Thursday, May 22, 2014

Moral subjectivism and not-so-controversial ethical issues

Ethics courses, including ones that I teach, tend to focus on issues which are hard to resolve. Nobody is going to argue much over the question of whether it is morally acceptable to invite someone over for dinner, push them into the oven, and cook them AS dinner. But a subjectivist has to hold that ALL moral judgments are subjective, not just with respect to things like abortion and gay marriage, but with respect to an issue like this. Do you want to say that Hannibal Lecter has a broken moral compass, or does it make sense to say "Who's to say what's really right or wrong?," concerning Hannibal's conduct. 

5 comments:

Dave Duffy said...

My experience is people argue moral relativism and fight for things they believe are moral.

im-skeptical said...

It seems that Hannibal Lecter was not devoid of morality. He acted in accordance with his own moral code, which was different in some ways from what most of us share, but shaped by his experiences, and understandable, perhaps, in that light.

Dan Gillson said...

Objectivists, on the other hand (and, to be fair, subjectivists as well), deny that subjectivity can be part of reality, which consequently denies the very foundations of morality.

Papalinton said...

"Objectivists, on the other hand (and, to be fair, subjectivists as well), deny that subjectivity can be part of reality, which consequently denies the very foundations of morality."

I don't think that's right, Dan. At least not by this little naturalist duck. Subjectivity is recognised for what it is, a function of reality to be sure but a notoriously unreliable one, prone to filling in gaps where knowledge is missing or spurious at best, in the effort to cobble an apparent cohesive narrative which the subjectivist is happy to accept.

Incidentally, what *is* the 'very foundation of morality' you talk of?

Dan Gillson said...

Subjectivity isn't a function, it's a category. Vis-à-vis morality, an objectivist denies that subjectivity has any real content, thus making it problematic. Subjectivists deny it as well, but don't consider it a problem. I think that subjectivity can have real content, but I also think that we can be wrong about the content of our minds, and consequently that we can be wrong vis-à-vis the real.

To answer your parting question, ordinariness - more specifically, the way that ordinary situations impose on behavior.