Virtues, divine commands, and the debt of creation: towards a Kierkegaardian Christian ethic

Dissertation, Baylor University (2006)
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Though Kierkegaard's ethic in "Works of Love" frequently has been a target of harsh — and often uncharitable — criticism, a number of recent treatments have sought to defend both its viability and its relevance to the contemporary discussion. Increasingly, the literature is replete with interpretations that situate it within the traditions of virtue ethics and/or divine command theory. I evaluate these readings, focusing primarily on the issue of moral obligation in Kierkegaard's writings. I argue that both the virtue and divine command interpretations are deficient, though Kierkegaard's ethic indeed shares significant points of contact with both traditions. I explicate and defend an alternative account of moral obligation that seems to me most to warrant the label, "Kierkegaardian," and attempt to expand the view, taking Kierkegaard's ethic as a foundation upon which to build a theoretically rigorous account of moral obligation. The resulting view, I argue, captures the best of both virtue ethics and divine command theory, while avoiding the most serious problems of each.



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R. Zachary Manis
The Stony Brook School

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