The Euthyphro Dilemma

Reading up on discussions on atheism (the lack of belief in god), I stumbled upon this interesting question, called the Euthyphro dilemma:

Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?

Wikipedia “translates” this into something more readable:

Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?

As a self-confessed atheist, always willing to discuss my lack of belief, I’m often asked “what about moral values?”, a question I think is utterly ridiculous. The idea that killing is only wrong because god says it is, is just—dangerous. Even so, I think citing the essence of the euthyphro dilemma to the inquiring mind might be a good way to deal with things.

6 thoughts on “The Euthyphro Dilemma”

  1. Biscuitrat says:

    Although I’m religious, I feel that morality is an intrinsic human trait. You should not have to rely on a higher being for your own intuitions about right and wrong. We don’t kill people because we personally feel that it is wrong — not because we were told not to. Wouldn’t the latter make our race appear extremely childish?

    I suppose if you want to be controlled, and pushed, and pressured, you can believe that morality is a divine blessing; but if you’re human, you better believe that it’s something you have total power over. Since the Euthyphro dilemma insists that mortality is in some way factored with the divine, all you really have to do is prove that it isn’t. But it’s still an interesting philosophy; the Greeks had something going for them 🙂

  2. Joen says:

    We don?t kill people because we personally feel that it is wrong ? not because we were told not to. Wouldn?t the latter make our race appear extremely childish?

    I completely agree.

    Since the Euthyphro dilemma insists that mortality is in some way factored with the divine, all you really have to do is prove that it isn?t.

    I can’t prove that so I won’t try. But I sincerely do not believe in the divine; I really see no need for it.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. Biscuitrat says:

    Well, personal belief is personal belief — you can take what you want from religion, if you want it at all. There’s no dire need to believe, as some people might have you think (I wish someone would tell that to religious extremists on all fronts.)

  4. Joen says:

    You seem like a very reasonable believer, I appreciate that.

    I agree that there is no dire need to believe, and I agree it would be nice for extremists to know that.

    However, one of the reasons I’m atheist (as opposed to just being agnostic), you mention it yourself:

    you can take what you want from religion, if you want it at all

    Because you can take what you want from religion, you yourself have to be the moderator and the decider of what’s truth. Some dangerous interpretations can be found, that way.

  5. Biscuitrat says:

    Hmm, I suppose so — but people are always going to deviate from the norm — sometimes violently. I meant it more along individual lines; I don’t adhere to the more orthodox parts of Hinduism. I take the parts that appeal to me, which in this case, would be the big picture. I agree that picking and choosing can create rifts, but it’s happened for many thousands of years. It’s almost part of human nature now.

  6. Sam Riggio says:

    Hello. I just thought you might like to read this article:

    “A Christian Answer to the Euthyphro Dilemma” (link).

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