New Article: "A New Euthyphro"

I’ve posted a new article in the philosophy section, “A New Euthyphro.” It’s not a particularly technical read, but then, neither was the original Euthyphro by Plato. Here’s the blurb:

“Plato’s Euthyphro is widely thought to contain a knock down argument against theologically grounded ethics – widely thought, that is, outside of the field of philosophy of religion. The so-called Euthyphro dilemma is said to show that moral rightness cannot possibly consist in what God wills, but much of its success lies in the way the author was able to paint Euthyphro as the loser. Had Euthyphro been better informed and quicker on his feet, he would have won hands down – as he does in this version.”

Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “New Article: "A New Euthyphro"

  1. ““Plato’s Euthyphro is widely thought to contain a knock down argument against theologically grounded ethics” – thought by who?? 😉 I can’t wait to read it.

  2. Very good article, Glenn – succinct and easy to understand.

    “texts in undergraduate classes in ethics around the world make passing references to the famous Euthyphro dilemma as though it is a perpetual embarrassment to theologically grounded ethics” – I love that line! I’ve thought for a while that when someone mentions Euthyphro as if it were a ‘trump card’ against Christianity, that is a tell-tale sign that the person is not really interested in getting at the truth. Euthyphro only works against polytheists!

  3. your whole case rests on the nature of god being as it is, but you still haven’t escaped the arbitrariness problem because you need to explain why gods nature itself isn’t arbitrary.

    statistical analysis says my nature is largely (i believe completely) influenced by my genetics and environmental factors, which are completely out of my control. because he is eternal no prior factors could have caused his nature to be as it is, so it is arbitrary. even if he is able to choose his own nature, on what can he base his choice to avoid just throwing a dart at a board of various possible natures? for your angry wife analogy to be a good one, there can’t be a reason euthyphro’s wife is angry, because god is the end of an otherwise infinite regression, so it must be arbitrary that she is angry.

    and i hold that it makes perfect sense to say that euthyphro is going home because his wife is angry. it may not be the most immediate link in the chain of causes and effects, but it is still an essential link without which he would not be going home.

  4. sam g, it’;s possible that you have some other notion of arbitrariness in mind. The well known arbitrariness objection to divine command ethics rests on the idea that if moral obligation is closely tied to divine commands, then just anything could be arbitrary, so long as God commanded it – even terrible things. It rests on that classical view of arbitrariness as willed without reason.

    This is not what you’re talking about. You’re talking – if I understand you – about the fact that God has a nature and is subject to it, and did not decide what his nature is.

  5. it is possible i’m misunderstanding arbitrariness in this context. i’ll re-phrase to see if it helps:

    if moral obligation is closely tied to divine commands, then just anything could be arbitrary, so long as God commanded it – even terrible things.

    god could just have easily commanded terrible things, but you say he wouldn’t because of his nature. what i’m asking is why his nature actually is this way, and couldn’t it just have easily been some other way? his commands aren’t arbitrary because they are determined by his nature, but why couldn’t his nature have just as easily been such that it permitted him to command torture? i think you’ve just moved the problem back a step.

    if the classical view of arbitrariness is “as willed without reason”, what could the reason for gods nature possibly be given that he himself is the end of the infinite regression of reasons. there can’t be one so his nature must be arbitrary.

  6. I’m a little late to the party, but it seems to me the question is misconceived, since by WHAT, or by WHOM, could God’s will be conceived (arbitrarily)? The very nature of God precludes any such conception. This is part of what we MEAN by ‘God’ (isn’t it?). Nothing is prior to God.

    Additionally, I think I may be content, in any case, to accept the commands of a divine Being, (given that he is, after all, umm, DIVINE!) even if his nature COULD have been different. If indeed he does exist (AND brought everything into being), give me a better alternative.

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