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By Jove: A Brief Look At Polytheistic Divine Command Theory

2036 words - 9 pages

Sophocles’ famous play “Antigone” highlights a problem in what was then the prevalent worldview for most pious Greeks, that of Divine Command Theory. Divine Command Theory is a philosophical paradigm, or worldview, which essentially states that an action is good if and only if it has been commanded by a divine entity, which, to quote St. Thomas Aquinas, “all men know as God.” The problem arises in what happens when there exist multiple deities, such as is the case with the Greek and Roman pantheons. Socrates himself argues about this in the famous work Euthyphro, underscoring the fact that this is a problem which has been around for a very long time. It would seem that the existence of multiple deities destroys the possibility of there being a coherent system of morality. What, for example, would be the course of action if one god were to prefer one action which is opposed to another action preferred by a different god? In the Greek mythology which serves as something of a backdrop for Antigone, it was not at all uncommon for the Olympian deities to be at odds with each other about this or that thing, or even outright conflict. Another problem raised by a polytheistic Divine Command Theory is the question “Do the gods command an action because it’s morally right, or is it morally right because the gods command it?” The polytheists must by necessity choose the first option, for reasons that will be explained later in the paper. This paper will take the position that the Divine Command Theory would have been incoherent for a pious polytheistic Greek, based on multiple gods commanding multiple things.
In order for a philosophy to be coherent, it must be consistent with itself. If it in some way violates the principle of non-contradiction, either a distinction must be made, or the philosophy must logically be abandoned. If the adherent of the philosophy in question refuses to do either of these things, then Aristotle says that they are nothing better than a vegetable, and one would simply be wasting their time conversing with them. This is pointed out to highlight the fact that in Greek mythology, one can read multiple instances of the gods on Mount Olympus disagreeing with each other about any number of important things. It would be relevant here to point out a few significant examples from famous stories in the collection of Greek mythology. In the first part of the Odyssey, for example, Poseidon hates Odysseus, and does not want him to arrive safe and sound at his home back in Ithaca, whereas the other gods, such as Zeus and Hera, have a soft spot for Odysseus and want him to get back from the wars unharmed. In this case, it would seem that it is pious for one to aid Odysseus on account of the wishes of Zeus et al. It would then be a pious and righteous act, for instance, for a shipbuilder in the Isle of Cicones to do a bang-up job in repairing Odysseus’ ship. However, in this case, it would also seem that it would be a pious act to...

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