TED Conversations

Nicholas Lukowiak


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There exist objective moral truths

I do believe there exist objective moral truths, such as, "a person being punished for something they did not do is wrong."

But, there exist counter arguments and positions which believe there are no objective moral truths, because ethical knowledge is usually subjective or relative which means they cannot be consider objective. Such as non-cognitivism and emotivism

Obviously the process to figure out what is objectively moral would be a difficult one, but can it be done? Consensually, empirically?

Are there objective moral truths? What are they?!?!


Closing Statement from Nicholas Lukowiak

Dear future interested reader,

IF there is anything to take from this closed debate, it is the fact one must define their terms and defend them in order to be 'right'. This creates monumental problems when debating with other people. So, try to stick with the most recognizable or common context of terms.

As far as being 'objective' I propose there is no way around being first subjective. While many believe since we are automatically subjective, we can never not be subjective. I see much error in this way of thinking, but appreciate the challenge of figuring out why. I believe in process/procedure in alignment with all of the universe. There is nothing that exist without evolving... Change in decay, [re]production, or [re]acting... Therefore, to assume there exist an 'objective truth' and then believing we can never know the exact nature of such... Seems counter-intuitive and only productive in a form of absurdity. The sciences are very successful building off of what is considered objective;by means of community, consistency and consensus.

Morality is individual. Ethics is the subject of morality. A moral decision is a personal one, not a communal thing. Although communities can dictate an individual's morals... The moral is still the individuals'.

I believe there are objective moral truths.

No one can make an argument genocide is proper or punishing an innocent is amazing! These thoughts are innately wrong for a reason... We are naturally endowed with wanting to seek social acceptance, and that involves questioning what we accept with how others treat us socially. If you, yourself, do not enjoy being harmed, what makes you think another would? What human doesn't want the basic needs of life?

What made people not want to accept my position is the immediate condition of the world... Well, the world, cultures, work in giant cultural cycles... Figuring them out helps.

Keywords: Prosocial selection and evolutionary psychology

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    Dec 18 2012: Do on to others, as you would have others do on to you
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      Dec 20 2012: golden rule - a moral truth?*

      What if another wants something you are not comfortable with giving? What if I like to be criticized and argued with and you don't? Are you going to, even if you do not like to be criticized or argued with?

      Or - What if, whatever you do normally, is actually offensive to me? Like eating meat. Are you going to stop eating meat near me, because I find it offensive? Or, will you eat anyways, believing I should have no say in your meat eating?
      • Dec 20 2012: There is an 'extension' to the golden rule :
        " dethrone yourself from the center of your world, put another there and you'll transcend yourself."
        If we could do that , ' don't do to others ...' would be just a daily habit.
        Actually, we do that when we are in love or... aware of how this world works , which is pretty much the same :)
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    Dec 17 2012: "There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so." -- Shakespeare

    Nothing in nature is objectively good or bad. There is no liquid water on Mars, but there is no one there to suffer from it. We worry about global warming on Earth, yet, on Venus it is much hotter and there there are rains of sulfuric acid, but there are no movements for ecology on Venus. There are dead stars in the universe. Perhaps, with their death some planets with living creatures ceased to exist. Is it good or bad? When a lion kills its prey for food - is it good or bad? Perhaps, neither. What if the prey is a human child? Suddenly, the lion becomes evil for trying to feed itself. Why is it OK to exterminate a colony of termites or a nest of wasps, but not OK to exterminate a village of people?

    What if Earth once becomes like Mars or like Venus? What if Sun once becomes cold and black? (And it will) Is it good or bad?

    To assume existence of objective moral truths is to assume that the universe "cares" about people. It means to assume a special status of the Sun and the Earth and to assume a special status of humans among the living creatures on Earth. Essentially, it means to assume the existence of God. Ironically, that's what atheists like Sam Harris do when they assume that science can answer moral questions.

    • Dec 17 2012: I don't think belief that science (or religion, or anything) can answer moral questions commits one to the belief that humans have a special status (that the earth 'cares' for them). I'd say it was more about humans 'making their own meaning'. Just like the meaning of life, there is no 'answer'' (42 >.>) but we have to make one for ourselves.
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        Dec 17 2012: Re: " I don't think belief that science (or religion, or anything) can answer moral questions commits one to the belief that humans have a special status (that the earth 'cares' for them)."

        I'm speaking specifically of "objective" morality which, presumably, may exist in the absence of humans and independently of them. IMHO, one cannot place morality into the competence of science (as Mr. Harris is trying to do) without such assumption. Wouldn't such assumption ascribe willful intent to nature? Science is about what is, morality is about what ought to be. It's best to keep these categories clearly separated for our own sanity.

        I agree on the point about the meaning. Meaning is something that we come up with. E.g. "money" can symbolize survival, power, freedom, slavery, happiness, misery, economy, and many other things. Whereas, in reality, money are just pieces of paper or metal or, even less than that - a number in computer memory.
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      Dec 17 2012: I feel you're confused the objective with an absolute understanding of morality...

      The morality or ethics applied to people in one place may not be very moral in another (the platinum rule), however we can consider that there will still be overlapping ethical principles. By this above notion... We are limited to being only objective, and not absolute. We can objectively say every human being needs 2000 calories, warmth and company to survival with basis needs, but we cannot say absolutely that is treating all animals and other humanoid species correctly.

      Please - I make a strong case that absolutes and objective conclusions are fundamentally different - but rely on one another, certainly. I feel you are not considering this fact as much as I am, and that will make things seem unable to be static..

      "I'm speaking specifically of "objective" morality which, presumably, may exist in the absence of humans and independently of them."

      That would make it more absolute than objective, therefore we are limited to the human experience in order to be objective. Have we another humanoid race to conflict with in order to know whether our objective truths are valid, well then, we can begin to suggest these are (and there are) absolute morals that permeate the universe, therefore they exist within themselves (and not limited to anthropocentric interpretations of absolutes).

      When we can figure out what 'moral truth' is as true as '1 + 1 = 2' - we can begin to find the already existing absolute truths, but we can never NOT do so without our human-objectivist lens.

      Does this find middle ground between your thoughts and mine?
    • Dec 17 2012: Arkady,

      Shakespear has an excellent point here. I have enjoyed your other comments here as well.

      What Shakespear is really getting at is the fact that "thinking" itself does not fall under either condition of being subject or object. Good or evil. The two ideas themselves "exist" simply because we "can think".... The exist at the mercy of our own thinking... Thinking is the force within the human being that "sets up" the whole "subject / object" relationship. Thinking is the creator of the S / O model ! Do you see what I mean? Both the subject (or the observer) as well as the object (the thing itself in the outside world, this including our own feelings and even our OWN THINKING.... We can observe our own thinking... re-evaluate it, and correct it if necessary ! ... and this strictly human faculty is the key to our own freedom ....
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        Dec 17 2012: I agree. However, these "thinking" and "self awareness" concepts are extremely elusive. "I think, therefore I am" (Descartes). But why do we think that we think? "I think that I think, therefore I think that I am." But do I really think? Or is it just neurons firing in my brain? What does it mean to think? Even if I answer this question, why would I think that the answer means anything?

        Some questions are better not asked at all. I'm with Zen Buddhists on that. Here is a funny Q/A from answers.yahoo.com (http://tinyurl.com/cuqllh4):

        Q: "What questions should I ask a Zen Buddhist in an interview?
        I m doing an interview this coming Sunday, but I am a little short on questions to ask, as I am supposed to make a 3-page report out of it. Any help is greatly appreciated!"

        A: Best Answer - Chosen by Asker
        "OMG, you have to be kidding! But I'll bet you get an A+ if you turn in three blank pages. This assumes, of course, the instructor knows anything about Zen Buddhism."

        By the way, dolphins and whales are known to have some degree of self-awareness (just to add to confusion) :-)
        • Dec 18 2012: Hi again Arkady,

          Thinking is a "spiritual activity" within us. The neural firing is simply the footprint that is left behind. The footprint only points towards the activity. The thought does not originate from the neurons firing. The neurons fire because the thought activity is present within the structures of the brain. This living activity or life force, is the same activity that "sustains" life in all living creatures.

          Although the "I am" remains dormant in the developing child until the age of around 2.5-3 years, there comes a point when the child "discovers" that it too is an "I" or an individual separate from all other individuals. But it is "sleeping" within the child's consciousness like the entire "form" of the plant is also "sleeping" within the seed. The child awakens so to say, to this phenomenal discovery. If you have children you know that the child says "Jerry wants an candy" or "Jerry wants to do this or do that" This "observation" on the part of the thinking activity in the child is a milestone in the development of their thinking process.
          As human beings, we gradually awaken to abstract ideas such as "moral truths" As mentioned earlier here, the development of our cognitive abilities is directly correlated to our ability to grasp "abstractions" like the term moral truths.
          The concept "moral truths" exists only because we are thinking (and feeling) beings. The combination of our thinking observing our own feelings as well as other peoples feelings is commonly called empathy. Could we not perceive our own feeling life, could we neither be able to "interpret" other peoples feelings. I know from person experience that it hurts to hit my thumb with the hammer... therefore I know it hurts you when you do it!
          The fact that feelings of pain and pleasure can be "objectified" is not due to mere neural firing but rather due to the faculty of empathy ..which is also generated by thinking.
        • Dec 19 2012: Descartes could have better said it this way,

          My searching first comes onto firm ground when I find an object from which I can derive the sense of its existence out of it itself. This I am myself, however, in that I think, for I give to my existence the definite, self-sustaining content of thinking activity. Now I can take my start from there and ask whether the other things exist in the same or in a different sense.

          Rudolf Steiner said that
      • Dec 18 2012: Daniel,
        Re : "I am" remains dormant in the developing child until the age of around 2.5-3 years, there comes a point when the child "discovers" that it too is an "I" or an individual separate from all other individuals.

        That seems to be what is really happening, that's why Henry David Thoreau once said :

        I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

        And another famous quote :

        " Except you become as little children you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven "

        What is destroyed by the act of growing up is this unconscious state of being one with everything else. In one case scenario it's ego that is growing and strengthening into
        ' I am that ', in another it is a journey and 'return to the garden'. Is there any sense in the journey without return ?

        And about thinking as ' the key to our own freedom ' . On the one hand yes, on the other ...the issue here , as David Bohm put it , is that " thought doesn't know it is doing something and then struggles against what it is doing . "
        It's worth while thinking about :)
        • Dec 18 2012: Well said Natasha,
          I'm off to bed now but I'll respond properly to your comment tomorrow ... ;-)
        • Dec 19 2012: Hi Natasha, Here is a quote from Rudolf Steiner's book "The Philosophy of Freedom" Tell me what you think of it !

          ...thinking must never be regarded as merely a subjective activity. Thinking lies beyond subject and object. It produces these two concepts just as it produces all others. When, therefore, I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to an object, we must not regard this reference as something purely subjective. It is not the subject that makes the reference, but thinking. The subject does not think because it is a subject; rather it appears to itself as a subject because it can think. The activity exercised by man as a thinking being is thus not merely subjective. Rather is it something neither subjective nor objective, that transcends both these concepts. I ought never to say that my individual subject thinks, but much more that my individual subject lives by the grace of thinking.
      • Dec 20 2012: Hi Daniel !
        Our thinking processes do not neutrally report in what is 'out there' ; thought actively participates in forming our perceptions. And we've come to the edge with the question ; what is real ? Apparently ' real' is what we perceive as real.
        We think reality into existence, it's what i think we do by thinking.
        Maybe it's too radical idea but for the 2 AM which i have here now, it's OK , so I'd better be back tomorrow : )
        Re :' my individual subject lives by the grace of thinking.' i would like to challenge the celebratory tone of this statement, though ' individual' and ' thinking ' is not simply related but is pretty much the same thing, i guess.
        Thank you !
      • Dec 20 2012: Hi, Daniel ! I am back :)
        The word ' individual ' was coined in early 15 c. and meant " one and indivisible " , the Renaissance attitude can be summed up in famous aphorism ' man is the measure of all things '. It contradicts to older notion ' nothing has independent existence from anything else ' There is nothing good or bad about it, it was a natural reaction to the pressure of the church in middle ages. But when it reached its apogee in the 20 c.and we witnessed all devastation around us , which is in deep root level is the result of that seemingly glorious ' man is the measure of all things ' and glorifying the concept of individual , aren't we ready to change our attitude ? ' free individual ' is an unknown person, who is free in individualistic society ? Every thing is what it is and what it is not, ' free individual' is coupled with a 'slave '.
        Does thinking make us free ( meaning ' unique ' ) ? I have serious doubt about it. 99% we think we are thinking we are listening. Where is the original thought that belongs to you ? Ask me and i don't know :) But i have some freedom to choose what to listen to, right ? Some things resonate with me some don't. You know this ' aha ' feeling , you hear inside this ' bingo ' click. And what is the criteria ? Experience !
        Mostly unconscious experience , the moment we find the name for it and evaluate it , it becomes a mental concept and it is not quite true.
        What i am trying to say is : we should dethrone the very concept of ' individual ' , to bring it into the balance with the Whole, God or what have you. Consciousness, Mind doesn't belong to you , it goes through you ; everything is yours and nothing belongs to you. What we call ' individual mind ' is just a filter to insure the survival of the seemingly separate being ( and thanks god, we have it ! )
        What is real ( i think is real :) ) is a unique being , that experience the Whole in its unique way and is the Whole.
        I guess i've abused your attention , sorry !
      • Dec 20 2012: One more thing to sum it up : thinking makes you individual, capable of creating virtual reality ( look around you ) ; experience encourages your uniqueness, meaning your unique experience of one undivided Whole.
        I can challenge my own statement, it's always the case :)
        I mean, ' thinking ' is a very important part of our experience too.
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          Dec 28 2012: "Remember, you are unique - just like everyone else." -- A bumper sticker I recently saw.

          Many interesting thoughts. I like the idea that "mind does not belong to me - it's flowing through me".

          The more I read and think about things, the less meaning I can find. Freedom, free will, control, ownership, reason, intelligence, time and space, good and evil, truth, evidence - none of this makes sense. All I see around me are circular processes - feedback systems with output directed back to the input, with no beginning or end, originating in themselves.
        • Jan 3 2013: HI nn

          AND YES "THANK US"!!!" and now "Happy Orthodox Christmas"

          And no need for "sorry" as I don't come to TED any more but to see / hear what you are up to ;-) annnnnd....perhaps your are not "orthodox" i the Christmas term but I am sure that ..living where do do...you will be into some very good food and fun anyway. :-) So Merry Christmas!!! Ukrainian style. :-) Lots of that here in Canada Too.

          Yes I tagged you with those links because I could hear them in your words. Thinking ...when it utilizes the inherent access to LOGOS has inflate potential ...and is what/why HUman BE-ings are. This is seldom realized but eventually , yes, it will come about. "Reason" is the operative word .....I for one will be attending the gatherings of the Researchers of Truth this year in Cyprus and Germany ....for that very purpose ....I don't know if Daskalos' teaching are as active in the Ukraine but I am sure it is known.

          All for now ..Be Good and Play safely!!!
    • Dec 29 2012: Arkady,
      would you agree that 'circular processes' are arranged in a spiral ?
      "Nothing ever changes but the Same " iow .' the same' is always changing and looks more like a spiral, where nothing lasts, but nothing lost either.
      If you can't find meaning in all those things you've listed, maybe you are searching for another understanding of these things ? To see something new you don't need new landscapes but new eyes .

      What do you think " only he who looses his life shall find it " is about ?

      Thanks !
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        Dec 30 2012: "You do the hokey-pokey and you turn yourself around - that's what it's all about." :-)

        I had this discussion about patterns and cycles with Mark Meijer a while ago. He pointed out that nothing really repeats itself. Things seem to be similar to each other, yet different every time. A spiral is just one analogy. I'd rather compare the universe and various phenomena we observe to a Mandelbrot set where the whole is similar to each part, but not identical.

        I'd like to read more about chaos theory and fractals. There is something very fascinating in these concepts. I've seen people calling a Mandelbrot set "a thumbprint of God". Golden ratio is based on the same concept of self-similarity.
        • Dec 30 2012: OK then, i was preaching the converted :)
          Your idea of 'circular processes' confused me. The spiral image( Fibonacci numbers ) is just a step further from circles/cycles towards Mandelbrot set ,fractals....don't forget about the holographic principle and quantum idea of the Whole.
          What fascinates me is how all these things and many others ( DNA, musical tones...the Bible , sacred geometry, Kabbalah, Hermetisism ..... ) complement each other ; the bigger picture becomes dimly visible :) :)

          Happy New Year !
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        Dec 30 2012: Yes. I also see a lot of analogies. Not as many as you, though. Perhaps, I was not looking as long as you. It's interesting that many people in TED also seem to have this fascination with the concept of "self" and also see these analogies quite independently.

        Happy New Year to you too!
      • Dec 31 2012: Happy And Safe New Year nn!!!!

        Yes yet more "analogies" (below) with attractive images to go with them!!

        Be Well Be Present...............:-)

        "Inner Worlds, Outer Worlds"

        Part 1:


        Part 2:


        Part 3:


        Part 4:

        • Jan 3 2013: Ed !!!
          Sorry for the delay with my response, i was away with no access to the Internet.
          Thank you very ...very much for the links !!!
          What i've seen in the videos is very close to what goes through my mind, really.
          Maybe thinking is bad , but thinking it's bad is not good either :) It's just what is happening, we do think intensively. We think about unspeakable ; we try to language it.
          It occurred to me earlier, that maybe all millennia of human 'fall' into the matter which led to strengthening of ego ,thinking , science was aimed to make Logos visualized imaged and even speakable ? Impossible task, by definition, but it's the path, the chosen way and i guess, we are moving towards...
          Is there any rise without a fall ?
          It's what i am thinking, and there is less and less ' me' in my thinking, it's a kind of ego dissolving thinking. Btw. i don't not necessary agree with what i am saying :)

          Being a bit late with my New Year greetings, i do wish you joy in the coming year, we are in the Age of Reason now, it must mean something !
          Thank us ! :)
        • Jan 4 2013: Hi, Ed !
          Maybe you don't remember , but it's you who introduced me to 'thank us ', so it's come back to you.:)
          What i am up to is something that is difficult to say, discuss or share and totally impossible to debate. For me you are one who tries to communicate 'experience' on line : minimum words to produce a resonance, those who are tuned can hear a lot. Marshal McLuhan would call it a ' cool media ' :)
          Could you tell me about the gatherings of the Researchers of Truth or any proper link/links ?

          Thanks for your greetings, as you can guess i am not much of an orthodox christian ; i have a confession to make: i love to celebrate days, just ordinary days, maybe i am a very grounded person, but i don't feel anything special on a special day, every day is worth being celebrated, enjoyed , so... thank us ! :)
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    Jan 6 2013: perhaps. perhaps not. but there is ethics.
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    Jan 5 2013: treat others how you would want to be treated. This is hard to do but when someone puts a situation in your hands, the best way to always act is as if you were handing them the problem or maybe you already have in the past handed over a concern or problem. To someone you thought cared or would help but then they ended up making it worst or it just wasn't the right words you wanted to hear at that time. Think of the words that you wanted to hear to make whatever the situation better for you. And then relate those thought and those feelings to your friends specific situation and chances are the 2 of you or x number of you can solve any problem that is put in front of them.
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      Jan 5 2013: I feel as though you described the platinum rule: treat others how they wish to be treated, not how you expect to be treated.

      Morality is indeed situational, but that doesn't mean morality cannot be weighed and measured based on situations.
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        Jan 5 2013: Set and setting should always be considered, my action at war time and my actions at peace time might reflect my inner soul. That does not mean that either of my reactions are wrong or right as long as you are preforming the platinum rule. One can only hope peace will follow in any of its magnificent forms
  • Jan 3 2013: You did, my speed reading sometimes misses the whole picture. I hope I did not offend you as that is never my intention with anyone. Thank you for bringing my mind back into focus.
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      Jan 4 2013: Hitting 'reply' to comments allows you to directly respond. It helps with keeping a conversation neat.

      Otherwise, no big deal!

      Please any further inquiry (if you feel there are in fact no obj. moral truths), continue to comment!
  • Jan 3 2013: This is a very hard subject. I don't think it can be decided by philosophical debate. There are way too many factors going into what's right and wrong according to the situation. Who are we to decide what's objective or not? No one has any more authority on this subject than anybody else. We're all equal as humans. Either there's a God and He decides what's right and wrong according to the situation, or there's no God and there's no objective morality. By definition any morality a human comes up with is subjective.
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      Jan 3 2013: So if there are creator gods, we still don't know if they have an opinion on what is moral. So it comes back to humans to work out what sort of values we base morality on.

      If the creators do have an idea of what human morality should be, its not clear we know what this is. Religious beliefs conflict in many areas. Most masks worshipping the right god top of the list. But we don't know which construct of god and the associated morality is other correct one. So it comes back to humans try work it out.

      If there are creator gods, why are their moral ideas the best ones. Is it simply divine command, so if they support slavery, or genocide, or homophobia, or racism, murdetrering aduleters, or non believers, do we just go along with that.

      You need to make all sorts of assumptions before a god given morality makes sense.
      • Jan 4 2013: I understand your point. There are all kinds of religions claiming some kind of divine authority. How do we know in the long run what is actually right? But the point stands that only God knows what is right. He knows everything, loves us, and would never do anything that is not for our benefit. By definition, if He is God, He knows what is objectively right. If He's not objectively right, He's not God. Obey, you also seem to be assuming we can't communicate with God. That's not true. You can ask God directly what is right and what is wrong, what is true. You pray, you talk to Him, and if you're sincere, He talks back. I obviously can't show you any scientific evidence backing this up, but I can promise you that if you try to talk to Him sincerely, with an open mind, He'll answer you. He answered me, my family, and many of my friends.
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      Jan 5 2013: einstein's theory of relativity suggest that we are in the reality where all realities can exist and are happening simultaneously. Newton say that for every action creates an opposite but equal reaction. (also suggesting infinity) Would your shadow be your equal but opposite of self? Is this were the duality of life comes from? If we are equals; does that mean we can come together as one? Could then the parts be greater then the whole? Which is what democracy was founded on? Do we have answers for these questions? Or will it simply create another question that needs to be addressed and answered? yes
  • Jan 3 2013: Morality is situational.
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    Jan 3 2013: I have read some of the conversation and would like to ask a question about this that I have put much philosophical thought into: Since the world consists of [almost] infinitely many subjective choices (within that there exists objective areas and subjective ares), could that itself be the objective moral truth? That the truth of choice is the eluded objective truth? I speculate this to come from the Duty (or Rights) based ethics side of this debate, since it takes choice to establish what is 'moral' in the first place.
  • Jan 3 2013: Monkeys, dogs, people, they all have a sense of right, wrong, and fairness. It is encoded in our DNA, with the exception of some mentally ill. Give only one of a group of dogs, a treat. Let one child play while another has to sit.
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    Jan 2 2013: I only quickly skimmed through the responses, but I think I have a general understanding of the direction of the conversation.

    In my opinion, there is no full or complete objectivity on any given issue or field, ethics and morals included. I do however believe that after a contextual agreement on what counts for moral and what doesn't, a certain level of order and justice can be achieved and maintained in a largely objective manner.

    I actually tend to follow the classical trend of philosophy and advocate the use of evaluation in approaching political philosophy. It seems to me that sometimes the sole utilization of objectivity - as is the case in the behavioral method in political science - proves more problematic than beneficial in the implementation and maintenance of justice in the modern state of law.

    Thank you for bringing up the topic; I find it particularly interesting.
  • Jan 1 2013: With our terms defined my response is: Absolutely. "Objective Moral Truths" exist and we can identify them. There are a multitude of studies, and for that matter talks that can be viewed here on Ted that give scientific data on the benefits of many things we refer to as "Moral". Take Michal Norton in "How to buy Happiness". He's done studies that show that when a person contributes to the good of another, their happiness increases. He's come to this claim using a Science model; his results qualify as both "Objective" and "True". I think we can all agree that happiness is "good"/beneficial so contributing to the good of others is "Moral". Thus we have an excellent start towards identifying that "Contributing to the Good of Others is an Objective Moral Truth." Notice I said "start towards". I wouldn't expect us to accept the conclusion that "Contributing to the Good of Others" is an "Objective Moral Truth" on the basis of a portion of a single researchers work; I am only using it as model for the process by which we can identify "Objective Moral Truths". The thing is this kind of finding is repeated. I've watched many, many Ted Talks that demonstrate to us "Moral Truths" with similar "Objective" support. Things like "It's bad for a society AND its individuals to have too large a disparity in income between its richest & its poorest". These studies show it's not just "bad" for the poor; it's actually, measurably, "Objectively" "bad" for the rich as well. Not something we'd imagine, but it functions that way in Reality none the less. Another example: we can (and have) study and state conclusively that it is healthier, more "good", in the long term, for a person to forgive someone who has done them harm, than to carry anger and resentment long term. That doesn't necessarily make it easier, but we can "Objectively" state that the "Moral" of Forgiveness is "True". This is just a small sampling of why: "Yes, we can identify "Objective Moral Truths"."
  • Jan 1 2013: Objective Moral Truths. I'll start with a definition of terms pulled from Wikipedia, as it's expedient & sufficiently reliable for this type of definition.

    Objective: the quality of being true even outside of individual or group feelings, imaginings, or interpretations. (This is what Science excels at.)
    Moral: Intentions, decisions, and actions whose effect is "good"/beneficial.
    Truth: Accurate representation of the functions of Reality. (Again, Science excels at this)

    (My Arguement follows..)
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    Jan 1 2013: I am really not sure about objective moral truths but if there are any would they not be made around the concept of survival? Not personal survival because if you look at it just on the surface you can see that most fundamental morals are contradicted by the need to survive but what about the survival of our species in the best way possible.

    If there are objective moral truths I think that the most fundamental of them is that you should do whats best for the species. Murder is very rarely for the benefit of the species as a whole. Lying, theft and any type of deceptive practice is generally bad for the race as a whole.

    Any idea's on this concept?
  • Dan F 50+

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    Dec 31 2012: I subscribe to the position that our biological evolution is exotic, increasing better understood and increasing difficult to refute on an increasing esoteric level, including this issue.

    A unique result of the biological evolution specific to our species is our human cultural evolution. Very interestingly, as clearly indicated in this debate, cultural evolution has a "life" with its own independent standings of ideas, beliefs, etc., which exist concurrently without the constraints applicable to the life products of biological evolution. The survival of ideas, beliefs, etc., are not without selection, but of a less predictable inheritance and longevity.

    To contemplate the existence of objective moral truths constitutes just how mind boggling the natural world is and has become throughout our human history. Is it not this aspect of life that has made our existence all the more precious?

    The concept an objective moral truth is subject to a process that can be highly selective, or predictable given the discipline of knowledge, the constraints of liberty, or cost of honesty, etc.

    I think Sam Harris on an earlier TED Talk addressed this issue square on. There is no need to get mystical about the development of our rich, diverse cultural evolution. It is rooted in us.
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      Jan 2 2013: Evolutionary paradigms are among the most important frame works for developing cognitive studies.

      Check out: [cog] psych of religion

      Painting the overall picture that individually we all act 'religious' in nature - we function with groups as a condition of survival; part of surviving which involves finding 'happiness' and 'knowledge' among groups - in a sense - or rather, our sub- and unconscious brain dictates requirements our immediate conscious is not aware of...

      It's merely a conflict of verbal context. I call it religious, another may call it natural. But, calling it ''natural' is an existential cop out... The term, religious, makes you think. How do I act religious, normally, do I? In what ways? No matter the conflict, what is clear is that without metacognition (reflection, retrospection, etc) of cognition, there is a lot more room to follow the group; band-wagon.

      As much as I detest the new age atheism... Sam Harris is a brilliant contemporary philosopher. Dawkins' memes are so revolutionary... But, his philosophy is so 'neoatheist' it corrupts his own practical usage of the idea... I argue greatly, new age atheism has created an underground religion; a disorganized group, but none the less having doctrine, argument, metaphysical position... to establish their head in the room of religious debate... Indeed, no need to get mystical; it is important that a human follows the herd (we need to), but also, while making sure each human understands that exact nature of thought...

      I don't think mysticism will die, it's a consistency. Science believe in the 'Big Bang' or at least that's the best theory and it makes the most sense to use... Couldn't of something else happened? The Big Bang, says the entire universe, yet we do not know the actual 'size' of universe... It's a theory, for a reason. Yet many say "it is the truth" - seems mystical to call a theory the best 'truth' thus the TRUTH, no?

      We learned too much about the universe before we figured out...
      • Dan F 50+

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        Jan 2 2013: I checked your reference and within these evolutionary paradigms is sociobiology which is my preferential view over the other approaches including the supernatural. E.O. Wilson's definition is the basis: “The extension of population biology and evolutionary theory to social organization”

        Sociobiology restricts its insights to the observable natural and physical world and is the reason biologist often consider themselves naturalist. I think you may be misreading my use of the word natural. I'm using it in terms of our human evolutionary history.

        From this point of view our concurrent cultural evolution opened the doors to an increasing awareness of ourselves enabling a free will to be more creative in how to better get along more civilly, comfort one another in tough times, etc. This expanding capacity motivated stories and ideas to adopt, as for example your question about objective moral truths, in that effort. A subjective realm, but one of collective appeal and group benefit potentially aiding in our survival as a species.

        I do note a distinction between the mysteries of the testable and the conjectured real world truths and unknowns and the handed down traditional organized political/religious/educational belief systems through the years with their own more self serving impetus.

        Atheist are organized? Are you sure? Just so you know, I don't worship anything not even science, but I do seek to better acknowledge it.
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          Jan 2 2013: Your usage of natural is valid, as long as it is not limited to those definitions found in 'science'

          The rest, is great writing and we will agree more often than not.

          And yes, I am sure atheist are more disorganized than not, but they still have organized features... In politics and scientific communities especially.

          Atheism is a term people use for themselves to put themselves in the minority category, but at the same time, will realize what atheism means to them personally is more often a religious naturalist ideology - nature is my religion - sort of thing.

          To me, clearly dictating that spirituality is impossible to ignore, as we are all prone to being 'religious' in some sense.
  • Dec 26 2012: Morality, moral truth, right or wrong. These are things we love to debate about. Here is the real problem. Deep down we do not like to be told what to do. Most of us have a deep longing to be free. Free of what or what true freedom means I'm not sure but we are looking for something. One complication is that when we decide to be a part of a society there has to be social order or rules. But, who gets to make the rules? Most of the time, its whoever has the most power or money. Whether a religious group or rich rulers or the elite. etc. When are we as the human race ever going to get together and say enough! Enough fighting, stealing, back stabbing, and the list goes on and on. How in the world will we ever agree on a universal social order, code, rule etc. I like to believe if we could just all agree on the 10 commandments, whether you believe in God or not is not the point. A true common sense approach to the 10 commandments could very easily argue that they will work for the over all good and serve as a formula to create a world peace. Think about a world with no stealing, direct or indirect, no murder, people who respect one another, no lying, etc. etc. Oh but wait, I want to indulge my sexual desires to please myself or lie at work to get raises, or you get the point. I personally just don't want to be told what to do. I guess history will just keep repeating itself, it is a shame, at least from an american's view, I really liked this country, maybe the next world super power will be gentle with us?? Just kind of typing off of the top of my head. Agree, disagree, debate, or whatever, all welcome. Love, Jerry.
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      Dec 28 2012: "How in the world will we ever agree on a universal social order, code, rule etc."

      Agree or not, the Rule exists. It's call the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you." This Rule reaches its pinnacle in this statement: "As you sow, you reap."

      The rule is no respecter of person, can't be bargained with, and is amoral. It doesn't tell you what to sow but assures you that it will be returned to you. It doesn't even identify what's right or what's wrong, only that for every action there's a reaction, and for every sowing there's a reaping--leaving what to sow to us.

      Doubt might arise as to whether such a Rule actually exists. I'm certain of it, but because cause and effect are modified by time, rarely do we see the connection between one and the other, unless we do, leading many to disbelieve in the existence of such a Rule.

      If the scales of Justice aren't satisfied in this life, rest assured the scales will be balanced in a future life or future lives.
  • Dec 20 2012: PART TWO: CONCLUSION

    Faith is not blind: that there are tautologies in mathematics, I believe, is evidence of God. Arthur Benjamin wrote that “Another special quality of mathematics... is its ability to achieve absolute certainty. Once the definitions and rules of the game (the rules of logic) are established, you can reach indisputable conclusions. For example, mathematics can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there are infinitely many prime numbers and that the Pythagorean theorem ... is absolutely true, now and forever. It can also ‘prove the impossible’, form easy statements, such as ‘The sum of two even numbers is never an odd number, to harder ones such as ‘The digits of pi... will never repeat.... A mathematical theorem is true forever.
    Philosophy provides evidence of God. The idea of absolute ethics (standards of conduct based upon principles of what is right and wrong), as a process, is evidence of God. Mihalyi Csikzentmihalyi, in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1991), wrote about the fallacy of cultural relativism as a means to understanding and enhancing the quality of life.

    Optimal experience is a form of energy…. Energy is power, but power is only a means. The goals to which it is applied can make life either richer or more painful…. The Marquis de Sade perfected the infliction of pain into a form of pleasure, and in fact, cruelty is a universal source of enjoyment for people who have not developed sophisticated skills…. [FLOW] is good only in that it has the potential to make life more rich, intense, and meaningful; it is good because it increases the strength and complexity of the self

    So, subjective and objective, inductive and deductive are all a part of this search for truth. Perhaps truth is in the being of the Personal Creator and he creates life for us to live truth as a process rather than as an ethical rule, those ethical rules are merely outcomes of the process.
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    Dec 20 2012: We can say that moral truths don't exist....but I think we should consider that we may be completely wrong.

    Even in nature...a food chain exists that must fall in line...create balance...and then achieve stability. When a certain animal gets out of control...it can destroy other species and in turn kill other species in a domino effect.

    Humans thrive when cooperation is the focus. When humans work together they can live longer, be happier, and generally evolve socially at a much faster rate.

    So yeah we can say morals are subjective....but the environment we live in forces us down a very specific path. If you are born as a psychopath...how long do you expect to live? If you are born as a cunning...cooperative leader of people...how much farther will you go in life...how much happier will you be with true friends and followers.

    Well...it took kings a while to figure out that killing their own people wasn't necessarily the way to go. Kings realized that they needed to treat the people well..because the people were the backbone of any countries stability and long-term control.

    Morals are definitely not subjective.

    Racism - Negative
    Killing Others - Negative
    Abuse of Others - Negative

    These things cause pain...and will in turn create negative energy (revenge, family may get revenge, karma). I do believe it works this way. Karma is not some magic force that guides wrongdoers into ultimate demise. Karma is just cause and effect.

    As early as 350 BC people spoke of happiness and human potential.

    I don't think we should remove culture....we should learn to live together...and not believe the same things. We can have respect for eachother...live how we want...and progress as a unit.
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      Dec 20 2012: You have me sold, but, what is the first practical step towards achieving 'singularity' as a species? Where is all the most effort towards unity of morality? How do we get people to start being brothers/sisters, tomorrow?
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    Dec 18 2012: Agree that it starts with defining what is good or bad,
    This is subjective,
    Suggest we can also do this in other species.
    A lot of this comes back to group dynamics.
    Dealing with freeloaders, managing tensions intra and inter group.

    Deciding what is good and bad is somewhat , but there are common themes.

    So I suggest there is some evidence of morality in nature, some animals make choices aware of consequences, although not to the same degree as humans, but there is a progression.
  • Dec 17 2012: I would say that there are certain 'moral' truths that are objective (in the human-centric sense) but that they do not exist (are not derived from) out of some special sense of morality. I propose that the underlying cause of our 'moral' thought is survival sense. A survival sense upon which (after-the-fact) we have developed a rich variety of moral views (including some apparent distortions) and that this is simply a product of developing higher functioning (particularly: Reasoning). So Yes and No! Yes there is probably a common 'ancestor' that has driven what we consider 'morality' which could be called 'objective'. Yet if the survival sense itself is not 'morality ' and rather 'morality' is more the frame-work we applied after-the-fact (perhaps to explain, or communicate or what not), then it is far more subjective, because there are many more factors that affect how we perceive and develop the 'moral' sense out of the 'survival sense'.

    Then you have people that diverge from even the seemingly obvious (or 'strong'/'common') examples such as "do not kill", but even then I believe this can be coherent with a 'moral' sense that develops from a 'survival sense; .... e.g a psychopath that has no moral qualms with killing. These cases are interesting because they have what we might consider an 'abnormal' human psyche, they may not share (though not easy to tell!) any sense of community, which might be just one of the strong survival type motivator for 'do not kill' ( communal species).
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      Dec 17 2012: Quoting survival as the source of morality is controversial. Survival often dictates to violate the most obvious moral rules. Most moral rules contradict the sense of survival.

      Perhaps, we may distinguish between individual survival and survival as a group. (E.g. sharing food during a famine does not make sense for individual survival, but may be beneficial for survival of a group.) But even this does not help! Where do we draw the boundary of the "group"? Self? Family? Family and friends? Community? Nation? Humanity?

      One thing is clear to me - reason, logic, or science are utterly useless to answer moral questions.
      • Dec 17 2012: I am saying that 'morality' is subjective. I argue that Moral similarities exist because of a common ancenstorial source (survival) and NOT because there are objective moral truths. In fact this makes sense with the example you have given. If you are in a famine, is it an objective moral truth that one should share there food? - or do certain moral ideas (or 'morality' itself) develop as a social-tool, to communicate about the 'best' course of action.

        It does not make sense to distinguish between whether individual, group or species survival is the 'source of morality' if we consider 'morality' as derived FROM our evolution as a social-species. Then morality is not 'chosen' and 'survival' does not dictate its violation - it is not a matter of 'choosing' whether I should survive, or my group, or my species - rather survival is whatever 'worked' and morality reflects this. This is coherent with the idea that morality could have originated from 'survival -sense' -also why we can easily divide our own social groups - we are a social species

        That SAID morality forms an important part of our social lives. It has itself becomes a source of motivation , moral ideals are shared between groups and come to have a 'special' meaning as moral doctrines - e.g 'do not kill' , even if killing might be prudent (consider a child born without a brain [with no chance of autonomy] whoes death may save another life through organs). Although in it's modern manifestation morality can 'appear' to be against 'survival' (e.g self-centered survival) this social-concern (e.g share the food) probably originates from (and was neccessary for) the human survival-success as a social species. It has simply taken on a, subjective, meaning of it's own as a product of our higher-thought and need for understanding.

        My argument is simply that morality is subjective, but there is often common ground which indicates common origin. That it has a positive purpose, but can sometimes go against reason (neg.
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          Dec 17 2012: Re: "My argument is simply that morality is subjective, but there is often common ground which indicates common origin."

          I agree that morality is subjective. In the absence of humans it loses meaning. In the absence of humans meaning itself vanishes.

          You comment seems to raise a question about the existence of "universal" moral rules shared by all humans. Moral rules seem to be a form of a social contract, an unspoken code of expected behavior to ensure some *perceived* individual or social benefits. Finding common ground on moral rules seems to be a matter of finding common values - things that people inside a social group view as beneficial to them. Considering a vast variety of human physical characteristics, tastes, and preferences, I doubt that such universal common ground is possible.

          Now, this view leads to an idea that moral rules are relative to the social group and conform to the prevalent opinion in society. This, perhaps, is how things are, but not how things ought to be. In ancient Sparta, for instance, killing babies who appeared weak was moral and was considered beneficial for society. Now we think it "shouldn't have been so".

          This mental struggle between what things are and what they ought to be is the source of our suffering. The Bible is right - Eve shouldn't have eaten from that tree of knowledge of good and evil. ("shouldn't" again).

          The moral of my comment is that morality itself is not what we think it should be :-) I find it most ironic... I hope I confused you enough to abandon any reasoning on this issue :-)
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        Dec 17 2012: " One thing is clear to me - reason, logic, or science are utterly useless to answer moral questions. "

        I would not be so extreme on this point. Logic is both a topic and a personal 'skill' - as well as reason.

        If anything - 'science (because the other two are seen as a part of science), alone cannot answer moral questions, we must rely on survey, consensus and subjectivity... Because science is not the only field(s) of study which require consistency to be true..."
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          Dec 17 2012: Re: "If anything - 'science (because the other two are seen as a part of science), alone cannot answer moral questions, we must rely on survey, consensus and subjectivity..."

          This suggests moral relativism. If I live in a corrupt society where bribery is a norm, shall I accept bribery as moral?

          Our own personal emotional attitudes is (and should be) the only way to make moral judgments. If we rely on anything else - science, logic, reason, religion, opinion of others, authority, we are bound for evil...

          This makes me believe that it is extremely important to keep our personal emotional attitudes under constant close scrutiny through self-reflection (meditation, prayer or whatever we may call it). I see it as the only way for progress, individual and social.
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      Dec 17 2012: I settled the psychopath circumstance, I believe, further down the conversation...

      But, I see it as no argument against obj. moral truths... Individuals can be seen easily to not be objectively moral by the history of their actions as well as state of their current personality and intellectual progression. Rehabilitation being possible, but, obviously if they are psychopaths, that is a system which should be HEAVY and consistently mandated.

      However, if a group of people were deemed psychopathic... Then we could have an interesting discussion. But that would require a great deal of effort to defend. But... I feel even if a group is deemed psychopathic, those who unconscious they support such a group can be shown their own short comings. And those (groups - large and small) outside of the group can 'attempt' or at least be sampled for an unbiased perspective, in order to dictate why they feel the group is psychopathic.

      This issue, can get built up very easily, when an entire country could be deemed psychopathic... Then are their applied ethics really objectively wrong? Perhaps not. But certainly, in the subject of ethics (as thousands of historic figures gave arguments for...) they can be argued to be objectively not moral individuals or systems of individuals... Where to get the criteria for a good ethical system? Well, by even starting to tell anyone where to start reading or researching... I feel I prevent them from being able to know true obj. morals.

      An existential dilemma of my life. . .

      Thank you Artemis
      • Dec 18 2012: It certainly is a minefield! I agree that 'morality' is something of human construction and perhaps most interesting that whatever it's origins were, that it takes on it's own meaning and itself becomes a motivator often over it's (possible) origin - such that we do look at past actions (greek infantcide) and think 'they shouldn't have' based often purely on our 'set-of'moral-rules' that has become an integrated and integral part of ourselves, our species that our moral feelings ('it just feels right') are quiet strong. Even though we can often appreciate/understand why greeks might have been morally ok with infantcide (or a good example might be eskimos amongst whom infancide is common because of the strain and subsequent risk extra mouths to feed causes in a harsh environment.

        *note* it keeps only posting half my comment so i've given up writing the second half to this, but basically I wrote about 'true objectivity' versus 'very broad human-centric subjectivity' whereby as a species or a social group within the species, we may have some pretty strong moral ideas that are only meaningful within the context of the group.
  • Dec 16 2012: IMO, if objective moral truths do exist, they will still prove nearly useless in the real world.

    Human behavior is much more about emotion than logic. Logic is used to rationalize what we want to do. Even terrorists can "justify" their actions.

    Did these objective moral truths exist before the existence of life? In practice an objective moral truth must be expressed by a human being before it has any practical existence. Then the arguments start, and they will never end, because these truths say that people should not do what they want to do.

    Suppose one day someone or some institute writes a book of all objective moral truths, supporting each one with logic that is as solid as mathematics. This code of morality would then have to be put into the form of laws, which would then have to be applied by judges and juries, that is, by people. Would the logical foundation for these laws make it easier or more difficult for people to make just decisions? Would it matter at all? Can justice be based solely on logic with no emotional influence? Sometimes it is easier to reach a just judgment because the roots of our laws are political and not objective.

    To address your question directly, I think that objective moral truths do exist. I am a big fan of logic, and I believe that science and logic can help us develop a more just world. Trying to find objective moral truths is probably not the fastest way to improve our situation.
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      Dec 20 2012: Your last sentence is practically true.

      The 'real' world though, is just a thought - a form, in which you accept to be real.

      Now, you are really saying, roughly, that in connection to how the 'real' world works, and not how the world should 'work' - the idea of obj. moral truths mean little...

      Well, the world isn't going to get better with just knowing and giving up... Yeah, the world is in a pit, but it can get itself out. . .We are the world, you and I, we are small (an ant on an ant hill), but we do have a say in the matter and we are made of matter... lol.

      So you are wrong and right...

      By finding the paralleled obj. moral truths that already exist in cultures and histories... We can find the true answers which everyone can agree with and finally have a premise to come together on...

      Idealistic - indeed, absolutely, no question... But there comes a time when an idea becomes so strong, that someone cannot comprehend not living without that 'idea' - I think the idea, finding obj. moral truth is useless is an idea worth forgetting or attempting to forget it... The opposite conception; the idea there are obj. moral truths - would only create a path to finding them... The existential dilemma; how do you know they are truly moral? That's just another part of being truly moral...
      • Dec 20 2012: I did say probably. I never suggested giving up. You may well be right, sometimes the pen is mightier than the sword, sometimes an idea takes hold in the minds of people and changes the world.

        There are people working to bring justice to the world in very practical ways, by building judicial systems that can be acceptable to very diverse populations. I think that approach will prove to be more effective, but I could be wrong. Perhaps the most effective way is the combination of both.

        Good luck with your endeavors.
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    Dec 14 2012: The problem with objective morality is agreeing on the basis for what is moral.

    Once you agree on what the basis is for morality then perhaps you can be objective within that framework.

    For example if you assume morality is from a particular interpretation of divine command you may not agree with other scritpyures, religious authorities, and revelations outline different divine commandments.

    And perhaps divine command interpretations conflict with secular approaches based on minimising harm, and suffering and increasing happiness and joy. The bible might say you should kill homosexuals, but I'm not sure that is moral from a secular harm reduction based perspective.

    Also from a practical perspective, even with largely similar scriptural foundations, say the bible,different sects and different denominations have different interpretations of what divine command morality means. And even within a denomination, individuals may not agree with their pope, priest, guru, rabbi or I man on what is moral.

    I suggest understanding the natural basis for human morality, and agreeing on some foundational secular principles, leaving millinia of philosophy and moral thought is a good started point for a shared practical moral framework.

    Even if there is a creator, there is no reason to assume it is the appropriate source of a moral framework. Particularly the jealous, murderous, god described in the bible. Any being described as eternally punishing other beings is perhaps not a great example to follow.
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    Dec 14 2012: Moral Truth?
    What does this mean to you

    What is moral is much easier to define than truth.
    We only share a perspective of what is true and can not possess it or know it.

    Other animals exhibit a morality, but do they know what is true?
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      Dec 15 2012: Excellent stipulation!

      [Objective] moral truths are something that is consistently good to each and every human being.
      [Absolute] moral truths are something that is always good to each and every 'thing' in existence.

      Thus a moral truth is what can never be proven to not be good.

      You are right, what is moral is much easier to define than truth, but that does not mean we cannot define truth. Whether truth be in a correspondence, coherence or pragmatic theory - we can have a very good idea of what is metaphysically and physically true. Physically true often does not need a theory behind it, but still does for philosophic pursuits.

      I happen to believe in true statements, but I also believe that nothing is 'static' and everything is always changing. So, although I feel I am certain there are objective moral truths, that does not mean I am willing to settle with them easily because they are likely to change or need to be changed. The objective part of the moral truth then would be how well it works consistently, and not necessarily how much people argue it will always work that way.

      As far as animals... With there lower cognitive abilities they are acting out of instinct - they do not have the ability to rationalize their actions in long term pretenses. Indeed, we instinctively have drives that are altruistic (check out: prosocial behavior). So, we must have an ability to know moral truths in which to behave with one another. Will they always be consistent? Perhaps not, but that requires what we have and animals do not - the ability to rationalize our actions in long term pretenses.

      Thank you for your input Theodore.
      • Dec 16 2012: Hi Nic,

        Frans de Waal has really fooled a lot of people on claim that "scientific research" shows that animals too have morality. I don't know if you've seen the video but it's worth watching. If you read some of the comments on the page you too can see how people are utterly confused in regards to this question. I made a few comments there a long time ago but had to just give up. People don't understand the word "a"moral. It really shocks me that people bit off this whole lecture as some sort of "proof" of "morality in animals" ... hook, line and sinker !!

        I didn't have room for a further comment below so I'll make a short one here.
        "Consensual reason" is perhaps what one could operate with in regards to moral truths. But it will never hold water in regards to mathematics. Here, 2+2=4 if your a Muslim a Christian a Jew or an Atheist. There is absolutely no room for what I like or dislike about the numbers 2+2=4

        As the taste of pork can be good to some, bad to others, sweet to this or that degree, or even forbidden if you happen to fall to this or that religious conviction .. a vegetarian would certainly have some problems for this or that reason of an ideological nature.. in other words subjective.

        If you now say that numbers in themselves are "agreed upon" by society or by consensus, then we also have to say that all language is the same. The fact that you can read this at all is because the English language is something that has developed through time by rules that are structurally imposed upon the words to make them understandable, so that you can understand me and I can understand you.
        Here is where the "reality of an idea" comes to the foreground again. Now although a hundred different languages would surely have a hundred different words for the numbers 2+2=4 , the fact remains that the "idea 2 " and the "idea 4" are something that is as close as we can get to objectivity. Even though they are totally " immaterial " in their nature
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          Dec 16 2012: You know all of the first paragraph could of been avoided if you had search the phrase: prosocial selection. The way I interpret it (w/o dictating a degree of altruism) would be as we evolved, less and less physical survival was required (hunting, gathering) and the need for reasoning with one another, politics and group organization rose. Because of this our brain adapted the ability to be 'social' by standards of groups - in another sense, we have natural drives to wanting to be popular; we enjoy being with groups. Therefore, we would have natural tendencies to knowing what is good or bad for the group. Very hard to measure, but as the studies develop, more is illuminated.

          As far as numbers, I believes I said the theory in the philosophy of math dictates they are absolutes and not objective things... And by your own reasoning (unless you think obj. = abs.) you have suggested there difference.

          Did you NOT notice my other comment?

          Stick to morals, ethics, objectivity and subjectivity - by comparing these to preference of food and not how one wishes to be treated, any argument will become misleading...
  • Dec 13 2012: The problem is that the concept of punishment is misleading here. People act based on motivators. If someone is punished, but he is innocent, there has to be a reason he is being punished. Either the punishers are 100% convinced that he is guilty, in which case it is really questionable to declare it as a moral wrong, or the punishers have another motivation. If they have another motivation this is a retaliation in response to an action and not truly a punishment.

    What of the case where we punish a person mildly (e.g. a reprimand only) as part of a social experiment which would benefit humanity greatly. In that case it would be morally acceptable. So the determination becomes morally subjective very quickly.

    A moral dilemma used to illustrate this is the situation where you need to kill an innocent to save thousands of people. This is a typical case where it is deemed moral to kill an innocent, punish him without being guilty so to speak, for the greater good.

    This would mean that your moral truth is subjectively true, but not an objective moral truth.

    The reason you find it so hard to define objective moral truths is simply because they do not exist.
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      Dec 13 2012: I see no argument you state where there cannot be an obj moral truth; Besides maybe your first statement.

      Please explain your first paragraph more; as your second and third are more argumentative towards their being obj. moral truths but they are fuzzy; they are developed through leveling of what is not moral. Making your final statement a false conclusion.

      Note: I know that the only way to be objective is through subjective measures - since you cannot be impersonal without being personal first, or non-biased without first knowing the bias and/or being biased.
      • Dec 13 2012: Well punishment is after all justified abuse, and the justification is clearly subjective. Even if the person is guilty the punishment can still be deemed immoral if it is judged to be excessive - subjectively.

        The other question is how do we decide objectively if someone is innocent or guilty? The Judge can only act based on a balance of probabilities. If you ever punish someone where the probability is not 100% that they are guilty, then you would consider it immoral? I would argue that you can never know 100% that someone is guilty, which automatically makes all punishment immoral by that definition, and if all punishment is immoral then your statement that punishing the innocent is immoral is a non sequitur as punishing the guilty would also be.
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          Dec 15 2012: Uh, no punishment in a system may be considered justifiable abuse, but as Daniel's article dictates obviously there are those who are outside of the system that can dictate the abuse was not justifiable.

          To compare what/how a system is ran, is based upon ethics, not morals - that seems to be a real confusion here. Ethics is to dispute what are good morals, and applied ethics is systematic ideals of how to use the disputes morals. No, way, in any of my arguments does any system in this world respond to objective moral truths. Which does not mean they do not exist, it just means they are not applied anywhere, in any system.

          I would like to hear more about what you think are motivators, because as an philosophy of education and sociology nerd, I find that what motivates people is often confused with what motivates them within a system and not as a result of human nature.

          The moral standing is, punishing for something they did not do is morally wrong, objectively - whatever procedure it may take for a judge to declare 'guilty' is not objective, you are right. But this still is not disputing anything about the original moral standing; in retrospect of the decision of being falsely accused, it would have been figured out it was wrong.
    • Dec 13 2012: Good point Cobus.

      There seems to be some confusion about just the difference between what is "subjective" and what is "objective" Nic Nak makes a little trap for himself in his last comment. Please read over my few comments if you will. It seems like we are at least on the same wavelength....
  • Dec 12 2012: "Music is a moral law"
    It's difficult to define, but easy to ' catch ' what is music in this context : Harmony, the code , which is downloaded in our DNA ; we can feel it, if we are truly attentive and not corrupted by ego. The set of dos and don'ts, moral laws, which are fixed and many is a kind of a residue of this feeling.
    Imperfect reflection to guide imperfect us in our imperfect world :)
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      Dec 12 2012: Sounds like an objective-subjectivist argument if I ever heard one.

      Objectivity is achieved through trial and error, not by figuring out it exist somehow...
      • Dec 13 2012: Nic,

        This was a most peculiar comment.....
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          Dec 13 2012: How would one configure objectivity without first being subjective?
      • Dec 13 2012: Nic,

        Isn't the process of "figuring out the existence" of something the crux of matter? Trial and error is also a part of that process. When we confirm the existence of something (something, anything, including "objective moral truths" we are first fully emerged in the process of evaluating the outer (and inner) conditions of that perception. When our own subjective ideas are placing before our individual eye of reason, we can then again evaluate and re-evaluate the object of our perception . When reason tells us that our concept (or our own mental picture or idea) does not coinciding with these conditions of the object in our realm of observation, then we have to readjust our concept so that it does coincide. This is the process of gaining knowledge.

        What is often misconstrued in this process of gaining knowledge is the fact that the whole "model" that we set up for ourselves .... the "objective" and the "subjective" is also a product of our own thinking. This is very often misunderstood. Because thinking, by it's nature, is in itself neither subject or object. The two ideas themselves, .... the "subject / object relationship" ...are existing only at the mercy of the activity of thinking..... This is how our own subjective thought can be reunited with the world of percepts and the things we can call "truths"

        Once again, mathematics and geometry are the closest we can get to real "objectivity" This is not to say that other forms of objective truths do not exist. I never said that.

        On a higher level, as I mentioned earlier, ( 2nd comment I believe, where I didn't really want to go into just that direction in our discussion, one could say that objective moral truths do in fact "exist" but this would lead the conversation off into a pretty esoteric direction that concerns the question of "ideas in themselves" as existing in their own reality. I don't think that would be very fruitful at this point.
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          Dec 15 2012: Math and geometry are not the closest we can get to objectivity. . . They are tools to measure relative factors in which we theorize about, without the theories (ideas) then there would be nothing for the math to be applied to. . . If anything, the philosophy of math theory insist math is an absolute tool, in which, no matter the relative-language of math, math will always end up being math.


          Can you pull one of the several definitions, that dictate there is NO subjectivity involved in order to be objective?

          3.a. is your best bet... but wait... how can one not have a personal feeling about the manner? By first knowing they have personal feelings about the manner? So, in order to be impersonal, you have to personal, and then realize you are being personal and try to stop being personal? Sounds, procedural to me... But that could just be my rhetoric.

          Mind independent. . . maybe that confuses you? Because without first a 'mind' there is no way for it to be independent of a mind. . .

          And you are wrong... We are subjective-beings, we have no choice in the manner, but we are able to correspond and be coherent to our objective universe (not absolute universe). So we are able to be objective, but we are just unable to naturally be that way. Perhaps absolutes and objectivity confuses you? Reference my back and forth with Edward, the second time around.

          Even in your explanation, of how we are not really separate from the 'subject' and 'object' as in Plato's "forms" - this still insist we can know objectives... Of any sort, I take it further and say we can know obj. moral truths, and at this point you disproving my responds to objectivity, has mislead from the original dispute. Which is still in the air.
      • Dec 18 2012: Nicholas ,
        ' objective-subjectivist argument " is really hard to swallow :)
        Simply put, objectivity is the illusion of any subject ; it's a tricky concept, as all concepts are.
        What Plato didn't address, because he didn't have this notion back then , but we do now is DNA. And DNA is the 'objective through subject' kind of thing. It is the most subtle flawless communicator, we are not conscious of , but it does its job anyway. All dna molecules in every living plant and animal are structured exactly as a double helix ; it is the most powerful transmitter of intelligent data. DNA represents the highest order, it means everything is 'in tune' with every other thing, everything is in harmony with everything else. It's Plato's ' music ' What moral laws do we need if we can feel one with everything else ? Consciously we don't feel this way , but it seems to be the way it is.
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    Dec 6 2012: There is an absolute right, and there is an absolute wrong, and there are things between the two extreme ends.
    Truth does not depend on human/societal opinion. A billion people may repeat a lie, but it is what it is.
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      Dec 6 2012: There is no question a billion people can believe in falsehoods - not the question.

      This question concerns with objective truths - as in all humans can agree upon truths (either consensually or empirically).

      To call absolutes into the question, as far as morals, is spiritual and meta-philosophical. Although I believe in absolutes (but no absolute morals) myself, the process to get to any of them is meticulous and dangerous. To believe this [moral] truth may permeate the universe, to be valid to all species and to all life, is to me, egotistic. We might as well ignore the fact they exist, because we will never know them as even a species, since we are mortal (and history is written by the victors).

      Also, although I believe they exist, but believe we will never know them - this may mean that the process to get to any of them is not a linear or singular path/method.

      Forget absolutes, we are talking objectives. Because before we can claim something is universal, we must first be able to find one that is constantly true within our own species.
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    Jan 6 2013: I will be on for the next 50 minutes...
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      Jan 5 2013: I propose the difference much further down. Where I am charged with verbosity.. Lol

      If my definitions continue to cause frustration. Please comment further. There has to be a difference or else there is no point in having two words. Upon researching more debates I found a lot of people tie them together or straight out confuse them. Which was a topic a few weeks ago on here.

      All the best
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          Jan 5 2013: Again, I answered your question. I am on my phone so couldn't explain again in a new fashion.

          Define objective in the dictionary. And objectivity, absolute.

          They're different

          Now take objective. Unbiased and impersonal.

          What degree of unbiased inspection do you desire? If you are talking like Peter, like objectivity is divine knowledge... Well then okay that's the same as absolute knowledge...

          Now we limit to human unbiased perspectives... We can see theory grow into reality... The positivist image of science...

          My point is, there is truth, it can be found, it's very difficult to find, but it exist. Plato's forms. Aristotle categories. And synonyms do exist.
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          Jan 5 2013: Truth is no absolute, it's relative - strange I know, because I just made an absolute statement. The pit falls of language expressing nature. Contradictions, what have you.

          To be objective is to understand how one is already biased. This is what science does... Which is why I stated you needed communities (a lot of perspectives), consistency (a lot of overlap), and consensus (a lot of research).... In order to be better equipped to be objective. Indeed, we may never be perfectly 'objective' - which again, you're confusing for absolute (which I continue to entertain, although this debate is based on a lot of maybes...)... But as far as creating knowledge which can be used to create further understandings about the universe and nature... It appears we are quite successful at doing such.
          If everyone had the 'biased' idea we should all treat others how we would like to be treated, it is no longer 'biased' - it becomes a consistency in which anyone can observe and see as true... Then when many see it, a community, can discuss the consensus. The golden rule is an obj. moral truth... However, I made another point in this conversation to separate ethics and morality as topics. How the moral is used/applied is not universal, does not mean the moral is not universal.

          So yes, ultimately I will say "you cannot be objective without first being subjective" there is no way to get to objectivity without subjectivity. It's impossible.

          So why try and create rhetoric neglecting such realities?

          You gain truth by a lot of procedures, there is no grand unified theory of truth - you got coherence, pragmatic and correspondence theories at the top of the epistemological community debate...

          Peculiar final words... For one to look through murk and mud, one usually proceeds to filter...

          Consider my method of inspection 'fuzzy' and non-atomistic. If we are to continue to debating... please do research into the differences between absolutes and objectives... We have two words...
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          Jan 5 2013: Why the philosophy of science needs to be based on the same assumptions to see the whole picture. From Nicolaus Copernicus letter to Pope Paul III, that the earth moves.

          " And so I am unwilling to hide from your holiness that nothing except my knowledge that mathematicians have not agreed with one another in their researches moved to think out a different scheme of drawing up the movements of the spheres of the world. For in the first place mathematicians are so uncertain about the movements of the sun and moon that they can neither demonstrate nor observe the unchanging magnitude of the {iiip} revolving year. Then in setting up the solar and lunar movements and those of the five wandering stars, they do not employ the same principles, assumptions, or demonstrations for the revolutions and apparent movements."

          " Moveover, they have not been able to discover or to infer the chief point of all, i.e, the form of the world and the certain commensurability of its parts. But they are in exactly the same fix as someone taking from different places hands, feet, head, and other limbs---- shaped very beautifully but not with reference to one body and without correspondence to one another ---so that such parts made up a monster rather then a man."

          Copernicus continues on to talk about the movement of orbital circles, something the human race has been in for a very long time.

          What you and Mark are in an Ad infinitum or an argument that argues in circles, But we can end the circle discovers because we know how they work. For every action creates and equal but opposite reaction. This can also be seen as duality, and balance or peace, the yin-yang.
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    Jan 4 2013: Mankind is subjective, so objective moral truth cannot begin with mankind. If objective moral truth exists then it must come from a higher source. We are back to the "Does God exist" question.

    • Jan 4 2013: Objective moral truth can be established on facts. Yes, mankind is subjective, but scientific facts are not. When mankind learn the necessary scientific facts objectively concerning a particular moral dilemma, they can use these facts to establish an objective answer. Just because some of the answers to what is "good" or "bad" may be difficult to answer, it doesn't mean there isn't a correct answer, but the best way to get this answer would be through scientific study.
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        Jan 5 2013: History provides examples of nations following various religions & none(which is really just a belief system as well). Some work better than others, but a lack of god doesn't shine out as a moral beacon. There is nothing new under the sun, but each generation thinks it has all the answers; mine included.

        • Jan 5 2013: True, the lack of god doesn't signify the presence of morality or reason, but in some situations it can hold back the progress of it. I agree that each generation thinks it has all the answers because each generation is (more or less) going forward in establishing a more accurate morality correlating with advancements in science. I would think one can claim morality as it's own field of study which is advancing at a similar pace to science. Future generations will look back on how immoral we were today compared to their own more moral standards.
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      Jan 4 2013: Peter,

      I do believe 'God' exist - in you/myself, as an energy in the universe, and perhaps even a conscious omni-being...

      But hardly does the nature of God dictate we cannot understand objective truths... If anything God would have knowledge of the absolute moral truths; xe would know what is right and wrong for EVERY living organism and not just humans...

      Well, I kind of don't care about how ants treat ants, I care about humans treat humans and that can be looked at objectively - not absolutely. Consensus, community and consistency (not necessarily science) can dictate objective moral truths...

      (Did you read 'some' of the conversation before you posted?)
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        Jan 5 2013: I skimmed some of the replies before posting.

        If we are talking Abrahamic God, then we must allow for the effects of sin on an originally-perfect creation. The original creation would have firmly entrenched morals, installed by God. Today we have a bit of a pig's breakfast as we seek to superimpose our preferences on Gods perfect morals.

        Any other god; I am not qualified to say.

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          Jan 5 2013: Nothing you dictated disqualifies human beings from being able to be objective about human beings...
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      Jan 5 2013: I thought Jesus told us that he is 100% man (body) and 100% God (soul). And that we are his brother and sister. Would that not infer that we too, that so is our brother, 100% Man and 100% God?
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      Jan 5 2013: " At all times in mans history, man makes reference to a God or gods in order to explain or bring an understanding to concepts that he,(man) did not posse. Eventually, given time, science focused on explaining the mystery of the unexplainable. As knowledge increased over time, so did understanding. What was once attributed to God is now known through science. My belief is, religion was the precursor to science. Religion tried to answer questions that man had, and when the answer was not available it was given over to the realm of God. We must have an evolutionary need to have answers, and God was the provider of those answers. I believe that man created God. We created a divine God to be the keeper of answers to mysteries we did not yet have.

      Gods have always existed because the answers to our questions have always existed, we just did not have the understanding at the time.

      God provided or became the answer without needing the understanding." ~Dennis Hollinger

      We had the questions, we have the answers, and we can put the puzzle together as humans for the understanding. I think though if you look hard to occam's razor existence you will find that on every level of existence all that's ever been going on from the beginning of time is trying to figure it out on some fundamental level