Notes on Morriston's "Must There Be a Standard of Moral Goodness Apart from God?"

Analytical Outline: Morriston’s “Must there be a Standard of Moral Goodness Apart from God?”, Philosophia Christi 3:1 (2001), pp. 127-138.

1. Setup: Divine command theory and the Euthyphro Dilemma
1.1 DCT preserves a strong notion of God’s sovereignty
1.2 Problem: it falls prey to the Euthyphro Dilemma
1.3 Choice point: Either bite the bullet and say his commands are arbitrary, or say they’re somehow independent of God’s will (while still preserving sovereignty)
1.4 The focus of the paper: The second choice — modified divine command theory

2. Modified Divine Command Theory: Two Versions
2.1 Both versions attempt to go between the horns of the Euthyphro Dilemma by modifying DCT so that something is morally right or wrong just in case a good God commands it, and by saying that the objective standard of goodness is internal to God.
2.2 However, they differ in their account of how God serves as ground of goodness
2.3 Version I: Platonism (broadly construed) about God's nature: 
2.3.1 God’s essential properties, which he has in all worlds in which he exists. 
2.3.2 Goodness supervenes directly on God’s nature, i.e., the properties
2.4 Version II: Alston (and, to a close enough approximation, Adams  -EA):
2.4.1 non-Platonistic account of God’s nature 
2.4.2 Goodness supervenes directly on God’s being — on God himself

3. Problem for the Platonic version: falls prey to a Euthyphro-like dilemma, applied to God’s properties
3.1 Either God is good because God has the properties that constitute moral goodness, or the properties are good because God has them.
3.2. If God is good because God has the properties that constitute moral goodness, then the moral properties are the standard of goodness -- not God.
3.3. If the properties are good because God has them, then goodness is arbitrary.
3.4. Therefore, either moral properties are the standard of goodness (and not God), or goodness is arbitrary

4. Alston’s (/Adams') Attempted Solution to the Euthyphro-like Dilemma: God, Kripke, and the Standard Meter Stick
4.1 Identify God himself, and not his properties, as the ultimate standard of Goodness 
4.2 On this sort of view, when it comes to goodness, God functions in a way analogous to Kripke's  standard meter stick (the SMS for short) functions in grounding the truth-conditions of 'meter'
4.3 While the length of SMS is not analyzed in terms of any other standard beyond itself, the SMS serves as the standard by which all other lengths have the property of being a meter in length: an object is a meter in length just in case its length exactly resembles the length of that stick (viz., the SMS).
4.4 Similarly, while God (qua the Good) is not analyzed in terms of any other standard beyond himself, he serves as the standard by which all other entities have the property of goodness: an object is good just to the extent that it resembles that being (viz., God qua the Good).

5. Problems for Alston’s (/Adams’) Version
5.1 The meter stick illustration fails, part I: like Kripke’s case, it’s arbitrary what we use to fix the referent of ‘Good’.
5.1.1 The standard meter stick is replacable — any old stick of that length can play the same role, so why can’t any old being — or even just the combination of properties — play the role of the Good? Appeal to God as standard is arbitrary in at least this sense (see Jeremy Koons' paper for other senses)
5.1.2 Reply: No, only God has the unique morally perfect nature to play the role (only God is perfectly loving, just, etc.)
5.1.3 Rejoinder: If this is the answer, then we have reverted back to the Platonic account of Goodness, as the justification is that God uniquely has the Good-making properties. So it’s the properties that do the work after all.
5.1.4 Reply: Not being satisfied with Alston's (/Adams'  -EA) "God = the Good" account reveals an arbitrary preference for the Platonic account. For neither account can give a further answer as to why the analysans should/must be counted as the Good (property combo vs. God). But explanations must come to an end somewhere.
5.1.5 Rejoinder: Maybe so, but that’s a problem that works to the advantage of the Platonist. For their theory is simpler without loss of scope and fit. The Platonist says it’s enough to say that goodness supervenes on the combination of properties that make up God’s nature. Alston says, no, that’s not enough; goodness supervenes on this combination of properties only because of the further fact that they are the characteristics of God. more complicated superfluous theological window-dressing
5.1.6 Reply: the complication isn’t superfluous; these character-constituting properties can’t have moral force without there being instantiated in a person who has that character. 
5.1.7 Rejoinder (tu quoque) Not true: both accounts fail to entail that anyone who understands the moral ideal thereby has at least some inclination to pursue it. Compare: “I understand the property of being compassionate, but I have not the slightest desire to be compassionate.” “The creator of the universe is compassionate, but I have not the slightest desire to be compassionate.” on both the Platonic and Alstonian (/Adamsian  -EA) accounts, there will be some who aren’t motivated to be moral.
5.1.8 Reply: the complication is worth it, as it preserves God’s sovereignty, while the Platonist account does not.
5.1.9 Rejoinder: No it doesn’t. More on this below.
5.2 The Meter Stick illustration fails, part II: God and the standard meter play similar roles in the truth conditions for the application of the predicates in question.
5.2.1 On the standard Kripkean account, the standard meter is used only to fixthe reference of ‘meter’. As such: Other sticks with the same length would work equally well. Other sticks would still have the property of being a meter long even if the standard meter stick shrunk, expanded, or was annihilated.
5.2.2 Therefore, the SMS does not figure in the analysis of whatit is to be a meter long.
5.2.3 True, it can serve as a criterion for determining when the truth- conditions for applying the predicate ‘meter’ are satisfied, but that’s not the same thing.
5.2.4 Therefore, if God played the same role with ‘Good” as the standard meter stick plays with ‘meter’ then, analogously, God would not figure into the analysis of what the Good is. Indeed, if the analogy is meant to be tight, it would be the relevant properties God has, and by which we mean to fix the reference of ‘Good” that does the heavy lifting here. Goodness supervenes directly on the properties, and not directly on God's being. Even if God’s nature changed, or he stopped existing, the validity of those properties of the standard would remain unchanged.
5.2.5 Therefore, if they play similar roles, then the analogy supports the Platonic account, and not the Alston/Adams view.
5.2.6 Reply: The problem here goes no deeper than Alston’s chosen analogy of the standard meter stick and the predicate, ‘meter’. If we pick another predicate — say, Reaganeque or Clintonesque— then the illustration goes through: the relevant persons must figure into the truth- conditions for predicate ascription in these cases. Similarly for God with ‘The Good’.
5.2.7 Rejoinder 1: This isn’t clearly so. Example. A fictional character like Don Quixote can figure into the truth-conditions for ‘quixotic’, in which case no real person must exist to do that work. But if not, then it’s not clear why the existence of Reagan or Clinton must figure into the truth- conditions of ‘Reaganesque’ and ‘Clintonesque’.
5.2.8 Rejoinder 2: The heart of the issue: concerns whether God plays an essential role in the truth-conditions for the applicability of ‘Good’. And the answer seems to be ‘no’. Our intuitions here largely depend on our intuitions about the following counterpossibles:
1. If God did not exist, then no one could be morally good or bad.
2. If God were not loving or just, then no one could be morally good or bad. But both seem clearly false. But if so, then God plays no essential role in the truth- conditions for the applicability of ‘Good’
5.2.9 Objection: Lewis-Stalnaker semantics for counterfactuals entail that counterpossibles are true.
5.2.10 Reply: Yes, but only because they entail that they are vacuously true, which they are not. To see this, compare:
3. If God did not exist, then a person could still be morally good or bad.
4. If God were not loving or just, then a person could still be morally good or bad.
The person who accepts Alston’s analysis of ‘Good’ is committed to saying that (3) and (4) are both false. So they’re likewise committed to denying that all counterpossibles are vacuously true, in which case, they’re committed to rejecting Lewis-Stalnaker semantics, in which case they can’t consistently raise the present objection.

6. Implications of Platonism I: Ways in Which Platonism Doesn’t Restrict God’s Sovereignty
6.1 It doesn’t compromise God’s moral authority
6.1.1 God is omniscient, and so he has perfect knowledge of morality.
6.1.2 For the same reason, he has perfect knowledge of what’s in our hearts
6.1.3 He is also perfectly good, 
6.1.4 If so, then his moral authority is intact
6.2 It doesn’t compromise God’s sovereignty over creation
6.2.1 God creates our natures
6.2.2 Our natures determine what is harmful and beneficial for us
6.2.3 As such, they partly determine what is morally right and wrong for us
6.2.4 In this way, God is the source of moral truths about what is good and bad for us.
6.3 It’s compatible with God creating obligations by issuing commands
6.3.1 It could turn out that it’s a necessary truth (though not in virtue of God’s commands) that creatures ought to obey the commands of a loving creator.
6.3.2 The content of these commands need not even reflect necessary truths (e.g., we ought to obey the Sabbath)

7. Implications of Platonism II: Ways in Which Platonism Restricts God’s Sovereignty
7.1 Puts standards of supreme moral goodness beyond God’s control
7.1.1 Not created by God
7.1.2 Not causally dependent upon God
7.1.3 Not identical to God (contra divine simplicity theorists)
7.1.4 God is subject to them: he must live up to them to be good.
7.2 This isn’t problematic
7.2.1 The same goes for the laws of mathematics and logic
7.2.2 Almost all philosophers have no problem with this
7.2.3 So, they shouldn’t have a problem with moral goodness God could make it that 1 and 1 equal 3 God could make it that it’s morally good to be cruel Both seem equally impossible
7.3 No plausible theory accepts that there are no limits on God’s sovereignty
7.3.1 Even theistic activists like Morris deny that God could make the laws of logic and math different
7.3.2 On both the Platonic account and Alston’s(/Adams' -EA) account, the standard of moral goodness is not up to god. For according to them: God is essentially morally perfect by nature It’s not up to God what his nature is, God’s nature fixes the standards of moral goodness. Therefore, it is not up to God what the moral standard of goodness is. Therefore, even modified divine command theory, like Platonism, makes moral goodness beyond the control of God.
( Therefore, it’s not at all clear that modified divine command theory is motivated over straight Platonism)

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