An Introduction, to promote Thought.

  Behold, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
  ‘Make straight the way of the Lord!’ - John 1, 23.

  The fundamental principle of Absolutism is that there must be certain concepts which are absolute, not dependent on any one individual’s personal perception, because human perception by nature is flawed.  This is a necessary precept to any discourse on morality or propriety now and in any time of Man; for those discourses must relate to some concept of a fixable ideal or truth.
  The apparent contradiction in this claim is that anyone’s perception of what is absolute may be in itself flawed.  And so it is essential that the determination of what is absolute be made from the basis of what is already known to be absolute, using every possible source from every possible age, to form a kind of generalisation or maxim worthy of being accepted as a graspable certainty.  The working concept of the absolute, then, must be that which is universal, irrespective of time, place, and individual perspective.  What has been right as a practice for human society, for example, has been right for as much of human society as can be seen, in every corner of the world, in every time of mankind, by anyone anywhere at any time.  The absolute cannot be relative; any subjective determination made by an individual in any specific time or place must be ruled out as invalid, too narrowly defined to be valuable as an arbiter of any greater truth.  This is why so much of the elucidation of the absolute relies upon sources from antiquity, especially those precepts established by the pre-Christian Greeks and Romans and the divine truths of the sacred Biblical texts, ideas demonstrated philosophically as well as empirically to be worth consideration over the last three or four millenia of human interaction.
  The greatest single debate against this tends to be that, in reaction to any suggestion that what an individual perceives as his personal truth may be logically invalid, the individual will perceive that somehow he himself is being called invalid and will turn this into a ‘my-word-against-yours’ match.  He will contend that this wholesale invalidation is itself invalid, that what he feels– and he will use that word– is right or true is subject only to his own heart and that no-one ought to prescribe any such universal right or truth to anyone else.  Of course this claim depends entirely on a subjective belief that one’s feelings and one’s reality are inextricably entwined, which is exactly counter to Absolutism and misses the point entirely.  Declaration of the absolute is by definition not subject to any one individual’s personal condition.  That is the whole point.  The absolute exists whether or not that one individual chooses or is able to accept it, indeed whether or not he had ever been born or lived or breathed.

  We have all heard this cute little philosophical conundrum:
    ‘If a tree falls in the woods, and there is no-one round to hear it, does it still make a noise?’

  The answer is YES.  If the fall of a tree in a given environment produces certain motions, contacts, and other results which are known to make sounds, because those sounds can logically– call it ‘scientifically’ if you must– be deduced and predicted by way of other similar experiences, at any time, anywhere, by anyone, then there can be no valid claim that these sounds must be susceptible only to a given individual’s personal perception.  One must see the logic in wondering what about the presence of any human being, someone arguably unrelated to the fall of the tree, could have any bearing on determining the production of sound there.
  For example, if you were there and I were not, would the tree make a sound?  You would say yes, because you had been there and had personally perceived the sound.  In taking up your form of the argument, I would contend no, there had been no sound, because I had no personal experience of it.  So the individual relativism you use for your argument allows that my reality may be entirely different from yours, irrespective of the real truth about what happened.  In the end you can offer me no proof that the falling tree you heard ever made a noise or even fell at all unless you defend the possibility that things can be true even when not personally evident to everyone everywhere at once.  This suggests that human perception cannot be the definitive end to determining reality.
  Absolutism proposes that for these debating individuals to merely give over the whole thing and agree to allow that their individually-perceived realities are equally valid and good is to give over the entire issue of universal correctness.  It does not matter what the universally-accepted rights and wrongs of this or any morality are as much as it matters that it is universally accepted that they must exist.  Without them there is no validity in claiming anything as true or false, good or bad, acceptable or not, comfortable or not, and so forth.
  Consider that in a purely relativist world, judgements of any kind would have no sharable meaning.  No definition of anything made by anyone or at any time could be taken for granted by anyone else or at any other time.  All discourse would be voided of all comprehensible descriptions and ultimately broken down into subjects and verbs; and these, too, might cease to be effective communication after all.  A simple sentence like ‘He ran’ would be open to everyone’s interpretation– what is ‘run’ to me might be entirely something else to you, and the whole issue of relative verb tense might be debated, and who is ‘he’, after all? –and so on.
  But even a die-hard relativist will confess that at some point such a debate can go ‘too far’.  And so, if one even hints at the idea that no world should be purely relative, he is thus contending that there must be some room for absolutism somewhere; for even his use of the word ‘should’ suggests reliance on some fixed standard.  Further, the very notion that absolutism and relativism can coexist on equal footing implies wholesale relativism, which is logically inconsistent– at what point does one rule and the other give over?  Can absolutism be reasonable only some of the time?  The only tenable answer to this question will confirm the primacy of some absolute attribute.
  Now it is entirely possible that the falling of the tree may not be important to someone.  Relying on the concept that his perception determines his own reality, the relativist often confuses the concepts of true reality and personal relevance; but that is entirely off the point. Absolutism is the attempt to determine a true reality independent of what is personally meaningful to an individual.  The relativist may find that he just doesn’t care about whether or not the earth is round, since in the end he knows he still has to change his wristwatch whilst travelling two and a half hours from Chicago to Philadelphia and that nothing learnt in the excruciating philosophical argument he may have just waged about it has any further material bearing on his life.  That may be so.  But the reality of whether or not the earth is round remains regardless of his value for one side of the argument or the other.  It is fact, not opinion, coming from objective, focused reflection after intense intellectual and perhaps scientific study, and it has nothing to do with any one person’s feelings or desires or needs.  As a determiner of reality, one’s own personal perception is too limited to be reliable; and it may, in fact, be precisely counter to the truth, as Fielding has contended:

  Whoever heard of a gold-finder that had the impudence or folly to assert, from the ill success of his search, that there was no such thing as gold in the world? [i]

  The working value of Absolutism must be in the exercise of intellectual faculties and in the prospect of learning to look beyond the perceived reality to something potentially more meaningful over the long term. Absolutism is not about things material, immediate, or relevant– in fact such subjective manifestations are precisely anathema to it.  It shall be this author’s endeavour, then, to illustrate how an understanding of absolutist concepts begins to explain the workings of a material, immediate, and relevant world, and to suggest that how Absolutism confronts these issues will lead to a more enlightened awareness of the often silly, selfish, senseless age in which we sometimes feel condemned to live.
  There will be heated disagreement about issues like these, coming from Darwinists, atheists, Romantics, and liberals subjectively convinced that their causes, typically centered in individualism, empiricism, emotion and fear, are equivalent in value to any truth an Absolutist can recognise.  However, though many will never admit it, no belief system so firmly based upon the transient and temporal nature of any individual’s personal perception can, by definition, be of any broad or lasting ethical value.  Only those truths which are self-evident and universal will stand every test of time, space, and subjective understanding; and therefore it is for the explication of these absolute truths and their application to mankind that the voice of Reason in this relativist age, however odious to its detractors, will persevere.

17 October 2000

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[i]      p. 4      Whoever heard... world?  - Fielding; Tom Jones; A Foundling, 1749

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