Joel Pinheiro

Eutyphro Dismantled

In Essay, Morality, Religion in general on July 7, 2010 at 3:52 pm

It is clear to all who read this site (i.e. me) that it is just a venue for arbitrary, intermittent thoughts on religion. Still, whenever free time and a good idea combine, an update may come up; and who knows, it might be good.

Eutyphro dilemma: is God bound by morality? Or is He above it and capable of changing it at will? Is the good loved by God because it is good, or is it good because it is loved by God?

Anyone of these possibilities seems unsatisfactory. Either God is limited, and there is something superior to Him, or morality is just a question of divine whim. God could declare that, starting tomorrow, drinking water is a sin and rape is praiseworthy, and it would effectively be so. Whoever accepts this admits that his commitment to morality (to real-world morality of the sane “thou shalt not kill” variety) is – how shall we put it ? – slight. Fortunately, there is a way out. We can preserve both God’s supreme standing and moral common sense. And it relies on an old concept in the history of philosophy: natural law.

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The Argument from Desire

In Essay on February 23, 2010 at 1:17 am

Can a desire, a feature of one’s inner life, tell us anything about the external world? The usual response is that it can’t. Someone having a certain desire doesn’t mean that the desired object actually exists. I would love to see into other people’s minds, to fly by sheer will-power and to have a juicy unicorn filet for lunch; alas, no tasty unicorns around.

That being so, what to make of the argument that seeks to prove the existence of God from our desire for God to exist? Is it valid? In its usual formulation, it certainly is not. Not all particular desires are capable of being fulfilled; and the desire for God is one particular wish among many. But what if we move from particular desires to broader categories of want? On a very basic level, most would agree that categories of desire tell us something about external reality. Man is an animal, and as such has various needs. Hunger, thirst, sleep, sexual urges exist because he needs food, water, sleep and sex in order to survive and reproduce. The particular food I want may not exist, but there certainly is food. It would be very odd indeed (even from an evolutionary perspective) if there were a category of desire which admitted of no possible satisfaction. It would elicit the question “why is it there?” in both of its meanings: “how did it come about?” and “what for?”.

Exclusive: an Interview with Daniel Darkins

In Interview on February 2, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Scientist, philosopher and atheist extraordinaire, Daniel Darkins is the leading proponent of science and atheism in the raging science-religion debate. His new book, ‘The Triumph of Science’, is among the most fulminating attacks on faith ever published. Mr. Darkins argues that belief in God is the greatest threat to the continued existence of mankind. The solution he proposes is simple: uncompromising atheism. He has been kind enough to offer The Metaphysical Inquirer an interview, which we now publish for the readers’ benefit. Whatever your stand on this great debate of our times, it is important to hear what both sides have to say.

Metaphysical Inquirer: Mr. Darkins, many believers think your book is disrespectful and intolerant. What do you say to them?

Daniel Darkins: They have entirely missed my point. My book is a plea for tolerance. You see, I have nothing against religious people. Some of my best friends are religious, not to mention family members who have my deep admiration. I think religion itself has noble traits and is a fine product of the human mind. What I write against, what I attack with the full force of my arguments, is fanaticism. Fanaticism is to uphold irrational dogma and impose your beliefs on others. That is the perfect opposite of the scientific attitude, which is to believe only what the evidence permits and convince others with rational arguments.

MI: Cannot atheism itself become a kind of fanaticism?