Divine Commands Are Unnecessary for Moral Obligation


Divine command theory is experiencing something of a renaissance, inspired in large part by Robert Adams’s 1999 masterpiece Finite and Infinite Goods. I argue here that divine commands are not always necessary for actions to be morally obligatory. I make the case that the DCT-ist’s own commitments put pressure on her to concede the existence of some moral obligations that in no way depend on divine commands. Focusing on Robert Adams’s theistic framework for ethics, I argue that Adams’s views about good, evil, reasons, and the nature of moral obligation suggest that there can be moral obligations that exist independently of any divine commands. My argument proceeds through the development of an example in which there is a moral obligation that is not even partially grounded in a divine command. I focus primarily on Adams’s view because, many contemporary divine command theorists work in a broadly Adams-ian framework, so the argument that I advance here poses a challenge for many contemporary versions of DCT.

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Erik Wielenberg
DePauw University

References found in this work

Another Step in Divine Command Dialectics.Alexander R. Pruss - 2009 - Faith and Philosophy 26 (4):432-439.
Divine Command Theory.Philip L. Quinn - 2000 - In Hugh LaFollette - (ed.), The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory. Blackwell. pp. 53--73.

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