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Good Without God: Euthypro


Page 31: So the question here is tough. People say God is necessary for goodness to exist. The common answer is Euthypro’s dilemma, saying that if an act is good because God says so, it’s just arbitrary, and doesn’t deserve the label of ‘good’. If God promotes the act because it’s good, then it’s good for some outside reason, and we can find the good outside of God.

Of course we must go deeper. The response to that is going to be that God, by definition, is good, and therefore necessarily wills the good. He and good are one and the same.

So let’s try to respond as best we can. Here’s a try:

So you’re saying that if God orders genocide, it’s simply good by definition? If you reply that God can’t order such a thing because it’s against his nature, then you must already have a preconceived notion of what ‘good’ is, outside of God, and you’re measuring God up against that notion. If you reply that the genocide must be good, then suddenly the very concept of ‘good’ is horribly corrupted. If genocide can be good, anything can be, and the very ideal of ‘good’ becomes meaningless. The problem remains.

So what’s the response? I dunno. What could I say to get around this? If I try to justify God commanding genocide by pointing to ‘good’ things that occur, it seems that I would have to have some outside ability to label the final outcomes as ‘good.’ If God really is the ultimate source of goodness, then it would seem that there would be no reason to even have to justify genocide. It would just be self evident.

I guess one could say that God has instilled in us a way to see good and evil. An intuition if you will. If we have no standard to judge that intuition, how do we know that it is a correct one in the first place? Maybe I’ll pose this problem at some point.

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