Q&A with Dr. Craig: Whence Moral Duties?
Q: Hi Dr Craig,
I just wanted to start my question off by assuring you of just how revered and appreciated you and your work is in the UK. Your work is considered of the utmost standard by those of us living across the pond!
Recently there has been rather a lot of online hullabaloo regarding a new series of videos on morality (in which the presenter frequently cites your moral argument) by the atheist YouTuber “cosmic sceptic”. I’m only bringing this to your attention because of his rather substantial following, especially here in the UK, but in the U.S. as well. His first video was the most controversial. In it he claimed that even if there were a god it would still be impossible to infer objective moral duties. After rather a lot of rambling he eventually reduces his queries to one question, which would seem to be the crux of his argument. “Why ought we do that which is good”? I admit, his question had me a little bamboozled. “Of course we ought to do that which is good”, I thought to myself, “there would be no ought if there were no good, ought is just defined that way”! But I soon realized that this would be begging the question. Didn’t I need some kind of external reason other that the definition of ought that I ought to do that which was good? In case this becomes a popular slogan/question for sceptics to charge theists with, how might we answer such a query? Your help won’t go unnoticed Dr. Craig.
DR. CRAIG’S RESPONSE
A: I haven’t seen Cosmic Sceptic’s critique, Amos, but if your representation of it is accurate, then this poor chap hasn’t even begun to understand the view he criticizes. But because you say that his critique is influential, it’s worth taking the time to correct the mistake.
It seems that he is willing to concede that the theist can plausibly ground moral values, at least, in God. As the greatest conceivable being, God is the paradigm of goodness, and things are good insofar as they resemble God. So far, so good (pun intended)!
But, he asks, “Why ought we do that which is good?” This is a question about the basis of moral duties (our obligations and prohibitions). Well, why do you think a Divine Command Theory of ethics is called “Divine Command Theory?” Precisely because it grounds our moral duties in God’s commands! The genius of this theory is that it provides a plausible grounding, not just for moral values, but also for moral duties…
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