The Instigator
HomelySherlock
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Peepette
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

An infallible and "always correct" definition for morality cannot be developed.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 330 times Debate No: 81732
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (2)
Votes (0)

 

HomelySherlock

Pro

This debate, as is stated by the prompt, will discuss the possibility of a definition of morality. I am arguing that such a definition cannot be determined. To win the debate, Con can either provide an infallible definition for morality or logically prove that such a thing COULD be determined in the world we live in today. This will be a soemwhat informal debate - Con will start, and each round after that will be refuting and adding arguments.

I wish my opponent good luck, and ask Con to start.
Peepette

Con

Oxford English Dictionary: Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.
1.1A particular system of values and principles of conduct, especially one held by a specified person or society.

The dictionary term provided is just jumping off point in vocabulary usage, not to be made as a central point of debate.

I feel your point to this debate is to view the topic of defining morality from the philosophical point of view. This approach has been used and pondered at infinitum by philosophers even before Plato. But, the origins on morality and the judgments needed to define morality can be looked at in two modes. First, from an evolutionary stand point; did some form of morality develop for the purpose of propagating a gene that positively affected a family or community group? Second, as a byproduct of the first, morality further developed within a specific culture; which may or may not be relative to a different cultural group but, was pertinent to communal health and civic order. The infallibility of the definition of morality must be constrained within its context, from an evolutionary stand point, within a single familial or cultural group; or the establishment of a list of commonalities that exist across all cultures. To derive a global infallible definition outside these confines would only produce endless circular thinking; Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Stoics and the like, were inconclusive in defining morality.
Debate Round No. 1
HomelySherlock

Pro

HomelySherlock forfeited this round.
Peepette

Con

Due to the forfeited round there are no agreed upon parameters.

Based on the criteria previously described, there is an evolutionary basis for an infallible definition for morality: Animals as well as humans exhibit traits of cooperation for the benefit of others. In defining morality on these terms, that is to say, judgments on how a person or animal ought to behave under different circumstances. Morality has evolved through natural selection due to its adaptive effects in promoting the survival of a species. First, the "moral" behavior exhibited by animals (humans included in the term) toward their immediate family and off spring; sharing food, parental care and bonding, as well as aggression against threats from outside forces. Animals are not selfish or ego centric in this regard, therefore behaves morally toward one another. To cause harm within a family group can be seen as immoral. Not to behave morally in this context would lead to the demise of familial members, decreasing further reproduction of the species. Evolutionary morality defined: Life sustaining and/or cooperative behaviors toward other individuals in a familial group.

Culturally, defining morality would be in terms of a single societal group as a second tier expansion of evolutionary morality; mores specific to civic morality with the aim to maintain social order for the health of a whole community. A single culture or religion must be selected to establish an infallible definition, where it applies to this society alone. Example: At present in the US, our culture finds it immoral to burn a witch. We understand that the term and identification of a witch is subjective, and claims that such a person causes harm to our social order or community health has no merit. Yet cultures in non-industrialized areas of the world, the burning of witches is still practiced as a moral imperative to rid the community of the evil spirits or to curtail negative events that have affected that community. Drought, locus, crop failure and the like, is attributed to the accused and must be disposed of for order to return. Morality, its applied meaning, and thought process in defining morality differs from one culture to another.

To construct an infallible universal definition of morality, one needs to establish a minimum common consensus devoid of constraints from national, cultural or religious dogma. Morality and ethics has been debated since the start of human thought and is topical; self, environmental, social justice, international relations, and business ethics, etc. Also there are different ideological camps that various philosophers ascribe. I don"t wish to delve into that pool because results will be tit for tat quotations from Socrates to Epicurus, Western verses Oriental philosophies to infinitum. What ultimately enables morality to be defined is "good or bad;" even though the concepts of what a good or bad action is, is explained within individual cultures. Morality as discussed before is a combination of biological evolution and cultural rules. The definition needs to be broad enough to allow the different sectors of society to plug into it. Morality: To cause harm is bad. Concern for others in an effort to avoid harming is good.
Debate Round No. 2
HomelySherlock

Pro

From my understanding of your argument concerning evolutionary morality, you say that morality is any action which is helpful towards the survival of others in a group. Is this always true? Certainly it is within the realm of imagination to say that actions, such as murder, could sometimes help a group. However, for a definition of be acceptable it must be commonly agreed-upon. Otherwise, that definition would be considered correct to some but not others and thus not be "always correct". It can be reasonably implied that a majority of the world's population would not consider murder moral - yet, by this evolutionary definition, it could be considered such. Thus, this definition is flawed.

As for culture, I believe you yourself stated that a definition for morality correct for everyone is not attainable. At least, that is what I interpreted your second paragraph as.

As for your final definition of morality, there are some (obviously these people do not share the c ommon ideal, but they must be accounted for as they are human) who believe that harm is "good". Murderers, for example. There may be some who see nothing immoral in the loss of life. This definition of morality does not apply to them, and thus is not "all-encompassing" (for lack of a better word).
Peepette

Con

--- "Certainly it is within the realm of imagination to say that actions, such as murder, could sometimes help a group. However, for a definition of be acceptable it must be commonly agreed-upon."-" It can be reasonably implied that a majority of the world's population would not consider murder moral - yet, by this evolutionary definition, it could be considered such."----

In this context, we are speaking of the forces of evolution as it applies to a naturally occurring morality; as mentioned in my opening statement as the first mode. Murder is premeditated, it shows intent. Killing of another for the preservation of a family unit is not murder, it"s self defense. "Biological altruism has nothing essentially to do with intentions or motives, and it pertains only to "benefits" to others that increase their reproductive fitness." To take this a bit further, there"s also a predisposed genetic morality to self-sacrifice for the benefit of the familial group. This trait can be seen in social insect colonies such as ants and bees. In defense of a hive, a bee will sting an intruder sacrificing its life for the group, enabling sister bees to pass on their genetic code, essentially aiding the survival of the group.

Now let"s address murder for the betterment of a group in an effort to sustain reproduction. Remember, evolutionarily speaking we are not dealing with motive or intention but a biological moral imperative. A large group of wasps attach a bee hive. Are they murderers? One can suppose intent, but wasps can"t reason, as such can"t make moral judgments. They are biologically driven by the need to sustain their familial group by searching for sustenance; in this case honey and bee larva. Obtaining and sharing food is part of, familial care in an effort to perpetuate genetic reproduction. The death of bees is nothing more than a by product of the wasp"s efforts. The bee colony merely failed to provide adequate defense. In Darwinian fashion this family hive failed the reproductive fitness test, resulting in being naturally selected out of the bee gene pool.

We are not speaking on the world"s population with its various cultural definitions for murder, just the evolutionary premise for morality. Therefore, within undisputed confines stated, I will hold to my statement. Evolutionary morality defined: Life sustaining and/or cooperative behaviors toward other individuals in a familial group.

_--- "As for culture, I believe you yourself stated that a definition for morality correct for everyone is not attainable. At least, that is what I interpreted your second paragraph as."---

As stated in my opening, the infallibility of the definition of morality must be constrained within context, from an evolutionary stand point, within a single familial or cultural group; or the establishment of a list of commonalities that exist across all cultures." Being this element of constraint in defining morality was not contested; I will maintain that this is true only due to the lack of parameters established.

In the US is it morally wrong to kill a witch? Yes, it would be considered murder. For a tribe in Borneo the same cannot be said. Herein lies the slippery slope of out of context thinking in developing an infallible definition of morality on cultural terms.

---"As for your final definition of morality, there are some (obviously these people do not share the common ideal, but they must be accounted for as they are human) who believe that harm is "good". Murderers, for example. There may be some who see nothing immoral in the loss of life. This definition of morality does not apply to them, and thus is not "all-encompassing" (for lack of a better word)."---

The premeditation to kill someone is murder. All can agree globally that such an action is immoral. What defines a murder as a bad act is specific to an individual culture or religious group. As a member of any society, it is agreed upon that individuals contribute to that social order; essentially agreeing to avoid harming other individuals within the community.
However murder may be defined; crime in general is seen as wrong. Bad behavior has ramifications. The results of bad behavior are dealt with in an effort to protect the interest of the community. For individuals within a group who believe harm is "good;" within the scope of a culture is the establishment justice.

USA Bob murdered his neighbor for his goat, that"s bad. USA justice system steps in. It"s found in court that Bob was owed a goat as payment for services rendered. He still is judged to be bad. His act is deemed immoral, against USA social rules of order. Bob is taken out of the society as a result; he did not avoid harming someone. Amazon Joe commits the same act for the same reason. Tribal council steps in. The fact that Joe was owed a goat and not paid justifies the act. Dead neighbor Moe is judged immoral in failing to render his transactional obligation. Moe is the bad guy, and is seen to be responsible for his own death. Moe was not good in avoiding harm to Joe. Here, transactional honesty is of greater weight in this society than Joe"s disposition of Moe.

So in global terms I will maintain, Morality: To cause harm is bad. Concern for others in an effort to avoid harming is good.

Kin selection or "inclusive fitness" theory (Hamilton 1964);
Selection pressures leading to teamwork, reciprocal altruism (Trivers 1971; Maynard Smith 1982; Axelrod 1984) and indirect reciprocity (Alexander 1987; Joyce 2006); and
Group selection (Sober and Wilson 1998).
(Joyce 2006, Kitcher 2006a,b, 2011, and Machery and Mallon 2010).
(Dawkins 1989, 171"77).
http://www.academia.edu...
Debate Round No. 3
HomelySherlock

Pro

HomelySherlock forfeited this round.
Peepette

Con

Peepette forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
HomelySherlock

Pro

Unfortunately I will not be able to finish this debate due to unforseen circumstances. I thank Con for his understanding and an excellent debate.
Peepette

Con

Thank you also. I got tied up with work and forfeited a round as well. Looking forward to debating you another time.
Debate Round No. 5
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Peepette 1 year ago
Peepette
HomelySherlock 7, if you want to continue your welcome to.
Posted by HomelySherlock 1 year ago
HomelySherlock
Very sorry about that forfeit, didn't realize someone had replied,
No votes have been placed for this debate.