Despite the power and influence of the Euthyphro dilemma, many apologists maintain that theism alone has the resources to account for objective moral properties. These authors dispute the commonly held view that the argument of the Euthyphro demonstrates that morality must be independent of God (especially as this argument is applied to theories that ground morality in the character of God as opposed to His commands). They argue in addition that regardless of the outcome of that debate, a nontheistic worldview is not compatible with belief in objective morality. In this paper I demonstrate that the argument that there is no viable atheistic account of the ground of morality depends upon the mistaken assumption that theism itself has the kind of moral theory that atheism allegedly lacks.
Published on the Secular Web
The problem of evil can be used in two different ways. It can be used offensively; that is, in an attempt to criticize and undermine theistic belief, to show that theism is false and that belief in God is unfounded--a very difficult task. But the problem of evil can also be used defensively, i.e., to show that atheism is epistemically warranted, justified, or reasonable. Such efforts can succeed even when the proffered arguments fail to convince theists that God does not exist.
Check out this nearly 90-minute debate preparation between host Edouard Tahmizian and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau about the ways in which some apologists might argue that belief in God is necessary for morality, and how opponents might respond to those arguments. Thibodeau proposes that they first break down the issue into smaller, more digestible slices on central concerns, starting with the meaning of should/ought in the sense raised in David Hume's is/ought distinction (i.e., that one ought to do what one is morally obligated to do). Moral philosophers widely agree that its meaning has something to do with at least having reasons for acting, and more importantly for morality, having an all-things-considered reason for acting in particular instances. Thibodeau proposes starting with a simple version of a moral argument for the existence of God: that moral obligation could only exist if God existed, it does, and therefore so does God. If the argument were reasonable, then there would have to be some specific aspect of moral obligation that's difficult to account for on the assumption that God doesn't exist—but then what aspect could be proffered that has that feature? There would also have to be some way in which positing God's existence would clearly account for the existence of this feature. After recounting a list of features that Christian apologist Matt Flanagan has said are central to the concept of moral obligation (like reasons for acting being authoritative and categorical, or failing to act in a certain way being blameworthy), Thibodeau goes on to consider how any of them could be problematic on the assumption that God not exist, or how positing God's existence could even possibly explain their existence. To get a feel for the angles that a Christian apologist might try to exploit to force some sort of necessary connection between morality and religion, look no further than this multiperspectival discussion!
Join Freethinker Podcast host Edouard Tahmizian in this one-and-a-quarter hour interview with Rational Science podcaster Bill Gaede and Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they explore what physical meaning, if any, can be derived from idealized mathematical physics. Gaede first outlines the difference between qualitative physics, whose three spatial dimensions (e.g., length, width, and height) are underwritten by genuine physical concepts like directions at 90° degree angles to each other, and mathematical physics, whose dimensions are underwritten purely by numerical magnitudes like the number of points necessary to locate an object within a coordinate system (e.g., latitude, longitude, and altitude). While genuine physics deals with perpendicularly defined dimensions (direction and orthogonality), mathematical physics only deals with number lines (with magnitudes) defined in relation to some locational reference point. The discussion then turns to whether it's possible for there to be additional spatial dimensions to the length, width, and height dimensions that we're all familiar with, what exists inside a black hole, whether the universe started with a Big Bang, how we should understand the nature of light and the nature of time, and much more! Check out this fascinating discussion about conceptual misunderstandings within even a hard science like physics!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this over one-hour interview with Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they deconstruct John Kearney’s defense of Adam’s accountability for the first sin (rather than God’s). Kearney’s defense centers around the idea that although Adam was not born with an ingrained disposition to sin, he nevertheless developed such a disposition when tempted by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. For according to Kearney, God was under no obligation to create creatures for which committing sin was impossible, and indeed it would be better for them to have to earn moral righteousness by being tempted to sin and not succumb to that temptation. Kearney provides little in the way of an actual argument for this claim, and regardless, the interlocutors show that this maneuver would entail that God had actually created Adam with a positive inclination to sin, bringing us back to the question of why in the world a morally perfect God would ever do that. Check out this in-depth analysis of another failed attempt to resolve an irresolvable theological contradiction!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this about 30-minute interview with returning Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they outline the fascinating properties of a 4-dimensional spatial cube, or tesseract, by first considering how a creature living in Flatland, a 2-dimensional universe consisting of only length and width, would react to an intersection with that universe by a 3rd-dimensional object or entity. With this analogy to higher-dimensional space in mind, the interlocutors consider how we 3-Drs would react to the intervention of an 4-D being into our 3-D universe. Carl Sagan had suggested that although a Flatlander would not be able to perceive the 3-dimensional height of a 3-D creature, Flatlanders might be able to perceive its 2-dimensional shadow. The discussion turns to whether or not Sagan was right about this: would a 2-D creature actually be able to perceive anything from a 3-D object or entity? If so, what would it be able to perceive? Would it even be conceptually possible for a 3-Dr to exist in a 2-D space, or for a 4-Dr to exist in a 3-D space? If not a 4th spatial dimension, what is it that massive objects curve when they curve spacetime, according to Einstein's theory of general relativity Check out this mind-blowing discussion of modality, conceivability, and possibility!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this half-hour follow-up interview with Cypress College philosophy professor Jason Thibodeau as they survey various moral arguments for the existence of God and explain how arguments that chief features of morality point to the divine fall flat. First, Thibodeau notes that the argument that the existence of moral value presupposes the existence of God misfires. Next, he points out out that arguments that we cannot have knowledge of (presumed nonnatural) moral properties without divine assistance simply do not stand up to scrutiny. Finally, he considers a kind of Kantian moral argument that behaving morally only makes sense if good people are rewarded and evil ones are punished in a divinely organized afterlife. Both interlocutors agree that there has to be some independent standard of goodness, otherwise anyone could just define whatever one's nature happens to be as good, no matter how harmful that nature. Thibodeau then tries to flesh out this first kind of moral argument by suggesting that the 'odd' feature of morality that it exploits is that moral obligations are in authoritative, but notes that inserting God anywhere in the discussion does not provide the needed authoritativeness of morality. Both interlocutors then go on to note the ways in which all roads lead to moral subjectivism if God taken to be the source of morality. Tune in for this wide-ranging interview on the nature of morality!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this nearly one hour interview with Jason Thibodeau, a philosophy professor at Cypress College who's on the board of directors of Internet Infidels, about Plato's famous Euthyphro dilemma to the classic divine command theory of ethics, in which morally right actions are identified with those actions that are commanded (or otherwise approved) by God. After briefly stating a simple version of the Euthyphro dilemma and explaining its history, Thibodeau discusses the difference between (deontic) moral rightness and (axiological) moral goodness, how Robert M. Adams defended a deontic, but not axiological, kind of divine command theory, how the arbitrariness objection to divine command theory arises, and the sophisticated (but unsuccessful) attempts by Edward Wierenga and William Lane Craig to forge a middle way between the two mutually exclusive options of the traditional Euthyphro dilemma (which boil down to whether or not God has reasons for his commands). The discussion then turns to the implausibility of libertarian free will, whether a person who has no knowledge of good and evil can, in that state of ignorance, commit sin, whether a being that is admittedly causally responsible for giving human beings an inclination to sin is in any way morally responsible for their sinful behavior, and whether a being (any being) simply telling someone not to do something can ever really make a forbidden action morally wrong. Check out this wide-ranging yet deep interview!
William Lane Craig has frequently claimed that the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma because there is a third option. In this video, I explain why Craig is wrong about this. I explain the dilemma, explain why it is a dilemma, and show that Craig's alleged third option is not an option at all.
In this video, Jason Thibodeau presents a prima facie case that the Euthyphro problem grounds serious objections to the divine command theory.
The Euthyphro dilemma says that either God has reasons for his commands, or He doesn’t. Take the second option. God has no reasons for His commands. Well, then God’s commands are arbitrary; but morality can’t be arbitrary. Now take the first option. God has reasons for His commands. Well, then these reasons themselves are sufficient to give us moral obligations. No need for God. The Euthyphro dilemma is meant to show that grounding morality in God is misguided. Jason Thibodeau argues that the Euthyphro dilemma is sound, whereas Matt Flannagan argues that it is not.
In this episode of Real Atheology, hosts Ben Watkins & John Lopilato interview Jason Thibodeau, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Cypress College, about the famous Euthyphro dilemma to classic divine command theory and how to respond to apologists who try to split the dilemma.
In this presentation from the 2017 Cypress College World Philosophy Day event, Jason Thibodeau discusses four common myths about morality: that (1) morality depends on God; (2) morality is subjective; (3) morality is relative; and (4) morality does not fit into a material world.