The Instigator
El_Sky_Wizard
Con (against)
The Contender
xat
Pro (for)

Morality is an Objective Construct

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/16/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 10 months ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 487 times Debate No: 93534
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (8)
Votes (0)

 

El_Sky_Wizard

Con

Note:
This account is managed by multiple experienced debaters. We may therefore refer to ourselves in the plural. Thanks for your understanding.

Format:
We would like to thank our opponent for(hopefully) accepting this debate, and hope we can have a productive, and above all, friendly dialogue. Before we get into the rest of the speech, we would like to define the structure of the argument:

Round 1. Opening arguments (new points allowed)
Round 2. Refutations and further arguments(new points allowed)
Round 3. Refutations and further arguments(new points allowed)
Round 4. Refutations (No new arguments allowed, new evidence allowed)
Round 5. Closing refutations and weighing the debate (No new arguments allowed, no new evidence allowed)

Definitions:
The relevant terms to the debate are defined as follows:

Judgement:
A proposition stating something believed or asserted.

Morality:
A particular system of judgement utilized to determine what actions should or should not be taken.

Subjective:
Expressing or dealing with facts or conditions which may be perceived based on personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.

Objective:
Expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations.

Arguments:
We bring two arguments this round, one evidence-based and one logical, as to why morality is subjective; they are as follows:

1.Morality is subjective because it is influenced by circumstance.

2.A logical proof as to why morality is subjective.

Argument 1:
Morality is subjective because it is influenced by circumstance. We will prove this assertion through the use of multiple sub-points.

1) Morality is influenced by culture.
Cultural circumstances can lead people to take differing moral positions. For example, many orthodox Islamic groups mandate the use of the hijab to mask the features of female individuals on the basis of morality, whereas liberal or secular families may not have such a stipulation. Both moral positions are often a product of their cultural environment.

2) Morality is influenced by time period.
With the passage of time can come changes in the popularity and orthodoxy of certain moral positions. If morality were objective, this would not be true, as moral positions would be clearly evident to all, regardless of circumstance. One example of this change would be the comparison of Inquisition-style religious interaction compared to that of today. Religious persecution is certainly far less prevalent and accepted in a modern-day developed society, and has been widely replaced with a more tolerant mindset.

3) Morality is influenced by the personal experiences of the beholder.
Personal experiences and circumstances may also shape moral outlooks. For example, a woman who was impregnated through rape would likely view the morality of abortion differently than the average person. Gay individuals or those with gay parents would be similarly inclined to affirm the morality of gay marriage or other LGBT issues.

Now that the point has been clearly substantiated, we may look into the implications of morality being influenced by various circumstances. According to the previously-stated definition of the term "subjective", something is considered subjective if it is influenced by personal feelings, prejudices, etc. These prejudices can clearly be developed due to the circumstances stated: personal experiences can lead someone to bias, etc. In short, the effect of circumstances on moral viewpoints play perfectly into the classification of morality as subjective.

DISCLAIMER:
In this argument, some generalizations were used. We would like to clarify that, of course, not all Muslims are anti-abortion, or all Catholics anti-gay marriage. Moral variation exists within all groups(which is only further evidence for subjective morality, as it indicates further variation based on the individual). Regardless, these blanket statements were used for the purpose of indicating moral inclinations due to circumstance.

Argument 2:
Our second argument is presented in the form of a logical proof as to why morality is subjective. To refute this argument, our opponent must show that it’s logic is flawed, or that it applies to objective morality as well.

Posit 1: All systems of judgement must be based on individual belief/interpretation.(Definition of judgement)
Posit 2: Morality is a system of judgement.(Definition of morality)
Posit 3: Therefore, morality is based on individual belief/interpretation.(Transitive property of logic)
Posit 4: Therefore, morality is subjective.(Definition of subjective)

Ultimately, these points prove beyond any reasonable doubt that morality is an entirely subjective concept. We look forward to our opponent’s response.
Thank you.


xat

Pro

I"d like to establish that morality IS objective. Since I'm assuming that round one does not allow for refutations, I'd like to establish my own arguments.

Argument 1: General Morality is objective

When we get into the detailed portions of morality (homosexuality, abortion, human genetic cloning, etc) there may be disagreements among cultures. However, there are some tenets of morality that are generally accepted across culture and time.

Some actions that come across immoral in the majority of general societies:

Murder
Theft
Reneging on an agreement overseen by trusted witnesses

As a general baseline, most people regardless of societal claims or time period have agreed that very similar actions are to be considered immoral. The rest may differ, but there is a general baseline of morality among civilizations.

Argument 2: The Objective Arbiter is Evolution

This argument can be as detailed or general as one would like. As a baseline, what is moral also coincides with the survival of the human species, and also to the individual. As a theoretical example:

Murder
Murder can be an advantageous action in the short term, however it has many negative side-effects in the long run:
The family of the murder victim can hunt you down and kill you
The justice system could find you guilty and kill you
In order to procreate you must be alive
Therefore, murdering is not an evolutionarily advantageous action.

In order to procreate, one must be a functioning member of society. Some actions are not conducive to the the procreation of our species (or even our individual), and therefore, some actions may be considered objectively immoral.

Those who fail to follow objectively morality are eventually weeded out (due to response killing, imprisonment, and various other factors) until finally, natural selections determines the objective morality for humanity, in order for the species to survive.

Argument 3: Just because something changes over time does not make it subjective.

I'm not sure how to put this into different words. To do my best, I will give an example.

Take the assumption that the Earth is flat. This was believed by humanity until fairly recently. Then, due to some sort of evidence, humanity accepted that the world was round. So, the human understanding of the earth went to flat to round over time. Does that mean that the shape of the earth is subjective, because it changed over time? Or is it true that the world has always been round, but the human understanding of it has changed when presented with different information?

Argument 4: Objective Morality exists, but has not been fully discovered yet.

In the same way that "not knowing what happened before the big bang" doesn't devalue scientific truths being valid, the fact that we have not discovered a universal morality does not make objective morality invalid. It may just mean that we have not uncovered the full truth yet.
Debate Round No. 1
El_Sky_Wizard

Con

We'd like to first rebut our opponent's arguments, and then go on to our own. While reading this speech, you may wish to have our opponent's arguments on hand.

Refutation 1: General Morality is Objective Our opponent here posits that several basic tenets of morality(murder, theft, betrayal, etc.) are accepted as immoral across culture and time. This argument, therefore, forms a sort of "general baseline of morality" across civilisations. While this could be true, we must look back to the definition of objectivity: expressing or dealing with facts or conditions as perceived without distortion by personal feelings, prejudices, or interpretations. As this sets such a high standard, it is(in this case)easy to disprove. A single piece contradictory evidence would show influence by personal interpretation and thus eliminate the possibility of objectivity. This case can be found in the form of the radical Sunni jihadist movement known as the Islamic State, which routinely commits horrible crimes against the people within their captured territories. By showing such callous disregard for human life, they demonstrate their interpretation of such acts as moral. This argument thus disproves such a baseline of morality as objective.

Refutation 2: Evolution is an Objective Arbiter for Morality our opponent states that what is moral coincides with the survival of the human species, which forms an objective arbiter. He(?) then provides an example which shows murder to be evolutionarily disadvantageous. We'd like to challenge the idea that what is perceived as moral coincides with the survival of the human species in all cases, regardless of interpretation(objectively). As we have proven in an earlier argument, the Islamic State and other jihadist organisations slaughter local minority groups en masse, while still believing these actions moral, despite being evolutionarily disadvantageous. Again, the mere existence of this interpretation disproves objectivity in this case. Without the presence of evolution as an objective arbiter of morality, this argument is rendered invalid.Our opponent then states that "those who fail to follow objective morality are eventually weeded out (due to response killing, imprisonment, and various other factors) until finally, natural selections determine the objective morality for humanity, for the species to survive." Regardless of whether or not those who fail to follow evolution as an objective arbiter of morality are then killed, their differing interpretations still disprove evolution as moral regardless of interpretation(objectively). In short, killing those who disagree does not render invalid their disagreement.

Refutation 3: "Just because something changes over time does not make it subjective."This is more of a rebuttal than anything, but we'll attempt to treat it as an argument for the debate. Our opponent provides an example: "Take the assumption that the Earth is flat. This was believed by humanity until fairly recently. Then, due to some evidence, humanity accepted that the world was round. So, the human understanding of the Earth went to flat to round over time. Does that mean that the shape of the earth is subjective because it changed over time? Or is it true that the world has always been round, but the human understanding of it has changed when presented with different information?"This is fundamentally comparing apples and oranges. Whereas the world's shape is a matter of scientific fact, and is completely measurable,testable, and material,outside of interpretation, and therefore objective, morality isn't something you can't test you can't run an objective test as to whether it's morally permissible to use the death penalty.

Refutation 4. "Objective Morality exists, but has not been fully discovered yet." his reasoning for this was using a scientific basis making inapplicable to morality. As well as I would ask how does one discover the moral truth until he clarifies this, the argument can be dismissed.

With this, we have effectively refuted all of our opponent arguments. We want to thank our opponent for debating with such conduct as that seems to be something that is sorely missed for the most part on this website.
xat

Pro

First, apologies for bad form in the first round, as my third argument did appear to be more of a response than an argument. Second, thank you for the well thought response. I look forward to discussing this further. Third, I am in fact a "he" :)

I will present my response in two parts: Refutation of the original arguments posited by my opponent(s) and responses to their refutations of my arguments.

I will proceed in reverse order, as it seems more prudent to my argument"s framework.

Refutation 1: Logical Proof of Subjectivity

The agreed definition of judgement is "a proposition of something believed or asserted". According to Merriam Webster"s full definition of assert (1), the verb assert is defined in the following way: "to state positively and often forcefully or aggressively". I take note that this definition is lacking any mention of personal belief, as an assertion can be a statement of an objective fact. This therefore renders posit 3 and 4 incorrect, as posit 1 (specifically the individual belief portion) is rendered incorrect.

Refutation 2: Morality is influenced by circumstance. (And my response to refutation 3 from my opponent"s last round)

I make the argument that any fact that relies on the human ability to observe is influenced by circumstance. Again, I would like to consider an example that many would consider to be an objective truth:

The Earth rotates around the sun.

This was believed by many to be false, due to their (1) culture, (2) time they were born, and (3) the personal experiences of the people who lived during that time. Just because over time, (1)cultures change to become more accepting of science, (2) science (and it"s ability to find new ways to observe the world) evolved over time, and (3) the people who were given educations, does not make science (nor the Earth rotating around the sun) a subjective truth.

Instead, I posit that this shows the ability of human beings to adjust their understanding of the world over time as more evidence becomes available. My opponent mentioned that this argument is comparing "apples to oranges", due to morality not being completely measurable, testable, material and outside of the scope of interpretation. Again, I make the argument that science itself at one time did not have the tools to measure most of the observable universe. That did not mean that science as a construct, or the facts that were uncovered using science were subjective. It just meant that over time, as our tools and knowledge changed, so did our understanding of the world. I am comparing the path of an objective truth to the path of morality to show similarities. Scientific facts are not subjective, our interpretation of it changes over time. I posit that morality is following the same path.

Moving on, I"d now like to respond to my opponent(s)" counterarguments with new arguments of my own.

Counterargument 1:

In refuting my point, my opponent(s) mention that there are numerous points in history where murder was not considered to be immoral, therefore attempting to prove my point invalid. However, I posit that the definition of "murder" is considered loosely by my opponent as "killing anyone". I don"t accept this defintion.

Merriam-webster (2) defines murder as "the crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought". I claim that in times of war, killing is not considered to be unlawful, and therefore is not considered to be murder. The Islamic state is under the belief that they are at holy war, and therefore, do not consider the (terrible) killing of other people as immoral, as they do not consider it to be murder as defined above.

Counterargument 2:

As the first portion of this refutation seems to be a continuation of refutation 1 (disproving objectivity through ISIS killings), I believe counterpoint 1 addresses these points. The end of this argument gets more toward a refutation of my points (that murder does not benefit the murderer"s survival chances). My opponent states: "Regardless of whether or not those who fail to follow evolution as an objective arbiter of morality are then killed, their differing interpretations still disprove evolution as moral regardless of interpretation(objectively)."

I think that this is a very important distinction to make. My opponent has used the phrase "their differing interpretations". Again, just because interpretations of morality differ, does not mean that there is not a truthful objective morality. It may just mean that we do not have to tools to accurately discover that objective truth in this point of our development.

Counterargument 3:

This has been addressed by refutation 2 above.

Counterargument 4:

This was addressed in counter argument 2. I do not accept the argument that because we don"t know how to measure morality yet, it does not exist. Just because people prior to galileo did not see galaxies in the depths of space, does not mean that those galaxies did not exist.

Argument 5 (A Clarification):

I think that it is important to make a clarification of my framework. It is not the objective of this debate (according to the agreed upon rules) that the onus is upon me to prove that humanity has implemented (or is even aware of) objective morality. Therefore, humanity"s interpretation of an objective morality (or how it changes over time) is not an important argument. I am making the claim that an objective morality exists, whether discovered or undiscovered, and that in the long run (think macro evolution periods of time), objective morality will naturally come about through natural selection. I present that those rules that most favor the survival of the human species will be discovered through (unintentional) experimentation, and eventually those people who have followed moral ideals that did not increase their likelihood of survival will eventually be weeded out of humanity.

Definition Sources

http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://www.merriam-webster.com...

Thank you again for your well-thought out response. I look forward to the next round.
Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
8 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 8 records.
Posted by El_Sky_Wizard 10 months ago
El_Sky_Wizard
You can do what ever you like
Posted by xat 10 months ago
xat
I have a response prepared for both, I just don't want to violate the rules and get the debate all screwy.
Posted by xat 10 months ago
xat
Clarification of the rules for the current round. According to the rules, am I allowed to respond to the refutations you have just made, or is that next round? Is this round only for refuting round one arguments?
Posted by xat 10 months ago
xat
Also, I look forward to a friendly and lively debate. Sorry for not putting that common salutation at the beginning of my arguments. Also, I'm running under the assumption that refutations come in the second round, so I didn't try to directly address your arguments until the next round.
Posted by El_Sky_Wizard 10 months ago
El_Sky_Wizard
That's true, but this is a fairly binary concept, therefore justifying the usage. We could correct this(change title, go on Pro) if you like.
Posted by vi_spex 10 months ago
vi_spex
this is in reverse, no one can be pro on this.. its like taking on an assumed position

you have to argue for subjective morality as pro.. so there can be a con, your arguments specify the value of the pro position, you are arguing against no one.. and so the pro position is not simply the opposite of the headline

i think
Posted by El_Sky_Wizard 10 months ago
El_Sky_Wizard
We don't, we wanted to have a good spirited debate, and saw your fantastic win loss record. You are free to decline if you wish, but if you do it would be greatly appreciated if you could point us to someone who you think would accept.
Posted by donald.keller 10 months ago
donald.keller
I'm curious why you presume I'm pro on this.
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