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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?

Matias 8 May 28

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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.

Ryo1 Level 8 May 29, 2022

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?


If it violatesThe Golden Rule it is Ipso Facto wrong.

Agreed! Empathy tells us it's wrong to own another person. In fact, slavery is often times justified by demonizing the enslaved as less than human. That tells me all I need to know.


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.


I see not a hint of pragmatism (“There are no excuses.” ) in the post or these comments.


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 is not a negotiable subject. For example let me know when rape, then murder of the victim can ever be "negotiated" as moral.

@Alienbeing If you had bothered to notice the mating practices of the praying mantis, the black widow spider, and octopi the apparent morality there is not far different from what you describe.

@Normanbites EXCUSE ME! I was dumb enough to think we were referencing HUMAN behavior.

There IS absolute morality. As proof of your negative "concept", prove when rape followed by murder can ever be anything other than immoral.

Your "other planet" comment is absurd for two reasons:

  1. It is pure supposition
  2. Even if there was such a planet, you would be referencing social acceptability, not morals

@Alienbeing So now you are asserting that morality governs HUMAN behavior only. Well that's interesting because that would mean that morality evolved with us. This also means it is NOT absolute as it only applies to HUMANs and therefore CANNOT be absolute.

Even your proposed antithesis is riddled with subjectivity. "rape" can only occur within a species that reproduces sexually. NOT all species do this.

But OK, let's play your game for a while. FIRST define ABSOLUTELY the term "HUMAN" .... let's start with that. If your definition is too broad, you will prove there is no absolute human, if it is too narrow, you will exclude beings we should be moral towards.

By all means please proceed!! I'll wait.

@Normanbites The first sentence of your reply is so idiotic that I cn't think of a reply. Where have you ever seen a study involving morality in animals?

The second sentnce of your reply relates to other animal species also, and therefore is equally idiotic.

If you don't know the definitions of absolute and human, go buy a dictionary. I always used standard dictionary definitions.

Don't bother waiting, becuse I truly believe you are rather strange.

@Alienbeing Yes, I have seen studies involving morality in animals.

I am pleased and honored you think I am an idiot, most morons do.

@Normanbites I read your reference. It is absurd. Research like that is useless because no interviews of subjects are possible.

You fail to address anything else.

Norman, your bark is much worse than your bite. You don't have a leg to stand on.

In closing, I note you cannot justify rape/murder as anything other than immoral. Your feeble attempt to shift the subject proves your inability. I can't compare knowledge to you because you have yet to exhibit any knowledge.

@Alienbeing The fact that you do not know how to observe animals does not prove they don't have moral behavior.

I am happy to leave such studies to people who are smarter than you, which is just about anyone.

@Normanbites The fact that YOU don't know that the "research" you point out is greatly flawed speaks to either your inability to admit error, or stupidity. When one cannot interview, all the researcher can do is project his/her "conclusions". At best (although doubtful) all the researcher is doing is observing social behavior which is NOT moral judgement. I know you don't know the difference between social behavior and moral because of your proven inability to illustrate why rape followed by murder cannot be anything except immoral.

The above paragraph proves I can judge (by virtue of superior education) much much better than you ever imagined.

Prove anything I said in the first paragraph wrong. I'll wait.

@Alienbeing The fact that you can not recognize that moral judgement, particularly human moral judgement, is by definition a subjective element proves you are not worthy any serious consideration.

@Normanbites You must be on drugs. You keep repeating yourself, and that proves nothing. When you can offer any logic contradicting the statement that rape followed by murder is always immoral, then you'd have a point.

Repitition of your unproven belching proves nothing. Put up or shut up.

@Alienbeing When a Black Widow spider decides to mate, does her selected mate have any choice in the matter? If not, is it rape? In either case, after the mating has occurred does the mate want to have his head torn off or not? And in either of those cases is it murder or not??

When a lion eats a Caribou, is it a moral act? What if the Caribou didn't want to be eaten? How does the Caribou or the Lion feel about your decision either way?

If morality is absolute as you maintain, it should apply to these situations as well since it absolutely would not be relative only to humans.

Please proceed!!! Show us your enormous moral brainpower you brag about. I'll wait.

@NormanbitesNo, the black widow example you noted is not an example of rape. Anamals eating aaimals eating other animals has nothing to do with moral behavior.

When you can answer the very simple question I posed which was "how can HUMAN rape, followed by murder of the rape victim be anything except immoral", then you will have a point. Until then you are just a bag of wind.

Since your example of spiders would require you to know a spider's thoughts, do you claim to speak "spider"? Perhaps you speak dog. If you do ask your pal Norman. Ler us know what he says.

Last, I never claimed "enormous brain power. You keep interjecting childish attempts at insult, obviously because you know you have nothing.

Put up or shut up.

@Alienbeing You just acknowledged that morals are relative to HUMAN behavior only. SINCE they are RELATIVE to being human only, they CAN NOT be ABSOLUTE.

You lose.

@Normanbites No, I don't lose, you sipmly don't understand. You can easily prove your point if you can tell us when rape, followed by murder can ever be anythig other than immoral. If you can't do that YOU lose, and it appears you cannot.

@Alienbeing It seems I have and you have no ability to read with comprehension.

In days of yore, there were human sacrifices to the "gods" of the time. I don't know what the ceremonies entailed, but rape was a possible component, murder and butchery certainly was. This was considered moral at that time.

I also mentioned the inquisitions when people were tortured and murdered. I don't know if rape was part of the torture process, but it wouldn't surprise me since the documented tortures seem far worse.

So there you go. I met your challenge twice on two different occasions. You lose.

@Normanbites I read MUCH better than you. That is proven by the fact that you either can't read, or want to avoid answering a single question. Stop trying to sound "educated" you aren't and that is obvious.

As pointed out previously what may or may not have been socially acceptable at any point in time is totally irrelevant. The FACT is YOU can't logically explain why rape followed by murder can ever be moral. Of course you can't because it is always immoral.

Your moral compass is given to you by social acceptability. You never learned to think for yourself, that is the true sign of an educated person.


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.

Excellent response. I would like to offer yet another example of "alternate morality"

As I understand, in some Arctic cultures, if a traveler happened to visit your home, it was customary to offer them the "comfort" of your spouse for the night. It was perceived to be the "right thing" to do.



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.

I am sure that slaves at all times and everywhere have lamented their fate. But that does not mean that they rejected the institution of slavery.
I, for example, do not like paying taxes at all, and yet I do not reject taxes in general, because I know that there is no polity, no functional state without taxes.
Let's imagine a slave in ancient Rome who is freed and becomes a rich man. Will he still buy slaves? Certainly, because every rich man had slaves at that time


Think of it in terms of the game metaphor. All games have rules and the rules define the limits of the moves that can be made in any given game. Without rules no game would be possible.


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.

skado Level 9 May 28, 2022

Still too much "wiggle room here" IMHO. For example, you could view WWII as a "morality negotiation". With things as they are, all people are equal without regard to race, religion or national origin. Personally, I like that outcome.

However, consider what would be if the other side had "won" .... soylent green would be Jewish People, quite possibly. And it would then be considered moral and proper.

Sure, but that does not tell us what different cultures understand when its citizens think of what is "fair". Many cultures in history knew and practiced "debt servitude": if someone could not pay his debts, he became the serf or slave of his creditor (or one member of his family was sold to pay the debt). That was considered fair. Or that soldiers of a defeated army were regularily enslaved: that too was "part of the game" that everybody accepted.

That’s right, it doesn’t. I don’t think any act is inherently right or wrong. But everything exists in relationship to everything else. A is the same distance from B as B is from A. That’s unavoidable.

Human perception of morality is culture-specific and even individual-specific. But whether one individual received more than the other in a transaction… is actual, whether it could ever be measured or not, and whether either of them care or not.

@Normanbites Your "soylent green" example is a PERFECT example of the fact that you don't know the difference between moral and social behavior. Using your "logic" there is no such word as "moral". Last using your logic, if enough people agree you are not fit to live ,it is perfectly moral to execute you for no other reason.

I didn’t mean to suggest that the rightness or wrongness of it is negotiable. Just saying whether that rightness is recognized and respected is a separate issue.

@skado Well then, I will suggest the rightness or wrongness is negotiable since it is through some form of negotiation that rightness or wrongness is recognized and/or respected.

@Alienbeing It would appear that we finally agree. morality is a majority decision and yes, if enough people agree then one can be "morally" executed for any reason. Anne Frank is a fine example of that, since that is EXACTLY what happened to her.

Now, as it happens, because morality is a negotiated and majority endorsed concept, morals or what is recognized as right or wrong does change with time. Again in the case of Anne Frank, that is what happened. The majority opinion of right and wrong changed as part of a consequence of a negotiation technique known as WAR.

Anne Frank is not the only instance of this. There have been innumerable sacrifices to the god of the day/place/culture all determined to be "morally right" by the majority of the society in control. Whether or not rape was part of the ceremonies is not fully known, but murder clearly was.

If you still want to dispute this, then I repeat my prior challenge to state an ABSOLUTE moral rule. Your example of rape and murder doesn't hold as that was done under "moral" auspices during the inquisitions and crusades.

So, by all means, continue flapping your face.

And ummm here is a history of "moral" endorsement of rape;

If you’re including me in the “we finally agree” FTR I do not agree. You are talking about the collective perception of morality rather than morality itself.

@skado I have been asking for an ABSOLUTE definition of "morality" .... got one?

@Normanbites No we do not agree at all. As I mentioned elsewhere, when you can prove that rape followed by murder can ever be anything other than immoral, then you win, until then you are merely dancing.

Last, I find it amusing you resort to a biblical passage to justify your position. I guess you will dance with any partner if that partner lends any credibility to your position. Do you now believe in biblical passages.?

Go about justifying rape/murder, or admit you can't.

@Alienbeing There are many in the history of man who claimed the ability to define morality hence effectively claiming to be Gods. Popes, Emperors, Pharoh's and yourself of course. By their definition and their society at the time, they could do no wrong and rape and murder they did. But all according to their "divine moral right" .... of course.

You lose again.


@Normanbites I see you still cannot point to anything that would make rape followed by murder as anything except immoral.

You love trying to change the subject, but you fail the test.

Let's leave it that you have no moral compass, because you need others to proclaim morality for you, which is actually only alerting you to current social acceptability.

@Alienbeing You have claimed that morality is absolute yet have provided no absolute moral rule. You have provided lame examples but that is far from an absolute moral rule.

Obviously you are one of the idjits that thing morality is absolutely what YOU say it is.

And that proposition is stupid enough for me to stop responding to your crap.


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.


Morals are what you choose to live by. If it is morally wrong for something to be imposed on to you then it is equally wrong for you to impose it on others.

To answer your question. YES, slavery is morally wrong.

Betty Level 8 May 28, 2022

Social acceptability is what one chooses to live be, not morals.

@Alienbeing When morals and social norms align, then I agree.

@Betty I don't understand what you are saying.

@Alienbeing We have a set of moral that we live by and the majority are socially acceptable (social norms).

@Betty OK,I get it.

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