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Ethical Subjectivism

Definition : also called as moral subjectivism, is a philosophical theory

suggests moral truths that are determined on an individual level. It holds that there
are no moral properties and that ethical statements are illogical because they do
not express immutable truths.
As a cognitivist approach to subjectivism, ethical subjectivism suggests that
moral statements are propositions that describes the attitudes of an individual
rather than something social, cultural or objectively universal.
To further understand ethical subjectivism maintains the validity of moral
standards depends on their acceptance by an individual. Since there is no absolute
truth, what is right and wrong is relative to the individual and moral principles vary
from person to person. Moral judgements are dependent on the feelings of the
persons who think about such things. It stands in contrast to moral realism.

Founder :
Richard Booker Brandt was an American philosopher working in the
utilitarian tradition in moral philosophy. Brandt was originally educated at Denison
University, a Baptist institution he was shepherded to by his minister father. He
received his PhD in Philosophy from Yale University. He taught at Swarthmore
College before becoming Chair of the Department of Philosophy the University of
Michigan, where he taught with Charles Stevenson and William K. Frankena (1908
1994) and spent the remainder of his career. The expressivist moral philosopher
Allan Gibbard has mentioned his great intellectual debt to Brandt.
Brandt wrote Ethical Theory (1959), an influential textbook in the field. He
defended a version of rule utilitarianism in "Toward a credible form of utilitarianism"
(1963) and performed cultural-anthropological studies in Hopi Ethics (1954). In A
Theory of the Good and the Right, Brandt proposed a "reforming definition" of
rationality, that one is rational if one's preferences are such that they survive
cognitive psychotherapy in terms of all relevant information and logical criticism. He
argued also that the morality such rational persons would accept would be a form of
utilitarianism. Brandt believed that moral rules should be considered in sets which
he called moral codes. A moral code is justified when it is the optimal code that, if
adopted and followed, would maximize the public good more than any alternative
code would. The codes may be society-wide standards or special codes for a
profession like engineering.
Brandt , in his idea of subjectivism have been used more vaguely , confusedly
,and in more different senses than the others being considered. Suggested that as a

convenient usage, however, that theory be called subjectivist if and only if ,

according to it , any ethical assertion implies that somebody does, or somebody of a
certain sort under certain conditions would, take some specified attitude toward
something. A subjectivist ,clearly, can be either an absolutist or relativist.

Ethical Realism
Definition :

Moral Realism (or Moral Objectivism) is the meta-ethical view

that there exist such things as moral facts and moral values, and that these are
objective and independent of our perception of them or our beliefs, feelings or other
attitudes towards them. Therefore, moral judgments describe moral facts, which are
as certain in their own way as mathematical facts.
It is a cognitivist view in that it holds that ethical sentences express valid
propositions (and are therefore "truth-apt" i.e. they are able to be true or false), and
that they describe the state of the real world. It contrasts with various types of
Moral Anti-Realism, including non-cognitivist or expressivist theories of moral
judgment, error theories, fictionalist theories and constructivist or relativist theories.

Founders : Plato Stephen Boyd

Moral realism is a general doctrine. It is consistent with Plato's view that
morality involves universal, absolute, unchanging moral ideals that may be fully
understood only by the wise. Others believe that moral standards are in the mind of
God, and so are objective. This is another form of moral realism. However, many
philosophers contend that even if God proposes moral standards, we may reject
them. If God wanted us to do something evil, we would know that it was evil. Even if
God wills only the good, the fact that we can judge what God wills suggests that
moral standards are not simply in God's mind.
Plato gradually came to realize the need for metaphysics to support his
ethical position and that rigorous ethics required a secure metaphysics grounded in
universal values.

The American philosopher Stephen Boyd recently proposed some simple tests
to confirm the truth of moral realism.

Moral reasoning must start with approximately true moral beliefs.

True beliefs must have some relation to observations.

Moral terms require definitions in terms of natural objects, like happiness.

Boyd outlines a theory he thinks conforms to these demands, nonutilitarian

consequentialism. This theory centers on human needs such as friendship,
cooperation, autonomy, and physical recreation. These human goods often occur
together, and, in proper balance, they are mutually supporting. Moral decisionmaking is concerned with achieving the proper balance, through enhanced
psychological and social mechanisms, so as to strengthen the bond between human
values. Boyd's theory presumes that we have true moral beliefs relating to these
human needs, but this is far from clear. Human needs do play a key role in ethics,
but other issues, freedom, justice, and equality, go beyond basic human needs. Yet
it seems that Boyd's defense of moral realism rests too heavily on a form of
naturalism that relates to an overly restricted part of moral experience.