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Critical Analysis of the Major Dilemma of the Euthyphro Problem

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Divine Command Theory & Utilitarianism

I. Introduction

This paper discussed both the divine command theory and utilitarianism, in a comparative study to ultimately suggest that utilitarianism is the most compelling approach in determining right and wrong. This paper is divided into four sections. Part II will outline the divine command theory and provide a detailed understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of this religious account of morality. Part III will discuss the utilitarianism approach and the advantages and disadvantages in determining right and wrong. Further, part IV will provide a comparative study of the two approaches in determining the most compelling approach. Finally, part V will summarise both approaches in ultimately highlighting that the utilitarian approach is the most compelling as a basis for determining right and wrong.

II. Religion and Morality: Divine Command Theory

Religion and morality, throughout the space of time, has been developed and confirmed as a result of individuals’ social interactions and group. The causal link between morality and religion is evidenced when individuals question their morality and often doubt their religion, as well. Divine command theory claims that morality is ultimately based on the commands and character of God and that morally correct actions are based on God’s commands and requirements (Wielenberg, 2018). Divine Command Theory claims that all human moral obligations are linked with God, as God can command or forbid an act (Wielenberg, 2018). Upon application of such, it suggests that individuals that adhere to the Divine Command Theory understand morality to be binding, a conception applied universally and only originated through God. Further, this addresses many of the biggest questions about morality by differentiating right and wrong through using the commandments and instructions of God. Hence, this approach is considered the ethical theory of choice for much of the world. To be an adherent of the Divine Command Theory, individuals require faith in God and hold a belief of the afterlife, as in the afterlife individuals that are morally good are rewarded with eternal happiness (Wielenberg, 2018).

III. Secular Account of Morality: Utilitarianism

Utilitarianism focuses on the consequences of our actions and behavior rather than the intent (Mukerji & Luetge, 2013). This secular account of morality is based on the notion that good actions will lead to good consequences, as good actions should be measured in terms of the happiness and pleasure they produce (Mill, 2006). The theory is founded on the notion of evaluation, whereby the action is chosen should be the one that produces the most beneficial result. Further, the utilitarian approach is focused on the ‘maximization of utility, (Mukerji & Luetge, 2013), highlighting the notion that as an adherent to this approach, an individual should be using options that produce the greatest good. A key belief in this approach is that where morality is concerned, all individuals are equal and no one person is ‘more special than anybody else’ (Devellennes, 2014). Upon application of the utilitarian approach, moral decisions should be made from the position of a benevolent, disinterested spectator, rather than thinking of an individual’s own self-interest (Devellennes, 2014). This will allow utilitarians to have a disposition of goodwill, with no emotional investment in the decision-making process. This approach is far more likely to yield a fair and unbiased judgment about what action is truly the best and hence the more compelling approach.

There are two types of utilitarianism being act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. The first consists of individuals in any given situation choosing the action that produces the greatest good for the greatest number (Devellennes, 2014). However, the rule utilitarianism approach is the version of utilitarianism which stipulates that individuals are ought to live by rules that in general are likely to lead to the greatest good for the greatest number. Both of which hold similarities, although provide advantages and disadvantages of their own.

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IV. Comparative Study

Divine Command Theory

Divine Command Theory is a strong option as a religious account of morality through its many advantages. Mainly Divine Command Theory provides an objective foundation for mortality, as those who follow the moral truths of this theistic framework are lead towards a reward-orientated moral motivation (Rahimi, 2012). Divine Command Theory has the advantage of being quite simplistic in nature, as God is the source of morality then his adherents are simply following God’s teachings as they are responsible for determining the ‘goodness’ of that moral decision. This for his followers is simple, as his teachings can be simply summed up as God is the source of morality and his teachings are inevitably moral (Rahimi, 2012). Furthermore, this enables individuals to make moral decisions based on a holistic and spiritual approach to inevitability making moral actions and decisions meaningful (Rahimi, 2012).

Although, Divine Command Theory has its many disadvantages as well including the major dilemma of the Euthyphro Problem. The Euthyphro Problem is a major issue for followers of the Divine Command Theory account of morality as it provides a dilemma, as the dilemma explains that if God determines the rightness and wrongness of everything, just by saying so then the entire concept of goodness and value becomes vacuous (Harrison, 2015). Thus, how do we know what God commands as in the Bible there are explicit instructions that many bible reading theists do not consider binding (Harrison, 2015)? This is a disadvantage as a good moral theory is one that will generate answers to these dilemmas and in this case, Divine Command Theory seems to fall short. In addition, Divine Command Theory to many remains outdated with current laws that are widely accepted in secular society. Further leading to the problems such as atheists cannot follow this account of morality if they do not believe in God which creates the issue of Divine Command Theory not being available for everyone (Rahimi, 2012). Finally, Divine Command Theory is problematic as some people may argue that to merely avoiding punishment for their actions to gain access to eternal bliss is a mark of moral immaturity, rather individuals should seek to live moral lives because we desire happiness (Rahimi, 2012).


Utilitarianism is an account of morality that has many advantages with its main being the consequences of actions completed by its adherents. The goal of this account of morality is to provide the greatest good by weighing out the good and bad. Simply the goal of Utilitarianism is happiness, as it provides goals and desires for individuals to improve happiness in their lives while minimizing the consequences (Devellennes, 2014). Furthermore, there are extensions off utilitarianism that address potential problems such as Rule Utilitarianism which allows its followers to refrain from acts that might maximize utility in the short run, and instead follow rules that will maximize utility for the majority of the time (Devellennes, 2014). Importantly, another advantage is that non-religious individual can follow the Utilitarian account of morality as it is a moral thought process that allows its followers to not believe in a transcendent being.

Although, Utilitarianism has is disadvantages including the subjective nature of its theory as it can be based of the opinion of its followers (Mukerji & Luetge, 2013). Furthermore, although Utilitarianism sounds simple, it is a demanding moral theory as individuals justify their actions by understanding that we live in a world where terrible things may happen. And, if there is a possibility for these adherents to do something to make things better, they are obliged. Even, potentially if this means literally getting their hands dirty, as sitting by and watching something bad happen with the ability to prevent it still means that their hands are dirty nonetheless (Mukerji & Luetge, 2013). Although, after taking all of this into consideration the advantages of Utilitarianism seem to outweigh the disadvantages as well as being more relevant and accessible for individuals to follow.

V. Conclusion

In conclusion, Utilitarianism seems to provide the most compelling account of morality over Divine Command Theory. After understanding each account in detail, outlining their advantages as disadvantages, and comparing each theory to one another it is clear to me that Utilitarianism’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages. As well as provides a relevant and accessible account of morality for adherents to follow compared to Divine Command Theory.


  1. Devellennes, C. 2014. Utility contra utilitarianism: Holbach’s international ethics. Journal of International Political Theory, Vol 10(2), pp 188-205.
  2. Harrison, G. 2015. The Euthyphro, Divine Command Theory and Moral Realism, Philosophy, Vol 90(1), pp 107-113
  3. Mill, J. 2006. Ethical theories: Utilitarianism. Contemporary Moral Problems, Vol 8, pp 567
  4. Mukerji, N., & Luetge, C. 2013. Utilitarianism. Handbook of the Philosophical Foundations of Business Ethics, pp 297-312.
  5. Rahimi, S. 2012. Divine Command Theory and Theistic Activism. Heythrop Journal, Vol 53(4), pp 551-559
  6. Wielenberg, E,. 2018. Divine command theory and psychopathy. Religious Studies, pp 1-16.

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Critical Analysis of the Major Dilemma of the Euthyphro Problem. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 2, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Major Dilemma of the Euthyphro Problem.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Critical Analysis of the Major Dilemma of the Euthyphro Problem. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Feb. 2023].
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