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Is Ethics Objective? Essay

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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2019


In rational thinking, there are various components. The first constituent relates to the sense of being either incorrect or correct. Almost every person ought to have certain thoughts that some activities, measures, or even conditions appear to be better compared to others. Likewise, all groups and individuals must be well conversant with values as well as have a number of intuitive evaluative capabilities.

The diverse approaches used to interpret such phenomena comprise of different assumptions of values. In fact, morality, which equally denotes ethics, assists individual actions and values to come together. This essay takes a closer look at this supposition as it appears today. However, special consideration is directed towards establishing whether ethics may be subjective or not (Velasquez 437).

Deductions on the objectivity of ethics

As indicated in various study literature and philosophical reports, the supposition that ethics either may be objective or not has emerged to be a controversial topic for debate. As it appears, a majority of individuals and groups are inclined to believe that ethics is objective.

These people however have difficult time trying to define just what ethics entails and how everyone ought to understand it. The definition should be compatible with every culture irrespective of what they have experienced throughout their lifetimes. Other people seem to have resigned from the moral objectivity idea. In its place, they argue that any moral hinge on an individual’s life experience and culture.

Addressing the controversies surrounding the topic under discussion require establishing the meaning of some terminologies. For instance, scholars and non-scholars usually talk of objectivity or being objective. They relate it to substances that are factual in spite of the opposing viewpoints of other people.

In philosophy, objective has its real meaning. The phrase denotes treating things that seem to originate from the nonaligned judgments. It is believed that there is the possibility of acquiring objective knowledge, yet this type of knowledge can hardly be deemed perfect.

People tend to talk about morals that might be considered real and they normally use a very different phrase, moral realism (Shafer-Landau 249). Such morals are perceived to be the actual aspects of the universe rather than the mere imagination figments. According to philosophical study literature, moral realism relates to the premises asserting that the moral beliefs of people should entail mind-free information.

Some famous materialist philosophers have emerged and they claim that they are the ethical pragmatists or realists. When philosophers illustrate the kind of ethics that they are inclined to, what they stand to explain is the ethics individuals have while they evolve. To philosophers, such a premise is dubbed as developmental moral realism.

Evidences have been given to show that people are concerned about the welfare of those with whom they share a group. Such human beings are also prone to holding other group members responsible for any kind of misdemeanor or lapse against those who are in the same group. When morality is understood from this perspective, it becomes clear that ethics cannot be objective. Thus, ethics simply describes the nature of human beings as they appear in a deterministic structure (Hosle 48).

Ethical realism as it emerges from the evolutionary perspective tends to differ from the normative ethical pragmatism. In the last case, people are inclined to believe that actions or activities must appear in a definite structure.

Furthermore, they believe that things might be better not just by assuming the functionality of other physical events that individual’s intuitions have developed to enclose, but also by having partial grounds that eventually surpass the objective humanity. For instance, people should bear in mind that the oppression of others is usually immoral.

This should be the case even if people have an instinctual tendency to support their group members as opposed to favoring everybody within the group. In fact, people who oppress others by favoring their own groups and fail to give reasons that justify their actions are said to be believe in normative ethics. Such a person can hardly give details on how the believes are descriptive of things that are present in the objective universe (Pojman and Fieser 45).

Occasionally, it might appear as if objective actions or material things possess either negative or positive values. However, such traits are never present in the physical actions or material things based on the quantity of objective investigations that have been carried out. The normative ethical theory normally assumes the reality, which is ontologically different from things that are objective or physical.

This makes such a theory to be irreconcilable with materialism. Hence, ethical practicality at least relies on various types of dualisms (Mizzoni 190). Besides, most normative accounts that are hardly fit in some ways to make ethical statement rather expressive of things that are objective equally hinge on dualism.

According to Rachels James, the renowned philosopher, when an individual accepts as true that certain ethics can be real irrespective of the views of other people, then this attracts problems that can be solved using a passable ethical theory. This scholar talks about the difficulties encountered when people try to form the objective ethical theories.

For morals or ethics that are descriptive, there ought not to be any difficulties in formulating such principles. This is because such ethics are functions of those things that are objectively acknowledged. Therefore, this philosopher affirms that modern science can help overcome any difficulties that accrue in this case. In contrast, normative ethics, at least may partly originate from grounds that surpass the objective universe (Hosle 77). Due to this fact, the understanding of normative ethics has emerged to be very difficult.

Study literature on this subject has shown the position of people who claim that some ethics might be a priori recognized. The argument is that objective knowledge, which can be determined a priori, and that hardly relies on experience ought to be founded on the manner in which the objective or physical brain functions.

In essence, it becomes impractical for the inner functioning of the objective intellect to be derived from anything that surpasses the material humanity. There are some rational possibilities for the physical intellect to be connected to anything that is not materially objective (Mizzoni 191). Nevertheless, any newfangled facts or data accruing from these connections might be seen as certain types of experiences, and hence cannot be considered a priori.

The rational prospects are hence left unlocked implying that such beliefs might be a posteriori approved. Even though there are some reasonable possibilities that the objective understanding may be linked to anything that is not material, just the material component may be objectively acknowledged. In such situations, the intellect is perhaps well acquainted with the information on what actually takes place within the non-material realms. However, such type of acquaintance with information cannot be considered objective.

According to Shafer-Landau, the justified option that remains for the existence of normative ethics is when they set off as subjective facts (250). These types of knowledge should thereafter be made inter-subjective by means of mutual understanding and communication. Thus, with reference to normative ethics, is it true that ethical problems proposed by Rachels should include those that an inter-subjective premise can resolve.


There are various problems encountered in trying to argue that ethics can be objective. Rachels highlighted most of these problems in his philosophical literature. The first problem encountered is the ontological dilemma. Based on this, it is alleged that a passable premise should explain and give ethical premises without necessarily supposing the presence of something that hardly exists in reality. Second, scholars encounter the experience problem.

Ethics cannot be objective because there are no adequate theories about morals that can justify the ethical phenomenology understanding. Third, the problem of epistemology is where philosophers argue that, if people understand what is incorrect and what is correct, there should be adequate premise to justify how such ethical knowledge can be acquired (Pojman and Fieser 53).

Fourth, ethics cannot be objective since it lacks a premise that is compatible with supervening traits of an evaluative conception. Thus, for ethics to be termed objective, it should give reasons for the inner links amid motivations and moral believes. Incase such links do not exist, there ought to be different justifications of how actions are guided by principles. This is what is called the motivation setback.

Finally, ethics needs to demonstrate the nature of moral discrepancies. If it fails to justify the reasoning position in the moral principles, then both the disagreement and reasoning problems might occur (Velasquez 438). Based on these facts, it is conceivable that ethics might not be considered objective. The only question that we are left to answer is whether there exists an ethical premise that can solve the inter-subjectivity problems.

Works Cited

Hosle, Vittorio. Objective Idealism, Ethics, and Politics, Indiana, United States: University of Notre Dame Press, 1998. Print.

Mizzoni, John. Ethics: The Basics, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. Print.

Pojman, Louis and Fieser James. Ethics: Discovering Right and Wrong, Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Shafer-Landau, Russ. Ethical Theory: An Anthology, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Print.

Velasquez, Manuel. Philosophy: A Text with Readings, Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

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