The Instigator
DakotaKrafick
Pro (for)
Losing
1 Points
The Contender
larztheloser
Con (against)
Winning
7 Points

Morality is objective.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
larztheloser
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/13/2012 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,108 times Debate No: 21974
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (14)
Votes (4)

 

DakotaKrafick

Pro

The Proposition

The full proposition is as follows: "Morality is objective."

As Pro, I will be arguing that morality is objective. As con, my opponent will be arguing that morality is subjective. That means the burden of proof will be on both of us.

Definitions

Objective: independent of personal opinion. If something is objectively morally good, then it is morally good no matter how many people think otherwise.
Subjective: dependent on personal opinion. If something is subjectively morally good, then it is only morally good by certain individuals' standards.
Morality: the principles concerning the distinction between good and bad (right and wrong) behavior.

Debate Structure

Round 1: Introduction and Acceptance only
Round 2: Opening Arguments/Refutations
Round 3: Refutations
Round 4: Refutations/Closing statements

In Conclusion

I'm sure almost all of the viewers (if not all of them) have already formed an opinion on this matter. Whether you believe in subjective or objective morality, however, please keep an open mind and judge fairly based on who presents the strongest arguments for his/her case.

I look forward to a fruitful debate.
larztheloser

Con

I'd like to start by thanking my opponent for setting up this challenge and providing such a comprehensive round structure / set of definitions, though I think it needs to be made clear that objective and subjective are mutually exclusive - a moral cannot be BOTH objective and subjective. I'm very excited to be able to debate against such a high-calibre debater on such a consequential issue, and wish him the best of luck for his opening round.

On a quibbling note, I don't believe having equal burdens of proof is actually possible, but the term is used so loosely in debating nowadays that I doubt any voters would care if I explained it, so I'll just do the debate as I usually would and ignore that for this debate.

Also, if either debater forfeits, I suggest that should count as an automatic loss. Just to up the stakes a little bit.

And now, on to the debate!
Debate Round No. 1
DakotaKrafick

Pro

Introduction

Thank you, larztheloser, for accepting. I ought to be fun going head-to-head with such a seasoned debater.

Concerning your clarification, I will agree: moral principles cannot be both objective and subjective. It is a true dichotomy to say they are either one or the other.

I also agree to your condition that a forfeited round will equate to an automatic loss (I'm sick of my opponents accepting and then never returning anyway).

Now to begin, I would first like to say that while my arguments henceforth may appear at times to be appeals to emotion, I urge you to look at them for what they truly are: appeals to logic.

Objective Morality Explained

Let us look again at the definition of morality: "the principles concerning the distinction between good and bad (right and wrong) behavior".

The two most conversional words in this definition are, of course, "good" and "bad". How can we justifiably say which actions constitute "good" behavior and which actions constitute "bad" behavior, without appearing to be merely projecting our own bias onto the problem?

Before we can even answer that, we must first ask ourselves something even more fundamental. It is understood that morality is that which governs what we consider to be good and bad actions, but good and bad for what or for whom? The answer is, of course, for us. For our own well-beings, for the well-beings of our fellow people, and for the well-beings of other conscious creatures (living things which, like us, can feel happiness and pain and other sensations of the sort).

Therefore, "good" actions are those which promote an overall "good" well-being of conscious creatures, and "bad" actions are those which promote an overall "bad" well-being of conscious creatures.

It is not, for example, morally apprehensible to pound your fists repeatedly into the softest part of a pillow. The same cannot be said, however, for performing the same action against the softest part of a child's face. Why is this? Because the child has nerve-endings to detect the sharp pains of a bombardment of fists and sentience to induce displeasurable feelings of fear, so it is clear that by beating his/her face in, you've made the existence of at least one conscious human being less satisfactory than it otherwise would have been, at least temporarily. A pillow, on the other hand, does not have the capacity to feel discomfort over its state of enduring pummeling, so it can be inferred that beating it with your fists is amoral (neither morally good nor bad, as it is irrelevant to the principles of morality).

The Value of Well-Being

The question has now changed from "How can we determine, objectively, which actions are good and bad" to "How can we determine, objectively, which states of well-being are good and bad".

It's clear to discern that well-being is somehow connected to both physical and mental health. Of course, perfect physical and mental health can be difficult to define, and we may not know everything there is to know as of yet; but that doesn't change the fact that some states of physical and mental health are objectively better or worse than others.

For instance, larztheloser, can you agree that bleeding unstoppably from every orifice of your body is objectively worse to your overall well-being than, say, not bleeding unstoppably from every orifice of your body? Perhaps you can't, or else you wouldn't be proclaiming morality is subjective. Perhaps the problem here is that the value one places on well-being is subjective and, therefore, the actions which effect well-being are judged subjectively.

However, this is quite parallel to saying "the value one places on logic is subjective and, therefore, logical arguments are judged subjectively". While there is no celestial rule book of logical truths and the application of the principles of logic depends on thinking minds to understand them, logic is still an objective doctrine. And logic would remain objective no matter how many people misunderstood it (or, indeed, even if every living creature in the universe misunderstood it). The same can be said for morality. No matter how many people misunderstand the value of well-being or the course of actions we must take in order to achieve maximally good well-beings, the principles of morality remain objective.

I must concede that, of course, some people do not value their own well-beings. This is exemplified most commonly in suicidal acts, where one takes his/her own life at the benefit of no one. But most, if not all, of suicide attempts are a result of some form of depression, an imbalance of chemicals in the victim's brain. This is akin to the victim being, in a way, "broken" as an automobile is with a blown engine. We cannot tailor the definition of "good performance" to suit the behavior of a car with three flat tires any more than we can tailor the definition of "good well-being" to suit the behaviors or values of a person with self-harming tendencies.

Logically Deducing Objective Morality

Once you agree that some states of well-being are objectively better or worse than others, despite any "broken" or misguided discrepancies, you can agree that some actions are objectively better or worse for well-being, and therefore the principles which concern themselves with these actions (morality) are objective. Here is my four-point logical argument to summarize everything I've said thus far:

1. Some states of well-being are objectively better or worse than others.
2. Our behaviors and actions can effect the well-beings of ourselves and of other conscious creatures, for better or for worse.
3. Morals are the principles concerned with these behaviors and actions which effect well-being.
4. Therefore, some actions can be named objectively morally good or bad, depending on how they effect well-being.
larztheloser

Con

I thank my opponent for his case. First I will explain my own case, which thankfully is much simpler than my opponent's. Then I will deal with his contentions.

My Case

As a starting point, let us ask ourselves how we would determine whether it is true that x is good. The first and most important part of this question is how we know something is true. The answer to that question is by a process called the exclusion of the alternative. Rene Descartes used an excellent analogy here. Presume you come across a body of water, and you ask yourself, is this a bay? Well, first you must identify that it is not a lake. Lake is the alternative explaination, so if you know it's not a lake, then you can claim it's true that it's a bay. So to be able to claim that not killing is good, which would be a moral truth under my opponent's model, one must first prove that not killing is not bad, or put another way (to avoid the double negative), that killing is bad.

Unlike the lake/bay example, however, the alternative of a moral truth cannot be tested. You can't refrain from killing somebody and say "well, that was better than killing him" because you do not know what would have happened if you had killed him. You can't both kill and not kill somebody and compare the two outcomes (at least not until the time machine or crystal ball is invented). So when determining a moral truth, the alternative cannot be excluded.

The implication of this is that we cannot determine whether it is true that x is good if x is a moral truth. That's because we cannot determine the truth of things that have not happened yet, which is what morality establishes rules for. And that requires that morals are not simply true or false. That makes our differences in morality a logical necessity, because we all have different ideas for what tomorrow may hold if we take certain actions today.

Lottery is a great example of this. Many who buy lotto tickets expect to win but don't. Many who buy lotto tickets don't expect to win but do. And many others don't buy lotto tickets because they don't expect to win. So - is it moral to buy lotto tickets? Gambles like this are moral questions, because they deal with behavior that can be judged good or bad. There are good arguments that gambling should be banned outright. There are also good arguments that we should have more gambling. But who's right? Well, if I knew whether I would win lotto on a particular week, I'd know whether it would be moral for me to buy a ticket in that week. That, of course, would undermine the whole point of lotto. Lotto works because morality is not objective - most people who play lotto - both winners and losers - don't know whether buying a ticket will be good for them.

The future may be objectively true. What we believe about it is, however, clearly subjective.

Pro's Case

The first thing to note about pro's case is that even if I agree it's all true, that doesn't lead to the conclusion that all morality is objective. It only leads to the conclusion that, in pro's own words, "some states of well-being" are objectively more moral than others. To illustrate this, imagine that I believed it was morally bad for me to eat meat of any kind, and you didn't. Who's right? That's a debate that's still ongoing. Niether of us can say that "this is an objective moral fact" even if all of pro's case was granted. Therefore pro fails to prove that "morality is objective" (implying that every moral is objective), rather he simply attempts to show that "this selective subset of morality I just chose to win a debate is objective" (implying that there are exceptions).

Pro summarises his case in four seemingly logical steps. I disagree on three of these.

First he claims some states of well-being are objectively better or worse. For instance, it is objectively better to be alive than dead. Anybody who believes the contrary, pro explains, doesn't value their "well-being" or misunderstands morality in the same way one might misunderstand logic. I disagree that people who commit suicide necessary don't value their own well-being. Take, for instance, people who join weird cults and commit mass suicide so their lives would be improved - they commit suicide to improve their well-being. I may resent the notion of a Persian making me bleed out of every orfice of my body, but King Leonidas probably thought it was glorious. I also disagree that morality is misunderstandable as logic is. Logic can be objectively tested. Take the law of identity for instance, x=x. The alternative is that something is not itself, which is a contradiction of terms because something and not something are dichotomous. Therefore the idea that the law of identity is untrue can be dismissed. The same cannot be done for morality. Take the golden rule for instance, treat others as you'd like to be treated. The alternative is to treat others however we feel they deserve. You can't look at that rule or alternative and say nobody who believes that is being rational. Let me explain that word rational, because it's often confused for logical - logic is in fact the outcome of rationality. Rational means consistant with all your other premises. Logical rules are rationalised, moral rules cannot be. That's why people can reach opposite yet equally valid logical conclusions.

Second he claims that our actions can affect others and our own well being (agreed with that part), and that all morals are concerned with this. So take the example of killing conscious creatures, a clear reduction in their well-being. Well, what if we want to eat them? Is it immoral to eat beef? Or what if there's a war going on? Can we kill soldiers who want to kill us? What about abortion? Does the level of conciousness matter? What about euthenasia? You probably don't consider all of these things moral, but millions of people do, despite the fact they all reduce well-being (and yet are percieved as "good"). The Qu'ran is another good example. Millions think it's the most moral thing ever, others think it's among the least moral. No matter what you believe about the Qu'ran, it's full of things either not really connected to well-being, or that are questionable at best with regards to well being, as well as things that probably are very sensible ideas. You can't just dismiss this as a misguided discrepancy - having a different morality to others in some way is normal. But the point is that not all morals people have are necessarily connected with improving objective well-being.

Finally he claims that because morality is all about well-being, and well-being is objective, morality must logically be objective. That may sound logical on the surface, but it's really not. Say I proved that watches are awesome. Does it follow that since watchmakers only deal with watches, that they must be awesome too? Not at all! Just because one thing is concerned with something doesn't mean they gain all the attributes of that thing. I'm concerned with debating my opponent right now, so my opponent's logic would be that since the debate is text-based, I must logically be text-based, yet clearly I'm not. This is just an absurd logical link to make that my opponent needs to properly justify.
Debate Round No. 2
DakotaKrafick

Pro

Thank you for your response, larztheloser (I gotta say, I feel like I'm unintentionally insulting you just by using your own screen name; how about just Larz?).

Refuting Con's Case

Con's case for why morality is subjective centers around the fact that we cannot, at any point when deciding on which course of action would be preferable, split the fabric of time in two and bear witness to the results of both doing an action and not doing an action. Without anything to compare the results of not killing people, we cannot objectively say not killing people is good for those people's well-beings. Killing them may, in fact, be better for their well-beings than not killing them; we just don't know because we cannot possibly compare the two alternate realities.

I must say, I've become a little scared of my opponent since reading this. He's basically admitted to being unable to discern if any moral action is good or bad simply because we can't compare results. Aside from the sociopathic nature of the argument, it has several other flaws:

1. The entire method of "exclusion of the alternative" (or in other words "process of elimination") is unnecessary. It can help narrow your options when you're stuck on a difficult multiple choice problem, but it is never necessary.

Con's example of "exclusion of the alternative" uses a lake and to discern whether or not it's a lake, we must first ask "Is it a bay?" But this is not the case. You can identify the properties this body of water has and then try to match them with the properties of an already-known concept. Crosschecking the properties against every alternative is unnecessary to discern the identity of this body of water. You don't have to first ask "Is it a bay" anymore than you have to first ask "Is it a mountain" or "Is it a duck".

2. We have numerous historical examples of already-committed moral actions to discern which were good and bad with hindsight. Maybe if rape had not once occurred since the beginning of time, you could argue we don't know whether it's good or bad for the person being raped (and that's a pretty big "maybe"). But we now know unquestionably that people don't like being raped (as per the definition); we know their well-beings suffer for it, physically and mentally.

3. Finally (and perhaps most importantly), his argument, curiously enough, doesn't even address the question of whether moral principles are objective or subjective. It merely states we cannot know the truth or falsity of moral claims, such as "Killing a child for sexual pleasure is morally wrong" (I know you know the answer to this, Larz). However, the mere fact we don't (or even can't) know the answers to certain questions doesn't put such answers in the realm of subjectivity.

In other words, whether we know the answer or not is irrelevant: the answer is still objective.

Defending my Case

P1: Some states of well-being are objectively better or worse than others.

I thought it unnecessary to clarify this previously, but now it seems I must: you can think you are right, and still be wrong. Some people think the Earth is 6,000 years old and they truly believe this, but they are objectively wrong. Similarly, one can believe a course of action is morally right, and be wrong. One can set out to improve the lives of the human species, and fail.

A religious zealot who drives a plane into a skyscraper may think he is doing a morally righteous thing, and be wrong. A hopeful and desperate cult member can commit suicide, believing his well-being will improve in the afterlife, and be wrong. King Leonidas may have believed chopping you into pieces on the battlefield was a noble act, and been wrong.

The fact that people disagree about the answers to certain questions does not automatically mean those answers are subjective. You can believe with all of your might that three plus three is eight, and be objectively wrong. Just as you can believe killing people is morally right, and be wrong.

My opponent states: "Take the golden rule for instance, treat others as you'd like to be treated. The alternative is to treat others however we feel they deserve. You can't look at that rule or alternative and say nobody who believes that is being rational."

There is certainly more than one way to improve overall well-being, just as there is more than one way to harm overall well-being. Having several objectively true answers doesn't mean they are not objective.

P2: Our behaviors and actions can effect the well-beings of ourselves and of other conscious creatures, for better or for worse.

Again, my opponent plays the "people disagree" card. It's simply a weak objection to objective morality.

He bombards me with a ton of moral questions (euthanasia, abortion, etc.), which I will not bother answering. These things are not the topic of the debate. Furthermore, I don't claim to have all the answers to every moral question; I simply realize the answers are objective. And as I've shown, answers can be objective even if we don't know the answers yet and even if people disagree what the answers are.

P3: Morals are the principles concerned with these behaviors and actions which effect well-being.

There seems to be no objection here.

C: Therefore, some actions can be named objectively morally good or bad, depending on how they effect well-being.

My opponent seems to think the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises. Maybe his objection would be justified if the second premise is missing and if the third premise was worded differently. However, the second premise states that our actions can effect others' well-beings, for better or for worse, while the third premise simply states morality concerns itself with these actions. To clarify, that simply is what morality is: the principles concerned with good and bad actions. This was the definition I offered in the instigation and the definition my opponent agreed to upon accepting this debate.

The conclusion logically follows from these three premises, and I fail to understand how my opponent's insane analogy about him being text-based because the debate he is participating in is text-based applies to my argument's logic.
larztheloser

Con

First of all, I don't consider losing a negative, so don't feel that my name insults me. However, if you want to call me something else, like Qwert Yui, Larz or God, I don't really care. Second, thanks for all those excellent refutations!

My Case

It's easy to dismiss any refutation of objective morality as sociopathic. Often on the news we see people who have very different views of right and wrong, thinking "what sociopaths" without ever engaging with why they believe what they do. One example of this might be people who think murdering Hitler before World War 2 would have been moral, so perhaps murdering a major political leader today before a big war would be moral too (Iran comes to mind). But if murdering them is moral, why not kill off all the low-paid artists and people with moustaches just in case one of them turns out to be a Hitler too? That may sound sociopathic to a person like me, but I cannot logically deduce that their actions will have a worse effect on humanity than inaction. I have to accept that they have a different morality. That's why we need laws against murder and so on. Some people, who may genuinely have the best interests of society and the well-being of all the people in it in mind, without being mentally ill, can still be rationally driven to kill.

Con's claim that the exclusion of the alternative is un-necessary because the properties of the item tell you what it is. The problem is that usually we don't know all the properties of every item. Humans suffer from a distinct lack of omniscience, and as a result they have to consider all the possibilities for what something might be - and to determine if something is true, to exclude all possibilities of it being false. With my bay example, you can't always see, upon first approaching a large body of water, if it's a lake or a bay. You have to walk around to exclude the alternative possibility (or drive etc).

Second, pro claims hindsight is enough. But hindsight is a linear narrative. Even it does not show us the relative outcomes of two actions. Was the murder of Caesar for the better or for the worse? Well, it lead to the Pax Romana, so some would argue it was for the better. It also led to the bloody wars of succession, so others would say it was for the worse. You can't evaluate it objectively. You have to form a subjective opinion about the relative moral value of past events. As an aside, just because something is not consensual does not mean by definition that it's not enjoyable. I'm not an advocate of rape, but rape advocates would argue that consent is relative, and that domination is in some cases necessary to establish. If I had the letter count, I would show how both of these can be justified by history. Maybe next round. The point is that hindsight can be used to justify two completely opposing moral positions.

Finally he makes the interesting claim that "the mere fact we don't (or even can't) know the answers to certain questions doesn't put such answers in the realm of subjectivity." Let's revisit how pro defined subjective: "dependant on personal opinion". If we don't know the answers, the best we can do is form an opinion about who's right. Take God. Despite some people's claims, nobody really knows whether there's a magic guy up there smiting and blessing as he sees fit. People therefore form opinions about whether they believe in God. What I've done is I've proven you can't know the answer to moral questions, independantly of your own opinion. And that's what matters in this debate. That's my strategy.

Pro's Case

Pro seemed to misunderstand one of my most important objections so let me clarify: it was what pro just labelled "P2" that I had no objection to. "P3" is where my objection was centered. And it wasn't about what's right and wrong, or that people disagree (which is true, by the way, but not the point). It was about how some people have morals completely disconnected from well-being. Pro's case completely ignores this considerable part of morality. The real reason why my opponent won't respond to my "heap of questions" is because they have nothing to do with his case - but they have everything to do with the motion, the full extent of which he conveniently ignores. I hope my opponent can manage to response to this argument in the next round.

What pro did contest very well was "P1" so I'll deal with that now. Right at the end of his refutation of my refutation, pro conceeded that something can have several "objectively" true answers. That's false if the answers are incompatible. You can't say the Golden Rule and the opposite of the Golden Rule are BOTH objectively true because people cannot take both as moral actions - that's like killing and not killing a person. You cannot have two exclusive alternatives as objective morals - only subjective morality can provide such a scenario.

The reason why a moral question is different from a scientific question is that one is based on proof, the other is based on belief. Some find smoking or gambling morally repulsive. Some think the afterlife is better with suicide. You can't prove any of these things are true. You can prove that carbon isotopes decay at a certain rate, and that based on that certain carbon structures must have been around for longer than 6000 years, or that based upon the rate of expansion in the universe it must be older than a few billion years, if one was to grant a few basic rules of physics in both cases. On both of these counts, and many others, you can exclude the possibility of a 6000-year-old world logically. You can't do that with moral questions.

So basically while I agree Leonidas may be wrong, I also believe that none of us have any clue whether that is actually true or not. We have opinions about what is right and wrong, not objectively-verifiable facts. Disagreement may not mean subjectivity, but a lack of an objective way to test it, the only thing we can do is be subjective in our belief. The only difference between 3+3=8 and "killing is good" is that one can be proven, the other cannot.

Finally let's consider "P4". My opponent completely misunderstands this counter-argument, so I'm going to lay it out like he does.

1. M concerns RW
2. RW is O
3. Thus M is O

That's pro's logic. In his case, M is morality, RW is right/wrong, and O is objective. Remember that morality is not right/wrong itself, it is merely the principles we have concerning what is right/wrong. My contention is that even if right/wrong are objective, it does not follow that the principles concerning right/wrong are objective. To contextualise this, let's use my analogy. I'm concerned with winning a text-based debate. Winning such a debate is text-based. Am I therefore text-based? No, that's absurd. This book is concerned with maths. Maths is hard. That doesn't mean the book is hard - it may be particulary easy to follow. Religion is (in part) concerned with the afterlife. The afterlife is mysterious. Does that mean religion is mysterious? Not necessarily. How many more examples do you need? In the context of this debate - "thou shalt not steal" is a moral command concerned with the moral value of theft. The moral value of theft is objective (just assume that's true). Does that neccessarily mean that the moral value of the command is also objective? You work it out.

I look forward to the final round.
Debate Round No. 3
DakotaKrafick

Pro

Alright, God, let's do this.

Refuting Con's Case

His entire argument attempts to answer the question "Are the principles of morality knowable?" instead of "Are the principles of morality subjective or objective?"

This debate is not about two questions:
1. What exactly are the principles of morality? (ie, would it have been morally right/wrong/acceptable to kill Hitler when he was a child, or is it morally right/wrong/acceptable to terminate an early pregnancy, etc.)
2. Is it even possible to know what exactly the principles of morality are?

This debate addresses one question and one questions only: Are the principles of morality objective or subjective?

Con thinks by proving the answer to the question "Are the principles of morality knowable" is "no", he has thus proven morality is subjective, but this is simply not the case. He states that when the answers to anything are currently unknowable, those answers are "dependent on personal opinion", such as the existence of God.

I must say, I'm quite confused by this assertion. It's true that we cannot know for certain whether God does or does not exist; all we can do is guess. But to put it bluntly: God either a) exists, or b) does not exist. What we personally think on the matter is irrelevant to the actual truth, and our guesses on whether or not God exists will either be a) accurate, or b) inaccurate.

To say that the existence of God is "dependent on personal opinion" (subjective) is to say God exists for some people and not for others, depending on what they think about the matter. It's a preposterous claim. My opponent may be prepared to argue the Holographic Universe theory (the theory that we each create our own separate realities, so no one is really ever right or wrong about anything, even mathematical truths), but he will certainly be fighting an uphill battle.

Before we knew the Earth was orbiting the sun, before we even had the means to know the Earth was orbiting the sun, was the fact the Earth was orbiting the sun or not dependent on personal opinion? Of course not.

My opponent reveals his tactic: "What I've done is I've proven you can't know the answer to moral questions, independantly of your own opinion. And that's what matters in this debate. That's my strategy."

You should have picked a different strategy, unfortunately, because we are not arguing whether the answers are knowable independent of personal opinion; we are arguing whether the answers are independent of personal opinion.

All of this being said, I believe it can be proved that morality is independent of personal opinion, which is what I outlined in my own argument. I'm merely pointing out that your entire argument for subjective morality doesn't actually even address whether or not morality is subjective. Therefore, you really have no argument at all for this debate.

Defending My Case

My opponent states: "The real reason why my opponent won't respond to my "heap of questions" is because they have nothing to do with his case - but they have everything to do with the motion, the full extent of which he conveniently ignores. I hope my opponent can manage to response to this argument in the next round."

It's not going to happen. As I've said previously, we are not arguing what exactly the principles are; we are arguing whether they are objective or subjective. Your shotgun of questions are nothing more than a distraction from the issue at hand.

P1: Some states of well-being are objectively better or worse than others.

Con seems to concede I've defended this premise sufficiently. He does mention though that there can't be two objectively true answers if those answers are opposites of each other. I agree, but the opposite of "treat others as you'd like to be treated" is "treat others as you wouldn't like to be treated". And the opposite of "treat others how you feel they deserve" is "treat others how you don't feel they deserve".

P2: Our behaviors and actions can effect the well-beings of ourselves and other conscious creatures, for better or for worse.

My opponent says this: "Pro seemed to misunderstand one of my most important objections so let me clarify: it was what pro just labelled "P2" that I had no objection to. "P3" is where my objection was centered."

I guess, then, my second premise is safe for now.

P3: Morals are the principles concerned with these behaviors and actions which effect well-being.

Con says people hold certain beliefs about what is right and wrong that are not at all connected to well-being. To those people, I say your morality is strange, insufficient, and irrelevant. Christians can believe eating pork is the absolute most evil thing in the entire world, but that does not make it true. Why call something "morally wrong" if no one is harmed?

While I'm on the subject, I'd also like to address another objection by my opponent (given in his second round). He had a problem with the words "some" in premise one and the conclusion, as if that meant I was arguing not all morality is objective. The reason I say not all actions are objectively morally good or bad is because not all actions are moral actions. Eating pork, for example, is amoral (neither moral nor immoral). To reiterate: all moral actions are either morally good or bad, but not all actions are moral actions.

C; Therefore, some actions can be named objectively morally good or bad, depending on how they effect well-being.

My opponent continues his absurd analogy: "I'm concerned with winning a text-based debate. Winning such a debate is text-based. Am I therefore text-based? No, that's absurd."

Yes, it is indeed. You are using a different definition of "concerned" than I am. You are "concerned" with this debate in the sense that you find it important or urgent in some way to participate in. The principles of morality are "concerned" with right and wrong in the sense that they are completely related to what is right and wrong. They describe what is morally right and wrong, and if right and wrong are objective, then morality must be as well, just as the principles of mathematics are objective because they are concerned with objective truths.

All my opponent has done here is meddle with equivocation, the fallacy of using more than one definition of a word to confuse the issue.

Conclusion

I thank you for participating in this debate with me and the audience for reading. I urge the viewers to carefully consider both of our argumentation and vote accordingly.
larztheloser

Con

First, let me thank pro for this debate. It's been a lot of fun. In this round I'll try and give everyone a short summary of the debate as I see it.

My Case

The question "is morality objective?" (not the "principles of morality" as pro sneakily tried to change his burden to last round - morality itself is principles) is deceptively simple. It leads us on to two related questions - first, "what is morality?", and second, "how can we test for objectivity?" (questions that pro also sneakily tried to claim this debate is not about - which is ironic, because pro dedicated whole paragraphs to answering these questions in the debate).

My case was that, when faced with a moral question, one cannot test for objectivity. Pro has done very little to challenge this, and both of the arguments he did use I dealt with in round three. As a result, to make a moral judgement, one needs to use one's personal opinion, just as people form personal opinions on coming across a bay/lake for the first time as to its nature. In absence of an objective truth, we can only have a subjective opinion.

What is morality? Morality was defined by pro as being principles concerning right/wrong. These principles are not things we know, but things we believe. I proved that truth is determined by exclusion of the alternative. If the alternative cannot be excluded, there is no objectively-right answer. Morality is a construct, built of our collective morals as a society. It's not some mystical set of principles written in stone on the other side of the sun - morality is what we believe (as opposed to know) it is. And if our principles are not objective, because we cannot objectively test them, then of course our morality is not objective as well.

That's important. Let me adjust the definition slightly. Say morality was the principles we have concerning the Earth's orbit (and pretend we couldn't prove either way), or the principles concerning the existance of God. Regardless of whether or not God actually exists, or the Earth is standing still, if we cannot objectively test the answers then our principles are not dependant on some test, not dependant on what's actually true, and not in any way objective - they are dependant - solely dependant - on our subjective personal opinion. I'm not saying God both does and does not exist. I'm saying our religious principles are subjective, just as our principles concerning right/wrong must be subjective.

Is a belief subjective if it's not objective? There's really nothing more I can say to this other than that I'm right by both my analysis in round two and by the very definition of objective and subjective. Finally, to claim that I really have no argument at all is quite preposterous - all pro attempts to prove is that my argument is irrelevant, not non-existant. The only problem is that it's not.

Pro's Case

Pro needed four steps to make his argument, providing a nice framework to take them down.

P1: Since I've spent more time rebutting this than any other of pro's contentions, I don't think it's true that "Con seems to concede I've defended this premise sufficiently". Opposites are not necessarily inverted statements, but simply anything exclusive. You can't both treat others as you'd like to be treated and treat them as you feel they deserve, because often we feel people deserve death, and most of us don't want to be murdered. This was just one of two counter-arguments I raised last round. The second, dropped by pro, is that moral rules cannot be rationalised. I do feel it deserved some response after two paragraphs of analysis.

P2: I agreed with this one. Was a bit of a tautology after all.

P3: Basically pro's only counter-refutation to my analysis is to call everyone with a different morality to pro "strange, insufficient, and irrelevant" in terms of their morality. Then he goes on to say the equivalent of "Also, some actions are amoral, and anyone who thinks otherwise" ... Oh yeah, I forgot sociopaths are not relevant to this debate! I wrote that with sarcasm by the way. I encourage voters to read what I said about this in round three. Besides, I thought morality WASN'T supposed to be dependant on your personal opinion, pro?

P4: I'm using concerned only in the sense of "to relate to" - even if I was a robot for the sole purpose of winning this debate, completely related to this debate in every way, it still does not follow that I am text-based. A maths textbook may be completely concerned with maths, using no asides or random interesting facts along the way, and yet still not be as objective as maths ("I think 2+2 is 9 but I might be wrong" would be an example of such a textbook). My examples only serve to illustrate the fallacy my opponent has committed - that is, assigning attributes to something related to, not equivalent to, another thing, as I said in round 2. In this light I've always been using the same definition, and pro has never rebutted my point. It's my opponent that's been meddling with equivocation, not me.

Conclusion

My opponent has failed to engage with me on most of his points. He spent round three rebutting P2 which I had never contested, and in round four he only rebutted P3 with reference to an argument I had already rebutted. He dropped half of my arguments on P1 and failed to justify the other half. And he never rebutted P4, despite several attempts, none of which actually related to my argument.

My case has been quite consistant. Morality is subjective because it depends on our personal opinion. We must depend on that because there is no "right" answer with morality - we can't see the future, so either alternative may be right. Pro's only real answer to this was to argue that just because we don't know the answer doesn't mean it isn't objective. But morality isn't the future, which has an objective outcome, but rather our beliefs about it, and how our actions today can affect the world we live in tommorrow.

And that, folks, is why I think I've won the debate.
Debate Round No. 4
14 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by MikeyMike 5 years ago
MikeyMike
The fact that we do not know something is objectively true does not change the fact that that something is in fact objectively true. If morality is objective, it is objective regardless of whether we know it is objective or not.

^This is absolutely true, but Con pointed out that unless we have a way to test out whether something is objective or subjective, it is up to our personal opinions to decide, and since there is no scientific method or law governing morality, then morality is subjective. Really, this is all this debate comes down to, everything else was interesting and kinda fun to read, but essentially, useless.
Posted by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
Good debate, I'm leaning towards Con but will reread it before voting just to be sure. That said, I think Pro has a strong point by saying that just because something is unknowable does not mean it is subjective. The fact that we do not know something is objectively true does not change the fact that that something is in fact objectively true. If morality is objective, it is objective regardless of whether we know it is objective or not. But Con is absolutely correct in saying that if morality is objective, we don't have access to its truths. That means that any morality we know of will necessarily be subjective. Hard debate to judge.
Posted by larztheloser 5 years ago
larztheloser
"Skepticism as in the belief that moral facts ... are indeterminable"

So you mean like "there is no 'right' answer with morality"? Because that's the conclusion of my argument. I'm just trying to avoid being "Laaaaaaaame", that's all.
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
Zaradi
Sorry for the ambiguity Larz.
Skepticism as in the belief that moral facts are false or are indeterminable. It's the basic starting point for an ethical argument against the objectivity of morality. I do quite enjoy using it and love it when others use it as well.

You may want to read up. It's an interesting field of philosophy.
http://plato.stanford.edu...
Posted by IFLYHIGH 5 years ago
IFLYHIGH
@Dakota- Hey, I referenced Hitler in one my forums recently! Weird.
Posted by Buddamoose 5 years ago
Buddamoose
I know, a total cop-out on my vote, but really? Y'all both gave sound arguments, and i just couldnt pick... Ill flip a coin if y'all want cause honestly thats what i see this coming down to lol.
Posted by Buddamoose 5 years ago
Buddamoose
@Dakota Krafick, lol so true >_>
Posted by DakotaKrafick 5 years ago
DakotaKrafick
Godwin's Law states that as a conversation on the internet continues, the chances of someone referencing Hitler or nazis approaches 100 percent. I'm usually the first one to prove this law, but you mentioned Hitler before I did lol
Posted by larztheloser 5 years ago
larztheloser
DakotaKrafick, I don't know the names of these kinds of laws but I do understand what makes sense lol. I think my proving of anything of this sort is probably an accident.

Hey IFLYHIGH. Sorry about changing my profile pic. The old one was taken four years ago (I think). This looks quite different because of the different lighting conditions, but I assure you it's still me.

Thanks Buddamoose!

Zaradi, skepticism to me refers to questioning the opponent's position. The word has always been defined quite loosely, so in some way me being con is enough to make me skeptical of pro. Maybe you could be more specific about what you mean?
Posted by Zaradi 5 years ago
Zaradi
Dangit con! No skepticism! Laaaaaaaame.
Oh well, it still looks like a decent debate.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by FourTrouble 5 years ago
FourTrouble
DakotaKraficklarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: After some consideration, I really think Con's arguments are stronger. Pro's argument rests on the distinction between whether something is knowable or whether something actually is. The problem is, to prove in debate that something is requires it to be known, and its knowledge will always be subjective. Con clearly challenges Pro on this point, and Pro's argument is not able to recover.
Vote Placed by PARADIGM_L0ST 5 years ago
PARADIGM_L0ST
DakotaKraficklarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro begins his final round with, "His entire argument attempts to answer the question 'Are the principles of morality knowable?' instead of "Are the principles of morality subjective or objective?" This really highlights Pro's inability to offer by what arbitration are morals objective. Indeed, he neglects the BoP entirely. Furthermoe, CON was not stating that objective morals don't exist, only that is an unknowable propisition, and offered countless examples of subjective morality. Con won.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 5 years ago
16kadams
DakotaKraficklarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: tie
Vote Placed by Buddamoose 5 years ago
Buddamoose
DakotaKraficklarztheloserTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I honestly cant decide. Both sides made strong arguments and ill leave it at a tie ;)