The following is from William J. Murray:
The problem inherent in arguments for subjective morality is often that those arguing for subjectivism employ terminology that is unavailable to their argument, such as X “is wrong” or “is immoral”. That phrasing obfuscates what the subjectivist must mean as opposed to what an objectivist means when they say the same thing.
Normally, especially in a debate like this, one would use terms and phrasings that distinguish between personal preference and an implied reference to an objective ruling/measurement. In regular conversation, there would be a situational understanding, like: “No, that’s the wrong color shoes to go with your outfit.” where the term “wrong” would be understood as a strong expression of personal aesthetics.
Usually, the line is drawn more distinctly: “It’s not the right choice for me, but it might be for you.” In a debate about morality, leaving off the qualifying terminology undermines the clarity of the argument and the capacity to recognize logical errors.
What does it mean when a supposed moral subjectivist says, “It’s wrong for others to do X”? Since “doing X” cannot actually in itself “be wrong” under moral subjectivism, in the sense that 2+2=25 is “wrong”, or in the sense that “red + blue = green” is wrong, it must be meant in either a personal or a perceived social sensibility manner, like, “Serving guacamole with halibut is so wrong” or “voting for Romney is wrong”.
When it comes to moral subjectivists, “it’s wrong to rape” or “it’s wrong to torture” cannot be anything more than statements of subjective personal or social-sensibility preference, even if they are very strongly felt and believed; the onus is on the individual to recognize that their preference is just that – a personal preference (even if writ large to a social sensibility).
The question for so-called moral subjectivists is: outside of morality and ethics, would you feel comfortable forcing others to adhere to your personal preferences or your social sensibilities? Are you comfortable forcing people to not serve guacamole with halibut, or forcing them to not vote for Romney?
Now, are you comfortable intervening and forcing someone to stop raping or toturing another person?
This is the line where the obfuscating phrasing cannot go beyond, and it is where supporters of moral subjectivism cast their gaze away from the obvious distinction; even the moral subjectivist agrees that forcing personal preferences or social sensibilities upon others is itself immoral. They will fight against such things as a negative social sensibility against various minorities and certainly against individuals forcing their personal preferences on others.
Hypocritically, though, that’s all that morality is in their worldview; they are guilty of doing the very thing they deem immoral in the first place; in fact, their entire moral mechanism of forcing others to abide their personal preferences or social sensibilities is one they see as immoral everywhere else. They would force a freedom from religion, as if forcing religion on others was in principle different. They would force others to treat minorities equally, but enslaving them is using the exact same in-principle rationale.
Moral subjectivists want there to be some kind of distinction between “morality” and other personal preferences and social sensibilities to purchase a rationale for imposing their views on others, and will refer to moral views as “really strong” feelings; but, no matter how strong those feelings are, unless they posit morality as something else in principle than subjective feelings or social sensibilities, their behavior is the in-principle equivalent of any other moral view.
But, they certainly do not behave that way; they behave (like any moral objectivist) as if they have some authority and obligation beyond what can be accounted for by personal preference and social sensibility, no matter how strong such feelings are. There is an operational boundary between what one is willing to do for what one recognizes as matters of subjective personal taste and social sensibility, and what one is willing to do in cases where an objective, necessary and self-evident boundary is being crossed.
No amount of equivocation can hide the difference in how one behaves when it comes to serious moral matters and matters of personal preference/social sensibility.
Here ends WJM’s comment.
WJM’s interlocutor at this time was a buffoon who styles himself “hrun0815.” Said buffoon responded to the comment as follows:
“Yes, yes, WJM. TL;DR about your whole diatribe.” I take it that “TL;DR” is internet shorthand for “too long; didn’t read.” If that is the case, hrun0815 has proven himself unworthy of being taken seriously on these pages, and I would encourage our readers and posters simply to ignore him.