Wes Morriston’s The Moral Obligations of Reasonable Non-Believers: A special problem for divine command metaethics

The fact that many people do not believe that there is a God creates an obvious problem for divine command metaethics. They have moral obligations, and are often enough aware of having them. Yet it is not easy to think of such persons as “hearing” divine commands. This makes it hard to see how a divine command theory can offer a completely general account of the nature of moral obligation. The present paper takes a close look at this issue as it emerges in the context of the most recent version of Robert Adams’ modified divine command theory. I argue that, despite a valiant attempt to do so, Adams does not succeed in giving an adequate account of the moral obligations of non-believers. More generally, I claim that if divine commands are construed as genuine speech acts, theists are well advised not to adopt a divine command theory.

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