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Do moral absolutes exist?

YYW
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5/5/2012 12:25:14 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Resolved: Moral absolutes exist.

Simply, I'm talking about unquestionable lines of right and wrong. I'm not talking about ways of distinguishing right from wrong, theories of identifying moral worth, or anything like that. Are there moral absolutes? Are there things/acts that are wrong in every case which are provably so?

There have been a lot of debates about ostensibly "moral" issues on here. Some of them I have commented on, and some others I have just read over. Most of them are interesting -to a degree- but most of them presuppose that "right" can be distinguished from "wrong" and do so by arguing natural law (or some version of what they think natural law ought to be), or take some sort of relativist approach. All assume that right and wrong exist. Perhaps it's just the postmodernist in me, but the more and more I think about it, the harder and harder it becomes to logically justify anything more than absolute moral nihilism (if we remove God from the equation). Now, from a religious perspective, distinguishing right from wrong becomes an application of cannon law to a given act. From a non-religous perspective, what are we left with? The opinion of man? Of which natural law is an invention of man's intellect? Who is to say that one opinion is more valid than another? Popular opinion? If absolutes exist -and I'm not saying that they do- wouldn't it stand to reason that they are above popular opinion.

Just something I have been thinking about. If anyone is interested, please don't hesitate to comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
FREEDO
Posts: 21,057
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5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept? Can anyone point to a spec on a map of the Universe and say "See that, right there? That's morals. I told you they exist!"
Ethics is the sum of self-manifested contrasts and arbitrary ends based on interchangeable standards.
That's not all too disagreeable here but I go a lot farther that most and also conclude that logic is equally as imaginary.
GRAND POOBAH OF DDO

fnord
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/5/2012 7:35:03 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
On here, the various ethical questions -some specific topics in particular- seem especially popular subjects of "debate." To be clear, by "debate" I mean the exchange of and contrast of ideas against one another in a sort of mid-way exercise existing between dialectic and dysfunction. Subjects of contemporary moral inquiry are especially popular. Homosexuality, abortion and the like.

Various arguments from dogmatists masquerading as ethicists (I maintain the mutual exclusivity of the two, although the like delineating the two is admittedly as arbitrary as it is capricious) are rehashed in varying capacities. Examples are exchanged which only fuddle the matter further. They all run the same. Some are entertaining to read, others are not. All begin (wether they realize it or not) that some standard of absolute morality -or at least absolute morality as it applies to their issue of choice- exists.

My perspective on morality bounces between a nearly triangulation of nihilism, postmodernism and relativism.
Ren
Posts: 7,102
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5/6/2012 9:58:24 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality".

I'm kind of offended.
OMGJustinBieber
Posts: 3,484
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5/6/2012 6:06:15 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept? Can anyone point to a spec on a map of the Universe and say "See that, right there? That's morals. I told you they exist!"
Ethics is the sum of self-manifested contrasts and arbitrary ends based on interchangeable standards.
That's not all too disagreeable here but I go a lot farther that most and also conclude that logic is equally as imaginary.

As are numbers as well, I suppose? So science is make-believe?
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P
Rob
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/8/2012 3:25:23 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/6/2012 6:06:15 PM, OMGJustinBieber wrote:
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept? Can anyone point to a spec on a map of the Universe and say "See that, right there? That's morals. I told you they exist!"
Ethics is the sum of self-manifested contrasts and arbitrary ends based on interchangeable standards.
That's not all too disagreeable here but I go a lot farther that most and also conclude that logic is equally as imaginary.

As are numbers as well, I suppose? So science is make-believe?

I had a statistics professor begin his class by arguing that mathematics were the only truth that empirically existed in the world. He said that numbers, their relationships to one another, and all that can be done with them were the only things of authentic beauty that humans could recognize because numbers -unlike the tangible things- were flawless.
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.
Rob
Stephen_Hawkins
Posts: 5,316
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5/14/2012 11:53:31 AM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

Billions? Closer to hundreds up until the 20th century.
Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to be Gay, he'll positively influence the GDP.

Social Contract Theory debate: http://www.debate.org...
Ragnar_Rahl
Posts: 19,297
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5/14/2012 2:06:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept?
It is a fact that your rational incentives for behavior toward me are different if I trade with you then if I have a policy of killing you and taking your stuff.
It came to be at its height. It was commanded to command. It was a capital before its first stone was laid. It was a monument to the spirit of man.
Prox
Posts: 128
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5/14/2012 6:25:20 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept? Can anyone point to a spec on a map of the Universe and say "See that, right there? That's morals. I told you they exist!"
Ethics is the sum of self-manifested contrasts and arbitrary ends based on interchangeable standards.
That's not all too disagreeable here but I go a lot farther that most and also conclude that logic is equally as imaginary.

-_-

Ethical truths aren't something you can just observe like you can observe light. Ethical truths are propositions about what the best (read as: most effective) actions/rules/virtues/etc. to take in a given psychological and ecological situation are.
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/14/2012 6:27:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 11:53:31 AM, Stephen_Hawkins wrote:
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

Billions? Closer to hundreds up until the 20th century.

Of course I wasn't going to exclude post-20th century.
Rob
Prox
Posts: 128
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5/14/2012 6:27:14 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

How do you know being moral in the way you understand it isn't a waste of time?
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/14/2012 6:30:25 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 6:27:14 PM, Prox wrote:
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

How do you know being moral in the way you understand it isn't a waste of time?

Because I am 31 years old and I have seen the way the world works. Those who do good do well. More specifically, anytime you base a decision entirely on
-anger
-greed
-sloth
-lust
-envy
-gluttony, or
-pride

then you are acting in an immoral manner. If there is no logical basis for your action other than to sate these desires, then you will always end up hurting yourself (and often those around you).
Rob
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/14/2012 7:21:42 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

When I first read this, I thought about it. Then, after doing so extensively, I'm still lost as to what your point is.

-"Billions of people who have successfully navigated morality"
Yeah Yeah... whatever. Even if you could actually establish that billions and billions had, and not counting your ad populum tendencies, you couldn't establish that variety of morality as "absolute" in any way.

-" how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity"
Again... and your point? Is this the beginning and end of your purportedly absolute moral framework?

-"If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place"
Recognize that I haven't actually made any claims that apply to the complexity of morality. Recognize further that a lifetime of intense study wouldn't necessarily mean that morality -even if it were complex- could be absolutely established. Recognize further that even if what you said were the case, that being a moral person has nothing to do with wether or not moral absolutes exist. That's what I'm talking about here. I'm guessing you missed that.
Prox
Posts: 128
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5/14/2012 7:31:48 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 6:30:25 PM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/14/2012 6:27:14 PM, Prox wrote:
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

How do you know being moral in the way you understand it isn't a waste of time?

Because I am 31 years old and I have seen the way the world works. Those who do good do well. More specifically, anytime you base a decision entirely on
-anger
-greed
-sloth
-lust
-envy
-gluttony, or
-pride

then you are acting in an immoral manner. If there is no logical basis for your action other than to sate these desires, then you will always end up hurting yourself (and often those around you).

I'll admit, you have, and you have developed, an intuitive sense of what it takes to lead the good life. Ethicists aren't so concerned with whether you're right or wrong (except maybe the skeptical, nihilist, existential ones, who are simply off-key) but about how you got there, and about what rational principles might lead someone else there.
Lasagna
Posts: 2,440
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5/14/2012 7:44:27 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 7:21:42 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

When I first read this, I thought about it. Then, after doing so extensively, I'm still lost as to what your point is.

-"Billions of people who have successfully navigated morality"
Yeah Yeah... whatever. Even if you could actually establish that billions and billions had, and not counting your ad populum tendencies, you couldn't establish that variety of morality as "absolute" in any way.

It's impossible to get a precise answer, but one can assume that many people over the ages have reached moral enlightenment. They have learned from a lifetime of mistakes that being a good person has longterm advantages over being greedy. For someone who has enough experience, there is nothing relative about it.

-" how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity"
Again... and your point? Is this the beginning and end of your purportedly absolute moral framework?

One acts immorally when they make decisions entirely out of greed, anger, sloth, pride, gluttony, envy, or lust.

-"If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place"
Recognize that I haven't actually made any claims that apply to the complexity of morality. Recognize further that a lifetime of intense study wouldn't necessarily mean that morality -even if it were complex- could be absolutely established. Recognize further that even if what you said were the case, that being a moral person has nothing to do with wether or not moral absolutes exist. That's what I'm talking about here. I'm guessing you missed that.

If morality is relative, then that implies complexity. It means that morality is so complex that somehow you can justify torture, or criticize selfless acts of kindness. Sounds pretty complex to me!

If a lifetime of study can't find absolute morality, then it logically must be complex or relative and it is pointless for normal people to even aspire to a moral goal - they can't hope to achieve it. Teenagers in particular might as well just forget about it because it will be decades before they can ever hope to know what being "good" is. I believe that being good is a simple matter, and because of concepts like pain and suffering it is absolute. There is nothing relative about rape. There is nothing relative about helping an old lady cross the street. I can't believe anybody who reaches adulthood could be confused about the absoluteness of ethical judgment.
Rob
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/14/2012 10:33:30 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 7:44:27 PM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/14/2012 7:21:42 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/14/2012 11:45:16 AM, Lasagna wrote:
At 5/8/2012 3:26:39 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/8/2012 10:25:47 AM, Lasagna wrote:
Morality should be every person's first priority. It's actually not as complicated as most people try and make it :P

I think several thousand years of moral philosophers would beg to disagree.

During those several thousand years, there have been billions of people who have successfully navigated morality and learned how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity. If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place. Think about it.

When I first read this, I thought about it. Then, after doing so extensively, I'm still lost as to what your point is.

-"Billions of people who have successfully navigated morality"
Yeah Yeah... whatever. Even if you could actually establish that billions and billions had, and not counting your ad populum tendencies, you couldn't establish that variety of morality as "absolute" in any way.

It's impossible to get a precise answer, but one can assume that many people over the ages have reached moral enlightenment. They have learned from a lifetime of mistakes that being a good person has longterm advantages over being greedy. For someone who has enough experience, there is nothing relative about it.

-" how not to hate and how to exercise tolerance and charity"
Again... and your point? Is this the beginning and end of your purportedly absolute moral framework?

One acts immorally when they make decisions entirely out of greed, anger, sloth, pride, gluttony, envy, or lust.

-"If morality was as complex as you would say it is, and required a lifetime of intense study, then being a moral person would be a waste of time in the first place"
Recognize that I haven't actually made any claims that apply to the complexity of morality. Recognize further that a lifetime of intense study wouldn't necessarily mean that morality -even if it were complex- could be absolutely established. Recognize further that even if what you said were the case, that being a moral person has nothing to do with wether or not moral absolutes exist. That's what I'm talking about here. I'm guessing you missed that.

If morality is relative, then that implies complexity. It means that morality is so complex that somehow you can justify torture, or criticize selfless acts of kindness. Sounds pretty complex to me!

If a lifetime of study can't find absolute morality, then it logically must be complex or relative and it is pointless for normal people to even aspire to a moral goal - they can't hope to achieve it. Teenagers in particular might as well just forget about it because it will be decades before they can ever hope to know what being "good" is. I believe that being good is a simple matter, and because of concepts like pain and suffering it is absolute. There is nothing relative about rape. There is nothing relative about helping an old lady cross the street. I can't believe anybody who reaches adulthood could be confused about the absoluteness of ethical judgment.

It is interesting to me how you dichotomize the issue of morality in the choice between absolute or relative. I'm not saying you're wrong, at least not necessarily. I would argue that morality doesn't exist absolutely. I would also argue that relative morality is meaningless, because relative morality in no way effectively distinguishes right from wrong. More or less it is the arbitrary pseudo-logical happenstance of people who wish to justify themselves to themselves, but that's my take anyway.

I also think it's a bit presumptuous to suggest that relativity implies complexity. I'm not saying you're wrong, again, but I am saying that what you're saying isn't necessarily the case. Recognizing that I am not arguing for moral relativity, even if I were, the two do not correlate.

If I were to make a case for something though, I'd probably argue from a nihilistic framework, simply because -absent of some authority superior to man- where all are understood to be equal, it makes little sense to argue that any human idea could somehow be absolute.

If I were in a sarcastic mood, I'd offer Nietzsche's reply to your idea of morality... -thus spoke Zarathustra... lol.
YYW
Posts: 36,242
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5/14/2012 10:39:53 PM
Posted: 4 years ago
At 5/14/2012 6:25:20 PM, Prox wrote:
At 5/5/2012 4:07:34 AM, FREEDO wrote:
I've never found anyone who's entirely sure about what they even mean by "objective morality". In what way does a moral ever exist other than just as a concept? Can anyone point to a spec on a map of the Universe and say "See that, right there? That's morals. I told you they exist!"
Ethics is the sum of self-manifested contrasts and arbitrary ends based on interchangeable standards.
That's not all too disagreeable here but I go a lot farther that most and also conclude that logic is equally as imaginary.

-_-

Ethical truths aren't something you can just observe like you can observe light. Ethical truths are propositions about what the best (read as: most effective) actions/rules/virtues/etc. to take in a given psychological and ecological situation are.

You're sort of right. What a person regards as ethical truths are propositions about what that individual regards as valuable. What actions, rules, and virtues he or she esteems as "good" are more or less an indicator of what he recognizes to have produced good outcomes, or are in and of themselves ostensibly good. For example, if I hold position x and actions a, b and c support position x, where position x supports my ideal of what ought to be, I regard actions a, b or c as moral.

I hope that made sense.