The Instigator
Pro (for)
6 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Moral Relativism (Pro) vs. Divine Command Theory (Con)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/4/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 841 times Debate No: 66359
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)





Moral Relativism - "[that] the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to some group of persons" [1]

Divine Command Theory - "human beings require a special divine assistance in their ordinary cognitive activities [of discerning moral behavior]" [2]



First round is for acceptance.


I accept the debate and will be arguing in favor of Divine Command Theory. Pro wasn't very specific in his first round, so I'm assuming we'll be debating which one is the correct theory of ethics. Pro will have to defend why moral relativism is true, and I will have to defend the proposition that Divine Command Theory is true.

I look forward to Pro's opening argument.
Debate Round No. 1


Morality - "a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons" [1]

God - "a maximally great [entity] that would be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and all good" [2]

Contention One: Hume's Is/Ought Gap

David Hume was an 18th century British enlightenment philosopher who is credited for many important ideas in philosophy, including his Is/Ought Gap. Hume writes the following:

“Reason is the discovery of truth or falshood. Truth or falshood consists in an agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to the real existence and matter of fact. Whatever, therefore, is not susceptible of this agreement or disagreement, is incapable of being true or false, and can never be an object of our reason. Now ‘tis evident our passions, volitions, and actions, are not susceptible of any such agreement or disagreement; being original facts and realities, compleat in themselves, and implying no reference to other passions, volitions, and actions. ‘Tis impossible, therefore, they can be pronounc’d either true or false, and be either contrary or conformable to reason.”

What Hume is saying here is that statements about observable follow an "is" form. Data is described using "is", observations are described using "is" logical axioms, etc. But when we make statements about our perceptions of morality, we follow a different form. We instead say "ought", we say that a person ought or ought not do something in a certain situation. However, we cannot observe "ought" statements. When we look at a rock to observe its color, for example, we do not say "The rock ought to be grey", we instead say "The rock is grey". This is an important distinction, because it means that rationally, as we base the vast majority of our knowledge upon observation, we cannot deduce moral axioms from observation, as non-moral facts cannot reduce to moral ones. Therefore, a fundamental gap in our knowledge exists between what we know about our world and what we believe to be moral.

This gap creates a great inability to make statements about what is moral and what is not moral, as our ability to do this is dependent on a supposed understanding of what it means for something to be moral. Where we believe to derive our definition of morality from is in fact not based at all on observation or deduction.

Contention Two: Origins of Morality

The ideas of right and wrong seem almost embedded into our heads, as if we can simply call upon them using our inuition to solve all of the problems that we need to regarding morality. But fundamentally, these chemical impulses in our brains have been coded into us by natural selection. Many of the actions that we consider to be immoral we only consider immoral because they are toxic to our own chances of survival. For example, if a species evolved that released dopamine every time they killed one of their own members, they would be rewarded for destroying their own species, and that species would quickly die out. But in surviving species, one common trend is a bad feeling about killing on of your own, leading a species that is more protective of its own survival. Thus, species that feel bad about killing their own kind survive more than species that feel good about it. Other examples appear in nature as well. One would be volunteering. As humans, we understand that volunteering is morally good. But why would we think this? How does evolution lead to pleasure in volunteering? Len Fisher describes an important situation like this:

"Migrating wildebeest have a problem. When the herd comes to a river crossing with the crocodiles waiting in anticipation, the animals that go into the water first don't have a great future. Those that come behind have a much better chance of making a safe crossing while the crocs are chewing on their bolder companions. But if none of them volunteers to go into the water first, the whole herd will be cut off from the pastures on the other side, and they will all starve. As with many human situations in which volunteers are required, the answer lies in a heavy hint. The animals that get eaten don't want to go in first. They stand on the bank looking at each other in nervous anticipation until pressure from those behind pushes them in. That's the hint." [3]

The basic idea here is that alleged principles of some higher and objective morality are really only hardwired into our brains because of biological necessity and nothing more. We only feel bad about murdering, stealing, not volunteering, and feel good about charity, helpfulness, etc. because these things are helpful to the survival of humanity and so by the principles of natural selection, we have been engineered into feeling this way about these principles.

Contention Three: The Euthryphro Dilemma

Divine Command Theory is based on a number of flawed principles about our understanding of morality. The first I will address is the Euthyphro Dilemma, which is a question about God's relation with morality, namely which is higher. Is an action morally acceptable because God says it is? Or does God say an action is morally acceptable because it satisfies some higher criteria for morality? If the former is true, then morality as a concept is meaningless for God, which undermines the premise of Divine Command Theory. If the latter is true, then it is not God that supplies goodness, but that higher and separate criteria. This also undermines the premise of Dvine Command Theory. Bertrand Russel writes:

"If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not good independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God." [4]

No matter which side you pick on the Euthyphyo dilemma, you destroy God's capability to be the master of morality, and in the process destroy Divine Command Theory.

Contention Four: God's Existence

Clearly if God did not exist in the first place, Divine Command Theory would be false be default. I will use the following short arguments against the existence of God. My opponent may address them to the magnitude they wish.

Paradox of the Stone:
If God were truly omnipotent, then God could do anything. If God could do anything, then God could create a stone that God was unable to lift. If God can create the stone he cannot lift it and isn't omnipotent. If God can't create the stone he also isn't omnipotent. As God is defined by omnipotence, God cannot exist.

Prediction Paradox:
If God were truly omniscient, then God would know what He would do in the future. If God were truly omnipotent, he could defy that knowledge and do something else. If God can't do something else, He isn't omnipotent. If He can do something else, He isn't omniscient. Therefore God cannot exist.

Over to you.




[3]Fisher, Len. "The Seven Deadly Dilemmas." Rock, Paper, Scissors, Game Theory in Everyday Life. New York: Basic, 2008. 77-78. Print.

[4]Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Touchstone, Simon & Schuster, 1957), 12.


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Extend all my arguments and award conduct to me due to my opponent's forfeiture.


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4


Ditto again.


KeytarHero forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by KeytarHero 1 year ago
Oh, man. I'm really sorry about this. I completely forgot about the debate. Hopefully you were able to find someone who debated the topic with you.
Posted by jmcnutt 1 year ago
which side are you taking?
Posted by Surrealism 1 year ago
Ah, the links to my definition sources broke. Just click them, it'll take you to an error page. Then delete the %20 at the end of the url address and refresh and it should take you to the right page.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 1 year ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture