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Does Objective Morality Exist?

Morality

  • Objective

    Votes: 19 41.3%
  • Subjective

    Votes: 27 58.7%

  • Total voters
    46

anagram.nagaram

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I want to settle this once and for all by tapping into the infinite wisdom of Agora.

I tend to argue from the viewpoint of objectivity for the following reasons:
  1. All people are aware of the fact that they can commit evil.
  2. All people know when evil is being done to them.
  3. The existence of moral disagreements is not proof of subjective morality. Rather it is evidence of free will. Example: the disputes regarding abortion are not whether it is right or wrong but rather it is murder or not.
  4. From a naturalist perspective, the universe is made possible by consistency and laws. If these laws were not absolute then the universe could not exist.
 
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handoferis

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Example: the disputes regarding abortion are not whether it is right or wrong but rather it is murder or not.
idk I think this is a bad example to illustrate your point, as the whole point of subjective morality is that morality is conditioned by the society you're in. The abortion debate is a debate within a society.

People seem to think that subjective morality is on an individual basis, but i always thought of it more like this:

Let's take the example of eating dogs - I personally find it morally reprehensible, I'm sure if I asked anyone in my country whether eating dogs was morally ok, the answer would be a resounding "No chance", but if you asked that same question in say, Vietnam, it wouldn't be as clear cut. Is someone that eats a dog in Vietnam an amoral nightmare person? Probs not, they just have a different cultural background where that sort of thing is largely normal.
 
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InsufferableCynic

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1. In order to make moral decisions, humans are required to analyse situations
2. Situational analysis requires sensory information
3. Sensory information is by definition subjective
4. Therefore, morality has a subjective component
5. Therefore, morality is not objective.

If you don't like sensory information and feel like you can use pure logic instead, try this one

1. In order to make moral decisions, humans are required to logically analyse situations
2. Logical decision making relies on information
3. Access to information is contingent on the subjective experiences of a given human
4. Therefore, moral decision making is subjective.

Don't get me wrong, I am not arguing for an "anything goes" system. You can make a decision based on as much logic, facts, and empathy as you want. I encourage that. To me, that seems the closest we can get to objective morality. Also keep in mind subjective morality does NOT mean arbitrary morality (this is a common mistake religious people make when arguing against "human" morality). Just because I need to rely on my experience and my decision making doesn't mean that murder being wrong is suddenly a matter of opinion, even if whether or not a given situation counts as murder might be a lot less clear cut.

This is also why we don't hold mentally handicapped people to the same moral standards as everyone else. If morality was objective, what they do would be equally as moral or immoral as everyone else. But because they are largely incapable of moral decision making, they cannot be considered immoral. This also makes "moral" the default position - everything is moral until it can be reasonably inferred that it was done with ill-intent or was designed to cause harm, then it becomes immoral. I'm fine with that. Things like negligence are a lot less clear cut.

This is why I consider "Objective" vs "Subjective" to be largely meaningless. I don't like/use the terms because everything we experience (and thus reason about) is inherently subjective, making it largely ill-defined. A moral system based on personal experience that attempts to analyse situations and apply empathy is subjective, as is a completely arbitrary system where people do what they feel like, which to me undermines the value of the Objectivity/Subjectivity debate, because "subjective" can mean anything from well reasoned moral positions based on experience to complete anarchy. I much prefer to define a ruleset, such as "give everyone the maximum freedom unless it can be shown to negatively affect others", even if it's arbitrary, to analyse things within using pure logic, then everything inside that box becomes """objective""". It's not a strict definition, and makes philosophers cry, but it's useful, and IMO is the closest we can get to objectivity.

Also consider, if morality is objective, we should be able to inherently measure the "moralityness" of something. In a universe with 1 human, everything is inherently moral, so this "moralityness" doesn't exist.

"Objective morality", in fact morality itself, is a luxury of living in a healthy society. When people are put in situations where they have to do bad things to survive, morality becomes a lot more fluid, as people have to judge degrees of harm from a collection of bad actions, rather than good vs bad options. Morality itself seems to be a series of rules we effectively made up as a collective society for the benefit of everyone. I don't think there's anything special underlying that. It's good that we have these rules, but I'm not going to pretend we are tapping into some inherent aspect of the universe or anything.

Also, OP, I disagree with your first premise. Young children, psychopaths, and mentally deficient people are often not aware of the fact that they can commit evil. Even if they are aware of that high-level fact, they may not be able to determine if a given action is evil or not. The second premise suffers from the same problem. The argument is also a non-sequitor. What does the existence of universal, physical laws have to do with objective morality?

Also, the debate around abortion is inherently one about whether or not it's right/wrong. Determining whether it's murder is also determining whether it's right or wrong, because by being murder it is inherently wrong.
 
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anagram.nagaram

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idk I think this is a bad example to illustrate your point, as the whole point of subjective morality is that morality is conditioned by the society you're in. The abortion debate is a debate within a society.

People seem to think that subjective morality is on an individual basis, but i always thought of it more like this:

Let's take the example of eating dogs - I personally find it morally reprehensible, I'm sure if I asked anyone in my country whether eating dogs was morally ok, the answer would be a resounding "No chance", but if you asked that same question in say, Vietnam, it wouldn't be as clear cut. Is someone that eats a dog in Vietnam an amoral nightmare person? Probs not, they just have a different cultural background where that sort of thing is largely normal.
Thanks for taking the time to respond.

I see your point that using a moral difference between societies instead of within societies is more useful to my argument.

I think that your example shows the differences within cultures but the underpinning morality is still there. We don't eat our friends. In my country, dogs are elevated to the title of man's best friend and have a special bond with their owners. If for example, I was hunting in the Pacific Northwest and shot a wolf, I wouldn't think twice about eating the meat. So what's the difference, they're both canines.

This is not to say we cannot eat our friends (some people do) but you would be hard-pressed to find an entire society that choses to act in this way.
 
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handoferis

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'But in fact it is only the believer in the old-fashioned natural moral law who could be a social radical and a progressive. He alone can say to a Hitler, or a Saddam Hussein, "You and your whole social order are wrong and wicked and deserve to be destroyed." The relativist could only say, "Different strokes for different folks, and I happen to hate your strokes and prefer mine, that's all."'

I could go through this whole page but this one really stood out to me as notably un-self-aware. This isn't evidence for absolute morality, it's evidence for projecting your own morality onto others, and when it doesn't work, imposing it by force. (Especially in the case of Saddam Hussein, who yeah, wasn't the most savory of guys but are we supposed to believe absolute morality made it better when we gave Iraq ISIS instead?)

Like most arguments for objective morality that come out of religious people, this page presupposes that this guy's favorite book is the real, 'natural' morals. I guess it's pretty easy to get into that frame of mind when you've already decided that there is one, ultimate, truth - but I find it hard to imagine it's that clear cut. Everyone wants to believe their morals are the most important at the end of the day, and this always colors discussions like this.

That is to say, to go back to the eating of dogs analogy, you can both be mad that people are eating dogs in other countries, while also acknowledging that they have a different culture that is why they eat dogs, and they're probably not bad people, but you can still think eating dogs bad. You can even try to change it! People do! There are loads of Western orgs trying to end dog-eating in Vietnam (and indeed, pet owners in Vietnam who have different ideas about dogs). That still doesn't make your position naturally and absolutely right, you're still just trying to convince other people that their position is wrong, whether you do it with words, stacks of cash, or bullets.

That being said, I think there is likely some largely agreed upon things (like don't murder etc) mostly just because the people that disagreed at the time didn't really get very far in terms of surviving as a culture. If you're the "murder is ok" culture and you all kill each other, you're not really gonna be around several thousand years later to keep practicing those principles, and you're certainly not likely to develop to the point where you decide to write it down.
 
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If objective morality doesn't exist, therefore neither do good and evil, every relation becomes a game of power, a battle of the wills.
This isn't evidence for the existence of objective morality but the implications of its inexistence are quite dire.
 
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gathermore

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I want to settle this once and for all by tapping into the infinite wisdom of Agora.

I tend to argue from the viewpoint of objectivity for the following reasons:
  1. All people are aware of the fact that they can commit evil.
  2. All people know when evil is being done to them.
  3. The existence of moral disagreements is not proof of subjective morality. Rather it is evidence of free will. Example: the disputes regarding abortion are not whether it is right or wrong but rather it is murder or not.
  4. From a naturalist perspective, the universe is made possible by consistency and laws. If these laws were not absolute then the universe could not exist.
Morality for is me is always related to goals.
You form a group of independent agents with a common prediction of the future, and then they act on plans in which members then commit acts of service to the group in order to be better prepared for said future state.
When someone is "immoral/evil" they are acting against the agreed upon goal to the detriment of the others.
You feel evil when you sacrifice longer term plans for shorter ones, generally.

But it gets shady because acts committed against the out-group are never "immoral/evil" because there aren't the elements of consent and self-sacrifice.

The group which is the most consistent/durable/intelligent will be the most moral.
The in-group NEEDS to BELIEVE with 100% certainty that their moral code they have established is objective. Even if the broader universe is separate groups with different morals, thus making them subjective.

Morals are the things you serve that are higher than the ego. You can pick whichever you like (subjective), but the set of the beliefs which yield a group that can sustainably perpetuate itself are supreme (objective).
 
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UCD

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If objective morality doesn't exist, therefore neither do good and evil, every relation becomes a game of power, a battle of the wills.
This isn't evidence for the existence of objective morality but the implications of its inexistence are quite dire.
Ever heard of the world wars? Crazy stuff
 
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gwen

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There may be moral propositions that apply universally to suitably defined agents, but their application would always depend on context and require judgment. So "objective morality" could exist, but only abstractly: any real-life action with a moral valence involves a contingent and subjective component. On the other hand, if we admit the existence of such transcendent principles, there may an optimal way to incarnate them, which we could perhaps call "objective" in the sense of being "as objective as possible". But I think it would probably amount to a weaker ethical system, in terms of the duties it imposes, than proponents of absolutist moral doctrines tend to favor. And practically speaking, anyone who claims to know an objective moral system is almost certainly trying to control you, for reasons they probably don't understand and would never admit to.
 

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Wow this time i was surprise, i actually expected the majority to vote about "objective" morality, with all of these neo-con andl alt-right political simpathies some people has, my respects agora road jackasses pepsimanthumbsup

In my opinion, is relative, i do not believe in the idea of good or evil, only right and wrong in the eyes of the law, there are some things they are obviously wrong, like homicide, rape, robbing etc, but they are some that are not bad at all, i believe that if something doesn't affect anyone but you, then it's not bad or evil at all, if something affects to someone else, if the intentions are for progress and improvement in society, then the end justifies the means and i don't care what people has to say, i always follow my own moral compass, nuke the whales.
 
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MarchToTheSea

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yes, objective morality has always existed. "gray areas" only exist for an excuse for people to do evil.

"it depends" is eh...i mean, youre really inviting evil shit to happen when you do that
 
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I don't think it's possible to articulate a truly moral position on anything unless you're willing to apply that position universally. Anything less is just a strong personal conviction. It might be a good or socially conscious conviction, but if you don't sincerely believe that it should be a universal law it's not a moral position.
 
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Andy Kaufman

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Objective Morality does not exist but we should all act as if it does. That's the whole reason why Faith and Religion are useful tools.

When you act on subjective morality, you can justify doing things that harm other people or the community.
If you act on objective morality (depending on the set of these morals) you will have a better functioning society.
A simple example is murder. Objectively, murder can be subjectively justified and there's no divine punishment for it. But if people THINK there is, they will have a much harder time coming to the conclusion to murder someone.
In today's society we solved this mostly by laws because many people base Right and Wrong on the law and we as a community decided to outlaw things we would like to consider objectively bad (theft, murder, rape etc.)
 
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L. Rhodes

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If I am to be honest, I would like for the truth to be that objective morality exists, even though most experiences trend towards subjectivity; perhaps, though, that is just my inner authoritarian revealing itself.

With that in mind, I think that what this person said:
Objective Morality does not exist but we should all act as if it does. That's the whole reason why Faith and Religion are useful tools.
When you act on subjective morality, you can justify doing things that harm other people or the community.
If you act on objective morality (depending on the set of these morals) you will have a better functioning society.
is most reasonable.

I would prefer morality to be objective, simply because I don't want to kill people nor do I want others to kill, for example. I think that one of the reasons people enforce morality in the first place is because they fear the plausible deniability of any act not being necessarily "wrong".

Others ITT have raised admittedly good reasons for subjectivity, but they all mention that they themselves condemn the most universally hated things. It's really a battle between the "live and let live" mentality versus the "live and let die" mentality.

I often find myself as subjective, while always fearful of someone objective trying to enforce their will upon others even though it has no more or less value than the ones they are exerting onto. As such, I want to objectively stop them.
Other times, I find myself as objective, yet always conflicted on whether what I believe is right or not, and I always have a sneaking suspicion that I'm not seeing the bigger picture; I always try to see both sides of the argument. As such, I also want to view things from a subjective lense.
 
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gwen

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Objective Morality does not exist but we should all act as if it does. That's the whole reason why Faith and Religion are useful tools.

When you act on subjective morality, you can justify doing things that harm other people or the community.
If you act on objective morality (depending on the set of these morals) you will have a better functioning society.
A simple example is murder. Objectively, murder can be subjectively justified and there's no divine punishment for it. But if people THINK there is, they will have a much harder time coming to the conclusion to murder someone.
In today's society we solved this mostly by laws because many people base Right and Wrong on the law and we as a community decided to outlaw things we would like to consider objectively bad (theft, murder, rape etc.)
I think the inverse is more true: it does exist but we should act as if it doesn't. Collective judgements must be tempered with humility or you end up with conquistadores and concentration camps and Magdalene Laundries. Removed from its natural milieu within the individual conscience and made public, morality becomes monstrous and void. "Remove the plank from your own eye". Trust that the author of truth is competent to be its administrator.
 

handoferis

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Objective Morality does not exist but we should all act as if it does. That's the whole reason why Faith and Religion are useful tools.

When you act on subjective morality, you can justify doing things that harm other people or the community.
If you act on objective morality (depending on the set of these morals) you will have a better functioning society.
A simple example is murder. Objectively, murder can be subjectively justified and there's no divine punishment for it. But if people THINK there is, they will have a much harder time coming to the conclusion to murder someone.
In today's society we solved this mostly by laws because many people base Right and Wrong on the law and we as a community decided to outlaw things we would like to consider objectively bad (theft, murder, rape etc.)
idk about anyone else, but the reason I'm not going round raping and murdering isn't because I'm afraid of the police or some kind of eternal judgement after I die, it's just cause I want to leave the world a better place than I found it, and above all, I want to be able to sleep at night.

Others ITT have raised admittedly good reasons for subjectivity, but they all mention that they themselves condemn the most universally hated things. It's really a battle between the "live and let live" mentality versus the "live and let die" mentality.
I wouldn't even really say that, it is more in my mind being able to understand that other people do things differently. I can still think they're wrong, even to the point of wanting to stop them. Like I think ISIS are probably moral in their own heads, according to their moral code, but I still think what they've been up to is bullshit and I would wholeheartedly support them taking a Hellfire missile to the face. This is just my version of morals, and my morals include giving no quarter to the kind of people that'd force women to not go to school / be chaperoned by men everywhere. It's a case of two units (people, cultures, whatever) with two moral codes disagreeing about morals, rather than either side having divine right or natural right or something like that.
 
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punishedgnome

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I don't think there is a single objective set of morals, but I do think having a set of common morals is conducive to building a functional society. I think a lot of the things you are stating as objective morals only exist as objective morals in your mind because you were raised in a society built around Judeo-Christian values. There are still societies in the world where raping your enemy's wife, for example, would be considered A-OK, and if you went to those people and made a broad statement that rape is morally wrong, they would think you were insane.

I think a lot of the things we feel with regards to empathy toward others is just eons of evolutions baked into your DNA making you and those around you feel empathetic toward each other because you have a greater chance of survival as a group than as individuals. So over time those who were more empathetic and gravitated toward the group were more likely to pass on their DNA, resulting in a situation today where most people feel some form of empathy toward others around them as a survival mechanism. Don't get me wrong, I feel feelings like guilt and have a sense of right and wrong just like everyone else, I'm just saying I think those feelings exist within me more as a survival mechanism as opposed to being the result of any kind of objective morality.

I think if you read the New Testament of the Bible with a cold eye and take it as more metaphorical as opposed to something to be taken at face value, it is presenting a set of morals that will build a stable society. It encourages you to settle disputes non-violently, to share, to show compassion and to respect women and children. I think the desire to build such a society comes from that survival mechanism I was talking about. You are more likely to survive than your ancestors because we have built a society that keeps most people alive into old age, and the fact that it keeps most people alive gives you incentive to participate and follow the rules of the society.


As a side note, I think the west has determined, correctly, that most reasonable way attempt to determine what is moral in such a society is to develop a basic set of inalienable individual rights(Rights to speech, life, liberty, property movement, etc), and then have a government based on a rational form of utilitarianism, where government actions are based on providing the most utility to the most people without violating our basic set on individual liberties.

Without individual liberties and the ability to accumulate wealth an property, people lack any motivation work hard and be productive. This was one of the major contributing factors that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Any society where property can be owned and traded will develop some form of free-market economy. Any free market economy will have different degrees of winners and losers. Without a utilitarian aspect to governance, where things are created for the greater utility of the general population (public roads, a welfare state, public healthcare, anti-pollution laws etc.), you'll end up with situations where large swaths of the population comes out on the loser side of the economy and have nothing to keep them from falling to zero. Falling to zero tends to lead to desperation which tends to lead to crime.

A state governed solely by individual liberties with no regard for any sort of greater good would quickly because unstable and the have nots would rise up violently against the haves. Once any person reaches a certain point of destitution, they will resort to violence. I know, for example if my only options were to kill someone else and take their shit or have my children starve, I would absolutely kill another person and take their shit. You could play big man on the Internet and say, "I'd never do that." but the fact of the matter is you feel that way because you have never had to worry about that issue, thanks in part to the various utilitarian policies of western governments.

Likewise, a society runs on pure utilitarianism would be out of control with individuals liberty being sacrificed for the good of others. The classic example is you have four people who need different organs, so the morally justifiable course of action under pure utilitarianism would be to sacrifice a healthy person against their will to save the four that need organs, maximizing utility. This is obviously insane.

But again, I don't think any of this is objectively moral. I just think a society that strikes the right balance makes it less likely that someone is going to eat my face on the way to work.
 
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