Divine Command Theory Term Paper

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On the surface, both ethical relativism and ethical egotism are appealing theories. The ethical relativist avoids many of the problems that arise from encounters with different moral codes, and can help to eliminate some of the culture clashes and social problems inherent in the human condition. For example, when many Westerners come into contact with Middle Eastern cultures such as that of Saudi Arabia, they are tempted to pass judgment on the status of women. However, ethical relativism holds that all moral systems are valid, that ethics cannot be absolute or imposed from without. Therefore, ethical relativism is closely connected with cultural relativism. Such a stance makes it easy for people to get along and to resist fighting. "Anything goes," and "live and let live" are in fact some of the basic hallmarks of a liberal democracy and to an extent ethical relativism should always be at least entertained. On the other hand, ethical relativism has some significant problems. Using the same example as above, the status of women in many cultures is so poor as to cause direct bodily and mental harm. Women in cultures that suppress them become unwittingly dependent on men and are deprived of education and basic human rights. In many cases, the legal system supports the rights of men to beat their wives. In such cases, the ethical system used to justify the mistreatment of women has clear moral problems: how can it be ethically good to directly harm half of the population? Therefore, an
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attitude of "anything goes" must be tempered with common sense in order for it to work. An ideal ethics would combine a foundation of ethical relativism with the strict caveat: "so long as it harms no one."

Ethical egotism is also an appealing ethical theory. Equally as libertarian as ethical relativism, ethical egotism acknowledges that human nature is fundamentally self-seeking, that all persons are motivated by self-interest and that self-interest is not necessarily bad. Often, people who act out of self-interest inadvertently act in accordance with strict morals. Similarly, acting too altruistic can often give rise to problems such as inefficiency or chaos. For example, in many places where drivers yield to pedestrians both driver and pedestrian can become overly polite. The pedestrian is perfectly willing to wait while the car passes, but the car holds up the traffic behind him in order to let the pedestrian cross. In many cases, the altruistic show-down occurs where there is no crosswalk. Sometimes, the pedestrian waves to the car to indicate "Please pass," and the person in the car returns the gesture. Meanwhile thirty seconds have passed before anyone is assertive enough to make a move. If two ethical relativists were in this position, they would simply follow the laws of traffic flow: allow the bigger vehicle, already in motion, to keep going unless there was a stop sign or light. Situations that bring out ethical egotism are often less mundane than this, but generally self-interest is not always as morally problematic as some ethicists would claim.

Moreover, acting out of self-interest does not necessarily entail…

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Works Cited

Holt, Tim. "Divine Command Theory." Philosophy of Religion. 2005. Online at .

Weston, Anthony. A 21st Century Ethical Toolbox. Oxford University Press, 2001.

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