Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that morality is subjective. What are the consequences of this position?
- A particular moral system is not universally believed.
- A particular moral system is not universally binding.
- No one can persuade anyone else to adopt their particular moral system.
- No one can dissuade anyone else from committing acts that appear morally repugnant to the former.
- The law loses its foundation (law presupposes binding morality).
- If the law loses its foundation, crime may increase (though not crime in the moral sense).
- If the law loses its foundation, punishment of crime loses its foundation. Punishment will no longer be “justified”.
- Presuppositional logic (implicature) will be adversely affected.
- There will be a psychological disjunction between the “conviction” that X is morally wrong in all cases (or in principle) and the “knowledge” that X is not morally wrong in an objective sense.
The list could go on, but these are the significant issues. While conversations around these areas can be productive, they require a meeting of the minds. When many unbelievers ask why morality should be objective, we should not be drawn into answering that question unnecessarily. Oftentimes the question behind it has more to do with a particular sin or wound that the questioner is dealing with. Attempts to support a subjective morality have more to do with excusing a particular problem than they do with a concern about the philosophical basis for our moral value judgements.
It is also interesting to note that most people – when in a neutral situation – make a distinction between justice and the law of the land. If legal positivism were true, the phrase “unjust law” would be incoherent. One could argue that it is incoherent and we have not noticed it, but it seems to me that the burden of proof lies one the person who seeks to prove its incoherence, not on the person who assumes its coherence.
“A law can be unjust”: is this an analytic statement or a synthetic one? We need to consider what someone means by this statement – is it in reference to the content of a law or its application?