I actually had to do a good bit of additional thinking about this subject to refine what I actually believe about it.
So in a previous post, I talked about “truth value” but there are other kinds of values that we place on things. There are actually 3 that are kind of important generic kinds of values that we place on things in my opinion. I’ve already covered “truth value” in the previous blog. This post will deal with “moral value” and then somewhere down the line I will tackle something I like to call a “satisfaction value” or maybe a “pleasure value.” It’s kind of a tricky thing, but the value we place on pleasure can actually usurp the value we place on truth and morals. It’s a very human thing and it’s a subjective value that fights our natural inclination towards truth and morals.
Anyways, onto moral value.
The nature of morality is pretty tricky, because we all live and behave as if there is some form of moral “ought-ness”, but the actual code of conduct, and the source or reason for that is widely debated. To get started, let’s just define what morality is.
Morality is basically a way of determining things that are “good” and things that are “bad.” Favorable or unfavorable. Beneficial or malevolent. It is a determination of a moral code on how we “ought to act.”
The tricky part is that the moral code is hard to define for everyone because everyone has their own idea of a moral code and their own idea of how they “ought” to act and how things “ought” to be done.
So a pretty big question needs to be asked right away:
Is morality absolute?
This is extremely important, and I will explain the question. If morality is absolute, that means that all people should adhere to the same code. We should all behave in a morally exact way that does not differentiate between people. For instance if two people have an argument over how to behave. There is a higher standard of measure to which we can judge their statements. It’s not “just an opinion.”
If it is not morally absolute, then what’s good for one person may not be good for another person.
What I will say about this right now is that we all behave and live in a society that exists as if morality is absolute. We live in a society that has laws punishing people for moral injunctions, and we all generally agree on these. Murder, rape, theft, etc are all pretty widely accepted as morally wrong. But not everything is like this. Some people believe drinking alcohol is morally wrong, and others do not.
So there are things that we can probably say are widely accepted as morally absolute, but there are also many, MANY issues on which we are vastly divided. So we have a dilemma.
We all behave as if there is a moral compass, and we all largely agree on the general direction the compass is pointing us, but we disagree on the exact bearing.
So, in my opinion that gives us a couple of options:
1. Morality is completely 100% absolute.
- In one case, humanity, in general, could be separated from the knowledge of all moral truth. We can only grasp some of it, and we kind of guess at the rest. We are morally flawed.
- In another case, perhaps humanity is pretty close to full knowledge of moral truth since we agree on the major moral truths (murder is wrong, rape is wrong, etc.), but we are trying to apply generic moral values to things that are morally neutral (such as drinking is bad, homosexuality is bad, etc.)
2. Morality is completely 100% subjective. In which case, we have just decided that it is beneficial as a societal tool to keep murders from happening, keep rape from happening, etc.
This is an important decision to make, so let’s hash it out a bit. Where does morality come from? Is it God? Is it just internal? Is it innate? Is it cultivated by society and upbringing? These are really good questions to be asking. To be honest, this is probably one of the most important questions in the world. I am not going to pretend to answer it because I also believe that the answer at this moment is far to complicated for this blogpost, and I wouldn’t pretend to be smart enough right now to know the answer.
BUT, I think you run into some real problems when you try to put forth the idea that morality is not absolute. In the same way that you can’t make a truth claim while claiming that truth is subjective, you can’t really make any moral judgements or claims to anyone else while claiming that morality is subjective. You can’t tell me that I’m behaving immorally if you don’t believe your morals are the same as my morals.
To give you an idea of what I mean, we can simply ask the question of “why?” Most people would agree that murder is wrong. Why is that? Well, you might say it’s because it is wrong to end the life of another person. We can again ask “why?” Why is it unfavorable for a person to die. Well, then you might say that life is valuable. Why is life valuable? and you can continue on and on and on, until you just eventually reach the conclusion that “it just is.” Morality just is. It exists. So in that sense, it seems to be absolute and distinct from our perceptions of it.
My thought on the matter currently is that morality is absolute (no matter the source), and that the reason for our moral ambiguity and diversity is that some of us try to apply moral qualities to things that are not morally relevant. I will make a post later about what that is, and what things constitute moral qualities, and why we shouldn’t try to apply moral qualities to things that are morally neutral later.
For now, I think the main point I wanted to bring to this blog is that we all ultimately subscribe to some form of “goodness” and I think that is important. Whether your idea of “good” and my idea of “good” line up perfectly isn’t necessary. It is simply enough at the moment that we all try to strive for the two most important tools in decision making – Truth and Good.
More on all this later.