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DA Tournament: The Most Accurate Meta-Ethical Theory. Moral Realism (Pro) vs Moral Relativism (Con)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/28/2015 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,630 times Debate No: 69079
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (39)
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Full Resolution: "What is the most accurate meta-ethical theory. Moral Realism, or Moral Relativism

This is in fulfilment of the religious devils advocate tournament:


Moral Realism: "Moral realism (also ethical realism) is the position that ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world (that is, features independent of subjective opinion), some of which propositions may be true to the extent that they report those features accurately."[]

Moral Relativism: "Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures... meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong"[]

8,000 characters, 4 rounds, 48h.
Burden of Proof is Shared.

Round 1: Acceptance, definitions
Round 2: Opening arguments (no rebuttals)
Round 3: Arguments, rebuttals
Round 4: Arguments, rebuttals
Round 5: Rebuttals & Conclusion (no new arguments)

Best of luck Benshapiro!


I accept the definitions given. I will be arguing that moral relativism is a more accurate meta-ethical theory than moral realism. The BoP is shared. Best of luck!
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Benshapiro for this debate.

I will just be using this round for positive material; I will proceed with my critique of moral relativism next round. I am going to take several routes in affirming the resolution. Inference to the best explanation (via. moral sense theory and doxastic beliefs), logical necessity and pragmatics.

Moral Sense Theory
Moral realism is an excellent explanation for our moral sense. If moral realism is true, then we would expect strongly general moral statements across sentient beings. Thus is because the statements of moral facts will not be subjective and thus will be uniform in their truth value from person to person. Hence we would expect strong consensus on several moral statements from our moral sense.

We find this is indeed the case when it comes to several statements, such as involving murder, rape, sickness and health. We almost unanimously prefer to be in a state of health, and prefer to be alive than dead. We almost ubiquitously prefer our cognitive and physical freedom and have an innate sense of affection for close parties, such as family, children and partners. If moral realism is true then we would expect a strong consensus on these moral senses, and that is exactly what we observe in reality.

Furthermore, it is virtually impossible to deny the fact we have a moral sense as it is an incorrigible experience.[1] I.e. it is something we directly perceive as the subject, similarly to how we perceive colour, sound, taste and our own thoughts. That is not to say it is a statement about what our moral sense refers to (for example, it is possible that our colour qualia don’t actually correlate to wavelengths of light, but something else), but the statement that we have a “moral sense” is one that cannot be false. Similarly, the fact you perceive black and white as colour qualia cannot be false, as it is an incorrigible experience, although you can dispute the nature of what the qualia represents.

Thusly, we have a moral sense, and that moral sense is inductively observed in a way which is supportive of moral realism. When we refer to our moral sense when we make statements about when we see someone murdered, or raped, we refer to our “sense qualia”, which are in some manner linked to moral realism.

Grounding Moral Truths
There is no lack of abundance of ways in which moral truths can be grounded. The more traditional ways of grounding moral truths are in an objective moral agent, such as God. Accordingly what is moral will be that which concords with God’s nature. Note that God doesn’t actually have to exist for morals to be grounded, only for there to be an agreed upon concept of God to which moral truths are reported from. For example, even assuming the Christian God is completely fictional still leaves God’s moral code as an objective standard by which actions can be reported to be right or wrong (such as those listed in the ten commandments). This allows for imperative statements such as “You must not murder” to be cogent and thus moral realism follows.

Other efforts ground moral truths in naturalistic features of the world. For example utilitarianism grounds moral truths in the well-being of the population when considering the global effect of one’s actions and so on (such as in scientific realism).[2] The moral facts are easily definable and cogent in non-moral terms, and they are true or false independently of personal bias or subjective opinion. While the quantities of the measure of each grounding may be subjective, the facts (X is wrong) are themselves true or false for each situation. Thus we have good reason to accept that in principle, it is very easily possible to objectively ground moral truths, and thus entailing moral realism.

Categorical Argument
In moral realism, at least one indicative proposition is true. An indicative moral proposition such as “raping babies for fun is wrong” is either true of false in moral realism, however it is incoherent in moral relativism. If at least one indicative moral proposition is indeed true then the resolution is immediately affirmed.[3]

Thus, we can make a tautological proposition:

“Either raping babies for fun is either right or wrong or raping babies for fun is not right and not wrong”

To put this into notational form:

X is either [A or B] or [Not A and Not B]

IF we accept the former proposition “either A or B”, or “not right and not wrong”, then moral realism holds. Thus the only way moral realism can be false is if the latter proposition “not right and not wrong” is true for each and every possible “moral proposition”.

Thus we end up with assigning potential moral acts into two categories, moral categories “either right or wrong” or amoral categories “neither right, nor wrong”.

This is problematic, since the category of “amorality” is defined according to what “morality” is defined. Similarly, categories such as “asexual” and “non-English” etc. are defined according to the absence of the non-qualifying category. In set theory this would be the universal set without the set containing the qualifying category.

Thus, the term “amoral” is defined directly according to what is “moral”, however this is only possible if what is “moral” is a cogent concept, otherwise the term “amoral” would be completely meaningless since there would be no distinction between moral and amoral acts. Thus, it must follow that there are truth conditions by which something can be “moral” or not. IF there are truth conditions, then moral realism must follow, since inevitably something will fall into the former category, even hypothetically.

Functional Realism
We operate on the assumption that realism holds, since we almost ubiquitously agree that moral disputes are resolvable. This is essentially impossible to do cogently in moral relativism, or flat out moral anti-realism, since moral statements can never be universally true in either meta-ethical framework.

When we make political decisions to resolve humanitarian crimes in other countries, sanction other bodies due to violations of weapons treaties on their own people, or even draw up a constitution for all members of society (as well as when we grant human rights) we consequently operate under the assumption that there are global moral truths ubiquitous across the human species. We operate under the assumption that is really is wrong that North Korea starves its own people for example, and that we need to do something about it. Recent action taken in Libya provoked by the use of live ammunition on unarmed civilians protesting are made on the assumption that we are within our right to impose certain values upon the Libyan populace.

IF it really was the case that morality was relative, then we would not have grounds upon which we can indeed condemn such actions, since it is just the subjective opinion of the totalitarian regime in power at the time.

Because we operate under “functional realism”, it follows that it is doxastic, and thus is by default, the most accurate and preferred position. This applies to several other fields, for example methodological naturalism is the principle underpinning of science, which has led to the well-respected position of metaphysical naturalism, thus we should have good confidence that moral realism is the most accurate and best supported meta-ethical theory.




Affirming moral relativism.

I will put forward arguments affirming moral relativism in this round. After each argument has been put forward I'll leave it to my opponent to pick apart for the next round.

Defining moral relativism


Moral relativism is an umbrella term that encompasses many different philosophical beliefs on the subject. Fundamentally, all moral relativists would agree that moral judgements can only be judged to be 'right' or 'wrong' relative to the moral norms of whatever society you happen to be living and that moral judgements can't be proven to be objectively superior to any other.

Branches of moral relativism


[Meta-ethical] moral relativism: moral judgements are relative to different perspectives and aren't true or false in any absolute sense.

Non-realism: There is no such thing as an objective moral order that we can compare the 'right' or 'wrongness' of our moral beliefs against.

Non-cognitivism: Moral judgements don't have an inherent truth value in the same way that “sky is blue” has a truth value. There is an indivisible divide between 'fact' vs. 'values'.

Descriptive relativism: It's a fact that moral beliefs, practices, and customs vary between cultures. Some societies view gay marriage as acceptable while others don't.

Many of these definitions overlap in some ways but have subtle philosophical differences. For example, non-realism is an ontological claim (this 'is' reality) while non-cognitivism is an epistemic claim (this can't possibly be 'known' or 'verified' with reality). All branches of moral relativism subscribe to meta-ethical moral relativism.

It's also worth noting that moral relativism has a sound foundation in nihilism before starting my next section.

Nihilism: all moral values and judgements are essentially meaningless or baseless. [1]


Moral relativism is a viewpoint that has a logical foundation in existential nihilism. Existential Nihilism is the notion that nothing has any ultimate meaning, purpose, or reason for existence. The universe would be entirely indifferent to our moral judgements.

Moral relativism is the most parsimonious explanation


Moral relativism converges with evolutionary theory. If we accept that life has evolved from whole taxonomic groups over large periods of time, then human morality is ultimately the product of natural selection. If human morality is the product of natural selection, morality is an emergent result of this process. If morality is emergent, then morality can't be true or false in any absolute sense and is relative depending on what species you happen to be. We know that it's immoral to eat and kill our signifcant other after mating but if we were a black widow it'd be perfectly normal. If morality is argued to be unique to human beings (1) why do animals seem to behave according to moral codes (2) why would *only humans* have a set of moral codes that describe objective features of the world to the exclusion of all other species? When weighing moral relativism against moral realism to see which is most accurate, it's important to see which theory is most supported explicilty or implicitly with evolutionary theory. The data shows that the evidence supporting evolution is simply overwhelming. Its no surprise then that 99.9% of scientists accept the theory of evolution.These evidences include but are not limited to:

  • transitional form fossils

  • anatomical & molecular vestiges

  • molecular evidence

  • shared DNA between species


Moral relativism is the only meta-ethical worldview that is parsimonious with evolutionary theory. Evolutionary theory is firmly established. Therefore moral relativism is the most acccurate meta-ethical worldview.



I am only going to affirm descriptive egoism. Descriptive egoism is the notion that people are motivated by their own desires and self-interests and results in forming their meta-ethical worldview. Our desires and self-interests are what forms our moral values. For example, if I desire life, I will place value on life. Therefore I can understand others who have this desire and this results in a shared moral code between us. Since 'desire' isn't objective, then it follows that our values are not objective. If our values are not objective, it's impossible for our moral code to be anything other than relative depending on our desires. Egoism was a tenet held by Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, who argued that the most efficient economy is a free market because supply and demand are equal since everyone seeks their own self-interests.

Descriptive relativism


Descriptive relativism holds as fact that moral beliefs vary from society to society. This is obvious. Some societies view cows as sacred, others don't. Some societies accept gay marriage, other's dont. In Yemen child marriage is permissible but in other societies it isn't. Moral values are factually different across socities. This more accurately aligns with moral relativism as the true meta-ethical worldview. The logic behind this is that if there are moral differences between societies it undermines the claim that there are 'objective' moral facts and shows goes to show that morality in one society is no superior to morality in another.

There's no coherent alternative to moral relativism


Coherent: (of an argument, theory, or policy) logical and consistent.

Since moral relativism is ultimately built upon a nihilist foundation, the only alternative to moral relativism is moral realism. There are good reasons to affirm that moral relativism is the only coherent explanation compared to the alternative.



If one were to argue that there are 'moral facts' they must be able to validate those facts apart from their personal bias of their desires and self-interests. If there is something is 'factual' or an 'objective feature' of the world it exists apart from human opinion. Descriptive egoism holds that it is impossible to verify the truth of 'it's wrong to lie' in the same way one could verify the truth in the claim 'bacteria is microscopic' because there's no verifiable 'truth value' in moral claims. Value judgements can never logically be equated with factual statements. Thus, there's an individisible divide between our personal moral values as a construct of subjective desire vs. objective moral facts.



Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or

cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are

measured in relation to one's own.” [3]

This means that our notions of 'right' and 'wrong' are thought to be matter-of-fact but are irreparably conditioned by our culture, customs, and social norms. Here's something that illustrates that point:

The historian Herodotus tells the story of how the Persian king

Darius asked some Greeks at his court if there was any price for which

they would be willing to eat their dead father’s bodies the way the

Callatiae did. The Greeks said nothing could induce them to do this.

Darius then asked some Callatiae who were present if they would ever

consider burning their fathers’ bodies, as was the custom among

Greeks. The Callatiae were horrified at the suggestion. Herodotus

sees this story as vindicating the poet Pindar’s dictum that “custom

is lord of all”; people’s beliefs and practices are shaped by custom,

and they typically assume that their own ways are the best."” [3]

I believe that this illustrates my point perfectly. I'll leave you with a quote from Nietzsche:

There are no moral phenomena, only moral interpretations of phenomena.” -Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil, 108).




Debate Round No. 2


Moral Nihilism
Con attempts to square the circle here. Moral Nihilism is explicitly different to moral relativism, as it is the complete rejection of all moral judgements, thus no moral judgement can be true (moral scepticism) or true or false (moral non-cognitivism). This is explicit from moral relativism that states that moral judgements CAN have truth values, only those values are subjective. Thus Con’s attempts to affirm moral relativism via. moral nihilism effectively kills his own case.

Con seems to confuse the philosophies here, since moral non-cognitivism is a branch of moral nihilism if anything, and cannot in principle be a branch of moral relativism. If anything, it is only a branch of moral-anti realism. It only serves as a mitigating argument.

Existential nihilism
Existential nihilism is also rather irrelevant to this debate, as it is not inclusive of all forms of moral realism and moral relativism. While all dogs are mammals, not all mammals are dogs. Thus while some moral realist and relativist philosophies take into account inherent values (such as that of a human life), it simply isn’t the case that they are contingent upon them. Thus this does not help Con affirm any philosophy, not even moral nihilism.

Furthermore, Con entirely begs the question when he affirms existential nihilism. He gives this no support whatsoever for this presupposition. Why should we reject inherent purpose and value by fiat> Con simply states it is more parsimonious, but doesn’t go to any length to explain how. This is in fact, false, since it is virtually undeniable that we all have a moral sense. We are oriented to behave certain ways, to conform to certain expectations, and we have an innate sense of right and wrong. It is almost certainly a properly basic truth that is known subjectively, as are other truths such as cogito ergo sum (I doubt therefore I think, I think therefore I am) or incorrigible mental states (such as your mental state visualising the words on the screen in front of you). It is easily arguable that the moral sense is an incorrigable mental state, thus cannot be argued to not exist.

Given this, it would be the one denying this basic truth that would be making the less parsimonious claim, since we are starting from basic truths and working from there, rather than starting from *no* truths and working from there. Thus it is Con’s burden to show that our sense of meaning, purpose, and moral sense is false, as we have direct access to it, much like we have direct access to visual stimuli (colour qualia), hearing, etc. It is undeniable that our other incorrigible mental states reflect something happening in reality (colour qualia for example), thus our moral sense is simply an extension of that.

Argument from Evolution
Con’s argument appears to be the following:

1. If morality is emergent then moral relativism is true
2. If evolution is true, then morality is emergent
3. Evolution is true
C. Moral Relativism is true

The problem for Con is that he is overgeneralising what evolution does. Natural selection doesn’t lead to calculus, or art, or to literature. Evolution only explains the formation of the machinery that allows that to happen, evolution does not, and can not in principle say anything about morality except how we experience and bias certain stimuli.

To give a counter-argument:

1. If evolution is true, then mathematics is emergent & relative
2. Mathematics is not emergent & relative
C. Evolution is false

My first premise is affirmed using exactly the same logic that Con has used to affirm P2 of my depiction of his argument (If evolution is true then morality is emergent). Since mathematics is objective, formal and most certainly not emergent, but an objective system of truth that simply is, then it follows that evolution must be false.

Thus, Either Con has to concede that evolution is false, or that his reasoning for P2 in my depiction of his argument (“If evolution is true, then mathematics is emergent & relative”) is false. In either case his evolution argument fails (since his argument uses both as premises).

Furthermore, evolution simply cannot affirm moral relativism even in principle, and can only hope to support moral realism since evolution is objective, and it deals with what “is”, thus evolution is insufficient to get to an “ought” (c.f. is/ought problem), thus Con cannot affirm morality via, evolution since they are like cereal and water. They simply do not mix, and cannot ever hope to mix. Also because evolution is objective, something that is inherently subjective (such as Con’s moral system) cannot be derived from it.

Con completely dodges the hurdle when it comes to actually affirming egoism as the most accurate meta-ethical theory. At best Con has only presented an alternative system that may or may not have ontological relevance. We can dream up physical theories all day, but they are only ever going to be relevant and say anything about it when we test it against reality and look for it’s logical implications.

Con has not provided that with descriptive egoism. Furthermore egoism deals entirely with self-interest and desires, yet we have abundant evidence that people act outside of their major self-interests, even as far as sacrificing their own lives for others (altruism).[] We simply would not expect this IF descriptive egoism is correct.

Descriptive relativism
Con ignores the fact that there is significant agreement on the most important moral issues between societies, which would not be expected of moral relativism. While different cultures may have different marriage and child-raising customs we can plainly see that the moral statements that garner most agreement also garner the heaviest judicial punishments. Such as unjustified murder, child rape, etc. We would expect this not to be the case if descriptive relativism is true. Moreover it may well be the case that the facts are objective, but dependant on the situation and environment. For example, it is generally seen as “less wrong” to kill somebody in self-defence than it is to kill someone on one’s own volition. Further we do not attach heavy moral responsibility on lions eating zebra as opposed to a human poaching them, since the context is different.

This is perfectly consistent with moral realism, thus Con has a long way to affirming descriptive relativism.

Already addressed this in moral non-cognitivism. Con commits a categorical error here.

Con simply asserts by fiat that descriptive egoism entails non-cognitivist. Again I addressed this in non-cognitivist, since it essentially kills Con’s own case. Nothing would be right or wrong by moral relativism either, thus relativism would fail. A lack of understanding on the true nature of something doesn’t preclude it’s coherence. Again, we could coherently talk about gravity long before we understood it in physical terms. We could make superficial true/false claims about it even though we weren’t certain they actually said anything about gravity.

Similarly, we at worse have the same thing with realism.

Just how is this an argument for moral relativism> We may have disagreements about objective phenomenon and what best describes them, but that doesn’t’;t mean those phenomenoa are not objective. Take theories in science for example, nobody generally questions that reality is objective, and there really is a “right” answer in the solution of how gravity really behaves, how electrons behave, etc. Large disagreements broke out in the advent of quantum mechanics, with scientists left rightr and centre arguing for their own theories with “central importance”, yet this in no way affirmed that the facts were themselves subjective.

Con’s argument follows exactly the same line of logic. Thus ethnocentrism is not an argument for moral relativism, but merely for disagreement amongst which moral philosophies are most accurate, just as this debate is!



I'll provide my rebuttals then attack my opponent's case.


"Moral nihilism is explicitly different to moral relativism"

I spent a mere 5 sentences touching on moral nihilism last round so this part of my case was insignificant. I'm not affirming nihilism. I said: "Moral relativism is a viewpoint that has a logical foundation in existential nihilism". If there's no ultimate meaning, purpose, or reason for existence as existential nihilism posits, this lays a *logical foundation* for morality to have relative - rather than factual - truth value. There aren't any intrinsic ends with moral relativism or moral nihilism and both are anti-realism views with a fact-value gap problem. Nihilism doesn't allow subjective truth values while relativism does but I acknowledge their differences.

Moral sense is an incorrigable state

Pro claims that it's "easily arguable" that we all have moral sense but doesn't offer a single argument in support of it other than just saying so. This also does nothing to help Pro's case, since the "moral sense" that everyone is claimed to have doesn't support his burden that "ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world." Ethical sentences that express propositions referring to objective features of the world would be true independent of your current emotional state. Saying things like "slavery is wrong" would still be true/false regardless of whether you sensed it to be wrong or not.

Evolution cannot say anything about morality except how we experience and bias certain stimuli

Researchers document that human morality is the product of 'primate sociality'. These are the moral characteristics that have been observed from the great apes (one of our closest living ancestors):

"attachment and bonding, cooperation and mutual aid, sympathy and empathy, direct and indirect reciprocity, altruism and reciprocal altruism, conflict resolution and peacemaking, deception and deception detection, community concern and caring about what others think about you, and awareness of and response to the social rules of the group"

If morality is an evolving process, our moral propositions can't describe "objective" features of the world. Something objective cannot be in a state of dynamic change like the process of evolution is. Also, in a pre-human era, there would be no such thing as moral propositions. How can our moral propositions refer to 'objective features of the world' if this feature is simply contingent on the existence of human beings?

1. If evolution is true, then mathematics is emergent & relative
2. Mathematics is not emergent & relative
C. Evolution is false

My opponent's logic is the same as my argument was, but the scenarios used aren't analogous.

1. If morality is emergent then moral relativism is true
2. If evolution is true, then morality is emergent
3. Evolution is true
C. Moral Relativism is true

Mathematics doesn't exist *apart* from human beings. You won't find the number 7 anywhere in the universe. Mathematics exists as a human *abstraction* of reality. Evolution was ongoing before the first human beings ever evolved. Therefore his example is disanalogous to mine because my point wasn't contingent on the existence of human beings.

Since evolution is objective nothing inherently subjective can derive from it.

Morality is in the same category as art, literature, music... They're all human constructs. My opponent also brings up the is/ought problem but this actually hurts his case. My opponent is claiming that what we 'ought' to do is objective by affirming moral realism but evolution only deals with what 'is'. It can't affirm that we ought to do anything.


Egoism has been tested in reality. I said last round that the father of modern economics, Adam Smith, wrote "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." The "invisible hand" that results in free-market efficiency is the result of everyone pursuing their own self-interests.

If we posit that we act out of our own self-interests, this gives us a clearer picture of what forms our moral framework. In order to achieve our interests, we must work with others in society to achieve those wants. Thus, morality serves as a method of social cohesion. This is how a society such as Nazi Germany was able to function without internally succumbing to supposed objective evils.

Descriptive relativism

Societies can have largely similar stances on ethical issues such as murder and child rape in a relativist worldview. Whatever the society values as being true is true relative to that society. Many societies value the safety and well-being of a child and innocent person so many societies will view it as wrong.


Non-cognitivism doesn't serve much purpose in proving moral relativism to be true other than acting as a moral anti-realist view so I'll focus my case on my other points.


Ethnocentrism is the tendency to think that *your own* cultural or ethnic group is centrally important while all other cultures are measured in relation to it. This explains why moral realists make claims condemning other societies for not acting in accordance with their own moral propositions. Such condemnations were made by Midieval Christianity or during the Spanish Inquisition as part of their ethnocultural moral realist philosophy.

Pro's arguments

Moral sense theory

My opponent introduces moral sense theory without telling us what "moral sense theory" even is. He says that we would expect strongly general moral statements if we have moral sense. He hasn't shown that this is an 'objective' moral sense that allows us to express propositions that refer to objective features of the world. Human beings have an instinctual need for survival by having enough shelter, water, food, protection, etc., so strongly general moral statements are to be expected of a species that shares all of the same needs. Others that harm this chance of survival in any way can be expected to be quarantined or punished in some fashion. Thus, my opponent's argument that we have moral sense doesn't show it to be objective in any way.

Grounding moral truths

My opponent says that there doesn't need to be a God to ground moral realism, only that a concept of God does. But this is incoherent. If there is no moral authority, such as God, that enforces moral law, what we "ought" to do is neither objective nor binding. Moral realism couldn't express any objective features of the world. The same is true for utilitarianism. Under what obligation are people to obey a utilitarianist view of morality? No obligation. Therefore it cannot be grounded in a utilitarian view either.

Morality existing as a cogent concept

"Moral" is a cogent concept because societies have defined what those truths are. It makes no difference if the truth of it is objective or not. "Amoral" is just the negation of whatever is being considered as a truth proposition. We have shared ideas of what it means to be moral vs. amoral but humanity shares the same instinctual tendencies so common morality is to be expected.

Functional Realism

Pro makes the mistake in thinking that moral disputes are resolvable based on moral content. Humanitarian crimes are settled on whichever country holds the most power. Countries that commit 'humanitarian crimes' would just as equally enforce their own interests on another country if they had enough power to do so. The weaker country would then be seen as the ones committing 'humanitarian crimes'. It's all based on perspective and is easily explained via ethnocentrism.
Debate Round No. 3


Thanks Con

Moral Relativism


Existential Nihilism
Con drops the ball here, he has yet to support his assumption of lack of purpose and meaning. Remember, this is Con’s positive case here, and so this is a key assumption of Con, it simply is not sufficient to declare it false by fiat.

Moreover, essentialism has ties to metaphysics, where an object’s essence comes before it’s existence. Take a bottle for example, a bottle has an end (it stores liquid), which is its design purpose, moreover there is the process of designing it, manufacturing it, where all the molecules of its material composition came from etc. All of these compose any object’s essence, it in summary is an attribute by which something is itself, and without it, it isn’t. Thus to deny anything’s essence is to deny the law of identity (A=A), which is absurd.

Once the essence is place, only then is it made actual, and thus possesses existence. This also has strong ties with the Artistotelian laws of causality, where any action has a material cause, efficient cause, formal cause and a final cause. All four of these causes are required for anything to happen, or to be made actual. Materials are required to build the object, a carpenter (efficient cause) is required to do the action, and a design, or image (formal cause) is required to give form, and a final cause is the direction, or purpose.

Thus, my postulate is that all things have an essence, and all actions have a final cause. We have good reasons to believe both are true. For the latter for example, all actions within the physical world are directed towards their effects. For example, pressing the boil button on your kettle invariably leads to boiling water, this is repeatable over and over. It is metaphysically possible for the button on your kettle to lead to vastly different results, such as the water freexing, or vanishing, or venting through the kettle walls, etc. Instead, we find that the effects are directed to a conclusion (final causality). The world works specifically and determinably. This is telos, which is included within a creation’s essence.

Argument for Biological Telos

I will give the formulation, then the justification:

P1) All inanimate things that possess telos, does with external purpose

P2) Human biology is an inanimate thing that possess telos

C) Human biology possesses telos with external purpose

Defence of P1

This can be justified as follows:

"every unconscious teleology, every case of something being for something without awareness of what it"s for, is dependent on some conscious teleology, on some mind which is aware what that thing is for"

All non-intelligent things so things blindly. It is one thing to see, but another to look. It is one thing to hear, and another to listen. For an object to possess telos, or a directed “end”, then it clearly follows that it does so at the direction of something with intentionality. If intentionality is present, then de facto, external purpose is present as well.[1]

Defence of P2

This literally could not be any more obvious. The heart contracts, to fulfil a final cause, or “end” for circulating blood around the body. The kidney’s filter blood for the end of removing toxins. Our lung’s inhale and exhale in order to provide oxygen to the rest of the body, etc. etc. etc. Essentially all parts of the human body are fulfilling ends of their own, and thus possess telos. They aren’t just being directed to random ends either, but very specific ends directed at maintaining the body’s overall health.


This leads to the conclusion that existential nihilism is quite frankly, false. Thus Cpon’s alleged foundation in existential nihilism crashes. Moreover, it lends significant strength to moral realism, since more objective facts regarding values, purpose and ultimate truths are apparent.

Moral Sense
I was being modest when I said “easily arguable”, it’s in fact impossible to argue it is not, since once again, it is incorrigible. The fact that you see black and white in front of you is not questionable, even if the fact that it’s a computer screen is. Similarly, your moral sense of right and wrong when you choose to partake in actions is not questionable. This argument is subjective, yes, but like cogito ergo sum, the conclusion is necessarily true for each person.

Con conflates the facts that the moral sense purports to, and the moral sense itself despite my repeated clarification. Yes, I can grant that the moral sense doesn’t necessarily give perfectly correct answers, similarly your visions may be hallucinations. But that is beside the point, it is an almost indisputable fact that the vision senses do report about something that is objective (physical reality), by extension, I have argued that the moral sense also reports for similar reasons. It would be special pleading to argue otherwise, and the modus propandi is on Con to show otherwise, as he is essentially attacking the very foundation of our sanity by challenging directly mentally accessible contents (such as sound, sight, tough, etc.)

Evolution cannot say anything about morality except how we experience and bias certain stimuli

Con again doesn’t draw the distinction between morality evolving, and ability to perceive morality is evolving. Again, the data fits both hypothesis equally here. Light doesn’t “evolve”, our ability to see light evolves. Con isn’t going to get anywhere with his evolution arguments here.

Con missed the point with my argument from math. In fact Con affirms himself that math is not emergent by arguing it isn’t ontological. Thus Con defeats himself on this point! Pro makes some irrelevant points regarding contingence on the exisxtance of human beings… it’s simply irrelevant to my reducio argument. Thus, if math is not emergent, then either my P1 must be false (which is predicated on Con’s line of reasoning, thus that is false too) or evolution is false. I will allow Con to take his pick of which noose to hang himself from.

Evolution & Morality

I never made the claim that evolution is the source of objective morals though, thus evolution is rather irrelevant to my moral realism case. It is Con that is claiming that evolution gives rise to morals. Thus is falls foul of the is/ought problem. Con commit’s a tu quoque fallacy here (by accusing me of the same problem) which even if valid doesn’t escape the fact that is still undermines his case.

Con ignores my argument from altruism, and I am left flaggerghasted by Con’s assertion:

This is how a society such as Nazi Germany was able to function without internally succumbing to supposed objective evils.”

Egoism is literally the most self-contradictory moral framework one could possibly propose, since everyone inherently have contradicting self-interests, and there is simply no way to resolve these conflicts because neither can be right according to Con’s arguments. Thus, conflicts are unresolvable. The very fact that they are and the fact that it is clearly not within society’s self-interest to adopt a Nazi regime which allegedly seeks to maximise self-interest, is a black and white demonstration of its internal inconsistency.


Out of space, and I need to sleep. Will defend my case in closing.





Pro spends 50% of his round 4 argument on Nihilism again. In the process he gave up precious space to:

(1) Put forth any new positive arguments affirming moral realism
(2) Respond to my round 3 rebuttals on:

Descriptive relativism
Grounding moral truths
Morality existing as a cogent concept
Functional realism

Per round 1 rules, R4 was his last chance to put forth new arguments affirming moral realism.

Existential Nihilism

Pro gives a lengthy explanation of 'Biological Telos' in order to rebut 'existential nihilism'. I feel the need to reciprocate a lengthy rebuttal to this although I don't want to because it's almost irrelevant. His argument for 'Biological Telos' is Thomas Aquinas' fifth way "Argument from design" for an intelligent designer. The only reason I mentioned existential nihilism in the first place is because a universe devoid of any ultimate meaning, purpose, or reason for existence lays a *logical foundation* for a moral relativistic worldview. I didn't say that existential nihilism must be *necessarily true* in order for relativistic morality to be true.


Desim: "belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it."

Deism is an explanation for relativistic morality AND fits Pro's argument for biological telos. IF a Desitic God created the universe, he is merely the designer and not the basis for any ultimate human purpose, values, or truth since God has remained indifferent since creating the world. Since moral realism only concerns itself with ultimate human purpose, values, and truth, a God of complete indifference is totally incompatible with moral realism. Morality only concerns itself with how we "ought" to act via "good" and "bad" but it's impossible for morality to be objective and grounded in a moral authority that doesn't give a crap.

The "argument from design" is unsupportive of his affirmation that "ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world " it just lays down some logical framework.. But even this fails, as the world could've been designed by God without objective human moral values! Thus, this just becomes a possibility for Pro's case and becomes a very weak argument.

In addition, in an existential nihilist worldview, natural selection acts on small variations over long periods of time to give the appearance of design without any God being necessary for seemingly apparent design. I'll expand on this point more if my opponent wants but its been beaten to death.

Moral Sense Theory

My opponent still has not defined what 'Moral Sense Theory' is. Unless he's just formulated his own theory on what it means to have 'moral sense'? Possibly he's not defending it as a "Theory" anymore as he presented it in round 1? My opponent's case for moral sense suffers a huge problem. He never argued that 'moral sense' is homogenous. A serial killer can have the 'moral sense' to see it as his moral duty to kill people. If two people have conflicting 'moral sense' how does this in any way support his claim that "ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world"? A serial killer senses that the proposition "killing is good" is true while another person senses the proposition "killing is bad" is true but according to moral realism only one person can be right! If ethical propositions refer to objective features of the world they can't both be simulatenously true due to the law of non-contradiction. If pro is just arguing that human beings have a "moral sense" this supports moral realism just as equally as it supports moral relativism.

Perception of morality evolving vs. morality itself evolving.

Pro points out the distinction between 'morality' evolving and our 'ability to perceive' morality evolving. Pro likens our ability to 'perceive' morality with our ability to perceive light. It's not the light itself that becomes more evolved, just our ability to perceive it improves with more advanced visual acuity. This analogy fails because there are animals with higher visual acuity that can perceive light better than the human eye can. Following this logic, there should be some animals with higher moral acuity that have a more accurate description of ethical propositions than human beings do.

Argument from math vs. evolution

Again, my opponent's logic is the same as my argument was but the scenarios aren't analogous. Mathematics doesn't have an 'ontological' existence in reality meaning that 'numbers' don't actually exist (you won't find the number 5 under a rock) but mathematics isn't 'emergent' per se. Mathematics is the abstraction of real objects by higher functioning intelligent beings. This means that mathematics has an objective basis because real objects can be abstracted, but this absraction is only possible with the presence of intelligent beings. This is why mathematics is contingent on the existence of human beings. Evolution was ongoing before any human beings actually existed and have an objective, empirical presence in reality. Further, morality doesn't have any *real object presence to be abtracted from like mathematics does*. Pro never rebuts my point that morality has a pre-cursory emergence from animals, nor does he ever dispute that if evolution is true then moral relativism is true, so my point stands.

Evolution being a basis for morality

Pro says "I never made the claim that evolution is the source of objective morals though, thus evolution is rather irrelevant to my moral realism case". Per his round 3 argument he said "[evolution] can only hope to support moral realism since evolution is objective, and it deals with what 'is', thus evolution is insufficient to get to an 'ought' (c.f. is/ought problem)". So it appears that pro is contradicting himself somewhat here. His problem was comparing the objective basis of moral realism to the objective basis of evolution so it was not a tu quoque fallacy.

We can see morality in animals and 'morality' appears to act as a form of 'social cohesion' resulting in greater survival of a species so morality certainly has a basis in evolution.


Pro ignores my repeated explanation of 'egoism' being a central tenet of modern economic theory. My opponent says that 'egoism' poses a self-contradictory moral framework because conflicts can't be resolved if everyone acts in their self-interests. But the opposite is actually true: everyone acting in their own self-interests results in a harmonious and highly efficient society. This is the "invisible hand" free market efficiency via Egoism that Adam Smith talked about. If everyone seeks their own self-interests, this reliance on others to achieve those interests results in a net benefit for everyone and only affirms egoism. Altruism is the exception rather than the rule. Furthermore, most forms of altruism have some reciprocal effect resulting in the propagation of life.

Descriptive relativism

Since my opponent didn't respond to this I'll add more arguments.

The ancient Greeks thought infanticide was permissible, we don't. 18th
century Hindu villagers in India supported the practice of suttee, while we condemn it.

It's morally acceptable to kill newborn females in China, in the US it isn't. Genital mutilation is acceptable in African nations, in others it isn't.


Never responded to this either. More examples:

The US getting involved in setting up democracy in the Middle East. European Imperialism overtaking colonies in Africa and the America's and imposing their culture. In Academia, courses focusing on their own country's history to the exclusion of all others. Nazi Germany believing that their race was the "master race."
Debate Round No. 4


I would like to thank Benshapiro for what I have found to be a most interesting debate. I have definitely learned a few things and have a few things to think about.

Moral Realism
Argument from Telos
I presented the argument from telos as both an argument for affirming moral realism, and also an argument for refuting existential nihilism, it is dual-purpose, since the existence of external purpose to our lives strongly implies moral realism, as then we would have real factors involves in moral facts (thus realism). The argument from telos would rule deism as impossible, since all actions mandate fnal causation. Thus either a gd is not indifferent, or a god is both indifferent and had a purpose in mind, which is an oxymoron in terms (self-refuting). Thus in either case, Con’s deism rebuttal makes no logical sense.

Furthermore the argument only affirms for intention within the “essence” of all biological beings, thus it is within our inherent nature that we have intentionality, similarly to how a water bottle has the purpose of being filled with water contained within its essence. Thus this argument affirms essentialism.

Furthermore, Con’s evolution rebuttal is completely irrelevant, since evolution would just be the mechanism by which the product (people, sentient beings) are brought about. They would still possess essential intentionality, similarly to how a manufacturer uses tools to make a bottle, the bottle still had intentionality.

Moral Sense Theory

This argument is an inductive inference to the best explanation. I made this explicit enough in my opening. Con attempts to shoehorn evolution in as an explanation (yet again), yet there are two problems with this:

1. Evolution is not mutually exclusive to moral realism
2. Evolution lacks explanatory power of much of the moral sense

I already affirmed #1, for #2 we clearly see instances where altruistic behaviour/moral behaviour is performed in a manner which does not best benefit the propagation of our species. For example, self-sacrifice for those afflicted with ailments such as terminal cancer, etc. clearly do not go very far in propagating our species, yet Con is hardly going to deny this happens. Furthermore, in European countries we generally respect our elders, and provide healthcare and support for those who are within their twilight years. There is no way this aids propagating our species since said people are long past the age of reproductive viability, and often have limited physical and mental functions in such a way that executing them would probably be better for propagation of our species.

Examples like this are ubiquitous among societies, and evolution alone doesn’t provide nearly adequate explanatory power. Thus moral realism stands as an excellent inference to the best explanation. We have a direction within our moral behaviours and sense, our innate feelings and intuitions of right and wrong, and these strongly support realism.

Con also tries to object by arguing some people have a moral duty to kill people, but does nothing to show that this is true, and not just a mental disorder. Clearly these instances are the exception, and not the norm, thus Con would need to rule out mental disorders before arguing our moral sense doesn’t exist, he only assumes this to be the case. A review of the literature on the connection between mental disorders and violence concluded:

Identifying people with risk of violence and offering them mental health treatment services is warranted. []

Categorical Argument
Con essentially drops my categorical argument, as his rebuttal is completely off-the-mark. I have shown that it is meaningless to have a category for “amorality” unless “morality” has truth-conditions. Since Con is tautologically committed to argue for amorality then he must also concede that truth-conditions do exist, and thus necessarily entails moral realism. Pro tries to affirm the moral truth values from a non-objective source but this is an equivocation, especially considering my argument is effectively a reducio ad absurdum:

1. Moral Realism is false (assumption for reducio)
2. If moral realism is false then all actions exist within “amorality”
3. If amorality is true, then “amorality” is a coherent concept
4. If “amorality” is a coherent concept, then “morality” is a coherent concept
5. If “morality” is a coherent concept then moral realism is true
6. Moral realism is true
7. Contradiction (1&6), therefore A must be false

Con seems to be challenging premise 5, but that’s essentially impossible, since the truth conditions are real, thus moral statements are objectively true or false, which necessarily entails realism.

Functional Realism
Con ignores the fact that the examples I gave were made outside the immediate self-interest of the countries involved. Thus ethnocentrism is insufficient to mitigate since that’s what it mandates. Moreover this was for the purposes of establishing a default position, that it’s doxastic and indeed this assumption exists for both people and governing bodies.

Moral Relativism
Evolution Argument

Evolving Morality vs Evolving Perception of Morality

“Following this logic, there should be some animals with higher moral acuity that have a more accurate description of ethical propositions than human beings do.”

1. Just how exactly does this falsify an evolving perception?
2. Why should we expect that?
3. Who is to say none do?

This hardly an argument. This “rebuttal” would be equally valid against evolution explaining human intelligence. Since because some animals have higher visual acuity, then it follows some animals should have higher mental acuity. Thus argument is nonsensical.

Argument from math vs. evolution

Con again misses the point of my rebuttal:

1. If math has ontological existence, then it is not emergent
2. If math doesn’t have ontological existence, then it is not emergent
C. In either case, math is not emergent

Thus Con’s arguments regarding math “existing” is a complete red herring, since my argument addresses the notion of anything being emergent predicated on evolution. Con makes the absurd argument that math is contingent on human beings, if that were the case and humans were subjective, then what is true in math would be subjective. But that is clearly not the case, 2+2=4 doesn’t change from one person to another.

Con is essentially digging his own grave and filling it in for me!

Evolution being a basis for morality
First of all, this was meant to be Con’s argument FOR moral relativism, and he has spectacularly failed to uphold this by attacking a red herring that it allegedly upholds moral realism. He can attack evolution being the basis of moral realism all he likes, he can win that argument hands down, but it wouldn’t affirm that evolution affirms moral relativism, it would likely just be the case that it affirms neither (which was my original point).

He doesn’t address the plain fact that evolution deals with what is objective, with what ‘is’, thus it is impossible in principle for it to affirm a moral fact (an “ought”).

Con essentially killed himself by giving an example of an egoistic society that clearly wasn’t within the overall self-interest of that society (Nazi regime). Moreover capitalism Pro has only affirmed to be a “good enough” philosophy.

Descriptive relativism
This a blatant cherry picking fallacy.[] It’s insufficient for Con to show a select few examples, but Con needs to show general trends over moral facts. The very fact there exists a static concensus on the core of these issues strongly implies realism.

Con concedes in R3 that this is at best a mitigating argument against moral realism, and not an argument in favour of relativism.

Most of Con’s rebuttals have been off-target in affirming/negating. They simply do not get the core issues involved. Thus my arguments carry significantly more weight than Con’s. As such, a Pro vote is required.



Thanks for the debate Envisage, it's been fun.

This debate will be won on one thing: Is moral realism or moral relativism the most accurate meta-ethical theory? Let's go back to the core issues. Lots of off-topic discussions went on that was irrelevant in affirming the resolution.

First, I'll attack pro's case. Let's see if he upheld his BoP to show that 'ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world that are true independent of opinion.'

Argument from Telos (design).

Problem #1, the argument from design doesn't affirm moral realism. Problem #2, deism is fully compatible with the teological argument. Pro says “telos would rule deism as impossible”. If Deism is true, it's fully possible that the universe was designed by God and had been left alone without getting involved in moral affairs.

“All the teleological argument does is simply state the existence of a natural phenomenon, in the case of a phenomenon such as the universe, when its complexity is considered, the argument may indicate that it X was designed by an intelligent being.”

Pro started with 4 major arguments for moral realism:

(1) Grounding moral truths

(2) Moral sense theory

(3) Functional realism

(4) Categorical argument


(1) Grounding moral truths:

Entirely dropped after my R3 rebuttal. Moral realism is left foundationless.

(2) Moral sense theory

Pro leaves “Moral Sense Theory” undefined. He said things like 'moral sense is the best inference to how people behave'. 'Altruism shows no evolutionary benefit' and 'We have innate feelings/intuitions about right and wrong'. What purpose do any of those points make if they're just supporting an undefined concept? What exactly is Moral Sense Theory arguing for? Recall my round 4 questions: If two people have conflicting 'moral sense' how does this in any way support his claim that "ethical sentences express propositions that refer to objective features of the world"? Per last round I said it was a “huge problem” that he “never argued that 'moral sense' is homogenous.” He also never addressed my contention that moral realist propositions would be true/false independent of whatever 'moral sense' we may have about it. The argument ultimately falls apart in an abyss of confusion over what “moral sense theory” meant.

(3) Functional realism

Functional realism argues that moral disputes are resolvable because moral truths exist. Pro supports this by focusing his case on foreign countries that the US gets involved in to resolve moral disputes. I said that the reason that the US becomes involved in foreign affairs is not over 'moral content' it's about asserting the country's values as the more powerful country. History is replete with examples of countries imposing their values on the weaker country. I showed a great many of them with my ethnocentrism arguments. His only rebuttal to this in the final round was that it's still “outside of the immediate interest of the countries involved”. Interest is what leads to involvement so this is just incoherent.

(4) Categorical argument

This argument states that if all actions are inherently 'amoral' then a concept of 'moral' wouldn't exist. He assumes this premise: “If “morality” is a coherent concept then moral realism is true “. I already answered this in R3 under the header “morality existing as a cogent concept”. (In R4 pro skipped this along with my rebuttals on descriptive relativism, ethnocentrism, grounding moral truths, morality existing as a cogent concept, and functional realism.) “"Moral" is a cogent concept because societies have defined what those truths are. It makes no difference if the truth of it is objective or not. "Amoral" is just the negation of whatever is being considered as a truth proposition. We have shared ideas of what it means to be moral vs. amoral because humanity shares the same instinctual tendencies so common morality is to be expected. “

My opponent offers rebuttals no longer than a couple sentences for my major points on ethnocentrism, egoism, and descriptive relativism.

Ethnocentrism: I explained that ethnocentrism shows us that: “[r1] our notions of 'right' and 'wrong' are thought to be matter-of-fact but are irreparably conditioned by our culture, customs, and social norms” but perfectly explains societies that condemned other societies using moral realist claims but in retrospect were actually using relativist claims that are easily describable by ethnocentrism.

Egoism: He says that Nazi society was at odds with the Nazi Regime for moral reasons. In round 3 I said Nazi germany was able to function internally without succumbing to supposed objective evils. History shows us that outside forces are what defeated the Nazi regime, not Nazi society imploding on itself for moral reasons. For his second contention, modern economic theory posits that egoism is responsible for the most efficient free market economies so “good enough” is false.

My opponent just dismisses my numerous examples of descriptive relativism. Remember that Descriptive relativism just holds as fact that moral beliefs vary from society to society. My examples have shown exactly that. The trend is that societies vary greatly on moral beliefs. Remember, if there are moral differences between societies it undermines the claim that there are 'objective' moral facts.

I'll address the more off-topic/irrelevant arguments here then conclude why moral relativism is the most accurate meta-ethical theory.

Math vs evolution

Con says that if math is contingent on human beings, math would be subjective. This is not true. Mathematics is the abstraction of real objects. Anything abstract requires a mind to conceptualize. Real objects have an objective basis. Therefore, mathematics is contingent on higher functioning minds.

Since his first premise is false (it's not relative) and he provided no other arguments attacking my formulation, mine remains standing.

Evolution as a basis for morality

I pointed out that morality has been shown in animals (great apes, chimpanzees) and has been observed to aid in social cohesion. Pro never rebutted my points on this. Morality appears fit whatever role it has in a large group and this explains the relativist component.

Evolving morality vs. perception

Aside from this being mostly off-topic, pro focuses on extracting a point I made for conveying a logical concept and wants me to answer it literally. His questions on the literal point are just irrelevant because I wasn't affirming it. Morality is a construct – so whatever is being constructed, like music, literature, or art, has no objective basis either.

I've largely affirmed my position through rebutting pro's arguments but I'll summarize them here again briefly.

Moral relativism means that 'right' and 'wrong' are relative to the moral norms of society and aren't objectively superior to any other society. I've shown that moral relativism converges with evolutionary theory because simplistic forms of morality have been observed to emerge from animals.

Egoism shows us that we are motivated by our own self-interests. Modern economic theory is based on it. Our desires and self-interests form our values. Our values result in a shared moral code with others. Since 'desire' is inherently subjective, egoism only affirms moral relativism.

Descriptive relativism drives home this point. We can observe numerous examples of societies that share different moral codes than us. It goes to show that morality is a construct of shared values that depends on perspective and nothing more. This perspective is described by ethnocentrism where we believe our culture is the standard on which other culture's values are measured against.

Moral relativism is the only coherent meta-ethical system. Our desires and values aren't representative of objective features of the world that could exist independent of our opinion about it. That would be absurd.

Vote con!
Debate Round No. 5
39 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Envisage 3 years ago
Thanks for the vote. True, I honestly have no idea who won the debate tbh, it felt really close.
Posted by Benshapiro 3 years ago
We needed more votes on this -_-
Posted by popculturepooka 3 years ago
If you need clarifcation on other parts of the debate or a more extended RFD on my decision let me know. I had a much longer one but I lost it all. -_-

It was a really good debate though and it was really close.
Posted by PGA 3 years ago
"There are no objective facts. And that is a fact." - Envisage

Of course, you are pulling our legs, right?

In order for this statement to be true there must be at least one objective fact, that there are no objective facts. Hence the preposition kills and refutes itself. It tries to state that which it denies.

Posted by PGA 3 years ago
"The fact you guys abusively conflate different subsects of nihilism is pretty telling of a superficial understanding of it. Existential nihilism =/= moral nihilism =/= epistemological nihilism =/= metaohysical nihilism =/= etc.

One does not entail another. To me it's like somebody attacking the Qu'ran in an attempt to disprove the Bible. It's just stupid." - Envisage

I don't have to know everything about nihilism in order to understand and dispute its basic tenants, nor know everything about the whole Qur'an in disputing its teachings concerning the Bible or to know the Qur'an does not disprove the Bible.

Nihilism led to Postmodernism, another absurd position that is grounded in relativism.

"William Shakespeare eloquently summarized the existential nihilist's perspective when, in this famous passage near the end of Macbeth, he has Macbeth pour out his disgust for life:

Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

"In The Banalization of Nihilism (1992) Karen Carr discusses the antifoundationalist response to nihilism. Although it still inflames a paralyzing relativism and subverts critical tools, "cheerful nihilism" carries the day, she notes, distinguished by an easy-going acceptance of meaninglessness."

"American antifoundationalist Richard Rorty makes a similar point: "Nothing grounds our practices, nothing legitimizes them, nothing shows them to be in touch with the way things are" ("From Logic to Language to Play," 1986)."

Posted by PGA 3 years ago
What do these symbols represent -> =/=
Posted by PGA 3 years ago
"Why would I want to use the Christian God to bolster my arguments, it would just weaken them lol. I could choose any God, or no God. Realism would still be true or false without affirming them." - Envisage

Realism would only be true if it was true of the true God. If it was based on a false belief system how would this make it true? It would have nothing concrete to attach itself to.

You first have to establish that you have sufficient grounds to attach realism to. Realism can't be true without those sufficient grounds.

Posted by Envisage 3 years ago
The fact you guys abusively conflate different subsects of nihilism is pretty telling of a superficial understanding of it. Existential nihilism =/= moral nihilism =/= epistemological nihilism =/= metaohysical nihilism =/= etc.

One does not entail another. To me it's like somebody attacking the Qu'ran in an attempt to disprove the Bible. It's just stupid.
Posted by Envisage 3 years ago
Why would I want to use the Christian God to bolster my arguments, it would just weaken them lol. I could choose any God, or no God. Realism would still be true or false without affirming them.
Posted by PGA 3 years ago
Enjoyed the debate! Both side put up solid points. I believe that moral realism is the only justifiable position, once the dust settles.

I feel the weakness in Pro's side was that he failed to bolster his argument with the deployment of the Christian God as being that necessary objective measure from which we can derive what is truly right and wrong from. He just picks his absolute standard out of mid-air. I also think he should have exploited the evolutionary argument more since he made some good points about intentionality and agency here.

One of his comments I disagreed with was:

"Con attempts to square the circle here. Moral Nihilism is explicitly different to moral relativism, as it is the complete rejection of all moral judgements, thus no moral judgement can be true (moral scepticism) or true or false (moral non-cognitivism). This is explicit from moral relativism that states that moral judgements CAN have truth values, only those values are subjective. Thus Con"s attempts to affirm moral relativism via. moral nihilism effectively kills his own case."

The point is that a nihilist in rejecting all moral judgments has in fact made one. It is another self-refuting belief just like moral relativism.

For Con to say that moral relativism is true is bewildering. Why does his subjective opinion carry any weight? How does his relative opinion become true? He likewise (same as nihilism) has nothing concrete to ground morality on.

Moral relativism makes a truth claim that something is right, thus true, based on an ever changing standard because the subject likes it or wants it to be so. As Pro pointed out "right" loses its identity. It can mean anything and thus nothing. It has nothing object to base its rightness upon.

Again, moral relativism is self-refuting. It is like saying "There are no absolute values." You just made one.

1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by popculturepooka 3 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Most of the specific arguments and counter-arguments (i.e. the argument from moral sense for moral realism and the argument from evolution for relativism were a wash in my opinion, in that none of them were able to provide a decisive edge to Pro or Con. For me, I think, Pro won the debate with two arguments (one affirming realism and one undercutting Con's warrant for relativism). The argument from telos, if trues, demonstrates that there are objective facts about human beings (including final causes or things they are directed towards). Part of these objective facts would be truths about what it is good or bad (or right or wrong) for humans to do. I do not think the deism compatibility nor evolution rebuttal was enough to overcome it. The second was the non-cognitivist discussion. Pro aptly pointed out even if Con was using non-cognitivism as a way to "clear the ground" for moral relativism, the two are actually incompatible because moral relativism is not a form of non-cognitivism.