Friday, July 15, 2016

Why Ethical Objectivism Alone does not Answer our Dilemmas

From guest blogger, Rei.

Ethical Objectivism is the concept that there are some objective moral truths that are universal and independent of culture or belief.  Of the 11 arguments against objectivism we studied in class, the argument from absolutism resonated in my mind. The argument is as follows:

1.)     If moral claims are objectively true, then moral rules are absolute.
2.)     No moral rule is absolute.
3.)     Therefore, moral claims are not objectively true.

First, by testing for validity it can be found that this argument is not valid, as it follows the structure of: if p then q, q, therefore p. However, the argument can be changed to be valid as done below:

1.)     If moral rules are absolute, then moral claims are objectively true.
2.)     No moral rule is absolute.
3.)     Therefore, moral claims are not objectively true.

The argument is now valid. Now let us test for soundness. Consider the following thought experiment: you have a loaded gun and have the option to shoot a stranger. Would you shoot a stranger? Probably not. Do not shoot strangers seems like a viable moral rule. If shooting the stranger will end world hunger? Maybe the rule should have an escape clause to address such a situation; i.e. If world hunger doesn’t end as a result, do not shoot strangers. This thought experiment shows us that extenuating circumstances, such as the shot ending world hunger, make absolute moral rules unfeasible. This is because moral rules will not be able to account for all of these extenuating circumstances. Thus, premise 2 is true. Premise 1 on the other hand is not. Why? The previous thought experiment showed us that moral claims can be viable in spite of absolutism via the addition of escape clauses. So the argument is not sound.

The argument is not sound, but it does highlight that escape clauses are needed for the viability of ethical objectivism. This brings into question the value of ethical objectivism alone as a determinant of reasoning. If moral rules are not absolute, why have them? They can tell us how to act, usually. They can tell us what’s right and wrong, usually. They can tell us what is the morally correct thing to do given a bunch of circumstances. So can sane human beings who can empathize and consider the consequences of their actions. Most everyone can figure out if it’s wrong to shoot a stranger. Philosophical thought is in the harder decisions such as is it morally righteous to kill for the sake of a larger beneficial cause.

An objectivist criticism of my claims may be that I may be over exaggerating the significance of extenuating circumstances. My response to such a criticism would be that the widespan contemporary issues of now are all subject to said circumstances. For example, the black lives matter movement is affected by the fact that black people were enslaved 170 years ago, and black people did not have equal rights until the 1960s. Anti-abortion movements are influenced by religious practices that originated thousands of years ago.

No comments: