On Objective Morality

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio - Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio – Source: Wikimedia Commons

In my opinion, there is no such thing as an objective system of morality, at least for an (intelligent and) emotional species such as human beings. I would not even consider a single value to be universally agreed upon, no matter how morally correct or incorrect it may seem to any person. Not even instincts of self interest in nature guarantee an objective system of morality.

Ayn Rand called her philosophy of preserving self interest and individual liberty “moral objectivism“. People find her philosophy immoral, but I like it and rather admire her for challenging moral conventions. However, I consider it a bit arrogant and naïve of her to call her philosophy moral objectivism. It is not moral objectivism in the true sense, because it is not objective, you may go with the name, but by her own definition, a more appropriate title would be “rational morality” or “moral rationalism”. Though people would even dispute that, on the count of rationality. I don’t have enough sympathy for the philosophy to even defend that label though.

Even if there is a God, and has ordered a certain set of morality, there is no reason for humans to accept it. God’s opinion is just an opinion and humans may find no reason to find it superior to theirs. And since humans have enough intelligence to reason for themselves, they do not need to follow the opinion of an alien entity, even when enslaved.

Somebody asked me that if there were no objective morality, would it allow people to rape babies. This question has nothing to do with the idea that there is no such thing as objective morality, because this tells more about the person committing the act. While a lot of people may commit the act considering it something wrong, while going on with it, while others would not consider it immoral at all, even if it kills the baby. Take righteous and honor killing for an example. An apparently very wrong act committed for very moral and noble reasons.

There can possibly be a moral system in which even eating the babies would not be considered wrong. On the lighter note, it actually calls to mind Jonathan Swift‘s satire “A Modest Proposal“. But consider someone actually following the outrageous idea for moral reasons

So there is only one explanation of subjective morality systems around the world. Humans came up with it themselves and almost all of them have some sort of contradiction at some point.


Answer to Quora Question: If there is no God, then how can there ever be any sort of objective system of morality?


2 Responses

  1. Isn’t the problem more that there is a universal mostly similar moral codein all people. Some civilisation may have at various times made exceptions to them but for example no society that I have read about (and I don’t claim to have read about that many) would condone completely arbitrary rape or murder. They might under certain circumstances permit is but as a rule it’s not allowed. If so then the question is where does that come from and why is it every where. I personally don’t find self interest a great basis for that. Because self interest in various forms is usually the thing outlawed by the code

  2. >In my opinion, there is no such thing as an objective system of morality

    But in that case the only ground you have to judge other people is your intuition. Subjective morality means there is no common ground for moral consensus, in other words might makes right. Although it may seems to be the case, reality is that people still prefer discussions and agreement to simply using force. Therefore, intuition also tells us that there is a ground for moral consensus, we have to search for it.

    The objective common ground for moral concensus is freedom. That is the essence of being human. Morality is impossible without freedom. Freedom is an objective property of reality just like determinism but determinism (ie following own instincts or external forces) has obviously nothing to do with morality. If you are interested in this topic, there is a book “Cult of Freedom & Ethics of Public Sphere” describing the objective moral system. It is available at http://ethical-liberty.com. Thanks.

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