The Idea of Ethical Subjectivism and Its Application to Moral Matters
Ethical subjectivism, which is outlined as moral subjectivism as well, is a philosophical theory which claims that moral truths are defined depending on a personal perception. The theory explains that there are no objective moral attributes and that ethical claims are irrational as they do not convey constant verities. Ethical subjectivism suggests a plain definition of morality. It rejects the subjective and appraising constituents of morality by emphasizing the connection between morality and individual’s sensations. Hereby, ethical subjectivism does not seem to be true, as it is contradictory in its nature. The problem is that one argument of ethical subjectivism suggests that everyone is false about ethical beliefs, while another one states that not everyone is false concerning ethical issues. Therefore, it leads to the conclusion that ethical subjectivism is untrue.
Ethical subjectivism concerns the notion that moral considerations are grounded solely on sensations. Thus, the first argument demonstrates that there is no correct or incorrect notion (Rachels 33). According to the argument, there are no objective moral attributes. Alternatively, moral convictions transform into true or false with the help of the observers’ inclinations and perception; thus, any ethical decision or verdict is merely dependent on treatment, viewpoint, individual partiality or sensation felt by a person. Therefore, if a claim meets personal approval by the individual of interest, it can be regarded as morally right. In addition, the argument presupposes that judgments concerning human conduct are formed and restricted to comprehension. Therefore, ethical subjectivist can reason that the claim that “Stalin was evil” expresses a serious aversion to the actions performed by a previously mentioned person. However, the claim does not actually confirm the fact that it is true or false that the person was indeed malicious (Dorsey 409). Different individuals who disagree about the claim concerning exclusively moral basis do not make a rational mistake but merely have distinctive comprehension. A counterargument suggests that the issue of ethical subjectivism is grounded on the fact that it as if implies that moral claims are less important than the majority of people believe them to be (Dorsey 410). Therefore, if a person approves of something, it has to be good. In this case, ethical subjectivism demonstrates people that moral claims provide the data concerning what people feel regarding moral problems. Therefore, if the most ordinary form of subjectivism is genuine and an individual who sincerely supports the possibility of telling lies claims that “telling lies is good”, then the claimed moral affirmation is indisputably true. However, it would be false in case the speaker excluded the possibility of telling lies (Dorsey 410). The counterargument demonstrates that all the speaker has to do to demonstrate that falsehood is good is to demonstrate a considerable amount of proofs (Dorsey 410). However, the majority of people will consider that such method of approaching ethics is slightly useless and will not believe that it reflects the way in which most people discuss ethical problems.
Ethical subjectivism depicts that different people have diverse opinions. For instance, some people can say that homosexuality is immoral, while others will argue that it is tolerable. In fact, ethical subjectivism claims that there is the third alternative. Thus, the second argument states that people have distinct judgments; however, when morality is regarded, there is no reality and facts, and nobody is correct. The reason is that people appreciate morality in different ways (Rachels 33). Apparently, the counterargument states that it seems that moral statements are more than simply claims concerning sensations. All in all, if an individual states that something is wrong, people typically receive the message that the individual disapproves of that issues; however, the majority of people usually believe that the particular individual puts more in the words and phrases than merely telling about their sensations (Dorsey 421). In addition, in case moral claims have no impartial truth, then it is incomprehensible how people can accuse others of acting in a way which is believed to be wrong. For instance, if the statement that murder is wrong has no rational veracity, it is difficult for people to exculpate somebody from murder. (Rachels 33). Therefore, the counterargument demonstrates that it is only possible to acquit the person of murder on the ground of the impartial truth that the majority of ordinary people in society condemn murder. Thus, there is no point in pretending that the claim is based on anything else except the social view (Dorsey 421).
Ethical subjectivism is a matter of susceptibility rather than the notion of facts. The first stage of ethical subjectivism explains simple subjectivism. Hereby, it argues that people are impeccable or almost impeccable while making ethical claims (Rachels 34). Eventually, people are in a preferential position when it comes to deducing how they perceive some issues. However, sometimes, the opinions of a person can alter, and people might drive to the conclusion that they have been wrong regarding some ethical issues. According to simple subjectivism, all similar deductions are wrong. Nevertheless, simple subjectivism cannot explain the reason for disagreement (Dorsey 421). If one person says that something is morally acceptable, while another deduces that it is intolerable, people start a discord. Apparently, if simple subjectivism was appropriate, there would be no discord between them. Moreover, if simple subjectivism was correct, all people would be constantly right (Rachels 35). The third argument demonstrates that moral statements do not create an impression about anything. In fact, moral claims convey but do not explain people’s emotive responses to matters. What is more, moral claims operate like interjections, orders and commands. Thus, each ethical disputation is either a debate over experienced issues or a pseudo-debate, during which both parts express their feelings, but there is no actual debate. In both cases, there is no debate concerning ethical matters due to the fact that there are no ethical matters to debate.
If with regard to simple subjectivism moral language concerns stating facts, it is known as emotivism, which is the second stage of ethical subjectivism. However, moral language is not fact-enouncing language, as it is not utilized to provide data or make claims. In fact, it is believed to be a method of impacting people’s conduct (Rachels 36). Thus, if someone says that a person should not do something, they try to persuade another one not to do this. Therefore, the utterance performs a function of order rather than provision of the fact. In addition, moral language in emotivism is utilized to demonstrate the inclination of the person. Therefore, when the individual says that homosexuality is immoral, emotivists perceive the statement as the one that closely resembles the phrase “homosexuality – gross” or “don’t be gay” (Rachels 37). As a matter of fact, this argument offers an explication of why there are some unsolvable ethical debates. Therefore, in accordance with emotivism, ethical utterances are neither correct nor incorrect, which practically means that not all of them are true. Thus, this type of explanation allows one to avoid the imminent objection, which is characteristic of simple subjectivism (Dorsey 422).
Emotivism argues that people have differences in treatment even in case they do not have debates concerning their position in life. In the case of simple subjectivism, which seemed illogical, the problem appeared due to the fact that moral utterances are grounded on positions; therefore, moral claims cannot provoke conflict. However, in case moral claims convey positions, they can cause conflict (Graham 95). The counterargument demonstrates that in the case of emotivism, the moral judgments cannot trigger any criticism or argument due to the fact that they are not judgments at all. Thus, according to emotivism, they are simple assertions or inclinations, which actually cannot be incorrect. In addition, emotivism does not explain the function and role the reasons play in ethics (Rachels 41). Therefore, the previous statement leads to the argument that people assume only two possibilities. Firstly, there are moral facts, similarly to the reality, which states that there are planets, plants and plates. Secondly, people’s ideas are nothing more than the representation of the subjective feelings (Rachels 41). However, this argument does not incorporate the third possibility. Thus, people have not only feelings but also reasons. Therefore, the arguments can be perceived as moral truths, which are truths of reasons. Apparently, it means that a moral utterance is correct if it is supported by proofs rather than opinions. Moral truths are rational in the sense that they are verities of what people might desire or consider (Graham 95). Thus, this statement provides the explanation for falsity. Apparently, people might be wrong regarding what is good or bad due to the fact that they can be wrong concerning the recommended reasons (Rachels 41).
As a matter of fact, science and mathematics are believed to suggest evidence for different arguments. It is believed that people can confirm that the world is round or the fact that the dinosaurs existed before human beings. Alternatively, it appears that people cannot confirm whether abortion is right or wrong, or whether eating meat is right or wrong (Graham 101). These notions provide another argument, which demonstrates that there are no moral facts. Eventually, if there were moral facts, people would be capable of proving them. Logically, the answer is ‘no’. Science also has a lot of unresolved issues. The best example is the inability of scientists to answer whether there is intelligent life on other planets (Graham 102). Therefore, logically, a shortage of ethical evidence cannot not be an extremely strong reason, allowing one to be skeptical concerning moral issues and facts. However, the counterargument states that it might be immensely impulsive to decide that there is no ethical evidence. It is important to consider the subsequent situations, in which ethical statements are highlighted in italics.
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First statement is “The test was unfair” (Rachels 42). People explain this ethical statement with regard to the fact that the test incorporated the disciplines, which have not been included in the course. The second statement stands for the utterance that “Jones is a bad man” (Rachels 42). Apparently, Jones is believed to be an inveterate deceiver. The third statement sounds as “Dr. Smith is irresponsible” (Rachels 42). In fact, he is considered to ground his diagnoses on perfunctory speculations. In addition, it is known that he drinks before performing serious surgery. The fourth statement is “A certain used-car dealer is unethical” (Rachels 42). Apparently, it is known that the dealer suppresses faults in the cars. Each of the above-mentioned situations might be explained in a number of methods. For instance, it is possible to analyze why lying is adverse. Lying actually affects people and it is believed to violate credence (Rachels 42). Generally speaking, it is possible to define why different statements are appropriate. In addition, it can also be demonstrated that equivalent cases cannot be made on the other side. After providing such analysis, it is possible to say that all the ethical statements have to been proven. Moreover, Rachels argues that they are (43). The author believes that there is evidence in ethics despite the fact that they do not look like empirical or mathematical evidence (Rachels 43). However, the counterargument states that ethical evidence cannot persuade everyone to reach such conclusion. Thus, a number of people might feel a shortage of comprehension of the incorporated ethical notions or might be immensely interested in the other side of the notion to be able to recognize the evidence (Graham 108).
To conclude, it is important to state that all arguments of ethical subjectivism have strong counterarguments. The first argument demonstrates that there is no such notion as being right or wrong. However, such statement suggests that moral claims are less important than the majority of people believe them to be. The second argument states that people have distinct judgments; however, when morality is regarded, there is no reality and facts, and no one is correct. However, if an individual states that something is wrong, people typically understand that a particular issues is disapproved by the individual, and in the majority of cases, it is disapproved by a whole society. The third argument demonstrates that moral statements do not create an impression about anything. Therefore, ethical utterances are neither correct nor incorrect; it practically means that not all of them are true. Finally, ethical subjectivism demonstrates that there are no moral facts. However, if there were moral facts, people would be capable of proving them. Nevertheless, ethical evidence cannot drive each person to the same conclusion. Therefore, due to the fact that ethical subjectivism has numerous contradictions, it appears to be untrue.