Traditional And Utilitarian Approaches To The Euthyphro Dilemma

Powerful Essays
Traditional And Utilitarian Approaches To The Euthyphro Dilemma

In the Euthyphro, Plato describes the proceedings of a largely circular argument between Socrates and Euthyphro, a self-declared prophet and pious man, over the nature of piety and even of the gods themselves. The issues raised in this dialogue have been reinterpreted and extended to remain relevant even with a modern theological framework, so much so that the central issue is now known simply as ?the Euthyphro dilemma.? This is based on Socrates? two-way choice which he offers in the dialogue:

"Consider this: Is the pious being loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is being loved by the gods?" (10a)

In the context of the dialogue, this simply segues to a logical argument about the definition of piety, and the question is more or less rhetorical as Socrates asks it. When Euthyphro chooses the first option, the discussion moves on to his next point without further ado, and the implication that this limits the omnipotence of the gods is ignored, probably because the omnipotence of the pantheon of gods wasn?t an assumption of Greek theology (after all, as we read in the dialogue, the father and grandfather of Zeus were castrated; what kind of omnipotent being would allow that to happen to himself?). However, when read with a Judeo-Christian concept of God in mind, the dilemma becomes this:

"Did God decide what goodness is? If so, then "good" is more or less the arbitrary decision of a frightening being to which we cannot relate, and that being could just as easily have made murder and stealing the ultimate moral actions without any contradictions. On the other hand, if God did not decide what goodness is, he cannot truly be omnipo...

... middle of paper ...

...urry now, and it is time for me to go" (15e).

Works Cited

The Tanakh. Jewish Publication Society, 1917.

Grisham, Jules. "Euthyphro, God's Nature, And The Question Of Divine Attributes." Third Mill Magazine Online, Volume 4, Number 20. 20 May 2002 <>

Macbeath, Murray. "The Euthyphro Dilemma." Mind, New Series, Vol. 91, No. 364. Oct.1982. 565-571.>

Plato. Five Dialogues. Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company, 2002.

Rich, Gregory P. "Omnipotence And God's Existence." North Carolina Religious Studies Association, Wake Forest University. 20 November 2002 <>

Solomon, Norman. Judaism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford.
Get Access