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The Contender
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Objective morality is an incoherent concept.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/16/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,301 times Debate No: 99998
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (20)
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Thank you for participating in this debate. I will be arguing in favor of the view that objective morality is an incoherent concept.

The term "objective" is generally understood to mean something that is independent of observation and not subject to opinion or interpretation. An "objective" observer is expected to be totally impartial and unbiased.

On the other hand, "morality" is considered to be a system of values and/or principles of conduct, along with associated prescribed consequences, specifically as they relate to social interaction.

In order to make a "moral" distinction you must form some opinion based on the details of the interaction that is under scrutiny.

Since "objectivity" precludes any opinion formation, although you may be able to render a "moral" verdict, that verdict cannot possibly be considered "objective".

I look forward to exploring your thoughts on the matter at hand.


Thank you, Pro, for providing this debate.

Since my opponent is making the claim that objective morality is an incorherent concept, the burden of proof relies on them. I merely need to disprove their claims to win.

My opponent argues that humans must necessarily make moral judgments that are subjective, and because of this, their moral conclusions must also be subjective. The conclusion does not follow from the premises. People can make subjective claims that have the potential to be objectively true.

For example, let's take a look at the scientific realm of thought. Scientists study the natural world, and by understanding it as best they can, they try to form conclusions that best explain the phenomena that they see. Scientists do not make deductions about the universe, though; rather, they make inductions and use the principle of falsifiability to maintain their theories. Scientists make the assumption that the force of gravity is applied everywhere in the universe, and every test that might falsify this claim still shows the truth of the scientific law. So, even though scientists necessarily make subjective and inductive claims about the universe, they are attempting to make claims that are objectively true.

Similarly, humans do the same thing with morality. People might not be able to completely justify the notion that murder is objectively wrong, but they can create tests of falsifiability. Muder is inductively wrong because it causes disorder in society, and if society didn't follow this law it would erupt into chaos. Using Kant's moral imperative, we can, just like scientists do, use inductive and subjective methods in order to discover objective truths about reality.
Debate Round No. 1


Please don't conflate scientific observation and moral judgment. Oh, ok, nevermind. Go right ahead.

1) Even the staunchest proponents of so called "scientific morality" propose a flexible survey based standard which would change over time, and/or a consequentialist position that attempts to predict the most likely long term "positive" or "negative" impact to society as a whole.

Neither of these qualifies as an objective standard.

A social morality survey changes over time. Objective morality cannot change.

A consequentialist position weighs the contextual information both before and after the act under scrutiny and as such is the very definition of moral relativism (subject to opinion and interpretation), and therefore can not be objective.

2) Science, at least as it is conducted by humans, cannot be truly objective. [1]
The value of scientific conclusions are based on consensus and consensus does not equal objectivity. Although it sort of looks like objectivity consensus isn't true objectivity because it is democratic (not objective) and can still be subject to further refinement or superseded by another more comprehensive conclusion. You know, like Newton and Einstein.

Therefore, people can not make subjective (moral or value) claims that have the potential to be (provably) objective (unchanging and not subject to opinion or interpretation).

Science can tell you that "a dollar is a dollar and it's worth a dollar", but how much that dollar can buy is based on a large number of subjective contextual factors. Who is spending the dollar and when and where they are spending the dollar will change the relative value of that dollar. Even the question of who gave you the dollar and what you did to obtain the dollar can affect its relative value. Science may help you make some predictions about this fluctuation, but the fact that it is not stable defies the very definition of objective value.



"Please don't conflate scientific observation and moral judgment. Oh, ok, nevermind. Go right ahead."

This is my opponents opening paragraph of his second round, and it is very telling of his inability to maintain a respectable approach to debate and his inability to use intelligent and constructive arguments instead of emotional and unjustified sarcastic rhetoric.

My opponent then fallaciously straw manned my arguments by stating that I proposed a morality that changes over time, which perhaps requires a consequentialist position. I deny both of these claims, and ask that my opponent actually criticize my arguments, not the imagined version his subjective view or reality restricts him to perceive.

Ironically, my opponent offers a link that is contrary to his position, which he would have known had be bothered to attempt to understand, or at the very least, had he managed to succeed at merely reading the entire passage. Yes, there are skeptics to scientific objectivity, and given that humans are subjective and biased, there are difficulties at arriving at objective truths. However, this does not take away from the necessary ideal of science to be striving for finding objective truths about reality. As my opponent pointed out, Newton explained a concept of gravity. Later on, Einstein improved upon that theory. This is an example of striving towards objectivity. General relativity may be an incomplete description yet, so we must still strive to continue to revise and update our scientific knowledge as best we can to explain all available data. But, if my opponent were to propose that science is not objective, does not the law of gravity apply to him? Even without perfect knowledge, we have the ability to come to some understandings of its affects on reality.

Similarly, we have the ability to make approximations about objective moral truths. Now, our current moral frameworks are most probably incomplete, but this does prove as an example that we shouldn't have the principle of politics to be to strive for objective morals.

Lastly, my opponent makes a conflation with science and economics. He proposes that, because we aren't able to accurately predict what the value of a dollar will be, this somehow proves his claims. However, no one ever claimed that money had to maintain a value over time, rather, the nature of economics is that it necessarily changes over time. Also, the fact that we can't accurately predict the future value of the dollar is an epistemic restriction, not an ontological one. If we had enough information about the human mind, and the society at large, we would then be able to accurately predict how much money would be.

My opponent has no valid position; vote con!
Debate Round No. 2


Con has chosen to open his second round argument with an unambiguous and baseless ad hominem attack.

Con's first round argument is far afield of the scope of this debate which is namely the concept of "objective morality".
I was initially inclined to dismiss his attempt to derail the focus on "objective morality" with his completely off-topic descriptions of "science" and "reality". It is commonly acknowledged that "science" and "morality" are mutually exclusive because of the simple fact that "morality" is not a quantifiable substance or force. However, upon further reflection, I decided it might be interesting to explore this side track with Con even though it remains completely beside the point.

My comment, which Con decided to take offense to, is merely an acknowledgement that I am willing to explore his line of reasoning instead of holding him to the conventional standard of remaining on topic.

I'm not sure how Con mistook my steel man for a weak argument. I found the best examples of justifications in favor of using science to define moral standards and presented them, which seems more than fair since Con was the one who tried to drag "science" into this discussion about "morality". Con claims to disavow these views, which is fine, but he then fails to offer any argument whatsoever that "morality" can ever be considered "objective" or even what "science" has to do with any of it.

I would now like to quote Con, "Yes, there are skeptics to scientific objectivity..." end of story. If something is subject to opinion (skeptics) and/or changes over time (like the Newton Einstein example) then it is not "objective" and does not imply anything eternal and unchanging is being approached.

Con has repeatedly made the appeal that even though we don't currently have any "objective" standards of "morality" the idea that we may be reaching a broader consensus on the matter is somehow evidence that "objective morality" does indeed exist. Broad consensus does not equal (or imply) "objectivity" no matter how much someone strives for it.

Lastly, Con proves my point that even the simplest example of the supposedly "objective" value of a dollar is a veritable quagmire of complex variables. And once again completely misses the point that no matter how accurately we are able to predict the value of a dollar, the fact that it ever changes at all means that its value is not "objective". And as for Con's ad hoc objection that I am co-mingling "science" and "economics", the example holds true whether you use "a dollar" or anything else you can imagine, like "an ounce of cesium sulfide" or a "bushel of grain" or "a loyal friend". All measurements of value (moral or otherwise) are subject to contextual fluctuation and therefore can not possibly be "objective".

Con's basic premise continues to be that "People can make subjective claims that have the potential to be objectively true." This is provably false because subjective claims and objective truth are mutually exclusive. Con is conflating "a broad consensus of moral standards" with "objective morality". The one in no way implies the existence of the other.

Even Plato's perfect Forms and Kant's noumena are not considered proof of objectivity. Simply because we can observe something does not in any way indicate that it is eternal and unchanging.

In closing, I will simply restate the core of my position. Since "objectivity" precludes any opinion formation, although you may be able to render a "moral" verdict, that verdict cannot possibly be considered "objective".

Therefore, objective morality is an incoherent (self contradictory) concept.


The ad hominem fallacy is when an argument is rebutted by attacking the character of the person making the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself. I thoroughly refuted the substance of my opponent's claims, while also pointing out the sarcastic rhetoric he obviously portrayed.

My opponent again straw-manned me by falsely claiming that I declared that morality is a quantifiable substance, and that I also claimed that it wasn't mutually exclusive to science. Contrarily, I used the empirical method of evaluating the natural world as an analogy to show how we can similarly use methods to determine things that are morally beneficial or not to society.

My opponent then embarrassingly argued that because the law of gravity changed over time, from Newton to Einstein, then morality must change over time also. This is ridiculously false. The law of gravity did not change over time; our understanding of it did. So too does our understanding of morality change over time, perfecting and becoming closer to the objective truths.

Pro again misrepresented me by stating that I made the argument that the consensus somehow equals objectivity. Either my opponent contains no ability to understand any complicated matters, or prefers to misrepresent every single argument any opponent of his may make.

My opponent again makes the argument that morality is comparable to economics. He claims that all measurements of value are subject to change. Then, my opponent must concede that, in some cultures, murder can be okay, and it can later change to not being permissible.

Pro's basic argument is this: Person X is trapped in a sauna, and the control panel to turn down the heat is outside of the room. Pro is outside the room, near the control panel. Person X asks Pro to turn down the heat, and Pro demands that he can't turn down the heat until he knows which exact number to turn the heat down to.

Not having full justified knowledge of the ontological truth does not disprove the subjective ability to make estimates close to that mark, with the potential to even hit that mark.

Debate Round No. 3
20 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
Objective morality is an incoherent concept because it is internally inconsistent; illogical.
Posted by Death23 1 year ago
So what
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
From Death23's dictionary link:

1.2 (of an ideology, policy, or system) internally inconsistent; illogical.
"the film is ideologically incoherent"
Posted by Death23 1 year ago
I only read through round 1. I'm not going to vote on it. Pro defines all the important terms in the resolution except the most important one - "incoherent". Left with that, I would have to resort to using dictionaries to find an objective standard to apply when I would judge this debate. The best one I can find is definition 1.2 here:

That standard puts the bar pretty high for Pro. Perhaps Pro could show that objective morality has some logical inconsistencies, but that wouldn't be enough. I would want to see that objective morality is so illogical and riddled with inconsistencies that, on a whole, it would be reasonable to characterize it as incoherent. Anything short of that wouldn't satisfy the standard.

Because of that, I would be very likely to vote for Con here, on the burdens alone.
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
By any standard you choose, "objectivity" is by definition, inversely proportional to any attempt to define "morality". A Procrustean standard of "morality" is the most obvious injustice of all.

The story of Procrustes:
Posted by 3RU7AL 1 year ago
Your best argument would seem to be something like the following.

"It is immoral to create an inflexible and unchanging code that ignores the circumstances leading up to and the consequences following the particular act under scrutiny and/or the opinions of the community in which the particular act takes place."

This would seem to be practically identical to the standard we currently utilize.

However, even this still only reaches the bar of "broad consensus" and cannot be considered truly objective.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
Wonder why a subject does strive for anything else but it self ?
Posted by canis 1 year ago
It is you.(subject) ..Considering the objective..But it has nothing to do with any objectivety..
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 1 year ago
I consider karma a doctrine of universal conditioning, it's not really 'objective morality' insofar as it is a metaphysical standpoint on ethics/our afterlives. Unless of course you believe it a natural law like gravity, to which the burden of proof falls to you.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
Objective morality is as real as objective love..It would make no sense to any subject...
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