“Nigel: Has relativism had its day as an influential philosophical position?
Simon: No – and I don’t think it should ever die. The danger is that it gets replaced by some kind of complacent dogmatism, which is at least equally unhealthy. The Greek sceptics thought that confronting a plurality of perspectives is the beginning of wisdom, and I think they were right. It is certainly the beginning of historiography and anthropology, and if we think, for instance, of the Copernican revolution, of self-conscious science. The trick is to benefit from an imaginative awareness of diversity, without falling into a kind of “anything goes” wishy-washy nihilism or scepticism….”
It looks like we’ve been dealing with such a problem for a long time, in one form or another.
“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”
Full post here. (The link may not last long. For future reference, it is the Richard Bacon show on the BBC, Tue June 29th, 2:13:00).
Is agnosticism a convenient middle path…a cop out…a way to split the difference and not confront the balance of evidence?
The Kantianism is thick here. Here’s a quote from Betrand Russell:
“As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God.
On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.”
I get a lot of comments from people who think that philosophy’s not good for much, and often I agree. Maybe it’s best for clarifying one’s own thinking, and through that clarification offering insight into a central and divisive issue:
The divisive issue here is free speech, especially in Europe (it can get you killed) and has become a flashpoint between Muslim immigrants and European natives (where national and racial identity can be violently united).
Do we want absolute freedom of speech or absolute anything for that matter?…How does a civilization deal with the often unwise, incendiary ranting that comes with it? Who decides what the limits are?