On this answer, I received a comment from virmaior that it should be "sourced in philosophy (roughly as defined in academic philosophy)".

Other answers involving the subjectivity of morality were first downvoted and then deleted (also by virmaior) with the remark that my sources were not considered relevant. This is one of those answers, which was an answer to the question How could 'objective morality' be known/investigated? :


Neither would be any alternative you can come up with, as morality is a pure human construct and fundamentally subjective.

Some might argue that a society where few living beings suffer is objectively more moral than a society where many living beings suffer, but when we also consider the quality of the individual (his/her individual traits) and not just the quantity of individuals, the issue becomes far more ambiguous.

Others might argue that a society with optimal balance between chaos and order (or freedom and responsibility) is more moral than either a society where there's too much chaos (freedom) or a society where there's too much order (responsibility). This, however, is no less problematic than the first proposition, as the need for chaos (freedom) and order (responsibility) differs strongly at the individual level and one man's (or woman's) freedom is often another many's prison. In fact, one could go so far as argue that the very notions of chaos and order are subjective human constructs.

Your example doesn't get us any further either, because it implies underlying assumptions, like (1) following rules is moral and (2) winning a game is moral, neither of which can be considered objective truths.

IMO, the fundamental subjectivity of morality as well as its relevance in spite of its subjectivity is best expressed by two very different sources : Malaclypse the Younger's Principia Discordia and Terry Pratchett's Hogfather.

Excerpt from the Principia Discordia :

The Aneristic Principle is that of apparent order;
the Eristic Principle is that of apparent disorder.
Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are
artificial divisions of pure chaos, which is a level
deeper than is the level of distinction making.

With our concept-making apparatus called "the brain"
we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality
which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality
are mistakenly labeled "reality" and unenlightened
people are forever perplexed by the fact that other
people, especially other cultures, see "reality"

It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ.
Real (capital-T) True reality is a level deeper than
is the level of concept. We look at the world through
windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts).
Different philosophies use different grids. A culture
is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through
a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on
our grid, and thereby understand it. The order is in
the grid. That is the Aneristic Principle.

Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with
contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending
grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account
for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened
westerners) be true. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians
call the Aneristic Illusion. Some grids can be more useful
than others, some more beautiful than others, some more
pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True
than any other.

Disorder is simply unrelated information viewed through
some particular grid. But, like "relation", no-relation
is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex.
To say that male-ness is "absence of female-ness", or
vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically
arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the
Eristic Principle.

The belief that "order is true" and disorder is false
or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the
same of disorder, is the Eristic Illusion. The point is
that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative
to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T)
Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely.
Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and
some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same
chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered.

Reality is the original Rorschach. Verily! So much for all that.

Excerpt from the TV-movie transcript of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather :

S : What would've happened
    if you hadn't saved him?
D : Yes.
    The sun would not have risen.
S : Then what would've happened?
D : A mere ball of flaming gas
    would have illuminated the world.
S : Alright, I'm not stupid.
    You're saying that humans need
    fantasies to make life bearable.
D : No.
    Humans need fantasy to be human.
    To be the place where the
    falling angel meets the rising ape.
S : With tooth fairies, Hogfathers...
D : As practice, you have to start out
    learning to believe the little lies.
S : So we can believe the big ones?
D : Yes.
    Justice, mercy, duty,
    that sort of thing.
S : But they're not the same at all.
D : You think so?
    Then, take the universe and
    grind it down to the finest powder
    and sieve it
    through the finest sieve,
    and then show me one atom of justice,
    one molecule of mercy.
    And yet, you try to act as if there
    is some ideal order in the world,
    as if there is some...
    some rightness in the universe
    by which it may be judged.
S : But people have got to believe that,
    or what's the point?
D : You need to believe in things
    that aren't true.
    How else can they become?

Why are neither the Principia Discordia nor Hogfather considered valid sources?

Are works of fiction not allowed? Not even when they contain great wisdom? So Richard Linklater's masterpiece Waking Life doesn't qualify as philosophical? What about Jaco Van Dormael's Mr Nobody? Or Guy Richie's Revolver?

What about religious texts? If so, doesn't the Principia Discordia qualify as a religious text?

What about works of psychology? What about works of sociology? If so, how is that any different from eg. a film that offers great insight into the human psyche?

What about the random scribbling of a savant made at a coffee table? Does one need to have a formal degree as a philosopher to qualify as a philosopher? Does one need to have a PhD? Must one be considered an authority in the field or does a student qualify as well?

And what about a factory laborer without any college degree qualify as a philosopher? If his opinions contain insight as great as that of Plato, Kant or Nietzsche, are his opinions irrelevant just because he's a factory worker without a degree??

It is my experience that the greatest wisdom and insight are often found where one expects them the least and that works of fiction offer sometimes profound insights greater than that of most works of philosophy that have been written down since the dawn of man.

In my experience, anyone who ponders the universe qualifies as a philosopher and is -- as such -- a valid source in his own right. Or to quote Terrence McKenna:

We all must try to understand what is happening. We need to try to understand what is happening, and in my humble opinion ideology is only going to get in your way.

Nobody understands what is happening. Not Buddhists, not Christians, not government scientists. No one understands what is happening.

So, forget ideology. They betray. They limit. They lead astray.

Just deal with the raw data and trust yourself. Nobody is smarter than you are.

And what if they are? What good is their understanding doing you? People walk around saying, "I don't understand Quantum Physics, but somewhere somebody understands it." That's not a very helpful attitude towards preserving the insights of Quantum Physics.

Inform yourself. What does inform yourself mean? It means transcend and mistrust ideology. Go for direct experience.

What do YOU think when YOU face the waterfall? What do YOU think when YOU have sex? What do YOU think when YOU take psilocybin?

Everything else is unconfirmable rumor, useless, probably lies. So, liberate yourself from the illusion of culture. Take responsibility for what you think and what you do.

Related questions:

  • First, off thanks for taking this to meta. To provide further details for anyone who does answer, I did delete several answers provided by the OP similar to the one he quotes above.
    – virmaior
    May 9, 2015 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


(This is the same reply moved from the other thread)

John Slegers,

I'm sorry you are having difficulties with a moderator. I hope we can get over that little hiccup soon, as we really do want you to participate here and not scare you away. I do want to comment on your statement though with regards to what philosophy is "all about":

Philosophy is all about ... the organic transgenerational enterprise of making sense of the universe that many intellectuals (including myself) engage in on an almost daily basis. For me, philosophy comes as natural as breathing, as eating.

See the thing is, you can say that about any field. I've heard deeply passionate botanists say the same thing about biology, and physicists say that about physics, and the devout say that about religion. It's poetic, it's romantic, seems like a lovely statement but unless you really qualify what that means then it is just nonsense. Philosophy to many of us here is no different from any of the other fields. It is the pursuit of knowledge, the love of wisdom. The only difference is that when the knowledge relates to organic materials we call it biology, when it relates to abstract numbers we call it math, etc. etc. They are names for labeling purposes so it is easier to refer to them, but they are all part of the same thing: knowledge. Indeed, when I say "biology" I am referring to our collective body of knowledge in that subject. Sure, the scientific method might be a popular way many of the fields we label as "science" acquire knowledge — a method which philosophy doesn't usually employ — but that doesn't make them special or different. The "science" fields are just those areas of knowledge where the scientific method works effectively, but that doesn't cover all knowledge; what's left is what we call philosophy.

So when you suggest that the idea of philosophy as an academic field of study is proposterous, I respectfully disagree. Just as all the the other subfields of knowledge (math, physics, biology, psychology) are academic fields of study, so too is philosophy. There are nonsense concepts in biology, physics, pyschology, etc., and in the same way there are in philosophy. Philosophy is not some magical area of knowledge where "everyone is right". There are theories and facts with varying levels of justifications/support, just as in the other fields. Since StackExchange is built to be a knowledge library — containing factual knowledge and not merely armchair discussions — the individual stacks try to focus on academic knowledge, i.e. what you and I might learn at a university rather than doing our own philosophy/biology/physics/etc.[1][2].

I hope you can understand where we are coming from, and hope you stick around to try us out for a bit. We are pretty liberal (generous, unrestrictive) with our "academic-only" guidelines as long as questions are posed appropriately. I'm sorry if you've had a bad first-impression, but I think — despite our format sometimes being challenging for new users — we're not that bad when you get to know us. :)


  • It appears that my comment to your answer hasn't been moved :-( May 9, 2015 at 21:57
  • We can't move comments, regrettably, but I did read it. :) I can repaste it here if you want to restate it for the record.
    – stoicfury
    May 10, 2015 at 9:44
  • Personally, I'm not convinced that the scientific method can't be used to address any issue. I would even go so far as stating that science has made philosophy obsolete as a distinct academic field, because any question that can be addressed by philosophers can be addressed with the scientific method in a more reliable manner. The only thing that science doesn't have access to is that which is unknowable, or areas where knowledge cannot be obtained with any degree of reliability at all.
    – stoicfury
    May 10, 2015 at 9:45

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