The Instigator
XDM
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
kevinht
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Is morality a human convention or a truth (like mathematics)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/29/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 360 times Debate No: 64175
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (0)

 

XDM

Pro

Round 1 will just consist of clarification of positions. I will argue that morality (the understanding of what is right and wrong in context) is a truth that is not a human convention and not subject to human beliefs. My opponent will argue that morality is a human convention and is subject to human ideals/beliefs.
kevinht

Con

I will be arguing that morality is relative and not absolute like numbers or mathematics.

The very definition of morality is filled with words like "right" and "wrong", but their definitions are relative. I do not think that right and wrong are absolute descriptions. They are opposite ends of a spectrum with many shades of gray in between. Saying, "that action was morally wrong," as opposed to saying, "I am holding 6 pencils," is not the same thing. There can be no debate about the existence of the 6 pencils in my hand, but when presented in different contexts, many heinous, morally wrong actions could be made to seem "not quite as bad" or maybe even "acceptable."

Whether an action is morally right or wrong is not binary. In other words, the morality of actions lie on a scale, where certain events are more morally right or wrong compared to others. Different people with different values would also rate the morality of certain actions on a different scale. One society's hero is another society's terrorist. Since moral values are relative to one another, they cannot be absolute like mathematics or numbers. Morals depend on the values of a community or society and are, therefore, a human convention.
Debate Round No. 1
XDM

Pro

To begin, let us say that morality is like a conscious, something which judges between two instinct or impulses and tells us which is right and which is wrong in terms of the situation. However, we are not forced to adhere to what it tells us. Also, right is always right and wrong is always wrong. An action, however, may be right in some situations and wrong in others. My position is that if every man was put in the exact same situation where two impulses or instincts competed, their respective consciousness (dictated by their morality) will tell them to do the same thing. They may however chose to do something else for whatever reason.

For example, if you see that a man is in a burning house you will have 2 impulses in conflict inside you:
-Self preservation
-The herd instinct (or the impulse to help fellow man)
The impulse to save yourself will probably be stronger than the impulse to help, but I argue that 99.9%of the time humans (I don't mean this literally, I simply mean that the great majority of humans conform to this) will feel that they SHOULD help them man even if they don't want to.

Now, that was just meant to further define what morality is and what it does. In order to say that morality is a universal truth, I would have to provide evidence that a) all humans except for oddities are subject to it, and b) it is not a human convention.

A) all humans over all time have been subject to the same morality. Different civilizations have had different cultures and different beliefs, but their moralities have never amounted to anything like a total difference. No civilization has thought that lying or cowardice or patricide or the like are virtues, and none have thought that an honorable and kind person is bad. Now, I readily admit that your culture and what you belive can influence your decisions. For example. Men used to burn women accused of being witches. If today we still belived that women sold their soul to the devil and went around casting curses and stealing children, I'm pretty certain that we would continue to kill witches. It is a great moral advantage to know that are no witches, but our morality never change, only our actions changed because of our knowledge and beliefs.

Similarly, believing in different things in today's world and having different prejudices will affect your decisions but your morality remains the same as any other persons. When my opponent says "one mans hero is another's terrorist" we have a subconscious impulse to think that the hero is morally right and the terrorist is morally wrong, but this is not always true, even the men who ordered the attack of 9/11 cannot truly believe that their actions are morally right, perhaps they think that they are warranted or necessary acts, but that is a different matter altogether.

Similarly while I think that a soldier who sacrifices his life for the cause of protecting his country can be considered a hero, I would say that anyone who says that his killing of other men is morally correct is wrong, not because I think it is wrong, but because I believe that everyone is held to and believes in the same standard of morality. This is because it would completely senseless to try to say that someone is wrong if they are not held to the same standard as you are. If morality was subject to individual humans, one human could say that in his morality, the torture and rape of children is morally right, and we could not say that he is doing so etching truly wrong, and much less blame him because that is what his morality consists of. Yet we know that this is not the case. Like I previously stated, your culture and personal beliefs can influence your actions but you know what is right and wrong regardless.

The last point I will make in an attempt to convince you that all humans (except oddities) believe in a common morality. If I make a promise to you and break it you will feel wronged. I may say that I am not held to the same standard as you and because of that I can break that promise, but if you break a promise to me, i will feel wronged. By that, I am admitting that I believe that we are both held to some predetermined standard of morality.

Another example: if you call a man a liar or a hypocrite or a thief, he will naturally argue against me. He will either argue that he is not those things, or he will give excuses, all because he believes in a common morality and realizes that he should try to conform to this morality.

B) common morality is not a human convention. This is one of the more important points. A common morality that all humans know must fall into one of two categories:
1. Universal truths like mathematics
2. Social conventions like how it is proper to drive on the right side of the road
Keep in mind that just because something is taught to us by a teacher or by a parent does not mean its a human convention. We are taught the multiplication table by teachers and parents and books, but the fact that the multiplication table exists is not subject to human invention.
Reasons why the law is not a human convention:
-There are no major differences between the moralities of civilizations
-What is right is not always convenient and what is wrong is not always inconvenient so we can conclude that what we call right would not always help an individual and what we call wrong will not always harm an individual. Therefore, humans would not create this system of morality because it would not be beneficial to individuals.
-the other option is that following the moral law could aid society as a whole, but the fact that it aids society is not a good explanation as to why we feel as we do about morality.

Ex: this is a dialogue that will illustrate my point
Me: why should I be unselfish?
You: because it is good for society
Me: why should I care about what Is good for society unless it affects me personally in a good way?
You: because that's being selfish and you shouldn't be selfish

By saying that following the common morality you benefit society, you are really only saying that the moral law is the moral law. This is because the moral law consists of benefiting society, so It cannot be a reason for itself. I don't play soccer to score goals, that like saying I play soccer to play soccer because scoring goals is part of what soccer consists of.

So, we know that all humans across all walks of life and across all periods of time have believed in the same standard of morality. These various cultures may have been different, and believed different things in terms of religion and the nature of the world, but they have had the same common morality. We also know that it wouldn't necessarily benefit an individual to follow the common morality. We know that society, however, is benefited by individuals following the common morality but that aiding society cannot be a reason for the common morality because aiding society is something that morality consists of. Therefor we must assume that morality is above humans and is a truth of the universe
kevinht

Con

kevinht forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
XDM

Pro

XDM forfeited this round.
kevinht

Con

kevinht forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
XDM

Pro

XDM forfeited this round.
kevinht

Con

kevinht forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by XDM 2 years ago
XDM
Principles concerning the distinction of Right and Wrong would be the better of the two.
Posted by kevinht 2 years ago
kevinht
The definition of morality is a little muddy to me in the context of this proposed debate.

"Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior."

Is that an acceptable definition of morality?
No votes have been placed for this debate.