Is morality subjective?
Debate Rounds (3)
1. principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behaviour.
Why do we go about defining what is right and what is wrong?
The reason we classify things into these two categories is for the preservation of ourselves and as an extension the people who we care about. When something impedes or prevents you from existing then you presumably question its need and put it into the "wrong" category thus, as a result, through our own experiences and past historical events, which we have recorded and documented, we have been able to construct a primitive understanding of what is right and wrong and pass that down to future generations who further refine this model.
Subjective 1. based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
Objective 1. (of a person or their judgement) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.
Just to summarise these two definitions, for something to be objective it needs to be absolute as it is based on analysing in a logical manner the facts presented to you. Subjectivity would entail everyone would have different opinions even when presented with exactly the same question or notion.
The subjectivity of right and wrong
Right and Wrong need not necessarily be subjective just because people have differing opinions on what they believe to be right and wrong but rather it is because people have been subject to different conditions and thus there interpretation of what is right and wrong might be different to someone else. For example, consider an Inuit who has lived his whole life in Alaska and a Kenyan person who has lived his whole life in Kenya, now there understanding of what is right and wrong is different but the intentions are the same - to improve chances of survival. They may have what seems to look like a conflict of interest but this is only because of the difference in their conditions.
NOW, take for example someone who has lived in both countries, when you have a right/wrong statement of the Alaskan which is mutually exclusive of the Kenyan then someone who has lived in both countries will agree and implement both statements into his daily life, for example an Inuit would say it is right to wear clothes which prevent heat from escaping in order to stay warm and the Kenyan would say I will wear very light clothes on a very hot day. Both are right but are only mentioned by the respective person due to the conditions that they live in and the person who has lived in both countries agrees with both statements and will appropriately use these two statements to enhance his way of life.
How about if the two statements conflict eachother?
For example the UK are advocates of free health care, where as the USA are (or were) opposed to an approach that free market and privatisation of health care is best for society. Now what if, like before, there is a person who has lived in both the USA and UK what would his verdict be on which of the two statements are wrong and wouldn't this choice he has responded with be opinionated? you may, erroneously, believe this to be so however a person will attempt to optimise his chance of survival in which case if he could not afford US health care would say that they are wrong and if he could afford it, then he would judge each system based on the ability of the health care service. In either case both can be objective statements which are right but are based on the different conditions which people are living in.
To clarify in this situation mentioned above there is a choice, and the direction your choose is based on facts and logical reasoning to ensure you are living an optimal life. Let us take a different man who has lived exactly the same way as the person before him up to that point, then he would make exactly the same choices as his predecessor purely because they both have the same intentions.
Equally there are situations when one purports a certain statement to be right and may actually be wrong this is not because of subjectivity but rather a lack of knowledge in that specific field, for example it was once believed that everything was composed of 4 elements earth water fire and air which we now know to be true but at the time was taken to be right.
To recapitulate I would like to state that just because there are differing statements of what is right and wrong does not make it subjective, because if we dwell within certain constraints of living then what we come to realise is that these 'opinions' are the same due to logical reasoning which is as a result of us striving for the preservation of ourselves. I would also like to point out if we lived in a world of complete equality then everyone has the same concept of right and wrong; this scenario amplifies the objectivity of our 'opinions' and puts into light the importance of how constraints in the world we live in allow us to observe what is actually objectivity
Have you ever noticed that no person has ever provided a bulletproof argument for objective morality that did not depend on faith? The reason for this is that there is in fact no objective morality.
Most of us hate even the idea of murder or rape, but notice that much of this belief stems from our emotions. We feel empathy toward people who are being abused, and anger toward those who do wrong. Why are these emotions alone any better all by themselves than hatred, lust, or greed? All by themselves these emotions prove nothing yet we allow ourselves to be controlled by them when making important moral judgments. These emotions are simply sensations within us and can be different from person to person making them subjective.
Another reason we believe in morality is because of the way we have been taught. We have been taught that murder is wrong, therefore it is wrong. Often there is religious reinforcement but until my opponent can back up any of these claims, they should be considered mere opinion like any opinion from a controversial source in a debate. Religions range from person to person and so do ethical backgrounds and cannot be considered a logical basis of morality alone and is subjective.
A more advanced basis of morality is through logic. For example, we treat people around us well because in general they will treat us well. But there are many exceptions to this rule that differ from person to person because there are cases when doing wrong benefits us. For example, if you could steal $10 and get away with it, then there is no reason who we shouldn't do that logically. This moral basis is subjective because what we can get away with differ from person to person.
Some site utilitarianism and say that we should help the greatest number. But no reason is given why we should help a whole bunch of people for that reason alone if it doesn't benefit us personally.
Another argument is that we feel better than we do good. When you help someone in need, you feel good about yourself. When you are constantly doing bad, you feel awful. Unfortunately this logic doesn't cover cases when doing good comes at a great sacrifice to you. Also, we don't always feel like doing good. Some people are more empathic than others emotionally and get more of a kick out of doing bad. So even this basis is subjective.
So in summary, there is no morality which is not subjective. The best bases I can find are based on our emotional, and personal self-interest and this morality is subjective because it changes from person to person.
Is there morality based on emotions?
Dan4Reason main proposition is that it is in fact emotions that control the way we choose what is right and wrong. This an erroneous claim as I will now explain.
Throughout history we have had very diverse opinions on what is now regarded as being an objective fact. The reason for this? Reason. We have developed our morality around reason and because reason is objective, morality is objective. For example, let us take slavery, it was long considered that blacks were inferior to the white men, and this would of stayed the case had there not been any reason for it not to change, however using logical arguments most of America, and the World were eventually swayed into believing that in fact black and white people are equal and it is no considered amoral to think otherwise.
Dan4Reason then goes on to say "We have been taught that murder is wrong, therefore it is wrong." This is a shallow perspective of why we are taught murder is wrong. It was through reason that we established why murder is wrong, because it goes against the preservation of the human race and by extension us. The reason why we have not mentioned the reasoning is because what was initially logic has eventually been ingrained into us as being inherently right, yet there was a time when knights would kill as many of each others peasants as possible as there was also a time when cannibalism wasn't considered inhuman.
To conclude this point, emotions don't result in subjective morality but rather emphasise what we consider as being moral; and it is in fact reason that is what defines what is moral.
This moral basis is subjective because what we can get away with differ from person to person.
I would first like to refer back to my original argument that we must dwell within constraints to understand why morality is objective. Now, morality does not justify your example but rather reason does, and isn't reason objective? Ergo, wouldn't everyone within the same set of constraints and situation act accordingly? What people can get away with is irrelevant as that is a result of physical ability.
Is morality based on what emotions "feel good"?
My adversary goes on to say When you help someone in need, you feel good about yourself. I would like to ask, what do we attain as a result of these acts? we feel better. This is because it allows us to start the day much better and approach tasks with a better attitude, and I stress, this applies within certain constraints. I would go so far in to assume that people are more likely to give money to homeless people in the morning because they can start the day of better. The same way we put in extra effort at work, what do we attain? we attain a promotion, there is always a motive in our intent and this motive is for purposes exclusively for us and in this case you said it; we feel better. The reason I mention within constraints in this day and age is because empathy is a result of how we grew up, several factors could influence peoples empathetic nature, namely living in places where people are nicer, rather than places could cause you have to be 'nice' where as the latter scenario requires a lack of emotion to survive - an unfortunate vicious circle.
My opponents summary is contradictory he says, "no morality which is not subjective" and then goes on to say "this morality is subjective" I urge the floor to take this into account when voting.
To conclude, it is still to my belief that morality is objective because of reasoning, which over time becomes inherently entrenched within us and we believe it is an instinctive trait which shows the true power of logic, and I only need to encourage you to research how we have evolved to show you that what we believe to be 'emotional morality' is in fact purely objective. Thank you.
Wrong, I believe that there are several factors behind our morality many of them not based in emotion. See the last round for details on these factors.
"We have developed our morality around reason and because reason is objective, morality is objective."
I argued that objective reasoning only supports subjective morality. People just coming up with reasons for objective morality does not mean these reasons are correct.
Slavery, Morality, and equality
My opponent tries to demonstrate the objective nature of morality by pointing to how society decided slavery was wrong by showing that some races are not inferior to other. The problem is that we took slaves not because we thought them inferior but because slaves gave us profit. The claim that they were inferior was only an excuse.
So can my opponent show objectively that forcing people to work even if they are not mentally inferior is morally wrong? It is in our self-interest to ban forced labor because others may do the same for us. So we would all do better by agreeing to outlaw forced labor and hunt down those who try it.
There are exceptions. For example many ancient empires got away with it without becoming slaves themselves although they were taken over eventually (like any nation eventually was). An example is the ancient Egyptians. This shows the relative nature of morality based on self-interest.
Dan4Reason then goes on to say "We have been taught that murder is wrong, therefore it is wrong." This is a shallow perspective of why we are taught murder is wrong. It was through reason that we established why murder is wrong, because it goes against the preservation of the human race and by extension us
I was only stating a reason some believe that murder is wrong. Of course reason is needed to really say it is wrong. I agree with my opponent's reason why murder is wrong but only in general not as a universal rule. His argument is one from self-interest. There are cases where people do get away with murder.
For example if you could kill your rich spouse for the insurance money and get away with it, it is in your self-interest to do so if you don't have strong feelings toward your spouse. Again, the relative nature of morality based on self-interest is shown.
"wouldn't everyone within the same set of constraints and situation act accordingly? What people can get away with is irrelevant as that is a result of physical ability."
We all don't have the same set of constraints so what is in our self-interest differs from person to person and sometimes it is in our self-interest to do wrong or refrain from good. For example, it may be in our self-interest to steal food if we are really poor and can barely feed ourselves.
What people can get away with determines what actions have consequences and which ones don't. This influences which actions are in our self-interest and which ones aren't. Since your arguments for morality are based in some sort of self-interest, what we can get away with has a lot to do with your arguments for morality.
Morality, Empathy, and Emotional Well-being
My opponent argues that morality can be in our emotional self-interest and is yet another argument from self-interest. We all are emotionally different. Some of us don't enjoy doing good for others as much as others, and don't feel so bad when we do harm. Some people actually get a kick from doing harm, even if it is minor. Being bad can make people happy.
In extreme cases, one might be a psychopath and have no sense of empathy and only enjoy doing harm. So it makes no sense from this person to do good for purely emotional reasons. Also, doing bad for financial reasons may translate to emotional well-being later on. For example if I could steal $1,000,000 from a rich person through identity theft with very little chance of being caught, I might feel some guilt, but the money will be worth it.
The only rational basis of morality is through personal and emotional self-interest. Since our situations and personalities differ, what moral decisions make sense will differ from person to person making it subjective.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by tomricotta 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro said in his conclusion, "The only rational basis of morality is through personal and emotional self-interest." I believe this is a rather shallow take of morality, and I did not feel Pro upheld his BOP.
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