Conceptual Framework

Conceptual Framework - Philosophy of Religion Blackman...

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Philosophy of Religion Blackman February 11, 2009 BLACKMAN’S HALF-BAKED THEORY OF RATIO NALITY The following definitions will be helpful in this course. As some of you know, I use this in my Humanities courses (under the title “Conceptual Framework”), but it will be useful here as well. Cultural relativism : This is the observation that different cultures in fact have differing views on a wide range of subjects. It is an empirical thesis; that is, one discovers whether it is true or false by observation and/or experimentation. The disciplines of anthropology and sociology do a bang-up job on cultural relativism. It is undoubtedly, unquestionably true. However, it is of limited interest in the humanities. While an awareness of cultural relativism helps us to overcome our ethnocentrism, which is beneficial, there is a tendency among some to confuse cultural relativism with general and/or ethical relativism, which is a mistake. From the fact that different cultures in fact have differing views, it does not follow that these views are all equally true. General relativism : This is the thesis that what a person or group believes to be true is, in fact, true. Presumably, this was held by Protagoras and the other ancient Sophists. It was rejected by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. General relativism is tantamount to the rejection of facts. Often, people fail to realize the absurd consequences of general relativism. If someone were to believe that the moon is made of green cheese, then the moon would indeed be made of green cheese simply in virtue of one's believing it. Also, general relativism violates the law of contradiction. The law of contradiction states: For every proposition p , it is not the case that p is both true and false. Take the proposition, "Snow is white." If the law of contradiction were false, then both the affirmation and the denial of the proposition, "Snow is white," would be true. In Plato's Theaetetus Socrates refuted general relativism by pointing out that it is inherently contradictory. Protagoras held the thesis of general relativism, namely, what anyone believes to be true is true. But Socrates claimed that the thesis of general relativism is false. What Protagoras failed to notice is that, on Protagoras' own grounds , Socrates' claim is true. Socrates really believed general relativism to be false, and Protagoras was maintaining that whatever anyone believes is true is true. So if Socrates believed that general relativism was false, then it was false. In other words, the relativist is saying, "There are no facts, and that is a fact," namely, that there are no facts. We ought not confuse general relativism with skepticism. In effect, general relativists deny the existence of truth. Skeptics can admit that truth exists, but they claim not to know what it is, usually because they think there is insufficient evidence.
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This note was uploaded on 02/27/2010 for the course PHIL 120 taught by Professor Blackman during the Spring '09 term at SUNY Geneseo.

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Conceptual Framework - Philosophy of Religion Blackman...

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