CLAGS (College of Liberal Graduate Student Symposium)


February 15, 2013: John Baldari

Graduate Alumni, Department of Philosophy, UNR

"Reconciliation of the Divine Command Theory with Natural Law: A Defense of Sir William Blackstone"

3:30-5:00 p.m. panel

MIKC 404


John Baldari recently graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a Master's degree in Philosophy with specialization in ethics, identity, and military philosophy. John is a career military officer with twenty years of service. He is currently assigned as a liaison with the Nevada Military Department. His current academic work involves bracketing philosophical concepts within common understanding outside of academia. John has been accepted to the University of Auckland doctoral program in Philosophy. "Reconciliation of the Divine Command Theory with Natural Law, A Defense of Sir William Blackstone"
Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, famously believed that human law derives its validity from conformity to natural and divine laws [Blackstone, p168]. Blackstone is making the claim that natural law is supervened by divine law and temporally equivalent to human law, but seems to come short of the Divine Command Theory. In this paper, I will provide a defense for Blackstone as a divine command theorist and assist his argument in reconciling DCT with natural law.

For the purpose of this discussion, we will use the following form of the Divine Command Theory. Roughly, Divine Command Theory is the view that morality is somehow dependent upon God, and that moral obligation consists in obedience to God’s commands. Divine Command Theory includes the claim that morality is ultimately based on the commands or character of God, and that the morally right action is the one that God commands or requires. For Blackstone’s works, we can interchange morality with legality fairly easily, as he saw law to be morally obligatory. The problem is quite obvious, God’s natural law is still arbitrary, and we are under no obligation to follow it. I think that if one were to read Blackstone in this way, we might incite this great author to roll over in his grave. It is my opinion that Blackstone was on to something much more profound with his theories and that his theories could quite easily be called “Divine Command Theories.”