Volume 14, Issue 2, Autumn 2009
Divine Command Theory in the Passage of History
Are actions that are morally good, morally good because God makes them so (e.g., by commanding them)? Or does God urge humans to do them because they are morally good anyway? What is, in general, the relationship between divine commands and ethical duties? It is not an uncommon belief among theists that morality depends entirely on the will or commands of God: all moral facts consist exclusively in facts about his will or commands. Thus, not only is an action right because it is commanded by God, but its conformity to his commands is what alone makes it right. An action is right (wrong) solely because he commands (forbids) it, and solely in virtue of his doing so. This view has come to be known as the „divine command theory of morality”. This paper is devoted to a brief reconstruction of claims and controversies surrounding the theory, beginning with Plato’s Euthyphro, which is the historical initiator of the debate and to a reconstruction of the various lines of argument that have been set forth to defend the theory.