What Is Objective Morality & What Can It Teach Us?

Updated November 28, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Wendy Boring-Bray, DBH, LPC

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

Morality guides the way we live-but if you're not certain of your morality, you're not alone. It's important to explore your personal beliefs and how they're reflected in the way you live. If you're looking for guidance with your own morality, a therapist can be a helpful resource who can also help you with communication, relationships and friendships, and even quality of sleep.

Morality is one of many reasons why humans are unique. We have beliefs and principles we try to uphold, and this can say a lot about us. Our morals may vary from person to person, but most of us all share similar morals. We don't want to murder, steal, lie, and so on. There may be many reasons for why we follow our morals, from our belief in God to the golden rule, which says to treat others the way you want be treated.

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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 let's keep it simple. 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 fully good or fully bad. Religious morality tends to think this way. Other times, morality may be more gray. Lying isn't a good moral action, but there may be some instances where lying will cause the least harm, and therefore be more 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 commandments from God, while other people may think the universe has some objective rules we may follow. There are certainly some arguments for objective morality to be had. Religious people will define objective morality according to the commandments of their god(s). Other people may look at some universal laws, such as murder, as inherently bad.

Objective morality says that morality exists in nature—it's how we were programmed.

What Is Subjective Morality?

The opposite of objective morality is subjective morality. Subjective morality says that our morals are all human-made, and can vary from person to person. While there are strong morals shared by most of humanity, such as killing, many morals are subjective as to whether or not they are correct.

Arguments for Objective Morality

Here are some arguments for objective morality.

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The Religious Argument

One who believes in God believes that our morals come from God, and because God cannot change or be questioned, this means that His morals are objective. While there are many interpretations of religious texts, as well as many religions, religious people tend to point out universal laws God has made, such as the Ten Commandments.

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, such as murder. Killing someone in cold blood, and not because of self-defense, is not morally justified. It ends a person's life, hurts their family, and makes you the monster. Proponents of objective morality believe this to be the case.

Who Decides What Moral Is Right?

If someone has a moral code that says murder and stealing are okay, who's to say they are wrong? The belief is that there has to be something or someone to govern what is right or wrong.

Arguments Against Objective Morality

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

Our Morality Always Evolves

One argument against objective morality deals with the fact that what we consider to be moral and immoral seems to change with time, and depends on where you live. Different countries and faiths will have different morals. There may be some similarities, such as viewing murder and stealing as harmful, but these morals tend to come from empathy, which is a trait we've evolved with.

There are many beliefs that have changed over time. Once, it was believed that slavery was moral. Now, slavery is seen as reprehensible. 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. Recently, many would say it was immoral to smoke marijuana. Now, our laws are changing to make marijuana more legal. This is due to shifting attitudes and the questioning of beliefs.

Because morality always changes, this makes people believe that morality is subjective.

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Objective Morality Only Covers Human Beliefs

In the end, humans are one species. While many religions believe that we are the only intelligent species, and that our creator was focused on us and our actions, someone who is more secular may point to the fact that there may be other intelligent life out there. What we believe to be objectively true may not be in some other galaxy—if you believe there is intelligent life out there.

Even without the aliens, animals have different morals as well. Some animals eat their own as a part of their life cycle. Almost all of us are disgusted over the idea of cannibalism. This is a moral inconsistency found on this earth.

What Is “Moral” Can Bend

Let's look at murder again. In our society, murder is bad. However, there are cases where society says murder is okay. For example, in wartime. Now, you may think that shooting the enemy is not murder, as you're defending yourself. However, plenty of wars have involved innocent civilians getting caught in the crossfire, and there has rarely been punishment for that.

Let's talk about stealing. This is universally seen as a bad thing to do. However, there are different situations where stealing may be viewed less critically. Digital piracy has created quite a heated debate as to whether or not it's stealing.Sometimes, even the moral absolutes may change depending on the situation.

The Opinion From a God Can Be Subjective

Those who say that morality is objective will turn to their god. Let's assume for a moment that the god of their religion is real. What makes his morality objective? Because he is God? This appears to be an argument based on authority, and it raises a few questions. Is a God-given law moral because it's from God, or because God makes us do it?

Let's not forget that there are many interpretations of God and his morals. Even in the Bible, some may ignore some morals and enforce others. It all depends on who is practicing the religion and what they believe.

What We Can Learn from This

The concept of objective morality is quite interesting. Is it limited to only the religious? Are there certain morals that are objective? As you study objective morality and subjective morality, it does make you think quite a bit. We take a lot of our morals and laws for granted, and we don't exactly think about their origins, or that sometimes, a moral can be debated. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle, where there are some morals that don't change, and some that do.

This is what makes it so fascinating to be a human. What we find moral and immoral can differ, and it's interesting to read about the many different interpretations one can have of what is moral and what is immoral.

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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. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a widely accepted method of managing anxiety, combining therapy sessions with therapist-guided assignments and lessons, and access to other relevant resources. 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.

As we mentioned above, online therapy platforms offer valuable resources for those dealing with morality concerns. If you have a moral code that you want to uphold, talking to a therapist can help you keep your actions in check. And with BetterHelp, you can do so from the privacy of your home or office (or anywhere else with wifi). 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!"

"In the short span of 9 months, Shonnie has become like one of my best friends. At first, I was skeptical of doing therapy since I'm very "psychologically healthy". A few challenges in my personal life lead me to try therapy for a month. Now I consider it an important part of my growth as a businessman and leader within my community. Thank you Shonnie for being so helpful during the recent difficulties; I am very lucky to have found you!"

Conclusion

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 your morals and behaviors align.


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