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Debate Score:165
Arguments:204
Total Votes:177
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Starchild123(832) pic



What defines what is moral?

Hello, Starchild here.

What defines what is moral? Would it be a god of sorts? A popular opinion or viewpoint? Most beneficial to humanity? Evolutionary progress and continuation? I'm curious to read some of the responses. 

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4 points

Morals come from our need to live in groups for survival. Living in groups gets nasty real fast without some conduct guidelines to keep everyone from killing each other. Such as NO Stealing, NO killing, NO screwing your neighbors main squeeze. These sorts of agreed upon rules, have overtime been added to, as social interaction required. They came to be called moral values, but also found their way into the teachings of virtually every modern religion. So "What Defines What Is Moral" is still simply "The Group".

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

Based on what you said, I would think that moral values are defined by which conduct best keeps life from getting nasty. The nature of the group would be important here, but morality would hardly be a matter of group whim alone.

daver(1771) Clarified
1 point

Yeah remember the function of rules in the group. Not whim but need for peaceful cooperation. Those needs then are eventually ingrained as morals.

Jace(4757) Clarified
1 point

Assuming that morality did develop as a means of interpersonal behavioral regulation... why was the moral aspect necessary at all? Why would we need to ascribe the subjective judgement of morality in order to discern between what is objectively preferable?

I wonder also at your notion of morality as defined by the homogenous and abstract "Group". I have never met two people who share the same morals on all matters, even when they are members of the same group. This leads me to a question of causation: does the group create the morality, or do pre-existing moral commonalities create the group? (Or neither?)

daver(1771) Clarified
1 point

Why would we need to ascribe the subjective judgment of morality in order to discern between what is objectively preferable?

As I said the rules adopted by small groups of hunter-gatherers became today's morals. Take some of the more basic morals in what has become a very long list of behavioral restraints: don't steal, don't lie, don't murder. These can easily been seen as necessary rules in a small primitive group of individuals banded together for survival. It also follows that within these small groups as children are taught to function, the rules will be taught as well. These types of rules were so important to success within the group, and ultimate survival, that they were given special emphasis. IMO

As these small hunter-gatherer groups increased in size, the social interactions became more and more complex, requiring that more rules be put into place. Today the list of rules/morals has become very long indeed.

This expansion of the basic moral set needed for continued inclusion in small hunter-gatherer groups began to become more and more specific in widely separated groups, existing in different climates and environments. For example the gathering of water may be a strongly motivated communal task in an arid environment, while not so living next to a river.

The group then collectively creates the rules/morals.

This argument about objective -vs- subjective origins of moral values springs from a miss understanding of where morals came from, and is actually a part of the "God -- No God" argument. IMO

2 points

Since god is the only thing that trancends human subjectivity then, yes, a God is the only foundation for 'objective' morals truths. To say otherwise presupposes that there is a mystical value system in which humans cannot view. Morality is premised around humanities subjective notions.

For example, one might say that intentionally doing something hurtful and unnecessary is wrong, but who quantifies the necessity? And how is it 'wrong'? These questions could only be answered with objective fact with an all knowing entity. Science cannot prove what is, by definition, subjective and abstract.

Amarel(4987) Disputed
1 point

Since god is the only thing that trancends human subjectivity

This is a baseless premise; all that is objective transcends subjectivity.

To say otherwise presupposes that there is a mystical value system in which humans cannot view

While the progress of evolution is not the same thing as value attainment, there isn’t another concept that quite captures the nature of biological complexity. This would only be a mystical view if evolution was asserted to be a conscious effort.

Morality is premised around humanities subjective notions

Subjective notions of what?

who quantifies the necessity?

This is a question that presumes if there is not a “who”, then said necessity can’t be analyzed. It’s the same as saying “Who created the universe? No one, therefore the universe does not exist.”

Science cannot prove what is, by definition, subjective and abstract

Some definitions of morality focus on its subjective aspect, but by no means do all of them. Furthermore, math and logic are abstract and have proofs.

Harvard(660) Clarified
2 points

God is the only thing that trancends human subjectivity in the sense of rightness and wrongness.

Evolution cannot be ascribed to moral values unless in the sense of the moral view itself evolving.

Subjective notions of an action committed being right or wrong.

The analyzation of the necessity is subjective itself. That analogy wasn't analogous to the situation in question. Objective morals are something that requires an objectively reliable analysis. Morality is a principle concerning the distinction between right and wrong- two subjective notions that necessitates a subjective analysis.

The morality I believe the creator is focusing on is "right" and "wrongness" of an action- which is the main definition.

Cartman(18192) Disputed
1 point

There are no objective morals, so you haven't helped us at all.

Harvard(660) Clarified
2 points

I just said that.

Jace(4757) Clarified
1 point

To play the devil's advocate (I have my own rebuttal to my proposition below):

Morality is a consequence of an objectively verifiable evolutionary process. Ostensibly, this ought to render it as objective as sight or adrenaline or any other evolved mechanism that manifests into human behavior.

Thoughts?

Harvard(660) Disputed
1 point

I would say that the evolutionary process rendered our disposition to cause for subjective behavioral analysis in different situations (which is why genocide may be seen as being useful in certain situations). Though [morality] may have evolved, so did fashion....

Perhaps beauty could be analogous, in different locations and during different times, there was/is a set standard for beauty, this could cause for someone claiming something/someone could be objectively beautiful- and of course we know this is not such thing as 'objective beauty'.

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

Subjective consciousness is the result of an evolutionary process. Determining the objective nature of the origin of a human quality is useful, though it does not make the quality itself subjective or objective.

For morality to be objective in nature one would need to have a standard against which to measure correctness of conduct. Said standard would have to also be that which determines moral truths regardless of whether or not it is recognized, thus making it an objective standard.

It is not enough to say that morality evolved, one must ask why. The fundamental standard for any evolved quality is the same standard driving evolution itself. The process and progress of life is what pushes evolution. The various evolved qualities, including morality exist only for their objective functional role in the process and progress of life.

JustIgnoreMe(3586) Clarified
1 point

I think the distinction here is morality's existence vs what the moral action is for any given situation.

That morality itself exists is objective, but what the moral thing to do given a set of circumstances will be subjective.

2 points

I wrote much of this in your other debate a long time ago but I figured it’s relevant here.

Life and the living are compelled to sustain and continue itself/themselves. The natural mechanism of evolution has created ever more complex organisms to the point where higher cognition became possible. Eventually, the pressures of environmental/social conditions necessitated a large enough frontal lobe for complex symbolic reasoning. This symbolic reasoning coupled with the earlier development of social pressure based on conduct combined to become what we now subjectively feel as morality. Objective morality is simply the code of conduct that holds life as its standard. By “life” I mean basic and advanced survival. By “advanced survival” I mean increasing the quality of life.

Morality is thus objective because that which is most conducive to protecting or enhancing life is independent of opinion. Furthermore, its existence is independent of human conception. The standard for morality is life and the judge and creator over time is evolution. A hint at what an example of an objective moral might be is the moral prohibition of murder or unjustifiable killing. One can imagine how mass acceptance of murder as a moral act would degenerate the survivability of not only individual organisms, but eventually humans as we know them.

In summation, objective morality exists with life as the standard. It is shaped and altered over time by evolution. While everyone has subjective ideas about proper moral conduct, some of these ideas are conducive to life while others are not. The code of conduct which best fits the purpose for which morality evolved will survive over time, with or without our awareness.

Jace(4757) Clarified
3 points

When carried to its logical conclusion your rationale negates the existence of subjectivity altogether. Every perception is the consequence of the evolutionary selection which lent us the disposition towards that perception, and the environmental stimuli that engage that disposition are equitably objective to evolution.

An objective origin does not render the (by)product objective itself. The function may be objective, but that does not mean the form itself is.

P.S. Morality is not that which is most conducive to protecting or enhancing life, but rather that which is adequate to the task. Arguably, there are instances when morality may even be more of an encumbrance to vitality though it persists due to its general relative utility.

daver(1771) Clarified
3 points

P.S. Morality is not that which is most conducive to protecting or enhancing life, but rather that which is adequate to the task.

Here you are taking the entire spectrum of moral standards and labeling them as adequate. This, IMO fails do acknowledge the spectrum itself ranging from don't murderer, to don't go back on your promises.

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

When carried to its logical conclusion your rationale negates the existence of subjectivity altogether

Not at all. All perceptions are subjective, to include perceptions of that which objectively exists. I have never made an argument that discounts the subjective nature of morality. We subjectively experience a world of objective reality. In order to continue to be in reality some things must be done and other things avoided. This is the case for living things alone. Morality is for the purpose of life (human life specifically). Since we are highly complex living things, our requirements are more nuanced.

Morality is the tool that we are equipped with. It’s not perfect because evolution is not final. But to pretend that it’s unneeded or a matter of opinion is like using a knife as a screwdriver and saying “it’s just as good” or “who’s to say this is incorrect?”.

Morality has an objective purpose. Some morality, subjectively adhered to, fits that objective purpose well, and I have asserted this to be objective morality (morality that is objectively correct given its purpose). Some morality, subjectively adhered to, is actually in opposition to this purpose and, in time, it will be forced out of the scheme of living reality (though there will be other moral codes equally dysfunctional to moral purpose by then).

To say morality is strictly a matter of opinion is like failing to recognize an actual objective problem with putting poison in a town’s water supply. Living human beings cannot continue to be living human beings without recognizing poison is not conducive to life or life’s quality.

You have previously mentioned a system of amorality where conduct is enforced based on a rational standard of your own devise. My only objection to that was that people would adhere to it, internalize it, and eventually treat it as morality. The objective moral value of a subjective moral code is determined by its adherence morality’s natural function.

PS. I know I only quoted the one thing, but I tried to address each part of your reply, included the “PS”. Sorry if this rambles, it’s early AM.

2 points

I think you are getting off track with objective morality. You one example is not objective at all. An unjustifiable killing is by its very nature subjective. The only way it is unjustifiable is if people get together and agree on the subjective criteria used to justify a killing.

I agree that it is possible for evolution to help with morality, though.

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

I'm not off track at all. Humans and other primates have the behavioral need for reasons (justification) for certain actions, especially in a social context. This requirement created the phenomenon of murder or unjustified killing. The justification is subjective, but the need to justify came about through an objective process of evolution. Having it is more conducive to survival than not having it. Furthermore, now that we have the evolved need to to justify, we find that some subjective justifications are more conducive to the original evolved purpose than others.

Indeed you did and I believe I posted under it saying I enjoyed reading it. Unless I forgot to comment under you post. If so forgive me for that. If I were to sum up your argument here would you say that you are saying that evolution is the definitive factor?

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

Close. Life is a self valuing phenomenon, evolution is a mechanism of life, and morality is a product of evolution. This makes life the fundamental factor.

2 points

Conforming to the generally recognised standards of decency and accepting the proprieties of the respective societies in which people live.

Simple and to-the-point definition, thumbs up.

2 points

Morality is a subjective perception that we project onto objective reality. It is a consequence of evolutionary selection which established our dispositions towards particular moral sensibilities, as well as the environmental stimuli we experience (or do not) which engage those dispositions. This renders morality fundamentally individual, albeit subject to varying degrees of influence from others and society at large.

Amarel(4987) Clarified
1 point

subjective perception that we project

Will you clarify this idea a little?

This renders morality fundamentally individual

It is perceived, experienced, and subject to perceptual bias by the individual. Is there anything that isn't?

Jace(4757) Clarified
2 points

Will you clarify this idea a little?

When I say that morality is a subjective perception I mean to observe that morality exists only because the human mind conceives of it as existing, and that it is utterly reliant upon that conception for its existence. When I refer to the projection of morality, I am speaking to the manner in which people apply their moral conceptions to objectively real phenomenon that exist independent of human conception. The act of killing is an objective act, but to call it "wrong" is to project the subjective perception of morality onto the objective act.

It is perceived, experienced, and subject to perceptual bias by the individual. Is there anything that isn't?

No; do you have a point?

HarvardGrad(174) Clarified
1 point

Ah and this one. *

HarvardGrad(174) Disputed
1 point

Jace: "When I say that morality is a subjective perception I mean to observe that morality exists only because the human mind conceives of it as existing, and that it is utterly reliant upon that conception for its existence. When I refer to the projection of morality, I am speaking to the manner in which people apply their moral conceptions to objectively real phenomenon that exist independent of human conception. The act of killing is an objective act, but to call it "wrong" is to project the subjective perception of morality onto the objective act."

Ameral (behind computer): "Bu bu, I, it, objectivity though? wait nuh, my moral co... and I, ehh, aww forget it. You win this time Jace"

2 points

First of all moral is something which involves society.You can do things that you like as long as it isn't concerned with other people. So, simply according to me, things that favour the masses (not only humanity but to the beings and environment as well) are good and which doesn't are bad.

2 points

Whatever you decide to call moral is moral. Its completely subjective. I may call something moral that you call immoral and vice versa.

daver(1771) Clarified
1 point

You think as I do about morals. May I ask why there is so much debate about them being subjective or objective. I can't see the importance of the question. Do you know?

nobodyknows(745) Clarified
1 point

I think it is because those who believe that morals are objective also believe that if everyone was allowed to define their own morality, everyone would choose to rape, murder, and pillage to get what they want. It is in their own self interest therefore to disagree with subjective morality. On the other side, moral subjectivists oppose objective morality because it prevents social change.

1 point

This TED talk isn't long and explains a moral position that should appeal to religionists and secularists alike.

Science can answer moral questions.
flewk(1192) Disputed
1 point

He basically argues that quality of life/well being is morally good. That is simply not true. His entire idea rests on this assumption.

People are different. Some prefer pain, stress, loneliness, sadness, etc. Some feel good about hurting others. Morality is subjective. It cannot be objective because people are different. What he feels may be an improvement on life may not be so for someone else.

Amarel(4987) Disputed
1 point

While it is true that well-being is different for different people, we can see that some matters of well-being are not a matter of opinion. Anyone who prefers self-destruction won't live very long, and then morality won't be an issue for them.

1 point

I would believe morals based entirely upon popular opinion which would be partially generally influenced by human idiocy, illusions, a little 'evolutional benefit' and some of 'benefits for humanity'.

I think evolutional benefit and societal benefit are more of an indirect influence whereas idiocy and illusions would rank a little higher due to some sometime false associations with other more consolidated moral values.

But that would be society as it is today.

Although impossible to know the very first spoken/unspoken agreement, I think initially all moral values were perhaps formed through maybe a small nudge of evolution and an agreement within the first groups of people for the benefit of that society.

If you would think of two competing nomad tribes they would kill each other off for survival as with any other animal, but perhaps not nearly as much within the society.

The extent of these moral rules I believe only exist as far out as you recognise another as one of your own, in a group you associate with.

Well this argument is tricky,moral in literal sense means 'right' or 'morally right',there are two sides of a coin and the one which is overwhelmingly accepted or held as true,i.e 'right'. moral in other words can be said as 'values or virtues'

1 point

Morals vary greatly from person to person. Some people can have the same morals and some can have completely different morals. It depends on the persons personality, opinions and sometimes where you're from or how you were raised.

Simply morality is a perceptive thing from one person to the other. Some people will think that something is moral where others will think that it's immoral (for example abortion). A moral can't really be defined unless you're going for the definition found in the dictionary because of how many peoples morals differentiate from one another.

1 point

morals are something that is right, they benefit society because morals fill many of the loopholes in laws which are not clearly stated and they draw the line between what is right and what is not

nobodyknows(745) Clarified
2 points

That begs the question: What is right? .

1 point

Morality is defined by society. There is no absolute morality just like there is no absolute truth.

Amritangshu(892) Disputed
1 point

Well is it really defined by the society?I don't really get your point.How does the American society define moral,mate?

flewk(1192) Clarified
1 point

My view is that morality is just a label to justify choices/preferences of the community. The connotations help to enforce laws and standards based on those choices.

American society, like any other modern society, has inherited a great deal of its morals from previous generations. As times change, old standards and laws become obsolete. Conflicts arise when the community has not changed in the same direction.

1 point

I can't define it but I know it when I see it.

1 point

As social animals it is important that people conform to the generally accepted standards of decency and the prescribed principles of respectability of the community in which they live.

Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so. Children learn at an early age what is good and what is bad from being taught by their peers.