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The Meta-Ethical Argument for Christian Theism: A Response to Richard Chappell

July 3rd, 2007 by Matt

According to one version of the Moral Argument for Theism, God provides the best explanation for the existence of moral obligations. The most sophisticated version of this argument is arguably that provided by Robert Adams in “Moral Arguments for Theistic Belief” (published in The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays). Richard Chappell thinks those who follow Adams in this argument have a “daft’ position. Because, Chappell states, any aspect of morality God can explain can also be explained by appealing to what God would have done in counterfactual situations a. Chappell writes,

Ideal standards can be grounded in counterfactuals, e.g. facts about what an ideal spectator would recommend.”Suppose we want to ground goodness in God’s nature. This does not require God to exist. We could just as well appeal to counterfactual natures, and what God would have wanted (had he existed).

Now the best defenders of the meta-ethical argument do not attempt to ground morality in God’s nature. Robert Adams holds not that “Gods nature” grounds moral goodness. But that that the most plausible account of what “right and wrongness of an act consists in” is the theory that moral rightness and wrongness consist in agreement and disagreement, respectively, with the will or commands of a loving God.” Strictly speaking then Chappell attacks a straw man. Nether the less I assume Chappell thinks his argument applies with equal force to Divine Command Theories such as those proposed by Adams. He argues,

Consider: you may think (1) that God exists, and (2) that God frowns upon genocide. Now entertain the hypothesis (3) that God does not actually exist after all. You should still hold a modified form of your second belief, namely: (4) God would have frowned upon genocide.

I’m suggesting that claim #4 can do everything that claim #2 can. It is just as objective, and can “ground” all the same facts. Any doubts you have about #4 (e.g. “but how can we know it for sure? We could be mistaken in ascribing these judgments to God…”) will apply in equal measure to #2. There is simply no relevant difference between them.

Chappell asks us to consider two claims. The first which I will call [a] is the claim that God exists in the actual world and commands C1-C2 in The second which I will label [b] God does not exist in the actual world, however there is a possible world just like the actual world in all respects except that God does exist in this world and does issue commands Cn-Cn+2. Chappell thinks that [a] and be [b] that God will issue the same commands in both worlds C1-C2 will be identical to C1-C2. Hence every aspect of morality which it’s explained by Gods actual commands in [a] will be explained by the counter factual commands in [b].

What I find puzzling about Chappell’s appeal to this argument is that Adams in fact discussed it and responded to it in the above mentioned essay. Which is one of the definitive essays on the topic. After spelling out his argument Adams notes,

It may be objected that the advantages of the divine command theory can be obtained without an entailment of God’s existence. For the rightness of an action might be said to consist in the fact that the action would agree with the commands of a loving God if one existed, or does so agree if a loving God
exists. This modification transforms the divine command theory into a nonnaturalistic form of the ideal observer theory of the nature of right and wrong. It has the advantage of identifying rightness and wrongness with properties that actions could have even if God does not exist And of course it takes away the basis of my metaethical argument for theism.

This is almost an exact analogue of Chappell’s argument. Adams response is to deny that God will necessarily issue the same commands in [a] as he does in [b],

The flaw in this theory is that it is difficult to see what is supposed to be the force of the counterfactual conditional that is centrally involved in it. If there is no loving God, what makes it the case if there were one, he would command this rather than that? Without an answer to this question, the crucial counterfactual lacks a clear sense (cf. chapter 6 in this volume). I can see only two possible answers: either that what any possible loving God would command is logically determined by the concept of a loving God, or that it is determined by a causal law. Neither answer seems likely to work without depriving the theory of some part of the advantages of divine command metaethics.

No doubt some conclusions about what he would not command follow logically or analytically from the concept of a loving God. He would not command us to practice cruelty for its own sake, for example. But in some cases, at least, in which we believe the act is wrong, it seems only contingent that a loving God
does or would frown on increasing the happiness of other people by the painless and undetected killing of a person who wants to live but will almost certainly not live happily. Very diverse preferences about what things are to be treated as personal rights seem compatible with love and certainly with deity.

Adams point is as follows much of what God commands in the actual world is a contingent matter. God is not required by the facts of the world or by his own nature to issue the exact commands he does. Of course there are some things a loving God will not command, such as cruelty for it own sake. But once these options are eliminated, there is still no one set of commands which a loving being in a world like ours must command. Hence it simply does not follow that God will issue the same commands in counterfactual situations that he does in the actual world. There are possible worlds like ours where he issues one set of commands and there are other possible worlds like ours in all other respects in which he issues other commands. Hence, there is no determinate answer to the question, what would God command if he existed in a world like ours.

This creates a problem for counter factual appeals to God. The problem, noted by Thomas Carson , is that if we ask what God would have commanded in counterfactual situations we will get contradictory answers. In one possible world exactly like ours in all relevant respects God would have commanded us to A. But in another possible world exactly like ours in the same respects, he would have commanded to not A. C1.

Now I think Adams (and Carson) are correct about this, even if I am wrong however, what this shows is that Richard’s argument is mistaken. Richard attempts to criticise a meta-ethical argument for theism. He however ignores the actual versions the argument that occur in the literature and sketches a straw man, he then simply asserts a claim that God will issue the same commands in counter factual situations, which the actual proponents of the moral argument have already noted and argued against. He then concludes from this assertion their position is daft. If people are to rebut Christian philosophers, they need to actually engage with their arguments and that means Richard needs to provide some argument to the effect that God would issue the same commands in a counterfactual situations as he does in the actual world. Divine Command Theorists such as Duns Scotus and more recently Hare and Quinn have denied this claim, and argued against it. They may be mistaken, but simply saying so and ignoring what they have argued is not a rebuttal.

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15 responses so far ↓

  • much of what God commands in the actual world is a contingent matter.

    If his commands were arbitrary in this way, then they would have no normative force. (If the facts of reality are insufficient to establish the wrongness of an act like involuntary euthanasia, then this simply shows that the act is not wrong. In other words: if something is really wrong, then an ideal spectator would recognize it as such. This is analytic, a conceptual truth: the notion of a wrong act that wouldn’t be condemned by an ideal spectator is simply incoherent.)

    Richard needs to provide some argument to the effect that God would issue the same commands in a counterfactual situations as he does in the actual world.

    That’s a bit misleading. (It’s fine to make different judgments of different situations, after all!) The real claim here is that an ideal spectator (God), in a counterfactual situation, would issue the same judgments of our actual situation. But this is obvious. Why would the judgments God makes depend on his location? Our situation is the same whether he looks at it from Earth, Mars, or a merely possible world. There’s no difference that could justify a difference in judgment. Given that an ideal spectator’s judgments are objective and non-arbitrary, it follows that in every possible world where they are fully ideal, they would make the same judgments of our world.

  • Richard

    Thanks for your response.

    1. You state that “If his commands were arbitrary in this way, then they would have no normative force.” Why not? You give two reasons,

    First you state that “If the facts of reality are insufficient to establish the wrongness of an act like involuntary euthanasia, then this simply shows that the act is not wrong.”

    However this misconstrues the example. Adams is not suggesting that the facts of reality are insufficient to determine the wrongness of involuntary euthanasia. What God commands is after all part of reality and Adams thinks that what he chooses to command determines what is right and wrong. What Adams suggests is that one part of reality (Gods character and the nature of the empirical world) is insufficient to determine another part of reality (what God commands).

    Second, you state “if something is really wrong, then an ideal spectator would recognize it as such. This is analytic, a conceptual truth: the notion of a wrong act that wouldn’t be condemned by an ideal spectator is simply incoherent.)” This also misconstrues Adam’s position, Adams does not say that involuntary euthanasia is wrong independently of God (or an ideal observer) and God mistakenly thinks its permissible. In fact Adams would agree that if God (or an ideal observer) condemns something then its wrong, he is a divine command theorist after all! What Adams says is that rightness and wrongness are grounded in God’s ( or the ideal observer’s) commands and nothing else, and nothing about God’s attributes or the world requires him to command one way or the other on every issue.

    So, neither of your arguments here actually addresses Adams point.

    2. Your second point is more interesting, you suggest its “obvious” that God, in a counterfactual situation, would issue the same judgments of our actual situation. Of course simply stating a position is obvious does not make it so and you quite rightly provide two arguments for this claim.

    First you suggest that Gods commands would not depend on his location, however no one claimed this. What was claimed they would depend upon his choice, and his choice is not determined by any factor in the location. Hence again you criticise a position which was not affirmed.

    Second, you state that [1] A rational ideal, non arbitrary judge would make the same judgements about the same situation and [2] in the example under discussion the situations are the same. I think [1] is false. Consider laws governing what side of the road to drive on. As far as I can tell a rational legislator could, on the basis of issues of public safety choose to pass a law requiring one to drive on the left and another could in light of the exactly same factors pass a law requiring people to drive on the right even though the situations in both cases are the same in all relevantly similar respects.

  • I haven’t really “misconstrued” anything, but rather than get bogged down in details I’ll simply address the main point.

    Your road example is a good one, because it nicely illustrates how arbitrary such an “obligation” would be. In fact, there is not any fundamental ethical obligation to drive on the left side of the road. Rather, we are obliged to drive on the same side of the road as everyone else (and the left side happens to be customary here in NZ).

    Note the difference? The principle I’ve pointed to is objective, and can be appreciated and endorsed by any reasonable actor — this is what makes it genuinely normative. The normativity of ‘driving on the left’, by contrast, is merely derivative from this more fundamental principle. It would be perfectly permissible for us as a society to all switch to driving on the right instead (in principle, at least — never mind the impracticalities!).

    So, arbitrary decisions may need to be made merely to solve co-ordination problems. But fundamental moral principles are never arbitrary in this way. (And in such cases of arbitrariness, it makes no difference who does the deciding — there’s no need for GOD to tell us to drive on the left or the right in particular. He, like every other ideal spectator, will merely judge that we collectively ought to choose one side or the other and stick to it. So there’s no counterexample here.)

  • Richard

    You state

    It would be perfectly permissible for us as a society to all switch to driving on the right instead (in principle, at least — never mind the impracticalities!)

    Exactly my point. It’s not true that a rational person will always make the same judgement about the same situations. In this situation a person, (a legal person like a society) prohibits one action, and then latter permits that action and prohibits the contrary despite the fact that the there is no relevant difference in the situation and you admit that in principle there is nothing wrong with this.

    What’s interesting however, is that while you think that human agents can do this rationally you think God or an ideal observer never would do it You state

    there’s no need for GOD to tell us to drive on the left or the right in particular. He, like every other ideal spectator, will merely judge that we collectively ought to choose one side or the other and stick to it.

    Well why? If a human person can make different judgements about the same factual situation and this does not compromise their rationality. Why could a perfectly rational being not do this? It’s not because God knows something we don’t because we have granted that the facts are the same in the two situations. It’s not because God is loving or good, because nothing about love or goodness requires a person choose one side over the other. It’s not because he is more rational because we have granted that there is nothing irrational in choosing one option or the other. To use your terminology why could God or a ideal observer not command people to follow a derivative principle? All I have here is assertion

    2. Suppose however, for the sake of argument I am wrong about all this. I still think the whole approach of appealing to what God would do if he existed while affirming that in reality he does not is problematic. Let’s take your suggestion that

    [1] An action A is wrong in the actual world, if and only if, it is the case that if God existed in the actual world he would prohibit A.

    I think it’s analytically true that

    [2] If God existed in the actual world he would prohibit A if and only if the God who exists in the actual world prohibits A

    But [1] and [2] entail (by hypothetical syllogism) that

    [3] An action A is wrong in the actual world, if and only if, the God who exists in the actual world prohibits A.

    Seeing you claim that God does not exist in the actual world, your position entails that nothing is wrong. This leads to nihilism.

    Matt

  • 1. We’ve seen that arbitrariness arises in the special case of “derivative principles”, as a means of solving co-ordination problems. But it’s worth emphasizing that this is a very limited class of cases, and – precisely because we may permissibly make either choice – we don’t require divine commands here in order to guide us.

    So, it remains the case that God’s existence is not needed to ground moral truths. (All that needs grounding are the fundamental moral principles, and they are never arbitrary, hence “ideal spectator” counterfactuals suffice.)

    2. That’s just bad modal logic. Note that you could use your second premise to define into existence any counterfactual being! In fact, both your premises are false.

    re: [1] – the appropriate counterfactual is simply “if God existed”, not “if God existed in the actual world”. (This is for technical reasons — see here.)

    re: [2] – your use of the biconditional presupposes that there is a God in the actual world. But counterfactuals are merely hypothetical, and make no such presupposition. So, [2] is certainly NOT analytic! (Suppose God doesn’t exist. This is conceptually possible. Then, the Left Hand Side of your biconditional may be true while the RHS is false. In that case, the biconditional itself is false.)

    So: no, ideal agent theory does not entail nihilism.

  • Richard

    Presumably we are to imagine another possible world in which God exists and issues commands and in which all other relevant facts is the same as actual world. It’s what God commands in this other possible world that we are to apply in the actual world.

    I suggested that this is problematic for two reasons. 1. That there could be several possible worlds exactly like ours in which God exists and God gives different commands in each and 2. This position entails we need to obey God in worlds he does not exist.

    You are correct about 2. As I formulated the argument, it’s clearly mistaken. Looking again this morning I see how the bi-conditional creates problems. I also see the modal mistakes in it. Thanks for pointing that out I was clearly sloppy. However, I think these problems are due to the clumsy way I formulated my position. I still think there is a basic issue here. In this a possible world in which God exists, God will believe he exists and hence presuppose his own existence in his commanding; hence he will issue commands regarding how people should relate to him. These obligations cannot be coherently followed in a world where God does not exist. However an extended discussion on this point would take us to far from the topic of this bog.

    I still fail to see any rebuttal of 1. You made the distinction between fundamental principles and derivative principles. And I asked you why God, could not endorse one derivate principle in one possible world. And a different one is another. You still have not given a plausible answer.

    First, you said derivative principles are ‘rare’. Well first, this is an assertion I see no reason for thinking its true (and some divine command theorist deny it) and second, even it were true it would not show God could not endorse such principles.

    Second, you suggest that derivative principles don’t need grounding because we can permissibly choose one or the other. In response to this I will make two points

    [a] what needs grounding is the moral principles that we recognise exist in the actual world. That’s what a moral theory is supposed to explain. You can of course “assume” that none of these principles are derivative. But that’s simply an assumption. As I noted in my post some divine command theorists think the moral principles which we recognise exist are not fundamental in your sense, saying they are wrong does not make it so.

    [b] This argument *assumes* it’s morally permissible for us to choose one derivative principle for another, but that is another assumption. My whole suggestion was that there might be moral principles we have to follow (and can’t just choose to throw off) that are endorsed by God in some possible world. Again simply saying this is mistaken does not make it so.

    As far as I can tell Adams picture is coherent; (i) there exists loving God (ii) our obligations are identical with what this God commands and (iii) many of the obligations we recognise that exist in the actual world are such that a loving God would not be rationally required by the facts of the world to command them. By postulating a counterfactual God you (at least for the sake of argument) accept the coherence of (i) and (ii). And I have seen no reason for denying (iii) In fact some theological traditions clearly teach (iii) they may be wrong, but that needs to be shown by argument

  • Matthew, I’d recommend a subtle change to your main presumption. Instead of looking to what a counterfactual God commands of his counterfactual world, we instead ask what that God would advise us to do in the actual world (i.e. where he does not exist). See here for more detail. This avoids the problems you recognize.

    On the main point, my claim is that we are not obliged to obey arbitrary commands. Hence, your (ii) presupposes the falsity of (iii).

    But let’s not lose sight of the core dispute here. I’m claiming that God’s actual existence is not necessary to ground moral truths. To refute this, you need simply provide a single counterexample. That is, you should point to a particular moral fact that depends upon God’s actual existence to ground it. Any one will do…

  • Richard

    Thanks that clears up something I was wondering about your theory.

    There’s a potential misunderstanding here, I am not arguing for the thesis that God is *necessary* to ground moral obligations. The thesis I was defending is the more modest claim, made by Robert Adams, that divine commands provide the best explanation for the existence of moral obligations. Nor was I arguing *for* this thesis I was merely defending it against the objection you raised.

    Turning to the main point. I think the central issue is whether it’s logically possible for God to issue different commands about our situation to those he in fact does or whether it’s logically impossible for God to do this. If it former is true then two things follow.

    First, what God commands us to do in other possible worlds is not the same as what he commands us to do in the actual world and so counterfactual commands will not ground the actual obligations as well as a divine command theory does.

    Second, the counterfactual position would become incoherent. Because there would be several non actual possible worlds in which God exists in some worlds he will command P and in others he will not command P. Hence asking what God would do in counterfactual situations will produce contradictory answers.

    So what I want is an argument to show that it’s logically impossible for God to issue different commands in this way.

    Matt

  • the counterfactual position would become incoherent

    Not so. Firstly, the most natural understanding of counterfactuals holds (contrary to the possible worlds analysis) that they are determinate. Even if there are multiple possible worlds that are relevantly similar to our own, and in which God comes to different conclusions — call this modal space “M” — it remains a brute fact that precisely one of those situations WOULD have happened had God existed.

    More importantly, you’ve misunderstood the semantics of counterfactuals. Nobody holds that the multiplicity of M renders the counterfactual claim both true AND false (“contradictory”, as you put it). That would be insane. Instead, the standard semantics has M render the counterfactual claim simply false. (“If X were the case then Y would be” is true iff Y is true in ALL the closest X-worlds.)

    So, in such cases of arbitrariness, the counterfactual “God would prohibit Y” is simply false. And thus, according to my account, Y is not impermissible. This seems like exactly the right result. Rather than being an objection to my account, it actually supports it!

    [Take an example. Obviously in our current situation, God would determinately command me to drive on the left, the same as everyone else. So that’s no counterexample for you. You have to instead imagine that I’m a legislator who is writing up the first ever traffic laws. Would God command me to choose a ‘right-side’ law? Not necessarily. But after all, it’s obviously not obligatory either! In these cases of arbitrariness, there is no moral fact that calls for “grounding”. The counterfactuals hence suffice to ground everything we need them to. You have no counterexample to this]

    I am not arguing for the thesis that God is *necessary* to ground moral obligations.

    Funny, I thought you meant your post as a response to mine (where I was simply arguing that God is *not* necessary to ground moral obligations). It seems not. That’s fine; my work here is done.

  • Richard

    1. You seem to confuse two things here, the act of arguing against the conclusion you defended and the act of criticising the argument you gave for this conclusion. I was doing the latter. These two acts are not the same thing. Aquinas criticised the ontological argument it does not follow from this he denied theism.

    I think that claim that God is not necessary to ground obligations is ambiguous; are we talking about epistemic necessity?, logical necessity?, or metaphysical necessity?. There is also the problem that theists typically believe that God is a metaphysically necessary being, and hence, on theism, claims about what morality would be like if God did not exist are counterfactuals with necessarily false antecedents There is a whole debate about how these types of counterfactuals are to be understood.

    I think that this question is, to some extent, beside the point. I suppose one can grant that if God did not exist it is possible (in the logical sense) that moral obligations exist. However that establishes very little. It’s also logically possible that aliens created the pyramids. However, whether this is likely or plausible is a very different question.

    2. Thanks for clearing up my mistakes about possible worlds semantics. It’s been years since I studied the modal logic. Your comments have sharpened my thinking considerably. However, those technical points are actually tangential to what I have argued. It does not really matter whether the counterfactuals are contradictory or false. What’s important is that they are not true. (in fact the whole point of noting that something has contradictory implications is to provide grounds for thinking its false)

    As I stated earlier, an adequate ethical theory must ground the obligations that exist in the actual world. Consequently, your account is adequate only if it is true that God would, if he existed, prohibit those actions which are wrong in the actual world. As you note this means God must prohibit those things in all close possible worlds. If, in many cases, it is logically possible for God could to not prohibit these actions, then these counterfactual statements will be false and hence will not ground our moral obligations.

    Now Adams argues that it is logically possible that God could have refrained from prohibiting many of things he in fact does. What critics of the meta-ethical argument for theism need to provide is some argument that he is mistaken. Simply asserting that it is impossible for God to do this, or assuming that if he did it would only be in rare cases is neither.

    The only argument I have seen from you is the suggestion that rational beings don’t issue different commands in counterfactual situations. I showed cases where they do, and your response was to state without argument that (a) these cases are rare and (b) God would leave choices about what rules to adopt in these situations up to us collectively. I see no reason for accepting either (a) or (b). Consequently, your response simply assumes a modal claim about God. A modal claim denied by the best defenders of the position you are attacking and a claim which there is apparently no reason for, them or anyone else to accept.

  • Hi Matthew

    I think you are being a bit uncharitable towards Richard’s argument. His point isn’t that a divine being wouldn’t make some arbitrary commands. His point is that it is irrelevant what the content of these commands are precisely because they are arbitrary. If there is no underlying truth of the matter why should we care whether God would have commanded us to x or to y, both are perfectly acceptable options.

  • Hi David

    You write

    *If there is no underlying truth of the matter why should we care whether God would have commanded us to x or to y, both are perfectly acceptable options.*

    I may misunderstand you here, but there seems to be some misunderstandings.

    First on a divine command theory (DCT) there is *a truth of the matter* what’s wrong is what God prohibits in the actual world. There is only *no truth* of the matter if you appeal to commands in other possible worlds where God may have commanded differently.

    Second on a DCT it’s not true that both options X and Y are perfectly acceptable. It’s true that both options are such God could command them in other possible worlds. But that does not make them acceptable what makes them acceptable is whether they are commanded in the actual world. These options are only both acceptable if you see acceptability as co-extensive with counterfactual commanding instead of actual commanding.

    So it seems two premises in your argument are true only if you reject a DCT in favour of some kind of ideal observer theory (IOT) in the first place. If this is so I cannot see how this argument is supposed to give us reason for preferring a IOT over a DCT.

    Matthew

  • To clarify the dialectic:

    1. We all share the pre-theoretic intuition that we have moral obligations, e.g. not to torture babies.

    2. When we reflect on these obligations, we may become puzzled, and wonder where they come from. Here the theist makes a suggestion: “Only God’s existence can explain it!”

    3. I counter: no, ideal observer theories can also explain all that needs to be explained.

    End of story. (At least, it should be.)

    Matthew, you’ve effectively responded by saying “Oh, but if we assume DCT is right, then since IOT may give different – less arbitrary – results, it follows that IOT won’t work after all!”

    That’s ludicrously question-begging. My aim is not to show that IOT gives identical to results to DCT, it’s to show that it could ground moral obligation (in general) just as well. In other words, I’m refuting the claim that DCT is the only theory that allows for moral realism. This claim is conclusively refuted by counterexample: IOT is another, alternative theory that also allows for moral realism. Thus I’ve refuted the step-2 claim that “Only God’s existence can explain it!”

  • Mandm,

    You say Adams’ point is that the actual loving God and a counterfactual loving God, considering the very same world, might well issue different commands. You agree with this point and conclude that Richard’s proposed tack (consulting the commands of a counterfactual loving God) needn’t deliver the same moral facts as your proposed tack (consulting the commands of the actual loving God). Thus Richard is wrong to think that, instead of going with DCT, you might as well go with IOT.

    1. I think Adams’ point is different. I think Adams was saying that there’s no determinate fact of the matter as to what a counterfactual loving God would command. Admittedly, there are a few settled facts: he wouldn’t command cruelty for its own sake. But there’s a lot left dangling. I think this is because Adams demands truthmakers for the commands of the counterfactual loving God, and he doesn’t think there are enough truthmakers around to yield a determinate fact of the matter. Admittedly, there are some truthmakers: the loving nature of God can serve as a truthmaker for the fact that he wouldn’t command cruelty. But there aren’t enough truthmakers to settle everything. I think it’s for much the same reason that Adams rejects middle knowledge — he can’t see what truthmakers there could be for ‘counterfactuals of freedom’.

    2. Let’s grant that the counterfactual loving God would indeed issue different commands from the actual loving God. Even if this is granted, I don’t see how the DCT approach has any metaethical advantages over the IOT approach. Both seem to do equally well at providing an objective foundation for morality. Admittedly, the IOT approach won’t deliver the same moral facts as the DCT approach. We’re granting that. But nevertheless, IOT delivers a metaethical foundation that is seemingly just as satisfactory as DCT’s.

    3. It’s hard to see why the two Gods would command differently. Both are considering the very same world. Both have the very same nature. What explains the different commands? Is it whimsy, caprice, or something like that? If so, then (a) all the regions of morality in question (containing the points on which the two Gods command differently) are fundamentally arbitrary. Some arbitrariness, of course, is fine. Trivial matters can be resolved arbitrarily. But if the only regions of divergence concern trivial matters, then the difference between IOT and DCT will end up equally trivial. Presumably, then, your suggestion was that the two Gods would command differently on matters of importance. And it is implausible to hold that matters of moral importance are fundamentally arbitrary. Moreover, if it’s whimsy, then (b) God no longer counts as a rational being. If God and his commands were guided by good reasons, then he couldn’t command differently when faced with the very same world (not unless he’s dealing with completely trivial matters). Finally, if it’s whimsy, then (c) God’s commands have no authority backing them up. For Adams’ view to work at all, it must be true that the commands of a loving God have an authority behind them, an authority not had by commands of a malicious God. This means that the commanding authority must be grounded in God’s loving nature. But, ex hypothesi, God’s loving nature isn’t driving these commands — for the two Gods are both equally loving and yet they make different commands. So these commands cannot inherit their authority from the loving nature of God.

  • God rousing dog pipes.

    Thanks for your insightful comments.

    Re. 1 As I said in my previous response the important point is that the counter factual are not true.

    Re. 2 I spelt out my reasons why the IO is inadequate above. To be adequate a theory it must account for the moral facts that actually exist. A theory that explains a bunch of non existent phenomena well but which does not explain the actual phenomena, is not an adequate theory.

    Re 3 you ask “What explains the different commands?”
    It’s explained by the fact that there are several different sets of commands which are consistent with both (i) the existence of a loving being and (ii) the non moral facts of the world independent of God. In light of this is logically and metaphysically possible for God to issue various different sets of commands.

    On your other points,
    Re (3a) I see no reason for thinking that God can issue different commands on trivial matters but it’s impossible for commanding them on non trivial ones and I certainly do not maintain this.

    Re (3b) You suggest that a rational person cannot issue commands which are arbitrary in the manner I describe. Here I disagree. Consider the situation: (i) there are good, compelling reasons to issue a set of commands (ii) There are several mutually exclusive sets of commands which are adequate for the task (iii) there is no reason for choosing one of these sets over another
    Now it seems obvious to me that a rational person, in this situation, would simply choose one set of commands. If a person refuses to promulgate one set of commands because there is no reason to prefer it over another set, then he cannot promulgate any because this is true of any set he chooses (by (ii)). And if he refuses to command any set he is irrational (by (i)). Hence it seems obvious to me that a rational person would simply choose one set of commands despite the fact that there is no reason for preferring this set over another.

    Re (3c) here I think your reference to “being grounded in Gods loving nature” conflates two separate questions: (i) whether commands are compatible with Gods loving nature? and (ii) whether they are required by Gods loving nature?.
    The reason the Adams DCT does not lead to the conclusion that a malicious Gods commands would ground rightness is because he maintains that love grounds God commands in sense (i) God’s commands differ from that of a malicious being is because malicious beings commands are incompatible with those of a loving God. However, “ex hypothesi, God’s loving nature isn’t driving these commands” only in sense (ii) it does drive them in sense (i). So I fail to see any problem here. In order to escape the malicious God counter example we Divine commands need to be grounded in Gods nature only in sense (i) not (ii)