Question : Is something morally wrong, reprehensible, because individuals , or a whole society, judge it so, or is something intrinsically wrong, no matter what people think?
Example: Imagine a world where slavery is ubiquitous and universally accepted (like the idea of private property in our societies). Would slavery be morally wrong in such a world?
Those who feel tempted to spontaneously answer "Yes!" must also be able to say where this moral norm can be found (because it is not in people's heads or minds).
Is there some kind of "heaven" of the moral norms (like Plato's realm of eternal ideas) and those norms and values are valid, no matter whether somebody knows about them or believes in them? Just like there were X-rays when nobody knew about them?
Each person should be able to live a life free of fear of others and following their heart as long as that does not interfere with the rights of others and is not derived from a place of power over another.
So slavery is wrong as the slave lives in fear of others and is not able to follow their heart.
Sex with children is wrong as it derives from a place of power over another.
It may not be perfect but it is the best I can do for a morality guide. Where it derives from would be the Wiccan Rede
An it harm none do as ye please.
I find it difficult to discuss morality and moral judgement (on matters like slavery) without relevance to historical contexts, traditions, practices of certain groups of people, that sort of things. In that respect, I don't think that moral values and standards are universal.
Morality in its most basic form is the innate desire for fairness and to not suffer or experience the suffering of others. This get augmented by experience and empathy, and later by what is taught. Even the higher animals (chordates mostly) exhibit the beginnings of moral behavior
I don't think slavery, as in owning another human and their children in perpetuity, can ever be justified because I have empathy. What about indentured servitude? If an individual were given a choice to take on debt that had to be repaired with labor would that be ok, or is the concept so ripe for abuse that it should never be allowed?
In the bible slavery was not morally wrong. For the longest time it was also not morally wrong in America and other parts of the world. It is only by learning more about ourselves and humanity in general that it has become so. The changed beliefs are because of our evolution but without an active agent of change this would not have happened.
Your supposition that for something to be morally wrong "it must be in people's heads" is an incorrect prerequisite. It is your qualification only.
I've argued with many that murder (the legal definition of murder) is always immoral. Arguments against that only add up to "who is to say". The obvious answer is anyone with a rational mind is to say.
The same applies to your slavery question.
There is no absolute objective morality. Morality only exists as a (sort of) negotiated common ground within a given society.
So yes, on another planet, eating children below a certain age and/or elders above a certain age could be morally acceptable if that is what evolved in the societies there.
Fortunately, that is not the case here .... yet.
Morality isn't the ultimate determination of what is right or wrong, it's simply what society has deemed to be right or wrong. Right and wrong, in my opinion, are determined by whether or not those actions significantly harm another person.
If I take someone out for a $100 dinner and purchase them a $400 gift (for example) and then we have sex, that's okay. But if I pay that person $500 for sex that's considered immoral (as well as illegal).
In some societies, if I were to marry a minor then that would be acceptable and not at all immoral. But in the U.S. it's largely considered immoral (and illegal).
So, yea... morality is fluid and should be scrutinized on a regular basis. Morality should never be considered as any sort of absolute.
I used to get into an argument with friends over overtly sexist and misogynist language in rap music. My friends insisted that it was okay because the singers represented a different culture. My take was that while many (maybe most) cultural differences should be respected, there is also a bottom line of moral behavior that should be demanded of all cultures. I would apply this same notion to cultures like Talibanist Afghanistan that subjugate and mistreat women. All persons deserve mutual respect, and no claim of cultural prerogative can justify abuse.
When you say "universally accepted," does that include the slaves themselves? Or are we just talking about the non-slave part of the population?
Notwithstanding that bit of ambiguity, I tend to think that morality is, to a certain extent, relative, and judgements upon it rather arbitrary.
Yes and No.
No, they don’t exist as supernatural ghosties in some supernatural realm.
But it could be said that they exist as unavoidable relationships given the nature of reality. Like evolution “exists”. If a random mutation confers a reproductive benefit, it gets reproduced. That’s an example of an unavoidable relationship that “exists” in nature. Plato was right.
Does fairness exist? Not as a disembodied magical entity.
But as an unavoidable relationship - yes. What’s fair is fair. Unfairness is not fair. It’s an unavoidable truth. It’s not true because we want it to be. It’s true because it’s true.
The unavoidable relationship that humans have named morality… unavoidably exists.
Whether that relationship is honored is negotiable, but whether it exists is not.
Both, and one other. Some parts of morality are simply cultural, and some are a genetic inheritance, and some are naturally derived logically from the genetic inheritance. So three origins.
Generally speaking those aspects of morality which are common to many different species are probably inherent, and those found in all human cultures are most likely logically derived from that, and those which are only found in some cultures are probably merely cultural.