Compare opinions of world leading experts and influencers.

Is morality objective?

When we say an act is "good" or "bad" or "right" or "wrong", is that entirely relative to our personal preferences and societal conditioning? Or are such statements true or false in an absolute sense, in a way that can be applied universally across all people and cultures?

Implications to Other Questions

Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Philosophy

Ayn Rand    Philosopher, Novelist
Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival... Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.
01 Jan 1964    Source

Sub-Arguments Of This Expert:
Is "ought" derived from "is"?

Experts In Atheism

Sam Harris    Writer, Speaker, Atheism Activist
One cannot criticize religious dogmatism for long without encountering the following claim, advanced as though it were a self-evident fact of nature: there is no secular basis for morality. Raping and killing children can only really be wrong, the thinking goes, if there is a God who says it is. ... But if there are psychophysical laws that underwrite human well-being—and why wouldn't there be? - ... [then] Knowledge of these laws would provide an enduring basis for an objective morality.
04 Jun 2007    Source

Sub-Arguments Of This Expert:
Is "ought" derived from "is"?
   Mostly Agree

Richard Dawkins    Evolutionary Biologist, Writer, Atheism Activist
I was one of those who had unthinkingly bought into the hectoring myth that science can say nothing about morals. To my surprise, The Moral Landscape has changed all that for me. It should change it for philosophers too. Philosophers of mind have already discovered that they can’t duck the study of neuroscience, and the best of them have raised their game as a result. Sam Harris shows that the same should be true of moral philosophers, and it will turn their world exhilaratingly upside down.
26 Apr 2010    Source

Experts In Philosophy

Richard Joyce    Philosophy Researcher
...moral discourse is hopelessly flawed. ...natural selection [gives us] a tendency to invest the world with values that it does not contain, and demands that it does not make. ...morality [may nonetheless be] a "useful fiction" - allowing it to have a regulative influence on our lives and decisions, perhaps even playing a central role - while not committing ourselves to believing or asserting falsehoods, and thus not being subject to accusations of "error".
25 Mar 2002    Source

Experts In Science

Steven Weinberg    Nobel Laureate in Physics
...the worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature... We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our [family], are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years.
25 Sep 2008    Source


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0 Points      Nashhinton      21 Nov 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
Morality that is based upon common sense is always objective independent of any religious or cultural bias favoring a particular social norm above another norm. That's why we need to obliterate these cultural and religious obstacles and biases if we are going to use our own intellect in establishing moral values that will benefit society. Using a set of moral codes found in primitive holy books will never advance humanity, but it will always stifle and hinder progress. The reason why religious morals will never benefit humanity is because they all contradict each other. And we know that contradictions between different groups of people and their opposing ideologies will always lead to conflict and strife. We must throw away our cultural and religious biases when analyzing and applying moral values to our lives. Any rational and sane person will establish the exact same moral standards without relying on the religions or cultural biases found throughout the world. If there is a discrepancy between moral judgements, it's because of the existence of illogical or intellectually inferior judgements.

But overall, my position is that there is a certain type of moral objectivity that we humans are unaware of because of our limited scope of knowledge and the cultural biases that we hold. We must overcome such ignorance and preconceived notions in order to become truly moral creatures.

However, I will not deny that there are certain types of moral values that would be on the gray side instead of being purely black or white. To me, that false notion of "subjectivity" is actually objective in nature. Of course the sane person would deny rape to be subjectively bad because it shows that morality is objective. In the same sense that the sane person would always OBJECTIVELY find murder to be permissible in certain scenarios, such as killing a serial killer to save a whole family. For example, during the holocaust, only the intellectually and morally bankrupt person would allow a whole family of Jews to be turned in to the Nazis because he refuses to lie to the gestapo to save their lives.

I believe in utilitarianism and consequentialism for my code of ethics.
My moral standards are as follows:

Anything that is mutually beneficial is the most morally superior action. Anything that is altruistic, where you are sacrificing your life or effort for another person or another group, is moral. Anything that is selfish or hedonistic is immoral (but sometimes moral). Whereas anything that is mutually harmful or detrimental or more disastrous is the most immoral action there is.

In order to understand and decide the moral worth of an action, one must objectively understand and hypothesize all of the possible future consequences of such an action. And after concluding the future possible consequences of a future action, one can reasonably use that moral comprehension to objectively make a moral and intelligent decision.

1 Point      TZX      16 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Disagree
At best we can find behaviors which are likely to bring success in most circumstances. Good is not written down anywhere in the universe and even if it was, that wouldn't be reason enough to follow it. All we have is ourselves.

0 Points      blacktrance      10 Feb 2011      Stance on Question: Agree
Morality is the end result of the desires and preferences of self-interested individuals.

0 Points      the27th      09 May 2010      Stance on Question: Mostly Disagree
No. But this does not mean I don't have strong moral values, or that I won't act rather consistently according to my values, to the best of my ability. I just don't expect to find them written on the Eagle Nebula.

0 Points      Benja      09 May 2010      General Comment
"I just don't expect to find [morals] written on the Eagle Nebula."

I disagree. I actually think if alien civilizations exist, then they would have likely discovered the same moral principles we have (at least along the way to even more advanced moralities). Just as they'd have inevitably discovered mathematical principles like geometry to be able to successfully build complex physical structures, they'd inevitably discover moral principles such as utilitarianism and liberty in order to be able to successfully build complex social structures.

0 Points      Benja      05 May 2010      General Comment
Disclaimer: speculative thoughts from someone ignorant of meta-ethics.

Morality, Meality, and Mythality.

If you were the only person/creature on the planet, morality would not exist. "More-ality", if you will, only exists because there's more people than just you. Now if you psychopathically treat others like objects, then you're acting as if you're the only person on the planet that matters. You have "me-ality", not morality. You can extend the principle to groups you belong to. The Nazis acted as if their race was the only race on the planet that mattered. Once again, that's meality, not morality.

I can accept there may sometimes be no single absolute moral answers - there are well known difficulties such as the trade-off between justice and utilitarianism. Even then, moral philosophers who debate such trade-offs don't disagree based on stubbornly held private values - they're actually striving to reach a reasoned consensus. But even in lieu of a consensus, if that's the level we're operating we've already attained some degree of objective utopia. What I object to is mealities such as dictatorships masquerading as if they were moralities, and the postmodernists who defend the charade.

I also object to the legitimacy of "moralities" based on false beliefs, that I'd call "mythalities". If a particular "morality" requires a myth such as life after death (whether via heaven or reincarnation) then the "morality" itself is permeated by the myth: it's now a mythality. Once again, I have little patience for the postmodernists who fuel the confusion between fiction and nonfiction with their narrative nonsense.

OK, please someone who knows what they're actually talking about rip this to shreds :)

0 Points      Benja      03 May 2010      General Comment
An interesting paper by Don Loeb. Abstract:

"Moral realism, the view that there are moral facts that are independent of our beliefs about them, has many defenders. But much less has been said about realism concerning other sorts of value. One of these, gastronomic realism (the view that there are facts about how good or bad particular foods and drinks are, and that these facts are similarly independent of our beliefs) is likely to seem implausible on its face. This paper argues, however, that much of the reasoning used to defend moral realism is about as well suited for defending gastronomic realism. Although these considerations do not directly undermine moral realism, they do suggest that the two views should stand or fall together. And they rob moral realists of one ad hominem argument that often emerges in their debate with irrealists, that the irrealists cannot justify their widespread practice of taking their own moral values seriously."

While the author is a moral anti-realist, perhaps it's ironic that his paper could bolster the anti postmodern thinking that there's objectivity when it comes to taste. Also see Is good art purely subjective?