Sunday, February 18, 2007

A Response to Vox Day, Part II

Vox Day's original posts about the Euthyphro dilemma are here and here. My post in reply is here and Vox Day's criticisms of my post (this alone is quoted with a bold font in Part II of my response) are four numbered items here. My writings original to Part II of my response proceed on the definitions that I explain in part I. In particular, we have the "Euthyphro dilemma" defined differently than the "Euthyphro dialogue" along with three propositions of interest in the Christian context:

A2: God loves the pious.
B2: God loves the pious because it is pious.
C2: The pious is only pious because it is loved by God.

Now, the first criticism is this (all overcapitalization hereafter is the author's):
1. The decision that Euthyphro was relevant to a discussion of the question of OBEDIENCE was not mine, but an atheist on Pharyngurl's site.
Now whether this refers to the Euthyphro dialogue or the Euthyphro dilemma is unclear, but it seems like the word "Euthyphro" with whatever meaning you like entered the discussion in exactly this way. If I somehow implied otherwise then I was wrong. The second criticism is:
2. Therefore, my substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS was not some sort of strange attempt to evade the Euthyphro Dilemma, but a clear demonstration that the "dilemma" did not apply to the subject being discussed.
Whether the Euthyphro dialogue has any relevance to Christianity is something of a technical question for the Greek scholars out there. As far as I'm concerned, a Christian might as well argue "Plato talks about multiple gods while we Christians only believe in one God. So screw Plato."

That a substitution of obedience for the pious is not a demonstration that the Euthyphro dilemma does not apply to Christianity is exactly my point, although I may have made some mistakes in making that point in my original post (see part I for a discussion of these mistakes). Whatever one is willing to believe about God and obedience to God, we either have to decide that some examples of obedience to God are pious or that no examples of obedience to God are pious. In the absence of any further argument, we either have an uncritical acceptance of proposition A2 or a denial of proposition A2 -- presumably these are unsatisfactory responses to the Euthyphro dilemma for the intellectual Christian.

That's as far as I argue, but Vox Day does go a bit farther with his arguments. He wrote that:
This is a known objection to the dilemma, in fact, which is described as being problematic only because "it implies that what is good is arbitrary, based merely upon God's whim; if God had created the world to include the values that rape, murder, and torture were virtues, while mercy and charity were vices, then they would have been."

But this can only be considered a genuine problem for those who insist that a fixed principle cannot be arbitrary, which is ridiculous. There are practically an infinity of fixed variables which, if they were different than they are, would radically alter the reality of our universe. If Moloch were the Creator God, then no doubt child-killing would be a virtue; this is hardly unthinkable let alone a logical impossibility considering how abortionettes here in the United States hold it to be just that.
By this I take it to mean that Vox Day has been arguing that both A2 and C2 above are true all along. This is a valid response to the Euthyphro dilemma provided one is willing to accept the philosophical pain of asserting C2 as true. If Christians are willing to do that, then there you go. But it hardly demonstrates that the Euthyphro dilemma does not apply to Christianity. If anything, this stance embraces the Euthyphro dilemma within Christianity.

There is one further argument that Vox Day presents which does seem to argue against the Euthyphro dilemma being applicable to Christianity. He writes:
To use one famous counterexample, David was loved by God although his actions in seducing Bathsheba and murdering Uriah were notoriously impious by our definition (obedience to God's Will) or by Socrates' definition (that which all the gods love). Either God ceased to love David, which we are informed was not the case, or Socrates' amended definition is merely a subset of "the pious and holy".
I would argue in response that God's love for the ordinarily pious but sometimes impious David is not the type of love that is referred to in proposition A2 as being love of the pious.

The next criticism is that:
3. The substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS did show, however, that Euthyphro is not a valid criticism of Christian morality, although it is sometimes errantly considered one by those who have failed to read the entire dialogue or failed to understand it.
As I mentioned above in response to point 2, that the Euthyphro dialogue can rather easily be demonstrated to not be a valid criticism of Christian morality is not an argument that my original post makes. Plato's dialogue can sink or swim on its own terms as far as I'm concerned.

As I alluded to in the reponse to point 2 above, whether the Euthyphro dilemma is a criticism of Christianity or not is more or less a function of what kind of Christian morality you're willing to be satisfied with. The Christian might very well decide that (in the common internet idiom) asserting C2 to be true is "not a bug. It's a feature!" As with a big chunk of my response to point 2, I don't go this far in my original post.

The final criticism is that:
4. My demonstration of the basic flaw in Euthyphro is not based on this substitution of OBEDIENCE for THE PIOUS, but rather on Socrates' substitution of THAT WHICH ALL THE GODS LOVE in the place of THAT WHICH THE GODS LOVE as well as my ability to demonstrate that Socrates' arbitrarily narrowed definition of "THE PIOUS" does not inevitably lead to a circular conclusion, thereby eliminating the dilemma.
Stated again, my original post with concerned with the Euthyphro dilemma and not the Euthyphro dialogue, so since this criticism is exclusively concerned with the Euthyphro dialogue it doesn't really apply to my post. For example, I certainly agree with Vox Day when he writes:
In order to narrow the definition for his egalitarian polytheist environment, Socrates first removes all individual preferences from the gods. This means that war cannot be pious and holy even though Ares and Athena love it since Aphrodite objects, while happiness and love cannot be either if grim Hades takes exception to it. This means that Plato's definition of what is pious must be a vastly reduced subset of what any one particular god loves.
Anyway, hopefully this post and the already posted part I is a fair and correct explanation of the whole discussion so far.

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