Friday, November 27, 2009

Relativism and Respect

A trap that many students seem to fall into with respect to ethics (and sometimes with respect to religion as well) is that they assume that if you have the idea that someone has a false belief, you are disrespecting that person, and the only way to restore respect to the conversation is to assume a relativism in which no one is really right and no one is really wrong. Why assume that?

It seems as if they think I can’t say that, for example, deontologists are correct and teleologists are in error, or vice versa, without disrespecting the people on the other side. In plenty of other areas of discussion we can disagree, and thereby think the other guy is wrong, without disrespecting the other person. If I predict victory for the Cardinals over the Titans in the next NFL game, and you say, no, you think the Titans will win, you are saying that I am wrong. Only one team can win the game. But there need be no disrespect.

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