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I understand moral subjectivism to be the meta-ethical idea that all moral statements are merely expressions of the individual and thus that there are no moral statements that are implicitly (objectively) true or false.

This essay/lecture by Michael Tabor seems to summarize and lay out as much (in addition to differentiating between moral subjectivism and moral relativism which are often treated as the same): http://faculty.smcm.edu/mstaber/rel-subj.htm

I understand that given such, a good analogy to use to illustrate the position of the moral subjectivism on morality is the the illustration using "favorite flavors of ice-cream".

Just as people's favorite flavor of ice-cream is understood to be completely subjective (dependent on their own arbitrary personal preference) so also is the moral subjectivist's approach to different moral doctrines and moral statements. To the moral subjectivist each is understood to be solely derived from one's personal preferences for that particular "flavor" of morality.

Understanding that to be a correct analogy- I have been trying to create a logical syllogism to say as much.

Are any of the three logical syllogisms below valid syllogisms, and if not- how might they be made to be so?

  • P1. One's preference for ice-cream is completely subjective.
  • P2. Moral subjectivism understands one's preference for morality to be completely subjective.
  • C. Therefore moral subjectivism understands one's preference for morality to be analogous to ones preference for ice-cream.

  • P1. When something is completely based on one's personal preferences, one can only appeal to arguments that depend on one's personal preferences.
  • P2. Moral subjectivism understands all moral preferences to be completely based on ones personal preferences.
  • C. Therefore moral preferences under moral subjectivism can only be appealed to using arguments that depend on one's personal preferences.

  • P1. One's preference for ice-cream is completely subjective.
  • P2. One's preference for morality with respect to moral subjectivism is completely subjective.
  • C. Therefore one's preference for morality with respect to moral subjectivism is just as subjective as One's preference for ice-cream.

To those who will moderate this question- I am more interested in the question of the validity of the integrity of the syllogisms presented more than anything, and I hope that understanding that as the centerpiece of this question lends it the core of objectivity that is needed to save it from the ash-heap of being too subjective.

  • First, generally philosophers will speak of moral anti realism rather than subjectivism. "Subjectivism" seems rather loosely defined and could just mean something like "loose morals". Second, arguments by analogy are generally inductive rather than deductive, because you are looking for features in common between objects. Your first argument, for instance, is invalid as deduction, but it might be a weak induction. – Kevin Holmes Mar 24 '15 at 14:57
  • I think in the third argument, the "point" of the argument needs to be made explicit. What is objectionable to the comparison between moral subjectivism and ice cream subjectivism, is that one may change his morals as often and with as little thought as one changes his preference for ice cream. Instead of wrapping this idea up as "subjectivism", I would explicitly state it. Right now the third argument doesn't make sense deductively. – Kevin Holmes Mar 24 '15 at 15:09
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    Only your second argument is logically valid. If I have time I'll try help you construct formal syllogisms to articulate the intent. But the only way to do this is to break down your terms and draw out your presuppositions. – Kevin Holmes Mar 24 '15 at 15:20
  • @KevinHolmes Thank you. I appreciate your assistance. Since this question might not be too valuable to the community at large I have no problem with you scrapping it as such. Needless to say the first syllogism (and the third which is an attempt to rephrase the first) need quite a bit of work. How might you (if you would be so kind?) suggest they be restructured as inductive arguments? – Resting in Shade Mar 25 '15 at 2:50
  • @KevinHolmes Here is another syllogism for you, maybe this one gets at it a little more clearly: 1. Rational arguments all require an objective framework of facts upon which to base themselves. 2. Moral subjectivism (read: moral anti-realism) provides no objective framework of moral facts upon which to base an argument. 3. Therefore moral subjectivism cannot be argued about rationally. – Resting in Shade Mar 25 '15 at 5:08

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