Cows and Morality (A Call to Doubt Our Doubts)

Cows exist but morals were made up by humans. Sound reasonable? If so, you may be a cynic when it comes to truth claims.

In the last blog post, we discussed skeptics but there is a difference between skeptics and cynics. Skeptics may say that the nothing can be trusted! Cynics on the other hand, will tell you that there may be absolute truth in the world but you’ll never find it. To their point, we live in a time where disagreement and division seem to be at a record height, how can we know what’s right? What makes one worldview or perspective any more real than the next persons?

The cynical among us might concede to truths such as, “it’s true that cows exist.” After all, we can touch, see, and unfortunately smell them! But by the same token, the cynic will tell you it is much harder to discover other things such as philosophical claims, values, objective morality. Because these things are difficult to discover, they are considered to be purely subjective.

Want to discover if cows exist? There are farms you can visit or you can go to the grocery store and purchase milk. Want to discover if honesty is a virtue? Good luck finding evidence for it.

But there is a question we should ask the cynical: Because something is difficult to discover does that make it subjective?

We know for example, that there are rocks on the moon. How many are there? Well, that would be nearly impossible to find out. We could guess, but it would be extremely difficult to determine the exact number. Yet, that doesn’t mean that there isn't an exact amount of rocks on the moon. Just because we find something difficult to discover, doesn’t necessarily make it non-existent.

“Fine,” says the cynic. “But we don’t disagree that cows exist or that there are rocks on the moon. We disagree over political and religious issues. Doesn’t that mean that religious and philosophical values are subjective? Aren’t they an illusion?”

Not so fast! It is because we disagree on these things, there must be an objective absolute truth out there! Think about this, if you say “I feel sad today.” No one is going to argue with you. Why? Because that’s how YOU feel. That is a subjective experience, meaning it doesn’t apply to everyone.

But when it comes to religious matters or politics we do argue. Why? Because we each believe that there is an objective truth when it comes to values. The fact that we argue, proves even more so that the truth exists outside of ourselves. Otherwise, why care? Why search for it? Why disagree about anything?

The cynic may still say, “I just don’t believe that morality exists or that philosophical concepts exist because these things are immaterial.” One should then ask the cynic, “Do you then doubt your doubt? After all, your doubt is not testable in a lab. Yet, you trust it. Is your doubt that immaterial things are nonexistent or made up also exempt from your cynicism?”

Maybe if you are still doubting objective truth, objective morality, and objective values, then you should doubt your doubt.

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