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Durham e-Theses
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The Objectivity of Moral Judgements

Brockless, Adrian (2006) The Objectivity of Moral Judgements. Masters thesis, Durham University.



The problem I wish to address is one that is widespread in analytic moral philosophy viz., that of transcending individuality in an attempt to develop theories and arguments that generally explain what occurs when we make moral judgements. I argue that none of these attempts is plausible on the grounds that moral judgements are necessarily personal, but in a way that still allows for moral objectivity. Such objectivity, I argue, is grounded in what it is for one's moral understanding to deepen, and involves considering morality as more than purely a guide to conduct. Moral subjectivity implies a lack of understanding of the meaning of one's actions in terms of the humanity of others, and also of what one becomes as a consequence of those actions. I reject the notion that objectivity can only be found through impersonal thinking such as that of propositions and mathematics, and suggest that the grammar of objective moral understanding differs from impersonal propositional forms insofar as it does not admit of external justification. On this basis I argue that the cognitivist / non-cognitivist models of moral thought are misguided. In support of my argument concerning the nature of moral objectivity, I draw on Wittgenstein's later conception of the nature of language, and use it to examine concepts such as trust, cynicism, sentimentality, love and maturity. I maintain that such concepts are legitimate and can be used objectively, even though they have no absolute standards and thus cannot admit of external justification. I argue that it is not rational to dismiss them in favour of formal argument or to try to impose formal argument upon them. The latter strategy, I claim, violates the grammar that gives them sense viz., (among other things) the context in which they are uttered that includes the individuality of the speaker. Thus I conclude that since moral judgments contain such concepts, it makes little sense to transcend individuality in an attempt to be objective or develop explanatory arguments based on theories.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Arts
Thesis Date:2006
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:31

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