Moral universalism

Moral universalism (also called moral objectivism) is the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics, or a universal ethic, applies universally, that is, for "all similarly situated individuals",[1] regardless of culture, race, sex, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or any other distinguishing feature.[2] Moral universalism is opposed to moral nihilism and moral relativism. However, not all forms of moral universalism are absolutist, nor are they necessarily value monist; many forms of universalism, such as utilitarianism, are non-absolutist, and some forms, such as that of Isaiah Berlin, may be value pluralist.

In addition to the theories of moral realism, moral universalism includes other cognitivist moral theories, such as the subjectivist ideal observer theory and divine command theory, and also the non-cognitivist moral theory of universal prescriptivism.[3][4]


According to philosophy professor R. W. Hepburn: "To move towards the objectivist pole is to argue that moral judgements can be rationally defensible, true or false, that there are rational procedural tests for identifying morally impermissible actions, or that moral values exist independently of the feeling-states of individuals at particular times."[5]

Linguist and political theorist Noam Chomsky states:

"if we adopt the principle of universality: if an action is right (or wrong) for others, it is right (or wrong) for us. Those who do not rise to the minimal moral level of applying to themselves the standards they apply to others—more stringent ones, in fact—plainly cannot be taken seriously when they speak of appropriateness of response; or of right and wrong, good and evil."[6]


The United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be read as assuming a kind of moral universalism. The drafting committee of the Universal Declaration did assume, or at least aspired to, a "universal" approach to articulating international human rights. Although the Declaration has undeniably come to be accepted throughout the world as a cornerstone of the international system for the protection of human rights, a belief among some that the Universal Declaration does not adequately reflect certain important worldviews has given rise to more than one supplementary declaration, such as the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam and the Bangkok Declaration.[7]

Global environmental treaties may also assume and present a moral universalism. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is founded upon the "common heritage of mankind". Protecting this heritage is presented in the treaty as a shared moral duty requiring protective actions based on "common but differentiated responsibilities". This has been criticised as anthropocentric and state-centric but it does assert universal goals.[8]

Attempts to define a universal morality

In his Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Immanuel Kant attempts to derive a supreme principle of morality that binds all rational agents. Similarly, divine command theory presents a form of universalism, by way of the unconditional morality of God's commandments.

See also


  1. ^ Kemerling, Garth (12 November 2011). "A Dictionary of Philosophical Terms and Names". Philosophy Pages. According to Immanuel Kant and Richard Mervyn Hare...moral imperatives must be regarded as equally binding on everyone.
  2. ^ Gowans, Chris (9 December 2008). Edward N. Zalta, ed (ed.). "Moral Relativism". The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition). Let us say that moral objectivism maintains that moral judgments are ordinarily true or false in an absolute or universal sense, that some of them are true, and that people sometimes are justified in accepting true moral judgments (and rejecting false ones) on the basis of evidence available to any reasonable and well-informed person.CS1 maint: Extra text: editors list (link)
  3. ^ Non-cognitivism: A meta-ethical theory according to which moral issues are not subject to rational determination. Dealing with values, not facts, moral assertions are neither true nor false, but merely express attitudes, feelings, desires, or demands.Philosophy Pages
  4. ^ Prescriptivism: R. M. Hare's contention that the use of moral language conveys an implicit commitment to act accordingly. Thus, for example, saying that "Murder is wrong" not only entails acceptance of a universalizable obligation not to kill, but also leads to avoidance of the act of killing.Philosophy Pages
  5. ^ Hepburn, RW (January 2005). "Ethical objectivism and subjectivism". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy (2nd ed.). pp. 667 ff. ISBN 9780199264797.
  6. ^ Chomsky, Noam (2 July 2002). "Terror and Just Response". ZNet.
  7. ^ "Article 29, Section 3". The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. United Nations General Assembly. 10 December 1948.
  8. ^ Rai, Jasdev Singh; Thorheim, Celia; Dorjderem, Amarbayasgalan; Macer, Darryl (2010). Universalism and ethical values for the environment. Thailand: UNESCO Office Bangkok and Regional Bureau for Education in Asia and the Pacific. ISBN 978-92-9223-301-3. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
Global justice

Global justice is an issue in political philosophy arising from the concern about unfairness. It is sometimes understood as a form of internationalism.


In most contexts, the concept of good denotes the conduct that should be preferred when posed with a choice between possible actions. Good is generally considered to be the opposite of evil, and is of interest in the study of morality, ethics, religion and philosophy. The specific meaning and etymology of the term and its associated translations among ancient and contemporary languages show substantial variation in its inflection and meaning depending on circumstances of place, history, religious, or philosophical context.

Index of ethics articles

This Index of ethics articles puts articles relevant to well-known ethical (right and wrong, good and bad) debates and decisions in one place - including practical problems long known in philosophy, and the more abstract subjects in law, politics, and some professions and sciences. It lists also those core concepts essential to understanding ethics as applied in various religions, some movements derived from religions, and religions discussed as if they were a theory of ethics making no special claim to divine status.

International Year of Human Rights

1968 was declared the International Year of Human Rights by UNESCO, with the principal goal of bringing attention to the state of human rights throughout the world. On its XX session on March 17-18, 1964 United Nations Commission on Human Rights considered United Nations General Assembly Eighteenth session decision to proclaim International Year of Human Rights and recommended the establishment of the committee for preparation of celebration of 20th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and organisation of an international conference on human rights.

Jason D. Hill

Jason Damian Hill is a Jamaican-American professor of philosophy at DePaul University in Chicago.

List of Christian universalists

This is a list of believers in Christian Universalism—specifically, Trinitarian Universalism prior to the 1961 creation of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Early Christians—from the second through fourth centuries—have been catalogued by scholars Hosea Ballou (Ancient History of Universalism, 1828), John Wesley Hanson (Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church During Its First Five Hundred Years, 1899), George T. Knight (The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 1911), and Pierre Batiffol (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914), but modern scholarship questions the claim that all of these individuals were believers in universal reconciliation. Some of those listed here may have simply believed in apokatastasis in the Jewish or early Christian sense, without any intention that all who had ever lived would be saved.

Several modern Christian theologians have been deemed "hopeful Universalists" for a belief in the possibility of universal reconciliation, but who did not claim it was a dogmatic fact—e.g. Karl Barth and Cormac Murphy-O'Connor.


Meta-ethics is the branch of ethics that seeks to understand the nature of ethical properties, statements, attitudes, and judgments. Meta-ethics is one of the three branches of ethics generally studied by philosophers, the others being normative ethics and applied ethics.

While normative ethics addresses such questions as "What should I do?", evaluating specific practices and principles of action, meta-ethics addresses questions such as "What is goodness?" and "How can we tell what is good from what is bad?", seeking to understand the nature of ethical properties and evaluations.

Some theorists argue that a metaphysical account of morality is necessary for the proper evaluation of actual moral theories and for making practical moral decisions; others reason from opposite premises and suggest that studying moral judgments about proper actions can guide us to a true account of the nature of morality.

Moral absolutism

Moral absolutism is an ethical view that all actions are intrinsically right or wrong. Stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done for the well-being of others (e.g., stealing food to feed a starving family), and even if it does in the end promote such a good. Moral absolutism stands in contrast to other categories of normative ethical theories such as consequentialism, which holds that the morality (in the wide sense) of an act depends on the consequences or the context of the act.

Moral absolutism is not the same as moral universalism. Universalism holds merely that what is right or wrong is independent of custom or opinion (as opposed to moral relativism), but not necessarily that what is right or wrong is independent of context or consequences (as in absolutism). Moral universalism is compatible with moral absolutism, but also positions such as consequentialism. Louis Pojman gives the following definitions to distinguish the two positions of moral absolutism and universalism:

Moral absolutism: There is at least one principle that ought never to be violated.

Moral objectivism: There is a fact of the matter as to whether any given action is morally permissible or impermissible: a fact of the matter that does not depend solely on social custom or individual acceptance.Ethical theories which place strong emphasis on rights and duty, such as the deontological ethics of Immanuel Kant, are often forms of moral absolutism, as are many religious moral codes.

Moral objectivism

Moral objectivism may refer to:

Robust moral realism, the meta-ethical position that ethical sentences express factual propositions about robust or mind-independent features of the world, and that some such propositions are true.

Moral universalism, the meta-ethical position that some system of ethics or morality is universally valid, without any further semantic or metaphysical claim.

The ethical branch of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism (Ayn Rand).

Moral relativism

Moral relativism may be any of several philosophical positions concerned with the differences in moral judgments across different people and cultures. Descriptive moral relativism holds only that some people do in fact disagree about what is moral; meta-ethical moral relativism holds that in such disagreements, nobody is objectively right or wrong; and normative moral relativism holds that because nobody is right or wrong, we ought to tolerate the behavior of others even when we disagree about the morality of it.

Not all descriptive relativists adopt meta-ethical relativism, and moreover, not all meta-ethical relativists adopt normative relativism. Richard Rorty, for example, argued that relativist philosophers believe "that the grounds for choosing between such opinions is less algorithmic than had been thought", but not that any belief is as valid as any other.Moral relativism has been debated for thousands of years, from ancient Greece and India to the present day, in diverse fields including art, philosophy, science, and religion.


Objectivism, or Objectivist, may refer to:

Any standpoint that stresses objectivity, including:

Objectivity (philosophy), the conviction that reality is mind-independent

Objectivity (science), a value in science that informs the practice of science and discovery of scientific truths

Anti-psychologism, or logical objectivism, the conviction that the rules of logic are mind-independent

Moral universalism or moral objectivism, the view that some ethics are absolute

Objectivism (Ayn Rand), a philosophical system created by Ayn Rand that declares real knowledge to be metaphysically objective

The Objectivist movement, a movement formed by followers and students of Rand's philosophy

The Objectivist Party, an American political party espousing Rand's philosophy

Objectivism (poetry), a group of Modernist writers who emerged in the 1930s

Open society

The term open society was coined in 1932 by French philosopher Henri Bergson. The idea was further developed during WWII by Austrian-born British philosopher Karl Popper.Bergson describes a closed society as a closed system of law or religion. It is static, like a closed mind. Bergson suggests that if all traces of civilization were to disappear, the instincts of the closed society for including or excluding others would remain. In contrast, an open society is dynamic and inclined to moral universalism.Popper saw the open society as part of a historical continuum reaching from the organic, tribal, or closed society, through the open society marked by a critical attitude to tradition, to the abstract or depersonalized society lacking all face-to-face interaction transactions.In open societies, the government is expected to be responsive and tolerant, and its political mechanisms transparent and flexible. It can be characterized as opposed to authoritarianism.

Professional ethics

Professional ethics encompass the personal, and corporate standards of behavior expected by professionals.The word professionalism originally applied to vows of a religious order. By at least the year 1675, the term had seen secular application and was applied to the three learned professions: Divinity, Law, and Medicine. The term professionalism was also used for the military profession around this same time.

Professionals and those working in acknowledged professions exercise specialist knowledge and skill. How the use of this knowledge should be governed when providing a service to the public can be considered a moral issue and is termed professional ethics.It is capable of making judgments, applying their skills, and reaching informed decisions in situations that the general public cannot because they have not attained the necessary knowledge and skills. One of the earliest examples of professional ethics is the Hippocratic oath to which medical doctors still adhere to this day.

Rhythm Inside (Loïc Nottet song)

"Rhythm Inside" is a song by Belgian singer Loïc Nottet. It was released as his debut single on 10 March 2015 for radio airplay, while Sony Music Entertainment distributed it digitally one day later. The track was written by Nottet alongside Beverly Jo Scott, while production was solely handled by Luuk Cox. Previously, Nottet had participated in his native singing competition The Voice Belgique in 2014—where he finished second and thus rose to prominence—and had chosen Scott's team. "Rhythm Inside" has been described as an alternative-inspired pop, new wave, R&B, electro, soul and hip hop song, with its minimalistic instrumentation consisting of finger clicks, percussion and synthesizer pads. "Rhythm Inside" lyrically discusses moral universalism.

The track represented Belgium in the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna, Austria after being internally selected by the country's public broadcaster RTBF. The country ultimately reached fourth place in a field of 27, scoring a total of 217 points. During Nottet's minimalistic and black and white-themed show, he was accompanied by four backing vocalists while the background LED screens displayed white 3D boxes moving to the song's rhythm. "Rhythm Inside" was well-received by music critics, who praised Nottet's vocals, as well as the song's production and lyrics. Several reviewers compared it to the works of Lorde and Sia.

In order to promote and support "Rhythm Inside", Nottet performed it on several occasions. The song was also covered by various artists and included on the setlist for his Selfocracy Tour (2017–2018). Three accompanying music videos were released for the track in 2015, of which one is titled "Alice in Nightmareland" and features Justine Vercleven portraying the fictional character Alice. The other two visuals focus on "opposites and fighting conceptions" and science fiction, respectively. Commercially, "Rhythm Inside" reached the top 100 of several countries after the Eurovision Song Contest and peaked at number one in the Wallonian and Flemish regions of Belgium. It was certified Platinum by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) for sales exceeding 20,000 units.

Second-order simulacra

Part of the three order simulacra, the second-order simulacra, a term coined by Jean Baudrillard, are symbols of a non faithful representation to the original. Here, signs and images do not faithfully show us reality, but might hint at the existence of something real which the sign itself is incapable of encapsulating.While the first-order simulacra is a faithful copy to the original and the third order are symbols that have become without referents, that is, symbols with no real object to represent but pretends to be a faithful copy of an original. Simply put, a third-order simulacra are symbols in themselves taken for reality and further layer of symbolism is added. This occurs when the symbol is taken to be more important or authoritative of the original entity, authenticity has been replaced by copy (thus reality is replaced by a substitute).

The consequence of the propagation of second-order simulacra is that, within the affected context, nothing is "real," though those engaged in the illusion are incapable of seeing it. Instead of having experiences, people observe spectacles, via real or metaphorical control screens. Instead of the real, we have simulation and simulacra, the hyperreal.

In his essay "The Precession of the Simulacra," Baudrillard recalls a tale from a short story by Borges in which a king requests a map (i.e. a symbol) to be produced so detailed that it ends up coming into one-to-one correspondence with the territory (i.e. the real area the map is to represent); this references the philosophical concept of map–territory relation. Baudrillard argues that in the postmodern epoch, the territory ceases to exist, and there is nothing left but the map; or indeed, the very concepts of the map and the territory have become indistinguishable, the distinction which once existed between them having been erased.

Among the many issues associated with the propagation of second-order simulacra to the third-order is what Baudrillard considers the termination of history. The method of this termination comes through the lack of oppositional elements in society, with the mass having become "the silent majority," an imploded concept which absorbs images passively, becoming itself a media overwritten by those who speak for it (i.e. the people are symbolically represented by governing agents and market statistic, marginalizing the people themselves). For Baudrillard this is the natural result of an ethic of unity in which actually agonistic opposites are taken to be essentially the same. For example, Baudrillard contends that moral universalism (human rights, equality) is equated with globalization, which is not concerned with immutable values but with mediums of exchange and equalisation such as the global market and mass media.


Universalism is a philosophical and theological concept that some ideas have universal application or applicability. A community that calls itself universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions, and accept others in an inclusive manner. It is centered on the belief in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine.

Christian Universalism is focused on the idea of universal reconciliation. Also known as universal salvation, it is a doctrine stating that every human soul will ultimately be reconciled to God because of divine love and mercy.A belief in one fundamental truth is another important tenet in Universalism. The living truth is seen as more far-reaching than the national, cultural, or religious boundaries or interpretations of that one truth. As the Rig Veda states, "Truth is one; sages call it by various names."Universalism has had an influence on modern day Hinduism, in turn influencing western modern spirituality.Unitarian Universalism emphasizes that religion is a universal human quality, and also focuses on the universal principles of most religions. It accepts all religions in an inclusive manner.

Universalism (disambiguation)

Universalism refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal application or applicability. Universalists may emphasis the universal principles of most religions.

Universalism may also refer to:

In religion:

Christian Universalism is a school of Christian theology which includes the belief in the doctrine of universal reconciliation, the view that all human beings and all fallen creatures will ultimately be restored to right relationship with God in Heaven.

Trinitarian Universalism is a variant of belief in universal reconciliation, the belief that every person will be saved, that also held the Christian belief in Trinitarianism.

In Christian theology, Universal reconciliation is the doctrine that all sinful and alienated human souls—because of divine love and mercy—will ultimately be reconciled to God.

An American denomination than merged into Unitarian Universalism

Universalism, a theological and philosophical concept that some ideas have universal application or applicabilityIn philosophy:

Universality (philosophy)

Moral universalism

Universalizability, philosophy of KantIn politics:

Universal monarchy

a name for secular humanism and progressivism used by the Dark EnlightenmentIn music:

"Universal Religion", a compilation album series within the Armin van Buuren discography

Universality (philosophy)

In philosophy, universality is the idea that universal facts exist and can be progressively discovered, as opposed to relativism. In certain theologies, universalism is the quality ascribed to an entity whose existence is consistent throughout the universe, whose being is independent of and unconstrained by the events and conditions that compose the universe, such as entropy and physical locality.

This article also discusses Kantian and Platonist notions of "universal", which are considered by most philosophers to be separate notions.

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