I have read that the statement "There is no absolute truth" is self-refuting because it relies on absolute truth to be true. I have also read that the idea expressed in the previous statement commits the fallacy of begging the question. I am thoroughly confused by the debate here...?

It is confusing, isn't it?

What does it mean to say that there's no absolute truth? It certainly seems to mean that all truth is in one way or another relative. That, in turn, seems to mean that for any potential truth, there are different and conflicting standards, equally valid, and the claim at issue might be true relative to one of these standard and false relative to another. But if this is really how things go for any potential truth, then it seems to go for the claim that there is no absolute truth. In other words, it seems to imply that the claim "there is no absolute truth" is true by some valid standards and false by some other, equally valid standards. This seems to make for a kind of trouble without invoking absolute truth. If someone tells me that there is no absolute truth, I seem by their own lights to be perfectly justified in insisting that I adhere to a valid standard according to which their claim is false.

Perhaps they'll shrug and live with that. But there are further puzzles. If what was said above gets at what it means to say that there's no absolute truth, then it still seems to imply that a given claim really will be true by some standards, period, even though it really will be false by other standards. That sounds suspiciously like an absolute fact about the relation between the claim and various standards of truth.

So where does that leave us? I don't claim to have a proof that there are at least some absolute truths. But I'll admit that I have only the foggiest idea what the self-swallowing relativism of denying it actually comes to. My experience has been that people who say such things typically want me to agree that they're right, period, end of story. In that case, whether or not there are any absolute truths, the person trying to persuade me is at the very least guilty of bad faith.

Relativists do seem to be in trouble with having to live with a relative notion of truth for their own claims. But I am not sure that Allen's worries are decisive. Suppose the claim is that there are no absolute truths, but there are truths relative to standards that you and I accept. You can try insisting that you adhere to a valid standard according to which my claim is false. But then we could argue about whether that is right. Insisting is one thing, being rationally persuasive is another. Similarly, I might claim that a given proposition really will be true by some standards and really will be false by other standards and further say that that claim itself is true relative to standards that we both accept .. but false by others.

This sort of relativism might not be motivated by a desire dogmatically to insist that one has a right to one's own opinion ... it might be motivated by deep philosophical views about the relationship between language and/or thought and reality ... I think this would apply to most philosophical relativists, like Quine in some of his moods.

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