Is Morality a Joke?

I don’t believe there is such a thing as right or wrong in an objective sense, you can’t prove that something is either right or wrong. I believe most morals come from an innate sense of right and wrong that likely developed from a combination of the social animal we are and our own self-awareness. I can see from a logical standpoint where there is a good reason to hurt or kill others as a benefit to the self, but from an emotional standpoint it isn’t quite so easy to inflict pain and suffering on others. It is very difficult to comprehend how a person can be a cold-blooded killer, while at the same time be a loving father to his children a la Richard Kuklinski.


Of course there’s no objective morality. An argument about morality must always begin with a moral criteria, or a “definition” of what’s good and bad. If you can’t agree on what to value as “good” or “superior” then you won’t make any progress in a discussion about it.

Quick example; if you can’t agree with someone that protecting innocent people from wrongful convictions is more important that convicting guilty people, you’ll never make progress in a discussion about conflict between those two issues. You’ll be stalemated, and both sides will think the other refuses to see reason. The real issue is that the two of you just have a different set of moral criteria you value, though.

If it’s a joke I’m not laughing.

pool, the problem with moral subjectivism is that you end up holding Ted Bundy and Florence Nightingale as moral equivalents. In fact, Mr. Bundy came up with a fantastic way of saying the same thing.

Based on your argument it does not follow that there is no objective morality. You may be wrong, I may be right, or we may both be wrong, but that doesn’t prove that there is no objective morality.


There are no fundamental discoverable moral laws equivalent to the fundamental laws of physics. The concept of “moral” follows from cognition and culture; it is not present in natural law.

This does not particularly lessen the practical imperative of adhering to the principles which are collectively developed by our species.

The Stoics would certainly disagree with your assessment as they believed that the whole universe, including men, were essentially governed by rational laws. Furthermore, they believed that human beings were capable of discovering the laws necessary for happiness and social harmony. There are plenty of moral objectivist who base their beliefs on natural law.


Objective morality is a bit like god - you can’t prove it exists and you can’t prove it doesn’t. If you can’t prove an objective morality exists, let alone what it contains, then it’s indistinguishable from not existing. Some folks will warn you the consequence of that is all sorts of acts generally thought of as heinous being morally equivalent to so-called “good” acts. Horse feathers! Just because there’s no ultimately objective definition of what is heinous does not diminish the heinousness one subjectively experiences. Don’t let objectivists conflate the content of morality with its provenance.


Christian morality is completely relative:

“what you would have them do to you” is different for every person, so the morality of how each person treats another is mutable.

A better rule is to “treat other people how THEY want to be treated, not how YOU want to be treated”.

You’ll never make progress in a discussion if you view everything in absolute black and white terms. Most rational, sane people would argree that it’s wrongfull to let innocent people go to jail and guilty people go free. In practice it is impossible to be absolutely certain of either. The best can be done is to create a system that maximizes good and minimizes harm.

There is definitely an “objective” morality. I had a professor who said if you want to test a law, or rule see if it will fit into any situation possible. Will it be valid for everyone, everywhere under all circumstances, and if it is then you have true universal law. Well I can think of only one that meets the criteria and that is “Love one another.” It is a universal law. Now there may be others, but I can’t find them.

We humans could not exist together without some morality. The laws of government can never be inforced if the people do not agree with them. It is morality, and a belief in a higher principle that keeps the peace. That is why Constantine adopted the Christian faith, to bring some peace and order to his government.

Don’t kill, steal, covet, or cheat would be nice if everyone followed it. I regret the way teaching our young has got away from teaching morals. This thread is an example. I have been told science is amoral, if this is true then there needs to be morals, prinicipals, and guide lines stated within science or we may find science committing atrocities in the name of knowledge as was done during WWII. No one can be given a completely free hand at the expense of the public, especially the poor, and disenfranchised.

“Morality” is a definition of rationlization. So is “ethics”. Fundamentalitaly, the sense of “wrong/right” is an element of culture, not reality (Is an anthill right or wrong in its behavoir?") Without culture, it doesn’t matter if the grasshopper is dead before you tear it apart for food… it is just one of 4 thrings. Food, Enemy, both, or none of the above.

We humans treat our cultural normative values as real…

They are artifacts of cultuire

Regards (Ethically, grin)


It’s nice that the Stoics, and others, accept this, but it is utterly without basis and no evidence supports it.

While we, like Yogi, may be smarter than your average bear, we are nonetheless simply highly evolved animals.

There may be behaviour fundamentals relating to the success of our evolution which are built into our genes but there are no natural moral laws which antedate our evolution and somehow exist or pertain outside of our own physical existence. A hyena eating a wounded giraffe alive; Dahmer nibbling on someone’s liver; the cosmos sending an asteroid to exterminate life–the morality of all these events exists within a construct created by cognitive beings after the fact of our own beginnings. There is not a shred of evidence for a pre-existing standard. Quite the contrary; even a cursory look over the last few hundred million years of life on earth reveals a chaotic, capricious and indiscriminate pattern of behaviour between life forms.

Only in recent history has there been evolution of a brain capable of formalizing acceptable “moral” behaviour into a framework within which arbitrary standards can be seen to have been met. Reasons for the evolution of this framework may include such things as improved species survival but discovery of some sort of a priori moral law is not among those reasons.

What does ‘love one another’ mean? What beavhiors are encouraged? What behaviors are discouraged? What happens when someone breaks it? Why is it universal?

Why is that? Doesn’t this statement assume people are rational?

I rarely find someone who doesn’t know the meaning of love, but you have asked a fair question and I will answer it.

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love doesn’t demand its own way. It’s not irritable or touchy. It doesn’t hold grudges and will not notice when others do it wrong. It’s never glad about injustice, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”. – Saint Paul.

Why? They have a different set of morals, and we’re free to judge them as we see fit.

I pretty much agree with Chief Pendant on this. The thing to keep in mind is that even if we assume our sense of morality is a product of our evolution (which I do), that doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up with the same moral compass. Just as there are extremely tall people and extremely short people, any behavior that is guided by our genes is going to show variation, too. We evolved to live in social groups, and so our evolved behavior is going to predispose us against being sociopaths. But that doesn’t mean that all of us will be predisposed that way. We can observe in our closest cousins, chimps, that some are generally gentle creatures and others are chimp-sociopaths. It should come as no surprise that we exhibit similar variations. That doesn’t mean we have to accept the sociopath, though.

Additionally, our behavior seems to be guided by our genes, but not completely predetermined by those genes. We are only scratching the surface in understanding how genes and environment interact to produce both physical and behavioral traits, but there is no doubt that our general sense of morality has been molded and shaped by our long evolutionary past.

*Originally posted by Chief Pedant:
This does not particularly lessen the practical imperative of adhering to the principles which are collectively developed by our species. *

I draw a distinction between what might be termed a “Moral Imperative” and a practical imperative.

Typically the concept of a “moral” imperative for behaviour is invoked as an appeal to some sort of Higher Law–some notion of Absolute Truth or derivative thereof (this is not always the case, but on average that’s how the behavioural constraint being invoked is put forth).

A given population–a culture; a society; a religious group; a nation–develops standards for behaviour. I’m not sure how you are using the term “people are rational” but certainly populations which have been successful in creating a cohesive self-perpetuating human culture are rational in the sense that they have been able to codify standards and create mechanisms which perpetuate them.

I made the statement about a practical imperative for behaviour to head off those who might assume that because there is no a priori Moral Law, it’s OK for Ted Bundy to murder people. While Ted may find no Moral Imperative to prevent him, I will lobby for a society which finds a practical imperative to constrain his behaviour, and should he choose to ignore it I will be happy to be the one providing Juice and Toast for his last meal.

It’s not a Higher Principle (higher than humans) but it certainly is a Common Principle and we are the better off as a culture for having invoked a stand against murder, as well a stand for decency, gentleness, kindness, honesty and truth.

I think what your saying Chief Pedant is that from a practical standpoint it is necessary to act in a moral manner for society to function, so that answers why society as a whole should be moral but not really why an individual should be. If I as an individual am able to say do something highly immoral by society’s standards but know I will be able to get away with it is there any reason why the individual should choose to act morally? The behavior of this individual is not going to make society as a whole fall apart and the individual will benefit so is there any point in being moral on the individual level, if one knows or is certain they will never see negative consequences to their own life?

“Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love doesn’t demand its own way. It’s not irritable or touchy. It doesn’t hold grudges and will not notice when others do it wrong. It’s never glad about injustice, but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends”. – Saint Paul.
well then, Love is dull, stupid, unobservant, bashfull. It is always submissive and heavily medicated. It is stupid. It likes daytime TV. It stands by its cheating, beating man/woman. It thinks the stuff in its horoscope is real. It is very gullable. You never heal from it - Saint Paul of the currently paraphrased transliteration

PS- Big fan of love

Good question, and I can’t think of any reason to say “no”. Which is probably why most of us feel guilty even if we do “get away with it”. If we didn’t, then we’d all be doing stuff like that all the time and society would fall apart.

And it’s not really black and white, either, because I bet there isn’t a person alive who hasn’t done *something *he thinks is immoral, knowing (or hoping) that he would get away with it. It’s just that usually that amounts to something petty, as opposed to murder.

I find myself greatly amused by how many peple wallow in the warm cosseting of other men’s morality, whilst mocking that very morality which makes their comfort. Men need no morality to make a civilzation, even a great one, and it might even hinder their eforts to do so.