Is There Such A Concept As Objective Morality?

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  1. profile image0
    Sooner28posted 10 years ago

    Apart from God, what is the basis of moral judgments?  I am skeptical there is any objective basis at all, because all questions of morality generally come down to the particular arguer's feelings about a situation.

    For example, I am against the death penalty.  But why?  Because it's racially applied, because it executes innocent people, and because it relies on presuppositions about the nature of punishment that are, in my opinion, indefensible.

    But what is the basis for my moralizing about the death penalty?  I've given factual reasons, but I've given nothing else.  I've given no moral principle it's violating.  I am simply relying on commonsensical notions of morality that many of us possess that urge the reader to agree with my assessment of the death penalty.  But do my strong feelings towards these facts about the death penalty constitute an argument?  No.

    I need more.  What principle?  Any principle I choose can be contested by  a reader who disagree with me, and one can always ask, "Why should I believe that principle?"  Let's take the principle that human beings have value and certain rights, and one of these rights is the protection against cruel and unusual punishment.  Let's also assume that I have given an adequate formulation of this principle, and it fits the facts of the death penalty perfectly.

    One can still ask what my justification is for the assertion that human beings have any rights at all.  Then, where must I fall?  What defense do I have left? The questioner could become emotional, and say it's "dangerous" to believe that we are in a meaningless, amoral universe.  But why should I care about danger?  And what kind of moral system relies on believing in lies because it's better than facing the truth?  This is also a fallacious appeal to consequences.

    Even if I were to come up with an argument for the moral principle that human beings have certain inalienable rights, one could further question that argument as well!

    So we are left with, in essence, a person's feelings about certain beliefs, and nothing more, and strong feelings do not constitute an argument.

    What say you?

    1. Silverspeeder profile image61
      Silverspeederposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      So what argument would you have to the statement that i own my life, it belongs to me therefor i am responsible for what i do or chose to do.

      1. profile image0
        Sooner28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Why should I believe you own your life?

        1. Silverspeeder profile image61
          Silverspeederposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Who else would own it?

          Can it be owned by someone else and how would that be?

          1. profile image0
            Sooner28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

            I don't have to assert a position one way or the other.  You made the assertion, so you must defend it.

            1. Silverspeeder profile image61
              Silverspeederposted 10 years agoin reply to this

              Its not an assertion its a fact. As no one else could even give evidence to owing it how could it be anything other.

              1. profile image0
                Beth37posted 10 years agoin reply to this

                What if your mommy still owns you. Did you buy the rights back when you turned 18?

                1. Silverspeeder profile image61
                  Silverspeederposted 10 years agoin reply to this

                  I had to think about that Beth37, do we own our children? I don't think we do but we have an obligation on moral grounds (sooner28 will argue as to why you have that obligation of course) to aid the growth of that human both physically and mentally. But i do believe the life force belongs to the individual.

                  1. profile image0
                    Sooner28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

                    I have a subjective feeling that we have an obligation tongue.

                  2. profile image0
                    Beth37posted 10 years agoin reply to this

                    I can tell you that I lock down on those little guys like a pit bull till they hit 18, then I let them go. lol
                    I feel pretty strongly that they are all mine, albeit they belong to their Creator first and foremost, and they are not mine to abuse or neglect. Just try and take a kid from his mom though and see if she thinks she owns him. lol

    2. A Troubled Man profile image58
      A Troubled Manposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Gods are not moral and don't teach morals, either. Morals come from thinking and reasoning.

    3. profile image0
      Brenda Durhamposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      objective morality?

      yes.  it's called your conscience.
      (Not to be entirely "apart from God", however, since God endowed mankind with conscience in the first place; though the power of mind and choice can indeed sear that conscience if the person desires so).

      1. profile image0
        riddle666posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        It will be good to read a little history.

        1. profile image0
          Brenda Durhamposted 10 years agoin reply to this

          Have at it then.  Happy perusing!

          1. profile image0
            riddle666posted 10 years agoin reply to this

            If the Christians ever "perused", the world would have been a better place!

    4. Jerami profile image58
      Jeramiposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      Well    I think life in prison without the chance of parole is cruel and unsual punishment.
      If I were convicted of a crime I didn't committ, I'd rather be put to sleep than to live the rest of my life in prison.   To spend life in prison is to likk the personality that I was just to persive the person that I will become (in that enviroment).  I don't know if I want to know the person that I will have to become? (in that enviroment)

      But if that ever happens  ...   I reserve the right to change my mind.

      1. profile image0
        Sooner28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I agree with that as well!  The alternative to the death penalty isn't necessarily life in prison.  Rehabilitation could be a great option as well.

        But why do I value human beings?  What argument can I bring to bear that they SHOULD be valued?  I have strong subjective feelings about the matter, but I don't know if there is anything more.

        However, since human beings are the source of morality, this means we can meaningfully argue about topics, and prime intuition pumps when attempting to convince another of our position; in other words, we create our own values.

      2. profile image0
        Deepes Mindposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        Let me ask you this, If you are sentenced to life for a crime you did not commit, in this day and age of dna evidence where cases are overturned all the time for new evidence, why would you rather end your life than hold out in hope for the new evidence?

    5. Don W profile image83
      Don Wposted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I think the answer is yes and no depending on exactly what you mean. 

      Yes, if by objective morality, you mean whether we can determine if something is moral using objective means. For example, if you adopt a no-harm principle as your moral code, there are ways that you can objectively determine whether certain things cause harm, and if so how much.

      No, if by objective morality, you mean can we objectively determine which moral code to adopt. A moral code that values human well-being and health, is intrinsically no different than a moral code that does not value those things. We can judge one to be "better" than the other, or more "useful" than the other, but only based on the criteria for "better" and "useful" that we create. In other words we can't say life is "better" than death without first defining what "better" means. That definition is subjective, and based (mainly) upon our survival instinct, which in turn is based on the genes we carry. To put it another way (assuming a naturalist word-view) the universe does not care one bit whether you spend 80 years living a rich and fulfilling life, enhancing the well-being of yourself and others, or whether you kill yourself tomorrow. Objectively speaking, neither of those options is "better" than the other.

  2. Lisa HW profile image63
    Lisa HWposted 10 years ago

    I start with the very basic, simple, and broad measure of whether something adds to/enhances life, thriving,  and the world in general (including the lives of others, but also including other types of life on Earth - or not.  There is what "adds to " life, what's neutral, and then what takes away from it.    In other words, is this  harmful (particularly INTENTIONALLY harmful) hurtful to someone/something.

    My thinking is that whether or not there's God people can't go too far wrong by using that basic measure/guide.

    I factor in differences with reasoning such as "directly harmful" or "harmful to me but not directly harmful to someone else" or "harmful to me and not at all harmful to someone else".  And, I factor in differences like whether something is physically harmful and violent, emotionally harmful and also intentional, financially harmful (degree of harm/hurt can vary on something like this one).

    I also factor in the thing of whether something amounts to taking from someone else what one has no right to take versus doing something that doesn't involve taking from someone else.

    Another guide I use is whether something includes respect for anyone/anything other than oneself and one's own property.  I'd add in, too, "ego control":  Truly "getting it" when it comes to truly knowing/feeling that others aren't just in this world "on the same terms" as we are, but that others, for the most part (and without serious damage to them and to the point where they're not normal) most want to do the right thing, are of at least a certain level of intelligence, want to be good people (etc.), just as much as we do.  Lack of ego-control often leads to "unintentional immorality" if you think about it.  (If do factor in the mental/emotional well-being of others - not just physical.)

    So, yes...     I think there is such a thing as "objective morality", but, granted, it is built on the basis of what I see as a common-sense belief that we essentially have no business "detracting" from life, other people and their lives, or the world or life in general; that we should "add to" life; and if/when we can't always do that then we can't go too far wrong with "neutral" either.  To me, that seems like common sense.  I find it hard to believe that any God would have a problem with it, and I suppose I'd throw in that I think that while Natural things like some diseases or destructive storms are kind of the only types of things that detract from life/the Earth; but those don't come from "immoral" or "evil" human doings/practices/thinking; so they're a whole different thing.

    In other words, the simple idea that no human being has a right to "detract" from life is a pretty good guide, I think.

    1. profile image0
      Sooner28posted 10 years agoin reply to this

      I agree with you on a subjective level.

      I must ask though, why should I care if something enhances life?  Why should I believe in that principle?

      1. Lisa HW profile image63
        Lisa HWposted 10 years agoin reply to this

        I see it in two ways and reason that one or both of those "angles" make sense.

        One is based on the idea that what happens in evolution favors that which will move life ahead/favor survival.  If you consider that human brain development has come a long way from what it was in the very long ago past, and if you consider that the more refined/mature brain requires more than just growing on its own (without nurturing, which comes from outside the individual), it makes sense that as babies/toddlers (who need nurturing from their mother and eventually get additional nurturing from an increasingly larger world (from "just the mother" to both parents, the family, the childhood home, school and teachers, and on and on until people are out on in their own in society; it makes sense that the human being requires an (essentially) nurturing society (different, of course, from a mother's nurturing in the early years) to reach his potential and reach "self-actualization" (a normal part of which, of course, includes trying to help others reach their own actualization).

        A sense of spirituality (different, of course, from religion) has been associated with a certain part of the brain as well; so besides it being built into the developed brain to at least consider spirituality/meaning of life (etc.), things like empathy and compassion (generally associated with enhancing the lives of others and considered vital aspects of nurturing) also suggest to me that evolution has built, or resulted in (or both) a more refined brain as well as society (at least where a large percentage of people have as optimal environments/nurturing as possible).  A society that cares for others in that society is more likely to survive than one that doesn't.

        Or, looking at things with the idea in mind that God could have created the whole "system" of life (including evolution), it would seem to make sense to me that God would favor behavior/traits that enhance the life He created - not detract from it.

        Also (and getting back to the evolution thing):  With the role that being able to adapt has played in survival of some species/some forms of life, it would also make sense to me that using those parts of the well developed human brain to figure out ways that a more complex society can live in harmony, nurture those within it, and further refine individual development/actualization as well as move mankind toward higher chances of survival (and caring for the planet as well) could either be part of some plan, or else just happen to be the only real hope of "further furthering" the process of evolution of life on the planet in general.

        Connectedness to others, to the past, to the future, etc. seem to me to be a kind of "advanced form" of nurturing but also self-actualization.  That takes a certain type of mental/emotional (and I suppose "chronological") maturity, but I don't believe individuals or society or life on Earth in general were designed to "freeze developmentally/socially" in some past stage.  And, if there was no plan, and this is all just how things have evolved over all the time that life has existed on Earth, it's only common sense that if it is to continue to thrive it is human beings (with their "advanced" brains) are, at least right now, the ones most capable of "furthering life" by valuing, treasuring, and nurturing everyone and everything that make up this life and world; and while there are certainly some people (and creatures) who aren't spending a lot of time worrying about "furthering life on Earth" and improving the existence of all of it, those concerns are an almost universal set of concerns among mentally/emotionally people.  In other words, while not everyone worries about "life and others and the world", those people who have been at least nurtured well enough to be within the range of normal mental development most often at least care enough to be worried about the world their great-grandchildren will inherit.

        Well, all that aside, whether it's the forces of Nature/evolution or God (or some other creator(s) ), it also just makes sense that doing what is destructive (and human-caused as a result of callous indifference or worse) pretty much goes against both Nature and/or any Creator(s) there may be.

        Besides, even that last paragraph aside, how could any of us possibly have any right to take away from what does not, personally, belong to us (whether that's life-in-general, other people's lives, other people, the planet, society, etc. etc.)?    Of course, where it can, through no choice of our own, get muddied is when what is destructive to one/some people/things is required (again, not necessarily by anyone's preference) in order to preserve another/some others.


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