Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Morality is bigger than that

Lot’s of people discuss on whether there morality is subjective or objective. I’ve been thinking lately that the entire argument is both too dismissive and irrelevant.

Regardless of from where you think morality comes, it’s a complex social structure made up of many parts. Some of these parts are close to universal, others vary considerably by culture. I have never heard of a culture that approves of random killings, rape, or stealing from your fellow tribesmen. Whether the reason is the need for a stable society or some putative God laying this down, I have no problem conceding that a few of these precepts could be labeled as objective. At the same time, most issues that deal with sexuality, slavery, and the right to make war on people not well known to you have had varying expressions in a wide variety of seeming stable, healthy cultures. I see no reason to consider morals in these matters to be anything other than subjective. Any basis for morals perforce will be the product of arbitrarily chosen principles. Trying to force the whole concept of morality into one place or the other is unworthy of a topic rich in context and subtlety.

Also, in the final matter, it is of no consequence whether the morals of your culture are subjective or objective. If you believe they come from some putative supernatural revelation, you’re going to follow your source for the most part. If you see them coming from other principles, you’ll still be following those principles. Either way, when you violate the standards of your own morals, you’ll feel the guilt, and when you violate the standards of your culture, you’ll risk facing punishment. Whether they are subjective or objective makes little difference there.

2 comments:

iron mike tyson said...

Also, in the final matter, it is of no consequence whether the morals of your culture are subjective or objective. If you believe they come from some putative supernatural revelation, you’re going to follow your source for the most part. If you see them coming from other principles, you’ll still be following those principles. Either way, when you violate the standards of your own morals, you’ll feel the guilt, and when you violate the standards of your culture, you’ll risk facing punishment

I was indifferent for the majority of my life. I adhered to certain moral dictates I gave to myself because they were purely functional... and ultimately selfish. Seemingly noble, but selfish. Holding myself to certain standards so that my relationship with a particular girl friend or to mesh better with society.... the particulars of the standard were arbitrary. And it certainly does matter if they were objective or subjective. I can also assure you I felt no guilt when I went against whatever standard I had set. If I didn't get caught... great! The facade remained. If I did get caught.... then I find any convenient excuse from my past to be the reason for my action (alcoholic mom, suffered from depression, got jumped by a group of kids... etc).

One Brow said...

I was indifferent for the majority of my life. I adhered to certain moral dictates I gave to myself because they were purely functional... and ultimately selfish. Seemingly noble, but selfish. Holding myself to certain standards so that my relationship with a particular girl friend or to mesh better with society.... the particulars of the standard were arbitrary. And it certainly does matter if they were objective or subjective. I can also assure you I felt no guilt when I went against whatever standard I had set. If I didn't get caught... great! The facade remained. If I did get caught.... then I find any convenient excuse from my past to be the reason for my action (alcoholic mom, suffered from depression, got jumped by a group of kids... etc).
I disagree with your interpretation of your experience. It sounds to me like your "facade" was not really a set of morals, but a deliberate decision to blend into society in a functional way. Your true morals sounds much more like "getting a much reasonable pleasure as possible for a very small risk". It does not sound like you went against that code when you deviated from your facade. Of course, I could be misunderstanding your post.