Critical Thinking Part 3: Absolute vs. Relative Truth

Let’s discuss the sticky issue of absolute vs. relative truth. This is a most problematic philosophical, theological, political, and sociological issue. The debates rage throughout academia and the world at large over how many, what, and even whether or not there are any absolute “Truths” or if everything, every idea, every principle, every notion, is relative to one’s perspective, paradigm, or culture.

This debate is fundamental to analysis and critical thinking. Why? Because what may be true for you, may not be true for someone else. Let’s take just two examples for now: First, how about the statement that “Welfare is good.” Well, perhaps it is for you, if you’re receiving government assistance. But for those who are not, yet are paying higher taxes because of welfare, it’s not so good, is it?

Let’s take another example: “Eminem is better than Bruce Springsteen.” Again, if Eminem talks to you, if he’s where you’re comin from, and Springsteen doesn’t talk to you, he’s not where you’re comin from, then for you it’s a truth that Slim Shady’s better than the Boss. However, if you’re a little older and relate more to Bruce, he’s better than Marshall. Note that I’ve used three different names for them both, which seems to call into question their own relative identities, doesn’t it?

A little American history is in order here (I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I do know a few things about  U.S. history). Prior to the 1960’s, it was believed by the vast majority of people that there were quite a few Absolute Truths. Then came the sex, drugs, and rock and roll revolution, along with the rise of feminism, the Vietnam War, and the deconstructionists in philosophy. The rise of the New Left liberalism tore at the fabric of nearly every Absolute moral and social “Truth.”

Whether these were positive or negative changes is not for me to say. As Fox News Channel says: “We report; you decide.” My point is, however, that from thence forward, radical relativism has been in fashion. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Cultural Relativists, who suggest that nothing is better than anything else, that all cultures are equal, and that to judge is to discriminate and be guilty of racism, sexism, specieism, etc. etc.

This movement against making any discriminatory value judgments gained strength and credibility when associated with the Civil Rights movement and, a little later, the Gay Rights movement. So that today’s generation and today’s politically correct thinking, for better or worse—you be the judge—accepts as ‘Truth’ the notion that there are few, if any Absolute “Truths” and that all “Truths” are relative and all opinions are valid if shared and espoused by some culture or “lifestyle.”

To be continued…

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