There are Facts in Ethics

There are facts in Ethics

The statement begins by saying that facts in ethics are a certainty but what is defined by the term ‘fact’? In Maths, it is logical as well as in Science where facts can be backed up by evidence. Whereas facts in ethics are a completely different concept when considering how a fact in ethics is more to do with whether it is seen as the truth and whether it has any evidence to back it up. This takes us into the concerns regarding morality and if we can determine good from bad with an agreeable answer. The idea that facts do not exist in ethics is highlighted straight away due to the high debate of what is certain to be a moral action or not and because the fact that relativists can debate anything to be true or not true. However, one would say that there has to be facts in ethics as a base for our search for the truth as surely there would then be no fairness in our world, if there isn’t a universal truth of what is good or bad then anyone could do anything and get away with it as they could argue it is acceptable in their social culture. Therefore one would justify that there has to be a universal fact as a base for everything otherwise there is a means to an end of what morality can be.

A.J Ayer suggested that morality is invented by individuals and this is a good point as he would reply to the statement by suggesting that in ethics, there wouldn’t be facts as we as individuals create our own opinion and morality is therefore a matter of opinion. On the other hand, having this matter of opinion is very dependent on who we are as people but then are we not in that period of time where our decisions are easily subsided by the views of the majority and therefore leans towards cultural relativism as our opinion is shaped by those around us, so linking to cultural relativism. Is Ayer not just suggesting that the statement is based upon personal opinion but if that opinion is very much shaped by what is seen as acceptable in society, there has to be a base of morality for which we as people decide is either good or bad. This means that Ayers’ argument is actually leading to a point of objectivism where there has to be facts, otherwise what are we basing our personal opinion on? We can’t just make an opinion up, there has to be a universal base for our ideas otherwise these ideas are just random thoughts.

This leads us onto Plato who suggested that morality is universal and absolute and therefore it doesn’t change from one society to another. This is relevant when considering his opinions on ‘The Forms’ which Plato believed were the laws of nature in this real and absolute world where there is no contradiction and everything is perfect. This is from when Plato talks about the analogy of the cave and how we are blinded by perceptions in our society, which aren’t necessarily true and are rather going on a journey to knowledge of the world. Plato would respond to the statement by stating that if there is a world of forms, there has to be certain changeless concepts which are universal and are the base of all responses. Although the world is changing as well as phenomena, the forms do not, and are the base of universal morality rather than an expression of personal opinion. This is a strong argument, however how can we determine whether these forms even exist? Who made these forms? One would agree with Plato’s ideas of morality being universal as the forms are a useful asset to why our world isn’t perfect and perhaps the world of forms is drawing a parallel to Heaven when one thinks about the idea of perfection.

Although it is rather sceptical and empiricists would argue that there is no such evidence of these forms, it doesn’t determine whether there are a base of facts in ethics which actually form our personal viewpoints and this is clever in the way that Plato takes a very relativist view on his understanding of the world when thinking of questioning our existence and the decaying world of ours, to the point that it makes sense to have these forms as the base of our opinion.

Another philosopher called James Rachels suggested that just because there is a difference in opinion, it doesn’t mean that there is no universal truth as one persons opinion about morality could be correct and another could be an error. This can lead to the assumption that Rachels would agree with the statement and say that a universal truth can be occurring, just people have separate beliefs so to find this fact of morality, it is purely a matter of understanding what ethics are. Rachels might say that the statement can be true but that it has a flaw due to the understanding of ‘fact’ as socially, peoples opinion can vary depending on their culture however he may counter this argument by then suggesting that one culture may be correct and the other in error.

This then lead to my final opinion regarding the statement that there are facts in ethics. This is due to the suggestion that there has to be a universal law as a base for all opinion otherwise what would be the point in reason and logic as surely we would all have to accept everything and anything. A relativist would have to accept Nazi treatment of the Jews as acceptable and just different to our culture. One would say that if the universal facts for a base of personal thoughts and opinions exists then this would explain Plato’s theory of ‘The Forms’ as this base for our ideas. So, to find the knowledge of these, Plato suggest we would have to discover through the power of the mind through philosophising. This could just be an interpretation of expressing our own opinion and therefore even though these forms exist as a universal fact, they are there to set off our own personal viewpoints and independence when discussing social morality and our world. If facts weren’t there as a universal base, our opinions would have nothing to base each other on. We as a universal race need something of such purity and perfection to discuss our own points of view as that is who we are, a branch of the tree of forms. This is why we question ourselves and opinions due to it not being a perfect world, as a branch, we see forms all around us, just in personal perceptions. The forms are our universal facts but we are not intellectual enough as a race to understand pure perfection, just our own perceptions of the laws of nature.

Universal facts exist in ethics, as a base for our opinions and perceptions in our relative world. We are simply to scared of knowledge and the truth to ever answer that we are always going to have universal laws otherwise our world would have no fairness, no personal opinions and no contradiction.

Joe Baines

One comment

  1. Great read, Joe! Do agree that ethics are not relative, but objective!
    So unfortunate that relativism is heavily and falsely promoted as tolerance and individualism, when in fact, it is not true.


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