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11
19
Absolute Morality Moral Relativism
Debate Score:30
Arguments:29
Total Votes:30
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 Absolute Morality (11)
 
 Moral Relativism (14)

Debate Creator

JimboR(87) pic



Absolute Morality

Do you believe in an absolute moral standard that should be adhered to regardless of context? Perhaps you think morality is relative to certsin cultures of ideologies.

Is an act moral if it increases the sum total of human happiness? 

Is torture or murder moral is some circumstances?

I want to hear your views on morality.

Absolute Morality

Side Score: 11
VS.

Moral Relativism

Side Score: 19
1 point

"Is an act moral if it increases the sum total of human happiness?"

I have a similar view to this. An act is morally good if it has a net positive effect on the experience of present and future conscious entities. This seems to be what all moral codes are attempting to achieve: the creation of more positive experience than negative experience.

Side: Absolute Morality
2 points

I have a similar view to this. An act is morally good if it has a net positive effect

That's really silly because you can't see into the future to determine whether a particular action is going to have a "net positive effect". And a net positive effect for who? If I don't like someone and I follow them into a dark alley and shoot them in the head, then that might have a net positive effect for me, but not so much for the person who gets shot in the head. Similarly, if I chop down a rainforest, then that might have a net positive effect for myself, my community, or even my culture, but not so much for the wildlife living there.

Side: Moral Relativism
JimboR(87) Clarified
1 point

I would assume it's a net positive effect with regards to humanity. If you shoot someone who presumably didn't want to be shot then you may cause a net increase of suffering, which is generally considered negative, even if you benefited from the shooting as that person may have had family who will now have to deal with the loss of a loved one. There's lots of if's and but's involved, as the person you killed may have gone on to cause a net increase in suffering themselves, in which case you have contributed to a future decrease in net suffering.

As you pointed out nobody can predict the future, you have to make decision with the information you have available at the time and base those decisions on your moral compass.

Side: Absolute Morality
WinstonC(854) Disputed
1 point

"That's really silly because you can't see into the future to determine whether a particular action is going to have a "net positive effect"."

Just because we cannot accurately measure something does not make it unimportant. In my estimation, when people attempt to call an action moral or immoral, they are talking about the net impact of the action on conscious entities.

"And a net positive effect for who? If I don't like someone and I follow them into a dark alley and shoot them in the head, then that might have a net positive effect for me, but not so much for the person who gets shot in the head. "

I stated who: everyone; "An act is morally good if it has a net positive effect on the experience of present and future conscious entities."

"Similarly, if I chop down a rainforest, then that might have a net positive effect for myself, my community, or even my culture, but not so much for the wildlife living there."

The frame of reference is all conscious entities across all time, not you, your culture or local wildlife.

Side: Absolute Morality
Jace(4528) Disputed
2 points

There is no such thing as "net positive effect" because positive effect is fundamentally individualized and cannot be effectively aggregated. What constitutes the positive is variable between persons, so what one regards as a net positive effect another will not. This problem is even worse when we are trying to imagine both non-human and non-existent future entities, because we can even less anticipate what their positive effect experiences might be. And to operate from one's own beliefs about the net positive effect is merely to act towards one own value preferences, and not the net positive effect at all.

Nor is it the case that all (or even most) moral codes bend towards consequential utilitarianism. There are countless virtue ethics and other deontological moral codes, not to mention numerous individualist moral codes (and etc).

Side: Moral Relativism
JimboR(87) Clarified
1 point

I think there are a few things that one could consider to be "positive" in a slightly more objective sense. For instance, I think that it would be fair to say that life is generally preferable to death. The aspects of that particular view are objective, there is no ambiguity over what constitutes life and what constitutes death and I think most people would agree.

If we can agree that life over death is generally positive we can begin to make some slightly more objective moral evaluations about what constitutes a net positive effect. It isn't absolute, as your basis is subjective, but if you can agree on that basis you can make objective evaluations.

Side: Absolute Morality
WinstonC(854) Disputed
1 point

"There is no such thing as "net positive effect" because positive effect is fundamentally individualized and cannot be effectively aggregated."

So if we have two individuals, both experiencing a neutral experience that we will note as +0; their experience is neither positive or negative in valence. This scale goes from +10 to -10 with +10 being the most pleasant experience one can have and -10 the most negative. We expose these individuals to a comedic film, and individual A has an experience of +3, individual B has an experience of +5. We can therefore say that overall the comedic film has had a net positive effect on the experience of these conscious entities A and B. In reality things are far more complicated, however our present inability to accurately quantify something does not mean that it does not exist as a quantifiable phenomenon.

"This problem is even worse when we are trying to imagine both non-human and non-existent future entities, because we can even less anticipate what their positive effect experiences might be."

This is part of why it is oft the case that the greatest evils result from the most benevolent motivations. We can often work out the average effect of simple actions will be, however. Since I just gave an explanation of this on another thread I will paste it here. On average it will be a good thing to save a drowning child. This is because I'm assuming humans overall are morally neutral, which may be incorrect but let's not complicate things further. The effect, on average, that a child will have on others is on average neutral then and thus can be ignored. I also assume the experiences life gives on average is neutral. We look then not to the ultimate effect of saving the child to guide our action (since we assume this is neutral) but to the proximate positive effect of saving a child from drowning. While we cannot know the actual result of our action, we can know in this way if our action will on average produce a net positive or negative effect on conscious experience. If you're skeptical about the efficacy of a probabilistic approach then it may be of help to learn about professional poker strategy.

"And to operate from one's own beliefs about the net positive effect is merely to act towards one own value preferences, and not the net positive effect at all."

Positive experience is a positive effect on a conscious entity, as is giving the conscious entity an increased ability to court positive experience (we do this when we send our children to school, for example).

"Nor is it the case that all (or even most) moral codes bend towards consequential utilitarianism. There are countless virtue ethics and other deontological moral codes, not to mention numerous individualist moral codes (and etc)."

In my estimation every moral philosophy is about net impact on conscious entities. We might look at Randian objectivism as an individualist moral code, yet it is about a positive impact on oneself. Why, under objectivism, one's own experience is to be considered and others' isn't is a question I cannot answer, because for me it logically follows that if my experience matters the experience of others does too. There are nonsensical moral systems too, such as "might makes right" which actually concern the ability to perform an action, not it's morality. I don't think that these take away from what I view as the correct conceptualization of morality: what it appears almost everybody is saying when they claim an act is moral. That is: what net effect the act had on conscious entities.

Side: Absolute Morality
JimboR(87) Clarified
1 point

I agree that's what they are all trying to achieve, but can an objective basis account for all possible scenarios?

For example there's the old thought experiment of a train whose breaks have failed. There's five people on the track who do not have time.to get off. There's a fat man stood next to you who if pushed can stop the train.

Now assume you have a moral rule that states that you must not kill someone regardless of context and also assume you somehow knew that the fat man would definitely stop the train.

If you choose not to push him in front of the train you are not technically killing anyone, as the circumstances were not of your making.

If you choose to act then you are saving more lives, but you are killing someone by your action. I know what I would do, but how does someone with objective morals deal with this situation?

Just food for thought.

Side: Absolute Morality
1 point

I'm familiar with the problem you're describing. I suppose I should clarify to begin that I'm speaking of ultimate moral result, not moral intent or proximate moral action. In the case you give the information is nowhere near complete enough to inform action because we don't know who the people are and how they interact with the world. What if the fat man is the scientist that will go on to find the cure for cancer, for example.

It's very difficult to accurately gauge the ultimate moral result of any action because we lack the information and processing power to make an accurate judgement. As such, generally speaking, I believe it is best to only perform very small, simple evil acts in service of good, because it is so easy to go wrong. What if one of the five people on the track is the next Hitler? Every evil action in service of good is a gamble, because we actually don't know what effect our action will have. It certainly does appear, with the information that we have, that pushing the fat man on the track is probably the best course of action. On average one death is going to be a lesser net negative effect than the death of five.

In order to give an accurate, non probabilistic, answer to your question it would need to be simplified. In your example it was deemed necessary to simplify the problem so that the fat man would definitely stop the train. After all, if you push the fat man and there is only a 18% chance that the train stops then a net evil has been committed because 82% of the time six people die. For a hard and fast answer of which action will yield the most morally good result, we would require for the people to have no effect on other conscious entities. In such a case the death of one is a morally better result than the death of five. However, in reality unless we have full information about the people and their effect on others we can only state which course of action will yield on average a morally superior result.

Side: Absolute Morality
1 point

God, The Supreme and Ultimate Reality is The Absolute Morality.

Through faith in God, the sovereignty of God's Kingdom is realized here on Earth, and aligning the heart to accept that is essentially what Christian morality is based on. The discipline is about heart purification. The discipline is about cleansing the heart, mind, and soul of idolatry.

"Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God"

When God is realized, the next thing that should become evident is how we fall short of the glory of God. Yet at the same time, we are creatures that came forth from The Word of God. We were created by God, so naturally God loves the creation that was declared good from the very beginning. We were created out of love, and we have been forgiven our imperfections because it was the will of God that we were to take the form that we take.

We have been forgiven much by God. As such, we can have peace with God, ourselves, and creation. As we have been forgiven by our creator, we forgive others. It's about being totally honest and sincere about how we fall short of Supreme and Ultimate Reality, and then showing others charity in kind. We're all in the same boat here.

And so the command is

"charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned".

It all comes from loving God, The Supreme and Ultimate Reality, with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Side: Absolute Morality

One thing that anti Christian bigots will always do, is try and scare people into thinking Christians want to force them to adhere to Christian moral values.

This is a hideous lie from the Left.

When Christians speak to moral values, we do so to help prevent others from ruining their lives or ruining the lives of their children. We are not trying to force those values on people.

There are absolute moral values such as not killing the innnocent, not stealing, etc. etc. and when a culture has degraded to such a point to not even support this, a nation is lost.

Side: Absolute Morality
2 points

Critics who say moral relativism means you have no morals at all are simply trying to use slippery slope strategy to bring everyone over to the all or nothing side. The truth is pretty much every value is relative and that's why every moral is relative, too. Absolute free speech collides with absolute security (secrets told), saving the most human lives collides with quality of life (weighing 1000 brain dead patients vs the quality of life of 5 cognizant people), even the basic thou shall not kill collides with killing the perceived enemies of your God.

The fact society is able to function within a groundwork of laws adapted to define how behaviors under these rights balance out or cross a line is proof moral relativism works. If you want the legal equivalent of absolute morality you would have to go back to Babylonian Code eye for an eye laws, wouldn't you?

Side: Moral Relativism
1 point

I think that if someone thinks what they are doing is morally wrong, it is, and if they think it is morally right, it is. This is partially because I don't think it would be accurate to call a Nazi a 'bad person' if they honestly believed they were doing everybody a favor by killing Jews. If you are doing what you think is right, who is to say it isn't? I see no absolute or objective basis for claiming that maximizing net human pleasure, minimizing suffering etc, is a good, important thing to do.

Side: Moral Relativism
1 point

I don't generally disagree, but it seems to me that it could be accurate to call a Nazi a 'bad person' if one truly believed they were based on one's own personal morality. The Nazi would of course disagree if they really believed themselves in the moral right, but that doesn't make it inaccurate to say they are bad from one's own perspective; there can be two facts of the matter, no? After all, saying something is good or bad is not really an observation about the thing but about how we relate to it (specifically, whether we like it).

Side: Moral Relativism
1 point

I agree....................................................................................................................

Side: Moral Relativism

It's all relative to culture. Those who think otherwise do not even understand the history of their own culture and how its moral standards have changed. Even if we take the most ubiquitous cross-cultural example of murder, then it is only considered immoral to kill one of your own species. Hence, it is not an absolute universal rule but rather is relative to the human species. Humans have no moral problem squishing ants simply because we consider them a lower form of life, so it is only logical to expect more advanced civilisations, should they exist elsewhere in the universe, would have no moral problem squishing one of us.

Side: Moral Relativism
2 points

Even the moral sanction against murder isn't consistent, so it's not even universal to the species I'd say. But your general point is well taken.

Side: Moral Relativism