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As part of a course I am taking, I was asked to continue the dialogue Euthyphro as if Euthyphro had given the opposite response to Plato's famous question:

Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious? Or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?

That is, what if Euthyphro said that the pious is pious because it is loved by the gods - how would Plato have responded.

Here's my logic for a potential rebuttal:

  1. If something is pious because it is loved by the gods, and impious because it is hated by them, what causes the gods to love and hate things? There is no possible answer except that the will of the gods (i.e., what they approve/disapprove of) is arbitrary and accidental.
  2. I remember reading that Plato identified the form of the good with the gods --> the gods are identical to the form of the good.
  3. Just like any form, there must be a good itself. Therefore, there must be a cause that makes a good thing the way it is (good).
  4. Since the gods are identical to the form of the good, there must also be a cause that makes the gods the way they are.
  5. We have reached a contradiction because if the will of the gods is arbitrary and accidental, that means that nothing is causing them to be the way they are. (if their will were not arbitrary, then external standards of piety/impiety would be causing them to be the way they are)

Is my logic flawed? What is a better rebuttal? Is there even a rebuttal if Euthyphro is willing to believe that the will of the gods is arbitrary?

  • On my reading, Plato has Socrates address this pretty directly in the text. I don't think you need to go to your argument (also it's kind of confusing that you are asking a question, then pointing out a flaw in your reasoning as if it were an answer). – virmaior Jul 27 '19 at 3:09
  • Socrates does not address this because Euthyphro doesn’t give this answer - Euthyphro concedes that the gods love things because they are pious. Once Euthyphro concedes this, Socrates proves that pious things cannot be identical to things beloved by the gods because things beloved are beloved because they are loved, while things pious aren’t pious because they are love. Socrates doesn’t at all address what’s wrong with the opposite response, which I am concerned with - things are pious because they are loved. I purposefully didn’t accept my answer because I am looking for a valid rebuttal – philuser1234 Jul 27 '19 at 3:35
  • Part of my question was identifying the flaw within my rebuttal, which is why I posted it as an answer. – philuser1234 Jul 27 '19 at 3:40
  • Earlier in the dialogue it comes up that the things gods disagree about are unmeasurable things. The clear implication is that if it is pious because the gods love, then either (a) it must be something upon which all gods agree --respawning the why question -- as in why do they all love it? or (b) something about which they disagree in which case the same action is pious and unpious at the same time (a contradiction) – virmaior Jul 27 '19 at 4:53
  • I think you're misrepresenting the dialogue - the discussion about unmeasurable things is being used to disprove the the definition that the pious is what the gods love - Euthyphro never proposes the definition that an action is pious because the gods love it - aren't you conflating the two. In the dialogue, Socrates's invalidation of case a), which is the second potential definition of pious proposed by Euthyphro, works only because Euthyphro agrees that the gods love things because they are pious. Socrates never brings up this objection about the respawning of the question. – philuser1234 Jul 28 '19 at 14:38
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I have managed to identify an issue with my logic, which I describe below. With the invalidation of this rebuttal, I am now in search of a new one.

Problem: The issue with my rebuttal is the inference in step 4.

Step 3 is technically true.

There must be a cause that makes a good thing the way it is (good).

However, even though it's true, I failed to recognize that this cause (that makes things good) IS the form of the good - that is, the form of goodness is the cause that makes things good. There is no initial cause that makes the form of the good the way it is, but rather the form of the good is the cause itself.

Step 4 is wrong.

Since the gods are identical to the form of the good, there must also be a cause that makes the gods the way they are.

As discussed above, there is no cause that makes the form of the good the way it is, but rather it is the cause of something else. Therefore, since the gods are identical to the form of the good, there is no cause that makes the gods the way they are, but rather the gods are causes in and of themselves.

Not only was my rebuttal wrong, but it actually supports the opposite conclusion!

If the gods are causes in and of themselves, then it makes sense that their approval/disapproval of certain things would cause those things to be pious/impious! This supports the point that a thing is pious because it is loved by the gods.

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