HowHobbes Claims Makes Difficulties for Divine Command Theory
DivineCommand Theory refers to a family of related theories which regardGod as the foundation of ethics. Notably, the theory judges what ismoral by virtue of God`s commands. What God forbids is considered asbad or prohibited. In accordance with the theory, the sole reason whysomething is considered moral or immoral is whether God allows orprohibits it. Nonetheless, the theory is considered to be veryimplausible as demonstrated by the Euthyphro dilemma.
Atfirst blush, one can easily object the Divine Command Theory simplybecause they presume that whatever is good or bad is just within thenotion of God. Conversely, the idea of obedience to God`s commands isdue to "will to power" since human beings consider God as asupernatural being. The theory asserts that associating the whim ofGod in establishing morality is very important due to the fact thatGod is mightier than us and therefore what he affirms has to beobeyed.
HobbesClaim on the other hand is a deservedly moral and political view onthe state of human nature. He believes that all human beings areequal by nature. Nonetheless, due to the scarce availability ofresources and the fact that no one is superior to another, humanbeings are willing to fight so as to survive. In keeping with Hobbes,the human state of nature is characterized by no injustice orpersonal property but order is maintained by natural precepts broughtabout by reason i.e. rules of reason. Hobbes adds that humans areready to forego natural laws to satisfy their desires forcing the endresult to be a state of uncertainty and insecurity. At this instance,human beings first consider their self-interest and follow theirnatural impulses of self-preservation, due to absence of politicalinstitutions, which ends up harming others resulting to a state ofwar. Nevertheless, Hobbes tries to bring virtuous behavior to counterthe then predominant state of war by explaining the rules of reason(natural laws). Natural laws are universal laws determined by nature.
Hobbesfirst law advises us to seek peace. The law states that all men oughtto have peace, when hopeful for it, and when not, seek all theadvantages and helps of war. This indicates Hobbes willingness tocorrect the state of nature and ensure that human desires are metmore easily without provoking an immediate threat.
Thesecond law tells us to lay down our rights in attempts to seek peace.In this law, Hobbes attempt to bridge the transition between state ofnature and civil society. He advocates for one’s liberty for othermen which prevents other human beings from being against them.
Heassociates happiness with desires and defines them as very stronglyconnected. Notably, Hobbes claims provide difficulties for DivineCommand Theory by asserting that there is no limit to attaininghappiness as long as it helps fulfill ones desires. In thissituation, Hobbes advises human beings use reason and seek for peacein the long run. He affirms that such measures will help achieve withmore ease than during a state of war. However, Divine Command theorylimits use of reason and focuses human thinking and behavior solelytowards God’s commands.
Outstandingly,Hobbes considers the laws of nature as that one thing that must notbe impeded and that reason is a universal attribute that should helppromote peace. This point of view by Hobbes is a big blow to divinecommand theorists who believes that only God`s commands are to befollowed even if they aren’t conducive for preservation or threatensurvival. Hobbes claim however has an obvious problem, if the stateof nature is as bad as he says, then it is very difficult for hislaws to be put into practice. Divine command theorists believe thatGod’s commands are what have to be followed to achieve peace andavert the haunting state of nature that result to a state of war. Onthe other hand, Hobbes believes that reason is universal and allhuman beings possess that capacity and should use it to achievepeace.
DivineCommand Theory is extremely controversial and is refuted by theEuthyphro dilemma. This argument, engineered by Plato, criticizes theDivine Command Theory and implies that whatever things are moral orimmoral lies outside God. Plato, in his dialogue Euthyphro, statesthat whatever is wrong is wrong whether God exists or not. In linewith the dialogue, certain acts are wrong irrespective of what anyone(including God) commands or thinks. Plato clearly refutes the ideathat there are no standards of being morally right aside from whatGod commands. Outstandingly, Divine Command Theory has manycontemporary and classic supporters such as Phillip Quinn and ThomasAquinas, who withhold the practical and theoretical importance of thetheory.
Hobbesclaimed that simple human desires, rather than morals and virtues,governed how human beings behave. It would therefore go withoutsaying that Hobbes did not solely view God`s commands as a way ofinfluencing what is moral or immoral but rather how these commandsare related with what one desires. Unlike Divine Command Theory,Hobbes notes that due to the absence or partial presence of anauthoritative force such as God, in defining how human beings behave,the end result will be "war of everyone against everyone".The state of war could only be ended by understanding between humanbeings, which is through covenants. Hobbes advises humans to keepcovenants as a way of laying down our rights in attempts against theprevailing state of war.
Moreover,it would be important to note that Hobbes considers forces of natureas eternal and incontrovertible. This implies that the outcome ofthese forces is also unending. Understanding the contrast in views byHobbes, Plato and Divine Command theory would aided by Euthyphrodilemma which involves a discussion between Plato and Euthyphro whichis practically omnipresent in philosophy. In the dialogue, Plato isultimately perplexed by the idea of Euthyphro prosecuting his ownfather as a murderer. Plato, a student of Socrates, questions thepiety or religious devotion of Euthyphro due to his action toprosecute his own father. This point particularly asserts Plato`ssupport for Hobbes claims in contradicting the Divine Command theoryby assuming that self-interest and happiness should precede what isright.
Atfirst blush, one would think that the behavior is unbecoming of himbut further in-depth analysis sees sense in Socrates view on theissue. Socrates asks, “Does God command this fastidious action forthe reason that it is morally correct, or is it morally right sinceGod commands it?” This question is particularly difficult fordivine command theorists since it challenges whether human beings dowhat s right for it is in the whim of God or for the mercy of it. This implies that human behavior and their perception againstimmorality are based in their nature to fulfill the expectations andhappiness of their loved ones either in their presence or not. Thisidentifies that their morals are not solely based on God`s commandsbut an interrelation between them and how much they are able tofulfill their desires.
Accordingto Hobbes, divine command theorists encounter arbitrariness problembecause their decisions on morality are based on sheer whims of God.Their views impose that Gods commands are the sole determinants ofmorality and cannot be approved or enhanced by morality. Moreover,Hobbes insists that human desires are main determinants of what humanbeings consider immoral unlike mere tautologies used by divinecommand theorists. Indirect implications by the Divine Command Theoryimply that if God were to allow and command abhorrent acts that bringpain, then they would be considered good.
Inconclusion, it goes without saying that Hobbes claim does makedifficulties, directly and indirectly, for Divine Command Theory. Theessay has provided an in-depth critical analysis on Hobbes Claim andDivine Command Theory to depict how they compare and contrast. Hobbesviews that virtuous behavior is linked with peace while divinecommand theorists emphasize that virtuous behavior is associated withGods commands. The essay explains Divine command theory, Hobbes claimand its relation to laws of nature and finally compares and contraststhe two with reference to the Euthyphro dilemma.
Koons,J. E. R. E. M. Y. "Can God’s goodness save the divine commandtheory from euthyphro." EuropeanJournal of Philosophy4 (2012): 177-195.