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But his view is not an objection to tying morality and religion together. He hints at the end of the dialogue Euthyphro , 13de that the right way to link them is to see that when we do good we are serving the gods well. Plato probably does not intend for us to construe the dialogues together as a single philosophical system, and we must not erase the differences between them.

But it is significant that in the Theaetetus b , Socrates says again that our goal is to be as like the god as possible, and since the god is in no way and in no manner unjust, but as just as it is possible to be, nothing is more like the god than the one among us who becomes correspondingly as just as possible. In several dialogues this thought is connected with a belief in the immortality of the soul; we become like the god by paying attention to the immortal and best part of ourselves e.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is also tied to the doctrine of the Forms, whereby things with characteristics that we experience in this life e. This train of thought sees the god or gods as like a magnet, drawing us to be like them by the power of their goodness or excellence. In Plato's Ion d , the divine is compared to a magnet to which is attached a chain of rings, through which the attraction is passed.


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This conception is also pervasive in Aristotle —22 , Plato's student for twenty years. Mention of the divine is not merely conventional for Aristotle, but does important philosophical work. In the Eudemian Ethics b5—22 he tells us that the goal of our lives is service and contemplation of the god. He thinks that we become like what we contemplate, and so we become most like the god by contemplating the god. Incidentally, this is why the god does not contemplate us; for this would mean becoming less than the god, which is impossible.

As in Plato, the well-being of the city takes precedence over the individual, and this, too, is justified theologically.

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It is nobler and more divine to achieve an end for a city than for an individual NE b9— Aristotle draws a distinction between what we honor and what we merely commend NE , b10— There are six states for a human life, on a normative scale from best to worst: divine which exceeds the merely human on the one extreme , virtuous without wrongful desire , strong-willed able to overcome wrongful desire , weak-willed unable to do so , vicious and bestial which exceeds the merely human on the other extreme, and which Aristotle says is mostly found among barbarians NE , a15— The highest form of happiness, which he calls blessedness, is something we honor as we honor gods, whereas virtue we merely commend.

It would be as wrong to commend blessedness as it would be to commend gods NE , a10—a The activity of the god, he says in the Metaphysics , is nous thinking itself b The best human activity is the most god-like, namely thinking about the god and about things that do not change. Aristotle's virtue ethics, then, needs to be understood against the background of these theological premises. He is thinking of the divine, to use Plato's metaphor, as magnetic, drawing us, by its attractive power, to live the best kind of life possible for us.

This gives him a defense against the charge sometimes made against virtue theories that they simply embed the prevailing social consensus into an account of human nature. Aristotle defines ethical virtue as lying in a mean between excess and defect, and the mean is determined by the person of practical wisdom actually the male, since Aristotle is sexist on this point.

He then gives a conventional account of the virtues such a person displays such as courage, literally manliness, which requires the right amount of fear and confidence, between cowardice and rashness. There are tensions in Aristotle's account of virtue and happiness.

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It is not clear whether the Nicomachean Ethics has a consistent view of the relation between the activity of contemplation and the other activities of a virtuous life see Hare, God and Morality , chapter 1, and Sarah Broadie, Ethics with Aristotle , chapter 7. But the connection of the highest human state with the divine is pervasive in the text. One result of this connection is the eudaimonism mentioned earlier. If the god does not care about what is not divine for this would be to become like what is not divine , the highest and most god-like human also does not care about other human beings except to the degree they contribute to his own best state.

This degree is not negligible, since humans are social animals, and their well-being depends on the well-being of the families and cities of which they are members. Aristotle is not preaching self-sufficiency in any sense that implies we could be happy on our own, isolated from other human beings. But our concern for the well-being of other people is always, for him, contingent on our special relation to them. We therefore do not want our friends to become gods, even though that would be the best thing for them.

Finally, Aristotle ties our happiness to our end in Greek, telos ; for humans, as for all living things, the best state is its own activity in accordance with the natural function that is unique to each species. For humans the best state is happiness, and the best activity within this state is contemplation NE , b17— The Epicureans and Stoics who followed Aristotle differed with each other and with him in many ways, but they agreed in tying morality and religion together.

For the Epicureans, the gods do not care about us, though they are entertained by looking at our tragicomic lives rather as we look at soap operas on television. We can be released from a good deal of anxiety, the Epicureans thought, by realizing that the gods are not going to punish us. Our goal should be to be as like the gods as we can, enjoying ourselves without interruption, but for us this means limiting our desires to what we can obtain without frustration.

They did not mean that our happiness is self-interested in any narrow sense, because they held that we can include others in our happiness by means of our sympathetic pleasures. The Stoics likewise tied the best kind of human life, for them the life of the sage, to being like the divine.

The sage follows nature in all his desires and actions, and is thus the closest to the divine. Morality and religion are connected in the Hebrew Bible primarily by the category of God's command. Such commands come already in the first chapter of Genesis. In the second chapter God tells Adam that he is free to eat from any tree in the garden, but he must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

When Eve and Adam disobey and eat of that fruit, they are expelled from the garden. There is a family of concepts here that is different from what we met in Greek philosophy. God is setting up a kind of covenant by which humans will be blessed if they obey the commands God gives them. Human disobedience is not explained in the text, except that the serpent says to Eve that they will not die if they eat the fruit, but will be like God, knowing good and evil, and Eve sees the fruit as good for food and pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom.

After they eat, Adam and Eve know that they are naked, and are ashamed, and hide from God. As the story goes on, and Cain kills Abel, evil spreads to all the people of the earth, and Genesis describes the basic state as a corruption of the heart This idea of a basic orientation away from or towards God and God's commands becomes in the Patristic period of early Christianity the idea of a will.

In the Pentateuch, the story continues with Abraham, and God's command to leave his ancestral land and go to the land God promised to give him and his offspring Gen. Then there is the command to Abraham to kill his son, a deed prevented at the last minute by the provision of a ram instead Gen. Abraham's great grandchildren end up in Egypt, because of famine, and the people of Israel suffer for generations under Pharaoh's yoke.

Under Moses the people are finally liberated, and during their wanderings in the desert, Moses receives from God the Ten Commandments, in two tables or tablets Exod. The first table concerns our obligations to God directly, to worship God alone and keep God's name holy, and keep the Sabbath. The second table concerns our obligations to other human beings, and all of the commands are negative do not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet except for the first, which tells us to honor our fathers and mothers.

The Greeks had the notion of a kingdom, under a human king though the Athenians were in the classical period suspicious of such an arrangement. But they did not have the idea of a kingdom of God, though there is something approaching this in some of the Stoics.

This idea is explicable in terms of law, and is introduced as such in Exodus in connection with the covenant on Mt. The kingdom is the realm in which the laws obtain. This raises a question about the extent of this realm.

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The Ten Commandments are given in the context of a covenant with the people of Israel, though there are references to God's intention to bless the whole world through this covenant. The surrounding laws in the Pentateuch include prescriptions and proscriptions about ritual purity and sacrifice and the use of the land that seem to apply to this particular people in this particular place.

But the covenant that God makes with Noah after the flood is applicable to the whole human race, and universal scope is explicit in the Wisdom books, which make a continual connection between how we should live and how we were created as human beings. For example, in Proverbs 8 Wisdom raises her voice to all humankind, and says that she detests wickedness, which she goes on to describe in considerable detail.

She says that she was the artisan at God's side when God created the world and its inhabitants. Jesus sums up the commandments under two, the command to love God with all one's heart and soul and mind see Deuteronomy , and the command to love the neighbor as the self see Leviticus The New Testament is unlike the Hebrew Bible, however, in presenting a narrative about a man who is the perfect exemplification of obedience and who has a life without sin.

New Testament scholars disagree about the extent to which Jesus actually claimed to be God, but the traditional interpretation is that he did make this claim; in any case the Christian doctrine is that we can see in his life the clearest possible revelation in human terms both of what God is like and at the same time of what our lives ought to be like.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and those who hate and persecute us, and in this way he makes it clear that the love commandment is not based on reciprocity Matt —48; Luke — The theme of self-sacrifice is clearest in the part of the narrative that deals with Jesus' death. This event is understood in many different ways in the New Testament, but one central theme is that Jesus died on our behalf, an innocent man on behalf of the guilty. Jesus describes the paradigm of loving our neighbors as the willingness to die for them.

This theme is connected with our relationship to God, which we violate by disobedience, but which is restored by God's forgiveness through redemption.

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Timeline for the History of Judaism

In Paul's letters especially we are given a three-fold temporal location for the relation of morality to God's work on our behalf. We are forgiven for our past failures on the basis of Jesus' sacrifice Rom. We are reconciled now with God through God's adoption of us in Christ Rom.

And we are given the hope of future progress in holiness by the work of the Holy Spirit Rom. All of this theology requires more detailed analysis, but this is not the place for it. There is a contrast between the two traditions I have so far described, namely the Greek and the Judeo-Christian. The idea of God that is central in Greek philosophy is the idea of God attracting us, like a kind of magnet, so that we desire to become more like God, though there is a minority account by Socrates of receiving divine commands.

In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the notion of God commanding us is central. It is tempting to simplify this contrast by saying that the Greeks favor the good , in their account of the relation of morality and religion, and the Judeo-Christian account favors the right or obligation. It is true that the notion of obligation makes most sense against the background of command. But the picture is over-simple because the Greeks had room in their account for the constraint of desire; thus the temperate or brave person in Aristotle's picture has desires for food or sex or safety that have to be disciplined by the love of the noble.


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On the other side, the Judeo-Christian account adds God's love to the notion of God's command, so that the covenant in which the commands are embedded is a covenant by which God blesses us, and we are given a route towards our highest good which is union with God. The rest of the history to be described in this entry is a cross-fertilization of these two traditions or lines of thought.