The Instigator
induced
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Stephen_Hawkins
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

a subjective moralist saying "X is immoral" is like me saying "the blue M&M is green"

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
Stephen_Hawkins
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/21/2013 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,733 times Debate No: 30457
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (15)
Votes (4)

 

induced

Pro

when subjective moralists say "rape is immoral", all they mean is "i dislike rape" or "society dislikes rape" or something along those lines. this is like if i defined the word "green" to mean "a color that i like", and therefore i could hold up a blue M&M and say "this is green". it is very misleading to use that kind of terminology because the statement "X is Y" doesnt have any kind of subjective pronoun like "i" or "you". why dont you just call a spade a spade? if you dont like rape, just say you dont like it. do subjective moralists say misleading things like "rape is immoral" in order to purposefully hide their true position? or are they just too stupid to understand that it is an ambiguous and misleading statement? i often hear objective moralists saying that "subjective moralists" dont believe in right or wrong, but subjective moralists will deny that and say that they do consider some things to be subjectively right or wrong. what are these subjective moralists trying to prove? that they have preferences? that society has preferences? do they think that objective moralists are claiming that subjective moralists dont have preferences? of course they understand that you/society doesnt like certain actions, so stop pretending as though that is what moral objectivists are arguing.
Stephen_Hawkins

Con

I've done this debate already using larger words, and realise that this was the wrong way of going about it. So instead I'll try and put forth a concise case.

Firstly, those believing in objective morality believe that morality is binding to everyone, and that is the key aspect (though to be fair it is larger than this, it means it is independent of people, the fact that all are bound to morality is the key aspect). By contrast, ethical subjectivists say that morality is binding to communities. Outside of the community, the ethics is no longer binding.

This is a debate in the subject known as meta-ethics, meaning the study of ethics. Meta-ethics is the deal of saying "what do I mean when I say Murder is wrong?" So, applying what we know, people who believe in objective morality say that everyone has to follow this moral system, and by contrast those who believe in subjective morality says everyone inside this community has to follow this moral system.

An example helps. If a 20th century evangelist was brought into 14th century Maya where a sacrifice ritual was taking place, then a moral objectivist would argue (in general) that killing the individual is wrong, as there is an objective law by God telling us this is wrong. A moral relativist would say, by contrast, would say that this is morally right in their community, but morally wrong in his/her.

Or give another example. Imagine I live in Taliban Afghanistan. A moral objectivist there would say their Sharia Law is objectively morally right, and works everywhere, should be in place everywhere, and anyone disagreeing is wrong. A moral subjectivist would say that in their community, they may think they're right, but a Western individual would say that their morality is wrong.

To sum up, the moral law of an objectivist is universal and applies to every individual, regardless of their communities. By contrast, the moral law of a subjectivist is binding to a community, and as such does not apply to people outside the community.

How does this make moral subjectivists different from moral nihilists though? Well, imagine I'm a muslim in Taliban Afghanistan. A nihilist would say that a woman nor wearing a burkha or a man shaving is neither morally right nor wrong. A moral objectivist would claim that, no matter if they were in Afghanistan or India or Australia or Venus, people should still be muslim, women should wear the burkha and men should not shave. Moral subjectivists claim something different though. They say that yes, one should be muslim in Taliban Afghanistan, but in Australia, the morality is different. The moral subjectivist may disagree with whether shaving is moral or not on a preference level, but inside the community, one should, by being moral, not shave. Morality becomes essentially conforming with expectations.

So we have a solution to the meta-ethical problem. When we say Murder is wrong, while a moral objectivist says murder conflicts with a moral law or principle, and nihilists may mean murder is neither permissible nor impermissible, moral subjectivists say murder is an act that is abnormal to the community, and diverges from communal customs.

My opponent's case is that "when subjective moralists say "rape is immoral", all they mean is "i dislike rape" or "society dislikes rape" or something along those lines". And he is right, that some claim this. To be fair, though, clearly the first person pronoun and the third person "society" makes a massive difference in what morality is. And yes, if we start redefining "green", "blue", and "M&M", then we can claim "blue M&Ms are green". However, there is a massive difference.

The fact that an M&M is green is a factual issue, independent of our opinion. It relates to the correspondence theory of truth, a posh way of saying "things are what they are". Morality relates to the coherence theory of truth, which means "things are how we see them". The former claims a physical fact, while the other is a social institution.
Debate Round No. 1
induced

Pro

"The fact that an M&M is green is a factual issue, independent of our opinion. It relates to the correspondence theory of truth, a posh way of saying "things are what they are". Morality relates to the coherence theory of truth, which means "things are how we see them". The former claims a physical fact, while the other is a social institution."

those ideas are formed based on an objective definition for green (blue mixed with yellow), not a subjective definition for green (a color that i or society likes). since you resent a subjective definition for green, perhaps you will understand why i resent a subjective definition for morality. if you use my definition for green, then green isnt a claim of a physical fact, it is a claim of ones/societys preference just like your definition for subjective morality

im going to define subjective greenness as color that society likes, and slightly modify a few words in your statements below to illustrate my point

here goes: Firstly, those believing in objective greenness believe that greenness is binding to everyone, and that is the key aspect. By contrast, green subjectivists say that greenness is binding to communities. Outside of the community, the standard of greenness is no longer binding. To sum up, the green standard of an objectivist is universal and applies to every individual, regardless of their communities. By contrast, the green standard of a subjectivist is binding to a community, and as such does not apply to people outside the community.
===========================

i still dont see the diference
Stephen_Hawkins

Con

As I said, yes, by redefining every word then yes, you can make your statement true. Just as if I redefined "chair" to object and "not" to "certainly is", then I can say "This chair is not a chair". However, that doesn't change the problem still at hand. Moreover, in the example you gave where redefining some words, the difference between subjectivism and objectivism is still extremely clear.

Green is an objectively true statement. If something is green, then it is green for everyone. Language may dispute it to a minor extent (and colour is an awkward issue to pick because it is an intuitively known thing, meaning it's impossible to define), but everyone knows what green is, and if you say something isn't green, we'd usually say you're wrong. This is to do with 'facts'.

Morality, by contrast, is subjectively true (for a moral subjectivist). If something is wrong, it is wrong for a community and outside that community it may be right or wrong.

Thus, there is a clear difference. My opponent may "resent a subjective definition for morality", but that's not my problem: its theirs. I dislike a deontological definition of morality. That doesn't stop it being an explanation of morality.

As I have some space, I'll fill it up with different meta-ethical theories (explanations of what we mean when we say "X is wrong"

Possible Moral Objectivist Theories

Kantian Morality - X conflicts with the categorical imperatives (it either cannot be universalised or uses people as a means to an end)
Utilitarianism - X goes against the production of the greatest good for the greatest number
Situation Ethics - X goes against love
Virtue Ethics - X cultivates the wrong virtues

Possible Moral Subjectivist Theories

Contractualism - X breaches the contract made between individuals in a community
Consensualism - X goes against what people want to be done to them in a community
Prescriptivism - X goes against the imperatives people ascribe to one another

Now, you may notice that some of them are not necessarily objective or subjective. The interesting thing about subjectivism is that it does not necessarily have a community where some are excluded. In other words, some of the theories may include every single individual when it comes to evaluation. This is a universal subjective theory.

The most clear example is universal prescriptivism. It is an extremely useful theory in the sense that it has the benefit of holding everyone to a moral standard, but at the same time it doesn't need a moral code to exist objectively and inpdendent to us - it still remains an institution which isn't a moral fact but a social system.

Morally objective theories are true for everyone, because they are objective and thus exist whether we do or not. Morally subjective theories are true for everyone, because it works for a universal community, but stop existing if we do not.

Consider currency. Money does not have an objective worth. If we stop existing, the dollar won't be worth anything. It has no objective value. However, it is universally valued, and as such it is worth something to everyone, and bound to a monetary value, whether we as an individual want it to or not.

Thus, subjective morality is for the community, and thus does not exist outside a community. By contrast, things like the colour of objects exist outside of the community, and thus are a certain colour whether we like it or not. Both of these are valid moral hypotheses, but they just relate to the world differently.

Moreover, subjective morality isn't necessarily preference. Many subjectivist theories work in such a way that what society likes is irrelevant: contractualism is a good example of this. It is an ethical theory which says morality is the acceptance of contracts by two parties, meaning two individuals accept a common morality.

However, the end result is the same: morality works as long as people are around, while the colour of objects is true regardless of preference; it is true whether we like it or not.
Debate Round No. 2
induced

Pro

you keep rejecting my subjective definition of green for the same reasons that i am rejecting your subjective definition of morality. this proves my point.

you agree that by my definition of green, my statements are true
i agree that by your definition of morality, your statements are true.

you resent my definition of green, because you prefer an objective definition for green
i resent your definition of morality, because i prefer an objective definition of morality.

by subjective definitions of morality, the reason charity might be moral is because people like charitable actions.
by subjective definitions of greenness, the reason a blue M&M might be green is because people like the color blue.

whether something qualifies as "moral" or not depends on if you define morality objectively or subjectively
whether something qualifies as "green" or not depends on if you define greenness objectively or subjectively. you seem to even agree with that, but that is my whole point, it goes both ways

based on your objective definition of green, when would an M&M qualify as green? when it is yellow-blue.
based on my subjective definition of green (a color society likes), when would an M&M qualify as green? when society likes the color of the M&M.

based on an objective definition of morality, when would an action qualify as moral? when it objectively should be done.
based on your subjective definition of morality, when would an action qualify as moral? when society likes the action.

defining green subjectively is sufficiently analogous to defining morality subjectively. there would be less misunderstandings if people said "i dislike rape", instead of using the statement "rape is immoral" based on a subjective definition of "immoral", and if people said "i like the color of that blue M&M", instead of using the statement "that M&M is green" based on a subjective definition of "green"

Stephen_Hawkins

Con

My opponent has basically said again that subjectivists define morality (a social institution) differently is lie defining green (a physical fact) subjectively. The difference is one is based in human relation, the other is objective and independent of humans. This hasn't been addressed, and thus my case has not been addressed. What morality is varies from person to person, but colour does not. As such, there is no analogous link. The analogy fails and it does not matter.
Debate Round No. 3
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
wrichcirw
This object is /is/ certainly a chair lol
Posted by likespeace 3 years ago
likespeace
> "Just as if I redefined "chair" to object and "not" to "certainly is", then I can say "This chair is not a chair".

"This chair is not a chair." => "This object /is/ certainly is a object."

Good catch, darris. The point is there. The translation ends up a bit rough. ;)
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 3 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
No it isn't.
Posted by darris321 3 years ago
darris321
This object is /is/ certainly a chair lol
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
Oh, it's possible I caught the older comment and not the newer one. If I misunderstood, I apologize.
Posted by Deadlykris 4 years ago
Deadlykris
In a comment yesterday, which you quickly corrected in another comment.
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 4 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
Where did I conflate the two? My case rested on the two being separate.
Posted by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
Stephen_Hawkins,

Moral relativism does not automatically entail truth being relative. There are, of course, people who accept both. But there are also people who accept truth as being objective but morality as relative. I used to conflate the two, also, until I came across some who make a distinction between the two.
Posted by Stephen_Hawkins 4 years ago
Stephen_Hawkins
i'm most happy with magic's comment with my writing being enjoyable: I ballsed that up recently so I am glad that my writing is nicer to read and understand.
Posted by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
> "im saying that the definitions they use are misleading"

You've now lost two debates on moral subjectivity. At this point, a wise person would consider that whatever source(s) they used to learn about the subject was flawed, and find another one.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Deadlykris 4 years ago
Deadlykris
inducedStephen_HawkinsTied
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro basically conceded in the final round, though it was an attempt to demonstrate that their agreement on the matter meant Con conceded. Furthermore, Pro was unable to refute anything said by Con.
Vote Placed by KeytarHero 4 years ago
KeytarHero
inducedStephen_HawkinsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I believe in objective morality, I just thought this analogy was flawed from the start, and I still do. Pro really didn't make much of a case for his statement (and really, I'm not sure much of a case could have been made) because he is confusing the issue of objective versus subjective morality, and objective versus subjective truth. One can be a moral relativist and still hold that truth is objective and knowable.
Vote Placed by Magic8000 4 years ago
Magic8000
inducedStephen_HawkinsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: I really enjoyed reading this debate (mostly Cons posts). Pro is making a category mistake with the physical and social. Morality isn't a physical thing, trying to compare physical things to it is flawed. Pro didn't understand this at all and instead kept debating as if the analogy was valid.
Vote Placed by likespeace 4 years ago
likespeace
inducedStephen_HawkinsTied
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's analogy fails because "saying that morality is subjective is not the same as saying that truth is relative" or "What morality is varies from person to person, but colour does not. As such, there is no analogous link." Pro did not meet the burden of proof to show that the simile is appropriate. Based on previous debate, Pro doesn't like moral relativism, and this seems to have given him a blind spot for understanding it.