The Euthyphro Dilemma: One of the Final and Most Famous Socratic Dialogues

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The Euthyphro dilemma is one of the final and most famous Socratic dialogues. Its name comes from Plato’s work Euthyphro (written in 380 BC). It concerns Socrates' discussion with a young man Euthyphro. Socrates is on the way to the courthouse to face prosecution by a man named Meletus for apparently corrupting the youth of Athens with his 'wisdom' Outside the courthouse he meets a young man named Euthyphro who is there to prosecute his father for allowing a prisoner to die. Euthyphro believes that his actions are holy so Socrates challenges him to state what he thinks holiness is. Euthyphro's answer is 'what is agreeable to the God's is holy, and what is not agreeable is unholy' However, Socrates notes that disagreements arise amongst the Gods so there can be no universal definition of holiness amongst them. Euthyphro argues that although they disagree on many things all the Gods would agree that killing a man is wrong (unholy). The Dilemma is not designed to demonstrate that God does not exist, or to demonstrate objective morality does not exist, but designed to show that appeals to God do not provide a basis for objective morality.A formulation of the dilemma Socrates opposes to Euthyphro is “is what is good commanded by God because it is good, or is it good because it is commanded by God?”

Now this possess a rather difficult challenge to theists. Most theists would attempt to answer the dilemma in a manner that suggests that some Gods will things because they are good and other things are good because God wills them. Most theists if not all would state compassion and honesty are good because God commands it so, and rape, murder, stealing etc are wrong because God has commanded it so. However this answer produces a ‘dilemma’ in its self as ‘if what is good is good because it’s commanded by God’ then that God must decide morality out of nothing. If this is the case then morality is purely arbitrary and based upon chance; what we perceive to be moral had an...
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