The Divine Command Theory And The Euthyphro Dilemma

1010 words - 5 pages

The concept that moral actions are those that conform to God's will is within the context of the Divine Command Theory. This theory explores whether an action is right or wrong by determining whether or not an action conforms to God's will. If an action does conform then it is morally permissible, if it does not then it is impermissible. This theory is shattered, however, when the will of God is scrutinized by Socrates in a dialogue with Euthyphro at the entrance of the law courts.Socrates was prompted to inquire into the spirit of piety and his very moral fiber after a politician named Meletus charged him with corrupting the young with his impiety. Euthyphro's dilemma surrounds Socrates' discussion regarding the definition of piety. Euthyphro believes that his actions are pious and Socrates challenges him to define holy and unholy. Euthyphro responds that what he is now doing is holy - prosecuting a wrongdoer (his own father) of murder. Socrates reasons that Euthyphro is prosecuting his father because the person killed must have been a relative. He seems to think that it makes a difference whether or not the victim was a member of the family, but Euthyphro points out that the real matter is whether or not it was right for his father to commit murder.Socrates, interested in Euthyphro's knowledge of all things divine, wishes to become Euthyphro's student so that he can challenge Meletus before the trial. He asks Euthyphro to prove what piousness is using logic, but Euthyphro is unable to do so because the divine command theory doesn't stand up under Socrates' scrutiny.Socrates points out that what is pious must be pious outside of the fact that the gods love it. If the gods love it, there is no information to explain why they love it. The only thing that can be explained is that they love particular acts. The fact that they recognize an act as pious would in fact prove that piousness exists whether the gods love it or not.Socrates, looking for further clarification, agreed with Euthyphro that the gods must love something for it to be pious. Unfortunately, this argument proved inapplicable since the Greek gods were often at opposition with each other and constantly changed their minds. Also the premise of "that which is loved" indicated piety exists due to a label, not because of an internal structure; however, Socrates still sought to understand the essence of piety - the love of the gods is only an attribute of piety, possibly an indicator of morality, but not a summation of all that is good and honorable.Many theists consider God to be the basis of all morality, but does that mean that God is the source of morality and that what God wills is always good and honorable? Does the knowledge of right and wrong exist outside of God? If it does, then God's commands are not arbitrary but rather are formed on the basis of what is good or bad - meaning there is a moral standard greater than God, or at least one that exists separately from God, to which God's laws or word must conform. Is an act morally good because God wills it or is it good because God agrees that it is good?The theist that believes in the Divine Command Theory trusts in the character of God and believes that God is a morally-perfect being that is all knowing, all loving and is the creator of everything and he does everything for a reason. God is all knowing, all merciful, and omni-benevolent, among other qualities of perfection.The Euthyphro Dilemma is problematic for the theist that believes in the Divine Command Theory. God's goodness and rationality cannot be determined without using an outside measure to place God's moral state and intelligence in some context. The knowledge of good and evil would have to exist outside of God. Also, God cannot be said to do all things for a reason if he is the only determining factor as to whether an action is good or bad. Any action taken by God cannot be said to be good or bad until God has deemed it so. This would make at least some of the actions taken by God arbitrary. Obviously, not all of the theist attributes of God can be accepted. To accept the divine command theory one can only accept that God is the creator of all things.Theists, like Euthyphro, want to believe that God is full of piety and understanding. In addition, they hold that God is the source of all things and knows all. This theory doesn't allow a person to easily and logically understand why God would deem any action right or wrong. One must throw his hands into the air and faithfully believe that God's will is beyond the understanding of humans. The concept is that God does in fact will things and that God is beyond morality.Piety describes an essence and any further deconstruction only does damage to the concept. One quality of being human is the ability to think abstractly -something does not have to be classified to have meaning. Theists reject the Divine Command Theory because it is not necessary for others who do not believe in the existence of God to wander down the divine command theory path. Furthermore, it is pointless to contemplate what a supreme creator decrees if the individual doesn't believe in the existence of the supreme creator in the first place.


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