January 9, 2012

The Pen

[Warning: This post is more technical than most of my posts. Casual reader beware


Our present day culture is a pluralist culture. Living in a nation which holds as a fundamental law of the land that all philosophies and religions are to be treated with respect and at the very least tolerance (in the real sense of the word), it is little wonder that our society has not only been a magnet for groups holding a variety of different beliefs, but has also been a breeding ground for new ideas. This fact has some benefits and disadvantages, but I belief that it is, in general, a good thing.

However, one such new idea has been treated as a universal belief that all Americans should hold. Pragmatically developped to engender tolerance amoung the masses, instead of just the state, a movement has become widespread that we individually should except all persons' beliefs as being equally valid and true. For the sake of simplity we shall refer to this belief as American pluralism.

It is the intent of this post to propose an argument for dealing with pluralism. As of yet, no one has offered me a counter-argument. I simply refer to this argument as "The Pen".

American Pluralism

Pluralism, generally defined, is any worldview which allows for a variety of different beliefs to be equally valid, such as Hinduism or Existentialism. American Pluralism (referred to as simply Pluralism for the remainder of this post) in particular does not have a worldview to support its ascertions (though an individual proponent of it might). Indeed, grounding their belief with some kind of cosmic backdrop is counter-productive to their objectives.

What are their objectives? Essentially to stop philosophical and theological fighting. It is an attempt to make everyone get along. It does this by trying to take away the thing that we're are fighting over: truth. It dismantles truth by focusing on the individual as that which has the ultimate authority to validate. If I believe something is true, then it is true for me.

Therefore, truth is personal, and is seen as an extention of self. Much like Existentialism (indeed one might consider it to be a popular form of Existentialism), it is a belief that focuses on the individual. It is the life, experiences, and perspectives of the individual cognizant which defines reality. General reality is something we give meaning to by experiencing and believing in it. Therefore, any claims that we have on that reality are merely personal constructs which should be treasured, but not enforced upon others.

The Pen

Now, it is important for this argument to work that you envision me speaking to a Pluralist, in person:

"For the sake of argument, I will concede that there exists a reality unto myself. I have thoughts, experiences, and impressions which are my own, and to which not you nor anyone else is privy. Likewise there also exists a reality unto yourself which is equally your own.

"However, there also exists this pen:

"This pen clearly exists within my reality. It is here, I am referring to it, and I therefore know it. However, it also exists within your own reality as well. You can see it, and therefore you also know of it. Therefore, there must exist some kind of shared reality between you and I: some place where this pen exists. If you deny the existance of this common reality, then you must admit that in some sense, this pen does not truly exist. But since it does exist, so does our common reality.

"It is important to recognize that when I am speaking of truth, I am referring to this common reality. When I say that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, I am referring to this common reality. When I say that there is but one God, I am referring to this common reality. When I say that God made the world, I am referring to this common reality. I am not simply referring to my own exclusive reality (though my own reality is of course included).

"As such, you cannot confirm what I am claiming by saying that it is true within my reality, while rejecting it within your own. This is impossible because my claim is upon this common reality of which you share a part. If, however, it does not exist within your own reality, then the claim is nullified. Therefore, because of the manner in which I have made the claim, the only options left to you are either to say that I am wrong, or that I am right.

"Unfortunately, this means that you must act against the fundational principle of your own position: accepting all positions as equally true. If you do so, then your entire belief structure becomes hypocritical. Therefore, you must either ignore my claim, which is a means of rejecting it by the way, or recognize that your pluralist belief is philosophically untenable. QED"


Josh Diaz said...

Excellent argument. I don't believe there is a way for a Pluralist to counter without abandoning their initial position. This reminds me of moral relativism: the idea that our subjective beliefs on morality may be "true for you, but not for me." Or another common phrase, "That's your truth, but not mine." The denial of an objective common ground. The common ground, in my view, is the highest reality. Since facts are interpreted subjectively, like you said, we all have our own version of truth, but our versions must bend the knee when in revelation of objective truth.

For example, it was once thought that the world was flat. It was a decent observation for many years and mankind, at the time, did not have a high enough vantage point to prove otherwise. It really wasn't until mankind could see the world from outer space that the true confirmation of the higher truth came...dispelling all argument to the contrary. Truth does not bow it's knee to the opinions of man.

However, it could possibly be argued that since moral relativists make no objective truth claims yet share a common goal of tolerance...that tolerance in and of itself is the only truth. But then again, can a goal or a common pursuit really be considered objective truth or a common ground or as you mentioned, a "common reality"?

Jc_Freak: said...

"But then again, can a goal or a common pursuit really be considered objective truth or a common ground or as you mentioned, a "common reality"?"

No, and I don't think they would put it in the category of truth themselves. I think they would simply find you morally appalling, without thinking about how that is consistent with their world view.