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‘Terrible’ divine commands revisited: a response to Davis and Franks



If God commanded something that would ordinarily be classified as a terrible evil, would we have a moral obligation to obey? In two previous articles in this journal, I examined and evaluated several different ways in which a divine command theorist might answer this question. Richard Brian Davis and W. Paul Franks have now provided a vigorous rebuttal, in which they argue that my way of handling the relevant counterpossible conditionals is flawed, and that a divine command theorist who avails herself of the metaphysical platform of theistic activism can consistently say that if (per impossibile) God were to command some terrible evil, it would not be the case that we have a moral obligation to do it. In the present article, I clarify my own view and defend it against Davis and Franks's objections. I also argue that the core claim of theistic activism – that there would be nothing at all if there were no God – does not have all the dramatic implications that Davis and Franks claim for it.



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Davis, Richard Brian (2006), ‘God and counterpossibles’, Religious Studies, 42, 371391.
Davis, Richard Brian Franks, W. Paul (2015), ‘Counterpossibles and the “terrible” divine command deity’, Religious Studies, 51, 119.
Morris, Thomas (1987) Anselmian Explorations (Notre Dame IN: University of Notre Dame Press).
Morriston, Wes (2009) ‘What if God commanded something terrible? A worry for divine-command meta-ethics’, Religious Studies, 45, 249267.
Morriston, Wes (2012) ‘God and the ontological foundation of morality’, Religious Studies, 48, 1534.
Pruss, Alexander R. (2009), ‘Another Step in Divine Command Dialectics’, Faith and Philosophy, 26, 432439.
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Religious Studies
  • ISSN: 0034-4125
  • EISSN: 1469-901X
  • URL: /core/journals/religious-studies
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