Joined: Jan. 2007
|However, even if we do have free will and materialism is the true explanation of the world, then choice of a standard becomes arbitrary. If you disagree that would be an interesting argument.|
But the materialistic understanding of "good" is no more arbitrary than the religious understanding, as Plato showed in Euthryphro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma), the notion that true morality must come from God appears to be false.
The basic argument is as follows:
1) A proponent like Jerry might assert: We can only know what is good by knowing what it is that God commands us to do. God is the ultimate source of moral values.
2) To this we might inquire: Is what God commands us to do "good" by virtue of it being what God commands? Or does God only command us to do objectively "good" things.
Now someone like Jerry has two options. He might respond:
3 a) Of course whatever God commands us to do is "good", and it is "good" simply by virtue of God commanding it.
To which we reply:
4 a) But this definition of good is vacuous. If God were to command us tomorrow to rape and murder our neighbors, surely we should resist because we know that rape and murder are "wrong", and thus whatever a hypothetical God might ask us to do can not be "good by definition", so in this way God can not be the source of what is "good".
Or Jerry might respond:
3 b) No, what God wants us to do is objectively good - God loves us and only wants us to do things that are "good" in some other sense.
To which we retort:
4 b) But, if what God wants us to do is "objectively good" then we do not need God to tell us to do it - the actions themselves are "objectively good" and we should be able to discern these for ourselves, so we do not need God to tell us what is right and wrong, so God is not necessary as a source of moral guidance.
I have not heard a convincing counter to this argument, posed over 2000 years ago.