Essay on Nature and Subject of Moral Judgement

Nature of Moral Judgement:

The mental form of a sentence is called Judgement. But Judgements are of many types. Moral Judgement is different from every other judgement. Compared to others, it has the following characteristics:

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(i) Moral Judgements are axiological, not factual:

The Judgements of psychology, physics etc are related to facts. That the sun rises in the east is a factual judgement. Mahatma Gandhi was a man of character is an axiological Judgement.

In this way, moral judgement is what ought to be and not what is. It is imperative not descriptive. It is a mental process which discusses the goodness or badness of an activity.

(ii) Moral Judgements are normative:


Science is either normative or positive. Ethics is a normative science. In the words of Muirhead, “It is concerned with the Judgement upon conduct, the judgement that such and such a conduct is right or wrong. It deals with conduct as the subject of judicial judgement, not with conduct merely, as predicated in time.

(iii) Moral Judgement is ‘on’ an activity not about:

According to Mackenzie, the nature of moral Judgement is not just like the one called physical, it does not pronounce judgement about but upon something. In moral judgement, we judge the goodness of some activity on the basis of a special criterion.

(iv) Moral Judgement is internation:

Before pronouncing a moral judgement on act we place it upon the ethical standard and then we judge its goodness or badness from it. But this does not mean that argument is necessary on every subject. In common matters we know the ethical or moral value of an art by insight or intuition. Only in profound and doubtful subject it is necessary to present the criteria distinctly in order to apply it.

Subject of Moral Judgement:

According to Mackenzie, the subject of moral Judgement is the point of view from which an action is judge to be good or bad. Whenever a subject is willing to do some act, he has a particular view point.

his view point is the subject of moral judgement. But to say what is the subject of moral judgement is to inquire about the person who declares the moral judgement. The subject of moral judgement is ratinal or the ideal self and it pronounces judgement upon the motive and intention of others on less than his own.

Shaftesbury’s Opinion:

Shaftesbury’s credited the moral connoisseur with being the subject of normal judgement. According to him, it is only this connoisseur which can judge an act in regard to its beauty or ugliness. Here, either this connoisseur is intellectual self or distinct from it. If it is the intellectual self, then the subject of moral judgement is the intellectual self. Even if it is not the intellectual self, the latter must still be the subject of moral Judgement because if the connoisseur is true then its judgement must be acceptable to the rational or the ideal self.

Opinion of Adam Smith:

According to Adam Smith, the individual himself is the subject of moral judgement in the form of an impartial spectator. This impartial spectator is the highest determinant or Judge of our actions. It is no other than the intellectual or ideal self of man.

Moral and religious persons consider this as an element of God in man. It is this that was Christ to St. Paul and Rama to Gandhiji, Religious people take direction from this in times of trouble. In the words of Adam Smith, ‘When I endeavour to examine my own conduct, I divide myself, as it were, into two persons, I, the examiner and Judge represents, a different character from the other I, the person whose conduct is being examined and judged. The first is the spectator, the second is the agent.

The first is the judge, the second the person Judged of. The rational or ideal self is the subject of moral Judgement and it is from this stand point that morality of actions is judged.

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