Can an idea a notion as abstract as Relativism produce by itself the effects alleged? cause all the harm, destroy all the lives and reputations? I am as far as anyone can be from denying the power of ideas in history, but the suggestion that a philosophy (as Relativism is often called) has perverted millions and debased daily life is on the face of it absurd. No idea working alone has ever demoralized society, and there have been plenty of ideas simpler and more exciting than Relativism.
A dictatorship of relativism is being built that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one's ego and desires ... Having a clear faith, according to the credo of the church, is often labeled as fundamentalism. Yet relativism, that is, letting oneself being carried 'here and there by any wind of doctrine,' appears as the sole attitude good enough for modern times.
Pope Benedict XVI
The dogma of cultural relativism is challenged by the very people for whose moral benefit the anthropologists established it in the first place. The complaint the underdeveloped countries advance is not that they are being westernized, but that the westernization is proceeding too slowly.
The American elite ... is almost beyond redemption. Moral relativism has set in so deeply that the gilded classes have become incapable of discerning right from wrong. Everything can be explained away, especially by journalists. Life is one great moral mush -- sophistry washed down with Chardonnay.
We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as definitive and has as its highest value one's own ego and one's own desires. The church needs to withstand the tides of trends and the latest novelties. We must become mature in this adult faith, we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.
Pope Benedict XVI
The family is threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage, by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life... These realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces, which threaten to disfigure God's plan for creation.
Religion and ethics were not always - or even frequently - mutually compatible. The demands of religious absolutism or fundamentalism or rampaging relativism often deflected the worst aspects of contemporary culture or prejudices rather than a system which both man and God could live under with a sense of real justice.
If relativism signifies contempt for fixed categories and those who claim to be the bearers of objective immortal truth, then there is nothing more relativistic than Fascist attitudes and activity. From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value, we Fascists conclude that we have the right to create our own ideology and to enforce it with all the energy of which we are capable.
We often speak of Anglican "comprehensiveness." If this is a way of making relativism palatable or a means of accommodating all shades of opinion with no regard for truth, then it needs to be rejected. If by comprehensive we mean the priority of a dialectic quest over precision and immediate closure, then we are speaking of the Anglican consciousness at its best.
Urban T. Holmes III
How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what Saint Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Ephesians 4, 14). Having a clear Faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and 'swept along by every wind of teaching', looks like the only attitude acceptable to today's standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires. However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an 'Adult' means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today's fashions or the latest novelties. A faith which is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ is adult and mature. It is this friendship which opens us up to all that is good and gives us the knowledge to judge true from false, and deceit from truth.
Pope Benedict XVI
Insularity is the foundation of ethnocentrism and intolerance; when you only know of those like yourself, it is easy to imagine that you are alone in the world or alone in being good and right in the world. Exposure to diversity, on the contrary, is the basis for relativism and tolerance; when you are forced to face and accept the Other as real, unavoidable, and ultimately valuable, you cannot help but see yourself and your 'truths' in a new - and trouble - way.
I do not have it in for relativism. In many respects I find it a fascinating, even attractive, alternative. It engenders epistemological humility, defeats an arrogant pomposity in belief, even promotes a sort of democratic ideal in matters of knowledge. Perhaps its most comforting feature is that it requires no hard work at all in the matter of justifying beliefs.
David L. Wolfe
I went to a fundamentalist Christian high school and went to a fundamentalist church, and they were the greatest people; there was an amazing sense of community. The problem is when the messiness of real life enters, and the inflexibility of a moral code cannot cope with the realities of moral relativism.
I know of no civilization that tolerates or justifies violence, terrorism, or injustice. There is no civilization that justifies the killing of innocent people. Those who are invoking cultural relativism are really using that as an excuse for violating human rights and to put a cultural mask on the face of what they're doing.
The dominant metaphor of conceptual relativism, that of differing points of view, seems to betray an underlying paradox. Differentpoints of view make sense, but only if there is a common co-ordinate system on which to plot them; yet the existence of a common system belies the claim of dramatic incomparability.
No great, inspiring culture of the future can be built upon the moral principle of relativism. For at its bottom such a culture holds that nothing is better than anything else, and that all things are in themselves equally meaningless. Except for the fragments of faith (in progress, in compassion, in conscience, in hope) to which it still clings, illegitimately, such a culture teaches every one of its children that life is a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.
There are also two Christianities in the world today. There is (1) the Christianity of the New Testament, and there is (2) the Christianity of accommodation to modernism, egalitarianism, niceness, naturalism, pop psychology, secular humanism, relativism, subjectivism, individualism, "Enlightenment" rationalism or postmodern irrationalism. New converts to the first Christianity are constantly amazed and scandalized by finding many of their clergy to be in love with the second and in fear of the first.
The American elite is almost beyond redemption. . . . Moral relativism has set in so deeply that the gilded classes have become incapable of discerning right from wrong. Everything can be explained away, especially by journalists. Life is one great moral mush--sophistry washed down with Chardonnay. The ordinary citizens, thank goodness, still adhere to absolutes.... It is they who have saved the republic from creeping degradation while their 'betters' were derelict.
Intellectuals resist faith longer because they can: where ordinary people are helpless before the light, intellectuals are clever enough to spin webs of darkness around their minds and hide in them. That's why only Ph.D.s believe any of the 100 most absurd ideas in the world such as Absolute Relativism, or the Objective Truth of Subjectivism, of the Meaningfulness of Meaninglessness and the Meaninglessness of Meaning, which is the best definition of Deconstructionism I know.
Above all, creators remain drawn to the age-old paradoxes that philosophy grapples with [and]...that art occasionally resolves...the problem of the one and the many; unity and variety; determinism and freedom; mechanism and vitalism; good and evil; time and eternity; the plenum and the void; moral absolutism and relativism... These are the basic problems of human existence, and as far as we possibly can we arrange things to forget them.
My first fundamental premise of our faith is that God is real and so are eternal truths and values not provable by current scientific methods. These ideas are inevitably linked. Like other believers, we proclaim the existence of the ultimate lawgiver, God our Eternal Father, and the existence of moral absolutes. We reject the moral relativism that is becoming the unofficial creed of much of modern culture.
Dallin H. Oaks
For nearly a century, the moral relativism of science has given faith-based religion--that great engine of ignorance and bigotry--a nearly uncontested claim to being the only universal framework for moral wisdom. As a result, the most powerful societies on early spend their time debating issues like gay marriage when they should be focused on problems like nuclear proliferation, genocide, energy security, climate change, poverty, and failing schools.
The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We're increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism.
Relativism poses as humble by saying: 'We are not smart enough to know what the truth is-or if there is any universal truth.' It sounds humble. But look carefully at what is happening. It's like a servant saying: I am not smart enough to know which person here is my master-or if I even have a master. The result is that I don't have a master and I can be my own master. That is in reality what happens to relativists: In claiming to be too lowly to know the truth, they exalt themselves as supreme arbiter of what they can think and do. This is not humility. This is the essence of pride.
We need strong Christians who can persevere against hardship, who can sustain hope through tragedy, who can lift others by their example and their compassion, and who can consistently overcome temptations. We need strong Christians who can make important things happen by their faith and who can defend the truth of Jesus Christ against moral relativism and militant atheism. What is the source of such moral and spiritual power, and how do we obtain it? The source is God. Our access to that power is through our covenants with Him.
D. Todd Christofferson
Protestant Christianity, whether in its liberal or conservative garb, finds itself waking up each morning in bed with a deteriorating modern culture, between sheets with a raunchy sexual reductionism, despairing scientism, morally normless cultural relativism, and self-assertive individualism. We remain resident aliens, OF the world but not profoundly in it, dining at the banquet table of waning modernity without a whisper of table grace. We all wear biblical name tags (Joseph, David, and Sarah), but have forgotten what our Christian names mean.
Language guardians have often blamed linguists as defenders of bad language: moral and cultural relativism is often tossed in at no extra charge. We as a profession are supposedly promoting the idea that anything goes in grammar... But no, we have never said anything goes in grammar. (...) When it comes to the proper use of language, universal grammar is the ultimate authority. It is not about what rules are deemed reasonable or popular; it is about what rules are true. And one sign for a true rule is that it appears in young children, long before they are polluted by dubious grammatical advice.
This Christian claim [of universal validity] is naturally offensive to the adherents of every other religious system. It is almost as offensive to modern man, brought up in the atmosphere of relativism, in which tolerance is regarded almost as the highest of the virtues. But we must not suppose that this claim to universal validity is something that can quietly be removed from the Gospel without changing it into something entirely different from what it is... Jesus' life, his method, and his message do not make sense, unless they are interpreted in the light of his own conviction that he was in fact the final and decisive word of God to men... For the human sickness there is one specific remedy, and this is it. There is no other.
This is not the "relativism of truth" presented by journalistic takes on postmodernism. Rather, the ironist's cage is a state of irony by way of powerlessness and inactivity: In a world where terrorism makes cultural relativism harder and harder to defend against its critics, marauding international corporations follow fair-trade practices, increasing right-wing demagoguery and violence can't be answered in kind, and the first black U.S. president turns out to lean right of center, the intelligentsia can see no clear path of action. Irony dominates as a "mockery of the promise and fitness of things, " to return to the OED definition of irony. This thinking is appropriate to Wes Anderson, whose central characters are so deeply locked in ironist cages that his films become two-hour documents of them rattling their ironist bars. Without the irony dilemma Roth describes, we would find it hard to explain figures like Max Fischer, Steve Zissou, Royal Tenenbaum, Mr. Fox, and Peter Whitman. I'm not speaking here of specific political beliefs. The characters in question aren't liberals; they may in fact, along with Anderson himself, have no particular political or philosophical interests. But they are certainly involved in a frustrated and digressive kind of irony that suggests a certain political situation. Though intensely self-absorbed and central to their films, Anderson's protagonists are neither heroes nor antiheroes. These characters are not lovable eccentrics. They are not flawed protagonists either, but are driven at least as much by their unsavory characteristics as by any moral sense. They aren't flawed figures who try to do the right thing; they don't necessarily learn from their mistakes; and we aren't asked to like them in spite of their obvious faults. Though they usually aren't interested in making good, they do set themselves some kind of mission-Anderson's films are mostly quest movies in an age that no longer believes in quests, and this gives them both an old-fashioned flavor and an air of disillusionment and futility.
Arved Mark Ashby
Seduced by the spectacular theoretical and practical successes of the objective sciences into thinking that the methods and criteria of those sciences were the only means to truth, philosophers sought to apply those same methods and criteria to questions relating to the meaning of life and the values that give meaning to life. Philosophy, especially the Analytical species prevalent in the English-speaking world, was broken up into specialized disciplines and fragmented into particular problems, all swayed and impregnated by scientism, reductionism, and relativism. All questions of meaning and value were consigned to the rubbish heap of 'metaphysical nonsense'.
As is perhaps obvious, Morris Zapp had no great esteem for his fellow-labourers in the vineyards of literature. They seemed to him vague, fickle, irresponsible creatures, who wallowed in relativism like hippopotami in mud, with their nostrils barely protruding into the air of common-sense. They happily tolerated the existence of opinions contrary to their own - they even, for God's sake, sometimes changed their minds. Their pathetic attempts at profundity were qualified out of existence and largely interrogative in mode. They liked to begin a paper with some formula like, 'I want to raise some questions about so-and-so', and seemed to think they had done their intellectual duty by merely raising them. This manoeuvre drove Morris Zapp insane. Any damn fool, he maintained, could think of questions; it was answers that separated the men from the boys.
George Bush made a mistake when he referred to the Saddam Hussein regime as 'evil.' Every liberal and leftist knows how to titter at such black-and-white moral absolutism. What the president should have done, in the unlikely event that he wanted the support of America's peace-mongers, was to describe a confrontation with Saddam as the 'lesser evil.' This is a term the Left can appreciate. Indeed, 'lesser evil' is part of the essential tactical rhetoric of today's Left, and has been deployed to excuse or overlook the sins of liberal Democrats, from President Clinton's bombing of Sudan to Madeleine Albright's veto of an international rescue for Rwanda when she was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Among those longing for nuance, moral relativism-the willingness to use the term evil, when combined with a willingness to make accommodations with it-is the smart thing: so much more sophisticated than 'cowboy' language.
Their quarry had been cornered in his defenses and their bloodlust was such that they were likely to pay top Julep to watch him escape, so that he might be brutalized and killed before their very eyes, as this was much more gratifying to them than simply watching justice be enacted. They, too, understood that societal constructs for justice were moderate gratification, at best, as they were empty and subject to contradictions and compromises steeped in moral relativism and an unconditional dependence upon overblown semantics that made the law a mockery of itself. As for the ideologies that these hollow systems of jurisprudence sought to define and uphold: these could easily be subjugated through a meticulous analysis of the trivial components of one statute or another. The rule of law had failed them. What the people wanted, in its stead, was rather simple: moral absolutes. Good versus evil. And evil was not to be simply prevailed over. Evil was to be dominated and effectively eliminated, because as long as it was able to while away the time somewhere-in some sweaty prison cell, far away, staring out the barred window with a wry smile, as it plotted its next offensive on the Common Good, a sense of wholeness could not be achieved.
[Professor Greene's] reaction to GAMAY, as published in the Yale Daily News, fairly took one's breath away. He fondled the word "fascist" as though he had come up with a Dead Sea Scroll vouchsafing the key word to the understanding of God and Man at Yale. In a few sentences he used the term thrice. "Mr. Buckley has done Yale a great service" (how I would tire of this pedestrian rhetorical device), "and he may well do the cause of liberal education in America an even greater service, by stating the fascist alternative to liberalism. This fascist thesis... This... pure fascism... What more could Hitler, Mussolini, or Stalin ask for... ?" (They asked for, and got, a great deal more.) What survives, from such stuff as this, is ne-plus-ultra relativism, idiot nihlism. "What is required, " Professor Greene spoke, "is more, not less tolerance-not the tolerance of indifference, but the tolerance of honest respect for divergent convictions and the determination of all that such divergent opinions be heard without administrative censorship. I try my best in the classroom to expound and defend my faith, when it is relevant, as honestly and persuasively as I can. But I can do so only because many of my colleagues are expounding and defending their contrasting faiths, or skepticisms, as openly and honestly as I am mine." A professor of philosophy! Question: What is the 1) ethical, 2) philosophical, or 3) epistemological argument for requiring continued tolerance of ideas whose discrediting it is the purpose of education to effect? What ethical code (in the Bible? in Plato? Kant? Hume?) requires "honest respect" for any divergent conviction?
William F. Buckley Jr.
Kant is sometimes considered to be an advocate of reason. Kant was in favor of science, it is argued. He emphasized the importance of rational consistency in ethics. He posited regulative principles of reason to guide our thinking, even our thinking about religion. And he resisted the ravings of Johann Hamann and the relativism of Johann Herder. Thus, the argument runs, Kant should be placed in the pantheon of Enlightenment greats. That is a mistake. The fundamental question of reason is its relationship to reality. Is reason capable of knowing reality - or is it not? Is our rational faculty a cognitive function, taking its material form reality, understanding the significance of that material, and using that understanding to guide our actions in reality - or is it not? This is the question that divides philosophers into pro- and anti-reason camps, this is the question that divides the rational gnostics and the skeptics, and this was Kant's question in his Critique of Pure Reason. Kant was crystal clear about his answer. Reality - real, noumenal reality - is forever closed off to reason, and reason is limited to awareness and understanding of its own subjective products... Kant was the decisive break with the Enlightenment and the first major step toward postmodernism. Contrary to the Enlightenment account of reason, Kant held that the mind is not a response mechanism but a constitute mechanism. He held that the mind - and not reality - sets the terms for knowledge. And he held that reality conforms to reason, not vice versa. In the history of philosphy, Kant marks a fundamental shift from objectivity as the standard to subjectivity as the standard. What a minute, a defender of Kant may reply. Kant was hardly opposed to reason. After all, he favored rational consistency and he believed in universal principles. So what is anti-reason about it? The answer is that more fundamental to reason than consistency and universality is a connection to reality. Any thinker who concludes that in principle reason cannot know reality is not fundamentally an advocate of reason... Suppose a thinker argued the following: 'I am an advocate of freedom for women. Options and the power to choose among them are crucial to our human dignity. And I am wholeheartedly an advocate of women's human dignity. But we must understand that a scope of a women's choice is confined to the kitchen. Beyond the kitchen's door she must not attempt to exercise choice. Within the kitchen, however, she has a whole feast of choices[... ]'. No one would mistake such a thinker for an advocate of women's freedom. Anyone would point out that there is a whole world beyond the kitchen and that freedom is essentially about exercising choice about defining and creating one's place in the world as a whole. The key point about Kant, to draw the analogy crudely, is that he prohibits knowledge of anything outside our skulls. The gives reasons lots to do withing the skull, and he does advocate a well-organized and tidy mind, but this hardly makes him a champion of reason... Kant did not take all of the steps down to postmodernism, but he did take the decisive one. Of the five major features of Enlightenment reason - objectivity, competence, autonomy, universality, and being an individual faculty - Kant rejected objectivity.
Stephen R.C. Hicks