Sunday, March 20, 2016

What does the Euthyphro really show?

It seems to me that the dilemma, as it is it typically used, is an argument in favor of the claim that moral values are metaphysically neutral. So, for example, it is used to show that Christian theism adds nothing to morality that would not be available to a metaphysical materialist. Yet. it comes in Plato's philosophy. Plato has a very strong metaphysics of morals, involving the Form of the Good. I think his actual argument is that a deity (and in this case a Greek deity such as Apollo) represents not too strong of a metaphysical foundation for morality, but too weak of one. Of course, Plato appealed to divine commands as the basis of his entire enterprise as a philosophical questioner (see the Apology). I think Plato would have agreed with religious believers today who think modern metaphysical materialism undermines morality. His morals are centered around the Theory of Forms, which are, if nothing else, nonmaterial entities. 

Christian theology treated Platonism (as opposed to Epicureanism, Stoicism, and even Aristotelianism) as the most friendly philosophical theory in the ancient world. Christian theology tended to absorb the Form of the Good into their conception of God, which might permit those philosophical concepts to get around the Euthyphro dilemma. 

17 comments:

Heuristics said...

The most surprising thing to me when reading the collected texts of Plato was that sure, Plato was a polytheist, but he was primarily a theist. As in he believed in God, capital g version. It appears to me that most of his philosophy had that as a foundation.

Ilíon said...

^ And as his non-Christian disciples developed his philosophy over the centuries, their ideas/world-view became increasingly like "theism", to the point that by the third century, what we now call 'Neo-Platonism' had it own (albeit deficient) echo of the holy trinity of Christianity.

Ilíon said...

"It seems to me that the dilemma, as it is it typically used, is an argument in favor of the claim that moral values are metaphysically neutral. So, for example, it is used to show that Christian theism adds nothing to morality that would not be available to a metaphysical materialist. Yet ..."

... what it really shows, "as it is typically used", is that materialists/atheists don't think too clearly, and certainly not too deeply.

The Euthyphro, "as it is typically used", posits that there exists a logical dilemma about morality, with one horn being divine some sort of divine command theory and the other being some sort of "natural law" theory (in the sense of morality "just being there") ... and, "as it is typically used", one is expected (under pain of mockery) to reject *both* sorts of theories and opt for moral relativism, which is to say, one is expected (lest one be mocked) by the atheists to "solve" the asserted dilemma by denying that there is any such thing as morality in the first place.

But, if there is no such thing as morality in the first, then it *cannot* be immoral -- nor irrational, for irrationality is merely immorality with respect to reason -- to refuse to take the atheistic bait. What? are they going to charge one with acting immorally?

The Euthyphro, "as it is typically used", sets up a false dilemma. One is under no obligation to succumb to a false dilemma.

planks length said...

Not related to this topic (sorry), but I just found this over on the BBC website. People are always dumping on Ilion for claiming that atheists don't believe that people, as individuals, exist. Well. Just take a gander at the following quotes from the linked article (written by Phillip Ball):

"In fact, there is no meaningful "you" at all."

"[T]here is no such thing as individuality."

Not sure whether Mr. Ball is an atheist, but he is a Brit, which nowadays is practically the same thing.

Ilíon said...

PL: "People are always dumping on Ilion for claiming that atheists don't believe that people, as individuals, exist. Well. Just take a gander ..."

Thanks.

However, that's not quite what Ilion says.

What Ilion says is that if atheism is indeed the truth about the nature of reality, then persons don't exist, because they can't exist.

Another thing that Ilion says is that the fact that most 'atheists' deny the above point, not matter how carefully the logic is explained, and nearly always eventually resort to "Well, I'm an 'atheist' and *I* don't believe that, therefore it is not true that atheism entails the non-existence of persons" is all the evidence one need to *know* that most 'atheists' are intellectually dishonest.

Ilíon said...

From the link PL supplied: "The trouble is, virtually by definition we probably cannot ever visit these other universes to confirm that they exist."

Good night! There is no "probably" about it, and it is indeed "by definition" -- actual, not virtual.

If there are any "other universes" then by definition we cannot know anything about them. For, by definition, the very act establishes that the "other" universe is not other after all, but merely a previously unknown portion of *this* universe.

*This* universe is the only one of which we will even have any information. IF there is some "other" universe, THEN it can have no bearing nor influence whatsoever on or in *this* universe. An "other" universe, or a "multiverse" is a phantasm.

Isn't it odd? Materialists make a big deal about their assertion of the inability of our immaterial minds to effect change in the material world ... and then they pin their hopes of God-denial on "infinite" "other" universes, none of which -- by definition -- can effect change in *this* material world.

Gyan said...

Plato feels more like a Hindu--he has reincarnation, cycling of souls through cycles of birth etc.

Ilíon said...

Plato's metaphysics -- Unthought Thoughts
Aristitle's metaphysics -- Unintended Intentions (or Unpurposed Purposes)

Joe Hinman said...

PL: "People are always dumping on Ilion for claiming that atheists don't believe that people, as individuals, exist. Well. Just take a gander ..."


there's a reaon

Joe Hinman said...

And as his non-Christian disciples developed his philosophy over the centuries, their ideas/world-view became increasingly like "theism", to the point that by the third century, what we now call 'Neo-Platonism' had it own (albeit deficient) echo of the holy trinity of Christianity.

what's deficient about it? Platonic thought created Christianity as we know it in the West as a gentile religion. The basic concept used to explain the /trinity were couched in Platonic concept of homousios. The Christian Platonism following Plotinus w explicitly Christian n. No more inadeq2uate than modern fundamentalist protestan5t evangelicalism or any other version of the faith.

planks length said...

there's a reaon

Well, maybe there is, but I have no idea what a "reaon" is.

Joe Hinman said...

they mostly grow them in south America. they feed them to their donkeys it improves there IQ

Ilíon said...

If not their spelling ability or rationality.

Joe Hinman said...

no just the smart asses

Steve Lovell said...

I've written quite a bit on the Euthyphro dilemma, and while I think it does help the theist clarify his ideas about the relationship between God and morality, I think as an argument against the idea of God being the foundation of morality it is lamentable. Nevertheless, that doesn't seem to stop people trotting it out as though it's a conclusive blow without further discussion being necessary.

Richard Joyce (one of my PhD supervisors and no friend to theism or theistic ethics, see here), wrote an interesting piece on the Euthyphro (here or an earlier draft here).

There seems to have been a flurry of philosophical interest in this topic of late and I'm hoping to catch up on the discussion with a few relevant purchases from the book store!

Ilíon said...

"Nevertheless, that doesn't seem to stop people trotting it out as though it's a conclusive blow without further discussion being necessary."

That would be because, as a general rule of thumb, human beings are not all that interested in doing the work required to get at the truth of a matter.

Joe Hinman said...

an article I wrote on the subject in answer to secular outpost