This is another one of Fandango’s Provocative Questions and, damn, it’s a good one! First things first, what is morality? According to Lord Google, it’s a set of principals which consider the difference between right and wrong……but according to whom? That’s where we run into our first problem with morality as a concept isn’t it?
If you’re a devout Christian for example you may believe that lust is immoral, it is listed as one of the seven deadly sins after all! However, if you’re a healthy teenage boy you’re going to be lusting after something or another every five minutes because your hormones, at that age, are in overdrive. Lust, or the desire for sex, is part of our make up as human beings (and how far would we get as a species without it I wonder) so is it something that we can judge as being either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’? I would say no. In fact I would go so far as to say that enforced celibacy is an unnatural state and, to my mind wrong but do I think that celibacy is ‘immoral’ – no.
Following that train of thought is the idea of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ really what we use to support our ideas of morality? Isn’t it more a case of there are certain things that we can accept and others that we can’t but then doesn’t that depend on the circumstances? For instance, most of us would consider it morally wrong to eat a dog BUT if we were absolutely starving and there was nothing else to eat would we put aside our moral principals in order to survive? We’d like to think that we’d never eat a dog under any circumstances but the reality is that we probably would if the alternative was death.
The two examples I’ve used here both concern subjective morality; they are things that we accept or not according to our own set of principals and according to the circumstances. Let’s face it then, subjective morality is going to be ever changing, it’s not something that we can readily use to write laws for instance.
However, objective morality could be used, in theory, to write laws because it concerns absolutes; something that is fundamentally right or wrong. A commonly used example would be murder. If you stopped 100 people in the street and asked them the question:
“Do you think murder is wrong”
it’s a pretty sure fire bet that 100/100 would say yes; this then could be a moral absolute.
However, what if you then asked someone to define murder, how many answers would you get then? Probably the most common would be something along the lines of
“The intentional taking of another life”
If you then asked a third question:
“Do you agree with the death penalty?”
How many would say yes? 25/100 maybe? Perhaps more? By their own definition, those people have just condoned murder despite it having been determined to be a moral absolute. However, they would then likely argue that the death penalty is different because it’s the State that carries it out…..but what about when they get it wrong is it still then morally right because it’s been State sanctioned? No! How can it be?
Opinions on what is right and wrong will always be divided based on social attitudes, religious beliefs, upbringing and a host of other things so what could humanity say, with one voice, is absolutely right or absolutely wrong?
For me, morality can only ever be subjective because our circumstances are ever changing and our opinions of what is acceptable or not will change accordingly. Nothing, in my opinion, can ever really be absolute.
I’d really love to know what you think so please let me know