Tuesday, July 09, 2019

A problem for the divine command theory

How do we decide which god to obey?  Well, we ought to obey a god who exists, so maybe we can rule out Zeus on that account. What if Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and company did exist.  What if each of them told us to do different things. Then what? (A famous Greek play, the Oresteia, is devoted to just that question). We should probably rule out Lucifer, but why? Because Yahweh is more powerful than he is, and created him? Are we saying might makes right? 
The answer would seem to be that we should obey Yahweh and not Lucifer because Yahweh is good and Lucifer is not. But the divine command theory says that what makes an act good is that God commanded it. But if what we mean when we say "Yahweh is good" is that Yahweh does what Yahweh wants Yahweh to to do, this doesn't sound as if it amounts to anything. Lucifer, I take it, does what Lucifer wants Lucifer to do. It could indeed turn out that paying attention to Yahweh's commands is the best way to decide what actions are right. But it doesn't follow from that that God's commandments make something right. If God is good by nature God might know what is right and command what is right, but God doesn't make something right by commanding it. This is a problem for the divine command theory. 


Bilbo said...

Vic, have you come up with an answer to the Euthyphro problem?

Starhopper said...


I have. Simply replace "or" with "and" and the so-called problem disappears.

"An action is wrong because God forbids it and God forbids it because it is wrong."

Works for me.

oozzielionel said...

Lucifer is not an alternative God.

Victor Reppert said...

But he keeps telling me he is.

oozzielionel said...

You can count on him being a liar. The dilemma works within a polytheist world view. It does not work with a sovereign creator God. In order to judge whether God's commands are good, we have to postulate an evil god alternative or elevate ourselves to that position.