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Religion and Morality: C h. 19 from the text DEVELOPING AN UNCOMMON COMMON SENSE by Myron Miller

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Religion and Morality: C h. 19 from the text DEVELOPING AN UNCOMMON COMMON SENSE by Myron Miller
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    “Religion without humanity is poor human stuff.”  —   Sojourner Truth, 1797-1883 American of African descent, whose real name was Isabella Baumfree. She was born into slavery, she was sold as a 9 year old along with a flock of sheep for $100. After being sold several times she finally escaped in 1826 and became a fierce abolitionist, not only of slavery but of women's prohibition from voting. Her most famous speech, "Ain't I a Woman," was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women's Rights Convention. Chapter 19 Ethics, Religion, and Reason It is sometimes held that because God has revealed a set of standards to guide moral conduct, God is the foundation or God’s commanding something is the justification of whether some act is morally right.. More generally, for applying to specific cases of making a moral decision in which there is a judgment on whether one or more of God's revealed statutes applies to some specific moral situation, the recommendation is simply to do what is God's will. Thus, doing what is morally right would be logically equivalent to doing God's will. One of the reasons that Aristotle's philosophical system was so appealing to Jewish, Christian, and Muslim philosophers is that Aristotle argued that doing what is morally right is matching  behavior produced by the kind of being humans are with the kind of world that has been constructed. Just as a fish is naturally made to live in the water and would die if it tried to live outside of the water, so humans have been designed to live according to the structures of nature. If an individual tries to live in a way that is contrary to the way that nature supports life for the human, the result will be unhappiness and misery. To live in harmony with natural structures produces a happy life in ways that were outlined earlier when Aristotle was discussed (pp. 291 and 301). With the exception of some of the earliest Muslim  philosophers, at least until al Ghazâlî, who while accurately following Aristotle in the theory of knowledge, tend to synthesize Aristotle with Plotinus on ethics, religious formulations of ethics  became the foundation of natural law theory. It was not until the great Free University at Cordoba, Spain, that a further synthesis of Aristotle and theistic concerns about justifying moral decisions was developed. Even the great Augustine in the fourth century CE used Plato to develop his understanding of how moral  judgments are related to God's will in human   life. For all these 333    thinkers it was an important struggle to explain how humans can determine when they are obeying God's will and why God set down the commandments as they are. It was at Cordoba that there developed a faculty with scholars from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam freely interacted, sharing texts and ideas, infecting each other with common concerns and perspectives. Typical of the concerns of a theist with the philosophical system developed by the Greeks are that the Greek philosophers all held that the universe is eternal, that whatever force produces the natural world it is not done as a conscious act out of an intention to produce the universe, and that there is no personal identity after death. There were other more quibbling kinds of issues that theistic philosophers had with the Greeks, but these are the major problems. For a worldview that accepts the idea that the natural world is created in time and that time itself is linear, that is, the natural world came into existence, will continue for a period, and will cease to exist, at least in its present form, there had to be some modification. In addition, these modifications needed to be logically and/or evidentially justified. This is equally true for the  proposition that there is life after death as well as the belief that there is a personal God who intended to create the universe. Much in the systematic Greek philosophers was useful, but significant changes had to be made. Augustine of Hippo had set the example on how this could be done, but the creative alternatives began to emerge in the 9th and 10th centuries CE and came to a creative peak in the 11th to the 15th centuries CE. The Euthyphro Dilemma However, the issue as to whether we can base our beliefs about what is the right thing to do on commands from God is a very old one. It was examined by Socrates in the dialogue The Euthyphro and continues today as a special ethical position known as the Divine Command Theory. 334  In the dialogue  Euthyphro , Plato has Socrates awaiting trial for impiety in denying the existence of the gods, meets a young man by the name of Euthyphro, who is on his way to court to sue his father. The reason he is suing his father is that his father has allowed a servant to die after being shackled and "cast" into a ditch to await word back from the Oracles as to what should be done to this servant for having killed another servant in a drunken rage. Euthyphro is sure that this was an act of impiety, an act of murder and thus offensive to the gods. This gives Socrates the opportunity to find out what piety is from someone so convinced that he knows what piety is that he could sue his very own father for being impious. After examining a couple of definitions offered by Euthyphro but which prove unacceptable, he then offers that piety is what is loved by the gods. Socrates then asks, "Now consider this question. Do the gods love piety  because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?" 1  This is a bit of a trap for Euthyphro because he is not going to want it either way. If it is because the gods love piety that pious acts are pious, then there must be something in the act that causes the gods to love that act. In which case there is a standard for  piety that is independent of the will of the gods and to which the gods themselves are subject. There is, then, something that has a higher authority than the gods, namely whatever this standard is, and surely this would not be what Euthyphro wants to say. The other alternative, however, is no better. For if acts  become pious because they become the object of the love of the gods, then it would be impossible to tell which acts are pious without first finding out whether the gods had approved that act. There   would,   in   this   case,    be no standard for piety, since it depends 1 Plato. The Euthyphro , St. XII, 10. (Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill Publishers, Library of Liberal Arts edition, 1948, 1956), p.11.   335    on whatever the gods may have loved at any particular time or  place in which the act was performed. In this case piety would be anyone's guess and could be anything that anyone decided for whatever reason must be the good pleasure of the gods. This means that piety, of course, is culturally relative. This conundrum becomes even clearer if we shift the discussion to monotheism and ask whether God's commanding something makes what is commanded right or does God simply know what is right and always commands it. Again, neither alternative seems particularly attractive to a theist who wishes to  justify moral principles on a religious basis. If some action is morally right because God always commands what some standard shows what is morally right, then there is something superior to God, namely whatever it is that God knows determines what is morally right. In this case God, too, is subject to whatever the standard is that determines what is morally right. This standard, then, would dictate to God what should or should not be done, God would be merely reporting what morally right, which hardly seems right for a theist who holds that God a supreme being, nothing being greater than God. Yet if what is morally right is so simply because God wills it, then there is no telling in advance of any act whether it is morally right or wrong. There is no standard for moral action, since God can will anything God wishes. Worse still, if the first alternative makes God subject to a higher authority, namely the standard for morally right action whatever that might be, the second alternative makes morality impossible to determine except by sheer obedience to a higher  power. Right would simply be determined by power--might would make right after all. Since God would have the authority to command whatever God wants to command we would have to do whatever God commands whether we think it was right to do so or not. This would, however, remove the very heart of morality, since now God could command us to do what we would 336  think is morally wrong and we would still have to say it is morally right. But there is an even greater difficulty once we allow our own intuitions to clash with commands that are claimed to have come from God. At any particular time and place the basis on which we know what is morally right is not the command reputedly from God itself, but whether we can tell that a command is a command of God. Thus, morality is no longer determined by a divine command, but whatever standard we might have for determining what is a divine command from any pretender to such a command. A theist might respond by saying that God cannot command anything that would go against the Divine nature. Thus, the standard for right conduct is the same as God nature, making it a tautology to say that God always commands what is right because what is right is always in accord with God's nature. God's nature and the Standard for what is right is identical just as 'four sided geometrical rectangle with one right angle' is identical with 'square.' Thomas Aquinas could be interpreted as defending this kind of position, since Aquinas points out that humans were created in God's image and God's essence reflects the moral standards God would expect of anything made in God's image. Human intuitions reflect the values implanted in them when God created them. This brings the dilemma together by saying that what God wills is right because God wills it, but the standard for expressing God's will is always God's unchanging nature. The Logical order of Religion and Morality But now the issue is how do we tell what God's nature is? Here is the way that Bentham sets the stage for this problem: We may be perfectly sure, indeed, that whatever is right is 337    conformable to the will of God: but so far is that fro answering the purpose of showing us what is right, that it is necessary to know first whether a thing is right, in order to know from thence whether it be conformable to the will of God. 2  The point being that in examining a moral judgment that anyone makes, if the claim that the judgment is a reflection of God's will, to know that this is so one would have to know what God would  be inclined to will. Should God be said to command that I steal as much money from as many banks as I possibly can, the challenge would be rightly made that God is not the kind of Being The end result of this thinking is to say that one must have a concept of what is morally right before we have a concept of God. If so, religion or religious principles do not determine what is right, rather what is otherwise determined to be morally right selects which among all the religious principles we could adopt are the ones that are consistent with the kind of God that is "worthy of worship." The concept of being "worthy of worship" is itself a moral concept. Thus, far from religion being the foundation of morality, morality becomes the foundation of religion. This turning of the logical relationship of morality to religion does not, however, undermine the logical possibility that the source of moral intuition is religious. The nature of the human moral sensitivities may be due to the creative relationship  between God and human nature. If Hume's law holds that it is not logically possible to derive a duty from any descriptive fact and yet if moral judgments are objective, not merely the expression of an attitude or feeling, then there has to be a non-natural source for the justification of moral judgments. The principle that from what is not moral no morality can come takes the foundation of morality away from any facts. This 2 Jeremy Bentham. The Principles of Morals and Legislation . (New York, NY: Hafner Publishing Company, 1948, 1963), p. 22.   338  would seem to true as well for an natural law theory, that is, from the fact that God created the world with a specific structure it does not follow that anyone ought   to act in accord with that structure. It might make one happy to so act in accordance with nature's structure and it might be profitable to do so, it might even  be wise to do so, it might be difficult if not impossible to survive if one fails to act so accordingly, but is there an obligation to do so? Since neither might nor authority is able to justify a command, then there must be some other way to determine why moral  judgments are true or false. From the mere fact of a command, then, however powerful or authoritative the commander, there has to be something more about the commander to justify that there is an obligation to follow that command. Reconstructing Divine Command Theory William of Ockham in Super 4 Libros Sententiarum  proposes that the only justification for morality is that God has commanded what God has commanded, making what is morally right that it is morally right, and that is the end of it. Thus, if God had commanded that murder    or stealing were morally right, then these would have been right. From a purely logical perspective this presents the  problem that if we understand what we mean by murder is "killing that is wrong," then Ockham would have us say that either God commands us to do what is morally wrong or that murder would no longer mean killing that is wrong. It was the latter of these two alternatives that he is best understood as meaning. Robert M. Adams has pointed out that Ockham does not mean that God would have commanded, for example, that murder is wrong, but 339   William of Ockham c.1285-c.1349  that from a purely logical perspective God could have so commanded. Primarily because there is a logical tension between Hume's law on the one hand and the logical force of objectivity for moral judgments, a number of contemporary philosophers have defended the Divine Command Theory. Among these are  Norman Kretzman, William Alston, and Philip Quinn. Alston has addressed the Euthyphro dilemma by arguing against the first "horn," that is, that whether morality is arbitrary if an act is right because commanded by God, as opposed to the other "horn," God commands what is morally right because it is morally right. His way of setting up our commons sense judgments is to notice that there is a religious doctrine about God's nature that affirms God loves what God has created. Out of this it follows that humans created in God's image "ought" to love one another. Thus we need to evaluate what a Divine Command Theorist would say of the following two statements: 1. we ought to love one another  because God commands it; Or 2. God commands us to love one another because we ought to love one another. 3  From the first statement Alston observes that if God is the source of the command to love one another then it wouldn't make sense to say that God is a moral   agent. The   reason for this   is   that moral commands are generalizable to all agents and, thus, would 3 William Alston. "Some Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists." Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy . Michael Beaty, ed. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990): 303-326. 340  require God to have an obligation to obey his own commands, which is unintelligible if God is the source of morality. But if a distinction is made between saying God is morally good and God obeys moral commands, then no requirement exists for saying that God as a moral agent is or is not obeying moral commands. When God gives a command it flows from God's moral goodness. The first horn of the dilemma, that is, sentence 1, then does not create a problem for the Divine Command Theorist, but the other horn, 2, seems more problematic. The second statement, if accepted, seems to weaken God's sovereignty because it subjects God to commanding what otherwise anyone could see should be done, in this case, love one another. Alston escapes the conclusion by saying that God is by God's own nature the supreme standard of what needs to be commanded and that it would only be if one knew God well that it would be seen what should be done, as in, love one another. Robert Merrihew Adams has provided, perhaps, the most rigorous defense of what he calls a modified Divine Command Theory. His attack on the Euthyphro dilemma is directed at the nature of God, that is, if God loves us then his commands bind us as to a loving parent. In order to make his case, Adams introduces the observation that the relationship  between moral obligations and God's commands is a necessary relationship. Thus, to say that God commands us to love each other and that we have a moral duty to love each other is not merely an empirical but a logical claim. This would explain both how individuals connect with moral requirements, namely with what it means to be human a person who is loved by God, and why directives have an objective status. Morality or moral statements either correctly identify with what it means to be 341   e William Alston 1921-2009 Robert Merrihew Adams 1937-
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