Ethical Intuitionism, Divine Command Theory, and Utilitarianism - Essay Example

Published: 2022-05-27
Ethical Intuitionism, Divine Command Theory, and Utilitarianism - Essay Example
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Ethics
Pages: 4
Wordcount: 913 words
8 min read

Ethical Intuitionism

Ethical intuitionism refers to a family of views in moral epistemology (Sturgeon, 2002). It can also be defined as the general view that moral truths can be known without one having to infer from other truths in which an individual believes in. Ethical intuitionism is the most straightforward position concerning morality. However, several aspects that contribute to its failure has resulted in philosophers questioning of the situation. One of the reasons that led to its fall was the influence of logical positivism (Sturgeon, 2002). Notably, logical positivism together with the logical empiricism formed a movement, the neo-positivism, whose thesis statement pointed out that only those statements, which were verifiable through the empirical observations, are to be considered as cognitively meaningful. In the late 1930s, a majority of the logical positivists fled from Germany and Austria and this led to there being a replacement of Mach's phenomenalism with Otto Neurath's physicalism. By the end of the Second World War, the logical positivism became milder which resulted in it becoming the primary underpinning of the analytic philosophy (Sturgeon, 2002). The rising popularity of naturalism also contributed to the fall. However, the rise and dominance of Christianity in the West and the spread of Islam led to naturalism being abandoned by the intellectuals. The final reason that led to the fall was that a majority of the intuitionists fails to take the intuitions to be infallible and for this reason, they fail to acknowledge that all moral knowledge is intuitive.

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Reasons why the Divine Command Theory Faces Important Problems

Typically, the Divine Command Theory is a view that morality is dependent on God and that the moral obligations consist in obedience to His commands (Austin, 2006). The specific content of the commands vary based on the religion of individuals, but all the versions are consistent in their claims in that they hold that morality is dependent on God. Ideally, the belief in God gives individuals a sense of belonging, which makes it easier for them to know what to do by asking God or referring to the Bible.

The divine command theory continues to be controversial, which has resulted to philosophers such as Plato to subject it under criticisms. The argument also has many defenders both classic and contemporary who have brought their views that has led to problems existing. The Euthyphro Dilemma is considered one of the most persistent problems that have entirely affected the divine command theory (Austin, 2006). The Euthyphro Dilemma is a situation that requires one to choose between the available options that result in unpleasant results. Also, the dilemma has also resulted to a debate on the nature of piety to confirm on the authority of God based on the moral standards (Murphy, 1998).

Additionally, most of the advocates do not want to conclude that being cruel could be morally right and neither do they want to accept that the foundations upon which morality is based to some extent are arbitrary. Thus, they tend to avoid the problem of arbitrariness by claiming that only God can command an action because it is morally right (Austin, 2006). However, with such a conclusion, it, therefore, implies that ethics no longer depend on God and that He remains to be a mere recognizer of right and wrong. This, therefore, holds that He no longer gets to be sovereign but is subjected to a moral law, which compromises his supremacy and metaphysical status, which is a consequence that a majority of the divine command theorists would want to reject.

What is put forward as the Ultimate Value and the Right Moral Action by Utilitarianism?

Utilitarianism ideally is the notion that one's actions are morally allowed if they produce net happiness that surpasses the available options (Scarre, 2002). Notably, utilitarianism advocates for maximum happiness, which is to be attained based on the behavior of human beings. The general statement of Markovits (2018) that the right moral action is that which produces the greatest balance of and action is ideally not the best but the correct notion to adopt.

Typically, she has pointed out of a possible example to explain the aspects of utilitarianism and its impact on inflicting happiness (Markovits 201). Based on the case pointed out of the five doses present to cure the six patients, one of the needy patients, could take all the five and be cured and the others die of the illness. On the other hand, the five of them be given the doses each and be cured and let the needy one die. The only possible solution in such a case will be to cure the five and let the one die simply because there will be less suffering felt as compared to letting the five die and curing the one who was needy.

Notably, such a view will bring in many issues from the family of the patient who will be left to die, and they might even sue the hospital for ethical misconduct. Ideally, it is the responsibility of the hospital to ensure they have all the required doses for all patients and not weighing on who will suffer the most based on their failures to provide the patients with the drugs.


Austin, M. W. (2006). Divine command theory.Markovits, J. (2018). "Ethics: Utilitarianism, Part 1." Accessed from >

Murphy, M. C. (1998). Divine command, divine will, and moral obligation. Faith and Philosophy, 15(1), 3-27.

Scarre, G. (2002). Utilitarianism. Routledge.Sturgeon, N. L. (2002). Ethical intuitionism and ethical naturalism.

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