Ethical Hedonism vs. Divine Command Theory

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Divine Order Principle

When it comes to ethical theories, the divine order principle stands out the most. It implies that in order for acts to be morally correct, they must be equal to God's command. As a result, in order to be considered strictly upright, an individual must obey His commandments. First and foremost, the philosophy accepts and recognizes the role of God in the cosmos. In addition, God is portrayed as the Supreme Being who decides and distinguishes between what is wrong and what is right. Since humans are vulnerable to make mistakes, this philosophy is preferable. As a result, they need God's intervention to create morals. Whatever the Lord wants is religiously correct, while anything contradictory to that is false (Quinn 56). This theory is followed by many religions such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. It also borrows from the story of the creation of the universe, thereby, asserting that God created moral truths too. It is also supported by the view that Lord is all powerful, thus placing his superiority among all beings and showing that morality cannot exist apart from Him.

Ethical Hedonism

On the other hand, ethical hedonism, a branch of hedonism, majors on pleasure. The theory argues that the sole purpose of life is happiness and pleasure. It infers that people should avoid pain by minimizing it and instead maximize enjoyment. It, therefore, guides that morality is where a person can find the most pleasure (Timmermann 145). Ethical hedonism then proposes that human beings should always seek to attain bliss. The theory suggests that happiness is the only reasonable object of people's desire. It, therefore, assumes that pleasurable actions are always based on morality.

Differences Between the Two Theories

One significant difference between the two theories is the aspect of God. Divine command theory focuses on Lord, guiding that He is the creator of Morality. This opinion is firm, as it confines the status of actions to God who is, in fact, the creator of the world (Murphy 20). On the other hand, ethical hedonism does not acknowledge even the existence of the Almighty, but leaves the truth of morality to the mind of human beings. It is, therefore, clear that divine command infers reliance on guidance from God, while ethical hedonism fetches it from human beings. The other strength of the divine command theory is that it realizes that people are prone to making mistakes, as they are not perfect. It is why it guides that they should rely on the instructions from God for he is perfect. Ethical hedonism, on the other hand, assumes that human beings are capable of following morality by following their pleasures (Broad 30). However, it is wrong, since the preferences of people are mostly based on their selfish gains. Another differentiating factor is that divine command proposes that accomplishing God's commandments is the sole purpose of life, while ethical hedonism asserts that the primary desire should be seeking pleasure.


Conclusively, I find that divine command theory is more appropriate to follow. For instance, if I am faced with a situation, where aborting a child will save me from financial constraint, I will choose to obey God's command to avoid abortion. Ethical hedonism will, instead, guide one towards abortion. Again, if one finds pleasure in taking alcohol, ethical hedonism will support the alcoholism, while divine command will instruct me to avoid drunkenness, as God guides. Lastly, if I am also faced with a situation where lying would save me from jail, ethical hedonism will support lying to avoid pain, whereas divine command will advise against it, as God instructs us always to be truthful. Therefore, I would recommend people to follow the divine command theory, as it takes a firmer stand on morality.

Works Cited

Broad, Charlie D. Five Types of Ethical Theory. Routledge, 2008.

Murphy, Mark C. “Divine Command, Divine Will, and Moral Obligation.” Faith and Philosophy, vol. 15, no. 1, 1998, pp. 3-27.

Timmermann, Jens. “Too Much of a Good Thing? Another Paradox of Hedonism.” Analysis, vol. 65, no. 2, 2005, pp. 144-146.

Quinn, Philip L. “Divine Command Theory.” In Hugh LaFollette, ed., The Blackwell Guide to Ethical Theory (pp. 53-74). Blackwell Publishing, 2000.

October 20, 2022

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