21 March 2010
No, "objectivism" with a lower-case letter is simply the view that some fact is what it is whether or not it is perceived as such. And "moral objectivism," naturally, is the view that there are moral rights and wrongs that are "objective" facts in the same way that yellow and green are objective facts, whatever that way is. We don't have to be sure that we understand "knowledge of the yellowness of the wall" before we can move on to the more complicated questions of morality. We can simply point to that sort of knowledge and say that however we might end up describing it, it will be the paradigm of what we mean by objective knowledge. The implicit contrast is to a proposition such as "french vanilla is the most delicious flavor of ice cream," which we might take as paradigmatically subjective.
When a moral objectivist claims to know that, say, throwing the switch of a certain specified runaway trolley is wrong, he is claiming to know something analogous to the yellowness of the paint on the wall, not something analogous to the deliciousness of ice cream.
The point I'd like chiefly to make today is this: the question of objectivity is different from the question of relativity. A wall may be "relatively" yellow -- it may look yellow in certain lighting conditions or in comparison with another wall. These relative situations are themselves objective facts, i.e. they are what they are regardless of my tastes. So let's not confuse "relative" with "subjective" or demand that something be an absolute before you call it objective.
I'm just mulling things over....
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.