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Absolute morality. - Ed's journal
Absolute morality.
Is there such a thing as an absolute, when related to good, evil, true or false?

absolute: "Perfect in quality or nature; complete."

I believe there are no absolutes of abstract concepts.

We have absolute zero and the speed of light that refer to limitations of physics. I think they're a boundary of sorts - they may be broken sometime, in much the same way as we used to believe that the speed of sound was a speed limit.

What I'm referring to is absolute quantities of abstract concepts. Truth, Good, Evil, Falsehood, Justice that kind of thing.

I think there's never an absolute of an abstract concept. It's never the case that any one act is absolutely good.

Simply because the measures of such abstract concepts are subjective - they're measured relative to their impact and intended impact on others.
If I cut someone up whilst driving, then it's a little bad. If I do so and cause a major accident and the other driver ends up dead, then it's worse. If I did so and intended to cause a major accident, then it's worse still.

I believe that absolute concepts are a human invention. Perhaps as a tool for manipulation, but nevertheless arbitrary divisions.

There are those that will suggest that whilst mankind may not know the absolutes, there's a God or Gods that set the line, and we've got to try to live up to it.
I'd see it that it matters little either way. The difference between incomprehensible and non-existant absolutes is irrelevant.

All measurements of such abstracts are a relative, or subjective measure. You can see two things, and say overall, one was more true than the other. You'll not see anything absolutely true though.

So all we need do is decide where we stand on such things. And then do our utmost to enforce it. That's about all that can be done. Maybe one gets measured against absolutes at the end of their life. Maybe they don't. Either way, you live according to your choices.

Edit: Modified examples slightly due to karen2205's comment.
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karen2205 From: karen2205 Date: March 19th, 2004 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Simply because the measures of such abstract concepts are subjective - they're measured relative to their impact on others. If I fire a gun out my window, it's a little bad. If I fire a gun out my window and hit someone, it's worse.

Umm - I'm not sure I agree with you there. Firing a gun out of your window without paying attention to what you're doing is just as morally reprehensible whether it hits someone or not. The rightness/wrongness of someone's actions generally doesn't depend upon the impact they have on someone, but on the impact they were intended to have/the impact that would have been reasonably foreseeable to the person doing the act if he'd been thinking straight (ie. intoxication isn't an excuse for wrong behaviour).

That said, I agree morality isn't absolute.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 19th, 2004 02:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Ok, perhaps not a good example.

How about leaving a pot of paint balanced precariously, or running a red light?

(Deleted comment)
ewx From: ewx Date: March 19th, 2004 10:31 am (UTC) (Link)
There's no reason a shadow or reflection couldn't "move" faster than light, either; but also nobody's managed to transmit energy or information faster than c. This and this have more information.
jorune From: jorune Date: March 19th, 2004 11:26 am (UTC) (Link)
When you say that you ‘believe there are no absolutes of abstract concepts’ do you believe that absolutely? Is your no in that sentence an absolute no? If so then I suggest that it is no longer a belief, but a statement of fact. If not then what is the quality of your no? Reasoned, surmised, inferred, presumed, considered, maybe not proven? It is deliiciously ironic that an argument against absolutes should contain such a declaration in its opening sentence. But enough of this quibbling.

I have posted, you have replied and the argument goes around. How can we move this forward? Let me pose this question: Do you believe that after a person dies there will be a judgement of their actions?

If yes, this implies to me that there is a ruleset/wisdom in motion., a presence, that if communicated to the living could be described as absolute judgements.

If not then it would appear that absolute morality has not been exercised or be shown to exist in this example.

sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 22nd, 2004 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Judgement of one's actions after death doesn't imply absolute measurement. Since in order to 'measure' an action it requires a context and a comparison.

My absolute statement isn't, since it's what I believe rather than demonstrably correct.

I'm never going to be able to prove whether my belief that there's no such thing as an absolute is correct, since the only place where such an accounting may be given is after death. Whilst I'm not entirely convinced of such at thing, even if I were, I'd still be dead.
jorune From: jorune Date: March 24th, 2004 07:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Context and comparison is another way of describing morality, if so the judgement is of supernatural origin.

If we deny the possbility of there being an absolute morality we are saying that it is not possible that God could not effect it. We are limiting the aspect and being of God and I believe this is Hubris. Historically the worst of crimes, 'pride comes before a fall'.

Hubris : Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance

IMHO it is better to allow God the benefit of the doubt, there maybe an absolute morality.
sobrique From: sobrique Date: March 24th, 2004 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm proud of my hubris :)

More seriously pride may come before a fall. But those without pride in who they are and what they can do just go through life being miserable. I'm not prepared to live that way. Recognising one's weaknesses is important, but at the same time, recognising one's strengths is as important.

I am sort of prepared to give the benefit of the doubt. I want to live my life well, and not be a complete arsehole. And I hold to my belief that there is no judgement at the end of life. Because either way, it's irrelevant.

If I've lived well, then that is it's own success.

If I've lived well, but am to be judged wanting because I don't go to church every sunday, then that's not an authority I am prepared to accept.

If I stand to be judged on whether I follow a particular set of beliefs, regardless of how I live, then I am already condemned. Because to my mind there is no distinctive difference between many of the 'typical' religions - they get to similar ends, but by different roads.

Who's to say that Muslims were right and Christians wrong?

My intrinsic problem is that I think omniscience and omnipotence are potential examples of absolutes. (hmm, circular argument, lets avoid that).

If one were to mark the fall of every sparrow, then surely that's going to imply such a different perception of things that God would essentially be entirely incomprehensible.

Perceptions of the universe would be so extremely different it would be comparable to us trying to 'rule' an ant farm - as far as an ant is concerned, people may or may not have an influence on their lives. There's some evidence that they affect the ant, but it's just not possible for us to understand their world.

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