Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It's Relatively Impossible...

...To actually live relativism. In fact, as one of my readers pointed out in an insightful comment yesterday, there are few examples, if any, of true relativists in the philosophical world. There are certainly those who lay claim to relativism, denying the existence of objective truth.

Pope Benedict focused on this BIG TIME during his tenure in the US, incorporating the theme into nearly every address he delivered. Addressing the crisis of faith the American Church is facing in general, and speaking to Catholic University leaders in particular, His Holiness states that "From this perspective one can recognize that the contemporary “crisis of truth” is rooted in a “crisis of faith”... we all know, and observe with concern, the difficulty or reluctance many people have today in entrusting themselves to God... Subsequently we observe, with distress, the notion of freedom being distorted. Freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in – a participation in Being itself. "

How very bold, how refreshingly straightforward, how ... ridiculous, at least by modern standards. Do you see what the Pope is inferring? That absolute truth is, well, absolute, and that a greater freedom exists, removed from my subjective preference? This doesn't bode well for freedom of choice, that much is certain.

But back to relativism, and the strange reality that no body, particularly its greatest champions, is actually living it. I've endured many a college lecture, interspersed with dogmatic proclamations of absolutes, only to be informed at lecture's end that there is, in fact, "no such thing as an absolute." Except for that last statement I made. Are you questioning me? Idiot freshman, don't you realize I'm tenured?

You get the point. Relativism is just a pretty word for the 'might makes right' mentality so pervasive in our university system and beyond. And if you disagree with me, well, you are intolerant. And bigoted. And a host of other unsavory slurs with which I will slander you, sullying your academic record and discrediting your opinion. It's brilliant, really, so long as no body catches on. So I think it's safe to assume that academia has the most to fear regarding fallout from Papa's apostolic visit. I expect to hear noisy, plaintive protests going up in unison from ivory towers across this great land, decrying the verbal violence committed last week by the intolerant theocrat from Rome, warning people of the "danger" of black and white thinking.

Um hmm. Remember, there are no absolutes. Of this I am absolutely certain.

1 comment:

  1. I am sure there have been many students who have pointed out the absolutism in the statement that there is "no such thing as an absolute." I wonder what the professor really thinks to himself when asked to elaborate on the meaning of relativism! How ridiculous, when the very phrase is an oxymoron!
    Perhaps the professor answers by saying that his statement is the only absolute, or that absolute means relative, or that there is no such thing as truth. But of course, if that were true, wouldn't the professor and all of us simply be huddled alone in our apartments, eating chips and watching cable and waiting for nothingness to consume us? Why pursue anything if nothing is real? Who would care about life at all? Wouldn't we all just commit suicide? Or at least be anarchists and nihilistic hedonists? But why even pursue pleasure if it is neither real nor true?
    Relativism is really a disgusting lie when you think about it's logical conclusion. But I don't think the professors really care about its logical conclusion. Like you said about it being a pretty word for might makes right. I think relativism is useful to the intellectual and amoral elites who want to extinguish Christian philosophy. They don't want the individual to know he/she has inherent value. Or that there is an objective reality outside himself. The "relativists" say they believe in intellectual honesty and the open exchange of ideas. But in practical use, relativism only makes the student unable to argue. But the elites themselves? Oh they definitely subscribe to an objective truth outside themselves. That is the only way they can access power.

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