Moral Subjectivism Isn't the Droid You're Looking for

When Irin Carmon declares that we each have the right to define our own moral boundaries, she will prove a point that is quite opposite to the one she wishes to prove.

Here is what I suggest she really wanted to say:

1) There is nothing objectively morally wrong about adults having whatever forms of consensual sex with each other that they wish to have; and
2) It is objectively wrong for anyone else to try to control those sexual activities through force, including legally mandated force.

By instead claiming that we each get to define our own morality, she permits, of course, Rick Santorum to define his own morality as well. And in his self-defined morality, both 1) and 2) are false. So if Santorum can get a law passed outlawing homosexual activity, what can the moral-subjectivist Carmon say to him? "I think that is wrong!" Santorum merely replies, "I don't! And right now, I've got the votes."

Surely, Carmon thinks that Santorum would be wrong to get such a law passed, whether or not he thinks he is wrong.

So I suggest Carmon really ought to endorse moral realism, since moral subjectivism is not the droid she is looking for.

UPDATE: One way I sometimes see this formulated is, "Well, we each have the right to define our own morality, but you don't get to impose yours on me!"

That falls to the simple response, "Says who?"

Perhaps in the speaker's personal morality, no one gets to force their moral code on anyone else... but of course, that's just the speaker's own, personal moral code. If I don't agree, and think it's absolutely fine to force my morality on everyone, what can he say?


  1. What, then, makes one or the other immoral or moral?

    1. Sorry, Cody, I've lost you here. One or the other of what?

  2. I have a question:

    If there is a universal and objective morality how would we get to discover what it is ?

    If I disagree with your version of morality does it make any difference whether either of us believe our own morality to be universal and objective rather than subjective ? Would we not in fact be more likely to find a workable compromise if we believe morality our is subjective ?

    1. Rob, we might get to discover what objective moral standards are by reasoning about them.

      And furthermore, your desire to achieve a "workable compromise" implies that achieving such a compromise would be an objective good.

  3. Damn. This post and your reply to Rob sound like the thoughts I've been having about morality.


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