Authors: Ian von Hegner
ABSTRACT: Science enriches us steadily with more and more knowledge about the workings of the universe, and it accomplishes this without invoking hypothetical gods as explanations. Still, it is a common assumption that the gods define what constitutes a purposeful life. Many followers of the gods are convinced that a purposeful life cannot exist without the gods to guarantee it; hence, denying the gods’ importance is equivalent to acknowledging that life is unpurposeful, an assumption that is here designated the Lavelle Consensus. Lavelle’s dilemma examines this consensus through the application of what is known as Euthyphro’s dilemma. The supporters of the Lavelle Consensus face a powerful dilemma: either a purposeful life rests on the gods’ arbitrary decisions, or the gods are not the originators of a purposeful life and life is therefore subject to an independent reality. Both horns of the dilemma compromise the need for the gods’ existence or reduce them to dictators without any right to command. Lavelle’s dilemma thus concerns itself with human beings’ freedom and purpose in life. If powerful beings command human beings, then they are not free; if powerful beings dictate purpose in life, then it is ipso facto not human beings’ purpose but their purpose. Thus, either an objective purposeful life exists, leaving science and philosophy to explain the content of this purpose, or a purposeful life is something all human beings are free to create themselves, which happens to be one of the purposes of philosophy.
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