Morality is an objective truth
Morality- principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior
Objective- not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased
I am taking the pro position for this debate, I do believe an objective morality exists.
Good luck to whoever my opponent is!
Also, feel free to correct anything I could be doing better during the debate considering it's my first!
I would like to state that I am an Atheist, and therefore do not believe any deity is the source of morality.
I'd like to thank con for accepting this debate. However, if con can agree, I believe we can keep the issues of God and religion out of this debate entirely.
I believe we all have a moral compass. We see, even in our own language, references to the idea of an objective morality. People often refer to it when they tell us we ought to do what is “right”, or that we should be “good” people. They typically leave it at that, with no further directions so that we could understand what they meant by “right” and “good”. Rather, it is expected that we understand what is meant by these statements. This directive is understood whether it is explained further or not. In fact this statement would be understood, whether I told it to you or to someone across the world, to mean nearly the same thing. A cultural difference is nearly insignificant.
Besides our own experiences, there are other factors that point to a universal morality that is outside of our society and culture.
The vast majority of cultures have accepted the same moral laws. Such as bans on murder, theft, rape, etc. If we are looking at this from the perspective that morality is subjective, isn't it rather odd that so many societies have constructed the same moral laws?
Furthermore, the virtues expressed by classic philosophers are nearly word for word the same as the virtues that are supported as good today. For instance, selfishness is bad, serving others is considered good, etc.. Again, if we look at this from the perspective that morality is subjective, it is a crazy coincidence that we have the same moral principles as those who lived 23 hundred years ago. (I referenced Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates in the second link under the heading “Morality throughout the Ages” below).
A special note:
There are certain gray areas that exist in the topic of morality. For instance; is it okay to lie to someone about the way they look so you don't hurt their feelings? Is it okay to torture someone in order to save the life of another? This more murky area of the distinction between right and wrong exists, but cannot be used to discount the idea of an objective morality. For example, there was a time that people believed the world was flat. They were confused by what they saw around them. However, their confusion did not make the world any less round. The world was still objectively round whether they believed it or not. People can get confused and miss the truth, but it does not change the truth.
The Issue of Slavery:
There are instances in history where people have decided to change something that was beneficial to society in order to follow a moral principle. Slavery is one of those instances. Let me explain. The economic backbone of the south in the times before slavery was abolished in the U.S. was the slave trade. They provided free production and work from plantations to housework. Once this was abolished, the economy in the south suffered, which in turn hurt the economy in the north. If morality is based off a societal construct that is supposed to benefit society, why this change? If not an effort to become a more moral and virtuous society, what could it be?
Modern Debates of Issues Dealing with Morality:
There are several debates that deal in the area of morality in our society today. But in this portion of my opening arguments I'm going to delve into one; abortion. The purpose for this is to show that, though there are two sides to this moral issue, the proponents of each side aren't in contradiction concerning moral principles. With abortion, for example, neither side believes that killing innocent life is morally acceptable. Unless there is a psychopath among those involved, both sides would agree killing innocent life is bad, even evil. Pro-lifers will site the right to life every human has, pro-choicers won't disagree with them, they just don't believe the embryo in the womb is to be considered life. Rather, they site the intrinsic right to privacy every human has. You see, even in disagreements dealing with morality, basic moral principles aren't disagreed upon. Rather, the debate is on whether or not the subject conflicts with a basic moral principle.
There is much evidence to support the idea of an objective morality that we are all ingrained with and aware of. The intrinsic desire of each of us to be a righteous and virtuous person can be shown throughout history and is present within our minds. Indeed, if con would state that morality is subjective rather than objective the following must be conceded:
Slavery, rape, murder, and pedophilia are not “bad”, for what is “bad” if “good” is completely subjective? A society can just as easily support these as reject them if it suits their interests.
The U.S. was wrong in condemning what the Nazi's were doing to the Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals. The Nazi society did not consider it to be a moral evil. If no objective morality exists, how can a society tell another what they're doing is wrong?
Con has listed in the “beliefs” section of his profile that others should be able to do what they want as long as it does not harm others. If no objective morality exists, it has to be conceded that there is nothing objectively wrong with harming others. If that other person believes it's okay to harm another for whatever reason, con's moral principle cannot trump his.
Whew, I had no idea this was so time consuming. Over to you con!
Morality throughout the Ages: https://en.wikipedia.org...
The Issue of Slavery: http://news.nationalgeographic.com...
I'm in support of that decision, pro. And before I start I have to say throughout most of the argument I was nodding my head instead of shaking it.
I believe there isn't an objective morality for one particular reason, and that reason is context, con briefly touched upon this with what he called a 'grey area'.
First, pro explains how language contains references to objective morality, but I ask you this: Is it not true that the large majority of people believe their moral code to be correct? And that language would reflect that?
Furthermore, he says that morality is basically the same across all cultures, however, this could probably be attributed to more globalized societies. If we take an example of a society that was isolated for a long period in it's history, Japan.
Japan Is known for it's moral code and emphasis on honour. However, this contrasts starkly with the fact that it has a pornography industry three times larger than the Americas, which isn't generally considered a moral profession in the west.
This may be attributed to their lax views on nudity and sex in it's history, which wasn't shared by other societies at the time. This is why the introduced a law to censor pornography, to shift their moral views to the more globalised moral standards.
In the segment "morality throughout the ages" it is stated that murder, theft, etcetera are issues that are considered taboo and have been for thousands of years. This is a solid argument, except for context.
Murder is taboo, but killing an opposing, invading force is moral.
Theft is wrong, but taking weapons of mass destruction from a terrorist organizations is heroic.
Rape, you might say, is an exception.
However, rape was once defined as "the perpetration of an act of sexual intercourse with a female, not one's wife, against her will and consent."
So we see that there was a time where rape was immoral, unless you were married.
After this, the grey areas are mentioned, it is stated that they can not be used to refute objective morals. The argument for this is that "people can get confused and miss the truth" If we see this from the standpoint of objective mortality, it presents clear issue. If people don't always see the objective moral code, then what's the point of it existing? People don't always see it or follow it, so it might as well be subjective.
Slavery is then brought up. It is stated that morality can't be a Societal construct, because slavery drove the economy and it was beneficial for society to keep them.
All this proves is that morality exists, if there was an objective moral code against slavery, how could slavery have happened in the first place? Besides, slaves were more common and humanized overtime naturally, therefore they became a key part of society, so it was best for society to free them.
The following segment states that even if there are two sides of an argument, such as abortion, they both agree that murdering innocent person is wrong, unless they're psychotic in some way. This unless refutes the entire argument, there are people who do not have a moral code, or lack morals most people adhere to, therefore we don't have an objective morality.
I know this is anecdotal evidence, but it's still something to consider, I have personally harmed people for no reason or justification. If I adhered to objective morality, then I would never have done it. Yes, I know what my beliefs section of my profile says, I hurt those people before adopting my current stance, you may say this is because I'm adopting the objective morality, but I disagree, I adopted this stance because it fits better into what society deems acceptable.
Finally, we move into the conclusion.
It is stated that if subjective morality exists, I must accept the following as fact:
First,that rape, murder, paedophilia and slavery are are not bad, because what's bad and good is subjective.
I agree, but society declares these things as bad and I have incentive to agree.
Second, that The U.S. was wrong in condemning what the Nazi's were doing to the Jews, Catholics, and homosexuals. The Nazi society did not consider it to be a moral evil. If no objective morality exists, how can a society tell another what they're doing is wrong?
The U.S declaring war had little to nothing to do with their treatment of those people, they joined in retaliation for pearl harbour.
Third and finally, there is nothing objectively wrong with harming others. I agree. But society has deemed it wrong.
This has been engaging from the start, I can't wait to hear your reply, pro.
Thank you con. I'm also finding this debate incredibly interesting.
I wasn't expecting rebuttals until the 3rd round. It's all good though, we'll make it work.
References in Language:
Con starts off his rebuttal asking this, in reference to my claim that our language refers to an objective morality; "Is it not true that the large majority of people believe their moral code to be correct? And that language would reflect that?"
This is absolutely correct, and I can find no reason to disagree with him here. However, one of the key points in my original argument was that people across cultures agree on what it means to be "good" or do what's "right". Is it not strange that people who live across the world and have different rituals, customs, religions, even eat different food, all share the same understanding of what it means to be good? If morality is based off societal preference, why is it that societies that have completely difference cultures still have nearly that same moral laws and attitudes?
Con's Rebuttal to the Culture Argument:
Shortly proceeding con's question referring to language references he states that cultures that have the same moral codes are likely due to globalization. The example he gives is Japan and its emphasis on honor before it became a global economy.
I disagree with the idea that this is due to globalization, and I think I can show you why using one key reason. Societies, not only in our modern times like he refers to but also throughout history, have all supported the same moral precepts. An example would be Platonic moral principles, which shifts the focus from ourselves on to service towards others. A moral idea that is still supported today. If globalization is the reason cultures that are vastly different support the same moral principles, then how does it explain moral similarities between time? In fact, society back then didn't have globalization at all. Therefore, the answer cannot be globalization, but rather another reason must be present. I assert a moral objectivity, which all members of the human race are aware of, as this reason.
Con's use of Japan's emphasis on honor is interesting. Honor in itself is not a moral principle, but a societal outlook on someone or something. However if we look at the way the Japanese believed they could gain honor, we see the same moral principles that we use pop up again and again. To quote from an article published by PBS, honor in Japan was gained by, "loyalty, courage, humility, forbearance, generosity, and self-control." These are the same moral principles that are accepted today and have been accepted by cultures across time. I further contend that Japan's change in law to censor pornography is synonymous with America's change in slavery. The society saw the immorality, and attempted to correct it.
Con on Morality throughout the Ages:
My opponent does concede that moral laws have remained consistent throughout the ages, but points out that there are exceptions to these moral absolutes.
This is a very interesting point by con. Exceptions to murder do exist. In combat it is not considered immoral to kill someone who threatens your own or another's life. He also points out the exception with theft. However, if an objective moral law exists, it would not necessarily contain absolutes. In fact, I'd say the majority of the societies con and I have referred to support the idea that murder is wrong, but killing in combat is generally not. If a moral law exists, could not it also contain that exception?
Con also goes on to give a definition of rape. After which he concludes that there once was a time that rape was not immoral if it was done with your wife. In the source he used to get the old definition of the word rape it states directly afterwards, "This meant that in the eyes of the law a man could not rape his wife - nor could a man rape another man." It states a man could not rape his wife in the eyes of the law, not that it was moral or thereby accepted. I believe that this is a jump in logic and would rather challenge my opponent to find a society that stated it was not immoral for a man to rape his wife (or another man for that matter).
Con’s Comments on the Gray Areas:
My opponent explains that if people don’t always see the objective moral code, then what’s the point of its existence? He then states that based on that it might as well be subjective.
I disagree with my opponent here. I believe an objective moral code exists within us the same way human instinct does. It certainly isn’t binding, I do not have to be a virtuous person, in the same way that I do not have to have sex with my skinny good-looking neighbor. I get to choose. And whether or not I choose the correct path does not determine whether that path exists.
Con on the Subject of Slavery:
Con makes a great point when he asks, "If there was an objective moral code against slavery, how could it have happened to begin with?"
Definitely an excellent point by my opponent here. However, slavery itself was never considered intrinsically moral. But rather society would continually try to justify it by stating that the slaves had better lives while being in slavery than they did while free. Or that the race of the slaves was so inferior it needed guidance from the superior race. Furthermore, I want us to try to imagine a society that does consider slavery moral. A society that doesn’t need to justify slavery because it is as good as generosity is to us. A society that points to slavery and says, "Yes, that’s the right thing to do." and leaves it at that. No further explanation is required, all is understood. Personally, I cannot imagine a society that could ever exist in such a way. Slavery is objectively and intrinsically wrong.
Con on People who have no Morals:
My opponent here states that since there are people, who have mental disorders, that have no morality, it is thus proven that there is no objective morality.
I believe this to be a fallacy. There are people with disorders who believe that their limbs are not theirs, does that make human biology a myth? Is the construct of my body subjective to myself? In the same way morality. Often times those with mental disorders are not able to think clearly and make correct decisions. How then does it conflict with the idea of an objective morality?
Con's Personal Reasoning:
My opponent goes through the list I gave him that he must accept as true if he believes morality is subjective.
Referring to what he said about the first and third statements I gave him (murder, rape, pedophilia, and slavery / harming others is not objectively wrong):
I am surprised that he would agree to these but also admire his honesty. If morality were subjective: rape, murder, pedophilia, slavery, and harming other would not be inherently wrong and a society could even accept them as "moral" if it would suit their interests.
Referring to what he said about the second statement I gave him (The US condemning the Nazi’s):
What he said is true, the US joined the war in large part due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. However, I was not referring to the reason for war but rather the fact that America still condemned what the Nazi’s did. If morality were subjective, the US, nor did anyone else, have any ground to say the Nazi’s were in the wrong. I’ll await my opponent’s response to this in his next post.
Japan on honor: http://www.pbs.org...
Old definition of rape: http://www.stoa.org...
The "Justification" of Slavery: http://www.virgin-islands-history.org...
Body Integrity Identity Disorder: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com...
I looked into 3 different cases and found extraordinary evidence.
All of these people showed no glimmer of humanity, even their biology had adapted to the animals they lived upon.
Please read the following extract:
Perhaps one of the best-known and controversial stories of feral children is that of Amala and Kamala. Kamala and Amala are two of the most interesting cases of feral children. The wolf girls were about 18 months (Amala) and eight years old (Kamala) when they were found together in a wolves" den. However, it is believed that they were not sisters, but were abandoned " or taken by wolves " some years apart.
"In that year, Reverend Joseph Singh, a missionary in charge of an orphanage in Northern India, heard of two ghostly spirit figures seen accompanying a band of wolves near Midnapore in the Bengal jungle. The local villagers were fearful of these apparitions but local custom forbid them to do any harm to the wolves. Intrigued, Singh built a hide in a tree top over-looking the lair of the wolf pack, an old ten-foot high termite mound that had become hollowed out with time. As the moon rose, Singh saw the wolves come out one by one. Then sticking their heads out briefly to sniff the night air before bounding forwards into the clearing came two hunched and horrible figures. As Singh described the "ghosts" in his diary, they were: "Hideous looking"hand, foot and body like a human being; but the head was a big ball of something covering the shoulders and the upper portion of the bust"Their eyes were bright and piercing, unlike human eyes"Both of them ran on all fours."
The girls seemed to have no trace of humanness in the way they acted and thought. It was as if they had the minds of wolves. They tore off any clothes put on them and would only eat raw meat. They slept curled up together in a tight ball and growled and twitched in their sleep. They only came awake after the moon rose and howled to be let free again. They had spent so long on all fours that their tendons and joints had shortened to the point where it was impossible for them to straighten their legs and even attempt to walk upright. They never smiled or showed any interest in human company. The only emotion that crossed their faces was fear. Even their senses had become wolf-like. Singh claimed their eyes were supernaturally sharp at night and would glow in the dark like a cat"s. They could smell a lump of meat right across the orphanage"s three acre yard. Their hearing was also sharp " except, like Victor, the voice of humans seemed strangely inaudible to their ears.
A poor but relatively well educated man, Singh did his best to rehabilitate his charges. Influenced by the horticultural model of child development, he theorised that the wolf habits acquired by Kamala and Amala had somehow blocked the free expression of their innate human characteristics. Singh felt it was his job (not least, for religious reasons) to wean the girls from their lupine ways and so allow their buried humanity to emerge. Unhappily, before his experiment had progressed far, the younger girl, Amala, sickened and died. This proved a great set-back to Kamala, who had only just started to lose her fear of other humans and her orphanage surroundings. Kamala went into a prolonged mourning and for a while, Singh feared for her life as well. But eventually Kamala recovered and Singh started a patient programme of rehabilitation."
If their bodies were lupine and their mind followed suit, what morality did they have? Human or wolf?
Think about it: they had no respect for their own kind until they were beginning to be rehabilitated, surely we can agree that it was not in their moral code to avoid nudity, to be quiet when people are sleeping, things that they didn't use grey areas to do.
Now, I have some character limit left for some rebuttals, I'll make this brief.
Pro states that things are not considered intrinsically moral because society tried to justify the matter, however, if someone attempts to justify killing, I.E war, does that make the war imorral by default?
In the section titled "con on morality through the ages"
He states that rape was still considered objectively wrong, but you could not rape your wife or another man. I'd like to look at it from a different angle, that rape means imorral non-consensual sex, whilst non-consensual sex with your wife was considered moral.
The same goes with murder, it being imorral but combat being referred to as moral killing.
I believe pro misunderstood my statement on people not following the alleged objective moral code, he stated that even if people don't see it, it doesn't mean it's not there, and that he doesn't have to follow it, and that he doesn't have to have sex with his skinny, good looking neighbour.
I meant that if people do not have to follow an objective moral code, it serves exactly the same purpose as a subjective moral code, and a difference that makes no difference is no difference at all.
In the section "con on people who have no morals"
Pro attempts to refute my point by arguing that people who have no morals don't prove there is no objective morality, since people who believe they have no limbs still have limbs.
The difference is, we can say as an absolute certainty that they do, In fact, have limbs. If we knew wether or not they have an objective mortality, we wouldn't be having this debate.
In the case of the US condemning the Nazis, I apologize for not addressing your point the first time around, but I talk don't agree with you saying I have to accept this as true, the United states partly occupied Germany after the war, and therefore had every right to impose their moral code on the Nazis, they had control over the legal system and the people of west Germany.
Thank you still for the debate, and over to you, pro.
Considering this is the last round, I'd like to thank con for his participation in this debate. I love debates that can remain civil and believe con has proved more than a worthy adversary.
However, con and I have both recognized that since his opening arguments were forgotten, he has a slight advantage in that he will be able to rebuttal my arguments posted in this round, but not I his. In light of this, we both have agreed we'd make this aware to the voters and allow them to judge based on their own decisions.
Now to con's argument:
Con starts off his rebuttal with a reference to a story about two feral children who became like wolves. He states at the end of the story that these children, who grew apart from human society, did not have human morality, but instead had morals similar to that of a wolf.
This very rare scenario is not unknown to the psychiatric world. They address it as “Clinical Lycanthropy”, which involves “...a delusional belief that the affected person is, or has, transformed into an animal.” As the story stated, this disorder affects the human mind and instinct.
I believe this refers back to the argument I made about psychological disorders in the previous round. Those that have impeded mind and reason cannot be necessarily expected to hold to objective truths such as morality. If these people can deny the reality of their biology, or their human nature, why then should we hold them to the same standard as the rational when it comes to morality?
Here my opponent asks, “if someone attempts to justify killing, I.E. war, does that make war immoral by default?” (referring to my argument about society attempting to justify slavery)
This is an excellent point made by my opponent. The short answer would simply be no, but let me explain. Killing in combat is to murder in the same way that indentured servants is to slavery. We can justify war casualties by the reasons for the war (IE. a defensive war), but we cannot justify a man who slaughters innocents on a playground. In this same way, indentured servants worked for money loaned to them, in order to pay it off. This can be justified. However slavery based on race or supposed inferiority cannot be justified. This is why society has always distinguished between murder and war casualties, slavery and indentured servitude.
Here con states that I (pro) stated a man could not rape his wife or another man. And that non-consensual sex with your wife was considered moral.
I believe there may be a misunderstanding. I did not state a man could not rape his wife or another man, but rather that is all the definition of the word rape implied at the time. It did not imply that raping your wife or another man was moral or thereby accepted. I extend my challenge from the last round for con to find a society that states it is not immoral but moral for a man to rape his wife (or another man).
Con states I misunderstood his argument in the previous round. He states if people do not follow an objective moral code, it serves the same purpose as a subjective moral code.
In my original argument I compared human morality to human instinct. It is a reality that is not binding, but present, in the same way our human instinct is. However I disagree with my opponent in his assertion that an objective morality that is not binding makes no difference at all. I believe it's similar to saying a human instinct that is not binding makes no difference at all. For example, fear is considered a human instinct. It helps us to avoid physical and emotional injury, as well as potential death. This human instinct is undeniably present, though it it not binding. We do not have to adhere to it. In the same way morality is present but unbinding. It does not have to be followed, but has influenced us greatly, as evidenced throughout history (refer to opening arguments).
My opponent points out that the difference is we know with certainty that those people do have limbs, we don't know for certain that there is an objective morality.
Perhaps I should have phrased it differently. Instead of the focus on the US, let's try this:
To state that one moral code is superior to another implies that there is a moral code which is ultimate. For this reason, the below must be conceded.
[What the Nazi's did was not objectively wrong. Their actions were not evil, for what is evil if good is subjective? Indeed, the Nazi's actions could even be considered good if a society were to deem it as such.]
Throughout this debate my opponent and I have discussed many topics dealing with the objectivity of morality. From cultures throughout the ages, to mental disorders, I believe the best explanation for what we have observed is an objective morality. An objective morality that is not binding, but has similar characteristics to our own human instincts. A morality that we are all subconsciously aware of, but have the ability to choose whether to follow.
Take us home con!
Clinical Lycanthropy: http://www.monstropedia.org...
Indentured Servants: http://www.pbs.org...
Human Fear: http://news.discovery.com...
In order to bring more balance to the debate, I will keep rebuttals to a minimum for the duration of my final argument.
The one and only rebuttal I will make is that clinical lycanthropy has been linked with the altered states of mind that accompany psychosis (according to wikipedia) while the two feral children were literally raised by wolves, and therefore lived in their society, it wasn't a mental condition, it was their upbringing that made them feral, although you could argue that their upbringing brought about the mental condition, it wasn't the cause from what we can tell.
I'd like to stop debating for nothing but a thirst for victory and entertainment for a moment, and say that I have a problem with accepting objective morality, the more I delve into it the more I want to deny it, I refuse to live in a world where what's right and wrong is pre-determined by instinct, life should be, more accurately, is, about making decisions. Sometimes people make the wrong decision, there are repercussions and people get hurt. But does that mean we have to accept that they're just wrong? That morality dictates that they're simply evil?
I don't understand that. I may never understand it, because there are too many people who think they're right, Hitler justified his actions just as mother Theresa did. Stalin thought he was doing the right thing, so did Gandhi. Who are we to say which ones were right, will always be right, and have always been right?
So, please. I know this last argument hasn't added much, but I really hope it helped you understand my perspective, why I see this subject the way I do, and I hope that It will help you see this debate from a different perspective.
Thank you again, pro. I've had a wonderful time.