Divine moral goodness, supererogation and The Euthyphro Dilemma

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How can we make sense of God’s moral goodness if God cannot be subject to moral obligations? This question is troubling for Divine Command Theorists, as if we cannot make sense of God’s moral goodness then it seems hard to see how God’s commands could be morally good. William P. Alston (1989) argues that the concept of supererogation solves this problem. If we accept the existence of acts that are morally good but not morally required then we should accept that there is no need for an act to fulfill a moral obligation in order for it to be morally good (1989 p.261). This view has been criticized by both Eleonore Stump (1992) and Josef Lombardi (2005), who claim that it is impossible for an agent who has no obligations to perform acts of supererogation. Elizabeth Drummond Young (2013) attempts to defend Alston’s solution by offering a new analysis of supererogation. In this paper I will argue first that Young fails to provide an adequate response to Lombardi’s objection. I will then provide my own defence of Alston’s proposal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal for Philosophy of Religion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2016


  • supererogation
  • Divine Command Theory
  • Euthyphro Dilemma
  • Philosophy of Religion
  • Moral Philosophy


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