Taxonomy of Theistic Meta-Ethics

For years, I’ve been looking for a taxonomy of theistic meta-ethical theories. Since I have been unable to find one, I’ve attempted to create one myself. I consider this a work in progress, so if you spot any errors or omissions, please let me know and I will update the post accordingly.

  • Theistic Theories of Deontological Properties (e.g., obligatory, permissible, forbidden)
    • Divine Command Theory (DCT-D): Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s relevant commands. (Ockham)
      • Modified Divine Command Theory (MDCT-D): Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in the relevant commands of a loving God. (Adams 1973, 1979, 1999)
    • Divine Will Theory (DWT): a view of deontological properties according to which, for instance, an agent S’s obligation to perform action A in circumstances C is grounded in God’s will that S A in C. Divine will theory does not specify which kind of mental state is supposed to ground S’s obligation; it could be God’s desires, beliefs, intentions, or emotions.(Miller 2008)
      • Divine Intention Theory (DIT): Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s relevant intentions. (Murphy 1998; Quinn 2000, 2002)
      • Divine Motivation Theory (DMT) : Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s relevant motivations. (Zagzebski)
      • Divine Desire Theory (DDT): Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s relevant desires. (Brody 1976?; Wierenga 1983?; Miller 2008)
      • Divine Attitude Theory (DAT): Deontological properties are metaphysically grounded in (and identical to) God’s attitudes towards agents (e.g. an action’s moral wrongness consists in its being such that God would be displeased with a person who performs it). (Jordan 2009)
  • Theistic Theories of Axiological Properties (e.g., goodness, badness)
    • Divine Nature Theory (DNT): Axiological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s nature (or character). (Lovell 2003)
    • Divine Command Theory of Moral Values (DCT-A): Axiological properties are metaphysically grounded in God’s relevant commands. (Mawson 2002; the name for this theory is mine, not Mawson’s)
    • Divine Theory of Moral Goodness:  God himself is the ultimate standard of moral goodness. (Aquinas?, Alston 1990; the name for this theory is mine, not Aquinas’s or Alston’s)

References may be found in the “Bibliography on Religion and Morality.”

ETA 9-Dec-12: Added “Divine Attitude Theory”
ETA 21-Dec-12: Added “Divine Command Theory of Moral Values (DCT-A)”. Renamed the abbreviations for the divine command theories of obligation to DCT-D and MDCT-D.

Naturalism, Theism, and Moral Ontology: A Reply to William Lane Craig
G&T Rebuttal, Part 6: Chapter 7
What Explains God's Moral Grounding Power? Part II
An Amazing Coincidence about God's Commands
About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.


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