Moral absolutism is an ethical belief that considers specific actions as completely wrong or right regardless of the outcome. An example is a murder, which is always considered morally wrong even if it was done for legitimate defense or protection. The word ethics derives from the Greek word ethikosand it means habit or relationship with one’s character. Ethics is used to draw the line between right and wrong, and has three areas of study; meta-ethics, applied ethics and normative ethics. Moral absolutism falls under the normative branch of ethics, and is different from other types of normative ethics in that it does not consider the morality of an action based on the result. Examples of moral absolutism include religious moral codes and ethical theories that emphasize rights and duties such as the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant.
Moral absolutism in life
Most religious positions are based on the Ten Commandments and what God commands, and this is a perfect example of moral absolutism. The morality of an action is judged based on the position that is immutable. Most secular philosophies are also examples of moral absolutism in that they claim that the absolute laws of morality are inherent in human nature, for example, a person who believes it is wrong to kill will not kill.
Moral absolutism in history
Moral absolutism was popular among ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. It has also largely shaped historical societies through the “divine right of kings”. The divine right of sovereigns gave the political and religious right to the right to govern as they were under the mandate of God. It was also easier to establish and maintain laws, since the rulers were subject only to the will of God and not to the people they served. This has led to the creation of laws and judicial systems throughout the world, where the law must be maintained without exception. This is seen in some Muslim countries, where Islamic revivalists are attempting to bring back hudud punishments, which are thought to have been delegated by God.
Degree of absolutism
In Christian ethics, there is a theory of moral absolutism known as gradual absolutism. Classified absolutism classifies moral absolutes as greater or lesser than the others. Moral absolutes are the standards against which the morality of an action can be judged. An example is a moral absolute as “not lying” can be greater or lesser than an absolute moral like “do not steal”. Gradual absolutism is also known as the best positive vision or contextual absolutism.