The application of divine commands
|JOSEPH SHAW a1|
a1 St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3LN
Divine commands are typically held, by theists, to be made not only at
the foundations of morality, but also in an ‘everyday’ setting, when there are already
moral considerations applicable to the addressee(s). My aim is to show how a
particular command could relate to these pre-existing moral considerations, if it is
more than just a repetition of them. If it is right that an action be obligatory, wrong
or supererogatory, why would God want to change its status? Anyone can make a
normative difference by giving information, making co-ordination proposals, or
transferring rights, and it is clear why these actions will sometimes by worthwhile.
The problem must be focused on when God makes a moral difference directly,
using a ‘special moral authority’, when His commands are efficacious qua commands.
Using this authority, God can perfect imperfect duties, which may make it easier to
carry them out. He can extend duties, to make sure more value is produced. He can
allocate sacrifices, which can be carried by anyone. And He can resolve conflict
games, to everyone's benefit. This explains why God should issue commands in the
way that theists typically represent him as doing.