This study will critically compare Ethical Subjectivism and Ethical Relativism. The study will examine the theories as well as examples by which the practical importance of the theories can be more clearly understood. The study will basically argue that both of these approaches to ethics are deeply flawed, but that they each have something important to contribute to the realm of ethics as well.
Ethical Subjectivism is defined in terms that can appear almost absurdly simplistic. MacNiven defines it in the following way:
a particular action . . . is . . . morally right if some person . . . has a pro attitude toward the action . . . ; a particular action . . . is . . . morally wrong if some person . . . has a con attitude or
does not have a pro attitude toward the action (MacNiven 8).
This means that the Ethical Subjectivist gives all the power of defining some act as moral or immoral to the individual. In Ethical Subjectivism, if any individual sincerely believes an act to be moral, it is moral. Ethics are entirely subjective. In other words, one individual can feel or believe that homosexuality is immoral, and another feel that homosexuality is moral, and neither one would be right or wrong, according to Ethical Subjectivism. The individuals giving such clashing moral views would simply be expressing their feelings. The only thing at stake in such a system is the right of each individual to express such views. There can be no moral debate in such an approach, for there is nothing to debate---each individual is equally "right."
Ethical Relativism holds simply that "different cultures have different moral codes" (Rachels 17). This means that no society's moral claims are superior or inferior to any other society's moral claims. Ethical Relativism can be seen as Ethical Subjectivism "writ large," with societies or cultures replacing individuals in the moral equation. England, for example, has no laws against homosexuality, ...