Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Relativism and tolerance

One surprising result is that if relativism is true, then it is a virtue to be tolerant of other cultures just in case your culture approves of tolerating other cultures. If it doesn't, then you are supposed to be intolerant. So relativism doesn't lead to tolerance, it can just as easily lead to intolerance.


Clayton Littlejohn said...


It doesn't follow that it could _just as easily_ lead to intolerance unless we assume that it is just as easy for intolerant cultures to thrive as tolerant ones. So, while I agree with the conditionals, it matters how likely it is the antecedents are true.

Compare. One surprising result is that if utilitarianism is true, then it is a right to be honest just in case honesty is optimific (T). If it isn't, then you are supposed to be dishonest (T). So utilitarianism doesn't lead to honesty, it can just as easily lead to dishonesty (F).

I take it that one reason we're so fond of honesty is that it's a good route to happiness.

Jim Baxter said...

The defenders of homosexuality, for example, continue the oxymoron
contradiction of attempting to use the mind to justify the rule of carnal glands.

Thinking Americans still don't give 'a tinkers-sham' what
homosexuals do with their body-parts. An individual or
a society which is by law and tradition committed to the
natural human hierarchy of mind over body will not, how-
ever, sanction glandular rule over the human mind.

Undisciplined human desire can induce distorted perception.
The disturbed personality or inverted character can be
considered to be cognitively confused. This description is
confirmed by the work of English psychoanalyst Money-
Kyrle, who indicates that it is more accurate to recognize
such a condition as the result of distorted perception.

Neurosis, psychosis, stunting of growth, etc., are all, from
this perspective, cognitive diseases contaminating not only
perception but thinking, learning, remembering, valuing, and
decision- and choice-making.

Money-Kyrle affirms that scientific truth is not attained by a
trendy self-serving fashion, confession of inadequacy,
abdication, or collective majority-vote. There is no excuse for
professional ignorance willfully maintained.

By definition, a standard that is flexible is not a standard at all.
The human mind requires a standard of comparison that is
invariable. A criterion must be greater than the value measured
in order to supply value-meaning in a predictable direction of
survival and progression. The mind thus equipped is enabled
to maintain a natural dominion over the body and its appetites.
The very survival of the body itself, therefore, depends upon this
maintained intellectual authority.

Our posterity cannot respect what it does not perceive, and it
cannot perceive that which has been abandoned or inverted to
an appetite of physical expediency by the equivocal person.

With confidence in the laws of human nature, we can know that
in the clash between carnality and intellect, the 'man of the mind'
will always prevail.

That is nature and GOD's way & intent all along.

Jim Baxter

Santa Maria, CA

semper fidelis

+ + +

Ilíon said...

VR: "One surprising result is that if relativism is true ..."

Which is logically impossible, for relativism *begins* with one of two assertions:
1) Strong relativism: There is no truth
2) Weak relativism: It is impossible to know truth, should there exist truth
But, either of these assertions is itself a truth-claim, and thus they each contradict themsleves, and thus relativism, in all its forms, is self-contradictory; which is to say, necessarily false.

Are you sure you don't mean something like:

"One surprising result (*) is that if [the members of a society believe that] relativism is true, then [they will tend to believe that] it is a virtue [-- despite that the concept 'virtue' is quite contrary to the assertions of relativism --] to be tolerant of other cultures just in case your culture approves of tolerating other cultures. [And they will tend to believe that if another culture] doesn't, then [the members of that society] are supposed to be intolerant. So relativism doesn't [necessarily] lead to [an increase of] tolerance (**), it can just as easily lead to [acceptance of militant] intolerance."

(*) Not to me, by the way.

(**) It actually never leads to tolerance ... except for toleration (in the debased way the word is used by the "tolerance" fetishists) of the intolerable, which appears to be the whole point of the exercise.

First off, 'tolerace' *does not* mean acceptance, much less approval, of a thing; quite the opposite. To tolerate a thing is to disapprove of it and/or reject it, but to allow it, nonetheless.

Secondly, the "tolerant" amongst us tend to be among the most intolerant (and vindictive) of God's creatures precisely because of their "tolerance." Look again at what you've written ("then it is a virtue to be tolerant ... just in case your culture approves of tolerat[ion]") -- keeping in mind the incorrect and debased way that "tolerance" is being used.

By the reasoning of the "tolerant," those of us, Christians say, who do tolerate (properly used; that is 'disaprove' and/or 'reject' but allow) "X, Y, and Z" are not "tolerating" (improperly used; that is 'aprove') "X, Y, and Z." THEREFORE, we are immoral. THEREFORE, since we are members of the same society (much as the "tolerant" wish it otherwise), it is not "intolerant" to attack us in any way they can get away with.

On the other hand, if persons of another culture, Moslems say, even if those persons are physically embedded in our culture, do not tolerate (whether used correctly or not) "X, Y, and Z," then that's OK ... especially if they're known to fight back when attacked. Or before.

Rob G said...

"So relativism doesn't lead to tolerance, it can just as easily lead to intolerance"

I'd go even further and say that relativism inevitably leads to intolerance. The promoters of relativistic tolerance only fight for it until they are in control of society. Once they take power their tune changes, and since those whom they deem 'intolerant' are seen as a threat to their hegemony they begin to enforce restrictions on them. In other words, what is deemed by them to be intolerant is no longer tolerated.

This has been an operating principle on the Left since at least the 60's, as expressed by Marcuse: toleration of opinion need not be extended to those on the Right (because the Right is ipso facto intolerant).

Doctor Logic said...

Victor, no one is a relativist for the sake of being a relativist. Relativism says that morality can be objectively described, but not normatively prescribed.

Relativism doesn't lead to anything except an end to a futile search for some objective way to justify one's own moral tastes over those of another. If you want to impose your moral tastes on somebody else (and we all do), you'll have to reconcile your moral tastes with your desire to impose them pseudo-arbitrarily on others. Since most people are conflicted about arbitrary imposition, there's a moderating effect.

In the case of moral realism, there's often the opposite effect. You feel an imperative to impose your own moral views because you interpret them to be a divine right.

Moderation is not a necessary outcome of understanding that moral relativism is the case. But I don't think you could possibly have found a more misleading way to state your point.

Doctor Logic said...


Gosh! Poor oppressed Christians! Oh! How sad!

Christians are not being "tolerated" by us evil "tolerant" folk because we don't let you control the lives of other people. Awww! Poor babies.

Ilíon said...

Curiously Misnamed Fool: (once again: 'fool' is a moral statement) "[just more of the same ... misrepresentation and "misunderstanding" of clear English, along with "misunderstanding" of and "misstatement" of the sociology of Christians and of God-haters]"