On the origin of goodness

August 8, 2011 | By | Reply More

At The New Yorker, James Wood raises the question, “Is That All There Is?” Here’s an excerpt from his discussion:

Many people, for instance, believe that morality is a deliverance of God, and that without God there is no morality—that in a secular world “everything is permitted.” You can hear this on Fox News; it is behind the drive to have the Ten Commandments displayed in courtrooms. But philosophers like Kitcher remember what Socrates tells Euthyphro, who supposed that the good could be defined by what the gods had willed: if what the gods will is based on some other criterion of goodness, divine will isn’t what makes something good; but if goodness is simply determined by divine will there’s no way for us to assess that judgment. In other words, if you believe that God ordains morality—constitutes it through his will—you still have to decide where God gets morality from. If you are inclined to reply, “Well, God is goodness; He invents it,” you threaten to turn morality into God’s plaything, and you deprive yourself of any capacity to judge that morality.

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Category: Good and Evil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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