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Relativism

Relativism

Paul McHugh on the Impossibility of Changing Sex

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At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. “Sex change” is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is a civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

Facebook on Gender

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Agender; Androgyne; Androgynous; Bigender; Cis; Cis Female; Cis Male; Cis Man; Cis Woman; Cisgender; Cisgender Female; Cisgender Male; Cisgender Man; Cisgender Woman; Female to Male; FTM; Gender Fluid; Gender Nonconforming; Gender Questioning; Gender Variant; Genderqueer; Intersex; Male to Female; MTF; Neither; Neutrois; Non-binary; Other; Pangender; Trans; Trans Female; Trans Male; Trans Man; Trans Person; Trans*Female; Trans*Male; Trans*Man; Trans*Person; Trans*Woman; Transexual; Transexual Female; Transexual Male; Transexual Man; Transexual Person; Transexual Woman; Transgender Female; Transgender Person; Transmasculine; Two-spirit

R.C. Sproul on Protagoras and Humanism

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Protagoras, probably the most influential Sophist in Athens, is frequently described by modern historians as the "father of humanism." His famous maxim, "Homo mensura," declares that "man is the measure of all things," of the existence of things that are and of the nonexistence of things that are not. ¶ From a biblical perspective, of course, the honor of being the first humanist does not belong to Protagoras. Indeed, it is accorded not to a man, but to a serpent whose maxim was "Sicut erat Dei," "You will be like God" (Gen. 3:4).

Jane Davis on a Separate Truth for Each of Us

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The other thing that I have become increasingly aware of is that there is not just a single version of events called the truth. Life is not nearly as simple as that. Each of us brings to the table our own beliefs, backgrounds and experiences and we all have the potential to interpret a single event differently. One person’s experience is a truth of sorts, but it is never the whole story. There is a separate truth for each one of us. The brain is such an incredible organ that if we repeat things often enough, we come to believe them. It can be the use of the phrase, ‘I’m not a good sleeper,’ that creates the insomniac, the repetition of prayers that creates faith. After almost thirty year of working in the legal profession, I have lost confidence in a system that looks for a single set of facts by relying on the evidence of others based on something as elastic as memory, and labels it as truth. The plain fact is that I wouldn’t want to be judged by twelve of my peers, let alone by a higher being. Let’s hope that if there is a God, he takes a greater interest in what is in our hearts than our actions, otherwise I fear we’re all for the high jump.

Stephen King on the Afterlife

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I’m not sure there is an afterlife. OK. If there is one, here’s what I think it is. I think it’s whatever you think you’re going to get. Those suicide bombers, if they really believe that they are going to wind up in heaven with 71 virgins, yeah, that’s probably what they’re going to get in the afterlife. This is sort of predicated on the idea that there’s a part of your mind programmed to create the way that dreams are created what you’ve been expecting to kind of ease you out of this life. Think of it this way. I think of the brain as this great, big, crenelated library with many rooms, billions and billions of books, rooms without number, but at the very end of all those rooms, there’s a little tiny box that says “pull lever in case of emergency,” because that’s the door out, and when you go out, you get pretty much what you expected, because some chemical in your brain is programmed to give you that particular dream at the very end. If you’re expecting [H.P. Lovecraft’s] Yogg Sothoth, there he’ll be, along with the 900 blind fiddlers, or whatever it is.

Barack Obama on Racism and Perspective

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Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias. But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

Os Guinness on the Impossibility of Objectivity

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By the very nature of the problem, no one stands outside the issues and speaks with complete detachment, objectivity, and neutrality. Certainly I do not. None of us speaks from nowhere; that would be impossible. None of us speaks from everywhere; that would be incoherent. All of us speak from somewhere — which is our freedom and responsibility as well as our fate.

Fear of Knowledge

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The idea that science is just one more way of knowing the world and that there are other, radically different, yet equally valid ways, has taken deep root in academia. In Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian tears these relativist theories of knowledge to shreds. He argues forcefully for the intuitive, common-sense view — that the world exists independent of human opinion and that there is a way to arrive at beliefs about the world that are objectively reasonable to anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence, regardless of their social or cultural perspective. This short, lucid, witty book shows that philosophy provides rock-solid support for common sense against the relativists; it is provocative reading throughout the discipline and beyond. ~ Product Description

Cosmopolitanism

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AAppiah, a Princeton philosophy professor, articulates a precise yet flexible ethical manifesto for a world characterized by heretofore unthinkable interconnection but riven by escalating fractiousness. Drawing on his Ghanaian roots and on examples from philosophy and literature, he attempts to steer a course between the extremes of liberal universalism, with its tendency to impose our values on others, and cultural relativism, with its implicit conviction that gulfs in understanding cannot be bridged. Cosmopolitanism, in Appiah’s formulation, balances our “obligations to others” with the "value not just of human life but of particular human lives" — what he calls “universality plus difference.” Appiah remains skeptical of simple maxims for ethical behavior — like the Golden Rule, whose failings as a moral precept he swiftly demonstrates — and argues that cosmopolitanism is the name not "of the solution but of the challenge." ~ The New Yorker

Flip Spagnoli on No Tolerance for Intolerance

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Unlimited tolerance — tolerance even of intolerance — destroys itself, or at least helps those who want to destroy it. A tolerant society disappears if it tolerates certain things for too long. Intolerant people can use tolerance and the institutions of tolerance in order to destroy tolerance. It is unreasonable to demand that a system — in this case a tolerant system — contains the seeds of its own destruction. One cannot reasonably impose fatal contradictions upon a system, so one cannot impose tolerance for intolerance. … Only tolerance and, at most, theoretical intolerance can be tolerated. Tolerating violations of human rights is a logical contradiction, because human rights guarantee tolerance and because tolerance guarantees human rights. If you want to enjoy the benefits of tolerance — for example as a means to protect your own opinions — then you have to respect human rights. Tolerance and human rights go together. You cannot choose one without the other. You cannot violate human rights and expect to be tolerated, no more than you can claim rights and reject tolerance. Rights without tolerance are nonsense, because tolerance protects the use of rights.

Jonah Goldberg on Cafeteria Religion

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I also detest the tendency of Americans, Westerners, or “Moderns” to boast of how they’ve customized their religious views to fit their lifestyles. “I don’t believe in organized religion, but I’m a very spiritual person.” Yuck. It simply strikes me as intellectually offensive to pretend that the engineer of it all goes out of his way to let individual people order off-menu their religious preferences in just such a way so as pretty much everything they do is exactly how God wants it. And, even if that were the case, even if God customizes the heavens, space, and time so as to make every personal indulgence divinely inspired, the trend of people being their own priests is not one I celebrate. I’d hate to sound like I’m lending my voice to that chorus–I’m not. Indeed, my belief that religion is important depends on it being a social institution. If everyone has his own church, each designating himself a personal messiah, we’ve slipped out of the realm of faith and, ultimately, into the arena of the übermensch where whoever has the religion which condones the most barbarity, wins.

Donald W. Shriver, Jr. on Postmodern History

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Post-modernists know many ways to disparage and eliminate claims to truth in all of these dimensions. If history (as assessment of what actually happened) is infinitely malleable at the behest of the powerful, if moral suppositions about what histories are important to recover, are arbitrary, if personal experience has nothing to do with collective acknowledgment of truth, if human suffering is not accessible to moral judgement at the moment or post facto, and if the facts of history cannot be attributed in some tangible way to human agency, then both judicial institutions and truth commissions are philosophically illegitimate. Such illegitimacy would spell the demise of Christian ethics, of course, for the discipline, with Christian theology, has a stake in the truths of history, in vital distinctions between just and unjust suffering, and in the obligations which persons and societies owe to identify, curb, and remedy wrongs suffered by any of our neighbours.

Fiction as a Kind of Philosophy

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In this paper, I defend the importance of narrative to moral philosophy, in particular to moral realism. Moral realism, for the purposes of this essay, is the claim that there are moral truths independent of human beliefs, attitudes, desires and feelings.i Contemporary philosophers typically focus on discursive arguments and exclude narrative. But narrative is considerably more powerful than argument in effecting belief-change. I shall argue that through such belief-change one can attain to moral truth.ii This account is opposed to that of fellow narrativalist, Richard Rorty, who denies moral realism. Since I believe the clash between realists and anti-realists resolves into a clash of intuitions, I don’t propose to offer a convincing argument in favor of moral realism. Instead, like Rorty I will draw a word-picture, which stands in stark contrast to the word-picture that he draws about stories; it is my hope that the reader will find my word-picture more compelling than Rorty’s word-picture. In the final section I will offer some considerations in favor of moral realism.

Jesus Among Other Gods

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In a world with so many religions—why Jesus? In his most important work to date, apologetics scholar and popular speaker Ravi Zacharias shows how the blueprint for life and death itself is found in a true understanding of Jesus. With a simple yet penetrating style, Zacharias uses rich illustrations to celebrate the power of Jesus Christ to transform lives.Jesus Among Other Gods contrasts the truth of Jesus with founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, strengthening believers and compelling them to share their faith with our post-modern world.

Dallas Willard on Constructing Reality

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The “Midas touch” picture of consciousness, as I call it — is the view that to take something as our ‘object’ automatically transforms it in some essential way (possibly even making it ‘mental’). How, exactly, consciousness — or for that matter language, or culture — being what it is, could make a tree or block of ice what it is, or turn something that was not already a tree or block of ice into one, is truly hard to say. We actually know how trees etc. come about, and they are not made by consciousness. One can also safely say that the story about how consciousness supposedly does its transforming and productive work has never been satisfactorily told. The second interpretation plays off of the saying that one cannot escape consciousness — cannot, as it is often said, “step outside of one’s mind.” Certainly, to be conscious of anything one must be conscious. But it does not follow from this that one cannot compare a thought to what it is about and whether it “matches up” or not. Only confusion could make one think it does — a confusion probably based upon the “Midas touch” picture of consciousness. [Editor’s note: Midas, in Greek mythology, had the ability to turn everything he touched into gold.]

That’s Just Your Interpretation

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In our relativistic society, Christians more than ever are bombarded by tough questions about their faith. Author Paul Copan has observed that many of these questions emerge as "anti-truth claims" that are part of today’s skeptical mind-set. Christians defending their faith often hear slogans and questions such as: It’s all relative; Everything is one with the Divine, all else is illusion; The Gospels contradict each other; Why would a good God create hell? This book provides incisive answers to slogans related to truth and reality; theism, pantheism/Eastern religion, and naturalism; and doctrinal issues such as the incarnation and truth of Scripture. Each of the twenty-two chapters provides succinct answers and summary points for countering the arguments. Copan’s book is accessible for all Christians who want to defend the plausibility of Christianity in the marketplace of ideas. It also includes helpful summary sections, additional resources, and additional documentation in the endnotes for review and discussion.

A Critique of Ethical Relativism

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To sum up our discussion to this point, unless we have an independent moral basis for law, it is hard to see why we have any general duty to obey it; and unless we recognize the priority of a universal moral law, we have no firm basis for justifying our acts of civil disobedience against “unjust laws.” Both the validity of law and morally motivated disobedience of unjust laws are annulled in favor of a power struggle.

Richard John Neuhaus on Multiculturalism and Ecumaniacs

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Admittedly, it is not so attractive when the apparent modesty disguises a self-denigration that is almost tantamount to self-hatred, as is sometimes evident in current forms of “multiculturalism.” Among Christians committed to ecumenism there is a type that is aptly described as an ecumaniac. An ecumaniac is defined as someone who loves every church but his own. So it is that multiculturalists are forever discovering superiorities in other cultures, oblivious to the fact that, in the larger human story, Western culture is singular in its eagerness to praise and learn from other cultures. One is never more distinctively Western than when criticizing what is distinctively Western. The same holds for being American. In our multiculturalism we display our superiority by demonstrating our ability to see through what others — mistakenly, we say — admire in our culture. So maybe this new and self-denigrating way of telling the American story is not so modest after all.

Richard Dawkins on Truth

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A little learning is a dangerous thing. This has never struck me as a particularly profound or wise remark, but it comes into its own when that little learning is in philosophy. A scientist who has the temerity to utter the t-word — true — is likely to encounter philosophical heckling that goes something like this: “There is no absolute truth. You are committing an act of personal faith when you claim that the scientific method, including mathematics and logic, is the privileged road to truth. Other cultures might believe that truth is to be found in a rabbit’s entrails or the ravings of a prophet atop a pole. It is only your personal faith in science that leads you to favor your brand of truth.” That strand of half-baked philosophy goes by the name of cultural relativism.

Richard Dawkins on Science

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Is it just our Western scientific bias to be impressed by accurate prediction, to be impressed by the power to sling rockets around Jupiter to reach Saturn, or intercept and repair the Hubble telescope, to be impressed by logic itself? Well, let’s concede the point and think sociologically, even democratically. Suppose we agree, temporarily, to treat scientific truth as just one truth among many, and lay it alongside all the rival contenders: Trobriand truth, Kikuyu truth, Maori truth, Inuit truth, Navajo truth, Yanomamo truth, !Kung San truth, feminist truth, Islamic truth, Hindu truth. The list is endless — and thereby hangs a revealing observation. In theory, people could switch allegiance from any one “truth” to any other if they decided it had greater merit. On what basis might they do so? Why would one change from, say, Kikuyu truth to Navajo truth? Such merit-driven switches are rare — with one crucially important exception: switches to scientific truth from any of the others. Scientific truth is the only member of this endless list that evidentially convinces converts of its superiority. People are loyal to other belief systems because they were brought up that way, and they have never known anything better. When people are lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to vote with their feet, doctors prosper and shamans decline. Even those who do not, or cannot, avail themselves of a scientific education choose to benefit from technology made possible by the scientific education of others.