The moral saucepan.

Looking at whether morality is subjective, or objective involves adopting an objective approach, for to subjectively support the subjective standpoint, would create a baised debate at best, and would be circular reasoning at worst. To subjectively arrive at an objective standpoint would be a contradiction. Some may try to argue that to examine objectively would also add a bias or be circular reasoning, but this is not the case, for to examine it objectively would be to acknowledge a variety of subjective views, since this is objectivity. So how should the issue be examined objectively?

If one were to look at a saucepan, there are a number of angles one could look at. Some angles would show one handle, while others would show both. Some angles would give no hint as to the fact that the saucepan is hollow, while other angles make it abundantly clear that it is hollow. The subjective view is any of the views above, none of which will really give you a complete awareness of all the characteristics of the saucepan.

A subjective view of morality, always seems to come down to the moral viewpoints and justifications of the perpetrators of acts that are generally regarded as immoral by others. We could be referring to Hitler and the Holocaust, or a the rape of a spouse, or the stoning of an adulteress, but the subjective approach always looks at whether the perpetrator feels their action was wrong. This is a very popular way of looking at morality, probably finding it’s roots in very conflicting religious views in a world where religious tolerance has become a popular buzzword, although I doubt as much a popular sentiment.

One of the main issues here seems to be the issue of judgement, does one person have the right to judge another on moral or religious grounds. I would have to go with the more liberal viewpoint here, but with addenda. People probably don’t have the right to judge each other, but we should be able to judge actions, and whether they are right or wrong, assuming we can come to a reasonably objective view of morality, and societies in general accept the right of judges to judge, so very few people actually would be puritans of the liberal view. With judgement being somewhat universal even in the most liberal societies. It seems to be a non-issue, provided the judgement is on actions from an objective perspective. I will cover how universals are relevant in a future post.

If we now return to our saucepan. Some moral issues can be examined from the perspective of the perpetrator; the victim, and society as a whole. Like the saucepan, we can change the angle and view the issues, at least in some cases, from different angles. This in itself should be enough to prove moral issues are indeed objective. The problem is, it is enough to provide a basis, but it leaves too many questions to provide a solid position. There are many issues still on the table, which I’ll cover in future posts. These issues include, how we would define morality? What framework would we work within? How would we conduct research within the framework? These are some of the issues that I wish to discuss regarding the issue of objective morality, but I’d be interested to know what readers takes are on this issue.

To conclude, the answer to how we would look at morality objectively is relatively simple, just look at every perspective. The real issues come after that, which is why this isn’t the last word on this matter by any means.


6 thoughts on “The moral saucepan.”

  1. Reminds me of this poem.

    American poet John Godfrey Saxe (1816-1887) based the following poem on a fable which was told in India many years ago.

    It was six men of Indostan
    To learning much inclined,
    Who went to see the Elephant
    (Though all of them were blind),
    That each by observation
    Might satisfy his mind
    The First approached the Elephant,
    And happening to fall
    Against his broad and sturdy side,
    At once began to bawl:
    “God bless me! but the Elephant
    Is very like a wall!”
    The Second, feeling of the tusk,
    Cried, “Ho! what have we here
    So very round and smooth and sharp?
    To me ’tis mighty clear
    This wonder of an Elephant
    Is very like a spear!”
    The Third approached the animal,
    And happening to take
    The squirming trunk within his hands,
    Thus boldly up and spake:
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a snake!”
    The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
    And felt about the knee.
    “What most this wondrous beast is like
    Is mighty plain,” quoth he;
    “ ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
    Is very like a tree!”
    The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
    Said: “E’en the blindest man
    Can tell what this resembles most;
    Deny the fact who can
    This marvel of an Elephant
    Is very like a fan!”
    The Sixth no sooner had begun
    About the beast to grope,
    Than, seizing on the swinging tail
    That fell within his scope,
    “I see,” quoth he, “the Elephant
    Is very like a rope!”
    And so these men of Indostan
    Disputed loud and long,
    Each in his own opinion
    Exceeding stiff and strong,
    Though each was partly in the right,
    And all were in the wrong!

    So oft in theologic wars,
    The disputants, I ween,
    Rail on in utter ignorance
    Of what each other mean,
    And prate about an Elephant
    Not one of them has seen!

    1. I see the point, but a little off topic, the effects of certain moral issues can be easily viewed, by all. This isn’t so much a theological issue as it is a sociological one.

      That said, if we all combined our information about the elephant that is morality, we may find we don’t need to dispute loud and long.

  2. Your argument is flawed.

    To objectify a moral (this is wrong) you state you must use the viewpoint from a specific perpective. But what if they change their perception of the moral (this is now right) ,which, let’s say for arguments sake was not based on feelings but reasoning, then their opinion is no longer objective but subjective because it has changed. In language the description may vary from dictionary to dictionary but it will always mean the same thing, forever and ever, Amen.

    1. “you state you must use the viewpoint from a specific perpective.”

      If that’s what I was saying it would be invalid, but the whole point of this was to expalin that objectivity comes from looking at all perspectives, not a single specific one.

      “then their opinion is no longer objective but subjective because it has changed”

      Something changing doesn’t make it subjective. Modern Neo-Darwinian Punctuated Equilibrium is very different from Darwinian gradualism, this paradigm shift (change) doesn’t make the issue subjective. Looking at more angles (objectivity) creates a better perspective, and is bound to result in people changing their opinions. This of course shows that some opinions are more objective than others.

      Please let me explain that objective doesn’t mean absolute. Language is objective, yet ever changing, so is science.

    2. “To objectify a moral (this is wrong)”

      That’s not what I said, so yes, it is wrong, I’m for looking at morality objectively.

      “you state you must use the viewpoint from a specific perpective.”

      No, I argue for looking at a variety of viewpoints.

      “then their opinion is no longer objective but subjective because it has changed.”

      Change doesn’t make something subjective. People often change their views when confronted new data, objectivity changes views.

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