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Questions from class

 
 
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 12:17 am
I've started taking a philosophy course this summer and after only several lectures I have several questions I need clarifying on, and I was hoping I would receive help here.

My teacher asserts that relativism is a quack theory, and that the statement truth is relative" contradicts itself as an absolute statement. He also contends that if all truth is relative, then the whole meaning of the word "truth" is shattered.

To me it seemed plausible, but then when I discussed it with a friend - a vegetarian - he contended that the question of whether or not it is ethical/justified to eat meat is relative, that there is no one answer and depends on each person.

My question is: Is there an absolute truth for everything? Or is my friend right? Or am I simply applying the idea in a wrong way?

Thanks
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jgweed
 
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Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 05:40 am
The word "quack" doesn't seem itself a philosophical attitude, although it might show a prejudice on the part of the instructor. Relativist positions form a very pronounced genealogy in the history of philosophy, and within this lineage one finds many subtle nuances, especially about how subjective truth really is.
It seems one place to begin thinking about the problem is to think about truth itself, or rather what we mean by truth in the first place, or rather how we use truth in a wide variety of examples. A contemporary relativist might easily argue that what we mean by truth need not be confined to absolute criterion, and that there are all sorts of degrees of truthfulness.
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joefromchicago
 
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Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2010 09:23 am
@traderjoe9,
traderjoe9 wrote:
My teacher asserts that relativism is a quack theory, and that the statement truth is relative" contradicts itself as an absolute statement. He also contends that if all truth is relative, then the whole meaning of the word "truth" is shattered.

Given that "all truth is relative" is an absolute statement, your teacher is correct that it contains an inherent contradiction.

traderjoe9 wrote:
To me it seemed plausible, but then when I discussed it with a friend - a vegetarian - he contended that the question of whether or not it is ethical/justified to eat meat is relative, that there is no one answer and depends on each person.

Did your friend explain how it can be ethical for one person to eat meat and not ethical for another?
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