Is morality subjective or objective?

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

  1. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member


    Objective is defined as someone or something that is real or not imagined.

    Like many words there is more than one definition. Even having regard to my (looked up) definition above there is, below that at
    which gives

    The definition of an objective is a goal or something to aim for.

    which I consider to be a form / type of "most agree"

    I do not consider it to override
    Objective is defined as someone or something that is real or not imagined.

    I would maintain, since no-one has placed a moral on a bench and dissected it, morals fail at being objective. As for being goals, aims or similar, (which only exist in the mind, or group of minds) it would be to much of a stretch to consider them real

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    Last edited: Dec 7, 2021
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  3. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Moral laws/principles are usually [prudently] motivated in terms of origin. Holding a society or smaller organizations together would be of one of the most general reasons slash needs. [usually: one has to allow the rare(?) possibility that an insane authoritarian and nomothetic figure might introduce random, otiose decrees.]

    The question then is whether the rules work -- do they roughly achieve their purpose? If they do, then the system is at least adequately conforming to reality or navigating successfully through a mixture of natural and artificial conditions. However, "reality" -- especially with regard to human developments -- can be malleable over time. Thus, perhaps requiring adjustments, updates.

    Laws of conduct by definition have global application -- not absolutely, as in always embracing everything and everyone. But at least with respect to some establishment, group, tribe, community, political entity, etc.

    A law that can be subdued or foiled by variable emotions/feelings, personal biases, particular details, and other contingent factors is arguably no law. Although, defining it as flexible under _X_ circumstances might be integrated as part of its universal properties. (I.e., "It is immoral to lie, except when telling the truth would cause an unjust death to a person or persons.")
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Right, where was I...
    You are talking about the morality of the society, not the individual. The individual may draw influence from whatever society they develop in, but you need to distinguish between the morals of the society as a whole, and the morals of theindividual.
    Again, confusing an individuals morality with that of the society as a whole. Please stop doing that. We're talking about an individual's morals, not about what society may determine. Of course a society, and even other individuals, will judge someone's actions as immoral or moral based on their own values, but that is, frankly, irrelevant.
    No, that's not what I'm saying at all. We are talking about the morality of some choices that people make. Choosing between a green or yellow car is not a moral choice, for example.
    Who are you to say that what they are doing is not consistent with preserving what they value?? Society can certainly judge an individual according to its own moral standards, but that is irrelevant to whether an individuals actions are moral/immoral according to their own morale code. And if an individual can have a different morality to society, morality is therefore subjective. You are only looking at the moral code of the society, comparing to that, as if that somehow makes it objective. The society objectively has a moral code, sure. Maybe you're confusing what exactly is objective?
    You're continuing to confuse a shared subjective morality with an objective one.
    And again.
    No, a demonstrated claim. But perhaps you failed to either read it or comprehend. But that's okay. You equated objective to that which was held to be the case by the majority.
    An empty claim from you. But that's okay.
    I'm not really concerned with what they consider to be the case about their own morals or not. Just the reality of it. The fact that people have different morals is sufficient for the matter to be subjective. Unless you want to claim that every person, in all of time, have had the same morals? Again: societies build up because people have the same shared sense of morality, or at least can tolerate the pervading code. That is a shared subjective position, and it does not, like you think it does, make it objective.
    Again, you are confusing a shared subjectivity with objectivity. A common error you're making, unfortunately, that pervades your post. You're also confusing exactly what is objective. Could there be, objectively, "best kinds of laws to have" for a given society? Of course. The society functions for the majority, and their shared morality. That speaks absolutely nothing to an objective or subjective morality, only to "objectively the best" things can fit a subjective position.
    If in a house of 5 people, four of them favour yellow as their favourite colour and one has blue, there might well be objectively a "best colour" for painting the lounge, for example. That speaks to the objectivity of the outcome, not to whether the favourite colour is subjective or objective. You are confusing the issue.
    So you accept that morals change? So how can they be objective. There may objectively be a "best" set of morals for a given society at a given time to set their laws by, for the good of that society at that time. But that does not make morality objective, for reasons previously given.
    Yeah, if you say so.

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    I don't think unicorns have any existence at all, but does that mean one can't acknowledge what one thinks the concept of them to be?
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Ah - yes - 100% (of a qualified set). So you're saying (unsupported as it is) that because 100% of a subset of things with a morality have a consistent morality, that everything outside that set also do?
    I'm sure you think you have, but you really haven't, as, pointed out above, you continue to confuse the two.
    No, it doesn't. It speaks to at least a shared subjectivity, but not evidence of objectivity. You still need to show that.
    Again, there you go again with the shared subjectivity, the "accepted system", and assuming that makes it objective. While most people will certainly give you a number, not everyone will, because not everyone works to the same rulebook. Subjectivity. However, it is objectively true that if you only consider those who would answer a number, then they would all answer a number.
    So it's subjective. Thanks. Glad we finally agree.
    We're getting somewhere.
    We're not talking about the objectivity in our actual, real world, but in whether morals are objective or subjective. We could all use the same framework but the morals themselves be subjective. You agreed that, due to any number of changes, morals can change, even those you previously stated "are held in 100% of all cases (societies)". While you may think those "imaginary changes" are never going to happen, if they are possible then your argument is defeated, and you have to agree that morals are subjective, society based only on a shared subjectivity, even if at a given moment, for the given environment, there may be objectively a "best" system of laws or moral code for that society.
    Sure. But I'm waiting to see how you fit emotions that influence our value judgements, and our morality, leads to that morality being objective. Or do you think using the word "objectively" in the sentence does that for you?
    We're not talking about moral framework, either. You have slipped that in, yet that is tied very much to a society, not the individual. We are talking about morality. Let's please stick to that, shall we?
    I am a human being, thanks, JamesR, but thanks for the insult. I guess I'll wait for you to actually answer the question.
    Not "inevitably". Usually, perhaps. But you still haven't answered my question. Perhaps you thought it rhetorical? I'll wait.
    I'm not making assumptions, JamesR. I'm responding to your points. I'm questioning them. Criticising them where appropriate. But because I don't know your position what I'm not doing is going "Well, I assume you must think X and Y, and that is bad!". If you state X and Y, sure, I'll say what I think about them.
    So I practice what I preach, thanks. Not always perfect, though.

    Of course opinions are divided. This is a matter of philosophy, after all. I expect people to disagree with me. Would be boring if they didn't. Do you honestly expect to enter a philosophical discussion and have everyone actually agree with you?
    Heck, if people use different meanings of otherwise standard terms, they can come to any conclusion they want, I guess.

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    "X is 1!!"
    "No! Y is 2!!!"

    Ah, well, c'est la vie.
  8. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    The answer to the question of "is there extraterrestrial life in the universe" has an objective answer. We may never know that answer, but there is a yes or no answer.

    Whether a given action is moral or immoral, right or wrong, good or bad... not so much. Is killing someone wrong? As a general rule, I would say yes... Then again, what about self defense?
  9. O. W. Grant Registered Senior Member

    Hi, Sarkus,

    moral (adj.)

    "... and directly from Latin moralis "proper behavior of a person in society,"...

    society - law (something is moral = something is lawful)

    1. if someone is alone = there is not a society, then there is not law of society

    2. Ego (I, consciousness) takes different states. Then one being alone is not alone - one (doer) and one's conscience (Adult state - authority).
    It is a society of 2. Authority has doer. There is law of that society and it is the law of Authority. If that law says it's okay then it is moral.
    If that law says it's not okay then it is immoral.

    /just a speculation/
  10. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    No such animal as higher morals

    ALL morals are equal because they (any moral) are subjective to the person

    If you are thinking about the LEGALITY of morals there could be a hierarchy of authority

    With authority you would be considering what would be the best for the group under which said authority

    You would also subjectively be deciding best and which authority

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

    Of course that's not true, as long as we are able to agree on some basics about what is valuable.

    If one individual thinks that murdering innocent people is fun and it makes him happy, and therefore it's a moral thing to do, then the vast majority of the rest of us are going to disagree with that stance. The problem is that this psychopath's subjective "morality" (if it can even be dignified with that term) does not accept basic tenets such as valuing human wellbeing. The psychopath regards other human beings as objects to toy with, not as people. His moral outlook is untenable for a society, because if everybody in society had the same attitudes society would collapse.

    Demonstrably, the "normal" human attitude that murder is a moral wrong is superior to the idea that murder is a moral good, as long as we are able to agree that the goal to promote human wellbeing is a worthwhile one. If you can't agree to that, then I don't want you in my society.
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  12. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Equating "lawful" with "moral" (and the opposites) is a good starting point but clearly not correct. Homosexuality is lawful in my country, but there are many (although I am not one) who consider it immoral. There are also illegal things that many consider not immoral but are illegal: stealing a loaf of bread if starving, smoking marijuana, and likely countless other laws.

    I do see morals as a subjective matter: each person has their own. Society very much helps shape what one sees as moral or immoral - and societies develop a shared subjective moral code, much of which is enshrined in their laws (ethics). You grow up in the society, informed by the society, so take on their view of morals, until such time as you have the ability and willing to question them yourself, and thereby start to develop your own moral code.
    The codes of society also change, precisely because they are not objective, because they are subjective. And when a weight of feeling develops, when the majority (perhaps) wish the law to be changed to reflect the new majority-shared subjective moral code, the law is changed. The ethics of that society change.
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  13. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Now you are talking about codifying popular morals into agreed laws

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

    It doesn't require codification. Morality is all about how people relate to other people. A universe with only one person it would have no need for morality.

    In practice, a society will take steps to ostracise people who do not share a certain minimal subset of moral values. It's a purely practical matter. It keeps the general populace safe and happy, and it keeps the society functional and productive.

    Codification and other forms of formalisation of morals into laws are just elaborations on the basics.
  15. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Ummmm one person. ONLY one person? No animals to worry about?

    Ño need to be moral over animals???

    Got it.

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  16. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    OK I'm thinking Roe vs Wade here. Currently abortions legal. If you consider abortions to be immoral don't have one

    If overturned (there is talk of being overturned (for the whole of America, it being Federal Law) but in a twist hand ball to the states allowing each state to enact, or not, it's own version

    Should you live in a state where the lawmakers agree with abortions being legal I guess not much will change

    The other states, who knows?

    What is strange, for me - currently no-one is being forced to live to another's moral standard

    Make abortions illegal and those who wish to have an abortion will be forced to live to another's moral standard

    Those who wish to have an abortion will be traveling to states where t is legal. Those who don't wish to have an abortion no travelling involved free to stay where you are


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  17. origin Heading towards oblivion Valued Senior Member

    And those who cannot afford to travel to another state and get an abortion will be out of luck.
  18. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member


    So much for the concept of Laws applying equally to everyone

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  19. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    Of course "morals" are subjective. The only way it could be otherwise is if there was a "God" to set absolute truths. It see no evidence for that.

    The whole concept of "morals" is religious in nature. Most of us know not to kill others except in self-defense, because we don't want to be killed ourselves. Most don't feel that way about some animals and that's largely because most animals aren't going to be killing us if we do.

    It's also because we need to eat. Imagine a "world" where there are only humans. We might be hunting some of them for dinner. The culture would likely have rules for that relating to "them" vs "us". It might then be "morally" wrong to hunt and eat from our own clan but not from the "outside world". It's subjective.

    What is right or wrong is culture based. If there was limited food it might be "wrong" to give food to another group. Some feel abortion is wrong and other's don't. That's subjective.

    Some feel that it's wrong to have a child out of wedlock. That's cultural and not absolute.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2022
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  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    In so far as we (as a society of interacting individuals) need to decide what we value and therefore what falls within the moral compass, yes. However, once we have decided that, then there are objectively better and worse ways to defend what is valued.

    Do you think you can agree that human wellbeing is valuable, as general proposition? If so, then there are objectively superior ad inferior ways to promote human wellbeing, and thus actions can be judged as to whether they are better or worse at promoting the "goal" of maximising human wellbeing.

    This is just one example of deciding what we value, but you can already see that with just this one thing, we already have a basis for objective evaluation of many types of action against a moral standard.
    No, it is not. Religions have their own ideas about what is valuable, but there is no need for morality to involve religion. Secular humanism, for example, is a non-religious moral system.
    This is a rather low-level way of thinking about why a person should be moral - the idea that we fear punishment or harm to ourselves if we do not act in accordance with moral "rules" imposed on us from outside. There are higher-level ways to think about why we ought to act morally, dealing with reasons outside our narrow self-interests.
    No vegetables or other edible plants in this imaginary world? It doesn't seem very realistic.
    You're essentially inventing a world where certain moral choices are unavailable, due to the necessities of survival. If one has no choice about how to survive, then I don't really see how morality comes into it at all. Morality is all about choosing the right or wrong thing.
    It is relative to what a culture values, yes. Morality is interpersonal, not solipsistic.
    Feelings are certainly subjective. However, if one can agree that human wellbeing is valuable, then objectively one can see that banning abortion is a moral evil. This is not the thread in which to debate abortion yet again, however.
    You should perhaps try to identify the underlying principles behind the idea that it's wrong to have a child out of wedlock. What is valued, there? Does promoting that value clash with other, more fundamental, values?
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  21. O. W. Grant Registered Senior Member


    I "liked" your post twice.

    law: moral law; Admiralty law or maritime law; ... (principles, rules, ...)

    society: small societies, big societies, states, firms, tribe, political entity, ...

    values (n.)

    subjective (adj.)

    objective (adj.)


    Maybe we need an agreement on terms. Then an agreement on relations (actions, transactions, interactions, ...) in a society between two and more members.
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2022
  22. O. W. Grant Registered Senior Member

    society - (A, B, ... - members) - law

    1. one enforces the law on another
    2. "the Parent"/conscience enforces the law (in the "head" of a member of a society)

    (in 1.) One can be enforcer or enforce-ee.

    (in 2.) One (one's state of I/Ego/being) can be in a state of "the Parent"/enforcer or Adult, Child (enforce-ee).

    Subjective - Objective depends on One's state/position in 1. and 2.
  23. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    I'm not arguing that a sane, homogeneous society can't decide what is "right" for that society. If that were the question there would be no discussion, so it's obviously not about that.

    Regarding vegetables in my earlier point, this is a thought experiment so vegetables are beside the point, obviously.

    Of course, realistically speaking, murder or lack thereof isn't just about not wanting to be killed oneself but again, this is a thought experiment and the question itself (is morality subjective or objective) requires simplification.

    Otherwise, given our society, we know what is "good" or "bad" at the extremes. Some societies have slavery, they don't think it's wrong, at at least at some time in the past it wasn't seen as wrong.

    Actually that it is wrong to kill is about the only common thing to which most everyone agrees. Most would agree that it is wrong to lie but then they lie anyway and justify most of it.

    People agree that it is wrong to cheat on your spouse but justify it if things aren't going well at home and you'll probably get a divorce later anyway. People can't even agree on whether marriage is outdated or not.

    You seem to agree with me that at a high level, morality is subjective but then within a culture you think it's objective...except when it isn't...abortion, guns, transferring wealth in the name of equality. There is no absolute agreement on anything really other than murder.

    That's often the bad rap that Democrats get, trying to decide for everyone what is "right". That's why we have (to a degree) "state's rights" or protection of the minority view in the Constitution.

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