On the "Galt's Gulch" discussion site of the Atlas Shrugged movie producers, the question was posed, "Is Morality Absolute?" (Read all 100+ posts here.) My response was that morality is absolute, but moral choices are not, or they would not be choices. Rand was very clear on why a rational, volitional being needs morality.
|YOU MUST CHOOSE SOME WORK.|
The work you choose depends on who you are.
Who you are also determines your work ethic.
Alone on his island, Robinson Crusoe could choose to fish, or plant, or hunt. But he had to choose. The fact of choice is a moral absolute. The content of the choice is not: it is contextual. In society, pursuing a specific career is a moral choice. Many options are available. The fact that you must choose something - even choosing to be a moocher - is a moral absolute. What you choose is not absolute, but contextual; and context determines what is objectively moral, regardless of the ethical implications.
In that discussion in the Gulch, frequent poster khalling challenged me to explain the difference between objective and absolute. It was an important question, a point that often confuses admirers of Rand's novels and non-fiction, especially Atlas Shrugged. In that story, the Washington gangs and their coteries of looters and moochers deny the absolute: for them everything is relative, except their demands. But Ayn Rand called her philosophy Objectivism, not Absolutism. The objective is that which is empirically observable and rationally explicable. The rational-empirical method depends on certain absolutes, and does discover absolute truths, but, largely, it is contextual, especially regarding human affairs. The standard of life is absolute; your choices for your happiness depend on your context. So does ethical conduct in society.
Completing a masters in social science, I took a graduate class in "Ethics in Physics." I found that technical societies for geologists, geographers, engineers of all kinds, have different statements of professional ethics. They all boil down to "be nice; do no harm." But they are all different in detail, and properly so. The work of a geographer is materially different than that of a geologist.
I was working in transportation when a colleague suggested that I take a class in computer programming "so the people in data processing can't hand you a bunch of baloney." I took a class and liked it. I went to work as a programmer. On a project, no one wanted to write the user manual. Having published a few articles and two small books, I did the documentation. I became a technical writer. When the current recession started, I took a part-time job as a security guard. As the economy continued to slide, I needed a four-year degree to even apply for work as a technical writer, so I earned one in criminology. Those were all moral choices, but ethics had nothing to do with it.