But at the same time, moral rules are always stated in a universal manner, although most have "escape clauses."For example, "thou shalt not kill" has all sorts of exceptions built in; the right of self-defence is generally recognised as an exception (or a moral rule of a "higher order"), or we find that rules can conflict (stealing bread to keep one's child alive).
The rules of morality are universal, because they are supposed to hold true of everyone. Everyone
should not murder (not "kill") and everyone
should not steal. What you mean is that (you don't think) they should be held in an absolute
way so as not to make room for exceptions like your stealing bread example. The distinction between "universal" and "absolute" is very important and is often confused. It is moral relativists who deny that moral rules are universal, but they need not (although they may) deny that moral rules are absolute. By the way, the "science" of applying moral rules to particular circumstances is called "casuistry". Killing in self-defense is not an exception to the moral rule thou shalt not murder as long as killing in self-defense is not a case of murder. That simply is a matter of what we mean. But whether the rule against stealing should be applied in the example you cite, is a matter for casuistry.
We would like the rule of morality to be universal, but they are not even close unless we consider only one: Blood is thicker than water...
What the Jews do the the Arabs is moral and what the Arabs do to the Jews is moral, so how can there be some universality... The immorality of Huck Finn is that he took the side of a black against whites... The morality he stands by and decides he will go to hell for is a human morality which we are far from having... We would like to build our social form of Law out of our moral forms, like Ethics, Justice, Virtue... Then we find law is used to defend Ideal like Property, and power when these may represent the greatest of immorality... How can law support immorality, injustice, and stand against community authority and be moral... Law is not enforcing morality as much as protecting immorality... Law does not unite, but divides... It is part of the process of demoralization that goes on in all civilizations until they crumble...
So there is no universal morality... There was once, when all people were in tribes surrounded by enemies... Then the line was clearly drawn: Stand with the people, or become one of the animals that lurks beyond the bounds of society...Morality is community...
Make a law and make a loophole...Instead, recognize that people know by their bond, by their emotions what is moral, and morality is the price they pay, that we all pay, to be a part of a society... Immorality can be rationalized, as Huck Finn tries to do, but he knows he is immoral, by his feelings, his conscience... And feeling may be made the basis of some social forms, but no one can formalize feelings.... Either they are genuine, or they are not...It is not because of law that people keep the peace and obey the law... They would act morally without law...The mistake is in believing people need law to act morally when law more often protects immorality, so more law is needed and that only protects more immorality without helping people to act morally..