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By Bernard Mayo

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Sample text

We could try the language of preference which worked with evaluative expressions, and say that 'You ought to move your queen' means something like 'If I were you, I (and any other compe- tent chess-player) would prefer moving my queen to leaving it where it is', but this is highly unnatural; since there are only two possibilities (to move or not to move) there is no real scale of preference. What is at the back of 'You ought to do X', whether in moral or non-moral cases, is not a standard, but a principle.

Nowell- Smith, Ethics. -31- CHAPTER III ETHICAL RELATIVISM 1. The Independence of Moral Standards The question of Ethical Relativism is not so simple as it is often represented to be in ethics textbooks. ' What is not so easy is to see exactly what these questions mean, indeed how many different meanings they can have. One purpose of my discussion of standards and principles was to put us in a better position to see what sorts of questions can be asked about them. The chief reason why people want to say that there are absolute standards is the belief that without them there is no such thing as morality at all.

Suppose I do wish to compare two things, but can do so only by comparing each with a third, which I take as a standard. For example, in the case of the two ____________________ 1 Introduction to Ethics, pp. 116 -17. -39sticks, if they cannot be brought together for direct comparison, then I must use some third object which can be carried from one to the other, such as a measuring-rod. We may call this third object a standard, but there is nothing 'absolute' about it. The measuring rod need not be, in fact cannot be, an absolute standard.

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