What is the moral diversity agrument for nonobjectivism, and how do moral objectivists attempt to answer it?

Expert Answers
chimeric eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Boyd states that Moral Realism (Moral Objectivity) asserts as true that:

  1. Moral statements are the sorts of statements which are (or which express propositions which are) true or false (or approximately true, largely false, etc.);
  2. The truth or falsity (approximate truth...) of moral statements is largely independent of our moral opinions, theories, etc.;
  3. Ordinary canons of moral reasoning—together with ordinary canons of scientific and everyday factual reasoning—constitute, under many circumstances at least, a reliable method for obtaining and improving (approximate) moral knowledge.


(Boyd, Richard N. (1988), "How to Be a Moral Realist", in Sayre-McCord, Geoffrey, Essays on Moral Realism, Cornell University Press, pp. 181–228, ISBN 0-8014-2240-X)

In other words, some things are right or wrong no matter how anyone feels about the rightness or wrongness of them.

Non-objectivists argue that for every premise that an objectivist asserts to be true, largely true, false, or largely false, there are others who assert differently or oppositely.

Non objectivists argue that the mere existence of controversy over moral issues proves that there can be no such thing as moral facts, absolutes or truths. They point out that in similar circumstances people with different perspectives, who come from different cultures or who have differing degrees of ignorance on the issues involved may act in very different ways and justly view each of these different responses to the issue as equally moral or even more moral than another.

Objectivists or Moral Realists counter this argument with the fact that even in the empirical realm there is much disagreement--sometimes very deeply-held and widespread disagreement, but that does not prove that there cannot be a single, factual answer.

For example: evolution or the spontaneous origin of the universe is widely and fervently disputed by creationists. While the presence of a religious element might tempt the researcher into believing that this is a moral or religious argument, the fact is indisputable that whoever is correct, whether evolutionists or creationists, there can be only one factual beginning of the real universe in which we live. Either it evolved or was created. We may never be able to prove which one to anyone's complete satisfaction, but that does not alter the fact that it can be only one.

So, simply because there is controversy over a moral premise does not in any way disprove that it is possible that a moral premise can always be either true or false regardless of opinion.