- Consultation Knowledge

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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?


Socially Constructed Foundational Truth

Development Human Nature Knowledge

Relative Latency

Earlier in this blog, there was a post on the concept of latency.  This concept helps us further understand an approach to knowledge that transcends foundationalism and relativism.

If one considers the biological development of any organism – embryo to fetus to human, flowering of a plant, transformation of a caterpillar to butterfly, etc – one sees that the end condition was present in the beginning.  In fact, this process is teleological – meaning, that it has a purpose.  The purpose of a seed is to develop into a tree.  However, the tree itself is not within the seed; it is potentially present therein.

Using this analogy, one can understand that foundational truths were once latent within existence and have become manifest over time.  Some truths are latent relative to human agency, and some truths are latent independent of human agency.  For instance, the laws of physics manifest themselves in the universe (fairly quickly after its creation according to popular science) completely independent of human will.  On the other hand, the equality of women and men is a foundational truth of reality, though is still being developed and brought to fruition over time through human effort.

Thus, there is another layer to reconciling this tension.  Some objective truths are relatively latent, and they become manifest truths through time or through human agency.  In the latter case, they are indeed socially-constructed, but they are still foundational truths of reality – both relative and objective.