Is there any Objective Morality?

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Hitch's picture
Is there any Objective Morality?

Do we really have objective morality?
A handsome lot of people do "bad" things but feel no guilt.
Any thoughts?

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Sheldon's picture
No, and I can't understand

No, and I can't understand why people find this simple truth so scary.

CyberLN's picture
“A handsome lot of people do

“A handsome lot of people do "bad" things but feel no guilt.”

There’s a word for that - sociopathy.

Sheldon's picture
It was also a subjective

It was also a subjective claim he made, which is ironic. Though the term "a handsome lot of people" is suitably vague.

There is plenty of evidence that despite there being a massive global human population, and even allowing for two of the bloodiest and mechanised world wars, pro rata we are less likely to meet a violent death during the 20th and 21st centuries than at any point in human history.

The Better Angels of Our Nature: The Decline of Violence In History And Its Causes
Steven Pinker

Cognostic's picture
Matt Dillahaunty and Sam

Matt Dillahaunty and Sam Harris both have arguments for Morality based on "Well Being."

Basically "Morality can be objective within a context." If you adopt the idea that morality is defined as "well being." then there is generally a more or less moral action to take in most situations. This perspective does not do away with "moral dilemmas." Of course neither does the "Objective moral position" expressed by the religious. It does; however, break down moral behavior in a clear, goal directed, measurable and understandable act based on reality and the consequences of our actions.

arakish's picture
Is there any Objective

Is there any Objective Morality? No.


SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture
I have only been a member

I have only been a member here for about 2 or 3 years, but I feel like this subject has popped up so much on the debate forum, that it should just be a FAQ on this website.

I'm not sure how so many people can't see that something made up and defined by humans such as morals, would be anything other than subjective. I am however, pretty sure that the answer to the question is no.

Sky Pilot's picture


"I am however, pretty sure that the answer to the question is no."

Here is a short essay that makes the case for objective morality =

"Morality Is Objective
Morality is robustly grounded in facts."

This is a longer essay on objective morality =
"Secular, Objective Morality: Look and See"

Sheldon's picture
It's worth noting that

It's worth noting that morality is present in other animals as well. All animals that are societal need morality for it to work, and they have evolved with this ability.

Human morality is more complex because we have evolved larger brains and complex communication methods, enabling us to exchange very complex ideas.

If anyone wants to see how subjective morality is, and how it has been shaped by various societies then studying different cultures is all that is needed.

The things almost all human societies have a moratorium on can be seen as evolved traits essential to maintain many society. Greater intellect means greater choice, all else stems from this, includingsubjective religious ideas and morals.

arakish's picture
Sheldon: "If anyone wants to

Sheldon: "If anyone wants to see how subjective morality is, and how it has been shaped by various societies then studying different cultures is all that is needed."

And the 30+ years I traveled over this planet has helped me tremendously in that regard. I have a lot of respect for cultures and their traditions. I just have no respect for religion. If I were to say there is any religion I regard above all others, it would be the cultures, traditions, and beliefs of the Native Americans. I learned more from the Cherokee and Lumbee natives that lived near me when I was a child about life and its many intricate webs it weaves in reliance upon all other life than I ever did from any other human-made religions. And what I learned from that Cherokee and Lumbee, if you wish to call it a religion, is how one should hold all things in high regard since all things are reliant upon all things. Destroy one small web and you have only endangered all things.


SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture
Thanks for the links

Thanks for the links @DiotrephesI read both and they were both insightful. I'm not convinced really. Here's an example of why:

The first link states that "Morality requires us to avoid doing bad things, again, by definition." ok cool, but it began by saying that westerners do not (internally) approve of burkas because burkas SEEM sexist to westerners. It continues to say that westerners will condone burkas in countries where burkas are a cultural staple. At the end of the passage, the writer claims that morality is objective because wrong is obviously wrong.

That is super inconsistent and the writers burka example about Western sentiment only supports my claim that morality is completely subjective.

Sky Pilot's picture


"That is super inconsistent and the writers burka example about Western sentiment only supports my claim that morality is completely subjective."

The problem with discussing such topics is that everyone ends up with a word salad. You can make a reasonable case for any position and it will be true most of the time but not all of the time for the examples that you use.

For example, if you claim that it is wrong to kill then why would you kill someone who is attacking you? If you kill the person who is attacking you then you have just violated your own moral code that you wanted to impose on everyone else. If you say that it is wrong to kill but make exceptions then your statement about it being wrong to kill is not true.

Interestingly enough the Bible does seem to give an example of just one act that will always be considered to be wrong under biblical morality.

As it says in Matthew 12:31 (ERV) = “So I tell you, people can be forgiven for every sinful thing they do and for every bad thing they say against God. But anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven."

BTW, although the statement in Matthew 12:31 might seem to be absolute did you see how it conflicts with the verse in Exodus 20:7 (CEB) = 7 "Do not use the Lord your God’s name as if it were of no significance; the Lord won’t forgive anyone who uses his name that way."

What is the punishment for using God's name in vain? According to the fairy tale it is death. Leviticus 24:10-16 (CEB) = "10 The son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father came out among the Israelites. A fight broke out between this half-Israelite[a] and another Israelite man in the camp, 11 during which the half-Israelite blasphemed the Lord’s name and cursed. So he was brought to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, Dibri’s daughter from the tribe of Dan.) 12 He was put under guard until they could determine the Lord’s verdict.

13 Then the Lord said to Moses: 14 Take the one who cursed outside the camp. All who heard him will press their hands on his head. Then the whole community will stone him. 15 Tell the Israelites: Anyone who curses God will be liable to punishment. 16 And anyone who blasphemes the Lord’s name must be executed. The whole community will stone that person. Immigrant and citizen alike: whenever someone blasphemes the Lord’s name, that person will be executed."

So there is a major conflict between Exodus 20:7 and Matthew 12:31. Notice what the Jesus character did. He said that if you curse God you can be forgiven although the penalty is death by stoning. He also elevated the Holy Spirit above God. The Holy Spirit character was a late-comer to the fairy tale, making its first appearance in Psalm 51:11 (NKJV) = "Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me."

Therefore when asking questions that have no absolute answer it is necessary to phrase them in such a way that the respondent will answer in the way that you want him to answer. Otherwise you just end up in an unending argument.

xenoview's picture

I apply xenoview's razor to your claims of objective morality.

Xenoview's razor
Objective claims requires objective evidence

AJ777's picture
Is there objective evidence

Is there objective evidence that this claim(razor) is true?

arakish's picture
Yeah, it is called...

Yeah, it is called...

The Nine Razors:

  1. Sagan's Razor: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  2. Hitchens's Razor: What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.
  3. Arakish's Razor: NO EVIDENCE = NO EXISTENCE.
  4. Xenoview's Razor: Objective claims requires objective evidence.
  5. Randomhero1982's Razor: If it's not evidenced, it's bollocks.
  6. Cognostic's Razor: Any dweeb can make an assertion.
  7. LogicFTW's Razor: You MUST first prove your religion/claim is not a con.
  8. CyberLN's Razor: A nice vinaigrette dressing must be served with any word salad.
  9. Tin-Man's Butter Knife: Any ridiculous nonsense presented will be countered with opposing ridiculous nonsense of an equal or greater amount.
  • Cognostic's Shovel: When someone starts slinging bullshit at you, get a shovel and sling it back.


Sheldon's picture
It's not a claim, it's an

It's not a claim, it's an epistemological razor explaining it is justified to reject claims when they are presented without any evidence, as yours always are.

Like your claim that you think it is immoral to torture children, that you can offer no explanation for.

xenoview's picture
You make an objective claim,

You make an objective claim, you have to provide objective evidence


jay-h's picture
We long for objectivity, but

We long for objectivity, but it doesn't exist, even within religion. What's right under one religion is wrong under another one, and there is no objective way to determine which one is right.

Most humans have some internal sense of morality but both religions and political systems tend to trample on them and force other views, sometimes forcing stricter behaviors, and other times prohibiting stricter behaviors.

Even myself, there are things I consider immoral (as basically a libertarian, I would not interfere with someone else's choices) that probably most atheists don't, and there are things I accept that many religions condemn.

arakish's picture
NeverHappened: "there are

NeverHappened: "there are things I accept that many religions condemn."

I am floating in a similar boat myself.


AJ777's picture


Sheldon's picture
"Quod gratis asseritur,

"Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur." 

Sheldon's picture
Is it objectively immoral to

Is it objectively immoral to torture a baby to death?

If so, why?

arakish's picture
AJ777: "Yes" Yes, what? rmfr

AJ777: "Yes"

Yes, what?


Sheldon's picture
arakish "Yes, what?"

arakish "Yes, what?"

AJ777 is making yet another unevidenced subjective claim, that objective morality exists. You have to see the irony.

arakish's picture
Thanks Sheldon. One has to

Thanks Sheldon. One has to remember that I process data like a computer. Unless it is connected in the text, there is no connection. Thus, when I see only the word "Yes," my mind thinks, "Yes, what?" You know how that GIGO principle can be with a computer.

It is also the reason that no religion ever computed for me. Garbage In = Garbage Out.


David Killens's picture
History and simple facts

History and simple facts confirm that morals are not objective.

The most recent example is that an isolated tribe, the Sentinelese, killed stupid missionary John Allen Chau in what appears to be a socially sanctioned murder that many members of the tribe participated in.

SecularSonOfABiscuitEater's picture
They have made it saran wrap

They have made it saran wrap clear that they want to be left alone. He asked for those arrows.

HumbleThinker's picture
"The most recent example is

"The most recent example is that an isolated tribe, the Sentinelese, killed stupid missionary John Allen Chau in what appears to be a socially sanctioned murder that many members of the tribe participated in."

Is this relevant to a conversation of Objective/Subjective Morality? No one disputes that every family, city, culture, religion, state, country have different ideas of what is right and wrong. You can point to a gazillion examples like the one stated above. But pointing out that some think murder is okay and some don't, doesn't prove subjective morality in the context of this philosophical question.

When something is qualified as "Objective" it is "true". The fact that things fall at 9.18m/s was true before it was measured. Maybe we couldn't describe it, or by scientific method confirm it was true, but philosophically it was still true. Just like a bear still shit's in the woods even when no one is around to see it. So when we are asking if there is objective morality, we are saying, is the bear still shitting and we just don't know where it is?

arakish's picture
@ HumbleThinker

@ HumbleThinker

FYI: Gravitational Acceleration is 9.80665 m/s^2. You also forgot the seconds squared. This is a constant I use all the time when I am creating fictional, yet feasible, stellar systems.


HumbleThinker's picture
Ha! Good catch.

Ha! Good catch.

arakish's picture
Furthermore, being mistaken

Furthermore, being mistaken is NOT being dishonest. Thanks dude.

I feel like we could all have a very good and nice discussion with you.



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