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John introduces himself to Mercy and says, “Hi, Mercy. I believe in the Divine Command theory of morality. Are you familiar with this theory? I'd like to explain it to you.” “I am a utilitarian,” Mercy replies. “It will be interesting to compare our views.”

John replies, “I know! According to Robert Stern (2011), the Divine Command Theory views that morality is reliant on God, and that moral responsibility is manifested through compliance to the commandments of God. Divine Command Theory claims that morality is based on the character of God. It further claims that a morally right deed is the one that God requires. The content of the divine commands differs according to the specific religion and the views of each divine command theorist. However, all adaptations of the theory hold a common claim that morality and moral duties depend on a certain Supreme Being. Divine Command Theory is still extremely controversial. It has been critiqued by philosophers such as Plato, J. Mackie and Kai Nielsen. The theory has numerous defenders either, such as Thomas Aquinas, Philip Quinn and Robert Adams. Robert Stern states that, "the problem of the possible links between religion and ethics is of significance to moral philosophers and philosophers of religion. It also leads us to consider the function of religion in society as well as the character of moral deliberation. Given this, the opinions offered for, and versus Divine Command Theory have practical and theoretical significance"” (p. 89).

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Mercy pauses for a moment then proceeds, “I see. On the contrary, according to Martin Rhonheimer (2011), the utilitarian theory has a different approach. Broadly speaking, utilitarianism argues that morality ought to guide conduct so that the result is best for all people (p. 67). One must always perform deeds which, compared to existing alternatives, provide the best results and maximize usefulness. Act Utilitarianism is a test of what one is supposed to do. It is not necessarily a guide to decision making, and indeed it cannot unconditionally serve as a guide to making decisions when a person does not know which of the deeds they could perform in order to capitalize on utility. Connected to act-utilitarianism is a supplementary test which is applied when one has a clear vision of the results’ value, that appears to be the consequence of one’s activity, and can approximate the likelihood of any possible outcome happening if one does a deed that might point towards it. Martin Rhonheimer’s (2011) stated that, utility maximization holds that one must always perform the deed which, compared to existing alternatives, capitalizes on expected usefulness. Here, the deed’s anticipated utility is the addition of the value of its separate outcomes and the likelihood of each ones incidence” (p. 57).

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John nods his head then asks, “How does the utilitarian theory apply to the moral problem of stealing?” Mercy replies, “According to the utilitarian theory, morality should influence people’s behavior which ought to be favorable and appropriate in the society. Stealing is an act which does not benefit the community. An individual who commits the act of stealing benefits at the expense of other people. Therefore, stealing is considered to be immoral.”

John nods again then proceeds, “I understand. At the same time, the Divine Command Theory holds that morality is founded on the wishes of God, and that the morally right deed is the one that God requires. Stealing is not one of the accomplishments God demands of us. Most, if not all, religions believe that those who gain their wealth in ways that harm others are immoral. One of such ways is stealing. Therefore, acquiring property which belongs to others without their consent is immoral.

Mercy replies, “You have a legitimate point. However, I reckon that these theories have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Sometimes it is alleged that utilitarianism has deleterious influence on the course of action because, if we were to take time to speculate before acting, we would often not be acting in time. The major advantage of this approach is that, once you have pondered over the situation, the outcome is more often guaranteed to be positive.”

John replies, “According to Harriet A. Harris (2011), the main strength of the Divine Command Theory is that it delivers an objective metaphysical groundwork for morality. For those dedicated to the existence of unbiased moral truths, such truths appear to fit satisfactorily within a theistic structure. Its main shortcoming is that the purpose for being moral is to avoid penalty and, perhaps, gain eternal life. This is less ultimate than sincere moral inspiration, because it indicates moral immaturity” (p. 245).

Mercy replies, “Well, I had a fantastic time discussing these issues with you. Thank you.” John replies, “Thank you for sharing your views.”

The two theories are a significant contribution to the morality topic. The most convincing part of the Divine Command Theory is that it is based on religion. Religion is a key motivating factor amongst societies around the world. However, the unconvincing part of this theory is that most individuals find it less motivational. The price of being moral is described as avoiding punishment and the wish to live after death. The most convincing part concerning the utilitarian theory is that the results of calculations and actions tend to lead someone to do what is moral. However, the drawback of this approach is that the process of speculating over the course of action may result to inadequate timing. 

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