WWSP's "The Alternate Boot!"

Monday, April 25, 2005

Is there a Relativist in this Monkey House?

Hey can I put in a few kind words for the "relativists?" It seems the Pope has decided to attack a new straw man: The Relativist, and this kind of reminds me of the Religious Right's demonization of "the Liberal," or their latest campaign against "Activist Judges."

I'm not an expert (on anything?), but since I'm a big adherent of the evolutionary (physically, spiritually) viewpoint (Jesus, Mohammad, Ghandi, Buddha and I were/are genetically 99% identical to chimps) - we live in an evolving universe - what we know for sure today, may not be what we know for sure tomorrow, a good motto to keep in the forefront of our forebrains: "SEEK AND YOU WILL DISCOVER!" I think its obvious that the Scientific approach - let's test our hypothesis and see what happens - has been very successful exploring and trying to comprehend the world. Science too has been demonized, but I think it's clear that it is the Politicians who have failed us - see Hiroshima/Nagasaki - not the scientists.

So, I think some kind of Relativism has it's merits. Look at the evidence, for instance the history of Man, and you will see that Morality and Truth, have been bounded by the context of culture (Slavery, women's rights, "the universe revolves around the earth," "stoning is a just punishment," "multiple wives - what a great idea" "Blacks are inferior to Whites", "Gay people are sick," etc.) Now if I'm a Pope, I probably should not be a Relativist, my job is to put on the robe, and accept my infallibility (sheesh what a Poser!).

But I submit it's the Absolutists who really create the havoc; those who claim to be inspired by God - Christians, Muslims (maybe not the Buddhists - they seem so mellow!). A little Relativism should make us all a little more humble ("maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong - let's try it, and see what happens"), not such a bad idea!

By the way, for clarity's sake, there's this from the Philosopy Dictionary: "few philosophers are willing to describe themselves as relativists. However, most of the leading thinkers who have been accused of relativism--for example, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Peter Winch, Thomas Kuhn, Richard Rorty, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida--do share a certain common ground which, while recognizably relativistic, provides a basis for more sophisticated, and perhaps more defensible, positions. They all have two features in common: 1) They all assert that one thing (e.g. moral values, beauty, knowledge, taste, or meaning) is relative to some particular framework or standpoint (e.g. the individual subject, a culture, an era, a language, or a conceptual scheme). 2) They all deny that any standpoint is uniquely privileged over all others."

Now of course, Science for good and bad, is one of these "frameworks." Who gets to claim the "priviledged standpoint?" ("God is on my side!") Isn't that the nub of it? Beware of the moral absolutists - I'm thinking they're the ones acting like "uppity monkeys!" Remember your humble beginnings fellow pilgrims!

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