Monday, November 3, 2014

Re-examining Absolute Truth: A Deeper Look at the Contradiction of Relativism

One of my first posts on this here blog almost one year ago was to start an Apologetics series. When trying to take upon an enormous endeavor such as defending the truth of the Bible, I felt it valuable to actually show that truth existed in the first place.

My answer to demonstrating absolute truth was admirable, but ultimately, just a tad bit lacking in terms of depth. Because of that (and the fact that I had to write a paper that more deeply covered the subject), I have decided to reexamine the concept of absolute truth and why it must exist.

I believe it is self-evident that some truth exists. Indeed to deny that claim is nonsensical, yet as the Bible predicts in Romans 1, there are plenty who try to deny the truth set before them. But the actions of every human, including those who claim to deny obtainable, objective knowledge, demonstrate that they actually do believe in its existence.

So to demonstrate this disconnect, we must show that such disconnect is possible; more specifically, it is necessary to see how what one actually believes and professes to believe don’t always line up. After this, we can see how this principle pans out in the life of the skeptic. Finally, we can show how the skeptic’s ultimate belief in truth indicates that knowledge is indeed obtainable. (Yes, I even left in my super snazzy road map for you; you're welcome.)

Two Sets of Doctrines

In the science fiction novel Shadow of the Hegemon,  Orson Scott Card pens these words,
“I don’t know a soul who doesn’t maintain two separate lists of doctrines – the ones they believe that they believe and the ones they actually try to live by.” 

The point is rather simple – there are certain things we claim to believe; however, sometimes our actions are a truer indication of what our beliefs actually are.

For instance, look to the many people who profess to come to faith that ultimately fall away. Commonly labeled “easy-believism,” it has become a consistent problem in the church - those who profess Christ do not depart from iniquity or show the fruits that Jesus mentions as accompanying naturally with salvation.

It is likely that the actions of these “Christians” indicate that underneath their words, they are simply deceiving themselves, and ultimately have not believed in the name of Jesus Christ at all.

The Bible describes that at the last day, many will stand before the Lord claiming to know Him and to have cast out demons in the His name, and yet, be told that the Lord never knew them.  What we see through this illustration is that one can believe that he believes one concept, but his actions underlie his true beliefs.

Why No One Really Believes in Relativism

So how do those who profess that objective knowledge is impossible violate this principle? The adherents to this philosophy argue that they can’t know anything. (I will refrain from mentioning that they somehow know that they can’t know anything.) But how exactly do they argue this point?

To conclude anything about the world, such as that there is no knowledge, one must go through an investigative process. However, such a process requires the utilization of certain knowledge to begin with.

In an as of yet unpublished work, Dr. Richard Tison discusses the process by which Adam would have obtained any knowledge of the world in the Garden of Eden. He explains that in order for his investigations to bear fruit, he would need to already have some knowledge to gain any further knowledge. Specifically, he opines,
“Without these presuppositions (causality, natural order, and regularity), he could not organize or classify data of his observations because he would not be able to identify any intelligent, uniform pattern to his experiences… These axioms of knowledge, then, were not first discovered by his investigation because no investigation would have made sense without them.” 

At first glance, since the skeptics don’t believe it is possible for one to find any universal patterns, this doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. However, as aforementioned, to come to any conclusion about the possibility of knowledge required such an investigative process.

You don’t just assume conclusions without first going through some sort of process to verify those conclusions. But as Dr. Tison correctly points out, your investigation will be meaningless if you do not already have certain “axioms of knowledge.” Without logic, for instance, you would be unable to make a connection between point A and point B.

Thus, in order to get to the conclusion that there is no knowledge, you have to rely upon knowledge. Try as you might, you will ultimately always believe in this knowledge, as it is impossible for one to conceive of a world without such truth.

The Metaphysical: Conception and Existence 

Before we jump into the metaphysical question of existence, it is important to repeat and clarify. A world without objective knowledge cannot be conceived because such a task requires the use of objective knowledge. It is because of this that a world without objective knowledge is impossible.

Ayn Rand explains in “The Metaphysical Versus the Manmade,” that the world exists; thus, we can observe it.  Further, while not everything that exists can be observed (i.e. God), nor everything that can be conceived of necessarily exists (i.e. a unicorn), anything that has the potential to exist in the world can be conceived of by the human mind.

Indeed, anything that can exist can be conceived of (i.e. there is no rational reason why a unicorn can’t exist in reality). The logical extension to this point is that if something cannot be conceived of, it cannot exist.

Seeing as we just demonstrated that it is impossible to conceive of a world without objective knowledge, it follows that such a world does not exist. To put that another way, there is such a thing as objective knowledge.

Professing Themselves to be Wise...

By utilizing rational processes to make arguments about how such rational processes don’t exist, man underscores his belief in objective knowledge. While some men have blinded themselves to think that they believe objective knowledge is impossible, no human being can conceive of a world without absolute truth.

Since anything that has the potential to exist can be conceived of, a world of subjective knowledge cannot exist. All these men are instead living under the words of Romans 1:19-22, 
“Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” 

Ultimately, objective knowledge is undeniable and self-evident, and all of humanity believes in it. If they claim not to be, they are showing themselves as fools.

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