Relativism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Relativism is the idea that points of view have no absolute truth or validity. They only have relative, subjective value according to viewpoint and circumstances.[1]

Common statements that might be considered relativistic include:

  • "That's true for you but not for me."
  • "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
  • "You can't judge other cultures by the standards of your own."

There are many forms of relativism.[2] The term often refers to truth relativism, which is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture (cultural relativism).

As moral relativism, moral principles apply only in a limited context. In context, principles and ethics do hold; out of context they do not.

There are similar ideas in nihilism, scepticism and amoralism.

Various applications[change | edit source]

People who agreed with the idea of relativism include Paul Feyerabend, Isaiah Berlin and Richard Rorty.

The Roman Catholic Church, especially under John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, has identified relativism as one of the most significant problems for faith and morals today.[3]

The Church and some philosophers define relativism as the denial of absolute truth. They say that without absolute truth, there can be no moral values. If there are no moral values, there might not be sin, and God may not exist. In their view, relativism constitutes a denial of the capacity of the human mind and reason to arrive at truth. Truth, according to Catholic theologians and philosophers (following Aristotle and Plato) consists of adequatio rei et intellectus, the correspondence of the mind and reality. Another way of putting it states that the mind has the same form as reality. This means when the form of the computer in front of someone (the type, color, shape, capacity, etc.) is also the form that is in their mind, then what they know is true because their mind corresponds to objective reality.

The denial of an absolute reference, of an axis mundi, denies God, who equates to Absolute Truth, according to these Christian philosophers. They link relativism to secularism, an obstruction of religion in human life.

Pope Leo XIII (1810–1903) was the first known Pope to use the word relativism in the encyclical Humanum Genus (1884). Leo XIII condemned Freemasonry and claimed that its philosophical and political system was largely based on relativism.[4]

References[change | edit source]

  1. American Heritage Dictionary, [1] "The doctrine that no ideas or beliefs are universally true but that all are, instead, “relative” — that is, their validity depends on the circumstances in which they are applied".
  2. Maria Baghramian identifies 16 (Relativism, 2004,Baghramian)
  3. World Youth Day News August August 21, 2005
  4. Humanum Genus