An essay on divine command ethics



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Twentieth-century analytic philosophy ushered in a renewed interest in an ethical theory known as the Divine Command Theory of ethics (DC). Consequent to the work of G.E. Moore, philosophers have been involved in metaethics, or how we may ground ethical terms such as ?good? and ?right?. The traditional DC response is to argue that God is the source of good, and best serves that role in that He is an ?ideal observer? of all states of affairs. The question is how is God?s will relevant to determining the moral status of actions? At this point one may distinguish between what God wills and what God in fact commands. However, the contemporary debate is to determine whether it is God?s commands or God?s will that is primary in determining moral obligation. The most vivid portrait of this distinction is found in the binding of Isaac. There we note that God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but it is not at all clear that God wills the actual death of Isaac. Thus, in this work I will present and defend a coherent DC view of ethics, whereby our moral obligations are derived from the commands of God. In chapter II I will provide a brief history of philosophers who have endorsed DC. In chapter III I will argue that the best ground for objective moral values is best defined by DC. Chapter IV will be devoted to my particular argument for DC. I will take up the task of defending the traditional command view of DC. Chapters V and VI will be devoted to developing plausible responses to major objections to DC. In chapter V I will attempt a resolution of the famous Euthyphro dilemma, and in chapter VI I will argue that endorsing a DC view of ethics in no way negates the autonomy of the moral agent.