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Relative Truth

Relative Truth One version of relative truth is used when people disagree. A person might say “Well, that may be true for you, but its not true for me.” The implication here is often that there is no real truth to the matter but is instead a matter merely of belief. You believe what you want to believe and I’ll believe what I want to believe and let’s go on our merry way. You can see what a boon to self-deception a mechanism like this could be. You can believe anything and no one would have the right to tell you that you can’t rationally believe it.

So, one can isolate oneself and one’s beliefs from the critical evaluation of others, because what also goes without saying in this framework of relative truth, is that no one besides yourself can tell you what is “true for you”. The closest another could come would be to say something like “It’s true for me that it’s not true for you”. This is never actually done in the ‘true for me’ game. But if it were, then since all that the other would be expressing is what is true for them, even though your beliefs are the subject of their ‘truth’, there “opinion” has no real importance (except to them). It is only true in their world which is inaccessible to you.

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You can dismiss it and forget it. We can see that by this view “true for me” just means that I believe it. The word ‘true’ is in there to give the belief its own legitimacy. You may ask: “What does ‘I believe it’ mean?”. There doesn’t seem to be any way of answering this without saying “I believe it to be TRUE”. And so we see that for it to mean anything to have a believe, we must already presuppose that there is an actual truth or falsity to the matter that is the subject of the belief.

This is another thing denied by the relativists. He often says, there is no real truth, only what is’true for me’. It is as if the relativist by the mere act of believing something can make it true in his/her “reality”. And this suggests that everyone has a different reality. Of course, we all have a different concept of reality, but there is only one reality. Thus, the confusion that the relativist makes between belief and truth is mirrored in a confusion between “concept of reality” and “reality”.

If everyone really does make their own reality, then you are alone in your world and everyone else is your entertaining fiction. You are a solipsist, the only real person in the world. Now this is real isolation. But anyone who tries to think about this in a serious manner, doesn’t really believe it. We know, for instance, that a belief can be wrong.

If a belief can be wrong, it is because there is a truth out there that the belief conflicts with. If beliefs could never be wrong, there would be no reason to ever change a belief, unless it became clear that something else would be a happier thing to believe. So, most relativists don’t believe that ‘all truth is relative’ but instead that there are some relative truths, especially in those areas where people argue the most: Politics, religion, ethics. But the reasons given above would still apply except to a smaller domain of discourse. And so we can see that if there were any area where the truth of something was just a matter of believing that something, then the legitimacy of that belief is questionable as coherent.

If you think it is coherent, then try spelling out the meaning of “It is true for me” and try explaining what information is conveyed by an ‘it is true for me’ assertion. One might think that it means ‘I believe it”. But what sense does it make to ‘believe it’ unless you’believe it is really true’? Thus to hold a belief at all requires the presupposition that there is truth, otherwise the belief would be nothing. If all truth were relative then language would be worthless when attempting to convey information, for that information would only be about “your reality” in which I have no access. But even if only certain areas were the domain of relative truth, then claims in those areas would carry no information, and would be the equivalent of babble.

Language would serve no use in that domain of discourse.

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