George has asked if I have ever tried to apply the Euthyphro question to my own account of moral goodness.
The background behind this question comes from my claim that the Euthyphro question creates the same problem for what currently passes for a so-called "science of morality" as it does for divine-command theory.
Is X morally good because it us loved by our genes (a euphemism for theories that claim that we can understand what is morally good by understanding what people are biologically disposed to claim is morally good)? Or is it loved by our genes because it is good?
If the latter, we have no answer to the question of what it is for something to be good. We only have a claim that, whatever it is, it will come to be loved by our genes. This, in itself, is an absurd statement, given what we know about evolution.
If the former, then anything that is loved by our genes would be good.
Well, male lions kill their step children when they take over a pride. Many insects kill and eat their mates. We cannot ignore the fact that evolution has had no problem in finding a place for any number of predators and parasites, many of which treat their prey with unspeakable cruelty.
The male disposition to rape and to sexually abuse adolescent step daughters may also have a genetic component, and our disposition to form up into tribes and to enter into violent conflict with other tribes - white versus black, Aryan versus Jew, Protestant versus Catholic versus Muslim versus Jew versus Atheist, Hatfield versus McCoy, Crip versus Blood - could well rest within our genes as well.
The claim that we could never evolve a disposition towards cruelty seems clearly false. But even if it were true, these "science of morality" would still have a problem. It still implies that if we were to acquire such a trait, then the cruelty that we are biologically disposed to value would be good.
In the same sense, "God could never be cruel" does not save divine command theory from the Euthyphro problem because it is still the case that if God were cruel, then cruelty would be good.
By this argument, I claim that much of what is currently passing for the science of morality and is praised by the atheist community is bunk. And that the atheist disposition to ignore arguments they do not like is no different than the theist ability to simply brush aside the Euthyphro argument against divine command theories.
However, George asked if I have applied this question to my own account of moral goodness.
First, what is my account of moral goodness?
For moral goodness, what is good is that which a person with those malleable desires that people generally have many and strong reason to promote through social forces such as praise and condemnation, and who lack those desires that people generally have many and strong reason to inhibit using those same forces - would pursue.
This is a complex concept. Breaking it down into parts, we gave a hypothetical agent (1) with those malleable desires that people generally have reason to promote through social forces, and (2) lacking those malleable desires that people have reason to inhibit through social forces, would have reason to realize or preserve.
I also add that: (1) desires are the only reasons for action that exist, (2) desires are propositional attitudes – that each desire takes as its object a proposition P, and (3) a desire that P is a motivating reason for the person who has it to choose those actions that would realize or preserve states of affairs in which the proposition P is true.
How does this stand against the Euthyphro question?
Well, one horn of the Euthyphro dilemma states, "X1 could imply that some horrendous state of affairs is good. It would be absurd to call that state of affairs good. Therefore, we have reason to reject X1."
The other horn says that we can reject X2 because it does not answer the question. However, I can ignore this horn, because I will tackle the dilemma on the X1 side. In order to escape this dilemma I only need to get out through one of the two gates.
Desirism can escape through gate X1.
The more horrendous a potential result is, the more and stronger the desires that are thwarted by it. The thwarting of desires gives others reason to bring social forces such as praise and condemnation against the malleable desires that bring about such a state. Calling something evil is an act of condemnation – just as calling something virtuous is an act of praise. Thus, the more horrendous the results that might come from a malleable desire, the less virtuous (more evil) that desire becomes.
Furthermore, there is no such thing as a state which is horrendous, but which doesn't thwart desires. So, there is no such thing as a state which is horrendous that doesn’t create reasons to bring social forces to bear against those malleable desires that bring about such a state. Desires are the only reasons for action that exist.
With this, desirism passes through Gate X1 and, as a result, escapes the Euthyphro dilemma. This gives it an advantage over both divine command theories and for what currently passes for a "science of morality".
Before I close, I would like to look briefly at non-malleable desires. Do they get a free pass?
This theory does not give non-malleable desires that tend to thwart other desires a free pass. It simply says that bringing social forces to bear against desires that are immune to the effects of social forces is pointless. Which is true.
When we are dealing with non-malleable desires that tend to bring about horrendous effects, we need to look elsewhere to deal with them. We may look to the field of medicine, or to non-punitive restraint (mental institutions) to prevent those harms. The fact that they generate horrendous effects still give those who would suffer those horrendous effects reasons to address them. But it does not give them reason to use impotent social forces such as praise and condemnation.
This is what happens when desirism is put up against the Euthyphro question.