The Existence of Morality?

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johannw
 
Reply Mon 19 Apr, 2010 10:20 pm
I've heard some people talk about the idea that morality doesn't actually exist, usually according to Nietzsche (i think). This is a concept I've never fully understood but am terribly interested in learning about. Anyone care to explain the idea behind it, and if morality doesn't exist, where did the idea of it come from, etc etc?

I'm terribly curious.
 
jgweed
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 06:12 am
@johannw,
Nietzsche did not deny that morality (or moralities) actually exist and are important in society; he did venture to suggest that absolute morality cannot exist. "There are no moral phenomena" he wrote, "only moral interpretations of phenomena;" humans in providing meaning to life, seem destined to give values, but often forget that these are indeed a human product, and we find in studying the earliest extant writings available that morality played a dominant role.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 06:27 am
@johannw,
johannw;154295 wrote:
I've heard some people talk about the idea that morality doesn't actually exist, usually according to Nietzsche (i think). This is a concept I've never fully understood but am terribly interested in learning about. Anyone care to explain the idea behind it, and if morality doesn't exist, where did the idea of it come from, etc etc?

I'm terribly curious.


Of course, morality exists in the sense that people are constantly making moral judgments like, "abortion is wrong" or, "capital punishment is just". But some philosophers have held that such judgments are neither true or false, but they are simply expressions of approval or disapproval of what they are judgments about. They are, in other words, not objective judgments about the world (like scientific judgments) but only expressions of likes and dislikes of the person who is making the judgment.

Notice that even if one holds that moral judgments are only relative, and not absolute, that does not mean that such moral judgments are not true or false. Relative judgments can be true or false even if they are not absolute. For instance, if someone says that abortion is wrong, that may just mean that abortion is wrong relative to my society. But that is still either true or false, even if it is not an absolute moral judgment.
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:10 am
@johannw,
I understand what you are both saying, but if absolute morality doesn't necessarily exist, and all moral judgements are relative and subjective, then doesn't it make sense for one to claim that it doesn't actually exist? Morality is the judgement of if something is right or wrong, but if there are exceptions to every situation and if there are so many factors that there is no universal way to make a moral decision, then wouldn't it make the concept of morality rather weak?

Do I make sense?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:26 am
@johannw,
johannw;154426 wrote:
I understand what you are both saying, but if absolute morality doesn't necessarily exist, and all moral judgements are relative and subjective, then doesn't it make sense for one to claim that it doesn't actually exist? Morality is the judgement of if something is right or wrong, but if there are exceptions to every situation and if there are so many factors that there is no universal way to make a moral decision, then wouldn't it make the concept of morality rather weak?

Do I make sense?


You did not understand what I said. I said that even if there is only relative morality, morality exists anyway. Morality does not have to be absolute to exist. If I say that capital punishment is moral in my society, but not in some other societies, that is still morality, isn't it? So, relative morality is still morality.

The fact that there are exceptions to a moral rule does not weaken it. It makes it more sensible. If I say that killing is wrong except in the case of self-defense, that does not weaken the rule that killing is wrong. Why should it? It makes it more acceptable. But, notice, the rule that killing is wrong in all places and at all times except when it is in self-defense, is still universal, even though it makes an exception for self-defense. Universal does not mean the same as exceptionless. And, by the way, relative and subjective are not at all the same thing. An action may be right is one society, but wrong in a different society, but it is still objectively right in the first society, and objectively wrong in the second society.

These matters are complicated, and you might expect. It is important to be exact.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:36 am
@johannw,
johannw;154295 wrote:
I've heard some people talk about the idea that morality doesn't actually exist, usually according to Nietzsche (i think).


Morality doesn't exist independently of what we think about it. In contrast, it doesn't matter what we think about the Earth. It will continue to exist regardless of us.

Saying something is morally wrong is like saying that the Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. You might have criterion for what counts as a good football team but it's still just your opinion. I'm free to adopt different criterion and claim a different team is equally good. Who is to say which is the real criterion for a good football team? Who is to say what the criterion are for morally good behavior?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:47 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;154439 wrote:
Morality doesn't exist independently of what we think about it. In contrast, it doesn't matter what we think about the Earth. It will continue to exist regardless of us.

Saying something is morally wrong is like saying that the Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. You might have criterion for what counts as a good football team but it's still just your opinion. I'm free to adopt different criterion and claim a different team is equally good. Who is to say which is the real criterion for a good football team? Who is to say what the criterion are for morally good behavior?


I don't think that if the Cowboys win the Superbowl (say) six times in a row, my judgment that it was a good football team should be described as "just my opinion" do you. If someone said that to me, I would just laugh. What do you mean, you are free to claim a different team is equally good. You are free to claim that a team that consistently winds up at the bottom of the NFL is equally good with a team that consistently wins the Superbowl? I guess so, if that means no one will imprison you for doing it. But, that's about all it could mean. We have criteria for good moral behavior just as we do for a good football team.
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:48 am
@johannw,
Quote:
Saying something is morally wrong is like saying that the Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. You might have criterion for what counts as a good football team but it's still just your opinion. I'm free to adopt different criterion and claim a different team is equally good. Who is to say which is the real criterion for a good football team? Who is to say what the criterion are for morally good behavior?


Quote:
An action may be right is one society, but wrong in a different society, but it is still objectively right in the first society, and objectively wrong in the second society.


This is what I'm getting at, if one society considers one thing wrong, and another society considers that same thing right, then how can anything be labeled as moral or immoral when it can have the opposite label in another place? Morality becomes as variable as what team you support. Since morality is supposed to be what's right and what's wrong, then having it be that variable makes it weak, right? Not necessarily non-existent, just weak.

Kennethamy, I did understand, I'm just trying to really wrap my head around why someone would claim that morality may not exist. I oppose your points merely to play devil's advocate and understand all the sides of the argument. =)
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 07:50 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;154442 wrote:
I don't think that if the Cowboys win the Superbowl (say) six times in a row, my judgment that it was a good football team should be described as "just my opinion" do you. If someone said that to me, I would just laugh. What do you mean, you are free to claim a different team is equally good. You are free to claim that a team that consistently winds up at the bottom of the NFL is equally good with a team that consistently wins the Superbowl? I guess so, if that means no one will imprison you for doing it. But, that's about all it could mean. We have criteria for good moral behavior just as we do for a good football team.


Actually, the fact that a football team is ranked dead last doesn't mean they aren't the best in my opinion. I just don't go based on scores. I go based on the amount of dedication and teamwork put into the game. Even though they were ranked last in points they were ranked first in dedication and therefore they are truly the best football team.

Of course, if you just want to say that my team didn't score any points, that's not a matter of opinion. But points aren't how I define the best team.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:11 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;154445 wrote:
Actually, the fact that a football team is ranked dead last doesn't mean they aren't the best in my opinion. I just don't go based on scores. I go based on the amount of dedication and teamwork put into the game. Even though they were ranked last in points they were ranked first in dedication and therefore they are truly the best football team.

Of course, if you just want to say that my team didn't score any points, that's not a matter of opinion. But points aren't how I define the best team.


Well, that may be true. You may have a peculiar notion of "best team". And I may have a peculiar notion of "good watch". I may define a good watch as not a watch that keeps time accurately, and looks good, but have some crazy definition like, "a good watch is one that would make a good door stop. It doesn't matter whether it keeps time or even if it runs at all". What would that prove?

---------- Post added 04-20-2010 at 10:17 AM ----------

johannw;154444 wrote:
This is what I'm getting at, if one society considers one thing wrong, and another society considers that same thing right, then how can anything be labeled as moral or immoral when it can have the opposite label in another place? Morality becomes as variable as what team you support. Since morality is supposed to be what's right and what's wrong, then having it be that variable makes it weak, right? Not necessarily non-existent, just weak.

=)


I guess the answer to your question is that if morality is relative, then I can label something moral in one society, which is not moral in a different society. Your question is like the question, "if peoples' tastes differ, how can any food taste good"? The answer is that the taste of food is relative, and that some foods taste good to some people, and other foods taste good to other people. You can understand that, can't you? I am not saying that morality is relative, mind you. I am just saying that is what it would mean to say that morality is relative.
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:19 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;154458 wrote:
Well, that may be true. You may have a peculiar notion of "best team". And I may have a peculiar notion of "good watch".


Why are these views peculiar? Because they are unpopular? Well then at one point it was also peculiar to believe the Earth moves around the Sun.
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:28 am
@johannw,
Quote:
I guess the answer to your question is that if morality is relative, then I can label something moral in one society, which is not moral in a different society. Your question is like the question, "if peoples' tastes differ, how can any food taste good"? The answer is that the taste of food is relative, and that some foods taste good to some people, and other foods taste good to other people. You can understand that, can't you? I am not saying that morality is relative, mind you. I am just saying that is what it would mean to say that morality is relative.


Yeah, I understand that completely. Just because food can be considered delicious by someone and disgusting by another doesn't mean that good food doesn't exist. So, just because something is moral in one society and immoral in another society doesn't make morality a non-existent idea. I was just trying to argue the opposing side to try to totally understand the argument, but it seems to me that the opposing view is weak and easy to counter. Thanks for putting it so clearly!
 
Night Ripper
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:33 am
@johannw,
johannw;154468 wrote:
Yeah, I understand that completely. Just because food can be considered delicious by someone and disgusting by another doesn't mean that good food doesn't exist. So, just because something is moral in one society and immoral in another society doesn't make morality a non-existent idea. I was just trying to argue the opposing side to try to totally understand the argument, but it seems to me that the opposing view is weak and easy to counter. Thanks for putting it so clearly!


It's a strawman. No one is saying good food doesn't exist. We are saying that the goodness is not a property of the food but a judgment that you place on it yourself. If you like ice cream but I don't, should I condemn you? What about if you like murder but I don't? Why should liking some kinds of food not be blame worthy but certain kinds of deeds be?
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:38 am
@Night Ripper,
Night Ripper;154463 wrote:
Why are these views peculiar? Because they are unpopular? Well then at one point it was also peculiar to believe the Earth moves around the Sun.


Do you think that the view that a watch is good if it makes a good door stop, but it doesn't matter whether it keeps time is peculiar, or is it only unpopular? Sure, the way a team plays may count in whether it is a good team, but someone who said a team that ended up at the bottom consistently was a better team than a team that ended up at the top consistently, because of the way it played, would have a lot of "'splainin' to do". Don't you think?
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:41 am
@johannw,
Quote:
Why should liking some kinds of food not be blame worthy but certain kinds of deeds be?


You're asking why opinions on food aren't condemned but certain acts are condemned?

I'm not sure, actually... I feel like they can't be connected that way because your opinion about whether or not a cookie is good doesn't negatively effect the life(lives) of other people the way killing someone might... but again, I'm not totally sure... but I'd love to hear your answer.


Quote:
Do you think that the view that a watch is good if it makes a good door stop, but it doesn't matter whether it keeps time is peculiar, or is it only unpopular? Sure, the way a team plays may count in whether it is a good team, but someone who said a team that ended up at the bottom consistently was a better team than a team that ended up at the top consistently, because of the way it played, would have a lot of "'splainin' to do". Don't you think?


I agree here. Just because a team can work together well, or run plays perfectly doesn't mean they are the best if they can't use those two assets in scoring and winning games. A watch making a good door stop is a good example. Peculiar views can be unpopular, but unpopular views aren't always peculiar. In this case, I feel that the view is more peculiar than it is unpopular... but then again, I might be wrong... as it is always a possibility ;-)
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:46 am
@johannw,
johannw;154474 wrote:
You're asking why opinions on food aren't condemned but certain acts are condemned?

I'm not sure, actually... I feel like they can't be connected that way because your opinion about whether or not a cookie is good doesn't negatively effect the life(lives) of other people the way killing someone might... but again, I'm not totally sure... but I'd love to hear your answer.


No. I wasn't asking that. I was just saying that if you understand what it means to say that tastes in food are relative, you should, I think, understand what it mean to say that morality is relative. Food tastes differ from culture to culture, and so does morality. Again, I am not equating the two, so you are right in saying that their practical effect are different. I am just saying that if you understand the one, you should the other.
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:54 am
@johannw,
Quote:
No. I wasn't asking that. I was just saying that if you understand what it means to say that tastes in food are relative, you should, I think, understand what it mean to say that morality is relative. Food tastes differ from culture to culture, and so does morality. Again, I am not equating the two, so you are right in saying that their practical effect are different. I am just saying that if you understand the one, you should the other.


Yeah, I understand that now! Thank you! =)

Although my quote was from Night Ripper, so I'd still like to hear side of it too.
 
Wisdom Seeker
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:54 am
@johannw,
i think morality is really existed not made, you can't imagine that an evil society is good or chaos is good but all you can think that good is good, evil is evil, morality is fixed and unchangeable.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 08:56 am
@Wisdom Seeker,
Wisdom Seeker;154479 wrote:
i think morality is really existed not made, you can't imagine that an evil society is good or chaos is good but all you can think that good is good, evil is evil, morality is fixed and unchangeable.


So you say........
 
johannw
 
Reply Tue 20 Apr, 2010 09:00 am
@Wisdom Seeker,
Wisdom Seeker;154479 wrote:
i think morality is really existed not made, you can't imagine that an evil society is good or chaos is good but all you can think that good is good, evil is evil, morality is fixed and unchangeable.


The thing is that the evil society is evil according to you. But in their perspective, they are not evil. We are talking about how relative morality can be. You may think that good is good and evil is evil, but that is totally dependent on your definition of good and evil and that definition differs from culture to culture.

Ancient cultures saw human sacrifice and cannibalism as a normal if not holy thing to do, while other cultures that existed at the same time saw those practices as horrifying and diabolical. Who was right? According to each, they considered themselves right, but each other wrong: making the morality of those practices completely relative.
 
 

 
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