August 27, 2008

A Proper Perspective on Relativism

Here's some development on my understanding of relativism. If you like, you can compare it to what I said in Rant on Relativism. This post was originally posted on June 8th, 2005. It was about this time that I began taking my blog more seriously. Anyway, enjoy:

The real question that I hope to address here is what is the true difference between absolutism and relativism. One is the belief that there exists a single absolute truth. The other is the belief that all truth is relative to whom believes it.

As an absolutist, let me define some terms. First of all there are beliefs. These are concepts which are considered to be true by a particular individual. There exists working beliefs and concrete beliefs. A working belief is one where the person who believes it is uncertain, and open to correct, but is convinced enough that act on it. A concrete belief is one where the person is wholly convinced of it, and cannot perceive that possibility of its fallacy.

Secondally, there is the term truth. A truth is something which is true, or a concept which correctly describes reality. There are three kinds of these: absolute truth, relative truth, and a nontruth. An absolute truth is actually rather redundant given the above definition. Given that reality itself is concrete and constant, all truths are absolute. However, without that presupposition, absolute truth can be defined as those truths which are describing concrete and constant attributes of reality. The antithesis of this is, of course, relative truth, which are those truths which are describing those shifting attributes of reality, and a point of reference is nessacary to describe them. A non-truth is, of course, not a truth at all, but a description of something in reality that has no true answer (like what is the best color, and what not).

My proposistion is this: the actual difference between an absolutist and a relativist is moot, though substantial. What I have found is that the vast majority of relativists actually define truth with the definition that I gave to concrete belief. To an absolutists, the discussion of truth rules out the discussion of opinion, for a truth is a truth, whether or not anyone has ever thought of it. Most absolutists consider that truth, as I have defined it above, either does not exist (which is rare) or is unobtainable, and not worth discussion.

However, a proper consideration of these different beliefs shows that there exists a varience of perspective. For one, we find that relativism is far more popular among pluralists and atheists. Secondly, we find that absolutism seems to be a constant amoung monotheists. Well why is this?

It has to do with ones consideration of reality. Pluralists hold that reality itself is pliable, and susceptable to change by ones interaction with it. Therefore, all truth becomes relative, since reality itself is relative to the beholder (these would the ones who actually hold to the relative truth as stated above.) An atheists defines reality as he interacts with it. It is defined by science, which is defined by experimentation. Thus a Shroders Cat look at truth is comfortable.

A monotheist, on the the other hand, holds that there exists a single entity who created the universe and all the is within it. Therefore, reality becomes defined as "creation", and its attributes are the rules written by the hand of almighty God.

Here is the difference: relativists are defining reality through the perspective of man, while absolutists are defining it through the perspective of God. Whether what we believe is truth or not, whatever God believes must be truth, since he is objective and has put all things in place. Therefore, if there is one entity, if there is one being, is there is one who is God, there truth must be absolute, for it is a reflection of the one God.

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