In a world that will inevitably be more and more influenced by technology and the free flow of information as time goes on, striving for objective morality is a waste of time, because morality can never, and should never, be static. Sorry if that was a run on sentence. This is my first debate, so I assume I am only supposed to state my stance at first.
. . . morality can never, and should never, be static.
My opponent takes an absolute moral position against morality being static. Therefore, he has refuted himself. If morality is static, then my opponent loses. If it is not static, then the above statement is also wrong, and my opponent loses.
The number one proof that morality is objective is that our human experience demands it. No matter how much people insist that morality is relative, we all behave as though it is not. Therefore, we are either all insane, or morality is indeed objective.
In fact, a simple test will put my opponent straight. I ask my opponent if there is ever a time in which the rape of a little girl is morally good. For instance, in a world that is "more and more influenced by techonology", would it be okay for a pedophile to rape a little girl if we had the technology to erase all physical and mental traces of the incident such that the little girl would never even know it had occurred?
My opponent has taken my statement, most notably the word "should", out of context. "Should" is not being used in terms of "Morality must not be treated as being static, for that would be immoral." The statement simply means: "Since morality cannot be static, it CANNOT be treated as so, if it is sought to be improved. Improvement is the inevitable consequence, of a non-static morality. Proof that this occurs in reality, is the lack of consensus as to what objective morality must be, when assumed to even exist.
The number one proof that morality is NOT objective, is that our SUBJECTIVE human experiences demand it. Human experience, like morality, is non-static, and is not a whole. Sanity is also subjective, from a subject, to the observer. Therefore, sanity is an inefficient factor in this debate.
My opponent has given me an ultimatum. I must agree that rape is O.K. if the memories of the afflicted can be erased, or say it is not, and lose the argument. The erasing of a memory does not change the fact that it actually occurred. My opponents argument would only hold water, if technology could erase an actual event that occurred. This is self-contradicting, and logically impossible. I cannot have an opinion on an event that never occurred.
Here is an logical approach as to why morality can't be objective, using variables:
We have two men, one jobless, starving man (Man 1), and one hungry man, who is employed, and has just enough money for a single bite of food (Man 2).
Man 1's starvation is X, man 2's degree of wealth for food is Y. Make the degree of starvation with man 1, equal to the degree of wealth with man 2. This degree will be represented by the number 8, for no particular reason except to stray from the numbers 1 and 2, since they've already been used extensively. Man 1 asks Man 2 for the food money, because he is starving. Man 2 refuses, although he is not as hungry as man 1. If Man 1 were to then steal Man 2's money for food, who has committed the immoral act? Using contemporary ideas of immorality, they both have, and to the same degree of 8. This event could occur back and forth, until both men are dead. Since lifespan is not a factor, lets say they both live forever. The fact that immorality has occurred here (Based on contemporary standards of what is claimed to be "Objective Morality"), Since this event keeps occurring infinitely , the degree of immorality is non-static. If the degree of immorality is can be made to be non-static, so must the degree of morality. Therefore, objective morality is non-existent.
I didn't realize I was taking the term "should" out of context. If the term "should" was used as equivalent to the term "can" then why did he use the term "should" at all? Given his correction, his opening statement is translated to mean ". . . because morality can never, and [can] never, bet static." Either my opponent was being oddly redundant or he is backpedalling on an earlier statement in order to avoid my criticism.
The fact that morality is under constant dispute is not proof that morality is not objective. It is equally plausible that humanity is simply disagreeing or disregarding real moral laws. In fact, using my opponent's logic, it could be said that laws of physics are not static because physicists still disagree on a lot of scientific issues. If the conclusion regarding physics is non sequitur, then it must be so with morality.
My opponent seemed to take my terms "human experience" and "insanity" a bit literally. So, let me clarify my point. Relative morality cannot be actually lived out. In other words, my opponent says morality is subject to alteration, but when push comes to shove, he will not act that way. Case in point, if all of humanity agreed that it was morally right for KRFournier to take anyone's property, then dlange should not be indignant when I take his car, given his own view of morality.
This is why I brought up the rape scenario. I was not insisting the Con must agree that it is right. I'm asking him if it is right. I'm challenging his ethical framework. Let me be more direct. Dlange, if society ever comes to a consensus that rape is morally right, then is rape morally right?
I am exposing the underlying fallacy of Con's position. Moral relativity commits the fallacy of equivocation by inadvertently equating moral assessment with moral obligation. Moral assessment is the act of a person assessing whether something is right or wrong. Moral assessment is truly a subjective action. Moral obligation is that act of one person obligating another person to adhere to some kind of moral standard. It is irrational to say, "You cannot take my stereo because it is my opinion that stealing is wrong." Just because society can agree that stealing is wrong doesn't solve the problem either, because there are countless moments in history in which whole societies were wrong.
This leads to a fundamental question we must ask of Con. If morality is not fixed, then how do we know what is right and wrong? Who decides? Is it democratic or based on might? I eagerly await answers to these critical questions.
Regarding Con's starvation anecdote, I must admit that I just can't figure out what it's supposed to prove. He says both men are immoral, but I don't see how. Even if I grant my opponent that morality is based on current trends (which I don't), I don’t see how current moral trends identify Man 2 as immoral. How is it immoral to refuse to feed a starving man at your own mortal expense? It seems to me that only the man that steals is immoral. So, how exactly is this a deadlock?
My opponent is correct in that the existence of the word "Should" in my opening statement has no place. My attempts to justify it are futile, and I will admit fault. But lets entertain his assertion that saying something "Should" or "Shouldn't" be, would negate my argument. I am not claiming that morality itself does not exist. I am not claiming that moral standpoints do not exist. I am claiming that to consider morality as being objective is a waste of time. So Ill ask m opponent to not remove the word "Should", but to add the word "Considered", between "should never", and "be static". The only thing wrong with that statement, is the manner in which I expressed it. This explanation will most certainly be looked down upon by my opponent, and rightfully so, for I did not my prepare my opening statement adequately enough. If he were to refuse further argument on the basis that my foundation was flawed in expression, I would not be offended, for I'm here to learn to not make such mistakes.
In my opponents second paragraph, he compares morality to physics. I cannot entertain this thought, because I simply cannot make the connection. Physics exists, whether or not we as humans experience it. Physics exists, without the slightest bit of human intervention. I could have cited areas of science where it has been claimed that the universe hasn't always followed the laws of physics we experience today, but that would be entertaining the idea the same factors that contribute to physics, also do to morality. Morality is an invention of man, that has been and continues to be amended to this day.
A good reason morality cannot be static, is that there is always context to a moral assertion. The reasons for which my property could be seized, could be infinitely different from my opponents reasons for taking my car. In fact, only if it was objectively moral for my property to be seized, would I have no right to be angry if he took my car.
"Dlange, if society ever comes to a consensus that rape is morally right, then is rape morally right?"
If society came to a consensus that rape was morally correct, then it would be morally correct, because morality is a man made invention, therefore, it is subject to manipulation and determination by man. The beautiful thing about a non-static morality, is that such a thing could still be challenged. I think what my opponent meant to ask, was that if society were to come to a consensus that it wasn't necessarily considered immoral to rape someone, would it be ok to rape someone. What I would say to that is "Well thank goodness morality is non-static, therefore always up for discussion".
"There are countless moments in history in which whole societies were wrong".
Again, and thank goodness that morality is not objective.
As for my starvation argument: I stated that the man with the money was hungry, but not starving, to assert that he wasn't necessarily in mortal danger. But since my opponents rebuttal is not based on this concept, I can't present a defense.
I mentioned physics precisely because it "exists, whether or not we as humans experience it." That's my point. Even though it exists in an objective way, physicists still are in disagreement. Therefore, just because people are in disagreement in ethics does not mean morality is subjective. It is equally plausible that morality "exists, whether or not we as humans experience it." Therefore, my opponent's earlier premises fail to reach his intended conclusion.
My opponent says morality cannot be objective because context is involved. Again, there are objective scientific laws that operate differently depending on external conditions, so why not moral laws? This does not support his case any more than the previous argument.
My opponent has stated that, if society was in consensus that rape was morally good, then it would in fact be morally good. Are we to believe that under such a hypothetical scenario, if his mother, or sister, or lover were raped, he would not be indignant? I hardly think so. He would have two choices:
- Abandon his ethical philosophy and admit that rape is always wrong.
- Assert his opinion and demand that his moral opinion be heard.
There are many ways in which option 2 can play out, but ultimately, as soon as he demands to be heard, he is appealing to an objective moral standard: that minorities always have a right to be heard. Again we see that relative morality is simply irrational. It cannot be lived.
My opponent doesn't make any mention of my argument about the fallacy of equivocation he is making between moral assessment and moral obligation. If morality is nothing more than consensual opinion, then on what basis does one make moral obligations? Even if 99% of the world agrees that rape is wrong, why should one not rape? If he says, "because majority opinion rules," then he is appealing to objective morality: that one must never contradict majority rule. If he says, "because we will punish you," then that is an appeal to might-makes-right, in which case the would-be perpetrator can build an army of like-minded people and overthrow the majority in order to make rape okay.
My opponent can say morality is relative until the sun comes down, but I would bet even money that he will never actually live that way. There will be many occasion in which injustice comes knocking, and he will cry foul. When he does, it won't be some mere academic opinion. He won't just say, "You violated majority consensus." No, he will demand justice as though justice is absolute.
My opponent insists that the logic used to express scientific laws and ideas can be applied to an abstract concept such as morality. The manner in which scientists are in disagreement about science, is in no way similar to the way me and my opponent are in disagreement about morality. Scientists can all agree that at the end of the day, there is a right answer to a scientific problem, regardless as to whether or not either side of the argument has actually found it. I am arguing that there is no true right answer in the question of morality, except that it is variable, while my opponent argues the opposite.
"Again, there are objective scientific laws that operate differently depending on external conditions, so why not moral laws?"
This idea would make those scientific laws NOT objective. The field of science is unique in that it always pursues objectivity, while maintaining that it is an unattainable goal. Now, being objective in the manner in which you come to scientific conclusions could be applied to morality, but this still doesn't make morality itself objective.
My opponent needs to be more clear about the rape scenario. He is trying to tell me how I would feel in a situation where someone close to me was raped, because society had come to the consensus that it was morally good. I guess it would depend on what side of the consensus I was on. Since I believe morality is subjective, I would need to be convinced of how rape could be morally good. Only if society came to an objective consensus that rape was morally good (assuming I'm not actually a part of it, just observing with my mind), would I be troubled.
"If morality is nothing more than consensual opinion, then on what basis does one make moral obligations?"
The answer: On the basis of consensual opinion, which is what we have been doing all along. My opponent is blurring my argument when saying that I believe in majority rule. Believing in subjective morality only asserts that the majority WILL inevitably rule, but can be changed. Again, that's the beauty of a non-static moral system.
Of course I would assert my idea of morality and justice, this doesn't make them objective. Only if I assert them as absolutes, would they be. Because I accept the fact that my idea o these concepts can be changed at any time. I don't see how the last paragraph proves that I unknowingly believe in objective morality. I suggest my opponent takes my idea of morality rule that I attempted to clear up in the paragraph before this one.
I am indeed insisting that "the logic used to express scientific laws and ideas can be applied to an abstract concept such as morality." The reason this works is that scientific laws are also abstract. Laws of any sort are, by definition, universal and invariant. Only abstract entities have such qualities. So, when my opponent says "the manner in which scientists are in disagreement about science, is in no way similar to the way me and my opponent are in disagreement about morality," he is simply making a bare assertion. Just as "scientists can all agree that at the end of the day," so can ethicists. So, how does this support his position at all? I am well aware that he is arguing "that there is no true right answer in the question of morality," but my point is that he can't substantiate it.
My goal is to expose my opponent's presuppositions. My opponent is assuming the nature of morality from the start. He can't in any way substantiate his claims other than to restate them with ever increasing emphasis. I don't fault him for his pre-commitments because there is no other choice. Morality is ultimately a worldview presupposition. I presuppose morality is objective; he presupposes morality is sociological.
The question becomes, how do we determine which presupposition is more rational? We do so using transcendental argumentation, i.e., by determining which presupposition provides the necessary preconditions for our human experience. I submit that relative morality falls woefully short on this count. Relative morality makes moral obligation philosophically unintelligible and practically irrational. To say someone "ought not" do something is more than an expression of mere opinion. It is the assertion that another human being is in violation of some external rule. Relative morality cannot account for moral obligation.
My opponent exemplifies this when he says, "Since I believe morality is subjective, I would need to be convinced of how rape could be morally good." This is all well and good within the purview of moral assessment, but he will contradict his ethical framework as soon as he obligates another human being to live contrary to consensus. In fact, my opponent admits that were he living in a society that condones rape, he would be troubled. Why? Because he will never deem rape as wrong. He unwittingly adheres to an objective moral standard.
You see, I don't have to worry about these philosophical dilemmas. If rape being wrong is a matter of universal truth, then I have every rational reason to oppose it no matter what society says otherwise. My ethical worldview is rational and livable. My opponent's worldview requires making the illogical leap from what is to what ought.
One must also question my opponent's understanding of what it means to be objective. In my previous round I asked, "Again, there are objective scientific laws that operate differently depending on external conditions, so why not moral laws?" My opponent's answer was that "this idea would make those scientific laws NOT objective." My opponent is gravely mistaken. The law of gravity most certainly has variables (mass of the object, etc.), yet it is no less objective. Gravity is hardly an issue of opinion. And if gravity can be objectively described with constants and variables, then so can moral laws. Thus, my opponent cannot continue to rest is laurels on the idea that context automatically proves subjectivity.
I asked, "If morality is nothing more than consensual opinion, then on what basis does one make moral obligations?" My opponent's answer, "on the basis of consensual opinion," just begs the question. He just told us that he would need to be convinced of the morality of something regardless of consensus, yet he tells us here that his basis for moral obligation is based on consensus. Which is it? My opponent cannot have it both ways. Going back to the rape-is-consensually-good scenario, am I to understand that he would morally assess that rape is wrong but not obligate people to refrain from the activity? Such behavior is certifiably insane. This is precisely what I mean when I say that relative morality cannot be rationally lived out.
Relative morality leads to far too many absurdities to be philosophical tenable. Even my opponent can't seem to maintain a solid footing. Objective morality is proven by the utter irrationality of its opposite. I maintain, therefore, that the resolution is affirmed.
dlange forfeited this round.
My opponent sadly did not show up for his final round. I extend all arguments.