Is morality subjective or objective?

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by Sarkus, Dec 2, 2021.

  1. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    There is no objective answer to this. It is immoral for you if you think it is. For someone else, they may not consider it immoral.
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  3. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    That's not quite right.

    Objective doesn't mean that absolutely everybody has to agree. For example, anti-vaxxers believe that vaccines cause autism. Objectively, that is not true, despite the fact that some small but not insignificant portion of the population believes the opposite.

    It is the same with morals. If you think it's just fine to do something that 99% of other people disapprove of, on moral grounds, then you're the outlier, and we can say that, objectively, it is immoral.

    If you're going to subscribe to an extreme form of relativism when it comes to morals, such that anything goes as long as it's "true for you", then I puzzle over why you don't equally regard all your other beliefs (and - importantly - those that other people hold, which disagree with yours) as just as valid, as long as they are "true for you".

    I think that people who assert that all of morality is relative are usually wanting to make excuses for something they know most people would disapprove of.
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Please point to where I have said that it does? Whether something is objective or subjective, greement is irrelevant. Objective/subjective is about the reality, not about what is believed about the reality. If something is objective then the reality is the same for everyone, irrespective of perspective. If X is objective then X is the reality for everyone. If people don't believe X to be the case then X doesn't stop being objective.
    You're very good at raising strawmen, JamesR. Maybe you should spend more time actually reading and understanding what people have written. It will save you time typing out irrelevancies.
    No, we can't. A shared subjectivity is not the same as something being objective. If, in any world, one can come up with a different viewpoint such that X is no longer the reality, then it is not objective, even if every person holds, due to their own perspective, X to be the reality.
    I'm not even sure it's worth unpacking this mess of strawman and unsupported accusations. But heck, it's an otherwise lazy Sunday morning...
    1. I don't subscribe to any extreme form of relativism - unless, of course, you're trying to assert (a) that I hold to moral relativism, and (b) that moral relativism is itself an extreme philosophy? If you do, perhaps you want to justify them further, and show your evidence, so that we can at least be sure you have a reasonable grasp of that which you criticise, beyond what would seem to be your rather naive interpretation of it thus far here.
    2. Where do you get the idea that I don't equally regard all other beliefs as just as valid? I'm not saying this is true about me, but you have claimed that I don't, and I want you to support that accusation, and when you do you should consider the following point:...
    3. People can believe things that are objectively false, whether through stupidity, ignorance, delusion etc. Moral relativism doesn't mean that you hold every belief to be subjective, that everything one believes is somehow valid as long as it's "true for you". If what is "true for you" is objectively false, then the belief is false. Moral relativism is the viewpoint that morals are subjective - i.e. that what one considers to be moral is open to change, is likely based on the culture in which you grow up etc, and that there are no morals that are not open to such debate.

    First, and unsurprisingly, yet another strawman from you. Where have I said that all morals are relative? The answer I gave, if you read it carefully, is in response to a specific question. Did I say "there is no objective answer 'cos all morals are subjective"? Or did I, to the specific question about watching adult movies, say that [in my view, clearly] there was no objective answer to it, and that I thus considered this specific moral question to be subjective?
    Now, if you want to take an answer to a specific question and assume that one holds it true of all moral question, then you are creating a strawman. Please try not to do that.
    For the record, though: had you asked, rather than just assumed and created your strawman, I would have confirmed that yes, I consider all morals to be relative. I am a moral relativist. I do think that there are many morals that we, as a population, share a subjective view of, but, to stress again, popularity does not make something objective.

    Second, most Americans, per this article at least, are moral relativists. I would wager that even you are, once you realise what it actually means and entails, rather than your naive characterisation thus far presented.
    In fact, I would wager that even you are a moral relativist, and that you will realise that once you get to grips, for example, with the difference between a popular shared subjectivity and something being objective. I.e. once you are not clearly so ignorant of that which you criticise (now where have I heard that said of you before?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement

    to hide all adverts.
  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Let's put this in context for a moment, shall we?

    The OP question was "Is it immoral to watch adult movies?"
    Later, another question was put: "Is it immoral to watch in front of children below 12 years old?"

    Now, your response to the first question was "There is no objective answer to this. It is immoral for you if you think it is."

    Your answer avoids giving moral advice to the opening poster, who was, after all, asking for a specific question of application of morality, not for a meta-discussion of morality itself. It strikes me as a strange response.

    I wonder: would your response have been the same if the second question had been asked in the opening post?

    Are you really more concerned about having a discussion about the subjectivity of morals than you are about giving some moral guidance to somebody who seems to sorely need some?

    I will address the content of your reply to me next.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    No need to get all defensive. Notice that I did not accuse you of saying that.
    Is it an objective reality that most people consider watching porn in front of children morally wrong? Does that say anything about the objective morality of doing that, do you think?

    You have helpfully pointed out that just because 99% of people believe something - including something about morality - that doesn't mean it is necessarily an objectively true belief. So, with that in mind, do you think it could be true, perhaps, that watching porn in front of children is morally commendable behaviour, after all?

    Cutting to the chase just a little, if I may, can I ask you whether you think that ideas of morality have any application beyond how people choose to act? If not, then is there any scope for "objectivity" beyond looking at how people think about morality?

    To be honest, the problem I think I'm having with your position here is the analytical cold-bloodedness of it all. The implication of your position seems to me to be that if there is no objective morality, then nobody is on solid ground when they say something is morally commendable or reprehensible. You can always just respond "Aha! But morality is inevitably subjective, so one person's ideas about morality are just as good as another's." And not just you, of course. You're giving an implicit licence to everybody else to say the same thing.

    If you do that, on what basis would you justify locking somebody in jail for child abuse, say? Any reason you could give for why this might be justifiable could be met with with the response: "You say it's wrong, but I don't think it's wrong, and since there's no objective morality, by your own argument my point of view is just as valid as yours. Who are you to lock me up?"
    I don't think I made any accusations, and if I did I'm fairly confident I would try to support them.
    Good to hear. Then you'll have an opinion on the morality of adult movies and watching them with children, presumably? Maybe you could have started with that, instead. Just something to consider, next time.
    You do hold to moral relativism, by your own admission, do you not? And it sounds like you're the sort of person who might be aware that the theory of moral relativism can be expressed in both moderate and extreme ways. You might note that I used the word "If", and then I made a comment about a generic "you", referring to those who are at the "extreme" end of that continuum. Perhaps you thought I meant second-person singular "you" instead of second-person plural "you"?
    I don't think we need to go into it further at this point. Do you?
    Once again, I did not make any such accusation about you, personally.

    Is that true about you, personally? Do you regard all beliefs as equally valid? I'm assuming your answer to that is: no. And what of moral beliefs, then? What do you - second person singular - think about those? Just so we can avoid possible future misunderstandings.
    Personally, I do not believe that morality is entirely culture - nurture rather than nature. How about you?
    Since when is my making a comment about my own opinion, which starts with "I think" and is about "people" who do this or that, a strawman?

    How can my own opinion - clearly flagged as such - be a straw man? I'm wasn't even addressing something you said, there.
    I didn't make that accusation, either. Why are you taking this so personally?

    But let's clarify. Do you think all morals are relative, or not? And if not, then which morals are objective, in your opinion? And why?
    Ooh! Now I see why you're so defensive, maybe.

    I read it as the former. But now it seems you meant it as the latter. I'm sorry if my impression was mistaken. And please read the material above bearing in mind that this was my working assumption. I'll leave it as is, rather than editing, though, because I'm still interested in some of the issues raised.

    Given that, though, we still seem to be disagreeing about certain matters. Perhaps I'm wrong about that, though?
    I honestly thought that was what you were saying. My bad.
    Wow. This post of yours really takes some turns. So I was right all along. Serves me right for replying line-by-line, I guess. Still, it's an otherwise lazy Sunday evening...
    You're making assumptions about what I do and don't realise. Given how upset you got when you thought I was making assumptions about you, why haven't you considered your own behaviour in that regard, in your response to me?
    Are you jumping on Tiassa's bandwagon now? Has something I said about God offended you, too? Maybe we can discuss that in the other thread, if so.

    Enjoy the rest of your weekend, Sarkus!
  9. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I'm not here to second-guess what a poster's motives are, or what they are specifically looking for if they don't make it clear. And they didn't.
    This is a discussion forum, so if a question is raised that opens a path to a wider discussion, so be it, that is one path the thread can take. So stop being a jerk. My response was a legitimate one to the question asked.
    Instead of phrasing it like that, in your pointless passive aggressive manner, why not actually just ask me. Until you do, you can be left wondering, I guess.
    Yes, especially if such a discussion gives them the means to reach their own conclusion.
    Stop being so arrogant, JamesR. Sure, moral guidance might indeed be what they are looking for, but there is nothing in the question, or subsequent question he asked, that suggests even remotely that they are "sorely" in need of anything. So stop being so arrogant, conceited and condescending.
  10. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Notice - again - that I did not say that your response was illegitimate. Moreover, in my post above, I helpfully elaborated on exactly what issue I took with your response. That was one of the parts of my response you chose to ignore (or, at least, not respond to).

    And if you're going to throw the "jerk" thing around, perhaps you should ensure that you're at least operating at the higher moral standard that you demand of others, to start with.
    Fine. I'll keep wondering. You obviously feel that clarification of your position is unnecessary, for whatever reason.
    Do you think you provided Saint with the means to find an answer to the question he asked, then?
    I tend to meet arrogance with arrogance. It's a character flaw, I admit. I have some personal history with certain arrogant individuals, which tends to colour my attitudes, so I'm aware of where it comes from.
    Yes, you're right.

    However, perhaps you should bear in mind that I know Saint from outside this particular thread. That knowledge informs my opinions about him.
  11. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I'm not being defensive. I was giving you an opportunity to demonstrate that you have not simply erected a strawman. If noone has said something, then to argue against it is a fallacy. If you are trying to admit that I did not say it, then you are confirming that your argument is against a strawman.
    I would say so, currently at any rate.
    No. If morals are indeed subjective then no matter how much a moral view is shared it will not make it objective. Why would you think it would?
    No. I share the same moral viewpoint as probably 99% or more of the population on that matter. But I can't, and don't, speak for everyone.
    Morals are all about what one considers right or wrong. They are not the only factors in determining how we choose to act. One can override one's morals, although the strength of the moral will make such contrary actions increasingly more difficult and "painful".
    I'm not sure what you are getting at with the second part, though. Please elaborate, if you can?
    You mean that I don't enshroud the issue with emotion? Quite ironic in that I'm the one espousing the subjective nature of morality, don't you think. If you'd rather I appeal to emotion, or conclusion, etc, then you'll likely be disappointed.
    They are on solid enough ground when that which fuels the subjectivity at the time is itself sufficiently solid. Ultimately, no, it all shifts. Whether that is daily, yearly, every 100 years, with the rise and fall of cultures etc.
    If by "ideas about morality" you mean what they consider to be moral/immoral, then it really is something everyone has to determine for themselves. However, society generally adopts the majority view, and the laws and regulations of the society stem from that, although often in a feedback loop type of way. So no matter what an individual thinks is morally right or wrong, it is society that will ultimately judge them for the sake of that society.
    Because society as a whole presumably have a shared subjective morality that has led to the laws of the society stating that it is wrong. There are innumerous things that were illegal that people didn't think morally wrong. Homosexuality was morally acceptable in ancient times, then became widely seen as immoral, and now morally acceptable... at least in liberal societies. But within those societies will be people who hold it still to be immoral. Society's laws will change according to the weight of people sharing the same moral viewpoint. And it is society as a whole that determines what is legal or not. People still get punished by society for doing what they personally think is morally acceptable but society at large disagree.
    Society locks people up, irrespective of personal moral views. People will probably get locked up for having a late-term abortion in Texas, for example.
    Then you're not very good at recognising accusations, then, are you. Would it help if I referred to them as "claims about me", rather than accusations?
    You mean answer a question that hadn't yet been asked? Wow. You do realise that we're not all able to tell the future, especially in regard to what question Saint will ask next. Just something to consider, next time, eh!
    And it sounds like you're the sort of person who might be aware that the theory of moral relativism can be expressed in both moderate and extreme ways.[/quote]That's an odd way of putting across what I think you mean... or do you really mean that there are moderate and extreme ways of saying the same thing, and that the difference is merely in the way they are expressed?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Yes, I am aware of some of the "varieties" of moral relativism.
    So a strawman. Thanks for admitting as much.
    Sorry, are you referring to me, or to the generic "you" when you ask this question?
    See, you're being dishonest, JamesR. You're trying to weasel out of criticism by mixing who you meant by "you", and by expecting me to recognise each time.
    Which "we" are you referring to? Sarkus and JamesR, or the wider "we" of the community?
    Which "you" are you referring to? Sarkus, or the generic "you"?
    See how annoying it's going to get due to your dishonesty?

    But yeah, I think we do need to go further, JamesR. Your naive characterisation of the moral relativist, whether it was a strawman or not, requires it.
    Implicit, but they were made. Unless you're still going to try to weasel out via your dishonesty.
  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member


    Don't assume. Ask. Otherwise you'll be in more danger of creating more strawmen to keep you company.
    I certainly disagree with some views that people hold. But I don't know their background, their history, and all the other nuances of their existence that has led to them holding their moral position. And their moral view is as valid to them as mine is to me.
    I concur that it is not "entirely" culture, but based on culture, as in that being a significant, possibly the most signficant, factor.
    Ah, then there's the confusion: I thought you were being relevant to our discussion. My bad.
    Again, my bad: I thought you were being relevant to our discussion, and making more claims about me that you hadn't yet actually established. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being defensive about my views; I'm pointing out your habit of making unwarranted assumptions/accusations about someone without having established it first, and arguing against that assumption.
    Yes. I'm a moral relativist, in the general sense, that all morals are subjective.
    That would be difficult: you can't see what isn't there.
    I did, although I also adhere to the former. You just had no grounds to assume it as you did.
    It's that you assumed that I take issue with, not with what you assumed. Hence no defensiveness on my part.
    If you did realise, you would know that you are a moral relativist. I can't state it any more plainly than that. And that's not an assumption.
    Nothing to do with God. Not sure why you even brought that word up, as I'm reasonably sure you wouldn't argue for objective morality on the basis of "God".
    I have certainly read that other thread, though, or much of it. If some of the criticisms raised in that thread seem apt to allude to here, so be it. And at least you understood the reference.
    You too.
  13. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Again - I never said you did. But I am reminding you that is was a legitimate response, and the fact that you take any issue with it as a response is to bring that legitimacy into question. Hence the reminder.
    There is nothing to respond to. I read it. You expressed a view of what you felt my response should include. I saw no need for it. What more, exactly, do you want to me say about it, JamesR?
    If I hear something quacking, I'm fairly sure it's a duck.
    If you want to know, or want me to clarify, ask. If all you're going to do is "wonder" what my response would have been, without actually asking me, then you'll be left wondering.
    In a manner, yes. I don't suffer from cognitive dissonance to tell him what his moral position should be, given that I'm a moral relativist. So where is the answer to his specific question to be found? With himself. My response was a first step on that journey, should he wished to have embarked publically, and also, possibly, hopefully, to a wider discussion on the nature of morality itself.
    Again with the arrogance, unfortunately. You're not the only one who has dealt with Saint, either his inane questions or some of his more extreme views. Most of his questions can (and dare I say ideally should) be responded to as quickly and as briefly as possible, if at all. He can look up the answers to most in no time at all. But this, this was a chance to actually generate some meaningful discussion - and may still do (if you can stop making and arguing against assumptions

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Furthermore, bear in mind that it was you who took the bait of my initial response. It was you who chose to dispute what I wrote... and quite rightly if you hold a different view. Albeit you did so with strawmen, assumptions etc, as indicated. And then, maybe because you realised you had erred in your approach, if not your message, you chose to cast aspersions on the legitimacy (albeit not explicitly) of that hook. The issue here clearly isn't, nor has ever been, Saint himself.

    Now, if you want to have the broader discussion on morality, let's do so. Hi, I'm a moral relativist. I suspect you are, too, but just don't realise it yet, whether that is due to a confusion of what objective/subjective means, or of what it means to be a moral relativist. But we can get on to that.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Question: let's take a moral position that you hold. Can you imagine a world in which that moral position is not held?
    It may be long-winded to go through each and every moral position in turn, but it may be worth exploring one or two like this even just to get the ball rolling.

    So, let's take a moral position that we both agree on, something that we both consider to be immoral.
    Okay - can you imagine any world, any future possibility, any alternate reality, where it is not immoral to do so? No matter how alien to us, how abnormal we may currently find that world to be, can you imagine it?
    If you can then I contend that you are a moral relativist, and that what we share at the moment will be a widely (even 100%) subjective morality. Because even if 100% of the current population shared the same morality, that in itself does not make it objective.

    Care to explore? Or is the cold-bloodedness of my ability to analyse such matters too much for you to deal with?

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  14. billvon Valued Senior Member

    I don't think that's true. Even before most of the world had abolished slavery, it was still immoral. People who fought to end slavery were definitely the outliers back then, but I think it would be difficult to define them as immoral.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It sounds like you're arguing that morality has an objective component, which is a position I agree with.

    That is, some things are moral or immoral regardless of what the majority of people believe at any given time.
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I'm not really interested in responding to you line by line, so I will summarise what are the key points here, for me.

    This started with your post #6, where you basically said that something (specifically, in this case, watching porn) is "immoral for you if you think it is".

    I think that is a very weak position to hold on morality. What is wrong with it is the idea that what is moral and what is not is purely up to each individual, rather than to the wider society. In fact, morality only applies to how we relate to one another and to the world around us. We are not islands. Morality is not, fundamentally, about what is right and wrong for you (i.e. for the individual). It is about what is right or right according to our best moral theories (which, in the ideal case, inform the majority positions that our societies take).

    This is the thought I tried to express in post #16, though clearly not as successfully or succinctly.

    It sounds to me like you hold a different view that I do on this. That doesn't make your view "illegitimate". It just means that you and I disagree on something I consider to be important when it comes to morality.

    The rest of our discussion, such as it has been, has pretty much been a case of your assuming that I don't know much about moral philosophy, and that you're in a position to school me on it. With that comes all the projection about accusations and my supposed arrogance etc., along with your defensiveness, which I think is probably because, deep down, you know the ground you're trying to make a stand on is not quite as solid as you'd like it to be.

    We could have had this discussion in a more constructive way, but you chose to try to assert your authority rather than treating me as an intellectual equal - or at least somebody who might have earned some measure of respect or courtesy. That is a pity. If you insist on treating every discussion like a fist fight, that tends to make people less amenable to engaing with you in future. Certainly that will be the case for me.

    You said "If noone has said something, then to argue against it is a fallacy". All along, you have assumed that I was making unwarranted assumptions about your personal views, and therefore that all of my comments must have been about you, or directed at you. In fact, in post #16, I did not even directly address you. I merely commented on something in the idea you expressed. For all I know, you're so deeply wedded to your ideas that you consider attacks on them to be tantamount to personal attacks on you personally, which might explain your overreaction and defensiveness. Anyway, the point is: while you (personally) might not have "said something", that doesn't mean to argue against it is a fallacy - especially when other people have said it. Not everything is about you.

    On the topic itself, I think you and I are somewhat at odds about what we each mean by "objective" (as in "objective morality"). Your position seems to be that morality could only be objective if it could somehow exist independently of human beings; then, regardless of what anybody thought (or even whether there was anybody to think it), things would be right or wrong, for some reason. I'm not using the term "objective" in that sense, because morality is all about how we human beings relate to each other and the world around us. I think there are observable, "objective" truths, about how human beings relate to each other and the world around us. That is, we can study human behaviour and cultures and see certain consistent attitudes and behaviours that fall under the broad banner of Ethics (or Morality). I think that this tends to transcend cultures and historical contexts. At a more micro level, we can look within a particular culture at a particular time and observe consistent moral ideas. I touched on that earlier. In summary, I think we can make objective observations about how people tend to act, in a moral sense, both in a particular context and across many contexts (historical and cultural), and from that we can discern common threads of moral thinking. In fact, I would say that this is why we have a "system" of moral philosophy in the first place, rather than a sort of anarchy of equally-valid ideas about morality.

    To put it another way, I fundamentally disagree with your position that any moral "system" or criterion for moral decision making is as good as the next. I expect your rejoinder to this, if there is one, will be that you "never said that", or to demand that I point to "where I said that". A more constructive response would be to tell me where you think we have common ground and where you think we differ. That's what I'm telling you.

    I think it's interesting that you took a little time in your reply above to disparage the importance of emotion, complaining about how it "enshrouds the issue" and how an "appeal to emotion" is a fault rather than a strength, when it comes to moral thinking. I think that, too, is a mistake, for what it's worth. I don't believe that we should divorce our thinking about morals from our emotions. If we do that, the result can be a (supposedly) moral framework that is harsh, unforgiving, inflexible, dictatorial and unempathic. If we start from a position that "emotion is bad", that threatens to morph into "emotion is wrong".

    It seems to be important to you that I "confess" that I'm a moral relativist, just like you. I plead guilty, then, in the sense of "objective morals" that you insist upon (see above). But I hope you can see that there is still quite a gulf between us. I don't see the need to labour a pointless argument, when we could, potentially, be discussing something that we actually disagree about.

    You have accused me of dishonesty, and of trying to "weasel out" of it. I have not been dishonest with you. You have read things into my posts that actually aren't there. You seem determined to take offense, and to respond belligerently. So be it. I will take care to limit my future interactions with you, with that in mind. It's a pity, because I imagine that, outside of this forum, you're probably not like this (though, admittedly, you could be habitually snarky and condescending to other people, for all I know).

    I think that covers everything.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I think one's personal morals really are up to each individual. Society's morals are then formed by society as a whole, and result in an expectation of behaviour. But an individual's morals surely govern what they personally consider to be right or wrong, irrespective of what society might think.
    That's not a "very weak position to hold", but rather seems to be the reality of it.
    Sure, what the societal norms are during your formative years will probably go a long way to informing your own personal morals. Which in turn may lead to the continuation of those societal morals. But that doesn't change that everyone is responsible for, and determines, their own morals. Or at least, in my view, should. Too many, I think, are willing to defer their moral judgement to some perceived notion of objective moral (notably religious). But then even that choice to adopt the morals of the religion is a personal choice. Subjectivity.
    How is this an argument for morality not being a personal issue? What we dress in only applies to how we relate to one another and the world around us (otherwise we might as well be naked) yet our taste is subjective. The fact that something is only applicable to how we interact does not make it non-subjective and personal to the individual.
    Yes, it is. Personal morality is very much about what is right and wrong for the individual. Hence we can have disagreements about what one considers to be moral or not. Hence we have some people arguing against abortion entirely, and others for allowing it. While we would undoubtedly like our society to fully share our own personal moral code, society's morals are generally determined by the majority. But majority does not make something objective, nor does it not make it a matter of personal subjectivity.
    Individual people tend not to have "best moral theories". They simply know what they consider to be right or wrong, and whether they would cross boundaries etc. Most people really don't understand why they have the morals they do.
    What you said in #16 was demonstrably false, as you expressed a false understanding of what it means for something to be objective. But that's okay.
    What you have expressed here is also fundamentally wrong: it gives no capability for the individual to hold a different morality to society. It requires everyone defer to their society for what they personally consider to be right or wrong. Sure, society's morals are (usually) those held by the majority and if one wants to live in that society one has to abide by those standards, but living in a society according to society's standards is markedly different to agreeing with society's position on matters.
    Do you think all of Texans suddenly think the later-term abortion now illegal there is immoral, just because perhaps the majority do? Do you think that the morals of the society (Texas) are now the same as many of the inhabitants? Or do you think that, just maybe, individuals are able to determine and think for themselves what they consider to be moral or not, despite what society as a whole has concluded to be best for society?
    Well done, Sherlock.
    When you make such basic mistakes as misunderstanding what it means for something to be objective, then the tone is generally set. Alas, at no point have you raised the expectation.
    Yet more pathetic schoolboy arrogance, JamesR. You're really not doing yourself any favours. There was no defensiveness on my part, although I'm sure your arrogance interprets it as such. I am happy to share my views. But I am not happy to have you assume my views before being shared, and to argue against those assumptions, as you demonstrably did.
    Further, why do you always try to comment on what you think someone is thinking "deep down", rather than simply deal with what they say. It's truly pathetic, and nothing but a laughable attempt to avoid addressing the issue. You do it in numerous threads, and generally when you're struggling.
    You're the one who was throwing punches, JamesR. I'm sorry you don't notice that, and I'm sorry you see yourself as some holier than though victim in this. But I guess if you want to focus on what you see as easier targets, that's up to you.
    Other than using the term "you" while responding to my post directly, you mean? How else am I meant to interpret that? As said before, do you expect me to guess each time you use the term as to whether it is directed to me or more generally? If you want to talk about the wider "you" then be clearer, more precise with your language. Use words like "one" or "people" to express when not referring directly to the person. If one does that (or if people do that) then it becomes clearer as to their meaning, don't you agree?
    It is when you address it to me using "you" and don't make it clear that you're talking more generally. Your lack of clarity is on you.
    So you're saying you're not using the term correctly, then? Okay. Makes conversation somewhat difficult, doesn't it? That said, I don't hold that some objective morality necessarily has any existence independent of humans. Any more than a human life can exist independently of humans. It is simply inherent. Morality requires humans (or appropriately sentient life at least) to give it meaning. And if it has no meaning (i.e. outside of that which gives it such) then it surely becomes meaningless to talk about it.

    ... to be cont'd
  18. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    ... cont'd

    So these "consistent attitudes and behaviours" are 100% held in all cases? In which case that is the same meaning of "objective" as above, as if something applies 100% of the time in a population irrespective of anything else, then it is inherent, and thus an objective part of it.
    "tends"? Now you're saying that these things are not consistently held? Which is it? Consistent or merely a tendency to be the same? One suggests objectivity, the other suggests subjectivity.
    You still need to distinguish between a shared subjective view and an objective one.
    "Common threads" doesn't make something objective. As I have stated, you need to discern between an objective position and a shared subjective one. And for that you can't just make observations but need to look beneath the bonnet, so to speak.
    I don't follow: what does having a system have to do with whether it is ultimately subjective or objective. How does a system preclude morals being subjective?
    If I ask you to pick a number between 1 and 100, what would you pick? My guess is that it wouldn't be "elephant". Assuming you did pick a number, was your choice subjective? Was your method of choosing subjective? Yet you didn't pick anything anarchic like "elephant", did you? You may well have used a reasonably consistent methodology for picking your number as other people used for picking theirs. Does having the system make it objective?
    Even if in the above example we agree that picking a number outside of 40-60 is outside of societal norms, but that one person's subjective response is 70. Are you saying that if they truly hold that to be their position that it is invalid? Or even "poor"? Poor from a societal point of view, yes, that much is granted, because society has deemed the norm to be 40-60. But why is the person's 70, if that is what they genuinely hold their position to truly be, not acceptable to you in principle (i.e. ignoring it being an outlier to society) as a valid position for them to hold?
    As to how the person will likely act: if they are told "you can pick a number outside of 40-60, but if we find out that you have, you'll be punished" then the person will likely pick a number between 40-60, because he wants to continue to live in that society. But here their actions (picking 40) and what they actually believe (70) are at odds. Just like pro-choice people who will now not have an illegal abortion in Texas, even if they consider themselves to morally be in the right to do so. For some people that moral right they consider themself to have will spur them to "take a stand" against what they percieve to be unfairness / injustice etc. Others will simply obey the societal law without wanting to make a fuss.

    Then, gradually, society's norms change, and now the norm is 50-70. Suddenly the person who was the outlier is now of "normal" moral persuasion, from society's perspective. Yet previously they were deemed to be abnormal/immoral.
    Objective would mean that it is always 40-60, and anything outside is not possible. And I'm using the range to capture your "tend to" notion, rather than be a specific number - i.e. it "tends to" 50.

    But as long as one can imagine a (parallel) world where the moral viewpoint might be different, then the viewpoint can not be considered objective, and at best you can have a shared subjectivity because of the current (albeit for a considerable time) circumstances.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Grow up, JamesR.
    Emotions are subjective, yet you are arguing for an objective moral framework?? How do you square that away, out of interest?
    That you disagree is surely proof enough for you that how we establish our moral framework is subjective? You want to include emotion, others might not. Or are you genuinely telling me not just that you disagree with the approach you think I take, but that my approach does not actually arrivie at a moral framework at all? Because if you're just disagreeing with the approach, then you must surely accept the subjective nature of it. Or are you saying that the approach doesn't matter, and they all ultimately lead to the same objective framework. If so, then by what right do you claim one approach to establishing the framework to be any better, worse, correct, flawed than another??
    As for where you think such a framework ends up, maybe that's why you feel you need to include it.
    You mean if I insist upon the ususal meaning??
    To be honest, I'm still not sure what your position actually is. You say you disagree with me on some things, but your position seems all over the shop, or at least inconsistent and thus confusing, as noted just above. And it doesn't help when you don't seem to want to use standard terms as intended, and feel I "insist" upon the standard meaning.
    And I honestly don't think you actually know or understand what my view is, as you'd rather just assume it.
    If I am mistaken, so be it. But when it quacks, I tend to go duck-hunting.
    When I am offended, I take offense. But, again, I was not offended at any of your assumptions, only by your insistence on making assumptions and arguing against them. Do you see the difference?
    I really wish I could consider that as my loss.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    You really are too predictable, JamesR.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I'll make this brief, because life is too short to spend too much of it with abrasive people like you. I won't bother addressing the personal insults and other bullshit you wrote. It is strange that, on the one hand, you're bruising for fight, while on the other hand you apparently expect me to engage with you in an exchange of views. There's a worrying disconnect there - something you're just not getting about interacting with other people. This isn't the first time I've noticed, either.
    Individuals live in societies. Right and wrong don't exist in the abstract. A lone person on a desert island isn't faced with moral decisions. You're confusing how individuals choose to act with the question of whether they act morally or not. That question can only be judged by other people, or by the individual against some particular framework or theory of morals. Individuals just don't get to arbitrarily decide what is right or wrong. They have freedom to act morally or immorally, yes, but that's not the same thing at all.

    There certainly are disagreements about what is right or wrong, and about how one ought to act in some particular situation. Your position is that nobody can say that one point of view is superior to another. I disagree.

    The starting point for morality is to decide what we value. Of course, you will argue that different people value different things, so this is subjective. But that is wrong. All societies share certain basic values that are necessary for society to function at all - not just subjectively necessary, but objectively necessary. If you disagree, try to imagine a society in which life is treated as worthless - and I don't just mean treating the lives of strangers as worthless, but also the lives of your own children, your parents, your neighbours. Objectively, such a society would immediately break down. In other words, a working society literally cannot exist unless a majority of the people value life.

    Having decided on a basic set of things that are valued, the question of how best to protect what is valued determines morality objectively. This does not mean that every individual will always act in the most moral way, of course. It also doesn't mean that every individual will agree on whether a particular choice or course of action is moral. But that only tells us that some people make wrong moral choices - they choose to act in ways that harm rather than preserve what we, as human societies, value.

    Your position is that nobody can be morally wrong about any choice they make, because for them it is somehow a "moral" choice. That's your error. When people act immorally, they are either doing it in the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong, or else they are making a moral mistake - thinking that what they are doing is consistent with preserving what is valued, when in fact they are most often prioritising some other selfish desire.

    It's also not possible to "opt out" of the moral systems that objectively exist in human societies, in case you're about to suggest that. At least, it can't be done without putting yourself on a desert island somewhere.
    Yes. Hence, they can make moral errors, objectively.
    An empty claim from you. But that's okay.
    No. What I said is right.
    No. Individuals can be right or wrong about morals. What they personally consider is not the whole story, like you think it is.
    As a matter of fact, there is far from a strong majority agreement among Texans about whether legalising abortion is moral or immoral, and it is certainly possible for those in power to make laws in spite of what the majority desires.

    But it doesn't matter what all of Texans think about abortion, or even necessarily the majority, because it is possible that some or all of them are wrong about the morality of it. That is, what they think doesn't affect what are objectively the best kinds of laws to have on abortion, given what human societies fundamentally value. On the other hand, what they think does matter in terms of the outcomes - the impacts of the laws on the people themselves.
    Of course people are going to think for themselves about what they consider to be moral. If they did not, moral progress would be impossible.
    It's a good thing I haven't made any such basic mistakes, then.
    That's what you think. You're wrong. Okay.
    You don't hold that objective morality has any existence at all, so I'm not sure why you needed to add this.
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Yes. They are held in 100% of all cases (societies).
    Er... yes it does.
    Objectively, when you ask somebody who understands the English language to "pick a number", they will give you a number rather than an elephant - unless they aren't using the accepted "system" (numbers, picking, English, sane human interaction, good faith, etc.) It could be they're from a desert island, I guess.
    A moral framework applies to a particular world. Yes, you can imagine hypothetical worlds in which humans do not value what humans in our world value, due to any number of imaginary changes you want to introduce in your fantasyland. But that does not affect the objectivity of the moral framework in our actual, real world, at all.
    All human beings have emotions. Objectively, we exhibit a certain range of emotions. What we value as a species has to do, in part, with that range of emotions, along with other aspects of our biology.

    And yes, you might imagine hypothetical worlds of alien lifeforms who lack emotions or who value very different things. But we're not (yet) talking about what their moral frameworks might look like. If you do want to open that can of worms, by the way, you're going to have essentially the same set of problems in arguing that morality isn't objective.
    Firstly, others don't have the option of excluding emotions. They are human beings. They have emotions, like it or not.

    Secondly, you (i.e. people in a society, in case you're confused) can't start constructing a moral framework until you have established what you value. What you value will inevitably be tied to your emotions, along with other things about being the human being you are.
    Then I suggest it might have been better for you to ask me, rather than making assumptions. That was your advice to me on several occasions, as I recall. Practice what you preach, and all that.

    Hmm... not very brief, as it turns out.

    Here's some further random reading, if you're interested. (Almost the first thing I found with a google search.):

    Is Morality Objective? | Issue 115 | Philosophy Now

    You'll notice that opinions are divided on the question, and not everybody agrees with you. But probably they all don't know what "objective" actually means, either.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Here's some more light reading:

    The requirement for objectivity in ethics gets conceptually confused with the need for some metaphysical mind- or human independent realm. Objectivity in ethics should not be contrasted with subjectivity in the sense of being grounded in people's attitudes and preferences. Objectivity in ethics is more correctly contrasted with subjectivity in the sense of being partisan, selfish and parochial.

    Ethicists of different metaphysical persuasions have tried to satisfy this necessary requirement for objectivity by mistakenly dressing up moral language as if it is about some human-independent realm. Theists identify the good and the right with God's preferences and commands. Intuitionists conflate moral attributes with some mysterious realm of non-natural properties and transcendent rules. Neo-Aristotelians and Natural Law theorists rely on a dubious teleology of life's evolution on earth. Kantian Rationalists try to derive moral rules from the demands of pure reason.

    When all of these attempts to ground morality in a human-independent metaphysical realm fail, the subjectivists claim victory for treating moral judgements as of the same type as any other kind of personal preference. But the subjectivists suffer from the same misconceptions about moral judgements as their metaphysical opponents. Like the metaphysicians, they think moral objectivity must be grounded in a mysterious metaphysical realm or not at all. They give up on the requirement of objectivity all too hastily.

    There is a strong philosophical tradition in incorporating this notion of impartiality as essential to the nature of ethics. Immanuel Kant tried to capture this idea of universality in his categorical imperative; the notion that a moral rule necessarily must be such that it is willed for all. R. M. Hare built it into his theory of universal Prescriptivism; the idea that moral judgements are prescriptions that we want to apply to everyone. Henry Sidgwick, J. S. Mill and later Utilitarians encapsulated moral objectivity with their principle of impartiality, translated as the requirement for the equal consideration of all interests.
    Source: Is Morality Subjective? (
  22. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    This thread is too long to read but, as with most things, it's both. Morality is subjective (since it comes from human reasoning) but it can have a largely objective component if it's something that most people agree with.

    As has been pointed out, there are exceptions to that as well (a majority agreeing with slavery) but even that is largely cultural, based in historical time and still somewhat subjective. Roman slaves were less morally objectionable (it could be argued) than the later-day slavery in the U.S., for instance.

    Which is why I find philosophical discussions of limited value. Not without any value but just limited and generally tedious.
    sculptor likes this.
  23. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    How bizarre that you think I expect anything from you. If you want to post, post. If you don't, don't. It's that simple. Instead you whine, and prefer to carry on a meta-discussion. As said, all too predictable.
    Further, I am not "bruising for fight", so please don't project. If you insult, I will be insulted and likely react accordingly. It's that simple.
    There you go again with your intent to poison the well, intent on delving into what you think are the workings of the person. It's pathetic. Truly pathetic. If you want this to turn into a slanging match about what we truly think of each other, just let me know, but otherwise you really need to drop your pretentious and pathetic attempts to argue the person rather than put your efforts into engaging with what they have said.

    Au contraire. Right and wrong are abstract concepts by their very nature. If you can't touch and hold it then it is, by definition, abstract.
    Yes, they are. They have an environment, they have their thoughts, they have possible futures ahead of them, all of which can lead to moral decisions.
    No, I'm not. The person is the only one who can judge what they consider to be morally right or not. Society will judge what society considers to be moral or not. A person considers their own morality when making decisions, as well as that of society. They are different. Just as your vote in elections might well be different to who actually gets to govern.
    A framework that they have, yes, even if they, like most of us, don't understand the details of how it works.
    Noone has said "arbitrarily". They get to decide, sure. The same way that you get to decide who you genuinely want to vote for. Do you have to vote for them? No. But you know, and you decide - against some framework that is personal to you - who best fits the bill. It is far from arbitrary.
    Nor is the increasing price of eggs, thanks.
    That rather depends on how one determines what is "superior" or not. If by "superior" you mean "in line with society" then sure, it can be said whether one position is superior or not. But if morals are subjective, then to claim that one is "superior" based solely on that moral position is a meaningless judgement. If you have two people on an island, and they share different morals, which one is superior? If it's 50:50? There is no society to judge? Who is to say which moral position is superior? You can't. They are subjective, and other than weight of popularity, "superior" is meaningless.
    If 50% of the country have blue as their favourite colour, is that a superior colour than red? Or yellow?
    No, it's not wrong. We may share values to a degree, and be quite strongly influenced by the society we are brought up in, but our values are our own. Values also change. Hence the view of homosexuality throughout the ages.
    Yes, there are somethings nearly everyone will be aligned with - but that doesn't make things objective.
    In today's form of society, sure. Now imagine one where everything is run by machine. Where everyone lives in isolation, and only interacts with avatars online, with no difference between AI and living people. And also a countless number of them. Yes, I can imagine such a society, where life itself is not valued. It would be completely different to now, sure.

    Anyhoo - fun though this is, I have work to go to.
    Maybe I'll get to the rest later.

Share This Page