The Nature of Morality

Here’s my latest question that I have to answer in History of Philosophy I. I’m curious to know what you guys think. I had to think about the answer for a few days, but I think I know what my answer is now.

In the Euthyphro, while Socrates and Euthyphro are discussing holiness (piety), Euthyphro offers several accounts of the nature of holiness.  To his 3rd account, that holiness is that which all the gods love, Socrates asks if holy things are holy because the gods love them or if the gods love them because they are holy.  The idea behind his objection is this.  An account of holiness should explain why holy things are holy.  If everything which is holy is loved by the gods, that might be an interesting feature of holy things, but it might not explain why they are holy– thereby failing as an account of holiness.  If all the gods love holy things because they are holy, then the love of the gods doesn’t make them holy (since they were already holy and therefore deserving of love).  On the other hand, if the gods love makes things holy, then there is another problem.  If these things weren’t already holy, then why would the gods love them.  Thus, it seems that the gods’ love cannot be based on anything in that which is loved, thereby rendering the love of the gods arbitrary and making it the case that there is no real unity or nature to holiness.

Socrates’ objection has been taken to show that morality, if there is any genuine moral value or truth, must exist independent of God.  For instance, murder is wrong and God forbids it (according to the Old Testament, anyway).  If God forbids it because it is wrong, then God’s commandment doesn’t make it wrong.  If God’s command made it wrong, then there was nothing wrong with it before the command.  Hence, there was no reason for God to forbid it.  God’s commandment is then arbitrary and morality has no real truth or nature. 

So, what do you think about Socrates’ objection?  Can there be morality apart from God or religion?

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