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Are morals objective, or subjective

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    [QUOTE=nexttime;36779169]So the argument is that breaking a promise is immoral because we define breaking a promise as immoral. To translate, something is immoral if we define it as immoral.

    I'm no philosopher but...I don't think that argument achieves much.


    No breaking a promise isn't immoral, but the technical definition of keeping a promise requires Jones to keep it. Jones uttered the statement "“I promise to give you, Smith, five dollars.” The term 'promise' has an analytical definition, the word actually entails promise-keeping independent of morality. Therefore it is objective.
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    (Original post by Destroyer25)
    That is true, but the values and morals that form the basis of our society do not, which is the argument I am making. Just 20 years ago homosexuality was widely seen as an abomination, now homosexuals enjoy much more acceptance in society. However, our fundamental freedoms, like speech, the press and association are things that don't change. Those are the things that society needs to view objectively, as they guarantee the stability of society. Seeing homosexuality as right or wrong falls more into the category of socioeconomic (subjective) preferences. It's not something that is necessarily critical to the stability of society, and thus it's not something that everyone must agree on.
    I'd say freedom of the individual is extremely basic in our society. Homosexuality is classed under that, surely? China exists very stably without freedom of speech.

    You're just picking things that haven't changed in a while and saying 'these haven't changed in a while, therefore they are objective and our society would collapse without them'.

    Human rights don't work unless they are objective. Otherwise they are pointless, as what I consider a right you may not.
    Human rights are just some things that most people agree on that are broadly achievable on a global scale. What is it that makes them objective in your eyes? Because the UN has said so?

    In this context, it means that everyone agrees on what morals and values should be the basis of society.
    So its just the majority vote that makes these rules 'objective'? I think you need to check your definitions.

    If these values were subjective then society wouldn't function, as everyone would have a different view of what freedom is, whether it's right or wrong to murder, etc.
    That is just completely incorrect. Just because we recognise that morals can't be objective, doesn't mean we can't agree a functioning system of laws. Of course people can disagree with it, what is wrong with that? Its still law.

    Its interesting that you pick murder as your example - what constitutes murder (i.e. illegal killing) is HUGELY debatable. What if they wanted to die? What if they had broken into your home, or were trying to mug you? What if its state-sponsored? What if they were a foetus? To say "killing is absolutely, objectively wrong, this is because (??? whatever your reasons are) and you are never going to be allowed to debate this ever" is just absurd.

    We all have our own ideas about what we want from life, and so what morals are compatible with that. You can't just come along and say 'you all believe this, end of' or 'freedom is going to mean this to you (to use your example)' because not everyone will. This does not impact on the function of society.

    EDIT: how would you deal with people who disagree with the 'objective' truths you/the majority has established?
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    (Original post by OedipusTheKing)
    No breaking a promise isn't immoral, but the technical definition of keeping a promise requires Jones to keep it. Jones uttered the statement "“I promise to give you, Smith, five dollars.” The term 'promise' has an analytical definition, the word actually entails promise-keeping independent of morality. Therefore it is objective.
    ok so... i agree that Jones said he would give the 5 dollars. Either 'promise' does imply morality, in which case we are self-defining immoral, or it doesn't say anything about morality, in which case, the example is irrelevant to morals. If the 5 dollars are not paid then the promise was broken, Jones lied. This may or may not be moral.
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    (Original post by nexttime)
    I have to say, your ideas about societies only working if everyone agrees is chilling - what would you do with people who disagree with your self-appointed 'objective' truths? Would they all have to "disappear" in order to achieve your stable society? Is that how you would run your state?
    Oh yes, I'm a Fascist, you have me all figured out. :rolleyes:

    Now if you're just going to make insulting presumptions about my views I'm not interested in discussing this any further.

    And for the record, I'm a Classical Liberal; the Liberal ideology is based on moral absolutism. This isn't about me trying to impose my view of morality, it's about establishing what rights all men should have. It's not a complex idea. If people cannot agree on certain unalienable rights then society will not function.
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    (Original post by Destroyer25)
    Oh yes, I'm a Fascist, you have me all figured out. :rolleyes:

    Now if you're just going to make insulting presumptions about my views I'm not interested in discussing this any further.

    And for the record, I'm a Classical Liberal; the Liberal ideology is based on moral absolutism. This isn't about me trying to impose my view of morality, it's about establishing what rights all men should have. It's not a complex idea. If people cannot agree on certain unalienable rights then society will not function.
    I was not trying to insult you. I will edit my post if you want. I simply struggle to see what other practical implications there are of statements like
    If these values were subjective then society wouldn't function, as everyone would have a different view of what freedom is
    So, without making any assumptions, allow me to ask: what would you do if a significant minority of your society disagreed with one of the majority's 'objective' moral issues? Say, some people believe torture is allowable in certain circumstances (right to not be tortured being article 5 of the universal declaration of human rights)?

    The part in bold: people can agree on unalienable rights whilst admitting that they are based on subjective criteria. I don't see what this has to do with political ideology. You're saying liberalism needs objective rights but socialism doesn't?! :
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    (Original post by nexttime)
    I was not trying to insult you. I will edit my post if you want. I simply struggle to see what other practical implications there are of statements like So, without making any assumptions, allow me to ask: what would you do if a significant minority of your society disagreed with one of the majority's 'objective' moral issues? Say, some people believe torture is allowable in certain circumstances (right to not be tortured being article 5 of the universal declaration of human rights)?

    The part in bold: people can agree on unalienable rights whilst admitting that they are based on subjective criteria. I don't see what this has to do with political ideology. You're saying liberalism needs objective rights but socialism doesn't?! :
    Well to use Canada as an example, torture and other sorts of cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited by the Charter and of course the UDHR. Personally I don't think there is an issue with these objective moral positions because they've been established in Western society long ago. Our laws, morals, values, ethics, beliefs, customs, etc, have all been established over the course of history. Western society as a whole is pretty much in agreement on these subjects, and we have legal frameworks to deal with questions regarding these rights as well.
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    (Original post by Destroyer25)
    Well to use Canada as an example, torture and other sorts of cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited by the Charter and of course the UDHR. Personally I don't think there is an issue with these objective moral positions because they've been established in Western society long ago. Our laws, morals, values, ethics, beliefs, customs, etc, have all been established over the course of history. Western society as a whole is pretty much in agreement on these subjects, and we have legal frameworks to deal with questions regarding these rights as well.
    Are Western societies really agreed upon everything concerning these subjects? What about capital punishment?
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    (Original post by Destroyer25)
    Well to use Canada as an example, torture and other sorts of cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited by the Charter and of course the UDHR. Personally I don't think there is an issue with these objective moral positions because they've been established in Western society long ago. Our laws, morals, values, ethics, beliefs, customs, etc, have all been established over the course of history. Western society as a whole is pretty much in agreement on these subjects, and we have legal frameworks to deal with questions regarding these rights as well.
    In other words, its true because most people think so, and have done for x amount of time.

    There is nothing objective about that.
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    I think that morals are subjective and I take a relativist position and think that morals typically grow within a culture or society with some exceptions within the culture.
    Moral realism argues for objective morality, this is weak as we cannot come to know this objective morality.
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    Subjective of course, look how culturally contingent they are.
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    (Original post by nexttime)
    In other words, its true because most people think so, and have done for x amount of time.

    There is nothing objective about that.
    it is a perversion of the term objective if anything.
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    I've never been taught Philosophy but as far as I am concerned morality is axiomatically objective/absolute (or external) otherwise it just becomes a matter of personal taste and is thus not a morality.

    That is not to say we do not 'make' morality but unless it is perceived as originating outside of the person, being 'external', 'true' it looses all power.

    Like primitive religion - totemism - the totem is perceived as holding all the power, as being THE power, where 'right' and 'wrong' is defined, and 'sacredness' originates from and is embodied by.

    As soon as you turn critical thinking or science/positivism on the totem though it looses all power....you kind of 'get outside' of the totem morality system and it is rendered impotent.

    So I think we create morality but as soon as we acknowledge that we destroy it. When I say we I do not necessarily mean us as individuals but it is a social process.
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    (Original post by khaiser turian)
    I think that morals are subjective and I take a relativist position and think that morals typically grow within a culture or society with some exceptions within the culture.
    Moral realism argues for objective morality, this is weak as we cannot come to know this objective morality.
    How then do you account for moral disagreement? If morals are subjective as you have described and I was debating with someone from another culture that female circumcision is wrong, whilst he believed it to be right, where would the disagreement be? We would, according to cultural relativism, both be right.
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    Subject IMO - And the fact that I have an opinion on morals is a testimony to this argument.
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    (Original post by SanityinVanity)
    Subjective of course, look how culturally contingent they are.
    That would make them relative or historicist or something but not subjective.
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    (Original post by Aleandcynicism)
    How then do you account for moral disagreement? If morals are subjective as you have described and I was debating with someone from another culture that female circumcision is wrong, whilst he believed it to be right, where would the disagreement be? We would, according to cultural relativism, both be right.
    Yes you would both be right however the debate was sparked by the fact that each person holds a seperate definition of what is morally right and wrong. Hence there is a disagreement due to the conflict of subjective views.
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    (Original post by snozzle)
    That would make them relative or historicist or something but not subjective.
    If morals can change dependant on where and how you were brought up then surely they cannot be objective.
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    (Original post by roar558)
    Yes you would both be right however the debate was sparked by the fact that each person holds a seperate definition of what is morally right and wrong. Hence there is a disagreement due to the conflict of subjective views.
    But then we're not really disagreeing and instead we're just talking past one another. If we had entirely different conceptions of morality we'd be talking about completely different things. It's as if I said to you 'that person's at the bank' and you replied 'no they're not!' when I'm talking about a financial institution and you're talking about a river bank.

    Isn't there more to the debate over femal circumcision than talking past one another? Isn't there actual moral disagreement?
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    (Original post by roar558)
    If morals can change dependant on where and how you were brought up then surely they cannot be objective.
    Sure but they are perceived as objective/absolute or they have no meaning.

    I am kind of putting fwd a perspectivist position.

    To someone who believes in a morality to them the morality is an absolute standard of right and wrong, good and evil, sacred and profane....all other moralities they reject as false.
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    Its a human invention, subjective.

    Natural law/morality, I think, is objective. Things found in nature which happen automatically.

    Though you could argue, humans cannot control their chemical signals which form emotion which are the foundation for subjective morality, so I'd say its a mix of absolutism, grounded objectivity in natural morality, subjective man made laws, and relativism is correct, objectively, but with regards to human emotion and opinion being involved, relativism is amoral as our laws are subjective, but it is "right" in the logical sense, but not the "right" thing to act out with regards to humanity. If we were robots with no emotion only absolutism and objectivity could exist due to efficiency, there would be no need for relativism as values would all point towards a pre-programmed task.

    Which is factual logic IMHO.

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