.

The Old Testament is just the subjective opinion of late Bronze Age tribesmen

Unbacked assertion.

then you must cease to think or feel as a human and you must declare certain genocidal events as "good"

So you're saying your subjective opinion is the one that should apply to me? Why? I don't think it should.

As I said before, you may keep this way of thinking. I'll continue to muddle with my subjective morality.

Then you never have any justification for questioning any one else actions. They have a different subjective morality.

"There is always an easy solution to every human problem--neat, plausible, and wrong."

I'm not the one who thinks all morality is subjective.

David said...
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David said...

“Then you're no longer talking about a lizard. As I said, you're just robbing words of any meaning they may have. What you call a lizard, as I predicted, sounds just like God.”

I didn’t mean an actual Earth lizard like a gecko. I meant something more like a giant, invisible cosmic lizard (I believe I mentioned earlier that my lizard was invisible). I meant that “lizard” is the way in which my god projects herself into my world, just like Jesus is the way your god projects himself into your world. When stopping by the Earth, my God eats bugs, your god eats fish. Your god is a man, my god is a lizard.

Also, I’ve made it very clear how my god differs from your Old Testament God. This is not the God of the Bible. It’s not “just like the OT/NT god, and I think that’s obvious.

“No, I said there are arguments that support said God.”

Well, I haven’t found the arguments for the specific OT/NT god to be very convincing, but I guess that’s a digression.


“No, it's only good when God actually does tell someone to do it. You're appealing to ridicule again. “

And this is the key point. How do you know God said to kill all the Canaanites? Good grief, ANYONE can say that God told them to do something. Talk about subjective!

All I see is a flawed human being making a personal and subjective decision. If there are any absolute, objective commandments given by God, they’re being ignored here. There is no evidence that the Canaanite genocide is anything other than just another Bronze Age atrocity committed by just another Bronze Age tribe as a means of stealing land. I have all of human history to support my conclusions, and you just have your faith in legends to support yours.

“And you still haven't told me why genocide is actually bad.”

Yeah, I did. I don’t want to be killed. It’s not that tricky.


>In other words, in the end, whether or not genocide is good or bad is subjective and personal.

“How would this follow from anything I've said? You're just arguing a straw man now.”

It follows because Joshua’s conclusions about the good or bad of genocide were subjective and personal. But it’s not so much what you’ve said, it’s the lack of evidence to the contrary. You still haven’t given me any reason to think that moral codes are anything other than human-created. Yes, it’s useful to think that God handed these down on stone tablets, but the fact that it’s a useful belief doesn’t make it true.

In addition, even if there is this abstract thing called “objective morality”, you still have the problem of figuring out what is moral and what is not moral. For example, is murder and genocide immoral? Well, your position that killing is evil and immoral is seriously compromised by your position that genocide is sometimes ok.

How you know that a particular moral code was handed directly from God to humans? Do you really think that the Jewish moral code is handed down directly from the OT God to Moses? All the evidence says that the Hebrews adopted their code from the earlier codes developed in polytheistic cultures. Again, there is no evidence that it was God who told the Jews “thou shalt not kill”. I understand that it’s useful to believe this, but there’s little evidence to support this.

David said...

“It's only objectively good if God ordains it.”

As previously stated, there is no evidence that God ordained anything in Canaan or that God is good. Your logic fails, because your premises are unsupported.


“No, God has to actually say it's good. You != God”

But WAS you who said it was good. I’ve heard nothing from God. I’ve only heard from you. Don’t pass the buck to my lizard.


“They're still person relative and wouldn't necessarily apply to everyone. See the definition of subjective.”

I understand the problems with the word “subjective”. Saying morality subjective may make it harder to argue that something is good or bad, but the difficulty doesn’t change reality. It seems to me that all of the arguments for absolute objective morality are arguments from consequences, namely, if morality isn’t objective, then you can’t say something is wrong. In other words, morality has to have an objective basis because to would be bad if it doesn’t have an objective basis.

However, we deal with subjectivity all of the time, and we seem to accept it and we seem to be able to draw reasoned conclusions despite the subjectivity. Just off the top of my head, here’s list of terms and questions: stench, tastiness, beauty, obscenity, love or what is a good quality of life. In all of these cases, there are no objective standards, no absolutes, no definitions where 100% agree about the definition and you won’t get 100% agreement about what is stinky or beautiful or tasty or obscene or loving or a good quality of life. Everyone will have a subjective view. Yes, some will even like the smell of poo.

So, would you say that there is nothing that we can conclude about these things? Is there nothing valid or meaningful or reasoned to be said about any of these things? Is it impossible to use reason and other human qualities like empathy to come to some sort of conclusions, even if these conclusions are subjective? Are all things equally smelly, tasty, beautiful and obscene, just because our conclusions are subjective and just because we won’t all agree? Is there no such thing as love or no such thing as a better quality of life, just because our conclusions are subjective and just because we won’t all agree? All of these things are subjective, and yet, somehow, we manage to come up with reasoned definitions and often general agreement about all of these subjective things. We can draw reasons and conclusions with respect to many subjective things. To quote Potter Stewart, I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it.
In short, I don’t think that “subjectivity” is quite the problem that you seem to think that it is. In any event, I don’t think we have a choice. A subjective world is what we have.

David said...

"You've given no reason to think genocide is ever wrong.”

Yeah, I have. And I could give you more.

You’ll say that some would disagree, and that’s true. But do we need 100% agreement before we can conclude that a reason is good or valid? If so, we’ve got problems. Even when you declare that a given position is absolute and objective, you’ll get disagreement. So, why should I conclude that you’re correct or that absolute and objective morals exist? You can say that you have objective justifications for your morality, but that’s just your subjective, personal belief.


>The Old Testament is just the subjective opinion of late Bronze Age tribesmen

“Unbacked assertion.”

It’s much better supported than your position that the Creator of the Universe told a tribal leader that genocide is a moral good. As I said, I have all of human history to support my conclusions, and you just have your faith to support yours.


“I'm not the one who thinks all morality is subjective.”

True. You prefer the neat, plausible, simple and wrong belief that morality is objective and that genocide is good “when God commands it”. Neat, simple, wrong. As you’ve pointed out, if morality is subjective, then we’re left with a problem that is complicated and messy.


“Then you never have any justification for questioning any one else actions. They have a different subjective morality.”

That may be, but it’s still better than being an apologist for genocide.

David said...

Clarification:

"That may be" is a response to the sentence "They have a different subjective morality". I do think that one can justify the questioning of genocide. See "I don't want to be killed" above.

bossmanham said...

I meant that “lizard” is the way in which my god projects herself into my world, just like Jesus is the way your god projects himself into your world.

Do you have any reason I should believe in said lizard?

Your god is a man, my god is a lizard

No, my God BECAME man. My God is triune. My God is immaterial. A lizard, by definition, is not immaterial. You face the same issues I've already stated, ie stripping meaning from words.

How do you know God said to kill all the Canaanites?

Red herring. This isn't even the issue. The issue is whether it would be evil for God to command such a thing. How we know whether He commanded it is a completely different issue. You're sidestepping my arguments.

If there are any absolute, objective commandments given by God, they’re being ignored here

According to whom?

There is no evidence that the Canaanite genocide is anything other than just another Bronze Age atrocity committed by just another Bronze Age tribe as a means of stealing land

Red herring, again.

I have all of human history to support my conclusions, and you just have your faith in legends to support yours.

I have evidence that Jesus existed and that He rose from the dead, validating His diety claims.

Yeah, I did. I don’t want to be killed. It’s not that tricky

Why would it be bad if someone wanted to kill you, or did kill you. You have no foundation on which to claim that action is bad.

It follows because Joshua’s conclusions about the good or bad of genocide were subjective and personal

This is a blind assertion that doesn't follow from anything. If God told Joshua to do it, then your claim is false. You need to show me a reason to think that God did not do so.

You still haven’t given me any reason to think that moral codes are anything other than human-created

Your protest against genocide isn't evidence enough? It would take an objective moral code for it to be true that genocide is always wrong.

you still have the problem of figuring out what is moral and what is not moral

Irrelevant to whether it's true or not.

All the evidence says that the Hebrews adopted their code from the earlier codes developed in polytheistic cultures.

That's another unbacked assertion. Frankly, no evidence shows that. Monotheism was the oddball in the bronze age.

bossmanham said...

Again, there is no evidence that it was God who told the Jews “thou shalt not kill”.

Again, this isn't the issue. Look up red herring.

Saying morality subjective may make it harder to argue that something is good or bad

No, it would make it impossible.

However, we deal with subjectivity all of the time...

That's because some things are subjective. You may like brussel sprouts, I don't. You may like red, I like blue. But I have no right or justification or foundation to say you are wrong for liking red or brussel sprouts. If morals are subjective, then you have no justification or right to tell me genocide is wrong.

Is there nothing valid or meaningful or reasoned to be said about any of these things?

If objective moral values do not exist, then nothing is right or wrong. There is no moral standard. Good and evil wouldn't exist. Nothing would have a moral dimension. It would not be bad to kill children and it would not be good to love them.

Is it impossible to use reason and other human qualities like empathy to come to some sort of conclusions, even if these conclusions are subjective?

Yes it's impossible to come to any objective conclusion. There may be things you personally don't like, but you're no more right then a serial rapist. Just like you aren't right for liking chocolate and the rapist liking strawberry. It all becomes relative.

All of these things are subjective, and yet, somehow, we manage to come up with reasoned definitions and often general agreement about all of these subjective things

Maybe that's because your assertion that they are subjective is false. Maybe, just as we have physical senses to apprehend the external world of physical objects, we also have a moral sense with which to apprehend the moral realm?

We can draw reasons and conclusions with respect to many subjective things

Personally, not objectively.

A subjective world is what we have

Then I think genocide is right. Why am I wrong? For me to be wrong, there has to be something beyond you and me that confirms that. Prove me wrong.

But do we need 100% agreement before we can conclude that a reason is good or valid?

No, objective reality is true whether anyone agrees with it or not. If the Nazis had won WW2 and had brainwashed everyone into thinking the holocaust was morally good, everyone would be wrong.

So, why should I conclude that you’re correct or that absolute and objective morals exist?

Because if you don't then your problem with genocide has no foundation, and that means you actually have nothing against with you are protesting, because genocide wouldn't really be wrong.

David said...

Lizard gods.

My God BECAME a lizard, so that how I see her. If you’d like, she can be immaterial, too. Since you didn’t say anything about the fact that my lizard doesn’t command genocide or do any number of other things credited to your god by the Abrahamic religions , I will assume that you understand that my lizard is not the same as your god.

I would have thought that it was clear that I was not arguing that my god is different from your god in every single trait. My point was that my god is not your god. One can argue for the existence of many different gods, so rejecting the Abrahamic god is not the same thing as arguing that God doesn’t exist.

By the way, your “triune God” is just tritheism with a good lawyer.

Red herrings.

You use this phrase a lot.

As I understand it, when you construct a syllogism, the syllogism is only valid if the assumptions and premises are valid, yes? Your repeated syllogisms contain assumptions and premises that are not valid (God is good, God commanded, etc). Pointing this out is not a “red herring”.

By the way, how do you measure the goodness of God? How do you know that everything that God does is good? You’re big on the idea of objective standards. What is the objective standard by which we assess the goodness of God? Saying that God is the standard is just circular reasoning.

“The issue is whether it would be evil for God to command such a thing. “

Here’s my syllogism:

God is evil, that is, the nature of God is evil.
God divinely commanded genocide.
Therefore, genocide is evil.

What’s wrong with my logic?


>If there are any absolute, objective commandments given by God, they’re being ignored here

“According to whom?”

According to the folks who wrote that God said “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal”. If you you’re going to argue that genocide isn’t killing because it’s divinely commanded, you’re going to have to show that it was divinely commanded.


“I have evidence that Jesus existed and that He rose from the dead, validating His diety claims.”

Well, first, billions would disagree with your interpretation of the evidence. But more to the point, as you would say, this is a red herring. Even if true, what does this have to do with events that occurred 1500 years prior to Jesus? Does this prove that God is good and/or that God commanded genocide? No”

“Why would it be bad if someone wanted to kill you, or did kill you? You have no foundation on which to claim that action is bad.”

Now you’re just being silly. Humans have a very strong instinct for survival. We want live. We really, really want to live. We really, really do not want to be hurt or we feel the same about many of our fellow humans. And these desires are not the same as our desire for trivial things like chocolate ice cream.

“This is a blind assertion that doesn't follow from anything. If God told Joshua to do it, then your claim is false. You need to show me a reason to think that God did not do so.”

I gave you a reason. See human history. In any event, you’re the one making the fantastical, amazing, supernatural claim, so I would think that the burden of proof is on you to prove your “if”.


“It would take an objective moral code for it to be true that genocide is always wrong.”

Or a well-reasoned subjective moral code.


>All the evidence says that the Hebrews adopted their code from the earlier codes developed in polytheistic cultures.

"That's another unbacked assertion."

I believe that Ancient Near Eastern archeologists and anthropologists would disagree with you. It’s pretty clear that the Hebrews or Israelites were hardly the first on the block to say “thou shalt not kill”, and there is also good evidence that the later monotheism of, say, Jeremiah’s time is the product of an evolution from polytheism through monolatry to monotheism.

David said...

>Saying morality subjective may make it harder to argue that something is good or bad.

“No, it would make it impossible.”.

I think that you’ve confused “impossible” with “difficult”.


“If morals are subjective, then you have no justification or right to tell me genocide is wrong.”

The US Constitution is a “subjective” document written by flawed human beings. It says that I do indeed have the right to object if you try to deny me the right to free speech, etc. Yes, it’s possible to claim rights and justifications, even when the basis for these rights is “subjective”. God didn’t say that humans have a right to free speech, and yet, I have right to object when my freedom to speak is denied.

“If objective moral values do not exist, then nothing is right or wrong. There is no moral standard. Good and evil wouldn't exist. Nothing would have a moral dimension. It would not be bad to kill children and it would not be good to love them.”

If objective beauty, obscenity, love, stench, tastiness or good quality of life do not exist, then nothing is beautiful, obscene, loving, stinky, tasty and the phrase “quality of life” has no meaning. There is no standard for any of these things. Beauty, etc., doesn't exist. Nothing has a dimension of obscenity, etc. It's not a bad thing to have a miserable quality of life.

As I said, we understand that abstract concepts are subjective. We deal with this on a daily basis. To say that it’s impossible to come to any conclusions about these things or that these concepts have no meaning or “dimensions” or that we can’t have any standards because these things are subjective is contradicted by the way in which we live our lives.

And again, you’re making a argument ad consequentiam. You’re saying that X must be so, because if X is not so…it would be bad. This is not the same as showing that X actually exists.

>Is it impossible to use reason and other human qualities like empathy to come to some sort of conclusions, even if these conclusions are subjective?


“Yes it's impossible to come to any objective conclusion. “

Well, here we agree, although I don't think that "objective" is necessary.

“There may be things you personally don't like, but you're no more right then a serial rapist. Just like you aren't right for liking chocolate and the rapist liking strawberry. It all becomes relative.”

Relative, but some things are obviously much more significant than others, and "relative" does not mean that everything is equal. Comparing rape to ice cream is absurd, and I think that you know it.


“Maybe, just as we have physical senses to apprehend the external world of physical objects, we also have a moral sense with which to apprehend the moral realm?”

And maybe that’s because we have instinctive desire to survive, and instinct that is hardly unique to humans. We’re also social animals with an evolved desire to enter into reciprocal exchanges, a trait that is not unique to humans. And maybe the same thing that enables us to apprehend the physical world is the same thing that enables us to produce moral codes, that "thing" being a physical, reasoning brain

David said...

“Then I think genocide is right. Why am I wrong? For me to be wrong, there has to be something beyond you and me that confirms that. Prove me wrong.”

Already covered this. Survival instinct. Empathy. Reason. I’ll throw in the advantages and instinct for reciprocal altruism. And that’s the short list. Subjective, yes, but not unreasoned or random or without foundation or rational basis.


“No, objective reality is true whether anyone agrees with it or not.”

And your evidence that it exist, I mean, besides the fact that it would be useful? Sure, you can declare that it exists, just like I can declare that somewhere out there is the “objective chair” or “objective table”. Somewhere out these is the perfect form of everything. Nice idea. Not much evidence for it.

“Because if you don't then your problem with genocide has no foundation, and that means you actually have nothing against with you are protesting, because genocide wouldn't really be wrong.”

No foundation? None at all? Sigh. Been there, done that.

And what is your foundation? Your unsupported declaration that God is good?

bossmanham said...

If you’d like, she can be immaterial, too

Then by definition, it's not a lizard. We're now talking about the theist's definition of God. Next.

You use this phrase a lot.

Because you introduced a lot of them.

Your repeated syllogisms contain assumptions and premises that are not valid (God is good, God commanded, etc). Pointing this out is not a “red herring”.

You haven't given any reason to doubt they are invalid. You also keep bringing up epistemic issues of morality when we are discussion their ontological foundations. This typically happens in debates with atheists/agnotics. It's nothing new.

By the way, how do you measure the goodness of God?

Another red herring. But I will digress; if God is the good, then He Himself is the measure of good. There is nothing to measure the good against to see how good the standard of good is. Just like we found the concept of the meter upon the distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second, we don't compare distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second to anything else to see if it's truly a meter, it is the basis of the meter.

God is evil, that is, the nature of God is evil.
God divinely commanded genocide.
Therefore, genocide is evil.

What’s wrong with my logic?


I would dispute premise 1. As God is the greatest conceivable being, it would go against that definition to propose that God is evil, since evil is a fault and the greatest being by definition can have no fault, otherwise it's not God. This is like saying "there can be a married bachelor." Plus, I have a personal experience of the goodness of God.

You keep playing around with the definition of words, which is amusing, but it does nothing to further your case. You're simply grasping at straws.

According to the folks who wrote that God said “thou shalt not kill” and “thou shalt not steal”

Well, “thou shalt not kill” is a poor translation. It's actually “thou shalt not murder.” And as has been said, if God commands a killing, it is not murder. Same with stealing. Stealing is taking something that belongs to another. But since all things belong to God first and foremost (as the greatest conceivable being) then if He tells you to take something He has loaned to other people, He is giving you what is His, ie not stealing.

Well, first, billions would disagree with your interpretation of the evidence

Appeal to popularity

But more to the point, as you would say, this is a red herring.

Not at all. You said, "I have all of human history to support my conclusions, and you just have your faith in legends to support yours." I then said that I actually do have evidence for my faith. I'm just refuting the red herring you introduced.

Even if true, what does this have to do with events that occurred 1500 years prior to Jesus?

Jesus said, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). He thought every word of the OT was true in what it asserted. If He is confirmed to be God, then anything He asserts is true.

That would prove Joshua commanded genocide.

bossmanham said...

Now you’re just being silly. Humans have a very strong instinct for survival

So do chickens. It doesn't mean it's really wrong to kill them. Some people kill themselves, showing that it is not objectively true that "Humans have a very strong instinct for survival." Some humans override that instinct with their desire to die. Does that make it okay to kill them then? Since their feelings on the subject dictate the rightness or wrongness of the act?

We really, really want to live

What does that have to do with whether it's right or wrong?

And these desires are not the same as our desire for trivial things like chocolate ice cream.

I want chocolate so bad I could die.

See human history

We base much of it on the testimony of the Bible.

so I would think that the burden of proof is on you to prove your “if”.

No, you're making as much of a claim to knowledge as I am. You assert that it is false, which is an equal claim to "it is true." Their epistemic values are equal. You bear a burden of proof as well. My evidence is my personal experience with Christ and the historical reliability of the Bible. Other beliefs stem off of those.

Or a well-reasoned subjective moral code

Another may reason that they like genocide, like Hitler. Why was he wrong again?

The US Constitution is a “subjective” document written by flawed human beings

But it's meant to be the objective law of the United States. And the document itself actually exists objectively. It doesn't just exist because you think it exists.

It says that I do indeed have the right to object if you try to deny me the right to free speech

Yep, and as the objective law of the land, it is the standard on which we practice law. But guess what, Iran goes by another standard. Just because we prefer our standard doesn't mean Iran is wrong. They just prefer their's.

If objective beauty, obscenity, love, stench, tastiness or good quality of life do not exist, then nothing is beautiful, obscene, loving, stinky, tasty and the phrase “quality of life” has no meaning

There may be some things that are objectively beautiful. I deny the premise that all beauty is subjective (though some is).

As I said, we understand that abstract concepts are subjective

Do we understand that? So math and the laws of logic are subjective? The law of non-contradiction is only true if someone prefers it? Really?

To say that it’s impossible to come to any conclusions about these things or that these concepts have no meaning or “dimensions” or that we can’t have any standards because these things are subjective is contradicted by the way in which we live our lives.

I said it's impossible to come to objective conclusions. You can conclude that you don't like genocide. Hitler concluded that he did. Who says he is wrong?

You’re saying that X must be so, because if X is not so…it would be bad.

I didn't say that.

Well, here we agree, although I don't think that "objective" is necessary.

And Hitler likes genocide, so genocide isn't bad to him. Relativism.

but some things are obviously much more significant than others

Not without an objective standard.

Comparing rape to ice cream is absurd, and I think that you know it.

I'm using absurd examples to show you your position is absurd.

And maybe that’s because we have instinctive desire to survive, and instinct that is hardly unique to humans

That instinct doesn't make it wrong to kill other things. A lion kills a zebra, but it isn't wrong. There is no moral dimension in the animal kingdom. Just as if there are no objective morals, a person commands a genocide, but it isn't wrong because there is no moral dimension.

The rest is irrelevant.

David said...

"Then by definition, it's not a lizard. We're now talking about the theist's definition of God."

Actually, I think that we’re talking about the deist’s definition of God. In any event, it's not the OT/NT God.

“You haven't given any reason to (the assumptions) are invalid.

“There’s no reason to doubt that the Creator of the Universe told an ancient tribal leader to kill everyone in the village? The fact that the Israelite's behavior is just like the Nazi's doesn't raise any doubts? Wow, you really, really, really have a lot of faith.

"If God is the good, then He Himself is the measure of good. There is nothing to measure the good against to see how good the standard of good is.

If? Again with the if?

Nothing to measure the good? What was the problem with subjective morality? No foundation for deciding if something is good or evil. Nothing to measure the standard of good againt. So…it's subjective then. Or it's circular reasoning. Take your pick.

“Just like we found the concept of the meter upon the distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second, we don't compare distance travelled by light in free space in 1⁄299,792,458 of a second to anything else to see if it's truly a meter, it is the basis of the meter.”

Right, we humans decided what a meter would be. A meter could have been an infinite number of different lengths, what a meter would be was subjective, but eventually, we declared it to be a the number given.

Similarly, we simply declared that God is good. It's our arbitrary choice to say so. We made God good.

>What’s wrong with my logic?

“I would dispute premise 1.”

DING! RED HERRING!

You’re not allowed to say the syllogism fails on the grounds of faulty premises! That’s what I did with your syllogism and you said irrelevant, red herring, distraction, etc.
When I challenged your premises, you said this didn’t count, wasn’t a defeater, etc.

Now again, what is wrong with my logic?

“The greatest being by definition can have no fault, otherwise it's not God.”

Why not? Why can’t the greatest also have faults? It is simply your personal opinion that the greatest can’t have faults.

“Plus, I have a personal experience of the goodness of God.”

Plus, I have personal experience of the evil of God, so we’re even.

“Well, “thou shalt not kill” is a poor translation. It's actually “thou shalt not murder.” And as has been said, if God commands a killing, it is not murder. Same with stealing. Stealing is taking something that belongs to another. But since all things belong to God first and foremost (as the greatest conceivable being) then if He tells you to take something He has loaned to other people, He is giving you what is His, ie not stealing.”

Now who’s playing with words? It’s not murder if a voice in my head says it’s not murder? It’s not murder if a voice in my head says it’s not murder? This is not personal and subjective?

“Jesus said, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). He thought every word of the OT was true in what it asserted. If He is confirmed to be God, then anything He asserts is true.”

If, again. So, every word of the OT is true? Can we test this proposition? Was the earth was covered with a global flood?

“That would prove Joshua commanded genocide.“

More logic based on questionable premises.

David said...

>We really, really want to live

What does that have to do with whether it's right or wrong?

You wanted a basis for moral codes? I think that this is pretty good one. It’s not going to be perfect, because humans don’t produce perfection, but it works pretty work as a starting point. Further, it’s an historic reality that this is one of the bases for moral codes. Look at how moral codes actually evolve, and this is a big part of it.

And your alternative was…voices in the head?

“We base much of it on the testimony of the Bible.”

Ah, now that does explain an awful lot. Not only does this give you a very limited and extraordinarily narrow view of history, but the history in the Bible itself is faulty. You really need to expand your sources of information if you want to understand humans.

But now I understand. You must make everything fit the Bible. No exceptions, no other data allowed. That's what makes it impossible to step back and see the Canaanite genocide for what it was (assuming that it really happened).

"My evidence is my personal experience with Christ and the historical reliability of the Bible. Other beliefs stem off of those."

Well, as you said, the “personal” is subjective and of no value. As for the historical reliability of the Bible…well, there are lots of reasons to doubt the historical reliability of much of the Bible.

“Another may reason that they like genocide, like Hitler. Why was he wrong again?”

I want to live. Like it or not, this is the reality of the basis of moral codes.

“But it's meant to be the objective law of the United States. And the document itself actually exists objectively.”

The document exists, but the origin of the document is subjective and is the product of humans, not gods.

“Yep, and as the objective law of the land, it is the standard on which we practice law. But guess what, Iran goes by another standard. Just because we prefer our standard doesn't mean Iran is wrong. They just prefer their's.”

Thus, proving that the Constitution is subjective. And yet, it's real, and it's capable of giving me a basis for saying that I have certain rights.

“There may be some things that are objectively beautiful. I deny the premise that all beauty is subjective (though some is).”

What is objectively beautiful? And what about the other concepts I listed?

“Do we understand that? So math and the laws of logic are subjective? The law of non-contradiction is only true if someone prefers it? Really?”

Are math and logic like moral codes? Say the law of non-contradiction is always true? How about “thou shalt not murder”? As we’ve seen, this is sometimes true and sometimes not true.

As for Hitler stuff, you’re ignoring the reality that we deal with subjective concepts like morality on the bases described. You’re ignoring the reality of empathy, reciprocal altruism, reason, etc. And you’re ignoring the historical realities of the origins of moral codes.

"That instinct doesn't make it wrong to kill other things."

You missed the point. My point was that one can explain why we may have a "moral instinct”.

“The rest is irrelevant.”

Then I guess you have no evidence that objective morality exists.

David said...

Forgot something.

"No, you're making as much of a claim to knowledge as I am. You assert that it is false, which is an equal claim to "it is true." Their epistemic values are equal."

Is this accurate? If I claim that there is a fairy at the bottom of my garden, is the burden on you to prove that there isn't a fairy equal to the burden on me to prove that there is? Do we bear an equal burden because our differing claims have equal "epistemic values"? If so, I'd like to know why I should doubt my fairy?

bossmanham said...

If? Again with the if?

Yes, this is how argument works, David.

1) Your contention was that my God would not be good if He commanded genocide. In that you assume He exists for the sake of argument.

2) I rebutted that and gave a working model of why He would not be evil for commanding genocide.

3)Then you want to get off track and accuse me of not providing any evidence for said God. That is a different subject altogether, and a red herring.

That is why I asked you to email me in regards to other arguments for the existence of God, so we wouldn't clutter up this post with irrelevant topics (which we've done anyway).

When you say if within an argument, you are proposing a premise of the argument. My argument was about the Christian God and whether He would be bad for commanding genocide. My burden was not to give an argument for His esistence, only to show that we couldn't consider such a God evil for commanding that. It's the basic way arguments work, and constantly challenging the word "if" doesn't help you here. Everything is contingent on "if" certain premises are true. Email me if you want more arguments for God and if you want to challenge them.

What was the problem with subjective morality? No foundation for deciding if something is good or evil. Nothing to measure the standard of good againt. So…it's subjective then. Or it's circular reasoning. Take your pick

You clearly have an issue with understanding logic here.

Right, we humans decided what a meter would be

Which became an objective standard that all meters must adhere to.

You’re not allowed to say the syllogism fails on the grounds of faulty premises! That’s what I did with your syllogism and you said irrelevant, red herring, distraction, etc.
When I challenged your premises, you said this didn’t count, wasn’t a defeater, etc.


David, this just sounds silly. Please study up on logical argumentation. I directly challenged a premise in your actual argument. When you challenged mine, you didn't directly challenge a premise, rather you intrduced a completely foreign argument.

“The greatest being by definition can have no fault, otherwise it's not God.”

Why not?


By definition. If something does not adhere to the definition of the word given to it, then it is not that thing. This is why we have language.

Plus, I have personal experience of the evil of God, so we’re even

By definition, God cannot be evil. Therefore you are mistaken.

You wanted a basis for moral codes? I think that this is pretty good one

But it's still subjective. Someone else may want to really really kill you. Why is that wrong?

Not only does this give you a very limited and extraordinarily narrow view of history, but the history in the Bible itself is faulty

First off, I didn't say we only base our historical knowledge on the Bible. Second off, it's a fact that historians view the history in the Bible as generally true. Of course they may not include the miracles, but that doesn't mean that much of it isn't true. Third, you are terrible with unbacked assertions. You would be in the minority view among historians to claim that the Biblical history is faulty.

Well, as you said, the “personal” is subjective and of no value

My personal experience isn't meant to convince you of anything. But it is why I believe what I believe. I believe in the external world because I experience it. I believe in God because I experience Him.

As for the historical reliability of the Bible…well, there are lots of reasons to doubt the historical reliability of much of the Bible.

This whole issue of Biblical inerrancy irrelevant to the issue. But I notice you again have asserted something of which you have not produced any evidence.

bossmanham said...

I want to live. Like it or not, this is the reality of the basis of moral codes

He wants you to die. Why is he wrong and you aren't?

Thus, proving that the Constitution is subjective

Subject to our culture, but it is the objective law that our culture uses to govern. You can't keep making these part / whole fallacies.

And yet, it's real, and it's capable of giving me a basis for saying that I have certain rights.

Proving it's objective for your culture, subjective to humanity as a whole. Why is Iran wrong for denying their people rights? Why is the US right for allowing people rights?

What is objectively beautiful? And what about the other concepts I listed?

Several of them may be objective. However, if it is true that "objective beauty, obscenity, love, stench, tastiness or good quality of life do not exist" then it does follow that " then nothing is beautiful, obscene, loving, stinky, tasty and the phrase “quality of life” has no meaning. There is no standard for any of these things. Beauty, etc., doesn't exist. Nothing has a dimension of obscenity, etc. It's not a bad thing to have a miserable quality of life." Another argument for God.

If there is no objective standard of 'happiness' or 'miserable-ness' then there is no such thing as an objective happy or miserable life. In fact, some people that you think might be miserable in their lives may actually be very happy, showing that it is very subjective.

Aesthetic values of beauty or obscenity, if they are objective, must be founded in something else. Otherwise it is all just personal opinion. Same with morals. This argument of yours just helps prove my point. Thanks.

Are math and logic like moral codes?

Yes, I think so. They are both abstract concepts that require a mind to ground their reality. But they are also both objective, as in they have something in which they are founded beyond physical reality. I think that is God.

Say the law of non-contradiction is always true?

Yes...something can not be both A and not-A at the same time in the same way...that's foundational logic.

How about “thou shalt not murder”? As we’ve seen, this is sometimes true and sometimes not true.

We actually haven't seen this at all. This just shows you haven't understood anything here.

As for Hitler stuff, you’re ignoring the reality that we deal with subjective concepts like morality on the bases described. You’re ignoring the reality of empathy, reciprocal altruism, reason, etc. And you’re ignoring the historical realities of the origins of moral codes.

No I'm not.

You missed the point. My point was that one can explain why we may have a "moral instinct”.

See what I said about ontology and epistemology above.

Then I guess you have no evidence that objective morality exists.

Then you have no reason to decry genocide. It isn't really wrong.

If I claim that there is a fairy at the bottom of my garden, is the burden on you to prove that there isn't a fairy equal to the burden on me to prove that there is?

Yes, unless I admit to just not knowing if there is or not. However, one would expect to see evidence for a fairy in a garden if there was one there. If, after surveying the area and not finding said fairy or evidence of said fairy, then my burden would have been fulfilled.

Read pages 108-109 here for a fuller explanation of expected evidence and burden of proof.

David said...

“…Then you want to get off track and accuse me of not providing any evidence for said God. That is a different subject altogether, and a red herring.”

No, your “working model” is based on premises, just as my “working model” about evil God is based on premises. So, one must consider if the premises are valid. If there is no support for the premises or of the premises merely reflects one’s personal imagination with no test in reality, then the “model” is not very impressive and is of little value.

“My burden was not to give an argument for His existence..”

And in my “model”, my burden was not to show that God is evil, and yet, you challenged my argument on this very point.

“We humans decided what a meter would be…which became an objective standard that all meters must adhere to.

Actually, all meters do not have adhere to the standard. If someone in Outer Frakistan says that a meter is something different, then a meter in Outer Frakistan is something different. “Meter” is subjective and a meter can be anything we want it to be. Most agree that a meter is unit of a specified length, because it’s useful to do so, but there is no magical, essential, transcendent, perfect objective thing called a “meter”.

A “meter” is something that we humans created. So, why can’t “objective morality” also be a concept that we humans created? We’re obviously good at creating standards when it serves our purpose, so I see no reason why moral standards can’t be as human-created as meters.

“Please study up on logical argumentation. I directly challenged a premise in your actual argument. When you challenged mine, you didn't directly challenge a premise, rather you intrduced a completely foreign argument.”

Please review my challenges. I directly challenged premises in your argument. There are at least two key premises: God is good, God commanded genocide. Your “logic” is worthless if either is false, just as my logic is worthless if God is not pure evil. And before you say that I can’t say what is good or bad without objective morality, please consider your ability to say what is beautiful in the absence of objective beauty. Besides, you're the one that believes in objective good, so you're the one that must prove something here.

“The greatest being by definition can have no fault, otherwise it's not God…by definition. If something does not adhere to the definition of the word given to it, then it is not that thing. This is why we have language.”

By definition? Who’s definition? By human definition, of course. But by who’s definition? Yours? What about my definition?

Now we’re back to the subjective again. You say the “greatest being can have no fault”, but I say that the greatest can be the greatest and also be faulty. Speaking of language, the word “greatest” is not a synonym for “perfect”. Your decision to equal “greatest” with “perfect” is a personal and subjective decision. I disagree.

We simply declare that the “greatest being can have no fault”, but this is ultimately something that we just made up. One can declare an infinite number of things “by definition”, but obviously, that doesn’t make these things real. This is one reason why I’m dubious about things like philosophy and theology. One simply declares something is so and there is no need for tests of that declaration in the real world. It’s very liberating, but not very convincing.

“By definition, God cannot be evil. Therefore you are mistaken.”

Again, you define words as you chose. You’ve decided that God can not be evil. Good for you. But this is your personal, subjective choice. In other theological systems, a given god can be both good and evil. You don’t actually know if God is evil or not. Therefore, you could be as mistaken as me.

“But it's still subjective. Someone else may want to really really kill you. Why is that wrong?”

Why something beautiful?

David said...

"First off, I didn't say we only base our historical knowledge on the Bible. Second off, it's a fact that historians view the history in the Bible as generally true. Of course they may not include the miracles, but that doesn't mean that much of it isn't true. Third, you are terrible with unbacked assertions. You would be in the minority view among historians to claim that the Biblical history is faulty."

Is something an “unbacked assertion” if it’s a “minority view”? Not really. It depends on size of the minority and the quality of the minority’s arguments, doesn’t it?

First, I didn’t say that your knowledge was based solely on the Bible. I was responding to your use of the word “much”. If you base “much” on the Bible, then you are missing out on “much” of what we know about human history. Second, “generally true” means that historians recognize that there are flaws and inaccuracies. So, historians do understand that the Bible is “faulty”. It contains flaws and inaccuracies. Like all historical documents, it has its faults. A majority of historians understand this reality. That doesn’t mean that it’s always wrong or of no historical value. But is does mean that it’s faulty, and in some cases, really, really faulty (see global flood).

“My personal experience isn't meant to convince you of anything.”

That’s fine. So why bring it up? It’s still subjective.

“This whole issue of Biblical inerrancy irrelevant to the issue. But I notice you again have asserted something of which you have not produced any evidence. “


It’s not irrelevant. You proved your case by saying that Jesus said that the OT was true, therefore, Joshua heard the voice of God. This argument is only useful if the entire OT is true. If only part of the OT is true, then the statement that Joshua heard the voice of God could be false.

So, now we need to figure out if the OT is true. That introduces the question of inerrancy. As for evidence, I present…the global flood. There are also several books by Near Eastern archeologists that challenge much of the later historical accounts in the OT.

David said...

"He wants you to die. Why is he wrong and you aren't?...Then you have no reason to decry genocide. It isn't really wrong.”

I have reasons. You chose to ignore them. But at least they’re grounded in the real world. Your reasons are just “definitions”. I gave you arguments for this. You don’t accept them. Ok, your choice.

“It is the objective law that our culture uses to govern.”

Ok, but who created this law? Humans created it. So, we can create objective things. Like moral codes. I can live with this conclusion.

“If there is no objective standard of 'happiness' or 'miserable-ness' then there is no such thing as an objective happy or miserable life. In fact, some people that you think might be miserable in their lives may actually be very happy, showing that it is very subjective.”

Well, yes, these things are subjective. That’s my point. But is it really accurate to then say that there is “no such thing as X”? You can’t say anything about love without a mystical, perfect objective “love”? I see that you really, really want things to be really simple and all-or-nothing. Has to be objective or nothing is real. Well, that’s your subjective and personal choice, I guess. I don’t think that the real world works this way.


“Aesthetic values of beauty or obscenity, if they are objective, must be founded in something else.“

Ok, what is the objective standard for all of these things?

“Otherwise it is all just personal opinion. Same with morals. This argument of yours just helps prove my point. Thanks.”

Again with the all or nothing. The real world isn’t like this. The real world has shades of gray. You really think that all opinions, arguments and evidence are equally worthless in the absence of this "objective" thing?

>How about “thou shalt not murder”? As we’ve seen, this is sometimes true and sometimes not true.

"We actually haven't seen this at all. This just shows you haven't understood anything here."

Actually, we have seen this. The fact that you created a fantasy to elude this problem does not mean that you’ve eluded this problem.

>As for Hitler stuff, you’re ignoring the reality that we deal with subjective concepts like morality on the bases described. You’re ignoring the reality of empathy, reciprocal altruism, reason, etc. And you’re ignoring the historical realities of the origins of moral codes.

“No I'm not.”

Yeah, I think you are. For example, you ignored the reality of the origins of the Mosaic codes.

“However, one would expect to see evidence for a fairy in a garden if there was one there. If, after surveying the area and not finding said fairy or evidence of said fairy, then my burden would have been fulfilled.”

If, after surveying history and finding no evidence of God-directed genocide, then my burden is fulfilled.

bossmanham said...

David, we're just repeating ourselves now. You clearly don't understand the logical argumentation being used here. You're wandering around and getting off topic and responding to straw men and red herrings. I'm done.

David said...

You're right, we're going around in circles, but the problem is not that I don't understand the logical argumentation being used here.

One problem is that you to define terms as you please, you want to claim that something is "truth", whether it's true or not, you want to make assertions without supporting them and/or you wish to avoid considering the implications of your assertions. "Red herring" is just a way to duck out of the unpleasant tasks of supporting assertions and considering implications.

The other problem is the same as one encountered by the logical ancient Greeks. They wanted to understand the world using pure thought and pure logic. They failed to accurately describe the real world, because they failed to interact with the real world. All thought and no experimentation leads to error. Their logic was all well and good, but most of their conclusions about how the world really works were wrong. You have to look at the world as it is, and to understand human moral codes, you must start with an examination of real human history, culture, mental capacity, instinct, reason, etc. You have to get your hands dirty.

David said...

I'm sure that you like parables, so I'll close with a parable. It's an oldie, but goodie.

A Physicist, a Chemist and an Economist were shipwrecked on an island together. They were delighted to find that crate of canned goods had washed ashore not far from where they dragged themselves out of the water, but as luck would have it, none of them had a Swiss Army knife, or any other implement to open the cans with. And so they set out to explore the island, to see what other provisions they might find, or what they might use to open the cans with, agreeing to return after four hours.

Upon their return, the Physicist spoke first. "I found a very fortuitous rock formation, and I've made extensive calculations. We can easily construct a catapult and smash the cans against these particular rocks at just the right angle to split them open with a 50% success rate."

The Chemist snorted, "A typical brute force physicist's solution!"

"Well, what did you find?" The Physicist shot back.

"I found some rocks as well," the Chemist said. "But mine had lichen on them, and I can extract an acid from them that will eat through the cans quite nicely, with a 75% success rate."

"Oh my God!" exclaimed the Economist. "I can't believe how crude you two are. You don't just have rocks on your mind, you're got rocks in your brains. My solution is far more elegant, and civilized. What's more, it has a 100% success rate."

"Well, then," said the Physicist, barely containing his anger, "What's your solution?"

"Yes, spill the beans," the Chemist cracked.

"Well," said the Economist, drawing himself up as if he were about to launch into a lecture, "First, let's assume we have a can-opener..."

Andrew said...

I know it's late in the day, but good job David. It never seems to sink in that the premises for even their beliefs have to be testable.

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