Friday, September 17, 2010
Euthyphro’s Dilemma: My Response to an Atheist
You responded that there are two options: “a) either an intelligent agent (gods or humans) arbitrarily decides what is right or wrong; or b) all intelligent agents recognize that something is good or wrong, which means they turn to some other source of moral knowledge outside of themselves.”
Let me try to restate this: If God DISCOVERS morality, then God is less than God; if God CREATES (or chooses) morality and then imposes it upon us, He is an arbitrary despot. I tried to answer that this isn’t a question of either-or, but both! Morality is not arbitrary or antecedent to God, because it finds its origin within the Being of God. It’s also freely and willfully endorsed by God.
The only objection that you raised against this understanding is that it’s not possible for God to embody both. Ironically, it’s the atheist’s butt that “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” finds particularly succulent. You concluded, “God is still superfluous to make someone a moral individual.” However, according to Euthyphro, the atheist CAN’T be a moral individual. Here’s why. The atheist must also either create or discover his morality. However, the atheist rejects the idea of discovering morality, because this implies that there is a higher moral truth that exists independent of human will. It also implies a moral truth Giver.
However, the atheist also hesitates to create his own morality, knowing that it would be completely arbitrary and therefore meaningless. Where then does this leave the atheist? He must find some middle ground. However, you correctly pointed out that there isn’t any middle ground—morality is either humanly CREATED or DISCOVERED.
What then to do? Create a middle position! Here are several:
1. PRAGMATISM/UTILITARIANISM (The maximum good for the majority of people): However, this solution is disingenuous. It secretly smuggles in a discovered good (that there is something that is good, namely the maximum good for the maximum number of people) and tries to dress it up as the product of intellect.
2. THE ACCUMULATED WISDOM OF EVOLUTION OR CIVILIZATION: However, we must ask, “wisdom regarding what?” Again we must start with a discovered value. (Why even survive? Pass on our genes? Procreate? Love? Why not kill or exert my own dominance?) Even if there is survival wisdom in evolution or civilization, why bother to follow it? Why should their lessons be authoritative for us today? We get on airplanes and overcome gravity. Why not also overcome the archaic “wisdom” of evolution or civilization?
3. ENLIGHTENED SELFISHNESS (If I am selfish in a wise way, I will also be moral.): The first obvious problem is that we can’t always derive moral living through selfishness. Besides, this formulation also is parasitic upon some idea of a discovered morality. How do we know that enlightened selfishness (ES) will produce moral good unless there is first a standard of moral good by which to measure ES?
The Bible talks about the evil who dig a pit for their enemies but inevitably fall into it themselves. Euthyphro is your problem, not mine! This is God’s world. By denying Him, the atheist digs a pit for himself. He denies moral absolutes, but is coerced to sneak an inferior product in through the back door. In doing so, he stumbles into his own pit.