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God, Obligation, and the Euthyphro Dilemma

Moses

NOTE: Dr. Feser's contributions at Strange Notions were originally posted on his own blog, and therefore lose some of their context when reprinted here. Dr. Feser explains why that matters.
 


 

Does God have obligations to us? No, He doesn’t. But doesn’t that entail that He could do just any old thing to us? No, it doesn’t. But how can that be? To see how, consider first another, related false dilemma: the famous Euthyphro problem.

The Euthyphro dilemma goes like this: God commands us to do what is good. But is something good simply because God commands it, or does He command it because it is already good? If we take the first option, then it seems we are committed to the possibility that God could make it good for us to torture babies just for fun, simply by commanding it. If we take the second option, then it seems we are committed to saying that there is a standard of goodness independent of God, to which He refers us when He commands. Neither option seems a good one from the point of view of theism. The first makes morality arbitrary, and the claim that God is good completely trivial. The second conflicts with the core theistic claims that God is the ultimate cause of all things, and in particular the source of all goodness. So, we have a problem, right?

Actually, we don’t, because the dilemma is a false one – certainly from the point of view of Thomism, for reasons I explain in Aquinas. As with all the other supposedly big, bad objections to theism, this one rests on caricature, and a failure to make crucial distinctions. First of all, we need to distinguish the issue of the content of moral obligations from the issue of what gives them their obligatory force. Divine command is relevant to the second issue, but not the first. Second, it is an error to think that tying morality in any way to divine commands must make it to that extent arbitrary, a product of capricious divine fiat. That might be so if we think of divine commands in terms of Ockham’s voluntarism and nominalism, but not if, following Aquinas, we hold that will follows upon intellect, so that God always acts in accordance with reason. Third, that does not entail that what determines the content of morality and God’s rationale for commanding as He does is in any way independent of Him.

The actual situation, then, is this. What is good or bad for us is determined by the ends set for us by our nature, and given the essentialist metaphysics Aquinas is committed to, that means that there are certain things that are good or bad for us absolutely, which even God could not change (since God’s power does not extend to doing what is self-contradictory). Now God, given the perfection of His intellect, can in principle only ever command in accordance with reason, and thus God could never command us to do what is bad for us. Hence the first horn of the Euthyphro dilemma is ruled out: God can never command us to torture babies for fun, because torturing babies for fun is the sort of thing that, given our nature, can never in principle be good for us. But the essences that determine the ends of things – our ends, and for that matter the end of reason too as inherently directed toward the true and the good – do not exist independently of God. Rather, given the Scholastic realist understanding of universals, they pre-exist in the divine intellect as the ideas or archetypes by reference to which God creates. Hence the second horn of the Euthyphro dilemma is also ruled out.

Keep in mind also that, as I noted in my post on Law’s “evil-god challenge,” the metaphysics underlying the arguments for classical theism lead to the conclusion that God is not one good thing among others but rather Goodness Itself. Given divine simplicity, that means that what we think of as the distinctive goodness of a human being, the distinctive goodness of a tree, the distinctive goodness of a fish, and so on – each associated with a distinct essence – all exist in an undifferentiated way in the Goodness that is God. As I put it in an earlier post, “in creation, that which is unlimited and perfect in God comes to exist in a limited and imperfect way in the natural order...The divine ideas according to which God creates are therefore to be understood as the divine intellect’s grasp of the diverse ways in which the divine essence might be imitated in a limited and imperfect fashion by created things.”

Divine simplicity also entails, of course, that God’s will just is God’s goodness which just is His immutable and necessary existence. That means that what is objectively good and what God wills for us as morally obligatory are really the same thing considered under different descriptions, and that neither could have been other than they are. There can be no question then, either of God’s having arbitrarily commanded something different for us (torturing babies for fun, or whatever) or of there being a standard of goodness apart from Him. Again, the Euthyphro dilemma is a false one; the third option that it fails to consider is that what is morally obligatory is what God commands in accordance with a non-arbitrary and unchanging standard of goodness that is not independent of Him. (As Eleonore Stump points out in her book on Aquinas, its role in resolving the Euthyphro dilemma is one reason theists should take seriously Aquinas’s doctrine of divine simplicity.)

Now, let us return to the question of whether God has obligations to us. To be obliged is to be subject to a law, where, as Aquinas says, “a law is imposed on others by way of a rule and measure” (Summa Theologiae I-II.90.4). Moreover, “the law must needs regard principally the relationship to happiness,” that is to say, the realization of what is good for those under it (ST I-II.90.2). But God has no superior who might impose any law or obligation on Him, there is no good He needs to realize since He is already Goodness Itself and therefore already possesses supreme Beatitude, and there is accordingly no rule or measure outside Him against which His actions might be evaluated. He is not under the moral law precisely because He is the moral law. “[A]ll that is in things created by God, whether it be contingent or necessary, is subject to the eternal law: while things pertaining to the Divine Nature or Essence are not subject to the eternal law, but are the eternal law itself” (ST I-II.93.4, emphasis added).

But to understand what this means is precisely to understand that God can only ever will what is good for us. For as noted above, God can only ever will in accordance with reason, and it would be perverse and irrational to will to create some thing without willing what is by its nature good for that thing. If “nature does nothing in vain” (Aristotle, De Anima III.9 432b21), then neither does God, the Author of nature. He allows evil, but only because He can draw good out of it (ST I.2.3). Thus, Aquinas, says, “as ‘it belongs to the best to produce the best,’ it is not fitting that the supreme goodness of God should produce things without giving them their perfection. Now a thing's ultimate perfection consists in the attainment of its end. Therefore it belongs to the Divine goodness, as it brought things into existence, so to lead them to their end.” (ST I.103.1)

In this way God loves us and loves us perfectly, because to love is to will another’s good, and God cannot fail to will what is good for us. Since moral goodness concerns the will, it follows that God is morally good, and perfectly so. But His moral goodness is not like ours, since it does not involve fulfilling obligations, acquiring virtues, or the like. Contrary to what some theistic personalists seem to think, that does not make His moral goodness somehow inferior to ours. It makes it infinitely superior.
 
 
Originally posted on Dr. Edward Feser's blog. Reprinted with author's permission.
(Image credit: Guim)

Dr. Edward Feser

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Dr. Edward Feser is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California. He has been a Visiting Assistant Professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy and Policy Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of California at Santa Barbara, a master’s degree in religion from the Claremont Graduate School, and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and religious studies from the California State University at Fullerton. He is author of numerous books including The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (St. Augustines Press, 2010); Aquinas (Oneworld, 2009); and Philosophy of Mind (Oneworld, 2007). Follow Dr. Feser on his blog and his website, EdwardFeser.com.

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  • Vicq_Ruiz

    Dr. Feser:

    Is it a given that "good" when it applies to God's nature is identical to the concept of "good" which he has placed in human hearts? Can the same act be good when performed by God, but evil when performed by a man?

  • Ben

    Dr. Feser:

    Regarding obligation: if I remember my sunday school lessons, according to the old testament after the Flood God promised Noah/mankind that he would never drown the earth again, and created a rainbow as a sign of this covenant. Does God have an obligation not to send another worldwide flood?

  • primenumbers

    " then it seems we are committed to the possibility that God could make it good for us to torture babies just for fun, simply by commanding it. " - but isn't that just what he did with Abraham, commanding him to kill Isaac. That he changed his mind (or was wilfully tricking Abraham to test him) is irrelevant (to this issue, but also speaks to the character of Yahweh.

  • Cookery

    This just shows that Feser is a classical theist first and a believer in the Bible second. "God can never command us to torture babies for fun." If one reads the OT, it becomes quite clear that God effectively does just that, on multiple occasions.

    • Mark

      First, If you don't mind, rather than just asserting, would you cite the multiple OT passages where God quite clearly commands humans to torture babies for fun.

      Secondly it seems perfectly natural to me to philosophically derive a belief in the classical God prior to accepting the Bible as revelation from God. Catholics know that God and Jesus and the Catholic church are all precursors to the canon of the Bible. For over 3 hundred years after the resurrection, no Catholic/Christian was a believer in the Bible because the Bible didn't exist. A list of people you described as Dr. Feser includes every writer of the NT, every apostle, and Mary, the mother of God. I don't think Dr. Feser minds that company, but you seem to be hinting it is an ontological mishap.

      • Cookery

        I said "effectively." If you've read your Bible, you ought to know what I'm referring to. You have the psalmist drooling about smashing babies' heads against rocks, which God saw fit to inspire. There are also multiple instances of God purportedly wiping out whole swaths of humanity or commanding others to do the same, right down to the last man, woman, and child. The binding of Isaac is another example which another poster mentioned above.

        As for your second point, I actually agree with Feser in the sense that classical theism, qua classical theism, is immune from the Euthyphro dilemma. But you're quickly impaled on its horns when you shift to biblical revelation, for there, God routinely violates the natural law and thus his own nature, according to classical theism.

        • Mark

          Palm 137. Okay. Are you a Biblical literalist? It's helpful to understand your perspective before I try to respond to criticism of OT scripture.

          Natural laws are laws used to describe the way that our species promotes it's well being by understanding it's highest ideals. Broadly and morally discerning what ought we do. Nature is a reflection of Gods love but God is not bound by natural laws. He is bound by eternal laws which we simply lack the capacity to understand. He is free to do as what he sees as good or a greater good even if we lack the capacity to understand that love. Therefore the criticism of your God is valid, but it isn't the Catholic God.

          • David Nickol

            He is bound by eternal laws which we simply lack the capacity to understand.

            Certainly you are not maintaining that God can command human beings to torture babies for fun, are you?

            By the way, Feser sets a pretty low bar for what God cannot do. Are we to imagine that God cannot command us to torture babies for fun, but he could command us to torture babies for some other reason? I believe according to the CCC, torture is an intrinsic evil, and I do not see how God can command an intrinsic evil.

          • Mark

            >Certainly you are not maintaining that God can command human beings to torture babies for fun, are you?

            God is goodness/pure good/pure love and the origin of the cosmos and reality. However you redefine or hypothetical false premise him to make a strawman god to slay is still a fallacy. In this case giving your hypothetical god a privation of goodness is not God. Dr. Feser doesn't set any bar for what God cannot do. There again that is a false premise and dilemma: What can God not do?

          • David Nickol

            I am don't understand your response. You say, "In this case giving your hypothetical god a privation of goodness is not God." How am I talking about a god which is hypothetical because of a privation of goodness?

            Dr. Feser doesn't set any bar for what God cannot do. There again that is a false premise and dilemma: What can God not do?

            Feser says, "God can only ever will what is good for us," and, "God cannot fail to will what is good for us." So the answer to "What can God not do?" is, "Fail to will what is good for us" (or actually will what is bad for us, or command us to do what is bad for us, like torturing babies for fun).

            I suppose one might try to argue that there is nothing "doable" that God can't do, but there are certain things that God won't do because of his nature. But I don't see any point (for the purpose of this discussion) in quibbling about the difference for can't and won't regarding God's ability to do things.

          • Mark

            Holy Cow, this thread blew up. Cookery woke the giants... :) Sorry David; you never gave God a privation of goodness (evil/sin), rather Cookery did by asserting God "essentially tortures babies" and proof texts that assertion with Ps 137. I got crossed in my responses to you and him that was my error. I agree, what God can/will not do is not be God. Cheers!

          • Jim the Scott

            >By the way, Feser sets a pretty low bar for what God cannot do. Are we to imagine that God cannot command us to torture babies for fun, but he could command us to torture babies for some other reason? I believe according to the CCC, torture is an intrinsic evil, and I do not see how God can command an intrinsic evil.

            You are correct David God can't do that. Of course God can allow someone else to do that and God is not obligated by Nature to immediately intervine. But He can't command it.

            All private interpreations of Holy Writ made by self serving Atheists who say God can do that are by definition wrong. At least by Catholic standards.

            PS I wish the other non-believers would do their homework like you.

            Happy New Year.

          • David Nickol

            Thanks. And Happy New Year to you, too. I hope you were not among those waiting in Times Square this New Year's Eve for the ball to drop (unless you enjoy cold and rain).

          • Jim the Scott

            I actually missed New Years as I was engrossed in playing EVE ONLINE.

          • Cookery

            I'm not a Christian, so the question about literalism is irrelevant. I try to interpret the Bible according to what we can discern to be the intentions of the author and the genre of the work in question, which is how one standardly approaches any piece of literature.

            As for your second point, God only wills the good, as Feser says. He is incapable of willing evil or committing sin. But God does will evil in the examples mentioned above. Ergo, the God of the Bible, the God Catholics worship, is skewered on one horn of the Euthyphro, for, based on these examples, the good is good because God commands it. Otherwise, if the God of classical theism and the God of the Bible were one, then we would not find the latter violating the natural law.

          • Mark

            >Otherwise, if the God of classical theism and the God of the Bible were one, then we would not find the latter violating the natural law.

            So again, you refuse to separate natural law from the supernatural being. Let me give you an analogy: My teenage son has rules and laws of my house I've given him. I'm not bound by those laws, but they are a reflection of the goodness of my fatherhood and my fatherly nature.

            >But God does will evil in the examples mentioned above. Ergo, the God of the Bible, the God Catholics worship, is skewered

            I just see fist pounding assertion here and skewering of a strawman God.

          • Cookery

            It's not that I refuse to do that, it's that classical theism refuses to do that. On classical theism, God can't violate the natural law because it's a reflection of his nature. It could change only if God could change or if goodness were somehow extrinsic to God, both of which classical theism denies, as Feser shows.

            Your last sentence doesn't refute what I said, nor does it demonstrate that I have composed a strawman.

          • Jim the Scott

            You are giving us your personal interpretation of the Scripture vs the formal Catholic one(Catholics reject private interpretation of holy Writ and we reject the Protestant heresy that teaching Scripture is Clear and easy to understand or perspicious). So by definition your argument is a strawman.

            Catholics are not Protestant Fundamentalists and telling us the Classic Theistic God contradicts your Neo-Protestant fundamentalist view of God that you get from your personal interpretation of Holy Writ is by definition still a Straw man.

            We don't take every verse in the Bible hyper-literally.

            So you are wasting our time with this line of argument even if their are no gods or the Bible is man made.

          • Cookery

            I hate to break it to you, but the Catholic Church accepts not only inspiration but inerrancy as well, and regards the literal sense of scripture, which is the plain meaning of the text in light of what we can surmise the author's intentions were, as the normative and most important one.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I hate to break it to you, but the Catholic Church accepts not only inspiration but inerrancy as well,

            Yes but She doesn't hold to the Lutheran doctrine of the Perspecuity of Scripture. I hate to break it too you but we are not Lutherans and no matter how hard you stamp your feet you cannot make us Protestants.

            >and regards the literal sense of scripture, which is the plain meaning of the text in light of what we can surmise the author's intentions were, as the normative and most important one.

            Which begs the question. How do we know you have cited a text which is understood by the Church to be interpreted in "it's plain meaning" (i.e. extremely Literally) and that is the normative interpretation for that particular text?

            Did you get this interpretation from Ott? How about Denzinger? Did the Pontifical Biblical Commission authorize your literalistic interpreation of the Psalms? Pius XII?

            Well?

            Your "No Fair! You are not a fundamentalist!" meme is already tedious. You are wasting our time with it.

            You can't cite the Psalms where it says God will "enfold us in His Wings" and then demand we accept your theory Holy Writ teaches God is a giant Cosmic Chicken because that is "the plain meaning" or "the normative interpretation". It is neither. It is your interpretation and yours alone.

          • Cookery

            You're still not addressing the examples given. The burden is on you to deny the literal meaning of such texts, which the weight of tradition, the ordinary magisterium, regards as faithful recordings of real events. The allegorical, typological, and anagogical senses of scripture all rest and build on an accepted literal meaning of the text. My position, to wit, is that God, according to classical theism, being goodness itself, cannot violate the natural law, which thus means, as Feser explains, that the Euthyphro dilemma doesn't apply to the God of classical theism. However, the God of the Bible routinely violates the natural law and in so doing becomes skewered on one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, namely, that the good is so because God commands it. The God of classical theism and the God of the Bible are difficult to reconcile without ignoring the literal sense of quite a lot of scripture which plainly does not endorse a classically theistic conception of God. This means, as I said, that Feser is a classical theist first and a Christian second, because he interprets the Bible in light of classical theism, not the other way around. So the conflict is between the Church's acceptance of the literal sense of scripture and its acceptance of classical theism. They simply cannot both be affirmed at the same time.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You're still not addressing the examples given.

            I don't have too as I am a Catholic not a Protestant. I don't assume the Protestant errors of private interpretation or prespecuity. Indeed I am convinced the Bible is not clear and needs an interpretor protected by divine providence.

            >The burden is on you to deny the literal meaning of such texts, which the weight of tradition, the ordinary magisterium, regards as faithful recordings of real events.

            No the burden is enterly on you too prove the Protestant doctrine of perspecuity or to produce an authoritative statement from the Catholic Church these specific verses are to be interpreted hyper literally. Good lucl with that since as an Atheist you would have too put on the hat of a Protestant Theistic apologist to try to convert me to Protestantism before you can use your Protestant specific anti-biblical polemics againsty me. That just seems daft. Anyway going back to Catholic Standards since a hyper literal interpretation will contradict known doctrine as per the standards of St Augustine which are universally accepted by the Church then the ultra-literal interpretation is too be rejected.

            It is irrational for you to keep insisting I must read Holy Writ as a Protestant. I am not going to do that ever. You are wasting everybody's time and your polemics here are irrational even if there are no gods.

            >The allegorical, typological, and anagogical senses of scripture all rest and build on an accepted literal meaning of the text.

            Yes it is apparent you read a summery somewhere but you clearly don't know the rules for Catholic Biblical interpretation. Literally speaking the texts you cite are not literal anymore then "if your right hand offends chop it off" is literal (since self mutilation is a sin) or "enfolds in His wings" mean God is Cosmic Space Chicken.

            >My position, to wit, is that God, according to classical theism, being goodness itself, cannot violate the natural law, which thus means, as Feser explains, that the Euthyphro dilemma doesn't apply to the God of classical theism.

            So far so good I am a Feser Fan. But Feser is a Catholic and would not be impressed with your Strawman insistence we read the Bible as a Protestant.

            > However, the God of the Bible routinely violates the natural law and in so doing becomes skewered on one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma, namely, that the good is so because God commands it.

            You mean Cookers' private interpretation of Holy Writ routinely violates natural law. There I fixed that for you. Your whole argument is based on me ignoring Catholic rules for Bible interpreation and adopting you as the Pope. Sorry but Francis has that job and I don't think he will endorse your (mis)interpretation.

            Augustine is rather clear that if a hyper literal interpretation of the bible contradicts science or philosophy then the literal interpretation is not to be considered.

            You really have to accept the fact we are not Protestants here and you cannot self servingly re-interpret Catholic rules on Bible interpretation to save a polemic that is only effective with Protestants. It will never work on us Catholics no matter how much argument by special pleading you use.

            >The God of classical theism and the God of the Bible are difficult to reconcile without ignoring the literal sense of quite a lot of scripture which plainly does not endorse a classically theistic conception of God.

            Which is why we don't always accept the literal sense (or do you want to tell me with a straight face the Catholic Church interprets the whole Bible literally? You know that is not true and if you concede at least one verse is not literal you will have to do two. Indeed you just have to abandon this strawman argument. Do you homework and try learning more philosophy. It is futile for Atheists to use anti-biblcial polemics on Catholics. We are just simply not fundamentalists). Augustine said if the literal interpretation of Holy Writ contradicts known science or philosophy then the literal interpretation is not to be accepted and we go for the allegorical or symbolic one.

            You are not employing his rules.

            > This means, as I said, that Feser is a classical theist first and a Christian second, because he interprets the Bible in light of classical theism, not the other way around.

            Rather he is a Catholic Christian not a Protestant one and interprets the Bible as a Catholic. Unlike you the Protestant Atheist. Which is just weird. An Atheist who hold to perspecuity? What is next? An Agnostic who confesses Sola Fide? Or a metaphysical naturalist who believes in Eternal Security? Enough of your Protestant nonsense son. It is boring.

            >So the conflict is between the Church's acceptance of the literal sense of scripture and its acceptance of classical theism. They simply cannot both be affirmed at the same time.

            Sorry but prefering the literal interpretation is not the same as saying every verse is to be interpreted literally. That is another error. I am afraid you cannot save this bad polemic even if there are no gods.

          • Cookery

            You may be convinced that there needs to be a magisterium to properly interpret the Bible, but not being a Catholic myself, it's absurd to expect me to find such a claim compelling. A Mormon might say that the Book of Mormon needs to be interpreted in light of what the elders of the Church of Latter-day Saints say, but seeing as you are not a Mormon, this claim is irrelevant to you. This kind of claim only has relevance to someone inside of the religious system in question.

            As for your claim about hyper-literalness, I don't know what you're talking about. It would be news to the higher critics that they are actually interpreting the Bible like Protestant fundamentalists. You can't get much further away from fundamentalism than modern historical critical scholarship, which is broadly the perspective I take. I have no other perspective available to me because, again, I don't assume that the Bible is inspired or inerrant. My approach to the Bible is the same as your approach to the Quran or the Book of Mormon. It's got nothing to do with fundamentalism. A Muslim or a Mormon could write the same scoffing, half-illiterate post you just did, but I suspect you will fail to see this irony.

            You really do need to address my examples. To take one, God commands Israel to put the ban on the Canaanites on various occasions (not to mention other tribes), which entails slaughtering men, women, children, and livestock. If God gave such a command, he is violating the natural law. To escape the Euthyphro dilemma, you would have to say that God somehow did not give this command. So let's hear it. Did God command the Israelites to commit mass murder or did he not?

            The weight of your own tradition, including Augustine, whom you are so fond of referencing as though you are an authority, believes that God did give such a command. This is why you find him and others addressing these commands as a problem. In other words, they understand the prima facie contradiction between these passages and a classically theistic conception of God and a belief in the natural law. It wouldn't be a problem if they just denied it ever happened, but they don't, and neither does the Church.

            Quite simply, you are blocked, as a Catholic, from regarding the OT as unhistorical. And you don't know what the literal sense of scripture is. It isn't believing that when a biblical author references God having wings, that one must believe God literally has wings. The author more than likely never intended to mean that. Hence, the literal sense of that passage is not that God has wings, but that God is a protector, the wings being a metaphor for his protection. Interpreting according to the literal sense means, in reference to my examples, that when the Bible says God commanded the Israelites to commit mass murder, and the authors appear to intend to say that God really did command such a thing, God did do such a thing. It can mean other things, too (according to the allegorical, typological, and anagogical senses), but the literal meaning of the text is not denied. If you deny the literal sense of scripture in this way, you are standing outside of your own tradition.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You may be convinced that there needs to be a magisterium to properly interpret the Bible, but not being a Catholic myself, it's absurd to expect me to find such a claim compelling.

            You are the one finding fault with the Bible because of it's conflict with Protestantism's literalistic view and arguing with Catholics over it. Thus the burden is on you to prove perspecuity or show us how the Catholic Church interprets this verse in Psalms to mean God commands torture. Good luck with that.

            >A Mormon might say that the Book of Mormon needs to be interpreted in light of what the elders of the Church of Latter-day Saints say, but seeing as you are not a Mormon, this claim is irrelevant to you. This kind of claim only has relevance to someone inside of the religious system in question.

            Yes and this only reinforces my counter argument. Indeed are you conceding my point now? I discovered early in life the arguments I use on Protestants don't work on Mormons. Would that you would learn this lession instead of digging in. You come off as irrational and dogmatic. Please stop.

            >As for your claim about hyper-literalness, I don't know what you're talking about. It would be news to the higher critics that they are actually interpreting the Bible like Protestant fundamentalists.

            This only proves to me the Bible is subject to many interpretations and thus it cannot be perspicous as Luther claimed thus your argument is even more invalid.

            >You can't get much further away from fundamentalism than modern historical critical scholarship, which is broadly the perspective I take. I have no other perspective available to me because, again, I don't assume that the Bible is inspired or inerrant.

            Which is why it is futile to argue it with me. We dont' share even remotely the same perspective. Try philosophy when arguing with us Catholics. We are not fundies. Your polemics won't work on us.

            > My approach to the Bible is the same as your approach to the Quran or the Book of Mormon. It's got nothing to do with fundamentalism. A Muslim or a Mormon could write the same scoffing, half-illiterate post you just did, but I suspect you will fail to see this irony.

            Except I know better then to argue with a Mormon or Muslim by giving them my own self serving interpretation of their Holy Texts contrary to their religious tradition and expect them to be impressed. I would take a different tact. I don't have one size fits all polemic. You seem to have one. How is that working out for ya? I am so convince by you....not.

            >You really do need to address my examples.

            Nope they are strawmen argumentative fallacies. Even if there are no gods. Your argument is irrational.

            >To take one, God commands Israel to put the ban on the Canaanites on various occasions (not to mention other tribes), which entails slaughtering men, women, children, and livestock.

            This is a nice bait and switch. Killing isn't torture. Inflicting pain on someone to cause suffering while keeping them alive is torture. If you want to argue the propiety of God taking human life then make that argument. Stop wasting our time with your fallacies of equivocation. God has the absolute right given his nature to take any human life. But God cannot command the torture of infants.

            > If God gave such a command, he is violating the natural law. To escape the Euthyphro dilemma, you would have to say that God somehow did not give this command. So let's hear it. Did God command the Israelites to commit mass murder or did he not?

            Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a Human being. How can God the supreme law give who authorizes the taking of a human life or lives therefore be guilty of murder? That is like accusing Queen Elizabeth of treason for wearing her own crown. If I put on her crown that would be treason but I am not King.

            >The weight of your own tradition, including Augustine, whom you are so fond of referencing as though you are an authority on him, believes that God did give such a command.

            You bait and switch is amusing but you must now concede you are no longer trying to make the argument God can command torture or commands it in the bible. God can command the taking of human life. Any life at any time. He is life's author and he alone make take it or authorize someone else to take it.

            >This is why you find him and others address these commands as a problem.

            My problem is your argumentative fallacies. You should have opened with Haraam commands. But Haraam is not torture. Inflicting pain and keeping someone alive to cause them suffering his torture. Killing them quickly isn't torture. Also Atheist who cry over fictional biblical children (since you lot believe the Bible to be myths) are tedious given how you lot advocate late term abortion.

            >Quite simply, you are blocked, as a Catholic, from regarding the OT as unhistorical, and you don't know what the literal sense of scripture is.

            Rather you think all Christians are Protestant fundamentalists and erroneously believe you can craft a one size fits all omni-polemic. You can't even if there are no gods.

            Anyway I will be happy to discuss Haraam commands with you. Provided you concede the Psalms don't contain Haraam commands. Your private interpretation of scripture isn't ever an argument & that Haraam is clearly not torture. God cannot command torture and Scripture nowhere commands it.

            Basically admit your mistakes and make a proper argument. Quick before you bore me.

          • Cookery

            It's amusing how much you claim to know about me, when all you do is knock down strawmen borne of your misinterpretations of what I've said. Case in point: I never said that the psalms contained commands to torture infants. You've misread my statements on that verse. If you don't have the ability to comprehend the claims I make, let alone comprehend them charitably, then there's no hope for this conversation I'm afraid. You simply aren't worth responding to.

          • Jim the Scott

            >It's amusing how much you claim to know about me, when all you do is knock down strawmen borne of your misinterpretations of what I've said.

            So I am mis-interpreting you? Does that not tell you maybe you are misinterpreting the Bible or Catholic teaching? Just a thought....

            >Case in point: I never said that the psalms contained commands to torture infants. You've misread my statements on that verse. If you don't have the ability to comprehend the claims I make, let alone comprehend them charitably, then there's no hope for this conversation I'm afraid. You simply aren't worth responding to.

            Excuse me but I was reading your argument with Mark. You were clearly claiming the Bible had God authorizing torture is psalms.

            Anyway here is the rub. God can command the extermination of infants and women. But He could not command they be tortured to death or rapped to death or such. The DP is not intrinsically evil and killing is not either otherwise God could not command the Death penalty.

            That is where you want to start to produce a more informed Atheist polemic. You are welcome btw.

          • Jim the Scott

            lastly.

            I am sorry to be so hard on you but most of your arguments are fallacies of equivocation. Like God commiting "murder". Or God who is the Law Itself & Susbsistant Being Itself being unequivocally compared to a created being. That whole scheme violates natural law and is rationally absurd.

            Rule one in Classic Theism. God is compared to creature analigously not unequivocally. Stop doing that and your arguments might improve. The down side is you will still have to jedisen most of them and start fresh as I suspect all your arguments are based on making unequivocal comparisons between God and Creatures.

          • Ficino

            Jim, if you're going to accuse someone of committing a fallacy of equivocation, it's on you to set out the relevant premises in that person's argument and then identify where a given term bears one signification in one premise and a different signification in another, such that the deduction is missing a middle term.

            Where exactly in Cookery's posts has Cookery committed a fallacy of equivocation?

            If you mean that Cookery FAILS to predicate terms analogously of God and creatures, that would not amount to Cookery's equivocating. To use a term univocally in different steps in an argument is by definition not to equivocate.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Jim, if you're going to accuse someone of committing a fallacy of equivocation, it's on you to set out the relevant premises in that person's argument and then identify where a given term bears one signification in one premise and a different signification in another, such that the deduction is missing a middle term.

            Why do I need too? I am not making an argument for anything. I am critiquing an existing one. BTW I gave my reasons for the accusation. What is wrong with them? Why is murder for example not the unlawful taking of human life? Well?

            >Where exactly in Cookery's posts has Cookery committed a fallacy of equivocation?

            Well for starters I critiqued his claim God "commands murder". Murder is defined as the unlawful taking of human life etc...... I am not repeating myself. It is right there in the post. Read it yourself.

            >If you mean that Cookery FAILS to predicate terms analogously of God and creatures, that would not amount to Cookery's equivocating.

            Pretty much he is equivocating between killing vs murder. Nobody disputes God can kill directly or command a killing of one or more individuals or groups but by definition that is not murder. OTOH God cannot because of His Nature and Holiness command the torture of the innocent. So he can command we wipe out the Canaanites but nowhere does he say we must rape or torture them to death.

            Explain to me how that is not equivocating? Not making a clear distinction between Murder and Killing is a clear fallacy of equivocation.
            Don't even get me started on his weird Protestant exegesis. Hello we are still Catholics here not Lutherans .

            >To use a term univocally in different steps in an argument is by definition not to equivocate.

            Now you are equivocating. It is as plain as a Bulgarian Pin Up(Red Dward reference).

          • Ficino

            It is clear that you think Cookery is misusing terms. But not all misuse of terms amounts to equivocation.

            If something is eclipsed, then it is deprived of light.
            Albertus Magnus was eclipsed by his student from Aquino.
            Therefore, Albertus was deprived of light.

            That's a fallacy of equivocation. "eclipsed" has a different sense in the major from that which it has in the minor, so the deduction is missing a middle term.

            You may think that Cookery fails to observe DIFFERENT senses of some term like "kill" or "Command" when he talks about God and creatures. Such failure is not equivocation.

            You are quick to say someone is equivocating, but I don't think you understand that fallacy.

          • Jim the Scott

            >That's a fallacy of equivocation. "eclipsed" has a different sense in the major from that which it has in the minor, so the deduction is missing a middle term.

            In a like manner murder in the sense of killing is equated with murder in the sense of unlawful killing so it is clearly equivocal. The greater issue being God cannot command what is intrinsically evil. It is true Murder is intrinsically evil but killing is not. Add to that God given His nature cannot murder anymore then He could commit Sodomy with His divine nature(the act of Sodomy requires a physical being. The divine nature is not physical).

            >You may think that Cookery fails to observe DIFFERENT senses of some term like "kill" or "Command" when he talks about God and creatures. Such failure is not equivocation.

            Clearly it is a fallacy of equivocation. Given your explanation I fail to see how it cannot be?

            >You are quick to say someone is equivocating, but I don't think you understand that fallacy.

            I think I understand it rather well. What I don't understand is how given what you just wrote I should conclude Cookery hasn't committed it in spades?

          • Jim the Scott

            BTW Ficino you yourself often equivocate between your particular exegesis of particular texts of Aristotle in contrast with Aquinas' interpretation of those same texts and erroneously claim you have formulated "Philosophical Defeaters" for Aquinas' philosophy and metaphysics.

            You haven't and I am not the only one who thinks so. Ask the professional Thomists.

            Now you are a good egg Ficino and nobody disputes you can read Aristotle in the original Greek and give us all sorts of scholarly textual insight on his works. But that is not the same as critiquing Thomist Philosophy.

            The Act/Potency distinction is a matter of philosophical argument not wither or not you think Aquinas understood Aristotle correctly when he came up with it from reading him.

            I think you and Coorker employ some of the same equivocal thinking.
            You are free to disagree and note it is not personal. I call it as I see and think it.

          • Ficino

            Jim, in the interactions we've had along the lines you recall above, we never really got to the meat of any question. We were starting to over on Dave's blog but didn't get far. Part of the reason was that we kept getting mired in disputes over terminology. Such as the above. The faults of which you "accuse" me [and Cookery] (using that word w/o emotional connotations) are not cases of equivocation unless we're using a term in different senses in the same deductive system as though it bears the same sense over the premises. When I proposed, for example, that in the First Way, the UM is treated as though it is in a genus of movers, as I recall, your replies, that God is in no genus, so therefore the UM is in no genus, did not establish that I was using the term UM in different senses within the same argument. But I am too pressed with other things to open that topic up again now, lol.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Jim, in the interactions we've had along the lines you recall above, we never really got to the meat of any question. We were starting to over on Dave's blog but didn't get far.

            That is true and I blame your equivocations. It is not personal.

            >Part of the reason was that we kept getting mired in disputes over terminology. Such as the above.

            Well without proper terminology then mistakes abound. Don't believe me? Go back and read some Young Earth Creationist literature.

            > The faults of which you "accuse" me [and Cookery] (using that word w/o emotional connotations) are not cases of equivocation unless we're using a term in different senses in the same deductive system as though it bears the same sense over the premises.

            How are you not? You equate Physics with Metaphysics (making a big deal with Aristotle's anachronistic Physics of his day and ignoring the fact he is modeling real change vs the metaphysical arguments of Parmedidies that real change is impossible and only apparent). He thinks killing and murder are the same thing.

            It's rather plain to me. You deduce the five ways are invalid because of Aristotle's physics & he deduces God commands murder because God commands killing. Clearly equivocations abound and they are fallacies in this argument.

            When I proposed, for example, that in the First Way, the UM is treated as though it is in a genus of movers, as I recall, your replies, that God is in no genus, so therefore the UM is in no genus, did not establish that I was using the term UM in different senses within the same argument. But I am too pressed with other things to open that topic up again now, lol.

            >I proposed, for example, that in the First Way, the UM is treated as though it is in a genus of movers, as I recall, your replies, that God is in no genus, so therefore the UM is in no genus, did not establish that I was using the term UM in different senses within the same argument.

            But you where clearly using the term "genus" in a different sense then Aquinas as I pointed out too you. So your claim that you discovered

            a defeater was wrong and a fallacy.

            > But I am too pressed with other things to open that topic up again now, lol.

            Fair enough. Do what amuses you at the time and never apologize for it. I am all for that. I practice it myself. ;-)

          • Jim the Scott

            equivocation.

            https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/81/Equivocation

            Quote"I want to have myself a merry little Christmas, but I refuse to do as the song suggests and make the yuletide gay. I don't think sexual preference should have anything to do with enjoying the holiday.

            "
            Note when we say we should make the yuletide gay we mean make it happy not that we should pull a Milo or Tammy Bruce with members of the same sex.
            Thus "God commands murder because he commands killing. Murder is intrinsically evil and contrary to natural law therefore God in the Bible is against natural law" (that is clearly Cookery's argument in a nutshell. Go back and read it yourself. But killing generically and murder specifically are understood in two different senses.
            I am even more convinced now then I was before.

          • Ficino

            I say nothing about Cookery's arguments or points. As to the argument that you outline above, the fallacy is not a fallacy of equivocation. There is no single term that appears under different significations in different premises. Rather, it is a fallacy of begging the question. The argument that you sketch out above begs the question because it assumes without proof that the tacit premise, "if it's killing, then it's murder" is true. And there is much reason to deny the truth of such a premise.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I say nothing about Cookery's arguments or points.

            That is irrational. My dispute with him and his arguments are what is at issue. I am after all accusing him of equivocating. This is special pleading on your part.

            > As to the argument that you outline above, the fallacy is not a fallacy of equivocation. There is no single term that appears under different significations in different premises.

            That makes no sense? Clearly Murder vs mere killing are different significations in different premises. That is self evident like 1+1=6-4.

            > Rather, it is a fallacy of begging the question.

            I don't believe it is impossible for more than one fallacy to exist in an argument. I could concede that is a problem as well.

            >The argument that you sketch out above begs the question because it assumes without proof that the tacit premise, "if it's killing, then it's murder" is true. And there is much reason to deny the truth of such a premise.

            Sorry but we are not arguing proof but definitions & internal consistency. Cookery is trying to find a contradiction between the God of Classic Theism and the God of the Bible (which he strawman creates from scratch based on his own self serving interpretation of Holy Writ and not the Catholic interpretation thus he special pleads, equivocates and begs the question). Part of that claim of contradiction is the idea in Classic Theism God cannot command what is intrinsically evil like torture. Cookery claims God issuing haram commands is "murder" but he clearly is equivocating on the Catholic definition of murder. Thus Catholicism is clearly internally consistent and his claim to find a contradiction fails.

            Also he equivocates at the drop of a hat like you beg the question.

          • Sample1

            Beautiful exegesis. I’ve been here for some five years and don’t recall coming across anything like your approach for the Canaanite problem.

            Mike, fallibilist

          • Mark

            So here is the last portion of St. Augustine's exposition of Ps 137. If want to read the whole thing go to newadvent.org; I'll just copy the last portion so you can see how a Catholic church father viewed this verse and hopefully you'll understand better the Catholic approach to scripture versus your interpretation of that scripture... spoiler alert Christ becomes the Rock:)

            13. Brethren, let not your instruments of music rest in your work: sing one to another songs of Sion. Readily have ye heard; the more readily do what you have heard, if you wish not to be willows of Babylon fed by its streams, and bringing no fruit. But sigh for the everlasting Jerusalem: whither your hope goes before, let your life follow; there we shall be with Christ. Christ now is our Head; now He rules us from above; in that city He will fold us to Himself; we shall be equal to the
            Angels of God. We should not dare to imagine this of ourselves, did not the Truth promise it. This then desire, brethren, this day and night think on. Howsoever the world shine happily on you, presume not, parley not willingly with your lusts. Is it a grown-up enemy? Let it be slain upon the Rock. Is it a little enemy? Let it be dashed against the Rock. Slay the grown-up ones on the Rock, and dash the little ones against the Rock. Let the Rock conquer. Be built upon the Rock, if you desire not to be swept away either by the
            stream, or the winds, or the rain. If you wish to be armed against temptations in this world, let longing for the everlasting Jerusalem grow and be strengthened in your hearts. Your captivity will pass away, your happiness will come; the last enemy shall be destroyed, and we shall triumph with our King, without death.

            I'll let it go at that friend; cheers!

          • Cookery

            I'm aware of such allegorical interpretations. The fact remains that God commands what entails the smashing of babies' heads against rocks throughout scripture. Just look at the numerous bans.

          • BCE

            I'm sure you understand syllogisms and paradox.

            By enthymeme or stated premise, there seems some things you are assuming.
            If I said...You have two thirsty children. You are holding a cup of water, give one a drink but not the other.
            You might conclude this is arbitrary and cruel. However there is too much you don't know. This is not my attempt at word play but a true flaw in many premises.
            Things being the same, but a demand applied different, are viewed as unjust.
            However the conclusion need not be.. that things were applied unfair and cruel, but that things(not known)were actually not the same.
            I find it rather consistent that while debating theology, some try to use a logic axiom.
            While Christians call God a person, it's understood "personhood" flows in the direction of God to man and never the other way.
            So while your syllogism might superficially sound logical, it can't be.

          • David Nickol

            So while your syllogism might superficially sound logical, it can't be.

            I may not have read all the messages in the thread, so perhaps I missed something, but I can't find any syllogism.

          • BCE

            Hi, Happy new year.
            Implied (why I used enthymeme) but in some parts Cookery is more explicit, he poses in response to the article...
            if god is good and theologically does not contradict, and is not arbitrary, but as a biblical god he murders or commands the murder of babies, then the theological and biblical god sins and is evil

          • Jim the Scott

            Rather Cookery's private interpretation of the Psalm entails God commands the smashing of babies heads against rocks.

            (Of course given the fagility of infant heads I don't know how that is "torture"? At the risk of being insensitive it sounds like a quick death? Unlike the fowl Canaanite heathen whose false gods command you slowly roast an infant on a fire. But nobody interprets this verse as a Haraam Commands. Of course I find objections to Haraam commands from a crowd of people who are pro-choice to be amusingly hypocritical. Nobody is morally outraged by Grand Morf Tarkin blowing up Alderaan since it is fiction. I find it comical Atheists get upset over fictional Canaanite children being killed but advocate partial birth abortion and other late term abortion which kill real children).

            Some advice. If you wanted to discuss the Haraam commands then open with that. Your claims about the Psalms commanding torture are goofy and violate Catholic Biblical interpretive norms.

          • Cookery

            "Your claims about the Psalms commanding torture are goofy"

            Except that I never said that they did. Your reading comprehension needs improving.

          • Jim the Scott

            You cited psalm 137 did you not? My reading comprehension is fine. You need to work on your memory. I am getting old too I can sympathize.

          • Mark

            >I try to interpret the Bible according to what we can discern to be the intentions of the author and the genre of the work in question, which is how one standardly approaches any piece of literature.

            That's refreshing. One caveat I add (you don't being atheist) to scriptural interpretation: what does God intend the author (who has his own intentions) to convey? In the case of Ps 137 God doesn't intend the author to torture babies, nor does he intend to reveal torturing babies is his nature. When reason and logic are not congruent with scripture, often (not always, ie miracles) the interpretation is flawed. Here in this verse we see an exiled author using poetric song to imbue an emotional curse on the offspring of Babylonians (who exiled him). Lastly, for Christians, interpretation of the truth of God's revelation in the OT evolves as our understanding of God evolves i.e. Christ. So Christ (and the NT) become a sort of polarized lens in which to view the OT. Much of the OT laws are rendered useless with the new testament i.e. circumcision. So you might add, well that's your interpretation of scripture. No, it's the magisterial office of the Catholic Church whom Jesus orally commanded to promulgate his teachings. She proclaimed it scripture. She says it's God's written revelation and she gets to define how to properly interpret it. Now whether or not she has that authority, well that's a different subject, however, Catholics faithful give her that authority.

            Edit done