Who needs enemies with self-refuting statements like these…

“It is true that there is no truth, and it is absolutely the case that everything is relative.”

These are the kinds of underlying premise and thought-patterns underlying the contemporary cultural milieu. Yet, there is something very strange going on behind the veil… yes, the strangeness of a madman, even.

It is often the case that evil is self-defeating. A cheater compromises his own integrity before he does the system; a murderer kills his own soul before he does his victim, and; Satan is defeated by his own act of crucifying the God-man.

What evil does for goodness, error does for truth; before undermining other truths, it defeats its own foundation, be it the statement itself or the very basis for rationality. If everything is relative, then so is that statement. If there is no truth, then such a truth-claim is also impossible.


This post is a reflection on the Once Upon an A Priori…. post over at theMandM ‘blog.

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9 thoughts on “Who needs enemies with self-refuting statements like these…”

  1. “It is true that there is no truth, and it is absolutely the case that everything is relative.”

    These are the kinds of underlying premise and thought-patterns underlying the contemporary cultural milieu

    To be fair that is a bit of a straw man. A more accurate statement of a lot of modern thought might be “all judgements of value whether moral or aesthetic are ultimately subjective”. — As Catholics we believe that’s wrong, but it’s not self refuting.

  2. Mr. Badger,

    You’re probably right to qualify it as applying especially to matters of values. I know the statement, “it is absolutely the case that everything is relative”, can seem simplistic, but I think it is also because the first clause, “it is absolutely the case”, is usually hidden, or (especially by the advocates of such claims) unrecognized.

    > “A more accurate statement of a lot of modern thought might be “all judgements of value whether moral or aesthetic are ultimately subjective””

    Actually, this would seem itself to be a judgement of value, since it claims the underlying basis for them are subjective. In which case, the same criticism applies.

  3. “Actually, this would seem itself to be a judgement of value, since it claims the underlying basis for them are subjective. In which case, the same criticism applies.”

    I disagree, I don’t think that it’s a value judgement to deny that value judgements are objective. After all you can run a materialist case that value judgements are purely a product of our biology as a social animal. — I don’t believe that, but there is a real debate there, it’s not self refuting.

    But I agree with you that there is a real problem with mindless relativism these days. Try suggesting that Christianity is more humane than Islam, and liberal atheists will get very upset!

  4. > “I disagree”

    Nothing like a disagreement to liven up a ‘blog, as you well know! 😉

    > “I don’t think that it’s a value judgement to deny that value judgements are objective”

    It is once removed, but it still is a value judgement in that it makes a judgement on the very principle of making value judgments. It is not only a denial of objectivity but also makes a claim for subjectivity. Faithful to its nominalistic roots, it supposes that values are found in the mind rather than in the world out there, in which case it makes a statement about the value of all values – they are worth only as much as one makes them to be. Then, so is that statement.

    > “After all you can run a materialist case that value judgements are purely a product of our biology as a social animal… it’s not self refuting.”

    Actually, this is one of the things I had in mind to list in the original post above. It’s actually another example of self-refuting ideas, since if value judgements are purely a byproduct of naturalistic evolutionism, so is that judgement regarding value judgements. It in fact undermines the very basis of rationality, since a chance development could not be trusted to necessarily correspond oneself to truth (this is the very example I had in mind when I posted this claim originally – I think Alvin Platinga argues this point).

  5. I disagree, I don’t think that it’s a value judgement to deny that value judgements are objective.

    As soon as you suggest this judgement is the correct one to make and its contrary is incorrect, you are implicitly making a value judgement that this judgement is better.

  6. Ultimately, unless you are an absolutist, what you say has no normative force…so just keep it to yourself

  7. Chip,

    welcome.

    > …unless you are an absolutist

    The truth of a statement does not depend on whether one (or the listener) is an absolutist or not; the truth of a statement depends on the correlation of the statement to the reality. In other words, it’s objective, not subjective.

    > what you say has no normative force…so just keep it to yourself

    This assumes precisely the sort of premise discussed above, that “it is absolutely the case that everything is relative”.

    In any case, why do you make a statement on the matter which you present as being normative, while telling others that such is impossible? It is itself an example of a self-refuting statement.

    1. Perhaps I didn’t explain myself…I am an absolutist. What I believe is absolute, therefore, and (in my own mind) applies to everybody. A reletavist cannot take this position for anything he or she may believe it true, since it is only normative for themselves. Thus, why doesn’t the relativist just keep it to himself?

      1. I see, yes, I think I misunderstood you as speaking as a relativist. My apologies.

        I think there is still a danger in making the mind the point of reference, though, since this is where nominalist are anchored, and where subjectivism and relativism hence arise. The absolutists first and foremost base themselves on the reality outside the mind.

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