[quote=FelixBlue]I have often heard that (absolute) relativism cannot be true because it is self-contradictory. The argument typically goes something as follows:
Relativism must not be true because as soon as one says “relativism is true,” the person has admitted at least one absolute, objective truth, ie that relativism is true. (The same goes for the argument against agnositicism.)
Does this make sense to anyone else?
Yes, it makes perfect sense. Thank you for bringing up this topic. It has been one of my favorites as of late, when a few weeks ago I checked out a library book “My Search for Absolutes” by Paul Tillich. You have rekindled my interest and I think tomorrow I will check it out again for another reading. It’s kind of high level for me so I understand only a little more each time I read it. The book is not long, though, so at least it never gets to be drudgery.
The argument you made here is almost exactly one he makes in the beginning of chapter 2, if memory serves, where he introduces the concept of whether there is such a thing as absolutism in human thought and perception. There can be no such thing as a pure relativist, as you said, because “absolute relativism” is a contradiction.
I’ll give you just a bit of a jump start on the book; in chapter 3 he goes on to discuss relativism in morality and finds the absolute principle of human dignity, “do not use me as a means.” Chapter 4 deals with relativism in religious realm and comes up with the absolute to love God and (I think) to love one another. These are the moral and religious absolutes he found, from which many relative principles, such as the Ten Commandments, are derived.
This guy Tillich was considered one of the theological “giants” of the last century, but caution he was not Catholic. His conclusions at the end of the book do not sound like they would set well with the idea of the Catholic Church being the absolute, infallible interpreter of faith and morals, so if that offends you then read the book at your own risk.
The way I first heard of Tillich was he was quoted in a Catholic magazine in a page with daily quotes for the month. His quote was, “faith is not the opposite of doubt; it is an element of it.” That struck me hard because I had just about come to that conclusion on my own, so I looked more into Tillich and found that excellent book on absolutes.
Again, thank you for bringing up the topic because I have been trying to figure out how to break the ice in an environment where the mere concepts of “absolutism” and “relativism” seem to be considered sacred and satanic, respectively. Actually I had considered opening a thread titled something like “was Jesus really a relativist?”