Objective morality, does not have to mean, a set of black and white absolute morals that everyone agrees to.
By making it mean such, and forcing the other side to say, morals are NOT absolute, and cannot always be the same in every situation.
Take lying. Some would say lying is absolutely always wrong. But even to save a life (the example usually used was in hiding a Jew in the nazi time)?
This lends itself to the notion, morality is subjective, which is interpreted as “on a whim”, or compared to what flavor of ice cream do you like?
But, we know that choosing a flavor of ice cream, or deciding whether to allow ones hair to turn grey, or choose to color it, do not have any impact on the suffering, or well-being/survival/happiness of society. Therefore to compare moralities subjectiveness to a preference of ice cream flavor makes the opposing position laughable. (to most-myself included).
Now, facts are objective, and provably true. Sometimes no clear facts exist about certain topics. AT this point opinions are produced. Opinions are subjective ideas , held by individuals, and are biased. Beliefs can be based off of facts or opinions. If subjective opinions are presented as if they are facts, we run into non-factually based beliefs. (where propaganda or persuasion are
Objective morals would need to be based upon facts, not a viewpoint/belief/or feelings.
Morality is indeed a full picture. Some aspects being important, and some less as far as their effect upon society and the individuals level of well being, or suffering.
The more important the aspect, the more important our level of objectivity.
I think what Sam Harris was representing was that we can indeed use facts to establish an objective morality.
Not any sort of might makes right, absolute authoritarian religious type morality, in fact, that would be a bit of an oxymoron to objective morality. An issue I had formerly with it being religious people who demanded the term objective be used with their own morality standards.
We can weigh what causes harm and what doesn’t. Which will include, and even promote exceptions. Murder bad, self defense good.
Lying bad, when used to deceive and cause harm, to save a Jew from a nazi camp? good.
So to be clear, objective morality doesn’t mean a list of do’s and don’ts of absolutes. But rather the ability to use facts , not opinions to establish in each situation what is right or wrong, or preferable terms, what is the best choice?
Looking over a book on Becoming a Critical Thinker, it mentions a key principle of thinking:
Truth is discovered, not created.
“You have probably heard it said that truth is subjective and personal, or that each person creates truth to his or her own specifications. This belief is common today, and it means that believing something is so actually makes it so. In other words, reality is whatever we wish it to be. This idea directly contradicts the view that has been generally accepted since ancient times- the view that truth is the accurate representation of objective reality. In this view reality is unaffected by our wishes, preferences, and assumptions.”
They then ask which view if more reasonable, and follow with examples to consider.
“If truth is created by each person, then…”
Galileo’s assertion that the sun is the center of the solar system, is only true for those who want to believe it.
As is the belief that the earth is flat, or the belief that the Holocaust never happened, or a drunk falling into an empty swimming pool thinking it full of water, will have water suddenly appear to save him from a hard landing. Swear to tell the truth? what would truth mean anymore? dismiss the court cases. Forget archeologists, history, medical research…new reporting..How would one combat prejudice? bigotry? what would be the need?
Do we have anyone here who thinks the first proposition is true? truth is subjective?
This made me think about morals and the big argument over whether they are subjective or objective as well.
We tend to use subjective to mean whatever we feel or want. And objective to mean absolute.
But both fall short when used in such a way.
With truth, we can at least set objective parameters as to what we can agree to see, observe, and learn as rational humans. (*those unable to be rational will of course disagree).
However, we must also admit that our knowledge is not perfect OR absolute. We continue to learn. Knowledge, TRUTH, evolve with understanding. So though we can be objective, we must know that it remains relative to where we are, with the knowledge we have.
Considering such possibilities of brain in a vat, and or/ hologram universe, we cannot claim to have absolute knowledge in TRUTH.
When we do not know, oftentimes beliefs are formed, or have developed to attempt to explain that which we do not know. (after life etc)
Beliefs are subjective.
Where do morals fit in?
Are morals actions based on beliefs? or on truths? or…a combination of both?
I think we can agree that moral values have changed and evolved with new understanding. (our ideas of owning other people, all people being equal, thoughts on women, different colored skin, etc)
I think a moral principal can be objective. It can be something everyone (with rational minds, empathy, and awareness) can agree upon.
Like “treat others as you want to be treated” . Not a specific list of “rights” and “wrongs” , but rather a principal that can be set as a standard to guide individual actions. Such standards can remain objective while the individual “rights” and “wrongs” may be subjective (not to whims and feelings) but rather to intent, circumstances, etc.
Sam Harris suggests that we can develop morality objectively, and scientifically.
This account was written down some time back, but It had been on my mind to write it out here in a blog for a bit, and had it sitting in “draft mode” for a couple of weeks, and I felt stirred to move it on out of “draft world” due to a post by Violet and a comment by John Zande.
(whose ‘direct hit” comments and posts never fail to stir further thought with me )
Upon being asked by some atheist friends why I believed in God, one reason I put forth, was experience. What i called “winks of God”. Those moments in life when you believe things happen for a reason. “For such a time as this”. The argument against my reasoning, was that coincidence is very often taken for more than what it is. That we humans tend to “look” for coincidence and lean highly toward superstition.
However, it was still very difficult for me to see this from an atheist point of view.
There were times when money came in unexpectedly just when needed.
Needing a job, thinking it quite impossible to find, looking for hard to get hours, 8:30 -2:30 m-f so I could still be there constantly for my children….finding one with exactly such hours the Sunday morning I prayed about it…
All those little “near wrecks” one thinks , if i hadn’t forgotten my coffee on the table, had to run back in and grab it, and re-lock the door..that could have been me in that wreck!
One such I took as a …”personal wink from god” was a time about eight years ago, I had an experience that I considered a “wink of God”. At this time, I believed in an interactive and personal God. I had had an extraordinarily bad day at work, was so wiped out that by the time I got to my car, laid my head on my steering wheel and just let the tears flow. In that position I turned the key in the ignition, and started the car. AT that immediate moment the chords (from the very first chord!) began to play on the song, “Bad day” I could do nothing but wipe my tears and start laughing out loud. It felt quite personal, this wink. And I thanked him for his sense of humor. What were the odds…that of all the moments, and all the radio stations, this song would begin at that very moment after I paused, and waited with head down…before starting the ignition?
My journey of course continued. And coming into a different perspective, I began to realize how many things I overlook that don’t fit into the confirmation wink theory. 😀
I realized how quickly I was at grabbing onto the things that confirmed my personal bias, and how easily I disregarded those that did not confirm it.
This was exemplified by a more recent encounter. One in which I got into my car to leave for work in the a.m., and as I started my car, the exact same thing happened. The chords to the song (“Bad Day” began from the VERY beginning, from the moment i turned the key in my car! This caused me to remember my former “wink of god”. This time I caught myself doing something else silly….. Could this be some sort of premonition that I was going to have a bad day? and would so need the song? My line of work included the chance, of getting hit, kicked, slapped, and bit…on a very bad day…
::chagrin:: To be perfectly honest, all day at work I was expecting the worst to happen. Awaiting the proverbial hammer to fall. It was not till the drive home, (after the uneventful day ; which working where i work now is oftentimes AGAINST the odds!) that I realized what I had done. How I had allowed myself to resort to “magical thinking”. Superstition….we humans bathe in it!
I continued searching my experiences, to see how often i might be overlooking the ones that did not confirm my previously held bias. And I will recount one more…
My car gas light had come on, I was on empty, and needed gas. I passed a total of four gas stations on my way home, intending to stop at each one, and somehow getting sidetracked, and frustratingly thinking as i passed, fine! I’ll get the next one. Alas, after passing the fourth gas station in the same manner, i passed the turn off to my home, and drove out of my way to another gas station a bit farther on. Frustrated that i had allowed myself to get sidetracked THAT many times in my quest for gas, and thankful i made it finally to a gas station. I pulled in, got out, and began to pump my gas, when a black car pulled in next to mine, a guy in a suit hopped out of the passenger side and hurried over to me. (now mind you there were at least seven other cars at various pumps at this station) He walks up to me, (and i prepare for action, not used to being approached thus) and he quickly hands me a pamphlet, saying “I know you weren’t expecting this but i would like to give you this” . He hurries back into the waiting car and they pull off.
I am left standing there, holding the paper, pumping my gas, and wondering, why me? why not any of the other patrons, cars etc.???
I look at the pamphlet and realize it is literature from the watch tower society. and i grin.
For at that moment, I consider the odds. I passed four gas stations this very morning had to drive passed my house, to get HERE. There were several other cars there, several people putting gas in their cars…why was I the lucky victim?
Coincidence? destiny? wink of God? 😀
I think the Jehovah Witnesses would most certainly say the hand of God was present!…:)
I do not think my Christian friends would agree. (they might in fact attribute it to the devil?)
as I see now…just one of the millions of coincidences that many times i try very hard to read something more out of…?
An interesting article for any interested in further reading…on the Power of Coincidence
The Power of Coincidence
by David Myers, Professor of Psychology, Hope College