Objectivety in Ethics

If one is to consider the existance of ethics as something that is very relative to place, time and situation, one could easily conclude that ethics is something that is subjective to human interpretation and application. What is right and wrong, in the context of human reality, is seemingly a function of culture, time and situation. To see how ethics vary between cultures consider the varying beliefs in the proper ethical treatment throughout various cultures in the world. To see how it varies with time compare ethical opinions of slavery between now, the 18th century and 4000 years ago. To see how it varies with situation contemplate if lying is morally acceptable when under oath in ana attempt to affect the outcome of a court case; when trying to get out of English class last period on Friday; when doing so would be required to save the world from nuclear destruction. Ethics are seemingly relative.

If one however compares various ethical beliefs, it can be easy, in some situations, to judge that one ethical system or belief is better than another. For example, the ethics preached by Jesus Christ in the New Testament are probably superior to an ethical system that preached that all actions must be geared towards the destruction of mankind. One who believes that free speech is morally justified would be considered in comparison to one who denounces free speech as a sin. These examples are seemingly unrealistic, but they are meant to illustrate a point. A more realistic example could be seen in supporting the underlying ethical beliefs of slavery in the US today as compared to that of 250 years ago. The point is that judgements about ethical systems and beliefs can be made; some can be said to hold more truth than others.

The question I have is that if some ethical systems or beliefs can be said to hold more truth than others, is it possible that one ethical system can be said to be more true than all others? Is it possible for ethics to be truly objective?

I recognize that relativety in ethics, considering human nature and social establishment must exist. As stated above there are some situations where lying can be considered right and some where it must be considered wrong. I think that it is highly possible however that ethical guidelines may exist that hold true in all situations. That is to say that proper ethical action may be relative to the situation, but the priciples behind it hold true in all situations. The question now becomes, what would such guidelines be and how would one justify them as objectively true?

There are many ethical theories that would support a system of ethics that the theory claims to hold true in all situations. Utilitarianism would be an example. Maybe all ethical action should be geared so that it brings humanity closer to truth about the universe. Maybe a certain religious group has it right. I would like to believe that one is truly ethical if one is acting to achieve their purpose and achieve happiness without disadvantaging another in achieving their purpose and if disadvantage is necessesary, comprimise must be achieved or greater advantage (benefits obtained).

Can ethics be objective? Can one justify objective truth in ethics? What would you say is ethical objective truth?

Two words;

Linguistic Turn

Type it in Google.

Too busy to explain right now.

The short answer to your question?


Ethics at its core is “Do to others as you would have done to you.” It’s repeated in some from in all modern ethic/moral codes. If placed in a situation where a decision will affect people then that question must be addressed if you wish to come to an ethical conclusion. But in reality ethics is never placed before everything else! As there’s normally some goal that needs to be rationalised in an ethical way so it can be accepted by the people at large. But when the true goal is followed, it is ethics that’s shaped to cater to the first goal’s needs. Ethics is only a secondary requirement, to give the appearance of Righteousness.

What I dont like when it comes to ethics is the reversal of ethics. Once you start doing that then you will one day start worshiping idols (Nietzsche “beyond good and evil”) and every absurd thing will start justifying itslef. Popular ethics MUST be taken as anchor. Having said that I believe Islam provides the most refined ethics. I believe christian ethics have a tendency of reversal in them…dont take me wrong, Jesus Christ is my prophet too but I believe prophets and their teachings are relevent till certain time and place…after that they get outdated. Where as last Prophet Mohammad said that his teachings are for the whole world and till the end of time…why because I believe Islam’s ethics are so refined that there is no place of more refinement without reversing the ethics. Like Christian ethics say something like “when someone slap on ur cheek one should turn the other cheek”…which I believe cannot be followed now a days…because one has to respond if someone keeps on hitting you. Where as Islam’s ethics say that “If somebody hit you and if you forgive, then you are a better person BUT you have the right to hit back”.


an “ought” is never an “is” and vice versa


Of course not, ethics is
never a question of object-,
I mean, subject-…
if it’s seems right,
then it is,
which means
we have appealed to
nay, reason,
nay, Recent trends,
culturally speaking, of course,
there’s no other way to decide
if one is “right”
or what “right” is,
if you even believe in such terms,
let alone the sincerity of one who uses them.
So it’s all up to you,
which is an objective truth
which captures all that is merely
subject (i ve).

Ethics as preached by society, however, may not necessarily be right as they are subject to human interpretation and application. Ethics have developed in a way so that they change over time as societies culturally evolve. Does their application hold true, or can we find objective truth in ethical principles that should cross the bridges of place and time into all cultures?

If I was to say that the ethical belief all females must be murdered at age five is true, most (if not all) would surely say that I was ridiculous. The reasons for calling me crazy could stem from humanist beliefs, respect for life or emotional appeal. Beyond that however, that statement should be objected based on a logical analysis of what it implies. Simply put, if we were to kill all females at age five, the end result would be extinction of our species. This ethical principle cannot be true as it makes way for destruction of the people that employ it and therefore its own destruction. No ethical system should, if followed, cause the end of human existence.

Aha! We have now arrived at something that could hold true in all for all ethical decisions. It must always be true that it is ethically wrong for an action to be committed with the purpose of eliminating the human race. If it was ethically right, the purpose of the ethical system that supports such an idea would be defeated. It can be said that there is objective truth in the statement that ‘ethics should not allow for the human extinction.’

This is a basic ethical principle that should be applied to all ethical decision regardless of place, time or situation. I think that without many being aware of it, this principle is applied to all ethical decisions. Can we go beyond this? Are there other principles that should be applied in all situations? How are these justified? This is where the discussion should go. Let me provide an example…

It is true that many facets of human life exist in uncertainty. Religion, love, truth about human origin, the connection between mind and body, the possible existence of a soul, etc. are all ideas which make human life important and dynamic. These ideas however, have for various reason been challenged on many occasions by sceptics who claim their challenges hold truth. If we are uncertain about the things that make our lives meaningful, how certain can we be that our lives our actually meaningful. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that one goal of human life be to reduce the uncertainty surrounding human life. As such, ethics must be adjusted, in all cases, so that the search for knowledge is not sacrificed. This is an objective ethical truth. It has a justification.

Prove me wrong. Prove to me that the above ethical principle is false. Or expand on it. Say it has truth, but is not sufficient to be true in all situations. If not, prove another ethical truth right. Prove that the freedom of speech is a good thing, and prove the principles behind such a statement. Prove that it is a bad thing, and prove the principles behind such a statement. Prove that murder can be good, that giving to the poor can be bad. Prove that God is the only one who can rightly define an ethical law. Prove that religion should have no bearing on ethics. Prove that in fact, ethics are subjective.

hi there dj!

in the first part of your post you say that it is ethically wrong to act with the purpose to eliminate the human race. it is true. however, should thi be the only principle in ethics, we must take into account the fact that practically no person has the capacity to eliminate the human race, so it should be a princple applied only to group ethics. Second, and far more important, using this principle alone i see no reason to hold theft or murder unethical.

the you say that life is surounded by uncertainity and one of the goals of humans is to reduce that uncertanty. you can say that ethics contributes to that by prescribing a desired course of human action in situations where several alternatives are possible. however, this leads us to the debate on whether ethics should prescribe ends or means. or maybe both…

i believe ethics to be only subjective. if ethics would be derived from some laws or facts we observe in the universe, i would inquire into the possbility of being some objectivness in ethics. but they are not… “the strongest survives” is a proved natural law, but finds so little reflection in ethics.

i would say that ethics is some sort of practical use of the values a sociecty shares. once we have established some values for our society, we are faced with situations when we must decide what course of action would be true to those values. thus we create ethics, as an interpretation of those values in real instances. anyway, this is just a thought. however, i see not the slightest reason to think that there is something objective in ethics (and all human beliefs).

it has also been said here that the core idea of ethics is “Do to others as you would have done to you”. i have serious reason to question that. if my son (or a good friend) accidentaly murders someone (or let’s say seriously injures someone, involuntary manslaughter), and i witness that (therefore i know it was an accident) i will have no problem hiding that from the authorities (as it fully complies with rule - i myself would prefer to be helped hiding in such a situation). but that course of action would be far from ethically correct. more, supposingly that the whole thing will be taken as an accident by the police ant no investigation done about it, we find our golden rule to infringe on the truth… that doesn’t sound too good, does it?

i am no expert of ethics, but i find that most things that people say should lie at the core of ethics can be easily proved not correct with concrete situations.