You all know that I’m a totally cold-hearted, cold-blooded, heartless, mindless, (is this sounding like an EXO song to you?) emotionless robot, right? Well in that case it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m also a moral nihilist, i.e. someone who views the notion of morality itself, whether objective or subjective, as nonsensical. So basically, no right, no wrong, no rules for me. Except, it seems, the rule that I must always quote songs like a pretentious prat.
ANYWAY. It often seems axiomatic that morals exist: that helping an old lady cross the street is “right,” that murdering someone in cold blood is “wrong,” that human beings have some sort of innate moral compass which makes these ostensible axioms obvious to them. One could even go further and say that it seems as though said moral compass was placed there by a divine being, since it appears so purposeful and universal. The possibility of this divine being existing can be discussed another time, but morality – the concepts of “right,” “wrong,” “rights,” “justice,” – is so ingrained, without being questioned, into the mindsets of theists and atheists everywhere that it needs to be discussed first.
The notion that there is an objective morality, an outcome, action or answer which can objectively be reasoned to be “correct,” is the most ridiculous. Take the example of gay marriage. It is often argued that gay marriage is “morally wrong.” Ignoring the position that this argument is “the word of God”, (this will be dealt with another time) why is this argument made? Because enforcing restrictions on gay marriage – or on what LGBT+ people can do in general – is in the <em>interests</em> of certain groups of people. In particular, it’s in the interests of the ruling class and the agents of ruling class ideology (particularly religious institutions) to make moral arguments against gay marriage in order to provide attractive reasons for another means of structurally oppressing LGBT+ people. This, however, is obviously not in the interests of LGBT+ people. Neither group’s interests are inherently more “valid,” than the other’s, thus the basis of neither moral viewpoint is more “valid.” It’s totally subjective. When the Supreme Court finally legalised gay marriage in the US a few weeks ago, this didn’t happen because it was inherently, objectively moral for gay people to be able to marry and because people have finally seen the light, it was because the interests of one group prevailed over those of the other. The same applies to actions which seem more axiomatically wrong, like murder. Whether gay marriage, or anything else, is generally considered moral depends entirely on what is considered socially acceptable in any given society (and therefore the material conditions of the society) which is why people in the Middle East in the early CE thought that polygamy was perfectly moral and why people in the Middle Ages thought that stoning to death was a perfectly moral punishment for apostasy. Or more accurately, the ruling classes in those societies held those views and there was not yet sufficient struggle to change this. Thus there is no objective definition of “moral,”; morality xdepends entirely on which type and which section of society one is looking through the perspective of.
What, then, of subjective morality? Of the notion that morality still exists, but that what is regarded as moral can differ depending on who one is? My problem with this is twofold. Firstly, these two properties (existence and subjectivity) are mutually exclusive. Subjective entities are things like tastes and opinions, which do not independently exist. They are rather like ideals, in that they are mere reflections, entirely dependent on existent entities. So the statements that “X doesn’t exist,” and “X is subjective,” are in fact two ways of describing the same phenomenon. And secondly, if morality is in fact based on subjective interests, why call it morality? That word has several lofty, ultimate implications, which is why it is so often used in arguments to give a “higher,” justification to one’s position. A subjective “morality,” isn’t deserving of that word; it could more adequately be described as “judgement,” or “action in one’s interests.”
So on what basis should decisions be made, if not morality? It’s easy: one’s interests, which in most situations will be one’s class interests. These decisions will not have any ultimate value. They will not be “right,” or “wrong,” or “just.” But they could still yield a better outcome. They could still benefit you, and those around you. And if we – the workers, the oppressed – struggle hard enough for what benefits us, as opposed to benefitting the ruling class, our interests will prevail.