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Objective Morality


Noggy
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Is there such a thing as objective morality? Does it require a god?

 

Does the existence of god mean that there is objective morality?

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I don't believe a god is necessary for someone to be a moral person. There are some universal morals that seem to be shared in many, if not all cultures, such as treating others like you want to be treated in return, promising to fulfill one's obligations, do not commit murder, adultery is frowned up by most cultures no matter how many wives or husbands they have. I've known christians who had no morals, at least as far as mercy for the poor or forgiveness towards another person. Forgiveness, in itself, is not a mandatory trait but not all wrongs committed against someone requires retribution.

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I don't believe a god is necessary for someone to be a moral person. There are some universal morals that seem to be shared in many, if not all cultures, such as treating others like you want to be treated in return, promising to fulfill one's obligations, do not commit murder, adultery is frowned up by most cultures no matter how many wives or husbands they have. I've known christians who had no morals, at least as far as mercy for the poor or forgiveness towards another person. Forgiveness, in itself, is not a mandatory trait but not all wrongs committed against someone requires retribution.

 

 

The question wasnt asking whether someone can be a "moral" person, in the sense that people would agree that they act morally. Everyone knows christians and atheists and buddhists alike can all be moral people. The question is is there an objective moral standard? Maybe a better worded question: Are there objective moral facts?

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Objective from what? Society? There are certain evolutionary behaviors that could be defined as moral, and we see them in mammals other than humans. That's about the closest you can get to objective morality outside of a god existing.

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Objective from what? Society? There are certain evolutionary behaviors that could be defined as moral, and we see them in mammals other than humans. That's about the closest you can get to objective morality outside of a god existing.

 

There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

 

You also seem to say that god's existence would make objective moral facts also exist, would you explain your reasoning?

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Objective from what? Society? There are certain evolutionary behaviors that could be defined as moral, and we see them in mammals other than humans. That's about the closest you can get to objective morality outside of a god existing.

 

There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

 

You also seem to say that god's existence would make objective moral facts also exist, would you explain your reasoning?

 

I explained my reasoning when I said that morality has evolved. That is my stance. You didn't post what these other philosophers have written. You asked a question and that seemed a solicitation for opinions, so I gave you my opinion.

 

It's fine for philosophers to believe whatever they want, just as it's fine for religious people to believe whatever they want, but without evidence, it is nothing but a belief.

 

I can point to moral behaviors in other mammals which implies that it's an evolutionary trait which helps survival. Survival of the species is the only moral imperative as far as I can see.

 

I'm not sure how else to answer the question.

 

 

 

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Objective from what? Society? There are certain evolutionary behaviors that could be defined as moral, and we see them in mammals other than humans. That's about the closest you can get to objective morality outside of a god existing.

 

There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

 

You also seem to say that god's existence would make objective moral facts also exist, would you explain your reasoning?

 

I explained my reasoning when I said that morality has evolved. That is my stance. You didn't post what these other philosophers have written. You asked a question and that seemed a solicitation for opinions, so I gave you my opinion.

 

It's fine for philosophers to believe whatever they want, just as it's fine for religious people to believe whatever they want, but without evidence, it is nothing but a belief.

 

I can point to moral behaviors in other mammals which implies that it's an evolutionary trait which helps survival. Survival of the species is the only moral imperative as far as I can see.

 

I'm not sure how else to answer the question.

 

 

 

 

1)So what would you say about a statement such as "Murder is wrong"? Would you say that is a statement of a fact? (Something that can be proven true or false) Or is it just the statement of an opinion, such as whether pizza is delicious.

 

2)I'm interested in what you think the existence of god creates objective morality! I don't know if I really see the connection between morality being god-given and morality being objective.

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Noggy,

 

Don't those who believe that there are "objective moral facts" make that claim based on some perceived common level of outrage. Like, "Who would ever say it's good to barbeque a baby?" <shouts of "Ewwww!" and "Gasp!!!" How awful!> So, the pro-objectivity moralist says, "You see! There are objective moral facts because everybody hates the idea of roasting a baby." Isn't that the way it goes?

 

That is just reasoning from outrage. It's no foundation on which to base one's morality.

 

It all depends on how you define "objective." Do you mean "absolute" when you say objective?

 

Anyway, just as there is no "Absolute" human language , I don't see that there is an absolute or objective morality. Morality depends on shared values adopted by consensus over time. It depends heavily on the outrage factor. It is also determined by the ways people find empathy towards one another. Systems of morals in societies are fluid and dynamic - they can persist over time. But morals change over time too.

 

I see nothing that indicates that they flow from some first cause or principle. I think underneath that belief is a platonic fallacy that mistakes concepts for actual things.

 

Now, I'd like to take a stab at the questions you asked SciFi Chick, if that is okay.

 

1)So what would you say about a statement such as "Murder is wrong"? Would you say that is a statement of a fact? (Something that can be proven true or false) Or is it just the statement of an opinion, such as whether pizza is delicious.

 

Murder is generally considered wrong withing the context of a particular society. The bare naked assertion of "Murder is wrong" may get you some amen's or votes if you were running for office. But it can't stand on it's own for very long.

 

The wording should be thus "Murder [according to my society] is wrong!" You have to do it that way because look around. Every society has it's own definitions of what constitutes murder. It is a statement based on values, but the gravity of those values is greater since it has to do with life or death and, potentially, the value of my life to my society. Pizza, while a subject enjoyable to most people, does not come weighted with as personal a value.

 

2)I'm interested in what you think the existence of god creates objective morality! I don't know if I really see the connection between morality being god-given and morality being objective.

 

Kai Nielson in his book "Ethics without God" makes a case that even if god did exist, he would have to be subject to some moral standard outside himself.

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Noggy,

 

Don't those who believe that there are "objective moral facts" make that claim based on some perceived common level of outrage. Like, "Who would ever say it's good to barbeque a baby?" <shouts of "Ewwww!" and "Gasp!!!" How awful!> So, the pro-objectivity moralist says, "You see! There are objective moral facts because everybody hates the idea of roasting a baby." Isn't that the way it goes?

 

That is just reasoning from outrage. It's no foundation on which to base one's morality.

 

It all depends on how you define "objective." Do you mean "absolute" when you say objective?

 

Anyway, just as there is no "Absolute" human language , I don't see that there is an absolute or objective morality. Morality depends on shared values adopted by consensus over time. It depends heavily on the outrage factor. It is also determined by the ways people find empathy towards one another. Systems of morals in societies are fluid and dynamic - they can persist over time. But morals change over time too.

 

I see nothing that indicates that they flow from some first cause or principle. I think underneath that belief is a platonic fallacy that mistakes concepts for actual things.

 

There are others out there who believe that there can be an objective "right" and "wrong" without god.

 

There are reasons to behave in certain ways, as opposed to others. Wouldn't these reasons be universally true throughout the universe no matter where you were in time or space?

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1)So what would you say about a statement such as "Murder is wrong"? Would you say that is a statement of a fact? (Something that can be proven true or false) Or is it just the statement of an opinion, such as whether pizza is delicious.

 

We can all agree that murder is wrong, but how murder is defined changes in various societies. For example, I know a number of people think capital punishment is state sanctioned murder, but lots of people are obviously okay with capital punishment. Others think abortion is murder from conception forward, while some people think abortion is perfectly okay right up until birth, so while all of us would say that murder is wrong, what exactly does murder mean to each person? That's how you end up with situational ethics, which means morality changes over time.

 

]2)I'm interested in what you think the existence of god creates objective morality! I don't know if I really see the connection between morality being god-given and morality being objective.

 

Reading oddbird's post made me realize I was seeing the word absolute in my head when you wrote objective. That's probably not what you meant. But if you mean that morality is an objective thing to discover in the same way we've discovered the laws of physics, I maintain that the only true morality one can gain from that is the morality of the survival imperative. Which also means two groups could be in opposition and both could be moral.

 

 

 

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1)So what would you say about a statement such as "Murder is wrong"? Would you say that is a statement of a fact? (Something that can be proven true or false) Or is it just the statement of an opinion, such as whether pizza is delicious.

 

We can all agree that murder is wrong, but how murder is defined changes in various societies. For example, I know a number of people think capital punishment is state sanctioned murder, but lots of people are obviously okay with capital punishment. Others think abortion is murder from conception forward, while some people think abortion is perfectly okay right up until birth, so while all of us would say that murder is wrong, what exactly does murder mean to each person? That's how you end up with situational ethics, which means morality changes over time.

 

]2)I'm interested in what you think the existence of god creates objective morality! I don't know if I really see the connection between morality being god-given and morality being objective.

 

Or people's view of what morality is changes over time. People have looked up at the stars and thought they were different things, but they've always been the same.

 

Notice how nobody has a problem saying "murder is wrong", they just define murder in a different way. But to every rational being MURDER is wrong. If everyone was perfectly rational, what would they say about murder? If everyone was perfectly rational what type of ethics would be in place? Because the universe relies on rationality, could you say THOSE ethics would be objectively true? (but not everyone see it that way)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Notice how nobody has a problem saying "murder is wrong", they just define murder in a different way. But to every rational being MURDER is wrong. If everyone was perfectly rational, what would they say about murder? If everyone was perfectly rational what type of ethics would be in place? Because the universe relies on rationality, could you say THOSE ethics would be objectively true? (but not everyone see it that way)

 

That implies that mercy isn't moral, because it stems from compassion which is emotional, or is it possible to have emotion and still be rational?

 

In any case, I believe what you've just described is similar to what I was saying about evolution determining morality, except that with what you're saying, we would be evolving to be more moral rather than morality developing out of our evolution. Sounds good to me. :)

 

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Notice how nobody has a problem saying "murder is wrong", they just define murder in a different way. But to every rational being MURDER is wrong. If everyone was perfectly rational, what would they say about murder? If everyone was perfectly rational what type of ethics would be in place? Because the universe relies on rationality, could you say THOSE ethics would be objectively true? (but not everyone see it that way)

 

That implies that mercy isn't moral, because it stems from compassion which is emotional, or is it possible to have emotion and still be rational?

 

In any case, I believe what you've just described is similar to what I was saying about evolution determining morality, except that with what you're saying, we would be evolving to be more moral rather than morality developing out of our evolution. Sounds good to me. :)

 

 

As we've gotten further and further along the evolutionary ladder we've become more and more reasonable. It's allowed us to do math, which shows us that the universe is reasonable in nature. And therefore would a code of ethics derived completely from reason be objective? I would think so, but I'm looking for opinions.

 

As far as the mercy issue, mercy is certainly moral. Rational does not mean devoid of emotions, it does not mean machine-like. Being reasonable is simply not acting on "passions", which are usually just reactions to stimuli.

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There is no morality in nature, it is a human invention. Morality is something societies define in their own time and place. Some "moral" acts are pretty universal in nature because they arise from being necessary to the evolution of a successful society. Prohibition against murder (killing of innocents) isn't inherently moral so much as a necessary component of any society that thrives.

 

If humans had never evolved on this planet, who would define morality? Could one bit of the universe behave in a moral or immoral way to some other bit? Morality is about people, and we don't necessarily have to exist for the universe to go on about its amoral way.

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There is no morality in nature, it is a human invention. Morality is something societies define in their own time and place. Some "moral" acts are pretty universal in nature because they arise from being necessary to the evolution of a successful society. Prohibition against murder (killing of innocents) isn't inherently moral so much as a necessary component of any society that thrives.

 

If humans had never evolved on this planet, who would define morality? Could one bit of the universe behave in a moral or immoral way to some other bit? Morality is about people, and we don't necessarily have to exist for the universe to go on about its amoral way.

 

 

But we ARE the universe. We are a product of, and are the universe. What the planets are made of is the same thing we are made of. So the universe developed morality. Think about that. Why did the universe pan out in the way it did to develop morality?

 

 

If humans had not evolved on this planet, would it still change the fact that murder is wrong? Just because there is nothing to murder does not change that.

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But we ARE the universe. We are a product of, and are the universe.

On the most basic level, we are indeed physically composed of the stuff of the universe. It could be no other way.

 

My opinion is that sentient beings are required to make "morality." Everything else occurring in nature lacks the ability to deem one thing as bad and another as good. Everything just is. We simply impose a thought process on it.

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But we ARE the universe. We are a product of, and are the universe.

On the most basic level, we are indeed physically composed of the stuff of the universe. It could be no other way.

 

My opinion is that sentient beings are required to make "morality." Everything else occurring in nature lacks the ability to deem one thing as bad and another as good. Everything just is. We simply impose a thought process on it.

 

To claim that morality is subjective is a denial of causality – actions have consequences, which arise because of natural, psychological and social laws. If you stop eating, you will die. If you stop drinking water, you will die even faster. If you break the social mores of decency or peaceful behaviour in your relationships with others, your life will be affected and even endangered. If you do not pursue social values in general, you will live isolated from the benefits of civilization. If you do not pursue mental values, you will not have the mental capacity to reason our way through life. Without such values, you would easily fall prey to any received idea, any scam, you would have no capacity to manage your life. Causality is universal: actions have consequences, causes have effects, if we fail to follow the requirements of life we will fail to live.

 

Whatever the moral system upheld by the individual, we can express the general value-judgment process simply in the following manner:

 

1. There is a moral choice, with two or more possible actions.

2. Those actions exist in a context.

3. The combination of that context and our hierarchy of values (whatever its form) determines the values effected by each action.

 

We already have a hierarchical system of values in humanistic psychology, which is called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and is generally accepted in the field. David Kelley gives a similar account of human needs in “Logical Structure of Objectivism”, albeit one that also includes vital philosophical concerns:

 

” Material needs such as needs for health and food: these values contribute directly to survival.

 

Spiritual needs such as needs for conceptual knowledge, self-esteem, education and art: these values are spiritual in the sense that they primarily pertain to consciousness, and contribute to survival by helping Reason to function properly.

 

Social needs such as needs for trade, communication, friendship and love: these values are social in that they occur only through interaction with others. Logically, their status as values is due to the fact that they contribute to the fulfillment of spiritual and material needs.

 

Political needs such as needs for freedom and objective law, which are needs concerning the organization of society. These provide the context for fulfilling our material, spiritual and social needs”

(p81)

 

I think it is pretty clear that all of its parts are objective. They are based on existing physical and psychological causal facts that we observe in ourselves and other people. It is also a hierarchy, given that the needs at one level need to be fulfilled to a suitable extent before we can be concerned about the others.

 

 

 

 

http://www.strongatheism.net/library/philosophy/case_for_objective_morality/

 

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To claim that morality is subjective is a denial of causality – actions have consequences...

Within the social system that humans invented, obviously one's decision to behave in a particular way will have consequences from the choices other humans might make about it. Someone else decides what the consequence might be, if there is to be one at all. It's not automatic. How that is the same as the physical laws observed in nature is beyond me.

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There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

Just to complicate things, F=Ma is based on localised observation and there is nothing to say that it holds in a non local system.

Its also empirically derived so isn't really a true statement.

Would you like me to derive it for you from Newtons original description? LOL

 

Just thought I'd be an ass so don't take offense. :P

 

 

 

 

 

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There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

Just to complicate things, F=Ma is based on localised observation and there is nothing to say that it holds in a non local system.

Its also empirically derived so isn't really a true statement.

Would you like me to derive it for you from Newtons original description? LOL

 

Just thought I'd be an ass so don't take offense. :P

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't want to see that for the nth time!

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To claim that morality is subjective is a denial of causality – actions have consequences...

Within the social system that humans invented, obviously one's decision to behave in a particular way will have consequences from the choices other humans might make about it. Someone else decides what the consequence might be, if there is to be one at all. It's not automatic. How that is the same as the physical laws observed in nature is beyond me.

 

You're assuming that peoples choices dont take physical form. As if me murdering someone has no effect on the world if people make choices on it.

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You're assuming that peoples choices dont take physical form. As if me murdering someone has no effect on the world if people make choices on it.

Yes, chaos theory's butterfly effect. Everything affects everything else to some degree, at least theoretically. I have no problem with that. I think you are saying something to the effect that your decision to murder a certain individual will prevent him from discovering the cure for cancer. Possibly it would prevent him from killing the president sometime in the future. Likely, it will have no such major impact, but someone/something will be affected in some way, of course. Where does morality come in if not by human judgment? The universe doesn't need us at all, so where is morality if we aren't here to define it and implement it in our own little corner?

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There are others out there who believe that there can be an objective "right" and "wrong" without god.

 

There are reasons to behave in certain ways, as opposed to others. Wouldn't these reasons be universally true throughout the universe no matter where you were in time or space?

 

 

You really don't provide enough information to see what you are getting at.

 

I'm sure others who do not believe in god believe there can be an objective right or wrong. But how do they determine this objective set of morals? That's what really counts, otherwise your merely hinting at a bandwagon approach and not a reasoned approach to objective moral values. The bandwagon approach is pretty much the same as a religious/revealed approach.

 

a) Yes , there are reasons behind just about every behavior. But that's not the same. I don't think we have any examples of sentient beings across the universe, so I don't know what your comment about "reasons. . . universally true throughout the universe" having anything to do with anything. We need to find some living, intelligent beings not from this earth in order to determine if there happen to be objective moral values.

 

B) And I still have no evidence that there are universal morals across time. Where's the evidence that you rely on for this?

 

c) Why isn't what you suggest a mere reification of moral values and concepts?

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There are others out there who believe that there can be an objective "right" and "wrong" without god.

 

There are reasons to behave in certain ways, as opposed to others. Wouldn't these reasons be universally true throughout the universe no matter where you were in time or space?

 

 

You really don't provide enough information to see what you are getting at.

 

I'm sure others who do not believe in god believe there can be an objective right or wrong. But how do they determine this objective set of morals? That's what really counts, otherwise your merely hinting at a bandwagon approach and not a reasoned approach to objective moral values. The bandwagon approach is pretty much the same as a religious/revealed approach.

 

a) Yes , there are reasons behind just about every behavior. But that's not the same. I don't think we have any examples of sentient beings across the universe, so I don't know what your comment about "reasons. . . universally true throughout the universe" having anything to do with anything. We need to find some living, intelligent beings not from this earth in order to determine if there happen to be objective moral values.

 

B) And I still have no evidence that there are universal morals across time. Where's the evidence that you rely on for this?

 

c) Why isn't what you suggest a mere reification of moral values and concepts?

 

 

If you're interested and got time, watch this and the videos after it

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_l69QN7ixmM

 

 

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Objective from what? Society? There are certain evolutionary behaviors that could be defined as moral, and we see them in mammals other than humans. That's about the closest you can get to objective morality outside of a god existing.

 

There are lots of philosophers out there that believe that there ARE objective moral facts without god existing. And the objective moral facts are objective from EVERYTHING. They are objectively true. Just as true as F=ma and such type things. Such as "Murder is wrong", etc.

 

 

You also seem to say that god's existence would make objective moral facts also exist, would you explain your reasoning?

 

And they are wrong. There is no objective morality. Everything can be justified given the right conditions, including murder.

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