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The Objectivity of Ethics

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Objectivity of ethics is an idea that tries to provide a clear way to judge conflicts by separating fact, from subjective opinion. When culture and individual opinion is mixed in to judgement, the ability to properly evaluate a situation or problem becomes more difficult. Even though a solution is agreed upon by a majority vote, that suits the guidelines of the culture, it can still be viewed wrong by outside eyes; which can lead to other issues. Which culture morally is correct? Who’s founding guidelines are we supposed to use to form our verdicts? A big part of current issues faced globally are made more difficult to resolve since differences in cultures and standards prevent quick resolutions. Through ethical objectivism, society is able to clearly distinguish the boundaries of what is right and wrong.

An argument made against the objectivity of ethics has been that of cultural relativity. In this ideology it is believed that we each belong to different cultures, of which have different standards and principles. This makes judging across cultures not accepted. What is acceptable to one culture may be looked down upon by another. The major downside to this way of thinking is the risk of unknowingly falling into subjectivism. Once a person starts to fall under multiple cultures or subcultures, it is easy to pick and choose what rules apply to them. This will become a convenient way of justifying wrong actions. The basis of cultural relativity is that you use your cultures beliefs to judge your actions. What is unclear is how those guidelines came about. Even if an entire culture is following poor principles it does not make it morally okay.

To illustrate this point, we can use the topic of punishment for rape related crime. In some cultures, rape is viewed differently in terms of who’s to blame. There are times in which the victim is punished while the attacker is let off with a lesser sentence. There are even some cases and places around the world where it’s not looked at as a problem in a society, and the attacker doesn’t get any type of punishment whatsoever. Using objective ethics this would not be an issue. The attacker should be the one being punished, not the person being violated.

Furthermore, there are supremacist cultures in which the harming, even killing of other people is acceptable because of their culture’s beliefs. Over time many groups have justified mass genocide simply on the belief that they were doing the correct thing. They followed orders from people of power who in their eyes, were only asking what was right for the people. Situations like this arise from cultures founded on hateful ideologies. This is just another reason why cultural relativism has its major flaws. As time goes on cultures continue to form, each with their own customs and beliefs. If we choose to let cultures individually determine what’s right and wrong, we will continue to repeat history and things like genocide will continue to happen. In these cases, there needs to be a way of thinking that takes a step back and asseses the situation without taking into account personal opinions. Ethical objectivism will help in taking the first step of resolving the issue by identifying these types of problems before they escalate.

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An ideology that most supports objective of ethics is Deontology. Deontology uses rules to distinguish right from wrong. A philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that ethical actions follow standard universal moral rules. Rules that included one shall not lie, cheat, or steal. These general rules can easily be applied to any person regardless of their culture. This ideology requires that people in a society follow the rules and perform their duties. This ideology fits well with our natural intuition about what is or isn’t ethically right or wrong. It doesn’t require weighing the costs and benefits of a situation, and because you only have to follow a set of rules this avoids subjectivity and uncertainty. These rules just simply can’t be violated or broken under any circumstance. In a situation in which a person shoots and kills a home invader it is important to follow principles of deontology. Although the person was defending his home, it is important to note that the person used lethal force, which resulted in the death of another human being. The person needs to be held accountable for his acts even if some people may sympathize with the killer. If we begin to let killings go unpunished it will open the doors to staged killings. People will notice the loop hole in the system, we have formed a way in which people can kill in a justified manner.

The ideology that also supports objectivity of ethics in some ways is Utilitarianism. The idea of Utilitarianism determines right from wrong by focusing on positive outcomes. To be moral, one must produce the greatest good for the greatest number. People should act for the good of their societies at large, or even the world. To produce this greater good, all that matters is the positive outcome regardless of the action. A person elected to lead a large group of people more than likely will be faced with hard decisions that will affect everyone in the group. It is up to this person to either pick, or think of a way that most, if not everyone, will benefit from the choice made. This is a utilitarian approach, it is not realistic to always accommodate everyone, so it is important that each decision made is the option that most helps the majority of people. This way of thinking will help in many areas of every day living. Take taxing for example, although we would all prefer tax cuts, we need to take into account what percentage of the people will be affected by the reduction in funding for things like healthcare, education, and security. It is a difficult decision to make but by using this style of conflict management a proper settlement can be reached.

On the other hand, some people argue that an egoistic approach would be a better option. Egoism is when moral conduct is judged primarily through self-interest. It says that the good consequences for an individual outweigh the consequences placed upon others. An individual has greater value than others, so it’s ethical to act in one’s own self-interest even if it may potentially harm others. Egoism aims to maximize good by keeping the individual happy. There is a saying that goes “united we win, divided we fall.” Naturally as humans we are stronger in numbers, as soon as we begin to drift apart and begin to think only for ourselves, and not for the good of our people, we become weak. Returning to the topic of racial supremacy, there are people who would rather limit themselves of opportunities than to work alongside a person of another race. This not only negatively effects the people involved but now there is a company or organization not performing to its utmost potential simply because of someone’s egoistic way of thinking. This is not a practical way of living one’s life. Under this ideology technically it is justified to live a life of lying, stealing, killing etc., simply because it is in theory bettering, or helping them out in their pursuit of their personal goals.

Evidentially it is important that there be objective ethical rules because it provides a clear-cut way to come to a solution for what is morally right and wrong. As a people we need to share a way to resolve conflicts. The manner of doing so needs to not only satisfy the beliefs of a fraction of the population but should be agreed upon by most. Group decisions should benefit the majority of the group, not just some of the people. There should be a set of accepted universal moral rules that apply to everyone. It is not practical to make rules that are culture specific. The blurred lines between cultures and subcultures do not permit fair judgement for those who identify themselves as pertaining to multiple groups.

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The Objectivity of Ethics. (2022, Jun 29). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-objectivity-of-ethics/
“The Objectivity of Ethics.” Edubirdie, 29 Jun. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/the-objectivity-of-ethics/
The Objectivity of Ethics. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-objectivity-of-ethics/> [Accessed 5 Mar. 2024].
The Objectivity of Ethics [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 29 [cited 2024 Mar 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/the-objectivity-of-ethics/
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