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The Euthyphro problem is a dilemma that seeks to delineate the relationship between God and piety. The dilemma is about whether something is inherently pious or dependent on God’s perception. According to Hardwig, Socrates inquires from Euthyphro whether something is pious because of God’s love or God loves it because it is pious (263).
If something is pious because God loves it, it means that piety is in the mind of God. To argue that something is pious because God loves it is absurd and ambiguous, for morality and ethics could be quite arbitrary depending on God’s perception. God could have perceived vices such as murder, rape, lies, and theft as virtues.
On the contrary, if God loves something because it is pious, it means that piety emanates from a different source other than God. To argue that God loves something because it is pious contradicts theists’ belief that, God is the foundation of morality and ethics. The Euthyphro dilemma can either lead people to believe that God’s perception of piety is arbitrary or that God is not the foundation of morality and ethics. Given that the Euthyphro problem is a dilemma, how is it best solved?
Solution to Euthyphro problem
According to the Cartesian solution, God is supreme and all arbitrary in that no power can limit his will. It means that God’s will is truly supreme and beyond human comprehension. Given God’s supreme will, he differentiates what is right and wrong without any limitations and restrictions in terms of ethics and morality.
Hardwig argues that, God has no boundaries for his supreme will transcends goodness and badness, and thus has the capacity to define piousness in nature (364). Since God is omnipotent, he possesses nature together with all inherent attributes and limitations. God’s attribute of the supreme will enables him to differentiate what is good and bad, for his nature reflects piousness.
Thus, God’s supreme will can either command or commend what is pious, hence resolving both problems in the dilemma. However, Cartesian solution is inadequate because it assumes that piety is an attribute of God and ethics.
Contemporary nominalists deny the existence of moral and ethical attributes in God. They claim that supposed dilemma of Euthyphro is non-existence and thus deserve no solution. Contemporary nominalists argue that Euthyphro problem need a default solution because God is sovereign, as nature does not exist. If nature does not exist, then it is meaningless to compare God with nature for the sovereignty is dominant.
According to Hardwig, nominalists assert that perception of God as having divine attributes such as goodness is extremely subjective and limiting in understanding of God’s nature (266). An attribute of goodness is so broad for anyone to classify it as one of the attributes of God. Thus, nominalists argue that God is factually and truthfully able; however, goodness is not a distinct attribute of God, but rather his nature.
Thomas Aquinas gave a Thomistic solution, for he asserts that God and goodness are one. Thomistic solution to Euthyphro problem is that piety is God and God is piety, thus an attribute of goodness is an inherent attribute of God. The Thomistic solution confirms that God is the source and foundation of morality and ethics. According to Hardwig, God has a nature reflected by his goodness; God is good and goodness is in God (267).
In this view, Aquinas resolved both dilemmas of Euthyphro problem by asserting that goodness is an attribute of God and nature. It, therefore, means that, goodness is an inherent property of nature; hence, God loves nature because of its piety. Moreover, because God and nature are one, his sovereign power makes nature good. Thus, God is good and goodness is in God as reflected in nature.
The assertion that God is good, and goodness that is in nature is God, brings out the problem of superiority between God and nature. However, such assertion proves that God is eternally powerful and unlimited because he has no boundaries. According to Augustinian solution, Euthyphro problem requires differentiation of nature and sovereignty attribute of God.
Augustinian solution involves modification of Thomistic solution, which states that, God’s nature is identical to nature as he has diverse attributes that are not identical. Hardwig asserts that, God is composite in that multiplicity and unity of his attributes determine his sovereignty over nature (267). Thus, entities of goodness that constitutes ethics and morals are subject to his power. Hence, Augustinian solution affirms that God can make something pious because he has power over nature.
Euthyphro problem has haunted atheists and theists because its resolution has formed the basis of worship and ethics. While atheists argue that ethics is independent of God as something is inherently good, theists argue that piety is an inherent attribute of both God and nature.
The two arguments has perpetuated Euthyphro problem and has created a complex dilemma that seems eternal. However, Cartesian, nominalists, Thomistic, and Augustinian solutions have attempted to delineate and resolve the problem. In view of these solutions, it is evident that piety is an attribute of both nature and God, and God is sovereign.
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Hardwig, John. “Socrates’ Conception of Piety: Teaching the Euthyphro.” Teaching Philosophy 30.3 (2007): 259-268.