LINKS: Theistic Defenses Against the Euthyphro Dilemma

(Another item from the backlog in my Drafts folder)

I’ve discovered two essays online and one essay offline which provide interesting responses to the Euthyphro dilemma.

1. Steve Lovell, “God as the Grounding of Moral Objectivity: Defending Against the Euthyphro.”
2. Michael Sudduth, “Is it Coherent to Suppose that God is both Morally Good and ‘Above Morality’?” (2004)
3. William Alston, ““Some Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists.” In Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy, ed. Michael D. Beaty. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990, 303-326.

Since #3 is not available online, I’ll attempt to provide a brief summary here.

William Alston splits the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma by taking different horns for different moral concepts. Alston divides moral concepts into two groups: axiological and deontological. Axiological concepts include things like moral goodness and badness, while deontological concepts include things like moral obligation, duty, and ought. Alston argues that deontological concepts depend on God’s commands, while axiological concepts depend on God himself. Alston summarizes his strategy as follows:

“It only remains to set out explicitly the relationship between the positions I have suggested to escape each of the two horns. That relationship derives from the distinction between value and obligation, more specifically the moral forms thereof. To blunt the first horn I have suggested that we take divine commands to be constitutive only of moral obligation, only of facts of the form ‘S morally ought to do A’, ‘S morally ought not to do B’, and ‘S is morally permitted to do C’, leaving value and goodness, moral and otherwise, to be otherwise constituted. … To deal with the second horn, and to fill out the view with an account of goodness and value, we take it that the supreme standard of goodness, including moral goodness, is God Himself, that particular individual, rather than some general principle or Platonic idea.”

Wes Morriston has written an interesting article that partially discusses Alston’s approach. As I read him, Morriston mainly focuses on what Alston has to say about the relationship between axiological concepts and God, not deontological concepts and God. Morriston isn’t impressed. Commenting on Alston’s approach (and William Lane Craig’s similar approach), he concludes:

What Alston and Craig have done is simply to substitute necessary truths about God for necessary truths about moral goodness. But even if this has the effect of making all moral truths depend on God, it is not sufficient to put them under his control. In this crucial respect, the God-centered analysis of moral goodness does no more than a Platonist account to protect divine sovereignty.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.