Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives

Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives

Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives

Divine Command Ethics: Jewish and Christian Perspectives

Synopsis

This book analyzes the response of the classic texts of Jewish tradition to Plato's 'Euthyphro dilemma': does God freely determine morality, or is morality independent of God?

Excerpt

Although questions surrounding divine command ethics have a long pedigree within the history of philosophy and the history of religious thought, philosophers of religion have paid increasing attention to these issues in recent decades, with several important works appearing in the 1980s and 1990s. However, the recent literature has contained little systematic discussion of the perspective of Jewish tradition on divine command ethics, certainly in English. This book aims to provide an extensive discussion of this kind, while developing a position that is distinct from, and critical of, other views that have recently been advanced in Jewish scholarship concerning the stance of Jewish tradition on divine command ethics.

At the same time, this work aims to provide a substantial analysis of some Christian perspectives on divine command ethics, drawing from both the history of philosophy and the contemporary philosophical literature. Thus, I refer both to the roots of divine command ethics in Christian thought in some writings of Ockham, Scotus, Luther and Calvin and to the contemporary Christian approaches developed from within the tradition of analytical philosophy by Robert Adams and John Hare. In this way, context is provided for the discussion of Jewish perspectives, similarities and differences between Christian and Jewish perspectives become apparent, and the outlooks of the Christian and Jewish traditions hopefully throw light upon one another. The focus, in most of this book, on specifically Jewish and Christian dimensions of divine command ethics will hopefully further the central aim of the series of which this work is a part - namely, the discussion of philosophical issues from the perspective of some of the great religious traditions.

The approach of this book differs from the prevalent mode of thinking about divine command ethics from a Jewish perspective. Contemporary Jewish scholars who address the issue of the attitude of Jewish tradition to divine command ethics tend to take a rather monochromatic view, though in opposite directions. Some scholars - for example, Immanuel Jakobovits, Isadore Twersky and Marvin Fox - think it clear that Jewish tradition supports Divine Command Theory, the notion that morality depends upon God’s command. Others - e.g. Aharon Lichtenstein, Shubert Spero, Louis Jacobs and Avi Sagi - think it equally clear

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