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Friday, April 17, 2015

What *is* it with God-deniers?

What *is* it with God-deniers that leads (or compels?) them to be so incredibly dense about the matter of morality?

Consider this post by David Friedman: Duck Dynasty, Medieval Islam, and Moral Philosophy. Specifically, consider carefully his opening paragraph --
There was a recent public flap, brought to my attention by a post on my favorite blog, over a speech by Phil Robertson, the patriarch of Duck Dynasty. Its claim was that an atheist had no basis for moral judgement, no ground on which to describe horrific acts (described in some detail in the talk) as bad.
I have no idea what Mr Robertson did or did not say, but what Mr Friedman wrote as representing what he said is a fairly common argument and/or claim; so, I have no reason to even suspect that Friedman is misrepresenting Robertson. So, let's go with that statement as being the gist of Robertson's position.

Now, consider Friedman's third paragraph, wherein he imagines he has spotted a logical flaw in Robertson's position --
I see a logical problem with both Robertson's position and the position of his Ash'arite predecessors. You encounter a powerful supernatural being. If you have no ability to distinguish good from evil on your own, how can you tell whether he is God, the Devil, or, like the Greek and Norse gods, a morally ambiguous being, no more consistently good than the rest of us?
Friedman isn't even talking about the same thing Robertson is talking about.

When you get down to it, Friedman is merely making the same old, tired "rebuttal" to Robertson that the village atheists with ethernet cables always make, to wit: "Robertson is asserting that I can't be moral" ... which accusation has no relationship to what Robertson actually said.

And let's not even start with Mr Friedman's supercilious final paragraph.


Nick said...

When I was an atheist, I thought I really believed the euthyphro dilemma was fatal for the theistic position. I took comfort in the idea the "morality" could be determined by reason and the "facts of reality". I think I got this from Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy as well.

I was wrong, of course. Also, atheists seem to me to take delight in trying to take away from theistic believers the comfort derived from knowing (or hoping) God exists. Just how I feel.

B. Prokop said...

Maybe it's just me, but I've never understood why the Ethyphro dilemma was a dilemma at all. Why is it not possible to say that both propositions are true simultaneously?

So instead of saying either "A" is good because God wills it, or God wills "A" because it is good, simply replace the "because" with an "and", and the dilemma disappears. It becomes a variation of A=B, therefore B=A. (I.e., "A" is good and God wills it, therefore God wills "A" and it is good.)

Any flaws in that?

Nick said...

I think you're right, B. Prokop.

Ilíon said...

"So instead of saying either "A" is good because God wills it, or God wills "A" because it is good, simply replace the "because" with an "and", and the dilemma disappears. It becomes a variation of A=B, therefore B=A. (I.e., "A" is good and God wills it, therefore God wills "A" and it is good.)

Any flaws in that?

What?! View the so-called dilemma as a false dilemma that isn’t even applicable to Judeo-Christianity?

The original formulation, as allegedly presented by Socrates, was a dilemma ... but only because the Greeks are pagan polytheists. That is, their gods were not the Wholly Other (which is what 'sacred' and 'holy' mean, by the way) transcendent Creator of the Cosmos from nothing, but were rather, as were men, effects of the Cosmos (which was itself and effect of the prior existing Chaos).

The above fact is why I keep pointing out that “theism” (or ‘monotheism’) is not properly on this question-begging continuum so popular with the God-haters: animism-shamanism-polytheism-henotheism-(*monotheism*)-atheism.

This fact is why I keep pointing out that most (if not all) paganisms cluster not with “theism”, but with atheism and materialism – for, by the metaphysics of both atheism and (most, if not all) paganism, minds “arise”, which is to say, just happen for no reason, from self-existent matter (*). In contrast, by metaphysics of “theism”, the self-existent Mind chooses to create a cosmos of time-space-and-matter, and chooses to create other minds.

(*) and which metaphysics, ultimately, leads to the logically inescapable conclusion that minds don’t actually exist.

Another reason that most people, especially those who are invested in the idea that Euthyphro poses an unanswerable defeater for Judeo-Christianity, will resist seeing that the so-called dilemma isn’t a dilemma at all, but a rather paradox (**), is the same old problem we’ve always had: rebellion against God’s authority. Underneath it all, that’s what all the ensuing shrieking about “divine command ethics” will really be about: humans don’t want to submit to authority … but they love to submit to force and/or compulsion (***).

(**) that is, the seeming conflict-and-contradiction that Euthyphro is said to present is really an artifact of ignorance that vanishes with knowledge.

(***) which explains quite a bit about the popular (with both sexes, but especially with women) present-day approach to romance and marriage, wherein ‘love’ isn’t a decision and commitment but is rather an overpowering compulsive force or event that just happens when it happens and moves on when it moves on.

Ilíon said...

Here’s another thing about the Euthyphro supposed dilemma –

If we ignore the readily available knowledge that it’s a false dilemma, the logic of it leads to the conclusion that nothing is either ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’. That is, that there is no such thing as ‘morality’ … which just happens to be the “conclusion” that those who posit the so-called dilemma wish us to reach.

But here’s where a curiosity happens – having concluded that there is no such thing as ‘morality’, having concluded that nothing is either ‘moral’ or ‘immoral’, we are expect to reach an important but always unexpressed conclusion; to wit: that it is ‘immoral’ to say that “’X’ is immoral”.

When one expresses that final conclusion, the whole thing falls apart … which is why it needs to be kept unexpressed.

So, far from being an unanswerable defeater for Judeo-Christianity, the Euthyphro so-called dilemma is actually self-defeating.

K T Cat said...

I love all these arguments with 18-syllable words. It's as if we can't figure out from a quick list of right and wrong which one is God and which one is the Devil.

"I don't know, Gladys, this feller with the hooves and horns has lots of superpowers and he's telling us to disembowel Fido and then stab the mailman in the head with an awl. How can we be sure he's not the Force of Good?"

Illiterate shepherds could figure this one out and still have time to drink some fermented milk and watch the local soccer team play. Ivy Leaguers can't figure it out if you spotted them a complete library of books and 20 years to read them.

Ilíon said...

Ah, but "I want to do what I want to do, and I don't want anyone telling me that it's wrong" sounds so much more refined when expressed polysyllabically.

Ilíon said...

... why, if you're careful enough with how you say it, you might even be able to make it sound as though you're not saying just that.

B. Prokop said...

Yeah, just see what Loftus wrote, that Victor quoted over on his site.

Ilíon said...

Isn't it just the most amazing thing, in the whoddathunk? sense of the word, that all the various iterations of "Let's Free Mankind From the Shackles of Obedience to God's Commands" keep turning into living nightmares for actual human beings?

Christopher said...

The Euthyphro dilemma isn't fatal to theism itself, and it isn't directed at theism itself (by anyone who knows the subject.) It is directed specifically at divine command as a proposed foundation for morality.

Compare to the philosophy of mathematics. I understand that phil.math types argue platonic versus constructivist views of their field. Nobody seems to take the view that 2 + 2 = 4 because God wills it.

Or maybe someone days. Anyone know? Has anyone contended that God could make 2 + 2 = 5? And would that be analogous to saying that God could make murder right?