Agustin, Eric Datu. (2008). Answers from Mackie & Murdoch’s Ethics. Manila, Philippines:
Eilvu Gimatria Philosophy Paper Pub.
MACKIE’S & MURDOCH’S ETHICS1,2
By Eric Datu Agustin3 a.k.a. Eilvu Gimatria
Keywords: Mackie, Murdoch, Ethics, Inventing Right and Wrong, Metaphysics as A Guide to
Morals, Ethics. Ethical Theories, Philosophy of Ethics
Mackie, John L. Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong. London: Pelican Books, 1977.
Murdoch, Iris O. Metaphysics as A Guide to Morals. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1992.
Eric D. Agustin is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of the East, Manila, Philippines. He is presently a
Ph.D. Education candidate at the University of the Philippines, Quezon City. He holds a MAEd in Administration and
Supervision from the Tarlac State University. He is a PRC licensed secondary school science teacher. He has been a Licensure
Exam for Teachers (LET) coordinator and reviewer, researcher, Physics teacher, science coach, computer instructor, and chess
coach. His research interests are in the fields of educational philosophy, educational management, and research and evaluation.
(Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.)
CONTEMPORARY ETHICAL THEORY
I. From the discussions of Mackie and Murdoch, what three questions do you think
encompass what should be the essential issues any ethical theory must answer?
II. How would you answer these questions?
Question 1. Is morality (more specifically, moral values or the good) (1) subjective and (2.a)
universalizable according to Mackie,i or (2.b) transcendental according to
1. As to the provision of an outright, oversimplified, quasi-direct answer to the query
above, according to Mackie, “There are no objective values” iii... “Moral judgments are
equivalent to reports of the speaker’s own feelings or attitude” and that, “we simply
have to guard against the (different) misinterpretations which subjectivism or scepticism
may suggest.”iv While for the second (2) sub-query whether values are universalizable,
“it may be part of the meaning of moral statements"v that they are, but, “there are also
ontological”vi questions of meaning. [At this practical juncture, the first (subjectivity of
values) and the second (universalizability of values) sub-queries will be dealt with
parenthetically with his error theory of ethics (ETE), on Q#2.] While for Murdoch, she
hinted at values being subjective by making a distinction between fact and value: “…
value… to keep it pure and untainted, not derived or mixed with empirical facts… (Big
world of facts, little peripheral are of value.)”vii
2. Mackie was “discussing”viii the second order moral view (SOMV) or meta-ethics, “a view
about the status of moral values and the nature of moral valuing, about how they fit into
the world… with regard to the objectivity specifically of value (OSV), not with regard to
the objectivity of those natural, factual, differences on the basis of which differing
values are assigned.”ix Instantiatably, to Mackie’s standpoint of moral skepticism or
subjectivism of that sort, he stated that: “A man could hold strong moral views…
Conversely, a man could reject all established morality...” x The former is an objective
conformist (FOMV), and the latter, a subjectivist (SOMV). On the other hand,
Murdoch only suggestion is our need for a “moral vocabulary, a detailed value of