Saturday, April 29, 2023

Ethical Subjectivism and Hannibal Lecter

 Suppose Hannibal invites someone over for dinner, shoves them into the oven, and cooks them AS dinner. You discover what Hannibal has done, and maintain that he has done something very unethical. He replies that ethics is subjective, and the from his subjective point of view, he did nothing wrong.

Is ethics really subjective?


bmiller said...

Fava beans and chianti together are just wrong.

StardustyPsyche said...

"Is ethics really subjective?"
Yes, entirely.

The Euthyphro dilemma form of questioning rules out objective morality, or objective ethics.

Ethics are a systemization of our personal emotion of ought. We communicate and find broad agreement as to which sort of actions evoke various degrees of our emotional reactions of ought and ought not.

The answer to Hannibal is simple. I subjectively say you are what I consider evil. The vast majority of my fellow citizens subjectively agree with me by convention. Per that convention we are going to subjectively decide to put you in a cage for the rest of your life or we might subjectively decide to execute you.

So, you are free to consider your actions subjectively good while you sit on death row.

David Brightly said...

It seems to me that the binary subjective/objective classification is rather blunt an instrument in this context.

On the one hand, what I decide to do depends entirely on my own thinking and feeling now: there is no 'action at a distance' whereby something external to me influences what I do. On the other hand, what I think and feel may well be influenced by what I have absorbed from a lifetime of living among others. So there are both subjective and objective aspects. It's also worth noting that we are objectively a kind of creature that is capable of such absorption. We are not islands of self-creation unto ourselves.