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The Philosophy of Relativism

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/22/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 826 times Debate No: 103023
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
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I, Jimmy, will be arguing that Relativism, which is the belief that certain truths are true for me but not for you is in fact false.

You, the Pro, will be arguing that the philosophy of Relativism is true, that your truth is not the same as MY truth.

The structure of this debate will be Round 1, acceptance, Round 2, arguments, and Round 3, new arguments and rebuttals. A future thanks goes to my future opponent.

And, unrelated to this debate, I'll be doing another rap battle sometime, but I'm not sure when it'll be... I got somethin' good comin' up...


I accept the terms of this debate and this debate in and of itself.
Debate Round No. 1


Ok, let's get it on, then.

Just by participating in this debate, you are being an absolutist, not a relativist. You are trying to prove that relativism is an absolute truth. This is actually impossible to do, and therefore it is impossible for you to win this debate. You will not be able to prove anything true, because according to relativism, there is no such thing as truth. In fact, I encourage voters to vote for me no matter what, because if I win, at least my opponent can win relative to their own standards of winning.

Now, I know there are several categories of relativism: one that says everything in existence is relative, and then moral relativism. The radical relativism, in which everything is relative, defeats itself. It says that everything is true to one's own self, but is that statement true? If yes, than it disproves itself, and if no, than obviously it is wrong. Surely all things can not be relative.

A relativist will then say: "The only real truth is that there is no truth, except for this one." Basically, relativists are making a exception that the only truth can be relativism. But, looking at this statement as a relativist, couldn't THAT statement be relative? How in fact do we know this truth of the one true exception? Relativists will sometimes admit that there is the possibility of other truths, making the one truth exception just a non-confirmed, relative opinion. And once again, everything can not be relative as stated in my second paragraph.

Now, on to the usual moral relativism... Let me just focus on one subject that people believe is relative, murder. In some ancient cultures, such as the Mayans, Romans, and various native American tribes, murder was not nearly looked down upon as it is in today's world. In fact, it was celebrated as a way of offering sacrifices to the Gods or a pleasing spectacle in the Coliseum. So, people will say that murder is neither good nor bad... it's just relative to a culture's beliefs.

This is an error in thinking. Just because a culture accepts something horrible, it doesn't make it alright. Although slavery back in the 1700s and 1800s was prominent and a normal practice, we now see it as detestable. It has always been detestable. To say that it was fine back then makes no sense, because it's the same slavery perceived by modern day people. A culture may accept the killing of Jews, as did Germany. Relative to them, it was good. But was is really good? My point is that just because other people may feel they are right, it doesn't mean they are.

Now, granted there are some things that are relative. Canis's comment about shoe size is a good example. As an absolutist, I can be confirmed in saying this. As a relativist, I can't say that shoe size is relevant, because that statement itself might be relevant.

I hope I haven't been to irrelevant in this debate. heh heh


Humanity has its origins in the State of Nature. This means, according to English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes, the "War of All Against All" [1]. This refers to competition between individuals in order to acquire those resources necessary to survive and reproduce. In his book, The Social Contract [2], Jean-Jacques Rousseau goes into detail as to why mankind organized itself into societies. Unlike any other species on the planet, the human species cognitively took one another's terms and each gave ground. Essentially, Natural Rights, such as that of murder and rape, were surrendered in exchange for security. This theory is called Contractionarianism [3].

The issue comes as this: there is no singular first Society. Uruk is now considered to be the first city in human history [4]. However, the Sumerians considered the first city to be Eridu, while the Greeks claimed Athens was first of human cities. There are also the various European, Asian, and African civilizations, as well as those ones in the Americas. These various societies, from the Germanics in the North to the Sumerians in what is now the Middle East to those early Indus civilizations, had vastly different moral codes. For example, the Greeks prized philosophy and learning, while the Germans measured a man by his martial skills. This can be seen in the deities of these two religions, which are extremely similar. The Aesir and the Vanir (the Germanic deities) are all very militant and warlike. The Olympians, although some are warlike, others are deep thinkers whilst more are craftmen and lovers. The Norse Goddess Freya is the Goddess of Love and War, whilst the Greeks kept these two traits separate in their Goddesses. Aphrodite is Love and Athena is Philosophy and War. These two cultures certainly had very little to agree on. Should we then say that one is better than the other? And if so, which is what the Absolutist would do, which one should we privilege as more important? The Greeks, who were so busy philosophizing they could not resist their Roman conquerors? Or the Germans, who conquered those Romans?

Expanding our view, we can compare the philosophy of the Athenians and their egalitarian democracy to that of Chinese Confucianism. All citizens in Athens were guaranteed a voice in Athens, while Confucius argued for a strict hierarchy. Absolutism tells us that only one or the other is true. Should we praise Athens, for it is that ancient democracy which the Western civilizations are based upon?.....but it is also the one which sentenced Socrates to death. Or should we hail Confucius as the absolute truth for his strict sense of morality and duty to both one's superioriors and subordinates? Let us not forget that Confucianism gave birth to Legalism, which is the basis for the modern Chinese totalitarian state.

Tying these last two paragraphs together with Contractarianism, we can understand that people were free to abandon one Society for another (emigration) or to seek to subvert Society (revolution). This does not make it objectively true that one Society is superior to the other, just that it is relatively better for that particular individual. This concept, that the truth is relative to each individual's perceptions, is the cause of Western Classical Liberalism. The most notable accomplishment of this school of thought is the idea of public debate. For who determines the Absolute Truth in absolutism? Well, the absolute authority, of course (ironically, the absolute truth is always beneficial to this authority, as I will demonstrate soon enough). In place of debate, in absolutist societies, is oppression and censorship. Look no further than the absolute societies of the Islamic World. Saudi Arabia, an nation where Islam is the Absolute Truth, has illegalized Atheism, labelling it terrorism [5]. The irony is intense, as that this is the same country which funds terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS. Why? Because it is all relative.


Debate Round No. 2
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Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by LuciferWept 3 years ago
I had the same problem for a few days. Yeah, I'll go again if you want.
Posted by JimShady 3 years ago
Let me know if you are still interested in this debate, for some reason when I tried logging in I couldn't, but it's working now.
Posted by canis 3 years ago
My wifes shoes do not fit me..Shoes are relatives to humans..Size x is her relative and visa versa.
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