Objectivity, Subjectivism and Relitavism

A study of Objectivism, Subjectivism and Relativism for A2 Religious Studies and PB.

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Cognitive (Realist) Language

Statements are propositional: they can be verified or falsified. Statements must correspond to truth.  Ethical language can therefore be true or false. Ethics is objective.

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Absolutism (Objectivity)

Ethical principles are 'intrinsicaly' right. They can be established 'a priori' (without experience). Takes no account of circumstance.

Objectivity can also be called: Deontological, Moral Absolutism, Hard Univeralism.

Principles can come from: God's Law, law of the land etc. Popular with religion.

Judges actions a right or wrong based on ethical principle.

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S+W of Objectivity

Strengths= Able to evaluate morals in a critical way. Strong moral stances can be taken. Clear guidelines laid out. Universal application.

Weaknesses= Can't account for circumstances, difficult to deploy in tough decisions. Culturaly intolerant. How can we know these laws are correct? Who is the messenger of God? Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, somebody else?

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Non Cognitive (Anti Realist) Language

Ethical statements cannot be verified or falsified, they are merely expressions of opinion. For anti realists, a statement is true if it coheres (fits in) with other statements that a community holds to be true. Ties in with Wittgensteins language games. No objective moral truth worrying? Voltaire 'if God didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him.'

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Relativism (Subjectivity)

Cannot reach a consensus on right or wrong. Morals are purely based on feeling or inclination (Emotivism-Ayer= Hurrah/Boo theory).

Types of relativism: Moral Relativism= purely based on the individuals morality. Cultural Relativism= cultural beliefs vary from culture to culture.

Protagoras: 'Man is the measure of all things.'

Jean Paul Satre: Only personal, subjective morality expresses true authenticity.

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S+W of Relativism

Strengths= Flexible, takes into account circumstance. Stops cultures forcing their views on others. Encourages diverse cultural expression. Explains why people have different values.

Weaknesses= Are all views equal eg. Nazis, Al Qaida. Can't condemn what may seem as wrong actions. Lack of personal inclination. No objective moral truth. Adopts an absolutist principle of 'equality of opinion.'

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