Posts tagged ‘deontology’

May 20th, 2015

New EPS 2015 Conference Paper on the Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

column_leftDave Beck and I have had another paper accepted for this year’s Evangelical Philosophical Society’s annual conference. This year the conference is in Atlanta so I may try to attend it this year but if I’m unable to (contingent on funds and teaching schedule) Dave will be presenting the paper on behalf of both of us.

Date: November 18 at 9:20am

All of my [and our] previous papers have been concerning, primarily, the philosophy of science with the philosophy of religion in tow. Ethics is a new area of professional research for me but the paper will focus on both the ethics/metaethics of the argument and the logic and rationale.

Here’s the abstract to our paper “The Internal Logic of the Moral Argument”:

All of the theistic arguments have the following logical pattern: (1) identify a particular in need of explanation. (2) Eliminate all natural explanations. (3) Conclude to a non-natural alternative. The uniqueness of the Moral Argument, as an attempt to explain moral obligation, is that the non-natural alternative only emerges in the course of the argument and in two phases: (a) A best explanation phase in which neither natural/causal nor the human/free model works. (b) This, in turn, sets up the following dilemma: a fitting explanation must be personal (not causal) but it cannot be other persons because all persons are free and equal in relation to moral obligation. This forces the abduction to the conclusion that there must be a superperson somehow authorized to obligate persons.

The logic of the argument itself forces us to an inference to the best explanation that avoids the aforementioned dilemma: another person, but who is authorized to legislate ethics. In defending our argument we will construct a clear abductive argument, which factors in the set of all explananda. The explanans that we will infer to is a morally capable person and what is of paramount note is that this explanation does not take us fully to the Anselmian God. That is a task for further arguments and sub-arguments.

September 13th, 2014

Podcast: What if God Commanded Rape?

by Max Andrews

Podcast Audio

If the Divine Command Theory (DCT) proponent is to defend his position he must demonstrate the necessary falsehood of the counterfactual: If God did command rape then there would be a moral obligation to rape. There will be an assumption of ethical realism since ethical anti-realism is argued for and against in completely different arguments. The ethical realist objector [to DCT] claims that it is possible for God to command rape in some possible world, or in an impossible world close to the actual world, making it obligatory for all moral agents, whereas rape is still morally bad in that same world, thus, making DCT arbitrary and is defeated.

Here are the symbolic references:

(RIGHT) ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)
(WRONG) ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)
(CONTCOM) ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ)]

November 17th, 2013

What if God Commanded Rape?

by Max Andrews

One of the common objections to theistic, deontological ethics is the Euthyphro dilemma. Does God command something because it’s good or is it good because God commands it?  The first horn makes goodness apart from God and the second makes goodness arbitrary. This inevitably brings up questions like:  What if God commanded you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow other people up or rape others?  As an advocate of divine command theory the response to this question is a bit more nuanced then any prima facie answer.

The proponent of divine command theory (DCT) claims that whatever God commands to any moral agent becomes a moral obligation.  Formulations of the commands are given symbolic form by David Efird as:[1]

(RIGHT)                      ∀ϕ☐(Rϕ ≣ Cgϕ)

(WRONG)                   ∀ϕ☐(Wϕ ≣ Cg~ϕ)

(PERMITTED 1)            ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)[2]

(PERMITTED 2)            [(∃ϕ☐Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐Cg~ϕ)] ∙ [(∃ϕ☐~Cgϕ ∙ ∃ϕ☐~Cg~ϕ)]

April 22nd, 2013

Q&A 19: Calvinism and Free Will

by Max Andrews


Hey! My name is Josh. I’m a young college student by day (and christian apologist by night, jokes). But in my personal life, apologetics is important to me.Aside from that, I have a question I think you could help me with. I’m a Calvinist (hold the tomatoes) because I think, Biblically, it’s the most accurate putting together of scriptural truth (basically the best systematic theology). My problem is this:
Total Inability and free will. How are we morally responsible if we cannot choose otherwise? And since no one seeks God (Romans) and no one can come to Christ unless the Father brings them (John 6), how is it that we can really talk about free will? How would this be the best possible world where most free creatures choose Christ, when they cannot choose Him unless He first removes their inability? It seems that it doesn’t matter what world God created becaue technically speaking, He could remove the inability from all people, resulting in everyone freely choosing Christ. I hope my questions make sense. I’m eager to hear your response.Keep up the good work. I love your website!God Bless :)



Thanks for your question. Since I’m not a Calvinist my answer will probably be a little different from what you were anticipating. First, I’ll respond to you question from within the Calvinist system (as best as I can). Then I’ll give you  my response and thoughts on the issue as a Molinist.

April 12th, 2013

Sam Harris’ Equivocation on “The Good”

by Max Andrews

In Sam Harris’ recent books, The Moral Landscape and Free Will, he has attempted to redefine normative statements.  He equates human well-being with the good and that which does not contribute to human well-being is not the good. In The Moral Landscape Harris states,

“Questions about values are really questions about the well being of conscious creatures… I want to develop a science of human flourishing.”[1]

The problem here is equating human flourishing with the good.  Why is that? Why not the well-being of cats, dogs, or sponges? Such attempts to ground objective axiological facts leaves one with specieism—a bias and special treatment for the homo sapiens sapiens species and a suppression of other species.  Certainly science can account for how we come to know certain axiological facts but it cannot account for their grounding.  I’m not saying human well-being isn’t good since good categorically encompasses human well-being but such an account for objective morality does not satisfy the demands of a robust axiology—namely, the problem of deontology.  Additionally, how could one know what increases the well-being of conscious creatures?

February 25th, 2013

Q&A 12: How Can We Know God is Good and Not a Sadist?

by Max Andrews


Mr. Andrews,
Philosophically, How can we know God is good and not like some form of a sadist who will just torture everyone in hell when they die? Didn’t CS Lewis once try to argue that evil is not created but a lacking of good, could you shed some light on this? Couldn’t it just be said the other way around too, that good is lacking evil? Then who knows what sort of entity (good or evil) ultimately rules the universe? What philosophical reason is there to believe that God is the entity that is all powerful and all good?

January 4th, 2013

We Have a Moral Obligation to Follow the Evidence

by Max Andrews

evidence2I consider myself a moderate evidentialist when it comes to epistemology.  There is a sense of deontology to it in that one ought to base their beliefs corresponding to the evidence; however, there is a sense in which one may hold a belief without sufficient evidence and still be rational.  The source of truth is the objective prime reality and our knowledge should correspond to the truth of reality.  My epistemology yields my theology in the sense of scientific theology.  What I know about reality is what I know about God.[1]

Everything that we know is intuitive or experiential.  Intuition will be discussed later but the knowledge gained is from sensory apparatus’.  The characters read on paper are only the result of photons reflecting off of the paper and the photoreceptors in the eye receiving that information.  All knowledge cannot be deemed sensory only since it seems feasible that a person with a sensory handicap or no functioning sensory apparatus’ may still be justified in believing in his own existence by intuition (as well as moral truths).  The task of justification, or determining the truth of p, must meet the criteria of an inference to the best explanation (IBE).

Consider the following definition for justification:

            S is justified in believing p = S possesses sufficient evidence for p to be true.

November 28th, 2012

The New Moral Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is an argument David Baggett developed, which argues for the existence of a perfectly moral person. I used this in the VT debate on the existence of God. (I highly recommend Baggett’s book co-authored with Jerry Walls Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality.) This version of the moral argument is an abductive version. I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument. You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig. I believe this argument is better and I’d like to see it used more often. (See below for my method behind abduction.)

The advantage of this argument is that nature is included in the argument for the morally perfect person. Usually it is depicted as nature vs. God (or a morally perfect person). That argument, I believe, gives too much to the naturalist. Here’s the argument:

  1. There are objective axiological/moral facts that obtain.
  2. Either the world alone or the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  3. It is the case that the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
  4. Therefore, the world and a perfectly moral person best explain these facts.
    read more »

October 21st, 2012

Jephthah’s Moral Dilemma and Deontology

by Max Andrews

In the book of Judges, Jephthah serves as the ninth judge, or deliverer, who makes a bold vow to God (See Judges 11.29-40).  Jephthah makes a conditional deal with God; if he gets something, then and only then will he do something for God in return.  Upon his decision to barter with God, his tragic vow turns into a moral dilemma where he must either sacrifice his daughter or break his vow.  Each option carries with it further consequences.  Given Jephthah’s moral dilemma, he must choose an available option with varying costs.  Once his choice to sacrifice his daughter has been completed, he still stands in a morally condemning state.  Upon examining the ethics of the situation via historical context, textual interpretation, and the theological significances, may one see the dilemma and all the possible consequences, how it could have been avoided, and how it applies to believers today.

The Ammonites oppressed the Israelite tribes east of the Jordan River for an eighteen-year period (Judg. 10.8).  This may help qualify the date for the events.  The conquest of the Transjordan occurred in 1406, forty years after the exodus, so Jephthah’s communication to the Ammonites must be dated close to 1106.  Since the oppression lasted for eighteen years, that puts the oppression beginning at 1124.[1]

August 7th, 2012

The Contingency of Commands

by Max Andrews

The ethical realist objector [to DCT] claims that it is possible for God to command rape in some possible world, or in an impossible world close to the actual world, making it obligatory for all moral agents, whereas rape is still morally bad in that same world, thus, making DCT arbitrary and is defeated.

The nonstandard semantics objection to the arbitrariness of DCT suggests that there is an impossible world, however close to the actual world, in which God commands rape or the torture of innocent children.  Approaching the objection from an explanandum-driven consideration, would a contingent command be an adequate objection?

Consider the following contingencies of a command:

(CONTCOM)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ)]

(CONTCOMʹ)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cg~ϕ)]

The objector to divine command theory assumes that ϕ can be any command and could thus look like:

(CONTCOM″)   ∀ϕ[(◊~Cgϕ ∙ ◊~Cg~ϕ) ∙ (◊Cgϕ ∙ ◊Cg~ϕ)]

(CONTCOM‴)   ∀ρ[(◊~Cgρ ∙ ◊~Cg~ρ) ∙ (◊Cgρ ∙ ◊Cg~ρ)]