| What is an absolute, anyway? We need a common definition so that we don’t waste time arguing semantics. An absolute is a principle of unconditional truth. Absolutes testify that value does not depend on our perspective and preferences.
I heard a good story to illustrate this. A teacher invited a student to write a paper denying absolutes. The student did his best to make an argument in favor of moral relativism and handed the paper in. The teacher handed it back with a big “F” and a note stating that the cover was blue. The student confronted the teacher, asking for an explanation. She replied, “I didn’t like the blue cover, so you get an F.” The student was angry until he realized her point. He realized that he really did believe in absolutes after all.*
Everyone believes in absolutes, including those who say they don’t. If I state an absolute, and you contradict my absolute, the contradiction itself is an absolute.
Suppose someone says, “I’m not sure about that.” Certainly, this is not an absolute statement, right? Someone is simply expressing doubt. However, the only reason for doubting the absolute is a leaning toward another absolute. The unnamed absolute is already there at the first doubt.
People will use true statements to back up relativism. You probably heard about the blind men and the elephant. One man described it like a pillar, one described it as a thick hose, one described it as a fan, and one described it as a rope. I agree; every man gave an accurate depiction of the elephant.
Here is the key. Here is how you can discern between relative truth and relativism. Relativism treats relative truth as independent. It treats every person as his own absolute.
Relativists go wrong, because they see relative laws as separate, independent laws. Relative laws do not operate independently of absolute truth.
When someone says that truth is relative, we need to ask, relative to what? Moral rules and thoughts and feelings are relative. They relate to a standard, and the standard is absolute.
For example, my father might tell me to be home by 10 o’clock. This is a moral relative. Someone else can go home later. Relatives are real. Relativism is false.
|* I heard it from Dr. Laura Schlessinger|