Google defines absolute as:

"a value or principle which is regarded as universally valid or which may be viewed without relation to other things."

My work interests lie in the fields of computer science and music and so I don't have any experience when it comes to philosophical topics but what I get from this definition and what others purport absoluteness to be is basically a set "rules" or "principles" that is complete and uniform across all living beings, or at least all human beings in this context.

And so, does the notion of absoluteness exist? Can we define a set of rules that are wholly absolute across all human beings. For instance, "rape is wrong" is something that lets say the entire stack exchange community agrees on. However if we were to ask a rapist whether he/she thought rape was wrong the answer could very well be that it is not. The closest to absolute that I would think is correct would be ourselves as we define the rules that we are comfortable with and with which we govern our lives. That being said, could it be argued that it is impossible for there to be a superior being that defines the absolute, and hence that God cannot exist since absoluteness does not exist?


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    An "absolute" notion of absolute is hard to manage... We may think to ethics: see Kant, physics; see Absolute Theories of Space and Motion or hegelian Absolute Spirit. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Jun 17 '16 at 12:25
  • Are you concluding that absolutes don't exists based on a rapist's opinion? Doesn't that mistakenly assume that the existence of absolutes implies that people must acknowledge them without exception? What makes more sense is to say that absolutes exists because God exists, and that people are often mistaken as to the true nature of what those absolutes are. We can deny and suppress the voice of conscience. The fact that almost everyone agrees that rape is wrong is evidence of the existence of absolutes, which, in turn, only makes sense assuming the existence of God. – user3017 Jun 17 '16 at 12:29
  • @PédeLeão Hmmm, I see your point but I'm not assuming absolutes exists based on peoples' opinion on rape or even opinions in general. While rape is maybe a bit extreme (to us) I'm just using an example it to pose the bigger question of whether you can draw an absolute line between right and wrong that applies to all people which is essentially what religion does, does it not? Also, "almost everyone" is not "everyone", which contradicts the idea of absoluteness. Are those good books to start reading for someone who hasn't read anything on related topics but would like to start? – Amposter Jun 17 '16 at 13:28
  • It would be more accurate to say that God determines what is right and wrong for all people. However, many make the mistake of thinking that such an absolute determination is absolutely well defined. The fact is that ethics is a very difficult subject, because it's often not possible to know with any degree of precision how God would evaluate a given circumstance. – user3017 Jun 17 '16 at 13:39
  • So you're saying that while an absolute determination like God can exist and hence can tell you whether something is right or wrong, the means by which this determination arrives at a decision is not absolutely defined? Isn't that a bit of a contradiction though? Let's say we're able to accumulate every single decision or act in the universe, then by the aforementioned logic, God would be able to classify them. But that then implies that we'd have some sort of model of the universe that is absolutely well defined. – Amposter Jun 17 '16 at 13:49

For the notion of absolute not to exist would be an absolute absence, a requirement that everything lack this kind of perfection. This, of course, would contradict the absolute absence of perfect absoluteness. At least one thing would be absolutely required -- that no rule be absolute.

That may strike you as a word-game, but it is not. Logic depends very strongly on principles that are intuitively absolute. Contradiction is possible only if the truth of certain kinds of propositions is absolute. Otherwise, carefully cultivated, the tiny risk that all the things we find contradictory actually admit exceptions slowly add up to a basic incapacity to process the world (or an enlightened state of non-dualism that breaks one's obsession with trying to process the world -- Samsara is Nirvana -- same thing, different day).

Arithmetic works only if equality is absolute, as does the rest of mathematics. Even our science's understanding of the lack of absoluteness, in statistics, requires a notion of 'real randomness' -- an absolute lack of predictable order -- in order to become tractable. We could go on, but in fact, the notion of absoluteness is almost everywhere.

Whether that notion has any basis in actual experience, or in physical reality is another question entirely. But, as the list of examples in the paragraph above could go on for quite some time, it is clear that our internal experience is shaped very strongly by a search for absoluteness, and an ultimate compromise with the inability to find it.

(Like the philosophy of mathematics, I think the best approach to the philosophy of religion is upward through psychology. So the rest of this answer is from various psychoanalytic perspectives that many people put outside the boundary of philosophy proper, and surely outside of theology.)

From a Lacanian point of view, it is the imagination that is absolute. A human has only a limited capacity of attention, and what is missing from any internalized image is missing absolutely. Firm boundaries are drawn around each imaginary object. (Even if those boundaries are 'drawn in fuzziness' like the fake fur on CGI animals, or inked with the 'non-color', we kind of live in cartoons.)

But from that perspective, the ability to symbolize, and thus to communicate, depends entirely upon using current reality to create scenarios in another person's imagination. You can point at a rock, and claim you have communicated without invoking imagination, but there is an imaginary signification of that rock as special. You have 'named' it, personified it a little bit, and you are telling a story about it.

Giving up entirely on idealism and absolute statements always fails (Buddhist miracles notwithstanding), even if you consider it entirely hopeless, because idealization is the bedrock of our basic concepts of language. Since language is what we will use to capture a rule, every rule is implicitly absolute, even if it says otherwise. It is also therefore just wrong in some unforeseen way. (Ask any three-year-old, wait a bit, and ask her again at nine.) We know that is not real, but it is our natural framing. Even the resulting relativism is expressed in terms of purposive refusal to choose a preference, rather than having some normal, positive expression.

That is why, going back to Lacan, the natural human mental state is slightly neurotic. Following on that, it is also why we have a major personality trait among the "Big 5" for resentment and distrust (Neurotic), while all the other major personality components admit positive characterizations (Open, Conscientious, Agreeable, Engaging).

Going back to the God question, this is why, from a Jungian point of view, religion is mandatory in human psychology. If you displace your religious inclination purposely from a given fixed perfection, you still must choose an object of baseless faith, be that human potential, scientific process, or the nature of suffering. Your dependence upon that new fixed object will be just as absolute a religion as the one handed down to you -- though it may make more sense in your context, and it may change daily. Because that is not really a change, either: Religious people's religion is also coped to their context, and whether they like it or not, it also changes daily.

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A notion of absolute can exist, but that doesn't mean you have to believe anything to be absolute.
I mean, you can have a notion of what a dragon is, and not believe anything that exists to be a dragon.

That said, you can believe some things to be absolute, and you can think nothing to be absolute; I think both positions are defendable.

If some things are absolute, I'd say you would have no way to tell what they are, since your perspective is limited, and you could be wrongly interpreting as universal things you percieve as constant while they actually end outside of your perspective (like the sun rising, to someone not in the know of the sun's limited -though long- lifespan)

If you don't believe anything to be absolute, you are instead supposing that the constants in your perspective end outside of it. But, again, you could be misinterpreting, since you are guessing outcomes you can't actually see. (For instance, you could believe the universe to have begun existing at some point, and that it will stop existing at some other point, but you'll never be able to completely witness those points, were they to happen, if you can't escape your universe)

So, we are talking about guessing what we can't directly tell, and logic, faith, phylosophy, science, tradition are some ways to go about it. You might even give a lot of weight to some ways, and less to others, but none of those ways is immutable: they costantly change and transform, far from being absolute in their details, but close to being absolute in simply existing as tools humans use to support and find their beliefs.

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