Morality - Where Do You Stand?

Are you a moral absolutist (there is some objective moral code we should all abide by) or a moral relativist (there is no set code)?

I’m just curious. Personally I stand somewhere in the middle, and I’ll explain myself better when I’m not so bloody tired.

So, anyone?

fully understanding that i will no doubt be shot down some time soon for holding a completely unsupported view…

i am a moral absolutist!!

although if there is some objective moral code, i’m not sure it is ever possible to fully specify it in words.

I think there is only two morals 1)to do what is best to preserve life. OK, so in doing so, you might need to kill some life to protect others, but what is important, I think, is that as much life and diversity should be preserved as possible. After all, every living thing wants to live.

2) To try one’s best to make others’ life as enjoyable as possible. This includes future lives as well as life around you in the present - e.g. you cant just go around trashing the environment cos its got to be there for future generations.

Every other moral I think is important fits into these in some way.

The only reason I dumped this down by the way is cos neither of the above people could be bothered to put down the morals they think are important to them (Chloe I’m shocked!)

Aren’t morals that we all have to abide by called laws?
The rest is just ethics, which are definitely a matter of personal preference e.g. is it ‘right’ to kick a dog, or allow someone to refuse life-saving treatment?

…so, liberal and tolerant within reason, I guess!

Morals and laws are definately NOT the same thing! Law is imposed upon you. You can decide what you think is important values in your life, those are called morals. Many states and countries have laws which I think are completely mad; I wouldn’t call them a code of morality. Besides, it is a “moral” thing to be nice to people (you get what I’m driving at here, I’m sure I can think of a better example) but there is no law anywhere that I know of which says I get 2 months in jail for not returning the smile that man opposite gave me on the tube today. Or are the police tracing me right now?

Oh, and ethics isn’t so much a personal choice - I was under the impression that ethics was a much broader word, encompassing mankind or a population rather than just one person - I was unfortunate enough last year to have a general studies class on morality and ethics. I’ll find a dictionary in a mo.

[This message has been edited by clara (edited 28 March 2002).]

Well, without wishing to get mired in semantics, I think morality, at bottom, is simply the concept that some actions are acceptable, some aren’t, and that there is a concept of right and wrong (I refrain from using the words good and evil). The question of whether morality is “about morals from a personal, social or ultimate view” is pretty much what we’re discussing here: namely how the concept of right and wrong is or should be devised and how far we can extend this concept (i.e. to a relative or absolute degree).

Personally I believe there has to be some objective moral code within the human race, and thus morality is absolute in a sense, in so far as morality applies only to human beings. For instance, senseless murder (the murder of someone for no reason - unprovoked, not in a war situation etc.) is objectively wrong, and I’m sure 99.99% of the human race would agree. Murder is justifiable on some occasions (mainly hypothetical ones in Philosophy 101 exams - er, not that I’ve ever sat one) but if we assume that the murder was unconditional - in the Kantian sense - virtually all human beings would say it was wrong.

From this perspective, many actions can be considered “wrong” and can be proved to be so, simply because any reasonable person (i.e. of sound mind - however that’s determined) would reject it as “wrong”. However, there is a very definate subjective element to morality, which is where it starts to get interesting (or banal if you ever get into an argument with someone who differs on a particular moral issue that cannot be resolved from an objective stance).

Anyway, I won’t go any further cos it’s 2:45am and I need a bed. Hope that clears it up a bit?

Ok, here we go…I think that laws are there to concrete the morals that soceity needs everyone to adhere to. i.e. killing is wrong, stealing is wrong etc. For many people these are already personall morals. But not for everyone.

But I agree with clara, morals are a personall thing. You decide what’s important to you, what you hold dear and therefore make up your own laws that only you enforce upon yourself. For example I don’t think it’s morally right to swear at my parents. It’s not a law, but I enforce it upon myself.

So back to the original question, I am porabably a middle-grounder. I think laws are vital to force everyone to adhere to a basic set of morals. But then the rest have to be personall. It’ spart of what makes us unique and interesting!


Good is opposite to evil and therefore identical to it. An increase in Yin leads to an increase in Yang because Yin is Yang and all is one in Eris. If you had been brought up by a family who believed that eating babies was holy, and the entire community around you thought the same way, you would agree with them. If the entire world thought that way then there would be no debate, as it would be good.

Interesting note, we would regard cannibalism as wrong, but yet Catholics honestly, sincerely believe that they conduct cannibalism during communion. This is “good” no?

sign language have silent letters?
When coloured people shower, is that ethnic cleansing?

This topic reminds me of a topic we discussed in Law class that caused controversy, and even in the end, there was still no consensus.

Ok…this might sound like the beginning of an essay but …to really get to the root of this topic we must at least in general terms understand what is meant by morality, though complete understanding would require a full course in ethics or moral philosphy. In particular, a moral judgement is not, as some people think, simply a matter of personal opinion: if it were, we could never criticise anyone else for acting in a way they find acceptable and we do not.
Ok… umm… some statements depend entirely on the tastes and opinion of the person making them. For ex : Tony Blair is a good looking chap. Philosophy is a very interesting subject. Statements like these are neither true or false. They are matters of opinion that cannot be attacked or defended by reasoned argument. Sensible and sober adults should realise this (hehe) and do not get involved with arguments about them.
There are also statements which depends on issues of hard fact. For ex… umm…Jesus Christ rose from the dead… or There is another planet in the universe with intelligent life on it. Each of these statements are neither true or false at least for now, noone knows for certain which is which. NOW. Statements of moral rules fall in between but closer to the second group than to the first. For ex… It is morally wrong to steal. You should always keep your promises. U see , these statements assert behavior that they are always right, or always wrong… IT’S JUST A MATTER OR PERSONAL PREFERENCE!!..
The leaders of our countries most naturally believe that morals should be adhered to. why?, of course to maintain social order…but when u really think about it, morality depends on the individual and his decision to adhere to moral rules (most of em being laws).

i am i suppose a moral relativist…although i don’t believe in morals accept as constructions of social interactions imposed by the ‘they’ to remove rank ordering and denegrate the strong, the nobel…

hvd read nietzsche’s genealogy of morality as it sorts out that whole good-bad to good-evil thing quite sweetly…

Is it better to be immoral or amoral?

Would it be less of a crime, or a bad act, if you did not believe what you did was wrong?


ok, so the suicide bombers currently killing innocent people in the middle east, if they don’t believe what they are doing is wrong, is it right?

for them, yes
for me, no

there are no moral absolutes. there simply are events, and we place our own moral grid upon them.

hvd i like the way you tango…
morality can be viewed as a grand narrative, spanning the ages, a story we tell ourselves in order to interpret the world, so that we can identify ourselves with things in that world and have things matter to us…the grand narratives arise out of the multitudes being lost within, as heidegger calls it, the ‘they’…the individual accepts what they offer him and thus ignores or flees the possiblity of embracing his existential condition…that there is no one he is responsible to but to himself [or for himself], that he is responsible for his own existence and from that his essence…culture as we know it is inherently hooked on this idea, it is what culture has been trying to tell us for-ever, only those individuals who accept the groundless nature of their existence can listen…because it is meaningless to them, they are already free and the message is only then an act of affirmation for them…

other narratives include religion and politics, law, the grimm faery tales, and of course that modern malaise…science…
all science is, or can ever be, is justified true belief…but this maybe necessary for knowledge but it isn’t sufficient…see Gettier…
–note–the sufficiency thing about science is speculation. :wink:

…or correct me if i’m wrong… :imp:

If anything im a reliativist. But in my personal opionon, the whole idea of morals and ethics is totally devoid of any meaning. Im yet to ever see any convinging argument on either side. alota moral absolutists are always sayin that moral relitivists are just usin an appeal to ignorance thinking that morals dont exist since there is no evidence to support it. But the absolutists are falling prey to the same thing. because there is no evidence that there is no absolute morality, then there must be morals. Seeing as both sides cannot come up with anything but appeals to ignorance i think that the whole idea of morality can just be tossed in the trashed can. i do not claim to have my own set of “morals”. i just do as i feel. i dont do things because i think they are morally right or wrong, and i dont not do things because i think they are morally right or wrong. i just do them because tahts how i feel. adding morality to the mix is un-nessicary, and i wish ol occams razor would sw00p on in and cut it all up.

Morals are not absolute (as has been proven in our history). But they are objective. They can be verified and can change with new evidence.

What we currently label “morality” or an “inherent sense of right and wrong” is just a set of ESS (Evolutionarily Stable Strategies).

  • Sivakami.

I’m putting my mark firmly in the relativist column.

Also in my opinion laws are no more than an expression of current morality and how the popultaion thinks. Look at the laws against homosexulity, try and get rid of it in Victorian times you’d have been lynched, get rid of it now and you’re applauded (though some people still feel it immoral, more people don’t). That points out another problem with laws, they can be “outgrown” by a country/society. Anyone trying to say that it’s law defining morality will have to put foward some damn good arguments to convince me.

For you absolutists out there, ponder this, if it is morally unacceptable to kill, if you had a button which could kill Hitler before he commited all those atrocities you could not use it!!

And for all the relativists out there ponder this!! Just because the aztecs thought that child sacrifice was appeasing their gods did it make it morally right??

I’ve got more ponder this questions if you want them! Did a module in moral philosophy and got very into it. For anyone who wants a bit more of a delve into morality, I recommend the relativist Mill’s “Utilitarianism”, and for the absolutist you could try Kant but he’s a bloody hard read.

On a slightly deeper note, I disagree with ssivakami however, I don’t think it’s actually like ESSs, I can see the appeal of the idea, certainly when I was studying Marx’s historical materialism it looked remarkably like an ESS where morals are setup because the are stable in a particular system, but I think trying to use ESSs is pushing Dawkin’s concept of memes too far. But then again I was having this very argument with a friend a week ago and I couldn’t come up with any decent reasons why. I think it’s got to do with an ESS implies that there is no design, it just appears, but I think morality has a certain amount of design in it, I think of it as a mixture of assumptions and reasoned beliefs, with a person considering what they themselves feel about certain things, but at the same time having gained assumptions from their upbringing (like unwavering belief in the gospels). I don’t feel that reason can fit in with ESSs.

Ssivakami said:

Surely this is a contradiction in terms? If a moral is absolute it is objective. Can you give me an example of a moral which is objective but not absolute? I do not think it is possible.

Matt said:

You are confusing law and morality here. It is true that law changes over time because of social evolution but the question is whether there is a moral absolute. Your example of homosexuality, a moral absolutist would say that homosexuality is either ALWAYS right or ALWAYS wrong. It doesn’t matter what society believes or even what the individual believes, there is an objective answer to the moral question. This is the same for all morals. The absolutist says that each moral question has an objective and eternal answer. The relativist will say that there are no absolutes and the morals are defined by the society in which they arise.

With regards to your Hitler statement, Maquie and Flew put forward the idea that everything that has happened in the past, had to have happened in order for the present day to be as it is. It is more than likely that “you” as you are now, would not exist if the current history had not occured. Therefore killing Hitler would most probably “kill” you. Of course that begs the question of whether your existence justifies the Holocaust or any other atrocity. Many would say it does not.

I personally find the moral absolutist stance more appealing. I believe killing is always wrong and that is an absolute. However, there may be some situations (i think the hitler example is a bad example) where killing someone might be considered the greater good. Examples such as “killing one person to find the cure for aids” always strike me as very emotive examples. The question you are actually answering is “would you sacrifice your life for the sake of millions of others” which is itself asking you whether you are a “selfish” human being. That’s a whole different issue.

Objectivism states that all morals are absolute and that universal objective morality can be found using reason, with the method of reason being logic. Ayn Rand (the founder of Objectivism) states that we can all come to the same conclusions about morality if we use reason and logic. She wrote an entire book containing a great deal of “moral situations” and how they can be reasoned to.

I think it is possible to hold an absolutist point of view and be flexible. It is not the same as relativism because the belief that there is an objective moral code is still there, but the differentiation lies in some actions being wrong but good, and others being right but bad.

which rand book is that?