Relativism

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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34 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    Relativism in the university, as far as I can tell, means the following:

    Your viewpoints need to be deconstructed. My viewpoints already have been, take my word for it… and if your viewpoints align with mine, we can both get to work deconstructing the other guy.Report

  2. Avatar Aaron
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    says:

    The idea that moral issues are often much more complex than some simple “black and white” picture that conservatives like to paint?Report

  3. Avatar Sam M
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    says:

    I think you offer a misleading paraphrase of his claim when you say:

    “specifically charging that this was true of the Rutgers University Philosophy Department”

    But here is what the NYT actually said: “As a philosophy major at Rutgers University, Mr. O’Keefe came to believe that conservative-leaning students were being force-fed a diet of academic liberalism. As he put it at the time, they were “drowned in relativism, concepts of distributive justice and redistribution of wealth.”

    It never says that the philosophy department, specifically, was full of relativists. Or that philosophy majors faced that problem. He says that STUDENTS faced that situation.

    You can imagine a situation in which he likes his department just fine, but dislike the others. Or in which this can mean relativists in other departments.

    Let’s say there is some physics major at harvard who says, “This school is just full of hipster dufuses who don’t know jack about science.” Isn’t it possible that he means OTHER people? The non physics majors?

    He’s still a dunce. But I think this takes an unfair shot at him.Report

  4. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Well to be fair State U Philosophy departments are the soft white underbelly of America through which George Soros, the ghost of Saddam Hussein and Dr. No actually control the country.Report

  5. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    A better way to make fun of O’keefe is to note the he studied philosophy but didn’t learn that taking ones opponents beliefs to ridiculous extremes is evidence of a logical fallacy, not being brilliant.

    “The group’s other main tactic, which Mr. O’Keefe has said was inspired by “Rules for Radicals,” Mr. Alinsky’s manifesto for left-wing organizing, was to caricature liberal political and social values by carrying them to outlandish extremes.”Report

  6. Avatar Kirk
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    says:

    I assume by “relativism,” O’Keefe meant critical thinking… an appalling force opposed by all true conservatives.Report

  7. Avatar mike farmer
    Ignored
    says:

    I think what makes conservatives mad is the contributional equivalency drawn between Rosie O’Donnell and John Stuart Mill.Report

  8. Avatar JosephFM
    Ignored
    says:

    I just think it’s totally absurd how they pseudo-conservative College Republican bullies decry both relativism and political correctness in the same breath. Political correctness implies moral absolutes.

    As for this particular bunch, I love how not only are the mimicking the worst excesses of the Sixties New Left, as I noted last week before this story even happened, but they’re doing it totally half-assed.Report

  9. Avatar Rufus
    Ignored
    says:

    This same question occurred to me recently. I’ve been taking courses for the last decade, and certainly known plenty of academics, but I don’t know if I’ve heard anyone describe themselves as a relativist or espouse anything I’d describe as relativism. At times, there is a certain timidity when it comes to thinking critically about the beliefs/traditions of other cultures. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard that directly explained by relativist arguments though. More like, “I don’t know if I’m qualified to judge”; and not like, “It isn’t possible to judge”.Report

  10. Avatar Alex Knapp
    Ignored
    says:

    Relativism in the university, as far as I can tell, means the following:

    Your viewpoints need to be deconstructed. My viewpoints already have been, take my word for it… and if your viewpoints align with mine, we can both get to work deconstructing the other guy.

    (citation needed)

    Additionally, considering that conservatives on the Bretibart-O’Keefe axis wholeheartedly embrace the whole “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” and advocate violating the rule of law in the name of “safety”, I think that for them to complain about “relativism” is deserving of a hearty guffaw.Report

  11. Avatar Trumwill
    Ignored
    says:

    This raises the question: what do conservatives mean when they bash “relativism” in the university?

    The non-charitable explanation is pretty much what Kirk says. Complicated, critical thinking that does not adhere to conservative assumptions is “relativism”. A more charitable explanation is that relativism is the belief that truth and morality and are subjective and those that believe otherwise are evil.

    Jayhawk illustrates a common conservative frustration with “relativists” which is the belief that all things are infinity complex except for those things that the speaker feels passionate about. So while morality is subjective and relative, torture is 100% wrong in any and every possible circumstance.

    The inverse is also true, as a couple of commenters have pointers out. Conservative belief in absolute and objective morality suddenly becomes subjective when they feel strongly about something that is on the face of it of questionable morality. So there is right and there is wrong, but taking human life when it comes to convicted murderers is a complicated issue where there are competing ethical values and real-world consequences to consider.Report

  12. Avatar Kevin Carson
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s funny how the same people who get so worked up about “moral relativism” also object to what they call “moral equivalence,” which boils down to judging the U.S. by the same standard as everyone else. Oh, and they’re also real fond of “American exceptionaiism.”Report

  13. Avatar Michael Drew
    Ignored
    says:

    {Wins thread}Report

  14. Avatar Michael Drew
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    says:

    {Loses thread}Report

  15. Avatar mike farmer
    Ignored
    says:

    I know. Conservatives are soooo whack. If they didn’t all think alike they could be like non-judgemental like us. When your standard of human excellence is Dick Cheney, what can you expect? The point is — who are we to judge? American exceptionalism is based on an arbitrary standard which is unfair to inferior countries — duh.Report

  16. Avatar Bob
    Ignored
    says:

    Our young hero seems disposed to retreat to the comfort of relativism himself. He offers, “On reflection, I could have used a different approach to this investigation, particularly given the sensitivities that people understandably have about security in a federal building.”

    http://content.usatoday.com/communities/onpolitics/post/2010/01/okeefe-i-could-have-used-a-different-approach/1Report

  17. Avatar Bob Cheeks
    Ignored
    says:

    There’s a day of judgment coming for you God-hating, commie, statist, relativist, hedonistic liburls …and while we’re at it, How’s that Obama thing working out for you?Report

    • Avatar North in reply to Bob Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      Well heck, if that means that the original mover is going to descend from the heavens in some cosmic prius to give us a piece of his mind that sounds to me like a good thing. That would settle all the arguments about whether he exists or not quite definitively. Plus then his assembled created would be able to give him a piece of their mind back. Also what’s up with his media choice for the user manual? I mean a compilation of a bunch of two thousand year old books wadded together by a bunch of semiliterate sexist old men? Worse yet we seem to have several dozen different versions of the user manual and the faithful are inventing more every day. Couldn’t the Original Mover have sent a text or carved the user manual out concisely on, say, the face of the moon for all to see?

      Also he left us the forms for the mail-in rebate but without the receipt they aren’t worth a damn. Five percent of the purchase price is just chump change to God but to us hedonists that’s a lot of partying.Report

    • Avatar Alex Knapp in reply to Bob Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      While I do look forward to the final victory of Ahura Mazda over Ahriman, it’s important to remember that the servants of Ahura Mazda value wisdom and tolerance. Conservatism, with its emphasis on rigid social structures, tends to support nasu, or the chaos of decay that ends up serving the darkness.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks
      Ignored
      says:

      This is why I can’t become a Mason.

      I had a friend who told me I should investigate them more because he thought that I would appreciate who they are and what they do. We talked a bit and it came out that not only was I an atheist but that I did not believe in an afterlife.

      He shrugged and then told me “yeah, I guess you’re not eligible to be a mason.”

      All that to say: as comforting as I find the idea of my opponents standing in front of God with hangdog looks on their faces while he yells at them about how they needed to be a lot more libertarian and needed to otherwise Trust in Him and His plan for everybody (which entails allowing them to make their own decisions), it strikes me as a variant of “one day, I’ll show you all!”

      Which I’ve been told that I can’t go back to the Waffle House if I keep yelling that.Report

  18. Avatar Kyle R. Cupp
    Ignored
    says:

    Relativism is that which differs from my formulation of absolute truth.Report

  19. Avatar Kyle R. Cupp
    Ignored
    says:

    I have a book on my shelf about the horrors of relativism and what it means for society. Know how many concrete examples of relativism it offers? Zero. Not a single relativist is quoted. I have noticed the same lack of citation in many an article about relativism. Of course, the philosophy exists (see: Dick Cheney’s defense of safety by any means necessary), but I’ve come to the conclusion that much of what is labeled relativism isn’t really relativistic.Report

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