Archive for the ‘emotivism’ Category

Bertrand Russell’s misunderstanding of Christian ethics

August 7, 2009

Is there any standard of ‘good’ and ‘bad’, except what the man using these words desires?…At this point, religion has, at first sight, a simple answer. God determines what is good and what bad; the man whose will is in harmony with the will of God is a good man. Yet this answer is not quite orthodox. Theologians say that God is good, and this implies that there is a standard of goodness which is independent of God’s will (my emph.). We are thus forced to face the question: Is there objective truth or falsehood in such a statement as ‘pleasure is good’, in the same sense as in such a statement as ‘snow is white’?

Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, p.133

Russell, like Hume before him, is wrong to conclude that the statement, ‘God is good’ implies a standard of goodness outside of God. (He wanted this to be so for personal reasons so he could carry on his sexual infidelities.)

The God of the Bible defines goodness and is not held up to it as if it were an external benchmark to Himself. To object to this line of reasoning, as if God were defining goodness arbitrarily, would be to judge God by some standard of ‘goodness’ that cannot be substantiated.

Russell himself, when pressed by Coplestone could only distinguish ‘good’ and ‘evil’ with this answer, ‘…on the basis of my feelings’. Which is what it tends to come down to when God is rejected as the standard of good and evil.