Dialogue with Tristan Vick on the Golden Rule

In this Euthyphro Dilemma thread I began a dialogue with Tristan Vick, which I continue in this Golden Rule thread, and bring to the top in the thread you are now reading.

Tristan replies:

With 1)God commands/reveals in accordance with his good nature, isn’t actually a proof for God’s good nature. It’s not even an induction. So it can’t simply be assumed, let alone assumed to answer how God, being an independent mind, would or could define “good” or by what accordance of his own Will or Dictates he can or cannot abide. 

So I still don’t think it avoids the problem of subjectivity.

With 2) we can know the Golden Rule through reason and intuition only if it corresponds in order to be known, I think William James answers this in his work. The good may be of pragmatic value, but it doesn’t require the good to be purposeful in and of itself. Sam Harris’ ‘Moral Landscape’ expands upon this. But you could look at the work of Thomas Hobbes as well.  

Basically, according to the goods which serve a practical good, these can be utilized in a way which help us achieve a greater good, but there may never be an ultimate good. There may only be general or generic versions, which we can only know by trial and error, so we come to recognize them, not by intuition, but by experience of the success of those which work and the failure of those which don’t. Therefore certain things which once seemed like a moral good, might in fact, change to prove outdated by today’s moral reasoning. 

As for this ‘universal hunger’ you speak of, this could also be explained from a Naturalistic and Evolutionary worldview. So the burden would be on you to explain why your version which relates to the properties of God supersedes these other explanations for the same “universal hunger’.
Anyway, just some food for thought.


I respond:

Tristan, 

You say, “1) ‘God commands/reveals in accordance with his good nature,’ isn’t actually a proof for God’s good nature. It’s not even an induction.” 

Many arguments are made with certain givens. The Euthyphro dilemma’s given is the Good. My argument is this: “If” the Good exists, or “granted” the Good exists, then God wills/commands according to it. 

You say, “So it can’t simply be assumed, let alone assumed to answer how God, being an independent mind, would or could define “good” or by what accordance of his own Will or Dictates he can or cannot abide. //So I still don’t think it avoids the problem of subjectivity.” 

You want it to answer how God, being an independent mind, would (or could) define the Good–or by what accordance (???) of his own Will or Dictates he can or cannot abide. This is worded so confusingly, but I think you mean that the resolution to the Euthyphro dilemma does not provide a definition of the Good. With that I agree–it only deals with ontology, not epistemology. See our discussion on that here, where I also answer the charge of subjectivity: http://www.ichthus77.blogspot.com/2012/10/dialogue-on-euthyphros-dilemma-with.html Note that my position is that God wills/commands in accordance with his nature–his commands do not define a new good–the definition of the Good never changes and corresponds to his nature. He cannot contradict his own nature–that would make him less than absolute/ultimate.

“With 2) we can know the Golden Rule through reason and intuition only if it corresponds in order to be known, I think William James answers this in his work. The good may be of pragmatic value, but it doesn’t require the good to be purposeful in and of itself. Sam Harris’ ‘Moral Landscape’ expands upon this. But you could look at the work of Thomas Hobbes as well.” 

I answer pragmatism, utilitarianism and Sam Harris elsewhere on this blog and my Sword and Sacrifice blog. Referring to people instead of arguments is not helpful to our dialogue… Can you answer this: If there is moral truth, to what does it correspond? 

You say, “…but there may never be an ultimate good.” Do you mean may in the sense of…”there is absolutely no possible way there could ever be an ultimate good”? Or do you mean it in the sense of “…it’s possible we may never discover an ultimate good”? (because it wouldn’t make sense to say that one may just pop into existence). Socrates, and anyone interested in getting at moral truth, is not concerned with the sort of “good” you are putting forth. 

You say, “As for this ‘universal hunger’ you speak of, this could also be explained from a Naturalistic and Evolutionary worldview. So the burden would be on you to explain why your version which relates to the properties of God supersedes these other explanations for the same “universal hunger’.” 

My version doesn’t supersede the other explanations: I believe the universal hunger was evolved (whether or not it was with God’s assistance, I am still researching), just like our hunger for food. Just as there must have been food enough for us to evolve a hunger for it: There must be “real” meaning in order for us to evolve a hunger for it. 

Sorry it took me so long to reply! Thanks for this discussion :)

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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