Why is relativism self-defeating?
One of the great farces of the modern era is the notion that truth relativism is not only acceptable, but good. This lie has destroyed many precious institutions, it continues to do so, and we can expect that the relativism of the modern era will be used to ruin many more things worth keeping.
So relativism is to be opposed because it is a tool used to burn the world to the ground. Forces used against it are rightly directed. Yet any force set against it must know why the thing is worth destroying.
And the fact that relativism refutes itself is a key reason for directing one’s contempt against it.
Now, why is relativism self-defeating?
Relativism is self-defeating because it refutes itself. If truth is relative, then the statement, “All truth is relative,” is not absolutely true. So its truth can only be conditional; this would require that some truth is absolute. This absolute truth would then refute the notion of relative truths.
Now, I’ve introduced three types of truth here: relative, conditional, and absolute. And a discussion of relativism requires us to review what these truths are and how they interact with one another.
The Three Classes of Truth
Now, most people are bad at thinking. And people who are bad at thinking tend to look at the world in terms fo dichotomies. Oftentimes, they do this without realizing what they’ve done. And most discussion and debate about truth is built derived from this lack of understanding. It is for this reason that we must take some time to recognize that three, not two, classes of truth exist.
Absolute truths are true in all circumstances. They do not have exceptions. If it seems as though an absolute truth has been violated, then one of two things has happened. Either the violation is imaginary, or the truth was not really absolute in the first place and the people who named it so made a mistake.
Whenever an absolute truth is placed against a truth of the other two types, then the absolute triumphs over the others, and the other is proven false.
No two absolute truths may contradict each other. If such an occurrence appears to exist, then the viewer has made an error.
Absolute truths are the rarest of the three types of truth.
A conditional truth is a statement which is only true if certain conditions are met.
Consider the question, “Is today Tuesday?”
The correct answer to this question changes based on the day of the week
So the answer to this question is a conditional truth.
Most truths are conditional, and all truths of this sort are subordinate to absolute truth.
Relative truth is the enemy of both conditional and absolute truth. It rejects both and asserts that all views can be called truth. It then goes on to assert that each of these views is of equal value.
So a person who pretends to believe that all truth is relative must accept that all answers to the question, “What is the sum of two and two?” are of equal value.
Relative truth is mutually exclusive with the other two types. This is because of the following three possibilities must be true.
- All truth is relative.
- Some truth is relative.
- No truth is relative.
Now, let us explore what these three possibilities mean for relativism and the other truth types.
Why Relative Truth Is Mutually Exclusive with the Others
If all truth is relative, then no truth can be conditional or absolute. So in this case, relative truth must be mutually exclusive with the other two.
And if some truth is relative, then other truths must be either conditional or absolute. Yet if some truth is absolute, then no truth can be relative because that supposedly-relative truth would be constrained by the absolute truth. This would then transform the relative truth into a conditional truth.
So if merely some truth were relative, then it could only be the case that the other truths were conditional. Yet the existence of a conditional truth depends upon the ability for those conditions to be met. The answer to the question, “Is today Tuesday?” cannot exist unless days also exist.
And the circumstances which allow the existence of conditional truths must themselves be absolute. If they were not, then they would be either conditional or relative. If they were relative, then the conditional truth would really be relative. And if they were conditional, then we find the problem of infinite regress.
So it could not be the case that some truths were relative while others were conditional.
Therefore, if any truth is relative, then all truth must be relative.
Why Relativism Is Self Defeating – Relative Truths Can’t Exist
Truth cannot be relative because if it were, then it would refute itself.
As we have covered above, if any truth is relative, then all truth must be relative. Now, if all truth is relative, then the statement, “All truth is relative,” must not be absolutely true.
This proves that either conditional or absolute truths exist. And fi an absolute truth exists, then relative truth cannot exist; and if a conditional truth is found, then its presence proves the existence of some absolute truth which allows the conditional truth to exist.
“True for you but not for me.”
Sometimes, people will claim that truth is relative. They often do this in order to avoid conflicts which would arise from asserting that one thing was true and that another was false. After all, most people don’t respond favorably to being told that they’re wrong.
So these cowards who try to pretend that truth is relative in order to avoid conflict will often say that a thing is true for them and not for another person. When they do this, they are adhering to a conditional truth and calling it relative.
The reason why people do this is because humans have a nasty tendency to look at the world in dichotomies. Then they tie their either-or perspective to the topic of truth, and they fail to think about it properly. This results in the delusion that truth is either absolute or relative and that conditionality does not exist.
And this is a problem because the statement that all truth is absolute is false, and this leads people to believe that all truth is relative.
Yet relative truth is mutually exclusive with absolute truth.
So people will see a conditional truth, misidentify it as a relative truth, proceed to assert that relative truths exist, and then reject all absolute truth.
So they are then left only with relative truth, and relative truth refutes itself. Therefore, a person who believes in it is eventually left with nothing.
Relativism as a Rejection of Reason
All thinking follows certain rules and standards in order to arrive at conclusions. These are collectively called logic, and some of the rules which logic follows are more important than others.
The three most important rules in logic are the Law of Noncontradiction, the Law of the Excluded Middle, and the Law of Identity. The first of these holds that two mutually exclusive positions cannot both be true,a nd not system fo thought may reject this view while containing logical coherence.
Yet the notion that truth is relative entertains this view. The believe that all truth is relative breaks one fo the fundamental laws fo thought. It is for this reason that no system of thought may hold relativism as either one of its premises. Moreover, if that system were to produce a conclusion that all truth is relative, then it would undermine itself because the premises which led to the conclusions would be invalidated by the conclusion which they had produced.
Therefore, no system of rational thought may entertain the idea that truth is relative, either in its conclusions or in its premises.
So to advance the idea that truth is relative is also to reject thinking itself.
However, the kinds of people who are liable to pretend that all truth is relative tend to be ba a thinking, and they don’t understand the breadth of what they are saying when they claim that all truth is relative. So they don’t realize that they’re rejecting thought itself by their words.