A Discussion Of Relativism And Tolerance

This has nothing to do with finance, banking, the recession, greed on Wall Street, craven politicians or any other of the maladies that afflict us, but then again maybe it has everything to do with all of that.

It’s a very interesting article from the American Thinker that discusses relativism and tolerance. I will warn you up front that it it’s about philosophy so if that’s not your gig then move on.

Here is a snippet which will either whey your appetite or convince you that I’m getting too far out into the stratosphere:

It has been twenty years since the late Allan Bloom shook the intellectual elite in this country with the opening line of The Closing of the American Mind:  “There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: almost every student in America believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.”   In one sentence our dirty little secret — we believe in the truth that there is no truth — was out.

Why do we believe this?  Bloom had that pegged too:

Relativism is necessary to openness; and this is the virtue, the only virtue, which all primary education for more than fifty years has dedicated itself to inculcating.  Openness — and the relativism that makes it the only plausible stance in the face of the various claims to truth and the various ways of life and kinds of human beings — is the great insight of our times.

But relativism is not a new idea. Ever since Protagoras declared, “Man is the measure of all things,” people have been attracted to relativism.  Human beings are attracted to relativism — not because it is true — they are attracted to it because relativism is easy.
I mean two things by “easy” and I mean to discuss those two things later in this essay. I will introduce them here.  First, relativism is easy on the intellect.  A person’s entire understanding of the entire workings of the entire universe can be stated in eight words: The truth is that there is no truth.  Here is a truth, if it is true, simple enough for any simpleton. 
Next, relativism is easy on the conscience.  If there is no truth out there then there are no values out there either; rather, the only values out there are the subjective ones that we create and put there.  Thus, it is possible for us to agree to have this value as a shared value: if you let me make my values, I’ll let you make yours.  The allowance by a society of the creation of conflicting values between one human being and another is, in our culture, called “tolerance.”  As we will see, tolerance is one, but only one, possible moral outcome of relativism.

If that tempts you then move on and read the article. If not, then that’s relatively OK as well.

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