Religion and Moral Knowledge

Authored by: C.A.J. Coady

The Routledge Handbook of Moral Epistemology

Print publication date:  November  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138816121
eBook ISBN: 9781315719696
Adobe ISBN:


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There are two opposing attitudes, dominant and dismissive, that tend to bedevil discussions of the relevance of religion to moral knowledge: either religion tells us everything about morality or it tells us nothing. This chapter seeks a more complex understanding than that given by either the dominant or the dismissive attitude. The chapter begins with an exploration of the common religious idea that moral understanding comes from grasping what God wants of us. Various forms of Divine Command theory and objections to them are scrutinized in detail. The chapter then investigates four ways in which religious insights might be more subtly relevant to common moral knowledge. These are: (a) a religious ethic may reveal truths that natural reason can grasp only dimly; (b) it may provide a more robust motivation for moral behavior than otherwise available; (c) it may provide backing for absolute obligations; and (d) it may point beyond a relatively narrow concern with right and wrong moral behavior toward issues to do with spirituality and “the meaning of life.”

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