Normative ethical subjectivism is an ethical stance that attempts to specify circumstances under which an action is morally right or wrong using four distinct arguments that try to prove this claim. Normative ethical subjectivism claims that an act is morally right if, and only if, the person judging the action approves of it. Stemming form this view on ethics a normative ethical theory has been made. An ethical theory is a theory of what is right and wrong. This stance on ethics is the opposite of another ethical stance called methethical antirealism. Methethical antirealism is centered on the idea that because there is no right and wrong actions, just personal preferences there is no such thing as morality. It also states that morals are just a personal preference. Normative ethical subjectivism makes its claim in four different arguments witch are democracy, tolerance, disagreement and atheism.
The democracy argument makes the premise that if everyone has an equal right to have and voice moral opinions then everyone’s moral opinions are equally plausible. The next premise states that everyone does have an equal right to have and voice moral opinions. These two premises lead to the conclusion that everyone’s moral opinions are equally plausible. The first premise of the argument creates a problem because not everyone’s moral opinions are equally valid and plausible. I have lots of opinions like the location of LSU, how far away the moon is and, the speed limit on College Drive. My opinion is LSU is located in Arizona, the moon is 100 miles away and the speed limit on College Drive is 75 miles per hour.
My opinions are all incorrect showing that the plausibility of an opinion really has nothing to do with one’s right to hold it. Having a right to an opinion is one thing, the truth of that opinion quite another. This undermines the first premise of the argument causing me to reject a crucial part of the democracy argument. Consequently making the argument for democracy unstable and not a good foundation for supporting normative ethical subjectivism.
The next argument for normative ethical subjectivism is the argument of disagreement. The first premise states that if there is a constant disagreement among educated, open-minded and, good-willed people about some subject matter, then that subject matter does not admit to an objective truth. Followed by the premise there is persistent disagreement about ethical issues among educated, open-minded and, good-willed people. These two statements lead to the conclusion that there are no objective ethical truths. There is persistent disagreement among educated, open-minded and, good-willed physicists and mathematicians. We assume that their work is aimed at discovering objective facts. Physicists continue to disagree about that started the universe.
But this is not evidence that their views are subjective, it is evidence that the facts they arrive at are merely expressions of personal opinion about some fact. This shows that a professions may deal in objective truths even if it’s open minded and educated deeply disagree with one another. In rebuttal to this, normative ethical subjectivist would state that objective truths don’t exist, but for a finding to be true someone has to believe in it. Thus proving that the first premise of the argument of disagreement if false giving no support for normative ethical subjectivism.
The tolerance argument of normative ethical subjectivism has two premises. The first premise states if normative subjectivism is true, then no one’s deepest opinions are more plausible than anyone else’s. The next premise states if no one’s deepest opinions are more plausible than anyone else’s, then we have to respect and tolerate the opinions of all others. Generating the conclusion that if normative subjectivism is true, then we have to respect and tolerate the opinions of all others. Tolerance is defined as “the capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others (Webster’s Dictionary).” In the normative ethical subjectivism argument tolerance is good thus making it good for others to respect the actions and beliefs of that other people. The tolerance argument is still not a persuasive argument for normative ethical subjectivism.
The problem with tolerance argument is that we all have to be tolerance of people’s opinions if they truly believe in them, making their opinion morally right. If a person truly believes in intolerance and that intolerant behavior is acceptable then according to normative ethical subjectivism it is morally right. According to the tolerance argument if a racist feels that be does not what to be tolerant of other races and goes around killing them off but truly feels that that he is doing is right then to a normative ethical subjectivist we must be tolerant of opinion. The tolerance argument does not seem to be helping persuade a person towards normal ethical subjectivism view.
The final argument for normative ethical subjectivism is the atheism argument. The atheism argument’s premise states if ethics are objective, then God must exist. Followed by the premise that God does not exist. Structuring the conclusion ethics is not objective. Since it cannot be proven through science and nature that God does exist, it validates the atheist argument. But lets suppose God does exist and he does issue commands on that is morally right and wrong. This brings up the euthyphro question, which asks are actions good because God commands them, or does God command them because they are good? The first part of the question, actions good because God commands them, makes God’s commands arbitrary and so if God commands us to throw our children into volcanoes, to rape, or to murder, then these actions would be good actions according to God. And for the next part of the question, God command them because they are good, seems to imply that there is a standard of goodness over God. It also leaves open the question who is the commander behind moral commands? These arguments against the euthyphro question create doubt in the atheism argument.
The arguments for normal ethical subjectivism are not very strong and could deter persons away form relativism. The above arguments against normal ethical subjectivism are few in numbers. For the majority of moral values and situations, actions are not complete but are relative to the persons or groups holding them. Lets say there is an objective moral fact that lying was wrong for all cases and should never be done. Avery close friend of yours is on the edge and suicidal. He asks you if he is an attractive person.
You are this person’s only friend and every thing you tell him he takes very literally. He could be the most hideous person you have ever seen, but if you tell him he is ugly he will without doubt kill him self. According to the objective moral fact about lying that I have just made, you have to tell him the truth, that he is revolting. Or you could have a relativism stance and tell him he is an attractive person and stop him form killing him self. In this situation it would be ideal to save the persons life and prevent the mental problems stemming for know you killed someone.
Although normal ethical subjectivism and metaethical antirealism are different but there is a relationship between them. Both of these views on ethics are subjective and both have its problems convincing people to follow them. Facts are mentioned as not important in their arguments. In the atheist argument of normal ethical subjectivism, God’s commands are not to be taken as facts but as suggestions. A big part of metaethical antirealism is that moral facts don’t exist but facts are just part of the role in making decisions.
Normative ethical subjectivism is an ethical stance that attempts to establish the situations under which an action is morally right or wrong. It states an act is morally right if the person judging the act approves of it. Normative ethical subjectivism uses the arguments of democracy, tolerance, disagreement and atheism to try proving this claim. Methethical antirealism is an ethical stance that claims there are no right or wrong views or stances on ethical options. Methethical antirealism goes on to state that morals do not exist at all. Even thought normative ethical subjectivism failed make its calm a person can still be a relativist, but I still feel that every moral case must be taken on a base to base cineraria.
“Tolerance.” The New American Webster Handy College Dictionary. Revised and Expanded edition 1981.
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