Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Response to a Response by Glenn Peoples on Divine Command Theory

Discussion here.

GP:  You do not describe an alternative to experiencing the feeling of being commanded, but rather you say “I often experience a requirement that seems generated from…” In other words you say that you experience where the obligation comes from. 

TB:  I wouldn't put it that way, unless a seeming is sufficient for an experiencing.  When I feel myself to have a duty/obligation/requirement it often seems to come from (feels like it's coming from?) whomever or whatever I have the duty/obligation/requirement towards.  I think you've offended me; I slap you in the face.  I then realize I was mistaken and you hadn't offended me.  I've done something morally wrong--I realize I've wronged you--and there was something about you such that what I did was wrong.  It feels like I've in some way violated you.  Another example: my house is starting to burn.  My children are in there.  I have a moral duty to save them.  I feel the pull of that duty.  The feeling of that pull doesn't feel like the pull of having been commanded.

Instead of responding point by point, let me just reconstruct what I take your argument to be and respond to it (hopefully this is a fair rendering):

1. If x seems exactly like having been commanded to A, then x probably is having been commanded to A.
2. Having a moral obligation to A seems exactly like having been commanded to A.
3. So having a moral obligation to A probably is having been commanded to A.
4. The best explanation for this identity is a theistic one.

I added "exactly like" because (1) seems false if understood as "like (to any extent)" since everything is like everything else to some extent (in which case x would also be like having been commanded not to A).

But "exactly like" renders (2) false, since we know that some commands don't generate duties (namely, illegitimate ones).  How could having a moral obligation to A seem just like having been commanded to A when all moral obligations seem to be right/legitimate but some commands seem wrong/illegitimate?

Would "mostly like" do the trick?  Not if "mostly like" entails "not exactly like."  Then (1), again, would be false since if A and B seem mostly but not exactly alike then probably A isn't B.

Might we change the argument to "having been LEGITIMATELY or RIGHTLY commanded" to patch things up?  I have my doubts. My having certain duties towards my kids seems to me not exactly like having been rightly commanded to do certain things towards them.  For starters, I am aware of having the duty to take my girls to their dance lessons but I'm not aware of having been commanded to take them to their dance lessons.  Of course, I'm aware of a general command to keep my promises (and I have a duty to God to do so as well as a duty to whomever I've made a legitimate promise).  But having that particular duty to take my girls to dance class does not seem identical to having been commanded (by God) to take them to their dance lessons.  It doesn't seem to me that God has issued that particular command even though it does seem like I have that particular duty.

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