Monday, March 13, 2023

Divine desire ethical theories are false

On divine desire variants of divine command ethics, necessarily an action is right just in case it accords with God’s what God wants.

But it seems:

  1. Necessarily, if God commands an action, the action is right.

  2. Possibly, God commands an action but does not want one to do it.

Given (1) and (2), divine desire ethics is false.

I think everyone (and not just divine command theorists) should agree about (1): it is a part of the concept of God that he is authorative in such a way that whatever he commands is right.

What about (2)? Well, consider a felix culpa case where a great good would come from obedience to God and an even greater one would come from disobedience, and in the absence of a command one would have only a tiny good. Given such a situation, God could command the action. However, it seems that a perfectly good being’s desires are perfectly proportioned to the goods involved. Thus, in such a situation, God would desire that one disobey.

This is related to the important conceptual point about commands, requests and consentings that these actions can go against the characteristic desires that go with them. In the case of a human being, when there is a conflict between what a human wants and what the human commands, requests or consents to, typically it is right to go with what is said, but sometimes there is room for paternalistically going with the underlying desire (and sometimes we rightly go against both word and desire). But paternalism to God is never right.

No comments: