Essay on Mackie's Arguments Against Objective Values

Essay on Mackie's Arguments Against Objective Values

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Mackie?s Arguments Against Objective Values

J. L. Mackie makes his position explicit by opening his article "The Subjectivity of Values" with this terse statement: "There are no objective values." Mackie had found recent dialogue in moral philosophy to be fraught with misunderstandings and conflations of various moral positions, so he felt it necessary to rigorously define his position as well as the boundaries of his concerns. Thus his article has two major parts: First, Mackie defines the nature of his moral skepticism, and, second, he defends his position by showing the implausibility of moral realism with a series of arguments.

Mackie?s first step in defining his position is to describe its essential features. He believes that there are no objective and independent values in the world, but he believes that statements about moral (and aesthetic) judgments are quite literal in claiming objective facts. Basically, Mackie is an error theorist, so he believes that judgments have a truth value even though there are no possible objective values that could ever make them true. The crux of his position is an ontological view about the absence of objective values.

Mackie?s second step in defining his position is to set its boundaries. When he speaks of values, he means not only moral values but any sort of values that may be believed objective, such as aesthetic ones, though his focus is on the moral ones. He also wants to make it clear that he is not setting forth a theory prescribing how to act or how to look for values, which he says is the business of first order ethics. His position concerns second order ethics, which is about the status of values. Importantly, he feels that major philosophical questions have been overlook...


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...l of human life. He shows that such a source is susceptible to both of his previous main arguments and feels that his only threat here is a viable theistic doctrine, so he brings no new sort of arguments to the table. However, his defense on this last point is also susceptible to the same weaknesses of his main arguments. It is even possible that he could be right that different people will have different moral responses to the same things yet still all subscribe to the same general goal of life; it is consistent that different means may reach the same end. If objective values were defeated above, it should now be considered whether a general goal of human life can be discerned in an objective manner. Regardless of whether we focus on a convergence of general values or an agreement on the goal of life, in this article Mackie runs roughshod over several open questions.

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