The Instigator
JBphilo
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Couchsessel
Con (against)
Winning
6 Points

As an atheist there is no objective morality.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Couchsessel
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/6/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,180 times Debate No: 77340
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (39)
Votes (2)

 

JBphilo

Pro

I used to subscribe to utilitarianism but then discovered the naturalistic fallacy. This being that just because humans feel pleasure and pain it does not follow that we should act according to this fact. What is the point of doing so? Why should we care about others pain in the first place? Please convince me that an objective morality as an atheist, exists.
Couchsessel

Con

Morality at it's core is nothing more than the question: "What should I do?" There are of course many different answers in different forms, but no matter what you go along with, be it religious or not, in the end it always comes down to something akin to: "You should try to prevent bad and create good."

The question many religious people ask at this point is: "If there is no god, then how do you know what is good or bad?"
Problematic is that any way you try to define something as "good" needs a bigger definition of something else as "good", thus the naturalistic fallacy.

Before I get into my real argument I would like point out that this issue applies to a religious moral system in just the same way. If you want god's definition of good and bad to hold any weight you first have to define god himself as good, which is a similar logical leap as defining a sense pleasure or the lack of pain as good.

Now, that being said, is there any logic fallacy to prevent you from not having any morality at all? Sadly, no there isn't. If you assume a truly nihilistic mindset and decide against giving anything the slightest bit of sense or purpose, then you have no way to determine what is right or wrong.

However, if you do take a truly nihilistic mindset this also means that you cannot take any purposed action in life.

Should you for example decide to steal your sibling's sweets, to eat them yourself, then the nihilistic mindset becomes invalid for you.
In order to come to that decision, you first have to define the status of "having sweets" to be preferable to "having no sweets". You define sweets as "good" and that means you have an origin to build a moral system from: If sweets are a good thing, then taking them from others is wrong, because if everyone did that, it would probably end with less sweets for everyone, including yourself.

In order to create any moralistic system you have find sense in life. I cannot help you with that, but there are many great philosophers who have written down their ideas on the subject.
All I can tell you is: The moment you decide to do more with your life than to purposeless drift around, you will have reasons for your actions. You will have ideas that you find desirable and ideas that you find revolting.

With that we come back to the old moralistic reasoning:
If everyone helped others to achieve their own goals, everyone achieves his own goal faster, thus helping others is right, while impeding them is wrong. Objectively and universally.
Debate Round No. 1
JBphilo

Pro

"Now, that being said, is there any logic fallacy to prevent you from not having any morality at all? Sadly, no there isn't. If you assume a truly nihilistic mindset and decide against giving anything the slightest bit of sense or purpose, then you have no way to determine what is right or wrong.
However, if you do take a truly nihilistic mindset this also means that you cannot take any purposed action in life.
Should you for example decide to steal your sibling's sweets, to eat them yourself, then the nihilistic mindset becomes invalid for you.
In order to come to that decision, you first have to define the status of "having sweets" to be preferable to "having no sweets". You define sweets as "good" and that means you have an origin to build a moral system from: If sweets are a good thing, then taking them from others is wrong, because if everyone did that, it would probably end with less sweets for everyone, including yourself."

We could just do things because we like to. But this is no morality and certainly not an objective one. Morality is supposed to restrict us in some way from our natural desires. If morality comes down to following ones own desires then there is no objective morality here. It just depends on the moral agent"s will and not the situation. Inevitably different people will have different views in every situation. For instance killing a man would neither be right or wrong. For one man his selfish being may see that the man is restricting his desires and therefore should be killed. Another person may find the same man actually is their desire and therefore should not be killed. Therefore, the man"s life is only valuable in its value to ourselves.

"All I can tell you is: The moment you decide to do more with your life than to purposeless drift around, you will have reasons for your actions. You will have ideas that you find desirable and ideas that you find revolting."

Yes but this is no morality. This is following one"s desires and is not built on reason. It is selfish, built only to serve oneself. There is no obligation to help others in your explanation. Why should I help starving children? As you said earlier morality is the question "what should I do?". As far as I can see, if the answer is follow our desires then that is no objective morality (I include utilitarianism in objective morality as even though killing a man may not always be wrong, it does argue that killing a man when the situation is X is always wrong). If the answer just requires me not to do certain actions, e.g. murder, then this still does not answer the question as it is what we "should" do and not what we "should not" do. There is no point according to this for standing up to injustice or giving to charity. These acts are not required of an individual. If I see a drowning child in the pond on my walk this morning, why should I save them? I am not required by an objective morality to save them.
"If everyone helped others to achieve their own goals, everyone achieves his own goal faster, thus helping others is right, while impeding them is wrong. Objectively and universally."

But this is again essentially selfish as helping others is ONLY right in that it helps me. The drowning child would then only be valuable in that saving it would help my aims. Giving to charity in another country is likely to have no effect on my life quality so therefore it is not moral to give to charity. We also have the free-rider problem, let others act morally so benefiting me and then just act selfishly and enjoy the benefits.
Couchsessel

Con

You said:

"But this is again essentially selfish as helping others is ONLY right in that it helps me. The drowning child would then only be valuable in that saving it would help my aims. Giving to charity in another country is likely to have no effect on my life quality so therefore it is not moral to give to charity. We also have the free-rider problem, let others act morally so benefiting me and then just act selfishly and enjoy the benefits."

This is not what what I meant to say with my argument. For my reasoning I was including Kant's categorical imperative. I thought that this would become clear from what I wrote, but I should have said so directly. Sorry. The imperative goes akin to: "If you think about whether or not you should perform a certain action, imagine that everybody in a similar situation performed this action. If the result on society is positive, then it is a good action, if it is negative, it is a bad action." [1]

With this kind of reasoning you can indeed answer the question: "Should I help a child drowning in the pond, despite having no actual benefit from it?"

If everyone helped others who are in a life and death situation, the result would be better than if everyone ignored them, thus helping the child is the right course of action, even if I myself receive minor harm, or put myself in danger during the rescue.

The only problem with this is the naturalistic fallacy. The whole reasoning above will only work if you assume that "not drowning" is preferable to "drowning"
Your instincts sure tell you so, but that does not mean that it is actually true.

If you have any objections with what I wrote before this point (which is mainly just a retelling of Kant's imperative), please state so directly in your next argument, because the rest of my reasoning needs it to work.

So all you need for a proper moral system is a definition of something as "good".

If you for example define survival as something good, then you can use the imperative to conclude a huge number of rules you should follow, for example to help others in need, or to prohibit murder. If you go further you can also conclude that stealing or bullying is bad, as it distracts the individuals, who would survive better as a group.

If you define pleasure and the lack of pain as good, you can do something similar, and will probably end with a similar set of rules.

As long as you have any definition of good or bad, you can work outwards from it and achieve a morality.

There are a number of things that you can choose as that ulterior good, but all of them end in one of three possibilities:

1:
Something inferior to "life". If you choose something like "pleasure", "happiness", or "eating peanut butter", you will end up with a definition that requires life to be possible. Without humans being alive in first place you cannot be happy, pleasured, or eat peanut butter. Thus one result of your definition is: "life is desirable", and from that origin you can create your objectively valid morality, using Kant's imperative.

2:
A logic fallacy. If you for example try to define "following your desires without care for others" as the ulterior good, then you will run into a discrepancy. If everyone followed his instincts without care of others, everyone would be impeded in their own attempts by others who do the same. Thus your ulterior good conflicts with itself and is invalid.

3:
Nothing at all. As I said before, true nihilism is a valid position and makes the formation of a moralistic system impossible. However, this does not mean that nihilists are allowed to do anything they want to. If a nihilist tried to hurt someone else, he would have to take action. By doing so he automatically defines "taking action" to be preferable to "taking no action". Since that action needs life to be possible, he would fall under point one and not be a true nihilist.

Since true nihilism make every purposed action impossible, one could argue that regarding a moralistic system they cannot be seen as subjects, and thus are unimportant for the system. For everyone else an objective morality exists.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 2
JBphilo

Pro

I could not find a flaw with your arguments. There may be a flaw that I have missed but for now I must accept your argument. Thanks for solving my existential crisis. Philosophy has a way of depressing oneself but it tends to also find you a way out.
Couchsessel

Con

Oh. I sure did not expect that. Glad I could help.

Anyway, this was a nice debate, even though in hindsight I kind of messed up my first argument by taking a lot of things for granted without properly explaining them. But well, it's a learning experience.

Have a nice evening (or whatever time it is you have in your timezone right now.)
Debate Round No. 3
39 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
canis
There is no other objectivety than darwinism. In the end...
Posted by Nicoszon_the_Great 1 year ago
Nicoszon_the_Great
Stop

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MLA Format

you absolute nuts
Posted by Couchsessel 1 year ago
Couchsessel
@ KroneckerDelta

But that's the problem with nihilism. I'm not talking about that "I know that in the end I cannot prove that anything matters, but I still live my if as if it did" kind of nihilism here. If they live their live as if things mattered then they have to follow the same moral rules as everybody else.

I was talking about true "I have decided for myself that nothing matters" nihilists. They by definition cannot be good or bad people, because they don't even acknowledge the existence of other people besides their own consciousness.
Posted by hldemi 1 year ago
hldemi
My respect for @ JBphilo

I argue for like 10 years and I can count on my hand fingers times when someone admitted defeat.
Kudos to that, mate.

@KroneckerDelta We might not know what it is but I think that there is objectively right and wrong things to do based upon some standard. Now the question is if this standard is objective. If you devise a standard based upon the principle that highest possible misery for most of people is objectively worse then highest possible happiness for most people, then IMO moral objectivity exists.

Is there objective morality and did we find it are two different questions.
Posted by KroneckerDelta 1 year ago
KroneckerDelta
I frankly don't understand why PRO gave up the debate. IMO there is "objectively" no such thing as "objective morality". Now perhaps the problem is that "morality", itself, cannot be defined (which is precisely why there is no objective definition of such).

CON is incorrect about his treatment of nihilism. While his argument works for a SINGLE nihilist, it DOES NOT work as a group because nihilists could be "good" people, could be "bad" people, could be "neutral" people--all of which have differing views of what is moral and what is not--thus "morality" is truly in the "eyes of the beholder" (and thus not objective).
Posted by Couchsessel 1 year ago
Couchsessel
You know how many religious people often claim that atheists cannot have morality without god giving it to them? That's what we discussed.
Posted by Commondebator 1 year ago
Commondebator
What the fvck does this have to do with atheism?
Posted by JBphilo 1 year ago
JBphilo
Well returned hldemi. I like that argument.
Posted by JBphilo 1 year ago
JBphilo
fkkize. Could you explain why the naturalistic fallacy is not sound? And any other arguments against it.
Posted by vi_spex 1 year ago
vi_spex
i can believe you are satan and deem you to hell, but i forgive you, this is the solution to all the problems in the world, but because of you, it can never happen
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by FaustianJustice 1 year ago
FaustianJustice
JBphiloCouchsesselTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Concession. Pretty simple.
Vote Placed by KroneckerDelta 1 year ago
KroneckerDelta
JBphiloCouchsesselTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: PRO forfeited in Round 3 by stating: "I could not find a flaw with your arguments." therefore arguments go to CON.