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Morality is not subjective

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
The only thing as a moral that I see as striving to live up to is to do my best to not harm anyone.
Sounds easy! All you have to do is know what "harm" means. For example, if you were a physician, and a person suffering from a terrible, terminal and unbearably painful illness asked you to help her die -- all you need to do is figure out which is the more harmful, her death or her suffering. And you have to do that from the point of view of -- well, who exactly? Her? You? Everybody?

Can you do it?
 

McBell

mantra-chanting henotheistic snake handler
Sounds easy! All you have to do is know what "harm" means. For example, if you were a physician, and a person suffering from a terrible, terminal and unbearably painful illness asked you to help her die -- all you need to do is figure out which is the more harmful, her death or her suffering. And you have to do that from the point of view of -- well, who exactly? Her? You? Everybody?

Can you do it?
easy peasy.
I would help her die
 

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
easy peasy.
I would help her die
As would I, by the way. And though I feel that this is the right choice, I'm at a loss how to defend that to the satisfaction of those who hold beliefs other than mine. And, surprisingly, there seem to be a lot of those! :rolleyes:
 

McBell

mantra-chanting henotheistic snake handler
As would I, by the way. And though I feel that this is the right choice, I'm at a loss how to defend that to the satisfaction of those who hold beliefs other than mine. And, surprisingly, there seem to be a lot of those! :rolleyes:
I do not feel any need to defend it to those who disagree.
 

Straw Dog

Well-Known Member
Thanks for responding! I know it can be difficult to keep up with everyone in a popular topic.

I agree that you need a subject in order for that morality to be possible, but I don't think that means morality is subjective. The objective needs an observing subject to meaningfully exist. If we have a disagreement about the philosophy there it might be hard to have a constructive conversation. Unless we just have that philosophical conversation right here..

Subjective facts?... I just have a hard time with that. A fact is objective. It's either a fact that assaulting kids is wrong or it's not.

To clarify: Things and events are objective facts. They are, in principle, accessible to all and their factualness can be verified by direct observation or through indirect evidence, such as authentic and reliable sources. A subjective fact is limited to the subject or subjects experiencing it, such as a headache. Establishing the reality of subjective facts depends entirely on the trustworthiness of the subject claiming the experience.

Morals are subjective facts because they depend entirely on a subject holding them. Without a subject, there are no morals. Without a subject, there are still things and events, at least scientifically speaking.

"Assaulting kids is wrong" is a common belief that we share. The subjective fact is that we really do hold this belief and feel strongly about it. But... How do you go about proving it objectively?


First of all you say feelings and opinions, and I think both of these things can be reduced to thoughts( or maybe even intuition).
We are able to draw the distinction between right and wrong using our intuition. That same intuition leads to philosophy and logic, and it makes science possible. So we use our intuition to figure things out, and obviously we are sometimes wrong. There's such thing as bad morals just like there's such thing as bad philosophy that doesn't make sense.

Yes, emotions are the product of thoughts and we are often unaware of the automatic thoughts triggering them, but bodily sensations like pain could also be grouped with 'feelings'. Even if intuition is the ultimate authority on drawing distinctions, it is clearly subjective. It's impossible to be completely objective, but it's also undesirable. Our thoughts and feelings really do matter. They can tell us important things about ourselves and others.

We can be more or less objective. Logic is more objective than most moral philosophy. I know from firsthand experience that understanding logic is not a given. It's a skill and an art that needs to be learned and exercised. I'm still only a novice practitioner, but intend to level up using RFs as a training ground. Perhaps morality works in a similar fashion, but it is still more subjective.
 
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Shadow Wolf

Certified People sTabber & Business Owner
Sounds easy! All you have to do is know what "harm" means. For example, if you were a physician, and a person suffering from a terrible, terminal and unbearably painful illness asked you to help her die -- all you need to do is figure out which is the more harmful, her death or her suffering. And you have to do that from the point of view of -- well, who exactly? Her? You? Everybody?

Can you do it?
I would help her end her suffering. And I'm also considering even my "daily life" habits, such as how I'm killing you whenever I drive my car or purchase goods that relied on long-distance transportation to get to the store - but, that is why I do say "do my best to not harm" rather not a blanket statement of not harming, because it is inevitable that my continued survival will mean various degrees of harm for various living things.
 

Evangelicalhumanist

"Truth" isn't a thing...
Premium Member
I would help her end her suffering. And I'm also considering even my "daily life" habits, such as how I'm killing you whenever I drive my car or purchase goods that relied on long-distance transportation to get to the store - but, that is why I do say "do my best to not harm" rather not a blanket statement of not harming, because it is inevitable that my continued survival will mean various degrees of harm for various living things.
And well said, too. Nothing exists in perfect isolation, and we -- as both a social and self-aware species -- have to cope with a lot of very real dilemmas. It ain't easy being human!
 

Sand Dancer

Crazy Cat Lady
I recently came to the conclusion after some reading and thinking that the idea of morality being subjective is absurd. When I say morality is objective I mean that moral goodness exists independent of what people do or think.

Any non-theists here who agree with me?

Where does it come from then? Societies generally determine morality.
 

Unveiled Artist

Veteran Member
Remember you said that to be right (my words) you'd have to have evidence and experience? Not every position needs evidence and experience to say something could be true instead of putting that something in a box.

How many people do you know who have no morals? And I mean "no morals", not "morals that do not line up with your morals".

It doesn't matter how many people I know that don't have morals. That's not the question of who lines up with my morals or not. Completely another topic.

How can you and I know everyone to know that in my statement: there are some people without morals and your statement: how can there be people with out them?

It's not just on me here. It's an objective statement saying that not everyone fits into a box. Unless you can demonstrate that morals are inherited, I don't see how accepting that 1 percent of an immoral person to be a problem.

Morals are a persons sense of right/wrong. And as I have said, everyone has a sense of right and wrong.

The former, I agree and have already said that. The latter, I disagree because that is putting everyone in a box.

It's a generalization.

What is the support for this generalization?

My support is that "I do not know everyone and I don't put everyone in a box."
 

jonathan180iq

Well-Known Member
Excuse the title - This is the only copy of the whole debate that I could find.

David Silverman vs. Frank Turek on Objective Morality.
 

JRMcC

Active Member
Let me dumb it down for you.

Ohhhhh booooyyy!!!! This one's a smahty!!! You've won the argument already by making me feel bad about my stupidity

1. It's immoral to charge interest, especially from the poor.

Says who? Aren't you saying morality is subjective?

Jews originated the idea of interest.

So what?

Jews charge interest of gentiles, but not of other Jews.

Yeah that would be racism I guess.

Jews think that's okay.

Right.

Subjective morality.

No. Just no. The fact that ancient Jews didn't know about the theory of gravity doesn't make gravity subjective.
 

JRMcC

Active Member
As far as I'm aware, basing morality on a deity is particular to the classical monotheist religions, and in especially Christianity. I understand that since Christianity enjoys cultural dominance in the West that dialogues and discussions tend to assume the connection. Still, I'm not seeing much relevance to one being theist or non-theist with respect to one's ethical maxims unless that is a particular facet of one's theistic religious tradition (and it is not for many of us).

I suppose you're right. For the most part the connection between morality and god is an Abrahamic tradition. I'm not sure I know enough about eastern religions to really say if there's a similar thing there. We have had someone from the Hindu tradition on this thread agreeing with me, although they were coming from a philosophical perspective and not a religious one.

With respect to what you said, I agree, but not in the fashion that you probably intend. Existence to me is never conditional on the existence of humans; things exist regardless of whether or not there are humans around to be perceiving them or thinking about them. This applies as much to the idea of a gear as it does to the idea of moral goodness. That said, I doubt you intended to ask an ontological question there, and with respect to how "objective morality" is usually understood, I reject it. I follow a system of ethics based on virtues, not morals, and could probably be described as a moral nihilist. That is to say, nothing is inherently right or wrong; moral statements do not describe something that is "true" about the world, they describe something about how humans understand the world. In that, they are projections or attributions. Such attributions have their uses, of course, and humans can't get away without making them frequently.

So can you explain a little bit more about the difference between virtues and morals?
Also, why is it that humans understand the world (morally) in a particular way and not another?
Science is also an understanding, isn't it?
 

JRMcC

Active Member
To clarify: Things and events are objective facts. They are, in principle, accessible to all and their factualness can be verified by direct observation or through indirect evidence, such as authentic and reliable sources. A subjective fact is limited to the subject or subjects experiencing it, such as a headache. Establishing the reality of subjective facts depends entirely on the trustworthiness of the subject claiming the experience.

Morals are subjective facts because they depend entirely on a subject holding them. Without a subject, there are no morals. Without a subject, there are still things and events, at least scientifically speaking.

You've made a very good point that morality is completely distinct from science. Just curious, how do you think logic and mathematics relates to things and events? Hopefully that's not too broad a question.

"Assaulting kids is wrong" is a common belief that we share. The subjective fact is that we really do hold this belief and feel strongly about it. But... How do you go about proving it objectively?

I guess you can't prove it.I think there is a reason we all share that belief though. It's not chance is it?
Most people would say it has to do with evolution. And that's a new sub-discussion. It usually gets down to that when I have this conversation in person with people.

Even if intuition is the ultimate authority on drawing distinctions, it is clearly subjective. It's impossible to be completely objective

That's true, I have to concede that my argument cannot be proven, and certainly not in a way that's even remotely scientific. And it that means that I shouldn't be telling people they're wrong about subjective morality, then... I guess the least I can do is point out how absurd the whole thing is (even if it's true) and cast some doubt in people's minds.

Our thoughts and feelings really do matter. They can tell us important things about ourselves and others.

Right, part of the reason I came to this conclusion is that I started to place more emphasis on thoughts/feelings or intuition. I guess I read too much C.S. Lewis and now I think that the subjective experience is important, and not somehow invalid just because it is subjective (subjective as in "of a subject" in this case).

We can be more or less objective. Logic is more objective than most moral philosophy.

Ah you've gotten to logic and such. Maybe you can ignore my question from a few lines up. Logic is little more like math in a certain sense isn't it?

I know from firsthand experience that understanding logic is not a given

Right, neither is morality. There are certain things that are sort of preprogrammed (or maybe programmed in at young age), but generally those of us who aren't narrow minded develop our ideas about morality throughout life, and we work toward bettering ourselves (word better important here). In a similar way some of us might try to develop our logic skills.
Part of my argument (for what it's worth) is that when we talk about "better" morals we are hurting the case for subjective morality. I think a lot.

Perhaps morality works in a similar fashion, but it is still more subjective.

I think it does work in a similar fashion. So we are talking about a continuum now with subjective on one hand and objective on the other? That's an interesting idea. Many would say that subjective vs objective is totally binary.
 

JRMcC

Active Member
Would you care to elaborate? What have you been reading? What were your thoughts?
Why, specifically, do you think it's absurd?

Thanks for your interest. I'm sure you'll understand that I've had to repeat myself plenty on this thread, so I'm going to try to limit that. Poke around some of the conversation here if I'm a little too brief with you.
I read a little too much C.S. Lewis, I think that's what happened.
I think it's absurd because if you accept subjective morality as truth and then look around at the way people think and behave, and simply listen to your own intuition, you see that something is not right.

How can that be? Describe what moral goodness looks like on Mars, for example, where there are no people.
What's the moral landscape of the ocean? Is it wrong for the raccoon in my backyard to eat the baby turtle that it caught a couple of days ago?

On Mars? It's wrong to stab someone on Mars. It's no different. There's no one in my backyard right now. Does that mean moral goodness is different there because of it? Of course not.
Raccoons don't have the same level of moral knowledge or responsibility that we do. And they are all going to hell btw.

I'm a non-theist and I disagree with you, obviously.

I would counter your query with one of my own...
If you remove your bias towards god from the equation, does your argument make any sense?

I think so. My argument is more about poking holes in the idea of subjective morality than proving objective morality.

Imagine a world without god, and then explain how objective morality could exist.

Why does God need to exist for objective morality? Sorry if that's a cheap turnaround.
 
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