What Is Objective Morality And What Can It Teach Us?

Updated November 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Content/Trigger Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include sexual assault & violence which could potentially be triggering.

Our morality makes us, as humans, unique. We usually have beliefs and principles we try to uphold, and those beliefs can say a lot about us. We do not want to murder, steal, lie, and so on. There can be many reasons why we follow our morals, from religious beliefs, upbringing, societal expectations, and even our legal system.

Therapy Can Help You Grasp The Topic Of Morality

There has been a debate as to how morality came to be. In this post, we will discuss objective morality, the arguments for it, and the arguments against it.

What Is Morality?

There are many philosophical interpretations of morality, but to phrase it simply, morality is our belief about what is wrong and what is right when it comes to our behavior. Morality can come from our religion, philosophy, or laws. Sometimes, morality is black and white, meaning the behavior is either seen as fully “good” or fully “bad.” Other times, morality may be grayer. For example, lying isn't often seen as a good moral action, but there may be some instances where lying will cause the least harm, and therefore be more morally just.

What Is Objective Morality?

Objective morality, in the simplest terms, is the belief that morality is universal, meaning that it isn't up for interpretation. Some people may think of objective morality as religious commandments, while other people may think the universe has some objective rules we may follow independent of our religious beliefs. There are certainly some arguments for objective morality to be had.

Objective morality says that morality exists in nature—it's how we were programmed, and it exists independently of culture or upbringing.

What Is Subjective Morality?

Subjective morality says that our morals are all human-made and can vary from person to person. Subjective morality would argue that there is not a universal idea of what is “good” and what is “bad,” but instead what you may consider morally correct will depend on your family, culture, and the circumstance. According to the idea of subjective morality, each person has their own individual moral system.

Arguments For Objective Morality

Here are some arguments for objective morality.

The Religious Argument

One who believes in religion may believe that our morals come from God or the gods, and because god-figures cannot change or be questioned, this means that the morals they put forward are considered objective. Religious people may point to their religious texts as the blueprint for moral human behavior.

Action and Consequence

There are secular arguments for objective morality as well. Proponents believe that there are many universal laws that make some morals objective. Universal, non-religious morality may argue that anything that hurts another without reason is counterproductive to peaceful societal existence, and thus objectively amoral.

Who Decides What Moral System Is Right?

If someone has a moral code that says murder and stealing are acceptable, who's to say they are wrong? The belief is that there should be something or someone to govern what is right or wrong, otherwise people could bend and change their moral code depending on whatever capricious whim they feel at any given moment.

Arguments Against Objective Morality

There are quite a few arguments against objective morality, and these include the following.

Our Morality Can Evolve with Time

One argument against objective morality deals with the fact that what we consider to be moral and immoral may change with time and can depend on where you live. Different countries and faiths can have different morals. There may be some similarities that tend to come from empathy, which is a trait we've evolved with, but in other circumstances, such as in a war, both sides may believe they are entirely morally justified while believing the other side is morally evil.

There are many moral beliefs that have changed over time. Once, car seats for kids and seat belts were not required. Now, a parent could be criticized for their moral character for failing to put their child in a car seat. Morals can even change quickly. Just ten years ago, the United States’ belief in gay marriage was quite different than what it is now.

Also, our laws change depending on morality. At one time, children could work certain jobs in the United States. Now, that is illegal. This is due to shifting attitudes and the questioning of long-held beliefs.

Because morality can change, this makes some believe that morality is subjective.

Objective Morality May Only Cover Human Beliefs

If a mother bird has a sick baby, and she pushes that baby out of the nest so that she does not have to feed it, would that be considered an immoral bird?

If a human did the same thing, it would likely be considered reprehensible. Some argue that if there were objective morality, then we could apply it universally to all life. But as it stands, there is much moral inconsistency on our earth.

What Is “Moral” Can Bend

Even the most commonly held moral beliefs can falter under certain circumstances. For example, perhaps you live in a society that thinks murder is morally wrong. But maybe that same society makes exceptions for self-defense, for war time, or for other situations.

Another example would be stealing. One could say that stealing is objectively morally wrong, but that same person may feel differently if someone were stealing food to feed their children, or if instead of stealing food they were illegally downloading a song, book, or movie for free.

These circumstances show that sometimes, even the moral absolutes may change depending on the situation.

Religious Texts Can Be Subjective

Sometimes proponents of objective morality point to their religious beliefs or religious texts. 

Therapy Can Help You Grasp The Topic Of Morality

Navigating Morality With BetterHelp

Recent research has shown that internet-based therapy is effective in treating anxiety and other mental health issues stemming from struggles over morality.

One such study evaluated the effects of computer-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on those experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders. In the study, researchers cited significant improvement in participants who received CBT through online platforms, which was maintained at a follow-up 26 weeks later.

If you have a moral code that you want to uphold, or if you are questioning morals that you were taught, talking to a therapist can help you navigate the complexities of this topic. 

Read below for reviews of BetterHelp counselors, from those who have sought help for similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

"I have come a long way. With the help of Alexis, I have accomplished things I thought I'd never do. I am glad I did this; it has benefited me so much. With the guidance and encouragement of Alexis, I am more confident in myself and I see a clear path to success and happiness. I have learned to control myself and not doubt myself. It is hard to let go but I know I will be fine and if I need she will still be here for me. Thank you Alexis you have truly helped me change my life. I am so grateful. I wish you the best!"

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Takeaway

The concept of objective morality can be quite intriguing. Is it limited to only the religious? Are there certain morals that are objective? We may take a lot of our morals and laws for granted, and we sometimes don't exactly think about their origins, or their debatability.

If you have a moral code that you want to uphold, or you’re struggling to answer your own questions about morality, talking to a licensed therapist can help. A therapist can help you create meaning in your own life, so that you can think about what is important to you personally and uphold those beliefs with your actions.

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