Fyfe comments illustrate very clearly the danger of the fantasy of moral objectivism. A physician has an enormous amount of power over her patients. Allowing her to use that power to impose her own moral beliefs on her patients is very troubling.
Fyfe is correct, in a sense: If moral statements were indeed objective truths, then the ethical contract we currently expect from physicians, that they will treat us to our own benefit, and not theirs, is obviously absurd (similarly absurd would be the ethical contract that lawyers will represent their clients' interests, not their own). If moral statements were objective truths, then it would just as absurd to ask a physician to respect any of our moral beliefs as it would be to ask him to respect our beliefs about treatment contrary to good scientific practice.
Epistemic fuzziness cannot rescue us here. Just as the mean of the sample collected is always the best estimate of the population mean, our beliefs about the truth are always the best estimate we have of the actual truth. Even when a physician is wrong about what actually is the best treatment, she still has an obligation to treat us as according to her best understanding of scientific medicine. Likewise, if moral statements are actually true, a physician would be obliged to implement her moral beliefs as her best estimate of moral truth.
My previous physician was fairly upfront about being an evangelical Christian. It's not true of all evangelical Christians, but many do in fact consider atheism to be deeply and dangerously immoral. Should I thus not have trusted her to give me good medical advice according to my own well-being?
Of course, all of the above is predicated on moral statements really being objectively truth-apt. But they're not, of course--or at least no one has discovered any basis for knowing the specific objective truth of any moral statement. Objectivists such as Fyfe seem always to gloss over this little detail:
I know full well that there are theories that hold that moral statements have no truth value. I have no space in this posting to refute those theories.They never have space, and they seem to phrase their assertion in terms of refuting subjectivism. This refutation typically consists of, "Everybody thinks that moral statements are objectively true, therefore the burden of proof is on the subjectivist to prove they're not." Of course, it's impossible to prove that there definitely isn't some unknown epistemic basis that could support moral objectivism. The objectivist thus is vindicated: We are entitled to consider our moral beliefs as the best estimate of objective truth even without any sort of epistemic basis to actually do so.
Fyfe will naturally object that he has an epistemic basis. I've been reading him for years, mostly on Internet Infidels: He's a very nice guy, always earnest and serious, but I'm frankly unimpressed with his "desire utilitarianism". I'll be taking a closer look at this philosophy in later posts.