An absolutist ethics/morality is one that considers something immoral regardless of consequence, situation, and circumstance. Even if something has negative/positive consequences, or even if something is done under duress and out of necessity, this something is always immoral without exception

I've been told that absolutist morality is lazy. How can the absolutist position be defended?

  • See e.g. Moore’s Moral Philosophy Jan 14, 2022 at 15:26
  • If moral arguments play out consistently in game theory there is a argument for absolute moral positions. Jan 14, 2022 at 20:05
  • I was reading about Moore the other day @MauroALLEGRANZA via Russell. doesn't Moore mean absolute morality is the claim that moral prescriptions all share in some higher order goodness, and Rusell deny that a) anything can be good with enough reality to justify statements about "goodness", and b) that there are good sentimental (i.e. ethical) reasons to suppose no such thing can exist (unelaborated in the text I, quickly, read)
    – user57343
    Jan 15, 2022 at 1:37
  • See Waldron's review What are Moral Absolutes Like? Part of the problem is that even authors who declare allegiance to moral absolutes in the headline quickly proceed to qualifications, distinctions and exceptions in the text when faced with concrete examples . Doctrine of Double Effect is a typical case. So it hard to describe what "absolute" really means.
    – Conifold
    Jan 15, 2022 at 1:48
  • 1
    @Conifold And what if I don't believe the extreme that something is immoral regardless of the diverse situations or whatever is lazy? Now what?
    – ActualCry
    Jan 17, 2022 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


One perhaps obvious argument would be executive efficiency, which is essentially the cause behind using heuristics in general. A system, whether a single brain or a whole society, which has substantially limited executive capacity or otherwise which requires fast turnover, could easily benefit from using heuristics such as simple, absolute rules. The result may not be ideal or fair for special cases, but it would likely be systemically efficient.

An example statement from this position might be:

We cannot afford to waste time on special cases.

  • 1
    I don't think an absolutist would be very convinced by your argument, because absolutists, by their very nature, deny there are special cases
    – user57343
    Jan 17, 2022 at 5:33

I've been told absolutist morality is lazy

In a way that makes sense.

I suppose arguments for absolutism hinge on our intuitive beliefs that some things are immoral independent of any states of affairs, as well as problems with moral relativism:

a metaethical thesis that the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of persons

Note that in some sense all the great meta ethical theories are absolute: even act consequentialism says that we should always perform the action with the best consequences. Indeed I suspect you are asking about deontology, looking for deontological proscriptions which hold dependent upon consequences. But sadly that would be nothing at all in the spirit of it, so I'd guess you should just read amore about act consequentialism

The paradigm example of a Consequentialist ethics, Classical Utilitarianism, is also a perfect example of Absolutism: any action which maximizes pleasure or happiness is right and good absolutely, whatever else may be the case.

Absolutism v consequentialism: no contest Don Locke Analysis, Volume 41, Issue 2, April 1981, Pages 101–106,


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