TED Conversations

Scot Wilcox

TEDCRED 10+

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

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.

+15
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Feb 22 2013: Where there is no choice, there is no moral right and wrong. Where there is no life, there is no choice, merely the laws of physics acting upon particles. In addition to life, i would say consciousness is required for choice, or perhaps more specifically the ability to think abstractly. My reasoning is this: An animal, bacteria, or plant's acts are governed by certain laws of self-preservation, which, without abstract thought, i would consider as unbreakable as the laws of physics. So, If you define objective as independent of observer, then no, there is no objective morality. Because morality only governs conscious actions, there can be no morality in the absence of that condition, subjective or not.

    My point is this,
    1. Morality does not exist outside the context of consciousness.
    2. Objective morality exists.
    3. Morality can be objective only if it applies to all conscious beings.
    4. Any morality which is not absolute (does not apply to all conscious beings) is what we call ethics or virtue.
    • thumb
      Feb 22 2013: It is usually described as the ability to be a moral agent. That definition can change over time. So if the definition of moral agent changes, can there really be objective right and wrong or does that change with changes in definition. For instance, children have typically been exempt from being a moral agent. but some kids are looking at adult sentencing for crimes as an adult. An adult is a moral agent and an child is not. So is this right or wrong?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.