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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?!?!

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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 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.

    http://www.ted.com/talks/sam_harris_science_can_show_what_s_right.html
    • 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:

        http://youtu.be/aXuTt7c3Jkg

        Part 2:


        http://youtu.be/ZIMoxXO0XvM

        Part 3:

        http://youtu.be/yNEruEsb5T4

        Part 4:

        http://youtu.be/qmL4CeTENtw
        • 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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