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Subjectivism and Objectivism about moral rightness/wrongness

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-L163-1
Published
2020
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L163-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2020
Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/subjectivism-and-objectivism-about-moral-rightness-wrongness/v-1

2. Sense-splitting

Some don’t see the Subjectivism/Objectivism debate as being of deep moral significance because, they are inclined to believe, the debate is mired in confusion. The confusion at the heart of the debate, so they say, is in thinking that there is a single notion of wrongness about which Subjectivists and Objectivists are disagreeing. Rather, so goes this reply, Subjectivists and Objectivists are just talking past each other because they are each concerned with a distinct kind of wrongness. The view is that there is a subjective sense of ‘wrong’ and an objective sense of ‘wrong’, and each side of the debate is correct about their respective senses of ‘wrong’. And insofar as there are two notions of ‘wrong’ in play there is no dispute about which of the Objectivist’s and the Subjectivist’s is the correct account of moral wrongness.

While there may well be two distinct senses of ‘wrong’, Subjectivists and Objectivists do not think that this sense-splitting manoeuvre successfully dissolves their debate. Even if there are distinct senses of ‘wrong’, so they maintain, we can pin down the sense of ‘wrongness’ about which Subjectivists and Objectivists are in dispute, and it is clear, once it is so pinned down, that they are not talking past each other. What then is the sense of ‘wrong’ about which Subjectivists and Objectivists are in dispute? It is the sense of ‘wrong’ that is of ultimate concern to the morally conscientious person when in her deliberations about what to do she asks herself ‘what would it be morally wrong for me to do in this situation?’. Because it seems that the notion of ‘wrong’ employed by the morally conscientious person when she asks that question is not equivocal, there is a distinct sense of ‘wrong’ that is of concern to the morally conscientious person when she deliberates about what to do. And it is that sense of ‘wrong’ about which Subjectivists and Objectivists are in dispute. So, if there is a unique sense of ‘wrong’ being employed by the morally conscientious person when, in deliberating about what to do, she asks herself ‘what would it be morally wrong for me to do in this situation?’ and it is about that sense of ‘wrong’ that Subjectivists and Objectivists are in dispute, then, whether there are distinct senses of ‘wrong’ or not, theirs does seem to be a live dispute, one which splitting senses of ‘wrong’ does not dissolve.

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Citing this article:
Graham, Peter. Sense-splitting. Subjectivism and Objectivism about moral rightness/wrongness, 2020, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L163-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/subjectivism-and-objectivism-about-moral-rightness-wrongness/v-1/sections/sense-splitting.
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