Is Morality Objective or Subjective?

Is Morality Objective or Subjective? November 25, 2020

Theists claim that morality is absolute, objective and dispensed by their god not anyone else’s god!

‘Objective’ means untainted by a mind. It can be applied to a phenomenon that is reported without influence by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; something that is based on facts that are unbiased. ‘The sun is setting’ is an objective observation. 

‘Subjective’ is the opposite; this is something that has been influenced by a mind, it has a person’s feelings, interpretations, prejudices or biases imposed upon it. ‘The sunset is beautiful’ is a subjective statement.

So which can we apply to morality?


I contend that we have some behaviors that are embedded into our subconscious. Some of these are instinctive taboos that have helped to enable our species, and other social animals, to survive and succeed. “Thou shalt not kill” is a good example. It’s a moral universal – all human societies observe it and it obviously helps us to become more numerous; that’s measurable success. 

I’ve written about this before

I contend that, if these ‘commandments’, in the form of inherited traits, are stored in our unthinking subconscious, they are as objective as it’s possible to get, but…

How we apply these ‘rules’ is open to live, realtime considerations by the thinking part of the brain, which judges how to respond in each individual case.

For example, in a scenario where it’s ‘us or them’ we might be prepared to kill rather than be killed and deliberately override the inherited tendency by a subjective decision. That would be an interpretation: a response that’s relative to a situation, rather than an absolute response based on an objective, evolved policy – a doctrine. 

There are other situations, in the light of which we might choose to impose a wilful, subjective ‘immoral’ action onto our objective traits – to protect our family by killing a threatening agent for example…

Under those sort of conditions, morality is contingent.

However, when there are no such extenuating circumstances, we trundle along obeying the dictat of our subconscious; we do no harm to others because doing so would involve a risk of their death, which we are adapted not to bring about.

So, perhaps we have objective programming for absolute, objective morals in our flash memory but algorithms in our processor that can modify their application subjectively, relative to the circumstances of the moment.

What do you think?

Image: Timisu, Pixabay

Browse Our Archives