Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

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?

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

Lisa x

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Fandango is a great one for poking the old grey matter at the best of times but now he has moved on to things provocative as well and he’s posing the question: 

“What do you think is more useful: intelligence or wisdom, and why do you feel that way?”

Fandango is a great one for poking the old grey matter at the best of times but now he has moved on to things provocative as well and he’s posing the question:

“What do you think is more useful: intelligence or wisdom, and why do you feel that way?”

I’ve actually been thinking about this since I came across it yesterday which could possibly indicate that I have neither wisdom nor intelligence but I’ll attempt to answer anyway. For me, intelligence is something that, to a degree, you are born with whereas wisdom is something that you learn.

If a child is born to intelligent parents then it is more than likely that a level of intelligence will be encoded into his DNA. However, possibly more importantly, his parents are likely to understand the importance of education, developing social skills, being well read, appreciation for the arts etc. etc. Therefore, he will develop into, what society perceives as, an intelligent adult.

osho-quotes-understandOn the other hand, I think it highly unlikely that a child could be born ‘wise’. I think that this is something that is developed over time through experience. As we get older, we get a more philosophical approach to life, we attribute far less importance to things which are, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant and we generally have better control of our emotions. Our experiences, if we manage to extract something useful and positive from them, will give us the ability to advise others clearly and simply and without judgement; I suppose that this could be called wisdom?

So, after all that, which is the most useful?

For me it has to be wisdom. In my experience, intelligence can be gratifying but it often results in overthinking and over analyzing. For example, someone of very limited intelligence may be able to think of only one solution to a problem and will simply decide if it’s good or not and act upon it. However,  someone who’s extremely intelligent will spend hours and hours analyzing the problem, looking at it from all angles, playing out possible scenarios in their mind; essentially picking the problem apart before finding a solution………

That is, unless they have the wisdom to realise that it’s far more productive to spend 5 minutes thinking about the problem and the rest of the time working on a solution..

True wisdomSomeone who is intelligent will have the capability to discuss most subjects, often with great insight. They will make excellent company for someone with a like mind and will take pleasure in spending their time with people that they find intellectually stimulating. Someone who is wise will realise that they can learn an awful lot more from listening to others regardless of their intellectual capabilities; listening to and trying to understand our fellow man brings with it compassion…..

Above all that I think that wisdom, far more so than intelligence, will lead us to peace, for the individual as well as for the human race as a whole. It may take intelligence to develop machines to make life easier, to discover plots against a Nation, to build great cities, to use the natural resources available to us to make us more comfortable or more secure but it takes wisdom to know that, in the course of doing all this, we are losing our compassion for our fellow man and destroying our planet….

Lisa x