While Saudi Arabia is in the news, I have a question for our subjectivist friends. In the United States it is considered morally wrong to execute a person for being a homosexual. In Saudi Arabia it is considered morally right to execute a person for being a homosexual.
As I understand subjectivist reasoning, morality is subjective and culturally determined. If you were in Saudi Arabia I assume you would attempt to get them to change their mind about executing homosexuals. I am curious. How would you argue for that? I can imagine a subjectivist (let’s call him “Bob”) making a number of arguments, and a probable response from a Saudi:
- Bob: Executing people because they are homosexual is morally reprehensible.
Saudi: That’s just your opinion Bob. In my opinion executing people because they are homosexual is morally correct and laudable. And you yourself tell me that your personal subjective view on the matter is no “better,” in any meaningful sense of that word, than mine. So why should I care what you think?
- Bob: It is not just my opinion. The people of the United States believe it is immoral to execute a person for being homosexual. The Saudi people should be more like the American people.
Saudi: Why? The analysis does not change when you compare your group to mine. Your own principles as a subjectivist tell me that the American view on the matter is no better, in any meaningful sense of that word, than the Saudi view.
- Bob: Don’t you believe in moral progress? Every progressive nation believes that executing homosexuals is wrong. Don’t you want to be progressive?
Saudi: “Progressive”? By what standard are you progressive? Again, it is merely your opinion whether you are progressive. Your own first principles say there is no objective standard by which progress toward “progressive” goals can be measured. And I disagree. We consider your coddling of homosexuals not to be progressive but decadent.
- Bob: Do you not care that the Western world rejects your views on this matter.
Saudi: First, you are wrong. Some progressive Westerners – the ones that understand their own premises forbid them from judging us – say “who am I to judge the Saudis.” Second, no, I don’t care what you and your friends think Bob. What is more, you yourself cannot give me a reason why I should care about what you and your friends think. Besides, I will turn it back on you: Don’t you care that the whole Islamic world rejects your views on the matter?
What am I missing? The one argument that Bob can never logically make is that it is actually objectively wrong (as opposed to wrong in his humble opinion) to execute homosexuals.