Universalisability and Objectivity
The supposition of objectivity of moral values has been largely strengthened by the requirement of their universalizability. Ethical realism has had an attractive appeal as it carries with it a strong baggage of universalizability. And one thing that irresistibly binds philosophers together – from Greek philosophers to Kant, Hucheson, Hare and Habermas – is the idea that anything ethical must be somehow universal, ‘Act only on that maxim which you can at the same time will that it be a universal law’, said Kant.
This chapter therefore focuses on universalizability vis-à-vis objectivity. Here it is argued that universalizability cannot be always true of moral principles. John Mackie, for example, exposed some subjective elements in universalizability. We thus try to show that universalizability of moral principles cannot promote their (literal) objectivity. Universalizability, we point out, is not the same as universality. And objectivity in the literal sense cannot draw support from universalizability. Moral values and moral principles, therefore, must be objective in a sense compatible with their defeasibility and justified violation.
KeywordsUniversalizability Objectivity in the literal sense Ethical realism vs metaphysical realism Generalism Universality Defeasibility Justified violation
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