FPQ # 3 – Morality – Objective or Subjective?


In response to Fandango’s Provocative Question # 3

Is morality objective or is it subjective? If you believe it’s objective, what is its source? If you believe it’s subjective, how do you know whose concept of morality is correct?”

OK, wow. I mean WOW. Now THAT’s provocative.

Easy answer: subjective and dunno.

Discussion: To me the question is more “is there such a thing as objective morality?” Since objective is generally accepted to mean not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts,” I have to wonder if objective morality is even possible. Accordingly, I’d say it’s subjective. Subjective to personal opinion and societal norms. Fandango explains this much better than I could read it here.

Now before I get everybody’s panties in a bunch, let me just say that I grew up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Yeah it took a while! My generation questioned not just the moral standards thrust upon us by our parents and society, but everything. Consequently, for me there are very, very few facts in life. Even if we accept that certain morals are objective, absolutely true, we still have to question the interpretation of those morals and that’s a rabbit hole.

Having taken a moral oath to “do no harm” or the Christian “shalt not kill” am I violating that moral by having fish for dinner? Three conflicting opinions – to a vegetarian, it is acceptable to kill fish. To a vegan it is morally reprehensible. To a carnivore it’s just stupid.

Or a more dramatic example.

Fact (?) – It is morally wrong to murder innocents. OK, most people would accept that as an absolute truth (me included).

Question – what constitutes “innocents?” What constitutes “murder?”

A person opens fire on a theater full of bystanders, killing several. Murder, innocents, yep that’s a big moral NO! NOT acceptable under any circumstance! But, what about a soldier who drops a bomb killing hundreds? Is he the morally guilty one, or the officer who gave the order, or the government who declared the war? Is it murder? Where there “innocents”, bystanders, or children present at the time? Is it still morally wrong if you don’t know?

A dear friend and very wise man who was a highly-decorated veteran once told me, “I know I should be proud to be fighting for my home and my family, for what’s right and all that I believe in. But, often I have wondered, although I’ve never asked, what does the enemy believe in?”

Second part of the question. “How do you know who’s concept of morality is correct?” (Insert big shoulder shrug here). I don’t. I don’t pretend to have that answer. My personal moral code boils down to “be kind and harm none” pretty simple. Others’ are much more complex and that’s fine. I have not lived my life in so exemplary a manner that I would ever feel comfortable judging someone else’s morals. I live in the glass house, I don’t throw stones. The questions of what is morally right and wrong, I leave to those wiser than I.

Till next time ~Peace ~JPP

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