The Psychopath Objection to Divine Command Theory
Keywords:God and Morality, Divine Command Theory, Erik Wielenberg
Abstract: Recently, Erik Wielenberg has developed a novel objection to divine command meta-ethics (DCM). The objection that DCM "has the implausible implication that psychopaths have no moral obligations and hence their evil acts, no matter how evil, are morally permissible". This article criticizes Wielenberg's argument. Section 1 will expound Wielenberg's new "psychopath" argument in the context of the recent debate over the Promulgation Objection. Section 2 will discuss two ambiguities in the argument; in particular, Wielenberg’s formulation is ambiguous between whether Wielenberg uses the word "obligation" in an objective or subjective sense. Section 3 will argue that this ambiguity undercuts the argument. If Wielenberg is using the word obligation in a subjective sense, his arguments do not show that that psychopaths "have no moral obligations". By contrast, if Wielenberg is using the word obligation in an objective sense, his arguments do not show that Divine command theorists are committed to denying psychopaths have obligations.
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