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Saturday, October 4, 2008

H2thyphrO's Dilemma

MrFreeThinker (don't let the name mislead you) has taken up my challenge for Christians to convince me by arguing for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. I will be replying to him later once I have a little more time.

He has left a comment here, though, and also posted a response to my fellow Raytractor Dave attempting to resolve logical contradictions. Regarding the rock-so-heavy argument, MrFreeThinker attempts to resolve it by saying that it is trivial -- like saying can God make a female horse that is a stallion. It is trivially false because by definition it doesn't exist. He fails to understand a paradox, though.

He tried to resolve Euthyphro dilemma in the same way:
I am holding a glass of water in my hands.Is this H20 because it is water, or is it water because it’s H2O?

(Meant to demonstrate the meaninglessness of Euthrypo’s dilemma.)
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Euthyphro dilemma. That dilemma is often phrased as:
Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God.
To phrase it differently, does God command some action because he recognizes it is wrong or is it wrong because God commands it? If you understand the dilemma it is anything but meaningless.

The importance of it is especially relevant in the "how can you be moral without God"? Some sort of appeal to absolute morality -- without God morals would be relative, or something along those lines. The Euthyphro dilemma is fatal for this argument.

If we take the former case, that God says something is wrong because he recognizes it is wrong, the argument against atheism/for God fails because there is a morality independent of God and we atheists can help ourselves to this absolute standard.

If we take the latter case, that things are wrong because God says so, renders morality arbitrary and relative as well -- because it's moral just because God says so. He might as well just have flipped a coin to decide is something is moral or not to command it (and it seems this is what he did in the Old Testament).

To be consistent with the argument, morals must be independent of both ourselves and God.

If the latter option is chosen, though, that it's dependent on God, then we have a whole other avenue to stroll down of divining just what those morals are.


MrFreeThinker said...

I agree that god says something is wrong because he recognises it is wrong. And I agree that god does recognise a standard. But this standard is grounded in god's unchanging moral nature. Then it comes down to asking "What if god's nature was different?" (which is like asking "what if 2+2 wasn't 4?")

DisComforting Ignorance said...

So on point A, we agree that that which is wrong is wrong because it is inherently wrong. In other words, it is not wrong simply because God says it is wrong or because we say it is wrong; it is inherently wrong.

I don't buy your second point, though. You call the above a standard. You further say that God commands certain morals because he recognizes this standard. Further, you say that this standard is grounded in God.

This is circular reasoning; or in the very least it is tantamount to saying it is wrong because God says it is wrong. You are arguing that the standard is grounded in God and God recognizes this standard and, therefore, recognizes something is wrong simply because its nature of being wrong is grounded in him.

And it is not like asking "what if 2+2=4" as that's a definition. It's more like asking what if copper burned red instead of green?

You can't argue that there is an independent standard which God follows that is also a part of him. If you wish to argue that God can only command that which is consistent with the standard, that is fine.