The Case for Objective Morality
Man has always been plagued by questions of reality and the factors that present the ultimate structure and constitution of reality. It is literally the question of “what comes after physics?” The technical term for this question is a branch of philosophy known to us as metaphysics.
Metaphysics attempts to go beyond the principles of discernable phenomena. It is a search that looks at the principles of certain laws such as gravity and desires to go far beyond those principles to understand the how, the what, and the where. No matter how far beyond man has attempted to look; no matter how many theories have been produced in the attempt to stretch beyond the limits of physics, man is still confronted with the problems of universals and their relation to particulars, such as the existence of God.
From this desire to go beyond we have been inundated throughout history with theory after theory of foolish man attempting to understanding the “beyond.” Platonism, Aristotelianism, Thomism, Dualism, Idealism, Realism, and materialism are just a few of the philosophical tides that have swept through annuls of human history.
We should, at the very least, begin with what exactly objective morality means due to the versatile nature of its definition. Objectivism, in the context of philosophy, is another name for what is called “philosophical realism.” Philosophical realism is the view that there is a reality that exists independent of the mind. Objectives, in philosophy, refer to something independent of the human mind. These objects that are independent of the human mind, no matter how perceived, do not change based upon our feelings, interpretations, and prejudices.
However, in sharp contrast to objectivity reality is what is known as subjective reality. Subjective reality presents that reality changes from person to person, culture to culture over a given period of time. Do not confuse this with relativity which presents that the facts change from person to person. Subjectivity is a disagreement on what the facts are.
A classic example of subjective reality is found in an allegory presented by Plato, called “Plato’s cave.” The allegory presents prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire and between the fire and the prisoners there is a low wall where their captors can walk. Their captors, who are behind the prisoners, hold up objects that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these objects, the real objects that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see.
Plato makes the argument that we as people live in a subjective reality. In his theory, everything that we see, hear, and feel is subject to our own interpretation. To bring this closer to home I will use art as a great example. One work of art that has always appealed to me in particular is a painting by Raphael called “Paul in Athens.” In this wonderful painting Paul stands in a square surrounded by men and in the background is the Temple of Mars which before it stands a statue of the god of war, Mars himself.
Something about this painting has always appealed to me and thus causes it to stand as one of my favorite works of art. This is primarily because of my personal interpretation which involves my feelings, personality and insight of the painting. The painting reminds me of certain things, touches various emotions, and I have my own insights regarding the work of art. To another individual the painting may be completely disregarded or deemed trivial. In this case, Raphael’s “Paul in Athens,” would be one of the shadows on wall of Plato’s cave. Someone or something introduced this painting into my life but because I am “unenlightened” as Plato would argue, I reinterpret what I see and make it applicable to my own life.
Plato then goes on to say that once we realize that reality is subjective, we then become “enlightened” and begin to explore the greater dimensions of the objective nature of reality. This is supposed to then lead us to an understanding that there is some greater purpose. We would then remove ourselves from personal feelings, emotions, or private interpretations and attempt to grasp the objective nature.
The problem with objective and subjective reality is when the two cross one another. How is this possible? One of the simplest ways I have heard it explained was in this manner. I could place a chair in the center of the room. The chair is something OUTSIDE of my mind and thus objective. Regardless of personal feeling, thought, or emotion that chair is a chair. However, suddenly everyone in the room things the chair is beautiful. The chair is then placed in a museum because everyone thinks it is a beautiful chair. Suddenly the subjective “beautiful chair” begins to take on an objective reality. It is now the “beautiful chair” in the middle of the room.
What if no one has ever seen what is in the middle of the room and at that point it is just “something” to them. Here is where the problem comes in and the arguments arrive. What if the opinion in the room differs on what is objective? What if half of those in the room look at the “something” and call it a chair while the other half looks at the “something” and calls it an “upper?”
Now the problem begins and two camps emerge. In both cases the “something” is objective and yet both camps have imputed their thought (subjective) upon the something. Now the war begins and both groups begin to lobby and fight for their subjective reality of the objective. Now the question is this: who is right?
In any case, rightness is subjective; right? The group that calls it a chair considers (this word is subjective) that they are right. If they kill all the members of the other group then instantly, as the last opposing member dies, the “something” in the room is objectively a chair.
This was seen in the 12th century, beginning in France, in what was known as the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church. It was their “camp” vs. opposing “camps.” It was one camp doing what it could to destroy the other camp and create an accepted objectivity. However, the objective in this case didn’t involve a chair.
Now I ask the greatest question of this entire treatise: what if we are not talking about something physical like a chair, car, or material “something,” but we are talking about morality? Morality is defined as principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior. Now we cross from meta-physics to meta-ethics! Now we go BEYOND the principle and ask why and how.
Now we cross into the foolish things which confound or shame the wise. We know that in the mind of many of the proclaimed intellectual of our world that the idea of a Creative God or often called an Intelligent Designer is an absurdity. In the world they live in it is a world of FACTS or rather objectives. To them, God is not objective, but rather subjective. To them, God is the subjective answer for the “something in the middle of the room.”
It is absolute foolishness to them that men live lives as “preachers” that preach from a book claimed to be authored by a “someone” they do not believe exists. Yet, scripture does declare that is by the “foolishness of preaching” that men are saved. And yet at the heart of every “believer” is a simple word which is labeled as “faith.”
The intellectual HATES this concept. Faith isn’t tangible! Faith isn’t real! Faith to them is a weak subjective attempt to interpret objective reality! In their mind everything must be FACT and if it isn’t fact then it must be FICTION or perhaps THEORY would be a better word. The argument of creation by Intelligent Design is NOT FACT but a theory and thus they propose to toss it out of schools and systems of higher learning. Evolution they proclaim is based upon FACT.
Therefore anything that is based on or connected to what cannot be presented as objective reality is disregarded. “PROVE IT,” is a common challenge heard across the world in relation to the argument of the existence of God, religion, and belief. What does the Bible tell us about this? What is the best possible answer the Bible gives us to argue that we do indeed believe in that which is objective and it isn’t just our own subjective reality?
Hebrews 11:1-3 (KJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
The foundation of our hopes and our evidence of things we cannot even see is faith! Through faith I understand (perceive with the mind) that the worlds were framed by the word of God. I have in this both objective and subjective being crossed except in the middle of the room there is “nothing” and yet I call it “something.”
Faith was received from an outside object (objective) we know as God (every man was given a measure of faith.) Through faith I understand (subjective) that the worlds were framed by the Word of God. God gave me faith and He gave me the Word, both which are outside of my mind and thus both are considered to the Christian as OBJECTIVE.
In the case of religion we find that belief does indeed precede experience! In most other instances we typically must experience (act that validates) before we believe. Before I will believe that a certain food is good I must first experience the food! However, God gives every man a measure of faith, then sends a preacher to preach the Word of God which delivers more faith, and then one must take it as objective. Without faith it is impossible to please God. When we come to Him we must believe that He is! Belief precedes experience! When I then believe I then receive and experience that He is indeed good and real and powerful!
Therefore, everything I believe about God and the Word of God in relation to my life is based upon an Objective Reality. Our belief is based upon things which are outside of us (our minds) which are objective. Where the religious world gets into trouble is when we cross Objective with Subjective or rather how we INTERPRET (based upon mind, emotions, or experience) that which is objective.
Truth is not something which is invented but rather discovered. Truth is not affected by perception. Truth is an absolute and objective thing which is beyond and outside of us. The Word of God, regardless of subjective interpretation, does not change! Thus we can better understand the ideas presented in the argument regarding objective morality.
Objective moral values then are discovered rather than invented. In this case, perception is NOT reality. Simply put, objective morality possesses objective reality whereas subjective morality possesses subjective reality. The very basis for “fact” is built upon the foundation of objective reality. A fact is something that possesses objective reality, such as: “The sun rises in the East.” Objectivity presents what is actual and real whereas subjectivity presents that which is perceived with the mind, emotions, or experiences.
Morality, or principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior, we understand originated in the very beginning when God created mankind. Initially the principles that distinguished right from wrong were given to man when God told man what was right and what was wrong. Eat this, not that! These are good and that is bad!
It is interesting that when the serpent met with Eve near the forbidden tree that when one reads scripture from Hebraic understanding that it was quite clear that the serpent caused Eve to look at tree and enter in subjective reasoning. Without taking too much time to qualify the serpent basically told Eve, “Even If (KJV says “yea”) God hath said you shall not eat of the tree…” When editors translated this verse it didn’t make sense so they added the “yea” and turned an open ended statement into an affirmative one. However, it makes more sense when reading it as the Hebrew presents.
Ok…God has ABOSOLTUELY (OBJECTIVE) declared that you shall not eat of the tree. “Even IF, God hath said ye shall not eat of the tree… (Pause for effect) SO WHAT?” The implication of the open ended statement is basically “SO WHAT!” It is an appeal to Eve on the level of subjective reasoning. “Even if God has said…how do you feel about it?” At this point Eve began to allow her mind to interpret what was objective. She stepped into another camp and suddenly she SAW that it was GOOD FOR FOOD, reached out and then bit into the fruit.
Regardless of her subjective reasoning the fruit of that tree was still defined an objective reality. It was WRONG regardless of how much one determined it was RIGHT. This is where we are today. The world declares that morality is subjective. It is something that changes with time, age, culture, experience, emotion, and influence. From this spins the disagreement of what things are actually FACT and we call that relativity.
Subjective morality is a slippery slope that instantly drops into the chasm of an endless fall. Principles of right and wrong are determined by feelings or interpretation. At the heart of subjective morality is an all-out attack on an objective God which objective truth! To admit that morality is something discovered that already existed based upon a God that CHANGES not is to deny the ability to invent and reinvent principles of right and wrong and thus prohibit the free reign of various wickedness and sin.
The world (spoken in a negative sense) has understood that if they can attack the idea of Objective Truth and a God they can then begin to attack the basis for that which morality itself stands upon. Morals then become principles subject to interpretation. Deny Intelligent Design, Creation, and the principles of Divinity and then you have chaos unfolding into random order and evolution all of which ultimately places mankind on an animalistic level.
Instinct overwhelms conscious reasoning. In all reality it is the abased flesh that ignores “ole little conscience,” that thread of objective morality! Gradually man becomes SEARED of conscience and is enveloped into a world of subjectivity. Does it feel good? Great…do it! What do you think? How do you feel? Does it sound like truth to YOU?
The atheist who always accepts objectivity will argue that morality is meaningless without man because, according their view; man is the measure of all things. The theist will most likely think differently. Example… If the entire human race was wiped out in Hitler’s War, the Holocaust would still be objectively wrong today. Why? God still exists…