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Euthyphro's Dilemma

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/8/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 4,625 times Debate No: 37512
Debate Rounds (4)
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Votes (2)





The Euthyphro dilemma is found in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro, in which Socrates asks Euthyphro, "Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?" (10a)

In other words, do the gods love something because it is pious, or is something pious because the gods love it?
This is an argument for atheistic moral platonism against polytheism but it’s been transferred to an argument against theism.


Objective is something which is valid and binding regardless of human opinion

Moral Values are morals in terms of good or bad, and bespeaks moral worth.

Moral Duties are morals in terms of right or wrong, and bespeaks moral obligation

Our assumption in this debate is that there exists an objective distinction of good and bad, right and wrong.

Burden of Proofs

Con must show that Euthyphro's Dilemma fails as an objection to classical theism in which God is a maximally great being.

Pro must show that Euthyphro's Dilemma succeeds as an objection to classical theism in which God is a maximally great being.

(Round one for acceptance of hte burdens, introductions and definitions only)




Agathon: This is an argument for atheistic moral platonism against polytheism but it’s been transferred to an argument against theism.

The Fool: If I was not so foolish, I would think that was a question, not an argument. Perhaps this is the argument.

The argument against polytheism morality from Euthyphro.

The Fool: That is, if something is moral because the gods love it, then if the gods disagree, and love different things, we could not tell what is moral by virtue of the gods loving it. As morality would be subjective in relation to particular gods. And so they can possibly contradict each other.

The argument against morality being loved by the Gods or Gods.

The Fool: Is that being human morality could not be worth anything to God or God's because as it would mean that we have something which God does not have, and therefore need, and or want from us.

Excerpt from Euthyphro

SOCRATES: Tell me then, by Zeus, what is that excellent aim that the gods achieve, using us as their servants?

EUTHYPHRO: Many fine things, Socrates.-----I say that if a man knows how to say and do what is pleasing to the gods at prayer and sacrifice, those are pious actions such as preserve both private houses and public affairs of state. The opposite of these pleasing actions are impious and overturn and destroy everything.

SOCRATES: It would follow from this statement that piety would be aknowledge of how to give to give, and beg from, the gods.------But --what is this service to the gods? ---Piety would then be a sort of trading skill between gods and men?

EUTHYPHRO: Trading yes, if you prefer to call it that.

SOCRATES: And to beg correctly would be to ask from them things that we need.

EUTHYPHRO: You understood what I said very well, Socrates.

SOCRATES: And to give correctly is to give them what they need from us, for it would not be skillful to bring gifts to anyone that are in no way needed.

EUTHYPHRO: True, Socrates.

The false circular argument of godly morality.

The Fool: A third argument in Euthyphro, is that it is circular and false to argue that the reason something is moral is because God loves it, or wills it, and then propose that the reason God loves it is because it's moral..


The Fool: Why is X loved by the God?

The Ideologist: Because it is Moral

The Fool: Why is X moral?

The Ideologist: Because it is loved by God?

Excerpt from Euthyphro

SOCRATES: The pious is then, Euthyphro, pleasing to the gods, but not

beneficial or dear to them?

EUTHYPHRO: I think it is of all things most dear to them.

SOCRATES: So the pious is once again what is dear to the gods.

EUTHYPHRO: Most certainly.

SOCRATES: When you say this, will you be surprised if your arguments seem to move about instead of staying put?

You surely remember that earlier the pious and the godloved were shown not to be the same but different from each other. Or

do you not remember?


SOCRATES: Do you then not realize now that you are saying that what is dear to the gods is the pious? Is this not the same as the god-loved? Or is it not?

EUTHYPHRO: It certainly is.

SOCRATES: Either we were wrong when we agreed before, or, if we wereright then, we are wrong now.

EUTHYPHRO: That seems to be so.

The Re-appropriation

Agathon: Objective is something which is valid and binding regardless of human opinion.

The Fool: Objective is derived from object like.. That is, thing like. And thus, anything is a valid as a thing, if it is a thing.

Ligation: something that is used for binding things or tying things up" Perhaps, the primordial term for legation." Encarta dictionary. Therefore Object-ligation is a thing which binds..

An example of moral obligation would be the following:

That is, we are obligated, by morality to avoid killing anybody without justification.. Justice, is a preservation of balance, a.k.a. equality. And so it may be validated to take someone's life, if they are trying to kill you, and it is the only way you can save yourself from the would be murderer.

The Fool: Accepted.With Minor Adjustments.

Debate Round No. 1


Thanks for accepting Pro. However let’s stick to the previous definition of objectivity, since I didn’t intend such a meaning to be restricted to “thing like.” Rather objective in the prefered sense just means it’s not merely based on human opinion and culture, etc. That it's discoverable rather than invented.

First I’ll argue that Atheistic Moral Platonism is implausible itself, then I’ll show how the dilemma doesn’t transfer to Judeo-Christian monotheism well at all. I’ll do this by showing how it’s a false dilemma when classical theism is in scope.


Atheistic Moral Platonism (AMP)

The Euthyphro dilemma, even in its proper context the dilemma isn’t enough to support its implication of AMP. For the non-nihilist, AMP attempts to anchor morals in a non-theistic transcendent ground by essentially saying they “just exist.” But what does it mean to say 'justice' just exists? A person can be just, but with the absence of people, how can justice “just exist?” Since an abstract 'justice' itself isn’t just, then without people justice can’t exist! But that idea seems to contradict the AMP hypothesis.

At best, AMP leaves moral truths floating in an unintelligible way, lacking any adequate foundation. Furthermore, moral obligation is incompatible with AMP: for suppose duty indeed "just exists" Platonically, how then does that result in obligation? An obligation towards wrong may exist too; why not commit wrong actions? Theism, however, provides a more plausible basis for the moral realist under Divine Command Theory, which is the third option that the Euthyphro dilemma ignores.

But not only is AMP a highly arbitrary basis for morals, it’s implausible as well. For it seems absurd to think that creatures would blindly evolve to correspond to abstract moral realms! (It’s almost as though the moral realm knew we were coming). It's more plausible that the moral and natural realm would coincide under a Creator Law-giver hegemony then to think these two realms "just meshed.”

But now if the Euthyphro dilemma implies AMP, then the negation of AMP would conclude with a denial of the Euthyphro dilemma per Modus Tollens. We’ve just seen how AMP is unreasonable, and so the rational person must deny the Euthyphro dilemma.

Euthyphro’s Uneasy Transfer to Monotheism

The Euthyphro dilemma out of its context doesn't even touch Judeo-Christianity. Jewish philosophers Avi Sagi and Daniel Statman say the dilemma is "misleading" because "it is not exhaustive": it leaves out a third option, namely that God "acts only out of His nature" [1]

Katherine Rogers says, "Anselm, like Augustine before him and Aquinas later, rejects both horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. God neither conforms to nor invents the moral order. Rather His very nature is the standard for value." [2]

Now in order to transfer the argument from against polytheism to monotheism, the Euthyphro dilemma should be formulated as,

1. Is something is good because God wills it or;

2. does God will it because it’s good?

If we choose 1, then what is good is arbitrary and if we choose 2, then what is good is independent of God. All we must do then is posit a coherent third option. Under Divine Command Theory,

an action A is required of a moral- agentS if a just and loving God commands S to do A.

A is forbidden to S if and only if a just and loving God commands S not to do A.

A is permitted for S if and only if a just and loving God doesn’t command S not to do A. [3]

Thus objective moral duties are grounded in Divine Commands which are themselves proper reflections of an all good God. So morals aren’t independent, nor are God’s commands arbitrary since they are necessary reflections of his nature.

God’s nature is definitive of the Good since God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, and a being who is the paradigm of goodness is greater than one who just exemplifies it.

Now the proper context of the dilemma: Plato's Republic, deals with a mythology of gods, which is something very different from the dilemma presented by the modern atheist. A plurality of gods with different moral opinions is no doubt a hard problem for Euthyphro, but would Socrates have posed the same kind of questions about a maximally great moral being? Modern Christians do not believe in a multiplicity of gods with differing opinions; they're simply so utterly unlike the Christian God.

Moral duties, then are grounded in Divine Commands to beings created in God’s image with intrinsic dignity, and moral values are grounded in a maximally great God, who if he is good, then he is maximally good, a standard of moral value in himself. So neither are God’s commands arbitrary or independent, for they are necessary reflections of himself, the only competent authority in issuing moral commands. So although the Euthyphro dilemma may apply to a pantheon of contingent gods who can may desire to have good characters, nevertheless it doesn't apply to a non-contingent God who exists within the necessity of his own nature as the greatest good.

1. Sagi, Avi and Statman, Daniel (1995). Religion and Morality. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 62–6]



Round of his main argument

Atheistic Moral Platonism

The Fool: One thing the reader should recognize right away, is that Pro doesn't bother to give an actual representative argument of the position which he claims to be refuting. For even the expression Atheistic Moral Platonism is itself excessive and unnecessary.

Despite the key arguments of this debate being mentioned within one of Plato's Works, it is one of his first works, and is before Plato's development of his Theory of the Forms.

Moreover, it is considered a Socratic1 Dialogue, that is an argument from Socrates and not necessarily platonic.

Another thing to consider is that it is not atheistic argument itself, but an argument against divine command theory. The difference is that, Socrates is not arguing of whether or not there exists God'(s), but rather how people claim to derive morals by referring to the gods.

Thus, the expression "Atheistic Moral Platonism" is a superfluous Red herrings which attempt to pull the reader's attention away from the actual argument, which I have outlined in round one already.

On the Forms

Audience: What Are the Forms?

The Fool: The forms are essences of things we recognize within other things but never by themselves. Things like good, and beautiful, justice, and numbers. The argument for the forms is not simply that they "just exist", but rather since we can recognize these aspects within Nature2, they must be things which exist of their own accord outside the domain of the five common senses.


P1. The mind/soul4 is the observer.

P2. What is observed, exist in some way.

P3. We recognize things like Grace, Morals, mathematics and reason.

P4. But it is not with the five senses that we recognize them.

C1 Therefore they must be objects which exist in a domain graspable by the mind/Soul.

So in modern terms, The Forms are "objects" graspable by consciousness, other than the five senses. And it is in this sense in which they can be considered "objective."

They "just exist"

The Fool: Pro has claimed that saying something just exists, is not a justification and I completely agree.

Argument from definition

Pro himself, argues for morals and God by virtue of his definition. But this is completely trivial, because nothing follows by definition other than a definition.

For example, I can define a "unicorn" as being a super ultra-deluxe moral, good and great super being. But it does not follow by a definition that there in fact exists a corresponding entity to which these terms refer to.

And it would be quite absurd to then derive truth other than the fact that something has been said, or stated just because I defined a term as such. If there is a God, we can never define God by terms alone because that would mean that the definitions themselves are what determine God.

For example we may literally define a statue out of clay, By physically altering the shape of clay. But it's absurd to think that we can define the statue, by describing one we would like to exist "in terms", alone. What actually gets defined in this way at best is our Idea, which the term refers to. For we all know what unicorns are, by virtue of our "idea" of one. But that is not the sense in which we mean when we say commonly that a unicorn exist. Nor does a unicorn come into existence because we define it to be existing. For something exist because it is A Thing not because it has a property which is existence.

She said he said therefore true??

The Fool: Pro has used a few references in his round, but they are not arguments or support for his claims but references of things being said. But nothing follows by virtue of saying something other than the fact that something was said, or perhaps thought.

Since pros argument depend upon these fallacies, nothing significantly true can be derived from them.

The Fool: I will continue to explicate my arguments from round one in the third round.

Vote Fool.

Debate Round No. 2


Agathon forfeited this round.


The Commander

The Children of our Parents

Is any type of command theory, really a recipe for morality? If people are doing something, simply because it is commanded, then they are not doing it because it is moral, or good, nor can they be moral or good by simple being slaves. For a command, it's just an in order, and the virtue of a General does not decent through the solder by ignorance. Now this suffices for children, because they do not yet know any better nor have they come to their own mind. And although we are the children of our parents, we should not remain children of our parents, for we ourselves must eventually learns what is actually good or bad either carry the torch or spark a new fire.

If we found a book that claimed to be the word of God, and the command of this God was to kill our own children, would we not thing something intuitively wrong. Or at least better or worse than other commands?

But If we can recognize even that, do we not then know at least something about morality, itself, and in ourselves, if only just a little…

For someone may argue, that not all people agree with that, so it is perhaps subjective, but do we really need to all agree that something is true, for to be true despite we believe; To be objective. Surely not, for some people are born psychopaths, and cannot feel empathy at all. And some people are born blind. And so synonymously, some people are more or less intelligent, more or less moral, and more or less right or wrong. For like the brightness of the sun, in strong straddled contrast to the dark depths of space, the light shines as gorgeous and great for each and every one of us.

The Good Guy

Let's grant, for the sake of argument that we know there is a good loving person, who is commanding us.

If we know that they are good, do we not know something of about goodness as well?

That is, if we were to teach a child that God is good, and the child asked, what is the goodness, which God possesses? Would it be in anyway informative to repeat that God is good, or God is great, and that the Good or great is god?

Put it this way. Perhaps you have a friend, who knows nothing about golf, and we explained to him, that “golf is a game played with golf balls”. Would he be any nearer to knowing what golf means?

Here's another example, if we were referring to a blue box, and someone replied, "I am colorblind! What is blue?” Would it be of any service to respond, “The box is blue”? That is, would they be any more knowingly of the color blue, just because the know what a box is... Or is it a fact that they must know something of “that” which is blueness, that is, the conscious perception of blue before they could understand any reference to a blue box? It is unlikely. Perhaps impossible.

And so, synonymously, if anybody could understand the expression that "God is good", they would first have to recognize something about “Goodness" or "morality", itself separately, from what is said to possess it.

It may be more or less confused, with something else more or less, for different people, but is it not necessary for the possibility of knowing what it means to say that anything is moral or good. ..??

For surely this must be granted, if it is even possible to know what even ourselves mean when we say something is good, or is right or is moral, or just.

If that was not true, we could not even know what this debate is about, as every time the term good or morality comes up it should appear hollow and empty, a type of foolish gibberish perhaps...


But doubtless it is. And I hope nothing less but to persuade you of the truth of this. That very truth, that you yourself know already in yourself, at least in some way, but perhaps have problems putting your finger on it, and or expressing it with the right words but nonetheless grasp what it is, with your conscience.

The Big Grant,(you owe me buddy)

But lets be brave, an bold, blitzs and bolt, bursting forward to bust this blue box open for a better glance at the best Pro has to offer. Let’s assume that there in fact exists a maximally great and even moral loving being. The Big GOD.

Does granting Pro this gold, actually give more goodies?

Does this truth bring us any more closely to knowledge of moral obligations?

What is there about such general ambiguous knowledge that could tell us anything about how we should treat each other?

For it is granted, openly and willingly by Pro, myself, and any non-polytheist that the Euthyphro dilemma is a problem for deriving morals principle. And that it is a problem, because the gods disagree. But what is it any less of a disagreement, and/or problem if there is one God, but nonetheless many different books, faiths, believes and claims to what God actually, says, wants, knows or orders?

For anyone who dares to dream, beyond pure faith, pure chance, pure fate, has the courage enough to see that the problem of polytheism morality reiterates itself through manifolds, manifested, in multi-doctrines of one god.. And so, even if a moral and loving God exist, the fact alone is not enough to base anything related to any religion. Nor any detail on what we ought to do at all...

The Soothsayer

Sophist: Okay, so there is a Maximally Great moral being,

The Fool: Okay….. What about it??

Sophist: Ummm, well, he’s great.

The Fool: Yeah I figured that is why you named him, Great Being.

Sophist: And he’s maximal.

The Fool: Really!!? And maximal eh… Cool.

Sophist: And he’s is all, like, Being-like.

The Fool: Wow, being like eh.?. … Wait, Why don’t you just call him Greatest being? I mean why bother with the extra Term “Maximally.”It sounds so awkward and unnaturally forced.

Sophist: Well I never thought of that?

The Fool: For If he is the greatest being is it not already inherent.?

Sophist: Mwaha hahahah. It is over for you fool.

The Fool: what is?

Sophist: The Round. So says my God. Whom is also your God.


The Fool: How do you know that?

Sophist: Because he is all like, greatest being….. and stuff.

The Fool: What does that tell us.?

Sophist: Greatest beingness.


Whether we like it or not, whether we have faith or not, it is up to us to seek the good, through reason, wisdom and knowledge. Even if that means we must do it the hard way.

References. Pure Reason, and real Philosophy.. Straight from the Hill.

Debate Round No. 3


Agathon forfeited this round.


The Fool: Well, I guess that's a wrap. I thought maybe Agathon would make an attempt in the last round. I guess not. 
Perhaps next time. Perhaps..

Vote Fool!

Debate Round No. 4
28 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
Agh, sorry again I forfeited.. see I've been dating this girl, and she's awesome, way better than debating with you Fool-on the hill, though I'm sure you're a swell guy.

I'll rebut in my next round.
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
For the rec, it's 100% now ;-)
Posted by LevelWithMe 5 years ago
If you had actually read a word of what I said(excuse me, every word, not 50%), you'd know that I favor the Con position in this debate, because the relevance of the phrasing is absolutely horrible. Why would I accept a debate when, as phrased, I agree with the side I'd be debating against, with no incentive to act as a devil's advocate?
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
And divine simplicity, lol this isn't really much of an issue nowadays, most theologians reject it. As do I.

Anyhow, by the tone of your comments I'm beginning to think you're too emotionally compromised to engage with this subject on an intellectual basis. Maybe take a day off and reconsider my terms? Other than that I'm heading to bed for realz.. night brah.
Posted by LevelWithMe 5 years ago
Sure brah. I'll accept the debate if you change the Pro and Con positions to accurately reflect the debate.

Is that too hard for you?
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
Divine command theory doesn't address the dilemma AT ALL. IN ANY FORM.

boy would you lose that one.. accept the debate brah?
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
Posted by LevelWithMe 5 years ago
No, whether ot not the dilemma is a sufficient objection to divine command theory is what the debate is about.

Divine command theory doesn't address the dilemma AT ALL. IN ANY FORM. It is not a counter argument. It's not even an argument. It's a system, which arguments from proponents of that system provide for, and opponents of that system provide arguments against.

For goodness sake, have you ever even heard of divine simplicity? You know, the main apologist response to the dilemma TO(radical, I know, but the relationship actually works that way) divine command theory?

"I'm also not your submitting opponent, this isn't MMA, lucky for you."

I retract my previous statement. It's not as if you read every other word. It's as you read every other word, within a vaccum. My previous analysis was way too generous.
Posted by Sitara 5 years ago
i would accept, but I am not ready for this advanced subject. Good luck to everyone.
Posted by Agathon 5 years ago
K, night :-)
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by TheAntidoter 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: FF>
Vote Placed by Chrysippus 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Although Con's arguments were initially stronger, his forfeit leaves Pro's arguments unanswered. This was shaping to be an enjoyable debate, too. Pity. Arguments to Pro.