Philosophy 111 – Introduction to Philosophy (Fall 2002)
[Students and professors, please read.]
2. What is your answer to the traditional challenges against morality? Do you consider yourself a moral person? Why?
Very useful and interesting sources for researching ethics and the traditional challenges against morality: http://www.xrefer.com/entry/552861 & http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/e/ethics.htm & http://www.xrefer.com/entry.jsp?xrefid=552117.
I would say the two main arguments against an objective, universal morality that we discover, rather than invent, would be moral skepticism, and moral relativism. I also would like to discuss, in relation to its implications against any objective morality if combined with psychological egoism, this xrefer article quote, “If one gives out of (motive) fellow-feeling or friendship to another human being, one’s act lacks all moral worth, according to Kant, because one’s action was not performed out of a sense of duty and respect for the moral law,” (brackets and italics mine). First, a defining of terms…
Moral skepticism isn’t against moral values themselves, just the idea that those values are objective and part of a universal, unchanging morality–for example, it rejects that moral values are divine commands from the mind of God. Moral relativism also isn’t against moral values, but claims that, rather than being objective and discovered, they are invented by individuals and societies. Psychological egoism is the idea that all of our actions begin with selfish motives, period, and that it is therefore unreasonable to morally expect self-sacrificial acts. Now for our discussion…
My answer to moral skepticism is that I feel there is an objective morality as unchanging as the laws of physics, a moral law which we discover much like we discover natural laws–and we haven’t learned all the ins and outs of our universe yet, so we surely haven’t learned all the ins and outs of an objective morality (I think if we knew it all we wouldn’t even need to discuss ethics, or any other area of philosophy). My answer to moral relativism is that, if we accepted it, there would be no revolutions that challenge blatant social injustices, because we would never think an act could be considered unjust–moral relativism realistically (lol) is based individually, infinitesimal moment to infinitesimal moment, so one minute I might kill someone, the next minute I might save their life, and each of those minutes I’d be doing neither right nor wrong (that’s what I feel moral relativism reduces to, anyway)–except that reality doesn’t depend on my interpretation of it.
To rewrite the xrefer quote above, “If one gives out of (motive) fellow-feeling or friendship to another human being, one’s act lacks all moral worth, according to Kant, because one’s action was not performed out of a sense of duty and respect for the moral law,” (parenthesis and italics mine). So, if you combine that statement with psychological egoism, since all acts begin with selfish motives, all acts lack all moral worth, and there is no moral law. So either Kant is wrong, psychological egoism is wrong, they are both wrong in part or wholly, or the use of “moral worth” in that xrefer quote is poor wording.
Do I consider myself a moral person? If the word moral is considered the opposite of the word immoral and implies perfection or a lack of ever doing anything immoral, I would have to answer, no–I am not perfect. If the word moral in the question implies that I have moral values like every other human being with a conscience, I would have to answer, yes–I have a conception of right and wrong.