CPBD 030: David McNaughton – Divine Command Morality

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 24, 2010 in Ethics,Podcast


(Listen to other episodes of Conversations from the Pale Blue Dot here.)

Today I interview philosopher David McNaughton. Among other things, we discuss:

  • divine command theory
  • rational intuitionist ethics
  • Biblical literalism

Download CPBD episode 030 with David McNaughton. Total time is 56:37.

david mcnaughtonDavid McNaughton links:

Links for things we discussed:

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Reginald Selkirk March 24, 2010 at 9:32 am

I don’t have 56:37 to spare. Is he for it or agin it?


lukeprog March 24, 2010 at 12:19 pm



svenjamin March 24, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I don’t have 56:37 to spare. Is he for it or agin it?  

Most of us just resort to discussing energy drinks and good-looking philosophers when we don’t have time to listen to the podcast.


Feldmm1 March 24, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I don’t have 56:37 to spare. Is he for it or agin it?  

Does it matter if you are not going to watch it to see why he believes that way? Or is it your intent to use the answer to the question to decide whether or not you will find a way to make time in your schedule to watch it?


J Wahler March 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Another great interview. David briefly mentions James’ ‘The Will to Believe’…a tacit attack on evidentialism…and thought I’d mention Jonathan Adler’s fantastic book ‘Belief’s Own Ethics’. In it, Adler surveys ‘The Will to Believe’ and finds it largely incoherent on several conceptual grounds. A great read for those interested in taking in a thorough going account of normative belief and its relation to evidentialism. Thanks again Luke.


lukeprog March 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Thanks for the recommendation, J Wahler.


Dan March 25, 2010 at 12:24 am

I enjoyed the interview too but is there any chance you can do another interview with David ? He barely got started on Divine Command theory before the show was over. I was still at a loss by the end to ascertain exactly his position on this,

In fact i’d really love to hear more interviews of philosophers already covered since so often by the time the philosophers “faith story” has been discussed theres little time left for the “meat” of whatever the main focus of the scholar happens to be.


Nathan March 26, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Luke, is there a reason that you don’t bring up the case of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac in discussions like this? That seems to be the most relevant Biblical case where God specifically commands something that would seem to contradict the morality of most people.

Abraham’s choice is further confirmed in the New Testament (Heb. 11:17-19).

Was it moral for Abraham to obey God’s command to kill his son?

It would have been challenging for me to figure out what to do EVEN IF I had the knowledge that God was specifically “testing” me. Is the “right” response to obey God no matter what? Or is it better to choose the “moral” path no matter what?

In hindsight, we learn that Abraham “passed” this test, but I could easily imagine a case where God’s intent had been different (i.e. the test was intended to see if Abraham would correctly pick the moral choice even when commanded to do differently).

This story seems to have a lot of implications for the Divine Command Theory discussion.


lukeprog March 26, 2010 at 2:30 pm


A great article on that is the first chapter of ‘Philosophers Without Gods’, the chapter by Stewart Shapiro.

There are a multitude of things I don’t bring up in each interview! :)


Nathan March 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check that out. The implications of that Bible story have always interested me, especially since losing my faith. I love the blog and the podcast. Keep up the excellent work!


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