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The Contender
Con (against)

The ideas of law, justice and ethics are primarily subjective concepts.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/7/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 410 times Debate No: 93459
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Pro: The ideas of law, justice and ethics are primarily subjective concepts.

1. Keep it clean please, no inappropriate language or spamming.
2. We will set a scenario and try to remain on the track to keep the debate concise.
3. We will not discuss every single possibility or contingency.


Hi Forgone,

Happy to accept this debate and looking forward to going over this with you.

I'd like to set some additional rules regarding clarifications:

Subjective: adjective
influenced by or based on personal beliefs or feelings, rather than based on facts

From here on out I will be arguing that Law, justice and ethics are primarily objective concepts.

Good Luck & I await your initial argument
Debate Round No. 1


I thank you for accepting the challenge, I noticed that you commented on another debate I instigated and am looking forward to this debate!

The ideas of both law and justice are provisional concepts of righteousness derived from the ethical code of a given region/society. Ethics is a system of consolidated beliefs founded based on seemingly agreed moral principles within a given region/society. I believe that we can both agree on the fact that morals are essentially subjective.

Assuming that an action deemed unjust (against the law) was taken, the convicted would naturally be prosecuted under standard procedure of the law. In this scenario, it can only be inferred that it violated the ethics of the certain region/society. Since the law is based on set rules that govern the moral functionality of a society. Offenders are those who performs actions opposing such rules, regardless of whether it violates individual moral principals. In practice, the system of justice obeys nothing but the law, ignoring all other ethical/moral oppositions or alternatives.

The law is based on ethics (= seemingly collective morals) of a society, yet people can have differing or even opposing opinions on what is deemed "right", "wrong", "just", or "unjust". If laws, justice, and ethics were indeed primarily objective, why is there such a prominent potential of variability within a given society's ethics and its occupants' morals? One would assume that anything primarily objective would reasonably be indisputable and one-sided in terms of truth (e.g. A human is standing on the table, the fact that he is standing on the table is objective).

With the addition of your set definition, I'd also like to state that:
Despite facts being objective, the individual interpretations of them are subjective and variable by person.


One of life's important learning curves is the formation of a "conscience". The understanding of "right and wrong" that is fundamental to the formation of ethics. justice & laws.

While I can admit that ethics and justice are abstract concepts - I feel that saying that they are subjective would certainly open up some interesting developmental issues as well as seriously questioning how we developed into the civilization we have today.

Take for example a rather famous law: Newtons 3rd Law.

It states that "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

This is an observed effect that occurs on every level of observation and is not down the personal interpretation. While the writing and description of this effect may vary between cultures and societies - the very fact that it is true for everything (hence it's use in our SETI & First Contact principles) means that laws - by this definition are completely objective.

If we are to take this idea of a law that, while based upon a collection of subjective tests/ideas/observers - Is the result of observed effect. This can be then transferred to what I would define as "Legal Law" - the outcome of an event based upon morals.

Before I move into more about legal laws - lets first discuss their framework - ethics & morals. You argue that prominent degrees of variability within a given society's ethics and its occupants' morals mean that all of this is subjective based upon the individual.

I believe that morals are not subjective 100% as subjective as you define. Subjective thought requires a sense of self, knowledge of a situation/outcome and its effect. Experience is one of the key attributes of this - a collective experience as you mentioned that make's up our ethics. Or does it?

A recent study done by Psychologists on babies to confirm if a sense of "right or wrong" is nature or nurture. The results of which (while can be viewed as subjective) were compiled in an objective, scientific method are very interesting. 6-12 month old children cannot communicate or be communicated with in normal terms. They don't grasp complex processes or thoughts (that we know of - I'm all for genius babies) - yet 80% of these babies displayed an understanding of "right and wrong" and the conditions of these tests. [2]

Surely this display indicates that behaviour and understanding of moral issues is also inherent and thus not completely subjective.

Debate Round No. 2


I did not intend to encompass the scientific laws in my contextual usage of "law" as they are a very different definition. I intended to focus solely on the "legal laws" (inferable with the coinciding use of "justice" and "ethics"). I apologise for the lack of clarity on my part.

This is a philosophical discourse. While I agree with your statement, I can claim that developmental issues and other consequential contingencies are of no relevance since the focus of this debate is on the fundamental nature of these concepts. I'd also like to clarify that what I mentioned was that ethics is based on "seemingly collective morals". This statement was used to illustrate the propensity that both ethics and the law adhere to the interests of the healthy majority, and not an attempt to assert a fact.

Regardless of whether 80%, 1%, or 99.99% of humans have coinciding moral opinions on a specific moral principle, anything less than absolute (100%) cannot be considered as true fact, since truths are invariable. You may assert that 99.99% suffices to be fact, but that 0.01% accounts for the variability in the asserted fact -- meaning that it is disputable. In contrast to moral opinions, a true fact would be that both you and I exist as our own, individual consciousness, which is objective absolute and indisputable.

The similarities observed in the psychological tests only serve to prove that humans have very comparable physical and mental frameworks, since there is a strong correlation between the propensity to agree on what is "right and wrong" and the lack of external influence. I assert that these mental similarities are bound by physical consistencies: genetic makeup, evolutionary background, chemical balance, and ethical development based on the history of humanity as well as the time period they reside in. I have reason to believe that the idea of "right and wrong" will differ if we would theoretically take a modern person's opinions and contrast them to those of a person from 20,000 years ago. This difference would be onset by the vastly differing cultural and logical background and environment, as a direct result of the time gap and lack of comparable stimuli and experiences throughout the course of their lives.

You agree that morals are primarily subjective. Relative to the legal action, justice is indeed primairly objective when based off of written legal laws. However, if legal laws on a fundamental level are primarily subjective based upon individual opinions, wouldn't justice and ethics naturally be primarily subjective too? Are they not merely extensions of coinciding indivudal (=seemingly collective) moral concepts (=ethics) used as a tool to strengthen the integrity of a given region/society through enforcement (=justice)? We developed into the civilization we have today due to the use of these concepts in practice, but that does not necessarily mean they are not primarily subjective concepts.

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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
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