Dimensions of Moral Theory: An Introduction to Metaethics by Jonathan Jacobs

By Jonathan Jacobs

Dimensions of ethical thought examines the major presuppositions and philosophical commitments that aid and form ethical theories.

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What more is needed for moral truth? Why should a realm of objective values also be needed? Think of Hume’s universal sentiments, and the commonality of human interests and concerns. Don’t they supply an adequate basis for morality? Can’t we plainly see that some practices are morally abhorrent, others are morally admirable, some characteristics are virtues and others are vices? Subjectivism about value does not obliterate those distinctions; it puts them on a certain kind of basis. Or so it has been argued.

It may be intended as a strategy to explain it, rather than explain it away. It is of course open to the subjectivist to also use anti-objectivist arguments as a way of calling into question the genuineness of moral value. There are versions of subjectivism that claim to maintain the genuineness of morality and there are versions that call it into question. The subjectivist and objectivist may agree that unless moral values are objective, they are less than genuine and have less authority for us than objective moral values would have.

These sentiments can be proper or improper, felt in due measure, or not, and so forth. This is by no means “anything goes” subjectivism. There are certain ways we should think and decide that are made known to us by 26 OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVITY our responses and our feelings. Following feeling is not simply a matter of doing what one likes or acting in whatever way one feels like acting. Rather, sentiments are crucial to our having the right sort of receptivity to moral considerations, and we can reflect upon them and assess whether they are appropriate or not.

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