On Philosophical Relativism

Posted in Philosophy, Thinking Critically on  | 3 minutes | 2 Comments →

It is common knowledge that certain behaviors we call ‘laws’ govern the physical workings of the universe and Earth. Water is always composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. Should this mixture vary, we no longer have water but something else. As long as we are under subordination of Earth’s atmosphere, anything you throw in the air will come down, hence, the law of gravity. Now be sure that if I am saying objective reality exists independent of humans, this is not the same as saying humans cannot influence objective reality. If I take a gun and kill somebody, I have just shaped objective reality. But try as I might afterwards, I could not ever shape or change the objective reality that I killed somebody. In these instances we easily grasp the concept of a reality that is what it is regardless of our beliefs, attitudes or assumptions, yet the minute we enter the realm of religion, morality or God all logic seems to go out the window.

If laws govern the material realm independent of human opinion, then one reasonable assumption is that laws might govern any potential spiritual or higher realms as well. Arguing from the predictable nature of the former, why would the latter operate on dissimilar notions of relativism or individual interpretation? If truth is inviolable, objective and absolute in the physical, it might be so in the spiritual or supernatural as well. If our attitudes and beliefs cannot refute the fact that two hydrogens and one oxygen will always equal water, where does the idea come from that our attitudes and beliefs can define God, the cosmos, the afterlife – or lack thereof?

Take, for example, the statement, ‘I’m not superstitious.’ This phrase can convey the mistaken belief that magic, celestial beings, spirits, et al. are somehow only real if a person is superstitious and believes in them. Unless we really have no idea what we are talking when we say 'logic,' objects of superstitious thought such as angels or demons either exist in actuality, or they do not. They do not exist if one is superstitious and conversely non-exist if one is not superstitious. Whether or not one is superstitious has no bearing on the existence of immaterial or transcendent beings. If such beings do exist, in the event of an afterlife those who have lived in oblivion to such beings' existence will find the occasion surprising at best and horrifying at worst, while those who acknowledged such beings would not suffer loss in the absence of an afterlife.

Things are true if they correspond to past, present or future actuality; not necessarily because we say so.


  1. Brad


    This write-up seemed a little incoherent. Paragraph one: okay. Paragraph two: careful you’re only talking descriptively, e.g. spiritual state 1 + conditions -> spiritual state 2, or something to that effect. Prescriptions have no truth value, but are intrinsic parts of a subject’s mind. Paragraph three: okay, now we’re talking about mere definitions and the idea that truth is itself relative.
    So what’s the main idea here? The Universe saying, “The fact has not created within me a sense of obligation”? That spirituality has a form behind it? Or that truth is itself imperishable? Or perhaps this was three-pronged.

  2. cl


    You’re right about this post being a bit incoherent. I think it was actually juxtaposed from two separate excerpts to be honest. Anyways, the point of the first two paragraphs was that often, people just assume the “supernatural” realm is this magical world where anything and everything is possible. There are groups of people who just assume any “supernatural” reality that exists doesn’t operate with any sort of law and order analogous to what we find here and now. I’m attempting to challenge that assumption in the first two paragraphs, and the third paragraph does seem a little non-sequitur.
    So thanks for the catch!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *