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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the www.comereason.org Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Relativism Suffocates From Its Own Standards

People don't like termites in their house. They gnaw on the house's structure, causing damage and could eventually weaken supports, making the house unsafe. To rid a severely infested house of termites and other pests, people will have their houses fumigated, sealing it tight and replacing the oxygen with lethal gas to kill all the living critters. 

Fumigation is an effective technique, as it penetrates every area of the house so no pest can escape the lethal gas. However, if you lived in a large house that had no exits, would you choose to fumigate to get rid of pests? Of course not, since by being included in the house, you'd be poisoned along with everything else. But this is exactly the main problem with relativism. You see, anytime we say the way something is or isn't we are making a claim about that state of affairs. Claims have truth value. But relativism makes a claim that no claims can be true absolutely. This is known as a self-defeating statement, which is a statement so big it actually denies itself. Examples of self-defeating statements are things like "I cannot write one single sentence in English" or "Everything I say is false." These statements cannot be true on their face. Similarly, the statement "There are no absolute truths" is all encompassing, which means it is making an absolute claim about truth. By doing so, it has contradicted itself.

Relativist claim: There are no absolute truths!

In a past article, we saw that post-modernism is all about rejecting all Grand Stories — which as I said are the basic rules of how the world works. However, by rejecting meta-narratives, isn't post-modernism providing a meta-narrative itself? Isn't it telling us "All viewpoints are equally biased" trying to give us an opinion that they think is unbiased and objectively true? The relativist is trapped in a house of truth-claims, and then seeks to poison the notion that truths can exist.

Relativist: "There are no absolute truths."

Christian: "Is that absolutely true?"

Relativist: "There's no such thing as truth."

Christian: "Would you like me to take that claim as true?"
The fact that relativism is self-refuting will show up in every one if it's different flavors, so it's crucial that you understand that point. Relativism's own rules suffocate itself!

7 comments:

  1. Sounds like nonsense. Look at speed limits for example. Are they absolute? Why is a highway speed limit 55? Why not 65? Because someone picked 55, does that mean it is self-refuting? Of course not.

    My naturalistic morality is built upon considerations of consequentialism, reciprocity, and individual rights. For example, rape is not absolutely wrong; rather it is "obviously" wrong because it violates every one of the three principles I just mentioned. Why those principles? Because they lead to flourishing. That is the root of your error I think: because something is 'obviously' wrong you wrongly think it is 'objectively' wrong.

    If you get your morality from God, then you are truly adrift, because God isn't talking to anyone, unless you believe in the so-called 'modern prophets.'

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  2. I'm curious--and please don't take this the wrong way... I'm just curious--can you explain to me how humans evolved morality since the three basic "considerations" you mentioned above are against the principle of "survival of the fittest?" And also why all those who haven't evolved a good "naturalistic morality," like yourself, haven't died off yet according to "survival of the fittest"?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bryant, 'survival of the fittest' isn't a moral principle unless you make it one. It is a scientific hypothesis for how life arose biologically. For more insight about how morality evolves and can even be glimpsed in lower animals (lower complexity of brains), see a book like this:
    "Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved"
    http://www.amazon.com/Primates-Philosophers-Morality-Evolved-Princeton/dp/0691141290

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bernie,

    Before you go too far in extolling the morality of monkeys, perhaps you should read my post from a couple of days ago. http://apologetics-notes.comereason.org/2013/06/monkey-business-stop-excusing-sexual.html

    ReplyDelete
  5. Lenny said: "Before you go too far in extolling the morality of monkeys"

    I'm 'extolling the morality of monkeys.' I said by observing other animals, such as monkeys and apes, it becomes apparent as to how morality evolved. Have you read any of this stuff? Even monkeys demand justice; here's a funny talk on it:
    "Making moral monkeys mad, a test of fairness and injustice."
    http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=2b0_1335643826

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hello Bernie,

    You make some interesting points and bring up some issues that are key in the discussion of morality. I have some questions if you wouldn't mind answering them.

    1.) is the speed limit arbitrary "picking" or is there a moral purpose behind it? Doesn't each speed limit take into account the value of human life? Is the difference between the 80 mph speed limit in the deserts of Utah and the 25 mph in the school zone I pass on my way to work simply arbitrary or does it take into account the rights and privileges of humanity?

    2.) You base morality on the three principles of consequentialism, reciprocity, and individual rights, but does this assume a moral standard? How do you measure a consequence as good or bad? If we share the same understanding of reciprocity, doesn't this also require a standard to determine if an act was good and deserves to be reciprocated with a good act? Lastly, you speak of individual rights, but where do they come from? Please notice I am not asking how we know them. I am simply wondering ON YOUR WORLDVIEW (emphasis on your view being a naturalist) where these rights originate.

    3.) If I understand you correctly, you are saying that human flourishing is the ultimate "judge" of morality, however, could something lead to human flourishing and yet contradict your three principles? For example, black widows flourish when they kill their husbands so that their young may eat them, if humans had evolved with similar capacities, would this be morally acceptable in your worldview? If so, wouldn't this contradict your principles?

    4.) Finally, why does flourishing matter in a naturalistic world? If I am correct, and please correct me if your view is misrepresented, are we not all an accident of time and chance and will die out and cease to exist in the future? If so, why seek to flourish? If I were you, I would live this short life on earth with the craziest and wildest bucket list because in the end, no one will ever know I was here. Is it important that rocks flourish? Because they came about from the same accident that caused us. Is it important that plants flourish? Yes we know it is because humanity depends on them, but this assumes that human flourishing is important.

    I would love to hear your position on these questions from a naturalistic worldview and will gladly try to answer any question you may ask.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "You base morality on the three principles of consequentialism, reciprocity, and individual rights, but does this assume a moral standard?"

    No.

    ReplyDelete

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