Saturday, November 05, 2016

A problem with the divine command theory

God by definition is omniscient, omniscient, and perfectly good. If we define God in terms of good, but define good in terms of God, isn't that circular? 


Ilíon said...

1) ALL dictionary definitions are "circular" in the way that you're using the word here. How is it that you don't know that yet?

2) Who is "defining" God in terms of good? For that matter, who is defining good in terms of God?

God is not "defined" as "omniscient, omniscient [sic], and perfectly good". Rather:
a) reasoning from our understanding of what 'knowledge' is, we conclude that God is all-knowing;
b) reasoning from our understanding of what 'power' (or 'actuality' or 'existence' or 'being') is, we conclude that God is all-powerful;
c) reasoning from our understanding of what 'goodness' is, we conclude that God is all-good;

d) reasoning from our understanding of God as "the ground of all being", we conclude that good, and knowledge, and being are things existing separate from God ... as though they were containers holding God ... but rather that God *is* these things.

Ilíon said...

^ "are [NOT] things existing separate"

John Moore said...

Bachelors are defined as being unmarried. Which came first, the bachelorhood or the unmarried state? It's all the same.

B. Prokop said...

Saint John points us in the right direction with statements such as "God is love" (as opposed to "God loves").

Cal Metzger said...

Thank you for noticing this.

B. Prokop said...

A problem with your question, Victor, is that there is a fundamental difference between commenting on a created being's characteristics and doing the same with a divine attribute.

For instance, I can say that Joe is tall because I can compare him with other people who are shorter. I can say it's a long way to Los Angeles because Saint Louis is only half the distance.

And then there's the problem of perspective. Standing on the seashore, the ocean is vast. But contemplating the famous "Pale Blue Dot" image taken from Voyager I, all the oceans combined take up half of a single pixel.

But God is singular - He has no peers, nothing/no one to compare Him to. So mere adjectives do not function in the same way that they do for anything else. We may exist, but God is existence ("I am who am.") Joe may be truthful, but God is truth. A person may love me, but God is love.

Just think for a moment about all the "I am" statements in John (I am the Good Shepherd. I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am the Resurrection. I am the vine. just to list a few).

So maybe the answer to your question is to treat the word "good" in the sentence "God is good" as a noun, not as an adjective. And voila! - no circularism.

Ilíon said...

Even is one does not see the tendentious nature of the OP (*), on what ground does Aragorn son of Arathorn call Tolkien to the dock?

(*) as, for instance, Cal Metzger, refuses to do

Edward T. Babinski said...

Illion, how exactly can one "reason from our understanding of what 'goodness' is, we conclude that God is all-good?"

By what steps does one reason so?

And how does one distinguish such steps from the simple more direct understanding that people have of things that they like or wish happened, and dislike and wish didn't happen to them and theirs?

Also, even granted some sort of moral argument for God is true, what exact laws and punishments are divinely revealed in particular, and via what means? Biblical interpretation? Good luck with that. On the other hand, obvious laws like "do not kill" "do not steal" can be claimed to be practically universally applauded by people who do not like having their lives or belongings taken from them at another's whim, or even at nature's disasterous whims. Hence laws, policemen, and even accident and health insurance.

Moral values appear to be a sub-division of the relative values humans place on things. For instance, I donʼt think many people have great difficulty agreeing on what values they hold dearest relative to the alternatives:

being healthy rather than chronically ill or in pain

being mentally healthy, rather than losing oneʼs memories and ability to concentrate
eating rather than starving

having at least a little money rather than living in abject poverty

being sociable and having some friends rather than being shunned or living in total isolation from other humans and their society or their creations

living in peace and safety rather than living in fear of having oneʼs life, belongings, family, friends, job, etc., taken from one at someone elseʼs whim

living in peace and safety rather than living in fear of having oneʼs life, belongings, family, friends, job, etc.,taken from one via natureʼs whimsical disasters, pandemics, genetic mutations, or day to day accidents