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Objecting the Euthyphro Objection

Info: 1465 words (6 pages) Essay
Published: 6th May 2021 in Philosophy

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 The Divine Command Theory of Morality claims right actions are those commanded by God, and wrong actions are those forbidden. This designates God’s commandments and prohibitions as the foundation for morality. The Euthyphro objection to this theory rejects God as the sole determiner of good and bad. Instead, it claims that God’s decrees serve as guides in determining right and wrong, and that he acts in accordance with pre-established goodness. In this paper, I will argue that the Euthyphro Objection does not adequately refute the claims of the Divine Command Theory. One at a time, I will list the objections to this theory from Michael Taber’s version of the Euthyphro Objection. Following each objection, I will insert my own reasoning as to why the objections are insufficient and unconvincing in rejecting the Divine Command Theory of Morality.

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 The first objection claims, God being the foundation for morality makes morality arbitrary (Taber). 1God’s decrees serving as the basis for morality would mean the only thing making [X] wrong would be God’s forbidding it; in other words, if God had decided differently, [X] would then be “perfectly permissible, and maybe even obligatory” (Taber). This objection fails to acknowledge the reasons behind God’s decrees in the first place. His commandments and prohibitions are what make things right or wrong, but they alone do not account for why. You have to attach his reasons for declaring them so in the justification for why they are right or wrong.

Saying morality would be arbitrary means it would be inconsistent and subjective to God’s will. However, God is loving, benevolent and perfectly good. His decrees have pure intentions and are made to protect us from any harm. Therefore, the basis these decrees are made upon are consistent with his love and desire to protect us. 1 Although God condemning [X] directly makes [X] wrong, it’s not the only reason it’s wrong because there were reasons for God’s prohibition. One must acknowledge his reasoning/justification, and attach that with the decree, to fully understand why God made the prohibition, and why it’s wrong. The objection illustrates God’s commandments as made on a whim, with no basis or consideration. However, God’s eternal love for us is the basis on which he makes these rules. Therefore, his commandments and prohibitions are made for reasons on our behalf and in our best interest, not just arbitrarily. 1The objection’s claim stating “…if God had decided to will otherwise, then [X] would be perfectly permissible, and maybe even obligatory” isn’t plausible, because it would be inconsistent with God’s benevolent and loving nature (Taber). His initial prohibition means there were reasons contributing to our well-being and safety that motivated his decision. Therefore, changing his mind would mean changing his intent to love and protect us, and that’s contradictory to a perfect, all-knowing God.

If God were to command, for example, all children should be tortured, the only reply (contrary to the Euthyphro objection) wouldn’t simply be that God wouldn’t command something bad (Taber). It’s that this hypothetical commandment does not correspond with the nature of God. I don’t agree that God would never have us do anything bad, because that would qualify bad things as pre-established and independent from God. It’s more so that God wouldn’t command anything inconsistent with his nature. 

The second claim in objection to the Divine Command Theory says, God doesn’t provide reasons to justify his decrees. Without knowledge of why they were made, we have no reason to comply, other than to avoid possible punishment (Taber). My disagreement and claims of inadequacy regarding this objection stem from the following reasoning. Although God doesn’t plainly state his reasons for commandments and prohibitions, they can be assumed through what we know to be true. We know that God’s nature embodies perfect goodness; he is all-knowing, all-powerful, and loves us infinitely. We have to trust that a God with these qualities would act according to our best interest and love us enough to keep us safe. He knows things we’re incapable of, therefore, his reasoning behind commandments or prohibitions may not be explicit. However, we know them to be good because he is good. So, there is no questioning him or the reasons behind his rules. Faith declares them justified.

 In Taber’s version of the Euthyphro objection, God is compared to a good mathematician. A mathematician’s knowledge of the truth regarding a mathematical solution is not what makes it true (Taber). This suggests that, just like God, his knowledge and decree of right and wrong is not what makes it so. This comparison is used to reject the Divine Command Theory’s claim and determine right and wrong as independent from God. However, this is not a reasonable comparison because God is not an entity specialized in any one thing. He is the creator of all things. The mathematician knows math, but if this was the case with God, then he created math. Since God created all things, they are a product of him, and thereby his benevolent nature. So, his determination of what is good and bad is the truth since they are his products, and therefore, are whatever he wants them to be in correspondence with his perfectly good and pure nature.

 By believing something is good/bad because God willed it to be, the Euthyphro objection claims there is nothing worth praising about God other than his power (Taber). It states that goodness is what’s worth worshipping, and since goodness is defined by God’s decree/power (according to the Divine Command Theory), there is nothing worth praising besides that. However, I believe it’s what’s motivating the use of that power that’s additionally worth praising- his nature. This involves his goodness, infinite love, wisdom, and knowledge of all things, in addition to his limitless power. All of the attributes making up his true nature are what motivate his use of power and are additionally worth worshipping.

A possible objection to my reasoning is as follows. God forbidding an action, and therefore classifying it as wrong, may not always be the most beneficial course of action for some. Stealing, for example, is forbidden and considered wrong. However, doing so may be in one’s best interest in a given situation. Since God determines right and wrong out of love for us and does so in our best interest, stealing could possibly be in someone’s best interest at a given time. Therefore, right and wrong actions are subjective to situations and the benefits one may acquire through them. 

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In response to this objection, God makes the determination of right and wrong based off of his righteous and benevolent nature. Stealing may be beneficial in some situations, but it is at the expense of another. God does act according to his love for us, but he also aims to protect all people. Therefore, making right and wrong actions subjective, and in this case, permitting theft to benefit one or some, means he would be falling short of his duty to love and protect all. Instead, his determinations of right and wrong take into account the best interest of all people and avoid hurting some to benefit others – the way this situationally based version of morality proposed.

 To conclude, God is an all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, and perfect being. His actions (commandments and prohibitions) have intent and are made with purposes in alignment with his nature. Although he doesn’t explicitly provide us with reasoning for his actions, our faith in him and his powerful attributes are enough to declare them justified. God embodies righteousness and is the purest form of goodness. By believing in his nature, one must believe his actions are a result of said nature. Therefore, further justification for his actions are unnecessary. If he commands something to be, it must be (according his attributes). His power is what we see most often put into practice because of his commandments and prohibitions. However, it is not his sole attribute, and it is not the only thing worth worshipping. His other qualities, such as love, wisdom, benevolence, and righteousness are conveyed through how he chooses to use such great power. You must first have faith in his righteous nature, and believe such attributes exist, before seeing them behind the power displayed.

Works Cited

Taber, Michael. “The Euthyphro Objection to the Divine Command Theory of Morality.”         St. Mary's College of Maryland Faculty Page, 21 Aug. 2011, faculty.smcm.edu/mstaber/euthyphr.htm.


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