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In a prior blog  I argued that divine Command theory was a form of subjectivism and anti-realist and that all forms of anti-realist morality would have deep problems.  Here I want to set forth a smaller claim.  Do the problems directed at divine command theory apply to all subjectivist theories (sometimes called relativist theories) of morality?

So again Divine Command Theory is the view that right and wrong is simply whatever God decides it is.  Socrates addressed it in the Euthyphro Dilemma by asking:

1) is an act pleasing to the gods because it is good,

or rather

2) is an act good because it is pleasing to the gods?

The Divine command theory says 2 is correct.   An act is good because it is pleasing to God.   Whatever is God’s will to be good, is good.  That is what it means to be good.  Divine command theory is really a form of subjectivism where the person whose judgement is relevant is God.


Russ Schaefer-Landau argued against divine command theory (claim 2) along these lines:

The gods either have good reason to will the way they do or they do not

If the gods have no good reason to will the way they do then their view is arbitrary

If the gods have good reason to will the way they do then something is good due to those reasons not due to the gods’ will. Therefore, we would be looking at case 1 in the Euthyphro dilemma not 2.

It follows that if divine command theory is true then morality is arbitrary.


The same argument would seem to apply to all relativism/subjectivist claims of morality.  We can simply exchange “the gods” for “Joe” or “western culture” or whatever subject the subjectivist/relativist thinks defines what is moral.


So the questions for this blog are does the argument work against all forms of subjectivism or relativism?


I still believe the problems I outlined in an earlier blog pose bigger problems for subjectivism and other forms of anti-realist morality, but it seems to me that anything that saves the relativist from this problem would save divine command theory as well.  And to the extent this argument sinks divine command theory it sinks other forms of relativism/subjectivism as well.


It seems that William Lane Craig has a view that saves divine command theory from this argument but it would not save subjectivism/relativism if the relevant subject was a person.