‘Induction over the history of science suggests that the best theories we have today will prove more or less untrue at the latest by tomorrow afternoon.’ Fodor, J. ‘Why Pigs don’t have wings,’ London Review of Books, 18th Oct 2007

Sunday, 20 March 2011

William Paley and Theological Utilitarianism

I have discovered that William Paley was a Theological Utilitarian. That is; that ethics begin with a belief that God wishes people to be happy. But for happiness to be ultimately possible we must accord our lives with the will of God. In other words it embraces deontology (that is an ethical systems involving rights and duties), but one that has a benefit in terms of personal and social happiness. We are often encouraged to think of religion as only embracing rules and regulations, but a true Christian approach to ethics involves happiness for people and benefit for society. This is also the message of John 15:9-17 where deontological ethics are bound up with love, peace and joy.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other."

I disucssed some this in my book, Restoring the Ethics of Creation pp.126-129
Andrew Sibley

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