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Ethical subjectivism is the meta-ethical belief that all ethical sentences reduce to factual statements about the attitudes of individuals.[1] It stands in contrast to ethical objectivism, under which ethical statements are independent of personal attitudes. It is a form of moral relativism in the sense that the truth of moral claims is relative to the attitudes of individuals[2].

It is compatible with moral absolutism, in that an individual can hold certain of his moral precepts to apply regardless of circumstances. [3]. Ethical subjectivism is also compatible with "relativism" when that is taken to mean the opposite of absolutism, that is, as the claim that moral precepts should be adjusted to circumstances, [4]

An ethical subjectivist might propose, for example, that what it means for something to be morally right is that it is met with approval by the person(s) of interest. (This can lead to the belief that different things are right according to each idiosyncratic moral outlook.) One implication of these beliefs is that, unlike the moral skeptic or the non-cognitivist, the subjectivist thinks that ethical sentences, while subjective, are nonetheless the kind of thing that can be true or false depending on whose approval is being discussed.

See alsoEdit


  1. Brandt 1959, p. 153: "[Objectivism and subjectivism] have been used more vaguely, confusedly, and in more different senses than the others we are considering. We suggest as a convenient usage, however, that a theory be called subjectivist if and only if, according to it, any ethical assertion implies that somebody does, or somebody of a certain sort under certain conditions would, take some specified attitude toward something."
  2. "moral subjectivism is that species of moral relativism that relativizes moral value to the individual subject".Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. That is a moral precept can be relative to an individual, but not relative to circumstances
  4. Brandt 1959, p. 154: "A subjectivist, clearly, can be either an absolutist or a relativist."


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