Source: Catholic Answers on YouTube
Have you ever tried to persuade someone that your belief was true and that person responds, “Well, there is no truth” or “It might be true for you, but not for me”? It’s a frustrating experience. This way of thinking, called relativism, can impede any sort of rational dialogue. Catholic Answers Apologist Karlo Broussard tackles relativism today in this ALL NEW webisode!
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About Karlo Broussard:
Karlo Broussard, a native of Crowley, Louisiana, left a promising musical career to devote himself full-time to the work of Catholic apologetics. For more than a decade he has traveled the country teaching apologetics, biblical studies, theology, and philosophy. Karlo has published articles on a variety of subjects in Catholic Answers Magazine, is a regular guest on Catholic Answers Live, and is an active blogger at catholic.com.
Have you ever tried to persuade someone that your belief was true and that person responds, “Well, there is no truth” or “It might be true for you, but not for me”? It’s a frustrating experience. This way of thinking, called relativism, can impede any sort of rational dialogue. The view that truth—that is, what is real—is relative to the individual is what some scholars call “I Say” relativism.
As U.S. Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the 1992 landmark case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” In other words, in “I Say” relativism the individual determines what is real rather than discovers what is real.
In order to engage in any sensible discussion about truth, we must first overcome the obstacle of relativism.
So, what can we say in response?
First, we can ask, “Is it absolutely true that there is no absolute truth?” If they respond “yes”, then the statement itself is an absolute truth. But this is a contradiction—it’s absolutely true that there is no absolute truth? Plain absurdity!
Now, suppose a relativist answers our question, “No! The statement, ‘there is no absolute truth’ is only relatively true—it’s true relative to my system of beliefs.” This is problematic as well. Using the verb “is” implies an assertion about the objective order of things—conformity to reality. But this is like saying, “It’s absolutely true that there is no absolute truth,” which as we already saw is a contradiction.
Furthermore, a relativist’s claim that the statement, ‘there is no absolute truth,’ is true relative to his system of beliefs makes the claim trivial.
If a relativist simply means by this, “I believe this but others don’t,” then it doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
If a relativist means, “This is just my opinion, take it or leave it,” then there’s no need to pay any attention to it.
To put it frankly if a relativist is not going to make a claim about reality, then who cares? Why should we be concerned with such trivial matters?
A second way we can respond to “I Say” relativism is to show how the logic leads to absurdities. For example, in a recent video, “College Kids Say the Darndest Things,” released by the Family Policy Institute of Washington, Joseph Backholm, the executive director, interviewed eight students from the University of Washington about so-called gender identity. Backholm, a white, 5′ 9″ male, asked the students what they would say if he told them he were a female. Every student was quick to say it would be okay.
Backholm then asks the students a series of questions that lead to his identifying as a 6’5” Chinese woman. Although a few of the students were a bit hesitant to affirm Backholm’s assertion that he is 6′ 5″ and Chinese they concluded it would be within his right to identify as he pleases. That’s either going to make you laugh or cry.
Perhaps the students would have seen the absurdity of the relativistic logic if Backholm asked them, “What if I say I am a cat?”
Lest you think such claims are outside the realm of possibility, check out the story of 20-year-old Nano from Oslo, Norway, a young woman who claims she is a cat trapped in a human body. As she explains in an interview with a Norwegian reporter, she was “born in the wrong species.” The absurdities that follow from “I Say” relativism continue.
By embracing relativism our culture has reached the point of insanity. There can be no false perception of reality because there is no reality to perceive—only a reality to create. Can our society function with such a worldview? It’s doubtful.
For Catholic Answers, I’m Karlo Broussard. Thanks for watching.