Sunday, September 25, 2005

Archbishop Pell – ‘The Dictatorship of Relativism’

“Relativism is powerful in Western life, evidenced in many areas from the decline in the study of history and English literature, through to the triumph of subjective values and conscience over moral truth and the downgrading of heterosexual marriage. None of this is entirely new: relativism is an antique theory. The great thinker and father of history Heraclitus [History 3, 38] noted that different cultures differ in their basic beliefs and customs, and at the dawn of our philosophical tradition the Greek philosopher Protagoras challenged the religious and moral wisdom of his day, arguing that each individual’s own opinions are the measure of truth [see Plato Theaetetus 151eff]. This theory has so far received no official sanction – usually because wise men and women have seen that either relativism is the real truth about the Universe, in which case relativism is wrong since there is a real truth, or relativism is not the real truth, in which case we should all stop thinking about it. The danger today is that people do not even think this far to see the inconsistencies. Hence Pope Benedict’s warning.” – Archbishop Pell’s Address to The National Press Club, Canberra.

Pell's Address is presently being widely discussed, though I am presently concerned by his thinly veiled employment of a Slippery-Slope Argument. I am also unsure whether Pell's model of relativism accords with reality.

[The Editor requests that anyone commenting on Archbishop Pell’s comments read through the entire Address, and not base them solely on the quote. – The Editor.]

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