the only easy day was yesterday

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Individual Relativism

this is my way of studying for my philosophy finals. im just gonna write shit on the topics i get too, for whatever class im studying for. if you read, let me know if its clear or if it needs clarification at any point. theyre pretty elementary things for the most part, so imagine you know nothing, i have a bad habit of presupposing terms and things that i easily understand...

Individual Relativism is a theory of truth characterized by the statement "if one believes something it is true" (or, less formally, "if you believe it it's true). The practical result of individual relativism leads to two relatively obvious absurdities, and then one nail-in-the-coffin objection. The first fairly obvious absurdity that results from individual relativism is that, if everyone's beliefs are all true, then there could be no false belief, that is, everyone's beliefs are true they are always right, they cannot be false. Secondly, if there can be no false belief, and no one can be wrong in their beliefs, there will necessarily be conflicting beliefs; if Shaq believes he was fouled, and Antwan Jameson believes that he did not foul Shaq, if individual relativism is true, they are both right, but how can that be (hint: it can't). The final problem with individual relativism is that if someone were to believe that the theory itself was false it would necessarily be true by virtue of the fact that it is true. Realistically, if it were true, i don't believe it is, so it isn't true. It's garbage.


The W said...

i think individual relativism works for irrational beliefs, like god. if someone says that his god is the only god, hes right in his own respect, because their is nothing that i can say to change his stance without seeking out my own irrational beliefs.

Jasper Yate said...

the thing with individual relativism is that when people say that 'its true if you believe it' theyre usually talking about a sort of what mama dont know dont hurt her thing. they mean that if i believe that my frisbee is orange than it is, really its meant towards irrelevant and ignorable things. but in a philosophic sense, you have to take it literally. you have to take it as if that were the case, always, as if the rule of life is that whatever any huma being believes is the case in the universe. under such a system, were this to be possible, it still holds no ground, because if he has the irrational belief that "there is one God, he is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, etc," it is true, but so is your belief that "there are 17 gods and they are all fuzzy pink coffe cups of a gender unbeknownst to anything on earth," because anything that anyone believes is true. the thing is that we dont even need to go that far into strange and absurd conflicting beliefs, we only need to understand that: if anything i believe is true, and i believe that this is not true (actually), then it is true that individual relativism is false by virtue that it's true. its circular and useless.

as a practical matter, people will keep saying it, and wont care that they are uttering an absurdity because they dont take enough time to think about things, they just want to be right about their color of frisbee. i think for the abstract ideas we speak of like god, its strange because we use the word god. i had this conversation with my mom the other day. she believes in some magical force force connecting all the universe. fine, thats cool, whatever, but she calls it god. god, in the western tradition, is a word for the deity that is singular, complete, all knowing, all loving, all powerful, and perfect, it is not a word for a spirit that connects everything. thats shmod, if you so wish to call your spirit that. so when my mom says "god is this to me," she is really saying "god is this, and to me that is true," but this is not the case, because the word god is taken for what it's taken for. i cant imagine some snakelike creature with banannas for legs and a zipper for when it wants to shed and call it a unicorn, thats taken for a white horned horse, and if i say, "a unicorn is a snake with.... and that is true to me" i am breaking down the communicative fabric i have with my fellow human beings, because im changing the definition of terms and such because their relative truth to me. a lot of that confusion of terminology i think is at the roots for pseudo relativism.

what it seems that that gets at, and individualistic belief gets at is not relativism, its simply individual belief. relativism claims, literally, that your belief is true simply because you believe it, which is not what you propose when you discuss religious belief with your buddy, you just discuss what's going on in your mind.

theres an ostensive difference between this casual and meaningless relativism, and philosophic relativism. i'll remember this for the rest of my life most likely, something a professor said: "philosophy is taking people literally."