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Objective Morality

What could be better to relaunch our new blog than a picture of my favourite socks? “Socks!?’, I hear you cry. But these are no ordinary socks. They are Soc. Soc. Socks, presented to me after not so long ago I was invited to participate in a debate at the Socratic Society in Oxford on ‘objective morality’.

The Society’s meetings are held throughout term at Wycliffe Hall, and attended by many students, a good number of whom take part in the lively discussions on various philosophical topics. Before the debate in which I participated, I was interviewed by the well-known YouTuber, Alex O’Connor (@CosmicSkeptic).

Alex asked me some excellent questions, and I tried to explain how morality (like law) is not ‘objective’, or independent of human practice, but a means for guiding human behaviour. The mere fact that morality, or the law, tells you to do something (such as to avoid work on Sundays) does not in itself give you a reason to do it. But this is not to say that we do not have objective reasons, such as not to cause pointless suffering to ourselves or others.

There are many advantages in removing the idea of morality from discussions of how we should act, some of which I have explained in previous blogs (‘Demoralizing’, 14.2.23); (‘More Demoralizing’, 7.10.23). Last year, there was also a special issue of Ethical Theory and Moral Practice on the topic.

I hope you enjoy the interview, and our new blog. And if you have the chance, do attend a meeting of the Socratic Society, where you can even buy your own pair of socks.

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2 Comment on this post

  1. On the nature of objective morality, ‘objective’ being defined as demonstrated to be from a source not of human intellectual origin!
    For example:
    “this new teaching is predicated upon the ‘Promise’ [the Word] made by God, for a precise, predefined, predictable and repeatable experience of transcendent power, in which the reality of God responds directly to an act of ‘perfect faith’ with a direct, individual intervention into the natural world, ‘raising’ up within a man a newly Enlightened heart infused with a new Holy spirit, realigning his moral compass by correcting human nature with a change in natural law and strengthened will, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries.”

    “Thus freed from the ‘natural inclinations’ and corruptions of toxic concupiscence that natural law is heir to, man is created in the image and likeness of his Creator. This direct, personal experience of Divine transcendence and moral purpose is known as the first Resurrection, the allegorical Sign of Jonah and is the justification of faith. By this act of new creation, a man is reborn, his Imago Dei restored; to flourish on a perfectly objective foundation of divine wisdom, moral principle and righteousness where true virtue and the good Life begins.”

  2. This topic is a fine discussion point and although I myself have not yet listened to the debate feel there is potential in further raising the issue, which from at least one perspective seems to have been challenged by the response Robert documented on 6 March.
    Applying objective and subjective across generic subjects is possibly helpful, and does illuminate many of the directing influences towards the possible divergent outcomes. The following example uses intelligence, rather than morality, to achieve that, so as to allow the inclusion of both faith and science based subject areas within the applied considerations.
    While so ever intelligence is sought as an objective to be achieved, directed actions occur to achieve the obective.
    Whenever it is considered any objective has been achieved that objective can be, and often is then subjectivised. With intelligence it is most often subjectivised to the human being or and humanity. That subjectivisation of a material objective appears to be a human weakness, as people relax into what has been demonstrably achieved. (Do not mistakenly apply the subjectivisation of knowledge itself in this.)

    It is interesting to consider where a process of that type (subjectivisation of objectives) is regularly avoided by the setting of new objectives and what the benefits are. (The benefits associated with the subjectivisation have historically become quite obvious.)

    No consideration of removing the idea of morality is included within this, as a purely ethical route of human behaviour even when considering in a subjectivised sense, appears to singularly contain more dangers. Perhaps considerations like that provide a type of link between the science of a subjectivised ethics and an ‘objectivised’ morality/ies.

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