Descriptivism

The Nature of Moral Theories

Before we can actually start analyzing and evaluating the competing types of moral systems, we must first answer a more basic question: Is there any reason to believe there is such a thing as 'morality'? That is, if morality turns out to be just another name for doing what I (or we) want to do, why should I bother studying morality? Don't I already know what I want to do? Are there really any obligations which reach me from outside the realm of my own desire? To put it into a more pithy form: Is morality objective or relative?
  1. Objectivism - Moral Systems are an objective (i.e., discoverable) feature of the universe

    1. Moral Objectivism - moral principles are objective, but may be overridden by other/competing moral principles

    2. Moral Absolutism - moral principles are objective and universally binding (i.e., they may never be overridden)

    3. What makes moral principles objective?

      1. Moral principles are rationally discoverable
        or
      2. Moral principles are empirically discoverable

  2. Relativism - Moral Systems are a relative (i.e., created) feature of the universe

    1. Conventionalism - groups, socieites, cultures, historical epochs, etc., create moral systems based upon their particular needs

    2. Subjectivism - individual moral agents create moral systems based upon their particular needs

  3. Two views which reject morality altogether -

    1. Amorlism (Nihilism) - there is no morality, it is a delusion

    2. Moral Skepticism - if morality exists, we cannot know what it is

PHI 105 Page | Notes Index