Joel Pinheiro

Archive for the ‘Essay’ Category

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. Read the rest of this entry »

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?”. Read the rest of this entry »