[For the purposes of length, and comprehensibility, I have severely oversimplified the progression of Western philosophy. I hope you'll forgive me.]
I used to think that Relativism was silly, just a nonsensical justification for political correctness and soft minds. It all seemed so crystal clear to me: A = A and A ≠ non-A, whether I liked it or not, whether I believed it or not, because this is the foundation of all Reason, and to negate Reason is to cease thinking. But through conversation and study and reading, and just plain thinking, I’ve come to see that Relativism is not as irrational as I once thought; indeed, its fault lies not in a lack of Reason, but in being excessively Rational. Relativism is actually the most advanced form of Rationalism. Let me explain myself.
Rationalism demands that every proposition justify itself, providing unquestionable grounds for its existence. And if any aspect of a proposition requires believing that something is true simply because it is true, Rationality condemns it, declaring it guilty of the greatest offense against Reason imaginable: blind faith. Rationality would have us believe only that which we cannot help but believe–only that which we cannot disbelieve. At the very start belief in God (or at least some higher power) qualified for this stamp of Reason’s approval. But as science began to progress, Reason began to suspect that perhaps something else could account for the world, that it was not absolutely necessary to believe in God, or in the supernatural at all, and so the spiritual world was boldly labeled IRRATIONAL. But even then, everyone agreed still that things actually existed–outside of the individual. No one questioned absolute truth; that is, until Rationalism turned his guns from the supernatural to the natural as well, and people began to ask “how can I know that anything which I cannot sense actually exists? For all intents and purposes, nothing really ‘exists’ if I do not know its existence”. And so since there could be no certainty about the existence of an objective reality eve n of the physical sort, belief in absolute truth in general earned the condemnation IRRATIONAL. In its stead arose what is commonly known as existentialism, which says, in essence, “I am, and that is indisputable, no matter what else may or may not be”. And in reality, your ordinary, everyday “Relativist” is more truly some sort of existentialist. But Rationalism did not end his progression there, but advance one step further. At long last, after having undermined everything that could be undermined–the world above and the world below–Rationalism turned to attack Reason herself, asking the Deplorable Question: “On what basis can we know that Logic is true? Why should A always equal A, and never equal non-A?”. And the answer which presents itself, unfolding like the long-foreseen conflict of a tragedy, is that no justification can be found–only unquestioning belief. Thus through the advance of Rationalism, all of the West became Witness to the tragic suicide of Reason, who as the Proverbs foretold, fell into the pit she dug for another.
Out of the uncovered grave of Reason arose her ghost, which is Relativism, declaring victory over all the dogmatism and constraints and rules which had bound mankind throughout all the history of Western philosophy. She now stands on the street corner, spectral though she is, and cries out: “Believe what you want! Nothing is certain, so be certain in your uncertainty! All things are true, and all things are false–so everything is believable and nothing is believable. Embrace the nothingness, plant your feet firmly on the void!”
Relativism has this one very good point, which is impossible to prove, and that is that nothing can be known for sure. At the end of the day, when you get down to the heart of the matter, every single belief stands only on Faith. Every person must say at some point: I arbitrarily believe this because I believe it. (Or in the words of the great Martin Luther: “Here I stand, I can do no other. So help me God.”) The history of Rationalism (which I am defining as the pursuit of a undeniably true philosophy) proves that if you take the demand for justification to its ultimate end, which you must, you will only end by disproving everything.
So what am I saying? That Relativism is true? That it’s right? Not quite. I’m almost through, so hear me out. I have said that it is impossible to disprove Relativism, and I hold to that statement still. But here’s why Relativism is a myth: nobody, and I mean not a single soul alive or dead, really believes it. I cannot “disprove” Relativism, because “disproving” anything requires an appeal to Logic, which is itself suspect. What I can do, though, is prove that you do not actually believe Relativism, that you really do believe certain things are certain, that come things are true whether I believe them or not. Of all the absurd things that people can believe, and have and do believed–even counting people in insane asylums–no one has ever, nor can anyone ever believe that they do not exist. They may say that they don’t believe they exist, but by the very act of speaking, or even thinking such, they disprove themselves.
That’s only one example, and by itself it’s not a very convincing argument, but I challenge you: try me and see if I cannot prove to you that you believe in absolute truth. Examine yourself, even, and if you are honest you will discover that there are a myriad of things which you hold onto, not by choice necessarily, but innately, as being certain. Does it make them true? No. But does it make you a non-Relativist? Yes.
Most of you reading this (if you’ve made it this far), are probably not relativist. So I encourage you, both for the sake of being civil/understanding, and also for the sake of winning people over to the Truth of the Gospel, don’t try to reason Relativists out of their Relativism. It won’t work. Instead of proving to them that they ought not be Relativists, show them that they already are not Relativists.