Divine Command Theory Essay

Essay on Divine Command Theory:

Many philosophers discuss theories of ethics and their points of view seem rather controversial. Divine Command Theory’s essence lies in the fact that moral values are predetermined by God or some gods. This theory says that morality depends on God’s will.

“Right” is what God commands, and “wrong” is prohibited. In Critique of Practical Reason, Kant stands for the theory though he did not use to support it generally. He claims that God can help people live moral lives, hence, he disputes that “there is not the slightest ground in the moral law for a necessary connection between the morality and proportionate happiness of a being who belongs to the world as one of its parts and is thus dependent on it”.

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People are rewarded by God in their afterlife, achieve happiness. One more strong point of Divine Command Theory is that it is a so called objective basis for morality, it encourages people to be moral, it makes them believe that evil is defeated and God will reward them. Divine Command Theory makes one ready for donating to others as God appreciates such behavior. The motives to behave so are explained by the fear of being punished by God.

Augustine told, the way to achieve happiness is to like the right things, so he claimed people should love God in order to love our relatives and friends. Hence, people are guided by God. These arguments speak in favor of this ethical theory. It had a number of supporters such as Thomas Aquinas and Philip Quinn. Christian scholars studying this problem suppose that commands of God cannot be bad by definition, so Thomas Aquinas remarked that “good is an essential part of God’s nature”. Plotinus, Aquinas adherent, said that good and God are similar notions, which fully or partly coincide. Divine Command Theory is confuted by Bible itself. Abraham commented on that good or evil things are separated from God: “Then Abraham came up to him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Divine Command Theory is argued about by the Euthyphro dilemma, in which Socrates puts a question: “Is what is moral commanded by God because it is moral, or is it moral because it is commanded by God?” This issue remains a philosophical problem. The dilemma presupposes that all good is “arbitrary”, relied on God’s vagary. In such a case killing or torment may be justified, while mercy, for instance, is considered evil. Derrick Farnell (2005) in his work “God and Morality” says that according to the theory: “God could have demanded, or at least not forbidden, something that we would have great difficulty accepting isn’t immoral, such as killing”. In this aspect, mercy killing also called euthanasia in medical ethics may be easily warranted.

If a doctor watches a patient suffer from disease, according to the data engendered by Divine Command Theory, killing him may be considered a virtue, to a certain extent. William of Ockham, for example, is sure that killing is necessary because it is morally required. He declares that God could modify the moral procedure.

The theory was severely attacked by Plato, J. Mackie, K. Nielsen. Michael S. Valle, in the work entitled “A Critique of the Divine Command Theory of Ethics”, gives reasons confirming his point of view: he speaks about God’s motive of choosing us doing this or that way and analyses the contradictions which arise from God thinking about this or that for a definite reason. Derrick Farnell (2005) in his work “God and Morality” remarks that: “if God’s command is simply used by us to define what is moral and immoral, then it wouldn’t be strange that God himself does not mention morality when commanding. But this theory – called the Divine Command Theory – arouses concern, for it represents God’s command as arbitrary…That is, the process that determines what is moral and immoral does not actually involve moral considerations”.

Some modern philosophers, such as R. Adams with his Modified Divine Command Theory, tried to discover a compromise. The problem of relationship between ethics and religion presents particular interest. Divine Command Ethics has its strong and weak points which are both of practical and theoretical significance. Judging about this theory, one should consider its philosophical, religious and moral aspects to work out his or her own conception of actions whether regarding it or running counter.


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