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What is The Euthyphro Dilemma?

The One Minute Apologist with William Lane Craig

Time : 00:02:11

Special Guest Dr. William Lane Craig joins us and explains the Euthyphro dilemma, a dilemma posed to people who say that moral value is based in the gods.

Watch this exciting episode and grab a copy of Dr. Craig's new book "On Guard" to learn more about this and other arguments on good and evil.


Bobby Conway: What is Euthyphro’s dilemma?

Dr. Craig: Well, that’s a dilemma posed in one of Plato’s dialogues to people who say that goodness, moral value, is based in the gods. Socrates asks Euthyphro, “Do the gods will something because it is good, or is something good because the gods will it?” If you say that the gods will something because it’s good, then the good is independent of the gods. It’s not dependent on them at all. But if you say that the good is whatever the gods will, then that seems to be an example of might makes right. They could’ve declared something totally different to be the good. And so, it makes good and evil arbitrary, which seems wrong.

This dilemma is often pressed against those who believe that goodness and moral value is grounded by God. I think, however, that the Euthyphro dilemma is a false dilemma, because there’s a third alternative. It’s not the case that God wills something because it is good, nor is it the case that something is good just because God wills it. Rather, God wills something because he is good. That is to say, it is God’s own nature which determines what is the good. God is, by nature, essentially compassionate, just, fair, kind, loving, and so forth. And because he is good, his commandments to us reflect, necessarily, his nature. And therefore, the commandments of God and our moral duties are rooted in God’s essence. They are not arbitrary, they’re rooted in God himself, but they aren’t grounded in anything external to God. God is himself the good who is the source of our moral duties.