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The Comparative Analysis of Moral Objectivism and Moral Relativism

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Morality is the yardstick with which we judge our actions to be right or wrong. It is also the code of values to guide man’s choices and actions (Rand, 1957). There are two main views to morality; objective morality and subjective morality (Novella, 2013). Objective morality holds the belief that there are universal set laws that determine the rightness and wrongness of an action or choice while subjective morality believes that there are no set laws and that judgement of right or wrong should be based on circumstances, cultures and traditions. For the purpose of this essay, I will be focusing on objective morality.

Objective morality or objectivism was first expounded by Russian-American novelist, Ayn Rand in her ‘Atlas Shrugged’ (Duignan, 2014). According to the book, the four main pillars of objectivism are reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism. Reason and rationality are synonymous words that depict the rejection of emotions and feelings in order to make accurate moral judgements (Examples of Objectivism, n.d.).

After Rand, different philosophers continued her work and now, there are several degrees of moral objectivism:

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  1. Moral universalism: this holds that some ethics and values can be related comprehensively to almost everyone in every situation. It considers general truths about man to conclude that ethical judgements are devoid of human opinion.
  2. Moral realism: this believes that logic and reason can be used to depict the morality of an action.
  3. Moral absolutism: this belief concludes that there are general rules that are inviolable. For example, killing a human for self-defense is still considered a wrong (Moral Objectivism, n.d.).

This theory can be sorted into two ethical groups; deontologism which holds that judgement should be based on the kind of action committed and consequentialism which holds judgment based on consequences to the general public (Moral Objectivism, 2017)

In order to properly explain the qualities of objective morality, the shortcomings of the relativist way of morality will be enunciated.

  • A relativist believes that there are no objective truths because of a difference in opinion. They believe that all human opinions are equal and therefore deserve to be respected. This way of thinking is its major flaw. Not all human opinions are equal in rationality or content. For example, Jon believes that 1+1=4 and Beth believes that 1+1=3. Both believe themselves to be right and the other, wrong. But the objective truth remains that 1+1=2. In the same vein, if a fundamental objective truth has been violated, the relativist argument that it is right or wrong based on situations is effectively void.
  • Relativists also believe that one’s morality should adjust to society’s traditions and culture. That is, if a particular society condones killing of females at birth and another society frowns upon the practice, depending on the location of the person at the time, he or she can practice killing or not. This is ethically wrong. The murder of an innocent is an objective wrong but relativists do not believe in universals so they can act in such manner. Furthermore, the subjectivism of their morals will definitely be a problem when they have to make ethical decisions.
  • Societies exist within societies and as different societies might have different customs, this poses a problem for relativists. For example, a family has the value of not accepting abortions in their household but the government of the country they live in has legalized abortion. The youngest daughter has gotten pregnant and is considering abortion. As a relativist, she is posed with a serious dilemma but as an objectivist, the choice is clear. Abortion is murder of an innocent, therefore it is a wrong (Massey).

There are certain truths that are acceptable wrongs in the objectivist theory: murder of an innocent, intentional harm of another human being, lying or deceiving, the act of cheating, deprivation of another human being’s freedom (Massey).

And there are certain rights according to moral objectivism: keeping of promises and honoring contracts, treatment of people justly because of human dignity, helping other people, especially when the cost is minimal (Massey).

References

  1. Duignan, B. (2014, December 10). Objectivism. Retrieved from Encyclopedia Brittanica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/objectivism-philosophy
  2. Examples of Objectivism. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2019, from YourDictionary: https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-objectivism.html
  3. Massey, D. (n.d.). Moral Objectivism and Ethical Realtivism. PHI 105: Introduction to Ethics. Iowa, United States of America: Indian Hills Community College.
  4. Moral Objectivism. (n.d.). Retrieved May 8, 2019, from Philosophy Index: http://www.philosophy-index.com/ethics/meta-ethics/realism.php
  5. Moral Objectivism. (2017). Retrieved from Philosophy Index.
  6. Novella, S. (2013, January 11). Objective vs Subjective Morality. Retrieved from NeurologicaBlog: https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/objective-vs-subjective-morality/
  7. Rand, A. (1957). Atlas Shrugged. Random House.

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The Comparative Analysis of Moral Objectivism and Moral Relativism. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-comparative-analysis-of-moral-objectivism-and-moral-relativism/
“The Comparative Analysis of Moral Objectivism and Moral Relativism.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-comparative-analysis-of-moral-objectivism-and-moral-relativism/
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