In common are the multiple ethical dilemmas humans find themselves in on a frequent basis. Conceptual moral factors are an anchor of weight one must struggle to deal with to determine what action is right or wrong. In determining the moral factor, some are arbitrary in deciding what course of action to take. In contrast, there are some who engage in a more rational approach to ethical problem-solving. The Euthyphro dilemma is a dialog many thinkers appeal to as a foundational example to exercise critical reasoning in relation to concrete ethical principles. Robert C Reed’s approach to the matter is particular in the sense that he similar to Kant, uses a similar method of doubt approach to accomplish moral maturity by questioning one’s self-belief about a moral dilemma.
In the Euthyphro, Socrates flatters Euthyphro by accrediting him as an expert of religious matters, to which Euthyphro concurs. Socrates delivers a serious of questions which reveals the inconsistencies in Euthyphro’s conclusions. This line of reasoning has become known as the Socratic Method, or also known as the Elenchus. From this line of reasoning, Reed borrows the concept to argue one may grow in virtue if one applies the Elenchus to their own situation when facing a moral dilemma of their own. Similar to Kant’s Method of Doubt, one may cast doubt on their own moral conclusions. This enables the subject to constantly ask how it is the subject has arrived at a particular conclusion, and decide which conclusion is most reasonable. This is similar to modern Knowledge Engineering which uses artificial intelligence to apply data and imitate human reasoning, (Rouse).
When subjects are able to reason within themselves regarding a moral dilemma, Reed implies that principles ought to be ignored in favor of intuition until the moral decision is evident. Continually questioning our reasoning compels a person to achieve a more keen awareness of intuition, which in return may raise moral integrity. A self-revelation of this method is what may be attributed as the Elenchus Method since the subject is frequently questioning himself to originate a more sound and reasonable moral conclusion, and in the end becoming a more virtuous person.
A principal question remains unanswered, what is virtue? Robert Reed concludes by defining virtue as, “ the application of ordinary knowledge, cognitive and non-cognitive, to the task of achieving better self-definition,” (p. 256). This also begs the question, can this definition become acknowledged as absolute? If we are to realize piety through self-revelation by way of doubting, discussion, and intuition; then is not all discovery relative to one’s own belief? Isn’t the quest ultimately to find what is truly and morally and absolutely correct? Should the Elenchus experience raise true awareness of one’s self instead of merely self relativity? Some may conclude with a definitive positive. Finding what is absolutely true may serve as a greater motivator rather than merely attempting to find what may or may not be real or true. Otherwise, morality merely becomes a relative factor, and who is to say what is definitely morally true or not? Surely such reasoning is not practical in the world.
The Euthyphro is a philosophical dialog that may always serve a great purpose for moral and religious discussion. It may serve as a platform for what moral arguments make greater sense than others. Many authors such as Robert Reed have developed outstanding moral developments and serve as practical enlightenment. This practicality is relevant to one’s self-awareness and knowledge about their own virtue; however, it may fall short of concrete moral objectivity as the Elenchus experience may seem to pave a pathway for moral relativism. In order to determine what is truly holy or virtuous; perhaps rules, principles, and standard ought not to be ignored as Reed suggested, but instead developed.
Rouse, Margaret. Knowledge Engineering. TechTarget. October. 2017.
https://searchenterpriseai.techtarget.com/definition/knowledge-engineering. Web. 06 June 2019.
Reed, Robert C. “Euthyphro’s Elenchus Experience: Ethical Expertise and Self-Knowledge.”
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16.2 (2013): 245-59. ProQuest. Web. 9 June 2019.