Philosophy 109 - 6.3.2 Moral Arguments for God

Another type of argument for the existence of God is built upon metaethics and normative ethics. Consider subjective and objective values. Subjective values are those beliefs that guide and drive behaviors deemed permissible as determined by either an individual or an individual’s culture. Objective values govern morally permissible and desired outcomes that apply to all moral agents. Moral arguments for the existence of God depend upon the existence of objective values.

If there are objective values, then the question of “Whence do these values come?” must be raised. One possible answer used to explain the presence of objective values is that the basis of the values is found in God. Here is one premise/conclusion form of the argument:

  1. If objective values exist, there must be a source for their objective validity.
  2. The source of all value (including the validity held by objective values) is God.
  3. Objective values do exist.
  4. Therefore, God exists.

This argument, however, raises questions. Does moral permissibility (i.e., right and wrong) depend upon God? Are ethics an expression of the divine, or are ethics better understood separate from divine authority? To explore this topic further, students will find a helpful overview and updated references in the Stanford Encyclopedia article, "Moral Arguments for the Existence of God."

Write Like a Philosopher

Watch “God & Morality: Part 2” by Steven Darwall.

Darwall’s argument for the autonomy of ethics may be restated as follows:

  1. God knows morality best (1:44).
  2. God knows what is best for us (2:12).
  3. God has authority over us (2:48).

How does Darwall refute the conclusion? What is the evidence offered, and at what point within the argument is the evidence introduced? What does his approach suggest about refutational strategies? Can you refute Darwall’s argument?

As you write, begin by defining the conclusion. Remember that in philosophy, conclusions are not resting points but mere starting points. Next, present the evidence, both stated and unstated, and explain how it supports the conclusion.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free Philosophy textbook by Openstax