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John Hick ‘Philosophy of Religion’:  The Moral Argument. Hick points to two forms of Moral Argument. Why? Because these feelings can be explained through psychology, social pressure, need for security. OR Because morality comes from God. He is the ground of all values. First form:

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john hick philosophy of religion the moral argument hick points to two forms of moral argument
John Hick ‘Philosophy of Religion’: The Moral Argument. Hick points to two forms of Moral Argument


  • Because these feelings can be explained through psychology, social pressure, need for security. OR
  • Because morality comes from God. He is the ground of all values


First form:

  • Hello! I feel a moral compulsion, a conscience, a sense of a divine lawgiver.
john hick philosophy of religion
Second form:

Hello! There is a Moral claim over me. I therefore believe in a Transhuman source: God.

Claim=to work towards the highest good.

Kant argues that we seek a perfect world unachievable without immortality and therefore God.


Either our moral values tell us something about the nature and purpose of reality OR are subjective and therefore meaningless.

But: does this transcendent ground point to the Judaic Christian God?

John Hick ‘Philosophy of Religion’:
brian davies philosophy of religion
Brian Davies ‘Philosophy of Religion’
  • Davies begins by examining the Second form of Moral Argument: Kant’s.
  • humanity ought to strive for moral perfection and since it cannot be successful unless helped by divinity, God must exist to ensure humanity can achieve that for which it must strive!
  • Morality requires us to aim for the highest good.
  • And there should be a reward appropriate to virtue.
  • ‘To be in need of happiness and also worthy of it and yet not to partake of it could not be appropriate and in accordance with the complete volition of an omnipotent rational being.’ Kant.

Highest Good


Theology student

Willing the highest good means willing a correlation between moral rectitude and happiness.

SNAG! it is impossible to ensure what morality requires in this life.

The highest good must be possible but we are not omnipotent.


We must postulate the existence of God as able to ensure that fidelity to moral requirements is properly rewarded. Only God can ensure its realisation.

‘It is morally necessary to assume the existence of God’.

For the dunce:

The fact that morality demands of the realisation of the highest good and the fact that only God can see to it that the highest good comes about, leads to the conclusion that there is a God. Simple !!!!!

Kant :
kant criticisms
Kant: Criticisms

Taking it at face value what Kant offers looked rather impressive in some respects. It is widely accepted that ought implies can.

  • If I tell you that you ought to do something, you should be able to do it.
  • Jump that hole!
  • You may be crippled but you ought to walk to work.
  • 1. Seems reasonable and

2. Unreasonable. 


  • We are tempted to argue that if the highest good ought to be realised, then it can be realised. Since it cannot be realised by humans, morality is absurd without God.
criticism 1
Criticism 1:

We all ought to try a to attain the highest good. It can be beneficial.

  • From:

‘We ought to aim at for the highest good’, it does not follow that anything can bring this about.

  • All that follows is that we ought to aim for the highest good.
  • Ok! It is absurd sometimes to say we ought to do X even if we cannot achieve it i.e. for someone crippled to walk.
  • But it sometimes makes sense to say that someone ought to aim for what cannot be achieved i.e. A child with learning difficulties ought to aim to learn French. This does not imply that French can or will be learnt, but that the child should try.

Highest Good

criticism 2
Criticism 2:
  • Kant might say:

‘If the highest good cannot be realised, one ought not to aim for it.’ 

  • The critic:

Why can we not conclude that we simply ought not to aim at the highest good ?

  • ‘Can we suppose that the existence of God follows from the fact that we ought to aim for something which could only exist if there is a God?’ Why not say that that something should not be aimed for?
criticism 3
Criticism 3:

Highest Good

  • Problem.
  • We need not agree that only God can ensure the realisation of the highest good. God, omnipotent, omniscient, could bring it about. The realisation of the highest good requires power and knowledge not found in nature.
  • But do we need omnipotence etc? Why not something more powerful and knowledgeable than us i.e. Angels, wise Aliens?
Kant's argument does not to lead to the Christian God. By the time we have arrived at to the third criticism there seems to be a strong element of mockery.
  • ‘….Kant's moral argument for God does not work’.
  • Mr. C’s word of warning:

Kant was arguing for his view on morality/duty. In order to make sense of this view, he had to argue that there was a life after death and therefore a God. In a strict sense Kant did not produce an argument for God’s existence, though of course, others have used it as such!!!!!


What about arguments that state moral laws imply a moral lawgiver or that the sense of moral responsibility and guilt implies the existence of God?This is the first from of moral argument identified by Hick

If this is proposed we must first know if there is a moral law from which to argue a Divine lawgiver.

 Two responses to this:

A. Some philosophers believed in the existence of an objective moral law that is binding upon all human beings .

B. Other philosophers believe there is no objective moral law. It is not appropriate to speak of value judgments which are independent of whatever people may think or feel.

‘Moral Judgement is a subjective matter’.

  • Owen follows the first view:’.. there is an objective moral law’.
  • Trethowen :

Okay I accept an objective moral law.

But would not explanation for this be better found in anthropology or psychology than in God?

  • Davies: ‘Belief in an objective moral law need not even suggest the existence of God’. P. 178
It might be said that if one already has reason to believe in God independently of moral considerations, then the fact that there is a moral law.. only to be expected.


  • There is a purposeful, intelligent creator therefore we should expect objective moral laws to exists. Yippee! God exists!
  • But equally we could argue:
  • MORAL LAW-yes there is one but where is the particular reason for believing God exists.  
  • Help! There are conflicting interpretations!
what about the second view that there is no moral law which is objective or independent
What about the second view that there is no moral law which is objective or independent?
  • There can be no argument from law to the existence of God.
  • If moral judgements are just expressions of feelings and decisions, then they are of little weight in an argument for God's existence.