The locus classicus of the Euthyphro Dilemma (if you want to call it that) is Stephanus 9-10 in the early Platonic dialog, Euthyphro. This aporetic dialog is about the nature of piety, and Socrates, as usual, is in quest of a definition. Euthyphro proposes three definitions, with each of which Socrates has no trouble finding fault. According to the second, "piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate." To this Socrates famously responds, "Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?" In clearer terms, do the gods love pious acts because they are pious, or are pious acts pious because the gods love them?
What interests me at the moment is the notion of metaphysical grounding which I want to defend against London Ed and other anti-metaphysical types. (For it is his failure to understand metaphysical grounding that accounts for Ed's failure to appreciate the force of my circularity objection to the thin theory of existence.) Thus I will not try to answer a question beyond my pay grade, namely:
Q. Does God command X because it is morally obligatory, or is X morally obligatory because God commands it?
My concern is with the preliminary question whether (Q) is so much as intelligible. It is intelligible only if we can make sense of the 'because' in it. Let' s start with something that we should all be able to agree on (if we assume the existence of God and the existence of objective moral obligations), namely:
1. Necessarily, God commands X iff X is morally obligatory.
(1) expresses a broadly logical equivalence and equivalence is symmetrical: if p is equivalent to q, then q is equivalent to p. But metaphysical grounding is asymmetrical: if M metaphysically grounds N, then it is not the case that N metaphysically grounds M. For example, if fact F is the truth-maker of sentence s, then it is not the case that s is the truth-maker of F. Truth-making is a type of metaphysical grounding: it is not a causal relation and its is not a logical relation (where a logical relation is one that relates propositions, examples of logical relations being consistency, inconsistency, entailment, and logical independence.)
(1) leaves wide open whether God is the source of the obligatoriness of moral obligations, or whether such obligations are obligatory independently of divine commands. Thus the truth of (1) does not entail an answer to (Q).
The 'because' in (Q) cannot be taken in a causal sense if causation is understood as a relation that connects physical events, states, or changes with other physical events, states, or changes. Nor can the 'because' be taken in a logical sense. Logical relations connect propositions, and a divine command is not a proposition. Nor is the obligatoriness of the content of a command a proposition.
So I say this: if the content of a command is morally obligatory because God issued the command, then the issuing of the command is the metaphysical ground of the the moral obligatoriness of the content of the command. If, on the other hand, the content of the command is morally obligatory independently of the issuing of the divine command, then the moral obligatoriness of the command is the metaphysical ground of the correctness of the divine command.
Either way, there is a relation of metaphysical grounding.
My argument in summary:
1. (Q) is an intelligible question.
2. (Q) is not a question about a causal relation.
3. (Q) is not a question about a logical relation.
4. There is no other ordinary (nonmetaphysical) candidate relation such as a temporal relation or an epistemic relation for (Q) to be about.
5. (Q) is an intelligible question if and only if 'because' in (Q) expresses metaphysical grounding.
6. 'Because' in (Q) expresses metaphysical grounding.
7. There is a relation of metaphysical grounding.
OK, London Ed, which premise will you reject and why?
For Part I of this discussion, and the first six examples, see here. Recall that my concern is to show via a variety of examples that the eliminativist-reductivist distinction is useful and important and indeed indispensable for clear thinking about a number of topics.
7. Truth is warranted assertibility. Someone who makes this claim presumably intends to inform us about the nature of truth on the presupposition that there is truth. He is saying: there is truth all right; and what it is is warranted assertibility. But I say: if truth is warranted assertibility, then there is no truth. The italicized claim, no matter what the intentions of a person who makes it, amounts to a denial of truth. This example, as it seems to me, is 'on all fours' (as the Brits say) with the Feuerbach example and the 'properties are sets' example. Just as a property is not the sort of entity that could be identified with a set, truth is not the sort of property that could be identified with warranted assertibility (even at the Peircean ideal limit of inquiry.) These three claims are all of them eliminativist.
8. Truth is relative. Ditto. Truth is not the sort of property that could be relative: if you know what truth is then you know that truth is absolute. So if you say that truth is relative, then you are either confusing truth with some other property (e.g. the property of being believed by someone) or you are willy-nilly denying the very existence of truth. If you understand the concept of God, then you understand that God cannot be an anthropomorphic projection. And if you understand the concept of truth, then you understand that truth cannot be relative to anything, whatever your favorite index of relativization might be, whether individuals, social classes, historical epochs . . . .
9. The morally obligatory is that which God commands. In stark contrast to the two foregoing examples, this example cannot be given an eliminativist reading. The very concept of truth disallows truth's relativization. But there is nothing in the concept of moral obligation to disallow the identification of the morally obligatory with that which God commands. But here we need to make a distinction.
You will have noticed that identity is a symmetrical relation: if x = y, then y = x. But reduction is asymmetrical: if x reduces to y, then y does not reduce to x. Therefore, an identification is not the same as a reductive identification or reduction. 'Hesperus = Phosphorus' is an identity claim but not a reductive claim: the claim is not that Hesperus reduces to Phosphorus, as if Phosphorus were the fundamental reality and Hesperus the less fundamental, or perhaps a mere appearance of Phosphorus. But 'Table salt = NaCl' is a reduction of what is less fundamental to what is more fundamental.
Now what about our italicized claim? There are problems with reading it as a left-to-right reduction. The morally obligatory is what we morally ought to do; but what we ought to do cannot be reduced to what anyone commands, not even if the commander is morally perfect. The normative oughtness of an act or act-ommission cannot be reduced the mere fact that someone commands it, even if the commander always commands all and only what one ought to do. So one could argue that the italicized claim, if construed as a reduction of the morally obligatory to what God commands, collapses into an elimination of the morally obligatory. Be we needn't take it as a reduction; we can take it as a nonreductive identification. Accordingly, being morally obligatory and being commanded by God are the same property in reality even though they are conceptually distinct.
But even if you don't agree with the details of my analysis, I think you must agree to distinguish among eliminative claims, reductive identity claims, and nonreductive identity claims.
Horace Jeffery Hodges has a couple of informative and well-documented posts, here and here, on the divine will and its limits, if any, in Judaism and Christianity on the one hand, and in Islam, on the other. One way to focus the issue is in terms of the Euthyphro dilemma.
The locus classicus is Stephanus 9-10 in the early Platonic dialog, Euthyphro. This aporetic dialog is about the nature of piety, and Socrates, as usual, is in quest of a definition. Euthyphro proposes three definitions, with each of which Socrates has no trouble finding fault. According to the second, "piety is what all the gods love, and impiety is what all the gods hate." To this Socrates famously responds, "Do the gods love piety because it is pious, or is it pious because they love it?" In clearer terms, do the gods love pious acts because they are pious, or are pious acts pious because the gods love them?
But the Euthyphro problem assumes its full trenchancy and interest in the following generalized form of an aporetic dyad: