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The Christmas Conspiracy!




"'. . . that He may teach us about His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.'
For from Zion will go forth the Law
Even the Word of God from Jerusalem
Micah 4:2


Plato reacted to the moral relativism of the Sophists of his day; although denying their maxim "man is the measure of all things," Plato ended up reintroducing it in a different way. The Sophists were moral subjectivists who viewed value [282] as relative to human tradition; of course their relativism made moral prescriptions (universal statements of obligation) impossible. Against this Plato developed a school of axiological realism (i.e., moral absolutism or objectivism); he held that moral values were independent of human relativities and acknowledgment. However, correlative to his axiological realism was the autonomy of ethics from religion (cf. Euthyphro). Plato maintained that there is right and wrong even if the gods do not exist, and he held that a person could get answers to his ethical questions without religious revelation. Plato posed this question: Is a certain behavior approved by the gods because it is good, or is it good because it is approved by the gods? All non-Christian ethicists have assented to the former alternative along with Plato. When it comes to deciding or knowing what is good, man is (eventually) the judge, not God. Plato and all subsequent ethical philosophy are indifferent to what God has to say about holiness; moral good will be discovered and analyzed by looking within, by looking to man’s thought. More on Greco-Roman Humanism is found here.
Of course Plato’s question was a false antithesis; by setting it up in the way he did, Plato could make God look totally arbitrary or capricious in determining what is good and evil. The truth of the matter is that good is not independent of God. Certain behavior is good because God approves it, and God approves it because it is the creaturely expression of His holiness-in other words, it is good. To be good is to be like God, and we can only know what behavior is good if God reveals and approves it to us. The important point is that good is what God approves and cannot be ascertained independent of Him, but Plato and the history of ethics turned away from this and down the alley of autonomy.  
By a very unconvincing line of reasoning (cf. Republic) Plato ends up asserting that man’s particular virtue is justice, that is, to live the life of reason. (Does man qua man have one particular function? Must that function be tied up with reason and the intellect? Could not someone hold that the [283] appetites should govern the reason just as capriciously as Plato asserts the opposite? Given that man’s observed function is that of living reasonably, ought it to be? etc.) Plato arbitrarily posits "Good" above nonbeing and evil (and he would accuse the gods of this same caprice!). Contrary to moral experience Plato’s ethical system requires him to hold that no man knowingly does evil (universal psychological egoism). And at base Plato’s ethic turns out to be ignoble and self-centered hedonism, for the reason he offers that man ought to be "good" (have reason govern the appetites and spirit in order to gain a harmonious soul) is that it leads to a life which is happier, more satisfying, and richer. Plato’s ethic is adrift from credibility, the facts of moral experience, genuine direction, and authority. Even if there are moral absolutes on Plato’s basis, one has no assurance of knowing what they are: the testimony of the philosophical "priests" is hopelessly conflicting. After all, it is Plato’s word against that of Protagoras.  

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