Religious Studies



The application of divine commands


JOSEPH SHAW a1
a1 St Benet's Hall, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 3LN

Abstract

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.