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Chapter 1

PHIL 1100H Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Divine Command Theory, Stuart Rachels, James Rachels

Course Code
PHIL 1100H
Norlock Kathryn

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PHIL 1100
Week 1
Friday, January 13th, 2017
Reading: ‘Does Morality Depend on Religion?’ by James Rachels & Stuart Rachels
In popular thinking, morality and religion are inseparable: People commonly believe that
morality can be understood only in the context of religion. So, because the clergy are authorities
on religion, they are assumed to be authorities on morality as well.
Divine Command Theory:
In the three major religions [Judaism, Christianity, Islam], God is a lawgiver that created
rules. We are free agents, so we can choose whether or not we want to obey God’s rules,
but if we are to live as we are supposed to, we must follow God’s laws.
This theory says that:
‘morally right’ is a matter of being commanded by God and ‘morally wrong’ is a matter
of being forbidden by God
Pros to the Divine Command Theory
It solves the problem about the objectivity of ethics
o It is right if God commands it and wrong if God forbids it
It suggests an answer to why anyone should bother with morality
o If immortality is the violation of God’s commandments, on the final day of
reckoning, you will be held accountable
Cons to the Divine Command Theory
Atheist’s would not accept it
o They do not believe God exists
In Plato’s writing, the Euthyphro, Socrates asks if God makes moral truths true or if he
just recognizes that they are true
Nothing is good or bad, except when God’s thinking makes it so.
This idea encounters 3 difficulties
1. This conception of morality is mysterious [consider child abuse…]
a. God could make a specific instance of child abuse alright by commanding that the
slap is right, but how are we to know that commanding the slap to be right is true?
Therefore, it is a mystery to us.
2. This conception if morality makes God’s commands arbitrary [consider lying…]
a. We know lying to be wrong and truthfulness to be right because God commanded
it so. But God had no more of a reason to command truthfulness to be right than
he did the opposite, so therefore his command is arbitrary.
3. This conception of morality provides the wrong reasons for moral principles [consider
child abuse…]
a. There are many reasons why child abuse is wrong, but this theory does not
recognize these reasons, it only cares about whether child abuse runs counter to
God’s commands.
find more resources at oneclass.com
find more resources at oneclass.com
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