In order to examine morality objectively, one needs to use objective definitions for crucial terms. Of course, I can’t just make up the definitions, since that would be based on what I feel, and would thus be subjective.
Dictionaries are made by searching through huge corpora of actual language used. This means that the meanings of words, at least in English, are defined by the speakers of the language. There are obvious exceptions to this, for example, I could coin a new word to describe a transition between a scale and a feather and call it a scather. If I were an expert in evolutionary biology, that would remain the definition of the term, since it would have the sole purpose of describing this object. Everyday words, like objective; subjective or moral, and its derivatives, tend to have a semi fluid meaning, that is defined objectively by lexicographers who examine how the terms are used repetitively in everyday and acedemic language. So, if you want an objective definition, go to a dictionary.
The terms that really need defining are objective; subjective; moral and morality. I’ll use dictionary.com since I can link you there so that you can check I’m not conning you.
- Objective – Not influenced by personal feelings (definition 2.) This is the problem in the discussion, is that most people who argue for a subjective morality see morality as nothing more than feelings. For the sake of discussion, I’m going to stress that to take ones feelings out of it, all possible angles should be examined in order to see that there are issues beyond someone’s feelings, as per The moral saucepan. This is the only way that objectivity can work on this issue.
- Subjective – Dependent on personal views, and being of the mind rather than external reality (both definitions.) So objective and subjective are mutually exclusive, but as I pointed out in The moral saucepan, it would be bias or circular logic to examine the issue subjectively. The other thing is, in none of the debates, on Facebook or here, have actually provided any evidence to support that morality is based on feelings, this is simply assumed.
- Morality – conformity to rules of right conduct (definition 1.) If there are rules to be followed, that expresses a certain amount of objectivity.
- Moral – of or concerned with right conduct (definition 1.)
The last two need some justification, in order to make a case for an objective morality, I’d need to be able to make a case, that there is an objective way of defining right and wrong. This will be the subject of the next post.