Tuesday, January 25, 2022

A problem for non-command divine command theories

Some divine “command” theories do not ground obligations in commands as such, but in divine mental states, such as his willings, intentions or desires. It’s occurred to me that there is a down-side to such theories. Independently of accepting a divine command theory of any sort, I think the following is plausible (pace Murphy):

  1. All humans have a duty to obey any commands from God.

But if obligations are grounded in divine mental states, there is the following possibility: God commands one to ϕ even though God does not will, intend or desire that one ϕ, and so I am not obligated to ϕ. The actuality of this possibility would not fit with (1). In fact, the case of the Sacrifice of Isaac appears precisely such: God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but did not will, intend or desire for Abraham to do so. God only willed, intended and desired for Abraham to prepare to sacrifice Isaac.

In my previous post, I was happy with the corollary of the divine intention account of duty that Abraham did not have a duty to sacrifice Isaac. But given the plausibility of (1), I should not have been happy with that.

The command version of divine command theory obviously verifies (1). So do natural law theories on which obedience to God is a part of our nature (either explicitly or as a consequence of some more general duty).


Alexander R Pruss said...

Maybe the solution to the Sacrifice of Isaac case is that (1) is not exactly true. What is true is that if God commands you something, you ought to *strive* to do it.

I think that still doesn't take care of hypothetical cases. For instance, suppose God knows that if you disobey him, this will make you humbler (because you will realize your imperfection) while if you obey him, this will help you grow in other virtues. So God issues you a command, neither intending you to keep nor to violate it, reasoning that whetehr you keep it or violate it, it will be good for you.

Mike Rathbone said...

I always thought the answer to the sacrifice of Isaac would be to question the command. If God told me to sacrifice my son I would ask, "But Lord you commanded Noah to not shed the blood of another man. Now you ask me to shed the blood of another. I seek to do Your will always, but what shall I do?" And see what is said. Anyway, my two cents.

Mike Rathbone said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ngl, I’d just do it if the command is truly from God. God would never command an evil thing unless it was for a greater good due to his nature and before works as in the case of Abraham comes faith. Abraham’s faith took him very far and trust can only come through knowing who it is that we are worshipping.

The God of Israel at least in the scriptural/Orthodox Yawhistic cult never called for the sacrifice of human beings. He did call for the judgement of many peoples for their actions, death penalties for certain transgressions of the law, and more however but child sacrifice is always something that the God abhorred(and if you knew the Divine Energies of God at the very least you’d know this as it would abhor you too). According to the Church fathers these things were in themselves typologies and symbols showing what the result of sin is.
1. Separation from God
2. Due to this separation from the living God the penalty is death.

I’d say that if doing such a thing is my part to play in this great story when it comes to the salvation of Souls I would do it in an instant and without question.
This is because the story of salvation is still ongoing and is not about me but is about God.
We need not wonder about God’s intentions as the man of Faith already knows that they are good.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you should strive to do so. If a crippled man were commanded to work he would not be able to do manual labor in most time periods but that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t wish to be able to take care of himself and his family. Being a cripple isn’t a positive thing but is a defect akin to a woman being barren. These realities do not mean that the act of sex is not procreative in itself in intent nor do they mean that they are not so. For one to assume that they will be in this defective state forever and hence not even will such a thing would seem problematic under the biblical worldview. Sarah laughed about being barren, and this is not me saying that one should be irrational and EXPECT a miracle (as God does what he wills) but these naturalistic assumptions seem very problematic to me. Do we no longer believe that God wouldn’t heal a man’s legs as the Lord did, or give a woman thought to be barren a child by her husband? This does not mean that the normative functions of the universe don’t exist either. St Joseph knew that Our Lady having a child was not ‘natural’ or normative, yet Our Lord was still here and is present daily in the Eucharist.