Insights through Illusion for Daily Living

False Dilemma is no Dilemma at All.

If you have been in a philosophy class for more than a month, then you have heard this argument presented.

One of the oldest arguments about morality comes from Plato’s dialogues. A student named Euthyphro asks Socrates if the gods will something because it is good, or is something good because the gods will it to be good?

Let’s break down these two “horns” of the dilemma.

1. Do the gods will something because it’s good?

This means that there is some concept of universal good that is outside of God that he just ascribes to. This means that God is in essence unnecessary for morality.

2. Is something good just because the gods will it?

This basically means that God can just will whatever He wants to be good or evil. For instance if today God willed murder and rape to be moral and kindness to be evil, then it would be. That God can choose on a whim what’s good and what’s bad, and that He can change it at any time arbitrarily. This is clearly not the God that we see.

This presented through the ages by atheists against God and biblical morality because it’s presented as a real dilemma. The problem is that it isn’t a real dilemma at all. An actual dilemma means that you are presented with two and only two options that you must choose between.

di- “two” + lemma “premise, anything received or taken,”

However it’s not an actual dilemma at all. A false dilemma is a situation where there are only two options presented, but they are in fact not the only two options available. This is known as splitting the horns.

So what is the answer then?

The true answer is that “the good” that Plato wrote about is in fact grounded in God’s nature. Or to say it as @ReasonableFaith ‘s Dr. William Lane Craig says it, That something is good because God IS good. Things like love, compassion, justice, kindness are part of God’s unchanging nature. They are not arbitrary, but they are also not from something external either.

God is Himself the good and is the source of our moral duties.

How have you heard this presented before?

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