We live in a world in which there is a strange dichotomy concerning absolute truth. An absolute is a truth that transcends our own subjective beliefs or opinions; this would be a truth that is not my truth or you truth, but The Truth.
On the one hand, there are plenty of people who live their lives passionately defending absolutes that probably reflect personal bias, rather than being truths that can be defended rationally. I'm talking about supposed absolute truths like:
- There is a God (somewhere up there) and he'll caste you into hell for all eternity if you don't follow his commands to the letter.
- Free market capitalism is the only legitimate way to structure the economy of a country.
- Every sexual act must be open to the transmission of new life.
- Only one religion is true, and it just happens to be mine.
I have no doubts that the world would be much better off if people exercised a but more discretion when choosing the absolutes that are going to guide their lives. And, if you can't come up with some rational arguments in defense of your Absolute, then that should tell you something right there.
But in my humble opinion, philosophy is precisely about about the search for absolutes. We don't do philosophy or ethics for the purpose of obfuscation (despite what undergraduate philosophy majors might believe), but for the purpose of clarifying reality. The quest for absolute truth, therefore, is the goal of the philosophical enterprise, and if there are no absolutes, then we are probably wasting our time doing philosophy at all.
I also think that it is logically impossible to negate the possibility that at least some absolutes exist. The relativists says that there are no objective truths. But doesn't this claim itself take the form of an absolute? The atheist says their is no God...again an absolute. The skeptic argues that very search for the truth is misguided...but this rejection of the truth becomes its own absolute.
In short, if you are doing philosophy, you can't really help making Truth claims, and there's Absolutely nothing wrong with that. A good absolute--whether it is metaphysical, religious, political, moral, or aesthetic--can provide the kind of order and meaning to life that we are all looking for.
I have plenty of absolutes in my life. Some have served me extremely well in life and have withstood the test of numerous challenges from men and women much smarter than I am. Others haven't born up quite so well under scrutiny and I am in the process of re-evaluating them. In fact, as I get older I find myself continually reexamining the sacred truths that have hitherto guided my life.
So what are your own absolutes, anyway? Can you argue rationally in defense of them or have they taken on the form of unreflected dogma? And if you had to, could you defend your absolutes if they were challenged by the contemporary equivalent of a Socrates?
You might just be surprise where this kind of reflection take you, so give it a try!