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DK, Euthyphro and God as the claimed ultimate case of “might makes right”

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Sometimes UD’s comment exchanges are highly informative.

In this case, in a Quote of the Day thread:

DK, 15: >> [To WJM]

[WJM to Seversky, 14:] If I can one minute decide for myself that a moral code is binding on me, and decide for myself the next minute that it is not, exactly how is any moral code, the “binding” nature of which we decide for ourselves, binding?

Strawman erected by misrepresentation. Seversky said that his moral code is “binding,” which means that it is not changeable at a whim.

You have chosen to have an authority “bind” you. You chose that for yourself, using free will.

You have nothing to feel superior about.>>

DK, 16: >>Barry:

[to Seversky] Under your worldview the strongest prevails; the weak succumb.

Under your worldview, God (the strongest) prevails. You (the weak) succumb.

Where is your moral superiority?>>

In general reply:

WJM, 17: >>Daniel King said:

[To BA] Strawman erected by misrepresentation. Seversky said that his moral code is “binding,” which means that it is not changeable at a whim.

Sure it is. He decides for himself whether or not his morals are binding; it is in fact, and by definition, changeable at a whim.

What’s the penalty if Seversky breaks his moral code? Or changes them on a whim? In what sense are they “binding”?

You have chosen to have an authority “bind” you. You chose that for yourself, using free will.

What authority have I chosen to “bind” me? I’d be careful about making assumptions here.

You have nothing to feel superior about.

You’re right.>>

I thought, there were deeper worldview issues lurking and — with a gap imposed by Erica causing a power outage — responded at 18:


KF, 18: >> [To DK:] With all due respect, it is a strawman tactic, fallaciously cheap rhetorical shot to try to project “might makes right” unto God.

Such is a classic example of a too-neat answer that should make you ask yourself, if it’s so quick and simple why have a lot of very serious thinkers across time disagreed with my neat little Euthyphro dilemma-rooted point?

Is good independent of the gods or just another label for the capricious wishes of the gods imposed by will and power to back it up?

Do you see the gaping hole that is there?


(As in, “I” get to select and choose just which moral rules I wish to be bound by . . . backed up of course by my will to power.)

Reductio, ad absurdum; induced by implicit assumption of inherently amoral a priori evolutionary materialism or its influence on its fellow travellers.

Back to basics, instead.

Do you have a right to your life, to liberty, to innocent reputation?

If not, instead of arguing with you, why not simply shoot you, or lock you up or lock you out [and bleating “censorship” is of no account as on your a priories there is no basis for an ought-not] or simply lie and smear to rob you of your reputation. Oops, “rob” is freighted with ought-not, so it’s more like pin you down, drag down your drawers rhetorically and “take” your reputation if I have a fancy to it, enjoying your screams and futile pleas for pity or respect as part of the fun.

(Resemblance to rape is wholly intended, and I ask you to look very carefully at how often those on your side have resorted to raping the innocent reputations of people on our side then posted whole web sites full of outing — targetting — information, arguing that we asked for it. If you don’t feel ashamed at the routine resort to tactics of violation by your side, you better ask yourself, why. As they say back in my homeland, the frog told the boy approaching it, stone in hand: fun for you is death to me.)

But, but, but, a community that falls into such circumstances will disintegrate!

Shades of Kant and the point that evil, when it spreads, disintegrates the community and/or — strictly logically equivalent as Kant showed — uses others of like value as mere objects and means to my ends rather than respecting them as ends in themselves.

That’s a first clue.

One, that points to a key point about us: we are responsibly free, morally governed creatures, who have RIGHTS, which implies that others have duties to respect our life, liberty, innocent reputation, etc.

That is, we have excellent reason to recognise that for people to thrive, rights must be recognised and respected as inhering to beings who have intrinsic, quasi-infinite value and a dignity that demands justice, despite adverse balances of power.

Might does not and cannot make right.

Further, we only can thrive (which implies that we ought to value human thriving) in a community that strives to sustain the civil peace of justice.

And along the way, the very fact that we here have reasoned argument, implies that we intuit and accept that we do have responsible freedom of thought and action — something that cannot obtain on a priori evolutionary materialism and its fellow travellers, as Crick for instance acknowledged in his 1994 The Astonishing Hypothesis, in a stunning bit of self-referential incoherence clad in a lab coat badged with a Nobel Prize:

. . . that “You”, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased: “You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.” This hypothesis is so alien to the ideas of most people today that it can truly be called astonishing.

In short, we have every good reason to see that we are responsibly free, reasoning, morally governed creatures.

That is, we are patently under government of OUGHT.

Which, points to the step by step iterative chain of questions, what grounds OUGHT-X (Y, of course), then OUGHT-Y (Z of course), then OUGHT-Z . . . ?

Thence, we are in the territory of the IS-OUGHT gap.

Is there an infinite regress? Circularity? Or, a finitely remote foundational level?

A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}
A summary of why we end up with foundations for our worldviews, whether or not we would phrase the matter that way}

Of these, only a finitely remote foundational set of first plausibles is a serious candidate.

Infinite regress is absurd and dodges the issue of warrant, and circularity (as opposed to coherence) is question-begging.

Thus, we are looking at comparative difficulties across main foundational alternatives, on factual adequacy, coherence and balanced explanatory power (vs. ad hoc patchworks or simplistic force-fitting).

And yes, we are looking at worldview roots and philosophical issues and approaches.

Just what a world dominated by scientism is wont to despise, disregard, dismiss.

Ill-advisedly, not least as the notion that all serious knowledge is scientific is a self-refuting philosophical claim.

We are back to: how can we bridge the IS-OUGHT gap?

For which, the only sound answer is, we must find a world-root IS properly capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT, grounding a world of responsibly free, morally governed creatures who genuinely have a claim to justice as they have rights that go beyond might/manipulation and ‘rights’ as convenient rhetorical clubs.

That takes us to matters ontological as well as moral, as that is what IS and OUGHT demand.

So, in a nutshell, first, the world we experience is rooted in necessary being. For non-being has no causal powers and if there ever were an utter nothing such would therefore forever obtain. Something is unconditioned and primary, tied inextricably to the existence of a world.

There is a world-root IS.

Is it an infinite regress or a circular, self-causing entity? The latter instantly collapses as something must exist in order to have effects. The former simply postpones the problem, and introduces the super-problem of counting down from infinity to reach an origin for our observed world, in finite successive causal steps:

minus-infinity –> minus (infinity less one) –> minus (infinity less two) –> [and yes, I know this is absurd, that is precisely the point] . . .

– 2, – 1, 0 [origin of our world], +1, + 2, . . .

+ us here today [say at 0-point + 13.7 BY]  –> . . .

We can call this, the getting to zero problem.

(Or, equivalently, the leaving minus infinity problem. [Hint: In Mathematics, infinities are either pointed to as in principle present but not feasible of reaching in finite steps, or are manifested by subdivision/implication of the continuum such as a line segment, or are presented all at once as a Set such as N, Z, R or C.] )

The way to bet is, a finitely remote world-root IS.

How can such an IS bridge to OUGHT?

Only by being in itself inherently moral, and particularly morally good.

In short — as I have noted here at UD ever so many times — the only serious candidate IS to root the world and bridge to/bear the weight of OUGHT is: the inherently good Creator God, a necessary and maximally great world-root being, worthy of ultimate loyalty and our reasonable service of doing the good in light of our evident nature.

If you doubt or dismiss, kindly provide and justify a serious alternative: ________________ . . .

(Predictably, setting distractors, patently non-serious candidates and side-tracks aside, there will be none.)

How can such answer Euthyphro’s dilemma?

By first noting that such a being is radically different from ourselves and from the sort of nihilistic supermen gods projected unto Mt Olympus or wherever.

Next, we see that good and God are inextricably mutually involved, so the project of separating good from God collapses.

A conceptual failure to understand what God inherently is.

Nor is God simply imposing arbitrary will and power, as his creatures with natures that manifest evident value, dignity and purpose, we owe and are owed mutual duties of justice, both to one another and to our Creator.

Hence, the too often repeated project of trying to pretend that the tail of a sheep is a leg and demanding that such must now be treated as a leg collapses for the same reason that we cannot create a new primary colour, such is not in our remit. We are not God, and the inherent natures of tails and legs so diverge that a sheep’s tail simply will not work as a leg.

Might/manipulation do not and cannot make ‘right.’

And, as a bonus, we see why a doctrine of eternal audit/judgement makes sense — God owes us the duty of justice and a final hearing.

Which, we most assuredly will face by the same eternal justice that is a part of that inherent goodness of God.

Guaranteed to us by “the man ordained,” and shown to be such to all, by his resurrection from the dead as “first-fruits of them who sleep.”

And of course, this all comes full circle to the force of the point Locke cited from Hooker in his 2nd treatise on civil govt as he founded in thought what would become modern liberty and democracy:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man’s hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant . . . [Hooker then continues, citing Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics, Bk 8:] as namely, That because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like . . . ] [Eccl. Polity, preface, Bk I, “ch.” 8, p.80]

It is time for fresh thinking.>>


So, what do we think, why? END