Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Ethics, Morality, and Sin

Moderator: Moderators

Post Reply
User avatar
2ndRateMind
Site Supporter
Posts: 1301
Joined: Wed Apr 19, 2017 4:25 am
Location: Pilgrim on another way
Has thanked: 10 times
Been thanked: 14 times

Re: Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Post #61

Post by 2ndRateMind »

bluegreenearth wrote:
2ndRateMind wrote: I think so. But I will readily admit that moral codes have subtle ontologies, and there is scope for disagreement with my position.

The reason I think that is this; some moral codes are indubitably better than others, in that their consequences are better for all concerned. And if that is so, it implies that there is some moral code that is best of all, in that it's consequences for all concerned are best of all, even if humanity has yet to discover what it is. Whatever; if there is a best of all moral codes, it must be an objective moral code, objectively the best. And all the inferior moral codes are inferior because they involve, to varying degrees, subjective opinion.

Best wishes, 2RM.
Within the context of human well-being, your reasoning seems to work. However, I anticipate someone might ask why it is objectively good for humans to flourish in the context of the entire universe. In other words, what difference does it make to the universe if humans flourish or not? In that sense, a single best moral code would still be subjective despite its objective consequences being most favorable for humanity because the preference for humanity to flourish is only objective from the perspective of humanity. I don't necessarily have a problem with this concept of morality because I am a human but wouldn't agree that it is universally objective.
So, within the context of the universe, I think our existence, moralities, and happiness, make absolutely no difference, whatsoever. But in the context of our own lives, they make a very considerable difference indeed. And morality, when stripped to its essential detail, basically involves the questions: 'what must I do to be saved?' And, 'what must I do to be happy?' My contention would be that our happiness depends on our moralities, not to mention our prospects for an after-life, should there be one.

Best wishes, 2RM
Non omnes qui errant pereunt
Not all who wander are lost

Menotu
Scholar
Posts: 483
Joined: Wed Nov 06, 2019 5:34 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Post #62

Post by Menotu »

bluegreenearth wrote:
Menotu wrote:
bluegreenearth wrote:
Menotu wrote: [Replying to post 1 by bluegreenearth]

If I understand you correctly (which I may not as others here have pointed out I'm dense on certain subjects):
Morality is up to the individual. What's moral for one may or may not be for another. While morality has to come from 'somewhere' (that 'somewhere' is up for debate), what really matters is the individual's perception of what morality is.
Is it objective or subjective? I suppose that, like morality, is based on whom is asked and their definition (or lack of).
I feel like your comment adequately summarizes my point but there may be a nuance here and there that I might be misinterpreting. I'll have to wait for your next response to determine if you or I have definitely misinterpreted something or not.
To what nuance do you refer? Maybe I missed it, but it seems we're basically on the same page?
I meant that it is possible I am misinterpreting something nuanced in your comment but am not sure. I didn't have anything in particular in mind. It is just my experience that sometimes I think someone is on the page with me until they follow-up with a response that goes in a completely different direction.
Understood
Thanks for the clarification :D

Artie
Prodigy
Posts: 3306
Joined: Sun Oct 23, 2011 5:26 pm

Re: Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Post #63

Post by Artie »

Mikronman wrote: [Replying to post 53 by bluegreenearth]

I would propose splitting the word "objective" into two categories:

Absolutely objective - empirical, axiomatic
Functionally objective - practical (objective "enough")

What do you think?
You might be interested in this article. https://thegemsbok.com/art-reviews-and- ... -morality/

User avatar
bluegreenearth
Guru
Posts: 1068
Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2019 4:06 pm
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana
Has thanked: 53 times
Been thanked: 32 times

Re: Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Post #64

Post by bluegreenearth »

Does morality objectively exist or does objective morality exist? This is an important distinction that is often conflated and needs to be recognized:

Does morality objectively exist?

We should consider what is meant by the term "objectively exist" as it applies to something like morality. To the best of my knowledge, morality is an abstract concept developed in brains and isn't something that physically exists like matter or energy. Some observable behavior we exhibit with our material bodies is a physical manifestation of something purely conceptual like morality, but does it logically follow that morality objectively exists in the same manner as our physical bodies objectively exist? It would seem we need to distinguish between objective physical existence and abstract existence.

A perfect triangle can never have an objective physical existence because there are no straight lines on the sub-atomic level for any material substance to be arranged such that it could form a perfect triangle. Any material substance from which we could construct an object that approximates the abstract concept of a perfect triangle would objectively exist because we can directly or indirectly observe material substances. Meanwhile, a perfect triangle only exists as an abstract concept. Equivalently, humans objectively exist but their morality only exists as an abstract concept.

Does objective morality exist?

Usually, when we describe something as being objective, it means that something has an existence such that its properties do not change in accordance with anyone's arbitrary will or desires. For example, if I were to find myself falling off skateboard, the force of gravity pulling my body to the ground does not become weaker because of my desire to not be injured. Furthermore, the force of gravity on Earth would have the same effect on anyone else or anything else which happens to fall. When we jump up, the force of gravity isn't becoming weaker in that moment because of our desire to temporarily move a short distance up in the air above the surface below our feet. The force of gravity on Earth remains unchanged when we leap off the ground, but it is the strength of our muscles which enables us to temporarily overcome the force of gravity. Therefore, we can justify the claim that the force of gravity on Earth is objective because its properties remain consistent regardless of anyone's opinion. Do we observe the same relationship with between morality and objectivity?

If morality is objective in the same way that gravity on Earth is objective, then we would expect it to manifest equally on everybody and everything to the same degree independent of anyone's arbitrary will or desire. Is this what we observe? Does morality objectively develop in the brain of a serial killer the same way as it does in the brain of an emergency room nurse? If morality is objective, the serial killer will have to exert some proportional amount of effort to overcome the objective morality which should consistently function to encourage the desire to altruistically sustain the lives of people in the community rather than end their lives for selfish reasons. However, criminal psychologists have demonstrated that many serial killers experience little to no cognitive dissonance which we would expect if morality was objective. An equivalent scenario with gravity would be the existence of people who could overcome the force of gravity without the need to exert a proportional amount of effort through muscular strength. This demonstrates that morality cannot be objective in that sense.

User avatar
The Tanager
Guru
Posts: 2082
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 11:08 am
Been thanked: 2 times

Re: Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Post #65

Post by The Tanager »

[Replying to post 64 by bluegreenearth]

I'm not sure of any moral objectivists who claim that morality is like gravity in that way. The shape of the earth is objectively an oblate spheroid, but we still have flat -arthers.

User avatar
Purple Knight
Scholar
Posts: 452
Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2020 6:00 pm

Post #66

Post by Purple Knight »

Morality is as objective as maths when defined that way.

Mathematical equations must work when we define them to. 1 + 1 must equal 2 because the definitions of the numbers and the operations cannot change.

I understand that this is a tautology, but when given an absolute prohibition, such as never kill, or never steal, then that is absolute morality.

The only question seems to be whether absolute morality is justifiable or right, and it does seem problematic.

If you tell people never lie, they'll tell the Nazis that there are Jews in the attic and people will die. This is a common reductio ad absurdum of the axiom don't lie, at least for most people.

I am a believer in the theory that there must be axioms. If there are no axioms, then there can be no judgment that a person has violated morality. Any such judgment, if not based in such a person's violation of axioms, would simply be a popularity contest, and I hope we agree that that's not morality.

On the other hand, every possible axiom can be reduced to shambles likewise as the first, simply because one can always concoct a scenario wherein the following of a given axiom would result in tragedy.

So you can either have morality that reduces to a popularity contest that's more likely to be based on the charm and charisma of the individual in question, or you can have axioms and accept that sometimes they will do harm (and perhaps just aim for the ones that make the world vastly better overall).

The world has very much become an abode for the former, and personally I don't like it. The charming and charismatic will always be able to explain why what they did was right for the situation, and more importantly why what I did was wrong. With some of these people on punishment duty, I can never guarantee my actions won't be punished.

(Opinion) In my mind, if all actions might be punished, and no one has any way to guarantee safety from punishment, morality serves no purpose, which is why (opinion) there must be axioms.
bluegreenearth wrote:If morality is objective in the same way that gravity on Earth is objective, then we would expect it to manifest equally on everybody and everything to the same degree independent of anyone's arbitrary will or desire. Is this what we observe? Does morality objectively develop in the brain of a serial killer the same way as it does in the brain of an emergency room nurse? If morality is objective, the serial killer will have to exert some proportional amount of effort to overcome the objective morality which should consistently function to encourage the desire to altruistically sustain the lives of people in the community rather than end their lives for selfish reasons. However, criminal psychologists have demonstrated that many serial killers experience little to no cognitive dissonance which we would expect if morality was objective. An equivalent scenario with gravity would be the existence of people who could overcome the force of gravity without the need to exert a proportional amount of effort through muscular strength. This demonstrates that morality cannot be objective in that sense.
Light can be an objective phenomenon and the serial killer can simply be blind to it.

Morality outside the brain - you absolutely should not murder - can be true independently of anyone's ability to perceive it.

I happen to be blind to it myself.

Post Reply