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Scot Wilcox

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Do right and wrong exist?

I'm curious about objective right and wrong. If you believe in God, this is a no-brainer. Some things are wrong, some things are right, simply because God says so and He knows. But if you don't believe in God, can you still believe in objective morality? I personally don't think you can. I mean, what do you base it off of? How do you find out what's objectively right or wrong? (By objective I mean "existing independent of thought or an observer as part of reality." from dictionary.com)
Sure, there's subjective morality. Any idea of right or wrong come up with by a human is by definition subjective. That's all well and good. Problem is that it only applies to people who believe in it and it gives them no authority to proclaim anything as "what we should be doing." Very often everybody disagrees with each other and we don't get anywhere. (Just look at Congress for an example of this.)
Maybe you disagree with me and you think there is objective morality but no God. That's fine. I would like to ask you to answer a question for me though. Let's pick an easy one. Why is rape objectively wrong? Don't misunderstand me, I can't think of a single instance where rape wouldn't be wrong. I believe very strongly that sexual abuse is one of the greatest evils in the world. Why is it evil? If you can answer me without using a God-based or subjective argument, I'll concede the point.
That point is this: Without God, there is no such thing as right and wrong, only the things we call right and wrong. And since nobody can agree on what to call what, we're all in a lot of trouble.

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  • Feb 10 2013: Right and wrong must always be in a relation to the "doer". As is a moral act or an immoral act. Because the "degree" of awareness of right or wrong is the key to the "degree" of the rightness or wrongness. Of course, an adult who knowingly commits an act of wrongness upon another, (rape was here mentioned) is fully guilty of the crime. However, as the judicial system also reflects, a child of, lets say the age of 12 years old, is much less "guilty" of the crime of rape then say for example a person of 21 years, (the age of adulthood) Therefore "punishment" for the crime is measured thereafter. One could say the same about a handicapped person who does not fully comprehend the consequences of his deeds.
    This does not negate the action as being wrong but it simply points out the fact that there are always "degrees of wrongness"
    In my mind, this tells me that an "act of wrongness" is and should be, measured by the degree of the individual involved in the doing of a wrong act. If he/she is conscious or not of the act being wrong, then must not also the action be a "subjective" wrongness ..?
    Nicholas and I had a discussion around this topic a bit earlier, (see his link) where we discussed "objective morality"
    Along the same lines, the individual involved has to be taken into account to measure the degree of immorality.
    Thus making any "objectivity" out of the picture.
    As in the animal world, there is no right or wrong. Animals eat each other, simple as that. One cannot say that it is wrong.
    Human beings are self conscious and it is here, exactly here, where the whole idea of morality, right and wrong begin to hold any form of meaning. Also, what is right today, may be wrong tomorrow. Slavery is an example of this. The concept of wrongness has to first be present
    A child "steals" a banana, perhaps not even knowing first what the meaning of the word to steal is .... Did it then "steal" a banana ...?
    • Feb 21 2013: "In my mind, this tells me that an "act of wrongness" is and should be, measured by the degree of the individual involved in the doing of a wrong act. If he/she is conscious or not of the act being wrong, then must not also the action be a "subjective" wrongness ..?"

      One can get in trouble with this one. That's why for adults we say, "Ignorance is no excuse". We have an obligation, whenever possible, to learn the rules. I get in trouble sometimes because I'm not very good at reading signs. I don't knock them down or obscure them. I just sometimes blow right past them without even bothering to read them or even see them. If I'm then rousted from an area I'm usually told,"You should have read the sign. It was clearly posted." It's nice when they say that with a smile. I'm lucky that I don't usually look like anyone's idea of a criminal. I just like to hike all over the area.

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