Monday, November 11, 2013

Divine Command Theory and the Euthyphro Problem

From guest blogger, Andrea

For this next paper, I want to write about religion and ethics. One of the theories of determining right and wrong is the Divine Command Theory, which states “an action is right or wrong, good or bad if and only if God says so”. Morality is then inferred from scripture, or the word of God.

I came across some criticisms, one including the Euthyphro dilemma, which basically asks “Does God determine something, like an action, is good because it is intrinsically good, or is it good because God says so”? If its intrinsically good, then something else, determines what is good or bad and god is subject to it. But if its good because God says so, then morality is arbitrary.

One of the responses against Euthyphro is the acceptance that morality is arbitrary and God could declare something bad one day and good the next. And then the theist could go down the absolutists route and say “well its god, he can do what he wants because he’s all powerful, all knowing, etc.” I still find that response unsatisfying.

Since we’ve already exhausted the absolutist view before with how god can be all-powerful and knowing and can do everything and anything, I’m looking for other possible responses to the Euthyphro for inspiration for my paper, for or against it.

5 comments:

Michael Dean Hebert said...

I think you might be thinking about the Euthyphro dilemma a little wrong. Ultimately what the Euthyphro dilemma is about is the foundation of "good" and/or "moral acceptableness." Euthyphro's dilemma points to two possible foundations. The first possibility is that what is good or morally acceptable is just what God commands. The other possibility is that the foundations of what is good and/or morally acceptable comes from somewhere else (we need not specify precisely where to state the dilemma). Here is where the dilemma kicks in. Either it is the case that God could command anything to be good/morally acceptable, like killing innocent people, or it is the case that the goodness and moral acceptableness are prior to God. That is, God is not the arbiter of what is good/morally acceptable. To most theists neither side of this dilemma will be totally acceptable. I personally think it would be easier to give up the idea that what is good/morally acceptable can be determined by God. Of course the divine command theorist is not going to be so willing to give this up.

I say all of this to point out, that this whole issue is really tangential to the issue of absolutism. The absolutist will (I think) always be a divine comment theorist, but many divine command theorists will not be absolutists. So, if I understand you correctly (I might be reading into you too much, though) I don't think it is the absolutist position that you find unsatisfying, but rather the divine command theorists' position.

I've never completely understood the hang up on this dilemma. Here's an analogy that might help you. Engineers do not get to decide what structures work best for a bridge. Rather this is determined by physical law. We might imagine a perfect engineer who knows all the best structures for bridges in different situations. Whenever this perfect engineer orders a team of engineers to build in a certain way, or offers them instruction manuals on how to build a bridge, the perfect engineer is not deciding what structures are best for building bridges, rather the perfect engineer is offering guidance on how to do so. To complete the analogy, it is not God's commands which are determining what is good, but rather guiding us to morally acceptable actions.

Don't know if any of this will help you, but I hope it does.

Rashad said...

I’m a theist, so you may find my reasoning to be unsatisfying, lol. Yet, I’m about to do my best to answer the Euthyphro argument in favor of God’s determinism of good and bad.
Everything of God is intrinsically good. Everything created by God is good because “God is good, and good is God.” To this extent, God would not create anything bad. Things become bad/ are considered sin when they go against God’s will. Things are bad depending on one’s intent and/or usage of/with that thing. For instance, masturbation is not bad within itself. But it becomes bad when one lusts and covets. To lust and to covet is against God’s will (see 10 Commandments). When a person swears with intent, it is bad because it is against God’s will. Scripture asks, “Can salt water and fresh water flow from the same stream?” No! It can’t. These example scan go all day. A gun is not bad until it used depending upon how it is used; in this regard, any object can “become bad” as it can be used as a weapon to kill or harm.
In this sense, morality is arbitrary like you said, but what is wrong with that? Morality differs amongst cultures and for some religions. Yet, there is some degree of absolute morality shared in many religions like the Abrahamic religions (Christ., Juda., and Islam), Karmic religions (Hindu., Jainism, and Buddh.), and even the Chinese religions (Confucianism and Daoism); which is ultimately, no murdering/killing.

Rashad said...

I’m a theist, so you may find my reasoning to be unsatisfying, lol. Yet, I’m about to do my best to answer the Euthyphro argument in favor of God’s determinism of good and bad.
Everything of God is intrinsically good. Everything created by God is good because “God is good, and good is God.” To this extent, God would not create anything bad. Things become bad/ are considered sin when they go against God’s will. Things are bad depending on one’s intent and/or usage of/with that thing. For instance, masturbation is not bad within itself. But it becomes bad when one lusts and covets. To lust and to covet is against God’s will (see 10 Commandments). When a person swears with intent, it is bad because it is against God’s will. Scripture asks, “Can salt water and fresh water flow from the same stream?” No! It can’t. These example scan go all day. A gun is not bad until it used depending upon how it is used; in this regard, any object can “become bad” as it can be used as a weapon to kill or harm.
In this sense, morality is arbitrary like you said, but what is wrong with that? Morality differs amongst cultures and for some religions. Yet, there is some degree of absolute morality shared in many religions like the Abrahamic religions (Christ., Juda., and Islam), Karmic religions (Hindu., Jainism, and Buddh.), and even the Chinese religions (Confucianism and Daoism); which is ultimately, no murdering/killing.

Caitlin C said...

I think the Euthyphro dilemma does a great job at showing how if Divine Command Theory is right then God’s actions are arbitrary. Even if I was a theist I would have a hard time defending Divine Command theory because it just doesn’t make sense that if God created morality then he could of created a morality that says we should eat babies and torture puppies every day. I think that if God never existed and somehow the world was still created that humans would be able to have morality without God. I personally believe that morality came from evolution. Our ancestors had to work together and help each other out in order to survive. Our morality is essentially the only thing that sets us apart from other animals. Granted if you look into it animals do seem to have their own sense of morality they just simply don’t have the same mental capacity as we do. I find it hard for theists to agree with Divine Command theory because it either shows that God’s actions are arbitrary or if you believe the Euthyphro dilemma it shows that there is something above God on the totem pole.

Zepharia Andres said...

Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith. See the link below for more info.

#morality
www.ufgop.org