In the previous column I presented the argument between me and David Enoch (see HERE The recording) on the question of whether God is needed as a basis for the validity of morality (or: Is without God all things permissible). In the course of the discussion, the moderator (Jeremy Fogel) raised the dilemma of Othipron, who on the face of it seemed unrelated to the discussion. After a while I was reminded of a bull 278 I have already dealt with the dilemma and its implications for the evidence from morality (the hanging of morality on God). In the above discussion I have answered the question briefly, and here I will return to this issue in order to clarify its connection to the debate with Enoch and to sharpen the distinctions I made there and in the previous column.
It is important for me to preface by noting that the concept of God in which I deal with this column is not necessarily the same as the “lean” God I dealt with in the previous column. Some of the suggestions I make here are an addition that is not part of the "lean" God required to give validity to the rules of morality. I will return to this point at the end of the column.
The Othipron Dilemma
In the Platonic dialogue A. Eitifron The following question is posed: Is the good good because the gods want it, or do the gods want the good because it is good. In other words, the question is whether there is an objective meaning to good, or whether what makes it good is the decision of the gods, but to the same extent they could decide that any other behavior is good or bad. Everything is devoted to their arbitrary will. A similar question can of course also be raised in relation to Gd, and Avi Sagi and Daniel Statman, in their book Religion and morality, Hold a very detailed discussion of the issue. Their conclusion there is that almost all Jewish thinkers advocate the latter option. I will not go into all the nuances and arguments that arise in the above book in general (I think there are some inaccuracies in it), and I will confine myself to a brief overview of the basic rationale for both sides.
On the one hand, theologically we assume that God is omnipotent and not subject to anything. there are none but Him. He created the world and established the laws that prevail in it. The implication is that he could have determined them in any other way he could have imagined. Hence there is no objective meaning to good and evil. On the other hand, if one adopts this view, the conclusion is that it is impossible to say that God is good. The statement that God is good assumes that there is a good that is defined regardless of him, and the argument is that there is a fit between his behavior and requirements and the same objective criterion for good. But if it is his decision that defines the concept of good, then the statement that God is good is nothing but a tautological definition (or analytical theorem) and not an argument. Basically it means: God wants what he wants. But this is true for all of us.
Many theologians (and even the little selfish one joins them) tend to think this is a problematic position. God is really good and could not have been otherwise. This of course assumes that the good is objectively defined and God in his own right is subject to this definition. He of course could have confused us and blinded our eyes not to distinguish between good and evil, but he could not otherwise determine the good and the bad. As I mentioned, despite the theological difficulties, it seems that most thinkers of Jewish thought hold the second approach.
Understanding and teaching
The first conception could be refined a little, and formulated as follows: We have an intuition about good and evil. The argument is that God's will conforms to the same intuition. But this intuition has been planted in us by him, so there is really no objective concept of good and evil. Thus it can be said that this statement is indeed a claim (and not a definition), but at the same time it is a claim that deals with our concepts and not the world itself. As for the world itself, the statement “God is good” means nothing (it is an empty identity, a tautology).
This is a particular case of the problem of the relationship between meaning and teaching. Taking an example that analytical philosophers often use (see e.g. HERE), The claim: The star of dawn is the star of the evening. It is what has been considered for some time as two different stars (one is seen in the evening and the other in the morning), but in the end it became clear to us that it is the same star itself. We are now asked: Is this claim an empty claim or definition (analytical theorem)? Does it have any content or is it an empty tautology? Ostensibly such a sentence says nothing, since it is an identity between a thing and itself. But our sense is that there is some novelty in this sentence. It teaches us something about our own concepts. The two stars we thought were different are the same star itself. This sentence changes our knowledge of the world, even though in terms of its objective content it seems like an empty identity.
Note that this is the case for any identity claim of the type: a is b. Assuming this claim is correct, then it actually means: a is a, i.e. an empty tautology. The analytical solution to the problem of the meaning of identity claims is the distinction between meaning and teaching. Analytical philosophers (following Frege) say that according to such an identity there is meaning but not instruction (or color). It has a meaning that is neither empty nor trivial for us, but if you look at what it points to in the world, it is a trivial identity claim.
We can now return to the Othipron dilemma. By the side that God is defining good and evil, it can be argued that the statement that he is good has meaning but not instruction. In terms of its teaching (color) it is empty since it is good by the very definition of good. Everything he would do would leave him under the definition of good, so Amira who is good is empty of content (analytical).
But it's hard for me to accept even this mild wording. The simple feeling is that God is indeed supposed to be good, meaning that the claim that he is good is not an empty definition but a claim. If this were not the case, there would be no point in engaging in the goodness of God, and there would be no questions about it from conduct that seems to us immoral (such as the binding of Isaac, the destruction of Amalek, and the like). It should be understood that if what God wants is defined as good then there is no room for moral doubts about it. He commanded to follow Isaac and therefore the binding of Isaac is a good thing. The feeling as if there is a dissonance here between divine commandment and morality points to our starting point that God is good. Just as the existence of an ethical debate indicates the objectivity of ethics (otherwise there would have been nothing to argue about) and the existence of an ethical critique indicates the objectivity of the ethical facts (otherwise there is no room for criticism of unethical attitudes and behaviors).
The conclusion is that simple religious intuition teaches us as the other side of the Othipron dilemma that good is objectively and forcibly defined even by God. That is, God wants things because they are good and not the other way around. Only in this way can it be argued that it is good, and also criticize it (or seek explanations) for instances of misconduct. But as we have seen this approach raises the opposite difficulty, and I will now go on to address it.
Between the laws of physics and the "laws" of logic
This approach raises the opposite theological difficulty. How is it possible that God, who created everything and everything was made by his power, is still subject to an external set of laws that he did not enact? To understand this, we must return to the distinction I have made here in the past between two types of laws (see e.g. column 278). God, of course, is not subject to the laws of physics, for he created them, and the mouth that forbade is the mouth that allowed. He is also not subject to the laws of the state of course (if only because he is not a citizen of it). But on the other hand it is definitely "subject" to the laws of logic. The laws of logic are "forced" on God. He cannot make a round triangle or deviate from logic, simply because there is no such thing as a round triangle and no such animal deviates from logic. A triangle by definition is not round. This is not due to any legislation imposed on the triangle out of necessity, but by its very nature. By its very definition as a triangle it follows that it is not round and cannot be round. Therefore the inability to form a round triangle is not due to an external constraint imposed on Gd, and therefore it is also not a limitation on all its ability, or a disadvantage in it.
An omnipotent creature is capable of doing everything imaginable even in the imagination. But a round triangle is an empty concept. There is no such thing and it is unthinkable. Therefore God's inability to create such a thing is not a disadvantage in His ability. Imagine someone asking you if God can make a round triangle. I would ask him to explain this concept to me first and then maybe I could answer it. He of course will not be able to explain it (does it have sharp angles or not? What is the sum of its angles? Are all the points on it an equal distance from that point?), So the question is self-evident.
As I explained there, what underlies the confusion is the term “law,” which is used in these two contexts in a different sense. The laws of physics are laws that God enacted in the nature of creation. This legislation is his decision to create a particular nature for the world that he created from several different possibilities. He could also have created other laws of nature. In contrast, the laws of logic are not laws in the same sense. The use of the term “law” in the logical context is borrowed. It is simply the definition of things and not something external that is forced upon them. The triangle is not round neither because someone forbids it nor because it is forbidden. By virtue of being a triangle it is simply not round. Therefore it is not correct to say here that God chose one logical system out of several possible systems. There is no other logical system. Henceforth in a context similar to that of the laws of logic I will use the term “law” in quotation marks.
The status of the laws of morality
The question that now arises is the status of the laws of morality: Are these laws in the sense of the laws of physics, or are they "laws" in the sense of the "laws" of logic? Those who advocate the first side of the Othipron dilemma believe that the laws of morality are similar to the laws of physics, and therefore it is God who determines and defines them. The other side of the dilemma, on the other hand, assumes that the "laws" of morality are similar to the "laws" of logic (these are "laws" and not laws), and are therefore forced on God. He could not have created a different system of moral laws. For example, he cannot create a world in which another morality will prevail (that murdering or torturing people will have positive actions). Morality by definition prohibits murder.
He can of course create a world where people will enjoy torture (would it be right in such a world to call them “torture”?), And then there might not be a moral problem in causing suffering. But where causing suffering is not unfortunate. Painting people is a bad thing in any possible world. It is about a realistically different world, i.e. a world where suffering does not cause sorrow. One can also think of a world where the teasing of people is defined as good, but it is not a world with a different morality but a world where people are blind to the rules of morality (and also the God who created it is not moral). You can change any parameter in the nature of the world and create a different world where it will be different. But given the nature of that particular world, the rules of morality are derived from them unequivocally (they are forced upon us). It seems to me that this is what underlies the well-known statement of the Ramchal, "the good nature to do good." Gd by nature should do good. He has no other option (it is forced on him).
This means that the claim "murder is bad" is analytical, just like the law of contradiction. While this is an ethical fact, it is not contingent (but necessary). Therefore there is no impediment to claiming that it is forced (or rather: "forced") on God, just as logic is "forced" on him. This is different from the laws of nature for example. Take as an example the claim of the law of gravity: any two objects with mass attract each other by a force that is proportional to the product of mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. This is not an analytical claim, and it can be false. There could have been a world where the law of gravity would be different (e.g. a force that is proportional to the distance in the third). Such a law is therefore devoted to God, and only his own decision has determined its content.
How it fits in with the previous column
In the previous column I argued that there can be no valid morality without God. Does this not contradict my claim here that morality is forced upon God and before him, and therefore also not a product of his will? Apparently there is a frontal contradiction here. Now I understand that this was probably what Jeremy Fogel, the facilitator, meant, who raised the Othipron dilemma in our discussion and asked me my opinion about it.
In the discussion itself I briefly explained that I distinguish between the definition of good and evil and our commitment to them. The definition of good and evil is forced on God and can not be otherwise. Even he can not determine that murder is good, or that helping others is bad. But the commitment to do good and avoid evil does not exist without God. In other words, the normative claim that murder is forbidden, meaning that there is a binding validity to the ethical fact of the murder prohibition, is not forced on God. It is derived from his commandment and is wrought by him.
Returning to the concept of 'ethical facts', we can put it this way: they may exist on their own, as David Enoch claims (i.e. not God created them), but as I argued against him even if they exist and are placed in some corner of the world of ideas (is), It still cannot be binding on me (ought). I will mention that in the previous column I distinguished between the question of who created the ethical facts (in which Enoch dealt) and the question of who gives them validity (in which I dealt). What I have described here is that while God did not create the ethical facts (they are forced upon Him), only His commandment can give them binding force.
One may now ask what obligates God himself in morality? If he is good then he too should be committed to morality (to his categorical order). Is he bound by his own commandment? This is very strange, and in fact also contradicts my claim from the previous column that an external factor is needed that will give de Dicto validity to the law.
I think it would be right to say that God is really not committed to morality, but chooses it. He does not choose what morality is (for it is an absolute and rigid statistic that is not in his hands) but he chooses to please and demand from his creatures moral conduct. This is similar to my claim in the previous column towards Ari Alon, that a person can legislate for himself whether to be moral or not, but he can not legislate the laws of morality themselves (define what is good and what is bad). If so, both man and God are bound by the laws of morality. The definition of good and evil is forced upon them and not given to them. But God can command morality and thus give these definitions binding force towards us, and man can not do that either.
I will now add another tier to the image. It is difficult to talk about a temporary advance of the ethical facts (definitions of good and evil) to God, since he has always existed. Before him there was nothing because there is no time before him. There is not and can not be a world, even an imaginary one, in which God does not exist. But theoretically there may be a world where God does not command to be moral (unless we assume that his good nature forces him to do good and demand benefit). Notice that we have now learned that morality does precede the divine command, but not God. It's about the temporary advance. But to the same extent there is also a substantial forward.
Ethical facts do not rely on divine commandment, nor are they the work of God. But there is still no meaning to the claim that morality exists even without God. Assuming that God is the one whose existence is necessary (and here I am talking about the religious God, and not the "lean" one from the previous column), then it is impossible to speak of a reality in which there is a necessary existence that does not exist. Therefore even if morality (or ethical facts) exists without a commandment it cannot be said that it exists without God. Although even if both exist in parallel, the ethical facts still do not necessarily rely on God.
But now we may be able to arrive at a slightly different definition: the moral facts are a bone of God's self (it is literally "good nature to do good" literally), they exist as he exists, and as he necessarily exists and always they necessarily exist and always. And yet their validity is neither permanent nor necessary. They have no binding force without being commanded to do so.
Between serving God and Asher did not work
In the opening of the column I insisted that the concept of God discussed in this column is not the "lean" God from the previous column (the God required to give validity to moral laws and ethical facts). You will realize this when you review again the various suggestions that have been made here regarding the fact that there is a necessity that always exists, and regarding the fact that the ethical facts are perhaps part of its powers and that it is natural to do good and more. These are all additions that "make" a little "fat" the "thin" and minimalist thing I dealt with in the previous column.
This is because the discussion in the present column takes place entirely in the theological sphere, and not just the meta-ethical one. In fact, the Othipron dilemma itself belongs to the theological sphere. Without theology it would not have been a problem to claim that God defines the laws of morality (because there was no need to assume that the statement that he is good is an argument about him and not a definition), then the dilemma would not have been created. In addition, in the philosophical count also there was no contradiction to my words in the previous column. If God defines good and evil (the ethical facts) then it fits perfectly with what I argued in the previous column, and there was no need for this whole column. My purpose here was to reconcile my meta-ethical claim from the previous column with the God of the theological (Jewish-Christian) plane on whom the assumption is that he is good. This is a clear theological discussion (and not a meta-ethical one).
The Othipron dilemma regarding religious values
Several times in the past I have pointed out the difference between religious values and moral values (see for example a column 15, Beginning of my book Walks between the standing And much more). The solution I propose to the contradictions between halakhah and morality lies in the fact that these are two independent value systems. Act X can be halakhically committed (because it promotes religious value A), but at the same time morally forbidden (because it offends moral value B). Religious values are immoral, and sometimes they can stand in stark contrast to moral values and sometimes only in a state of conflict (when the conflict arises only in certain situations). My contention is that there is no impediment to such contradictions, and in fact it is more correct to say that these are not contradictions (there is no difficulty on the theoretical level in such situations), but conflicts (it is difficult to decide what to do on the practical level).
Following this, Tirgitz asked the following question (bTalkback To the previous column):
This means that in the next column you will also deal with the otter with regard to religious values and other values, which in your opinion are values by virtue of which Gd allows himself to shake off any moral obligation. And this ostensibly means that even God did not enact Himself arbitrarily.
I will explain his question. According to my method, God commands us to have anti-moral precepts in order to promote religious values. If so, Tirgitz argues, it seems that religious values are also forced on him and are not the result of his arbitrary will (his sovereign legislation). If the commandments were not "halakhic facts" imposed on God but were created by His legislation, then He could have enacted them differently. In such a situation I would expect that if he wanted (and inherited) to do good he would not enact laws that run counter to morality. The existence of conflicts indicates that the laws of halakhah (or religious values, which the same laws of halakhah promote) are also forced on Gd, and therefore he is caught (or bullies us) out of necessity to these conflicts.
This is a great question, and I think he is right. Just as there are ethical facts there are also halakhic facts. These and those do not depend on God and are forced upon Him. At the beginning of the third book in the trilogy I was about to compare the Kantian picture of moral behavior as honoring the categorical order with the halakhic picture I offer of doing a mitzvah as honoring the commitment to the commandment. Here we see that this analogy continues.
This brings me to another question by Tirgitz, which was asked a few days earlier (see rolling discussion in the thread HERE). In the moral context it is common to think that in situations of conflict between values, then even if I had a justification to do X and go over Y, there is still a problem that I went over Y. I should feel sorrow or sadness for hurting a person or doing something immoral, even if I had to do this. Tirgitz asked whether such sorrow should also appear in the halakhic context (Q.)spoken: "Sorrow for you and sorrow for me"). That is, should I regret that because I was engaged in a mitzvah I did not shake the lulav (or that because I was sick I did not fast on Yom Kippur), just as I regret that because I went to war I had to kill people (and sometimes civilians as well). In short, his question is whether there is a difference between halakhah and morality in this matter.
I answered him there that I think there is a difference between the contexts: in the moral context even if some value is rejected in front of another value, I should still feel sorrow or dissonance for going over the rejected value (I hurt a person). On the other hand, in halakhah if there is no obligation and I have done what is incumbent on me there is no reason to regret what I have not fulfilled. It is perfectly permissible and no one is harmed.
But this distinction assumes that in halakhah there is only the commandment and when there is no commandment nothing happened. But in light of the picture that emerges here it seems that I need to come back to myself from this distinction. If we assume that the halakhic commandment came to promote religious values, then even if I violated the halakhah justly (because of another halakhah that rejected it), still something in the spiritual world was harmed by it (I acted contrary to the halakhic fact and brought spiritual harm). It seems that the picture I have presented here shows that there is really no difference between halakhah and morality in this matter.
Although on further thought it can be argued that in theory if I did something allowed then the spiritual damage was also avoided (see Articles On citric acid on Passover, where I brought sources that write so). It can be said that Gd works a miracle and prevents the damage so that there will be no mishap by a righteous person like me who is faithful to the law. This of course does not happen on the moral plane. There even if I had to hurt moral value, the damage is inevitable. The difference stems from the fact that in the moral context these are physical facts and in the halakhic context these are spiritual facts. God does not change physics because he does not interfere in the conduct of the physical world, but he does change the spiritual facts (because in the spiritual world he does interfere. There it is not mechanically conducted). It is important to note that while as we have seen ethical facts are not physical facts, they are dependent on physical facts (harm or suffering to a person for example). For example, if I stole money from someone to save a life, then even if it is allowed and maybe even a mitzvah, the damage to the thief happened and there is no reason to regret it (here it will not happen a miracle that God will return the money to him).
The implication will be for cases as I described in the previous column, where the categorical order tells me that I must not do an X even though it has no negative result. In such cases it seems that if the thing is rejected for another value there is nothing to regret. This is similar to the situation in the halakhic sphere. For example, suppose I raise a thousand NIS tax to save a person's life. In such a case I have nothing to regret about tax evasion as it has no negative result (I explained this in the previous column). Beyond the problematic result that does not exist, what is here is only a transgression of the categorical order, but this of course was justified in these circumstances. In fact, it is more accurate to say that I did not violate the categorical order at all in such a situation. General law says that everyone should evade tax in order to save a life.
 In the previous column I explained why the law of contradiction as a logical-analytical claim does not require justification. This is the same idea from a slightly different angle.
 Think about the question of whether God can create a wall that is resistant to all the bullets and also a bullet that penetrates all the walls. The answer to this is negative of course, because if the ball he created penetrates all the walls then there is no wall that is resistant to it, and therefore there is no wall that is resistant to all the balls, and vice versa. The inability of God to create two such objects simultaneously does not impair his ability. Simply on the logical level there is no such reality. See HERE Implications for the stone question that God can not lift, andHERE On the question of natural evil (see also the second book in my trilogy in the tenth chapter).
 The conclusion is that his good (whistling) is different from ours. He does not have binding laws that he obeys, but he is the one who gives them validity. The person is bound by the categorical order whose validity is given to him, and therefore a decision must be made to act in accordance with it. God, on the other hand, is not committed, but chooses to give it validity. Ramchal will say that his nature is to do good.
 See articles on the categorical order in halakhah, which shows a continuation of the analogy between halakhah and morality, but this time it concerns content and not the logical structure. There I argue that the categorical order has halakhic status.
 I will bring up here an initial thought that still requires incandescence. I think there is some difference after all. In the moral context there is the commitment to moral values, but in halakhah there is both the commitment to religious values and the obligation to obey an order by virtue of being a divine order (regardless of the fact that it also promotes religious values). The assumption here is that in morality there is no divine commandment but only a divine will that we act in this way. The categorical order does not have the status of a mitzvah within the framework of halakhah (although I claim it has halakhic status. See my articles HERE).
It follows that when I do not fast on Yom Kippur because I am ill, the dimension of the commandment really does not exist, since the commandment in such a situation is to eat and not to fast. So from this eating no harm has happened and there is nothing to regret. On the other hand, in the moral context, even if some value is rightly rejected, the moral obligation to maintain it remains the same (except that it cannot be obeyed. In fact, I argue that in a moral conflict it is always 'rejected' and not 'allowed'). But in halakhah there is also the consequential dimension (the correction created from the mitzvah and the spoilage from the transgression), and in this respect there seems to be a resemblance to what we have seen in the moral context. It has to do with the distinction between the existence of de dicto and the existence of de re, and so on.