Moralism, also know as moral absolutism, is the practice of interpreting the ethicality of various subjects (actions, people, etc.) as good or bad things based solely in terms of how well they conform to a particular moral code rather than by attempting to evaluate the harm or benefit caused by those subjects. It can also be described as “the belief that there are absolute standards against which moral questions can be judged, and that certain actions are right or wrong, devoid of the context of the act.”
Most moralists allow for some exceptions to their moral rules, permitting conscience and empathy to override in cases where “sticking to the rules” would be clearly harmful. Those who refuse to allow exceptions to moral rules tend to be regarded as extremists
Most religion is based on moralism, as one of the defining characteristics of religion is reliance on dogmatic rules for evaluating ethicality rather than an open and rational examination of the effects of ethically-significant entities.
Moralism seems to be an essential component of American conservatism, whose adherents feel far more comfortable evaluating ethicality in terms of simple rules (i.e. morals) than in terms of harm/benefit.
This sort of thinking seems to form the basis of much of the extreme right’s attitude towards homosexuality, for example: homosexuals don’t follow the rule that “people should want to marry members of the opposite sex”, so therefore homosexuals aren’t people. It also seems to be presumed that if you’re “not a person”, then you’re less than or worse than a person, entitled to less respect and fewer (if any) protections.
While this type of morality may seem at first harsh and unneeded the strengths which it can deposit in people is an undeniable factor in why religion employs it in its practices. For example, the 10 commandments are supposed to be Christianities moral guide’s, they are their unbreakable moral code which they must live their life by if they hope to be a good Christian and gain entry into heaven. To do this, along with all the other rules and regulations, they must, under no circumstance, break the rules set by god and given to mosses atop of the mountain, these are absolute rules and if we take a look at some of them you see why such rules are not always such a bad influence on the people they involve.
For example, all commandments are not only text written by god but Law’s and morals that a person should follow in their everyday life, if they are a decent person of course. If someone was absolutist about following the commandments then they would never kill steal or cheat, attributes that a sociable citizen of today’s society would need to be able to live.
In essence being absolutist allows for a lot of communities to remain healthy happy places due to a strict moral code held by its people, a creed which they will never break due to either strong moral will or fear of what would happen if they ever did.
Does this mean moral absolutism is a justifiable thing, no it does not, while yes there is evidence to show that it can help a community rather than hinder it , moral absolutism has been shown time and time again to be a bad, inhuman thing, that has caused misery amongst many people.
For example, repeating what I said earlier about homosexuals and how they are viewed amongst most religious groups is nothing more than a prosecution of a minority, no different from racism, which brings me to my second point. Moral absolutism, weather in Catholicism or Orthodox Jews has been used to target Minority’s since religion had founded, never changing their bigoted views due to their unwavering morals. Some may see this as a testament to a person’s faith, more would see it as a stubborn view of the world, which is ever changing and no place for such rigid beliefs such as this.
Secondly the theory of moral relativism upholds that there are no universally valid moral principles, opposing the theory of moral absolutism. Relative morals can change according to the situation, where as absolutism leaves no flexibility for certain situations. Some would put forward the view that examining an ethical situation from a teleological point of view is a greater means of deciding how to act than absolutism. Teleological ethics explain that actions are right or wrong depending on the outcome; the outcome of an action is not taken into account in the principles of moral absolutism therefore this could be seen as a weakness.
Problems in disregarding the consequences of a moral action could arise in certain situations, such as the absolutist decision that a child should not be aborted even though the manner of its conception was through mistake and ignorance, while not the unborn Childs fault, disallowing an abortion could potentially ruin the lives of two progressing teenagers, or send the mother into a spiral of depression and hatred for the child. This is not an environment a child should be born into and its suffering later in life would is due to the absolutist view that abortion is always wrong, in any situation.
These finalistic views don’t have a place in today’s society, a society that is constantly changing and evolving, learning to accept what before was deemed different and showing understanding to a once ignorantly feared subject. They prospered before in a world where people did not have a say in their own lives, lives which were run by ancient scripts and texts that didn’t change with the time or attitudes and remained defiant to the evolution of mankind.
Moral absolutism is not justified as a practical option in today’s moral climate and is constantly at war with the changing views of communities and government’s, and yes it does have a strong moral stature, an almost incorruptible sense to its harsh cold views, but this is still unable to secure its place in the modern world, for its greatest flaw is that moral absolutism is a simply un-human prospect, with no place inside our minds as well as our community.