Football is one of my favourite sports. I enjoy playing it as well as watching. There have been times when I have questioned decisions by the referee, however, that is usually when the decision is not in favour of my team. I have often wondered would I enjoy it as much if the rules of football were subjective and not objective.
Currently the rules of football, like the rules of any game are objective- there are fouls; you are not allowed to punch players; you cannot score a goal if you are offside. These rules are objective, they are independant of players opinion. Ofcourse referees tend to interpret the rules subjectively – the source of all controversy in football. However this does not change the fact that the rules are objective. By objective we mean that they do not depend on a players individual opinion or feelings.
Imagine if the rules were subjective – every player could choose what rules to apply and each player deciding for themselves which rules are right and which are wrong. On what grounds could you say that it is a foul to elbow a player in the face if every player is allowed to choose and make up their own rules? The game would be chaos! I imagine the beautiful game would not be so beautiful anymore. That is the same peril we face if morality is subjective. If every individual decided their own rules their own moral standard – on what grounds could you say a man raping an infant is wrong? On the rapist’s subjective moral view it is perfectly alright to rape infants. To condemn the rapist’s actions as wrong would require some objective moral standard that transcends individual opinions and views. If morality is subjective all things are permissible. Nothing is really wrong and nothing is really right.
That is the same peril we also face if morality is simply what society chooses. Societal moods and values are constantly shifting – what society once deemed as wrong can later be right, what it once deemed as right can later be wrong. Does that mean that morality can change as well?
Let’s imagine a football game between two teams from different continents. Suppose there was no official rule about the number of players that should be on a field per team. Each continent has its own rules for the number of players per team- the one team plays with 13 players, the other with 8 players. When they play together, which rules will be applied? Which rules are wrong and which are right? Without a reference to an objective standard or official rule made by an independent body no one is really right and no one is really wrong – it is simply preference.
Similarly if you have a society that promotes cannibalism and raping babies, and another that promotes “love thy neighbour as thyself” – without an objective standard independent of both societies – no-one is really wrong and no-one is really right. It is simply preference.
“A moral system valid for all is basically immoral.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
Without an objective reference for morality all talk of right, wrong, good and evil becomes meaningless. The statement by Nietzsche is ultimately self refuting. What Nietzsche means is that, morality is subjective and not objective, and therefore one cannot impose their own subjective moral system on another person – that would be immoral. But on whose moral system would it be immoral? On his certainly, but perhaps on my moral system it is perfectly fine to impose my own moral system on others. He himself is imposing his moral system on me by saying we should not impose our own moral systems on others – self defeating argument.
Our post modern world has embraced the philosophies of Nietzsche and Satre and have not realised that in freeing themselves from the shackles of absolute morality, and giving the subjective self full autonomy as the bearer of morality they have planted their feet in mid air.
Essentially we have decided to play the game of football without a referee. Each individual player deciding what rules to apply and which ones not to, according to their individual preferences and feelings. The irony is as soon as we get injured by another player – we immediately shout foul! We forgot that it is only a foul to me , the other bigger, stronger player uses power as a moral standard.