Saturday, January 08, 2005

A Dharma Dropping From the Big Ho

Kevin Kim at his X-rated site transmits, and appears to endorse, the following nugget of wisdom:

"The relativity of beliefs does not mean their relativism."

That sounds profound, but what does it mean? Is it not positively Lonerganian in its impenetrability?

First of all, relativism is a doctrine, or more precisely, a doctrine-schema, since there are many versions of relativism. As such, it makes no sense to say or imply that relativism is a property of beliefs. Relativity is a property of beliefs in this sense: what is believed varies from person to person, time to time, place to place, class to class, conceptual scheme to conceptual scheme, and so on. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that water is an element; Dalton believed that it was a compound of hydrogen and oxygen in the proportion HO; we believe that it is a compound in the proportion H2O.

So we should all agree: beliefs are relative to believers and their situations, whether spatial, temporal, etc. Of course, it does not follow that truths are relative.

But what could the relativism of beliefs be?