The Euthyphro Dilemma and Portrayal of Providence in Literary Works

The Euthyphro Dilemma

            In the Euthyphro dilemma, Socrates asks Euthyphro whether the holy is loved by the gods because of its holy nature or it derives its holiness from the love of the gods. The question can be simplified as “does God favor the good because it is good, or does the good acquire its goodness because God commands it?” (Pailin 100). Socrates and Euthyphro deliberate that the gods love the holy because of its holy nature. This means the second argument must be rebuffed since the fact that the gods love something holy does not justify the presence of its holiness. Otherwise, if the two arguments were putative, then they would yield a vicious circle, with the gods loving the holy because of its holy nature, and the holy being holy because the gods love it.

            The Euthyphro dilemma is perhaps the most common argument against traditional theism. Taking the first argument, one can reason that by commanding the good because of its good nature, the gods base their decision on what is already morally good to issue their command. Thus, moral goodness exists even before the gods give any command. If this is the case, then the plausible conclusion is that morality is independent of gods’ command and that morality does not originate from gods’ commands. In the second argument, one can contend that nothing is good unless the gods command it. This implies that what the gods command is arbitrary as far morals are concerned and that the gods do not have any moral standing while issuing their commands. Therefore, both arguments can be used to rebuff traditional theism.

            Though the dilemma poses a challenge for proponents of the divine command theory, one could get out of it by applying St’ Thomas Aquinas line of thought. Aquinas draws the difference between good and evil by nature, and good and evil by gods’ commands. Specifically, his argument attempts to point at the moral bulk of natural law that arises from the unchangeable moral standards. He contends that the gods cannot even change the Ten Commandments, but can change what particular people deserve in given situations. Thus, according to his argument, the definition of good and evil is not necessarily defined as is in the Euthyphro Dilemma.

Portrayal of Providence in Literary Works

            Providence is the protective care of nature as a spiritual power. The epic fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings and a film series by the same name manifests the theme of providence in many of its scenes. For instance, in the first volume, Gandalf shows that Frodo does not possess the will of obliterating the ring. At some point, Frodo asks why the ring cannot be discarded or destroyed to which Gandalf answers by instructing him to throw it in the fire. However, Frodo learns that the ring exerts so much ‘power’ over him that he cannot do it. Even after volunteering to take the ring to the Cracks of Doom to destroy it, its power overwhelms him and he refuses to throw it away until Sméagol snatches it away, only to fall with it into the Cracks of Doom (Bassham and Eric 170). The whole quest to destroy the seemingly indestructible ring represents a providential orchestration of events.

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            According to Hibbs account, Sméagol (Gollum) is used as an instrument of providence (Bassham and Eric 168). Notably, in the final moment of the rings destruction, Sméagol chants madly, loses his balance, and falls into the Cracks of doom, thus serving his purpose in the drama. Hibbs’s argument is that the power of the ring expresses the fate of a providential world in which providence transcends free will. This creates theological fatalism or a paradox of free will in which God’s omniscience is seen as completely incompatible with free will. On the other hand, in the Summa, Aquinas argues that all actions undertaken by humans, even those involving sin, are on par with the idea of God as the first cause of all events (Gallagher 72). He equates sin to the concept of “limping” in that the defectiveness of our actions derives from us. Thus, he holds that although we are part of God’s creation, we are given the freedom of choice. In essence, Aquinas perceives no conflict between the activities of God (providence) and those of human beings as free creatures. Even so, he admits that the God’s activity as the first cause as the creator is the reason why we have free will because he moves us consistent with our involuntary nature.      

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In conclusion, The Lord of the Rings portrays a paradox of free will in which providence cannot subsist with the concept of free will. The logical formulation of this conclusion is that if god is omniscient, then he knows that a certain person will be good or bad even before creation. Thus, god knows beforehand how the individual would act as well as the choices the individual would make. Otherwise, god’s knowledge would seem imperfect. Thus, we can conclude that providence and free will are conflicting since it is impossible for a perfectly omniscience god to create an individual who has free will to do what they please.

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