An online friend from social media sent me an article he wrote about objective morality. The suggestion was that I add my thoughts in some form. I would encourage you to read the article, its linked here. Hat tip @Unknownlone
Why I am writing this?
I have actually a few reasons why I decided to write about this. The first one is that objective morality can be directly tied into Nihilism, so this serves as sort of a bonus post. If you want to read that series start here with Part 1 after this post. Anyway, because its closely related to Nihilism, I want to discuss that. Also I do happen to have some opinions. First and foremost, the original article is very well written and I find no fault with either the evidence or arguments. I want to comment on three main issues with objective morality.
- Relationship to Nihilism
- The Role of God in objective morality
- Why NAP is misunderstood
For starters, let me say that the original author got it exactly right in that laws from government are not based in morality but rather on an arbitrary basis. I also think that Nietzsche and Stirner are the perfect starting point for understanding morality. This is where I will start my commentary on how Nietzsche defines morality in the context of Nihilism. Most of this, I’ve written about in part 3 of my series, but I’m going to frame it a bit differently here.
Relationship to Nihilism
In order to understand morality better, especially in the context of Nihilism, we need start with what Nietzsche says about the creation of value. Nietzsche writes about the creation of value as being subjective because value is relative to desires. For example, if you value something highly, its likely more desirable. The same is true in reverse, if you don’t value it highly, its less desirable. Nietzsche’s point was talking about the morality offered by religion. Nietzsche also wrote that because the church damned earthly existence through the believe in hell and heaven, the church’s morality was corrupted. He believed that in order to affirm your earthly existence, you need to search via materialistic earthly means. For Nihilism, this means that you reject the morality offered by God, and replace it with whatever you find in your search. Unfortunately that search will lead to the abyss of nothing and the rejection of truth.
You might be wondering what this has to do with objective morality? Well, Nietzsche is essentially laying down the framework to understand how morality is formed in a person. In the original author’s article, he mentions this:
thought-experiment of what an omniscient, benevolent being would wish for humanity (regardless of whether or not you believe in any god(s) and what characteristics you believe it possesses)
He’s talking generally about God, about truth. Nihilism serves to reject this truth. This leads to my next issue. But first, I think the argument can be made that objective morality cannot exist with god or a higher being. In my understanding, if you reject God and truth then what presupposed notions like logic, language and math can you use actually use to support your view on morality? In other words, God must exist and if he exists then its possible to form a morality. Its because the truth is a universal absolute, the morality is likely to be perceived uniformly especially when starting at the same stasis. The question remains, what point is that?
Role of God in Objective Morality
To be clear, I’m not arguing here that you need to be religious to find morality. My argument, is rather that you need to accept the existence of God to logically conclude what is moral. The original author gives us a good definition of morality to work with:
“A set of interactive behaviors between humans that are categorized as right (acceptable) or wrong (unacceptable),
I think that overall, I like the definition but the problem is that humans by nature are subjective in their experiences. Each person experiences their life differently even in the same exact events. For example, millions upon millions of women get pregnant and give birth. I would assume that each women has a different experience of giving birth. There might be some similarities but no two women and no two pregnancies will likely be the exact same experience. I think that God plays an important role in helping us move past the subjective nature of experience.
To be more accurate, its not so much the religious belief of God but rather that all universal absolutes or truths come from God. I think we are all born with some moral capacity. But it is also learned in a lot of ways. Its a safe argument to say that all humans can agree on logical outcomes like for example: 2+2 = 4. Nobody is disputing the outcome of the math problem. The basis of my argument is that objective morality has an subjective element to it. Its a case by case, circumstantial, evidence based process of judgment. I think there are easy cases like murder and rape. Life is sacred, especially to those who are living. If you don’t care about others dying, you likely don’t want to die. There is a simple logical outcome that follows this natural human thought, killing others is wrong. However, there is counter-arguments like is killing in a war wrong? Killing in self defense?
Its impossible to fully back up these arguments because of the ambiguous nature of morality. I find that Nietzsche provides at least one useful tool, in the creation of value. Remember that value is relative to desires, so therefore lets say that I value life very highly and my desire is to live. I believe this can serve as a sound logic for objective morality against murder. I also don’t think we can apply this to every person. Which leads me to my next issue: NAP.
Why NAP is misunderstood
The original author did a good job of presenting the actual issues with NAP as described by Huemer. I don’t believe that NAP is a perfect in anyway. But I think its definitely a good start. I prefer to think of NAP as more of rules of engagement rather than a replacement for laws. There shouldn’t be any laws because often times laws are unjust, unevenly prosecuted, or just illogical. If we think of NAP as a rules of engagement, I think it becomes more second nature. For example, take manners. When you’re at a restaurant, do you often thank your waitress for bringing the food? When you ask for ketchup, do you say please? Ok, I know its not life or death but why do you say please and thank you? Its a societal rule of engagement. Its standard way of doing things.
Hear me out, when people talk about NAP, they often mistakenly think that somehow laws would just magically disappear and suddenly this new set of laws would appear called NAP. Apparently according to some, NAP would just result in everyone shooting each other and blowing up their neighbors house for the most minor violation! The reality of NAP is not like the memes so often circulated on the internet. When you consider NAP as tool of objective morality, it fits really well. Its creates rules that are enforced by you. You are responsible following NAP. Each person in the world is responsible. Now, of course if someone does violate NAP then the actions taken should be relative to the infraction.
I think this is where NAP breaks down in the public view. People forget that if each person in a society decided that NAP was the rule of land, and they were going to try to follow it, then it would rarely be broken. But even if not everyone did follow it, you could still follow NAP and keep others in line. However, NAP requires no other outside force like government to interfere, especially regarding rights. Gun rights (and property rights similarly) are not just important because the constitution says so. Gun rights are how you defend your right to live. Guns prevent any breaking of the NAP. I think that the right to make private contracts between two individuals or more is just as important to property rights.
My point is that objective morality, if used in a way that appropriates the right to live peacefully without the interference or violation of rights, can be found in NAP. The problem still remains about the subjective nature of how people experience perceived infractions. Like I said before, the acceptance in the existence of God can help remedy that because at least we all have a discussion on the same stasis of argument. If we all accept the universal absolutes, then we have a starting point. I think that the majority of people would agree that the right to live, peacefully is the ultimate goal of morality. Morality means knowing what is right (acceptable) and wrong (unacceptable) but also doing what is right. I think that its right to live your life how you want, without hurting somebody else.
This is the basis of anarchism and libertarianism, its a building block. There is no politics in right and wrong. If we are to achieve the ideal voluntary society, we have to understand that getting there requires us to take a deeper look at what it means to be moral. What level of social and economic consciousness is required by everyone in society to attain a peaceful existence? We need to unite and go above politics, step back from this paradigm centered on nihilist destruction and focus on building freedom through peace.
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