In my last two posts, I argued that Erik Wielenberg fails to show that Godless Normative Robust Realism (GRNR) avoids some of the standard objections to the autonomy thesis. This brings me to Wielenberg’s third claim III, Wielenberg suggests that GRNR is prima facie preferable to various theistic accounts of axiological properties. Several authors have defended accounts of the nature of moral goodness which identify goodness with certain types of relationships to God. Robert Adam’s has defended a platonic conception of goodness, where God is the paradigmatic good, and all finite things are good or bad depending on how they resemble Gods nature. Mark Murphy has defended an Aristotelian position whereby goodness consists in “being like God in ways that belong to the kind to be like God”. Linda Zagzebski, by contrast, has appealed to Gods motives and, and Thomas Carson has defended an account of Goodness whereby goodness is what God prefers.
Wielenberg refers to all these positions under the umbrella term “theological stateism” (TS). Wielenberg argues that prima facie GRNR is preferable to TS because, unlike TS, GRNR is consistent with the intuition that certain things have intrinsic value:
“I suggest that among our common-sense moral beliefs are the belief that some things distinct from God are intrinsically good: for example, the pleasure of an innocent back rub, or the love between parent and child,” …“[B]ecause non-theistic robust normative realism allows for the intrinsic goodness of things distinct from God, that theory fares better in this respect than its theistic alternatives.”
By “the intrinsic value of a given thing” Wielenberg means the “value it has, if any, in virtue of its intrinsic properties.” Something’s extrinsic value by contrast “is the value it has in virtue of how it is related to things apart from itself.”
Can Theological Stateism accommodate Intrinsic Value?
Wielenberg’s argument relies, crucially, on the claim that TS entails that nothing distinct from God is intrinsically good. His argument for this claim is as follows:
A second noteworthy aspect of Adams’s view is its implication that no finite thing is intrinsically good (or evil) since the goodness (and badness of things) of all finite things is dependent upon their relationship to God. Craig follows Adam’s in holding that finite goodness=resemblance to the necessarily existing divine nature. (emphasis mine)
Later he cites Mark Murphy’s view as an example;
Back in section 2.2, I noted that Adam’s theory implies no finite thing is intrinsically good (or evil) since, on Adam’s view, the goodness (and badness) of all finite things is partly determined by how they are related to God. Consequently, Adam’s view holds that nothing distinct from God is intrinsically good. Murphy holds also holds that the goodness of things distinct from God consists in their standing in certain relationships to God: their goodness is extrinsic rather than intrinsic because it is explained not merely by intrinsic properties but also by certain properties of God.
According to Wielenberg then reason TS entails that “the value of all finite things is dependent upon their relationship to God” (emphasis mine). However, if a finite thing has intrinsic value, it is valuable “in virtue of its intrinsic properties” and not “in virtue of how it is related to things apart from itself.” Consequently, TS entails that that “nothing distinct from God is intrinsically good.”
For this argument to be valid, the kind of dependence that TS postulates to hold between God and the goodness of finite things must be the same kind of dependence that Wielenberg’s definition of intrinsic value rules out. Consequently, the phrase “in virtue” in Wielenberg’s definition, must refer to the same kind of dependence relationship which TS entails exists between God and the value of finite things. However, a careful examination of Wielenberg’s definition, however, shows this is not the case.
Earlier in Robust Ethics Wielenberg spends some time elaborating what he means when he defines intrinsic value something has in virtue of its intrinsic properties. On pages 9-15 he distinguishes between two different types of supervenience relationship which can hold between finite things and their evaluative properties. The first is what Wielenberg calls “reductive supervenience” (or R supervenience) this is where a moral property M supervenes upon a base property B because the moral property is identical with the base property. The second is what Wielenberg refers to as “De-Paul supervenience” (D- supervenience). If a moral property M D supervenes upon a base property B then “M is not identical with, reducible to or entirely constituted by B” instead “B’s instantiation makes M be instantiated”.
D supervenience and R supervenience are distinct types of relationship. M can R supervene upon B without D supervening upon B and M can D supervene upon B without R supervening upon it. GRNR is itself an example of this distinction. According to GRNR moral properties are sui generis irreducible non-natural properties that D supervene upon natural properties. Consequently, GRNR presupposes that moral properties can D supervene upon natural properties without R supervening upon them.
Not only do are D and R supervenience distinct relationships. It appears they are mutually exclusive. If B is reducible to or identical to M, it B cannot be a distinct property from M, which M causes to exist. That would involve self-causation. Similarly, if B is distinct from M and B makes M be instantiated, B is not reducible to or identical with M.
When Wielenberg defines a finite thing’s intrinsic value as the value, it has in virtue of its intrinsic properties, he uses the phrase “in virtue” to refer to a relationship of D supervenience.
If there are entities distinct from God that possess intrinsic value, then Craig is mistaken. I think there are such entities. As I suggested in chapter 1, some finite things pass the isolation and annihilation tests which, which suggests such things are intrinsically valuable. The intrinsic value of such entities D supervenes upon some set of their intrinsic properties and not on how they are related to other things.
Earlier he writes:
In my view, the most plausible way of understanding the “in virtue” relationship which I earlier claimed holds between the intrinsic properties of certain things and their intrinsic value is making. To claim that a given thing is intrinsically valuable is to claim that some of that thing’s intrinsic properties make it valuable… More generally, I think that moral properties indeed all moral properties D supervene upon non-moral properties.(emphasis mine)
The problem is that proponents of TS are not committed to denying that moral properties D supervene on the intrinsic properties of finite objects. When people like Mark Murphy or Robert Adam’s or William Lane Craig contend that the goodness of all finite things is dependent upon their relationship to God, they are not claiming that goodness D supervenes upon this relationship. They are claiming it R supervenes upon this relationship. Consider how Wielenberg himself describes Adams’s position.
A noteworthy feature of Adams’s view is its implication that no finite thing is intrinsically good (or evil) since the goodness (and badness of things) of all finite things is dependent upon their relationship to God. Craig follows Adam’s in holding that finite goodness=resemblance to the necessarily existing divine nature... Murphy holds also holds that the goodness of things distinct from God consists in their standing in certain relationships to God: their goodness is extrinsic rather than intrinsic because it is explained not merely by intrinsic properties but also by certain properties of God. (emphasis mine)
It is true that according to Adams the goodness of finite things is “dependent” upon their relationship to God. However, but in the highlighted sentence, Wielenberg spells out the kind of dependence Adam’s has in mind. The dependence Adams refers to is one where “finite goodness=resemblance to the necessarily existing divine nature”. Adam’s is, therefore, saying that the goodness of finite objects R supervenes upon the divine nature. Wielenberg notes this when a few paragraphs earlier he describes Adam’s (and Craig) as holding that:
[S]ince the Good just is God, the existence of God cannot explain or ground the existence of the good. In the context of Adams’s view, the claim God serves as the foundation of the Good is no more sensible than the claim that H20 serves as the foundation of water. Indeed, once we see that on Adams’s view the good = God, we see that Adams’s theory entails that the Good has no external foundation, since God has no external foundation.
Similarly, when Wielenberg discusses Murphy he notes that according to Murphy the goodness of things distinct from God “is explained”, not merely by intrinsic properties, but also by certain properties of God. However, he clarifies that, by this, Murphy means the goodness of finite things “consist in” their relationship to God So again, Murphy is talking about R Supervenience, not D Supervenience.
So, contrary to Wielenberg TS does not entail that things distinct from God cannot have value in virtue of, their intrinsic properties. TS entails that the value of something distinct from God R supervenes upon its relationship with God. However, that does not entail its value D supervenes upon this relationship. So TS is not incompatible with the common sense intuition that finite objects can have intrinsic value.
If the objection to TS is just that it denies that value of finite R supervenes upon its intrinsic properties, then GRNR fares no better. According to Wielenberg, the proponent of GRNR holds that moral properties are “real and sui generis; they are non-natural and not reducible to any other sort of property” (emphasis mine). If moral properties are not reducible to other properties, then they do not R supervene to the intrinsic properties of finite things. In fact, on GRNR and the goodness of every distinct and finite thing will R supervene, not upon its intrinsic properties but on its relationship to distinct irreducible non-natural properties and so finite things will have only extrinsic value. This objection, therefore, is a non-starter.
 Mark Murphy God and The Moral Law: A Theistic Explanation of Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 155
 Linda Zagzebski Divine Motivation Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004)
 Thomas Carson Value and the Good Life (Notre Dame Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000)
 Erik Wielenberg Robust Ethics 84
 Ibid. 2
 Ibid. 44
 Wielenberg actually spells out three relationships, but mentioning the third would only complicate this discussion unnecessarily. The proceeding argument applies equally well when the third type of supervenience is taken into account.
 Ibid. 44
 Ibid. 13
 Ibid. 44
 Ibid. 43