Moral absolutism

From Academic Kids

Moral absolutism is the position that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, regardless of the context of the act. It is a subset of moral objectivism, and stands in contrast to situational ethics, which hold that the morality of acts depends on the context of the act.

According to moral absolutism, morals are inherent in the laws of the universe, the nature of humanity, or some other fundamental source.

Contents

As a basis of morality

Moral absolutism regards actions as inherently or inarguably moral or immoral. Moral absolutists might, for example, judge slavery to be absolutely and inarguably immoral regardless of the beliefs and goals of a culture that engages in these practices.

In a minority of cases, moral absolutism is taken to the more constrained position that actions are moral or immoral regardless of the circumstances in which they occur. Lying, for instance, would always be immoral, even if done to promote some other good (e.g., saving a life). This rare view of moral absolutism might be contrasted with moral consequentialism—the view that the morality of an action depends on the context or consequences of that action.

Modern human rights theory is a form of moral absolutism, usually based on the nature of humanity and the essence of human nature. One such theory was constructed by John Rawls in his A Theory of Justice.

Moral absolutism and religion

Many religions have morally absolutist positions, regarding their system of morality as having been set by a deity or deities. They therefore regard such a moral system as absolute, (usually) perfect, and unchangeable. Many philosophies also take a morally absolutist stance, arguing that the laws of morality are inherent in the nature of human beings, the nature of life in general, or the universe itself.

Moral absolutism and free will

Absolutist Ethics: Fixed and unchanging ethical rules apply to all individuals in all cultures. Usually these rules are thought to be laid down by the immutable God. God is construed as intelligible, i.e., able to be understood by reason. Thus if we apply ourselves to the task of reasoning, we will always know which moral rule to use in any particular case. In other words, morality is objective.

Semi-religious arguments for moral absolutism have to do with the relationship between free will, choice, and morals. Some have argued that without free will, the universe is deterministic and therefore morally uninteresting (i.e., if all moral choices and moral behavior are determined by outside forces, there can be no need for any person to ponder morality), though this would depend on whether free choice is required for an action to be 'moral'. If we believe in free will, it stands to reason that the universe allows moral behavior. From this, some believe this feature is integral to the universe's reason for being. A softer, more theological, line of reasoning is that God may 'need' to permit us to have choices, but leaves the concerns of those choices (and their consequences) up to the people making them. In this case, moral absolutism is a subjective decision (i.e., free will must, by definition, include the freedom to choose what is moral).

All rational beings following rational methods will agree what those rules are and how to apply them.


These views are generally not accepted by those who deny free will. Some, in fact, deny free will and still accept moral absolutism—and argue that these two beliefs are inextricably tied.


The philosopher Immanuel Kant was a promoter of moral absolutism.

See also

he:אבסולוטיזם מוסרי pl:Absolutyzm (filozofia)

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