It seems that absolute goodness is impossible to convince or to prove logically other than within religious communities.

Q1) Am I thinking right here?

If there is no absolute goodness except from religious point of view, isn't normative ethics(moral theory) only about "Justice"?

Please enlighten me with some "Moral theories" that don't assume some virtues are absolutely good but can help deciding "What do I do?" in real human affairs?

Q2) Especially the ones that discuss more than "Justice".

  • What do you mean by "Justice" in quotes?
    – virmaior
    Jul 23, 2014 at 11:38
  • @virmaior as in the antiquity ethics context. or though more vague than I hope, relative virtue that involves more than two parties or humans so that taking both party into consideration is required.
    – msk
    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:16

2 Answers 2


Are there non-religious traditions that acknowledge "absolute goodness?"

Here are a couple approaches:

Objectivism considers there to be such a thing as correct and incorrect moral choices, and happens to originate from an atheist.

Descartes took only his own existence as axiomatic, and from that used only reason to derive moral right and wrong. Of course, he happened to be religious, but I non-religious people since have taken similar approaches.

Isn't ethics about justice?

If you read about ethics and justice, you will see that justice is only a part of the study of ethics, but it is obviously an important part and it is difficult to discuss ethics without discussing justice. If

Normative ethics involves arriving at moral standards that regulate right and wrong conduct.

then it's difficult to discuss right and wrong conduct without discussing what other people are due.

"Moral theories" that don't assume some virtues are absolutely good but can help deciding "What do I do?" in real human affairs?

All moral theories I know are entirely about how to decide what to do in real human affairs - Christianity, Marxism, Stoicism, Consequentialism, Libertarianism, Socialism, etc., all make claims about how we should order our lives and how we should make moral decisions. Some take virtues as their starting point, others start somewhere else but arrive at something much like it. I would challenge you: is there such a thing as a moral theory that doesn't say something about what to do in real human affairs?

  • Hi, James. For the challenge: all moral theories are to help "What do I do" in some sense but the statements are too simple or definitive without any logical convincing or they are based on the philosopher's subjective selection of preferential virtues. Though they are not religious, my take is that they are belief-based theories. I understand that Kantian ethics is different but it does not give normative actions but too much of intra symbolic reasoning or self-examination, theoretically strong but practically it provides only a justification mechanism.
    – msk
    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:22

First of all i would say that the absolute good is only consistent within a certain theory and can not be proven scientifically but it can be far removed from any religious point of view. For example: 'The Analogy of the Sun', which was written by the philosopher Plato, tries to define goodness.

As he said:

Not life is the highest good, but the good life. 'Good' life is as much as noble and righteous.

To explain all this would go beyond the frame. Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analogy_of_the_Sun for more information.

If you are interested in that topic you should also check out the teaching of Epicurus (hedonism) and of course Aristotle and acutally all theories about 'Summum bonum'(lat. for "the highest good"). To Answer your question in terms of 'justice': I would say justice and the absolute goodness are two different things, which can be set in relation naturally.

EDIT : I almost forgot the greatest of all: "Immanuel Kant". His moral philosophy was a milestone for today's understanding of human rights and for moral behavior in general. His ideas of freedom and his try to convert our everyday, obvious, rational knowledge of morality into philosophical knowledge was revolutionary.

  • Not sure what "proven scientifically" means that excludes the possibility of an absolute standard of good...
    – virmaior
    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:14
  • Your concern is right in a way but regardless of that there is no absolute standart of good for several reasons...There are philosophical theories, which have made it possible to have at least proven a "moral standart". The absolute good in a philosophical view is much more than that and it differs from theory to theory. I have completed my answer.
    – Ubuntix
    Jul 23, 2014 at 12:43
  • There are also several interpretations of quantum mechanics. and for that matter mechanics in general. Hasn't stopped us from thinking of them as "scientific"
    – virmaior
    Jul 23, 2014 at 14:11
  • @Ubuntix I admire Kant for his indefatigable seek of reasonings. But as a simple mortal with limited capability of intra-reasoning but too easily inclined to manipulate the internal justification without consciousness, the theory seems too ideal but only good for mind gamings. What I am after is to find, non-nihilistic philosophical theories than are more logical that just stating the philosopher's preferential virtues. As a novice in thinking and a starter in reading philosophical material, your response is of great help nonetheless! Thank you.
    – msk
    Jul 24, 2014 at 4:28

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