Sunday, October 12, 2008

Euthyphro Dilemma revisted 2.

Post Continued From Here


So, Ernest seems to go along with the ideas expressed just above: by the fact that God is our Father, Creator, Sustainer, it follows that we ought to follow his commands and respect the laws that He lays down for us.

But, by the fact that God is our Father it doesn’t follow that we ought to do as he commands. By analogy, if a child’s parent (who is, in a perfectly analogical sense, the child’s Father, Creator, and Provider), commanded his daughter to go out to Central Avenue in Albany, NY and sell crack, the daughter would in no way be morally obligated to do so, just on the grounds that the command comes from her father.

A natural reply to this analogy would be that it fails because the girl’s father is a mere human being, whereas God is our Ultimate Author, the all-powerful being who is responsible for our existence. So, then, it is not God’s parental status, but more his omnipotence, that makes his dispositions unique such that they provide as an objective basis for moral conduct, when no other individual‘s desires, or set of desires, can.

Is there any reason to suppose that there is a relationship between moral obligation and how powerful a person is? There doesn’t seem to be any relation between these two things. In Wielenberg (2005), we imagine a contest between two people where the prize is omnipotence. The first competitor in this contest means to win his omnipotence and use it for the good of humanity. The second competitor plans to use his omnipotence for his own “selfish, nefarious purposes”. He “plans to slaughter most of humanity and force the rest to live in excrement pits where they will work themselves to death as his slaves and be subject to torture at his hand for his own amusement” (pg. 41-42). If the second competitor won this contest, and became all-powerful, would we have any moral obligation at all to make his desires come true? The answer is obviously no. We don’t have any obligation. So neither a person’s power or parental/creator status has any relation to what our moral obligations are.

So, it looks like there’s no bridge between “is” and “ought” for EDCT.

2. On God’s dispositions being necessarily fixed:

Originally Posted by “Ernest”
1.Conceptual Neccesity

Neccesarily God is Good.

Goodness being attributed to God can be thought of as a Propositional neccesity i.e Resulting from unpacking of a concept- the concept of God.By this I mean the very definition of God (in Christianity) is one who is all If someone is a bachelor, for instance, then he is bound to be unmarried by conceptual necessity, because the meaning of the word "bachelor" determines that he is.therefore Good is part of the definiton of what God is.But this shiould not be confused as meaning that God is the same thing as goodness,but only part of the deifinition of What God is.

God is neccesarily Good

This can be thought of neccesity De Re i.e "of the thing".Where the neccesity holds true of the being who is infact God.And is the expression of one of his essential properties.A property without which,He could not exist.This De Re necessity ties goodness to the very existence of God.

Necessarily,God is essentially Good

For a being who was ultimately vulnerable to evil,sin or weakness in any possible circumstance,he would not be the greatest possible being.On the conception of deity,part of what it means to be God is having the property of goodness and to have it essentially,and not contingently.


You’ve got some things confused. Here, you’re trying to provide a reason for why God is necessarily good. But you have defined “good” as “in accord with God’s dispositions”. So the more relevant question is: Could God’s dispositions be different? If there is a possible world in which God’s dispositions are not the same as you imagine them to be, then it follows that what is right and what is wrong would be different. Since we’re all in agreement that any moral theory that entails this has been reduced to absurdity, it becomes necessary for you to show that God’s dispositions cannot be different. You haven’t really tried to show this.

The closest you’ve come to an argument of this sort is your ontological argument. God cannot be different because then He would not be the greatest conceivable being. But as I implied in an earlier post, this particular ontological argument uses the term “greatest” in (apparently) a very subjective way. How are you defining the word “greatest” in your argument, and how does it directly relate to and have consequences for what God’s dispositions could be? "Greatest conceivable being" from which person's perspective? Can you demonstrate, as a matter of fact, that differences in God’s dispositions would entail that He would not be the greatest conceivable being, in any sort of objective way that we would all have to agree with?

I think that you've been able to come up with a good answer to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, in that you have attempted to make the basis for moral facts both non-arbitrary and based on God’s commands/nature. You have the “right idea”, in other words, in terms of what you have to argue in order to make the Euthyphro argument go away. But, as far as the discussion has shown so far, it looks like EDCT fails for at least two reasons: (1) It fails to provide an adequate answer to the is-ought dilemma; and (2) It fails to show that God’s dispositions are necessarily the way that they are, and could not be different. The criticism expressed in (1) is an independent criticism apart from the Euthyphro Dilemma. The argument in (2) shows (at least, IMO) that the Euthyphro Dilemma is a continuing problem for your moral theory.

Euthyphro Dilemma revisited:

Following my post about the Euthyphro Dilemma on my blog here and subsequent post at IIDB,There were several critiques of my post by a forum member AKA Deschain.Here is His analysis of what he called Ernest's Divine Command Theory.(lol)

He was responding to this:

Originally Posted by “Ernest”
I certainly did not chose horn number 2,i do think that there are reasons why God gives certrain moral commands,but it does not follow that this reasons are apart from God's nature.

As in,
1.God is Kind
2.God has a disposition against stealing
3.Because stealing causes losess to the victim,and its an act of cruelty
4.Cruelty is agaisnt God's nature of Kindness

If am correct,What Deschain and You have a contention with is that number 3 i.e reasons for stealing,would be independent of God's nature.God would need reasons indepedent of his nature to have moral commands.

But my position is,the reasons themselves are grounded in God's i have illustrated.

Then the question would be as Deschain pointed out,Would number 3 be evident enough i.e serve as a motivation by itself to humans without number 4?

Now at this juncture we have to discuss all the Atheistic/secular ethical moral systems.(which is a another discussion)

But if they all fail,then we have to move from 3 to 4,that it might not be self evident that Stealing is cruel without an Objective Moral standard,who is God.


1. On the Ernestombayo Divine Command Theory, actions that would normally be described as immoral can be considered objectively wrong because of certain dispositions that God has toward those acts. According to EDCT, it is not possible that God could have an alternative set of dispositions - i.e., God’s nature is strictly fixed and is as it is by necessity. As a result, it can never be the case that moral facts change; for example, it can never be the case that rape suddenly becomes morally permissible, or that charity becomes morally reprehensible, because God’s dispositions toward those acts can never change. The result of this is that, according to Ernest, we have an answer to Euthyphro’s Dilemma, which attempts to demonstrate that either: (1) morality is not founded on God; or (2) Morality is an arbitrary construct decreed by God. With EDCT, moral facts are not arbitrary because they are true by virtue of God’s unchanging dispositions toward morally-relevant actions. And with that, the dilemma seems to be answered.

Here’s why this doesn’t sound like a good theory to me: Why is it that God’s dispositions are sufficient to provide as a basis for moral facts, when no other individual’s desires (say, the dispositions of Wittgenstein, or Satan, or Whoopi Goldberg, or Boy George) are able to do so? What is it about God’s personal dispositions that provide us with an objective theory, when, according to Ernest's rejection of secularly-based ethical theories, using anyone else's dispositions as a basis for moral conduct leaves us with moral subjectivism?

Different believers that I’ve talked to have different perspectives on this. Some say that God’s dispositions are unique in that God is our Father, our Creator, and so we must do what he commands and desires of us. Others say that it is because God is all-powerful. Others say that it is because he is omniscient and therefore knows what is right and what is wrong, and so it is important that we follow him as our (much wiser) guide for moral behaviour. Ernest himself wrote that:

"From a Christian theological standpoint, if God has created us and sustains us in existence at every moment and so all good things of life come to us through his agency or permission, we have some obligation to please him and so conform to his commands and forbidding."

Continued on the next post.