Debate:Can any man live without some code of morality?

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Define Terms[edit]

Live: To retain the chemical, mental, and spiritual processes necessary to remain responsive to people and God.

 Should be changed to "responsive to surroundings" - trig.

Code of Morality: Some set of absolute rules by which a man may live, based on worldview.(Feel free to edit definitions)

Mawest217 13:39, 2 June 2008 (EDT)


No. What is morality, after all, but a code of values? A man without morality has no values. But surely every man values something. Even if all that a man values is himself, and what will make him happy, he still has values. With values comes morality.

Thus a man might claim to be amoral, but in fact he does live by a code of morality that he himself has invented.--TerryH 16:17, 8 March 2007 (EST)

There's a Haiku in that:

  Man might claim to be
  amoral, but in fact he
  does live by a code.

Marym 18:56, 14 May 2007 (EDT)

Agreed, although I would further add that an 'amoral' man is still kind of a xxxx. Underscoreb 21:46, 11 November 2007 (EST)
Underscoreb, watch your language on this family-friendly site.--TerryHTalk 21:57, 11 November 2007 (EST)
Sorry, just trying to inject some levity into the debate. :D Underscoreb 00:00, 12 November 2007 (EST)

My take on this is that morality has both an innate and an encultured aspect. The existence of a moral sense is "hardwired" like the ability to learn language. But although we are all born with the potential to develop as moral agents, the course that this development takes is partially determined by the experiences we have as we learn and grow. Theoretically, an individual might grow up without moral training of any kind. However, I would argue that all human societies possess a volume of more or less explicit moral teachings. Thus, even a society which habitually indulges in practises that we might find entirely immoral, does so in accordance with its own moral code. This is not to say that all moral codes are equal. The other (and more difficult) aspect of morality is the question of moral development: the morals of societies change over time, and, in particular, it is an undeniable fact that individuals and groups arise in all historical societies claiming to be in possession of a higher morality than the one that curently prevails. We thus always find ourselves in a marketplace of competing moralities, and it is not easy, as any conservative will acknowledge, to lay claim to moral infalibility: There are always alternative points of view. In Western societies, the existence of an alleged "moral vacuum" is largely the result of the absence of a centrally prescribed code of morals in certain spheres of life (above all sexuality and religion) where one did exist - at least nominally - until recently. Nonetheless, a broad consensus does continue to exist over many moral issues. HabamusPapem 17:50, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

No, of course not. You don't have to be religious to be moral or have a moral code. There are people who think morally it's ok to kill certain groups of people for whatever stupid reason they have, that's their moral. Although it's in opposition to all religions and philosophies. Morals are what one makes them, no one doesn't have them, sometimes people just don't share the same morals. --Ronnyreg 06:08, 15 March 2007 (EDT)

I know that [the determination of] the way of a man is not in himself; it is not in man [even in a strong man or in a man at his best] to direct his [own] steps. (Jeremiah 10:23, Amplified) BibleBrown 19:39, 20 April 2008 (EDT)

postmodern morality[edit]

In the Postmodern world that we live in, our morality is defined by whatever feels right and works for that individual person. There is no central absolute standard in order to judge. However, that is a defeating system, because what if my morality does not match up with someone elses? What if I decide to go rob a store, and that was genuinely what I thought was right to do. Of course that's an extreme example, because not many people in their right mind genuinely think it is the right thing to do. Even criminals know it's wrong, they just don't care. But where does this sense of morality come from? Our postmodern culture says that all viewpoints should be tolerated and no One should find dominance. However, those that hold to that position are philosophically contradicting themselves because they are enforcing postmodernism (their viewpoint) on everyone else. --Ymmotrojam 12:53, 13 April 2007 (EDT)

The way the topic is phrased is an adjunct to one of the pillars of theistic-conservatism; the idea that morality is bequeathed from some (or many) institutions who "teach" mankind how to behave amongst ourselves. Though obviously ludicrous, as evidenced by the fact that (pre-religious) civilization would have never survived to it's current state without a rudimentary collective conscience banding communities together with an innate sense of right and wrong, it is not difficult to see how this becomes a standard principle of the right. -JBall


This debate depends on whether there is a universal 'right' way to behave in all situations, independent of any opinions on what it might be. I would argue that athiests, such as myself have ethics rather than morals, since their values of right and wrong stem from a regard for others as opposed to a rigid dogma. Consider last week in Iraq, a Kurdish girl was stoned to death by a mob, possibly including her own family, because she was judged to have broken her religions moral laws about sex. Evey member of that mob was behaving morally according to their religion and values, but few without a religion would say they behaved ethically. The Old Testament demands death by stoning for a girl in simmilar circumstances (disobeyed her parents, went with a guy of another creed against their wishes), but few modern Christians would actually advocate following the written word of the Bible, they'd make an interpretation of the dogma - the absolute moral - as they (arbitrarily) see fit. Morality is always subjective, but those without religion do not pretend to base their judgements of behavior on bronze age writings, but rather on a philosophy or social contract. Marym 19:31, 14 May 2007 (EDT)

everybody else does it[edit]

I agree with no. Even if the code of morality isn't religious based, there is still an idea of what is right or wrong and people conform to the idea of society as their basic moral code. Just as animals raise their young to do certain things like hide from a predator or attack their prey, society teaches people to behave in certain ways such as not killing others or not stealing or lying because there are negative results. It's the negative result that keeps a person "honest". Regardless of whether a particular person follows the morality of a religon or not, he/she will follow the morality of the people in his/her own group. If he/she is a member of a church, then of course, the church's morality determines the persons. If the person is a member of a gang, then the morality of the gang will determine his/her morality. It could be argued there is no universal right or wrong, only actions perceived as right or wrong and those make up the morality of the group. Some cultures see abuse of wives to be moral, others see it as an atrocity. Some cultures see murder as acceptable if its against an opposing force, others see it as wrong no matter what. Some feel it is moral to raise animals for food, others feel animals shouldn't be used as food at all. Morality is in the 'eye of the beholder' in that way. Whatever the group of people that a person is a member of sees as moral will be the moral standards of that person. History has determined most of our morals as a society and the Bible has determined our morals as Christians. The two don't always overlap. --- John

Animals don't have a moral code[edit]

Humans are animals. All non-human animals live without a moral code. They have instinctive respect for the dead, and other such things that may be considered moral, but they have no moral code. These animals have survived just fine through the years. Since humans are just animals like any other, I see no reason why humans could not live without a moral code. -loveothersasyourself

I disagree: non-humans have a true sense of right and wrong, based on rules that are partly instinctive and partly learned. The only thing they do not have is written codes. Anyone who has trained a dog can tell you. A dog will, on occasion, show remorse for transgressions that nobody has discovered yet. A puppy will accept the fact that it has to learn rules of conduct from the elders and continue to uphold them when it becomes an elder. -trig

Define Live[edit]

How do you define live? If live is defined as the action of retaining the chemical processes required for life, then yes, you can live without a code of morality. If we define live as to enjoy life here on earth, than no, you cannot have true happiness without a code of morality. If we define live as to have eternal life, than no, you cannot live without having some code of morality. Mawest217 13:31, 2 June 2008 (EDT)

Define it first

Some people keeping saying that they can be a moral/good person without God or religion. First, I want someone to define moral, or what is a "good person". This term "good person" sounds so good that no one ever bother to define it. I afraid no one can define it unless you have some standard about it. For moral, who is to say lying or killing is wrong unless there is a set of rules say it is wrong? Who is the rule giver? I mean, unless you fall in the culture of moral relativism, that there is no absolute, and so there is no way to tell between right and wrong. By the way, bible says God already put His laws into our heart so we can know right and wrong. But often time because of our sin covered our heart, we because foolish about it.Kmcheng 11:55, 25 December 2008 (EST)


Morality is a set of laws that determines the difference between right and wrong. Morality generally comes from religion, whether it be Islam, Christianity, Judism, etc. Morality often changes through time; what is deemed moral now may be vastly different than what is considered moral in the future. Many argue that it is indeed possible to live without morals, as morals are not usually found among other species. This, however, can easily be disputed and the idea is flawed.

Double Edge —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Double Edge (talk)

I have no religion. I also have a small blue card in a draw, labeled 'National Blood Service' and printed with my donor number. I am both an atheist, and a moral person, as evidenced by my willingness to walk half an hour across town and then return a little bit lighter and less fit for the benefit of others. I myself am proof that morality does not require religion. But in case one isn't enough, I am sure there will be several tens of millions of atheists who would be willing to testify to their own morality.

To save time, the standard counter for this like of argument is to substitute a narrower definition of morality, one which is sufficiently narrow and full of arbitary restrictions derived from religion that only a follower of that religion could meet it. You may, for example, argue that it doesn't matter if someone is a charitable blood-donor, campaigner for the poor, kind, loving, polite and a perfect example of all things good - if they arn't Christian, they cant be moral. Its circular, and its pathetic logic, but it works when fed through a confirmation bias. - Suricou

You have in fact shown that, though you believe in no God, you still have values. Not everyone will accept those values as complete, but again, you have values. Your values are even more sophisticated than those of the purely self-centered man.
I did not ask whether man can live without God. He can, though I wouldn't advise it. Rather, I asked whether a man can live without values. I maintain that every man has some standard of value, and therefore every man lives by some moral code.--TerryHTalk 20:15, 7 May 2007 (EDT)

Reply Perhaps an athiest can live with values. But is it not possible for a man to do what has the highest utility for him. His values are not consistant this. His only purpose is survival of the fittest. Therefore he has no standard for morality. Therefore he lives without a code of morality.

Double Edge

If you define morality merely as "a code of laws dictated by God," then I suppose you're right. But an Objectivist wouldn't agree with you. Objectivism says that a code of morality is any code of values that a man accepts by choice.
So I suppose everything depends entirely on what morality is.--TerryH 13:45, 11 March 2007 (EDT)

It reflects poorly on the editors of Conservapedia to be phrasing questions using "MAN" instead of "PERSON" considering we are in the year 2007. Women are not meekly pouring their husbands scotch while their men engage in intellectual discussions on your site. I assure you, you have many women readers whom you would be advised to address should you wish to be considered a reliable and unbiased resource. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Valerie (talk)

"Man" in this context means "human", not "male". It's your duty to educate yourself, not to complain because others won't conform to your ignorant understanding of the word.
This is a separate issue, but I use man to mean "any human being." I don't hold with surrendering the common-gender contexts of certain words, for no better reason than that they are "masculine" forms. For the record, I don't believe that a woman (that is, a female) can live without morality--that is, totally without values--any more than can a man (that is, a male).--TerryH 08:37, 12 March 2007 (EDT)

Absolutely, think of all the serial killers and mass murderers that go on almost forever that seem to have no morals or real code of living. As long as there is evil in the world there will be a need for morals.--Goose 13:53, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

But what if the serial killer's or the mass murderer's personal moral code includes killing dozens of people. Is there an absolute moral code that we all must follow? And, if so, who decides what goes on that code? --<<-David R->> 14:01, 14 March 2007 (EDT)

Who is to say what is moral and immoral? These two concepts technically do not exist. Interesting. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Gesiwuj (talk)

Yes. Just ask the president. Rellik 02:10, 15 April 2007 (EDT)

A Brief Aside[edit]

Heh heh. But that's not true; George Bush (both of them) did the best job they could, given the circumstances. What would you have done, given 9/11? Personally, I would've at least invaded Afghanistan, and I understand the concern about Iraq, though I wouldn't have nessarily made the same decisions. I don't condone (Ex) President Bush's actions, but I believe that he certainly did the best he could. --ConservatismisOK

Yes (Cont.)[edit]

``But what if the serial killer's or the mass murderer's personal moral code includes killing dozens of people.`` Historically, it often does, Dominican monks torturing and killing people during the Spanish Inquisition sincerely belived it was a moral *duty* of theirs, just as with Conquistadores slaughtering the peoples of South America. People seldom believe they are not (morally?) justified in their actions, no matter what those actions are. Marym 20:04, 14 May 2007 (EDT)
If your lack of understanding of this word doesn't meant that the concept doesn't exist, silly. Everwill 09:32, 18 April 2007 (EDT)

Double Edge, i am an atheist. I do not live in moral anarchy. I have very strong moral values. I do not kill, i think it is wrong to steal or to commit adultery and i think that tolerance is the greatest virtue. To suggest that simply because i belive that the scientific evidence points to the non-existence of a god, does not immediately mean that therefore i have no morals whatsoever, and you suggesting that it does causes me to feel slighted and misunderstood. Please think more carefully about what you are saying about another person before you say something so generalising again. Bolly Ottihw 18:16, 20 April 2007

Morlity can be seen as something like money. Money, really, does not exist. You cannot hold 'money' - you can hold an object of known value, but that is not money. You can hold currency - but what is it but paper and ink, or a piece of metal? Is money held in a bank, where it is nothing but bits in a computer? Money doesn't exist, and yet its still possible to buy things with it. Because, so long as people believe in it, it does exist - its existance comes only from that belief. Were everyone to suddenly stop accepting money tomorrow, money would simply disappear and all that currency return to being worthless paper. And morality, in the same way, does have a real existance - so long as enough people believe that it does, and are willing to act on that belief. - Suricou

I am an atheist. If there are no gods then there can be no absolute right and wrong. Without gods where could absolute values come from? If there are no absolute rights and wrongs there can be no morality because morality (in my view) cannot be a relative concept. What use is morality if mine can be fundamentally different to yours and neither is superior? That is not what I understand morality to mean. In the end, if one is an atheist, the best you can do is to put it down to a matter of taste. Isn't that all that's left? It is not to my taste to torture babies for fun (and I hope it's not to your taste either). I can think that my taste is better than yours but I can't prove it. Religious people regard that as a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs and they may be right. But that is not an argument for the existence of gods. Maybe the universe is just unsatisfactory in some ways. --Horace 19:47, 14 May 2007 (EDT)

Horace, why does non-existence of God imply non-existence of absolute values? --Andy 12:32, 17 November 2007 (EST)


The debate question "Can any man live without some code of morality?" is more of a discussion topic that a debate question. That being said, I will play the game and treat this as actual debate:

I believe that any resolution to this debate would depend very heavily on the semantics. A "code" of morality denotes text, or minimally, language so specific that is could be dictated and recorded as text. So, if one admitted that the moral rules do not need to be codified, one would have to conclude "yes". Also, if one admitted that any man "lived" before written language, one would have to either conclude "yes" or hold that men are no longer as able as their predecessors.

The next word in the question that is critical to the debate is "without". The semantical question is 'What would be considered "with" a code?'. My best take on this is that 'with' implies that the written text be available to the man as a reference. Even if the man cannot read, it could still be "with" him if there were others that he could task to read it for him. But this may be too loose an interpretation. Wouldn't "with" also imply that the man considered the code to be of some positive value and be willing to conform at least some of his behavior to it?

Although the word "live" is also critical to the debate, I do not see it as being as pivotal as it may first appear. As "live" is defined, there is this "spiritual processes" requirement which itself begs for definition. Otherwise, one can conclude "no" simply by asserting that the required "spiritual processes" is something that evaporates without codified morality. I suspect that most people who would tend towards a "no" response, would also view all "spiritual processes" as being quite hardy - even to the point of being immortal.

--ScottB 13:09, 3 December 2009 (EST)

Yes and No[edit]

The question is whether it is possible to live without a moral code. Absolutely. On the other hand there is the question of whether it is possible to live without morality. I would say no. There are serial killers and people who do many evil things, but not living morally is different from living without morality. People cannot necessarily explain their morality; people may claim they have no morality; they may even believe it: that does not mean they are right. --Andy 12:30, 17 November 2007 (EST)

People have a moral code inscribed into their brains. A frightful existence would be had if people had no moral code at all. Survive, yes. Animals survive without one. We would survive without one. Couldn't get anything more civilized than a pack or small tribe. I am with Andy on this one. Everyone has a moral code - they say 'should', 'right', 'wrong', 'good', 'evil' -- all of these words are based on a universal moral code. You cannot say these words if you do not believe in a universal code. It would be illogical to do so. Because any code YOU might personally believe is reduced to an opinion along the lines of "my favorite color is blue" - which means zero to anyone else. Can I say that it is wrong for your favorite color to be blue? No. Can I say it is wrong for you to beat a child into the ground? Yes - not only can I say it I can hit you in the head with a brick if you do not cease from doing so. That is a universal code in action - we all know its wrong so we move to prevent it. -- Ted Griffith, 2011


I would say that proof that they can't is all those homosexual suicides we heard about a few months back. No morals, no life!--Moshe 15:33, 24 March 2011 (EDT)