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Slide 1

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Ethical Absolutism ­
Strengths and
Weaknesses…read more

Slide 2

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Ethical absolutes & objectivity
An `ethical absolute' is a command that is true
for all time, in all places and in all situations.
Having absolutes means that certain things are
right or wrong from an objective point of view
and cannot change according to culture.
Certain actions are intrinsically right or wrong,
which means they are right or wrong in
According to moral absolutism, there are
eternal moral values applicable everywhere.
This is a popular position for those who
believe in a God who establishes moral order
in the universe.…read more

Slide 3

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The Appeal of Absolutism
This ethical system is easy and simple
to apply ­ a crime is a crime,
regardless of circumstances.
Absolute ethics allows judgements to
be made about the actions of others ­
we can say the Holocaust was
absolutely wrong.
Absolute ethics allows courts of law to
exist and order to be maintained.…read more

Slide 4

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Where do absolute laws come
For a theist the answer is simple ­ they come
from God.
For the agnostic or atheist the answer is more
complicated ­ they just seem a priori in nature.
(A priori = true independent of experience / self-
evidently true)
They fit into Plato's world of the Forms, as there
are some things we just seem to know are wrong
without being taught: do you remember your
parents ever telling you not to sleep with your
So to some extent moral absolutes can be seen
as inherent in the nature of man.…read more

Slide 5

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Moral Absolutism and Religion
Many religions have absolutist positions as
they see laws as having been set by the
deity or deities.
Such a position is seen as unchanging and
perfect, e.g. Ten Commandments.
Non-violence, even in self-defence.
Homosexuality, even if in a monogamous
Ignore `evolving norms' within their own
communities, e.g. homosexual priests row in
the Anglican Church.
In the past, slavery supported by religious
believers, whereas today no religious group
would endorse it.…read more

Slide 6

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Graded Absolutism
Many Christians believe there is a
hierarchy of absolutes ­ a view called
`graded absolutism'.
If there is a conflict between two
absolutes, it is our duty to obey the higher
one: duty to God comes first, then duty to
others, followed by duty to property.
Under this view, Corrie Ten Boom (1892-
1983) was morally right to lie to the Nazis
about the Jews her family was hiding,
because protecting lives is a higher moral
value than telling the truth to murderers.…read more

Slide 7

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