Neither Random nor Predetermined

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2 Responses

  1. J Zukerman says:

    For the Jewish Euthyphro’s Dilemma:
    My understanding was that mitzvot were holy because they conform to the nature of HaShem. People are told we are to be holy, to be like HaShem, and following the mitzvot are the way to get there. It’s the best way we have to know his nature. An act isn’t good just because he, on a whim, commanded it, but because it is him. But maybe I’m missing something?

  2. micha says:

    R’ Moshe Averick would agree with you. See his recent essay at the Nishma web site. My own position on Euthyphro wasn’t really spelled out on this one, here I reference my earlier post and build from that.

    The difference is subtle, since Hashem made man for some purpose that is best served by making us in His Image, in a manner in which we can make that Image ever closer (or G-d forbid further) from the Original. Thus, to be one is to be the other. G-d’s purpose obviously would therefore come from His Essence, everything has to lead back to that. But I’m not defining morality directly as imitating Him. In addition, we don’t know His Essence, we know How He shows Himself to us. Which eliminates the power of your answer.

    Second, we don’t always imitate G-d; murder is immoral, but natural death is common. The fact that G-d kills doesn’t mean we can. And last, my answer obviates the need of asking and answering “Why follow G-d? If the creator was an infinite but evil [as we now understand the term, one who would say ‘thou shalt slowly torture to death’] deity, would I be compelled to follow?” I would argue that if any of our actions have meaning, it’s because we are significant creatures. So, either our purpose for being here is morally significant, or our actions have no moral import and our moral decisions pointless anyway.

    My preference is to define morality in terms of His purpose in creating us rather than in Hashem’s Essence directly for a couple of reasons:

    1- It allows me to give the word “tov” (good) a single meaning, whether we’re talking about a good pen or a good person. A good pen is one that writes well, that is good at its intended function. A good person is moral, which is also being good at its intended function. (This being Judaism, it’s more critical to me that the same can be said of “tov” in Biblical Hebrew.)

    2- If morality means “in the image of G-d”, ascribing morality to G-d then becomes vacuous — He is what He is. However, if it means “doing what He made us for” we are saying that everything G-d does is purposive, to serve His Ultimate Purpose. If G-d’s actions are termed “moral”, but moral means “in accordance with G-d as He is” then saying that G-d’s actions are moral reduces to “G-d behaves in accordance with G-d.” Circular.

    3- (And by far the weakest:) It also fits a very modern notion of reward and punishment. Not so much that sin is punished by that by definition, sin is that which doesn’t fit your function and thus minimizes your gain.

    -micha

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