The pitfalls of relativism
It is natural to search for the truth. And despite the voices of relativism that yell at us from every direction, I think we all crave a truth that is universal, permanent, objective. Of course, plurality stares at us from every side. There are so many views on the best way to eat, exercise, succeed in life... To many, this is evidence that there is no single and unshakeable truth.
But just because there is constant disagreement, it doesn’t mean that everyone is wrong. Taking the example of treatments for cancer. The mainstream treatments are chemo, radiation and hormone therapy. But their effectiveness is disputed. Outside the mainstream, there are a plethora of other treatments: Gerson, Budwig, Homeopathy… so which one is right? Because of the overwhelming number of proposed treatments, all of which claim to be THE ONE, we can feel that none of them is the actual ONE, but there is just not enough evidence to prove this.
This leaves open the hope and possibility that there is a chance of discovering “objective truth”. Whether or not we can prove that truth is another thing. So really it requires faith. When we discover something that we think is true, we do need to have faith. If we have gone through the painstaking process of searching for truth, it’s ok to rest in the certitude that we have found what we were looking for. But the danger is to become arrogant and self-righteous. Once we have found what we believe is true, we should share it with others without making it a point of contention.
We all have the right to search for the truth and believe in what we think is true. This is a birthright, a human right, a manifestation of our rationality and free will. This entails a respect for each other’s right to belief without imposing our sense of truth on others. This is not just a matter of ideological equality; it is a practical necessity. In the global, nuclear age, tolerance of others’ views is crucial. Terrorism has become a global issue, and it stems from the fact that certain groups condemn the world view of other groups.
We sometimes forget the obvious: groups are made up of individuals, and whether they are living a life of blind conformity or not, they are exercising their freedom to choose how they wish to live. Of course, many of us need to awaken to a more conscious and deliberate approach to reality and everyday life, and hence become more awake and free.
But freedom cannot be imposed on others, especially through force. Each individual must exercise their freedom to investigate reality for themselves and live a life according to what they believe is true.