Curtlers reasons for rejecting ethical relativism and subjectivism are many. However, before I discuss these reasons it is important to note that there are several forms of arguments. One being cultural relativism that makes statements based on an individuals culture. Another form that is closely related to relativism is subjectivism. Subjectivists make statements based on their individual beliefs as well as accounting for context. Subjectivists ethical decisions may differ based on their personal opinions.
Lastly objectivism claim that there is an absolute ethical truth that exists independent of us almost like a “one-size-fits all” ethical truth. However we are just not intelligent or rational enough to perceive it. Most ethical disputes are between attitudes, interests, and desires. These are all relative to the individual and can therefore be only argued subjectively. For example, if I were to say that Vladimir Lenin’s theories on the “perfect government” were wrong because I think Lenin was a bad guy, That would be my opinion and thus would be a relative/ subjectivist’s claim.
Curtler argues that these opinions might not be applicable to cultures outside of our own. Herein lies the problem with the relativist’s point of view. Their position is subjective and therefore cannot hold water across cultures because every culture is different. Furthermore, who is to say that only one persons view is correct, each person grows up in a different society with different cultural norms and therefore may have conflicting views on what is right and wrong.
This eliminates the possibility of determining with certainty what a “correct” view might be. Relativists recognize that ethics is very subjective and therefore just because ones cultural values are similar to another persons doesn’t make them correct. However, relativists generally relate best to people within their own culture because they are most likely to hold the same relative views as their own. This eliminates the need for the argument in the first place since most people in the same society are likely to agree on arguments f cultural attitudes and beliefs. Because of this, they are unable to make claims about events and objects of the world because the argument would end before it can even start since a relativist’s argument can be both true and false. Often times a relativist argument end in both sides agreeing to disagree. Objectivists on the other hand can be taken more seriously because they back up their position with well-supported un-bias facts that support the “ethical truth”.
Thus value judgments are either true or false. Unlike relativists, objectivists do not argue ethical claims based on individual feelings or cultural values, but rather argue their points based on reason and facts that are accessible to everyone. Because the objectivist’s argument is supported with reason, it allows for a thoughtful well-informed argument that can be held with anyone regardless of that person’s cultural bias.
If an ethical claim is to be considered reasonable and able to be relevant across cultures it must first be justified. In justifying an ethical claim we must free ourselves from cultural bias, in doing so we start to enable the claim to be able to stand up to rational criticism from anybody. Justification eliminates bias, prejudice, relativism, and subjectivism, and gives support to the belief that anybody should accept the justified ethical claim based on ethical reasons.
There are certain steps in order for a claim to become justified. These steps include: 1) We can verify them of falsify them ourselves at another time. 2) Someone else (regardless of that person’s cultural biases) can verify or falsify those claims. 3) The claims can withstand rational criticism. In examining these three steps we can then start to eliminate bias and prejudice in a claim. Much like the laws of science when a finding must be consistent over time.
For example, for a hypothesis to be considered correct, any scientists should be able to conduct the same experiment at any time and get the same or similar results. This also hold true in justification, a justified ethical claim must be able to withstand the criticism of any reasonable person at any time and in any culture. By using an open mind and eliminating bias, justification of an ethical claim can open the doors to a thoughtful, well informed, and objective argument.