Saturday, March 24, 2007

Relativism Applied: Secularism and Pragmatism

Relativism has many adherents and takes many forms. Secularism and Pragmatism are both relativistic, denying the existence of any transcendent immutable moral truth except for one -- their assertion that secularism and pragmatism are absolutely true.

"Secularism" generally refers to an ideology that promotes the secular (as opposed to the religious) particularly within the public sphere, maintaining that the best course of action in politics and other civic fields is that which flows from disparate groups’ common understanding of the “good,” with a strict “separation of church and state.” Similar to positivism, secularism necessarily denies concepts of transcendent truth. By its noninvolvement with and antagonism toward religion, secularism refuses to take sides or make judgments between religious beliefs, and thereby tends to deny the idea of absolute truths and values. Secularism is inherently pluralistic, and all views must be accepted and affirmed. What is “good” is merely a matter of opinion. But here secularism contradicts itself, because although it proclaims that it is tolerant of all views, it rejects and is intolerant of those who oppose secularism in favor of absolute, transcendent truth. And because it must necessarily deny or ignore the religious, including the idea of God, morality and human rights are necessarily seen as human creations, and therefore relative and changeable.

"Pragmatism" asserts that life is essentially practical. All human activity pertains to and serves a purpose. The purpose of philosophical pragmatism is the control of human experience with a view to its improvement, both in the individual and in the race. Truth is but a means to this end. Ideas, hypotheses, and theories are but instruments which man has "made" in order to better both himself and his environment; and, though specific in type, like all other forms of human activity they exist solely for this end, and are "true" in so far as they fulfill it. Truth is thus a form of value: it is something that works satisfactorily; something that ministers to human interests, purposes and objects of desire. In the philosophy of pragmatism, there are no axioms or self-evident truths. God and religion are largely irrelevant. Until an idea or a judgment has proved itself of value in the manipulation of concrete experience, it is but a postulate or claim to truth. Nor are there any absolute or irreversible truths. A proposition is true so long as it proves itself useful, and no longer.

No comments: