Reconciling Relativism and Truth
Like all false dichotomies, an approach to knowledge that is either absolutist or relativist is not helpful nor enlightening in efforts to generate and apply knowledge towards the building of a just and prosperous world civilization. A few previous posts have given ways to conceptualize knowledge that demonstrates that a belief in the foundational nature of truth is compatible with a recognition of the relativity of truth.
- Truth claims are relative to the diverse perspectives of different facets of the same object of study (reality). Consultation is the method by which human beings collectively advance understandings of our one, interconnected, reality.
- Collective understanding of objective truth advances over time – as unity is built, as consultation is employed, as insights from religion and science (humanity’s two systems of knowledge and practice) become more accurate, as vision is sharpened, as methods and approaches are more attuned. Thus, current claims about foundational truth are relative to time and degree of understanding.
- Certain foundational truths have a relative latency, in that they are manifest over time either through natural processes or over time through human effort. At any given point, a foundational truth might be less manifest than at a later point, and is thus relatively latent.
- Some social realities are built upon foundational truths that are latent relative to human will, and therefore, embody this foundational truth to relative degree. The issue of human rights is a great example: The nobility of man is a foundational truth of reality, which is embodied in some legal and political systems to a relatively higher degree than others. At any given moment, one can claim a system of human rights to be embodying an objective truth to a relative degree.
In the end, this approach to knowledge is an assumption that cannot be empirically validated. It can be only operationalized; and the fruits it yields over time will be its proof.
Do you prefer this approach to knowledge over the ones currently crippling our academic, economic, medical, legal, and political systems?
How does this understanding of knowledge help free us to generate and apply knowledge towards human betterment?