First, I thank PressF4Respect for this debate. I agree to all terms set forth for the conduct of this debate, and I look forward to it. I’m sorry my opponent has forfeited the first round; I was looking forward to Press’ argument.
A comment regarding definitions as offered by Pro in the Description of this debate. I agree with the definition of morality as offered by Pro. However, I contacted Pro by PM to discuss an alternate definition of subjective.
I Argument: Re-definition of ‘Subjective’
I.a As Pro and I discussed in PM prior to my acceptance of this debate, I offered an alternative definition:
I.a,1 Subjective:Based on or influenced by feelings, tastes, or opinions; dependent on the like-minded perception of a group of people for its existence.
I.b The distinction between Pro’s definition and mine is my assertion that morality, itself, is not an individual matter, malleable depending on individuals. Morality is more a group-think attitude; a platitude, if you will, on which a group of individuals agree upon together. They will generally congregate themselves together at the exclusion of others who may have a different set of morals on which they, separately, depend, think, and act. There are clearly many different moral behaviors as demonstrated by the quote in I.b.1, below:
I.b.1 “Moral relativism is the view that moral judgments are true or false only relative to some particular standpoint (for instance, that of a culture or a historical period) and that no standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others.”
I.b.1.A This quote takes a bit to put the pieces together. Let’s do so. Morality [or a “moral judgments,” and there are more than one] is relative. Relative to what? To a standpoint. What standpoint, and which standpoints [the following phrase says that no standpoint [then, there most be multiple standpoints, since no singular standpoint…] “is uniquely privileged” [has greater relative standing] “…over all others.” To what does “others” refer? To other standpoints; that is, to other moral standings. There are multiple moralities from which to choose, such as from the list offered in II.a, below.
I.c I offer further: “I raise the question of whether morality is biologically or culturally determined. The question of whether the moral sense is biologically determined may refer either to the capacity for ethics (i.e., the proclivity to judge human actions as either right or wrong), or to the moral norms accepted by human beings for guiding their actions. I propose that the capacity for ethics is a necessary attribute of human nature, whereas moral codes are products of cultural evolution.”
I.c.1 On the basis of the above quote, I.c.1, I contend that while ethics is clearly a construct of individual human sensibility, morality is a construct of culture, i.e., a group of like-minded people. Which is to say, simply, as the above quote suggests, in agreement with the quote in I.b.1, above relative to multiple moralities [and, also multiple ethics], ethics and morality are not synonymous as a cultural phenomenon while appearing to be uniquely human constructs not shared by other animals.
I.c.2 “Christopher Boehm, an evolutionary anthropologist, is the director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California. For 40 years, he has observed primates and studied different human cultures to understand social and moral behavior. In his new book, Moral Origins, Boehm speculates that human morality emerged along with big game hunting. When hunter-gatherers formed groups, he explains, survival essentially boiled down to one key tenet—cooperate, or die.”
I.c.2.A Where an individual has difficulty in cooperation with one’s self, that is a greater problem than that of morality. It is a psychological deconstruction. Therefore:
I.c.3 I contend that Pro is arguing a different set of circumstances; i.e., that ethics and morality are, effectively synonymous, and that both are subjective constructs. It is critical to my argument that the two, ethics and morality, be clearly understood as different entities and not synonymous. Further, I argue, as a result, that morality is a construct of culture and not an individually-derived pattern of expression. As Dr. Boehm describes, cooperation is a function of a group, not just an individual. Therefore, I argue that the less individual a pattern of thought and action is, the less subjective, and the more objective that pattern becomes by cooperation among a group of individuals. Therefore, I argue that morality is objective, not subjective.
II Argument: Morality is Objective
II.a I actually wrote the following argument for this debate first, but found later that it also had relevance in a debate I just completed on the proposition that I was my opponent’s slave. No more on that subject as that debate had naught to do with this one. The so-called “golden rule” is, perhaps one of the foremost moral rules in existence, simply because of its ubiquitous appeal across all major cultures/religions:
II.a.1 Buddhism: Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.
II.a.2 Christian: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them.
II.a.3 Confucianism: Do not unto others what you would not they should do unto you.
II.a.4 Hebraism: What is hurtful to yourself do so not to your fellow man.
II.a.5 Hinduism: Do naught to others which if done to thee, would cause thee pain.
II.a.6 Islam: No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.
II.a.7 Jainism: We should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.
II.a.8 Sikhism: As thou deemest thyself so deem others.
II.a.9 Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and regard your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
II.a.10: Zoroastrianism: That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
II.a.11 There are more examples, but this list represents a wide swath of humanity in the world, thus expressing in one universal idea the shared experience of a moral objectivity that cannot be denied.
II.b Moral objectivity is even expressed without having any reliance upon a religious construct: “The thesis of this essay is that morality is not objective in the same way that statements of empirically verifiable facts are objective, yet morality is objective in the ways that matter: moral judgments are not arbitrary; we can have genuine disagreements about moral issues; people can be mistaken in their moral beliefs; and facts about the world are relevant to and inform our moral judgments. In other words, morality is not “subjective” as that term is usually interpreted. Moral judgments are not equivalent to descriptive statements about the world—factual assertions about cars, cats, and cabbages—but neither are they merely expressions of personal preferences.”
[Bold added for emphasis]
II.b.1 “God” is not a necessary component in an objective morality. “One traditional counter to the argument that God is required to ground objective morality is that we cannot possibly rely on God to always tell us what’s morally right and wrong. We’re to figure a lot of this out for ourselves. As Plato pointed out long ago in his dialogue Euthyphro, divine commands cannot provide a foundation for morality.”
II.b.1.A However, it can also be argued, “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.”
This is God speaking, and it is a clear indication that we should do some thinking and concluding for ourselves, but it is always appropriate to then seek God in prayer for ratification that what we are thinking and concluding is on the right path toward ultimate Truth, including that of a proper, objective morality.
II.b.2 The construct of the argument in my II.a above, is centered on one word: harm. As in, if we desire no harm to be done to us, we should not cause harm to others. Harm is a reality to all living organisms, and they do not need a God figure to instruct, even in an altruistic approach to tell us when we feel harm. It is a natural consequence to being harmed: we feel it in one to all of even just the typical five senses we embrace as the modes by which we define our reality. Harm can be done to sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch in a single effect to one sense, or in a simultaneous effect to a combination of senses. Though these senses may be argued as gifts from God, the argument can also be made that they are entirely of a godless-necessitating natural evolution. Therefore, if, by nature, we have feelings, harm is the warning that we are in danger of upsetting our equilibrium with the reality surrounding us. It may be God tapping our shoulder; it may be natural endowment of the natural world tapping same by causing minimal to maximum harm to just the body, or even to just the mind, and potentially to both simultaneously.
II.b.3 Just to clarify, I am a theist, as is evident in my argument II.b.1.A, above. However, in this regard, it is possible to argue that with respect to morality, it can be separated from a theistic origin to reside simply in what W.B. Yeats, a Hermetist, described as “the frog-spawn of a blind man’s ditch, ...that most fecund ditch of all.”
In other words, an entirely earth-bound effect.
III Argument: Aristotle’s Law of Non-Contradiction
III.a The Principle [or Law] of Non-Contradiction [PNC], [there are actually three versions; ontological, doxastic, and semantic – we will discuss only the second, doxastic] by Aristotle [as are the other two versions], says, simply, “It is impossible to hold [suppose] the same thing to be and not to be.”
In other words, we can say, “Nothing can have both the quality of A and lack the quality of A.”
An example might be a discussion of the proper classification of a duck-billed platypus. It is classified as a mammal, which laymen consider being hairy, live-bearing animals, but the platypus is one of five enduring members of the species monotromes,
all of which are egg-bearing mammals.
Therefore, according to the PNC, we cannot say that [A] all mammals are hairy, live-bearing animals, and, simultaneously, [not A] that a platypus is not a mammal.
III.b This relates to our debate by the following: The PNC states that we cannot say [A] All morality is subjective, and, simultaneously, [not A] some morality is objective.
III.c So, imagine the following scenario:
You find a small, black duffle bag in the park with a closed zipper, and a name-and-address label attached by a lanyard to a sewn-on handle on the duffle bag. Opening the zipper, you see within several bundles of hundred-dollar bills. Counting the bills of one bundle, you find it contains $10,000. You see roughly 10 to 15 bundles. What should you do [according to your moral code]? Put more succinctly, what action would do the greatest good [recalling that Pro has defined “morality” as “the intuition that we ought to do that which is good, and not do that which is bad.”].
As said, I agree with this definition. That is, it serves my purpose. However, there are a number of responses that fit the description of “good.”
III.c.1 I could, having an identity via the name tag, and presuming that identity to be the owner of the bag, place a personals ad in the newspaper to advise I’ve found the duffle bag [not mentioning it’s contents, because that is my first question to qualify the caller] and leave my phone number. Buy the way, the bills may not necessarily have sequential serial numbers, and the bank will still be able to trace them and know in which transaction they came to the bank, and, by default of the theft, if that has occurred, when that theft occurred.
III.c.2 I could, under the same circumstance as III.c.1, turn the bag over to the police, to have them find the presumed owner of the bag.
III.c.2.A The bag might be stolen money, in which case, the police option is not just applicable, but advisable.
III.c.3 As the above conditions apply, I could attempt to find the owner on my own to return the bag to them.
III.c.4 I could donate the entre bag to charity.
III.c.5 I could apply the finder’s keepers rule; my personal, fortuitous gain.
III.c.2 All five + 1 responses might be construed to fit under the “good” column, because in every case, “good” is performed, whether that benefits the owner, society in general, or me, personally. This would appear to meet Pro’s argument of subjectivity of morality.
III.d However, my question was not “what action would do good,” but rather, “what action would do the greatest good” because there are options, and any one of them might be applied. We have just turned subjective on its ear. There is but one greater good for the appropriate owner [whoever that may be, and it may be the owner of the bag, and/or but, not its contents], for society, or for yourself. That becomes entirely objective, because each response, by itself, is an objective decision, and it even meets my more appropriate definition of “subjective” because I have sought the greater good, not just any good. Only the greater good also happens to be the greatest objective. Therefore, morality is objective.
III.e There is a sixth + 1 response, truth be told, which further solidifies the objectivity of a choice of a moral judgment: to do nothing with the duffle bag; to not act at all. To leave the bag alone as found, and even to have never looked inside, which, thereby, leaves a subjective; to choose to do nothing. At this juncture, it is relevant to define Objectivity: “I. Senses relating to objects, their function, and perception.”
Objects, functions, and perceptions as in acting on a judgment in the case of our discussion, moral judgment. Morals, in and of themselves, are not objective until they are acted upon. Until then, there is no evidence of “the intuition that we ought to do that which is good, and not do that which is bad.”
Until one acts on a moral judgment, we, the rest of us collectively, have no evidence that a person holds a moral position, nor that they share that position with a group of us.
Doctrine & Covenants 58: 26
WB Yeats, [excerpt] A Dialogue of Self and Soul,
from “The Wind Among the Reeds,”