August 6, 2012
Page 137 Book 5: The War Diaries
Objective versus subjective.
I had a wonderful discussion recently that contemplated Lex Luthor versus Superman as examples of subjective morality versus objective morality, that is to say whether something is always good or bad versus whether something is good or bad depending on the circumstances. It’s pretty clear which is which, but here we have a brief and passing discussion about it between Lying and Sildyu, who could be said to be Luthor and Superman respectively (at least insofar as the previous relation to moral perspectives).
Objective morality is good if you’re looking to produce a legal system, because it requires less contemplation by the judges and juries as to whether something constitutes a crime, but in reality things are subjective. You can steal to avoid starvation and you can kill to defend your own life, for example (although the law is pretty fuzzy here, because the two systems don’t mesh easily).
In Sildyu’s case, she justifies her actions by saying that she is personally evil and as such it’s perfectly alright for her to commit evil acts. She is objectively moral, therefore. Contrastingly, Lying does things based on their relative ethical weight and the ethical weight of their consequences. He might burn down a village to enable the destruction of an evil empire, but as we’ve seen he first ensured that the human life cost (which constituted the majority of the “evil” in such an action) was minimised before doing so. He is subjectively moral.
The trouble with subjective morality is, as long as an individual can justify it, it’s “good” for them to undertake any action. Murder in the name of self-defense, for example. As a consequence, subjective morality is variable depending on the mentality of the perpetrator, a fact Lying readily acknowledges to Ardonius during their discussion in Azimuth Spray.
Therein lies the problem with subjective morality as the basis for a civilisation, in the proper circumstances or insanity genocide can become perfectly legitimate, hence the use of objective morality for the basis of legal systems. Most legal systems today however could be considered hybrids of the two, using an “X is bad” base with modifications based on circumstance (“X is bad unless Y”) as well as gradiations of severity (“X is bad to the extent Y”), and that’s why they tend to be pretty complicated and only become moreso over time.
In case you missed it, Nether Expedition #17 went up on Saturday. Discussed within is a recent burglary, transhumanism, and the nature & value of the youtube rate/comment/subscribe system. Friday also saw the release of Anether Expedition #3, in which the whole world goes pretty damn crazy but we finally get down to making some machinery.