Objectivity, Relativism, Subjectivity

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Objective or Subjective?

Objective - external fact

Subjective - matter of opinion

If morality is cognitive or realist - deals with things that can be known and held to true or false - suggests possible exsitence of moral knowledge that can be discovered and known - in turn suggests exsitence of ultimate moral truth

Moral realism holda that there are objective moral values and ethical statements are factual claims - referred to as ethical descriptivism or naturalism

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Ethical subjectivism

Holds moral statements are made true/false by attitudes of speaker or those observing.Several types:

Moral subjectivism - must be approved by society and people to whom it applies

Divine command ethics - Something right if commanded by God

Individualism - many different ideas of "good" because there are so many different people

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Holds that ethical sentences are neither true nor false because they don't assert genuine propositions. Other types include:


Perscriptivism - moralstatements as commands

Quasi-realism - ethical statements are factual even if there are no facts that correspond to them

Moral scepticism - no objective moral values, therefore all ethical claims are false

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Takes view ethical principles can be estabished a priori - without experience

Intrinsically right, irrespective of outcome - good without reference to outcomes or consequences

Sometimes called moral absolutism - makes it possible to evaluate moral actions by testing if an individual or group in an acceptable and agreed moral way

Holds that there is one universal moral code and things are right because tjeu are right

Shown through reasoning and evidence from the moral law evident in nature

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Objectivity strengths/weaknesses

+ Makes it possible to evaluate moral actions in a critical way

+ If individual or group is not conforming to absoljutist standard they can justifiably be condemned for it

- Depends entirely on societies and individuals coming to an agreement as to what contributes absolute morality

- Leaves no room for personal preference or subjective opinion

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Argues people can never reach an agreement on objective morals concerning what is determined as good and bad because everyone has a different viewpoint

Objective morals - moral rules applicable to all

Cultural relativism - actions are interpreted in the light of a person's culture

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Relativism strengths

Morality stems from social custom and moral judgements which are true or false relative to the moral framework of the speakers community

Moral diversity is explained by fact that moral beliefs are product of different ways of life and are matters of opinion that vary from culture to culture

Conceptions of morality should be based on how poeple actually behave, rather than an ideal standard of how people should behave

There is no universal right or wrong way of behaving

Moral values are grounded in social custom

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Relativism weaknesses

Moral goodness is simply matter of popular opinion

Views of other cultures are only true for them

Morality of individuals tends to be shaped by society, not the other way round

Not always clear whether moral rules themselves differ between cultures or groups

Subjectivism is very tolderant but cannot solve moral conflicts since there is never any common standard to which to refer and any individual moral stance is concidered equally valid

Societies are complex and reflect many sibgroups and cultures (cultural relativism) so there can be no one agreed morality

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Subjectivism & S/W

Associated with how an individual or the group they belong to feels or thinks about morality

+ No universal right or wrong way of behaving

+ Can adapt to changing circumstances

+ Can include social andcultural concerns and viewpoints

- No tried and tested answers

- Based on opinion, which may be misinformed

- No continuity or predictable outcomes

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