Refuting relativism

by Matt Slick

Relativism is the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual.  But, if we look further, we see that this proposition is not logical.  In fact, it is self-refuting.

  1. All truth is relative.
    1. If all truth is relative, then the statement "All truth is relative" would be absolutely true.  If it is absolutely true, then not all things are relative and the statement that "All truth is relative" is false.
  2. There are no absolute truths.
    1. The statement "There are no absolute truths" is an absolute statement which is supposed to be true.  Therefore, it is an absolute truth and "There are no absolute truths" is false.
    2. If there are no absolute truths, then you cannot believe anything absolutely at all, including that there are no absolute truths.  Therefore, nothing could be really true for you - including relativism.
  3. What is true for you is not true for me.
    1. If what is true for me is that relativism is false, then is it true that relativism is false?
      1. If you say no, then what is true for me is not true and relativism is false.
      2. If you say yes, then relativism is false.
    1. If you say that it is true only for me that relativism is false, then
      1. I am believing something other than relativism; namely, that relativism is false.  If that is true, then how can relativism be true?
      2. am I believing a premise that is true or false or neither?
        1. If it is true for me that relativism is false, then relativism (within me) holds the position that relativism is false.  This is self-contradictory.
        2. If it is false for me that relativism is false, then relativism isn't true because what is true for me is not said to be true for me.
        3. If you say it is neither true or false, then relativism isn't true since it states that all views are equally valid; and by not being at least true, relativism is shown to be wrong.
    2. If I believe that relativism is false, and if it is true only for me that it is false, then you must admit that it is absolutely true that I am believing that relativism false.
      1. If you admit that it is absolutely true that I am believing relativism is false, then relativism is defeated since you admit there is something absolutely true.
    3. If I am believing in something other than relativism that is true, then there is something other than relativism that is true - even if it is only for me.
      1. If there is something other than relativism that is true, then relativism is false.
  4. No one can know anything for sure.
    1. If that is true, then we can know that we cannot know anything for sure, which is self-defeating.
  5. That is your reality, not mine.
    1. Is my reality really real?
    2. If my reality is different than yours, how can my reality contradict your reality?  If yours and mine are equally real, how can two opposite realities that exclude each other really exist at the same time?
  6. We all perceive what we want.
    1. How do you know that statement is true?
    2. If we all perceive what we want, then what are you wanting to perceive?
      1. If you say you want to perceive truth, how do you know if you are not deceived?
      2. Simply desiring truth is no proof you have it.
  7. You may not use logic to refute relativism.
    1. Why not?
    2. Can you give me a logical reason why logic cannot be used?
    3. If you use relativism to refute logic, then on what basis is relativism (that nothing is absolutely true) able to refute logic which is based upon truth.
    4. If you use relativism to refute logic, then relativism has lost its relative status since it is used to absolutely refute the truth of something else.
  8. We are only perceiving different aspects of the same reality.
    1. If our perceptions are contradictory, can either perception be trusted?
    2. Is truth self-contradictory?  
      1. If it were, then it wouldn't be true because it would be self-refuting.  If something is self-refuting, then it isn't true.
    3. If it is true that we are perceiving different aspects of the same reality, then am I believing something that is false since I believe that your reality is not true?  How then could they be the same reality?
    4. If you are saying that it is merely my perception that is not true, then relativism is refuted.
      1. If I am believing something that is false, then relativism is not true since it holds that all views are equally valid.
    5. If my reality is that your reality is false, then both cannot be true.  If both are not true, then one of us (or both) is in error.
      1. If one or both of us is in error, then relativism is not true.
  9. Relativism itself is excluded from the critique that it is absolute and self-refuting.
    1. On what basis do you simply exclude relativism from the critique of logic?
      1. Is this an arbitrary act?  If so, does it justify your position?
      2. If it is not arbitrary, what criteria did you use to exclude it?
    2. To exclude itself from the start is an admission of the logical problems inherent in its system of thought.

 

 

 

 
 
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