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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Philosophic Problem of Moral Disagreement

There is little doubt that there is disagreement on many moral issues among individuals and groups of people. This includes nations and political parties within nations.

In the book “Whatever Happened to Good and Evil”, Russ Shafer-Landau puts forth that despite these disagreements, there is subjective morality.

In examining my own personal belief system, I find that he and I are in agreement on that issue. There is indeed subjective morality, despite the existence of moral disagreements among intelligent, educated people.

The 'Argument from Moral Disagreement' basically states that if two open-minded, intelligent persons continually disagree about an issue, then there must be no objective truth to that issue.

The basic philosophic problem is the falsity of the premise itself - that simple informed disagreement equates to a lack of basic truth.

Shafer-Landau’s book “Whatever Happened to Good and Evil?” gives an example from the physical sciences: in areas such as physics, chemistry, and geology, scientists may frequently disagree on some basic premise.

Yet those scientists remain committed to their being an objective truth to the issue being studied and disagreed upon. If this is so for non-moral areas, such as the physical sciences, why should it not be so for ethics?

Also, in it’s 'Synopsis of the Major Arguments' section, the book points out that ethics is related to philosophy: “ethical disagreement is a species of philosophical disagreement.”

Although there is disagreement in philosophy, this does not mean there is no objective truth to questions such as those regarding free will, good and evil, and even the very existence of God.