Mackie holds a second order viewpoint of moral skepticism by stating that he isn’t rejecting all moral concepts such that someone of a more first order stance holds, but he is not concerned with those positive or negative moral preferences as a definition of morality (Mackie 647).
By establishing his second order view, Mackie adopts a more complex view on the objective existence of moral properties through moral skepticism. Mackie defines moral skepticism as a negative doctrine simply discussing what does not exist, not what does exist, or in short, skepticism with moral falsehood (Mackie 648). Moral skepticism does not express the ideas of standard moral statements. Mackie’s argument is subjectivist, but he is not claiming that we should take whatever we think the right course of action is for the situation.
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Mackie states that subjectivism can be treated synonymously with moral skepticism. If every moral statement was to be subjective, then it wouldn’t be possible to be aware of any objective moral values. If people were able to know about the existence of objective values, we could say something about them, combining the definitions of moral skepticism and subjectivism.Mackie claims that ordinary moral judgments include “a claim to objectivity”, which assumes that objective values exist in the sense in deciding what is right or wrong on a large moral scale, not in the sense of wanting or not wanting to commit an action (Mackie 650). He includes the argument of a research biologist contemplating conducting the research associated with bacteriological warfare.
The researcher is not questioning if he wants to do that type of work, however he is questioning if doing so would be inherently morally wrong (Mackie 650). These judgments of morals according to Mackie cannot explain any reality. Mackie then moves on to question the practicality of moral objectivity, which he separates into two arguments: the argument from relativity and the argument from queerness. Mackie claims that objectivity as a way to describe morality and reality should be questioned, and so he creates two arguments: the argument from relativity and the argument from queerness (Mackie 651). In his argument from relativity, Mackie states that the extent of contradictions and discrepancies among moral beliefs makes it unlikely that values are objective (Mackie 651). It is an anthropological fact that moral codes vary in society. Different groups of people have different moral beliefs, making it difficult to form a standard of moral rightness.
Mackie says that moral values come from personal experience, and arise from how people act rather than them acting based on what they value (Mackie 651). It is difficult to derive objective values from this argument because of the variation in moral codes. These moral codes are explained more as a way of life rather than through perception, and because way of life is so diverse, it is difficult for objectivity to be considered attainable. Mackie uses the term universalizability, which states that people act to promote the general happiness of society (Mackie 652). People use different methods to determine societal action through either methods of intuition or reason. Intuition guides moral judgment rather than reason, so the argument from relativity stands (Mackie 652).
A partial counter that Mackie raises to the argument from relativity states that there are universal concepts seen among all of society that provide the foundation of ethics in general. When an action is judged as being morally right, it is done immediately by a personal belief and not because of societal standard or general principle. Mackie suggests that moral sense, also called intuition, describes moral judgment much better than reason can. Mackie finishes this argument by replying to a criticism about principles of morality that cultural groups can agree upon, stating that it’s a suitable response because it classifies specific moral value as true as a universal truth. If this were really true, murder could possibly be considered okay simply because it only defies a general principle of shared society. In Mackie’s argument from queerness, he questions the natural existence of moral properties. In this argument from queerness, he is arguing that the idea that moral values are explicitly motivating is incorrect.
Mackie states that moral properties are not metaphysically or epistemologically natural (Mackie 652). Metaphysically speaking, if objective values existed, they would exist in a strange way unlike anything else, and that concept also stands for the epistemological side of securing objective knowledge. If there were objective principles that decided rightness or wrongness, any “wrong” action would be affected by what Mackie calls in his writing “have not-to-be-doneness” in it (Mackie 651).
Mackie asks several questions to determine if cruel actions should or should not be condemned: what connects natural fact to cruel action? What determines what is wrong? These questions pertain to objectivity and they are based on value, not facts. My opposition to Mackie stems from his argument from relativity in regards to general principles reflecting ethics. I think that his arguments regarding moral subjectivity is unconvincing because there is a possibility that some groups in society have moral codes that clearly oppose simple morality. A moral objectivist could suggest that a specific group is wrong in a particular field of action and the principles they violate are universal truth. This claim would circumvent Mackie’s argument.
Mackie’s conclusion is superficial in respect to his claim regarding all moral claims being false due to too many discrepancies between opinions in society. His argument doesn’t have enough rational reasoning to conclude that morality can’t exist. Society uses morality and questions of morals to justify our actions and ideas.In conclusion, Mackie states that moral values are false myths that act in order to control social behavior. Moral values are errors that concern no matter of fact, but do have the ability to possess sociological functions.
Mackie’s argument is based upon the lack of objective values and the belief that morality exists is an illusion. By splitting his argument into relativity dealing with anthropological action in society and his argument from queerness, Mackie asserts that morality does not in fact exist in reality and no one has the ability to have moral knowledge.