What about morality, good and evil?
Take Your Compass #4 Worldview Basics Part 4
Take Your Compass #4 - What about morality, good and evil?
In Compass #1, we looked at the definition of a Worldview, and what the minimal requirements are. In Compass #2, we looked at the most basic questions of life that a Worldview should ask. In Compass #3, we looked at the meaning of truth. Today we are going to look at the meaning morality, and good and evil. This is going to be in two parts, and will be continued into next week.
For my purpose today I need to clearly define my terms. If you go to a modern dictionary for the definition of “morality,” you are going to get a broad, fuzzy definition, such as:
“a doctrine or system of moral conduct” - Miriam-Webster
“a set of personal or social standards for good or bad behavior and character” - Cambridge Dictionary
If you go to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and read their 12,000+ word “definition,” you will leave with no definition at all!
The words morality, moral, and morals, can be used and often are used to describe the acts and behaviors that are acceptable or unacceptable in various times and places. That is not the issue here. The issue here is what is truly right and what is truly wrong? It is not about what is accepted or “what is,” but rather “what ought” to be? The definition of morality in view here is: Morality is what justifies our understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Morality is the thing that tells us what ought to be.
Morality: The thing that tells you what is right, what is wrong, and what ought to be.
Keep in mind going forward morality = Right, wrong, what ought to be, and how do we know?
I argue, conclusively I believe, that morality is, and must be, objective. Much of the world has been captured by the notion of subjective morality so I will need to define that as well.
Subjective Morality: Subjective means “to the subject” and not “to the object.” My favorite ice cream is Rum-Raisin. I am the subject. Rum-Raisin is the object, and it’s the best! The choice here is in the subject, it’s my preference, and it is not in the object so it does not apply to other people. In the same way, subjective morality only applies to the subject. By its very nature subjective morality changes and differs according to the subject and cannot be universal and absolute (applicable to all persons, in all places, and at all times). Subjective morality is relative.
Objective Morality: Objective is the opposite of above. Objective morality is unchanging. It is fixed to the source object. Right and wrong are unchanging, and not determined by individuals, or the culture, or anything subjective. Objective morality is universal and absolute (applicable to all persons, in all places, and at all times).
In small matters and issues the difference between subjective and objective morality may be trivial. As the matters and issues get bigger however, the difference is significant. Take issues such as slavery, child abuse, genocide, molestation, murder, rape, etc… are these things subjectively, relatively wrong, or are they objectively, absolutely wrong?
If you say morality is subjective, you CANNOT say that these things are absolutely wrong. You can believe they are absolutely wrong, most rational people do, but you have no basis to say so. The only way you can say that they are absolutely wrong is by appealing to, or assuming, a non-subjective (objective) moral truth.
Yes, I know there are people, many people, who will read what I have written above and shake their heads, and shake their fists, and say: “NO! Silly man! We can draw morality from: <insert your choice- evolution, pragmatism, social groups, family, culture, personal decisions, circumstances, psychology, magic beans, swamp gas, etc, etc, etc... >. We do not need your objective morality. We do not want your objective morality! Morality is subjective!”
And to which I would say, is your claim objective or subjective? If it’s subjective, then it’s relative, changeable, not absolute, and I am free to dismiss it. If it’s objective, then the statement defeats itself. It is a logical non-sequitur, and I am free to dismiss it.
Moral claims are truth claims. This cannot be detoured around.
If objective morality exists, as opposed to mere personal preferences and subjective judgments, then what is the source of that moral law? A moral law presumes there is a moral lawgiver. This law giver is God. He is the source and foundation of right and wrong. His own character determines moral absolutes. Since God is a perfect being, his moral perfections are what lie behind all true morality. The object of objective morality is God.
Next week, Morality Continued.
Thank you for reading!
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” - C.S. Lewis
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