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

    What I find weird (even very weird) a person who is anti abortion kills a doctor performing abortions
    What is going through this idiots mind? "Well he won't kill anymore babies????" Doesn't he think about how many other doctors will help the patients he would have helped taking over his patients and doing the abortions?

    And what about the patients who he helps with other medical problems? Not saying one group cancels out the other but one less doctor when doctors are in short supply???

    Taliban seem to revel in killing those not of their faith or even those who insult their prophet

    Got them control of a country

    At its basic level marriage is really only a contract to split the assets of the two people if they divorce and spell out (arrange) how any children will be cared for

    Australia has laws now for defacto marriage

    de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975. The law requires that you and your former partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.

    In essence there is a bit more ie how long have you been living together, has only one person provided the finance for the couple and other nitty gritty to sort out etc if a defacto couple seperate

    A lot of the nitty gritty is imbedded in marriage

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


    You're arguing for moral relativism. Saying that one set of principles or rules for regulating human behaviour (calling them "morals" doesn't seem to matter much) is as good as any other, and there's no way to tell whether any one set of principles is better than another.

    Am I understanding you correctly?
    Did anybody in those societies bother to ask the slaves what they thought about slavery? I guess that when your social status amounts to being the property of another person, your opinion doesn't count for much.

    If you really believe that people who owned slaves thought it was morally right, I wonder whether you imagine those people would have readily agreed to be the slaves of other people. After all, there's nothing wrong with being a slave. Or is there?
    It's wrong to murder. Most people can think of circumstances where killing is permissible. Think about war, for instance. Also consider that there are "rules of war". The ethics of killing is more complicated than it appears. Abortion is killing, but is it murder?
    Most people can think of lots of morally permissible exceptions to the general "rule" that one should not lie.

    What this suggests to me is that the guiding moral principle in play when it comes to lying is not to be found in the prescription "Thou shalt not lie".
    When you say "justify it", are you talking about a moral justification or an excuse that a person uses to ignore the moral implications? Those two aren't the same thing.
    Is that a moral question?
    I thought I was clear. Once we have decided on a small set of core principles regarding things that we value, then there are objective actions that can be shown to enhance/protect/promote what is valued and other objective actions that can be shown to destroy/damage/neglect what is valued.
    Most of the things you mention are only disagreements because certain people put their own self-interest at the top of the value pyramid (or the bottom, depending on how you want to construct that analogy), while certain other people have a wider circle of care. Demonstrably, for a society, selfishness typically leads to sub-optimal outcomes for the society, though not necessarily for the individual selfish person.
    Whether one likes the idea of big or small government, lots of legal regulation or very little, etc., is very much tied up with how selfish the person is. Lots of people have double-standards. "Rules are good for other people, but I don't need anybody telling me what to do! I'll do what I damn well please, and you can take my gun from my cold dead hands!"
    The US Constitution was written at a time when moral philosophy was going through a stage where there was a great amount of focus on the individual and his autonomy ("her" didn't really enter the picture until much later). Hence, we see a focus on individual rights, which aren't always compatible with promoting communitarianism. "Socialism" is a word used by Americans to scare their children into voting Republican.
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  5. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    Of course they did. The slave were not human but could do some human task so not all was wasted

    What a silly question. Of course not. Slaves were not human, owners were human hence not slaves

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  7. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    In an absolute sense, yes and you've agreed with as much. Now you say that after we have agreed to a core set of principals we can objectively regulate those. Of course, but those core principals that "we've" agreed to is culture bound and not objective in any absolute sense.

    Does anyone want to agree to be a prisoner for your enemy? No, of course not but you still take prisoners when you can. That's how slavery started out. No one wanted to be a slave. No one wanted to be a prisoner of war either except that it was better than being dead and it was an outcome of war.

    One person's "selfish" is another person's self-interest. That isn't objective either. I'm feeding my family and someone in the world is hungry. Am I selfish? You have more money than me and I want you to give me some. Are you being selfish? This is a very weak argument.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Why does it matter to you whether there is an "absolute" objective morality or not? I'm not clear.

    The fact is, you live in a society. You interact with other people. The actions of other people can affect your life experience. You have to care whether those actions are moral or not, regardless of whether you think there are absolute moral principles or not.
    So, nobody wants to be a slave, but slavery being considered a moral wrong is no better then slavery being considered acceptable?

    What are you advocating for, exactly?
    We can only decide whether being selfish is a bad thing (and it might vary depending on circumstances) if we already have in place some core moral principles to which we can refer, in order to make a moral judgment.

    How do you decide whether (or how much) to donate to feed the hungry? How do you decide that your (relatively rich) family is more important that the poor and hungry people who live elsewhere?
  9. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

    I could not care less about what moral anybody has if they don't affect me

    I know some will affect me indirectly ie Government makes laws which make millionaires richer but I am outnumbered by those who manipulate the system

    Row vs Wade looks like becoming a yo-yo law depending on the make-up of the High Court in America

    You would think as it stands women have choice. If overturned women no longer have that choice. Not allowing a choice would be immoral. Especially since not allowing choice is not being based on any logic or science behind it, merely a belief

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  10. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    It doesn't matter to me whether there is an absolute objective morality or not. That was the question and I (unlike you) addressed it without subterfuge.

    I'm not "advocating" for anything. I'm just addressing the question. You seem to want to change the question. I'm also not someone who judges others as "selfish" or "not". How would I know that and why would I care in the first place.? That seems like a petty thing to do. Why would I judge you to be selfish? How about impatient? Should I judge others by that standard? Or how about petulant?

    It's not for me to judge others by such standards.

    I'd guess the Romans and Greeks didn't consider themselves to be immoral if they had slaves but I don't really know the answer to that. I know that some in the U.S. are for the death penalty (not me) under certain circumstances. In many place both in the U.S. and elsewhere that isn't considered a moral position to take.

    There isn't a right or wrong answer to that question. It has to be decided by local culture. When I grew up it was "immoral" to cut the grass or to do any yard work on Sunday. In most places that isn't even a consideration.

    For a year or two when I was a kid there were Sunday Blue Laws where most businesses couldn't be open and those that were couldn't sell much of their merchandise. A drug store could be open but it could only sell drugs and not toys or hardware. Is that moral or immoral? Or perhaps it's selfish?
  11. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Really? You don't care if other people act immorally towards other people (other than yourself)? That would make you a very unusual person.
    The right to an abortion shouldn't depend on judge-made law for precisely that reason; it gives a handful of people immense power that they really shouldn't have. Abortion rights should be federally legislated. Does the Congress have the power to do that, though? (I'm aware that even if it does, the Republican Party would most likely refuse to pass any such legislation.)
    Even as things stand, in practice access to abortion is highly difficult in some US states, because those state legislatures have passed laws that are designed to put obstacles in the way of access or provision of the service.
  12. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    If you say so.
    Subterfuge? To what are you referring?
    I have already given my answer to the question, I believe.

    Remember that it was you who brought up such matters as whether infidelity is acceptable in marriage, whether marriage itself is outdated, whether it's okay to eat animals, and other specific moral questions that would be off-topic for this thread. Yet here you are complaining that I'm somehow off-topic.
    That would make you a very unusual person. Most people do regularly make such judgments about others. We're a social species. Well, most of us are.
    If you're trying to tell me that you never judge other people, I'm afraid that I'm going to find that very difficult to believe. What are you - some kind of robot?
    Standards? Are you claiming you have no moral standards? I find that, also, very hard to believe.
    I don't think "the Romans" or "the Greeks" can necessarily all be lumped in single convenient baskets.

    Do you consider slavery to be immoral? Tell me why, or why not. Or do you find yourself unable to choose a side on that question because morals aren't objective?
    Of course there's a right or wrong answer to whether the death penalty is moral! The answer comes down, as usual, to what our core values are. Once we have a clear idea about those, then we can ask the question of whether the death penalty promotes or works against those values (and the primary social goals related to them).

    Perhaps you should think about why you consider the death penalty to be a bad policy. That might point you towards the existence of some core values that you have - maybe ones you weren't previously aware you have. Do you consider those core values to be arbitrary? If somebody holds completely contradictory values, do you think you are in any position to morally critique that person, or is one person's ideas of what is moral just as good as any other's? [This idea is called moral relativism, and it's demonstrably wrong as long as we're able to agree on just a few very basic principles. People who aren't psychopaths can usually do that.]
    Why was it considered immoral? Is the basis for that consideration sound and rational? Do you think it is possible to judge soundness and rationality objectively? If so, then why can't morals be objective?
    Did people say "It's wrong for businesses to open on Sundays" and "It's wrong for drug stores to sell things other than drugs on Sundays, but fine for them to sell drugs on Sundays"? I'm assuming they did. If you were to ask those people why one thing was wrong and another okay, could they give you a reason? Would that reason be sound and rational? [And, if we want to get meta about this, we could also ask: is it morally acceptable to judge the soundness and rationality of the reasons that people give for calling things moral or immoral?]
    Perhaps it is. It might depend on the reasons given, I think. You, on the other hand, seem to be telling me you're unwilling to make moral judgments, on the basis that you're completely unable to do so objectively (and therefore it would be "wrong" to do that (?!)).

    What do you think?
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2022
  13. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    There was quite a long break in this thread until it was revived recently. Reading back over it, I see that I have put my position very clearly and succinctly in a few earlier posts. If you have not already done so, you might like to read posts #16 and #18 of this thread for starters, because it seems to me that you and I are going over ground that I already walked Sarkus through in some detail.

    I'm happy to answer any questions you have after reading those posts, of course.
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  14. gmilam Valued Senior Member

    That's the subject of the thread - "Is morality subjective or objective?"
    Seattle likes this.
  15. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Hello gmilam.

    You are dropping into the middle of an ongoing conversation. Perhaps you should consider starting at the start and reading through to see where things have got to.

    You are right, of course. That is the subject of the thread. Well done you for pointing it out, in case I wasn't aware!

    Do you have any thoughts on the topic, then, or are you done?
  16. Seattle Valued Senior Member

    In reading those I see that you're determined that Sarkus is wrong and you are right so I don't see much point in further debate in this particular thread (he isn't wrong by the way).
    O. W. Grant and Sarkus like this.
  17. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Wrong about what, I wonder? Oh well, never mind.
    O. W. Grant likes this.
  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Well, that's just the thing. You wouldn't really know, would you?
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    It looks like you've decided to pop in at the end of this thread, for some strange reason. Perhaps you should have read the thread before deciding what I would or wouldn't really know. Or maybe try coming up with some content of your own.

    Just a couple of ideas.
  20. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    The term morality only applies to humans and is therefore absolutely subjective.
    Morality cannot be assigned to the universe, it is absolutely and implacably neutral.
    Might as well ask if morality is subjective or objective to Mathematics.
    It's a senseless question.
  21. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    That doesn't follow.
    There are many things only applicable to humans that are not "absolutely subjective".
    Being human is one of them.
    What does that have to do with being objective or subjective?
    What does "cannot be assigned to the universe" have to do with it, either?
    Objective just means that it is the case irrespective of one's individual perspective.
    So an objective morality is one where the issue of what is right and wrong (to those who comprehend those terms) is irrespective of any personal viewpoint.
    E.g. given the same facts, everyone would/should take the same view as to whether something is right or wrong.

    For example, if a group of people look at the same object, the objective element of their view is the cube.
    The subjective element is their individual perspective of that cube (which face(s) they're looking at, the angle, the distance, etc).
    But there may be people utterly oblivious to the existence of the cube - but the cube is still an objective element, just one that they are oblivious to.
    So it is with objective morals: if you understand "right" and "wrong" then it is the idea that there is only one view that can be had.
    If you don't understand "right" and "wrong" then you are simply oblivious, but the objective morals are still there.
    It isn't senseless at all.
    You really just need to comprehend what is meant by morals being objective or subjective.

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    The question is as old as the hills, and there is no "correct" answer, just different opinions.
    It's an interesting question, though, much like many philosophical issues.

    Many see objective morality as the question of what is right and wrong being handed to you - e.g. by God, or by the universe itself in some manner.
    The key, though, is that if objective then what one deems right and wrong should be the same for everyone, given the same situation.
  22. Write4U Valued Senior Member

    I understand what is being discussed. And I know the universal application of the term "universal".
    I just subjectively believe that "common" is a better term when applied to humans.

    There is a contradiction inherent in the use of Universal when applied to humans as a category.

    Belief systems are subjective.
    Existence (being) is objective.

    The term universal morals is confusing and probably misapplied altogether.

    AFAIK , "universal" means pertaining to the Universe, not just to "all Humans"
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2022
  23. Baldeee Valued Senior Member

    No, it's widely understood.
    "Universal" means "pertaining to the universe".
    No need to capitalise the "u", as "universe" has a number of meanings:
    1. the cosmos, all matter and space etc - i.e. "the Universe"
    2. the population under consideration
    There are others, if you look at a dictionary.
    They all have the same basic idea running through them of "all", but in different contexts.

    So if one takes the latter meaning above, "universal" just means pertaining to all the population under consideration.
    If we're talking about something that is only relevant to a certain population (e.g. humans) then referring to such a thing as "universal" means pertaining to all that population (i.e. all humans).

    So I would suggest any confusion is of your own making, I'm afraid.

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    Hopefully others are not similarly confused with what should really be a relatively straightforward matter of context.

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