Posted: Feb 23, 2012 12:37 am
by logical bob
Nicko wrote:Even if there is no universal truth, that fact itself would constitute a universal truth.

There's the root of the problem in one sentence. It's also what DrWho is getting at above when he says that relativists exempt themselves from relativism.

Think of a relative truth, one which is not universal, as a truth within a particular context, discourse, frame of reference or language game, according to your preferred terminology. Relativism is then the claim that all statements are to be understood in terms of a specified context, making it little more than common sense. It would only be self-refuting in the way you suggest if that claim itself occurred outside of any context. A statement about statements is still a statement. Relativism is a view within philosophy in the western tradition, understood within and confined to that context.

The denial of universal truth claims is not a universal truth claim any more than atheism is a religion. The strategy in making that argument is to try to make "there is no universal truth" resemble "everything I say is a lie" or "this statement is false", but a statement of relativism is not trivially self-referential in the same way as the latter two. The argument that relativism refutes itself is not unlike scholastic arguments for God in which clever word games are deployed to make it appear that maximally superlative things have to exist.