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  1. #10
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    Mar 2018
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    Re: Objective morality vs. subjective morality

    The first thing to understand is that there is no such thing as objective morality. All morality is necessarily subjective. Hereís why:

    All morality is based on individual value judgments regarding any given moral issue at hand. Because nothing has value apart from a subject to value it, all value judgments are subjective. To be objective the value judgment would have to come from the object being valued, and thatís not possible.

    So, when it comes to deciding what is morally right and what is morally wrong, a subject (a person) must apply their subjective valuation of the issue before they can decide where they stand. For example, if a person places a high value on the sanctity of marriage, they will probably consider adultery to be immoral because it violates the sanctity of marriage. A person who places a low value on telling the truth might not see lying as immoral.

    For morality to be objective, it must be based on something other than a value judgment of some kind, and it must exist apart from human valuations and be immune to them. Thus, it would apply to all humans all the time regardless of what any human thinks about the particular moral issue. I canít think of any moral issue that meets those requirements.

    For example, if it was objectively true that lying is always immoral, and telling the truth is always moral, then all the people who sought to hide Jews from the Germans during WWII acted immorally whenever they lied to German authorities as to the whereabouts of any Jews the Germans sought. Clearly, however, we would understand it to have been immoral for people to give up the locations of Jewish families in hiding if those people were, in fact, trying to hide and protect those Jewish families. So it cannot be true that it is objectively immoral to lie.

    Now, itís possible to objectively evaluate morality itself, but thatís not the same as morality being objective. Hereís what I mean:

    Letís suppose that you claim to live by the standard that itís immoral to disobey civil laws, ordnances and regulations. To be moral, you must obey all such laws, etc. Thatís your rule for you.

    You invite me to accompany you to dinner with your significant other, and you pick me up at my place in your car. Along the way to the restaurant you exceed the speed limit on several roads and make several lane changes without signalling. You also rolled through two stop signs and tailgated one driver who was going too slow for your taste.

    I can say, objectively, that you acted immorally behind the wheel because you violated several rules of the road as you drove along. I can say this objectively because I used your personal moral standard to judge your actions; I didnít have to apply a value judgment of my own to see that you acted immorally. However, the moral code that guides you and should have made you adhere to the rules of the road is subjective. It arises out of the high value you place on following the law. You subjectively determined this and made it your guide to action. However, itís not my guide to action and does not apply to me, even if my moral code generally agrees with yours.

    So you can see that we can apply some objectivity in discussing morals, but you canít escape the fact that all morality is, ultimately, subjective.



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