Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Euthyphro Dilemma and the Nature of God
Lets think about philosophy for a minute because I think there has been some confusion over some key metaphysical issues in theology. In Plato’s Euthyphro a dialogue takes places between Euthyphro and Socrates over the nature of piety. Euthyphro begins throwing out different definitions for piety which Socrates socratically dismisses in a way that only Socrates can. For our purpose we want to focus in on the second definition that Euthyphro gives. Here he says that “piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate.” What is interesting is what Socrates says in response, “do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?”
Socrates’ question is one of those locus classicus questions some times referred to as the “Euthyphro Dilemma.” What Socrates is getting at if I might amplify is:
Q.1 God command X because it is morally obligatory.
Q.2 X is morally obligatory because God commanded it.
How one answers these questions has much to say about her understanding of God.
Q.1 assumes that X is independent of God. That is to say that moral actions are right or wrong in themselves. This was the understanding that both Socrates and Euthyphro both agree on, the gods love piety because it is pious. Having made their appeal for Q.1 necessarily means they must reject Q.2 on the basis that the god’s loving the pious does not explain why the pious is the pious. Or in our example above God commanding X does not explain X. Lastly, both Q.1 and Q.2 cannot both be true because to say that “God commands X because it is morally obligatory and X is morally obligatory because God commands it” is circular reasoning. In either case Socrates’ initial question goes unanswered. Namely, what is the nature of moral laws?