Date of Award
M.A. in Philosophy
Philosophy and Religion
Timothy P. Yenter
I argue that there are persistent problems in contemporary modifications of divine command theory. Divine command theory states that God’s commands are moral obligations only because he commands them. Modified divine command theories attempt to add to or amend the justification for God’s commands being moral obligations. The problem is that they aren’t successful at escaping the Euthyprho dilemma, which states the following of God’s commands: they are either a) moral obligations because they are commanded by God, or they are b) commanded by God because they are moral obligations. Modified divine command theories attempt to navigate between these two alternatives, but they fail to do so successfully. This becomes evident when we see how these theories solve what I will call the arbitrary worry, the worry that on divine command theory, we have no guarantee that God’s commands will not be arbitrary or worse, despotic. Two contemporary attempts to modify divine command theory show this to be the case: Robert Adams’ Finite and Infinite Goods, and Linda Zagzebski’s Divine Motivation Theory. Adams solves the worry by positing that God must be loving to issue obligatory commands, however in doing so he posits value independent of God, namely, the value of relationships and lovingness. Zagzebski solves the worry by positing that God’s nature and thus his motivations are good, which generate our obligations. However she identifies goodness only with whatever God’s nature happens to be, meaning that whatever motivations he is capable of having will generate obligation for us, and we don’t know the extent of his nature or what motivations he is capable of having. Adams thus lands on the second horn of the dilemma, and Zagzebski on the first.
Jackson, Brandon Trey, "Persistent Problems In Modified Divine Command Theory" (2017). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 750.