What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
Post Reply
 
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
31-01-2018, 10:50 PM (This post was last modified: 31-01-2018 11:00 PM by Glossophile.)
What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
I recently watched a theistic critique of a video by Cosmic Skeptic. I've lately been trying to resist responding to videos like this, at least if they're more than a month or so old. When I do, it can often turn into an impromptu debate that just gets tiring after a while. But in the end, the stuff on morality just pushed me over the edge, so I posted a comment. I'm TranslatorCarminum, in case anyone wants to read my comment.

Anyway, this got me thinking about a point on the moral argument that I don't think gets made often enough. I think most debates on morality suffer from a definition problem, specifically with respect to the word "objective" (and, by extension, its antonym "subjective"). As far as I can tell, "objective morality" can refer to one of two things. First, it can refer to moral laws inherent to the cosmos that would hold true even if there were no sentient or even living beings in existence. Second, it can refer to moral guidelines by which legitimate moral judgments can be made across different cultures without anyone being guilty of ethnocentrism or cultural imperialism (essentially an escape from relativism).

Let's refer to the first meaning as "absolute morality" and the second meaning as "universal morality." In my experience, in many debates on morality, there's a sort of confusion or equivocation between these two ideas that leaves the atheist and the theist mostly talking past each other. Typically, the theist will appeal to the need for universal morality, and when the atheist offers a secular basis for universal morality, the theist will shift the goalposts and complain that the atheist has failed to account for absolute morality. Alternatively, the atheist might readily acknowledge that absolute morality does not exist, but the theist will respond as if it is universal morality that the atheist has denied or failed to account for, which is not necessarily the case.

So if you ask me if morality is objective or subjective, then, I must first know what you mean by those two terms. If by "objective" you mean absolute, then morality is definitely subjective. If instead you mean universal (or at least potentially so), then I believe morality is objective (or at least far more objective than subjective). To be more specific, while it may be premature to declare any definitive secular solution to the problem of moral relativism, the strides that we have so far made in that regard demonstrate clearly that it is far from the hopeless cause that divine command advocates seem to think it is.

I think debates on morality could be streamlined and made more effective if the debaters clarified and agreed on the relevant definitions from the outset. What do you think?

The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. – Carl Sagan
Sōla vēritās sancta in philosophiā nātūrālī est absentia vēritātum sanctārum.
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστίν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 7 users Like Glossophile's post
31-01-2018, 11:01 PM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
Absolutely. Definition is key. "Morality" is an extremely vague term, and you have to at least state what it is morality is trying to achieve before you can analyse it.

Usually it's trying to achieve something which is also very vague, such as maximizing wellbeing. It could only be objective if this goal can be quantified, and the way in which you go about doing this for something like wellbeing is hugely subjective.

Theists, in my opinion, mean "external" when they say objective, most of the time. They mean there's an authority that can be referred to, outside of our own sphere, which is definitive. But this is really just subjective to that authority. If it was truly objective, the opinion of this authority wouldn't matter either.

I think people generally mean best objective morality, since any number of moral systems can be set up to be objective. But determining which is best requires knowing what the goals are.

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 6 users Like Robvalue's post
31-01-2018, 11:05 PM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
I made a video a while back which discusses this in more detail.




I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Robvalue's post
31-01-2018, 11:16 PM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
It has been my experience over years of debating these sorts of issue on the net that objective morality usually is meant by theists that the morality created by God is objective. It seems to mean that morality is created by God by definition. So that if the atheist denies the idea that God does not exist, then by the theist's idea about the source of morality, the atheist in effect denies morality exists. It is a trick definition. It is a sort of presuppositional argument, such as claiming logic exists because God creates logic.

As an atheist, I of course deny any and all presuppositional arguments. The closest we can get to objective morality is the fact that we have emotions that are affected by how we are treated. You cannot help but feel bad if you are robbed, assaulted, cheated et al. Or be happy when good things happen to you. This is as close to objective we can come when it comes to creating moral systems.

No God creates that. Evolution creates brains that can react and then create abstract systems of morality based on our reactions to things that happen to us because of the actions of other people.

We see in the end that there is no real moral system created by religion that in the end does not rely on logic applied to dealing with how people feel when things happen to them cause by other people. The Bible God commanding genocides and ethnic cleansing most certainly is not moral, nor a moral guide for modern mankind.

“It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”
― Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

Cheerful Charlie
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes Cheerful Charlie's post
31-01-2018, 11:37 PM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
Silly Glossophile.

It means whatever the speaker wants to mean at any given point in the conversation, argument, paragraph, or sentence, and may be swapped back and forth between definitions to whatever advantage may be derived from doing so.

I am an antipistevist. That's like an antipastovist, only with epistemic responsibility instead of bruschetta.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Reltzik's post
31-01-2018, 11:43 PM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
What the hell does "objective" even mean first.

#sigh
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 1 user Likes GirlyMan's post
01-02-2018, 12:05 AM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
(31-01-2018 11:43 PM)GirlyMan Wrote:  What the hell does "objective" even mean first.

In my experience with debating theists, it means, "In my black-and-white world where I demand there is a definitive answer to everything, whether that makes sense or not".

I have a website here which discusses the issues and terminology surrounding religion and atheism. It's hopefully user friendly to all.
Visit this user's website Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 7 users Like Robvalue's post
01-02-2018, 01:29 AM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
It means, colloquially, "bullshit".
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like Thumpalumpacus's post
01-02-2018, 08:12 AM
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
(01-02-2018 12:05 AM)Robvalue Wrote:  In my experience with debating theists, it means, "In my black-and-white world where I demand there is a definitive answer to everything, whether that makes sense or not".

That, followed by being attacked if you say you don't believe in it. They immediately jump to asking me if something abhorrent (child rape is a common one) is "wrong". If I say "objectively, no", I get attacked for not believing child rape is wrong. When I say that subjectively, I feel it is, they say "well, that's just your opinion!" (obviously). When I agree and say that's basically how all of humanity handles it and these tend to be cultural assumptions, I get told "you can't get an ought from an is", then they'll ask the exact same question of "is X wrong", with X becoming increasingly vile. It's so disturbing.

I mean, it's a great way to be dismissive. If I step away from the debate for a day and come back, I get brushed off as "that guy who doesn't think child rape is wrong", and at that point, I honestly have no interest in correcting them.
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
[+] 2 users Like RobbyPants's post
01-02-2018, 09:06 AM (This post was last modified: 01-02-2018 09:15 AM by Tomasia.)
RE: What Exactly Does "Objective" Morality Mean?
(31-01-2018 10:50 PM)Glossophile Wrote:  I recently watched a theistic critique of a video by Cosmic Skeptic. I've lately been trying to resist responding to videos like this, at least if they're more than a month or so old. When I do, it can often turn into an impromptu debate that just gets tiring after a while. But in the end, the stuff on morality just pushed me over the edge, so I posted a comment. I'm TranslatorCarminum, in case anyone wants to read my comment.

Anyway, this got me thinking about a point on the moral argument that I don't think gets made often enough. I think most debates on morality suffer from a definition problem, specifically with respect to the word "objective" (and, by extension, its antonym "subjective"). As far as I can tell, "objective morality" can refer to one of two things. First, it can refer to moral laws inherent to the cosmos that would hold true even if there were no sentient or even living beings in existence. Second, it can refer to moral guidelines by which legitimate moral judgments can be made across different cultures without anyone being guilty of ethnocentrism or cultural imperialism (essentially an escape from relativism).

Let's refer to the first meaning as "absolute morality" and the second meaning as "universal morality." In my experience, in many debates on morality, there's a sort of confusion or equivocation between these two ideas that leaves the atheist and the theist mostly talking past each other. Typically, the theist will appeal to the need for universal morality, and when the atheist offers a secular basis for universal morality, the theist will shift the goalposts and complain that the atheist has failed to account for absolute morality. Alternatively, the atheist might readily acknowledge that absolute morality does not exist, but the theist will respond as if it is universal morality that the atheist has denied or failed to account for, which is not necessarily the case.

So if you ask me if morality is objective or subjective, then, I must first know what you mean by those two terms. If by "objective" you mean absolute, then morality is definitely subjective. If instead you mean universal (or at least potentially so), then I believe morality is objective (or at least far more objective than subjective). To be more specific, while it may be premature to declare any definitive secular solution to the problem of moral relativism, the strides that we have so far made in that regard demonstrate clearly that it is far from the hopeless cause that divine command advocates seem to think it is.

I think debates on morality could be streamlined and made more effective if the debaters clarified and agreed on the relevant definitions from the outset. What do you think?

I'm curious would you say you understand what objective vs subjective means outsides of morality? Like objective truth?

I'd argue that anything that is not subjective (based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions) is objective. Absolute truths are also objective truths. Relative truths can also be objective truths, but not absolute truths.

My go to example is torturing innocent babies just for fun is morally wrong. If someone stated it's morally right, in my view they would be factually incorrect, such as if they said 1+1=3.

Objective morality, is a belief that moral facts exist, which is a requirement for this statement to be true. Absent of a teleological order, objective morality is not possible.

If morality is subjective, than a person who stated that it's morally right, is no more wrong, than someone who disagrees with me that Justin Bieber is a bad singer. Because morality is matter of personal taste. If you as atheists disagree that morality is a matter of personal feelings, tastes, or opinions, than you subscribe to objective morality, by definition whether you acknowledge this or not.

"Tell me, muse, of the storyteller who has been thrust to the edge of the world, both an infant and an ancient, and through him reveal everyman." ---Homer the aged poet.

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it."
Find all posts by this user
Like Post Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: