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Thread: Why Morality is a subjective thing

  1. #1

    Post Why Morality is a subjective thing

    ( I wanted to type this better and in a bit more detail than i have but i feel i already went to long so might add more later if people find this not to terrible )

    This is something i have thought about lots in the last several years of my life, due to my changing opinions and new information on it and trying to discover what my morals and ethics mean to me.

    In going into this the process I feel I am coming to a conclusion as to what morals really are and what impact they have on society and my own personal world view.
    This is a topic in which to I hope to generate discussion to learn new ideas, as I feel I may be reaching the limit of my own imagination on the topic unless i get new data and i hope of course that it as should always happen provoke others to think.

    I thought the best way to explain my points is to break it down so I can translate my gibberish thoughts into english.

    What Morals are.
    There are two main types of morals personal and societal.
    Personal morals appear to me to be a mixture of opinions, emotion, intuitive reasoning, often influenced by society, based on ‘belief system’ (religious or otherwise aka marxism) and with a smattering logic.
    As where societal morals are simultaneous more complicated and simpler due to the fact they are basically what society agrees on as right or wrong and as this rarely happens it makes it a very complicated and very subjective issue.

    Why they are subjective.
    Upon first glance many things appear to be clearly right or wrong, intuitively many people feel this and there is a clear indication of some sort of overall defining morality. However once delved into the evidence ,however contrary to our intuitive reasoning and emotions, points subjectivity all throughout human history in every aspect of culture, religion, society, individually, and even to some extent the judiciary system.

    This is because and best discovered by examining societal morals. All through history what is right and wrong has shifted constantly based on, economics, religion, personal experiences of individual members or that society, politics, philosophers, technology and more. Some things are often justified or a necessary evil or ignored we do this incredibly efficiently in society one of the best examples is for example slavery something that persists greatly to this day. Sweatshops are a great example as is sex slavery that is rampant in asia and europe and many forms of hard labour agriculture and industry in many of the 3rd world countries .
    This is something that most people at least in modern society do not support and has been condemned many times throughout history yet still exists?

    This is due to the subjectivity surrounding the this issues and the support it gets in some areas for people who either like it or support it or see it as necessary whether for personal or economic reasons.

    Other examples of this are seen constantly in our society a more recent example is stuff like Ecoterrorism while based on something that is supposed to be ‘good’ its perverted by a small culture/society into something that can have and has had a harmful impact. Such statements such are “The means justify the ends” are attributed with this type of morality.

    anyway i have typed a lot and don't want to turn this into a novel :p
    In short i will end on saying how in an age where what's right and wrong changes in society every 5 years can we define morality as an Objective and static thing ?

  2. #2


    In short i will end on saying how in an age where what's right and wrong changes in society every 5 years can we define morality as an Objective and static thing ?
    Who is this 'we' that has declared morality to be objective or absolute?

    Morality has always been culture-bound (and by extension, contemporary). I've also spent a significant amount of time thinking about all this. The only logical conclusion (I feel like I'm channeling Spock here :P) I could come to, is that nothing has value, other than whatever value you attribute to it. In itself, nothing is good, evil, positive, negative, happy, sad. At some point in time, certain things have been agreed upon (either by a government, a monarch or whoever/whatever) as being good and bad. Over the years (or centuries, actually), whatever 'universal' morals (e.g. 'killing people is bad') are still around, are only here because our parents (or our government) told us we should adher to them.

  3. #3


    I pretty much have found this to be true in my life also. I always say "there is no objective truth." There is no objective logic or reasoning either. I guess I learned this over time. My father was a single father and often had to take me places where it wasn't my place to speak. I would end up listening to what adults believed, how they justified things, etc. This has really prepared for the real world as nothing anyone says has ever surprised me, and I can understand almost anyone's train of thought. I believe a lot of disagreement comes from people's inability to rationalize what another believes as an "absolute truth." It's hard being human. You've got to communicate and live with individuals that have had completely radical ways of growing up different than your own.

    The truth is we cannot define morality as an "objective" thing. Morality in itself is a philosophy. It is meant to be debated; it is meant to be tested.

    I think this class series will interest you.

  4. #4


    I'm going to wait until more people post to give my two cents, but i currently studying ethics in philosophy. I will try and give proper advice and arguments as far as i i will post shortly

  5. #5


    Evolution seems to select for societies (rather than individuals) who are successful at surviving and procreating. Altruistic behaviour (particularly when there is a low relative risk or cost to the person behaving altruistically) is clearly beneficial to a society overall, so I imagine that we have evolved so that we have a natural inbuilt capacity to consider and provide for the needs of others as well as our own. The care that mothers almost universally show their offspring is a profound example.

    This evolutionary need makes us crave positive approval from others; so much so that I feel uncomfortable if a stranger in the street gives me a funny look! And our consciousness (which comes from a "blank slate", so to speak) must find a way to define itself... so we also crave our own self-approval and need to honestly be able to see ourselves as "good" (i.e. if you do something bad, you feel shame even if no one finds out).

    So I think that "morality" is the name that we give to the inner desire to be considered "in a good light" so that others will be happy to help you should you find yourself in need. That sounds quite cold and clinical: you don't choose to be good, you just instinctively react... But that's not really what I think at all.

    As humans, we have such a developed sense of intelligence, consciousness and morality that we have the power to rise above the cruel and harsh necessities of life (survival of the fittest, etc.) and choose to live a moral life to make the world a better place because... well... what else could you ever accomplish that would actually mean anything?! Or, to put it bluntly, being good is good. So overwhelming is the instinct to be moral that it (superficially) reduces to tautology.

    Anyway, as with all philosophical problems, words get interpreted differently by different people and while one person might use the word "morality" to refer to their inner instinctive drive, someone else might use it to refer to a perceived sense of what your peers (or society or whatever) would consider to be acceptable behaviour. That's not a debate about whether "morality" is subjective or objective; you just need to define "morality" more precisely and the argument will resolve itself.

    (Just my late-night ramblings... )

  6. #6


    too tired to go really in depth but will ask a couple questions instead:

    Would living in a society that finds killing to be moral, mean that it is moral to kill people? Likewise with theft, is it moral to steal purely because a society says it is moral to steal?

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    Would living in a society that finds killing to be moral, mean that it is moral to kill people? Likewise with theft, is it moral to steal purely because a society says it is moral to steal?
    I'd say that (in reality) there is no such thing as any kind of objective "morality"; it's just a way of explaining subjective value judgements. So it wouldn't really ever make sense to say, "It is moral to kill people", because that refers to a (non-existent) objective state. You could only phrase it in terms of someone's subjective values (e.g. "I think that it is moral to kill people").

    Society isn't a physical object like an individual is; it's a much more abstract concept. You can't point to society or ask it a question, and when people talk about the morals of society there's not usually an expectation that we will have to ask every single individual in that society before determining "society's answer". And even if you did ask everyone, it's unlikely that you'd get one -- or even ten -- clear answers! An individual is a different category of "thing" to a society, so it doesn't make sense to ascribe beliefs (moral or otherwise) to it in the same way to the two concepts.

    So there can be (in reality) no such thing as a "society that finds killing to be moral". If I were to say something like that I'd just be referring to my own subjective belief as to the statistical probability that an individual in that society would find killing to be moral, based on my experience of that society. A better way of saying that is, "I think that a high proportion of individuals in this particular group believe killing to be moral."

    So again, because morality is a subjective value system, nothing could become moral or immoral just because a lot of people believe it to be so. The world wasn't actually flat when a majority believed that to be the case. God doesn't suddenly spring into existence because lots of people believe in him.

    What is moral for an individual is whatever he/she chooses (or believes) to be moral. If I live in a society where most people believed killing to be morally okay, it would (to me) remain immoral because that is simply the expression of my personal value system.

  8. #8


    Quote Originally Posted by Coyote_Howl View Post
    too tired to go really in depth but will ask a couple questions instead:

    Would living in a society that finds killing to be moral, mean that it is moral to kill people? Likewise with theft, is it moral to steal purely because a society says it is moral to steal?
    I would propose that unless this moral killing was subject to significant restrictions, that such a society would be impossible. The point of societies is to enhance survivability through cooperation. If there is no expectation of safety when dealing with other members of the same society, there is no society. Honesty is likewise a societal imperative. While individuals may engage in such acts, any society that accepted them without restriction would fail.

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