At his Steemit account, fellow Dutch libertarian rvanstel blogs a case for Objective Morality. Obviously, I believe in objective morality too, or I could not possibly make a case for the non-aggression principle. Without objective morality, there simply would be no right and wrong. Not for the right, but also not for the left. So any judgment or counter-judgment, and any championing of typical progressive/conservative values would be entirely pointless, as they would be no more than mere subjective opinions; subjectivity on the basis of which opponents could not be condemned.
For instance, progressives condemn racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry, Islamophobia, greed and a whole slew of other behaviors they deem intolerant or undesirable. However, when all morality is subjective, any condemnation that progressives may have of behavior undesirable to them is also subjective and a mere matter of opinion. As a matter of fact, the horribleness of such outrages as genocide (including the Holocaust), slavery, colonialism, white supremacy and other types of large scale contemptible beliefs or behaviors could not be verified as such, because there would be no more right and wrong, and there would be no more right and wrong because all morality would be subjective. The horribleness of all these things would be merely so in the eye of the beholder. What moral high ground would any progressive have, to have any specific viewpoint about this instances at all?
Of course, the same would go for conservatives and other non-progressives, but it applies most of all to progressives because progressives, more than any other group, have a habit of claiming that morality is subjective; that all cultures are equal; that there is no one truth, etcetera.
Anyway, rvanstel tries to prove objective morality (using theft as an example) with a logical deduction like this:
- If morality is subjective, there are occasions in which theft is good.
- If theft is good, people will try to steal from each other.
- If theft is good, people will recognize the goodness of being stolen from.
- If you desire to get stolen from, theft becomes voluntary.
- If theft is voluntary, it is not theft.
- If theft can’t be voluntary, theft is always bad
- If theft is always bad, morality can’t be subjective.
Although I sympathize with his effort, I do not find myself entirely convinced by this example. For instance, if morality is subjective, it does not logically follow that in some occasions theft is good. Subjectivity does not suggest that something can sometimes be bad and sometimes good; it suggests that the whole concepts of good and bad are simply rendered meaningless because they would be mere subjective opinions.
I think it would be better to state that if morality is subjective, then there is no way of telling that any theft is either good or bad, in which case (e.g.) theft by mega-corporations, predatory and imperialistic nations who steal natural resources, the stealing of labor from slaves, theft by putting children to work in sweatshops, fraud by Wall Street bankers, and other types of theft lamented by the left also cannot be designated a label of “good” or “bad”. So why are they harping about it? If governments can steal through taxation because morality is subjective, why cannot the rich steal from the poor, slaveholders from slaves, empires from third world countries, etc.? The morality or immorality of theft is either objective, or it is subjective. It is not merely objective when it is convenient.
Rvanstel then goes on to state this:
“Besides, if you tell somebody that he/she is wrong, you are actually using objective morality. Namely, you must first establish that there is a universal truth in order to know somebody is wrong. Therefore, post-modernism contradicts itself.”
This is entirely accurate, and precisely the point i am trying to make above. Anybody that makes any kind of moral judgement at all about any action or behavior, must first logically acknowledge that he holds his own moral views to be a (preferred) norm, and therefore to be objective. If he does not claim it to be objective, he cannot maintain it ought to be a norm. After all, why should his mere subjective, arbitrary opinion on something be a norm for society to adhere to? And so moralizers and relativists by definition cannot be the same person. Yet in many cases with those who claim that morality is subjective, they are claiming a moral high ground. Ironically, and as a matter of fact, their very insistence that morality is subjective is itself making a moral statement, for they are judging, morally, those who claim morality is not subjective.
The very evidence that post-modern notions about morality being subjective are complete nonsense, is the purveyors of this view themselves, since most post-modernists are also moralizers.
It is like stating that “there is no truth,” and not realizing that by making this very statement, one is trying to make a statement of truth: the “truth” being, that there is no truth.
When one tries to deny objective fact, reality, and the functioning of logic, one can only bend oneself into pretzels.
When it comes to morality being truly objective, it may yet still be quite complex to argue for. It is however easier to argue for true morality to be universal.
For instance, morality is universal if a specific act is deemed morally right or wrong when it happens to any one of us. It is of course very easy to claim something is morally wrong when it happens to us, yet morally acceptable when it happens to someone else. But this precisely proves that this attitude could not possibly be universal. But something that is not universal is subjective, and therefore meaningless in value. What would be universal, is if a certain moral judgment is one we could all agree on.
So what is an example of a moral judgment we can all agree on?
While we may not necessarily have much of a problem with others being victims of aggression, we all have a problem with aggression directed against ourselves. This is what we all have in common. This is what we can all agree on. None of us wants to be a victim of aggression. If we thus find it morally wrong for anyone to initiate aggression against us, a universal morality would dictate that it is morally wrong to do so with anyone.
I should note here, that by aggression I do not mean consensual acts of physical violence, such as contact sports, an agreed upon fight in a back alley, or a BDSM sexual fetish. I mean being the victim of unsolicited and non-consensual acts of physical aggression. Euthanasia is consensual; murder is not. Sex is consensual; rape is not. Being punched in a boxing match is consensual; being unexpectedly punched by a random stranger in the street is not. Donating money to charity is consensual; being taxed is not.
In the case of the last example, it does not matter if you agree that you ought to pay the amount of taxes that government levies on you, for services that they never bothered to ask if you actually wanted. What matters is that they will do it whether you agree or not, and therefore it is by definition a form of aggression. You would be free to donate any amount to the IRS that pleases you, but if your opinion or consent on the matter doesn’t mean anything to the IRS when they take a percentage of your money, it is aggression plain and simple.
(I will not here get into the whole debate about the various justifications people have for being pro-taxation, as this requires a more in-depth analysis about the nature and justification of government funding)
Universal morality does exist, and in essence we can also call it objective because of its universality. Those that deny it, by definition expose themselves as moral hypocrites with entirely arbitrary, subjective, and self-serving notions of right and wrong. And those who have arbitrary and subjective notions of right and wrong, cannot make any valuable statement about right or wrong whatsoever, because they would be mere opinions.
And as Clint Eastwood once said: “Opinion are like assholes; everybody has one.”