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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N074-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2011
Retrieved April 23, 2018, from

Article Summary

Objectivity is one of the central concepts of metaphysics. Philosophers distinguish between objectivity and agreement: ‘Ice-cream tastes nice’ is not objective merely because there is widespread agreement that ice-cream tastes nice. But if objectivity is not mere agreement, what is it? We often think that some sorts of claim are less objective than others, so that a different metaphysical account is required of each. For example, ethical claims are often held to be less objective than claims about the shapes of middle-sized physical objects: ‘Murder is wrong’ is held to be less objective than ‘The table is square’. Philosophers disagree about how to capture intuitive differences in objectivity. Those known as expressivists say that ethical claims are not, strictly speaking, even apt to be true or false; they do not aim to record facts but, rather, express some desire or inclination on the part of the speaker. Others, dubbed subjectivists, say that ethical statements are in some sense about human desires or inclinations. Unlike the expressivist, the subjectivist views ethical claims as truth-apt, but as being true (when they are true) in virtue of facts about human desires or inclinations. Error-theorists and fictionalists argue that (atomic, positive) ethical claims are systematically and uniformly false, but that they may be regarded as trading in ‘useful fictions’. Some philosophers, referred to as antirealists, disagree with expressivism, subjectivism, error-theories and fictionalism, and attempt to find different ways of denying objectivity. Quietists, on the other hand, think that there are no interesting ways of distinguishing discourses in point of objective status and that philosophical debate about differences in objective status is in some sense misguided.

Citing this article:
Miller, Alexander. Objectivity, 2011, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N074-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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