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Are Morals Relative or Absolute?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/26/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,002 times Debate No: 63999
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (7)
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The debate is over if Morals are Relative or Absolute. I would be arguing that morals are relative. The 1st round is merely just stating if you think morals are absolute/relative and accepting the debate. Actual hardcore debate with facts and reasoning for your opinion begins in round 2


I will accept this debate and do my best to provide a legitimate argument to convince you, and the voting members, that morals are in-fact absolute and/or universal.
Debate Round No. 1


So what are morals? Morals are a code of conduct that people live by which tells them the difference between right and wrong. If we were to accept that morals are absolute, then we would basically be saying that morals are timeless and never change. This is false, especially when viewing nations through a historical lens. Take 19th century America for example, in that time period it was morally wrong to have premarital sex. Nowadays, it is concerned acceptable and not morally wrong. In Pre-Industrial society it was not considered morally wrong by society to own slaves. In Nazi Germany, it was considered moral to hate on minorities (Jews) since it was an action that protected the genetic purity of society. Given these examples, we can see clearly that morals have changed over time. Since morals have changed over time and have not remained unchanging and absolute, we can conclude that morals are in fact relative.


Morals are, as you said, a code of conduct that determines the difference between right and wrong. Morals are timeless, they never change. As long as humanity exists there will be morals that remain constant. For example, the sanctity of human life. Ever since the development of laws one of the primary laws was punishment for killing another human being. Now of coarse there is a difference between laws and morals. However, many laws have been based off of morals. For example the ten commandments from the bible contain several morals that are accepted and followed by almost all societies.
1) respect your father and mother. This idea has become incredibly prevalent in our modern day society. It is ignored by many teenagers throughout our world. However, I have found no evidence of a society in which it is promoted to disregard your parents authority.

2) You shall not misuse the name of the lord (swear). This is ignored by almost everyone. However, in the professional and religious communities it is certainly frowned upon to use vulgar language.

3) You shall not commit murder. This is one of the oldest examples of human morality recorded. Laws about murder date back all the way to the Code of Ur-Nammu (2100 - 2050 BC). And thats only one of the earliest recorded examples,

These three examples are all morals that date back hundreds to thousands of years. Morals remain the same all throughout time. Whether or not morals remain generally excepted by society is certainly up for debate. However the morals themselves do not change. In regards to the morals around having premarital sex. The moral itself remains unchanged premarital sex vs. postmarital sex, the only thing that changes is the number of people who accept and follow it.
Debate Round No. 2


Even the morals that you have named are not absolute and have changed too from society to society
1. Respect your mother and father - In Conservative societies this is moral is held to be very true. But in the West, it is encouraged by society to not respect your mother and father. In fact it is often times portrayed by our culture that if you are just obedient to your father and mother, that it is wrong and that instead you should be an individual and rebel against them since its a natural part of the growing up process.
2. Some societies don't even believe in a religion so that moral is irrelevant. Take for example the communist states founded on the principles of Atheism such as the Soviet Union, 1960s-1990s China, or North Korea. In those nations, people don't even believe in a god so they could care less if the lords name was misused or not.
3. As I said earlier, this isn't necessarily a concrete moral as scary as that sounds. Native American societies would sacrifice people and rip their hearts out of their chest as tribute to a god. Most societies also tolerate murder by promoting warfare, the death penalty, and some would argue abortion. If these examples aren't good enough, then take the Nazi society for example and how they promoted the killing of jews in concentration camps. So even these morals, while more solid than the others, still have not been absolute since there have been societies were those morals were non-existent.


I think you missed the point of my argument. Morals in and of themselves do not change, the only thing that changes is the percentage of the society that accepts them thus making them a relevant or non relevant moral belief.

In response to your rebuttals.

1) There are really two main perspectives on this. The teen/ young adult and the adult. Of coarse from the teens perspective they believe they should rebel and ditch their parents at the first opportunity. Then there is the adults perspective, where they realize what a huge mistake it was to party instead of getting a proper education like their parents suggested. Your argument supports my point. The moral is upheld largely by the conservative population and ignored by others. The doesn't mean the moral changes, it just means its ignored.

2) Morals aren't religious. Morals can have a basis in religion, i.e. the ten commandments. However, they are not necessary based in religion. Even people with absolutely no religious background of any kind still no that it is morally wrong to rape and kill people. Also as I said using the phrase "use the lord name in vain" refers to swearing in general and not just using God, Jesus or any variation thereof in a vulgar manner.

3) This is very true, certain cultures sacrificed people to their gods. To us this seems totally immoral. But this is because we have different morals, not because they took our morals and reversed them. During war some would argue killing is wrong. While others would say that both combatants knew the risk of engaging in war and thus killing them would not be immoral.

To sum it all up, morals don't change. Whether your morals say killing is wrong and mine saying killing is ok is irrelevant. If a society as a whole just decides one day to change their perspective on killing, this does not mean that the moral supporting the preservation of life has changed. It simply means that they have decided to ignore one moral and subscribe to a different perspective. It is like reading the newspaper. If a man reads the same newspaper for 10 years and then one day changes newspapers it does not mean the newspapers themselves have changed, it only means that the man has decided to read another newspaper. Morals are absolute and never change. The only thing that changes is the individual and social perspective on those morals.
Debate Round No. 3


But see that's the key; If the morals that govern society are no longer followed by society, then they fail to become morals any longer. The reason is because morals by their very definition are a code of conduct that people live by which tells them the difference between right and wrong. What this means is, if a majority of society reforms their opinion on a certain moral, then that moral will evolve and change to meet the changing culture therefore rendering the moral itself relative and not absolute. For morals to be absolute, society would have to never change there perspective on the appropriate code of conduct to live by. Morals like laws require the consent of the people to exist, without that consent the morals are gone.


" If the morals that govern society are no longer followed by society, then they fail to become morals any longer", I think we will have to agree to disagree on this point. A moral itself does not change. For example, the moral that it is wrong to have premarital sex will always be a moral. Nothing is going to change the fact that that moral exists. As you said earlier this is ignored by a large portion of our society. However this does not stop it being a moral, it only means it is an irrelevant one. The societal and individual perspective on any given moral changes, if I may use a pervious example, just because you begin reading a different newspaper it doesn't mean the newspapers themselves have actually changed. Morals are absolute and never change.
Debate Round No. 4
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by missmedic 2 years ago
This question may be more complex than it looks. It is important not to confuse objective morality with absolutist morality. The latter is a hallmark of religious doctrines, which make statements of the type "thou shalt not". But an objective morality, i.e. a morality based on the facts of reality, does not need to be of that type. All it needs in order to be objective is to refer to some facts of reality as source of moral judgments. Because of this, atheism is perfectly compatible with objective morality.
Posted by funnycn 2 years ago
Morals...just an illusion.
Posted by cheyennebodie 2 years ago
It would depend on your moral compass.If you are a liberal and believe that there should be no property rights, then there would be no such thing as stealing. But if you do believe in property rights, then stealing is wrong. Even if you steal.If you believe that all we are is an accident of nature and are mistakes of evolution, then I guess you could convince yourself that killing is just an adventure.If you believe that we will never be held accountable for our actions, then whatever floats your boat.

Of course My belief is that all will be held accountable for those beliefs we live under and practice. There is always consequences for words and actions. Life and death. There is a life cycle and a death cycle. All words and actions will put you in one of those two.I believe we have no choice that there are these cycles. The only choice we have is which one we walk in.Now they are what is absolute.
Posted by Pfalcon1318 2 years ago
Perhaps a better phrasing for the resolution would be "Morality is Relative" or "Morality: Relative or Universal?" just for the purposes of clarity.
Posted by Atmas 2 years ago
I think they mean actual stories and statistics rather than hypothetical anecdotes. But the actions of other people can only be interpreted, so there's no real proof that a person acting against common morals do or do not feel bad about their actions.
Posted by Jackthemarine86 2 years ago
I'm confused as to the prerequisites of the debate. You want facts in the second round.. and hard core facts, and yet I don't understand how you can utilize the scientific method which is limited to what is material in order to measure and prove an immaterial subject.. I.e., morality.

If you were to suggest morality is a byproduct of materialism, I'd be interested to see exactly what proof (not hypothesis or conjecture) you have to prove it.
Posted by djdipretoro 2 years ago
If I were to debate, I would side with "objective morality" instead of "absolute morality. If you are cool with me arguing for objective morality instead of absolute, I would accept.
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