On “Divine Command” Ethics

Toward a Defense of Divine Commands

Noting that most Ethics textbooks dismiss Divine Command Theory (DCT) rather easily, this essay attempts to defend the appeal to “Divine Commands” as a reasonable and defensible appeal to authority.  The argument emphasizes a distinction between the ontology and the epistemology of ethics in order to stress that the appeal to God as the source of morality works on two distinct levels.  The first stresses that God is the creator, so to speak, of moral goodness who may also — or may not — reveal the content of morality to us, while the second concerns how we know what God’s will might be.   With this distinction, it is possible to argue that God is the author of morality even if we have non-religious ways of helping us understand the content of that morality.  This distinction then helps us avoid some of the common objections to DCT, such as how we attribute goodness to God non-trivially, how we can use moral criteria to evaluate an “alleged revelation,” and even how we can respond to the famous Euthyphro dilemma.  In the end, this complex form of DCT is presented as a reasonable, but not necessarily easy, ethical theory.

To read the essay, click here: On Divine Command Ethics

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