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  1. #1
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    Default Why do we seek moral absolutes?

    Why do we seek moral absolutes?

    Let’s consider the moral argument that is often rendered to justify making abortion illegal.

    The argument goes something like this: murder (killing an innocent person) is morally and legally prohibited, the fetus is an innocent person, abortion kills the fetus, and therefore abortion is murder.

    This argument turns on the premise that the fetus is a person. The category person must be absolutely and universally understood and fixed to make this argument work. The category (concept) person must be either value-neutral or it must be based upon some absolute value. If such is not the case then each time we consider this matter, person can take on a different meaning.

    If each “application of the concept determines its meaning, either (1) we would need a rule for applying the concept in various cases (and this would be the same as saying that the meaning of ‘person’ is fixed), or (2) we would be left with the possibility that different people might apply the concept differently.”

    If the category person is a function of our personal value system then we can expect that our view of this matter would vary accordingly. We might avoid this variability if the concept person is value neutral and thus does not depend upon our personal value system. Another way is to claim that we all have access to some absolute or ultimate value that is binding upon each of us.

    Without absolute truths we recognize that we must depend on the judgment of fallible, and frail creatures living within constantly evolving communities; non critical individuals who are forced to make decisions with little training or understanding of critical thinking skills within what are typically highly ambiguous situations.

    “In sum, moral absolutism is motivated by a very widespread human longing for clarity, certainty, order, and constraint in a world that confronts us constantly with change, obscurity, doubt, contingency, and aggression.”

    Quotes from Moral Imagination by Mark Johnson

  2. #2
    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Pro life is a religious argument in disguise. If it were really a "pro life" argument those same people would not be in favor of the death penalty or guns.

    The "moral absolute" is a result of people believing it is absolutely wrong (in the eyes of god) to kill and unborn fetus. I'm not familiar with the specific religious doctrine, but somewhere in there is probably a way to justify the death penalty and maybe the right to bare arms.

    Pro choice is just that, a choice, not an absolute.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by LostInNerSpace View Post
    Pro life is a religious argument in disguise. If it were really a "pro life" argument those same people would not be in favor of the death penalty or guns.

    The "moral absolute" is a result of people believing it is absolutely wrong (in the eyes of god) to kill and unborn fetus. I'm not familiar with the specific religious doctrine, but somewhere in there is probably a way to justify the death penalty and maybe the right to bare arms.

    Pro choice is just that, a choice, not an absolute.

    What little we have learned about morality has come through Sunday school.

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    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by coberst View Post
    What little we have learned about morality has come through Sunday school.
    There you have it. That is the problem. People have different ideas about how to live and some people can't accept that other people are different don't share all of the same "values".

  5. #5
    Dreaming the life onemoretime's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LostInNerSpace View Post
    Pro life is a religious argument in disguise. If it were really a "pro life" argument those same people would not be in favor of the death penalty or guns.

    The "moral absolute" is a result of people believing it is absolutely wrong (in the eyes of god) to kill and unborn fetus. I'm not familiar with the specific religious doctrine, but somewhere in there is probably a way to justify the death penalty and maybe the right to bare arms.

    Pro choice is just that, a choice, not an absolute.
    It's purely tribalism. You can't have abortion, because that lowers the number of potential members of the in-group. Death penalty and war are OK because lowering the numbers of the out-group is a good thing.

  6. #6
    Senior Member LostInNerSpace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by onemoretime View Post
    It's purely tribalism. You can't have abortion, because that lowers the number of potential members of the in-group. Death penalty and war are OK because lowering the numbers of the out-group is a good thing.
    That's a surprisingly good argument.

  7. #7
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    We seek moral absolutes so we don't have to think.

  8. #8
    ThatGirl
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    Because we want to believe we are not nature's bitches.

  9. #9
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    Abortion is sort of an easy target. How about things like murder and rape? Perhaps some people believe it that there is absolutely nothing wrong with these acts, and moreover they gain great pleasure from engaging in them. Without such absolutes, there would be no ground to condemn these acts on a moral basis, and therefore no way to gain the moral high ground over such individuals. Of course, one could argue that the threat of imprisonment would sufficiently deter would-be perpetrators regardless of a lack of morality. But surely the legal system would be swiftly overwhelmed if there was no moral backing for the legislation. Another argument is that by removing poverty and social factors, the impetus to commit violence against others would be removed. However, I would vehemently disagree, and suggest that a study of history or anthropology would reveal that man has a natural inclination for such forms of primitive dominance and barbarism without civilization to reign in these desires.
    There are miles to go before I sleep...

  10. #10
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    The point of the OP s to focus attention upon our inclination to seek absolutes and that this inclination tends to lead us into catastrophes.

    We must learn how we think and why we do the things that we do so that our species may last a bit longer. Our greatest problem is learning how to just get-along. Our technology has placed extraordinary power into the hands of ordinary people and if we do not become more sophisticated we will destroy our species and perhaps all life on this planet.

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