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What is morally right: By “right” here we mean “permissible.” The class of all things morally right includes all things morally permissible. (As we’ll see in a moment, this means it will include all ‘obligatory’ actions. 2. What is morally wrong: Actions that are impermissible, i.e. whatever is not morally right, or whatever is forbidden by morality. 3. What is morally obligatory: Actions such that, not to perform them is morally wrong (or not morally right). They are “demanded” or “required” of us. As noted before, moral rightness is necessary but not sufficient for moral obligatoriness. In other words, anything that is obligatory must necessarily also be morally right, but not vice versa—i.e. not everything that is morally right is not necessarily obligatory. From these working definitions we can see that doing one’s moral duty consists of performing obligatory actions and not performing any actions that are wrong. (This leaves certain morally right (or permissible) actions which we can choose to perform, or refrain from performing—e.g. choosing pizza instead of cheeseburger for supper. But this in itself is not enough. For, any system of morality that is to be comprehensive must be able to tell you which actions are morally wrong and which are obligatory. Divine command theory has a way to do this: How does it do so? By grounding the answers in the prescriptions and prohibitions of God. In other words, appealing to divine commands. Three crucial principles of Divine command theory: 1. An action is morally wrong iff i) God does not command that it not be performed, and ii) if it is morally right what makes it morally right is its not being the case that God commands that it not be performed. (In other words, to find out if something is permissible, you ask, “Has God prohibited it?” If the answer is “no” then it is morally right. Further, what makes the thing morally right is God’s silence or lack of command not to do it.) 2. An action is morally wrong iff i) God commands that it not be performed, and ii) if it is morally wrong what makes it morally wrong is God’s commanding that it not be performed. (So, to find out if something is morally wrong what do you do? You again ask: “Has prohibited it?” If the answer is ‘Yes’ then the action is morally wrong. Further, what made it wrong in the first place was God’s commanding that it not be performed.)
3. An action is morally obligatory iff i) God commands that it be performed, and ii) if it is morally obligatory, what makes it morally obligatory is God’s commanding that it be performed. (Whereas, in the case of finding out whether something is morally right or wrong you asked: Does God prohibited it? When you want to discover what is morally obligatory you must ask, “Does God command it?” If the answer is yes, it is obligatory. If no, it is not.) What’s the upshot of all this? Morality depends upon divine commands, and on the underlying state of God’s will that such commands express. So, if the above principles are true, what follows about morality? In other words, let’s assume that 1-3 are true. What can we thereby conclude about morality? That, if there is no God, then everything is permitted. This is a straightforward consequences that follows logically on the heels of the above definitions. Can anyone explain why? …….. Look at number two: 1. An action is morally wrong only if God commands that it not be performed. (citing 2) 2. But, if there is no God, then there are no divine commands, (and therefore no actions such that God commands that they not be performed.) 3. Therefore, if there is no God, then no action is morally wrong. (follows from 1&2) 4. But, every action is either morally right or wrong. (As stated from the beginning, neutral actions fall under the category of morally right). 5. Since, if there is no God there are no morally wrong actions, (citing 3) then, if there is no God, all actions must be morally right, (i.e. permissible). (from 4) Therefore, if there is no God, then everything is permissible. (1-5, QED) Why Accept DCT? No Proof: “Cumulative Case argument” [[[By the way, just because no proof can be offered for something doesn’t mean there is no fact of the matter. Either divine command theory is true or false. So, don’t let lack of “proof” deter you from caring. The question at hand is not a trivial one. (Just as, in philosophy there are a good many arguments for or against the existence of God. Maybe none amount to proofs, but that doesn’t mean there is no fact of the matter. Either God exists or God does not exist. THAT is a true proposition. Further, which part of that disjunction is true is not a trivial matter. If God exists, the consequences are far
reaching for all of us, the same is true if God does not exist. This makes it worth making the effort to investigate such problems.]]]] Cumulative Case argument: Inductive support of TV. “Four legs” to support the argument. 1. Christian love: Explain Christian love as opposed to other loves. It is a love that abides change and not subject to whims of feeling. This is a love of impartiality, as such it embraces everyone—including those that you do not like. This kind of love is not a human love, i.e. one that we would just simply choose to practice apart without being obligated to do so. Such love must be divinely commanded. Only if such love is divinely commanded will one follow them. Why? Because living according to such commands is beyond what comes naturally to us. We of ourselves would never have made such a command obligatory, and yet this command is at the foundation of Christian morality. (Does this really support the notion that divine commands are moral because commanded?...) 2. Religious practice: Christians are to conform themselves to the will of God, and adopting a moral theory in which divine commands that express God’s will are the source of moral obligation makes conforming to God’s will more possible. 3. Immoralities of the Patriarchs: In this section, Quinn is going to appeal to certain accounts from the Scriptures in an attempt to argue that God is not under some eternal moral law existing extrinsically to Himself. Rather, He is the author of it, and as such He transcends it. Thus, He is at liberty to issue divine commands that are contrary to the Decalogue. There were things commanded that do not coincide with our everyday moral codes. Isaac: God told Abraham to kill Isaac and Abraham was right to be willing to do so. Genesis 22:1-2 Justification? God is the author of life. (Appeal to Augustine and Aquinas) Plundering the Egyptians: Exodus 11:2 (Before the plague on the firstborn in Egypt God was preparing the people for Exodus and had them take silver and gold from the Egyptians. The Israelites were right to do so because God commanded them. God is author and owner of everything in creation. Sex with adulteress: Hosea 1:2, 3:1 Gomer, daughter of Diblaim. She as an adulterous and Hosea was to take her as wife to as God is the author of marriage.
4. Divine sovereignty: God has authority and dominion over everything, and thus has the ability to make sure that creation serves His purposes. Quinn says, it makes sense to say that He has such power over morality too. Adopting divine command theory would extend divine sovereignty to cover the whole domain of morality. (My comment: I don’t really have much to say about these arguments, other than that just because believing in DCT lends itself to making better sense of the Christian framework doesn’t make DCT true.) Defending Divine Command theory: Karamazov objection: Quinn first admits that the claim if there is no God, then everything is permissible is a logical consequence of DCT. He points out that, however, noone will accept the claim that “everything is permissible.” (Take them to the passage p.433) Read from the beginning of the Karamazov question through the claim “Surely everyone (atheist or not) will accept that torturing children for purposes of amusement is not morally acceptable.” Point out the following: Well, he may be right about that, but it doesn’t really get rid of the point being made. Why? Because, according to DCT, no atheist could have any ground for declaring any type of action immoral. (Because, God would not exist to make the statement true by the issue of his prohibition of the action.) So, is this objection really done away with? But is the objection really that much to worry about? What’s to prevent the Theist from saying, “Yep, no God no morality. So, it’s pretty damned important that you know God!” Moral Skepticism objection: 1. According to DCT, if we are to have knowledge of what is morally wrong, we must first have religious knowledge of God’s commands. 2. No one has religious knowledge of what God commands. 3. Therefore, according to DCT we can have no knowledge of what is morally wrong. (Modus Tollens) Defense of 2: What we actually have when religious people claim to know God’s commands does not amount to knowledge, but is rather based on faith. And while faith may yield true belief, it does not yield knowledge. Response to Skepticism argument: One response may be to appeal to scripture, tradition, etc. to try to claim that we do in fact have moral knowledge. Quinn rejects this, as it lays open to the obvious objection that traditions and scriptures disagree. He responds by saying:
DCT is a metaphysical theory about the reality of morality. It tells you what makes things moral, but it does not make any epistemological claims, i.e. claims about how you come to know whether something is moral. Again, DCT tells you that what makes X morally wrong is that God prohibits X, but it does not tell you that the only way you could know X is wrong is through direct acquaintance with God. Metaphysical: Being, reality Epistemological: knowledge Rather, we may be able to come to know moral principles not by having direct access to God, but through other sources. Though he doesn’t mention it here, many who believe in the metaphysical thesis of DCT hold to natural law to provide epistemological access to moral knowledge. (Rachels will have a little section on natural law next time). Natural law holds that the things in the world are created and ordered to a particular purpose, and you can know by being acquainted with the things what purpose they are ordained to. So, you wouldn’t need direct knowledge of God to know what is morally permissible, you could get knowledge of that by looking at what contributes to or hinders a thing’s reaching its purpose. (Recall Pojman.) Now you may see how Christianity came to be married to natural law as found in Aristotle. Skip Divisiveness Objection…. Euthyphro objection: Recall the old question Pious because god loved or god loved because pious? In monotheistic tradition the question may take this form: Write: Are actions commanded by God because they are obligatory, or are they obligatory because they are commanded by God? If antecedent is true, then we would have actions prior to and independent of being divinely commanded. (DCT can’t accept this) If consequent is true then it seems that obligation is arbitrary. What’s wrong with obligation being arbitrary? Cudworth attempts to get at this: Read: “divers Modern Theologers…Righteous.” Quinn’s Response: God is perfectly good. As such, he won’t command terrible things. So, take the statement: [Write] “If God commands someone to torture an innocent child to death, then it is morally obligatory for that person to torture the child to death.”
Quinn says, the antecedent could never obtain, making the whole conditional true by paradox of implication. Why? Because conditional statements with false antecedents are always true. But to say this antecedent is never true is to beg the question. WHY is it never true that God would issue such a command? Is it because the command is immoral? Because God can’t issue such a command? …. Further, is the antecedent definitely false? What about the story of Issac? Quinn says, imagine a modern day Abraham faced with the following three claims: (note, this is not an argument) write 1. If God commands me to do something, it is not morally wrong for me to do it. 2. God commands me to kill my son. 3. Is it morally wrong for me to kill my son. Quinn points out that accepting these first two assertions would mean you would have to reject the third, as it’s negation is entailed by modus ponens. So, the point is, the statements are logically inconsistent. You have to reject one of them. The divine command theorist can’t reject number 1. Kant says reject 2, as you can be more certain that it’s wrong to kill your son than you can be that any apparition commanding you to do so is God. Quinn tries to tell a crazy story of the stars being rearranged to order the sacrifice of Isaac, thus making it clear that it must be God commanding it. What would Kant say to this? He’d say: Doubt your senses before you doubt your intuitive knowledge of the moral law. Here, Quinn bites the bullet and says he thinks we should reject #3. He appeals to Kierkegaard’s teleological suspension of the ethical to make this claim. (God suspends the moral law to achieve a special goal, in this case it’s the test of Abraham’s faith.) Quinn’s final reply to the Euthyphro objection then, is this: “Actions are obligatory because God commands them and yet God’s commands are not and could not be completely arbitrary because they are constrained by God’s goodness.” “What must be conceded is that God’s commands need not always conform to our idea of goodness.”
(Note: this is different than saying that “God’s idea of goodness need not conform to our idea of Goodness.”) (What Quinn next says is that Kant made his idea of the moral law absolute, and worshipped it instead of God.) Concludes by saying, there are strong arguments for and against DCT and the jury is still out. Possible question: Using the traditional ethical concepts of the morally right, the morally wrong, and the morally obligatory, Divine Command theory defines a relationship between God’s commands and morality in a manner that brings them to claim, “If there is no God, then everything is permitted.” Explain carefully how this conclusion is arrived at by divine command theorists and why it necessarily follows from their principles.
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