The Objectively Dictionary Challenged

dictionaryI find myself walking away from more and more debates because the people involved are just damn stupid.  Nowhere is this better illustrated than a recent “debate” where a guy claimed that morality is objective.  This isn’t a new debate by any means and this guy isn’t playing the religious angle, in fact, I’d argue that he’s an atheist and making the same failed argument that I pointed out with Matt Dillahunty‘s secular morality claims.

There just isn’t any way to justify objective morality because objectivity, by it’s very definition, has to exist outside of the human mind and not be beholden to human whims, emotions, desires, dreams or anything of the sort.  Therefore, anyone who sets goals, observes standards, takes positions, etc. on the state of morality is, by definition, being subjective in their views.  This guy couldn’t wrap his head around that and, in fact, came off very dishonestly in his arguments.

He defined morality as supporting the goal of stopping suffering in humanity.  That’s exactly what Matt Dillahunty tries to argue and it fails for exactly the same reason.  The second you, as an individual, define a goal, you’re no longer being objective, but subjective.  I don’t care what the goal is, I don’t care how strongly you feel about the goal, that goal is still subjective because a human mind had a part in selecting it.  Words have meanings for a reason, to facilitate clear and concise communication.  So I produced a number of definitions for the word “objective” and he ignored them all entirely.  I guess words don’t mean much to him.  I told him to go out and find his own definition of “objective” from any reputable source that meets his claims about it.  He didn’t.  Instead, he went out and pulled a definition for the word “optimal”, claiming that he only cared about the optimal state of humanity and therefore, any morality that led to his self-defined optimal state was, by some bizarre definition, “objective”.

When I picked myself up off the floor, mouth agape, I just shook my head and walked away.  Now I don’t care if he wants to argue that his subjective position on morality is that it leads to some self-chosen optimal state, but come on, that’s not what the debate was about and he knows it.  This is becoming more and more common though, people thinking that they get to redefine words at their whim so they can win arguments.

Sorry, it just doesn’t work that way.

Color is objectively defined, not subjectively experienced.

Worse yet, the guys on the other side of the debate weren’t that bright either.  They chased me down to explain that morality was subjective in the same way that color was subjective.  Everyone experiences it differently!  That sent me reeling as well because it is absolutely, positively not true.  Color is objective.  Each color is defined as a particular range of light wavelengths.  For example, red is defined as light around 650 nanometers, you don’t have to see this in order to measure it objectively.  If someone has red/green color blindness though, that light doesn’t magically transform into gray for the individual, even though they are unable to see red.  It remains red, their optical sensory organs are simply wrong.  They are not functioning properly.  The light doesn’t change, the people are seeing the light improperly!  I’ve tried to explain this to these people and they just can’t get it through their head that color is an objective thing.

It’s enough to make me want to throttle people sometimes.  Seriously, what do you do when you’re surrounded by morons on every side of the debate?

667 thoughts on “The Objectively Dictionary Challenged

  1. I'm wondering, if there is no objective moral standards, then please elaborate for me under what circumstances it would be morally acceptable and justified to rape a child. Is pedophilia ever morally excusable? What about infanticide? I know that there have been times in the past when cultures engaged in infanticide. I am not questioning that humans do this. But is it ever morally excusable?

  2. What gets me about this is the stubbornness that people go through with this definition. For example when I got shown how agnostic is not a position between atheism and theism I changed my word usage and was thankful. It makes me wonder if the morality debate is more a stubbornness about being wrong about something people consider so important.
    My recent post Islam promotes options other than divorce

  3. Colour is subjective. There are the colourblind, there are women who can see more colours than others due to a genetic mutation and apart from that each person has been shown to experience colours slighty differently. You can't get two people to agree on a colour between blue and green, each sees them slightly differently.

  4. I would think that people who think color is subjective also think it's fine to sit down and tune a piano without knowing what 'c' is.

    It's possible to redefine words as long as you don't ever expect to talk and exchange ideas with anyone.
    Those that live in a larger mental sphere of influence? They know the things you point out in your article.

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