Our morals can guide our lives and determine what we believe is right and wrong. However, if you're unsure of your morals, you're not alone. Try to explore your personal beliefs and how they reflect in your actions. A therapist can be a helpful resource if you're looking for guidance with your morality.
Morality is a unique feature of humanity, and philosophers have long argued about its nature. Humans often carry beliefs and principles we try to uphold, which may tell others who we are or what we value. Morals may vary from person to person, but most humans have some shared moral values, such as not murdering, assaulting, or harming others.
There may be many reasons why we follow our morals, from a belief in a religion to societal rules, like treating others the way we want to be treated. Differences in moral systems exist, such as master morality and slavery morality. Among these, objective morality is a subject of debate, with proponents of moral objectivism claiming that objective moral values exist, while others challenge this notion of objectivity.
What Is Morality?
There may be various philosophical interpretations of morality. However, morality is often a belief about what is objectively wrong and right regarding our behavior, beliefs, and words. Morality may come from our beliefs in religion, culture, philosophy, politics, education, laws, or other areas of life.
Morality may sometimes feel "black and white," meaning you believe a behavior or custom is entirely negative or positive. Religious or cultural morality may focus on this type of thinking. Other times, morality may be grayer, as the circumstance can matter in deciding the right course of action. For instance, lying isn't often considered a moral action. However, there could be instances where lying would cause the least harm and may feel just. This illustrates the complex nature of morality in our world, as people may need to decide based on the specific context.
What Is Objective Morality?
Objective morality is the belief that morality is universal and not up for interpretation, suggesting that objective morality exists independently of individual perspectives. Some individuals may think of objective morality when they study commandments in their religion, while others may believe the universe has objective rules to follow, such as universal kindness.
There are specific arguments against the existence of objective morality, as well. For example, not everyone will follow the same rules according to their religion, culture, or upbringing. What is "extremely bad" to one person may be okay to another. However, proponents of the idea that morality is objective maintain that morality exists in nature and is ingrained in humans, making sense regardless of cultural or personal differences.
What Is Subjective Morality?
The opposite of objective morality is subjective morality. Subjective morality says morals are human-made and can vary from person to person. While there are strong morals in many humans, such as rules against harming others, many morals are subjective, such as making eye contact to show trustworthiness.
Arguments For Objective Morality
There are a few arguments that favor objective morality, including the following.
A Religious Argument
Many religions have rules to follow, such as commandments in Judaism or Christianity. Additionally, those who follow a religion may believe that only those who practice the moral behaviors outlined in their religious texts act morally, linking morality with happiness.
For example, a religious document might propose that individuals must dress a certain way due to gender. Although this can be a personal and intimate choice, some religious leaders or communities may disregard those who do not partake or state that they are not moral. This subject of morality and its connection to religion is complex, and while science may help us understand some aspects, it cannot prove or disprove the moral perspectives rooted in religious beliefs.
Action And Consequence
Some individuals believe that there are universal laws that make morals objective. For example, the case of murder could be considered a universal law. They may state that all cases of murder are immoral. Murder may have dire consequences for all individuals involved, and justice systems often hold up these moral rules. Proponents of objective morality may believe this to be the case for all morals.
Who Decides What Constitutes Morality?
If someone has a moral code that says certain behaviors are justified, who says they are wrong? Often, humanity relies on a government, leading institution, or society as a whole to set moral rules. Some rules may have been around for centuries.
Arguments Against Objective Morality
There are several arguments against objective morality, including the following.
Our Morality May Continuously Evolve
However, these morals often stem from empathy, a common human trait.
Many beliefs have changed over time. For example, it was once believed that interracial marriage was immoral. However, it is now more widely accepted in many cultures. Morals might also change quickly. Research shows that in 2016, 55% of people supported gay marriage, while in 2019, 61% supported it.
Laws may also change depending on morality. For a while, marijuana use was illegal in the US. As of November 2022, 21 states have legalized the non-medical use of the substance. Because morality could change depending on public law or belief, morality may be subjective.
Objective Morality Only Covers Human Beliefs
Humans are one species on the planet. While many people may believe we are the only intelligent species, others may believe that animals are also intelligent beings. Others may believe there are aliens or other intelligent life in the universe. What humans believe to be true may not be accurate for another civilization in space.
A recent study shows that non-human animals also have morality. For example, monkeys may raise the young of other monkeys if the parent of a baby has died. Additionally, swans and other birds may mate for life, never betraying their partner. These are examples of morals that humans may have in common with animals. However, infidelity does occur in human relationships.
What Is "Moral" Can Bend
Society may label "forgiveness" a 100% positive moral behavior. However, in cases where someone has deeply wronged us, we may not forgive them or wish to do so. Morality can bend in this case, and forgiveness might not be the right step for everyone.
Additionally, stealing may be seen as a morally corrupt action. However, there are often situations where stealing could be viewed as less severe than others. For instance, one person may view stealing from a store as corrupt. However, another individual may believe that stealing from an individual is worse than stealing from a corporation with large amounts of money. This subjectivity is often a personal opinion.
Religious Morality Can Be Subjective
Not everyone who practices religion or believes in a higher power believes in the same moral principles and code. For example, morality can differ from Christianity to Islam. Additionally, some individuals do not believe in religion at all and do not choose to follow a moral code from a religious text or organization.
There can be multiple interpretations of a religious text, as well. One sect of religion may believe different things than another. For example, there are different branches of Christianity and Judaism.
What Can You Learn From Objective Morality?
The concept of objective morality may bring up a lot of questions. Is it limited to only the religious? Are there certain morals that are subjective? As you study objective and subjective morality, you may consider multiple possibilities.
The idea of objective or subjective morality may not allow all possibilities. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere in the middle, where some morals don't change, and some do.
Being human and learning about culture, philosophy, ethics, and psychology can be fascinating. What you find moral and immoral may differ from someone else, and connecting with others may depend on how moral you believe they are. However, at the end of the day, we are all human.
Navigating Morality With A Therapist
At times, questions of morality may feel overwhelming or confusing. Perhaps you're unsure of your morals or want to learn more about what it means to you to be a positive person. If you want to utilize an easy-to-use therapeutic model, you might consider meeting with an online therapist after your morality studies.
Recent research has shown that internet-based therapy is effective in treating anxiety and other mental health issues stemming from struggles over morality. Additionally, online therapy can be done from any location with an internet connection, including on the go.
Another study evaluated the effects of computer-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on those experiencing symptoms of anxiety disorders. CBT is a widely accepted method of managing anxiety, involving therapist-guided assignments, lessons, and 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.
Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp can offer valuable resources for those dealing with morality concerns. If you have a moral code you want to uphold, talking to a therapist can help keep your actions in check.
What is an example of objective morality?
Objective morality refers to the belief that moral principles and values are universally true and exist independently of individual opinions or cultural norms. In this view, the way a person acts, or the actions that they take, are deemed right or wrong regardless of personal beliefs or societal context. An example of objective morality is the prohibition against causing intentional harm to innocent individuals.
For instance, the idea that intentionally taking the life of an innocent person is morally wrong is often considered an objective moral principle. This principle is not dependent on cultural differences, personal preferences, or subjective interpretations. Instead, it is based on the belief that human life has inherent value and that intentionally ending an innocent life contradicts this value. This example illustrates how objective morality asserts that certain moral standards are universally applicable and binding, regardless of individual beliefs or cultural variations.
What is subjective and objective morality?
Subjective morality and objective morality are two contrasting perspectives on the nature of moral principles and values:
Subjective morality is the belief that moral principles and values are dependent on individual opinions, personal beliefs, cultural norms, and societal contexts. In this view, what is considered right or wrong can vary from person to person and culture to culture. Moral judgments are influenced by personal feelings, experiences, upbringing, and societal influences. For those who adhere to subjective morality, there may not be universally applicable moral truths; instead, moral judgments are determined by the individual's perspective.
Objective morality holds that correct moral principles and values are universal and independent of individual opinions, cultural differences, or subjective interpretations. This perspective asserts that certain actions are inherently right or wrong, regardless of personal beliefs or societal norms. Objective morality often appeals to the existence of a higher moral law, a transcendent source of morality, or the belief that certain moral truths are self-evident and apply to all human beings. Adherents of objective morality argue that moral standards are not subject to personal whims or cultural changes but are grounded in an external and unchanging moral framework.
What is moral objectivism in philosophy?
Moral objectivism, also known as ethical objectivism, is a philosophical stance that asserts the existence of objective and universal moral truths that are independent of individual opinions, cultural norms, or societal conventions. In other words, moral objectivism holds that certain actions are intrinsically right or wrong, regardless of personal beliefs or cultural differences.
Key features that help to define moral objectivism include:
- Universal Moral Principles: Moral objectivism posits that there are fundamental moral principles that apply universally to all individuals, cultures, and societies. These principles are not subject to personal preferences or cultural variations.
- Objective Moral Facts: According to moral objectivism, there are objective moral facts that exist independently of human beliefs. These facts are grounded in a transcendent moral reality or a higher moral law.
- Moral Realism: Moral objectivism is often associated with moral realism, which asserts that moral truths are as real and objective as truths in other domains, such as mathematics or science.
- Categorical Imperatives: Moral objectivism often involves the idea of categorical imperatives—moral commands that are binding regardless of one's desires or interests. These imperatives apply universally and unconditionally.
- Ethical Absolutism: Moral objectivism can lead to ethical absolutism, where certain actions are deemed morally wrong under all circumstances, regardless of the context or consequences.
Moral objectivism is an important topic of discussion in philosophy, and there are various debates about the nature of moral truths, their source, and their applicability. Philosophers who advocate for moral objectivism seek to establish a foundation for moral principles that transcends individual subjectivity and cultural relativism.
What is the objective morality in the Bible?
In the Bible, objective morality is grounded in the belief that moral principles and values are established by God and are unchanging. These principles are seen as universal truths that apply to all human beings and guide their conduct. The Bible presents a framework of objective morality that is based on God's character and His revealed will. Here are some key aspects of objective morality in the Bible:
- God's Commands: The Bible presents God as the ultimate moral authority who sets forth moral commandments for humanity. These commandments, such as the Ten Commandments, provide clear guidelines for ethical behavior that are considered objective and universal.
- Divine Nature: The moral principles presented in the Bible are often rooted in God's nature. For example, the Bible teaches that God is love, just, merciful, and holy. These attributes shape the moral standards that God expects humans to follow.
- Absolute Standards: The Bible portrays certain actions as intrinsically right or wrong, regardless of circumstances. For instance, commands such as "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31) and "Thou shalt not murder" (Exodus 20:13) emphasize moral duties that are not subject to personal interpretations or cultural shifts.
- Unchanging Truths: The Bible teaches that God's moral standards are unchanging and eternal. As stated in Psalm 119:89, "Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens." This perspective supports the idea of objective moral truths that are not contingent on human opinions.
- Moral Parables and Teachings: Throughout the Bible, Jesus Christ's teachings and parables emphasize ethical principles and values that guide human behavior. These teachings are often presented as objective truths that align with God's character.
- Ultimate Judgment: The Bible teaches that God will judge humanity based on their actions and moral choices. This belief reinforces the concept of objective morality, where individuals are held accountable for their adherence to God's moral standards.
Objective morality in the Bible is based on the belief that moral principles are established by God, rooted in His character, and apply universally to all people. For Christians, the Bible provides a foundation for understanding right and wrong behavior and emphasizes the importance of aligning one's life with God's moral standards.
Is there objective morality without God?
The question of whether objective morality can exist without the belief in a divine source, such as God, is a topic of philosophical debate. Different philosophical perspectives offer varying viewpoints on this matter. Some argue that objective morality can exist independently of a divine being, while others contend that a transcendent source is necessary to ground moral principles. Here are a few viewpoints:
- Secular Moral Realism: Some secular moral realists argue that objective moral values and duties can exist without invoking a divine source. They propose that moral truths are grounded in objective facts about human well-being, rationality, and the nature of ethical principles. From this perspective, morality is a natural aspect of the world that can be discovered through reason and evidence, without the need for a supernatural foundation.
- Divine Command Theory: This theory asserts that moral values and duties are dependent on God's commands. According to this view, objective morality requires a divine source to establish and ground moral principles. Without God, there would be no ultimate moral authority to determine what is right or wrong.
- Platonism and Moral Realism: Some secular philosophers draw on Platonic ideas of an abstract object or form to argue for the existence of objective moral truths. They contend that moral values and duties exist as abstract entities, regardless of the existence of a divine being.
- Constructivist Approaches: Certain philosophical theories, like moral constructivism, propose that objective morality arises through human rational deliberation and social agreement. In this view, morality is not dependent on a divine source but is a product of human reason and shared values.
The debate over objective morality without God is complex and involves considerations of metaphysics, ethics, and the nature of reality. Different philosophical perspectives provide differing explanations for the existence and grounding of moral principles. Whether objective morality can exist without God depends on one's philosophical beliefs and assumptions about the nature of ethics and the universe.
What is the difference between absolute and objective morality?
Absolute morality and objective morality are related concepts in ethical philosophy, but they have distinct nuances in their meanings.
Absolute morality refers to the belief that certain moral principles are universally binding and unchanging, regardless of circumstances or context. In this view, certain actions are inherently right or wrong, and these moral judgments hold true without exceptions. Absolute morality often implies that moral rules are rigid and apply universally to all situations, regardless of potential consequences or variations in cultural norms. For example, the prohibition against intentionally causing harm to innocent individuals is considered an absolute moral principle because it is deemed wrong under all circumstances.
Objective morality, on the other hand, posits that moral principles exist independently of individual opinions and cultural norms, but it allows for the consideration of context and consequences. Objective morality holds that certain actions are intrinsically right or wrong, but it acknowledges that the application of these principles may vary based on factors such as cultural context and potential outcomes. Objective morality suggests that there is moral truth and goodness that is grounded in a transcendent source or objective reality, and these truths guide ethical decisions. For instance, lying is generally considered morally wrong according to objective morality, but in some situations (such as protecting someone from harm), lying might be justified due to the greater ethical principle at play.
While both absolute and objective morality may have evolved from the idea of universal moral principles, absolute morality emphasizes the inflexible application of these principles in all situations, whereas objective morality acknowledges the existence of universal moral truths while allowing for some consideration of context and consequences.
What is the meaning of objective and subjective values?
Objective values and subjective values refer to two different ways of understanding and evaluating concepts such as ethics, aesthetics, and personal preferences:
Objective values are those that are considered to exist independently of individual opinions, feelings, or perceptions. These values are often seen as having an inherent and universal truth or standard that applies to all individuals and contexts. In the realm of ethics, objective values suggest that certain actions or principles are inherently right or wrong regardless of personal beliefs or cultural variations. Objective values are often grounded in a transcendent source, moral law, or natural order that provides a foundation for moral principles and maintaining social order. For example, the belief that human life has inherent value and should be protected is an objective value that underlies many ethical systems.
Subjective values, on the other hand, are those that are influenced by individual opinions, emotions, and personal experiences. These values are often considered to be relative and can vary from person to person based on their unique perspectives and preferences. In the realm of aesthetics, subjective values play a role in determining certain things that individuals find beautiful, appealing, or valuable based on their personal tastes. In ethical discussions, subjective values can lead to differing opinions on what is morally right or wrong, as they are influenced by cultural, societal, and individual factors.
What is the belief that there is no objective morality?
The belief that there is no objective morality is often referred to as moral relativism or ethical relativism. Moral relativism is the perspective that moral principles and values are not universally true and that they are instead dependent on individual opinions, cultural norms, societal context, or personal beliefs. In other words, what is considered morally right or wrong can vary from person to person, culture to culture, or situation to situation.
Critics of moral relativism argue that it can lead to the erosion of moral principles, create ethical inconsistencies, and make it difficult to address issues of justice and human rights. Supporters, however, see it as an acknowledgment of the complexities of moral diversity and a way to promote tolerance and understanding across cultures.
How is morality determined?
The determination of morality is a complex and debated topic in philosophy and ethics. Different philosophical perspectives offer various explanations for how morality is determined. Here are some key viewpoints:
- Divine Command Theory: This theory posits that morality is determined by the commands or will of a divine being, such as God. Actions are deemed moral if they align with God's commands and immoral if they go against them. These viewpoints may have originated in ancient times.
- Cultural Relativism: Cultural relativism suggests that morality is determined by the norms and values of a particular culture. What is considered morally acceptable or unacceptable can vary based on cultural context.
- Ethical Subjectivism: Ethical subjectivism holds that morality is determined by individual opinions and feelings. Actions are considered moral or immoral based on an individual's personal beliefs and emotions.
- Consequentialism: Consequentialist theories assert that the morality of an action is determined by its outcomes or consequences. Actions that lead to positive consequences are considered morally right, while those with negative outcomes are deemed morally wrong.
- Deontology: Deontological theories argue that morality is determined by following certain moral rules or principles, regardless of the consequences. Actions are evaluated based on their adherence to these rules.
- Virtue Ethics: Virtue ethics focuses on the development of virtuous character traits. Morality is determined by cultivating virtues such as courage, honesty, and compassion, which guide ethical behavior.
- Natural Law Theory: Natural law theory suggests that morality and moral codes are determined by the inherent nature of human beings and the natural order of the world. Actions that align with human nature are considered morally right.
- Contractualism: Contractualist theories propose that morality is determined by social agreements or contracts that individuals make to govern their behavior within a society.
The determination of human morality is a complex interplay of cultural, religious, philosophical, and individual factors. Different ethical theories offer distinct explanations for how moral principles and values are established and applied. Debates on this topic continue to shape our understanding of ethics and guide discussions about what is right or wrong.
- Previous Article
- Next Article