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someone be moral without the belief in God, or does morality come when you
believe in God. The divine command theory states an action is right if God
commands or wills it. Socrates first expresses the dilemma of actions being
morally right because God wills it to be or does God will to be because it is
morally right? The former tries to enforce that God is the creator of all. The
latter suggests that morality is independent of God’s will. Divine command
theory holds to the idea that good acts are good because God wills them. This
line of thinking faces three problems: the problem of arbitrariness, the
emptiness problem, and the problem of abhorrent commands. The problem of
arbitrariness being based on personal choice, rather than reason or system,
leaves the divine command theory irrational. The emptiness problem considers
the moral norms of God are empty truths. The problem of abhorrent commands such
as genocide, could possibly be morally good. The divine command theory is a
flawed theory that comes with as many objections as there is acceptance.
problem of abhorrent commands is the problem that divine command theory appears
to require that abhorrent actions such as larceny, rape, and murder could
possibly be morally good. God being omnipotent, He could command acts that are
originally thought to be morally bad to become morally good. The three main
responses are, I. That God has limits to his power (no longer being
omnipotent), so it’s not possible for Him to command abhorrent acts; II. That
if God were to command abhorrent acts (no longer being omnibenevolent) then the
divine command theory would no longer hold, it’ll only hold so long as God commands
certain types of action; III. To accept that the divine command theory suggests
that if God were to command abhorrent acts then it would be morally good, but
it becomes false when denied.
The emptiness problem states that there is a standard
set of moral norms about God are empty truisms, a proposition that states
nothing beyond what is implied by any of its terms. If the divine command
theory is correct, the emptiness problem holds, then sayings such as “God is
good”, “All the time He is good” and “God’s commands are good” are
insignificant, true but devoid of content. Theists that agree with these claims
believe God is worthy of worship as a truth. However, if these things are
unnecessary as the emptiness problem implies, then their truth isn’t grounds
for worship. To say God is good and all the time He is good, is the same as
saying God is good because he wills himself to be so.
this view, the doctrine of goodness of God is reduced to nonsense. It is
important to religious believers that God is not only all-powerful and
all-knowing, but that he is also good, yet if we accept the idea that good and
bad are defined by reference to God’s will, this notion is deprived of any meaning.
What could it mean to say that God’s commands are good? If “X is good” means “X
is commanded by God,” then “God’s commands are good” would mean only “God’s
commands are commands by God,” an empty truism. (Vaughn,
Religion and Morality)
Divine command theorist holds to the idea that
good acts are good because God wills them, then they will face the
arbitrariness problem, the emptiness problem, and the problem of abhorrent
commands. The problem of arbitrariness; being based on random choice or
personal whim, rather than reason or system, leaves the divine command theory
irrational. It seems that if the divine command theory is correct then what God
deems right and wrong is by whim, which is not an adequate basis for morality.
If what is morally good is dependent on God’s whim then: How does God come to
the decision of determining what’s good or bad? If God determines morality then
His commands cannot be informed of moral norms. If there are moral norms before
He commands actions then He must have been influenced by those moral norms,
making them independent of His commands. If the divine command theorist is
correct, that moral norms are dependent on God’s commands then His decisions
are arbitrary, meaning God has no moral reasons to prefer honesty over perjury,
any commands He makes would be just as good as any other. Defenders of the
divine command theory would reply to the charge of arbitrariness by arguing
that God would never command us to commit horrible acts, because God is omnibenevolent
(all good). He is of upmost goodness, he would command only what is good. James
Rachels however discerns that this reasoning is evidence that the idea of God’s
goodness is an empty truism:
you say, such a thing is impossible. A good God would never allow such a thing
wicked deeds. Right enough. But what does it mean to be good? If the Divine
Command Theory is correct, then something is good just in case it is favored by
God. But then look what happens: to say that God is good is just to say that
God is favored by God. Is that really what we mean when we say that God is
good? (Vaughn, Religion and Morality)
The latter suggests that if God wills
an action because it is morally right, if moral norms are not dependent of God,
the divine command theory is false. Actions are right or wrong for reasons that
do not depend on God. We do right because it is right, not because a divine
higher power made an arbitrary decision. Russ Shafer-Landau, who rejects the
divine command theory, states that the idea of the goodness of God is
saying, therefore, that things are not good according to any standard of
goodness, but simply by the will of God, it seems to me that one destroys,
without realizing it, all the love of God and all his glory; for why praise him
for what he has done, if he would be equally praiseworthy in doing the
contrary? Where will be his justice and his wisdom if he has only a certain
despotic power, if arbitrary will takes the place of reasonableness, and if in
accord with the definition of tyrants, justice consists in which is pleasing to
the most powerful? (Vaughn, Religion and Morality)
The former suggests that if God makes
morality and you would need to accept the divine command theory. However, if an
action is right only because He wills it, then many horrible crimes and evil
deeds would be right if God so willed them. Then the mass genocide the Nazis
committed would’ve been right, if God willed it to be so. If God is omnipotent
(all-powerful), He could easily will such actions. As the theory suggests,
there could not be reasons for God’s willing what He wills. He just commands,
no standards for the commands, which makes his command arbitrary. The theist
Gottfried Leibniz acknowledges the second option and raise objections to the
divine command theory by declaring that God is unworthy of worship:
6. Therefore, Divine Command Theory is false.
5. God is not imperfect.
4. Therefore, either God is imperfect or Divine
Command Theory is false.
God has reasons that support his commands, then these reasons, rather than
divine commands themselves, are what make actions right/wrong – refuting Divine
God lacks reasons for His commands then God’s commands are arbitrary – and that
renders God imperfect, undermining His moral authority.
1. Either God has reasons that support His
commands, or God lacks reasons for His commands.
Both religious and nonreligious interpreters
of the Divine Command Theory believe that it poses a problematic dilemma, one
that Socrates first expresses many centuries ago. In Plato’s dialogue
Euthyphro, Socrates asks, “Are actions morally right because God wills it to be
so, or does He will it to be so because it is morally right”? The argument is
The Divine Command Theory states an
action is right if God commands or wills it. Simply put, actions are right or
wrong only because god says they are, for he is the creator of moral codes. God
commanding actions good means it’s right; God’s prohibiting an action makes
that action forbidden. I aim to dispute that the divine command theory is
flawed and can be adequately resolved by withdrawing the theory itself.
What is the link between God and
morality? Is it someone that can behave morally even if they are atheist? If
there are moral codes for behavior, then anyone can live by them. The question
then becomes whether someone can be moral without the belief in God or whether
morality itself is possible without God. Many would answer this question by
saying that morality unquestionably requires a higher divine power, God, this
idea is referred as the Divine Command Theory.