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[–] JohnnyPemberton 1 points 57 points (+58|-1) ago  (edited ago)

Subjective. "Morality" is a human creation, an expression of how we'd like reality to be. Usually "moral" things are simply things that would increase the survival and health of the tribe or community.

Morality may have evolved (a la evopsych). There may have been communities that thought stealing from each other and stomping babies was perfectly fine, but those communities obviously failed to prosper and propagate. Those that thought like we do now were more successful, and now here we all are.

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[–] iHaveToGoHomeNow 0 points 7 points (+7|-0) ago 

Even in different societies today, some ideas that are despised in the West are accepted in the East, and vice versa. This may be controversial but in the West, cheating in academic settings are hugely punished and considered immoral but in East Asia, people don't take it that seriously. It's still not "moral" but people overlook cheating. Furthermore, under Islamic law, stealing is punished by cutting off the thief's hand. For Muslims, carnal punishment is moral, while it's heavily frowned upon in the West.

Not only is morality subjective but also its degree.

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[–] Cuddlefluff 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago  (edited ago)

But what does the west do that is considered immoral elsewhere?

Edit :

Ok, I have a few; greed and gluttony

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[–] R_Metallica 0 points 5 points (+5|-0) ago 

Exactly, this is what gives meaning to my favourite quote by Asimov "Never let the sense of moral get in the way of doing what's right" Subjective vs Objective.

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[–] parrygrin 2 points 3 points (+5|-2) ago 

Dude, even if people didn't say it was wrong, the Holocaust would still be wrong.

Or the Armenian Genocide.

Or raping eight year olds.

Or anything that violates the rights and dignity of individual human beings, which is the basis of every great evil in history, regardless of cultural or historical context. Yes, this is a broad-ass, painfully absolute (and therefore vulnerable) statement. I'm still looking for a counter-example.

We only feel that morality is subjective because so much evil is done in the name of pursuing wildly varying conceptualizations of greater good, but the existence of multiple paths to a destination does not prove multiple destinations.

Virtue is not subjective, but our pursuit of it is, since a virtuous life is lived rather than legislated. See Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Taoism, Gabriel Marcel's "Creative Fidelity" brand of Existentialism.

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[–] themanlyhegoat 0 points 7 points (+7|-0) ago 

I disagree - certain things are clearly wrong to us now, but that is only from our perspective of what's right and what is wrong.

In Steven Pinker's The Better Angels Of Our Nature, he shows clearly how morality has changed over time and how even if we are steadily increasing our moral circle (to include animals, etc.), morality is judged by the consensus at the time. At one point in time, it was perfectly acceptable to murder every single last person in a conquered nation, now it is obviously not.

Even if we think that there is an objective measure of the rights and dignity of human beings, the definition of that may still change further, as it has from 10 or 20 years ago. I remember how fucked up even the 80s were, where it was almost forbidden for a black man to kiss a white woman on screen. At the time, our society might not have defined rights and dignities to include this, and in another 20 years, we may find that our definitions may still change further to include other aspects of life that we just aren't paying attention to as of now.

So, our practical application of morality may still change yet.

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[–] JohnnyPemberton 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago  (edited ago)

"Virtue is not subjective"

I disagree.

I guess the reasons those things are "wrong" is because we have empathy, and realize that it would suck to be on the receiving end and have that happen to us.

Then again, empathy is another survival adaptation that has risen out of needing to operate in social groups. A solitary creature such as a lizard or something is comparatively poor at empathy, and might even get enjoyment out of murder and rape. Capacity for morality (and thus, virtue) only evolved in tandem with creatures needing to operate socially in groups.

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[–] bill.lee 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

Great points and I'd refer people voting to the top guideline. There are a lot of arguments being made for the subjective side, so its nice to see someone making the counter-argument. I'm currently reading The Rebel by Camus which approaches some of these topics...essentially, some essays on where these concepts spring from. I'll definitely be checking out Creative Fidelity. Thanks for sharing!

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[–] iamnic 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

virtues themselves are not subjective (temperance, helpfulness, moderation, altruism, whatever) but which ones you choose to prioritize or even endorse are. there's lots of virtues out there, and lots of people have very difference ideas about which ones to promote and live by.

it's possible to be a virtue ethicist and believe in the subjectivity of morality. aristotle understood that and that's why he never laid out of concrete set of virtues to abide by but rather said that part of a moral education was learning which virtues to live by yourself.

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[–] Brother_Morphine 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

But if we evolved to have the morality we have today and everyone now thinks like we do, doesn't that mean morality is universal?

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[–] JohnnyPemberton 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago  (edited ago)

the emotional opinions of homo sapiens (and some other higher mammals, elephants, maybe dolphins [although they love rape]) are hardly "universal". it's not like the laws of physics or anything.

I'd say that our sense of justice and morality also has a lot to do with the mainly [again, elephants being an interesting exception] human ability to recognize our own mortality, and a lot of our morals and justice is a reaction to that anxiety. That and our ability for empathy, although that seems rather limited to whether the subject of our attention is the same race/religion/political party/ideology/species as we are, unfortunately.

as a few users here have pointed out, the prevailing "morality" is always changing. some people loved doing genocides. others feel guilty when they step on a bug. "morality" is a constant battle between empathy, and the human desire to believe you're superior to someone or something else.

as an aside, the whole "superiority" thing that humans are so into, is a product of being aware of our mortality. during a genocide, the victims are always painted as inferior, subhuman, worms, rats, dirt, etc, to blunt our ability to try and empathize. we turn the victims of such genocides into symbolic embodiments of everything we hate and fear in ourselves, and then we destroy them. "of course they die, they were human, but I won't, I'm immortal, my ideology is immortal" we subconsciously say to ourselves when we kill our enemies, and doing so makes us feel ideologically and psychologically secure.

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[–] EffedInTheMeh 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

No, because morality is ever shifting with experiences. Say that you find murder reprehensible as a child, but you grow up, join the armed forces, and some brown guy from another country kills one of your friends. Suddenly your opinion shifts and you don't think killing brown people is so bad.

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[–] Quark 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

Not everyone today thinks the same though. Our sense of morality is heavily affected by our past and current environment. For example, there are places in the Middle East where it is okay to marry a 12 year old but in most everywhere else we view that as disgusting and incredibly immoral. On the other hand, it is almost universally accepted that killing your kin is immoral. This is because those who would kill their kin have a lower probably of passing on whatever genes may have caused them to kill their kin. Likewise, any genes that are anti-kin-killing are favored by natural selection.

I think our sense for morality is grounded in our capacity for empathy which is affected by both nature and nurture.

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[–] SalGarza 0 points 15 points (+15|-0) ago 

Catholic here - morality is universal. Just because someone does not know God's law doesn't mean they aren't aware they are breaking it because it is inscribed into their hearts.

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[–] intono 0 points 7 points (+7|-0) ago 

care to elaborate?

I don't see how someone unfamiliar with the idea of a god is in any way able to give those "laws" an importance to such a significant degree. I agree that there are some innate moral values (for instance, nobody would willingly eat another human being), but it takes growth and education to become aware of them, and every culture has some variations.

plus, if morality were universal, there wouldn't be any wars.

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[–] SalGarza 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

There's both. Universal rules: do not murder, commit adultery, steal unless necessary,

Then there's the law of man which is subject to the times and place.m

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[–] Baldwin 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago  (edited ago)

Was expecting a catholic to reply, not disappointed.

I'll add that moral can't be subjective, because it would mean that you can choose what part of it you want to keep and what part you want to remove. So if it were subjective, it wouldn't be moral anymore.

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[–] rstrt 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago  (edited ago)

In Germany, a lot of Nazi soldiers were given little to no choice but to join the ranks. They killed because if they didn't, it was their families that would be killed. Are they less moral because they weren't given a choice? Or, conversely, were Allied soldiers any less immoral than the Nazi soldiers were?

Morality is absolutely subjective, as it shifts and changes with time. We have things that are morally acceptable today that were once immoral. Keeping in the spirit of the Catholic church, it's morally acceptable to use contraceptives like condoms today which wasn't the case not too long ago. Speaking from a religious sense; God's will does not change, God's laws are absolute. Morality is a symptom of Man and free will.

Ninjaedit: I mean were the allies less immoral because they killed the nazi soldiers.

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[–] simery 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

But that's kind of the point. We as a society define what is moral and what is not.

When society agreed slavery was alright, slavery was moral and right. It wasnt until society changed its stance on slavery that it became immoral.

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[–] neverstoptostare 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago  (edited ago)

Coming from someone who used to be very, very into his catholicism, I honestly couldn't disagree more. For me now, my morality rises with ethics. You can do whatever you want, I don't consider anything "morally wrong" unless it hurts some one else. I'm not saying every instance of hurting someone is morally wrong, but that is a requirement. That being said, I do not believe in impersonal harms, e.g. him having sex with another man degrades the community, there for we are all the victim. I personally think that is bullshit. No one is harmed by that, there is no "victim".

Also, what about psychopaths, people who are capable of such terrible things due to the fact that they lack empathy? Did god forget to "inscribe his rules on their heart"?

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[–] SalGarza 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago  (edited ago)

You can do whatever you want, but you can't harm people. Love is one of the forces that if left untempered takes control of us and causes envy, jealousy, anger and possessiveness (you're my property). I've seen people being ruthlessly beaten down by their unhealthy romances, so I have a different opinion than you. If you do think it's safe than go ahead and do what you feel you need to do, but be careful. People can be harsh.

And you're right inscribed in our hearts was a poor choice of words. universal law is something that can be figured out by reason would be a better way of saying it. I don't know why psychopaths do what they do - it's a defect of mankind I guess.

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[–] M31 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

because it is inscribed into their hearts.

This sounds pretty, but it doesn't actually mean anything. Obviously it's not literal, but even if you take it to mean "everyone agrees, deep down, that X is right and Y is wrong", it is still not true. Think of all the parts of god's law that we no longer agree with. We don't execute adulterers. We don't stone witches. We don't murder homosexuals. Has the law changed? No, Matthew 5:18/Luke 16:17 tells us it has not. We don't do these things because we don't feel that they're right. Our morality has changed in the time since these rules were written.

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[–] SalGarza 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

You're right. God's law is universal and of the spirit. 10 commandments, love each other and don't oppress the innocent.

Mans law is subjective to the time and place where the law is in effect, but it does not mean that it is separate from God's law, but it is can be distorted because justice is not always distributed equally.

Levitical law was meant for a specific nation during a specific time. It was meant for people who weren't ready to understand as we do in this day and age. LL was muddled by human understanding, but after the crucifixion we were able to know God's law by the spirit.

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[–] Sbs401 0 points 8 points (+8|-0) ago 

If we take the Golden Rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you as a starting point - I think it leads quickly to a subjective morality as each individual could choose a different response set. If someone's family is starving I wouldn't be bothered if they stole from my garden, would've nice if they left a note though

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[–] NeverToday 0 points 2 points (+2|-0) ago 

It only leads to a subjective morality if you misunderstand the rule.

A lot of people think that it applied to preferences, like I don't want to same-sex marry so no one should same sex marry. But you're talking about a preference that translates to everyone else as a ban. How do you really want to be treated? You want to be able to choose what you want. So everyone should be able to choose what they want.

  • Do you want to be killed in a way that's outside of your control? No, so don't kill anyone.
  • Do you want stuff taken from you that you worked hard for and own? No, so don't steal.
  • Do you want to be forced to do something you don't want to do? No, so don't enslave anyone else.

Looking at it at that level puts us all on pretty even ground.

After saying all that, I think that morality is subjective for humans. We've invented morality for society to survive and it's always come back to the same things in general, you have a right to your life, your liberty, and your personal property. If this weren't true, society falls apart pretty quickly.

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[–] Bkow 0 points 5 points (+5|-0) ago 

I think it is subjective.

I was always taught that I should treat people the way I would like to be treated. This has caused me to look at things my way. There are certain things I feel are morally right and I've had friends tell me I'm too uptight. But then again, I've been in the opposite situation. I have learned to respect others morals and to learn from them.

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[–] ChaoticNeutral 0 points 4 points (+4|-0) ago 

Subjective. A persons view usually depends on which side of the force they're on.

I bet a gazelle would think the lion is a dick, while the lion would think he had every right to eat the gazelle.

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[–] douliego 0 points 4 points (+4|-0) ago 

i think there are moral/ethical facts in the world. we treat them subjectively because we disagree with their applicability or results.

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[–] RayTheYar 0 points 4 points (+4|-0) ago 

But what would you say, as an example, some of these facts are?

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[–] douliego 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago 

examples of ethical facts: do not commit murder. do not steal.

these are not to be confused with the act of taking a life or taking something not owned, respectively.

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[–] iamnic 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago  (edited ago)

ah! my time to shine (philosophy degree, ethics focus)

we haven't really come up with a good answer to this question. moral relativism — the idea that morality is relative and varies naturally across cultures, so no one can really have a claim on one 'correct' set of moral values — is considered a very difficult position to hold among ethicists. very few credible ethicists I've come across defend moral relativism. I'll explain why:

once you accept that morality varies morally across time and space, you lose the ability to say "that's wrong" if it's something that is practiced uncontroversially in another setting, e.g. infanticide in ancient greece or public stonings in saudi arabia. and since things we might consider objectionable are very much widespread in other parts of the world, eventually moral relativism just collapses into moral nihilism. it's largely impossible to find a 'core set' of moral principles that underscore all human behavior, aside from basic stuff like "humans tend to be altruistic towards members of their in-groups." so if you're saying that morality is relative, you cannot say that a given action (even something abhorrent) is wrong (if it's practiced somewhere else), because then you'd be asserting the primacy of one moral framework over another.

personally, I am a moral nihilist, the logical outcome of moral relativism. (this is not to say that I don't try and behave morally.) I just don't believe in an universal moral principle, beyond some basic virtue ethics. even western liberal moral views are sorely lacking in many respects, especially to do with treatment of the environment, the elderly, voluntary euthanasia, and treatment of animals. so when westerners assert to me that their rights-based morality found in the UN declaration of human rights is the best system, I have to chuckle.

there are some very convincing moral frameworks that seem to replicate moral human behavior well and give us good ideas about how to act, such as threshold-constrained rule utilitarianism (I can elaborate on this if there's interest), or of course Kant's categorical imperative (both formulations), although both of those have serious shortcomings. utilitarianism seems inevitably to lead to the repugnant conclusion (makes for very entertaining reading) and the CI seems to prohibit some actions that we might otherwise consider not immoral. (Kant for example was dead set against lying in any context for any reason).

I am not happy with considering morality subjective, because that's not really a useful way to pick a set of moral rules to live by. so I'm still trying to figure out a coherent and actionable set of moral rules that might be related to something concrete, and not based in some dogmatic principle or based on superstition. for now, I'm leaning towards aristotlean virtue ethics based on the idea of eudamonea, which boils down to 'to live well and flourish its useful to follow moral principles that your community accepts.' otherwise known as being realistic.

tl;dr: I don't think morality is universal, but it's very unsatisfying to admit that it's subjective

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[–] IronTooch 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

So this was always something that tweaked me off in philosophy class when it came to the Categorical Imperative. Typically, as soon as the basic premise is proposed "Act in such a way that you hope everyone could act the same way", professors immediately brought up the fact that it doesn't have merit because Kant didn't believe in lying or he was a raging sexist or things like that. But the basic premise seems really sound if you ignore the historical addendums or his personal tool-bag feelings. Like the prohibition on lying, for example. It is possible to come up with reasonable explanations on why you would lie (covering for a birthday party, for example), that you could reasonably will that other people would act the same way in the same circumstance. So lying totally fits within the categorical imperative. I don't understand why we don't throw out the "P.S." on the end of the CI, because I feel like without it, the categorical imperative is a VERY strong philosophical principal. Or did I miss something in class some day that utterly trashes it?

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[–] iamnic 0 points 1 points (+1|-0) ago 

no, I agree with you, my addendum on lying was a pretty cheap shot. however, Kant had a really weird obsession with lying, and he wrote an entire treatise on it, so it kind of wigged me off. the CI is a very powerful moral formulation, especially when you take the #1 and #2 phrasings together, i.e. 1) act in such a way that your action could become a universal law and 2) treat people as ends, not just means. there is a reason it has stood the test of time. I personally don't follow it because I am unconvinced that there exist moral facts such as the CI is meant to be and I'm against moral dogmatism, but I think it's a sterling moral theory. if all of our world leaders followed the CI, the world would be a much, much better place.

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[–] poopdefender 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago 

This should be voted up higher. This is a very well thought out response and I appreciated reading it.

I would like to know more about threshold-constrained rule utilitarianism, but I can google it if you're not gonna elaborate. I am interested in the last point, about aristotlean virtue ethics, but I am having trouble understanding it as ethics at all. It sounds a lot more like social psychology and Darwinism. It is an evolutionary advantage to be social, to build relationships with your social group to be mutually benefited with the other's resources and protection. So it stands to say that it's useful to follow your groups social rules, but it makes for a pretty weak and flimsy moral logic.

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[–] IronTooch 0 points 0 points (+0|-0) ago  (edited ago)

Shabam! Jesuit-philosophy-fueled-education here, I feel like I can at least contribute. The easiest way to talk about threshold-constrained utilitarianism is to start with "true" utilitarianism, which is kind of a min-max function. So "true" utilitarianism is the premise that you should maximize happiness (or some other virtue) across the entire segment of people. Which sounds great, right? So let's say one person can eat a whole loaf of bread, and ten people will starve. True utilitarianism says split the bread up so everybody can eat. So far, so good. Yeah, one person doesn't get super-fed, but 10 people don't die. Groovy.

   

...Except, in true utilitarianism, there's no "bottom" limit. So one person can suffer HORRIBLY for the betterment of society. So imagine 1 person in the entire world had blood that cured cancer. Pure utilitarianism would say that person should be getting their blood drained as much as humanly possible without killing them, as often as possible, so that we could save so many other lives, even if the person that has the miracle blood ends up living a miserable life as a blood bank because of it. We can let one suffer; because the suffering pales in comparison to the amount of good they do. See the problem?

     

    Threshold-constrained rule utility says that there is some lower limit to how much crappy we will let someone be. And different people have proposed different "rules" for the lower limit. So for some threshold-constrained rule-utilitarians, torture is unacceptable. For others, going hungry is. There are definitely arguments for how much we let someone "suffer", as a society in order to move the social "net good" bar up.

   

Note: Did this all from memory, feel free to correct if I'm off at all

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[–] CultClassic 0 points 3 points (+3|-0) ago 

I Think you're setting up a false dichotomy here. It's both possible for morality to be subjective and universal and for morality to be nether subjective nor universal.

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