I haven't read or heard a single convincing argument for Moral Objectivism. One is that of convenience (so that moral statements can be logically evaluated leading to conflict resolution), which I immediately discarded (its inspiration seemingly fits the category of wishful thinking). Maybe I have missed an important argument, in which case I can't wait to know it.

Can someone provide or point to a neat outline of the arguments for and against Moral Objectivism and Moral Relativism? A filmed debate on the subject of meta-ethics would be a nice addition to any answer or comment.

If we can help it, let's stick with the terms "Moral Objectivism/Moral Relativism" without using the alternate "Realism/Non-Realism" so not to confuse the unfamiliar reader.

  • The topic is too big for a quick answer. If you want to overcome this dichotomy between two extreme views try a Buddhist philosopher. Extreme metaphysical views never have a convincing argument behind them because they never work. But to sort out the ethics means first sorting out the ontology and this is probably not the place.
    – user20253
    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:31
  • 1
    Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. As is your question is too broad for SE, such outlines are best found in encyclopedia articles, e.g. IEP's Moral Realism. SE is designed for more narrow and pointed questions.
    – Conifold
    Oct 25, 2017 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


This is a false dichotomy; into which category would you place moral fictionalism? To me, it seems to require an independent one.

  1. moral objectivism: the truth or falsity of (some) moral judgments are not context-dependent.

  2. moral relativism: the truth or falsity of (some) moral judgments are context-dependent.

  3. moral fictionalism: moral judgments are either meaningless pseudo-judgments, merely pragmatic ways of speaking, or they are reducible to expressions of one's emotion (and are therefore not truth-conducive in the same way that objectivism and relativism assume).

Many Christian thinkers are inclined to support moral objectivism. Some atheists, on the other hand, have asserted that the objective grounding of moral statements is conferred by evolutionary biology (I think Sam Harris believes something along these lines).

For other views, you can look into David Hume and the logical positivists; moral judgments here are characterized as reducible to emotion (emotivism), or meaningless, respectively. It seems clear to me that emotivism does not necessarily imply relativism especially if the statements in question are thought to have no truth value whatsoever.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .