(I’m a fantasy writer and I wrote the following for my fantasy blog, but never got around to posting it there. So, I’m going to post it here as it deals with a philosophical question)
Today I’m going to drift into the philosophical (western analytical philosophy to be precise). Back in the day, when I was a philosophy major discussions about truth were all the rage (or is it rave?). Back then, I often heard claims like “There is no absolute truth.” Today, I just want to put that little baby to rest.
First, let’s distinguish: does the statement mean: 1) There is no absolute truth? Or 2) There is no absolute Truth? Truth in the first statement is a property of everyday propositions like: “It is sunny outside my window right now.” True or false? That depends on conditions outside my window. Truth in 2) refers (note the capital “T”) to an all-encompassing meaning-of-life like Truth: the TRUTH that will solve all our problems or provide direction to one’s life. Those who believe in an absolute Truth usually attribute such to God, or Love, or even something that cannot be fully grasped by human consciousness (both God and Love may actually be examples of such). Let’s go further and add the notion of morality. Most discussions of absolute vs. relative truth circle around morality. So, 1) becomes 1a) There is no absolute moral truth. And 2) becomes 2a) There is no absolute moral Truth.
To me, it seems clear that 1a) is patently false and 2a) is open to discussion. Let’s start with 1a. The easiest way to prove a statement is false is to provide counterexamples. How about: It is absolutely immoral to skin another person alive for your own amusement. True or false? Seriously, do you want to argue about that? How about: raping someone is absolutely immoral. True or false? Again. Who wants to argue about that? I think the point relativists want to make (if I can presume to speak for them) is that not all moral truths are absolute. Some are murky, others are even relative to a particular belief system. For example, the claim “It is immoral to steal” gets very murky if one steals to feed oneself or one’s family. I would count that as a fuzzy truth. Meanwhile, “It is one’s moral duty to attend Christmas mass” is only true for Christians. Hence, it is a relative truth.
Now, for 2a. Clearly, there are adherents to each side of this. One thing is obvious: if there is an absolute moral Truth, it is not easily understood. If it’s God, I think all theologians agree that the human mind cannot fully grasp His (or Her, or perhaps more appropriately, Its) nature. Likewise, Love or whatever else one feels inclined to posit, because if it were easily grasped, this would not be a very difficult question and the amount of disagreement on the matter demonstrates otherwise.
I could probably go on for weeks beating this horse with a club, but I doubt it would have much impact. Most people have made up their mind about this question and won’t change it because of something they read on my blog.
Anyway, does anyone want to share any thoughts on the matter?