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  • Morality

    Hey everyone.

    At the moment I've turned my thoughts (for what they are worth) to the subject of morality; particularly its nature, its relation to God, and the implications this has for my worldview. I realized that I never before deeply considered these matters, not actually being much of a philosopher. But at the moment, due to, erm, circumstances, I could use the distraction. This seemed a worthy candidate to spend time on.

    This is a broad subject, of course, and it very often comes up whenever Christians and non-believers meet, so just to narrow it down a tad and focus on where my meandering mind happens to be at the moment:

    I was wondering if anyone could work up the patience to outline and clarify a Christian's perspective on what is known as Euthyphro's dilemma, as a potential problem for the alleged neccesity of God for the existance of objective morality.

    (I'm actually already aware of a few Christian responses already, but, as always, it's all a bit much to absorb; one quickly gets lost in the rebuttals and counter-rebuttals that inevitably ensue.)

    Thanks! -Esther.
    "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
    A medley of extemporanea;
    And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
    And I am Marie of Romania."

    -Dorothy Parker, Comment

  • #2
    Plato has a talent for circular logic. I wonder if coined the "what came first, the chicken or the egg".

    From wiki, the argument goes like this...
    Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?"

    I'm sure there are other verses but this comes to mind...
    James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning

    We have God stating that all which is good (i.e. moral) originates from Him.

    Comment


    • #3
      God's goodness and love are true, no mere tautology, and proceed from His very nature

      Dear Esther (GreenEyes)
      I see you've been here for quite a spell (a year and a half) but I'm not sure we've ever met. So I hope you won't mind my saying: "Welcome!!"
      It's great to have you here!!

      The Bible speaks of God's Genuine Goodness,
      and of the Genuine Goodness of His Law and Commands


      The psalms speak a lot of the goodness of God's ways. Perhaps the first sustained discussion of the goodness of God's law, in the Psalms, in Psalm 19:
      The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul;
      .....the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
      the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
      .....the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
      the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever;
      .....the ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

      More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
      sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
      Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
      in keeping them there is great reward. ...

      Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
      (Ps. 19:7-11, 14)
      (I find this whole Psalm very beautiful. When I first heard it -- I was saying it in a side room antiphonally with a priest before a service at which I was his server as we prepared ourselves for the service -- I was so overcome that I almost felt I was fainting!) There is very much here which bears on the problem you raise ("Euthyphro's Dilemma") but what is generally clear here is that God's law is praised for its goodness. His commandments are perfect, revive the soul, right, rejoice the heart, pure, enlilghten the eyes, clean, true, and altogether righteous. The view of the Psalmist here, clearly is not that the commands are to be obeyed simply because God decrees them: rather, the Psalmist perceives what is right and good, and sees that God's decrees are, supremely, like that.

      The Psalm's whole setting is one which emphasizes the beauty and goodness of creation, and sees God's law as partaking of exactly the same goodness and beauty, preciosity and sweetness. Yet it's not, either, as if God is a mere passer-on of moral law: the Psalmist desires to let his or her thoughts and words be "acceptable in Thy sight" because God is "my strength and my redeemer." God's law is good -- not in some tautological sense, but actually. But its goodness is not apart from God and the personal goodness -- the goodness of establishing a good heart, above all -- that He brings to those who look to him.

      God expects those who Know Him
      To understand Right and Wrong not just in terms of what He does


      Those whom God chooses as His special servants, also, are depicted in Scripture as those who deeply care about what is right and wrong. In so far as they are placed in situations where there seems to be a disjunction between what God is doing and what is right, they plead with God -- on the basis of his righteousness -- that He will do what is right. This goes on in Exodus 32-34, and Job, and is part of a larger pattern (see Gen. 32) of man (humanity) wrestling with God. But the most striking case, in some ways, is the discussion between God and Abraham in Genesis 18.

      There, Abraham thinking that God is about to destroy the righteous with the wicked (actually, in the framework of the story, God is not about to do that) says to God:
      Will You indeed destroy the righteous with the wicked? ...
      Far be it from thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked!
      Far be that from thee!
      Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
      (Gen 18:23-25)
      Abraham challenges what God is about to do, on the basis that the proposed course of action is (Abraham thinks) morally wrong. It is, in my view, evident from the passage that God reveals what He's about to do precisely that Abraham may intercede with Him, and, further, challenge Him on the basis of His own goodness and character. As "the judge of all the earth" God is upright and holy and good. Thus, to undertake an unjust action (slaying the righteous with the wicked) is something not only that he must not do, but something that is abhorrent to, discordant with, the very nature of God, with Who God is. Thus, Abraham says "Far be it from you!" with a kind of horror that God might be about to make this terrible blunder, as it were.

      However, the idea that God is good, and genuinely does what is good, comes up in other passages also. The Genesis 1 Creation Hymn clearly indicates that there are canons of goodness which can be applied to what God does, and that his works are good, for after each thing He creates the text tells us that "God saw that it was good" (and of the whole, "God saw that it was very good") The same idea is implicit, IMO, in the Genesis 2 creation account.

      The Specific Goodness of God
      Pre-eminently in His Love and Compassion


      The specific goodness of God is also described in other passages. Thus Psalm 113 says
      Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! ...
      Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high,
      who looks far down upon the heavens and the earth?
      He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
      to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.
      He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children.
      Praise the LORD!
      Here God is praiseworthy and the wonderfulness of his praiseworthiness consists both in His exalted state, and in his compassion on the poor and needy, a compassion expressed in supplying their needs and giving them what is good and wonderful for them.

      This goodness is inherent in the name of the LORD. That name is revealed to Moses in Exodus 3. The LORD (YHWH: I am, and I am that I am) is the source of all being and life: like a bush which can pour out its light and warmth without being used up, without extinguishing its inner light. Yet the self-existent God, the God who is the source of all, is revealed here specifically as a God who has compassion: compassion on the suffering. He appears to Moses because He has heard the cry of the oppressed in Egypt, and is sending Moses to rescue them. This compassionate character of God is re-emphasized in the gloss on the divine name which is given in Exod. 33:19 (and again in a different way in Exod. 34): "The LORD; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." That is, the Divine Name (YHWH: I am that I am) is re-presented as "I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and have mercy on whom I will have mercy" God is understood as the God of love and grace.

      God's Goodness is Inseparable from Who He Is,
      and His Fundamental Nature and Character


      The NT emphasizes this as God's fundamental nature. God loves all people. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all" (I John 1:5). Thus (II Peter 3:9) "The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Similarly, just as Ezekiel also plainly stated in the OT, God desires no one to perish (I Tim 1:15): "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" for (2:4) "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." For (I John 4:8) "God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in that person also." for "God is love" and we know love not because we loved God, but because "he first loved us" and "gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as a gift which takes away wrath (hilasmon)"

      Peter adds, referencing the OT, that God's commands are of the character "You shall be holy, because I am holy" Thus when Jesus gives his strict commands (sometimes called "evangelical counsels") to us in the sermon on the mount (e.g. Matthew 5), telling us to love everyone, love strangers and help them, and love our enemies, He says to do so "so that you may be children of your Father in heaven" who is good to the just and the unjust, the ungrateful and the wicked.

      Speaking very briefly and elliptically, then, the Bible depicts God as the source of all goodness, love, joy, peace, truth, beauty, life and being. God has all these things within Himself. God made us so that we might have fellowship with Him (the fellowship which has always been between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: I John 1:3) and be partakers of the Divine Nature -- sharers in the blessedness of being which is God's eternally, and by nature (II Peter 1, Gen. 1:28-29). God's goodness is so great that even when we negate it, and turn from Him, repudiate him, and set our wills on wrong, He seeks to help us, and turn us back to the way of life and peace. His commands to us, and His sharing of himself with us (I John 3:1-3) are given so that we may come to live in the goodness, holiness, and rightness -- the beauty and blessedness -- that He eternally has and is.

      Euthyphro's Dilemma

      Have I strayed from your question, about Euthyphro's Dilemma?

      In my view, no. Throughout, I have had it in mind, and all my remarks have sought to speak to it.

      I am trying to show that in the Biblical view, God is good -- non-tautologously -- in that the Scriptures describe God's acts as good and indeed wonderfully good, in that people whom he's specially chosen who see what appears to be wrong seek to call him to account, in that He is the source of being, and simultaneously the source of aid and compassion to those who are in trouble -- even if the trouble stems from our own sinfulness. God is thus good -- and good to His creatures, especially to human beings, in every way, and indeed desires for us the highest good of which we are capable, the joy and fellowship and eternal life which is at the very core of His own being! His commands also are righteous not simply in the sense that He is God, and promulgates them, but in the sense that they are both in themselves right, and are good for those to whom they are given, and bring them into what is right.

      Nevertheless, the Biblical view is that all this goodness comes from the very inner nature of God. The goodness of God is something beyond our conceiving, as God is beyond our conceptual capacities, both objective and founded in the very nature of being, and personal. This goodness then, is not something which pre-exists God, to which He is subject, but is present as Who He Is in its very nature.

      Accordingly, in this view, the idea that what God commands is right just because He commands it (and, especially, the idea that what God commands is right because he is powerful and the Creator) fails to appreciate that God is inherently, good, and what what He does is right by any true standard of right and wrong, so that one may say non-tautologously that God is good. Yet, in this view, the idea that God is good because He passes on moral standards which are ontologically prior to Him is at least equally incorrect. God's very nature is that He is good, and that goodness is inseparable from Who He Is; his goodness inheres in Himself, and He is the fullness and apotheosis of that goodness.

      The Christological Hymn -- the Incarnation of Jesus Christ -- as Summing Up These Points

      These things are, I believe, in some ways summed up in the Christological Hymn in Philippians 2:5-11. There we see that God -- God the Son, the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ -- can live as a mere creature, stripped (emptied) of glory and power and even knowledge, and yet be fully God. The fullness of His deity, as a human being, lies not in His possession of Divine power and knowledge, but in the utter love and humility and obedience to right that he shows. This one person -- Christ -- who both is the Pantocrator (ruler of all) and the one who in utter humility empties himself in love for us (and obedience to the Father, who loves us) thus could not be other than He is in his character, his love and goodness, courage and humility, and faith, although He was able to take on a status, to live a life, not as Maker and Ruler, but as mere human being.


      In friendship,
      Scruffy Kid

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm simply putting this here so I'll remember to post later. This is a subject I love to talk about.

        Short answer (explanation to come later): The dilemma Soctrates presents isn't really applicable to monotheistic religions. You have to take Socratic metaphysics (really, Platonic Dualism) and apply it to the dilemma. Morality - do not kill, do not steal - had realistic forms in the "other" or the "real." In light of this, they existed eternally and separate from the plurality of gods. Thus, the gods were subject to the forms since the forms, metaphysically, were higher than the gods. He justifies this claim prior to making it by pointing out:

        I wasn't asking what turns out to be equally holy and unholy - whatever is divinely approved is also divinely disapproved, apparently. Consequently, my dear Euthyphro, it would be no surprise if, in trying to punish your father as you do now, you did something approved by Zeus and offensive to Kronos and Uranus, or approved by Hephaestus and offensive to Hera; and so on for any one of the gods who disagrees with any other on the subject.

        Thus, Socrates' is relying upon the belief that there are multiple gods (if I remember correctly, Plato had yet to come up with the Demiurge, or a quasi-monotheistic god) and not one God.

        In Christianity, however, there is no 'form world.' We are still metaphysical realists (like Socrates), but teach that the form and the object are one in the same, but both came from God. Morality, being abstract, doesn't necessarily have a form, but instead proceeds from the nature of God. Thus, things are good because God is good in His own nature, not necessarily because He approves of these things. Morality is good because it syncs up with His nature and exudes from Him.

        I'll explain more later, but have to get back to work.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by GreenEyes View Post
          Hey everyone.

          At the moment I've turned my thoughts (for what they are worth) to the subject of morality; particularly its nature, its relation to God, and the implications this has for my worldview. I realized that I never before deeply considered these matters, not actually being much of a philosopher. But at the moment, due to, erm, circumstances, I could use the distraction. This seemed a worthy candidate to spend time on.

          This is a broad subject, of course, and it very often comes up whenever Christians and non-believers meet, so just to narrow it down a tad and focus on where my meandering mind happens to be at the moment:

          I was wondering if anyone could work up the patience to outline and clarify a Christian's perspective on what is known as Euthyphro's dilemma, as a potential problem for the alleged neccesity of God for the existance of objective morality.

          (I'm actually already aware of a few Christian responses already, but, as always, it's all a bit much to absorb; one quickly gets lost in the rebuttals and counter-rebuttals that inevitably ensue.)

          Thanks! -Esther.

          Why is it that men believe if they can't see it or touch it, then it doesn't exist? That right there is the source of the problem and for many stubborn men, if Jesus smacked them on the back of the head, they wouldn't believe it the next day, or maybe two minutes after the fact. You people are flesh and blood, what you see around you was not created by flesh and bone. It is men that were created from the earth. As long as you have men crowning themselves with wisdom beyond the compression of the lay people, then they will continue to ride the ego that they create within themselves. No mortal man can comprehend the mind of god. Till you understand that you are created, then you will continue to fall in a ditch.

          Comment


          • #6
            Continuing with what I was saying...

            The reason it doesn't apply to God is because "goodness" is an inherent part of His nature. Thus, He declares what acts are good and what acts are not good by determining what acts are consistent or in accord with His nature. Though one could say, "Aha, this is a case of God arbitrarily dictating what is and is not good, thus He can change His mind."

            The problem is, it's not arbitrary. It flows from the nature of who God is, thus God declares what is good by declaring action x is consistent with His nature, while action y is inconsistent with His nature. It's not arbitrary at all, but goes along with who God is.

            Comment


            • #7
              Thank you for your time and patience, Mark, Apothanein and Scruffy; those are some mighty thoughtful and eloquent answers.

              I'm really going to have to spend some time mulling this, and all the other stuff I've been reading, over. At least the cat will be happy: I'll be a nice and stationary perch for a good while, tonight..
              "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
              A medley of extemporanea;
              And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
              And I am Marie of Romania."

              -Dorothy Parker, Comment

              Comment


              • #8
                Well, if there's one thing I've concluded so far, it's that moral relativism doesn't sit well with me at all. Logically, it also seems to be self-defeating; in the same, paradoxical sense that strict positivism is..
                "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
                A medley of extemporanea;
                And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
                And I am Marie of Romania."

                -Dorothy Parker, Comment

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by GreenEyes View Post
                  Well, if there's one thing I've concluded so far, it's that moral relativism doesn't sit well with me at all. Logically, it also seems to be self-defeating; in the same, paradoxical sense that strict positivism is..
                  Well with those two in place, you might as well say you're at least a Theist!


                  Think of it this way, you're saying two things:

                  1) There are moral absolutes

                  2) Science (physical evidence) can't explain everything

                  Both 1 and 2 require that some type of God exists, correct? In order to have absolutes, there must be something concrete outside of the physical world (because the physical world is in a constant state of flux). If science can't explain everything (it gives us the "how" and not the "why"), then how do we explain these morals? What put them in place?

                  Keep the questions coming.

                  Moral relativism, by the way, is self-defeating. To say that all morals should be relative would mean that any violation of this principle - in time, culture, individual, in any circumstance - would be wrong, making this a universal moral, thus negating itself. It's a snake eating its own tail.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by GreenEyes View Post
                    Well, if there's one thing I've concluded so far, it's that moral relativism doesn't sit well with me at all. Logically, it also seems to be self-defeating; in the same, paradoxical sense that strict positivism is..
                    I would like to encourage you because your search for truth is paying off. Moral relativism has some major logical problems. For starters, it cannot be lived consistently. Every single self-proclaimed moral relativist becomes a moral absolutist at some point. They are a relativist when it's convenient (for example when it comes to sexual morality). However, as soon as someone tries to steal from them, harm them, or inflicts harm against someone they love...then they immediately become an absolutist because they inherently know they have been violated and wronged. Secondly, yes it is self-defeating. Even stating that "there are no absolutes" is an absolute statement in itself.

                    Anyway, because of the numerous strong arguments against moral relativism, there are not many reputable philosophers or theologians who still embrace it.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hey. I know it sorta seems like I abandoned this topic, but this isn't entirely the case.

                      As I said in my original post, I'm really not much of a philosopher, so studying this matter is a slow, on-going process. It took me quite a while to wrap my head around all the pro and contra arguments for the (non-)existance of God, and define my own position; it seems the same dedication is going to be required for this morality business.

                      I still stubbornly delve into the subject on occasion, reading articles and debates, and information on the various views on the matter, and the concepts being bandied about, but always it ends up in sort of fractal Google-search; each concept I try to grasp turns out to be another complex matter, incorporating other things I do not fully comprehend. So I try to research those, and..

                      And then I have to lie down for a bit. (sigh)

                      Based on this, at the very least I feel that it's a bit too simplistic to - as some people in this thread seem to - imply that rejecting moral relativism automatically means accepting that there exist transcendental, immutable moral laws, as though these are the only two options available..

                      But perhaps I misunderstand.
                      "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
                      A medley of extemporanea;
                      And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
                      And I am Marie of Romania."

                      -Dorothy Parker, Comment

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Hi GreenEyes, good to see you back here!

                        Much as deep philosophy can be an interesting discussion I personally like to keep things as simple as possible.

                        Looking at your question about moral relativism it seems to me that we can say that either a moral absolute exists, or it does not. If we reject moral relativism we are simply saying that one or more moral absolutes exist, pretty much by definition. (As apothanein kerdos pointed out further up, even the acceptance of moral relativism requires at least one moral absolute).

                        We can discuss the source of the moral absolutes and who or what defines them, but I think it's quite safe to say that moral absolutes either do exist, or they do not exist. It just doesn't work to say that they "kind of" exist.
                        24 August 2013 - I've decided to take a break from a number of internet forums, including this one, for my own reasons.
                        I expect to be back at some time in the future, although at present don't know when that will be.
                        I've been here just a few days shy of six years, and those six years have been greatly blessed.

                        ---

                        1Jn 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
                        1Th 5:21-22 NKJV Test all things; hold fast what is good. (22) Abstain from every form of evil.



                        Comment


                        • #13
                          The Sermon on the Mount - Matthew chapters 5-7. After you're read it (re read it) can you let me know what, IYO, is missing from a total moral world view. SofTy.
                          1 Corinthians 1:12-13 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.

                          Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?

                          KJV

                          May the power of the Spirit of our God unite us. SofTy.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Morality - to have any true benefit - must flow from (be a byproduct/fruit of) a relationship from The Almighty Creator Yahweh.

                            Morality, practiced independent of a relationship with Yahweh, is pointless and meaningless - it accomplishes nothing lasting or relevant.

                            mormons and jehova witnesses, as well as other religions - practice morality to no gain or benifit.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well, yes, Tango, in regards to the question of whether moral absolutes exist there are obviously only two answers. (A or not A, and all that.)

                              But the thing is, as I understand it, there are also moral theories considered moral objectivism, which contrast with moral absolutism in that the context of an act is factored in, but which oppose moral relativism by stating that there exist moral facts independant of social or personal opinions. (And then there's moral nihilism, but I don't think there's many people who openly support that..)

                              Which is why I said that doubting the existance of moral absolutes (ie. moral absolutism) doesn't seem to automatically imply embracing moral relativism.

                              The term 'moral absolute' seems to suggest that it is a rule (such as 'thou shalt not kill') that is somehow always the 'right thing to do;' regardless of context. But that doesn't seem very realistic to me..

                              In fact, as I understand it, the existance of moral dilemmas makes that Christians tend to favor the idea of Graded Absolutism; which holds that there exists a hierarchy of absolute moral rules, that can sometimes overrule eachother (say, for example, lying to save an innocent from death). Of course, this seems to mean that some things are more absolute than others, which just makes my brains hurt a little, but.. Heheh.

                              I guess it all depends on definitions. (One of the more frustrating things of philosophy, to me, is that some terms, such as agnosticism, have confused definitions, while others actually have multiple valid ones. Ugh.)

                              If one considers the idea of an objective moral fact, that holds for all individials in the same situation, a 'moral absolute,' then moral objectivism posits that they exist.. But if not, well.. it doesn't seem to equate to throwing up your hands and saying that everything is just opinion.

                              Of course, one may still ask: 'Who created those moral facts then?' *laughs*

                              PS: I'll reread the Sermon on the Mount, SofTy.
                              "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
                              A medley of extemporanea;
                              And love is a thing that can never go wrong,
                              And I am Marie of Romania."

                              -Dorothy Parker, Comment

                              Comment

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