Friday, September 18, 2009

The Simple "No"

I. There are many things to which I utter a simple "No". I say "No" to murder, and to rape. I say "No" to cowardice and to ignorance.

The relativist cannot in consistency utter a simple "No".

He can say "No for me". He can say "No for us" (though no doubt in the "us" to which the relativist refers, we will find some who say "Yes").

He can say "No for now". But he cannot say "No, not ever, not for anyone".

There is in the mouth of the relativist always a "Perhaps". Even if "No" today, then perhaps "Yes" tomorrow. Even if "No" from me or "No" from us, then perhaps "Yes" for others.

There is no "No" simpliciter for the Relativist.

II. What is that which allows for a "No" with no addendum? What allows for the "No" simpliciter? It cannot be humanity, for that is variable; on that, one cannot plant a stake.

If this world - the human world- is the only world, all "No"s can become "Yes"s. The relativists knows this, of course. Relativism is inconsistent with unshakable conviction. It is a house built on sand. It is a code that is not code, for it is the code which says that all codes can pass away. Relativism is thus moral cowardice. It has made certain that there is always a way of retreat; and it has told us that we can expect retreat at any time.

III. "But, but . . .", I hear the relativist interject. "What kind of irrational dogmatism is this that believes that it and it alone has discovered the truth and will not admit the possibility of change?" My dear friend, in your thirst for justice (and is not relativism a kind of perversion of justice in which not only all men but all opinions are held equal?), you have made a simple logical error. Distinguish, I ask you, between the possibility of error and the possibility that what one holds is false. I will grant you that the possibility of error is inescapable. We are human, all too human; and it is sheer hubris to say that one cannot be mistaken. But that I am possibly in error does not imply that all that I believe is possibly false. Possibility of error is epistemic; possibility of falsity, metaphysical. It seems to me quite clear that certain propositions are true and cannot be false. "Murder is impermissible" is true and must be true. Perhaps I'm wrong about this. Perhaps I've made some mistake. But that is a fact about me and my imperfection. The modal status of the propositions "Murder is impermissible" is quite another matter. It seems to me a necessary proposition, and I will call it thus until such time as anyone casts doubt upon it.

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