Instigator / Pro

morality is objective


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 7 votes and with 44 points ahead, the winner is...

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Round 1
RESOLUTION: Morality is objective

As my opponent has failed to define any terms, I will define all key terms from the resolution:
Furthermore, my opponenent has failed to provide an interpretation of the resolution, I will then provide my own, along with observations of the resolution: "The standards for good or bad character and behavior are not dependent on the mind for existence; actual." This means that morality is not depenedent on what people think to be true, essentially it is a fact, like 2 + 2 equaling 4, or whiteboards being white. I am arguing the opposite of that resolution, that morality is indeed dependent on the mind for its existence, that morality is not objective. 

  • The stated resolution only seeks to prove that morality is objective, therefore I can argue that morality is simply not objective or that it is subjective
  • If my opponent seeks to demonstrate that morality is objective, then they must provide an objective standard for it to be measured to

It is, perhaps, most comfortable for the average thinker that our moral laws be immutable. That whenever we say that something is bad, we mean it in every sense of the word. They are wrong, we are right. You'd find such thinking in a plethora of other ways of thinking, and I do not fault anyone for falling into this cognitive trap of comfort. As humans, we want to embrace what is comfortable because of our harsh world. However; it would be a fallacy to conclude that because something is comfortable or intuitive that is true. It would also be a fallacy to conclude that because it is intuitive or comfortable that is untrue. 

There is a key reasoning behind the subjectitiy of Morality, the fact that you cannot derive an moral command from an objective statement. This is a fundamental part of moral and ethical considerations, without it, our modern understanding of ethics would not be what it is. I want to stress to the voters and my potential opponent (as he has of yet, not provided any arguments in favor of the resolution) that despite how intuitive it seems to connect objective fact and morals, they do not correlate, and connecting them inside of one syllogism is neccessarily a non-sequitur. I will now begin my only contention regarding my BoP.

Philosopher David Hume is regarded as one of the most important writers and essayist in the history of moral philosphers, and his work which is most widely recognized is the aformentioned guillotine [1]. The work this comes from is Hume's Treatise of Human Nature [2] [3], what students might know as the "Is-ought dilema". The dilema would go as follows: There are two ways to categorize reality, describing and prescribing it, describing reality is to speak on the on the objective nature of the universe, for example; we live in a galaxy. To prescribe reality is to speak on what you wish, for example; You ought to live in the galaxy. 

These two categories of reality are often mixed, and even used to support one another, that does not mean that these two are linked validly. A description of reality is referred to as an "if", and a prescription of reality is known as an "ought". The dilema goes that you cannot derive an is from an ought, nor a ought from an is. I am claiming this to be true, and this therefore requires substantiation. Why can you not derive an is from ought or vica verca? For a simple reason, every moral description is saying that you ought to do or not to do something, because that thing is either morally valuable or morally harmful.

From that fact, we know that "things", "actions", or "behaviors" are closer or further from the ideal moral behavior. Deductively then, we know that every single "ought" is associated with an ideal behavior. The differences between moral oughts are which behavior or goal is priotized, but these goals are then, by definition, subjective. They are what people priortize over another. Therefore attempting to come to conclusion regarding how reality should be from what it is leaves out this essential component, there is no "ideal behavior", if you were to insert an ideal behavior or a goal, then you would get an ought from an is and ought.

Let's simplify this idea:
PREMISE I: Moral commands are only possible with a subjective "goal" or "ideal"
PREMISE II: Factual statements of the universe are not linked to these goals by themselves
CONCLUSIONS: Therefore you are unable to link an objective statement to a moral command

You can solve this problem by inserting an idea into the factual statement, let's look through an example to clarify what I mean:

PREMISE I: Driving is dangerous
CONCLUSION: Therefore you ought not to drive

The conclusion does not logically lead from the premise, it is a non-sequitur, this is the is-ought dilema

EX 2:
PREMISE I: Driving is dangerous
PREMISE II: You ought to avoid danger
CONCLUSION: Therefore ou ought not to drive

Notice that now the premise follows from the conclusion, IF driving is dangerous, and IF you ought to avoid danger, THEN you neccessarily ought not to drive.

What I'm saying is that though, an IS-OUGHT premise conclusion is invalid, an IS-OUGHT-OUGHT premise conclusion is not. So I've sustantiated my claim, but how does this tie into objective morality? A great question, with a very simple answer, any objective morality would mean that some ideals are objectively better than others; however, the reasoining for one ideal's objectivity is neccessarily subjective in nature. Perhaps it is possible to outline objective moral ideals, but it would be impossible to link these without subjective nature, you have the same problem that you do while attempting to connect an is and ought.

Even if there is an "IS" an objective moral idea, everytime you would claim that is is connected to an command is a subjective measure of what that objective ideal is. Is that ideal objectively good or bad? Is that ideal objectively authoratative or only true some of the time? There are so many subjective measures, that even if you find an objective ideal (which has not been demonstrated by Pro to exist), it would not point to the existence of objective morality. It is simply not the case that you can connect an objective description of reality to a prescription of reality. 

Given the fact that Pro has not given any argument regarding the objectivity of morality, he has neccessarily conceded the first round.  Furthermore, I have only offered one argument, but it has syllogistic soundness backing it up, as well as a well-established principle in ethics. My opponent must not only defeat Hume's Guillotine, they also must demonstrate that morality is objective, one is simply not enough to fulfill their BoP. 

Over to Pro

Round 2
My opponent has failed to provide an argument or a rebuttal to mine, thusly my opponent has conceded. 

Vote Con