Relativism versus objectivism

Objectivism vs subjectivism

Over the centuries, moral objectivists have proposed a variety of objective sources of moral truth in some more stable level of reality beyond mere human social custom, such as eternal truths, laws of nature, or commands of God. Such a course would be a great error. Consider now the argument premise by premise. I erroneously project the quality of disgust onto the orange. My neighbor himself may not be convinced by this; instead, he may think that I am plotting with the monster against him. Maybe there are very general moral standards that are held world-wide, while the specific application of those principles might vary from culture to culture. Most men have sex with their wives in private, but the philosopher Crates did it with his wife publicly. If we try to understand the concept of charity by surveying this world, we will arrive at an inadequate concept. Where then and how does the moral ideal really exist? To make such a supposition would be sacrilegious. But even if there is, notice that it is a mistake to conclude based upon differing opinions about morality, that there are no facts about morality. Another society may also pass judgment on the mores. What can we conclude, except that there is really no fact of the matter about what the shape of the earth is? For centuries, moral philosophers have reflected on the philosophical problems raised by clashing social values. Cultural relativism thereby is false for my society conclusion.

It is through our families, friends, schools, religious affiliations, political institutions, and vocational connections that we collectively shape our standards. My neighbor himself may not be convinced by this; instead, he may think that I am plotting with the monster against him.

problems with moral objectivism

Our moral ideal can only claim objective validity in so far as it can rationally be regarded as the revelation of a moral ideal eternally existing in the mind of God [The Theory of Good and Evil,2.

If we try to understand the concept of charity by surveying this world, we will arrive at an inadequate concept. For Aristotle, there simply is no higher objective realm of the Forms.

Arguments against moral objectivism

Still, we cannot declare moral relativism the clear victor. There is no objective moral truth outside of what society establishes. From these three premises the conclusion in statement 4 immediately follows: moral standards are grounded in social custom, which, compared to moral objectivism, more reasonably explains the moral diversity that we see. For Aristotle, there simply is no higher objective realm of the Forms. For example, if I believe polygamy is immoral and my friend from Saudi Arabia believes it is moral, then at least one of us, and perhaps both of us, might have a distorted understanding of objective moral truth. But by what faculty do we gain knowledge of this spirit-like realm? What at first seems to be an obvious truth for relativists—that moral standards differ from culture to culture—now seems more like a hasty generalization. For example, we condemn stealing in our culture because some objective moral truth tells us that stealing is wrong. For us adultery is forbidden, but among the Massegetae adultery is customarily accepted with indifference.

First, as to the specific core standards that Rachels cites, yes at first they appear to be common to all modern societies, but not in any uniform way. Far from being independent creators of truth, we are instead clones of each other within our respective cultures and sub-cultures.

Some usages contain only a slight element of right and ought. We might first encounter spirits of the gods, of deceased people, and even of unborn.

moral relativism

In its simplest form the argument is this: Moral standards of behavior differ from society to society. That goal is personal tranquility.

In a sense, we are trapped between the two views: experience of the world around us suggests that moral standards are created by human societies, yet we hope that there are some uniform moral standards that are fixed outside of ever-changing societies.

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Moral Relativism and Objectivism