Pojman #2 Thus far we’ve looked at criticisms of cultural relativism, addressing its shortcomings and consequences.

But, while coming to understand that there are very good reasons for believing a theory is false is useful, it is not satisfying. For, we don’t only wish to know what is not the case, but what is. Pojman, I think, feels the burden to provide something positive in place of his deconstruction of relativism. One might say the he feels a certain burden of “proof” to defend his own position of objectivism. That is the second part of the essay and the thing we’ll focus on today. As we will find as the semester unfolds, there are various ways that people go about trying to lay a foundation for objective moral truths. --Some appeal to God as the only foundation for ethical claims, --others make arguments from human nature. (what it is, and what constitutes flourishing) --others appeal to rationality itself --some will make appeals to external and eternal standard independent of God Rather than telling you “ethics according to Houston” I will be taking you on a journey through the various attempts that have been made to carry out this project. I want you to go on the journey that so many other good thinkers have taken. OK, so, does Pojman appeal to any religious standards to try to make his case for EO? …Why not? (he doesn’t think it’s necessary). So, you know that whatever he’s going to do, he’s not going to be appealing to any particular religious tradition. (p.47) He claims that one need not be a moral absolutist to be an objectivist. To defend this claim he distinguishes between “Moral absolutism” and “Moral objectivism.” MA: Nonoverrideable moral principles (e.g. Kant “don’t break a promise”) Unqualified and universal principles—“for all rational agents, at all times and places.” MO: valid rules of action which should be generally adhered to, but which may be overridden by other moral principles in cases of moral conflict. (e.g. justice requires truth telling, but benevolence may only be served by deception in a given case. Consider the classic example of the SS) But now he goes on to state what he takes to be an “objective moral principle which is binding on all people everywhere in some ideal sense”: A. It is morally wrong to torture people for the fun of it.

My question: how is this not to posit a moral absolute? I guess what I am saying is that, I think his distinction may be somewhat dubious, and I honestly wonder is there is any way to be an Objectivist without being an Absolutist? I honestly don’t know. I do know this: I believe a stronger and more coherent account of the objectivity of moral principles can be given in absolutist terms. (The problem that arises for this, however, is “if they ‘exist’ what kind of entities are moral absolutes? Are they eternal truths like the Pythagorean theorem? Do they rely on a divine being? If so, are they rooted in the divine being’s will or mind? Etc. Because of the perplexing nature of such questions, many use these questions to reject “moral realism” or “absolutism.” –Argument from ‘queerness’. Pojman thinks that one could maintain his position of “objectivism” and still be a “realist” but it is not required) I return to the principle he has laid down: “It is morally wrong to torture people for the fun of it.” Suppose that we find a person who rejects this principle, would the existence of such a person falsify this principle or bring its legitimacy into question? No. (As he says, we’d first look to the person and why they would reject it than question the legitimacy of the principle. In other words, we’d say: what’s wrong with that person?) Note: He gives other principles like this one. (see 48) He thinks these represent the “core” of morality. On what basis does he select these principles? It’s not “Well, the book of Exodus states…or in Corinthians 5 we find So, how does he come up with them? (Arbitrary?) See 48. He tells you how he came up with them, and from this you can see where he’s coming from with his argument. “They are necessary to social cohesion and human flourishing.” Note: Toward the end of the semester, we’ll get a more complete appeal to this kind of foundation for ethics when we look at Aristotle. But for now, let’s take a look at Pojman’s actual argument. He tells us “the core moral rules are analogous to the set of vitamins necessary for a healthy diet.” In other words, look at what is required for human beings to flourish, and you will come up with certain core principles that are prescriptive for human conduct. He goes on to present two different (but similar) arguments for objectivism.

Read the argument. Return to the premises. Ask if they agree. Ask what might be controversial in this argument. Look at the second version. Why does he present it? (Because he wants to reach those who deny that there is a human nature.) Which argument does Pojman find more persuasive? Why? The second one lacks a foundation for generating moral principles. It tells us that there are moral principles, it does not tell us where they come from. The first makes explicit the claim that moral principles are grounded in our human nature. What is the consequence if his first argument succeeds? (There are ideal rather than adequate moralities) How would this cash out? Suppose someone came up and said, “well, you say that X is immoral and I say it is moral.” Would there be any way to adjudicate a dispute on such a point? Yes! How? By appealing to human nature, pointing out what is most conducive to human flourishing, and forming your principles accordingly. Test question: Pojman presents a case for Ethical Objectivism (EO). On what foundation does he attempt to build his case for EO? What are the two primary arguments he makes for objectivism? Why does he think it necessary to present not one, but two arguments for Ethical Objectivism in his essay? Which one of these arguments does he personally find more persuasive and why?