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Absolute Morality? June 7, 2007

Posted by Joe in belief, ethics, freethought, logic, morality, psychology, skepticism.

In a recent blog comment discussion I struggled to explain subjective morality. Here I would like to switch things around a bit and give my thoughts on absolute morality.

My working definition of absolute morality will be a specific unmodifiable set of moral codes that are held to be completely correct and unvarying through time. It has a few advantages.

The big one is the certainty and simplicity. You can easily judge your own or others actions just by looking at the absolute code and seeing if they fit. Most things are easy to figure out. There is no gray area. Everything is either clearly moral or clearly immoral.

But my question is this, can there really be such a thing as absolute morality?

I believe the answer is no. The first problem with absolute morality is where does the code come from? the religious answer is god. But which god? Which religion? Whose interpretation of the religious writings? There are many answers to this question, but ultimately the answer is up to the individual as to which religion, which sect, which interpretation they choose to follow.

In a sense each person selects which moral code they think is best. They choose their morality. But that is subjective morality! What is the difference between choosing a moral package like a religion or choosing different secular moral principals? Religion is just the subjective moral code combo meal!

A second difficulty that absolute morality has is the history. As history shows us, social morals change. Things which were once social acceptable in the US like slavery and racism are now considered grossly immoral. How can you have an absolute moral code if what is moral changes with time? A large group of Christians once believed that slavery was ok, now the people professing the same religion and reading the same holy book believe that slavery is immoral! That is not absolute!

Certainty in moral questions would be fantastic. One could know for sure what the right path is. But the reality is the morality is a subjective human invention. Like and idea it exists only in people’s minds.



1. Noogatiger - June 14, 2007

There is no such animal.
Men wrote the religious books, so we humans have been determining our moral code since the beginning. The faster we get away from religion, the better we can make it.

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