Morals change – partly because morals are inherently uncertain.

  1. Morals change when the situation changes. People behave differently in war and peace for example. Defining such changes in advance can be difficult and uncertain.
  2. Technologies introduce possibilities of action which were previously unthinkable. So people have to change or develop morals to deal with those courses of action, or stop the tech which is also a moral decision. What changes will be introduced is uncertain. It is often uncertain as to whether preventing a technology will be harmful as it may curtail good.
  3. Morals change with Culture. Different cultures have different moral sets and emphases. We no longer behave as the ancient Romans behave – and this would often seem a good thing. However, there is no real reason given the difference in cultures that Romans would accept present day Western morals. Moral improvement involves moral judgements.
  4. Morals change with social order. The moral rules of a feudal society are not appropriate for the smooth running of a democratic society, or a capitalist society, or any stateless society. Again, and for similar reasons, it is uncertain that moral arguments could resolve these issues.
  5. Morals usually support the behaviour of the power elites, to show that they are dominant because they are moral. For example, in capitalist societies wealth is often taken as an indicator of virtue. Not attempting to control corporations is taken as a virtue, money making is a virtue. People are said to be poor because they are judged to be lacking in a whole range of virtues, such as hard work, fortitude, persistence, talent etc
  6. Morals, and moral exceptions, change with ‘side’ and allegiance. We can have no doubt that had Clinton or any Democrat done what Trump has done, Republicans would be calling for prosecution. This is common. ‘Respectable people’ usually suffer less for their crimes than disreputable people and so on. Morality is uncertain in its application.
  7. When any people rise up from a position of oppression, then the morals enforcing that oppression may increasingly seem to be less good, and more arbitrary. Indeed part of the struggle will be to disqualify the old morals that keep them down.
  8. Morals usually involve some kind of socially enforced penalty. The penalty expected can sometimes overwhelm the moral position as the punishment can come to seem immoral in itself, again involving uncertainty, should the person be found not guilty, or the punishment changed.
  9. Morals can change when people try to be consistent. I would suggest that the decline of Christianity since the 18th Century had much to do with people realising the moral standards of Christianity were incoherent. It seemed increasingly unlikely to people that a supposedly loving God could have commanded genocide, rape, murder and eternal torture for anyone. Yet this is uncertain as after all God is supposedly infinitely powerful and wise.
  10. Morals can change when supposed moral exemplars are discovered to have behaved badly. The defense of pedophiles and rapists by various churches is an example of this, and it also explains why Churches defended them – because they feared losing moral influence. Perhaps the moral position was still valid even if proves impossible, or is used to shelter ‘evil’?
  11. Morals nearly always involve dispute because of social and situational change, alliance, and levels of consistency. Almost any legal case, political case, or so on will involve moral argument, and arguments about punishment and retribution. The argument may increase the apparent arbitrary nature of the morality, and point to its inevitable uncertainty, and lead to people trying to advance to another stage, or to them trying to fix the problems with violence and compulsions – which others may say is immoral. Ambiguity and uncertainty is present again.
  12. Whether morals should change is a moral question. All I’m saying is they will change. However, I suspect that if your morals will not change, then you are not open to the complexities of life, and you will make immoral decisions as a result.