The Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is reliant on upon God, and that humankind has a moral obligation to be subservient to God’s directives. Additionally, it encompasses the allegation that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God, and that ‘right’ actions are those that God commands or requires. The Divine Command theory is that to which the exact substance of these divine commands would vary on the particular religion and the particular views of the individual.
In Plato’s Euthyphro, it would not be of a happenstance that Socrates encounters Euthyphro, and is astounded to learn that Euthyphro is prosecuting his own father for the assassination of a servant. Which is an allegory for the attempt at holding God or the Gods responsible for the absence of security, and failing to protect the value of life. Euthyphro’s family finds this to be disconcerting, because they think that holding the ‘father’ accountable for the actions that give rise to in the servant’s death, as impious. This sets the stage for a discussion of the nature of piety and consequently Socrates asks the prominent philosophical question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?”
To rearticulate the question to pertain it to the Divine Command Theory, it would be suitable to ask, “Does God(s) command particular actions because it is morally right, or is it morally right because God commands it?” The complications that this inquiry creates for the Divine Command Theorist, or those who would reply in ratification that an action is right because God instructs it, would find that if God commanded that the infliction of pain on others for no mere aim that it would be pleasurable, then doing so would be warranted as morally right. It would be an obligation to perpetrate suffering on others as God orders it. Furthermore, if God commanded us to wreak such suffering, doing so would be a just. To say that God’s commands are the foundations of morals, then consider indiscriminate, which allows morally disgraceful actions to become morally enforced.
Those who are in backing of this theory, or agree that morals is reliant on God(s) and God’s commands, do not wish to be wedged with the repercussion that malice could possibly be morally right, nor do they want to consent that the consequence that their fundamentals of morality are essentially capricious. Likewise, the divine command theorist might attempt to evade this quandary completely and opt for a different answer to Socrates’ question, “Does God (s) command particular actions because it is morally right, or is it morally right because God commands it?” They will ponder that the better answer is to propose that for any specific action that God (s) commands, He commands it because it is morally right. This will set up the divine command theorist to evade the impression that imposed suffering on others for merriment could perhaps be a morally right action. It is affirming that an action is right exclusively because God commands it. If God commands a particular action because it is morally right, then ethics no longer is contingent on God in the manner that the Divine Command Theorist avows. It proposes that God is no longer the originator of ethics, but rather just a recognizer of right and wrong and God is no longer the essence of ethics.
Besides, it will seem as though God has advanced some sort of substance to an external moral law and no longer a matter of dominion. John Arthur, “If God approves kindness because it is a virtue and hates the Nazis because they were evil, then it seems that God discovers morality rather than inventing it. So haven’t we then identified a limitation on God’s power, since He now, being a good God, must love kindness and command us not to be cruel? Without the divine command theory, in other words, what is left of God’s omnipotence? (Arthur)” Therefore, that would mean that God could no longer be absolute over the complete cosmos, but rather just as subjected to the moral law external to himself. Which leaves it problematic to admit that the concept of God being subject to an external moral law and not inevitably being at the top of the chain of existence. The Divine Command Theory of ethics is at a strong predicament: either morality rests on arbitrary foundations, or God is not the source of ethics and is subject to an external moral law, both of which allegedly compromise his supreme moral and metaphysical status.
In conclusion, the questions tackled are: What if a person claims God has said something to them, and another person claims god has said something different. Who should be trusted? The answer would be the right one, but who would be right? Moreover, how would one verifiably determine that God had actually said something to one or either individuals? This dilemma is identifiable in, shall I say, the Judeo-Christian faith, the Bible, and in the millennia of time and generations of translations that have multiplied the problems that lead to 41,000 (and counting) denominations that accept different parts of the Bible, and exclude others from the very inclusion in printing. All of these arguments lead us to the fact that the divine command theory is not as universal and full-bodied as many might believe it is. This ought not to be viewed as an anti-religious argument, but as a request for one to delve into profounder contemplation into the subject. To answer that goodness is what God says it is, but God is all good and we know this from his works, is not a satisfactory enough argument. It’s a circular argument and the most horrible part about circular arguments is that they lack common sense, and within ethics, they also lack moral common sense. Additionally, it can be regarded simply as request as a way to concede, that rudiment of religion, do and should develop from moral thoughts, but moral formations may exist distinctly from religion.
Arthur, John. “Religion, Morality, and Conscience.” White, James E. Contemporary Moral Problems. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2012. 24.
Plato. “Euthyphro.” Landau, Russ Shafter. The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings In Ethics and Moral Problems. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 63-71.
- The “Divine command” theory of ethics: is it more common than we think? (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com)
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- The Euthyphro Dilemma and the Meaning of ‘Good’ (hendricks87.wordpress.com)
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- Examining Plato’s Euthyphro Dialogue (withalliamgod.wordpress.com)
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