Hammer of Heretics Episode 3: There is no Absolute Truth
Hey there, and welcome back to the Hammer of Heretics, a series of straightforward, mostly unoriginal rebuttals of the uber-lame philosophies and attitudes I see around me. Today’s topic is relativism. Unless that makes you feel uncomfortable, in which case you can pretend it’s about ponies (but it’s actually about relativism).
I have several bad habits. Some of them, I’m working on changing, but one I’m not, and that is my habit of arguing with relativists. To be fair, most of them don’t call themselves that, though I’m not sure whether it’s because they don’t want to admit it, or don’t know. But regardless, these ‘discussions’ always end the same way.
“Let’s agree to disagree.”
“You have your beliefs and I have mine.”
“I just don’t agree with your opinions.”
Whether it’s a phrase like that, or a string of crude suggestions of where I can take my argument, the message is always the same: my position is just as good as yours, regardless of the arguments brought forth by either side. This is the basic tenet of moral relativism.
Relativism is not exactly a new concept. 400 years before Christ, Plato and Socrates were refuting the relativistic theories of the Sophist Protagorus, who advanced the claim that “man is the measure of all things.” To Socrates he even claimed, “what is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me.” As you can see on the left, that concept has been carried forward by a few less than brilliant minds, while being outright rejected by nearly everyone from St. Thomas Aquinas, to Richard Dawkins. The reason is simply that it is complete nonsense.
Pontius Pilate famously asked Jesus, “Quid est Veritas?” or “What is truth?” (John 18:38).
Philosophically speaking, truth is conformity between the mind and reality. In other words, if I look at an object, my mind learns certain things about it; firstly, that it exists, then details like position, dimensions, colours, textures. If these details in my mind correspond to the actual thing, they are true. Simple enough.
Relativism denies this. It states that whatever is in the mind is always true, and in this way, it denies the existence of truth itself. Moral relativism is just the extension of this worthless philosophy into the realm of morality. It claims that there is no ‘moral reality,’ so to speak – no standard to compare against the morals in our minds.
The important thing to realise is that this is functionally equivalent to the belief that there is no morality, period. A morality that only tells us what we want to hear is no morality at all. Sure the relativist can pat himself on the back for being a good, moral person when it’s convenient, but when a real temptation appears, then that completely true morality in his head begins to mysteriously change. Not that he was wrong before. The truth just conveniently changed.
A true relativist cannot ever admit to being wrong, no matter what. That’s why, when presented with logical arguments, they tend to respond extremely dismissively, and avoid engaging in a reasonable discussion. If he does argue, it’s typically not in good faith, since according to his own beliefs he cannot legitimately claim that anyone else is wrong, which of course leaves us with the question…
And here we have the heart of the problem. In today’s society, relativism is not a serious philosophy. It is an excuse. It’s not a serious, intellectually coherent position on morality. It’s a cop-out that lets us conveniently ignore reality.
One final thought, from our new Pope Francis. “There is no peace without truth.” It’s as simple as that. As long as we embrace relativism, we are living a lie. We are rejecting truth, rejecting love, and rejecting God, and we will never be at peace.