The Euthyphro dilemma seems to undercut moral realism

A version of the Euthyphro dilemma:

1. If morality is not grounded in a particular being’s nature, then one either must ground it externally in another being, or not ground it at all (i.e. be ultimately arbitrary and capricious).

2. It is not probable that morality is grounded in God’s nature.

3. Therefore it is probable that morality is grounded in a being external to God, or that morality is not grounded at all.


4. It is more probable that morality is grounded in a necessary being than in a contingent being.

I can agree with with premise #1, but not premise #2. But if #1, #2 and #4 are all true, then:

5. Therefore it is probable that morality is not grounded in any being and is ultimately arbitrary and capricious.

#5 contradicts moral realism. Therefore if an atheist wishes to be a moral realist, he must reject at least premise #1 or #2 (refuting the Euthyphro dilemma, at least that version of it) or premise #4.

Commonly acknowledged criteria for inference to the best explanation

1. Explanatory scope. The best hypothesis will explain a wider range of data than will rival hypotheses.

2. Explanatory power. The best hypothesis will make the observable data more epistemically probable than rival hypotheses.

3. Plausibility. The best hypothesis will be implied by a greater variety of accepted truths and its negation implied by fewer accepted truths than rival hypotheses.

4. Less ad hoc. The best hypothesis will involve fewer new suppositions not already implied by existing knowledge than rival hypotheses.

5. Accord with accepted beliefs. The best hypothesis, when conjoined with accepted truths, will imply fewer falsehoods than rival hypotheses.

6. Comparative superiority: The best hypothesis will so exceed its rivals in meeting conditions (1) through (5) that there is little chance of a rival hypothesis’s exceeding it in fulfilling those conditions.

– Moreland, James Porter; William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (p. 62). Intervarsity Press.

The Very Act of Reading is Philosophical

Behind the various theories and practices of textual interpretation lurk larger philosophical issues. Indeed, implicit in the question of meaning are questions about the nature of reality, the possibility of knowledge, and the criteria for morality. It may not be at all obvious that one is taking a position on these issues when one picks up a book and begins to read, but I will argue that that is indeed the case. Whether there is something really “there” in the text is a question of the “metaphysics” of meaning. Similarly, reading implies some beliefs about whether it is possible to understand a text, and if so, how. Whether there is something to be known in texts is a question of the “epistemology” of meaning. Lastly, reading raises questions about what obligations, if any, impinge on the reader of Scripture or any other text. What readers do with what is in the text gives rise to questions concerning the “ethics” of meaning. Together, these three issues give rise to a related question, “What is it to be human, an agent of meaning?”

Vanhoozer, Kevin. Is There a Meaning in This Text?, p. 19. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.