Rachels Chapter 2 Subjectivism in Morality

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Transcript Rachels Chapter 2 Subjectivism in Morality

Rachels Chapter 2
Subjectivism in Morality
Cultural Relativism = What is right and wrong
vary from culture to culture; there is no
culture-independent, objective morality.
Ethical Subjectivism =What is right and wrong
vary from individual to individual; there is no
independent, objective morality.
David Hume (1711-1776)
Simple Subjectivism:
X is wrong =
I disapprove of X
Let us choose any inanimate object, such as an oak or
elm; and let us suppose, that by the dropping of its
seed, it produces a sapling below it, which springing
up by degrees, at last overtops and destroys the
parent tree: I ask, if in this instance there be wanting
any relation, which is discoverable in parricide or
ingratitude? Is not the one tree the cause of the other's
existence; and the latter the cause of the destruction of
the former, in the same manner as when a child murders
his parent?
Consider the following two cases, which are very similar:
1) A tree creates a sapling
2) A man has a son
Consider the following two cases, which are very similar:
1) The sapling grows
2) The son grows
Consider the following two cases, which are very similar:
1) The sapling kills the tree
2) The son kills the father
How do we feel about these two cases?
Why do we say that case (2) is wrong, but not case (1)?
1) The sapling kills the tree
2) The son kills the father
Hume’s Argument for Emotivism:
There is no important difference between the two cases considered
objectively and factually. The difference is in us: we feel strongly
about (2) but not about (1).
1) The sapling kills the tree
2) The son kills the father
Hume’s Treatise and Morality
But to choose an instance, still more resembling; I would
fain ask any one, why incest in the human species is
criminal, and why the very same action, and the same
relations in animals have not the smallest moral
turpitude and deformity? If it be answered, that this
action is innocent in animals, because they have not
reason sufficient to discover its turpitude; but that man,
being endowed with that faculty which ought to restrain him
to his duty, the same action instantly becomes criminal to
him; should this be said, I would reply, that this is evidently
arguing in a circle.
Hume’s Treatise and Morality
But can there be any difficulty in proving, that vice
and virtue are not matters of fact, whose existence
we can infer by reason?
Take any action allowed to be vicious: Willful
murder, for instance. Examine it in all lights,
and see if you can find that matter of fact, or
real existence, which you call vice. In whichever way you take it, you find only certain
passions, motives, volitions and thoughts.
There is no other matter of fact in the case.
Hume’s Treatise and Morality
The vice entirely escapes you, as long as you
consider the object. You never can find it, till
you turn your reflection into your own breast,
and find a sentiment of disapprobation, which
arises in you, towards this action. Here is a
matter of fact; but `tis the object of feeling, not of
reason. It lies in yourself, not in the object.
Hume’s Treatise and Morality
The vice entirely escapes you, as
long as you consider the object. You
never can find it, till you turn your
reflection into your own breast,
and find a sentiment of
disapprobation, which arises in
you, towards this action. Here is a
matter of fact; but `tis the object of
feeling, not of reason. It lies in
yourself, not in the object.
P1. If we examine a morally vicious
action carefully, we will not find its
viciousness – we will only find its
causes and effects.
P2. The viciousness of the action lies
in our judgment of it, not in the action
itself.
C. Moral distinctions come from our
emotions, but have no objective
ground in the world (Emotivism).
Hume’s Treatise and Morality
So that when you pronounce any action or character to
be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the
constitution of your nature you have a feeling or
sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it. Vice
and virtue, therefore, may be compared to sounds, colors,
heat and cold, which, according to modern philosophy, are
not qualities in objects, but perceptions in the mind: And
this discovery in morals, like that other in physics, is to be
regarded as a considerable advancement of the
speculative sciences.
Moral Judgments:
For example: “Throwing the bicycle to stop the robbery was good.”
Throwing the bicycle to
stop the robbery was
good.
When Hume says that throwing the bicycle to stop the
robbery was good, this means that he has a positive
emotional response to this action.
Throwing the bicycle to
stop the robbery was
good.
When Hume says that throwing the bicycle to stop the
robbery was good, this means that he has a positive
emotional response to this action.
So morality is completely subjective,
and has no basis in objective reality.
Simple
Subjectivism:
X is wrong =
I disapprove of X
Rachels:
This simple form of subjectivism
faces several problems….
Simple
Subjectivism:
X is wrong =
I disapprove of X
Rachels:
1) If it were true, then we could not
explain real moral disagreement.
Simple
Subjectivism:
X is wrong =
I disapprove of X
Rachels:
2) If it were true, then we could
never be wrong about ethics, which
seems crazy.
Charles L. Stevenson (1908-1979)
Not all language can be true
or false – there are
commands, questions,
attitudes, etc.
Charles L. Stevenson (1908-1979)
Emotivism:
Moral language is used to
influence behavior and
express attitudes.
Emotivism:
Moral language is used to
influence behavior and
express attitudes.
Rachels: This answers the
first objection to Simple
Subjectivism: disagreement
in attitudes is possible.
Emotivism:
Moral language is used to
influence behavior and
express attitudes.
Rachels: However, this view
implies that our moral
statements are never true,
which seems crazy.
Emotivism:
Moral language is used to
influence behavior and
express attitudes.
Rachels: Also, this view
implies that moral judgments
need not be supported by
reasons, which is false.
Rachels: We have found no
way to argue that
subjectivism about morality
is true. We seem justified in
concluding that it is false.
Homosexuality:
Homosexual people fall in love
and desire sexually people of the
same sex. They don’t choose to
do this, it just happens, the same
way it happens to heterosexuals.
Why do people think that
homosexuality is wrong?
Homosexuality:
One reason people often offer
for believing that homosexuality
is morally wrong is that it is
unnatural.
This has at least three
interpretations:
Homosexuality:
A) Homosexuality is unnatural in
the sense that most people
are not homosexual.
Rachels: this is true, but most
people are not left handed, tall,
or immensely nice, either.
Homosexuality:
B) Homosexuality is unnatural in
the sense that it involves using
sexual organs in ways that do not
involve their natural purpose
(procreation).
Rachels: this is true, but so does
masturbation, oral sex, sex with
contraception, and sex after
pregnancy or menopause.
Homosexuality:
C) Homosexuality is unnatural in
the sense that it is contrary to
what people ought to be.
Rachels: this just assumes what is
supposed to be proven, it begs
the question by cheating.
Rachels: Homosexuality is not
opposed to family values,
homosexuals want to make more
family possible, not less.
There is no evidence that
homosexual partners are worse
at raising kids than heterosexual
ones.
But the Bible says it’s wrong:
Leviticus 18:22: “You may not lie
with a man as with a woman; it is
an abomination.”
But the Bible says it’s wrong:
Leviticus 18:22: “You may not lie
with a man as with a woman; it is
an abomination.”
Rachels: but so is eating sheep’s
fat, letting a woman into the
sanctuary who has just given
birth, and seeing your uncle
naked.
Not only that, but adulterers and
those who curse their parents
should be put to death, a priest’s
daughter who “plays the whore”
should be burned alive, and it is
OK to purchase slaves from
nearby nations.
Rachels: So we can provide
strong moral reasons for saying
that homosexuality is not wrong,
even if not everyone agrees.
Morality is not a matter of
subjective preference.