moral absolutism

I’m a firm believer in moral absolutism. God’s law is on everyone’s heart, regardless of faith or upbringing.

my kids believe in moral relativism. moral law changes in different societies. they say there is no place for moral absolutism except within religion.

is there an argument for absolutism that does not come from faith?

I’m not very well read in philosophy. we’re a homeschooling family, so if there are any absolutist thinkers we can read it would be great because I can use what we’ve been learning in our portfolio.

is there an absolute moral law?

The principle that we should always do what we believe is right.

Very few philosophers – religious or secular – are moral relativists. Why? Because moral relativism is completely implausible. If moral relativism is true, then Adolf Hitler was not acting wrongly.

But more than that, why do your kids think that relativism is true? Because there are moral disagreements? But there are scientific disagreements, too. When we encounter scientific disagreement, do we assume that nobody’s right? Of course not. So why treat morality differently?

For a functioning society, we must have absolute moral truths. Today, immorality is paraded right in front of our faces, and modeled by actors in movies and TV as OK or good or average.

The basis must be common truths regardless of our belief systems. The more people decide for themselves what is absolutely morally true for them, the more fragmented the society becomes. Too many look diligently for the exceptions, or point out rare circumstances. For the average person, life is average, and it must be based on unchanging absolutes, especially in the area of morality. If a young man meets a young lady who is a total stranger, for example, there must be moral norms based on Truth, not we’ll just do whatever everyone else is doing. Today, too many are running in the wrong direction.

Peace,
Ed

Well, there’s always the Summa (newadvent.org/summa/2094.htm#article4).

I wouldn’t try to find an atheist/agnostic philosopher who isn’t a moral relativist. They exist, but why bother when there are so many better teachers out there?

If you can find it at a library, I would reccommend Msgr. Paul J. Glenn’s An Introduction to Philosophy. Also, Ed Feser’s Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide is a fairly easy read.

You could, to take an example from Dr. Feser, discuss how a triangle that is drawn carefully with a straight edge on a flat surface is objectively a better triangle than one drawn on a moving bus. In the same way, certain acts are objectively better.

God bless you,
Andrew W

I’m an instructor in the field of philosophy, and I do not personally know a single relativist. So there are plenty of objectivists.

I don’t dispute that there may be better teachers, however.

Relativism is nonsense. It says that nothing is absolute, yet that very statement is an absolute. It makes no sense. Many atheists have this view and think they are so intellectually superior because they dont believe in the “magic sky god” and yet they cant even see the idiocy of their relativistic , not absolutist view.

On the other hand, I have a great friend who is an atheist, but one of the best “Christians” I know- a very kind and moral man. He at least has the the intellectual honesty to admit that there must be truth, but of course his way of thinking is that the truth is that there is no God. But I appreciate the intellectual honesty. He doesnt try to equivocate with this nonsensical notion that everything is subjective, that what is truth for one person is false for another. While my friend is an atheist, he at least accepts the notion of truth. Once a person is committed to seeking the truth ,whether atheist or not, he is at least seeking.

The insidiousness of Relativism is that is permits its follower to be intellectually and morally vacant. There is no need to seek the truth. Whatever one deems appropriate is all one has to attain and thus he never even begins the journey toward truth. He is his own god and as such her determines truth, never realizing the logical impossibility of the statement that everything is relative. If everything is relative, then that statement must be relative, in which case there must be absolute truth in some realms, including the area of religion, God, and morals.

[quote=libre]is there an argument for absolutism that does not come from faith?
[/quote]

If I were a relativist, and you punched me, I would get mad at you, as if you had violated some kind of objective standard and somehow “owed” me an apology. Thus, even relativists are implicitly commited to moral objectivism.

One of the main supports for relativism is cultural and historical diversity. For example, in some cultures, it is considered wrong to …, but in other cultures it is considered right. The ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ seem to be cultural and perhaps historically determined. Things which may be considered acceptable by some Christians (girls wearing bikinis in public) might be considered gravely wrong by our Muslim brethren.

The best approach is that certain foundations can be held absolutely, as they seem to be determined by natural law (such as the prohibition on murder, homosexual behaviour, promiscuity, excessive wealth). But there is a certain degree of relativity which must be admitted (e.g. is it offensive to say “Damn”, or drink alcohol? etc.). So, the principles are absolute, but some of the applications are relative.

The danger with trying to force strict ‘absolutism’ is that it may be contrary to other people’s freedom of conscience (which is itself an absolute value). It also must be approached with humility- how can we be sure that our interpretations of moral laws is the right one?

[quote=Qoeleth]how can we be sure that our interpretations of moral laws is the right one?
[/quote]

The same way you can be sure that this question is valid to ask. You see, we simply have to trust our reasoning, or else we have eliminated our grounds for not trusting it. Thus, as long as our morals are based on sound reasoning, we can be sure that they are objectively correct.

For Catholics, The Magisterium has and is dealing with all issues regarding what human beings should do and should not do. For example, the Ten Commandments are quite clear, while some seem to have this obsessive desire to find a loophole. The Teaching Authority of the Church is my guide. Of course, people are not listening in some cases - the Church knows this. But since it has the fullness of Truth, it continues to preach the truth and guide the people toward a morally healthy life, and that includes ‘men of good will.’

So, the Church will not send someone to pound on your door if you do this or that, but God might have a few questions for you at the final judgment - me included.

Peace,
Ed

Well, yes the Chuch has teachings, but these do NOT explicitly state what a person should do in every circumstance. Mainstream Catholics say and do things today, like watch mainstream movies which ‘legitimize’ behaviour, which would have been scandolous to a 13th Century Catholic. Similarly, a 13th Century Catholic might have done things (like beaten their children, or been racist, or supported capital punishment), which would have been approved by the Church at the time.

I think it weaken the Catholic position not to acknowledge some degree of relativity, if not in principles, at least on how they are applied.

Looks like your kids have begun to be influenced by the larger society. I don’t think the Church uses the term moral absolutism. But it does teach that God’s laws are written on the heart. But this is only true of basic norms, it is not true in all the details. God gave us a mind and the Church to work out the details. The mind is fully capable of acquiring the natural moral law but it is difficult if not impossible for this to happen without the Church’s guidance. That is why the Church teaches firmly that the Catholic conscience must be formed by obedience to the Church’s teaching on morality. Therefore there is no such thing as moral relativism. So, in that sense you are correct, your kids are wrong.

This is no reason to necessarily condemn the morality one observes in the larger culture or in different cultures. But one should be aware that these deviations are not in accord with God’s will. It is our duty to do what we can to change the larger culture (s ).

Linus2nd

If there is one, then of course your religion would be the one to determine that right?
You mention you have children. If you have a girl, would you be comfortable telling your daughter that marriage would be fine at the age of 12? Who are you to argue with God?

[quote=Linusthe2nd]Looks like your kids have begun to be influenced by the larger society. I don’t think the Church uses the term moral absolutism. But it does teach that God’s laws are written on the heart. But this is only true of basic norms, it is not true in all the details. God gave us a mind and the Church to work out the details. The mind is fully capable of acquiring the natural moral law but it is difficult if not impossible for this to happen without the Church’s guidance. That is why the Church teaches firmly that the Catholic conscience must be formed by obedience to the Church’s teaching on morality. Therefore there is no such thing as moral relativism. So, in that sense you are correct, your kids are wrong.

This is no reason to necessarily condemn the morality one observes in the larger culture or in different cultures. But one should be aware that these deviations are not in accord with God’s will. It is our duty to do what we can to change the larger culture (s ).

[/quote]

To my surprise, I agree with you.

[quote=StrawberryJam]would you be comfortable telling your daughter that marriage would be fine at the age of 12? Who are you to argue with God?
[/quote]

I’m not sure what you are trying to say.

I asked you a direct question you failed to answer. If you have or did have a 12 year old daughter, you need to explain to them one day how old Mary was according to the Church.

Granted, she is never depicted holding her son as looking like a very very young child. This may have added to your confusion.

[quote=StrawberryJam]I asked you a direct question you failed to answer. If you have or did have a 12 year old daughter, you need to explain to them one day how old Mary was according to the Church.
[/quote]

You were talking to the OP. BTW, I didn’t “fail to answer” you, I asked what you meant.
Marriage was considered acceptable at younger ages back then because people matured way faster. This was for two primary reasons:
1, the average lifespan was significantly shorter, so every major step in a person’s life came earlier as well.
2, IMO, people had a lot more virtue.

libre

Peter Kreeft has written an interesting book: A Refutation of Moral Relativism: Interviews with an Absolutist

The main and first question to ask a moral relativist is:

“Would I be objectively wrong to punch you in the nose?” :D;)

That may help to begin and close your case in one sentence. :thumbsup:

Morals are not absolute according to your defense of this action.

**Strawberry

Morals are not absolute according to your defense of this action.**

Nature and nature’s God endowed human being with the capacity to reproduce at an early age. When life is short, it made sense to marry earlier than we do today. That has nothing to do with morals so much as with nature’s plan.

We do not encourage early marriage today because early deaths are not so common and the rate of psychological maturation and education is much slower and more complex than it was thousands of years ago. Again, nothing to do with morality.

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