Divine Command: Theory of Morality

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In this essay I intend to give an account of the ‘Divine Command’ theory of morality, outline it’s main objections, in particular with regard to the ‘Euthyphro Dilemma’ and whether these objections can be answered.

The ‘Divine Command’ theory, otherwise known as ‘Moral Transcendentalism’, is an ethical theory that holds the view that morality is dependent upon some form of transcendent being or God and that morality is ultimately based on the word of character of said God. Thus, according to this position, the adherent knows the morally right position at any given time by what God commands or desires. Depending on which religion is in question will dictate specifically what these commands will be, but all Divine Command theory’s hold the common position morality is to be set according to God’s will. Put as succinctly as possible: whatever God wills is right or just, and whatever is right or just, God wills.

This view is one of the more commonly held views by many Christians, and has been forwarded throughout the ages by many of the influential theistic Christian thinkers such as Augustine of Hippo (354-430), William of Ockham (1285- 1349) and John Calvin (1509-1564) We can imagine a number of objections to this position, however. The most famous of these objections comes as the ‘Euthyphro Dilemma’ as found in Plato’s Euthyphro dialogue. Euthyphro is a wise elder known for his expertise in piety whom is about to bring his own father to trial for murdering a farm hand who he suspected of cutting the throat of a fellow labourer and has left bound in a ditch While he seeks counsel on what to do. Socrates is amazed at Euthyphro’s unwavering confidence at knowing what is the right and holy thing to do as he claims he is doing God’s will “Well then I say the holy is what I am now doing, prosecuting the wrong doer for murder..” 1

The ensuing dialogue gives rise to the argument by Socrates, and hence the dilemma:“Is the holy loved by the Gods because it is holy,...
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