Morality is objective
- BoP is on Pro to demonstrate that morality is objective, either by demonstrating the existence of an objective standard or by any other method he may see fit.
- First round is for acceptance and the rest is up to the debaters, but NO NEW ARGUMENTS in the last round.
- Let's try to avoid semantics, although this may be quite hard in this debate.
- Let's be civil.
- Have fun (that's an order)
- Objective morality: The claim that morals are true independent on whether anyone agrees with them or not (either situational or absolute, I don't mind).
- Morality: How we categorize whether certain actions are good or bad.
I hope for a stimulating debate!
I realize that I should have asked my opponent to begin in the first round, since he has the BoP, but I'll do my best anyway (it will be very short).
I do not believe that morality is objective because it is an unfalsifiable hypothesis; there is, as far I can tell, no way to determine whether morality is objective. Something that is objectively true should normally be demonstrable, and demonstrating that a certain action is good/bad is, as far I can tell, not doable.
I'm going to stop here because going any further increases the risk of erecting a strawman, which I don't want to do.
Thanks to my opponent for the quick response. My apologies if I misinterpreted the debate format, I thought that Round 1 was only for acceptance. In any case, let’s begin.
I will divide my entry into two parts. First, I will offer several arguments in support of objective morality. Second, I will provide a brief rebuttal of Con’s opening statement.
My opponent and I have agreed to define morality as “how we categorize whether certain actions are good or bad.” Additionally, we have agreed to define objectivity as something that remains true regardless of popular agreement (I hope Con does not mind this paraphrase). Therefore, it follows that if we combined our terms “objectivity” and “morality,” the definition would read: “a categorization of good/bad/right/wrong that remains true regardless of popular agreement.” Under such a definition, it is virtually undeniable that morality is objective.
We observe that right and wrong is categorized according to an objective standard in many ways. One of these ways is the legal system. The American legal system, for example, legislates numerous moral issues such as murder, divorce, theft, and sexual misconduct. These issues are adjudicated according to an objective standard (the law) regardless of how judges, juries, or societies personally feel about them. For example, in 1993 a man named Daniel Driver was charged with molesting five boys. The mother of one of the boys, Ellie Nesler, shot and killed him as she approached the witness stand on April 4th. Many people across the nation praised her actions and even claimed that she deserved a medal . Despite all this however, she was still sentenced to 10 years in prison. In another example, a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty in the murder of Trayvon Martin even though many people believed he was guilty. These are just two of many examples that demonstrate how we determine right and wrong based on an objective standard, not our personal feelings.
Another area we observe this in is our sense of basic human rights (and even animal rights). We believe all people have at least some right to life, health, and happiness. For example, we feel wronged if someone takes our parking spot, cuts us in line, or gossips behind our back. Why do we feel this? If morality is subjective, we would have no concrete reason to be upset by these activities because we have no objective rights. This principle is more pronounced if taken to its logical extreme. Raping babies, molesting children, and torturing animals is not wrong in a subjectively moral world. They are simply activities pursued by people who feel like doing them – no different from people who feel like planting trees or writing novels. In order to refute the existence of moral objectivity, my opponent must accept that we live in such a world. Conversely, I submit that we all sense some activities are wrong across every culture and that this is a demonstration of objective morality’s existence.
Now for rebuttals:
First, my opponent is faced with the interesting dilemma of defending subjectivity with objective statements. Saying “I do not believe morality is objective” is an objective claim. As we defined, objective claims are true regardless of disagreement. Con is attempting to argue that moral subjectivity is truer than moral objectivity despite my disagreement. Every rebuttal Con makes during this debate is an appeal to the very objectivity they are trying to reject.
Con suggests that morality is impossible to define or demonstrate. Let's examine this claim. It is true that morality is not a tangible object that one can see, touch, or measure. No one has ever tripped over a moral principle laying on the ground. But just because something is intangible does not mean it is impossible to demonstrate or observe. Consider gravity for example. Gravity is an invisible force that we cannot see, taste, or smell. We know it exists, however, because we can see it in action. We toss a ball up and watch it hit the ground. Gravity's hold on other objects displays its existence.
Similarly, morality is an invisible force that takes hold of human actions and motivations. As I pointed out in the first part, we observe objective morality at work in our legal system. We also observe objective morality manipulate our sense of basic human rights and common decency. Just like a ball cannot help hitting the ground, we cannot help feeling angry when a baby is abused.
In conclusion, I submit that the examples we find in legal systems, common sense human dignity, and the very existence of this debate display an objective morality that, while elusive, exists nonetheless.
A word directly to my opponent: You don't have to apologize, it was my mistake to declare that the first round was for acceptance, so I'm the one who should be apologizing.
I will begin this round by addressing my opponent's arguments, and by rejecting the assertion that 'it is virtually undeniable that morality is objective'.
The first point that my opponent makes is that laws are an example of how morality is objective. He claims that the legal system is one of the many ways with which we categorize what is right and what is wrong, which I fully grant. However, I reject the assertion that this categorization is objective; if country A says that abortion is illegal and country B says that it is legal, is abortion objectively right or wrong? It obviously can not be both. Even within a single country, laws are accepted/refused solely based on popularity (of the senate or otherwise, I'm not really good in politics), and majority does not mean objectivity. Laws are only objective within themselves: If the laws says that you can't have an abortion, than you objectively can't have an abortion according to the law, but that doesn't mean that abortion is objectively morally wrong. There is also the issue of judges (and juries); their duty is basically to give their own subjective interpretation of the law, which somehow negates the objectivity of the law.
The second paragraph is melting pot of many arguments, which I will address one by one:
'We believe all people have at least some right to life, health, and happiness.' Universal agreement is in no way evidence (much less proof) for objectivity. There was a time where everyone believed the earth was flat and yet, it wasn't.
'If morality is subjective, we would have no concrete reason to be upset by these activities because we have no objective rights.' Two things: First, we would indeed have a reason to be upset, but no OBJECTIVE reason; subjective does not mean meaningless. Second, I reject the assertion that we have objective rights; rights are granted to people based on our moral system, be it subjective or objective.
'This principle is more pronounced if taken to its logical extreme. Raping babies, molesting children, and torturing animals is not wrong in a subjectively moral world. They are simply activities pursued by people who feel like doing them – no different from people who feel like planting trees or writing novels. In order to refute the existence of moral objectivity, my opponent must accept that we live in such a world.' That is one big fallacy of appeal to consequences. My opponent is falling in the common trap of 'subjective morality leads to chaos because everyone can do what they want', but reality is far from that. Societies are organized around a basic set of rules, which are determined by popularity by the founders of that society BASED on their own individual subjective sense of morality.
'Conversely, I submit that we all sense some activities are wrong across every culture and that this is a demonstration of objective morality’s existence.' Again, universal agreement does not mean objectivity, that is a fallacy of appeal to popularity.
I will now address my opponent's rebuttals.
His first point is quite puzzling: he claims that a personal belief ('I do not believe X') is objective. The only way I can see this working is if you say something like 'it is objectively true that I believe X', which is still puzzling because something that is objectively subjective is still subjective in nature.
'Con is attempting to argue that moral subjectivity is truer than moral objectivity despite my disagreement. Every rebuttal Con makes during this debate is an appeal to the very objectivity they are trying to reject.' It would seem that my opponent is trying to dress me (figuratively) with the position 'nothing is objective', which is not my position (I'm only saying that MORALITY is not objective). I draw this conclusion based on the fact that my opponent preemptively addresses my rebuttals by saying that my position precludes them from being objective; but morality cannot really be applied to my arguments. I hope that my opponent is not conflating 'right and wrong' with 'true and false'.
For his second point, my opponent compares gravity with morality. I hope I'm not patronizing when I say that this is a horrible analogy. Gravity is something that can be MEASURED and TESTED, while morality can not; these two things have absolutely nothing in common.
In his conclusion, my opponent points to the existence of this debate as evidence for his claims, which again brings me to think that he is trying to change my position to 'nothing is objective'.
I eagerly await my opponent's rebuttals.
P.S. I would like to express my relief that the God Argument wasn't brought up, because I really don't feel like turning this debate into a 'God exists' debate.
I will respond to my opponent’s points sequentially.
1. Objective legal systems - Con seems to be “moving the goalposts” slightly by implying that a moral code must apply to every country in order to be objective. They compare abortion laws in country A and country B as an example. However, this was not the condition presented in round 1. Con defined morality as “how we categorize whether certain actions are good or bad.” Con defined objectivity as something being true regardless of popular agreement. Nowhere in these definitions is it stipulated that such categorization must apply between multiple countries. Therefore, I submit that if a nation’s law system categorizes between good and bad, and that categorization is enforced independent from popular agreement, then it meets our definition criteria and proves the existence of objective morality for the citizens of that country. I realize laws are not the same as morals, but laws do legislate moral issues. This creates a legally accepted moral code of right and wrong that societies must follow regardless of each individual’s personal beliefs. I am not trying to argue semantics, but since I have burden of proof I must ensure that my opponent only makes rebuttals within the definitions that were agreed to.
Con writes, “If the law says that you can't have an abortion, than you objectively can't have an abortion according to the law, but that doesn't mean that abortion is objectively morally wrong.” Actually, it does. If the law categorizes something as wrong, and enforces the categorization as true whether or not you agree with it, then it is objectively morally wrong according to our definitions.
For the country A and country B example, Con asks “is abortion right or wrong?” Good question. They are correct in saying that it cannot be both, but either answer still proves objective morality. Saying abortion is right is an objective declaration. Saying it is wrong is also an objective declaration. The only remaining answer, which the subjectivist must embrace, is that abortion is neither right nor wrong – it simply is, and your individual opinion about it is no better than anyone else’s. This brings us to a false moral reality, which I will discuss later.
Con says that laws are accepted solely based on popularity. That is not true. Many laws are extremely unpopular, yet they are still enforced. Once again, I reference the Ellie Nesler and George Zimmerman court decisions that were very unpopular, but enforced nonetheless. Con also says that judges and juries give their own subjective interpretation of the law, which is untrue. Judges and juries do make individual decisions, but those decisions are still based on the existence of an objective law. They do not just make up random standards based on personal opinions. My goal with this argument is simply to show that laws often define morality, and these laws are objective because they are enforced regardless of popular agreement. This is only one way in which moral principles exist in an objective state.
2. Appeal to popularity - I agree that universal agreement is not evidence. That was not the point of the argument. This argument challenges my opponent to demonstrate that all people do not have some right to life, health, happiness, etc… I am making a claim that most people sense we have these rights intrinsically, and my evidence is that people fight to regain them if they are taken away. Con must refute that claim. So far, he has neglected to do so. I am not appealing to popularity, I am making a claim and challenging Con to refute it.
3. “Subjective does not mean meaningless” - Con says this to demonstrate that people can still be justifiably upset about a wrongdoing in a subjective system. To this I ask: If subjective reasons have meaning, from where does such meaning come? How can someone rightly get upset about an act if there are no objective principles against which actions can be evaluated? One might suggest you can get upset just because it hurts you or puts you at some disadvantage, but that is still an objective maxim! It is the principle that people should not do things that hurt you.
4. Appeal to consequences - Let us now explore the false moral reality I mentioned earlier. Con claims that rights are granted to people by moral systems. This is true, but I believe my opponent misses the bigger picture. If rights are only given by individual authorities with subjective morals, then we must face some major philosophical problems. For example, some Middle Eastern governments give husbands the right to beat or stone their wives for various offenses. Is that ok? Nazi Germany gave the SS the right to murder Jews. Was that not wrong? The United States once considered black people as property, is that acceptable? If morality is classifying things as good/bad/right/wrong, and objectivity means those classifications remain true in spite of popular opinion, then subjective morality means that good/bad/right/wrong is classified by popular opinion. So, we therefore have no ability to judge the Nazis or the slave masters. Their system was agreeable to those people at that time, and so it was just as "good" as any system agreed upon today. The Nazis were just as correct in murdering the Jews as the Allies were in saving them. They were simply two different subjective belief systems fighting for dominance. Is that true? Is that the reality we observe in our world? My claim is that it is not, and my opponent must demonstrate why my claim is false. I am not appealing to consequences; I am appealing to the reality we observe in our world. In fact, my opponent even admits this by saying “reality is far from that [people doing whatever they want].” This only supports my position that we observe our world is governed by some objective concept of human behavior that all people are held accountable to.
5. Arguing subjectivity using objectivity – Let’s take a moment to once again consider what objectivity is. An objective statement is a claim that someone says is true despite disagreement by others. Con wrote (I quote), “MORALITY is not objective.” He is claiming that is true whether I agree with it or not. It is an objective statement. By saying morality is not objective, Con is making a claim about the nature of morality that he believes is true. Therefore, at it’s core, claiming morality must be subjective actually demonstrates its objective nature. I realize this is highly philosophical and a bit abstract, but it is extremely interesting to consider….
6. Gravity analogy - The point of this comparison was not to suggest that morality can be measured or tested. The point was to show that, like gravity, morality is an invisible force that can be observed through its effect on other objects or people. We cannot escape gravity’s influence. We can jump, but we will come back down. Planes can fly, but they must eventually land. Even if you go to outer space and escape earth’s gravity, you will drift along until you are captured by another object’s gravitational pull. Similarly, we cannot escape morality’s pull. For example, we cannot help feeling angry, violated, or upset if someone stole our most prized possession. In a more extreme example, no culture on earth thinks it’s ok to torture babies for no reason. Some societies think it’s ok to torture them in certain situations, but none accepts random and unjustified infanticide. The minute we project our moral opinions against the actions of another person, we acknowledge the existence of objective morality.
There is a simple way to test the validity of subjective morality. If a moral is objective, it remains true even if people disagree with it. If a moral is subjective, it becomes false if people disagree with it. So, if people suddenly decided that randomly torturing babies was ok, would their view become acceptable? Of course not. Moral subjectivity does not translate to reality as we experience it.
I will again address my opponent's points in order, using the same numbers he used in the previous round.
1. Again, my opponent conflates law and morality; he claims that the objectivity of the former is proof of the objectivity of the latter, without justification. Laws are tools that we use to objectify (as in 'render objective') morality in order to avoid chaos, it is a sort of translation of morality in a objective language (which we call the law). My opponent accuses me of 'moving the goalposts', claiming that I imply that every country must agree on something for it to be objective, but that is obviously a strawman of my position.
My opponent then says 'I realize laws are not the same as morals, but laws do legislate moral issues'. That seems to be an argument supporting my position instead of my opponent's; morals need to be legislated precisely because they are subjective. As I said earlier, laws are tools that we use to objectify morality. One could be tempted to say 'well, doesn't that mean that laws are making morals objective?', but the answer to that is no. Laws don't affect morals, since they are BASED on morals; we are simply taking something subjective (morality) and transforming it into something objective (laws) in order to avoid anarchy. In other words, if morals were objective, we probably would not need any laws.
'“If the law says that you can't have an abortion, than you objectively can't have an abortion according to the law, but that doesn't mean that abortion is objectively morally wrong.” Actually, it does. If the law categorizes something as wrong, and enforces the categorization as true whether or not you agree with it, then it is objectively morally wrong according to our definitions.' There is a subtle problem in this paragraph, which is illustrative of my opponent's error; the last sentence should actually be: '... then it is objectively LEGALLY wrong according to our definitions'. This is yet another example of my opponent conflating morality and law, as if they were one and the same.
'For the country A and country B example, Con asks “is abortion right or wrong?” Good question. They are correct in saying that it cannot be both, but either answer still proves objective morality. Saying abortion is right is an objective declaration.' I agree, and that was exactly the point of my question; answering this question with either 'right' or 'wrong' would indeed indicate an objective morality. The problem is, this question CAN NOT be answered objectively, hence what I said about objective morality being impossible to prove. My opponent wouldn't even have to give us an actual answer, he would only need to give us a way to find the answer, but he didn't. I indeed embrace the fact that abortion is neither OBJECTIVELY right nor OBJECTIVELY wrong.
'Con says that laws are accepted solely based on popularity. That is not true.' Actually, it is true and here's the proof: http://www.uic.edu... (that's only for the US). My opponent then brings up two court cases that had an unpopular outcome in the eyes of the population, but I fail to see how that is even close to relevant. Once a law is created, then it becomes objective and is true regardless of everyone's opinion. Again, my opponent is conflating law and morality.
'Con also says that judges and juries give their own subjective interpretation of the law, which is untrue. Judges and juries do make individual decisions, but those decisions are still based on the existence of an objective law. They do not just make up random standards based on personal opinions.' Judges and juries give their own subjective interpretation (which is a pleonasm by the way) of the objective standard that we call the law.
2. My opponent rejects my claim that he is making an appeal to popularity, and follows with:
'This argument challenges my opponent to demonstrate that all people do not have some right to life, health, happiness, etc… I am making a claim that most people sense we have these rights intrinsically, and my evidence is that people fight to regain them if they are taken away. Con must refute that claim. ' This is a shifting of the burden of proof, and a ridiculous one at that since I have already said that the existence of objective morality is unfalsifiable (which is why I don't believe it exists). There is also another appeal to popularity in this quote: 'most people sense we have these rights intrinsically'. This would still be an appeal to popularity even if I were to accept it as true (which I don't, since it is an unsupported assertion).
'I am making a claim and challenging Con to refute it.' Unfortunately for my opponent, that is not how the burden of proof works.
3. My opponent asks:
'If subjective reasons have meaning, from where does such meaning come?' From ourselves, that is the definition of subjective.
'How can someone rightly get upset about an act if there are no objective principles against which actions can be evaluated?' Subjective morality does not mean non-existent morality; I can still be upset about something even if it is only my opinion.
'One might suggest you can get upset just because it hurts you or puts you at some disadvantage, but that is still an objective maxim!' It is objective to the person that believes it, just as it is objective that I like strawberries, even though taste is subjective. Objective subjectivity is still subjectivity.
4. My opponent responds to the 'appeal to consequences' by answering some questions:
'some Middle Eastern governments give husbands the right to beat or stone their wives for various offenses. Is that ok?' In my opinion, it is not OK. In their opinion, it is OK.
'Nazi Germany gave the SS the right to murder Jews. Was that not wrong?' In my opinion, it was wrong. In their opinion, it was not.
'The United States once considered black people as property, is that acceptable?' In my opinion, it is not. In their opinion, it is (back in those days).
'The Nazis were just as correct in murdering the Jews as the Allies were in saving them. They were simply two different subjective belief systems fighting for dominance. Is that true?' In my opinion, the Nazis were not 'correct' in what they did, but yes it was indeed another subjective belief system.
'Is that the reality we observe in our world?' If he is talking about whether there are different belief systems in the world today, then yes, obviously.
'My claim is that it is not, and my opponent must demonstrate why my claim is false.' Again, my opponent is shifting the burden of proof by asking to prove... what exactly? That some countries have different morals than us or that other countries are not objectively wrong? While the former is trivially easy (Russia, the majority of the Middle East as well as the majority of Africa, etc.), the latter is downright impossible because objective morality is UNFALSIFIABLE.
'I am not appealing to consequences; I am appealing to the reality we observe in our world.' The only thing that I see is that not everyone agrees on everything. But even if they did, that would be an appeal to popularity. I would like to know what my opponent sees in this world that points to an objective standard for morality WITHOUT appealing to popularity.
5. Once again, my opponent is trying to change this debate from 'Morality is objective' to 'Some things are objective' and since I agree with the latter, I won't waste my time on this point.
6. My opponent then tries to save his Gravity analogy. He compares the gravitational pull with 'morality's pull', claiming that we can't escape either of them. Well, even though my own personal sense of morality tells me that it is good to give money to beggars, I don't always do it.
'In a more extreme example, no culture on earth thinks it’s ok to torture babies for no reason.' Appeal to popularity, clearly and undeniably.
Sorry, I'm out of characters.
At the risk of sounding too repetitive, let's revisit our definitions one more time because it seems that Con is continuing to offer rebuttals that are inconsistent with our definitions:
Morality: How we categorize actions as good or bad
Objective Morality: These morals (i.e., categorizations) hold true regardless of whether anyone agrees with them or not.
So, for this debate, if I can demonstrate the existence of any categorizations of good and bad that hold true in spite of popular agreement, then I will have proven my position.
I believe I gave such a demonstration in the American legal system. My comment on moving the goalposts is not a straw man. Con very clearly implied that laws cannot be objective if two countries disagree on them, which was not a condition for objectivity provided in the definitions (see above). My opponent accuses me of improperly conflating morality with laws. I would ask them to re-read their own definitions. If a law categorizes any action as good or bad, then it is a moral according to Round 1. Given that a law can also be a moral, then any law that holds true regardless of whether people agree with it is objective. Thus, we arrive at an objective morality.
Con commits a non sequitur by saying "if morals were objective, we probably would not need any laws." Morality's nature has no bearing on its compliance. Con agreed that laws are objective, yet people still break them constantly. Con also tries to explain that laws are solely based on popularity by throwing in a website as "proof." This is an appeal to authority fallacy, and it's not really an argument because it's never explained.
I now will address the accusation that I am attempting to shift the burden of proof (BoP). BoP is often misunderstood. This is not a court room, BoP does not mean proving beyond a shadow of a doubt. It simply means that I must provide compelling positive reasons for why my position is likely to be true. I must make claims and support them with evidence. It is Con's job to refute my claims by discrediting or disqualifying my evidence. Refuting is not shifting burden of proof. If I asked Con to prove why morality is subjective, that would be shifting BoP. Put more simply: I make claim X using evidence A, B, and C. Con must refute claim X by convincingly disqualifying evidence A, B, and C. Con does not need to make a counter claim Y. I am not asking Con to prove a counter claim, I am simply challenging him to show why my evidence should be disqualified.
Moving on to the appeal to popularity charge. I am appealing to a commonly observed reality that all societies operate under, using their nature and behavior as evidence. This is similar to saying "every chemist uses the metric system." So, if this debate title was: "chemistry is expressed with the metric system" then an appropriate piece of evidence would be that every chemist uses the metric system. Therefore, in our debate titled "morality is objective" the fact that every society does indeed recognize morality in an objective state and behaves accordingly is a valid piece of evidence. To refute this point, Con simply needs to identify a society that operates under subjective laws (aka, morals).
I will now address my opponent's long list of "in my opinion" statements. Personal opinions have no authority in debates. It is fine and good that Con has personal opinions about these matters (which are, quite frankly, really horrifying, but I will avoid the ad hominem), but those opinions are not valid arguments. And lest my opponent again protests against perceived BoP shifting, I would remind him that relinquishing BoP does not mean avoiding the need to make any arguments. To defeat my BoP, Con must still objectively (no pun intended) demonstrate why my points should be doubted. Responding with personal opinions does nothing to this effect.
My opponent asks me to identify observations that point to an objective standard of morality. In science, we observe how subjects behave under certain conditions and draw conclusions from those behaviors. Let's explore the logical behaviors associated with subjective and objective morality. Behaviors associated with the existence of objective morality would include: holding other people to common standards, condemning the actions of other societies, a belief in the existence of universal and intrinsic human rights, and feeling wronged if people treat us in disagreeable ways. Behaviors associated with subjective morality would be: allowing people to live according to any standards they see fit, allowing other societies to act how they choose, rejection of the intrinsic nature of human rights, and admitting that other people can treat us in any way they feel they should. Let's see which behaviors we observe in reality:
We do not let other people live according to whatever standards they choose. You could not walk down the street naked even if you thought it was ok. You would be arrested, or at the very least, frowned upon. Even on a nude beach there are still taboos for ways people expose themselves. While it is manifested in different ways, the underlying objective principle is that people should not expose themselves indecently to others. We condemn the actions of other societies. The Americans did not tell the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, "hey, we really didn't like that but if you think it's ok then go ahead and do whatever you think is right." We recognize the existence of basic and intrinsic human rights. When anyone tries to take them away, people fight to get them back because there is a sense that they intrinsically possess them. Finally, we feel wronged if people do things to us that we dislike. It is only possible to feel this way if we apply our personal beliefs about unacceptable behavior on other people. The second we evaluate someone else's actions by our own personal moral beliefs, we have appealed to morality's objective existence. Therefore, I propose that we observe universal behaviors that indicate the existence of moral objectivity.
Finally, I'd like to once again point out the logical impossibility of moral subjectivism. I will do this using modus ponens. Modus ponens is reasoning that says if X then Y. The confirmation of the condition X guarantees the result Y. In step 1, if an answer can be wrong, then a correct answer must exist that renders other answers wrong. Given the question - "what is the nature of morality?" my answer is objective, and my opponent claims that answer is wrong. Therefore, a correct answer must exist that renders my answer incorrect. The next step is - if an answer is correct, then it remains correct in all conditions. (According to modus tollens, if it does not remain correct in all conditions, then it is not the correct answer, and we return to step one.) The final step becomes - if morality has a correct nature (objective/subjective), then that nature remains true in all conditions. However, IF morality has a nature that holds true in all conditions, then it fits our definition of objectivity. Something cannot be objectively subjective. Therefore, all my opponent can do under the flag of moral subjectivity is admit that we are all equally entitled to our own opinions and that there is no correct answer. Thus, if there is no correct answer then this debate must end in a tie and is pointless.
In conclusion, while I hate to dip into semantics, I cannot allow Con to escape their own definitions. Laws categorize good from bad, therefore they are morals by definition, and they are objective. If I am correct in my application of our definitions, (and I believe I am), then my opponent conceded this entire debate when they wrote, "Once a law is created, then it becomes objective and is true regardless of everyone's opinion." If a law can categorically be a moral, then my position is correct.
Looking forward to Round 5
As agreed, the last round will not feature any new arguments.
My opponent starts by restating two definitions, which I both agree with, and then says: 'if I can demonstrate the existence of any categorizations of good and bad that hold true in spite of popular agreement, then I will have proved my position.', which I would also tend to agree with, so let's see if he has done so.
Law and morality:
Again, my opponent points to the legal system, so I will (once again) try to show my opponent why LAW and MORALITY are not the same thing:
Morality is the categorization of an action under the characteristics 'good' or 'bad (or evil)'. Law, on the other hand, is the characterization of an action under the characteristics 'legal' or 'illegal'. My opponent is trying to argue that since the law is a form of objective characterization, then morality must be objective too, but he misses the distinction; laws do not separate actions between 'good' and 'bad'. While morality is characterized on an individual basis, laws are characterized on a popular basis which is based on each individual's assessment of the morality of a specific action. In other words, laws are our way to cope with the problem that morality SEEMS (not to be confused with 'IS DEFINITELY') subjective.
My so-called non-sequitur was actually just a conjecture, which is why I said 'probably' (although I do admit that I can not establish the probability of that statement being true). The website I gave was not an appeal to authority, it was more like an 'appeal to the fact that I don't have unlimited characters to write my argument', so I chose to present the website in order to illustrate that laws are INDEED voted upon, which makes their acceptance (or refusal) almost entirely a matter of popularity. Now, unless my opponent disagrees with the information in the website, I don't really see why this is an issue.
The burden of proof:
I only mentioned the fallacy of shifting the burden of proof when there was no evidence provided by my opponent, for example:
'This argument challenges my opponent to demonstrate that all people do not have some right to life, health, happiness, etc…' This is NOT supported by evidence. If my opponent is referring to his many appeals to popularity, then I would like to remind that popular agreement is in NO WAY the arbiter of truth, and therefore can not be considered evidence.
Appeal to popularity:
'I am appealing to a commonly observed reality that all societies operate under, using their nature and behavior as evidence.' I have already pointed out some societies that do not 'operate' the same way we do. Plus, even if all societies agreed on EVERYTHING (which they don't), pointing to that fact to justify the view that morality is objective would still be an appeal to popularity.
The analogy with the metric system is interesting, but fails for the following reason: This debate is about the OBJECTIVITY of something (morality), whereas the analogous debate is about whether or not something is being used. For the analogy to work, the title of the debate would need to be 'The metric system is objectively true', which doesn't really make sense.
First of all, putting an ad hominem between parenthesis in order to 'avoid' actually making it is quite childish. Plus, I believe that my opponent agrees with my position on the issues he raised so I wonder why he would call my opinions 'horrifying'.
Second, I agree that my answers are not arguments, but that is because they were not meant to be; my opponent asked me some questions and I simply answered them. I was not trying to make any sort of point, nor was I trying to rebut any of his arguments since these questions were NOT arguments (although I suspect that he was expecting me to say that these things are absolutely wrong, so that he could point out that I have no basis to say that since I don't believe that morality is objective).
My opponent makes a completely baseless assumption regarding the way societies would behave in a world where morality is objective and in a world where morality is subjective. I can play this game too:
Objective: A world where morality is objective would be a world where there is no disagreement on anything, where laws are unnecessary and where countries do not exist; we would all live in the same global society.
Subjective: In a world where morality is subjective, there is disagreement on many issues, laws are decided by popular vote, there are many countries and they often wage war against one another.
My opponent then goes on to assess the world in order to demonstrate that it concords with his idea of a world in which there is objective morality. But, since his idea of such a world is completely baseless (and, as far as I know, could have been constructed to correspond with reality), I will not try to demonstrate why it doesn't concord with reality, although I will analyze the paragraph:
'We do not let other people live according to whatever standards they choose' I agree, because that would lead to chaos.
'the underlying objective principle is that people should not expose themselves indecently to others' Yes, but my opponent is playing on words; 'indecent' is unlikeable by definition, so obviously no one likes anything that is 'indecent'. The subjectivity lies in what we consider to be indecent (and to clarify, being nude on a nude beach is not considered indecent).
'The Americans did not tell the Japanese after Pearl Harbor, "hey, we really didn't like that but if you think it's ok then go ahead and do whatever you think is right."' That is correct. Here, my opponent is trying to argue that if morality was subjective, then we would never complain about the actions of other societies. But is that really the case? How can my opponent possibly know whether or not this is the case? I would instead argue that the United States reacted to Pearl Harbor in a way that they personally (as a country) saw fit. The fact that something is 'just your opinion' does not make it irrelevant or meaningless.
I disagree with the assertion that we have intrinsic rights, or that intrinsic rights even exist. Rights are things that we grant ourselves in order to have a guideline on which to base our laws. I do agree that people fight for their rights, but I reject that it is because they sense that these rights are intrinsic. I believe they fight for these rights because they enjoy living under their protection (or 'would like' to live under their protection, in certain circumstances). But even if I granted that everyone sensed that we possess intrinsic rights, would it necessarily follow that these rights are intrinsic? Or would that be yet another appeal to popularity?
'The second we evaluate someone else's actions by our own personal moral beliefs, we have appealed to morality's objective existence.' This is completely contradictory; how are 'own personal moral beliefs' even remotely related to objectivity?
The logical impossibility:
'Given the question - "what is the nature of morality?" my answer is objective, and my opponent claims that answer is wrong.' No, I am simply unconvinced of the truth of my opponent's assertion, which is why he has the BoP. I have already said that this was an unfalsifiable hypothesis, so I would never claim that morality is actually subjective.
To the question 'what is the nature of morality?', I do believe that there is an answer, but I do not know what that answer is and I do not believe that we will ever know. To win this debate, my opponent has to demonstrate that his answer is correct.
Whether or not the nature of morality can change has nothing to do with what it actually is.
'Something cannot be objectively subjective.' Wrong, every characteristic has the potential of being 'objective', including subjectivity.
I agree that we are all entitled to our own opinions.
I thank my opponent for this debate.
I will present final rebuttals
Bad vs Illegal: Con makes a semantics rebuttal by saying laws categorize actions as legal or illegal, not good or bad. I technically agree seeing that they are different words. Con is forced to use words like "legal" and "illegal" because using good/bad/right/wrong would be a checkmate on their position. For this rebuttal to work, Con must show that they are not just different but have different meanings. The words "good" and "bad" are extremely broad adjectives that could include "right" and "wrong." I turn to Multiple Modus Ponens, which says: if A then B. If B then C. A, therefore C. Step 1: If something is illegal, then it is wrong. Step 2: If something is wrong, then it is bad. Step 3: Therefore, if something is illegal, then it is bad. I do not think it's unreasonable to equate "wrong" with "bad" or "right" with "good." In fact, according to Thesaurus.com, the synonym for "wrong" is "bad" and its antonyms are "good" and "moral." Con even wrote in Round 3 they "fully grant" that laws "categorize what is right and what is wrong." Therefore, I propose it's fairly acceptable to say that what is legal is also considered good, and vice versa, so Con's rebuttal falls short.
To press this point further, Con admitted in Round 4 that laws categorize actions as legal or illegal in order to prevent anarchy. This implies that anarchy is bad or undesirable. So, one could say that laws prohibit "bad" actions that destabilize society. This means laws do categorize bad actions that lead to bad results.
Con tries again to say that laws are simply functions of popular opinion. That is not entirely true and his website proves that in its second sentence. Yes, laws are voted upon, but they must then be measured against the Constitution. On a separate note, Con says he used the website to make an argument outside the character limits. As such, I request it be thrown out entirely. Character limits exist to confine both sides' arguments into an equal space. If it is not contained within the DDO entry, then it does not count. Citations are not hyperlinks to arguments.
Appeal to Popularity: I understand what appealing to popularity is, and if my argument was, "everyone thinks morality is objective, so it is," then I certainly would be guilty. This is not my argument. What I am saying is all moral systems on earth operate from an objective core (notice that Con was not able to identify a single observed society that operates under subjectivism.) It's like a science experiment - we observe every moral code behaving in an objective state, therefore, the natural conclusion from that observation is that morality must exist in an objective state. We would not say the conclusion "every lab rat eats cheese, so cheese must be edible" is an appeal to popularity. It's a logical conclusion drawn from universal observation. Appealing to popularity involves opinion. I am appealing to observation.
Con says that societies don't agree on things. While this is true, these disagreements are over how moral principles should be APPLIED, not the principles themselves. For example, societies disagree on what qualifies as murder. The principle is still the same - don't kill people without just cause. The disagreement is simply over how that principle gets applied. Disagreement actually strengthens objectivity's probability because if there was no sense of "this is how people should behave" then we would have little reason to disagree with one another.
Opinion: I did not intend to offend my opponent, and I apologize if I did. However, Con's accusation of being "childish" is also ad hominem, so let's call it even. Since Con admitted their responses were not arguments, then there is not much more to say here.
Objective standard: My assumptions are not baseless. If morality is objective, meaning there is some standard of right and wrong that all people are accountable to, then we would expect to see people holding each other to that standard, or at least trying to do so.
Con plays the "game" by trying to list their own assumed behaviors under objectivity and subjectivity. These behaviors revolve around agreement. Con says that if morality is objective then everyone agrees and there is harmony. If morality is subjective, everyone disagrees and there is strife. This is completely contradictory to his accusations of appealing to popularity, because under this new definition I must now show that societies agree with each other to prove moral objectivity. But isn't this what Con has been condemning? This is confusing, and the only conclusion I can draw is that Con is attempting to change the definitions, which is not allowed. I already showed above that objectivity has nothing to do with agreement.
Con once again basically concedes the debate. He writes, "Obviously no one likes anything that is 'indecent'. The subjectivity lies in what we consider to be indecent." Again, disagreement is over what should be considered indecent, not the principle itself that indecency is bad. Con admits this by saying it's "obvious" that no one thinks indecency is okay. This confirms my position.
Logical impossibility: Con did not attack my actual logic here, so we must assume it stands as valid. Con says he does not think my answer is wrong, he is simply unconvinced of its truth (which conflicts with his earlier claim in Round 3 that his position was "saying that MORALITY is not objective"). Whatever my opponent's position, it is undeniable that he is saying my position is wrong or incorrect to some degree. If we accept this, then there must be a right answer that makes mine wrong. This brings us into the Multiple Modus Ponens string presented in Round 4, which inevitably leads to objectivity.
My opponent admits that there is a true answer to morality's nature, but that it is unknown or unknowable. This only helps my position. If we agree there is some answer that makes all other answers by nature incorrect, that correct answer must hold in all circumstances. And thus, we arrive at our definition of objectivity - a truth that holds regardless of changing circumstances or opinions.
The only way for my opponent to dodge this logic is to say that morality can still be "objectively subjective." That is a nonsensical term combining two opposites. It's like saying "dry water" or "solid gas." I will demonstrate using our debate definitions. "Objectively subjective" would be defined as: "morality's nature is subjective independent on whether anyone agrees with it or not." This doesn't make sense because that is our definition of OBJECTIVITY. Subjective and objective cannot have the same definition. So, conceptually, Con's term actually places "subjective" under our definition of objective, which means that if something is objectively subjective, it is still objective. This would therefore prove my claim.
In conclusion, Con has not convincingly disqualified my evidence or logic. Con falls victim to his own definitions from Round 1, which is why he tries to use other words like "illegal" instead of "bad" or "objectively subjective." Con also tries to avoid this by subtly changing the definitions such as suggesting that moral objectivity means everyone would agree with it. I believe these efforts have fallen short.
In Round 1, my opponent said I would achieve BoP "by demonstrating the existence of an objective standard or by any other method [I] may see fit." An objective standard clearly exists in the form of laws. Laws can be morals by definition as long as they categorize actions as good or bad, and they exist as an objective standard. Furthermore, I have demonstrated the existence of a moral standard by observing the behaviors of human societies. All societies agree it is wrong to be indecent or kill without justification. While they disagree about the application of those principles, the principles themselves stand as objective.
My thanks to Burncastle. I had fun and I hope they did too.
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