Divine command theory  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Divine command theory is the meta-ethical view about the semantics or meaning of ethical sentences, which claims that ethical sentences express propositions, some of which are true, about the attitudes of God. That is, it claims that sentences such as "charity is good" mean the same thing as sentences such as "God commands charity".

This makes divine command theory a subjectivist yet universalist form of cognitivism. Divine command theory thus stands in opposition to other forms of ethical subjectivism (e.g. ideal observer theory, moral relativism, and individualist ethical subjectivism), as well as to moral realism (which claims that moral propositions refer to objective facts, independent of anyone's attitudes or opinions), error theory (which denies that any moral propositions are true in any sense), and non-cognitivism (which denies that moral sentences express propositions capable of being true or false at all).

It is often argued that divine command theory is refuted by the Euthyphro dilemma (so named because a version of it first appeared in Plato's dialogue Euthyphro): "Is an action morally good because God commands it, or does God command it because it is morally good?"

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