Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Apologists Attempt to Answer the Euthyphro Dilemma

Jesus and Mo
I've written about the Euthyphro dilemma in the past and I assume most of my readers are familiar with it, but let's do a quick reminder anyway. Christians say that God is the source of our morality, God says that X is moral and therefore it is. The Euthyphro dilemma asks what really makes X moral and claims there are only 2 possibilities

  1. X is moral because God said so
  2. God said X is moral because there X is inherently moral independent of God
Both of these options pose problems for Christians. If 1 is true then anything could potentially be moral if God had said so. If 2 is true then we don't need God for our morality, we can bypass him and use whatever source he is using, God becomes and unimportant middleman. 

It seems like a big problem to me, I'm always interested in how Christians will answer this challenge. I have recently seen this come up on two separate apologetics blogs (The Christian Apologetic Alliance and Tough Questions Answered), and their solutions were pretty much the same. On the CAA blog, he says
There is, however, a third option available to us. We could take the position that God’s moral commandments flow from his nature. For example, God is loving (Psalm 86.15) and as such he orders us to love others (Luke 10.27), lying is wrong because God does not lie (Titus 1:2) and so on. This means that God’s perfect nature is the standard for value.
And on TQA he says
in some important sense we wish to argue that God just is the ultimate Good.
As I read it, this is just option 1 in the Euthyphro dilemma. I brought this up and it was said that it's not like God is just randomly deciding X is bad, instead it is part of his nature. Of course then I would ask what would it be like if God's nature had been the opposite. What if God's nature said rape was moral? They say it couldn't be that way (option 2 of the dilemma).

They tried to get out of this by saying God is perfect goodness, but also say that God is the source of goodness. Putting these 2 statements together says literally nothing. If God's nature is the definition of good, then by that very same definition God is the ultimate goodness. Literally regardless of what is in God's nature. Of course the word "good" comes with a lot of baggage so it isn't completely obvious how circular this is. To demonstrate this I made up a word without such baggage and made the parallel argument about myself:

Hausdorffness is all of the things that are in my personal nature to do. While all of you reading this probably have some level of Hausdorffness, I am the unique person who attains perfect Hausdorffness. This is meaningless, as is the way he tried to define goodness. Perhaps it's because of how silly this sounds, but I did not get an answer.

I also asked what would happen if the devil goes an creates his own universe, would his nature then be good for those people? He said no, it is not just because God is the creator, it's because he is the perfection of goodness. But again, he's using a circular definition, and trying to sidestep this whole dilemma. Another person commenting (Andrew) picked up on this thread and managed to get TQA to say that
According to Christian metaphysics, God must exist in all possible worlds, just as rape is wrong in all possible worlds. So when you say that we should consider a world where God does not exist, that simply makes no sense.
What a completely dishonest answer. Starting with "According to Christian metaphysics" shows just how dishonest the apologist is being here. He's admitting that he is starting with the conclusion he wants and going from there. It's ludicrous to say you are seeking truth and then having your first step be assuming the conclusion you want. (of course, this is what apologists do all the time, it's just usually not so obvious). Andrew then pointed out that if he is assuming the Christian God exists in all possible worlds he is abusing the term "all possible worlds" a bit. He pointed out that Muslim could claim the same thing about Allah, of course no response was given.

I came into those conversations in good faith. I couldn't see how they could get out of the dilemma, but I was interested to see what they could come up with. I thought their answers were poor, but I didn't just run off and say they had no answer, I asked further questions and allowed them to fix any potential misunderstandings I had or fix any points that they thought weren't getting through to me. They were completely unable to do this. They have no answer to the Euthyphro dilemma. If there is a Christian out there who thinks I've missed something, please speak up. I would love to see how you solve this dilemma, but every answer I have ever seen reformulates things and then falls right back into one of the two options.

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