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Existence of objective morality

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/16/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,740 times Debate No: 17090
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (1)




It seems as though I have some time on my hands, so I figured I'd give this topic another try.


Objective- to have existence independent of human thought or opinion; as opposed to subjective

Existence- to have actual being

Morality- a categorical prescriptive requirement. Meaning a binding 'ought'.


1.- Drops are concessions.

2.- No semantic or abusive arguments.

3.- Acceptance of this challange implies acceptance of all definitions, rules and other clarifications.


The BOP will be shared. We both must bring a case and refute the other's in order to win the debate.

All deities or gods will be assumed not to exist in this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I'm happy to be debating headphonegut again and look forward to an interesting exchange of ideas. But moving right along to my argument, I will be using a somewhat revised form of J. L. Mackie's error theory. The concept is similar to the one that I brought in my "The number four is even" debate with head. Below I will list the quick-form syllogism and then move on to defend the premises and final conclusion from those premises.

Premise 1: a moral fact is an objectively prescriptive fact, so that the truth of a moral sentence would require the existence of objectively prescriptive facts.

Premise 2: there are no objectively prescriptive facts.

Concusion: there are no moral facts

My argument goes like this. M is X. X does not exist. Therefore M does not exist. An analogy would be if I said that an elf is a unicorn's cousin. But since unicorn's do not exist they cannot have cousins. So a unicorn's cousin cannot exist without a unicorn first existing. The logical validity of my argument is apparent and so I can assume that my conclusion will follow the affirmation of my two premises.

Defense of Premise 1

Premise 1 is not an argumentative premise, but a conceptual premise. I am stating what a moral fact would be. This was simply a combination of the definitions of objective and morality that my opponent agreed to in R1. Morality is a prescriptive requirement. But there could simply be subjective prescriptive requirements. Person A wanting Person B's possessions is a subjective situation. If Person A tells Person B that he must relinquish his possessions to Person A because he wants it, this would not be an objectively prescriptive requirement since it depends on the subjective wants of Person A. This debate is on objectively prescriptive facts and whether or not they exist. Premise 1 is a valid conceptual claim on what a moral fact would be.

Defense of Premise 2

This will be the main part on which the argumentation will rest. P1 is simply conceptual as to what an objective morality would be. As to my conclusion, I have shown that it is valid so long as my premises are shown to be true. Before I begin I feel as though we should look at the nature of objectivity more closely. To be objective, by our agreed upon definition, something must exist even if there are no minds to think about or form opinions about it, For this reason, an apple is an objective thing in nature. They were around before humans developed the capability to make choices as to which are more tasty or decide which color of apples is most appealing. Even if all intelligent life were wiped out tomorrow, apples would still exist and so they are objective. When we look at morality though we are dealing with something much different. We deal with what one 'ought' to do. But to make a distinction on what one 'ought' to do, there must be a person to ponder on the correct form of action. An apple is red regardless of opinion or thought. Red exists as a specific wavelength of light and so an apple can be red even if intelligent life never existed. Morality on the other hand is conditional to choices made by people. If people never existed, choices of correct action would not exist. In sense an objective prescriptive fact cannot exist.

Perhaps though my opponent will argue that an objectively prescriptive fact's existence need not be conditional to human thought. Suppose my opponent argues that we can derive categorically prescriptive facts from the nature of the world around us. While this would be a simply get out of jail free card, it inevitably runs into it's own problems. Hume famously pointed out that there is as of yet no bridge that can connect descriptive and prescriptive statements, unless of course we resort to a hypothetical imperative(if I want X then I should do Y). Though this obviously takes away objectivity in that it would necessarily be conditional to human thought or opinion. I hope that this is sufficient explanation of my points as to get the ball rolling in this debate. I look forward to my opponent's response and again look forward to an interesting exchange of ideas. I now pass on the debate to headphonegut.


Hello and thank you for starting this debate since you're using a version ofmackies argument I suppose that means youre taking the position of an error theorist. For practicality I will be taking the kantian side which I believe is the proper response to an error theorist.

One thinks stealing is ok, one does not. Subjectivity allows for both to be correct. Not so. Truth value is mutually exclusive--wrong or right. Both of them can't be correct. This would violate the law of non-contradiction. They can't be both wrong for the same sort of reason. One is right, one is wrong. Which means that there is an objective moral fact.

Before I go on I must put forth an objection to the definition of the word existence or to have actual being if this means an existence or body is required then it's abusive if it means for example that facts like 2 2=4 exist then I take back my objection.

Continuing, it will be convenient for me to use "morality" in a very broad sense. I shall call "morality" (in the objective sense) all facts, if there are any such facts, about what is wrong, good, bad, evil, ill-advised, just, beautiful, or preferable, or any other evaluative property. Anything that is a value judgement will count as part of a morality in the subjective sense. For instance, the fact that Aristotle is a great thinker is a moral fact in the broad sense, because it requires a value judgement to appreciate; so is the fact that it's best to eat when one is hungry, because stating it gives a prescription for action; so is the fact that the world would be better off without tyrants, because it requires a value judgement to observe (calling something "better" as well as calling someone "a tyrant" are value judgements). In particular, I stress that I do not wish to presuppose any particular theory about how people should behave nor any particular reasons why they should so behave. Most people appear to restrict the application of the term "morality" to prohibitions on actions satisfying desires. I disregard this convention. If desires must be held in check, then that will be a moral fact; and equally, if desires need not be checked but provide appropriate and rational reasons for acting (I don't mean merely that they make one want to act, which is a purely descriptive fact and not an evaluation, but that acting in accord with them is a good thing) then that will be a moral fact. In other words, my defense of objectivism, while it says that there is at least sometimes a way one should behave, does not actually recommend anything in particular.

To make this more interesting I say we only use examples/metaphors with the color red

Suppose I offer the opinion, "Colors are objective." What then is it that I am saying about colors? What I am saying, I think, is that colors are 'in the object.' In what object? In colored objects. What does "in" mean here? It means that a color - redness, say - is a property of the objects that are said to be red, that is, that the nature of those objects themselves and not anything else determines whether they are red or not. Hence, to say that morality is objective is to say that whether an action is right depends on the nature of that action; whether a person is good depends on the nature of that person.

My oppoenets only charge is his second premise as he concedes that the first one is not an argument.
This does not mean that i concede to this merely putting it aside for awhile. His second premise is there are no objectively prescriptive facts If we look closely at his defense of his second premise we note that he gives an explanation Of what it would mean to be objective then he sets up a straw man with the hypothetical imperative. I will respond to his arguments in full when it's my turn again.
Debate Round No. 2


The first thing that I will respond to in my opponent's post is his misapplication of the law of non-contradiction. He claims that, with the subject of stealing as an example, subjectivity does not allow two diametrically opposed concept of the rightness or wrongness an action to be correct at the same time. This part I agree with and will not dispute. It is in accordance with the law of non-contradiction. It is what my opponent says next that made me re-read it twice to make sure I read right. He claims that out of two opinions on stealing, "They can't be both wrong for the same sort of reason. One is right, one is wrong. Which means that there is an objective moral fact." I will show that this is not a logically valid conclusion. Just because one can make two different judgements on something in no way means one of them must be correct. It is a false dichotomy. My opponent wants us to believe that the only two options for a given value jusgement is whether it is right or wrong. But there is a third option. It could not be right or wrong. My opponent does not rule this out as a possibility. Just as you can do with any question, let's take for example math, I can impose a false dichotomy to make it seem as though there are only two possible answers. If I show you a red sweater and ask you whether it is green or blue I have given you two wrong answers but disguised them as the only answers. Both answers are wrong. Moral error theory argues that moral propositions are not wrong or right in that they fallaciously presuppose moral facts.

Now on to my opponent's contention with my definition of existence. I do not believe that any sort of body is required for something to exist. For example, a 45 degree angle can exist even though it has no body. It is simply the relation between two lines. So I am not going to argue that relations do not exist or that a body is necessary for existence. Next my opponent tries to redefine morality as to fit his argument. The meaning of morality that we will be debating is how I defined it in the first round. In fact, I actually addressed the possibility of my opponent trying to redefine terms in my rule 3: "Acceptance of this challange implies acceptance of all definitions, rules and other clarifications." Morality will not be argued as a general evaluative property as my opponent has tried to argue. It will be argued as objectively prescriptive fact. My opponent tries to argue that an example of a moral fact would be "if desires need not be checked but provide appropriate and rational reasons for acting (I don't mean merely that they make one want to act, which is a purely descriptive fact and not an evaluation, but that acting in accord with them is a good thing)". My opponent makes the mistake of equating rationally with gooness. He provides no warrant for us to believe this other than his attempt at redefining morality which was prohibited when my opponent accepted this challenge.

My opponent then tries to use an example with the color red as a means to establish moral objectivity. He writes: "to say that morality is objective is to say that whether an action is right depends on the nature of that action". I am not debating on the correct means to evaluate moral propositions. This debate is on whether those evaluations are objective. To take another example using the color red, if I claim that red is a color and you respond that barns are red; you have not disputed my argument. You have merely made a statement related to the subject at hand. This debate is not about normative ethics and how best to evaluate moral propositions takeing moral realism as a given. This debate is on whether or not moral propositions are in fact objective or not.

My opponent lastly claims that I set up a straw man of what a hypothetical imperative would be but does not show why it was a straw man or offered a better definition. I claimed that a hypothetical imperative would be: If A than B. More specifically, if one wants to do X, one must do Y. I argued that the nature of a hypothetical imperative is conditional to thought and so it could not be counted as anything objective in the sense that objective has been defined. I await my opponent's response. Vote Con.



headphonegut forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


As per rule #1, drops are concessions. My opponent has droped all of my arguments and refutations by forfeiting the last round and so they stand. To summarize them, so far I have argued that no feature of the world is prescriptive in that there can not be a presciption without an agent to fulfill it. Saying that one should not kill is a meaningless statement if there is no one to kill or ponder the morality of killing. Moral values and judgements are inherently conditional to human thought and so they cannot be objective in the sense that we have defined it.

My opponent responded by trying to redefine morality to fit his argument. This was a violation of rule #3. Acceptance of this debate implied acceptance of all definitions. It was on his re-defining of morality that his entire case rested. He then accuses me of strawmanning the hypothetical imperative without showing how or why. In short, my opponent brought an argument based on a redefinition of morality which was expressly forbidden in the rules that he accepted when he accepted this challenge. His supposed refutation of my claim that moraliy is conditional to subjective values and desires thus does not stand.

Vote Con


Vote for merda sorry for the forfeit
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
Lol u said gooness?
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
Almost doen
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
Posted by Merda 5 years ago
Hey head where are you?
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
Woah the script is messing up lol
Posted by Merda 5 years ago
Posted by headphonegut 5 years ago
is the first round acceptance?
Posted by CiRrK 5 years ago
mmmm...should i take it. Im tempted. :P
Posted by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
I would argue as omni-max it also has the Form of existence in its truest sense, ala Decartes. Just as the one true knowledge is that I am a thinking thing, even if I do not know that type of thinking thing that the "I" that I am is, the one true thing that exists to the fullest of what it means to exist is, by definition, God. This contention will come down to what it means for something to exist as Socrates was arguing that there was a reality above this one, the reality of the Forms - i.e. true existence. I was not serious about the cheating thing, though Tim is likely to call Shenanigans and/or hit you with the Parmenides. It would make an interesting read though.
Posted by Contradiction 5 years ago
That's only if you view God to be be an abstract object. Certainly someone can view God to be the paradigmatic standard of the good, but that would be treating God as much more than a mere form.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by BennyW 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit