A couple of weeks ago I was staying with some Iranian friends. After supper we watched an Iranian film, A Separation, which is being nominated for two 2012 Academy Awards – Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay. It is a gripping tale of an upper-middle class couple in Tehran divorcing because the wife wants to leave Iran to provide a better life for their young daughter while the husband wants to remain and care for his father who has severe Alzheimer’s.Read More »An Oscar Nominee hints at Objective Truth
are ethics absolute or relative
When I was a student as I described in The Wisdom I learned from a Filthy-Rich, Hard-Drinking Playboy I read C.S. Lewis’s book Mere Christianity. It intrigued me because in a brilliant way he took examples from everyday life showing how our sense of fairness and right and wrong were deeply embedded in us. He presented a lucid argument for a Moral Law – implying Reality was more than simply matter/energy materialism since this Law was non-material, and that there was a LawGiver standing behind this Law.
Though I felt, and accepted to some extent, the force of the reasons he presented, I struggled because the ‘data’ that he used was soft and intangible (after all it was ‘just’ human behaviour). It was not concrete and absolute like more scientific data seemed to be. I also knew that his arguments for a Moral Law stood in contrast to the academic spirit of our age.
But I re-read his book and as I entered into more life experience I just held his view tentatively out there asking if it made sense of my human situation and the situations of those around me. And I kept finding that his view on right and wrong seemed to fit so well with what I saw around me. It gave a shrewdly accurate assessment of human morals. As I studied philosophy of ethics and world religions at university the Moral Law further established itself in my mind. The data became less intangible to me than it had been at first.
These two videos summarize some of my journey looking at this fascinating question. I argue that moral truth is absolute, not subjective. You may find, as I first did, that this is a very different way of looking at moral truth than what you are accustomed to. If so, I would simply urge you to, like I did, keep this view tentatively ‘out there’ in your mind and observe how you and those around you reason morally in real-life situations. You may find it, in time, shrewdly fitting what you see.
In this first video I look at leading thinkers of ethics. In particular I look at Bertrand Russell in his book Why I am Not a Christian. Without intending or meaning to (they are trying to argue the opposite), both he and the other academics I cite convinced me that there was indeed a Moral Law.
In the second I then survey the data of human ethics in world religions to see if there is evidence of a uniform Moral Law. Then I ask the very practical question if I am living up to the Law as advanced by any religion.
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