Why Morality Must be Objective

by Lenny Esposito

My son is a big Disney fan. He loves the movies, the theme parks, and just about everything Disney.  Walt Disney really knew how to not only tell a good story, but reflect the way many people feel. Pinocchio is a great example of this. In Disney’s version, one of Pinocchio’s temptations is to go to Pleasure Island, where there are no rules. You can break things, get in fights, smoke, drink, or do anything your heart desires and never get in trouble. It seems a morality-free setting.

In reality, we know that it would be impossible to live out life morally free. If such a place existed, you could never be sure that someone else wouldn’t strike out and kill you just for his own enjoyment. We rely on laws as well as the generally accepted ways of behavior so we can have order in our society. But these laws are not merely practical from a survival standpoint. They are essential.

Defining Morality: Commands for how we should live

When I talk about moral principles, I make the claim that they are objective and prescriptive. By objective, I mean that human beings don’t invent morality out of nothing. Moral laws aren’t merely ways we choose to live. They are as real as physical laws, such as gravity. That’s what I mean when I

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say they are objective; moral laws are true whether or not anyone believes them or practices them. They exist apart from man and have their basis outside of mankind.

Some people believe morality is like traffic laws, that is they are merely a whole bunch of people getting together and agreeing that driving at some speed, say 80 miles per hour, is too fast and therefore pass laws to make it illegal to do so. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with driving 80 miles per hour. For example, the Autobahn in Germany or certain areas of Montana don’t have a maximum speed limit. But for this group of people in this place, they feel we’d all be better off if speeds were limited. However, morality is different from traffic laws. By saying morality is objective, it means that certain actions are wrong simply because they are wrong. It doesn’t matter if a lot of people recognize that they are wrong.

By prescriptive, I mean that moral laws apply to all men at all times. Morality is what we should do; no one is exempt from it, no matter what their situation or status. Nutrition is a good analogy here. Human bodies have need for certain vitamins, minerals, and other elements  to continue operating. If you have a deficiency of Vitamin C in your diet, you can develop scurvy, and a deficiency of calcium will cause weakened bones and teeth susceptible to decay. These facts are true whether you know them and choose to eat wrongly or, like ancient sailors, don’t know about them; you will still suffer the same effects regardless. Just as the human body requires nutrition to live, human persons require a moral framework to survive…

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Come Reason’s Apologetics Notes: Why Morality Must be Objective