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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Relativism = Nothing-ism

from The Dictatorship of Relativism:

It is often said that relativism is the conviction that, when it comes to morals, there are no such things as absolute values and, when it comes to knowledge, there is no such thing as absolute truth. It is worth meditating on the use of the word “absolute” here. If there were a law against abusing innocent words, we would be justified in contacting OSHA about this unfair exploitation of “absolute.”

What a relativist really believes (or believes he believes) is that 1) there is no such thing as value and 2) there is no such thing as truth. The word “absolute” is merely an emollient, a verbal sedative intended to forestall unhappiness. What after all is the difference between saying “There is no such thing as absolute truth” and saying “There is no such thing as truth”? Take your time.

My one disagreement would be that I really don't believe that relativists really believe what they say the believe. They may SAY they don't believe in Value or Truth, but they act, over and over and over again, as if they do. Which is to say, Values and Truth are inescapable. Absolutely.


Jered said...

This reminds me of Ravi Zacharias' comments concerning atheism. He says that to be an atheist you are stating that there is no deity, which requires you to have absolute and complete knowledge. All this to disprove that there is a omniscient deity.

Anonymous said...

In addition, the argument is self defeating. The statement that there is no truth is presented as a truth claim, that it is true that there is no truth. It shows the absurdity of rejecting the word as the foundation for knowing any truth.

mdf356 said...

I disagree.

Have you noticed that there are behaviors that are acceptable now, that didn't used to be?

- women voting
- women wearing bikinis
- menstruating women being part of society
- men taking multiple wives (still okay some places)
- remarriage after divorce
- divorce

If you want to take the position that there is no such thing as relative values, you need to decide that either our society is wrong on some of these issues or a previous society was.

If you allow for relative values you then get to admit that, due to differences in resource availability, etc., we find some things acceptable that wouldn't be in another societal situation.

Mark Swanson said...


No one would argue that there are not relative and arbitrary "values", many things are "good" in one culture and "bad" in another.

The question is whether or not there are any "absolute" values that transcend culture and individual preference.

Most today would deny the latter and claim that "good" and "bad" and "truth" and "fiction" are human constructs with no corresponding external reality.

That is the position that is both unlivable and, as Anon stated, self-defeating.

David Haddon said...

For ethics, why not speak of "objective morals" or "objective standards of morality." The use of "values" as a substitute for "morals" or "standards" is already an abandonment of the language appropriate to a morality based on conformity to either created reality (natural law) or to revelation.

Allan Bloom lays the blame for the closing of the American (academic) mind to philosophy, the love of wisdom and the search for truth, on the German relativists such as Weber.

"Values" are fundamentally subjective and correspond to the marketplace and the cash nexus. The unfortunate American habit of judging people's success and worth on the basis their income is perhaps related to misuse of this term. Values have objective worth in balance sheets and cost-benefit analysis but not for ethics and morality.

We need to get beyond "family values," "traditional values," "biblical values" if we want to clarify our thinking about and begin to live out biblical norms in business and personal life--like not living with with your Christian girl friend withoug first getting married.