Saturday, January 10, 2009

Relativism: A Sympathy Extended

It re-occured to me today as I re-read most of the comments made in the last few days in "Atheophobia?" and "Pro-Christmas/Anti-Atheist Campaign" that a good deal of the philosophy of relativism is disingenuous at best, and social engineering at worst. I was taken aback again by my wife's rather poignant comment that a friend of mine has unwittingly fallen prey to a conformist mindset, while at the same time probably not believing himself to be a conformist. I wondered how this could happen? How can a reasonably intelligent person look around at the condition of our world, live within Western culture and believe the psychobabble moonshine of relativism as a worthwhile notion to conform to?

Not really having a formal answer of my own -- I did have a few inarticulate hunches -- I went on reading some articles dealing with the subject. Of relativism, that is. I came across this particular article via Arts & Letters Daily, and was struck by its humour, intelligence, and sympathy. I think now I have a better handle on why my friend allows his mind to be ploughed by the blades of relativism, and why he might not agree that he is a conformist, even though on a pragmatic and political level he comes across as one.

15 comments:

toshido said...

Mostly because your wife is wrong and you are assuming that she is correct.
yes I am sure she would be right with some people but I think I have an above average understanding about the biased nature of media outlets.

sarah said...

Toshido,

Relativism isn't about agreeing with the biases of the media. Whether or not you hold the media suspect and whatever your degree of understanding of its biases, your philosophical bent is definitionally relativistic, which is most certainly a mainstream cultural engineering project gone as planned.

You are and will continue to be stuck in it unless you recognise it for what it is and then make an actual choice. It seems that you might think that this is an insult to you, but it isn't; it's an observation easily made and not at all unusual.

You may think that since I don't concur with this mindset, I must think I am superior to those who do, but this is not the case. It is always my hope that others would see it and become free of it because I actually have a very strong desire to see you and everyone else live to potential; I consider it an utmost evil that you and everyone in your position, and even everyone who does see it and rejects it but who is still stifled by it simply *because* of it being mainstream, are held back from our potential.

I am not as radical as some of my neighbours here (although if I could act according to my convictions, then I would not likely stand out from them), but I do know that my mentality is radical relative to most and certainly relative to yours, based upon what I know of you and your family. This is an unfair position for sure since I have the benefit of observing your interactions with my husband and you have no such benefit for getting to know me.

Anyway, Toshido, suffice it to say that you have a great lot of untapped potential (as we all do, I think), and your mainstream mindset hinders you-- significantly.

I am not wrong about this; it is one of the few things it is far easier to be right about than wrong simply because it is so insidious in our culture and so obvious to those who have rejected (not rebelled against) it, by choice.

toshido said...

"Anyway, Toshido, suffice it to say that you have a great lot of untapped potential (as we all do, I think), and your mainstream mindset hinders you-- significantly."

Again this comes across as distinctly arrogant.
Because I have a different mindset than you I am hindered where you are not.
Your last response is just dripping with it as well.

"You are and will continue to be stuck in it unless you recognise it for what it is and then make an actual choice."

What I believe is not being stuck with it. It is as I believe.
i actually had to look up relativism to really understand what you guys were talking about. but I agree with it. Morals are relative to individual, society, cultural and historic circumstances.
Even with Christianity this is true. Morals and ethics have changed over the centuries. Even within our lifetime.
even within the last few years what you and Chris consider to be ethical has changed. I am specifically referring to birth control.

"You may think that since I don't concur with this mindset, I must think I am superior to those who do, but this is not the case. It is always my hope that others would see it and become free of it because I actually have a very strong desire to see you and everyone else live to potential; I consider it an utmost evil that you and everyone in your position, and even everyone who does see it and rejects it but who is still stifled by it simply *because* of it being mainstream, are held back from our potential"

Thinking I must free myself from this mindset like you have already done is thinking you are superior. I don't need to be freed from my beliefs anymore then you need to be freed from yours. It is not my belief because it is mainstream. I believe it because it makes sense to me.
So much so that I can't really fathom anyone disagreeing. Yet I am not saying you are wrong or stifled or limited or need to be freed. nor am I saying that you do not see your constraints etc...
my beliefs are not holding me back in anyones opinions but your own.

"I am not wrong about this..."

The slogan of arrogance.

As per Websters

"an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions"

justsomename said...

The media has put it in our minds that it's significant whether we are conformists or non-conformists. Naturally, neither of these should be considered a virtue in and of itself.

Sarah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christopher said...

"The media has put it in our minds that it's significant whether we are conformists or non-conformists. Naturally, neither of these should be considered a virtue in and of itself."

Agreed. There is nothing more, or less virtuous in the titles "Conformist" or "Nonconformist". Like all things, the relative virtue or not of a thing comes about in the context of intention and application.

Christopher said...

Toshido,

I'm hesitant to jump in and state my thoughts. Not because I can't, but because my wife does a far superior job (in my opinion) of expressing the impressions that both she and I have on this subject.

But, I'm not one to refuse a risk here-and-there.

"Mostly because your wife is wrong and you are assuming that she is correct."

Hmm. That doesn't follow. You and I have had a friendship for 16 years now (give-or-take). In that time, we've had a good many conversations about relativism, though perhaps not with that specific header ascribed to the topic. In any case, we have disagreed about the nature of truth for a good long while. So while my wife's comment may have taken me aback, it wasn't because I never noticed your stance (which happens to be the stance of most people), it was because it was a recollection of your mindset along different lines; another angle on the same thing, if you will.

"yes I am sure she would be right with some people but I think I have an above average understanding about the biased nature of media outlets."

Oh, she's definitely right with a good many people, and I have no reason to doubt she's right about you on this subject, too. As I stated earlier, this is a topic that we've discussed under different terms more than once before, and you have always defended the position "it's true for you but it isn't true for me", and other such sentiments. You are a relativist in praxis, if not in philosophy.

I'll return to comment on your mislabelling of my wife's intentions as "arrogant".

Sarah said...

Toshido,

You used to live in a specific city. There, you used the city utilities and water, walked through its parks, met and greeted others who live there, and participated in the celebrations/festivals and bylaws and expectations of that city. You knew it well, and were an upstanding resident within its boundaries.

Then you left that city-- moved from where you lived-- and took up residence in another city. When you did this, you left everything behind that pertained to the first city in favour of what is in the new city. You recognised that many of the people who lived in that first city, where you were, are still there now. The evidence is all very clear-- they have homes there and do everything that indicates to you that they are living there. You no longer live there, and recognise that they still do. You acknowledge that you are not better than them for no longer living there and also for your recognition of their residence in the old city, and yours in the new city.

Having lived in the old city and now being able to contrast living in it with living in the new city, you realise that the new city offers some really great things that weren't available in the old city-- better pay for work, bigger and greener parks, free food, community cultural/arts/sports/etc... centres and many other things that are not available in the old city, but that are of great value to every human being.

You tell some of your freinds in the old city about this new city and that it has much to offer them, that if they stay in the old city, they won't have free food, their parks won't allow them to play giant games of frisbee and 'hunter,' their wages will remain lower for the same effort which will mean they couldn't do as much as they could if they came to the new city.

Instead of considering the possibility that what you've seen and then shared with them is real, that there IS another city, and that they don't live in it (yet, but hopefully they will sooner or later), and that they COULD live in it now or after a process of moving from where they are to where you are, they just tell you that they don't live in the old city (even though you know they do because you were there with them when YOU lived there), that they don't agree that the new city has what you have witnessed and shared with them-- essentially accusing you of lying-- and that you are arrogant ( and making presumptuous claims in an overbearing manner), think yourself superior, attack you personally and make public indications of private conversations you've had with them as though those were the only examples they could come up with to demonstrate the point that they are sure that THEY have it all right and that YOU have it all WRONG.

Who understands the new city? The one who has moved TO it FROM the old city, or the ones who live in the old city, while calling IT the new city?

The phrase 'hindsight is 20/20' explains this very well, and why I can see where you live currently, and where I've left.

toshido said...

But we are not talking about a city, or anything else tangible.

You are saying that I am less now then I could be if I believed in similar things as you.

It is very possible I feel the same for you. Perhaps I think you would be better off living more mainstream. Sending your kids to public school. Getting vaccinations, etc.
I am not of a mind to tell you that you are wrong in these things. I am not here saying that you could be better if you do things my way.
You have very much come across as saying that my way of thinking, y belief systems are wrong and are holding me back.
Fine that is an opinion.
It turns to arrogance when you start telling me, or at least implying, that I would be better if I believed in the same things as you.

Christopher said...

Toshido,

A few things:

1. The example of the cities was a metaphor. It was meant to illustrate a point. Did you catch that point?

2. At first, you were against Sarah's comment that you adhere to the mainstream. Now, it seems as if you've implied that you do by stating, "Perhaps I think you would be better off living more mainstream." So which is it: do you live by mainstream ideologies or not?

3. By noting that you are taking up many opinions and ideologies of the mainstream culture, Sarah is not saying that her way is better. She is stating that you could chose a much better way for yourself that isn't mainstream, and may, or may not be the same perspective, or way of living that we (Sarah and I) have chosen for ourselves. Thus your comment, "You have very much come across as saying that my way of thinking, y belief systems are wrong and are holding me back", is only partly true. That is, it is necessarily the case that if you adhere to mainstream ideas, there is significant room for improvement on your part because mainstream ideas are equivalent to shooting for the average, or maintaining a 'C' in school. Mainstream is, by definition, the average. So the fact that you have correctly understood Sarah as saying that you could improve comes with your intuitive understanding of what mainstream ideas actually are: the average. You can improve, and you should improve, but you don't have to do things the way Sarah and I do to make that improvement. Relativism is a mainstream idea in that it is accepted as the average practice of truth-values. If you want to hold to that average, go ahead, but that won't change the fact that Sarah and I have pointed out to you: mainstream/average implies room for improvement; you can shoot for a loftier mark than 'C'.

4. The funny thing about accusing someone of arrogance is that it often comes across as arrogant itself. It's kind of like bragging that you're humble. Not saying you've done that, but you have accused my wife of being arrogant, and in doing so come across as arrogant yourself. So when you write things like, "It turns to arrogance when you start telling me, or at least implying, that I would be better if I believed in the same things as you" it shows not only did you miss Sarah's point (which was not that you should believe what she does), but makes you come across as arrogant yourself -- even if you weren't meaning to. And in any case, given that you hold to relativistic truth values, there is no logical room for you to criticize someone of being arrogant because it implies an idea of a better, or more valuable way of being; that contradicts not only the relativistic notion of truth and "better", but flies-in-the-face of the notion of 'tolerance' that is so proudly touted by relativists. So what are you actually trying to make sense of here, Toshido?

Christopher

Sarah said...

Toshido:
"But we are not talking about a city, or anything else tangible."

But you know the point of a metaphor, Toshido.

In this case, my metaphor happens to be (although not all metaphors need to be) *tangible* example of something that is very much tangible-- which not ironically, points very clearly at what I'm trying to share with you.

Real living, not mainstream cardboard cut-out-ish 'living,' is very much tangible. It is only mainstream ideas that convince us otherwise. Traditional peoples throughout history and even now who've not been sucked into the vortex of north american mainstream culture, would all disagree very strongly with your assessment of the intangibility of the life I've related to you. It is precisely the tangibility of it that sets it APART from the mainstream mindset.

Toshido: "You are saying that I am less now then I could be if I believed in similar things as you."

This is too vague for me to comment with any confidence, but if I take what I think you mean, then Christopher pointed out what my intention is: you would be more of who you are if you acted and thought according to who YOU are, not to what you are told to think, to act, according to some standards based in averages mostly handed down by the government and corporations, neither of which could possible have your best interests in consideration, since they are institutions and not caring, loving human beings. I have no idea if that would tend you toward similar beliefs as me, but that's never been my intention, hope or purpose in sharing this with you.

My intention is to point to your inestimable worth as a man, a human being-- your unsurpassable worth, your ultimate potential.

No mainstream mindset will ever point you there; it will continue to mis-educate you and misdirect you to anything that will satisfactorily KEEP YOU from ever realising this fact about who you are.

I take exception to the idea that this could be an expression of arrogance. Even if I am arrogant, what I've shared is true about you, as it is for every human being to have ever been gifted to the face of this Earth.

Toshido: "It is very possible I feel the same for you. Perhaps I think you would be better off living more mainstream. Sending your kids to public school. Getting vaccinations, etc.
I am not of a mind to tell you that you are wrong in these things."

There is a way to express the judgment of 'wrongness' that doesn't use the word 'wrong' directly-- as you've demonstrated here.

My opposition has never been to you or your personal beliefs or the way you live; it has always been toward mainstream culture, toward the thoughts and actions consequent of that cultural mould. Because you know so little about me, and my mindset being so un-pin-down-able given it not being very popular or widespread, or 'mainstream,' requiring relationship to know fully, being something very *tangible* and not as well expressed through the intellect and writing as in real living, it would be very difficult for you to judge my particular way of living-- although you could judge what you *think* my way of living is, which is as close as you've come.

It is so much more full than what you have expressed as your understanding. I would love to share more, but only if you are open, otherwise debating is futility since it doesn't address the reality, the tangible, but only the intellectual capacity for empty knowledge.

Toshido: "You have very much come across as saying that my way of thinking, y belief systems are wrong and are holding me back."

If it we're *your* way of thinking and belief systems, we would be having a very different discussion, Toshido. The reality is that these thoughts and systems belong to someone else and they were passed down (or more likely *across*) to you even as much as you would prefer to think as though you came to them yourself. It takes a great deal of consideration of one's processes to acknowledge this, and as you have admitted that you've only just looked into how your thinking imitates mainstream culture, it would likely benefit you to do some further research into your thoughts and their origins. Why not? You've already taken *one* step!

If you suspend judgment of me as a human being, and rather take the time to do this, you might enjoy it at the least and it may bring understanding you've not previously had. Nobody can do that for you, Toshido, so I claim no special knowledge of what you'll discover; I just know that you'll discover *something* and it will be more than you understand now. :) I know that doing so will be worth your effort too, since I know that you are created for this understanding, and while nobody will attain it fully here and now, it would be great to be able to live in some of it for a while before it is all fully known; better to start now than to sit and wait until later, no?

toshido said...

Have you guys ever thought that what I came to believe by myself and through my experiences and through how I want to be treated just happens to coincide with mainstream thinking, as you put it.

I am truly sorry that you feel I could not come to these conclusions on my own. I am baffled that you feel that way actually. The way I think is no more implanted in me then the way you think. In fact it may be far less implanted since I do not have a rule book for my life written by someone else.

So please stop saying that I have not done any self examination.
Please stop saying that I am just average because I agree with the majority. Which is very false in itself. The majority would be muslim, followed by christian. So in that sense youguys are far more average in your way of thinking then I am.
Please stop saying and implying that you guys have elevated yourself to a higher existence because you no longer believe in what you call mainstream.

I also know what an analogy is. But if you really want to go with the analogy of moving to a new town with free food and etc... Then suffice to say I moved to that town as well. but when I got there there were no homes for me,so I slept in a sewer. There was no job for me so I begged on a corner. There was no water for me so I drank rain water and water runoff. There was no free food for me, so I ate from dumpsters.
Different people can have different experiences when visiting the same place.

Without the poor analogy now.

I have tried to believe in Jesus, I have wanted to believe he was not there.
I have tried belong to a church. Their beliefs and practices insulted me.
I am left to think logically about the existance of god and following the bible as his word but it fails miserably in my thoughts. Everyone seems to pick and choose what portions of the bible to follow and when to follow them.

So please stop saying I have not done self observations. I have not thought about this. What I have not done is research and study philosophy because it does not interest me. Just like I do not expect Chris to study welding or computer programming languages, automation, etc...
But simply because i have not researched it does not mean I am ignorant.

Christopher said...

"Have you guys ever thought that what I came to believe by myself and through my experiences and through how I want to be treated just happens to coincide with mainstream thinking, as you put it."

Yes, I did consider that. However, I'm not sure that you can confidently say that you arrived at your conclusions without a great deal of influence from your surrounding culture -- which just happens to promulgate the very same things you seem to believe.

"I am truly sorry that you feel I could not come to these conclusions on my own."

No-one comes to any conclusions on their own. All experiences are stacked. All knowledge is built on the influence of other knowledge. All intuitions arise from external stimuli. Your conclusions are, in part, severly influenced by other people, and sympathetic experiences.

Mine are, too.

"I am baffled that you feel that way actually."

I personally don't feel any way about it. However, since you were probably using the word 'feel' in a more connotative way, it shouldn't be too baffling that having such disparate philosophies on life would lead us to vastly different conclusions.

"The way I think is no more implanted in me then the way you think. In fact it may be far less implanted since I do not have a rule book for my life written by someone else."

The absence of a 'rule book', as you put it, does not unfetter you from being highly influenced by other, varying sources: media, propoganda, government indoctrination, public school agendas, parental prerogatives and examples, friends, etc. In my case, and in Sarah's, too, we've cast-off a lot of the influence that has come to us through some of the devices I've listed above. That doesn't make us better or worse than you; just different. It also doesn't make you or I, or Sarah more or less influenced in any way. There's actually no need for competition of variables, or comparisons here. We're simply asking you to consider looking outside of the normal cultural paradigms of relativism.

"So please stop saying that I have not done any self examination."

I think we're saying that it would be healthy for you to consider doing more self-examination on the topic of relativism and mainstream ideologies. We're not saying that you haven't done any self-examination. Very different emphasis, wouldn't you agree?

"Please stop saying that I am just average because I agree with the majority. Which is very false in itself."

No, no. We're saying that definitionally the mainstream is the 'average'. We're not saying that you in particular are 'average' in any pejorative sense because you hold to certain mainstream ideas. If you want to hold to mainstream ideologies, then go ahead. We're not going to stop you. We're just attempting to point out some of its errors, and alternatives to it.

"The majority would be muslim, followed by christian. So in that sense youguys are far more average in your way of thinking then I am."

Small correction: the majority would be Christian (through rapid conversion rates) followed by Muslim (through higher birth rates). So in a demographic sense, you are right: we are part of a larger majority of believers, and you are part of a minority that does not believe.

But this is beside the point. As far as I have understood this conversation so far, we're not talking about taking on religious beliefs. We're talking about discarding the belief that relativism is an accurate, or even realistic definition of truth. Sarah and I are arguing that it is illogical and mainstream. You seem to be extending that critique into a personal attack on your chosen atheism, which is not at all the direction Sarah and I have gone in.

As to averages again, yes Sarah and I, at least by the title 'Christian' are far more average than you are by title as an Atheist. Nevertheless, amongst Christians, Sarah and I hold to a majority of minority beliefs. That is, we're pretty heretical according to most classical theology. I'm willing to bet that a good many Lutherans, Catholics, and Calvinists would hardly deign to call us Christians.

But again, that's beside the point. We're not discussing this to effect a comparison and competition about demographics. We're simply pointing out that mainstream does not mean 'right', or even 'relevant' or 'useful'. As is the case with relativism.

"Please stop saying and implying that you guys have elevated yourself to a higher existence because you no longer believe in what you call mainstream."

You may have interpreted our comments that way, bud, but we haven't made any comments to that effect. In fact, I've stated quite the opposite when I stated the following: "You can improve, and you should improve, but you don't have to do things the way Sarah and I do to make that improvement." And Sarah has also stated the opposite when she wrote the following: "I have no idea if that would tend you toward similar beliefs as me, but that's never been my intention, hope or purpose in sharing this with you."

"I have tried to believe in Jesus, I have wanted to believe he was not there."

I need clarification here, for my own sake, so bear with me, please. You said you "wanted to believe he was not there." Did you include the word 'not' accidentally? Did you mean to write, "I have wanted to believe he was there"? I just need you to answer this because I don't want to misunderstand you, or mislead myself into thinking you mean something you don't.

"I have tried belong to a church. Their beliefs and practices insulted me."

Same here. I've been a Christian for 15 years now, and have only just now, after 15 years found a church where I can fully relax and not feel as if, or actually experience open hostility and condemnation for being me. And that comes with experiencing many different churches, being a worship leader, youth leader, choir member, ordained minister, and seminary student. In all of that 'churchy' experience, like you, I was largely turned off by the petty moralisms (preferentialisms, actually), teachings that didn't line up with practices, and outright lies told from the pulpits about people involved in the church and the people ministering to the church. So between you and I, I can fully empathize with your upset at the slavish disregard for sincerity and personal safety within the church.

"I am left to think logically about the existance of god and following the bible as his word but it fails miserably in my thoughts."

Well, here's where I would question you: are you thinking logically about the existence of God? What, or who do you pit your thoughts against to understand if they are logical or not?

"Everyone seems to pick and choose what portions of the bible to follow and when to follow them."

Yes, this is a fault that is germane to pretty much everyone on the planet in one way or another. It just becomes more glaringly obvious when people gather around a central item (in this case, the Bible) and glean what they want from it. The atheists I've read (Dawkins, Onfray, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris) all call this cherry-picking, and it is an apt term that both Christians and atheists are guilty of doing. They just do it from different sources.

"What I have not done is research and study philosophy because it does not interest me. Just like I do not expect Chris to study welding or computer programming languages, automation, etc..."

That's fine if philosophy does not interest you. It's not everyone's cup of tea, so-to-speak. However, it doesn't make sense to make pronouncements or corrections on topics and fields you have not studied or researched. And just like you wouldn't expect me to study or research welding, or computer programming languages, or automation, you probably wouldn't find it too sincere if I tried to correct you, or make sweeping pronouncements in those fields, would you? From my perspective, I would be a little disingenuous to do so.

"But simply because i have not researched it does not mean I am ignorant."

In fact, that's definitionally what ignorance is. That is, "the condition of being uninformed or uneducated." You may not be naive, but by your own admission ("...I [sic] have not researched it...") you are ignorant. And that's not a bad thing at all. You've already admitted that you're not interested in these kinds of philosophical concepts, so just like I'm ignorant about welding, computer programming languages, and automation, you're ignorant about philosophy. In a way, we're on a level playing field: we both have something we can trust to each other's greater experience and learning.

toshido said...

"I need clarification here, for my own sake, so bear with me, please. You said you "wanted to believe he was not there." Did you include the word 'not' accidentally? Did you mean to write, "I have wanted to believe he was there"? I just need you to answer this because I don't want to misunderstand you, or mislead myself into thinking you mean something you don't."

No I meant to add the word "not" in there.
Mostly in time of grief, dog dying, grandparents death, and some lesser times. I would have loved to have believed in God, Jesus, anything. It just was not there. There was no belief, no faith. no feeling of a higher being looking over me. Just nothing in my heart, body, mind or soul that would warrant me saying that there was a higher being or force. I could have said there was. I might have been able to convince myself there was but I would have been lying to myself and all around me.
I know you will not believe me, or at least say something to the degree that he was there anyways, and that is fine, that is what you believe, not me.

"But this is beside the point. As far as I have understood this conversation so far, we're not talking about taking on religious beliefs. We're talking about discarding the belief that relativism is an accurate, or even realistic definition of truth. Sarah and I are arguing that it is illogical and mainstream."

You know, I did not realize we were talking about what truth is. Put that way how can we talk about moral truths here without getting into religion? Especially if you want to argue against relativism. Relativism is an accurate and realistic definition of truth given a certain time culture, circumstance, etc...
It is unfortunate but truths change over the course of time. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But even those judgments are based on current circumstances and of those viewing those circumstances.
Unfortunately there is no cosmic constant to live to.
I am baffled at how that is illogical as well.

"cherry-picking, and it is an apt term that both Christians and atheists are guilty of doing. They just do it from different sources."

I wonder. What do I cherry pick from? What are the sources that I pick and choose from?

"Well, here's where I would question you: are you thinking logically about the existence of God? What, or who do you pit your thoughts against to understand if they are logical or not?"

Logic based on what feels most right and makes most sense to me.
While it is logical for you to believe in Jesus, Christ, God, etc.. it is not so for me.

Inconsistencies, hypocrisy and some plain nonsense all lead me to believe that the bible is simply a neat book, not the word of god.

Okay you got me. I am ignorant about theoretical philosophy. I am book smart on the topic by any means.
This does not mean I have not looked into myself to determine my beliefs on these matters. It simply means I do not have the vocabulary or the ability to regurgitate other peoples words and conclusions on these subjects.

Christopher said...

"I know you will not believe me, or at least say something to the degree that he was there anyways, and that is fine, that is what you believe, not me."

This is not for you to decide on for me. I had no such response in mind. I simply read what you said, and sympathized with it.

There have been times in my life, even recently, and most especially after I left seminary (ironically enough) that I couldn't care less about God. I had no awareness of His presence, didn't seek Him out, and boardered quite precariously on disbelieving in Him altogether. St. John of the Cross penned the famous phrase, the "dark night of the soul" to describe the overwhelming sensation of the absence of God in a person's life. I've been there a few times. That's as much as I can relate to what you're saying here since I became a Christian. Before I was a Christian, I really didn't care if there was a God or not; it was an irrelevant question to me. I was interested in spiritual things (the necronomicon, the book of the dead, transcendental meditation, kundalini meditation, crystal meditation, channeling, etc.), and even graduated different levels of certain spiritual practices (most notably, transcendental meditation). But how God factored in to all of that, to my teenage mind, was a non-question, or an empty issue.

"You know, I did not realize we were talking about what truth is."

Not a problem. Remember the title of the orginal article, "Relativism: A Sympathy Extended". My point in writing the article was to suggest -- almost exclusively to you -- that I can sympathize with why relativism appears necessarily true to you.

"Put that way how can we talk about moral truths here without getting into religion?"

Do you believe moral truths are inherently tied to religion? I don't. But let's push this further: do you believe morality is inherently tied to the reality of God, or gods? It'd be an odd inconsistency if you did.

"Relativism is an accurate and realistic definition of truth given a certain time culture, circumstance, etc..."

This is actually the very thing that argues against it. To put it briefly, our limited knowledge of what is true does not change what is actually true. For example, our limited knowledge of the shape of the earth led us at one time to understand it, quite convincingly, as flat. Until we learned that it is spherical, we really had no other understanding of what that truth actually was. This does not make the truth of the matter relative, just our understanding.

That being said, truth, definitionally, is what is constant, and not changing. It is not relative except in our apprehension of it. Our understandings, and what we value, are relative, but what is actually true is, logically, absolute.

On a semantic level, if truth were actually relative, that would be an absolute. And that would be a self-defeating proposition; that is, logically absurd.

"Unfortunately there is no cosmic constant to live to."

It may seem like a cheap trick to say this, but your statement, "there is no cosmic constant to live to" is implicitly a cosmic constant.

This is the problem with denying absolutes: you end up creating them. For example, "there are no absolutes" is an absolute; "there are no constants" is a constant; "all truth is relative" is a non-relative, an absolute.

The multiplicity of perceptions does not mean the lack of a thing to be perceived.

"I wonder. What do I cherry pick from? What are the sources that I pick and choose from?"

I don't know, Randy. We don't spend enough time together anymore for me to say. You would do best to figure that out for yourself.