If I were a perfectly evil god, I think I would be more evil if I knew what good and evil was and believed it, yet I was motivated to do evil. Graham Oppy seems to think God would only be motivated to do good if he had moral knowledge, beliefs, and motivation in his book "arguing about gods".

1 Answer 1


We can run a test case on this question among us humans.

For most of us, knowing more about others -- their desires, their suffering, there values -- makes us more empathic, and more willing to assist them. So the above is generally true -- moral knowledge generally increases moral behavior.

But it is not always true, because of the is/ought boundary. Motivations, the sorts of things we think we ought to do, are not easily changed by facts.

Take an example of moral knowledge -- say your learning I care deeply about my car, or my pet. for an empathic person, that would lead to more respectful treatment of my car, or pet. For a vindictive person, say an ex who has been jilted, -- that knowledge can lead to keying the car, or poisoning the pet. Being told this is vindictive, will generally not stop this behavior. Instead, it will likely elicit "I know, that is the point!"

Extend this to a God. A God that is vindictive over slights, or just enjoys cruelty, will become more harmful to people the more that God knows about them. Moral knowledge will not always lead to moral behavior. It always will depend on the basic character of the God involved.

  • This answer may be irrelevant to the question. If moral knowledge is used by the OP in the sense meant in e.g. SEP, it's knowing facts about morality, not facts about circumstances pertinent to morally salient action. Knowing you care deeply about your car is not moral knowledge; that would be knowing that keying your car is bad because you care deeply about your car.
    – g s
    Commented Jul 10 at 4:40
  • @gs the OP is not very clear about what they are asking about, but I took the series: "moral knowledge, beliefs, and motivation" to be three different stages of thinking. The moral knowledge of what brings joy and sorrow to an individual, and that one should care about this, is the lowest tier. The moral value of empathy or vindictiveness is the second, and then acting to cause joy or sorrow is the 3rd. Knowledge that others advocate for empathy not vindictiveness, and one is on the wrong side of what is generally considered moral, rarely changes behavior. Agents, can rationalize evil.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Jul 10 at 5:28

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