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Unformatted text preview: The Euthyphro Dilemma:
The Euthyphro Dilemma:
Or, An Argument against Divine Command Theory pp. 43 44 What is Divine Command Theory:
What is Divine Command Theory:
The view that whatever God (or the gods) command is the right thing to do (and whatever He or they forbid is what is wrong).
What the Euthyphro Dilemma does is to call into question this particular doctrine. Right, let’s discuss the Plato reading first Right, let’s discuss the Plato reading first and we’ll get there. Here’s the all
[Socrates] “The point which I should first wish to understand is whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods”
[Euthyphro/You and me] “I do not understand your meaning, Socrates”! Before translating that—and it will need Before translating that—and it will need some!—let’s do a minor replacement. We’re not interested in piety, of course, so let’s replace the talk about piety and the holy with morality. It’s not what Socrates is discussing, yeah, but we can pose the same question for morality:
“The point which I should first wish to understand is whether a moral action is loved by the gods because it the right thing to do, or is the moral action the right thing to do because it is loved by the gods?” But, still, what the hell? Can you try that But, still, what the hell? Can you try that again in normal English?
Here’s a shot:
Is a moral action pleasing to God because it is (already) a good thing to do (regardless of what God says or likes), OR is a moral action a good thing to do BECAUSE it is a pleasing action to God? Or, as simple as possible:
Or, as simple as possible:
What’s first: God or morality?
Does God come before morality and tell us what the right and wrong actions are? Or is He in our boat, doing the best He can to figure out what’s the right and wrong thing to do (presumably doing a better job)? Yeah, okay, where is this going?
Yeah, okay, where is this going?
Well, obviously, we have to select one of the options. Either God mandates morality, or He doesn’t (and can only praise us for getting things right).
The problem is that when you accept either, there are big problems for anyone who thinks there exists a tight connection between religion and morality. First, the person who thinks there is a tight First, the person who thinks there connection between religion and morality cannot choose the first horn of the dilemma.
(S)He cannot say that a moral action is pleasing to God because it’s (already) the right thing to do. That’s just giving up on the idea that the divine has anything to do with morality.
(But, we should mention parenthetically, this route also leaves us wondering just what makes a moral action the right thing to do (if not because God says so). Not exactly the best place to be!) But if you go with the other horn, you get But if you go with the other horn, you get things like the “Problem of Arbitrariness”: God could arbitrarily choose ANY action to be moral, and that would be enough to make it so.
Well, what if God came along and said that “Rape is morally permissible” or “Murdering innocents is permissible”? Intuition suggests that, e.g., rape and Intuition suggests that, e.g., rape and murdering innocent folks could just NEVER be okay. Even if God said we could get away with it.
Hence, it can’t be that God simply tells us what’s moral and what’s immoral.
Hence, the Divine Command Theory cannot be true. A common objection:
A common objection:
Yo, there’s no way God would ever command us to do THOSE sorts of things! God is morally perfect!
But that means you’ve given up the ghost. You’re essentially saying there’s some independent code which even God can’t break without being immoral (and which He won’t because He’s morally perfect). And that means that God can’t simply decide whatever He wants to be right or wrong. But it gets worse if we take this route of saying God But it gets worse if we take this route of saying God commands morality.
Another worry: Problem of God’s Wisdom
If it’s true that God simply commands what is good or bad, then we’d have to sacrifice the idea that He chooses them on proper grounds, or that He has good reasons for why He chooses them.
To suggest that He has reasons for why He chooses these actions or those would also be to suggest that there is some independent standard to which He is appealing when making decisions about what sorts of actions are okay or not. But if He doesn’t have some such standard (by which we could judge, ‘hey, that was a wise choice’), then we can’t call His picks wise choices. It would just seem like He had no grounds for why He picked certain actions. And the hits keep coming. Let’s go to And the hits keep coming. Let’s go to Nielsen’s reading to get on with the other problems. ...
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This note was uploaded on 10/14/2011 for the course PHIL 2103 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at Arkansas.
- Fall '08