Magistrates Of Morality: How The Euthyphro Dilemma Cripples Divine Command Theory

2020 words - 8 pages

Throughout human history, the topic of theology has been a central aspect of everyday life. A common denominator of all modern-day religions is that they provide a set of rules which one is to follow in order to live as a good, moral being. When a deity (or a group of deities) commands followers to abide by specific moral standards though a vehicle such as prophets, religious texts or otherwise, this is called Divine Command Theory (DCT). Those who accept this theory believe that moral action coincides with what has been ordered by the deities, and immoral action would occur when one deviates from these orders. Despite this theory remaining relevant into the twenty-first century, it has still yet to solve one age-old dilemma. The Euthyphro Argument has stumped philosophers for years, but some Divine Command theorists believe they can overcome the massive obstacles it presents. In this paper, I will argue that it is impossible for one to resolve the Euthyphro Argument no matter how it is approached, and that the challenges it presents to DCT are insurmountable. To begin, I will first introduce the Euthyphro Argument and its two horns. Following this, I will summarize the best response a Divine Command theorist could possibly hold for the first horn of the Euthyphro Argument, and subsequently render it untrue. I will then repeat this process for the second horn of the dilemma. Once both of the original claims have proven to be unshakable, I will address the common attempt by Divine Command theorists to work around the issue by claiming it is not in fact a dilemma at all.
Plato first conceived of the Euthyphro Argument in one of his earliest dialogues, aptly entitled Euthyphro. In this literature, Socrates and Euthyphro debate the nature of morality, and its relation to the Greek Gods. Socrates eventually poses the question, “is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?” (Plato, 2013). In layman’s terms, this passage, which has come to be known as the Euthyphro Argument, can be interpreted as asking, “is an action right because the gods command it, or do the gods command it because it is right?” (Week 9, Lecture 1, Slide 10). For the purposes of this essay, I will refer to the first half of this simplified query as proposition A, and the second as proposition B. The Euthyphro Argument is mystifying because there is no simple answer. It must be that either an action is good because the gods command it, or that they command an action because it is good. The answer has to be one or the other, not both nor neither. As you will see throughout this essay, coming to a precise conclusion on which horn holds true is not feasible. However, this quandary has posed catastrophic problems for all subscribers to DCT, and has opened the door to deep philosophical inquiry on the matter.
To begin this examination into the strength of the Euthyphro Argument, let us first ponder the best objection a...

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