The Instigator
Samcoder1
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
SJM
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Does an objective secular morality exist?

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/3/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 7 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 374 times Debate No: 93328
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (0)

 

Samcoder1

Pro

I would like to extend my thanks to whoever accepts this debate. For a long time people have asserted that an objective morality only exists in religion, or that morality itself is a relative thing. I would like to argue that this is not the case, and an objective morality can be established through science and reason.

First round is acceptance.

No trolling please.

I'm looking for a good debate, so good luck!
Debate Round No. 1
Samcoder1

Pro

Thank you for accepting.

I will be basing my argument off those made by Sam Harris and his moral landscape, a controversial position that I'd like to see if it holds firm when under debate.

I'd like to start by describing a slight non point which is the importance of an objective morality. An objective morality provides people with a set of values that are objectively true, and so values that are constant and can be relied on. The results of the relative morality we see today are a Feminist movement that does not associate itself with the atrocities being performed against women in Saudi Arabia. They are a general rejection of the Burka in the West, but no attempts to extend this vitriol to other countries with different cultures. Consequently we have a tolerant society, that tolerates intolerance. A ridiculous and unfair notion in my opinion.

As for backing up my point in this debate, I should like to start by defining morality. The Oxford dictionary defines morality as: 'Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.' (1) But what is right or wrong? I would argue that right and wrong are relative terms about the well being of conscious organisms. There is no other definition of right other than that which improves the well being of conscious beings, and contra with wrong.

Imagine the worst possible situation a conscious being can find itself in, surrounded by pain and torture and anguish (lets call it 'place X'). This is a place where one's well being is at an all time low. We ought to agree that this is 'bad'. After all, what could possibly be bad, if not this situation? If you admit that there is an objectively bad place to be (place X), we have thus established a scale by which bad improves. Anything that contains less suffering and less pain is objectively better than place X. On the other end of the spectrum, we could agree that a 'good' place, is a place where conscious beings experience the most pleasure they can physically experience, and so have the best possible well being. If good cannot describe this place, then what can it describe? Consequently every society or behaviour lies within this scale, and some are further along than others.

But what is well being? Well being is a term that describes the quality of life of a conscious being. As we have established, the worst well being is place X filled with horror, and the best is somewhere with ultimate joy and happiness and all things good. Like health, well being will change. After all, hundreds of thousands of years ago, healthy for humans may have been living to 30. Likewise good well being may have been finding some food. These are now taken for granted. In the future, unhealthy may be running a marathon at 200. Likewise poor well being may be comparable to the anxiety that comes with family members dying of cancer etc.

As science progresses, and we learn more about the brain and what causes positive feelings such as happiness, we can establish which events or behaviours maximise or minimise well being. An example may be, would heavily beating a child as a punishment for bad behaviour contribute more towards the child's well being than rewarding the child for good behaviour? This I think is obvious, considering the long term trauma caused by physical abuse would significantly reduce the child's capacity for happiness and openess, thus dragging him/her further from the 'good' place. Thus although we may not be able to use this method to absolutely deduce whether an action is moral or not, we can certainly say that some cultures (like wearing the burka in the boiling sun) are objectively more damaging to the well being of people than others. If we can scientifically establish what causes well being, we can say that some cultures, due to their limits on well being (not all societies will allow the same levels of well being), are objectively worse (less good).

Thus I am not saying right now we can deduce these things. I am saying that as there are developments, we may be able to prove scientifically that some behaviours are more or less damaging to one's well being, and so scientifically discover moral behaviour. We now have an objective morality.

(1) http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
SJM

Con

What I"m trying to prove here is that no such thing can be certain for everyone morally. There can be no such objective morality when the morality of some contradicts that of others. My opponent asserts that how we determine what is right or wrong is through how much it benefits a well-being, but the problem with this assertion is that it"s subjective what benefits someone, and what is benefiting. Something that improves is subjective, the action improving is subjective. And I would go further to question whether this is the correct indicator of whether something is right or wrong. For example, let"s say people were discussing whether killing someone would be right, using my opponent"s definition, it depends on if it benefits. But there will be those who think that killing is bad, killing is good, and that not benefitting conscious beings, is right. Therefore not only is it subjective with the definition, but also the definition doesn"t work. Thus since improving is subjective, how would someone find what is right to be factual?

Later on, my opponent starts off his next paragraph with the idea that the worst possible situation is that in which one"s conscious being is amidst pain, torture, and anguish. However, using these examples provided, people who despise humanity, happiness, and so on, will find this to be right. Therefore this situation is not objectively considered to be bad. "If you admit that there is an objectively bad place to be (place X), we have thus established a scale by which bad improves." We have not established such place, therefore no such objective morality has been proven considering people having different outlooks on life. My opponent goes on to say whatever has less suffering and less pain, is more right, but what if the pain and suffering is what someone feels is right. Suffering and pain also can not be scientifically measured, things such as mental torture. Someone else may find the great physical well-being to be dull and unhonourable, he therefore sees it as wrong.

"Well being is a term that describes the quality of life of a conscious being" Yet again, the word quality is subjective. There are contradictory things that improves the quality of something. Like the example that my opponent gave which says that horror is the worst place, then why do people go to haunted houses? Are people consciously making the wrong choices on purposes, or do they think that it"s not wrong? If they"re purposely doing the wrong thing in their view, then maybe because the wrong thing provides a greater quality of life for them.Therefore nothing could be said which improves everyone"s life. Then my opponent makes a very disastrous concession, that refutes his whole case which I will devote the next block to.

My opponent states, "Like health, well being will change". In other words, the quality of life will change, thus meaning the thing that improves someone"s well-being will change over time. Now, my opponent I assume doesn"t not think that everyone changes in the same degrees in the same amount of time, therefore everyone changes differently over time. Therefore people will reach different qualities earlier and later than others, thus having different ideas of what is quality. This in conclusion means that what is right, is subjective to each person.

My opponent"s whole case is based on the assumption on what people"s perspective of improving and quality is. Pro also makes the assumption that some people don"t see the things he listed above as wrong, although some people see it as right. Therefore my opponent has attempted to make an objective definition with subjective components, therefore not resulting in an objective definition.
Debate Round No. 2
Samcoder1

Pro

Rebuttals

'how we determine what is right or wrong is through how much it benefits a well-being'

I have not said this at all. I have said that what is right or wrong is that which improves or reduces well being. Not that which 'benefits a well-being'. If right and wrong have no association with the well being of conscious creatures, then what do you propose they mean? As far as I can see, there is nothing right other than something that improves well being.

'Something that improves is subjective'

It is true that many forms of behaviour can improve well being, and those behaviours vary from person to person. However from a neurological perspective, the same things will be happening in all cases. If one is closer to feeling truly fulfilled, this will one day be mapped out as we learn more about the brain.

With your killer analogy, this is wrong as all you need to think about is if this behaviour was promoted to societal custom. Would a society that promotes the killing of others be improving or reducing well being? It clearly would reduce well being, as a society that promotes killing is also one filled with distrust, with violence, and so consequently is less capable of reaching the happy end of the spectrum. Even if the society is happy with their custom, the ability to reach the happy end is far reduced. Would you argue that the members of this society love each other as much as in our own, if they are content to kill each other whenever they want? Of course not, and so they are unable to experience the positive emotions felt in western society.

'this situation is not objectively considered to be bad. '

Wrong, a place filled with suffering will simply have different methods of torturing masochists. If a masochist likes suffering through physicaly torture, then they are not truly suffering. Therefore place X will still be the worst possible place for them, as it will use different methods to torture different people. Consequently even for the deranged lunatic, place X is still the worst possible situation.

'Suffering and pain also can not be scientifically measured'

What nonsense, of course suffering and pain can be measured. (1) Even if some of these things cannot be measured YET, that does not mean they will never be measured. As science progresses, these experiences can be measured and calculated. Consequently, in the future, the suffering of individuals will be measured and so any behaviours that increase suffering can be described as immoral. This is the whole point of my argument. When experiences such as suffering (even masochists can suffer albeit in different ways to most) can be measured, we can thus say if this is right or wrong.

Quality of life is subjective, I never said that there was one way to a good quality of life. Much like food, one can see there are many ways to have a healthy diet with a variety of types of food. However we can always tell the difference between food and poison. The same applies to morality. There are many ways in which the well being of conscious creatures can be improved. It is silly however to say that because there are lots of ways to improve well being, all types of behaviour have the same effect. Some improve, some reduce.

Main argument

The well being of conscious creatures is not a subjective idea. There are measurable facts that contribute to well being. Well being can be compared to health. What is health? Some things improve health, other things damage it. However no one claims that those that improve and damage health are subjective, and therefore all equally feasible. Some are better and worse than others. Likewise some forms of behaviour improve or reduce well being at different rates. Repeatedly torturing a child is quite clearly going to reduce his well being. Treating him with kindness is clearly going to improve his well being relative to the torture. If a child's ability to feel happiness and joy is reduced, that can be measured on the level of the brain. Thus it is a scientific fact that his well being has been reduced by torture. This is not subjective. Why can't we apply this to other moral questions? If wearing a burka reduces a woman's well being, we too can see this on the level of the brain. Exactly like the previous example, we will have a scientific, objective fact with regards to well being. Indeed some, like Con, may say 'who says the torture doesn't improve his well being, after all well being is subjective?'. I invite you to ignore this ridiculous proposal. Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral due to the limitations they place on well being.

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...
SJM

Con

Rebuttals

My opponent in rebuttal to me criticizing his definition of something being right, is that he said well being instead of a well being, but this does not matter because my point stills since what improves and benefits is subjective and which will be talked about next

"It is true that many forms of behaviour can improve well being, and those behaviours vary from person to person. However from a neurological perspective, the same things will be happening in all cases."

My opponent asserts that benefits improving well being varies from person to person, but then says that they all have the same thing happening which is becoming truly fulfilled. But this rebuttal would either be wrong, or would only work if my opponent was making the claim that objective morality is based on how it fulfills someone. But even in that case, what fulfills each person depends on the person, therefore no one thing fulfills everyone. And in this case, how does this point make it objective? It is stated by my opponent that this is from a neurological standpoint, but everyone has a different brain therefore it just proves my point that everyone will have different ideas of what"s right, so how would this work to say that there is a certain thing that will improve all of wellbeing?. Also we can"t just limit this to neurological perspectives because everyone could feel a certain type of way, but that doesn"t make something objective.

"It clearly would reduce well being, as a society that promotes killing is also one filled with distrust, with violence, and so consequently is less capable of reaching the happy end of the spectrum."

My opponent claims that something isn"t right if it goes against social customs, but if we use the definition my opponent provided which is improved well being, we can not say that which goes against societal issues, will necessarily not be an improvement. I would assume my opponent thinks that at least one invention which by definition is breaking custom, was morally right to invent. Therefore I refute that we know what"s right based off societal customs. But regarding the quote I quoted, my opponent essentially begs the question when saying that killing does not improve the wellbeing because (and then provides other subjective improvement notions such as violence). Someone may see violence as improvement and so on.

"Would you argue that the members of this society love each other as much as in our own, if they are content to kill each other whenever they want?"

Yes it could be argued that this may be loving society. Let"s say this faraway society kill because they want to show their honor, and others respect that. This is a totally valid idea, and it counts since they love their society because they recognize others trying to achieve the virtue of honor. Therefore yes it could be argued.

"Wrong, a place filled with suffering will simply have different methods of torturing masochists. If a masochist likes suffering through physical torture, then they are not truly suffering. Therefore place X will still be the worst possible place for them, as it will use different methods to torture different people. Consequently even for the deranged lunatic, place X is still the worst possible situation."

I"m not specifically talking about masochists, I"m talking about people who see suffering as improving wellbeing, but still suffer from affliction. They don"t like suffering, however they see it as improvement. Therefore it still fits your definition of morality, but it contradicts others morality, therefore morality is subjective.

"Even if some of these things cannot be measured YET, that does not mean they will never be measured."

This statement is hilarious. My opponent tries to make the argument that even though we can"t measure it yet, we may be able to measure it in the future. This is basically shifting the burden of proof over to my side, because this puts me in a situation where I have to prove a negative, which is proving that it"s impossible. With this argument, my opponent basically could just make the argument about any point and that I don"t win the debate unless I prove a negative. This is ridiculous logic. My opponent has the BOP of showing it to be possible.

"It is silly however to say that because there are lots of ways to improve well being, all types of behaviour have the same effect. Some improve, some reduce."

I"m not saying that all types of behaviour have the same effect and I don"t know where my opponent got that from. I said that the word quality is subjective, meaning that what is quality for one, may contradict the word quality for another. And I"m also not saying that there"s only way. There are objective things, but it isn"t the only one of its kind. I"m aware there are more than one way to improve life subjectively for me, but for others they may only have one way to improve life. Basically, yes some improve and some reduce, but what improves and what reduce varies from person.

"However no one claims that those that improve and damage health are subjective"

No one claiming something doesn"t have to do with it being right or true.

"Con, may say 'who says the torture doesn't improve his well being, after all well being is subjective?'. I invite you to ignore this ridiculous proposal. Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral due to the limitations they place on well being."

I was actually hoping for a okay debater, but I see it"s hard to find nowadays considering this quote which pretty much kills my opponent"s whole case. (1) I wouldn"t exactly say it like that because it sort of begs the question. (2) My opponent didn"t really refute it, he just told people to ignore it and called it ridiculous which is in no way logically refuting something. (3) I don"t see how my argument is hard to understand, because I"m essentially just saying that whatever improves is subjective, therefore something like limitations, someone may feel is improving. This is not a hard concept to grasp. Believe it or not, some people feel like torture improves wellbeing. (4) "Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral" Contradiction. (5) What makes it so that limitations is an objectively wrong thing? (6) My opponent earlier made the point that we can measure well being by health, saying that if we improve someone"s health, we are improving well being. But I"ll put it like this. Let"s say someone is like Hitler, he"s about to die but you have the option of healing him, would you do it? If not then you concede that improving well being is subjective regarding health.

"Repeatedly torturing a child is quite clearly going to reduce his well being. Treating him with kindness is clearly going to improve his well being relative to the torture."

My opponent fails to understand that for example, for the victim it may seem to be reducing well being, but for the offender, it could be seen as improving well being. And my opponent has no way to back up his argument. All he does is say that cleary this and that. And in order for the statement that "torture clearly reduces well being" to be an objective statement, it would have to be true for all cases. But I could certainly use a masochist in this example, he would like physical torture, therefore is subjective. This can be used because this statement is physical torture, not the general word, suffering.

"If a child's ability to feel happiness and joy is reduced, that can be measured on the level of the brain."

How can it be measured? Remember my opponent has the burden of proof. Plus my opponent is trying to focus only what the victim of acts, but we can not exclude the other people, who for them it may be seen as a right act. For example, someone needs to cut a branch off a tree because if not five kids are going to die because someone really wants the branch for some reason. We aren"t going to measure the brain levels of the person who owns tree and say, oh well this guy is suffering, therefore this was an objectively wrong act.

Extend this argument (and all arguments since none were refuted)

In other words, the quality of life will change, thus meaning the thing that improves someone's well-being will change over time. Now, my opponent I assume doesn't not think that everyone changes in the same degrees in the same amount of time, therefore everyone changes differently over time. Therefore people will reach different qualities earlier and later than others, thus having different ideas of what is quality. This in conclusion means that what is right, is subjective to each person.
Debate Round No. 3
Samcoder1

Pro

Rebuttals:

Once again, you have misunderstood my point.

I understand that you are saying that everyone has a different perception of what makes them happy. What I am saying is that are many ways to make one happy, however there are likewise many more ways to make people unhappy. One person may feel contented with killing people, however we could one day show, on the level of the brain, that they are not as happy as they could have been had they been altruistic and generous. Brains are different, but not that different. If for example the amount of pain someone is in is measured objectively by the frequency of impulses from receptors to CNS, this is the kind of measurement I'm talking about. Suffering and happiness have different impacts of the structure and function of areas of the brain. This is a scientific and objective method of seeing how people are feeling truly, regardless of how they personally feel they are.

You appear to claim that violence may contribute equally to the well being of the population than kindness. I think that this is very clearly wrong as we can demonstrate by the the trauma that arises as a result of violence. Children who are born into violent households come out often incapable of fully accessing certain emotions and have difficult having relationships. Would you seriously claim that this abused child is as happy as a child brought into a kind generous household? Even if you would, the claim is baseless as this is NOT a debate about what is right and wrong. This is a debate about the existence of an objective morality. I will refrain from claiming if one thing is better than others (although scientifically the answers are often obvious), but I think it is completely clear that in the future, the scientific process will demonstrate how we should think in order to maximise well being, which is the only thing that is important. I think it is arrogant to claim that because we don't know the answers yet, there are no answers to be found.

There is too much to rebutt here, so I will simply try to answer all of your points, which appear to gravitate around well being being a subjective matter. Well being, like health, is an undefined term. As the meaning of health changes with time, well being changes too as societies become more advanced. Consequently a child in Africa who does not have water, food, or parents, has a lower well being than someone in the western world, even if the child is in a good position in comparison to others in his village. Well being is a measurement of the level of happiness people feel. I am not talking about an individual, so I take back any points in which I referred to an individual. I am talking about well being with reference to all conscious creatures. For example I could say that cyanide is a poison and is damaging to health. I think this is a very sensible and clear statement. There may however be someone out there who due to mutation is resistant to cyanide. Does that mean cyanide is not damaging to health? Or that health is subjective? Of course not. Likewise well being may have exceptions, however due to human nature, certain events and behaviours have positive or negative effects on the population in general. We can measure how these events affect conscious beings by the neurological impacts via chemical concentration changes, through brain shape change, through many things. There may even be ways in which to measure these things that have not been discovered yet. However I think that to disregard positive and negative behaviour as subjective simply due to ignorance of how the brain works is simply wrong.

Here is a summary better than I could have present: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov...

I propose you give it a read before responding.


SJM

Con

Nooo, you"re misunderstanding what I"m saying and you"re making a very fallacious argument when saying that someday we would be able to do something while ignoring my point about why you can"t just use that as an argument. My opponent tries to make the argument that even though we can"t measure it yet, we may be able to measure it in the future. This is basically shifting the burden of proof over to my side, because this puts me in a situation where I have to prove a negative, which is proving that it"s impossible. With this argument, my opponent basically could just make the argument about any point and that I don"t win the debate unless I prove a negative. This is ridiculous logic. My opponent has the BOP of showing it to be possible. AND AGAIN, you say that objective morality is improving the wellbeing, but what I"m saying is that someone may suffer, therefore in their brain have the effects of suffering, but rationally think it"s improving the wellbeing.

"I think it is arrogant to claim that because we don't know the answers yet, there are no answers to be found." Haha, but it"s not arrogant to say that in the future there will be for a fact such a thing? My opponent doesn"t know how the burden of proof works, we don"t just say that something is capable of existing, therefore we shall go through the debate with the premise that exists. In the status quo such thing has not existed, we shouldn"t assume it would exist without practically seeing it work. Therefore my opponent"s whole case is pretty much refuted at this point.

"There is too much to rebutt here, so I will simply try to answer all of your points, which appear to gravitate around well being being a subjective matter. "
What! My opponent has basically decided to ignore someone my arguments because they were too much for him. This is not how debates work, if you drop an argument then I get to extend it. Therefore I will copy and paste the arguments my opponent decided to not refute below.

"so I take back any points in which I referred to an individual."

Voters take this as a concession

I"m not reading the summary since I do not have an obligation to unless quoted.

"I could say that cyanide is a poison and is damaging to health. I think this is a very sensible and clear statement. There may however be someone out there who due to mutation is resistant to cyanide. Does that mean cyanide is not damaging to health?"

Yes that is exactly what it means! If for example there was a population of only people that are immune to cyanide, then it wouldn"t be considered dangerous because how would they know? Dangerous is considered dangerous from its effects on people. If no one has any effects from a certain thing, then why call it dangerous? There certain things that improves one"s health which also damages the other. There are certain vegetables that "healthy", but yet people are allergic to them. Therefore if something is dangerous is also subjective.

My arguments that weren"t refuted.

My opponent asserts that benefits improving well being varies from person to person, but then says that they all have the same thing happening which is becoming truly fulfilled. But this rebuttal would either be wrong, or would only work if my opponent was making the claim that objective morality is based on how it fulfills someone. But even in that case, what fulfills each person depends on the person, therefore no one thing fulfills everyone. And in this case, how does this point make it objective? It is stated by my opponent that this is from a neurological standpoint, but everyone has a different brain therefore it just proves my point that everyone will have different ideas of what"s right, so how would this work to say that there is a certain thing that will improve all of wellbeing?. Also we can"t just limit this to neurological perspectives because everyone could feel a certain type of way, but that doesn"t make something objective.

My opponent claims that something isn"t right if it goes against social customs, but if we use the definition my opponent provided which is improved well being, we can not say that which goes against societal issues, will necessarily not be an improvement. I would assume my opponent thinks that at least one invention which by definition is breaking custom, was morally right to invent. Therefore I refute that we know what"s right based off societal customs. But regarding the quote I quoted, my opponent essentially begs the question when saying that killing does not improve the wellbeing because (and then provides other subjective improvement notions such as violence). Someone may see violence as improvement and so on.

I"m not specifically talking about masochists, I"m talking about people who see suffering as improving wellbeing, but still suffer from affliction. They don"t like suffering, however they see it as improvement. Therefore it still fits your definition of morality, but it contradicts others morality, therefore morality is subjective.

(1) I wouldn"t exactly say it like that because it sort of begs the question. (2) My opponent didn"t really refute it, he just told people to ignore it and called it ridiculous which is in no way logically refuting something. (3) I don"t see how my argument is hard to understand, because I"m essentially just saying that whatever improves is subjective, therefore something like limitations, someone may feel is improving. This is not a hard concept to grasp. Believe it or not, some people feel like torture improves wellbeing. (4) "Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral" Contradiction. (5) What makes it so that limitations is an objectively wrong thing? (6) My opponent earlier made the point that we can measure well being by health, saying that if we improve someone"s health, we are improving well being. But I"ll put it like this. Let"s say someone is like Hitler, he"s about to die but you have the option of healing him, would you do it? If not then you concede that improving well being is subjective regarding health.

My opponent conceded this argument

My opponent fails to understand that for example, for the victim it may seem to be reducing well being, but for the offender, it could be seen as improving well being. And my opponent has no way to back up his argument. All he does is say that cleary this and that. And in order for the statement that "torture clearly reduces well being" to be an objective statement, it would have to be true for all cases. But I could certainly use a masochist in this example, he would like physical torture, therefore is subjective. This can be used because this statement is physical torture, not the general word, suffering.

Extend for the third time

In other words, the quality of life will change, thus meaning the thing that improves someone's well-being will change over time. Now, my opponent I assume doesn't not think that everyone changes in the same degrees in the same amount of time, therefore everyone changes differently over time. Therefore people will reach different qualities earlier and later than others, thus having different ideas of what is quality. This in conclusion means that what is right, is subjective to each person.
Debate Round No. 4
Samcoder1

Pro

I am NOT shifting a burden of proof. You have no need to prove anything, and certainly not a negative. I am not asking you to prove that we won't be able to measure it in the future. We are already making enormous headway in neuroscience and measuring the causes of suffering and happiness on the level of the brain. My argument is that there is no reason to presume it will stop there. Neuroscience is a field that is still very young considering how little we actually know about the brain. However with the headway we are making, it should be expected that we will one day unlock the brain's secrets.

Your argument about not having an answer yet appears to be silly. To claim that there is no morality (or at least objective) on the basis that right now we haven't discovered how the brain works is similar to claiming that because we don't know exactly what started the universe, the universe must therefore have had no start. It is simply bad science to claim that because we don't know an answer, there must be no answer to find.

Indeed I am conceding that I was hasty to claim that general well being is found on the level of the individual, however this by no means weakens my case.

You don't seem to understand how nutrition and health works. You appear to argue that if ONE person is resistant to cyanide, there is no justification for saying that cyanide is poisonous. Likewise if for example ONE person is allergic to a vegetable, that vegetable is no longer healthy. The fact of the matter is that you base well being and health on the impact something has on the average human. If a human has been heavily abused as a child and so consequently now lusts for physical toture, that does not make physical torture a subjectively bad thing. It is objectively bad as the average conscious being would be less happy when tortured than when not tortured. indeed we could torture all of our children so everyone in the world lusts for torture, however this would be a world in which the torture inhibits accessing the peaks of happiness. Would a world in which everyone feels pain be a happier one than one without? Of course not! The reason for this is that pain is a negative feeling, it serves as a biological warning to make you aware of a stimulus. It is not meant to feel comfortable, otherwise what would be the biological advantage? Consequently in spite of a few masochists, pain is objectively bad, as its whole purpose is to make an organisms feel uncomfortable so they change what they are doing to avoid a dangerous stimulus.

If anyone thinks that suffering improves well being, they are simply wrong. One's ability to feel happiness is not catalysed by cutting off legs etc. Such actions encourage depression and other psychological disorders. I assume that you would argue depression may also improve well being, however I invite the voters to ignore such nonsense. Depression by no means encourages organisms to flourish, and with the suicide rate far higher amongst depressed people than the general population, it removes the ability to flourish in the future as well.

"Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral"

I have been unclear in saying this. What I mean is that for example wearing a burka may or may not be moral. It may be impossible to ever work out where it stands. However systematically cutting off the limbs of babies worldwide is quite clearly immoral, because it reduces their well being. For you to claim that such a thing may improve well being is like claiming that poison improves health. It is a non point.

I never said that we can measure well being by health, you are making up points. I said that well being is like health in that it is an undefined notion that will constantly change, however there are right and wrong answers when describing what contributes and what takes away. For example, poison reduces health. Torture reduces well being. There may be some situations where screwed up men and women enjoy torture, however this is not in line with conscious creatures on the whole. Biologically, your well being is not improved by cutting off limbs, or experiencing pain, because such actions are supposed to be uncomfortable.

You claim that a masochist enjoys physical torture which is true. In my hypothetical world of suffering however torture does not have to be limited to physical torture. My worst possible scenario is a world in which everyone suffers to the greatest extend they can. I used torture as torture tends to encourage suffering. My point stands however that a world filled with suffering is objectively bad, as suffering cannot improve well being, just as poison cannot improve health. The brain responds in certain ways to suffering and happiness by changing physiology. The way it responds to suffering generally has an impact on the degree of happiness it can feel.

With regards to the changing quality of life. Would you say that the quality of life of a caveman was similar to us right now? I'd argue not as the caveman had to content with disease, famine, the elements etc. However back in the day of the caveman, good well being might have been living a life with one's very own cave, and having easy access to disease ridden yet edible meat. This by our standards is terrible well being. Consequently the meaning of well being will change over time. However this well being is only measured by the cavemans ability to experience positive emotions. Could the caveman possibly feel as happy as we do? Arguably not, considering the caveman had so many horrible aspects of life to deal with. We live comparably completely stress free lives. Likewise there may be aspects right now, like spirituality etc. that may allow us to experience greater happiness. My point here is that although a man may like pain, this man who feels happy in pain may not have the capacity to feel as greater happiness as say we do with our friendships etc. This happiness will be measured through further developments in neuroscience. We can already measure pain objectively ( http://www.colorado.edu...), and one of the results of pain is suffering. Consequently by looking at the physiological changes in the brain following pain, we can scientifically measure suffering.
SJM

Con

I have 20 minutes.

My opponent doesn"t understand how he puts me in the position of proving his notion negative in order to pursue my arguments. My arguments are made on the premise that we don"t objectively know how to measure. But my opponent makes his argument on the premise that one day we will be able to do such thing, without actually having strong proof such a thing would happen. Even if we make neurological advances, who"s to say that they will go into that direction? I mean just look at the things that were said back then to happen but didn't, for example, "Even in the 1900s - when they were stuffing children down the toilet to clear out clogs - they stillthought we'd be sending poor kids around the world on vacation by now. They believed university education would be free to everyone, and that poor students would be given free board, clothing, books, and during vacation time "poor children will be taken on trips to various parts of the world." Man, for a generation of people who thought horses were an affront to God and hated babies for being weaklings, folks in 1900s seem to really care about their poor people. They even went so far as to predict that they'd be given free dentistry and eyeglasses, and when was the last time youbrushed a homeless guy's teeth? Never? Typical '00s me-first mentality.", but instead we have what is now today.

My opponent basically makes the point that because we don't know if it will happen, it won"t happen but what I"m saying is that without the universe existing, we can"t say that it will one day exist therefore we ought not to go with that premise, and the problem with analogy is that the universe does exist, but objective measure doesn"t.

"Indeed I am conceding that I was hasty to claim that general well being is found on the level of the individual, however this by no means weakens my case."

A concession by itself weakens a case due to it being evidence that you were fallacious somewhere in your logic.

"Would a world in which everyone feels pain be a happier one than one without?"- such world could exist

The fact of the matter is that you base well being and health on the impact something has on the average human.-

"No i dont, I base it on each human subjectively"

It is objectively bad as the average conscious being would be less happy when tortured than when not tortured.- How do you know that unless you"re a mind reader? Also why judge what"s objectively good or bad on the average person? Slavery?

"If anyone thinks that suffering improves well being, they are simply wrong. One's ability to feel happiness is not catalysed by cutting off legs etc. Such actions encourage depression and other psychological disorders. I assume that you would argue depression may also improve well being, however I invite the voters to ignore such nonsense. Depression by no means encourages organisms to flourish, and with the suicide rate far higher amongst depressed people than the general population, it removes the ability to flourish in the future as well."

Saying it"s nonsense doesnt mean it"s nonsense, actually give reason. For example, depression may help people get more intuned with being kind. See, this is one way how it could be an improvment.

"Although we may not be able to say if a certain act is moral or not, we can certainly say that some actions are strictly immoral"

"I have been unclear in saying this. What I mean is that for example wearing a burka may or may not be moral. It may be impossible to ever work out where it stands. However systematically cutting off the limbs of babies worldwide is quite clearly immoral, because it reduces their well being. For you to claim that such a thing may improve well being is like claiming that poison improves health. It is a non point." _

Saying something is clearly immoral, doesnt mean it"s immoral. And now the question is not whether poison improves or does not improve health, it"s more like saying if poison is good or not.

"I never said that we can measure well being by health, you are making up points. I said that well being is like health in that it is an undefined notion that will constantly change, however there are right and wrong answers when describing what contributes and what takes away. For example, poison reduces health. Torture reduces well being. There may be some situations where screwed up men and women enjoy torture, however this is not in line with conscious creatures on the whole. Biologically, your well being is not improved by cutting off limbs, or experiencing pain, because such actions are supposed to be uncomfortable."

Whole paragraph begs the quesiton. Also he hasnt refuted my point, which is, In other words, the quality of life will change, thus meaning the thing that improves someone's well-being will change over time. Now, my opponent I assume doesn't not think that everyone changes in the same degrees in the same amount of time, therefore everyone changes differently over time. Therefore people will reach different qualities earlier and later than others, thus having different ideas of what is quality. This in conclusion means that what is right, is subjective to each person.

"You claim that a masochist enjoys physical torture which is true. In my hypothetical world of suffering however torture does not have to be limited to physical torture. My worst possible scenario is a world in which everyone suffers to the greatest extend they can. I used torture as torture tends to encourage suffering. My point stands however that a world filled with suffering is objectively bad, as suffering cannot improve well being, just as poison cannot improve health. The brain responds in certain ways to suffering and happiness by changing physiology. The way it responds to suffering generally has an impact on the degree of happiness it can feel. "

Suffering could be an improvement which is the definition of improvement, suffering can make someone wiser to not make the same mistakes. See that"s an improvement.

"With regards to the changing quality of life. Would you say that the quality of life of a caveman was similar to us right now? I'd argue not as the caveman had to content with disease, famine, the elements etc. However back in the day of the caveman, good well being might have been living a life with one's very own cave, and having easy access to disease ridden yet edible meat. This by our standards is terrible well being."

- by the standard of the populace? Where"s the evidence? I say it"s not terrible. I think we live worse lives now.
Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by Samcoder1 7 months ago
Samcoder1
My apologies, my point was with regards to the man about to kill your kid. Nonetheless once again would a world in which killers are killed be one that gives people the greatest possible well being? I think not, but rather a system of rehabilitation, but still I may be wrong. My point is that there is an answer to 'would this provide a society with greater well being?' that would be explained scientifically. Just because we do not know the answer the question, that does not mean there isn't an answer to be found.

Therefore you may think it is morally good to kill the man, however unless you have found it by chance, science may yet prove that you are simply wrong. As we discover more about neuroscience and psychology, we could possibly find answers to these question.

I have only be providing examples of how science may show if an action is moral, I do not know how we may find it. My point is that morality is not a subjective matter, and just because you think something is morally good does not make you right. Science is a strictly objective process, it isn't one's subjective opinion that gravity exists. Likewise it isn't one's subjective opinion whether an action is moral (with regards to well being) or not.
Posted by Furyan5 7 months ago
Furyan5
Killing all killers would lower anxiety around the world. How can killing be a bad thing? You may not agree, but this i firmly believe and therefore i consider it morally good to kill a man who is about to kill my child. Only when everyone has the same moral values and beliefs can a objective moral basis occur.
Posted by Samcoder1 7 months ago
Samcoder1
It does disadvantage the man true, however you appear to be confusing the meanings of the word good. Good can mean desired, however that is nothing to do with the debate. I am using the word good with the meaning of number 3 in this link: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...

Number 3 says that good (action) is 'Possessing or displaying moral virtue'. The fact of the matter is that killing morally is not virtuous as we have displayed in my case. This is because killing in society would lead to distrust etc. and so those belonging to such a society would not be able to reach the lower levels of anxiety we feel in today's world. Hence an action is either good or bad, regardless of the perspective.
Posted by Furyan5 7 months ago
Furyan5
A man is about to kill my child and I shoot him. To my child it's a good action. To the man it's a bad action. It's all subjective.
Posted by Samcoder1 7 months ago
Samcoder1
I disagree that an action is good or bad depending on who it benefits. If neuroscience can one day measure well being by the magnitude of stimulation of parts of the brains following certain events, then we can certainly establish whether an action is good or bad regardless of whose perspective you look at it from. The collective positive areas (to be discovered in more detail) of the brains of the attackers and victims may be stimulated less during attacks than during acts of kindness and generosity. Consequently the actions are bad regardless of the perspective.
Posted by Furyan5 7 months ago
Furyan5
Another point.

True, any action can be considered good or bad, depending on who it benefits. But as an individual you can only have your subjective view. A victim can not see the action from his attackers view point. Therefore you can't view an action from the victims perspective as they are not performing the action. Only in a social environment can one consider the action done to one as an action done to yourself.
Posted by Samcoder1 7 months ago
Samcoder1
Agreed, thank you.
Posted by Furyan5 7 months ago
Furyan5
Nice debate.

There is no other definition of right other than that which improves the well being of conscious beings, and contra with wrong.
I would suggest you alter your definition of right to include groups of conscious beings with the well being of the group taking president over the well being of the individual. Thus an action might be bad for one but still be considered good in general.
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