Date of Award

Fall 2004

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Starr, William

Second Advisor

Wainwright, William

Third Advisor

Gibson, Kevin


This dissertation is an investigation into the ground of moral objectivity. My preliminary claim is that in order to be objective, moral properties must be real properties. The following question is, what kind of (real) properties are moral properties? A number of recent philosophers have argued that moral properties are natural properties. ''Natural" in this context means "(completely) open to investigation and discovery by the senses or by empirical science." The natural properties proposed in the recent literature are connected to the property of human well-being. The main project of my dissertation is to show that natural properties are not adequate as the foundation for moral objectivity, because there is no necessary connection between any natural properties and moral properties. Another answer to the question of what kind of properties moral properties are is that they are supernatural properties. "Supernatural" in this context means "not ( completely) open to investigation and discovery by the senses, or by empirical science." It is my argument that a singular supernatural being who created the world and has particular ideas about what sorts of people/actions/states of affairs are good and bad or right and wrong is the only sufficient ground for moral objectivity. Given such a being, moral properties will be real and objective. They will also be moral (value) properties, since the originator of these properties confers value on them. Using and expanding on work in Divine Command Theory, especially that of Robert M. Adams, my original contribution to this discussion is to propose that moral properties are relational properties. The relationship is between persons, actions, states of affairs, etc., in the physical world, and the ideas, desires, character, or commands (all taken to be the same thing) of the supernatural being. An important limitation of my dissertation project is that I do not consider any practical issues such as "How do we know whether God exists?", "How would God communicate the content of morality to us?", or "What is God like?" These are important and worthwhile questions, but are not a part of my present investigation.



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