As some of you know, I am attending university working towards SEVERAL levels of degrees in Public Safety with an Emergency Management specialization. Because of the Public Safety involvement, I have had to take 4 ethics classes so far, and I am told there will be four more before I get my PhD. In one of those classes, we studied a thing called the Divine Command Theory of ethics, where-by a named Mortimer is a proponent that ethics is religion based and another philosopher, Arthur, does not believe ethics are faith based. I believe the same holds true for politicians, ... after all, isn't that our concern, ... their ethics. I copied and pasted the assignment below, but remember it is a philosophy class, so it is not standard reading;
Clearly identify the views and arguments in the Arthur and Mortimer readings.
Mortimer believes and is a proponent that ethics is based on Gods word, or as it is called in the book, Divine Command. He believes that what “What God tells us to do is right; what he forbids is wrong” (Sommers p77). He goes on to discuss that God (or the belief and following of God) “…gives the believer a sense of purpose and a moral philosophy.” Through such references, it is very obvious that Mortimer’s belief in ethics is strongly and singularly rooted in his Christian faith and that morals are only born of religious beliefs.
However Arthur is a proponent that ethics is not based in religion, although he doesn’t totally refute the possible existence of God’s or God and even states that religion might even play a roll in ethics. In his writings he does however say “ far from religion being necessary for people to do the right thing, it often gets in the way.” (Sommers p81) He believes that religion does not need morality and morality does not need religion” In other words, his view is that religion is not needed to provide morals or ethics and moreover often serves to confuse.
Use critical reasoning to assess the strengths and weaknesses of Arthur’s and Mortimer’s views and arguments in the context of the question.
The main strength of Mortimer is that he forms a moral basis from the ethics of religion that religions guide us and gives us our boundaries. His beliefs are that ethics are written in black and white, and he is convinced that if he follows those teachings, he will lead an ethical and moral life. The weakness in his train of thought is that devoid of a Christian Religion and the guidance of the bible, many civilizations still lived ethical lives, and had ethical societies, even by Western Standards even though they are devoid of Christian teaching.
The main strength Arthur’s belief is the same as the weakness of Mortimer’s; devoid of a Christian Religion and the guidance of the bible, many civilizations still lived ethical lives, and had ethical societies, even by Western Standards. If there had not been those ethics then this argument would be invalid, however he has proven his point to some extent. The weakness in Arthur’s argument is that there is substantial and overwhelming belief that Divine Command, at the very least, enhances the ethics of those around them. Rather than relying on utilitarianism those individuals have a set guidance that they should and most likely live by and follow.
Compare and contrast the views of Arthur and Mortimer.
Arthur’s contention that tomorrow God might change the rules and then "even the greatest atrocities" would be "morally required if God were to demand them." (Sommers p81)” is easily defendable by Mortimer by his beliefs. The simple answer is buried in that same word of God that Mortimer stands by and is supposedly beheld to. In the Holy Bible it says “Jesus Christ (is) the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” (Hebrews 13:8). Furthermore, religious based ethics are often, if not always based on divine love. Would a God of divine love require unethical atrocities? According to Mortimer’s definition of Divine Command this could never happen but Arthur disagrees.
Arthur on the other hand has a contention that morality is based on the behavior of others. According to Arthur if a person witnesses an assault and despises that assault they begin forming a basis for morality. If this is so, then do we need to see someone be assaulted or murdered before we consider it unethical, or are we born with this? Furthermore he contends that religious beliefs interfere often with morality in such issues as abortion, the death penalty and becomes a hindrance.
Clearly state personal opinion, based on the analyses captured in the previous points
Has history ever seen a God from any religion change the rules to allow any atrocities? Nay, it has never happened that God has done that. There have been those who use and abuse the word of God and religions to meet their own selfish unethical means and we need not look far to see those people. Having said this, I look specifically to the United States that was formed under the auspice of “One Nation under God” and the Constitution (and most laws) of our country was actually written with Divine Command as the basis for the ethics. It is my belief that not all ethics can come from Divine Command, but it can be a large and major backbone of ethics. In some cases it takes other than Godly ethics to cover all circumstances.
In my opinion both have good and bad points, and both are correct and incorrect. Do we need to follow one or the other belief to be moral or should it be some combination? I believe that Arthurs view is skewed because he perhaps is an atheist? His contention about God shows his selfish beliefs and shows a lack of understanding of the Bible. I personally do not believe that ethics are complety derived from religion, but I contend that religion does not hurt it either.
Rachels, J. (2003). The elements of moral philosophy (4th ed.) (Pgs77, 81). New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN: 0-07-247690-7.
Sommers, C., & Sommers, F. (2007). Vice and virtue in everyday life: Introductory readings in ethics (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson. ISBN: 0495130060.
The Holy Bible. KJV