Theistic Moral Epistemologies
December 13, 2011 — 21:53

Author: Andrew Moon  Category: Concept of God Divine Command Existence of God  Tags: ,   Comments: 12

Dustin Locke asks the following questions:

I was wondering if anyone could help me with another scholarship question. I’m looking for texts that concern theistic accounts of moral epistemology. Of course there are all the texts on divine command theory. But these discuss divine command theory primarily as an account of what moral facts are, rather than accounts of how we know about them–in other words, they’re accounts of the metaphysics of morality, not the epistemology. The obvious theistic contenders for the latter would be things like scripture, personal revelation, God-given innate moral beliefs, etc. Does anyone know of a good text that explores the possibilities here and perhaps argues for one over the others (or at least argues that one is no good)?

Any help?

  • Brian Sullivan

    I just finished reading through Is Goodness without God Good Enough? edited by Robert Garcia and Nathan King. The book is a series of responses to a debate between William Lane Craig and Paul Kurtz. Craig argues divine commands constitute not only the metaphysics of moral value but also are epistemological foundations of morality. Unfortunately, Craig does not expand much on the idea of moral epistemology even though Walter Sinnott-Armstrong’s response raises a few epistemological objections to Craig’s thesis.

    December 13, 2011 — 23:28
  • There are a few chapters on this topic in “Christian Theism and Moral Philosophy,” eds. Michael Beaty and Mark Nelson, Mercer Univ. Press, 1998. I especially liked the chapter by Caroline Simon on ethical intuitionism.

    December 14, 2011 — 7:24
  • Eluros Aabye

    Could Kierkegaard be understood to be offering a theistic moral epistemology? I believe, in Concluding Unscientific Postscript, “he” (or, Johannes Climacus) offers that he is concerned with the “how, not the what”. It seems like a fair assessment of his project.

    December 14, 2011 — 7:34
  • Alex Hyun

    Some chapters from Christian Theism and Moral Philosophy (edited by Beaty, Fisher, and Nelson) might prove helpful. Caroline Simon’s chapter, “Christianity and Moral Knowledge,” explores several views available to the Christian theist about how we gain moral knowledge. These views include “epistemic supernaturalism” (the view that “moral beliefs must ultimately be supported by beliefs about God), “epistemic naturalism” (the view that moral beliefs must be supported by empirical beliefs about nature), and intuitionism.
    She suggests that there are two conditions of adequacy on a moral epistemology: (i) that it be compatible with the central truths of Christianity, and (ii) that it be philosophically tenable. Simon argues that intuitionism best satisfies these conditions.

    December 14, 2011 — 9:44
  • Matthew Mullins

    Nicholas Wolterstorff’s _Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks_ is going to be a contender.

    December 14, 2011 — 12:22
  • Thanks, all! Yes, I’ve read both “Is Goodness without God Good Enough” and (the relevant chapters of) “Christian Theism and Moral Philosophy”. The article by Simon in the latter is especially relevant. I remember the former being concerned almost exclusively with the metaphysical/motivational question, but let me have another look for some epistemological stuff. I haven’t had a look at Matthew’s recommendation—“Divine Discourse”—but I will ASAP.
    Thanks all! Please keep those suggestions coming!

    December 14, 2011 — 18:18
  • Anonymous

    Robert Adams, _Finite and Infinite Goods_, chapter 15 (plus the last two paragraphs of section 3.1, p. 70).

    December 15, 2011 — 12:07
  • I have a chapter in the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Theism, entitled “Moral Inquiry”. Let me know if you’d like a copy of a draft of the chapter. The volume comes out next summer, I think:

    December 16, 2011 — 9:21
  • You might check out Augustine on illumination or Malebranche on ‘vision in God’.
    I can’t think of why God would need to give us any special sort of help in understanding morality. If you think he gives us innate moral knowledge, that’s comprehensible. But if he needs to do more than that to reveal morality to us, then we’re talking about moral facts that are inaccessible all other people who haven’t been thus informed. My worry is this: how then are they *moral* facts, if many people have not been made aware of these putative moral facts? Here I’m pushing the view that moral facts must be accessible to everyone if they’re going to be public standards by which people judge each other’s conduct. Bernard Gert associates this with natural law theories generally, especially gaining inspiration from Hobbes.

    December 18, 2011 — 12:51
  • Thanks again, everyone! Mike, a copy of your chapter draft would be excellent. My email is locke dot dt at gmail dot com. Thanks!

    December 20, 2011 — 10:57
  • Helen De Cruz

    Mike (if I may) I’d like a copy of your chapter as well.
    You can send it to helenldecruz [at] gmail [dot] com.

    December 27, 2011 — 2:06
  • The chapter on epistemology in Eberle’s “Religious Convictions in Liberal Politics” is good, also if you read Warranted Christian Belief carefully you’ll see Plantinga includes moral beliefs in his model.

    January 29, 2012 — 1:33