Necessary Moral Truths and Theistic Metaethics

Sophia 53 (3):309-330 (2014)

Abstract

Theistic metaethics usually places one key restriction on the explanation of moral facts, namely: every moral fact must ultimately be explained by some fact about God. But the widely held belief that moral truths are necessary truths seems to undermine this claim. If a moral truth is necessary, then it seems like it neither needs nor has an explanation. Or so the objection typically goes. Recently, two proponents of theistic metaethics — William Lane Craig and Mark Murphy — have argued that this objection is flawed. They claim that even if a truth is necessary, it does not follow that it neither needs nor has an explanation. In this article, I challenge Craig and Murphy’s reasoning on three main grounds. First, I argue that the counterexamples they use to undermine the necessary truth objection to theistic metaethics are flawed. While they may provide some support for the notion that necessary truths can be explained, they do not provide support for the notion that necessary moral truths can be explained. Second, I argue that the principles of explanation that Murphy and Craig use to support theistic metaethics are either question-begging (in the case of Murphy) or improperly motivated (in the case of Craig). And third, I provide a general defence of the claim that necessary moral truths neither need nor have an explanation

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John Danaher
University College, Galway

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