ingliz wrote:The Euthyphro dilemma.
If the good is absolute, and God cannot do evil, why do we need a middleman to tell us what is 'right' or 'wrong'?
If the good is such because God says it is, then morality is arbitrary, and everything is permitted.
* Note this is not an argument for or against God's existence, only his irrelevance.
First, God not being able to do evil does not mean that man knows the difference between good and evil.
Second, the problem with the Euthyphro dilemma is that it is a false dichotomy.
This is beause Goodness is essentially co-eternal with God, and is one of the divine energies that emanates from Him. It is not a set of principles abstract from God to be discovered, or invented by God as something which He has proposed. It is an emanation from God Himself.
Here are some pertinent quotations I've taken from St. Gregory Palamas in Vol. IV of the Philokalia
: The divine energies emanating from God, and are dependent on God
The divine supraessentiality is never named in the plural. But the divine and uncreated grace and energy of God is indivisibly divided, like the sun's rays that warm, illumine, quicken and bring increase as they cast their radiance upon what they enlighten, and shine on the eyes of whoever beholds them. In the manner, then, of this faint likeness, the divine energy of God is called not only one but also multiple by the theologians. Thus St Basil the Great declares: 'What are the energies of the Spirit? Their greatness cannot be told and they are numberless. How can we comprehend what precedes the ages? What were God's energies before the creation of noetic reality?' For prior to the creation of noetic reality and beyond the ages - for the ages are also noetic creations - no one has ever spoken or conceived of anything created. Therefore the powers and energies of the divine Spirit - even though they are said in theology to be multiple - are uncreated and are to be indivisibly distinguished from the single and wholly undivided essence of the Spirit. 69. The theologians affirm that the uncreated energy of God is indivisibly divided and multiple, as St Basil the Great has explained above. And since the divine and deifying illumination and grace is not the essence but the energy of God, for this reason it comes forth from God not only in the singular but in multiplicity as well. It is bestowed proportionately on those who participate in it, and corresponding to the capacity of those who receive it the deifying resplendence enters them to a greater or lesser degree.
And Isaiah himself, the clarion voice of the prophets, not only distinguished them plainly from the divine essence by their number, but also indicated the uncreated nature of these divine energies by the words 'rest upon Him'.
created. And St Basil, inspired by the Spirit of God, said, not that the energies of the Spirit 'came into being', but that they existed 'prior to the creation of noetic reality' and 'beyond the ages' ' Only God is operative and all-powerful from eternity, and therefore He possesses pre-eternal operations and powers.This divine energy fills all things in the universe, and through it all things operate.
Because both the divine essence and the divine energy are everywhere inseparably present. God's energy is accessible also to us creatures; for, according to the theologians it is indivisibly divided, whereas the divine nature, they say, remains totally undivided. Thus St John Chrysostom says, 'A drop of grace filled all things with knowledge; through it miracles were wrought and sins forgiven.'However, we actually can never be part of the essence of God, and can only become illumined by God's divine energies.
According to St Maximos, 'Moses and David, and whoever else became vessels of divine energy by laying aside the properties of then-fallen nature, were inspired by the power of God'; and. 'They became living icons of Christ, being the same as He is, by grace rather than by assimilation.' He farther says. The purity in Christ and in the saints is one.'Our knowledge of goodness is also fully dependent on God; so is our basic nature.
The divine intellects move in a circular fashion, uniting themselves with the unonginate and unending illuminations of the Beautiful and Good', for 'God Himself and naught else is light for eternal beings'. 'What the sun is for sensory beings. God is for noetic beings.... In addition to this, we become closer to participating in God through participating in divine intellects and divine virtue & goodness.
Every created nature is far removed from and completely foreign to the divine nature. For if God is nature, other things are not nature; but if every other thing is nature. He is not a nature, just as He is not a being if all other things are beings. And if He is a being, then all other things are not beings. And if you accept this as true also for wisdom, goodness, and in general all. things that pertain to God or are ascribed to Him, then your theology will be correct and in accordance with the saints. God both is and is said to be the nature of all beings, in so far as all partake of Him and subsist by means of this participation: not, however, by participation in His nature - far from it - but by participation in His energy. In this sense He is the Being of all beings, the Form that is in all forms as the Author of form, the Wisdom of the wise and, simply, the All of all things. Moreover, He is not nature, because He transcends every nature; He is not a being, because He transcends every being; and He is not nor does He possess a form, because He transcends form. How, then, can we draw near to God? By drawing near to His nature? But not a single created being has or can have any communication with or proximity to the sublime nature. Thus if anyone has drawn close to God, he has evidently approached Him by means of His energy. In what way? By natural participation in that energy? But this is common to all created things. It is not, therefore, by virtue of natural qualities, but by virtue of what one achieves through free choice that one is close to or distant from God. But free choice pertains only to beings endowed with intelligence. So among all creatures only those endowed with intelligence can be far from or close to God, drawing close to Him through virtue or becoming distant through vice. Thus such beings alone are capable of wretchedness or blessedness. Let us strive to lay hold of blessedness.Which gets us closer to this concept of virtue & goodness -- we have not been able to answer what goodness is simply, and a great mystery exists... What is goodness? Shortly after the above passage, skipping only a paragraph that talks about proximity to God, natural inclination, and noetic sensing...
The inspired and universal tongue of the divine theologians, St John of Damaskos, says in the second of his theological chapters: 'A man who would speak or hear anything about God should know with all clarity that in what concerns theology and the divine economy not all things are inexpressible and not all are capable of expression, and neither are all things unknowable nor are they all knowable. ' We know that those divine realities of which we desire to speak transcend speech, since such realities exist according to a principle that is transcendent. They are not outside the realm of speech by reason of some deficiency, but are beyond the conceptual power innate within us and to which we give utterance when speaking to others. For neither can our speech explain these realities by interpretation, nor does our innate conceptual power have the capacity to attain them of its own accord through investigation. Thus we should not permit ourselves to say anything concerning God, but rather we should have recourse to those who in the Spirit speak of the things of the Spirit, and this is the case even when our adversaries require some statement from us.Goodness is something that has to remain basically undefined, and in place of 'goodness' emanating from God, St. Gregory Palamas invokes St. Dionysios the Areopagite speaking of beneficial processions. Eventually, he distinguishes them as 'essence forming logoi' or the inner principles of existent thing, which 'unitedly pre-exist in God'.So what does that leave us with?
For the energy that creates individual essence, life and wisdom, and in general makes and sustains created beings, is identical with the divine volitions and the divine participable principles and the gifts of supernal Goodness, the Cause of all.(end of these quotes)
So, maybe goodness can be said to be the energy which are the divine volitions & 'participable principles', manifested in the essence forming logoi, and these are rooted in the divine energies of supernal Goodness itself.
To summarize, it's something like:
St Maximos, who says: 'All immortal things and immortality itself, all living things and life itself, all holy things and holiness itself, all good things and goodness itself, all blessings and blessedness itself, all beings and being itself are manifestly works of God. Some began to be in time, for they have not always existed. Others did not begin to be in time, for goodness, blessedness, holiness and immortality have always existed.'' And again he says: 'Goodness, and all that is included in the principle of goodness, and - to be brief - all life, immortality, simplicity, immutability and infinity, and all the other qualities that contemplative vision perceives as substantively appertaining to God, are realities of God which did not begin to be in time. For non-existence is never prior to goodness, nor to any of the other things we have listed, even if those things which participate in them do in themselves have a beginning in time. All goodness is without beginning because there is no time prior to it: God is eternally the unique author of its being, and God is infinitely above all beings, whether participant or participable.''
[all quotations are specifically from The Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts
, and the last quote is from The Declaration of the Holy Mountain in the Defence of Those who Devoutly Practice A Life of Stillness, found in the Philokalia]
Goodness abstracted into something independent from God, like a certain set of ideas or principles, is an error; rather, goodness is an energy. But I believe that goodness is to be understood as a metaphysical energy emanating from God's divine essence, not as a literal energy, like 'light.' However, its behavior in the supernatural world is itself compared to light.
Another interesting point is that St. Gregory Palamas talks about the [i]Transfiguration at Mt. Tabor.
God did not change His nature suddenly to to blind the apostles,
rather, the apostles became party to actually see, for the first time, something of the true nature of God,
which was so bright as to cause them to fall down, and can never actually be gazed upon.
Thus Christ was transfigured, not by the addition of something He was not, nor by a transformation into something He was not, but by the manifestation to His disciples of what He really was. He opened their eyes so that instead of being blind they could see. While He Himself remained the same, they could now see Him as other than He had appeared to them formerly. For He is 'the true light' (John 1:9), the beauty of divine glory, and He shone forth like the sun - though this image is imperfect, since what is uncreated cannot be imaged in creation without some diminution.
Goodness behaves in the same way -- a divine energy that is always present and indivisible, but is not visible to the uninitiated.
At least, that is how I believe Christian metaphysics works. But I am not a theologian so this is just a stab at it.