In this paper I argue against Divers and Miller's 'Lightness of Being' objection to Hale and Wright's neo-Fregean Platonism. According to the 'Lightness of Being' objection, the neo-Fregean Platonist makes existence too cheap: the same principles which allow her to argue that numbers exist also allow her to claim that fictional objects exist. I claim that this is no objection at all" the neo-Fregean Platonist should think that fictional characters exist. However, the pluralist approach to truth developed by WQright in (...) 'Truth and Objectivity' allows us to salvage our intuitions about the metaphysicial lightweightness of fictional characters: truth for discourse about fictional characters fails to exert 'Cognityive Command', whereas truth about arithmetic does. (shrink)
The simplest Divine Command Theory is one which identifies rightness with being commanded or willed by God. Two clear and appealing arguments for this theory turn on the idea that laws require a lawgiver, and the idea that God is sovereign or omnipotent. Critical examination of these arguments reveals some fundamental principles at odds with the Divine Command Theory, and yields some more penetrating versions of traditional objections to that theory.
In a 2002 paper for this journal, Richard Joyce presents three new arguments against the Divine Command Theory. In this comment, I attempt to show that each of these arguments is either unpersuasive or uninteresting. Two of Joyce’s arguments are unpersuasive because they rely on an implausible principle or an implausible claim about what counts as a platitude governing use of the term “wrong.” Joyce’s other argument is uninteresting because it is persuasive only if Joyce’s formulation of the Euthyphro (...) Problem is persuasive. However, Joyce argues that the Euthyphro Problem is not persuasive. Therefore, if Joyce is correct about this, then his own objection to the Divine Command Theory is not persuasive either. (shrink)
Property-identical divine-command theory (PDCT) is the view that being obligatory is identical to being commanded by God in just the way that being water is identical to being H2O. If these identity statements are true, then they express necessary a posteriori truths. PDCT has been defended in Robert M. Adams (1987) and William Alston (1990). More recently Mark C. Murphy (2002) has argued that property-identical divine-command theory is inconsistent with two well-known and well-received theses: the free-command thesis (...) and the supervenience thesis. I show that Murphy's argument is vitiated by mistaken assumptions about the substitutivity of metaphysical identicals in contexts of supervenience. The free-command thesis and the supervenience thesis therefore pose no serious threat to PDCT. (Published Online August 11 2004). (shrink)
This essay presents a version of divine command metaethics inspired by recent work of Donnellan, Kripke, and Putnam on the relation between necessity and conceptual analysis. What we can discover a priori, by conceptual analysis, about the nature of ethical wrongness is that wrongness is the property of actions that best fills a certain role. What property that is cannot be discovered by conceptual analysis. But I suggest that theists should claim it is the property of being contrary to (...) the commands of a loving God. This claim, if true, is a necessary but not an a priori truth. It also is a claim, not about the way in which some believers use the word 'wrong,' but about the wrongness that virtually everyone talks about. This position is distinguished from the author's previous views, and from a holistic development of the latter proposed by Jeffrey Stout. (shrink)
Although this thesis is denied by much recent scholarship, Ockham holds that the ultimate ground of a moral judgement's truth is a divine command, rather than natural or non-natural properties. God could assign a different moral value not only to every exterior act, but also to loving God. Ockham does allow that someone who has not had access to revelation can make correct moral judgements. Although her right reason dictates what God in fact commands, she need not know that (...) God so commands. Ockham's divine-command theory plays an important role in the shift away from a nature-based ethics, and it anticipates contemporary problems concerning truth in meta-ethics. (shrink)
In this article I consider the respective merits of three interpretations of divine command theory. On DCT1, S’s being morally obligated to φ depends on God’s command that S φ; on DCT2, that moral obligation depends on God’s willing that S be morally obligated to φ; on DCT3, that moral obligation depends on God’s willing that S φ. I argue that the positive reasons that have been brought forward in favor of DCT1 have implications theists would find disturbing (...) and that the positive reasons brought forward in favor of DCT2 support only a weak formulation of DCT2 that is indistinguishable from other theistic moral theories. DCT3 is, however, a distinctive theory that theists have strong reasons to affirm. (shrink)
This paper formulates a kind of divine command ethical theory intended to comport with two major views: that basic moral principles are necessary truths and that necessary truths are not determined by divine will. The theory is based on the possibility that obligatoriness can be a theological property even if its grounds are such that the content of our obligations has a priori limits. As developed in the paper, the proposed divine command theory is compatible with the centrality (...) of God in practical ethics; it provides an account of a divine command morality as a set of internalized moral standards; and it is consistent with the autonomy of ethics conceived as a domain in which knowledge is possible independently of reliance on theology or religion. (shrink)
In this study, I will examine the famous 'divine command theory' of Mozi. Through the discussion of several important chapters of Mozi, including Fayi (law), Tianzhi (the will of heaven), Minggui (knowing the spirits) and Jianai (universal love), I attempt to clarify the arguments of Mozi offered in support of his distinctive ideas of serving heaven, knowing the spirits and loving all. The analysis shows that there are serious problems with his assumptions, hence they fail to support his conclusions (...) as to the heaven-human relationship, and the man-man relationship. That is to say, at least in the texts covered, Mozi did not justify the moral or social relationship in society by appealing to the religious relationship. (shrink)
Consider the following three-step dialectics. (1) Even if God (consistently) commanded torture of the innocent, it would still be wrong. Therefore Divine Command Metaethics (DCM) is false. (2) No: for it is impossible for God to command torture of the innocent. (3) Even if it is impossible, there is a non-trivially true per impossibile counterfactual that even if God (consistently) commanded torture of the innocent, it would still be wrong, and this counterfactual is incompatible with DCM. I shall (...) argue that the last step of this dialectics is flawed because it would rule out every substantive metaethical theory. (shrink)
Natural theology is still practiced as though substantive theological conclusions can be derived by a quasi-deductive process. Perhaps relevant "evidence" may lead to interesting theological conclusions -- the fact of natural evil, or the cosmic fine-tuning we hear about in contemporary cosmology, both cry out for theological explanation. I remain a skeptic, however, about the value of "a priori" methods in natural theology. The case study in this short discussion is the well known attempt to establish the logical incoherence of (...) the divine command theory of moral objectivity. If skeptics can make good on this charge, they will have gone a long way toward undercutting a central tenant of western theism. I will argue, however, that the case against theologically based moral absolutism is not as simple as showing some internal paradox or logical tension. (shrink)
According to divine-command metaethics (DCM), whatever is morally good or right has that status because, and only because, it conforms to God’s will. I argue that DCM is false or vacuous: either DCM is false, or else there are no instantiated moral properties, and no moral truths, to which DCM can even apply. The sort of criticism I offer is familiar, but I develop it in what I believe is a novel way.
If the divine will is not subject to any principle, and God controls all truths including moral truths, morality will be arbitrary at the deepest level. It will not be possible to offer any explanation of why God has willed certain actions rather than their contraries. Throughout the history of philosophical debate there have been many attempts to support the dependence of moral truths on God's command (or divine command theory) and at the same time to avoid this (...) charge of arbitrariness. In the West, one such an attempt has been made by Thomas V. Morris and Christopher Menzel (, hereafter M&M), who refer to their position as theistic activism. In this paper I will discuss their view and argue that: 1) their position does not satisfy the requirements of divine freedom, and that 2) to regard moral truths as necessary and unalterable is not adequate. (shrink)
What is the relationship between divine commands and ethical duties? According to the divine command theory of ethics, moral actions are obligatory simply because God commands people to do them. This position raises a serious question about the nature of ethics, since it suggests that there is no reason, ethical or non-ethical, behind divine commands; hence both his commands and morality become arbitrary. This paper investigates the scriptural defense of the divine command theory and argues that this methodology (...) is wrong as any interpretation of the text stands on a complex web of ethical and non-ethical presuppositions and as these presuppositions change so does the interpretation. (shrink)
Poverty -of-stimulus arguments have taken new ground recently, augmented by experimental findings from th e study of child language. In this paper, we briefly review two variants of the poverty-of-stimulus argument that have received empirical support from studies of child language; then we examine a third argument of this kind in more detail. The case under discussion involves the structural notion of c-command as it pertains to children’s interpretation of disjunction in the scope of negation.
Given the religious appeal of divine command theories of morality (DCM), and given that these theories are found in both Christianity and Islam, we could expect DCM to be represented in Judaism, too. In this essay, however, we show that hardly any echoes of support for this thesis can be found in Jewish texts. We analyze texts that appear to support DCM and show they do not. We then present a number of sources clearly opposed to DCM. Finally, we (...) offer a theory to explain the absence of DCM in Judaism, claiming that the rational character of "Halakha", as well as the moral and rational character of God, does not provide suitable ground for the growth of DCM theses. (shrink)
Nearly all attempts to include Aquinas among the class of divine command theorists have focused on two kinds of texts: those exhibiting Aquinas’s treatment of the apparent immoralities of the patriarchs (e.g., Abraham’s intention to kill Isaac), and those pertaining to Aquinas’s discussion of the divine will. In the present paper, I lay out a third approach unrelated to these two. I argue that Aquinas’s explicit endorsement of one ethical proposition as self-evident throughout his writings is sufficient justification to (...) include Aquinas among the class of divine command theorists. I examine Aquinas’s persistent contention that the proposition “the commands of God are to be obeyed” is a self-evident or per se nota proposition of ethical reasoning, and I then trace Aquinas’s appeals to it in the Sentences commentary, De Veritate, and Quodlibet 3. I conclude with a discussion of passages where Aquinas argues that the experience of moral necessity or obligation requires reference to divine commands. (shrink)
We claim that divine command metaethicists have not thought through the nature of the expression of divine love with sufficient rigor. We argue, against prior divine command theories, that the radical difference between God and the natural world means that grounding divine command in divine love can only ground a formal claim of the divine on the human; recipients of revelation must construct particular commands out of this formal claim. While some metaethicists might respond to us by (...) claiming that this account leads to an inability to judge between better and worse constructions of the commanded life, we propose that an analysis of the human response to divine love--theological eros--can be the basis for an articulation of a philosophical theology (in our case, negative theology) that can guide the religious believer toward generating particular principles for ethical action that are grounded in an account of divine action. By linking divine command to imitatio Dei, the believer can have confidence that her imitative acts of God are not inaccurate constructions of the commanded life. (shrink)
In this paper I will argue that a false assumption drives the attraction of philosophers to a divine command theory of morality. Specifically, I suggest the idea thatanything not created by God is independent of God is a misconception. The idea misleads us into thinking that our only choice in offering a theistic ground for morality is between making God bow to a standard independent of his will or God creating morality in revealing his will. Yet what is God (...) is hardly independent of him, and in coupling a perfect being theology with the doctrine of divine simplicity we discover that God’s “reason” is God. Accordingly, obeying the truths of goodness that we humans speak of as contained in the divine wisdom hardly impugns the divine sovereignty. By modifying divine command ethics to give primacyto God’s love or justice, thinkers such as Robert M. Adams, Philip L. Quinn, and Edward J. Wierenga admit the repugnance of this picture in spite of their verbal allegiance to divine command ethics. Accordingly, they implicitly concede that basing morality on God’s sheer power should not be the preferred option for the Christian theist. (shrink)
– The Joint Battle Management Language (JBML) is an XML-based language designed to allow Command and Control (C2) systems to interface easily with Modeling and Simulation (M&S) systems. While some of the XML-tags defined in this language correspond to types of entities that exist in reality, others are mere syntactic artifacts used to structure the messages themselves. Because these two kinds of tags are not formally distinguishable, JBML messages in effect confuse data with what the data represent. In this (...) paper we show how a realism-based ontology combined with a rule language can be used to make these distinctions explicit. The approach allows storage of the contents of JBML messages in a Referent Tracking System in a format that mimics the structure of reality thereby providing an aid to message validation. (shrink)
Al-Shafi'i (d. 820) is clearly one of the most important figures in the early history of Islamic jurisprudence. His Risala or "Treatise" on the "principles of jurisprudence" (usul al-fiqh) is also of interest as an example of an approach to ethics that focuses on divine commands. Following a brief introduction, I offer the reader a few comments about al-Shafi'i's context. I summarize the content of the Risala and then analyze it as an example of divine command reasoning in ethics. (...) Finally, I present some observations on the place of al-Shafi'i's theory in the history of Islamic ethics, particularly with respect to his comments on ikhtilaf, "disagreement.". (shrink)
Some writers employ human analogies in their attempts to defend a "divine command theory" of the foundation of morals. I argue that this strategy is self-defeating. Appeal to human analogies has implications which tend to undermine any interesting or full-bodied version of divine command theory. Indeed, this line of discussion suggests there is a logical confusion in the very idea that some agent-even God-might bring about obligations by an act of will.
The golden rule, perhaps the most recognizable moral maxim in Western culture, is an inadequate basis for morality. In light of its flaws as a precept and its apparent lack of moral content, it is initially perplexing that the historic Judeo-Christian tradition has often linked the golden rule with the second greatest command to love one's neighbor as oneself. However, after examining the presuppositions behind this link and investigating the biblical context of these sayings, it is clear that the (...) Judeo-Christian tradition is justified in making this connection. Although the golden rule and the love command should not be conflated and their distinctions should not be abandoned, the biblical intention of the golden rule can only be understood and properly practiced in connection with the love command. (shrink)
Defenders of theistic morality sometimes insist that God's will can impose moral obligation only if God has a right to command. The right is compared to that which parents have over their children and which is thought to derive from a filial debt of gratitude. This essay examines arguments for divine authority based on gratitude which employ the parental analogy. It is argued that neither parental nor divine authority is based on gratitude. An alternative derivation of parental authority is (...) suggested but shown to be unavailable to those who would compare divine to parental rights. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith conflates two different meanings of ?self-command?, which is particularly puzzling because of the central role of this virtue in his theory. The first is the matrix of rational action, the one described in Part III of the TMS and learned in ?the great school of self-command?. The second is the particular moral virtue of self-command. Distinguishing between these two meanings allows us, on the (...) one hand, to solve some apparent paradoxes of the text; and, on the other, to identify various features of both the practical reason and deontological ethical traditions that are present in Smith's sentimentalism, enriching his phenomenological account of moral actions. (shrink)
I offer a series of axiomatic formalizations of Divine Command Theory motivated by certain methodological considerations. Given these considerations, I present what I take to be the best axiomatization of Divine Command Theory, an axiomatization which requires a non-standardsemantics for quantified modal logic.
Richard Swinburne argues that belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for faith, and he also argues that, while faith is voluntary, belief is involuntary. This essay is concerned with the tension arising from the involuntary aspect of faith, the Christian doctrine that human beings have an obligation to exercise faith, and the moral claim that people are only responsible for actions where they have the ability to do otherwise. Put more concisely, the problem concerns the coherence of the (...) following claims: (1) one cannot have faith, (2) one has an obligation to have faith, and (3) ought implies can. To solve this dilemma, I offer three solutions that I believe have the philosophical resources to demonstrate the consistency of these claims. Thus, I defend the claim that it is logically possible for a person to be culpable for an involuntary failure to have faith in God. (shrink)
An argument is usually said to be valid iff it is truth-preserving—iff it cannot be that all its premises are true and its conclusion false. But imperatives (it is normally thought) are not truth-apt. They are not in the business of saying how the world is, and therefore cannot either succeed or fail in doing so. To solve this problem, we need to find a new criterion of validity, and I aim to propose such a criterion.
In this paper I argue (i) that choosing to abide by realist moral norms would be as arbitrary as choosing to abide by the mere preferences of a God (a difficulty akin to the Euthyphro dilemma raised for divine command theorists); in both cases we would lack reason to prefer these standards to alternative codes of conduct. I further develop this general line of thought by arguing in particular (ii) that we would lack any noncircular justification to concern ourselves (...) with any such realist normative standards. (shrink)
Thanks largely to the work of Robert Adams and Philip Quinn, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a resurgence of interest in divine command theory as a viable position in normative theory and meta-ethics. More recently, however, there has been some dissatisfaction with divine command theory even among those philosophers who claim that normative properties are grounded in God, and as a result alternative views have begun to emerge, most notably divine intention theory (Murphy, Quinn) and (...) divine motivation theory (Zagzebski). My goal here is to outline a distinct theory, divine desire theory, and suggest that, even if it is not clearly superior to these extant views, it is at least worthy of serious consideration.1 As far as this paper is concerned, the discussion will be limited just to the deontic status of actions (obligatory, permissible, forbidden), and so no attempt will be made to also account for axiological properties such as goodness or evil. In order to get oriented to the range of deontological views in this area, consider the following three rough characterizations. (shrink)
to think critically means that we are able to think in a logical fashion — in straight lines, as it were. One of the hardest skills that all undergraduates have to acquire is being able to think logically and then formulate these logical thoughts into sentences to produce an academic essay. Sentences and paragraphs in an essay have to follow on from each other in a logical sequence. This is part of critical thinking. So titles like Practical Logic or Reasoning (...) reflect this aspect of critical thinking. (shrink)
In Confucius' time, it was supposed that the sovereign had the mandate of heaven (tianming) to rule. Both Confucius and Mencius speak of a legitimate ruler as someone who has such a mandate and of a deposed ruler as someone who has lost it. Commentators have recently turned their attention to what the reference to the mandate of heaven means, as there are implications for the prospects of democracy in a Confucian state. The result is a wide spectrum of views. (...) In what might be called the liberal interpretation of the "mandate of heaven," Confucianism, or Mencius more specifically, allows for a popular revolt against a despotic ruler (hence for the possibility of democracy). In what might be called the conservative .. (shrink)