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Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part II

May 27th, 2009 by Matt

In my last post, Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part I, I sketched Tooley’s distinction between a deontological and an axiological argument from evil and argued that Tooley rejects the axiological version because it rests on controversial ethical claims that are likely to be rejected by many theists. I outlined Tooley’s deontological version and explored the moral assumptions it is based on and Plantinga’s criticism of these.

“God can do wrong only if he commands himself to do something and then disobeys his own command.”In this post, I will argue that Plantinga’s criticisms can be reformulated by appealing to a divine command theory of ethics and when they are, it can be shown that Tooley’s argument relies on controversial moral assumptions that many theists do, in fact, reject. Finally I will look at two objections to this line of argument; the claim that, even on a divine command theory, God has obligations and Tooley’s critique of the divine command theory. I will argue both objections fail.

To save you having to click back repeatedly to the previous post, I will first re-cite step one of Tooley’s argument,

(12) The property of choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the death of more than 50,000 ordinary people is a wrongmaking property of actions, and very serious one.
(13) The Lisbon earthquake killed approximately 60,000 ordinary people.

Therefore, from (12) and (13):

(14) Any action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake has a very serious wrongmaking property.

Tooley then adds as an additional premise,

(15) No rightmaking properties that we know of are such that we are justified in believing both that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake would have had those rightmaking properties, and that those properties are sufficiently serious to counterbalance the relevant wrongmaking property.[1]

Modifying Plantinga’s Response : The Divine Command Theory
In a more recent paper, Naturalism, Theism, Obligation and Supervenience, Plantinga makes a comment that suggests he could formulate his objection so that “permitted by God” was taken in the second sense mentioned above. Plantinga writes,

Theists typically think ethical properties are intimately related to what God approves or values or commands. Thus they will often think of moral obligation as a matter of what God commands. What is obligatory are those actions God commands or wills; what is wrong are those actions God prohibits; what is permissible are those actions God does not prohibit.[2]

Plantinga here refers to what has been called the divine command theory of ethics[3]; the position that, “an action or kind of action is right or wrong if and only if and because it is commanded or forbidden by God.”[4] According to a divine command theory of ethics, being permitted by God is a right-making property; actions are right, if and only if, and because, they are permitted by God. I am inclined to think that any theist who accepts a divine command theory of ethics will deny (15) whether or not they “offer a theodicy.” They will also have reasons for denying (12).

This is because, if the divine command theory of ethics is true then (12) is false. Tooley affirms that, “the property of choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the death of more than 50,000 ordinary people is a wrongmaking property of actions, and very serious one.” According to a divine command theory of ethics this is false; there is only one ultimate wrong-making property, that of being contrary to God’s commands. Given that the property of “choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the death of more than 50,000” is not the same property as “being permitted by God,” it follows that the former property is not a right-making property of actions and, as such, (12) is false.

Even if one puts this point to one side, if a divine command theory of ethics is true, there is a further problem with (12); it is ambiguous compare:

[12 a] The property of choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the deaths of more than 50,000 ordinary people is a serious wrongmaking property of actions performed by human beings (or rational creatures relevantly like human beings).

and

[12b] The property of choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the deaths of more than 50,000 ordinary people is a serious wrongmaking property of actions performed by (including God).

For Tooley’s argument to be successful he must mean for (12) to be taken as [12b]. Tooley is arguing for the conclusion that if God exists then he has performed actions that it would be wrong for God to perform; which, given that God is good, is an impossible state of affairs.

However, what is an “uncontroversial moral claim” that “does not seem very problematic” is [12a]. If a divine command theory of ethics is true then [12b] is false. This is because one implication of a divine command theory of ethics is that God does not have obligations and hence, strictly speaking, nothing he does can be right or wrong.[5] Craig notes “nor, plausibly, is God bound by moral duties since he does not issue commands to himself.”[6] Similarly Alston, in an article defending the claim that God has no obligations, states “we can hardly suppose that God is obliged to love his creatures because he commands himself to do so.”[7]

Craig and Alston’s arguments seem sound. If the divine command theory of ethics is true then a person p is required to do an action a, if and only if, God commands p to do a. It follows then, that God is required to do a, if and only if, God issues commands to himself. Moreover, if divine command theory of ethics is true then a person engages in wrongdoing, if and only if, they disobey a command that God issues to them. Hence, if divine command theory of ethics is true then God can do wrong only if he commands himself to do something and then disobeys his own command.

Neither of these conditions seems very likely. It seems unlikely that God issues commands to himself. Why would he need to? If he wanted to do something wouldn’t he just do it? Moreover, it seems absurd to suggest that even if God issues commands to himself that he would then disobey them. That would suggest that God displays some form of weakness of the will and it is not clear that weakness of the will is compatible with a supremely excellent being such as God.[8]

The divine command theorist will take a similar stance towards (15). If a divine command theory of ethics is true then the property of “being permitted by God” is a right-making property. If God permits an action, in the sense of refraining from prohibiting it, then that makes the action morally permissible. Consider then, “[God's] action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake.” For the reasons spelt out above, God did not forbid himself from doing this; hence, this action has a right-making property that a theist, who embraces divine command theory of ethics, knows about.

Similarly, this right-making property outweighs any wrong-making property that the action has. As I mentioned previously, according to a divine command theory of ethics, there is only one ultimate wrong-making property, the property of being contrary to God’s commands. Given that God did not command himself to stop the Lisbon earth quake, the action of allowing the Lisbon earthquake to occur does not have any wrong-making properties and so there can be none that outweigh it.

Consequently, if a divine command theory of ethics is true then both (12) and (15) are false. It is not just theists who offer a theodicy then who would reject (15).

The Significance of this Conclusion
I think this conclusion is significant for two reasons. First, a significant number of contemporary theists embrace and defend the divine command theory of ethics. Those who have defended it include, Robert Adams,[9] John Hare,[10] William Alston,[11] William Lane Craig,[12] Stephen C Evans,[13] Philip Quinn,[14] Edward Wierenga,[15] Janine Marie Idziak,[16] William Wanwright,[17] William Mann,[18] Thomas Carson[19] and more recently Alvin Plantinga.[20] These people are not obscure, marginal representatives of theism; these names include some of the leading defenders of theism in the literature today. Tooley’s argument then contains a premise that would be, and in fact is, rejected by many leading theists.

Second, this fact introduces a significant incoherence into Tooley’s discussion of the argument from evil. In “Does God Exist?” Tooley rejects an axiological argument from evil on the grounds that it rests on a moral claim that was “within ethical theory deeply controversial, and likely to be rejected by many theists and others.” Tooley’s own argument, however, presupposes the denial of a divine command theory of ethics. This is a controversial moral claim and one that is rejected by many theists. His own deontological argument then seems to be no better than the axiological version he rejects.

Finally, it seems in light of these conclusions that Tooley’s deontological argument from evil is incomplete. It is not enough for Tooley to simply ask “what rightmaking properties can one point to that one has good reason to believe would be present in the case of an action allowing the Lisbon earthquake and that would be sufficiently serious to counterbalance the property of allowing more than 50,000 to be killed?”[21] The theist can point to such a property. Tooley needs to supplement his argument with a refutation of the divine command theory; specifically, he needs to argue that even if theism is true then this theory is implausible and problematic. Until the divine command theory can be shown to be a rationally untenable option for theists, theists can avoid Tooley’s deontological argument from evil.

Objections
In this last section I want to anticipate and criticise two lines of argument that Tooley or a defender of Tooley, might make against the above line of critique.

Tooley’s Critique of Divine Command Theory
I suggested that Tooley’s argument was incomplete until he provides the theist with some reason why a divine command theory of ethics cannot be accepted then the theist can reject two crucial premises of his argument. (A defender of Tooley could object here that he has argued for this conclusion. In a debate with William Lane Craig at the University of Colorado Tooley addressed the divine command theory and offered a Euthyphro style argument against it. I agree that a complete defence of my position requires a response to this argument, regular readers, however, will note that I have addressed this argument previously in Tooley, The Euthyphro Objection and Divine Commands.)

Divine Commands and Divine Obligations
My argument depended on the claim, made by Craig and Alston, that if a divine command theory is true then God does not have duties. Linda Zagzebski has called this claim into question. In “More Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists,” Zagzebski proposes an account of divine obligations which is compatible with a divine command theory. Zagzebski starts by offering an account of the meaning of obligation, “What we mean by ‘obligation,’ is essentially this: there is no other option compatible with moral goodness.”[22] From this definition she argues that “the metaphysical source of divine obligation” and “the metaphysical source of human obligation are distinct.”[23]

The metaphysical source of the property of an act of a human being which makes it the case that there is no alternative act compatible with goodness is that it is commanded by God. The metaphysical source of the property of an act of God that makes it the case that there is no alternative act compatible with goodness is that that any alternative is incompatible with Gods nature.[24]

Hence, she concludes that it is “metaphysically necessary that an act X is an obligation for a human if and only if X is commanded by God” and “it is metaphysically necessary that an act X is an obligation for God if and only if X is compatible with Gods nature.”[25]

While I am not convinced by Zagzebski’s account of divine obligations, even if one grants them for the sake of argument it is clear that it cannot be used to defend Tooley’s deontological argument from evil. Consider,

(15) No rightmaking properties that we know of are such that we are justified in believing both that an action of choosing not to prevent the Lisbon earthquake would have had those rightmaking properties, and that those properties are sufficiently serious to counterbalance the relevant wrongmaking property.[26]

If Zagzebski’s account of divine obligation is correct then (15) is false. Plantinga’s original unreformulated response is rehabilitated. As Plantinga pointed out “God exists and is a perfectly good being. If this is true, then any action that God has in fact performed has the property of being performed by a perfectly good being.”[27] Moreover, “theists believe that God performed the action of permitting the Lisbon earthquake. They therefore believe that the action of performing the Lisbon earthquake has the property of being performed by God, who is a perfectly good person.”[28] But if the Lisbon earthquake was performed by a perfectly good person, performing it must be compatible with the divine nature and hence it has the very right-making property that Zagzebski identifies in her account of divine obligation.

The same is true for (12). Tooley contends,

(12) The property of choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the death of more than 50,000 ordinary people is a wrongmaking property of actions, and very serious one.

On Zagzebski’s account (12) is false. There are only two right-making properties that exist. The property of being compatible with God’s nature, which is what makes God’s actions right, and the property of being permitted by God, which is what makes human actions right. Now the property of “choosing not to prevent an event that will cause the deaths of more than 50,000 people” is neither of these properties and hence, is not a right-making property.

[1] Michael Tooley “Does God Exist?” in The Knowledge of God eds Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga (Malden, M A: Blackwell Publishers, 2008) 119; I am following Tooley’s enumeration.
[2] Alvin Plantinga “Naturalism, Theism, Obligation and Supervenienceaccessed 4 April 2009.
[3] The position is perhaps more correctly known as ethical voluntarism as some proponents of it emphasise the divine will as opposed to divine commands. However, because of the widespread use of the term ‘divine command theory’ in the literature I will stick with the term.
[4] W K Frankena Ethics 2nd ed (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973) 28.
[5] It should also be noted that the claim that God does not have obligations has been defended on grounds other than a divine command theory. See, for example, William Alston, “Some Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists” in Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy ed. Michael Beaty (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990). Hence, even if one dismisses a divine command theory of ethics it still follows that [12a] is not the obviously uncontroversial statement Tooley thinks it is.
[6] William Lane Craig Philosphical Foundations of a Christian World View (Downers Grover Il: Intervarsity Press, 2003) 529.
[7] William Alston “Response to Zagzebski” Perspectives on the Philosophy of William P. Alston eds Heather D Battaly, Michael P Lynch, William P Alston, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005) 204.
[8] It is worth noting the definition of God that Tooley works with in formulating his argument. For the purposes of his argument, Tooley is defining God as “an appropriate object of worship” as well as an appropriate object of other human concerns such as the desire that good will triumph over evil, and that justice will be done” etc.
[9] Robert Adams “Divine Command Meta-Ethics Modified Again” Journal of Religious Ethics 7:1 (1979); Finite and Infinite Goods (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).
[10] John Hare God’s Call: Moral Realism, God’s Commands and Human Autonomy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001); God and Morality: A Philosophical History (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2007).
[11] William Alston “Some Suggestions for Divine Command Theorists” in Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy ed Michael Beaty (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990).
[12] William Lane Craig “This most Gruesome of Guests” in Is Goodness Without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism and Ethics eds Robert K Garcia and Nathan L King (Lanthan: Rowan and Littlefield Publishers Inc, 2009) 172; also Philosphical Foundations of a Christian World View (Downers Grover Il: Intervarsity Press, 2003) 529-532.
[13] C Stephen Evans Kierkegaard’s Ethic of Love: Divine Commands and Moral Obligations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
[14] Philip L Quinn Divine Commands and Moral Requirements (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978); “An Argument for Divine Command Theory” in Christian Theism and the Problems of Philosophy ed Michael Beaty (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1990) 289-302; “The Recent Revival of Divine Command Ethics” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (Fall 1990) 345-365; “The Primacy of God’s Will in Christian Ethics” Philosophical Perspectives 6 (1992) 493-513; “Divine Command Theory” in Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory ed Hugh Lafollette (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 2000) 53-73; “Theological Voluntarism” The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) 63-90.
[15] Edward Weirenga The Nature of God: An Inquiry into the Divine Attributes (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1989) 215-27. See also, “Utilitarianism and the Divine Command Theory” American Philosophical Quarterly 21 (1984) 311-318; and “A Defensible Divine Command Theory” Nous 17 (1983) 387-408.
[16] Janine Marie Idziak “Divine Commands Are the Foundation of Morality” Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Malden, MA:Blackwell Publishing Ltd 2004) 290-298.
[17] William Wrainwright Religion and Morality (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd, 2005).
[18] William Mann “Theism and the Foundations of Ethics” in The Blackwell Guide to Philosophy of Religion ed William Mann (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
[19] Thomas Carson Value and the Good Life (Notre Dame IN: Notre Dame University Press, 2000).
[20] Alvin Plantinga “Naturalism, Theism, Obligation and Supervenience”available at http://www.ammonius.org/grant_topics.php#0708 accessed 4 April 2009.
[21] Michael Tooley “Does God Exist?” in The Knowledge of God eds Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga (Malden, M A: Blackwell Publishers, 2008), 122
[22] Linda Zagzebski “More Suggestions for Divine Command Theories” in Perspectives on the Philosophy of William P. Alston eds Heather D Battaly, Michael P Lynch, William P Alston, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005) 189.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Tooley “Does God Exist?” 119.
[27] Alvin Plantinga “Reply to Tooley’s Opening Statement” in The Knowledge of God eds Michael Tooley and Alvin Plantinga (Malden, M A: Blackwell Publishers, 2008), 170
[28] Ibid.

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Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part I

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  • [...] Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part I and Part II, I discussed Michael Tooley’s deontological argument from evil. In The Problem of Evil Peter Van [...]

  • [...] William Lane Craig critiques Michael Tooley’s version of the problem of evil.  Philosopher Matthew Flannagan gives a more in-depth criticism here and here. [...]

  • [...] my next post, Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part II, I will argue that Plantinga’s criticisms can be reformulated by appealing to a divine command [...]

  • Moral obligations are based on divine goodness and command (commands flow from god’s goodness):

    [goodness of A + god's command of A]–> obedient humans do not do A.

    God’s actions are based on his goodness (his actions flow from his goodness):

    goodness of A–> God does A.

    You are arguing that they are both acting morally (obedient humans and God).

    Obviously, humans and God are acting oppositely on moral grounds, but somehow both actions flow from divine goodness.

    The only variable: presence of god’s command. God’s command flipped moral justification a 180 degrees, and you still say it’s not arbitrary?

  • My bad. The formulation was messed up.

    Divine Command Theory:

    ~(action A is objectively good & God commands to do A)–> ~duty to do A.

    So duty to do A–>action A is objectively good.

    Whatever God does is objectively good. But you say that God doesn’t do A.

    God doesn’t do A–> not doing A is objectively good.

    So combining our duties and God’s actions implies that doing A is objectively good and not doing A is objectively good- a contradiction.

  • Wissam, it seems to me that your argument does not follow.

    You state:

    “Obviously, humans and God are acting oppositely on moral grounds, but somehow both actions flow from divine goodness.
    The only variable: presence of god’s command. God’s command flipped moral justification a 180 degrees, and you still say it’s not arbitrary?”

    This, however, fails to distinguish between [a] what a perfectly good omniscient omnipotent being would, himself, choose to do; and, [b] what a perfectly good omniscient being would choose to require and command other people, finite imperfect beings like humans, to do. Both answers to [a] and [b] “flow from divine goodness,” they involve what actions a perfectly good being would be motivated to do given his character, but it does not follow that they result in the same action or that failure to result in the same action makes things arbitrary.

    This is not even true in the human case. Consider a couple of examples. Suppose I am a really excellent driver and I have the ability to drive at 200km/hr without risking harm to any person. Suppose also that I know that most other people lack this ability. If I care about not risking harm to others then what I choose to do may differ from what I recommend that everyone else do.

    Or suppose I am a 25 year old adult and I have an 8 year old child. Given I love my child and care for his welfare I decide to have a rule insisting he go to bed at 8:00pm. This is because I care about his welfare and I know that going to bed later than 8:00pm at this age is not in accord with his welfare. It does not follow that my concern for my own welfare will lead me to put myself to bed at 8:00pm every night.

    Or suppose I do not have an addiction to alcohol but my friend John does. Unlike me he finds it very hard to be in the presence of alcoholic drink without abusing it in detrimental ways. If I am loving and if I care about the harms of alcoholism on people (including myself) then I will recommend that John not be the presence of alcohol, while I myself will drink alcohol moderately when John is not around. My actions “flow from my concerns about the harms of alcohol”.

    Examples can be multiplied. It simply does not follow that what a good person chooses themselves chooses to do must be the same as what that person recommends or requires other people to do.

    There can be quite good reasons, based on the differences between the people in question and their situations, which mean that what a good person chooses to do will not be the same as what he commands others to do. Nothing about this entails the commandments he gives are arbitrary.

  • So Matt… your ethical base is ACTUALLY what is good for the person involved, and you have abandoned this silly DCT entirely. Well done :)

  • So Matt… your ethical base is ACTUALLY what is good for the person involved, and you have abandoned this silly DCT entirely. Well done

    I am not sure what you mean by the ambiguous term “ethical base” . But if you suggestion is that because God takes the welfare of people into account when he issues commands to them it follows that moral obligations are constituted ( or identical) with peoples welfare and not his commands then that does not follow.

    Note the inference relied on here :
    . If A is constituted by B, and someone has reasons r for bringing about B, then A is constituted by r. not B

    This is obviously silly consider a counter example. The property of being a bachelor is constituted by the property of being an unmarried man, John has reasons for being unmarried, he hates women, therefore, the property of being a bachelor is constituted by the property of hating women and not of being an unmarried man.

  • “I am not sure what you mean by the ambiguous term “ethical base” . ”

    The foundation from which you build your ethical theory. Your counter example is of no relevance, because despite your straw-man attempt I never argued along the lines you suggest.

    Basically what you have done when trying to justify the rather vile DCT is to fall back on another ethical theory to give it some sort of justification.

    It is unpalatable to swallow “everything God commands is good”, so the DCTheorist has to have a second theory (which they pretend not to notice)…

    In your case it is that a good action is an action which benefits someones well being, but any other theory could be substituted in its place. For instance a DCTheorist could say “everything God commands is good… (and God command things which bring the most happiness to the most people)” OR “everything God commands is good… (and God commands things which make the world more beautiful)” and so on and so forth.

    The fact is no one just STOPS with “everything God commands is good” … they pretend to, but there is another theory whispering in the background. WHat this means of course, to anyone not stuck in a dellusion, is that the first half of the sentence (the bit not in brackets) can be safely dropped and the theory still works.

    Conclusion? I will let you puzzle that one out for yourself.

    But if you suggestion is that because God takes the welfare of people into account when he issues commands to them it follows that moral obligations are constituted ( or identical) with peoples welfare and not his commands then that does not follow.

    Note the inference relied on here :
    . If A is constituted by B, and someone has reasons r for bringing about B, then A is constituted by r. not B

    This is obviously silly consider a counter example. The property of being a bachelor is constituted by the property of being an unmarried man, John has reasons for being unmarried, he hates women, therefore, the property of being a bachelor is constituted by the property of hating women and not of being an unmarried man.

  • Suppose I am a really excellent driver and I have the ability to drive at 200km/hr without risking harm to any person. Suppose also that I know that most other people lack this ability. If I care about not risking harm to others then what I choose to do may differ from what I recommend that everyone else do.//

    This example is not analogous to the God case. This example says that if the other drivers acquired the ability to drive at 200 km/hr without harming others, then they are morally justified in doing so. Divine command theory says you are not allowed to violate commands even if there is a greater good that follows from violating it. So on DCT, only the ”God-driver’ can drive at 200 km/hr without harming others, while all other drivers cannot drive at 200 km/hr even if they do not risk harming others.

    Of course, you can say that there can be no greater good which follows from violating the commands. First of all, that’s irrelevant. DCT denies that humans can violate commands even if, per impossibile, they can ensure a greater good from following it. This is problematic. Also, you are committed to saying that if we violate a command and God allows it, then there is a greater good that follows from it. There are of course situations which arise where we do actually violate commands and God really does allow them (assuming he exists). So even if we violate commands, there are greater goods that follow. (This is also another disanalogy in the human drivers case.)

  • So here’s the paradox: DCT says that your duties are based on goodness, but it also says that you are not justified in violating commands even if doing so would increase goodness.

    If something increases goodness then it is good. (also, commands= duties).

    Therefore, DCT says that your duties are based on goodness, but it also says that you are not justified in violating duties even if doing so is good.

    DCT–> (Duty to do A–>doing A is good).

    but there are cases where there is a greater good to not doing A (and so not doing A is good) while there is a duty to do A. This gives us:

    So Duty to do A & not doing A is good.

    This of course negates the following: duty to do A–>A is good.

    So DCT is false.

  • So here’s the paradox: DCT says that your duties are based on goodness, but it also says that you are not justified in violating commands even if doing so would increase goodness.
    If something increases goodness then it is good. (also, commands= duties)..
    Therefore, DCT says that your duties are based on goodness, but it also says that you are not justified in violating duties even if doing so is good

    I would dispute several premises here,

    1, I don’t think “DCT says that your duties are based on goodness” DCT claims that moral obligations (duties) are identical with God’s commands. Of course because God is essentially God is essentially loving, just, impartial and so on, his commands with be compatible with what a person with these traits would command, but that’s not the same as saying duty is based on goodness.

    2., I don’t think its true that “If something increases goodness then it is good.” Here are two reasons why. First, a person could act deliberately act out of malice and hatred with an aim of harming another, and, completely unknown and unforeseen, accidently bring about a good state of affairs as a result. But that would not mean they were acting out of a good character or consistently with such a character.

    Second, discussions of rule utilitarianism, suggest its possible for a person to recognise both that (a) performing an act on a given situation will increase good states of affairs and (b) the acceptance and endorsement of a rule that permits one to perform this act will likely decrease the amount of good in the world. In such a case it’s not obvious that a good person will perform the act. To do so would be oppose a rule which maximises the good.

    DCT–> (Duty to do A–>doing A is good).
    but there are cases where there is a greater good to not doing A (and so not doing A is good) while there is a duty to do A. This gives us:
    So Duty to do A & not doing A is good.
    This of course negates the following: duty to do A–>A is good.
    So DCT is false.

    Even if one grants the false premises ( see above) behind this inference the conclusion you draw does not follow. You argue that

    So Duty to do A & not doing A is good.
    This of course negates the following: duty to do A–>A is good.

    This however is fallacious, first, there is nothing problematic about the idea that two mutually incompatible options can both be “good” consider: I devote my life to caring for orphans in india or I devote my life to scientific research finding a cure for aids in Harvard. Both options are good. If I sign a contract to a life long project at Harvard then I have a duty to not devote my life to caring for orphans in india. Yet both options are good in the sense that a virtuous person could do them. So there is no contradiction here.

    Second, it certainly does not follow that if both doing ones duty and not doing ones duty are good, that doing your duty is not good. The inference here is : if A has a property P and some cases of not A have P, then then A does not have P. That’s patently invalid. Consider, a married man has the property of being human, unmarried man has the property of being human, therefore married men are not human.

  • Wissam

    Suppose I am a really excellent driver and I have the ability to drive at 200km/hr without risking harm to any person. Suppose also that I know that most other people lack this ability. If I care about not risking harm to others then what I choose to do may differ from what I recommend that everyone else do
    This example is not analogous to the God case. This example says that if the other drivers acquired the ability to drive at 200 km/hr without harming others, then they are morally justified in doing so. Divine command theory says you are not allowed to violate commands even if there is a greater good that follows from violating it. So on DCT, only the ”God-driver’ can drive at 200 km/hr without harming others, while all other drivers cannot drive at 200 km/hr even if they do not risk harming others.

    The case was not proposed as an analogy it was instead used to illustrate the difference between what (a) a person is justified in doing and (b) what a person would endorse as a rule that applies to others who have very different abilities.
    But, to your point, yes if the drivers acquired the ability to drive 200klm/ph without harming others then they would be allowed to do so, the point is that unlike the excellent driver in the situation they lack the ability to drive at this speed. hence we can sensible state both that (a) the driver can drive a 200klm and this is consistent with them being morally good and also (b) justifiably support a rule prohibiting everyone else from doing so.
    The same is true in the DCT case, just as the driver can drive at 200klm God being omniscient can accurately asses the total value of a situation, he can know all the total consquences and relationships of every event and is aware of all the total alternative world histories that could be actualised, similarly he is not prone to bias or error in his calculations, hence he can decide what to do based on calculations of “greater good.
    Now if humans had these cognitive abilities they could make greater good calculations, but the point is they can’t, they lack the cognitive ability to make those kinds of calculations and so a person who is omniscient can both (a) perform actions based on greater good calculations and (b) endorse a rule prohibiting others from doing so. There is no more contradiction in this second case than in the first.
    You seem to think that in the DCT case one where people do have the ability to bring about greater goods, but I doubt this is true, people lack any ability to make accurate greater good calculations of the sort suggested by the evidential problem of evil. When they do bring about a greater good by breaking a rule in most cases this will be accidentally, and not something reasonably foreseen.