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I have often wondered how proponents of the doctrine of "historical relativity" manage to avoid an inherent contradiction. For example, if one asserts "all truths are relative" (to an historical epoch or weltenschaung, e.g.), must one not also apply that observation to the "truth" that "all truths are relative?" Which means, of course, that the relativist's position is untenable, because it is itself merely relative and, hence, untrue in a trans-historical sense, at least based upon the relatavist's own assertion. If the only truth that is NOT relative is the relativist's supposed insight, one must ask on what grounds it is exempted. I suppose it might relate to the fact that the relativist stands at the end of Hegelian history, but still, it smacks of inconsistency. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Charles M. Lansing, MI

I think you raise one of the strongest objections possible to relativism, one so strong that it renders relativism impossible to formulate in that way (i.e., "All truths are relative"). But I do warn you that things get stickier as your get into relativistic theories. What makes them compelling? Here are a couple of general strategies that I've run across. 1. Negative Proof : Negatively, non-relativistic theories of truth seem, at least in the view of many, to have irresolveable problems of their own, arguably greater problems. So, if non-relativistic theories can't be right, some kind of relativism must be correct. 2. Positive Proof : Positively but indirectly, relativism seems (1) to answer serveral questions about the way the meaning of language and the designation "true" is determined and correlatively (2) it seems to be the consequence of investigations into matters concerning topics like whether a body of evidence can determine only one conclusion (answer: no), whether a word can...