Episode 132: Euthyphro’s Revenge

Does God approve actions because they are good? Or is an action good because God approves it? Euthyphro’s Dilemma is perhaps the oldest challenge to a theistic conception of morality, but many modern philosophers of religion believe the dilemma to be a false one. While the traditional formulation of the dilemma may have an answer, Socrates’ challenge lives on in a new form.

Counter-Apologetics: A New Euthyphro Dilemma


Philosophers such as  William Alston, Robert Adams and William Lane Craig, believe they can split the horns of Euthyphro’s Dilemma by looking to God’s nature as the standard of goodness, but in a fascinating paper Jeremy Koons has devised a new version of the dilemma which exposes this conception of divine goodness as unintelligible.

Can God’s Goodness Save the Divine Command Theory From Euthyphro? By Jeremy Koons

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God Thinks Like You: The Moral Psychology of an Anthropomorphic vs. Theological God Concept


How one conceives the nature of God can have a powerful impact on how one views violations of his commandments. When believers embrace a more anthropomorphic view of God, they are more prone to judging minor violations of religious teachings as immoral.

Anthropomorphic God Concepts Engender Moral Judgment by Carey K. Morewedge

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Special Focus: How religion stunts innovation, and other musings on the conflict between science and religion


A new study argues highly religious countries have less scientific innovation then more secular ones, even after numerous variables are controlled for. While its unclear what is the cause behind the relationship, carefully designed experiments have shown how a scientific view of the world can be at odds with religious views, especially in regards to ones view of the soul and our connection to nature.


Science and Religion Really are Enemies After All by Chris Mooney
Neuroscience and the soul by Preston, Ritter & Helper
Faith and Nature by Vess, Arndt & Cox

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Religion in the Headlines – Big Fuzzy Beard Edition


The continuing misadventures of Sam and Johnny Mullet

A prisoners Beard Offers the Next Test of Religious Liberty for the Supreme Court

Church Of England Will Allow Women To Serve As Bishops

Mormon woman excommunicated for activism seeking priesthood for women


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  1. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says


    If I have my Radiolab correct… The kilogram is the only measurement that was actually chosen to be equal to this one thing, as opposed to reverse engineered.

    Audio: Radiolab – ≤ kg (20:37)
    Similar to BBC’s documentary series “Precision: The Measure of All Things”.
      1 Time and Distance (59:00)
      2 Mass and Moles (58:34)
      3 Heat, Light and Electricity (58:50)

  2. says

    Just wanted to chime in with a minor correction about your comments on the Mormon Priesthood. I was raised Mormon and was a true believer until a few years ago, and I indeed received the priesthood at the ripe old age of 12. However, the 12 year olds aren’t called Elders, they’re called Deacons. At 14 you can become a Teacher, and at 16 a Priest. Those are offices in the so-called Aaronic Priesthood. You don’t get to be an Elder until you’re 18, and that’s the first office in the Melchizedek Priesthood. After that some men (but not all) become High Priests, Seventies, Patriarchs, and Apostles. Joseph basically took any title he could find in the New Testament and reassigned them at will. If that all seems needlessly complex and obtuse, that’s because it totally is, but it does do a pretty good job of making teenage Mormon boys feel like they’re hot shit.

    I’m sure that’s more than you ever wanted to know about the subject, but there it is. Keep up the good work, guys!

  3. Latverian Diplomat says

    I’m sure those AV sources are excellent, but for those who are just mildly curious, the short form on the kg/meter thing:

    There used to be a standard meter in Paris, but the definition of the meter was eventually changed to something that could be determined independently in any sufficiently sophisticated laboratory. The current definition is based on the speed of light and the atomic clock definition of the second.

    The standard kg in Paris is still in use, but there’s a strong desire to move to a similar definition based on a physical constant. There are two such efforts being pursued (one for Avogadro’s number and one for Planck’s constant). Neither group has quite reached the precision necessary to become the new standard.

  4. f33rNapalm says

    Just want to say I really like the new blog format. The breakdown into individual segments with the relevant links for each segment conveniently sorted is very nice.

    Also, really digging the recent flurry of episodes after such a long break. Welcome back.

  5. BluePrint says

    I know very little about philosophy so my understanding is probably simplistic, but what I got from Euthyphro is that the essential question is: Goodness – is or is not, decided by gods.
    If goodness is what gods decide, it’s arbitrary. And if goodness is not decided by gods, we don’t need gods to know it.

    The claim that goodness is gods’ nature is a weak attempt to make gods necessary while making goodness not arbitrary, but never confused me because this falls under ‘not decided by gods’.
    If goodness is gods’ nature then goodness is “forced” onto gods, and gods are superfluous to discerning it.

    Now that I think of it, ‘goodness is gods’ nature’ is a creationist argument. It assumes gods precede everything and therefore the conclusion would be that one must seek gods to find goodness.
    Maybe that’s why I never fell for it.

  6. Anne Marie says

    I was about to leave the same comment as ryangerber at #9. The treatment for that kind of awful rash of “razor bumps” (which is much more prevalent among black men) is to let the beard grow out, at least for several weeks. It’s obviously going to be easier to avoid by not shaving than any other method of prevention. The picture on Wikipedia shows how bad it can be and it can lead to infection or cause keloids if you don’t deal with it.

  7. gshelley says

    My understanding of philosophy is also limited, but I didn’t see why the proposed solution wasn’t totally circular
    “God is good because that is his nature”
    What is good?”
    Good is the things it is in God’s nature for him to do

    I also didn’t see how it solved anything. If the question is “Is something good because god says so, or does god say so because it is good”, then answering “It is good because god is good” doesn’t answer the question, it just tries to redifine the word good to make it synonymous with god and to hope people don’t notice

  8. says

    I’m right there with BluePrint and gshelley. This “workaround” for the Euthphro dilemma has been argued to me before. But I still think that it firmly impales you on the first horn. God doesn’t decide what is good, somehow he was just made good by something external to him. It doesn’t seem all that clever.

    No matter how they twist and turn and talk about his “nature”, it doesn’t fix the problem. They just dig the hole deeper. Either that or we completely disagree on what the word “good” means.

  9. gshelley says

    Via Evolution is True, William Lane Craig
    A few thoughts, firstly, I just don’t get why anyone would be impressed with him, secondly, the person asking the question seems to have thought about it much deeper than Craig, who dismisses it easily. The argument here is very poor, basically, “God is good only applies to my god because the other ones are impossible because mine is real” (Not just implicitly, he actually states

    ou ask, “What if, epistemically, I’d been mistaken and had the wrong God, what would the implications be of the DCT principle?” It is logically impossible that there be any other God. So if you were mistaken and believed in the wrong God, you would be a Muslim or a Hindu or a polytheist or what have you; but there wouldn’t be another God.

    He also seems to forget that

    So what should you say to the atheist who asks, “If the God of ISIS existed, would you engage in rape, murder, and forced conversions?” Neither “yes” nor “no”! You should say, “Such a question (apart from being a psychological irrelevancy) has no meaningful answer, any more than does the question, ‘If there were a square circle

    does apply to his god, and could easily be reframed as “what if god ordered the genocide of an entire people” for which I think he has previously argued that he would do it as it would be moral

    He spends some time there arguing on what it means to be good and that god is good and good is what god is, but it is so circular, and so based on the assumption that his view of god is the only correct one that it is hard for me to be sure

  10. Azuma Hazuki says

    This is someone arguing for “Christian Hedonic Egoism,” and the basic thrust of it seems to be as follows:
    1) Under CHE, as all kinds of HE, pleasure is good and pain is evil
    2) Yahweh can inflict infinite pain, and grant infinite pleasure
    3) This makes him the moral arbiter and destroys the ED


    Anyone care to take a crack at this? I can’t hold the bile down long enough to do a thorough refutation, though I will note that this seems to be another “might makes right” and a poorly-hidden one at that. Seems like much too large a sacrifice to make for a possible ED solution, and honestly I don’t think it actually solves the ED…


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