1. I posted the “Dear Euthyphro” meme on the Facebook page for Christian Apologetics Alliance. The meme reads:
God IS the Good.
It’s the Golden Rule.
2. Bud Uzorus was the first naysayer to reply. He said, “Then good is arbitrary and entirely subjective.” Not a premise in sight. Merely a stand-alone, take-it-or-leave-it conclusion. Anyone can do this in one second, leaving the other person having to do all the work.
3. I call him on that, and he complains about it on his blog. I reply to the comments that follow, including to Tristan Vick’s comment, which reads:
1, 2, 3), and I understood ‘why’ Bud would (mistakenly) say what he said. I addressed that in the dialogue that followed with Justin Schieber.” (links not in the original reply)I have taken a few philosophy courses and read the Dialogue with Euthyphro (
5. Tristan Vick replies:
6. Tristan Vick also does a little research into what I have to say in my Dear Euthyphro meme blog post, follows one of the links in that blog post [God (is) the Golden Rule (ought) without offending Hume], and replies to it:
7. Mike D, on the same blog as Tristan Vick, challenged me (not one-liner Bud…) to a more in-depth discussion…I guess the one with Justin Schieber didn’t count?…:
If someone cannot give you a concise summary of their arguments, then it’s a safe bet they don’t actually have any.
Yeah, see, those concise exchanges are how you begin a more in-depth discussion. But instead of doing that, you purported to lecture Bud on “doing his homework” and gave him a link farm, which contained little if any content relevant to Bud’s objection.
And, point of fact, Bud was right. If you ascribe goodness to God’s nature, it simply pushes the question back a step: are the qualities we associate with goodness – kindness, selflessness, compassion, etc… – good because they are part of God’s nature, or are they God’s nature because they are good? And the unavoidable implication of associating “good” with God’s nature is that, per William Lane Craig, God’s commands (our “oughts”) necessarily flow from his holy and loving nature. That part’s okay… it’s the parts where God commands genocide, the slaughter of children, the subjugation of women, death by torture (stoning) for victimless crimes (gathering wood on the wrong day of the week), or that God simply fails to denounce slavery at any point in the Bible whatsoever that you have a problem. Because now you, believing that only good things come from God, and that God’s commandments are necessarily good, have to rationalize extraordinary barbarism as holy and loving.
Here’s the best part though, and why Bud was right: If you want to rationalize that barbarism by saying it was contextually justified at the time, then you are saying that there is nothing in principle wrong with those acts. An act can be either contextually wrong/right or objectively wrong/right – not both. So if you say that the genocide of Canaan was contextually justified, for example, then you’re tacitly admitting that you do not believe genocide (including the killing of children) to be intrinsically wrong. That makes the rightness or wrongness of any particular act arbitrary – for instead of any act being intrinsically objectively or absolutely right or wrong, it merely becomes right or wrong when God commands or forbids it.
So, which is it? Are moral acts objectively right or wrong unto themselves, or do they become right or wrong contextually when God commands them? You can’t have it both ways.
See what I did there? That’s an attempt at a discussion. I’ll even give you another resource, one that only takes ten minutes to watch and is directly relevant to the conversation:
So, I will reply to all of the above, below:
Essentialism is the view that the Good exists to be discovered, whereas voluntarism is the view that the Good is willed or commanded into being. The latter view, critiqued in this dialogue, is susceptible to the objection that it makes the Good an arbitrary fiction, whereas the former view, implied by Socrates, is the one held by those who view the Good as objective, unchanging, universal truth. The Euthyphro dialogue and dilemma ultimately give birth to essentialism, grounded neither in the will, nor in the nature of the in-fighting gods Euthyphro believed in—the very sort of implication leading to Socrates’ indictment for blasphemy and being a “maker of gods” (3b) in the first place. Some suggest the truth of the Good is grounded in the particular instances of the good (or, that there is no objective Good). I submit that Socrates would apply Euthyphro’s dilemma to that “particulars” assumption, as well, and was the first to hint at a moral argument for God’s existence (Socrates refers to him as “the god” throughout the Apology)—if we take the Good as granted and follow wherever his beloved inquiry, or divine sign, leads (3b, 14c).
Initially, Euthyphro gets going as Socrates requests that Euthyphro provide him with the universal definition of the Good. In my discussion with Justin Schrieber (https://www.facebook.com/ChristianApologeticsAlliance/posts/417291828331731), I acknowledge that attempts to define the Good, to explain how we know the Good is good, concern the epistemology, or justification, of our understanding of what “Good” objectively means (if it hasobjective meaning). This is the issue of “WHY is the Good good—how do we KNOW it is good?”
Euthyphro never provides a definition that is to Socrates’ satisfaction. Socrates finds fault with every example—some of the examples provided for Euthyphro by Socrates to “help” him along, while actually playing with the poor lad. All the examples can be boiled down to three:
In my “Dear Euthyphro meme” (https://ichthus77.com/2012/09/29/dear-euthyphro-meme), I suggest the correct definition of the Good is Love (not the sort that is from a lack, as discussed between Diotima and Socrates in the Symposium), correctly understood as the Golden Rule, corresponding to God’s nature (1 John 1:5, 4:8; Galatians 5:22-23; Matthew 7:12; John 1:45, 5:39; Matthew 5:17; 2:37, 39, 40), and I talk somewhat about its justification in the thread to which Tristan Vick replies (http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/04/god-is-golden-rule-ought-without.html) but moreso in my neglected work in progress (http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/p/sword-and-sacrifice-philosophy-toc.html). This is what Tristan really wants to go into a bit more, but we’ll get there soon enough.
More than a mere definition, Socrates is interested in getting at the “form” of the Good. Socrates starts out asking a popular, benign question (What do we mean by “good”? 5c-d) as a means of being able to get into a more controversial conversation—the sort for which he was executed. But by “form” (5d, 6d) G.M.A. Grube takes Socrates to mean universal “characteristics immanent in the particulars and without separate existence”—but this seems like a leap of eisogesis…adding meaning into what Socrates was saying, rather than going with the bare minimum of what can be taken as the plain, intended meaning (exegesis). Grube’s translation has Socrates asking Euthyphro:
“What kind of thing do you say that godliness and ungodliness are, both as regards to murder and other things; or is the pious not the same and alike in every action, and the impious the opposite of all that is pious and like itself, and everything that is to be impious presents us with one form or appearance in so far as it is impious?” (5c-d) and, later, “Bear in mind then that I did not bid you tell me one or two of the many pious actions but that form itself that makes all pious actions pious, for you agreed that all impious actions are impious and all pious actions pious through one form, or don’t you remember?” (6d) (emphasis added)
[Tangent: Granted the quote is an example of rhetoric, but Socrates is mistaken if he believes that good and evil are opposites, for evil is the privation of good (http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2008/01/on-non-duality-of-good-and-evil.html) (http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/11/answering-stephen-laws-evil-god.html). Although he states that good and evil are made so through one form, it is more likely he means there is one form for the Good, and one form for the Evil—but I would be delighted to learn that he actually means that evil’s privation is impossible without the more/most ultimate form of the Good. Anyway.]
Socrates hasn’t stated anywhere in the Euthyphrothat the good is merely or only existent in the particulars. He does not explicitly state or imply, “The pious is the same and alike in every action, and it stops there, in particular actions—there is definitely no always-pious being which is reflected in all pious particulars.” And why would he think that the form of the Good is best reflected in pious actions, when later such emphasis is placed on virtue, on ‘being’ pious? With that in mind, wouldn’t he believe the form of the Good is best reflected in a being that is always pious—the Virtuoso? The problem is, he acknowledged, that there was no always good god to be found among the Greek hierarchy (so he was receiving the “divine sign” from Whom?). Perhaps this is why he was indicted with blasphemy and as a “maker of gods”?
So, as hinted at earlier, while Socrates’ questions start out with epistemology, asking for a definition of the Good…they lead into ontology, or questions regarding what gives the Good its being. This is where he amps things up, from the general dialogue, to the particular dilemma found within it.
As the dialogue progresses, Socrates’ rhetoric runs into the topic of the Good’s “ontology”. Getting at the Good’s ontology involves asking questions like, “What being does the Good describe? To what does the Good correspond? What makes the Good something that is real? How does the Good get its being?” That is the sort of question asked in the dilemma posed by Socrates to Euthyphro:
“Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (10a) The dilemma is more recently stated this way, with the horns of the dilemma swapping places: “Is something good because God wills (or commands) it, or does He will (or command) it because it is good?” So, the dialogue starts out about epistemology, whereas the dilemma in particular addresses the faulty ontology of a failed attempt at definition. Euthyphro and strict Divine Command Theory proponents espouse divine voluntarism. Socrates challenges them both, without ever making an assertion, as when Jesus asked, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heavenor from men?” (Matthew 21, Mark 11) and the implied question, “Which of you is without sin?” (John 8), and many other questions (http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/10/questions-jesus-asked.html).
Socrates is challenging Euthyphro’s definition of the Good (that it is whatever is loved by the gods), by challenging its ontology—and pointing out that even if the ontology worked (which it doesn’t), a definition of the Good is still lacking. As Hume’s is-ought distinction and Plato’s justified-true requirement point out: ontology and epistemology cannot pass for each other.
In reality, the dilemma Socrates sets up is a false one meant to stir up cognitive dissonance—a stone in your shoe. There is a third option for which Socrates’ dilemma (or, dialectic…) was the midwife: There is an always pious god who wills in accordance with his pious nature, and there are no in-fighting gods. Socrates says, “I find it hard to accept things like that being said about the gods, and it is likely to be the reason why I shall be told I do wrong” (6a-b) and he says this referring to Euthyphro’s rationalizing his father-condemning behavior with, “Zeus is the best and most just of the gods…he bound his father because he unjustly swallowed his sons, and…in turn castrated his father for similar reasons.” (ibid) Socrates doubts the myths, but he does not doubt the divine sign.
Socrates’ always-pious god, the source of the divine sign, loves, wills and commands in accordance with his goodness, as the true Virtuoso. He does not invent (arbitrarily or otherwise) the Good (as opposed to strict Divine Command Theory, or divine voluntarism, or Euthyphro), nor is the Good something more absolute than “the gods” (what Grube suggests is the view from which Plato never departed—but all this dialogue suggests is essentialism, or anti-voluntarism, as opposed to ruling out ‘divine’ essentialism…except with reference to the in-fighting Greek hierarchy of gods). Rather, the Virtuoso’s nature is the being described by the definition of the Good; it is that being to which the definition of the Good corresponds (is true), and to which all particular instances of good are true. Some have tried to apply Euthyphro’s dilemma to this and say, “Is God’s nature good because of the way God happens to be, or is it good because it matches up to some external standard of goodness?” http://www.reasonablefaith.org/euthyphro-dilemma#ixzz29ToIzvbh See above, my comments on the Golden Rule describing and corresponding to God’s nature (iow, being made objectively, unchangingly true by God’s nature).
Abstractions do not exist in order for particulars to be true to them. But if there is no existent “form…that makes all pious actions pious” and we are left with only the particulars, then: the fleeting particulars make themselves pious. Grube is reasoning in a circle when he assumes Socrates thinks forms are “characteristics immanent in the particulars without separate existence”. Socrates would put it to Grube this way: “Are pious particulars pious because the form of the pious is immanent in them, or is the form of the pious, pious, because it is immanent in the pious particulars?” It can’t be both. It’s like the watch passing between John and Richard in the TV series, Lost—a closed causal loop. And in case I just need to be more clear—The pious particulars are truly pious because their goodness corresponds to God’s, which is described by the justified Golden Rule. The pious particulars get their goodness from God, like we get our being from God. The pious particulars, like ourselves, are contingent on God’s necessary being—they and we “have” being from him who “is” being. God is no mere abstraction indistinguishable from a temporary pattern among fleeting particulars—how can anyone think that’s what Socrates was after?!
This is where I believe Socrates’ rhetoric, spurred on by the divine sign, was nudging his dialogue partners, though ultimately it nudged them to execute him. I submit it is Socrates’ own Virtuoso who would later take on flesh and engage his disciples in the “Socratic” method and be martyred, so as to demonstrate true piety in switching perspectives with us (Golden Rule) on the cross. Socrates, like Jesus, was a gadfly, putting stones under the feet of all who would entertain his dialogue. Like Jesus, he was an apologist, though constrained to serve as midwife (http://philosophycourse.info/lecsite/lec-socmidwife.html)—and few have been birthed “again” into his ideas. Socrates, like Jesus, “drank the cup” for threatening the idols of the powers that be, and for challenging them to think about what REALLY matters, which is no mere abstraction. “Gentlemen of the jury, I am grateful and I am your friend, but I will obey the god rather than you, and as long as I draw breath and am able, I shall not cease to practice philosophy, to exhort you and in my usual way to point out to any one of you whom I happen to meet: ‘Good Sir, you are an Athenian, a citizen of the greatest city with the greatest reputation for both wisdom and power; are you not ashamed of your eagerness to possess as much wealth, reputation and honors as possible, while you do not care for nor give thought to wisdom or truth, or the best possible state of your soul?’ Then, if one of you disputes this and says he does not care, I shall not let him go at once or leave him, but I shall question him, examine him and test him, and if I do not think he has attained the goodness that he says he has, I shall reproach him because he attaches little importance to the most important things and greater importance to inferior things. I shall treat in this way anyone I happen to meet, young and old, citizen and stranger, and more so the citizens because you are more kindred to me. Be sure that this is what the god orders me to do, and I think there is no greater blessing for the city than my service to the god.” (Apology, 29c-30a) Euthyphro was deaf to the dilemma, but do you have ears to hear?
“As it is, the lover of inquiry must follow his beloved wherever it may lead him.” –Socrates, Euthyphro, 14c.
Now for some dialogue with Tristan and Mike.
Tristan Vick, you say (#5 above), “If God IS/MAKES/EMBODIES the Good, then whatever the MIND of God determines constitutes Good is what becomes the definition of Good.”
The view of divine essentialism is that God is the Good. God has always existed, so the Good has always existed. God did not create himself, therefore God does not create the Good. Whatever God wills or commands, he wills or commands in accordance with his nature—he does not make a new good. There are truths about minds that are not dependent on minds understanding them in order to be true. That the Golden Rule is how every mind ought to be, is true for every mind, but only fully descriptive of God’s.
But we will talk more about the Golden Rule in this thread: http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/04/god-is-golden-rule-ought-without.html, where I will answer all the objections in #6. You are right in the comments below, where you say it is a different discussion.
Mike D (#7 above), you ask, “are the qualities we associate with goodness – kindness, selflessness, compassion, etc… – good because they are part of God’s nature, or are they God’s nature because they are good?”
They are “justified” as good through good reasoning (follow Tristan and I to the Golden Rule discussion http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/04/god-is-golden-rule-ought-without.html, if you like)—they are “true” if they correspond to an always-good being which they describe. Hume’s is-ought and Plato’s justified-true require both, separately.
You say you are fine with the logic behind God commanding from his good nature (so I’m not understanding why you asked the question I just answered?), but that “it’s the parts where God commands genocide, the slaughter of children, the subjugation of women, death by torture (stoning) for victimless crimes (gathering wood on the wrong day of the week), or that God simply fails to denounce slavery at any point in the Bible whatsoever that you have a problem. Because now you, believing that only good things come from God, and that God’s commandments are necessarily good, have to rationalize extraordinary barbarism as holy and loving.”
Those are very honest things to be worried about, if your interpretation of the Bible is correct. Each one of them has been addressed elsewhere in many books, blogs, podcasts, debates, and so on, and I would like to stick to the Euthyphro dilemma in this thread. But, I will grant, that if you are right in your interpretation—then the Good corresponds to nothing (does not exist). Or, what other always-good candidate do you know? But, if there is no good, then there can be no evil, which depends on the good (because it messes it up). Your charges acknowledge the good, but they do not offer a replacement for God, to which the good may instead correspond. Perhaps the answer is not replacing, but correctly understanding. I like this collection of quotes I took from Tim Keller’s “The Reason for God” —
“…how to deal with a Scripture text that appeared objectionable or offensive to them. … slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. …the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context. … To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. … To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. … Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114).
For the record, I do not think judgment conflicts with God being good. Imagine if he let us get worse and worse, and never intervened? How would that be good? But that only ‘barely’ addresses what you’ve said. It would take me much more time than I have to give you a good reply. Fortunately, many others have done work on this, and I hope you will give them a fair shot.
Removing this next quote from the above context and universalizing it, you say, “An act can be either contextually wrong/right or objectively wrong/right – not both. Are moral acts objectively right or wrong unto themselves, or do they become right or wrong contextually when God commands them?”
You agreed earlier that it makes logical sense (despite Old Testament qualms) to say that God commands in accordance with his good nature. Pair that with contextual absolutism, a discussion in itself: http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-first-wikipedia-article-graded.htmland you’ll have where I stand on that.
I apologize to both of you for taking so long to answer. I wanted to give you a good reply.
Now I will work on our Golden Rule discussion, Tristan :)
Part of my contribution in this dialogue is cross-posted at the Christian Apologetics Alliance group blog.