The Euthyphro problem is a two-pronged dilemma. It is concerned with whether God makes
moral truth or whether he instead recognizes
moral truth. One of these prongs can lead to moral relativism
while the other to moral absolutism
(the metaethical view that certain actions are right or wrong irregardless of the context in which they are performed). I will show both prongs and their entailment since they are easily related.
The Divine Command Theory (DCT) rest on two premises and one conclusion:
- If moral rightness only means that which is in accord with the will of God, and
- If moral wrongness only means that which is not in accord with the will of God
- Then, one need not consult moral reasoning independent of the will of God when attempting to determine moral right and wrong.
The DCT is a deontological position. It has three problems:
- The question of God's existence; which questions whether moral laws are synonymous with the will of God.
- How we are to interpret God's will; which religious view God is derived from?
- Choosing which interpretations and translations to abide by.
The Euthyphro Problem (EP) poses two question to the DCT:
- Is something moral because God wills it to be moral, or
- Does God will something to be moral because it is moral?
If 1, then God could have willed something that is moral to be immoral and, therefore, God's will is arbitrary (and so is moral truth). Theists may try to appeal to the perfect goodness of God (his inability to sin); however, if God is incapable of sin, then God's omnipotence comes into question. A rebuttal is to say that God's omnipotence is his ability to do anything that is logically possible, however, this may still be considered a case of non-omnipotence. Furthermore, if theists believe that God's essential nature is perfect goodness, then opponents of the DCT may point out that God's will has been determined by his essence and, thus, God's freewill (omnipotence) is brought into question.
Next, if God is perfectly good, then it would also bring into question our ultimate praiseworthiness of God. The praise we usually bestow upon individuals is proportionate to the amount of obstacles they had to overcome in order to accomplish what we deem praiseworthy, yet if God is perfectly good, then he could not help but to do what he does.
Last is the redundancy problem. Since saying 'good' means 'that which God wills,' then when one says "God is good" one is saying "God is that which God wills." Thus, one is not attributing a moral property to God, but only to God's will. The claim that "God commands us to do what is moral" means the tautology "Gods commands us to do what God commands us to do." Meaning, we can gain no insight into the moral truth of things such as charity or the torture of creatures other than saying that God has willed or not willed it.
If 2, then either moral truth is independent of God (moral absolutism). This means that moral truth and God are autonomous, thus the position is known as the autonomy thesis
. This does not imply that one originates from the other as they may have well been in eternal coexistence. Nevertheless, there are two version of the autonomy:the theistic and the atheistic version.
The theistic version generally follows that rational beings can arrive at moral truths by their own rational capacities independent of what the will of God says are moral truths. This is because God has given us the capacity to do so. Furthermore, they view our reason as finite (i.e. imperfect), therefore we need moral exemplars sent by God to keep us on the correct moral track or to better grasp the subtleties of what it means to be moral (e.g. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, etc.). Lastly, the theistic version believes that the notions of reward/punishment (blessing/curse) serve as motivation to live according to God's moral laws.
The atheistic version generally follows that it is ultimately our rational self-interest that allows us to arrive at the moral law. Our rational capacities allow us to see that being moral is in our overall self-interest inasmuch as it allows us to live happier and more fulfilling lives. It is partially due to evolution that our reasoning has become capable of allowing us to establish rational moral imperatives (e.g. social contracts). This means that morality is its own motivation, rather than the motivation of divine reward/punishment by the theistic version. Lastly, moral exemplars are usually explained as having a heightened moral sense or insight into human psychology and the human condition (i.e. a disposition towards increased moral inquiry and moral reasoning). This can most notably been seen in the works of Virtue ethicists.
I hope this has better explained any questions you may have had, and best of wishes towards your studies.