The other day my mother and I got in a bit of an argument over homosexuality and whether or not it was moral. She was adamant that it wasn't, saying, "Anyone who doesn't follow God's law is immoral." Needless to say, that really hurt (seeing as she is fully aware that I'm an atheist). But she believed it.

So here is my question: is morality based on individuality? For example, if one person  believed it was wrong to steal and then did it anyway, would this be worse than the person who thought stealing was ok? If my conscience tells me one thing and someone else's conscience tells them another thing, am I justified in saying they're wrong?

I'd appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on this.

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Your proposed theory is quiet impressive but i have the feeling that it is flawed in its proposition. Firstly because you stated morality to be objective and at the same time goes on to state the influences of societal norms and opinions. Which means you are actually trying to say that Morality is both subjective as well as objective. A better tentative proposition would be that a person is born neither by an objective moral conscience nor a subjective one. But he/she is born with a potency to objectify his/her consciousness. The externals only play a vital role in shaping its destiny for actualizing it.   

Deconstruct (read closely) "... if one person  believed it was wrong to steal and then did it anyway, would this be worse than the person who thought stealing was ok?"

At the moment I'm stealing, I'm concentrating on not being seen. If I'm caught and incarcerated, or if I'm almost caught but get away, I might think of right and wrong. If I later become prosperous and remember, I might make amends.

If I do none of that, I'm a sociopath. The odds are that instead of becoming rich and powerful, my life will be so unhappy that I might end it.

Being rich or powerful? I've heard of rich people killing themselves. I haven't heard of powerful people doing so, but have heard of their being killed.

About your "one thing" and "another thing" query, say they're wrong if you want to be alone.

Is morality relative? Of course it is. Find two people whose religions differ and set them to arguing who's right and who's wrong.

It probably depends on the situation.

You're justified in saying you think she's wrong. 

I think that if you believe stealing is wrong but you steal anyway, that's worse because not only are you stealing, you're breaking your own integrity.  However, sometimes stealing is necessary, and let's face it, nobody gets hurt, things are only things and can be replaced, but "people don't grow back". 

Alyssa - ask your mother if it's OK to kill. When she says no, remind her that the Bible commands her not to allow a witch to live, then ask if she'd like to join you in hunting down witches and killing them. You probably won't have that discussion more than once.

Einstein assured us that all things are relative, but some relatives are easier to get along with than others.

pax vobiscum,

Stanford says this about morality....

"The term “morality” can be used either

  1. descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,
    1. some other group, such as a religion, or
    2. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or
  2. normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons."

Webster says this about immorality...

Definition of IMMORAL
: not moral; broadly : conflicting with generally or traditionally held moral principles

You could have asked, "Is your favorite color orange?" and gotten more definitive answers than you will get with this question.

According to Webster's definition of immoral, yes... homosexuality is immoral.

According to Stanford's definition of morality, yes... homosexuality is moral. (according to rational persons)

all harmful acts = immoral
all immoral acts ≠ harmful

You can tell anyone that you feel they are wrong and be justified in doing so... People do it all the time. Just don't expect them to care about what you think.

Things like rape, murder, theft, harming others... those are all harmful acts and would be considered "immoral" in any culture. Homosexuality is immoral because it conflicts with tradition and general moral principles but it is not a harmful act so it's moral b/c rational people don't think it violates any general code of conduct.

btw... stealing is never "right" no matter what someone has been taught to believe. There are kids that are raised in "pick pocket" houses. Even though some are doing it to survive, it doesn't make it right or moral.

Once again, I draw the distinction between morals/morality and ethics/ethical behavior. Morals and morality are all about conforming to rules, be they called Commandments or be they couched in a culture's traditions (e.g., it's bad for a Hindu to consume beef). By contrast, a person making an ethical choice sets all that aside and considers both the proximate consequences of the available choices as well as the consequences down the road and then makes a choice. HOW does one make that choice? It goes on in the brain and is governed by the physical laws which govern all things, including brains. So, much as we'd like to know, we can't. People do what it is in their nature to do.

Not sure if this was supposed to be a response to my post or just in general... It doesn't add or take away from anything I said.

Just in general. Not being argumentative.

Gotcha. I was just making sure I didn't miss part of the convo. :)


Your question wasn't formed very clearly, and judging from the comments, it has generated a lot of confusion over what exactly it is that you are asking (although part of that is necessarily that they don't know what they're talking about either). The first part of your post suggests that your mother supports some kind of Divine Command Theory of morality. Well, given the phrasing of your question, the Divine Command Theorist can respond with a resounding YES! Morality IS based on the views of an individual, and that individual is GOD. So that is just ONE example of how morality can be "relative to an individual" and yet still morality is still an objective fact about the world. There are other possibilities as well. 

We need to carefully distinguish between moral relativism and ethical subjectivism. Your question appears to be this: Is ethical subjectivism true? Whereas most everyone seems to be responding as if your question were: Is moral relativism true? And depending on how one understands each question, the answers might not be the same. I recommend you pick up a philosophy book on ethics. There are many good, short, readable intro books out there, but the one I most highly recommend is James Rachels' "The Elements of Moral Philosophy." I learned from it as an undergraduate student, and now as a graduate student I use it as the intro text for my students. 


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