Adjectives on the Typewriter

she moves her words like a prizefighter

08 April 2005

Relativisim and Postmodernity

Discussion group didn't go quite as planned- it was basically just a lecture class- but as we're going over the Sophists it was encouraging to find at least one other person in the class who's not a relativist. I have an ally! Still, the way the professor presented the relativist argument was very tricky to refute, so I'll need to ponder that over the weekend. It's a bit unfair that a Relativist can always "counter" your logic with a "That's just the way you see it- I see it differently, and my perspective is equally valid." I mean, it's almost impossible to argue against someone who acknowledges your argument as true but won't accept it because there are so many dang truths!

On a completely different subject, here are some relevant thoughts pulled from

"We have long lived with the ideal of a new era of freedom, and now we find ourselves in a century of new enslavement. In politics, it is the age of genocides, totalitarianisms, discriminations. Even in pluralist democracies, democratic ideals of participation and openness coexist with manipulation of public opinion, the reign of various lobbies, formal citizenship, constant diminuation of public participation, etc.

In ethics, where freedom fought all moral taboos in favor of the liberation of the individual, we are faced with the dramatic situations of family break-up and the loss of a sense of sacredness of human life. Though total individual autonomy is more and more of a reality, it has brought unexpected and negative results: loneliness, the problems of marginalized and senior citizens...The severe fall in birthrate affecting industrial countries makes generation replacement impossible. Might not individual autonomy, as we have conceived it, be a threat to the very survival of society? We now live in a universe of fragmented knowledge and, especially, in a universe where the different domains of this knowledge have no link with the only values capable of identifying what is legitimate and what is not.

We live in fact in a civilization devoid of any ultimate meaning: the first civilization, to quote Malraux, which has not been capable of building either a temple or a grave."


Blogger bdure said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

I also was a philosophy major in college, so I enjoyed reading your posts.

I did have a question for you, though. As a religious person, why are you proud that your school is conservative?

That's not a political comment as such. You may notice that my blog is called "Happy Skeptic." I think skepticism is essential to human thought. Cynicism -- a blind rejection rather than a decision to study something further -- is a detriment to thought. Faith in God is good, but blind faith in anything constructed by man -- especially political schools of thought -- is problematic.

I find that too many people in our country allow their political ideology to override their religious ideology. You could see it in the reaction to the Pope's death. Some hailed his devotion to a culture of life while ignoring his calls for debt relief, peace and outreach to other religions. Others did the opposite.

I don't talk much about my politics, but I'll say this -- I think the differences between Islam and Christianity are driven by politics, not faith. If Jews and Christians can be united, then so can Muslims and Christians -- if you take out 1,000 years or so of distrust between the leaders!

My advice from an old philosophy student to a young one would be this -- by all means, keep your faith in God and use that to stay rooted. But as you seek the truth, you should question what you read from others, especially those who are trying to sway your mind for political purposes. And you should question your own beliefs -- again, not about God, but about what it means to live as a good Christian.

Hope you'll visit the Happy Skeptic again.

April 15, 2005 at 5:21 PM  
Blogger em²ile² said...

As a poitn of clarification, the school I currently attend is definitely NOT Conservative-- it's a state school. The school I WANT to attend (but can't afford at the moment) is, however, Conservative.

I can't really say much on the issue of politics as I'm only 17 and have never really been involved in the political process. Still, I have my views, and strong ones at that.

I would agree with your point about skepticism- societal apathy is one of the things I dread the most! I appreciate your points about cynicism and faith in man- both are very true.

Like I said, I'm not sure I hold to any one particular political ideology, so I should probably rephrase what I wrote in my bio. At any rate, I disagree with a lot of things on BOTH sides, seeing as both are comprised of finite, fallible, and even corrupt human beings.

Yet I cannot deny the existence of certain unchangeable truths, and if someone before me has discerned those truths, I will not discount them based stricly on the fact that an imperfect human discovered them by the grace of a perfect God. So I question, and I question often, but there are fundamental, non-manmade premises on which I base my questions.

Again, thank you for your advice to me as a student- I respect it sincerely and hope to gain more insights from those who have both wisdom and experience (such as yourself). Indeed, I have been and will continue to wary of those who bear a political agenda.

Emmilee Peterson

April 15, 2005 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Thanks -- I enjoyed reading your response.

I've spent too much of my life reading the words of people who are so entrenched in their political ideology that it defines their personality. Glad to see you're not taking that approach.

Good luck with your studies.


April 16, 2005 at 11:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't agree with your theory about the compatibility of Christianity and Islam, bd. What are your postulates and reasoning?

April 18, 2005 at 12:14 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Anon -- I know the compatibility of Christianity and Islam because I've lived it! I've had plenty of Islamic friends, and they live in mutual respect with Christians, even some Christians who might be labeled "fundamentalist." Going to college and meeting Muslims shattered the image of the religion I had growing up.

If you happen to have an Economist subscription, check out this terrific piece.

You could also find it at the library -- look for the Dec. 18, 2003 edition.

But basically, Christians and Muslims pray to the same God, just like Christians and Jews. No difference. It's just that the relationship between Christians and Muslims ... well, it got off to a bad start.

April 18, 2005 at 8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't agree with you less. The Islamics are told in the Qran that they can and must lie, cheat and steal from the "people of the book" which includes Jews and Christians. We do not pray to the same god, either. Allah is a moon god from Ur that became exalted through Mohammed and YHWH would not permit an image to be made of Him. Besides, YHWH is both the God of the Jews and the Christians, and the same god cannot tell one group to cheat the other - this would be inconsistent.

April 19, 2005 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

The "mmon god" theory is interesting, but it seems rather shaky to me. I noted with interest that it doesn't appear in these Wikipedia entries:

If you keep reading the latter, you may notice that the "exclusivist" school of thought isn't supported, while the "inclusivist" is.

Wikipedia might be fallible, but I think it's less so than the theological trash-talking I found when I searched for "moon god" on the Internet at large.

The Muslims I have met live the inclusivist lifestyle.

And that's enough for me. I'm sure you can find sources online that cast aspersions on Islam, just as you can find several sources refuting this claim. They're all talking past each other and ignoring the common ground between the two religions.

If people choose to live in conflict, there's little you can do to stop them. But ask yourself, is that what Jesus wanted?

Peace out.

April 19, 2005 at 6:16 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Sorry about the sloppy post -- just try

and skip to section 6.2. (Or read it all.)

April 19, 2005 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger em²ile² said...

But BD, you would acknowledge that there is and exclusivist school of thought? After all, I wouldn't expect a tolerant inclusivist Muslim to fly a plane into the World Trade Center... Similarly, there are happy, all-inclusive "Christians" out there, though I'm not sure you can truly call them Christians...

April 19, 2005 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger em²ile² said...

Also, as a Christian I can't support the idea that Jesus wants us to passively sit back and let other religions flourish as they please. If you read Matthew's account of the purging of the Temple (Matt. 21:12-13) you'll see that Jesus, while displaying self control, will not allow sin, especially from those who claim to be religious. While Christians aren't supposed to "kill the Infidels," they are commanded to tear down the strongholds of evil in this world. This is how we love our enemies- by destroying their idols and bringing them closer to the truth. So What Would Jesus Do? He'd probably overturn their tables too.

April 19, 2005 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Fair question, but I'll need to ask this in response -- when is anyone converted by violence? On the contrary, violence begets more violence. Someone who wasn't inclined to take up the sword may change his mind after seeing a family member die. (I don't think that's RIGHT, but it's hard to deny that it happens.)

The heroes of the 20th century include those who fought in defense (WWII) and those who achieved change through nonviolence.

Also, isn't it the highest conceit of man to see himself as an instrument of God's judgment? I think judgment is reserved for the Lord; WE are supposed to be instruments of God's love.

If the enemy is sin, then isn't a violent Christian farther off the path than a peaceful Muslim?

April 20, 2005 at 8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, assuming that the violent Christian is actually a Christian, he is not being an ambassador to God (I assume you mean violence directed at individuals and not war). The Muslim is not representing God, so he was never on the "path". After all, Christ says, "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." That, I think sums it up.
"Weary sojourners in a hostile world..."

April 20, 2005 at 11:59 AM  
Blogger em²ile² said...

BD, you'll notice I didn't say a violent Christian- such a thing does not exist. If you are a Christian, you are by definition not violent. You may be passionate, you may be angry, you may be indignant...but NOT violent.

"Also, isn't it the highest conceit of man to see himself as an instrument of God's judgment? I think judgment is reserved for the Lord; WE are supposed to be instruments of God's love.

If the enemy is sin, then isn't a violent Christian farther off the path than a peaceful Muslim?"

Very true. I'm definitely not advocating killing or injuring of Muslims (or people of any other religion) just because of their religion. The problem is the sin, not the sinner. So attack the sin- Satan's deceptions- and love the sinners. Love them by showing them the error of their ways.

April 20, 2005 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

OK, we're agreed on violence. Yay!

I am referring to war, though. War is a political exercise, not a religious one. Most recently, we went to war with the secular government of Saddam Hussein, who only called upon Islam when it suited his purposes. (Interesting aside: He actually let Christians worship and had one in his inner circle. That doesn't justify any other aspect of his regime, of course.)

To instigate a religious war is to presume a judgment that is best left to God. "Judge not, lest ye be judged."

You can be sure of your faith, and you can be sure others are wrong. That doesn't give you the right to take up arms in God's name. War kills the sinners, not the sin.

Back to original post -- the BBC has a good read on relativism.

April 20, 2005 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that that is a very good thought. I cannot say that I am a pacifist or a lover of war, but an important note nonetheless.

April 21, 2005 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger bdure said...

Good discussion, everyone. Have a great weekend.

April 22, 2005 at 6:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bd, I am very sorry. I did not mean to offend you or any other imago dei. If you found my intrusion offensive, please forgive me.

April 22, 2005 at 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems I was too late...
Sorry Emmilee. It seems I cost another reader.

April 25, 2005 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger em²ile² said...

I thought this was the first... Where have you been of late?

April 26, 2005 at 12:26 PM  

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