Divine command theory


Background of divine command theory

  • divine command theory is a religious ethics that believes an actions status as morally good or bad is commanded by God 
  • Is is also known as theological voluntsrismism 
  • It is a meta-ethical theory meaning the theory attempts to tell us the nature of morality 
  • 'goodness' is simply what God commands 
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God as the origin and regulator of morality

  • Divine command theorists believe what is moral is determined by what Gods commands 
  • William Frankena stated that "the standard of right and wrong is the will of God"
  • All versions of the theory claim that morality and humans obligations, ultimately depend on God 
  • Rev John Robinson states "they come down direct from heaven, and are eternally valid"
  • Divine command theory can be found in sacred texts, for exa within the Ten Commandments "you shall not murder"
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Right and wrong as objective truths

  • Right and wrong (good and bad) are objective truths meaning they are not influenced by humanities personal feelings on right and wrong 
  • for example, it doesn't matter what humans think of stealing God has commanded it as bad 
  • William Ockham stated in the Middle Ages "with him a thing becomes right solely because he wants it so"
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Moral goodness is achieved by complying with divin

  • The only way to be moral is to follow God's commands 
  • some followers of Christianity, Judaism and Islam believe if you don't follow God's divine commands you will face God"s wrath 
  • for example, Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden 
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Divine command as a requirement of God’s omnipoten

  • Supporters of the theory justify it by stating that it is a natural consequence of God's omnipotence
  • an omnipotent god must have power over everything 
  • is he didn't have power over morality he would be omnipotent 
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Divine command theorists: Robert Adams

  • He created the modified divine command theory 
  • He states how the normal divine command theory could allow a seemingly immoral act to become good and humanities duty would be to follow it 
  • for example, god could command stealing as good
  • Adam solves this by stating it is unthinkable for God to do this because of his omnibenevolence 
  • "Any action is ethically wrong if and only if it is contrary to the commands of a loving god"
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Challenges to divine command theory

The Euthyphro dilemma

  • Proposed by Plato 
  • if god commanded murder was moral, divine command theory would allow god to command cruelty 

The Arbitrareness problem 

  • What is good and bad depends on nothing more than God's whim, this is not an adequate foundation of universal morality 

The pluralism objection 

  • it is impossible to know which gods commands should be followed, especially when some laws contradict in different religions 
  • for example, divorce is acceptable in Islam but isn't in Christianity 
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