Ethical Language - Objectivity, Subjectivity and Relativism

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  • Objectivity, Relativism and Subjectivism
    • objectivity
      • ethical principles can be established a priori (without experience)
        • intrinsically right, irrespective of outcome and source
          • 'good' without reference to consequence
            • moral absolutism
              • possible to evaluate moral actions by testing if an individual group has acted in an acceptable and agreed moral way
      • one universal moral code
      • things are right because they are right
        • shown through reasoning and evidence from moral law evident in nature
          • e.g. murder is wrong because it causes suffering
      • strengths
        • possible to critically evaluate moral actions
        • if an individual or group is not conforming to the absolute standard they can justifiably be condemned for it
      • weaknesses
        • depends entirely on societies and individuals coming to an agreement as to what constitutes absolute morality
        • leaves no room for personal preference or subjective opinion
    • Relativism
      • argues that people can never reach an agreement on objective morals
        • what is determined as 'good' or 'bad' because everyone has a different viewpoint
      • strengths
        • moral values are grounded in social custom
        • no universal right or wrong way of behaving
        • conceptions of morality should be based on how people actually behave, rather than an ideal standard of how people should behave
      • weaknesses
        • moral goodness is simply a matter of popular opinion
        • morality of individuals tends to be shaped by society, not the other way round
        • the views of other cultures are only true for them
    • Subjectivism
      • associated with how an individual or the group they belong to feels or thinks about morality
      • strengths
        • no universal right or wrong way of behaving
        • can adapt to changing circumstance
        • can include social and cultural concerns and viewpoints
      • weaknesses
        • no tried and tested answers
        • based on opinion, which may be misinformed
        • no continuity or predictable outcomes

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