The Objective Basis of Morality Challenged
The origins of morality and what is defined as "good" or "bad", "unethical" or "moral" can easily boggle the mind. It is a topic that can be debated almost endlessly. There are many factors that must be taken into consideration to provide valid philosophies; yet there will still always be debatable elements. Two concepts of morality that are in direct opposition of each other are moral objectivism and moral relativism. Moral relativism can be subjective, in which morals are particular an individuals own beliefs; or, they can be conventional, in which morals are specific to a society and vary from culture to culture. On the other hand, moral objectivism does not leave room for opinions; it reasons that moral judgments are either true or false absolutely. These conflicting views create much cause for deliberation. As an objectivist, Thomas Nagel gives reasons in his article, "The Objective Basis of Morality" for why people should care about others. He poses many questions that might have entered our minds before. Why should we care about others? Why should we be moral? Nagel's argument is in opposition to moral relativism because he does not believe moral justification can be replaced by identifying "something else that a person already cares about." He does not believe that ethical obligations can be reduced to religious or legal ones. In his essay he uses a hypothetical example supposing that you work in a library and your friend wants to smuggle a rare reference work. He uses this example to set up a sequence of questions. What makes this action wrong? "To say it's wrong is not just to say it's against the rules." (Singer, 155) Where does the desire not to help your friend come from? The thoughts come from the effect this action has on others. However, your friend could care less about the effect this action has on others. But where is the wrong in that? Thus reestablishing the golden question: Why should he...
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