The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
6 Points

Morality is subjective

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/24/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 522 times Debate No: 65737
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)




I will be arguing that morality is not subjective, and my opponent will argue the opposite.

First round is for definitions, acceptance, and opening statements.

Good luck.


I accept. I will use the following definition of morality.

"a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons" [1]

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting. Let the debate commence!

I reject your definition. Some morals can change due to certain conditions, but certain morals must remain for a society to remain intact, which leads me to my first argument.

Gun rights. A pressing issue in today's society. An argument that people against gun rights is that "guns kill innocent people". An argument commonly used by people for gun rights is that "Criminals will gain access to guns and kill law abiding citizens without them if they are illegal".

Where I am going with this is that both sides of this argument agree that the deaths of innocents is something that should be avoided if possible. This is a moral, and regardless of what the circumstances are, it is a moral that everyone should have.

I have used this example to show that informed opinions are partially based on a moral code. The other part of having informed opinions is looking at factual evidence. I think both pro and I can agree that looking at factual evidence is an important part of having opinions, but what we disagree on is that whether or not those opinions should be based on an unchanging moral code.

A firm moral code is not only an important part of having opinions, it is an important part of making decisions as well. When making a decision, you consider your values. Having a value system is there to tell you what you should and shouldn't do. If you decide to kill someone because you felt like it, you would think that it is ok to do that. Thus, having subjective morality is not only a threat to people having informed opinions, it is a threat to people's decision making as well, because peoples' opinions influence their decisions.


Back to pro. Good luck.


Before I begin with my main argument, I would like to defend my definition of morality.

A definition's purpose is to allow symbols to refer to ideas so as to facilitate easier means of communication. In this way we can reduce complex ideas to single words, allowing us to be more concise when referring to webs of ideas. Therefore, when we define an idea, we are simply making a connection between a word and an idea. We are saying, in effect, "we shall use this word to refer to this idea." This is perfectly acceptable and preferrable as long as one acknowledges that the word and idea have no deeper connection. We simply attach the word to the idea for our own convenience, and not because of any "correct" definition. There is no such thing as a "correct" definition. There are, however, good and bad definitions. As an example, let us look at two different definitions of the word "law".

Law - a rule instated by a governing entity placing restrictions on what people can or cannot do.

Law - the speed limit, the rule against larceny, the rule against murder, etc.

The first definition is highly superior to the second because while the second one simply provides examples of what a law is, the first definition provides a clear boundary between things that are not laws and things that are. This is preferrable because drawing a diving line is our purpose in creating a definition. When one only provides examples, then they are allowing for wildly different ideas to form about what we are defining. However, if I had only offered the second definition for a law, then I could not claim to reject that definition without providing a better one.

Likewise, my opponent has claimed to reject my definition without providing a superior one.

Worse yet, my opponent's arguments demonstrate that they actually accept my definition.

"This is a moral, and regardless of what the circumstances are, it is a moral that everyone should have."

"certain morals must remain for a society to remain intact,"

With that out of the way, here are my definitions:

Morality - "a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons" [1]

Objectivity - "the idea that the claims, methods and results [...] are not, or should not be influenced by particular perspectives, value commitments, community bias or personal interests" [2]

I will now present my main arguments in favor of morality being subjective.

Contention One: Hume's Is/Ought Gap

David Hume was an English philosopher who dabbled in many ideas and is also the creator of the idea known as the Is/Ought Gap. Here it is, in his words:

“Reason is the discovery of truth or falshood. Truth or falshood consists in an agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to the real existence and matter of fact. Whatever, therefore, is not susceptible of this agreement or disagreement, is incapable of being true or false, and can never be an object of our reason. Now ‘tis evident our passions, volitions, and actions, are not susceptible of any such agreement or disagreement; being original facts and realities, compleat in themselves, and implying no reference to other passions, volitions, and actions. ‘Tis impossible, therefore, they can be pronounc’d either true or false, and be either contrary or conformable to reason.”

What David Hume is essentially stating is that a fundamental gap exists between "Is" statements (statements of observable reality) and "Ought" statements (statements of moral obligation). Because we obtain our knowledge from observable reality, all knowledge that we can have is either reduced from our observations or from incorrigible knowledge. However, neither of these categories includes moral knowledge. We cannot observe morality through our senses. We cannot measure morality with instruments. Thus, all knowledge that we observe is essentially non-moral. This being the case, we can also know that non-moral knowledge cannot reduce to moral knowledge, and thus it is impossible to make a claim about morality.

Contention Two: Objectivity

As discussed before, for an idea to be objective, it needs to be independent from any internal bias. Therefore, an objective truth must be unchanging. However, ideas about morality have never been unchanging, and indeed vary wildly between time periods and even between people. My opponent themself admits this:

"Some morals can change due to certain conditions,"

Given this, we can conclude from our definition of objectivity that it is impossible for an idea such as morality to be considered objective.

I will briefly address my opponent's case. My opponent's arguments are not actually in favor of morality being objective, but rather that society would be better if we all adopted an objective moral code. However, the very idea of being better also depends on an objective definition of morality, making my opponent's argument circular in nature. This is also my opponent's only argument.

Over to you, Con.


Debate Round No. 2


Final Round.

First of all, I didn't provide a new definition because I wanted my opponent to provide another one, because theirs was clearly biased. However, here is a new and better definition to replace my opponents faulty definition:

"Principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior."

This definition isn't biased like my opponent's is. It doesn't contain any words that could mean anything, for example, "rational", which could mean someone who thinks the Earth is flat, but it simply states what morality is.

Second of all, my opponent should take a closer look at my arguments.

For my first argument I stated an example of a moral that should, and does, remain the same throughout every society. I didn't say that some minor opinions humans have can't change, because changing political views is rational. However, changing the morals on which these views are based on is not rational.

For my second argument, again, I stated that some morals must remain for a society to remain intact, not all morals.

My opponent is essentially saying that there is a separation between knowledge and morals. This is true. However, they are wrong in that , and I quote,

"All knowledge that we can have is either reduced from our observations or from incorrigible knowledge."

They go on to say that because of this, having moral knowledge is impossible, because we can not observe it in any way, shape, or form. However, my opponent is misguided in saying this.

Before we (as in humanity) had the technology we have today, we thought certain things were impossible. We certainly would laugh at the invention of a computer, which we all take for granted today. Who's to say we won't create an instrument that measures morality? It may not be anytime in the near future, but technology can surprise us.

However, let's just say that there will never be a physical instrument that can measure morality. Just because we can't see something or measure something doesn't necessarily mean we can't have knowledge about it. For instance, we have knowledge about religion, and this is something we can't see or measure.

We also have law codes. Thousands of years ago there was a king by the name of Hammurabi, who invented the Hammurabi's code. In this very famous law code, murder was punishable by death. In America, the death penalty for murder is still enforced in most states.

To conclude, it is a fact that morality is not knowledge, but this doesn't mean that having moral knowledge is impossible.



Let me just state that, again, I didn't say that opinions can't change. There isn't a big debate over whether people don't have different political views. However, there is a big debate over whether people think the senseless murder of innocents is acceptable under any circumstances. Of course psychopaths exist, but they make up the vast minority of humanity.

And yes, some ideas have changed throughout the course of time. However, going back to my contention one rebuttal, Hammurabi's code outlawed the murder of innocents, and this law is in place in practically every nation today.


My opponent misguided in saying that my arguments do not relate to morality being objective. My arguments for round two were about how humanity shouldn't adopt a subjective way of looking at morality, because humans are not inherently only subjective.

Law codes are not subjective, they are objective. Seeing as law codes are essentially moral codes, law codes imply subjective morality.

Back to pro.


I would like to begin by saying that my definition is not biased, it is based on the accepted definition of morality by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, containing the results of the conclusions of great thinkers throughout history. My opponent's definition has no source, no support, and no rationalization.

Even beyond that, my opponent fails to show why my definition is inferior. For example, my opponent claims that "rational" could mean anything. However, this is absurd. No one claims that rationality means believing that the Earth is flat. The definition of rationality is the exercise of practical reason, which is:

"the general human capacity for resolving, through reflection, the question of what one is to do" [3]

My opponent has summarized their arguments from the previous round and done themselves a disservice in the process, as they have uncovered a glaring contradiction in their own reasoning.

"changing the morals on which these views are based on is not rational"

"some morals must remain for a society to remain intact, not all morals"

First my opponent states that morals must not be changed. Then they state that some morals must be changed. Given that changing morals fits in the very definition of subjectivity, I will give my opponent the benefit of the doubt and follow the former statement. I should also note that only three sentences before, my opponent claimed that the word "rational" could mean anything. Then they used it as though it had a concise definition in the first bit I quoted. This is another glaring inconsistency in my opponent's arguments.

Defense of Contention One:

In my opponent's second sentence of their rebuttal, they actually conceded the entire contention to me.

"My opponent is essentially saying that there is a separation between knowledge and morals. This is true."

Given a gap between knowledge and morality, it is impossible to have objective truth about morality. Thus the resolution is upheld. However, my opponent then contradicts themself for a third time by claiming that there is not a gap between knowledge and morality.

My opponent then applies scientific idealism, the process of claiming that no matter how impossible something may seem, because things in the past seemed impossible that we now know aren't, that there might someday be a way to make what we believe to be impossible possible. Unfortunately, this process is not employed by scientists or philosophers because it is simply misleading. While the basic premise is true, that the seemingly impossible has before been made possible, the reverse is also true, that the seemingly possible has been shown to be impossible.

As an example, here is a list of techniques thought to work but proven not to.

Psychic Readings

Additionally, my opponent does not seem to understand the difference between practical limitations and logical impossibilities. For the former, a task may be impossible due only to limited resources, knowledge, or environmental complications. Logical impossibilities are on a different realm. For example, a statement can never be true and false at the same time. You will never have a case where A, A->B, and ~B are all true at the same time. No matter the scientific advancement, logical tenets are insurmountable. Hume's Is/Ought gap is just another example of such a tenet.

My opponent then claims that we cannot see or measure religion, but we still have knowledge about it, therefore we can have knowledge about unseeable phenomena. This is flawed on many levels. Religion as a concept can be observed through its influence on people who follow it, and can be measured via time spent in devotion and religious population levels. Morality has no such gauge. But even if the religion example was a good example, my opponent would then have to show that it applied to morality as well, which would require extensive cross-analysis. My opponent has done no such analysis.

My opponent then brings up the example of law codes, which is completely unsalient and serves no purpose. Established laws are not the same as religion. I will also mention that Hammurabi's code punished hitting your father by cutting off the hand you hit him with, which is certainly not enforced today.

The final sentence in my opponent's rebuttal is a contradiction in an of itself.

Defense of Contention Two

My opponent's only real point here is that they have stated before that opinions can change. However, simply stating this does not make it true. If beliefs on morality can change, then morality is by definition subjective. The point on Hammurabi's code is again not germane. I would leave a lengthier defense, but my opponent has left me with very llttle to defend against.

Defense of Rebuttal

My opponent has essentially restated their earlier arguments, which I addressed in my first rebuttal. To reiterate, saying that society would be better with a belief in objective morality depends on a definition of better, which depends on a definition of morality, making this argument circular.

Additionally, the truth of statements is not determined by whether or not society is better off believing in them.

Law codes are not the same as moral codes. Objective morality requires unilateral acceptance, but law codes are not unilaterally accepted as moral. If they were, they would never change, making them objective, which they are not. Additionally, laws are made by humands whose opinions change overtime, making law codes subjective to another degree as well.

In summary, my opponent's arguments have all either been naive, irrelevant, circular, or inconsistent.

Vote Pro.

Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by DATXDUDE 1 year ago
please vote for me. a puppy dies when you vote for my opponent.
Posted by Surrealism 1 year ago
I really hate it when these debates get no votes. I feel like some people should volunteer to vote on those.
Posted by DATXDUDE 1 year ago
You are right about me calling you a fool. I should not have done that. It just bothers me to see someone vote on their personal beliefs rather than a debate.
Posted by dhardage 1 year ago
I would call it a disqualification since you outright changed the debate to suit yourself after you give con the right to define it. He also provided the most commonly accepted definition and a reference.

My vote will be based upon the content of the debate and, just for the record, calling the only potential voter thus far an utter fool is not the way to make friends and influence people. Try to stick to the subject of the debate, if you are able.
Posted by DATXDUDE 1 year ago
How is that a disqualification? You are an utter fool, and your vote will no doubt be biased.
Posted by dhardage 1 year ago
Con shifted the goal posts and tried to redefine morality to suit his agenda. I'd call that a disqualification. Since I am here, let me also assert that all morality is relative since it has all been handed down from our ancestors and it has changed to suit different times and different cultures. Muslims beheading a homosexual person are behaving morally, according to their holy book and the rules laid down by their religious leaders. We find that abhorrent, at least most of us do, and very immoral. Again, all morality is subjective and there is no valid support Con in this debate.
Posted by Benshapiro 1 year ago
Are you accepting BoP? Does your opponent get to define the terms however they want?
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by DomriRade4444 1 year ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: This was more Con was bad than Pro was good. Pro rebutted successfully all of cons arguments, con contradicted himself multiple times. I will give credit to pro for exposing the logical fallacies in cons arguments.