Philosophy 160
Introduction to Ethics

Handout 5 - Subjectivism


" ... when you pronounce any action or character to be vicious, you mean nothing, but that from the constitution of your nature you have a feeling or sentiment of blame from the contemplation of it."

- David Hume (RTD, p. 61)

Simple Subjectivism:

SS:  an act is morally right if I approve of it.
        an act is morally wrong if I disapprove of it.

The No-Conflicts Argument (EMP, pp. 35-36)

1. If SS is true, then there is no disagreement between Matt Foreman and Jerry Falwell.
2. But Falwell and Foreman do disagree.
3. Therefore, SS is not true.


Ethical Nihilism: there are no such properties as moral rightness or moral wrongness; no act is either morally right or morally wrong.

Emotivism: Ethical Nihilism + the linguistic thesis that moral language is used to express emotions, not to state facts, as follows:

sentences of the form 'X is morally wrong' mean Boo X! ;
sentences of the form "X is morally right" mean Hooray Y!