Objective Moral Values

Morality is defined as a code of conduct, whereby an individual acknowledges something to be either right or wrong. The vast majority of humanity will acknowledge certain things to be right or wrong, but what is the source of this knowledge? How does post-modernist thinking react to a universal value system?

 

Explanation of Terms

 

Its important to understand the key terms that are being used in this article, so here are the definitions:

 

Morality – identifying intentions to be either right or wrong.

Postmodernism – according to the Encyclopedia Britannica in Western philosophy, a late 20th-century movement characterized by broad skepticism, subjectivism, or relativism; a general suspicion of reason; and an acute sensitivity to the role of ideology in asserting and maintaining political and economic power. 

Objective Moral Values (OMV)- Values or morals that are widespread within the population, regardless of experience, time, or place.

 

 

Morality

 

As defined above, morality is knowing the right from wrong, so the next logical question is, what is “right”? There is a poem that explains the delicate nuances of this question:

 

 

 

One man waters a plant to share the beauty of its flowers with others.

Another man waters a plant to scratch people with its thorns.

 

The point the poem is making is that these two men are performing exactly the same acts, yet, any sensible reader will be able to identify that one of the men is doing something “good” by watering the flowers, and the other is being “bad”, even though the act is the same. So the first important thing to acknowledge is that acts themselves are neither good nor bad, every event has a context and every action an intention, and its that intention that will identify the action to be either morally good or bad. What is particularly interesting and relevant to theology, is that it seems the judgement of these intentions is universally agreed upon by humanity, if one were to ask a random person whether it is acceptable for a person to kill another with no reason, every sane person would say it is not acceptable. So to clarify, the action of events alone can not indicate any “goodness” or “badness”, in order to understand the morality of an event, the intention of the outcome needs to be known, and it is that which determines the “goodness” or “badness” of any event.

 

Another example of this is the situation of one person killing another, without the context of the situation, it is impossible to know if this is morally wrong or not, for example, consider the following circumstances:

 

  1. The victim is trying to kill another person.
  2. The victim is on the opposing side of a war.
  3. The victim is actually an animal.
  4. The victim is an edible animal and the killer is hungry. 

 

Again, the context is crucial, but what actually does context mean? If the actions are irrelevant, then how does the context influence morality? The reason some things are morally right or morally wrong is based on their consequences, there is an inherent acceptance of causality, some actions done for certain reasons will lead to certain effects, and it is these effects that will decide if something is morally good or bad, so the context gives the reason for the action, once this is known, one can decide whether such action done for such a reason will cause benefit or harm. A worked example can help, if we imagine a person who habitually lies for no good reason, then we can see that if someone is dishonest and we apply this to society as a whole, there are certainly going to be negative consequences, society will not function as well, no one would accept this as morally good.

 

The vast majority of people will hold a moral opinion on the intention of an action, either being right or wrong. Morality is not simply about loss or gain, so something can be morally right, even though it appears that the individual is losing out in some way, eg charity. Very few people would see giving some spare money to charity as wrong. Nor would many people see rape as right thing to do, so the principle of holding a moral opinion is widespread and taken as read. 

 

Objective Moral Values (OMV)

 

The interesting issue regarding morality is that humans agree about moral positions, they can objectively look at events and tell if they are good or bad, regardless of their experiences, this is termed Objective Moral Values.  Facts are normally statements about how the world is, such as 1+1 = 2,  rain comes from the sky, chickens come from eggs etc, morals are truths but they are not based on a tangible reality, but on what reality should be, morals are like commands or aspirations for our Utopian society. The term “objective” here refers to their timeless, universal nature, so when a person says “its morally wrong to rape someone”, they do not mean for a specific place, time or location, they mean it is always wrong, anywhere, anytime. 

 

Source of Objective Moral Values

 

The existence of such objective morality is at least suggestive of some higher authority, as there needs to be a source for these aspirations, its is not possible for there to exist a command, without there being a commander, just like there can’t be something that is being carried unless there is something else that is carrying it. There can’t be something that is popular unless there are lots of people that like it. So to summarise, if moral facts are a command, what is the source of this command? 

 

Morality is of over-riding importance, it implies a universal system of justice and reward. If someone morally ought to do something, then this supersedes any other considerations. It might be in an individual’s best interest not to give any money to charity, but morally they should do, so most do, even though it actually makes them poorer, and it has no tangible benefit to them at all. It might be in one’s best interest to pretend that there too busy to see relatives, but morally they ought not to, so all things considered they ought not to, and they should go and see their family. If someone has one reason to do one thing, but morally ought to do another thing, then all things considered they ought to do the other thing. Morality over-rules everything. Morality has ultimate authority. Commands, though, are only as authoritative as the person that commands them. 

 

As morality has more authority than any individual or institution, the moral argument suggests, morality can not have been commanded by any human person or institution. As morality has ultimate authority, as morality over-rules everything, morality must have been commanded by someone who has authority over everything. The existence of morality thus points us to a being that is greater than any of us and that rules over all creation. Therefore the source of morality must be the creator of the universe, the ultimate being in authority, God.  

 

One well-known presentation of the moral argument is that of the German philosopher Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), who was the author of Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Practical Reason.

 

Kant’s moral argument can be summarized as:

 

  1. Moral behavior is rational behavior, and therefore it is quite reasonable on our part to respect morality in our lives. If one ought to do something, one has a reason to do it. For instance, a person who knows that he ought to give money to charity has good reason to give money to charity. Moral behavior, Kant said, is always rational.
  2. The rational nature of moral behavior depends on the guarantee that it would be rewarded. But we see that sinful actions often bring profits rather than moral actions, and so sinful actions would become rational considering the profits, of course on the condition that sinful actions bring no comebacks. It is only if sinful actions will surely be punished in the end, we have reason to avoid sinful actions and prefer moral actions. In other words, moral behavior will be rational only if justice is done ultimately by the incurring of due punishments for sinful actions.  
  3. We have no guarantee that justice will be done in this world. For in this world we find good people suffering and bad people flourishing, for life here and now is not fair.

 

If this is the only life we have, then justice is not done here, and so moral behavior is not rational. But we know in our heart of hearts we have a reason to be good. If so, this life cannot be all that there is. There must be something more. There must be a provision for the prevalence of justice, when all things are considered.

 

Religion teaches that justice will be meted out to sinners, and the righteous will receive the reward that they deserve. If this view is correct, moral actions become rational. And the rationality of morality establishes that the religious view of the afterlife is correct. And this can be correct only if God exists. Therefore, God exists. If there is no afterlife, then morality has literally no value, one may as well steal and rape as much as they can get away with, as there will be no consequences. We know, thankfully, that the vast majority of people do accept moral values, and they do so knowingly or unknowingly on the basis that there must be rational, logical basis for this, which can only be the case if there is some system of justice which will be implemented beyond this life. 

 

If the moral argument can be defended against the various objections that have been raised against it, then it proves the existence of an author of morality, of a being that has authority over and that actively rules over all creation. Together with the ontological argument, the first cause argument, and the argument from design, this would give us proof that there is a perfect, necessary, and eternal being that created the universe with life in mind and has the authority to tell us how we are to run it. The correct response to this would be to seek God’s will and to practice it.

 

Quite at variance with the Christian view, Islam teaches that man is created as an innately good being. He is born with an inclination towards all that is good. For this reason, even an atheist or an agnostic, has a natural and inborn bias towards moral actions and an aversion towards evil.

 

“O’ Hisham! God has two types of guide over the people, one outer and one inner,  the outer is the Prophets, messengers and the Imams; the inner is their own intellect and morality”
Narrated from Imam al-Kazim (as) Al -Kafi Vol. I p. 16

 

As humans become mature enough to use these gifts, they use their freedom of will either to lead a good life of submission to God, or a bad life denying God. Indeed their innate goodness as well as the morality prevailing in human society ought to make them aware of the Source of their being, namely, God.

 

Some have criticised the existence of universal moral values by stating if there are actually these universal values, why is there still crime, murder, rape and general poor behavior still in existence? The response to this is that there is a difference between knowing something, and acting in accordance with something. A thief does not steal because they think there is nothing wrong with stealing, they steal because they think that their right to have the items is greater than the actual owner’s. If there was then a second thief who tried to steal the same item from the first thief, the first would definitely object to that and not willingly give the item away, hence they know stealing is wrong, they just haven’t applied that knowledge fully.

 

Some groups have questioned whether objective morality even exists, they argue that there is nothing innately good or bad, and it is only religion that informs the people what is good or bad. The main proponents for this ideology were the Asharites of Iraq around the first millennium. Their argument was that if God decided to put all the good people in hell and all the bad in heaven, that is completely up to Him and there is no law or “system” that God has to abide by, so similarly if God decides such an action is wrong, then it is wrong and humanity can never be able to work out what is right and wrong, as there is no system or law that one can refer to, and it is only religion which can inform humanity of what is morally correct. This type of objection is also raised more classically in the form of Euthyphro dilemma, which is as follows:

 

Socrates asks Euthyphro whether God loves the pious because it is the pious, or whether the pious is pious only because it is loved by God. They then discuss the options, if the first option is true, then piety is outside of God’s will, and exists alongside of God. If the second is true then why worship a God that defines morality as He likes, allowing the seemingly innocent to suffer and the oppressors to be rewarded?

 

Socrates is basically asking, is an act good or bad in itself, or is it only accepted that way because of God’s opinion about it. For example, is stealing bad in itself? Or is it only bad because God has told us that it is bad. If we say it is only bad because God has said it is bad, this leads to a paradox, as why accept the religion in the first place if there is no inherent beauty or attraction to its values? Why accept the religion as right, if you have to first have a religion to know what is right or wrong? Is religion simply arbitrary? The other option then is that God has to abide by a higher law, a pre existing notion of right and wrong which He then assigns the religious laws to, this suggests something pre existing God and God is subordinate to it. Then the source of our religion is not God, but the pre-existing morality which God also has to accept. Either way we are faced with a dilemma and this is why it is seen as a paradox, either option leads to a problem for the religious person.

 

The answer to this problem is to fully understand the concept of God, the paradox assumes that there is a difference between God’s opinion and what is inherently good, and that the “good” is known before God had the opinion that it was “good”. If one accepts that God is essentially good, then He will only do what is ultimately good, then there is no paradox. So what is quite startling is that the morally good, decent, behavior, leads to success, not the opposite, it is not good because it is successful, it is successful because it is good. This is either in the form of the act, or in the form of our objective moral values inclining towards the good deeds. This system of God therefore allows an individual to use his mind and reason to recognise the good, and to uphold it, indeed the gift of reason allows an individual to learn the reality of morality. 

 

 

Criticisms

 

Atheist’s are in two camps, one is the denial of OMV, the other is that they exist, but only as a result of evolutionary powers. The denial of OMV is one of extreme prejudice, as to deny them would be the same as denying their sight, hearing or previous experiences, which no reasonable person would do. OMV is an observation in the same manner as any other sense, and if one was to deny something that is essentially true by means of a argument that relies on a less likely premise, that is an illogical and faulty methodology. An example of such a scenario would be a person who is thinking of a red hammer, then a person comes to him and says, you were not thinking of a red hammer, you are mistaken, in fact the hammer was green. There maybe a complicated theory as to why the second person thinks the first was not thinking of a red hammer, but the evidence to the first person was so primary, and without any complex thought or means of generating error, so the original person can be certain that he was right, and he did think of a red hammer. If one was to take it further, any argument or truth could be attacked in this way, for example, one may think there name and age is correct, but they maybe mistaken, they could simply be a brain in a vat of chemicals being stimulated in a scientific laboratory. Now despite the possibility of this, one must reject it based on every known experience they have, and if that is an acceptable method and evidence, then the same principle can be applied to moral experience, in which case moral experience points to the fact that morality exists and it is objectively shared across humanity. Not many people reject the existence of morality, but there are a few notable exceptions including the famous atheist Professor Dawkins.

 

Some have argued that despite the universal nature of objective morality, it is the result of evolutionary pressures, such that groups that behave in “moral”, altruistic ways thrive and those that do not, die out, leaving only those with similar morals, thus there is no need for God. This argument really misses the point about OMV, as those that claim its an evolutionary response, must therefore accept that they are not universal, timeless and objective, and as our environment changes the morals must also change, so by following this logic to its conclusion, there may be a set of circumstances where it is good to kill the innocent and steal from the poor. Can any rational person accept this? They would have to accept that their is nothing bad in Nazi’s massacring Jews or occupying Europe for their own gains, or a mass murder killing school children. For most people this is clearly a problem, as these acts are clearly wrong and morals supersede time and circumstances. There is also no evidence for this line of thought, it has never been morally acceptable to steal, harm people, murder or rape. Also there is a serious flaw in the logic of their premise, as their premise is that communities that behave in a “moral” way have a higher chance of surviving, such that now all communities are “moral”, this does not answer the question at all. The issue with morality is that it is not a physical truth, like a wings can make you fly, or a developed brain can allow you solve complex problems, these are physical truths, morality is a concept, as explained before it is not a provable fact, but rather, it is what humanity would like to happen. There is nothing necessary about the existence of morality in itself, for example 1+1 necessarily is 2, this is fact, but there is no non-moral reason why someone should give to charity. So with this in mind, how can one explain why humanity appears to independently agree on something that appears so arbitrary? There is simply no reason to, and that is why if someone were to accept the existence of objective moral values, the logical conclusion is to accept that their origin is from God. 

 

One way arguments are often put forward is as follows, if we take the issue of the holocaust. No matter how many people we ask now “is it wrong?”, they will say “yes”, suggesting some kind of unanimous agreement, but is that objective? Just because we all agree something does not make it objective. To go further, obviously the Nazis did not agree with the notion that the Holocaust was wrong, otherwise they would not have done it, in their view, it was the correct way of dealing with a problem, the moral solution to a social issue. So at that point there was not even an agreement of opinion, let alone objectivity. To deal with this, we must break down morality in principles and applications. The principles are the foundations and underlying concepts of morality, such as “rape is wrong”. Now, no one at any time has ever thought that rape in itself is right, or theft in its self. So the principle that rape, theft and murder is wrong is unanimously agreed upon, and in that basis objective in the human mind. So where does the disagreement fit in? How do we explain why the Nazis and many other groups have justified acts that are immoral? Its because they have applied moral law to create another law, they have applied morality in an incorrect way. For example, lets imagine this scenario, lets imagine that in Nazi Germany some Jews had been corrupt and even killed others. Now they point to that immorality and say “that is wrong, they are harming society, its immoral”, and because of that they say that the responsible people, in this case the Jews must be removed for the sake of upholding society and morality. Now hear the application is completely immoral, but they have tried to use a moral principle to derive a moral application, but clearly failed. So in regards to this example, the principle of “murder” is still wrong to the Nazi, they have not developed a new moral principle, but rather when they apply some moral rules to their environment they have derived some applications that are clearly immoral.

 

If we now understand the Islamic approach to law, we start at the general accepted principles and then the rules are deducted, rather than inducted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Objective Moral Values

    1. Alright, here goes an atheist view on the matter of the article. The first problem I encounter is that of the use “objective”, an objective moral value should be right (or wrong) whether there is someone who has the belief or not. “Killing an innocent victim is wrong” should be universally true even if there was no such things as could even BE innocent victims or not. Even if there was no humans around to experience a moral value, a objective value would still be true. “Values or morals that are widespread within the population, regardless of experience, time, or place.” my arguing concludes this definition of OMV being wrong in the first place.
      I will have to line with the hammer-criticism, but still take a different approach. If people before, say Columbus discovery in 1492, were to believe (the majority atleast) that the earth was flat, and only in the last 500 years we believed it to be round does not make the world objectively flat just because the majority of the people have been thinking that way.
      What is morality then? Well, I cannot be certain, but I hold the idea that thoughts and ideas are nothing more than neurological processes in the brain, hence the morality and our perception of morality are mare brain processes. Humans are animals who like to live in packs. The morals are a good evolutionary base on how to work together (the same reason I believe that we have empathy, morals are in many times based on the empathy).
      But this means that there are nothing objectively wrong in mass slaughter?!! No… but that does not mean that I will consider it a charitable act. I am as much against killing, rape, stealing ect as any other. I would consider it a horrible act, but that is because in my subject view the mass slaughter, rape etc is wrong.
      Further, most people would say that killing someone innocent is morally wrong… but would still say that if they hade the ability to kill Hitler in 1935, and thus saved millions of lives, they would have killed him. But Hitler was innocent of that mass murder in 1935, and thus they would kill an “innocent victim” (innocent here ment to that he had not yet ordered the holocast).
      But this also overthrows the argument that god exists based on morals. If the morals are ideas based on empathy and other brain functions then morals are rational without the existence of any divine powers.
      My view is that we have a perception of morals based on the consequences, that the act of killing someone is wrong because someone dies.The experience that it is sad when someone dies however is not moral but rather a personal feeling. The act of stealing is wrong based on the consequences that follows and not in some way the act itself universally. If the stealing was wrong universally there would be no difference in stealing the last coins from a homeless man (that will not probably starve to death) than stealing a loaf of bread from the richest man in the world (and he would never even notice the theft).
      “If the moral argument can be defended against the various objections that have been raised against it, then it proves the existence of an author of morality, of a being that has authority over and that actively rules over all creation.” I have a hard time melting this one… there is a long way between making universal morals for ONE species (I mean, cats does not seem to apply to the idea that killing is wrong) to rule over all creation. But this is a side note. Also the ontological argument holds some major flaws, apart from being a thinking experiment, there would be a great deal of hardship to prove a specific deity with it without taking adhoc theories then being questioned.

      So, if all morals that we perceived as objective was in fact subjective, and we as a species have a motivation of promoting them… there is no need for any idea of a god crafting them. Ad to that Ockhams razor, and god is out of the picture.

      It was a well scripted article though, and interesting to see the religious point of view =)

    2. Grön Svensson, thank you so much for your detailed insight. You have presented your position well and given me much to think about. In summary, it appears you reject the notion of an objective morality, preferring one of subjective judgement of the time which may vary with time and experience.

      If I could raise a few points with what you have written.

      You mention that you feel morality is effectively subjective, and you use the example of the flat earth. So the majority opinion used to be the earth is flat, and now the majority opinion is the earth is round, essentially you are saying morality is like that. So in the past you assume that rape may have been ok, but now we feel it is wrong. Firstly this approach means that you are taking morality as some kind of tangible fact, when it is actually a fact regarding the aspiration or desires of humanity for what the world should to be like.

      Morality is not objective in the sense that a gauge could measure it, but objective in the sense that it is independent of time, place or experience. So for example, at any point in time, at any place, with any background, there is no one who would suggest that rape is a good thing to do.

      You mention “I am as much against killing, rape, stealing ect as any other. I would consider it a horrible act, but that is because in my subject view the mass slaughter, rape etc is wrong.”

      The question is, we all agree with you, but why? if its subjective and basically an opinion as you suggest, why is it that we all have the same opinion? If we all aspire to a just society, then morality is by definition objective, as morality is simply what we feel the world should be like, which is unchanging. It is not like a theory such as gravity, which could be canceled and replaced.

      You mention “If the stealing was wrong universally there would be no difference in stealing the last coins from a homeless man (that will not probably starve to death) than stealing a loaf of bread from the richest man in the world (and he would never even notice the theft).”

      I disagree with you here, I think stealing is wrong regardless of the victim’s status etc. Did I misunderstand what you mean?

      “So, if all morals that we perceived as objective was in fact subjective, and we as a species have a motivation of promoting them… there is no need for any idea of a god crafting them. Ad to that Ockhams razor, and god is out of the picture.”

      The issue is though, there is no disagreement with morals, so the evidence points to them being objective. Can you ever point to a time or place that thought rape, as a concept, is a good thing, or theft, or any injustice?

      I agree that the moral argument is not a strong case for God, it does however raise the case that humanity appears to have a moral compass with which people can act justly. If we did not have such a compass, there would be no way to recognise religion nor any motivation to follow it, I do believe however that morality evolves in the sense that we may have a general principle, such as justice, and then as the human condition improves, they are able to apply this general principle to every aspect of their lives in a more refined form.

    3. I will see if I can precise my point a bit to clear out a couple of the contra arguments.

      In the “flat earth argument” I ment that of all people, alive or dead, a vast majority lived in a time where the earth was thought of as flat, however that did not make the world flat, even if a majority of people, regardless of place in time, have thought so. If the morals are desires, as you mention, then they cannot be objective.

      I have come to notice that I believe we disagree on the definitions of objective and subjective. In my definition the term objective refers to things that are universal and hence independent of humans, and thus an objective moral value should be considered true even if there was neither any humans to preform the act, no humans to witness it nor any human to judge the criminal. To say that objectively “Killing is wrong” means that killing is wrong no matter the circumstances, and whether there are things that is capable of killing or not.
      So indeed I would say that morality was fact, if it was objective. What I hold true that there are no such thing as a objectively morale, and thus I avoid the problem of regarding morals as facts.

      “So in the past you assume that rape may have been ok, but now we feel it is wrong. ” This is not what I implied, but only that even if a major part of a population holds something for true does not mean that it is.

      The reason that we hold morals, as I wrote, is because it is corner stone in building a society together, due to us being animals living in packs. This helps us to build a base of cooperation. It would be quite hard to build any form of civilisation if we would be totally indifferent to kill one and another, or steal, or so on. We teach our children (and each other) morals so that we may fit together. The premises of the morals (the more primal ones) of building a society is basically the same no matter where or when the society was built (society here to be understood as a group of people deciding to build some form of community together). For this society to work it is most important that they do not start to kill each other off, or in other ways making cooperation harder or impossible.
      The consequences of any one individual to steal from another (seen from a view of society) means that they will not be efficient in functioning together, therefore it is the best to consider stealing to be wrong.

      “The question is, we all agree with you, but why? if its subjective and basically an opinion as you suggest, why is it that we all have the same opinion? If we all aspire to a just society, then morality is by definition objective, as morality is simply what we feel the world should be like, which is unchanging”
      Once more, the feeling how we want a world is a subjective view. It is subjective because the feeling comes from a human mind and therefore cannot be objective, little less than that a feeling can be objective. The feeling is subjective, but the fact that we have that feeling is objective.
      To rule out a eventual coming misunderstanding: I have said that objective must be universal, but this does not contradict the argument above. The feeling itself is dependent on a “feeler” to be felt, but the fact that I have a certain feeling now is universal in that way that as long as there is a person such as me, in a situation such as this, that person (me) is bound to have that feeling.
      Apart from that sidenote; the experience of unchanging morals seems to only be true about a certain type of morals (let us call them “type 1 morals”), among these are “killing an innocent is wrong”, “rape is wrong”, etc. There also seems to be an other type of morals (let us call them “type 2 morals”) that has changed over the years. For instance are there very few today who argues for slavery. Morals concerning environmental issues are also relatively new (in some modern standards atleast).
      How then to separate them? Well, if there were objective morals, then only type 1 morals would fit there. How do we know if a certain moral value is a type 1 or type 2? Do we guess? Do we look back in history (but that would not tell of a necessary future, and thus we know not that it is ageless)?
      The only answer seems to be that it is a feeling… but suddenly it would then be subjective.
      If morals are subjective, how do we seperate the types? The answer is that there is no need at all to have seperate types.

      The theft argument is a thought of different grades of morality. Even if I agree to that stealing is wrong, it seems worse to steal from a poor man and make him starve to death, than steal from a rich man who would not notice. Howcome? The consequences are fatal in the case of the poor man, and little more than principal in the case of the rich man. But if there is a difference between the moral wrongness in the two cases, then the moral value of the theft must be considered not so universal as we first was lead to believe. This is much like the Hitler argument where we knew he was going to do something terrible but was not morally capable of killing him in 1935 for he was innocent, and the killing of innocent is objectively wrong (if then “killing an innocent” is morally wrong, according to the objective view, and one holds the objective view).

      “The issue is though, there is no disagreement with morals, so the evidence points to them being objective. Can you ever point to a time or place that thought rape, as a concept, is a good thing, or theft, or any injustice? ”

      No, but does that imply that the most logical reason is that morals (type 1) are objective? I think not. Because the communities/societies of people would seldom prosper if people went around and on mass broke the morals. The most logical reasons to why I and a mykenian fisherman could have the same morals concerning killing an innocent is that in both cases the consequences would generally be the same and that both me and the mykenian fisherman would have empathy. This is the same as both me and the mykenian fisherman would both feel pain if stung by a knife.

      In the end it seems as justice is little less than a tool for us to function as individuals and as society, but this does not make it less important or less legitimate.

    4. My dear friend Grön Svensson,

      Sorry for the delay. Thank you for your points.

      I agree, we clearly have a different understanding the term objective in the context of morality. Morality is something that is specific to humanity, so if we take your definition of objectively being universally true and independent of humanity, then I agree with your conclusions. However in the context of morality, you can not remove the human mind from the equation. It would be like saying, if all humans prefer the taste of chocolate rather than strawberry, would chocolate still be preferred if there were no humans? It would not make sense. So I think one must define morality first, then take the issue of objectivity second. As once it is established that morality is a desired perception of reality, then the definition of objectivity must be limited to humanity.

      “The feeling itself is dependent on a “feeler” to be felt, but the fact that I have a certain feeling now is universal in that way that as long as there is a person such as me, in a situation such as this, that person (me) is bound to have that feeling.”

      So can you point to a situation or circumstance when rape would ever be considered morally right? You imply that morality is circumstantial and your environment makes you feel one way or the other. Im saying that it is not like that, even if someone has never had sex and really wants it, they would still know that rape is wrong, even if they went on to do rape someone, they would still know that it is wrong and they would conceal it and certainly wouldn’t want to be raped themselves.

      “the experience of unchanging morals seems to only be true about a certain type of morals (let us call them “type 1 morals”), among these are “killing an innocent is wrong”, “rape is wrong”, etc. There also seems to be an other type of morals (let us call them “type 2 morals”) that has changed over the years. For instance are there very few today who argues for slavery. Morals concerning environmental issues are also relatively new (in some modern standards atleast).

      I agree with you, there is a primary, basic form of morality, which is essentially “be just”, and then from there as the human condition improves the application of morality becomes perfected Eg abolition of slavery, womens rights etc.

      “Even if I agree to that stealing is wrong, it seems worse to steal from a poor man and make him starve to death, than steal from a rich man who would not notice. Howcome? The consequences are fatal in the case of the poor man, and little more than principal in the case of the rich man. But if there is a difference between the moral wrongness in the two cases, then the moral value of the theft must be considered not so universal as we first was lead to believe.”

      I see the point you are trying to make, but I think there is a inherent error in the logic here. Theft is one thing, and causing someone harm is another. In the case of the theft from a poor person which will also cause him harm, even lead to his death is quite different to that of just simply theft with no apparent consequence, which is still clearly wrong.

      “Because the communities/societies of people would seldom prosper if people went around and on mass broke the morals.”

      So what you are saying is that the morality we have today is the morality of success and survival, and others who may have had other forms of morality have died out due to evolutionary pressure. This would imply morality is somehow genetic, and now we all have the same “genetic makeup” of morality, is that what you are suggesting?

      Thank you for your intelligent comments.

    5. “I agree, we clearly have a different understanding the term objective in the context of morality. Morality is something that is specific to humanity, so if we take your definition of objectively being universally true and independent of humanity, then I agree with your conclusions. However in the context of morality, you can not remove the human mind from the equation. It would be like saying, if all humans prefer the taste of chocolate rather than strawberry, would chocolate still be preferred if there were no humans? It would not make sense. So I think one must define morality first, then take the issue of objectivity second. As once it is established that morality is a desired perception of reality, then the definition of objectivity must be limited to humanity.”
      This would have to imply that objectivity is based on our desires, and that goes against what the term objectivity means. If we need some middle path between objectivity and subjectivity, then perhaps it is misleading to call it objectivity?
      About the strawberry argument I can only say that it is more like we say that a red car is red. This seems to be true, and in all relevant cases the car is red. But once we look to why the car is red we end up in physics. For one, the car in itself is not really red, it is only a paint job (there is no intimate relation with that of being this car and being red, it could for instance be repainted), and the perception of it being red is only that certain light waves bounces of, and some are absorbed. In turn, just some of this waves are seen by our somewhat limited vision of colours (here based on the composition of colour receptors in the human eye). In pitch black, would the car still be red? Yes and no. Yes, the paint job would still be there, but there are no light waves to bounce off, so in that way it is no longer red. And even if it seems a bit unconventional to claim that a red car is not red under certain circumstances, my point still being made.
      I also agree with you that it would be quite meaningless to peruse the issue of strawberries contra chocolate for humans, in a world without humans, and in the same way there would be problems stating anything about human moral without humans, but this also makes it subjective.

      “So can you point to a situation or circumstance when rape would ever be considered morally right? “ I neither can, nor need to. As I have stated that I base morality in terms of tools for cooperation, and creation of communities, and I have a hard time seeing rape/killing of innocents etc, as a good base for cooperation. If our brains had been created an other way, perhaps we hade thought that rape was morally right, but now that is not the case. The judgement of the action lay within our mind, and not with the action itself, and this makes it subjective.

      “I agree with you, there is a primary, basic form of morality, which is essentially “be just”, and then from there as the human condition improves the application of morality becomes perfected Eg abolition of slavery, womens rights etc.”
      I think that both of us can agree that if morals were to be objective, than the killing of any innocent is wrong. But, then we end up in the Hitler dilemma again, of whether it would be morally right or wrong to kill Hitler in 1935 (and thus considered innocent of the holocaust) to hinder the holocaust. We could brake a “type 1” moral, but save the lives of countless people, or we could let him live and the holocaust goes on. Intuition of morals would probably tell us to actually kill him, due to the consequences. But then the morals would be based on consequences and not of a moral obligation to not kill an innocent.

      “I see the point you are trying to make, but I think there is a inherent error in the logic here. Theft is one thing, and causing someone harm is another. In the case of the theft from a poor person which will also cause him harm, even lead to his death is quite different to that of just simply theft with no apparent consequence, which is still clearly wrong.”
      Once more we end up in a situation that is a lot like the Hitler dilemma. If we left out the consequences the wrongness of killing innocents would cause us to let Hitler live. We are causing no harm, but in the extent of our actions people will come to harm. Without the thought of consequences I deem morals being meaningless. This makes morals relative.
      Torbjörn Tännsjö, a swedish philosopher has stated a similar dilemma. There are five people tied to a track and a rail car speeding towards them. You will not be able to free them, but you could change the track of the rail car. However, on the other track there lies a single person, tied down who will be run over if you change the track. If you change the track, you will be the one killing the person. If you do not, you will not be morally responsible for the active killing, but five people will die. If killing is objectively wrong, then you are morally obligated to not change the tracks.

      “ This would imply morality is somehow genetic[…]”
      Not at all, we teach our children of wrong and right. This because we want our children to be functioning parts of society and not go around killing people.

    6. “This would have to imply that objectivity is based on our desires, and that goes against what the term objectivity means.”

      I am referring to the objectivity of the desires, in the form of morality. So within an argument based upon the the moral reasoning of humans, its perfectly reasonable to say that they are objective, when the definition of objective is framed for the topic at hand.

      As for the other points, its clear you seem to accept the notion of unchanging, universal principles, but feel their source is due to evolutionary forces.

      As for the Hitler issues, the issue is one of science fiction I guess, as if we could travel back in time, knowing for sure he would commit the crime, then I guess it would be just to stop him. However as this is not possible, its not something we have to worry about. The principle though, that if one could stop him, knowing fur sure that it would reduce suffering, is valid in my opinion.

      As for Torbjörn Tännsjö, a swedish philosopher has stated a similar dilemma. There are five people tied to a track and a rail car speeding towards them. You will not be able to free them, but you could change the track of the rail car. However, on the other track there lies a single person, tied down who will be run over if you change the track. If you change the track, you will be the one killing the person. If you do not, you will not be morally responsible for the active killing, but five people will die. If killing is objectively wrong, then you are morally obligated to not change the tracks.

      My response would be simple, if I have the option to minimise suffering then this must be a better decision, a moral decision. So although one would die, this is better than 5 dying, as it is not killing one, but saving 4.

    7. The problem is that the only thing objective in desire is the fact that you have a specific desire. I have already stated the argument concerning having a certain feeling for a certain individual at a certain time, the same goes for desire. You might have a desire to follow a specific moral value, but that does not reveal whether or not the moral value is objectively true. The Oxford dictionary clearly says that “objective” is “Not dependent on the mind for existence”, so if we stipulate a meaning for objective that goes against the original meaning, then perhaps we are obligated to choose a different term? The term “subjective” says that “Dependent on the mind or on an individuals perception for it’s existence”. In this definitions the term “subjective” clearly seems like a more adequate terminology, do you not agree? Sure to argue that there are more than one individuals perception and rather whole societies that agree, but then again the societies are still different individuals and without the individuals the society would not be.
      If we switch places for the definitions than of course would the morals be objective, but we could also say that morals are dolphins, stipulating a new meaning for the term “dolphin”. Perhaps take a note in the article to stipulate your definition of the term “objective”, so that the reader do not misjudge the text for using the common definition of “objective”?

      I cannot say that they are universal in the way of commonly usage of the term “objective”. Universal as of my definition is a tautology, such as “If X then Y, X, therefore Y”. Morals cannot be tautologies unless they are objective and not dependent on human mind. Neither are they unchanging for there is always a scaling. In my most recent post I mentioned Tännsjö and his experiment on thought (the rail car dilemma). One of the most basic morals should be that “Killing an innocent is wrong”, and as you yourself said that you would pull the lever and kill an innocent to save five others, you broke that moral value of killing an innocent. It seems morally right to kill an innocent, than let five innocent people die. If “Killing an innocent is wrong” is objectively true, than it would be more morally just to not pull the lever since you are not killing anyone that way. Hence we can say that morals are not unchanging.

      No, we can not travel back in time. But if I cannot kill anyone, does that make it less interesting to talk about the morals of killing innocent? Or if I am psychologically unable to rape someone, does not the moral question still interest?

      In both the Tännsjö dilemma and the Hitler issue you do agree that “Killing an innocent might be just”? Even though that would brake any objectivity of “Killing an innocent is wrong”?
      In both cases the consequences of the act seems to justify the killing of an innocent. But if morals are based on consequences, can they really be objective?

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