Moral Absolutism is True

Moral Absolutism maintains that there is at least one, or maybe more, moral values or duties (rules) that are not condition specific, but instead apply always everywhere all the time under every possible case. Repeatedly, I’ve heard objections to this when people demonstrate exceptions to certain commonly held moral rules. For example, one might say that there are exceptions to the rules “Don’t lie”, and “Don’t kill” that mean they don’t apply in certain rare types of cases, and therefore no absolute moral rules exist. They’ll also usually say something about how complex the world is, so it’s too simplistic to believe that any moral rule can be true always. This is nonsense. Demonstrating that some *particular* rules aren’t absolute doesn’t mean that there aren’t other rules that *are* absolute. Remember that even if one rule is absolute, absolutism is true, by definition above.

What the objector is observing is that some rules are merely “rules of thumb” that are true most of the time, but not always. But, there may be a higher level rule that is more generally applicable which covers both the rule of thumb and its exceptions. For example, I agree that “Don’t lie” is merely a rule of thumb. So, if my wife likes surprises, and I start leaving to go out to the mall to buy her a gift, and she asks me at the house, “Why are you leaving?”, it is morally permissible for me to lie and say, “I’m going to have lunch with Bob”. This way, I can later surprise her with a gift. The higher level moral rule that governs may be something like “Love other people”, or the Golden Rule, or something of the like, which dictates that one usually shouldn’t lie (for deceitful or harmful reasons), but that it’s ok to lie in my gift-to-wife case because my lie is actually acting lovingly in favor for my wife, and she would actually admit that she is glad that I lied after the fact once she already receives my gift. So, it’s possible that higher level, more general rules govern the rules of thumb and also their exceptions. If ALL exceptions and cases are covered, then this higher level rule might even be an absolute rule. But, hypothetically, if you found an exception to the rule “Love other people”, or maybe the Golden Rule, then that still doesn’t disprove moral absolutism because there could still be an even higher level rule that governs the “Love other people” rule along with the exception you might have found.

Now, why should we think moral absolutism is correct? First, I’ll explain why we shouldn’t be surprised if it were correct. The parallel is the natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc). The entire history of the natural sciences over the past few centuries is the story of scientists gradually discovering a smaller and smaller number of natural laws, usually simple laws, mind you, which are more and more widely applicable and “general” (the scientific word for “absolute”) to govern all the immensely complex phenomenon we observe. It’s been established that biology is governed by chemistry and physics, and chemistry is governed by physics, and so all nature is governed by a small number of physics laws. Even systems which are too complex to model with supercomputer simulations are still governed by these few laws of physics. So, clearly, complexity of particular situations does not mean that general or absolute laws do not exist. Second, if general absolute laws exist for everything we observe in nature, it shouldn’t be surprising if they exist in other fields of study, such as ethics.

To prove moral absolutism more explicitly, at least for my Christian brethren, I offer this. The rules “Love God” and “Obey God” are always and everywhere true and binding under all cases, and therefore absolute. Therefore, moral absolutism is true. There may be more absolute rules, but here’s two for starters.

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