In, “Is ethical naturalism more plausible than Supernaturalism“, I criticised Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s objection that a divine command theory (DCT) makes morality arbitrary. Armstrong argued:
“Let’s assume that God commanded us not to rape. Did God have any reason to command this? If not, his command was arbitrary, and then it can’t make anything morally wrong. On the other hand, if God did have a reason to command us not to rape, then that reason is what makes rape morally wrong. The command itself is superfluous. Either way, morality cannot depend on God’s commands.”
This argument can be summarized as follows:
 Either: (i) there is a reason, r, why God prohibits rape; or, (ii) there is no reason, r, why God prohibits rape.
 If there is no reason, r, why God prohibits rape, then God’s commands are arbitrary.
 If there is a reason, r, why God prohibits rape then, r, is what makes rape morally wrong.
 If r is what makes rape morally wrong then God’s commands are superfluous.
In response, I argued this argument commits the fallacy of equivocation because the word “makes” in premise  and  is ambiguous. I noted the word “makes” can be used in at least two different senses.
One sense refers to constitutive explanations, such as when one affirms that what makes a cup of clear liquid a cup of water is that fact the liquid is H20. The second refers to a motivational explanation, as in, when I state that my love for my children makes me persevere in parenting. If the word makes is used in the constitutive sense,  is true but  is false. If it’s used in a motivational sense  is true but  is false. Either way the argument fails.
In a footnote, Carrier dismisses this response as “hand waving” and “completely off point”:”When Armstrong says “reason [r] is what makes rape morally wrong” he simply means “r is the reason rape is morally wrong.” Thus “r is what makes rape morally wrong” simply means “rape is morally wrong when r.”
There are two problems with this response.
First, Carrier’s assertion that Armstrong “simply means ‘r is the reason rape is morally wrong’” is not supported by the text. Two pages earlier, Armstrong explicitly states he intends [Read more →]