The Instigator
WampumDP
Pro (for)
Tied
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The Contender
Jerry947
Con (against)
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Morality is subjective

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Post Voting Period
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It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/2/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 5 months ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 517 times Debate No: 92209
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (16)
Votes (0)

 

WampumDP

Pro

I would like to debate on one of my favorite subjects: The subjectivity of morality.

Just to explain beforehand: When I say "morality is subjective" I mean that what one finds good or bad entirely depends on what that individual believes.

The first round is merely for confirmation.

Second round for opening statements

Third for rebuttals

and Fourth for closing statements.
Jerry947

Con

I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
WampumDP

Pro

I would like to open by saying that we, as individuals have our own free will, and can make our own beliefs as we choose, however, we often conform to the beliefs of the society we belong to. These beliefs we have make up our morals. Simply put, morality is distinguished as the difference between right, or wrong, or good, or bad, etc.

While there may be some views that are almost universally seen as moral, or immoral, these views are not automatic, they are not instinctual, and we must distinguish between what is an exercise in morality and what is simply instinct. Take the wilderness for example; there are no set or agreed upon rules within the animal kingdom, all animals are individuals, and are simply out for themselves and their young (if they have any). Animals (including humans) have only 3 basic instincts: sustenance, shelter, and sex. All actions and beliefs beyond these three instincts are voluntary, and performed solely by the individual.

Therefore, we can see that morality is not a basic instinct of humans, since we are not required to be moral. Morality is not programed into our DNA, like the desire to reproduce. Morality is instead a conscious decision.

We can see many examples of people having different morals. Throughout history the dramatic splinter between the Christian and Muslim worlds has split the two belief systems so far, that both sides have seen killing of the other side as moral. We can see certain Christians acting "moral" by taking the Holy Land from its Muslim occupants, and we can see the morality of certain Muslims through terrorism, where men sacrifice their lives in the name of their God by killing infidels (and themselves). One of the greatest examples of subjective morality is the case of Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler killed six million Jews, Slavs, and others in the name of the German People. Hitler came to power through the consent of the German people, many of whom he convinced that the German People were supreme over all others. Today we can clearly see that this is false, but the people of the time believed it.

This is just a small amount of proof that morality is subjective, and that there is no universal meaning to what is good and what is bad.
Jerry947

Con

Here is my argument for Objective Morality. I borrowed some of my points from the book called "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist." I will start off by providing my own arguments and then I will do rebuttals in part two of my response.

Part One:

a. Since we know what is absolutely wrong, there must be an absolute standard of rightness.

Murder is an action that all people (insane people are the exception) recognize as absolutely wrong. Taking the life of a human being unjustly is undeniably wrong and everybody knows it. That said, if we know what is wrong, we must have some idea of what is right. For example, if someone were to say that 2+2 were equal to five, we would know that they were wrong. But in order to know that, we would have to have some idea of what the right answer was.

b. If there wasn't a Moral Law, then we wouldn't make excuses for violating it.

We have all done something wrong at some point in our lives. It is interesting to note that we always try to make excuses for violating the moral law. But if there was no objective moral law, then we would not feel the need to apologize to people when we hurt them. For example, if I were to say some harsh words to a family member of mine, I might try to offer them excuses like "I was hungry."

However, if morality was subjective, and there was no right/wrong, we wouldn't feel the need to to say sorry whenever we did something "wrong". In fact, lets say that I owed a person money. I wouldn't have any moral reason to pay them back. The person I owed money to merely would have a different opinion of what morality was than me. And since there would be no objective moral standard, I would be perfectly justified in not paying him back.

But this is all ridiculous since we all are aware of the same objective moral law. And that is why we make excuses for violating it and that is the reason why we just know when someone wrongs us.

c. All people really do know that a standard of right/wrong exist.

Most people have an idea of what is right and wrong. Now some people might argue that there is no such thing as objective morality or a real right and wrong. But the people that argue this always go back on their claim a moment later (Lewis 6). The same people that say that morality is opinion based (or subjective) would still be irritated at people for treating them poorly. I can imagine that my opponent would be irritated if the voters gave me all the votes merely because they liked my username better than his. He would certainly feel wronged. But the thing is, if morality was subjective, no one should ever feel wronged. Why would someone feel wronged if morality was based on opinions?

Sometimes people try to argue that morality is created by societies. But we also understand that there are societies that have condoned evil practices when in fact people know that the society was wrong. For example, W. H. Auden, a famous 20th century poet, said that "there had to be a reason Hitler was utterly wrong." Auden said this famous quote after going to a theater that showed pictures of the Holocaust. These pictures sickened him and made him rethink his worldview. Before watching these pictures, Auden believed that it was up to the society to decide what was right and wrong. But during his time at the theater he realized that if societies decided what was right and wrong, and if morality is subjective, this would mean that Hitler was justified in everything he did. Well, at least according to that society. And who are we to tell them they are wrong if morality is purely subjective?

d. If there is no objective morality, there is no reason to be moral. If there was no objective standard of right/wrong, then all we would have is peoples opinions. Our opinion on morality would be like our opinion on what the best flavor of ice cream is. It just would not matter If we did something that people thought was wrong since there would be no objectively wrong things in the first place.

Some may argue that they are moral to benefit society. The problem with this response is that benefiting society is part of what it means to be moral. The question "why be moral" and "Why benefit society" are almost the same question. Benefiting society is a moral thing to do...but we want to know why someone should be moral if there is no objective morality.

Another objection would be that morality is merely an instinct. The problem with this claim is that people have different instincts which would make morality subjective. And again, if morality is subjective, we could never tell people that they are doing something wrong. Another problem with this argument is that morality is usually that thing that decides between which instincts to follow. For example, if a person were to hear a gun shot and a cry for help, people would most likely have two instincts. One would be to run away from danger; another instinct would be to run to help the person. Morality might push a person to choose the weaker instinct, which is to choose to help the person instead of saving themselves.

Part Two:

My opponent claims that "We can see many examples of people having different morals. Throughout history the dramatic splinter between the Christian and Muslim worlds has split the two belief systems so far, that both sides have seen killing of the other side as moral."

The problem here is that the Muslims actually affirm the moral law of the Christians in their Qur'an. It says that "It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)," (3:3).

Therefore the Muslims and the Christians recognize the same basic moral principles that the rest of the world does. That said, this does not mean that Christians and Muslims have always done what is moral. Yes, both of them agree that murder is wrong. But when they have killed each other in the past, they didn't see what they were doing as murder. They saw it as killing. So they agree on the same basic moral principles, but they disagree on who is committing the wrong actions.

My opponent says that "Adolf Hitler killed six million Jews, Slavs, and others in the name of the German People. Hitler came to power through the consent of the German people, many of whom he convinced that the German People were supreme over all others. Today we can clearly see that this is false, but the people of the time believed it."

Hitler did do all those horrible things yet he convinced himself that he was right. He didn't see what he did as murder...he thought he was helping Germany. So I ask my opponent, why do you claim that Hitler was wrong (you used the word false) if morality is subjective? If morality is subjective, then Hitler wasn't actually wrong. He merely had a different opinion of morality than my opponent does.

Lastly, my opponent said that "This is just a small amount of proof that morality is subjective, and that there is no universal meaning to what is good and what is bad."

I don't think any of that proved subjective morality. In fact, I think that the fact that you said that Hitler was false (or wrong) proves that morality is objective. Again, in order to know that something is false, you have to have some idea of what is true. My opponent rightly recognizes that Hitler was wrong...but to know that, he would have to know what is right.

I thank my opponent for a good round and I look forward to the next one.

Source: Used C. S. Lewis' book called "Mere Christianity."
Debate Round No. 2
WampumDP

Pro

First I'd just like to say that I'm impressed by how well thought-out and thorough my opponent's argument was. Well done.

I will begin by saying that while there is a widely agreed upon moral compass that has been around for thousands of years where the ideas of murder being immoral comes from, this moral compass did not always exist. We cannot know what is absolutely wrong or absolutely right, only what our society deems as absolutely wrong or absolutely right.

The ancient Romans famously slaughtered many innocent in the colosseums for sport. They needed no excuse when they threw ancient Christians into a pit with a lion in it. Were these people insane? No, they were not. How could this group of people see, tolerate, and even encourage such an unjust act? The answer is simple: their society had different morals than ours does today.

"We have all done something wrong at some point in our lives. It is interesting to note that we always try to make excuses for violating the moral law. But if there was no objective moral law, then we would not feel the need to apologize to people when we hurt them."

See, within our society we have certain things which are seen as immoral, and are widely agreed upon so much so that they seem objective, but this was not always the case. Animals have no moral compass, and provided we evolved from animals, we have no moral compass. We humans have created one so there can be order within a society. This morality has been so ingrained in our minds over generations and generations of belief that there is no need to question it in our modern society. We know that Hitler was utterly wrong because our society's morals see him as wrong. If things had gone differently, and Germany won the war, we could very possibly be living in a world where all of Hitler's actions were seen as right. We still see people who believe that what Hitler did was right, however, they are a fringe group, since most of our society agrees that what Hitler did was wrong. I have been brought up in a society that tells me that Hitler's actions were wrong, but if I were brought up in a society that taught me that Hitler's actions were right, I would end up believing them.
Jerry947

Con

Thanks for the complement Pro. I also agree that this debate has started off well and I appreciate the lack of animosity that can sometimes be found in these debates.

My opponent starts off their round by claiming that the "moral compass that has been around for thousands of years where the ideas of murder being immoral comes from, this moral compass did not always exist."

That is an interesting claim to make. The problem is that it isn't really supported. When exactly did the moral law come into existence from my opponent's point of view? Are they saying that objective morality exists now but it didn't at some time in the past?

Then my opponent claims that "we cannot know what is absolutely wrong or absolutely right, only what our society deems as absolutely wrong or absolutely right."

I am confused. We can't know right/wrong but societies can? Aren't people the ones who make up societies? Doesn't that mean that we do actually know right/wrong in order for the societies to know right/wrong?

If our society were to legalize murder, would that be absolutely right since societies determine what is right/wrong according to my opponent's worldview?

Then my opponent says that "The ancient Romans famously slaughtered many innocent in the colosseums for sport. They needed no excuse when they threw ancient Christians into a pit with a lion in it. Were these people insane? No, they were not. How could this group of people see, tolerate, and even encourage such an unjust act? The answer is simple: their society had different morals than ours does today."

The Christians were a completely different people that came about in the Roman time period. They refused to worship Roman Gods, they refused to watch families leave their unwanted children in the forest to die (they took them in themselves), and they were willing to die for their cause. Their beliefs went against the Romans and that made them angry (to say the least). In this specific case, these people knew what they were doing was wrong. How do I know this? Well, the Romans eventually put a stop to this persecution. The reason for their bad behavior isn't that they had different morals, the answer is that they knew the moral law and did bad things anyway.

I understand that it can be temping to just say that people have different morals. But when we do that, we take away moral responsibilities and no one is accountable for their actions.

My opponent then states that "Animals have no moral compass, and provided we evolved from animals, we have no moral compass."

I actually partly agree with my opponent here. Animals do not have morality, but humans certainly do. One of evolution's biggest problems is that it cannot account for the existence of objective morality.

My opponent then says that "We humans have created one so there can be order within a society. This morality has been so ingrained in our minds over generations and generations of belief that there is no need to question it in our modern society."

Let me get this straight, at some random point in the past, humans created a moral standard and it just so happened that all of their subjective opinions happened to agree with each other?

My opponent states that "We know that Hitler was utterly wrong because our society's morals see him as wrong. If things had gone differently, and Germany won the war, we could very possibly be living in a world where all of Hitler's actions were seen as right."

Really? I find it interesting that there were Nazi's that recognized that they did wrong (http://www.mcclatchydc.com...). I also have family that lives in Germany that do not think the Holocaust was moral.

"We still see people who believe that what Hitler did was right, however, they are a fringe group, since most of our society agrees that what Hitler did was wrong."

I can't think of a single person that would say that Hitler was right that isn't mentally insane. But my point is that all societies recognize that Hitler was wrong (even Germany).

"I have been brought up in a society that tells me that Hitler's actions were wrong, but if I were brought up in a society that taught me that Hitler's actions were right, I would end up believing them."

This commits the genetic fallacy. While it is true that our societies beliefs do have an affect on us humans, we still learn to think for ourselves. That is why people raised in Christian households don't always remain Christian, that is why societies that commit horrible things later admit they were wrong, and that is why no society today would condone what Hitler did.

In other words, the society we grow up in does not force us to believe their standard of right/wrong.
Debate Round No. 3
WampumDP

Pro

Well, I would just like to make a simple closing argument.

I do not think objective morality exists now. I believe that a widely agreed upon (yet still subjective in theory) morality exists today.

If the society we lived in never deemed murder immoral to begin with, it would never be seen as a problem (but I personally would not want to live in that society). This idea seems preposterous since this goes directly against the views of our society.

Our society teaches us our beliefs, and we draw our morality from our beliefs.

The Romans only ended the persecution of Christians since Emperor Constantine had a personal experience with the Christian faith. Many Romans disagreed with the idea of legalizing Christianity, but ultimately accepted it since they had no power to refuse.

While moral responsibility may be taken away through subjective morality, people are still held accountable for their actions through the law. The law is also subjective to an extent, that is why there are so many different political ideologies.

I agree with my opponent on the idea that evolution does not provide for objective morality. I would also like to state that humans are technically also animals, so we do not necessarily have to follow any moral code.

"Let me get this straight, at some random point in the past, humans created a moral standard and it just so happened that all of their subjective opinions happened to agree with each other?"

Yes, but it happened over time, not at once.

I can't think of a single person that would say that Hitler was right that isn't mentally insane. But my point is that all societies recognize that Hitler was wrong (even Germany).

To say that neo-nazis are all insane is a huge assumption to make. They seem insane to use since their morals clash with those of our society.

"In other words, the society we grow up in does not force us to believe their standard of right/wrong."

Technically true, but people often do follow their society's morals.

It's been a great debate, I had a lot of fun. This debate really made me think, and I can't always say the same about most of the debates on the site.
Jerry947

Con

This round is for my closing statement.

I used to be curious about the reason why I knew something was right and wrong. I used to see kids pick on each other at school and I wondered why they really had any real reason to be moral. I literally could not think of a single reason why everyone felt the need to be moral. And it wouldn't have mattered what society I was born into. Then I recalled the Bible verse Romans 2:15 which states that God wrote the moral law on every person's heart. That truth hit me like a ton of bricks.

We all know the moral law yet we at many times fail to recognize that there is a lawgiver. It is kind of like acknowledging the existence of the book and not the author. It is always interesting to me when people who see morality as subjective compare different societies. They feel like they can say that one was immoral and that one was moral. The funny thing is that those people are appealing to the objective moral law to determine which society is more moral than the other.

They aren't just using there societies standard...why not? Well, even societies recognize their own mistakes. And we can only due this due to the fact that there is an actual moral law. We would not make excuses for our behavior if there was no objective moral law.

I thank my opponent for the debate. I agree that this has been one of the better debates that I have been in.
Debate Round No. 4
16 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by WampumDP 5 months ago
WampumDP
Sad that the debate ended in a tie.
Posted by CaptainScarlet 6 months ago
CaptainScarlet
@Jerry947

It has long been harumphed rather than refuted. But I am always happy to be proven wrong. The only response I have ever seen to the dilemma, is either to grasp one horn or adopt the nature of god response. This does not blunt the attack at all. It fails to explain what it means whilst borrowing the term nature to rescue a proposed supernatural entity (a stolen concept fallacy). Either way we descend into non-cognitivism. Subjectivism is still subjectivism however you wish to dress it up and pretend its objective.

As for the real world it is a good Job we do not takde our ethics from biblical sources or the will of a god from DCT. As for Desirism. It does not instruct us, merely explains morality and i do not remember saying we should take our ethics from it. I think you merely want to attack a strawman.
Posted by Heirio 6 months ago
Heirio
"Or do you mean moral rules that all people have within themselves?"

Moral rules that are the same, to be clearer.
Posted by Heirio 6 months ago
Heirio
By Objective Morality, Jerry, what specifically do you mean?
Do you mean what is right and wrong according to the Bible?
Or do you mean moral rules that all people have within themselves?
Posted by Jerry947 6 months ago
Jerry947
@CaptainScarlet

You don't seem to understand the moral argument for God at all. You have brought up a common objection that has been long refuted.

All I will say on the matter is thank God that we don't use desirism in the real world. That would be scary.
Posted by CaptainScarlet 6 months ago
CaptainScarlet
As Abrahamic faiths are Subjectivism masquerading in Objective clothing, any argument which supports Objective morality using a god are fallacious "stolen concepts". If a god is the moral law giver, it reduces a moral law to be the thoughts of one mind. It is therefore Subjective to that mind. In order to be Objective it would need to be free from the influence of any one mind or group of minds. The theist can always complain that gods mind is special (special pleading) or that this is founded in gods nature (meaningless word play), but cannot escape the horns of this problem.

The WLC argument is the classical theist approach here. But there is never an answer to the above challenge. And he has no argument to back up his case that objective morals really exist (other than deep down we know they do). Plus you can take his syllogism and justify anything similar to prove god:

P1 If there is no god, then human objective revulsion to the smell of human waste does not exist
P2 Human objective revulsion to the smell of human waste does exist (deep down we all know it smells)
C1 There is a god

Morality appears to be a set of social codes enforced through condemnation, praise, rewards and punishments of the social group. It appears to be self-selected in that, for example, no human group practising wilful homicide would survive long enough to produce future generations. As these codes have developed, so they appear to become more crystallised and objectively wrong. Religions have merely borrowed these codes and formalised them in documents.

There are objective moral systems which do not presume a god and should be preferred as both a truly objective system and a simpler explanation. Desirism is a good example.
Posted by WampumDP 6 months ago
WampumDP
I'm sorry vi_spex, but I do not understand what you are saying whatsoever. Are you a troll or something?
Posted by vi_spex 6 months ago
vi_spex
wam you dont even understand what it is you are saying.. because surely it is as stupid as it gets
Posted by vi_spex 6 months ago
vi_spex
when rotten apples are picked first
Posted by Desert 6 months ago
Desert
That case doesn't need debating. Pro's statement is undisputed.
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