The debate among members of the studio audience has wandered into questions about objectivity and subjectivity.
This is an area where I think that the concepts are so muddled and inconsistent that they are guaranteed to keep debates going indefiniately as participants talk past each other at every step.
At one point I had been asked to participate in two debates on the objectivity of ethics. In one case, I was billed as defending subjectivism, because I hold that there is no value without desires. That is to say, no desire (or brain-state) independent value exists in the universe.
At about the same time, in a second debate, I was held billed as the defender of moral objectivism. This is because I hold that moral properties are substantially independent of the beliefs or desires (mental states) of the speaker. They exist in the real world as properties that existed before the assessor was even born, and will continue to live long after his death.
The way that this happened is that I tend to shun labels. I simply declared that I will present my views and allow people to determine how they want to categorize me.
People do not, in fact, all have the same understanding of subjetivism. So, some people hold a definition of subjectivism where they classify me as a subjectivist. Others use a definition of subjectivism that results in their classifying me as an objectivist.
These are not inconsistent views. While I hold that moral properties are dependent on mental states, they are at the same time substantially independent of the mental states of the speaker. They are dependent, instead, on the desires that people generally have the most and strongest reasons to promote or inhibit.
There is a discoverable fact of the matter regarding how these desires relate to each other that is substantially indepdendent of the beliefs and desires of the assessor.
Intentional actions are explained by the interaction of beliefs and desires.
Beliefs and desires are propositional attitude. A belief that P is the attitude that P is true. A desire that P is a motivational state that drives the agent to create or preserve states of affairs in which P is true.
Desires are the only reasons for action that exist.
People act so as to fulfill the most and the strongest of their desires, given their beliefs. However, they seek to act so as to fulfill the most and strongest of their desires.
We know that (beliefs and) desires exist because we use them to fairly reliably explain and predict a huge set of real-world observations - intentional actions.
Desires are the only (ends-producing) reasons for action that exist. If there are any other, ends-producing reasons for action, let me know what evidence there is of their existence.
Some maleable desires tend to fulfill the desires of others, Those others, then, have reasons to act so as to promote those desires.
Some maleable desires tend to thwart the desires of others. Those others, then, have reason to act so as to inhibit those desires.
The tools for promoting the first type of desire and inhibiting the latter type of desire are praise, condemnation, reward, and punishment.
The fact that a desire tends to fulfill other desires means that people generally have motivating reasons to promote those desires using the tools described above. That fact that a desire tends to thwart other desires means that people generally have motivating reason to inhibit that desire using those same tools.
You can call me a subjectivist if you wish - based on the fact that I deny the existence of desire-independent reasons for action. However, do not equivocate from this to the conclusion that I am the type of subjectivist who denies the existence of moral facts - that all it takes for the rape of a child to be "right for me" is for me to adopt a particular attitude towards the rape of a child.
You can call me an objectivist if you wish - based on the fact that I assert that there are moral facts and that those facts are substantially independent of the beliefs or desires of the assessor. However, do not equivocate from this to the conclusion that I hold that there are desire-independent values - some sort of intrinsic prescriptivity that adheres to states of affairs independent of any human mental state.