Morality vs Logic in debate

Posted by on April 24, 2010 in Thoughts | 8 comments

As a follow-up to my post Objectivity vs Subjectivity in debate I thought it might be interesting to extend this idea of explaining what makes a compelling argument worth it weight in words by extending the idea to Morality and Logic.

We all know it’s very difficult at times to remain rational in debates about one’s beliefs, and rationality seems at times to be at odds with emotion. But as I tried to describe in my last post “Objectivity vs Subjectivity in debate part 2″ emotions are a by-product of coping mechanisms which have evolved in humans over eons, so thereby are not always rational.

But what of morality?

This is a great sticking point for debate, because morality IS relative to each person/society/culture, and is thereby subjective. That throws a spanner in the works for a debate right away, as objectivity is already compromised. But debates about belief will always come around to this topic. Theists often say “How can you be moral without God?” The answer to this is simple, but can be complicated to the nth degree once you introduce religious doctrine into the answer.

The theist claim that all morality comes from the scriptures can be immediately proven false when you look from an atheist’s perspective. I have never been Christian, so where do my morals come from? Well for starters I had a good balanced upbringing, which allowed me over time to develop a set of morals and values that fit into my life. You got your morals from whatever the influencing factors in your upbringing were.

So does this mean that morality can’t be used as a point for argument, because of its subjective nature?

Religious morality is even more subjective than personal moralities. One man’s morals can be seen as another man’s sin, so where from here for morality?

I’d like to say that morality is what drives to do right in all circumstances. But circumstances are tricky, and when in a time of stress, such as wartime, what is the morally right thing to do? Tricky I know.

For me a lot of my morals come from my logic, combined with a healthy dose of empathy. By being aware of those around us, we can make moral decisions based on what is best for ourselves and all parties involved. Unfortunately, self-preservation dictates that we tend to want what’s best for ourselves first, sometimes at the expense of others. So is selfishness at odds with morality? Some would say no, but given an empathic model to draw from, I’d tend to say yes. That is another topic altogether.

So how does logic relate to morality? Like I said, my morality stems from a combination of my upbringing and cultural factors, and in practice is an empathic response using logic as a guide. This is not so for all people, in fact, when following the doctrine of religion or politics, the factors of empathy and logic can go out the window in favour of a dogmatic response to a situation.

I am not a philosophy major, so I am just speaking from experience. So I’d be interested, what are your thoughts on this?

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  1. [...] a past article I talked about the nature of morality, and how it is subjective to cultures and people. In the comments to that article, the idea was [...]

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