The Instigator
TUF
Pro (for)
Winning
2 Points
The Contender
BananaPhilosopher
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

It is more likely than not that morality does not exist

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
TUF
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/25/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,238 times Debate No: 49856
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (6)
Votes (3)

 

TUF

Pro


Thank you in advance for accepting this debate!


I will be arguing in the pro position for the following resolution. Resolved: It is more likely than not that Morality does not exist.


I will be taking a stance on moral nihilism while it is my opponent’s job to find arguments to prove that morality is more likely to exist.


This is a philosophical debate, so arguments thus will be purely philosophical. Both debaters are welcome to use sources of course, however keeping in mind that sources aren’t as important in philosophical outside of quoting.


The format for this debate will be as follows:


Round 1: Acceptance


Round 2-3: Debate and rebuttals


Round 4: Concluding statements/arguments


I wish my opponent good luck and thank him for being willing to debate what I feel will be a fun topic.


BananaPhilosopher

Con

I thank you for the debate, accept, and wish you good luck.
Debate Round No. 1
TUF

Pro

The concept of morality is something that exists in a lot of modern day societies. While some people"s view of what morality is can be strict, others hold more loose standards of morality. There are many different definitions of the word, and while many of them differ, the common understanding of the word simply means something like "The concept of good or bad actions, thoughts, and behaviors". The weight of the definition is of course balanced upon the words "good and bad".

Moral objectivists generally view the concept as a single standard that applies to every human being on the planet, while Moral subjectivists believe that morality can change and vary based on different cultures and societies.

Contention 1: Morality is an unstable belief

Throughout history, the specific beliefs around morality have changed in many cultures. I believe the change in beliefs on morality comes from political, scientific, medicinal and technological advances. For someone to create and envision their own moral standard, they have to base their perception of the standard from their visual and physical world. Many of the concepts that are viewed as commonly distasteful to humans such as killing, enslavement, theft, etc., are only viewed that way based on the way modern society has made it easier to look at things that way. However if we were to take the humans with these moral beliefs out of their comfortable modern worlds, and put them in a time where many of the same commodities previously did not exist, would a lot of these views stay the same? In our time, many civilized cultures that share and appreciate the idea of morality, do not have to kill to protect themselves, or thieve food to stay survive.

The African spotted Hyena is one of nature"s fiercest predators, as they have one of the strongest bites in the world. The animals usually travel in packs and are considered nature"s "garbage disposal" as they will eat almost any type of prey to survive. The hyena"s generally band together and will pick apart their prey and eat it while it is still alive. The hyena is also notoriously known for stealing hunted prey from lions, cheetahs, and other fierce predators to survive(1).

The hyena"s do not care how they survive, but they do whatever they can to make sure that their survival is guaranteed. Humans would behave the same way if in completely natural environment under similar circumstances. If the survival of family and self is dependent on committing similar actions, then the instinct of a human would be compelled to act similarly. In this day and age, western society doesn"t have to rely on such actions to maintain survival however. Yet humans do not call Hyena"s as an "evil" animal because of their methods of survival. We excuse, and make exceptions to morality based on context of situation. The fact that morality can be judged so loosely based on context of situation however, made me question why create morality in the first place? What is the purpose? My next contention will answer that question/

Contention 2: Morality and the human psyche

Humans are equally instinctual just as animals are; yet possess intelligence far greater than many animals. Outside of just thinking, we can feel and experience emotions. It is these emotions that drive the need to create a moral synthetic sphere to give justification or lack thereof to actions and behaviors. A pedophile is one of the most despised types of humans in western culture. Despite the widely known and expressed point of view, there are many that exist. In the United States there are over 747,408 registered sex offenders, with probably many more that have either not been caught, or have yet to act (2). When a "sexual predator" commits their instinct driven action, they are not always doing with the wanting of harming or hurting another human being, they just seek a common human sexual release. Just as the hyena"s feel the instinctual urge to tear apart and eat their prey, the sexual offender is satisfying his urge. We humans hold such an emotional attachment to our youth, based on our thoughts, experiences, and interactions with them, that the feeling towards a child being harmed is automatically engaged for a lot of humans. This however, is no more instinctual than the motherly instinct of a water buffalo protecting her baby from a pack of wild hyena"s. In a functioning society, it may benefit a human to have feelings and emotions. The rules we make around them even make sense and work well in society. However, the belief in morality seems like a way to safeguard our instincts to mean something more than what they really are, and it is for that reason that I belief morality most likely doesn"t exist.

Good luck to my opponent in the following round, I look forward to the rebuttal.

(Also I apologize for the multiple hyena references, however I already used them as an example and didn"t want to have to use more than one example to push across the same point).

Sources:

(1) bioexpedition.com/spotted-hyena
(2) www.statisticbrain.com/sex-offender-statistics/
(3) https://www.youtube.com...
BananaPhilosopher

Con


The Existence of Subjective Morality


Given the choice between arguing objective or subjective morality, as I am, I’ll choose the latter. Objective morality, then, cannot be attacked in any relevant sense from this point onward.


To avoid possible misconceptions on your resolution, I’ll use the definition you provided for subjective morality in round one; that is, to paraphrase- a concept asserting that morality can change and vary based on different cultures and societies; in other words, morality based upon context. Further, you clarify that the concept of morality balances upon the proposition that “good and bad” choices exist- if I understand you correctly.


To address your first proposition- and I’m going to again paraphrase here, in an attempt to consolidate my understanding of your argument (as I’ll do henceforth as needed, and without further apologetics)- that “Morality is unstable”, resulting in it being “… [defined] loosely…”, and thereby rendering it useless (“made me question, why create morality in the first place” being the statement I derived that viewpoint from). This moves in regressive form right into your second proposition; that is to say, the first contention is relevant only because of the second, and the second only because of the first. Because of this, disproving or proving irrelevant either portion will suffice for my obligation to address your arguments. After that point, I have only to prove subjective morality is likely to exist. That being said- the second argument ties into the first by claiming moralities uselessness as a concept is caused by the fact that it’s actually just instinct, redefined as something else; “… the belief in morality seems like a way to safeguard our instincts to mean something more than what they really are, and it is for that reason that I belief morality most likely doesn"t exist.” In other words, your thesis seems to be that morality doesn’t exist because it’s actually an ennobled way of defining our instincts, taking what they tell us to do, saying it’s good, what they tell us not to, and saying it’s bad, when in reality, it’s neither. Further, I take it that your example was meant to prove that instinct doesn’t prove what is good and bad, simply what is beneficial to the species.


Here is where my actual argument begins, and coincidentally, my first contention will also be my first supporting statement; that I believe you have defined incorrectly what morality is. Not your initial definition, which I agreed to adhere to, but the latter, altered definition, stating morality is synonymous with instinct, simply redefined to elevate our perception of them, exalting them as something greater than what they actually are. I’d like to posit that morality is likely more closely related to the following definition, in addition to the one you gave initially- “The concept of good or bad actions, thoughts, and behaviors”, defined by whatever society the system or morality is subject to (as that is what subjective morality is) and further, that it is a result of their instinctual view of what is good or bad, and is thusly subject to change as the society itself changes, and/or evolves to be instinctually opposed to new and different actions or ideas.


I believe that to be an accurate and sufficiently thorough description of what morality is. I don’t think you’d disagree that morality is based upon the instincts of the society in question (since that was part of your core argument), and I don’t think it’s a huge logical leap to see that our general system of morals is based upon our general instincts as a society. Some members of society won’t have the instinct to refrain from harming children, but those that do have that instinct outnumber the former to such an insurmountable extent that they’re irrelevant in a general sense. Similarly, to borrow your use of hyena analogies for a moment, some hyenas won’t have the instinct to refrain from killing their own species, but those handful are outnumbered to a comparable extent, and are thusly irrelevant in the general sense we must approach this from (because there will always be outliers, but outliers don’t determine the morality of a species, the general consensus does). Given that we can both agree instincts exist, and that I’ve proven sufficiently (I believe) that morality is based upon the general instincts of the species in question, I feel confident in making the statement that morality does, in a general, subjective sense, exist.



Thank you for the incredibly thought provoking topic; I hope you have as much fun replying to my argument as I had writing it.


Debate Round No. 2
TUF

Pro

Thanks for the great reply! You are definitely great with words, and have already made this debate exciting, thankyou.

I will proceed with the debate with the acknowledgement that you will be debating as a subjectivist. While I do hold belief that nihilism and subjectivism are very similar, I will hold that conversation if it becomes neccesary in this debate.

Rebuttals:


Definition of morality - The contradiction with metaphysics and biology

As far as defining morality goes, it was not my intention to give a clear definition of morality, as that is counter-productive to my position. I did offer my own version of how the word is commonly interpreted (the definition my opponent claims to agree with), however I would like to stress that for the purposes of this debate, I am inclined to allow my opponent's definition to be offered up to debate.

I will post the definition as my opponent sees it, and demonstrate my problems with it.

“The concept of good or bad actions, thoughts, and behaviors”, defined by whatever society the system or morality issubject to (as that is what subjective morality is) and further, that it is a result of their instinctual view of what is good or bad, and is thusly subject to change as the society itself changes, and/or evolves to be instinctually opposed to new and different actions or ideas.


Stefan Molyneux is the author of a great book (I definitely reccomend you read it when if you get a chance) called "Universally Preferable Behavior: A rational proof of Secular Ethics". This book largely references some of your outlook as defined in our definition here. I also agree with the basic outlook of your definition, though I think we have a slight difference in our interpretation of the definition.

Stefan says "The truth is that we need morality; the lie is that gods or governments can rationally define or justly enforce it." (4)

This is where me and my opponent agree; man made morality exists, and can vary. My own feeling as stated in the previous round, is that such a belief is beneficial to survival. In conjunction to Molyneux's belief, morality cannot be meta-physical, as such a stance on moral subjectism would make it. My opponent's definition provides that human instincts create moral subjectivism; but that takes subjectivism out of the metaphysical world, and demonstrates how morality is synthetic. This is exactly where my mis-understanding of the difference between moral nihilism, and moral subjectivism lie.

The specific reference of instinct that takes morality out of the meta-physical world, is the biology that goes into "morality".

"We humans -- and most other animals -- appear to be equipped with a set of predictable responses to situations. We call these the basic emotions: anger, fear, surprise, disgust, joy and sadness, as described in the 1970s by anthropologist Paul Eckman." (5)

Because instincts are built on human/animal biology, morals are based on are emotional re-actions and thought processes.

While slightly out of context, this Nietzsche qoute in his arguments on "morality as instruments of control" makes a good point.

"Pity is the practice of nihilism. To repeat: this depressive and contagious instinct crosses those instincts which aim at the preservation of life and at the enhancement of its value. Pity multiplies misery and conserves all that is miserable, and is thus a prime instrument of the advancement of decadence...."(6)

The problem with subjective morality, is that it is too similar to nihilism. Yet to pre-suppose that it is a meta-physical concept is contradictory to my opponent's definition, which seems to agree that"morality is a result of an instinctual view of what is good or bad". The definition is seemingly built off a contradiction.

Subjectivity, and Generalities

My opponent made a couple of good arguments here that I would like to address.

The first part of the argument speak of generalities that exist within cultures and societies. With the continued knowledge of existing subjecivity, my opponent's argument lies that in general, the instinct of one will not fall in line with the others. In a subjective world that not only values societies, but individuals, I find the concept a bit confusing. While my opponent didn't make any definitive statements with usage of the infamous words "right or wrong", generalities seem to be irrelevant in the context of moral subjectivism. A hyena that acts out towards it's group and proceeds to try and cannibilize to survive, may be isolated indeed. His subjective needs prioritize his prior instinct to conform. The hyena is still acting out of instinct, however the argument assumes that other hyena's who may have had more to eat would not have acted similarly on the brink of survival. Did the hypothetical hyena breach the line of it's societal morals? In context to my opponent's definition, it would have. If a society itself can dictate it's morals independently of the individuals inside that society, then the concept of moral subjectivity becomes just that much more confusing.

For a society to have it's own independent morals, a society must have learned behaviors which start mutually from individualism. Because learned behaviors effect the outcome of many (instincts excluded) thoughts, actions, and behaviors, moral subjectivity cannot properly exist while excluding it's roots; individualism.

"In order to attack false moralities, we must start from the beginning, just as the first scientists did. Francis Bacon did not argue that the scientific method was more “efficient” than prayer, Bible texts orstarvation-induced visions. He simply said that if we want to understand nature, we must observe natureand theorize logically – and that there is no other route to knowledge. We must take the same approach in defining and communicating morality. We must begin using the power and legitimacy of the scientific method to prove the validity and universality of moral laws. We must start from the beginning, build logically and reject any irrational or non-empirical substitutes for the truth." (4)


Good luck to my opponent, I am excited to see how the rest of this debate unfolds!


Sources:

(4) Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of SecularEthics: http://www.freedomainradio.com...
(5) http://science.howstuffworks.com...
(6) Friedrich Nietzsche
BananaPhilosopher

Con

BananaPhilosopher forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
TUF

Pro

My opponent unfortunately wasn't able to make the last round. Since this is my last round, I would just like to thank my opponent once again for his previous insightful arguments, and I wish him luck in his concluding statements. :)
BananaPhilosopher

Con


A Slightly Late Rebuttal


As is not uncommon with debates of such philosophical, abstract nature, this has turned into something other than what it started; namely, semantics. Given your contentions, that’s the only possible angle I have yet left to me. That being said, the problem isn’t particularly difficult to amend, having already had an answer, simply not explicitly stated. I left it as an undertone, but I can see now how it could have caused some degree of ambiguity.


Your main contention seems to be based upon the notion that I have excised from my argument its inherent meta-physical nature. If correct, I’d agree that it would be to the complete detriment of my proposition; but this is not the case. It’s a complicated idea, but one that’s commonly accepted nonetheless. The world rarely has blacks or whites. Things exist, palpable or abstract, in an almost invariable shade of grey. Here, we’ve reached a particularly dark shade of grey where moral subjectivity meets nihilism. To find a definite line between the two would be a literal impossibility, given subjectivities implicit, non-explicit, ever-changing attributes. You were correct to say they were similar, but in terms of determining which is more likely, I think they’re exactly different enough.


Clarification is necessary here, but where normally I’d clarify both why I think subjective morality is more likely, and why I think my argument maintains the meta-physical nature of right and wrong, I can do only the latter. This is because doing the former would provide a new argument for which you’d be unable to respond, and it doesn’t seem fair to do so, because you provided no such arguments for me. It seems only right that I should address your contentions, and leave my initial argument, as yet unaltered, to stand as it is.


Now, all this on the table, the only response seemingly required of me is that of clarification: “The concept of good or bad actions, thoughts, and behaviors”, defined by whatever society the system or morality is subject to (as that is what subjective morality is) and further, that it is a result of their instinctual view of what is good or bad, and is thusly subject to change as the society itself changes, and/or evolves to be instinctually opposed to new and different actions or ideas.


The argument never claims that morality is tantamount to instinct, simply that it is caused by it. It wouldn’t be subjective morality to say morals are instincts, but to say instincts are the cause of society creating the idea still creates something very much real, and that is the argument here; whether morality is real. To quote from the original argument, “… our general system of morals is based upon our general instincts”. It doesn’t allude to sameness, but to one generally being the cause (instincts) and the other being the effect (morals). The argument is trying to say that morals are based upon an idea, conjured up by society, to determine what is right and wrong, and that right and wrong are generally caused by the instincts of our race to not commit certain acts. For example, it is instinctual for humans to avoid hurting one another, but morality leaves up the interpretation of the society in question what that actually entails.


Thanks for the debate! I had fun, and I look forward to seeing your feedback, as well as the communities. :)


Debate Round No. 4
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by TUF 3 years ago
TUF
I agree voting was pretty horrible. It wasn't even a long read so I don't know why it didn't pick up much traffic. I should have advertised it a bit more. At any rate, I read your arguments and thought you did well. I apologize others didn't find themselves as interested, but I am thankful for having a great conversation with you about philosophy.
Posted by BananaPhilosopher 3 years ago
BananaPhilosopher
I'm a little dissapointed with the reasons I lost this debate. The content of the arguments, ambiguous as that content may have been (as I think may be the case, after reading wrichciwr's comments), was left almost entirely alone. A loss by technicality isn't exactly what I expected.. That's not to say I'm not okay with the outcome; just that a debate this interesting is unfortunate to lose because you missed a round (although, completely fair).
Congrats to Tuf though. It was a fun debate.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
Disclosure: I was asked by TUF to read this debate and leave an opinion :)

RFD:

https://docs.google.com...

Conclusion

I think this debate suffered from a resolution that did not convey what PRO intended to argue. From what I could tell, PRO"s position is either nihilistic (i.e. nothing exists, to include morality) or argues that morality is either/or unrealistic/unrealizable/untenable.

While the debate itself was quite interesting content-wise (especially PRO"s case), it was rather straightforward to determine who won and who lost, as PRO did make an outright concession of his position ("man made morality exists, and can vary"). This debate is about whether or not morality exists, and it seems both PRO/CON agree it does. Had I scored this, arguments CON.

I only score debates where the winner also deserves conduct, in which case I only score conduct. While CON did forfeit a round which would merit conduct to PRO, I also think CON won this debate, so neutral score.
Posted by EndarkenedRationalist 3 years ago
EndarkenedRationalist
(Continued from RFD)

I think I could have given points to whichever side successfully distinguished between the two, but neither side really did. However, I feel as though CON's rebuttal to PRO's hyena analogy was rather weak. He tries to spin morality as being the result of instinct, which PRO countered in Round 3 and CON dropped in Round 4, merely repeating what had been said earlier. It would have been a simpler matter to demonstrate the differences between people and animals for a concept of morality.

Ultimately, while I do not feel as though either side successfully fulfilled a BoP, I believe PRO established arguments that went uncontested with the hyena example while CON just stated morality as deriving from instinct. On the other hand, PRO conceded the existence of a man-made morality, which runs counter to the resolution. At the time of writing, I do not know whether and how to award argument points.

Great debate to both participants!
Posted by TUF 3 years ago
TUF
I don't know why no one is voting, this is a good topic.
Posted by BananaPhilosopher 3 years ago
BananaPhilosopher
Why the heck is no one voting? Lol There should be a forum section to bump older debates so they can get a little wider dissemination.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
TUFBananaPhilosopherTied
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Reasons for voting decision: see comments. I think this debate suffered from a resolution that did not convey what PRO intended to argue. From what I could tell, PRO?s position is either nihilistic (i.e. nothing exists, to include morality) or argues that morality is either/or unrealistic/unrealizable/untenable. Very interesting arguments.
Vote Placed by EndarkenedRationalist 3 years ago
EndarkenedRationalist
TUFBananaPhilosopherTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Both sides had a BoP here, which I think makes this debate a lot harder to judge. CON had a single forfeit, so while I've tried to start only giving argument points, I'll have to give PRO a conduct point for that one. The debate grew messy between moral subjectivism and moral nihilism. Much of PRO's first contention supports the existence of moral subjectivism. PRO, while arguing that it is more likely that morality does not exist, conceded that man-made morality exists in Round 3 and tries to argue that this proves moral nihilism; however, I do not believe PRO adequately distinguished between the two. CON argued that subjective morality was determined by a general sense and that instincts play a role in causing morality. CON, too, was unable to draw a line between moral nihilism and moral subjectivism due to his own forfeit - something I think this debate greatly needed (the explanation, not the forfeit). This hurt CON's case. (Continued in comments).
Vote Placed by Mikal 3 years ago
Mikal
TUFBananaPhilosopherTied
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Reasons for voting decision: FF. I will leave a better rfd when I have time to read all the way through it.