Relativism and the Straw Man

It’s time to break from my dense writing and make a quick note.   It seems that relativism is being posted up as a straw man everywhere I turn.  Rather than let those who’ve built it knock it down, I am going to handle it myself.  We’re a long way from Kansas, Toto.





Relativism serves literally thousands of purposes. At its root, the only statement the relativist position expresses is that a truth must be measured against something empirical.

Simply stated, it is a place holder for unknown variables – or, missing information.

People are often confused about why this conceptual identity is useful. It helps us work around unknowns. And, well, until every truth can be objectively accounted for in its utmost finality, we cannot assume absolutes.


This is the ironic part. Due to the idea that absolute reality is unknown, any finding may hold dependent relationships with unsubstantiated, or undefined, parameters. Therefore, it is subject to change without warrant – making it relative in principle.

Relativism mobilizes a framework of ideas (like mathematics, for instance). That is its use, and a noble use indeed.

Causal relationships can be estimated and acted on; however, they must always be noted as relative in principle. Otherwise, societies would be cursing epileptic demons and sailing their ships along coastal lines  in order to be certain they’re not drifting off the edge of a flat earth.


If this straw man must die – let him be buried next to teh “LULZ”

Yes…I’m doing it for them.


Now that I have addressed the misconception, I still see the source of the problem.  Or, a source, rather…

I’m still not sure why people are rushing in so daringly to dismiss relative modalities.  They seem to be rushing in without thought.

It could be fear.  I understand that the idea may be seen as a potential threat to people attempting to understand reality.  People like to be certain, but I assure you that absolutism stands on the shifting sands of relativity.

Be content knowing that the only true constant is change.  There, you can be certain of something.  lol



Filed under cultural relativism, non fiction, Philosophy, relativity, thinking

48 responses to “Relativism and the Straw Man

  1. And I definitely need to pimp this blog (this is where the cartoons came from):

    The author tried, but left fields of straw men kicked over. It’s just rude. lol.

  2. Maybe what you’re really trying to say is that we should be including event ontology in our discussions of Relativism.

    To study the objective we must include our own decision making process and decide whether our choices are Deterministic or Free first.

    another 2 cents worth! :))

  3. True enough, Robert. We do not exist independently, and thus, deterministic factors consistently hint from the unknown.

    Sagan nailed the human struggle in the very title of his book – “The Demon Haunted World and Science as a Candle in the Dark”

    If was forced to choose, I would be a realist.

    Realism does not deny a truth, rather it questions it upon realization of the cumbersome juggle at play with interpretation and reality. Everyone has to accept realism when looking at the governing schema.

    I would venture to say that, at its core, the scientific method is realistic in principle.

    • //I would venture to say that, at its core, the scientific method is realistic in principle.//

      True, but it seems to be the gold standard for declarations of ‘truth’, even though the process can be applied for appropriate applications but is only a proof of concept for others applications.

      In my opinion, it seems that the “scientific method” has become cliche’ when used as a benchmark by those who don’t fully comprehend what it is and what it isn’t.

      I guess in the same way statistical correlations can be extremely useful in directing someone to finding more certainty…sheesh, I can’t put what’s in my head in text form
      (language can be so cumbersome and sometimes a hindrance). *it could be that I’m building a siege wall to kill this migraine that’s coming on*

  4. have you studied any type of logic or mathematics ?

    i believe mathematical truth is objective by its very nature
    ex.(1+1=2) is true for everyone ….
    …anyone, anything, at anytime.

    i am well aware of the problem of
    methods of discovery vs. methods of demonstration

    is mathematics invented … or is it discovered…

    the question is still very much open

    and until open questions like that one as well as other open problems in linguistics, logic, and neuroscience are solved

    the question of the validity of moral /ethical relativism is far from closed

    for ex.

    Is there a universal definition of word?
    Is there a universal definition of sentence?

    Consciousness: What is the neuronal basis of subjective experience, cognition, wakefulness, alertness, arousal and attention? How is the “hard problem of consciousness” solved? What is its function?

    Perception: How does the brain transfer sensory information into coherent, private percepts? What are the rules by which perception is organized? What are the features/objects that constitute our perceptual experience of internal and external events? How are the senses integrated? What is the relationship between subjective experience and the physical world

    Free will, particularly the Neuroscience of free will

    and my favorite…

    The continuum hypothesis has been proven independent of the ZF axioms of set theory, so according to that system, the proposition can neither be proven true nor proven false. A formalist would therefore say that the continuum hypothesis is neither true nor false, unless you further refine the context of the question. A platonist, however, would assert that there either does or does not exist a transfinite set with a cardinality less than the continuum but greater than any countable set. So, regardless of whether it has been proven unprovable, the platonist would argue that an answer nonetheless does exist.

    i believe these and other problems tie in to the question of the validity of moral/ethical relativism

    • Joshua, Mathematics has a similar problem – it is based upon the assumption that “1” and “0” [the null set] exist.

      The Null Set is someone of a problem. How can it exist and yet contain or be nothing.

      Yet without these two assumptions mathematics falls apart.


      • correction: “The Null Set is someone of a problem” should read as “The Null Set is somewhat of a problem”

        • Well, it was also someone’s problem once, Rob. And, whaddya know? Today it was temporarily ours.


          So, you were right on in both respects. Thanks for the convo!

          I like it when a Christian can avoid getting emotional and contribute – actually contribute – to the conversation.

          Thank you, sir.

      • “The Null Set is someone of a problem. How can it exist and yet contain or be nothing.”

        lol….true enough. Time for the advil. Have you ever asked yourself what the universe is expanding into?

        I call it, simply, “potential”

        Why does a dog lick its penis? lol

        Because it can…

        • Dude, you had to for the canine habits!! And cat tootsie rolls tooo….

          Yeah, the “where is the Universe expanding into” is a real mind bender. Even with the remote sensing methods we have now, much of cosmology is “highly probably” but not certain.

          My closest friend and I were discussing the concept of the null set and, well, it’s a really fundamental concept but it is also a necessary assumption. The introduction of the null set or zero has with the baggage of “something must exist for nothing to exist”, which is moot because we contemplate zero and we are something so postulating…well anyway.

          And then there are the properties of zero and the null set.
          It was decided that any value divided by zero was infinity and any number multiplied by zero was zero or nothing or the null set.

          Then there is one. It’s pretty weird stuff to me on the basic conceptual level BUT I must keep in mind that they are just tools for the rest of mathematics to build upon…then there’s those nasty irrational numbers…and then imaginary numbers.

          I believe math was the cause of opium use in the Asian continent!!!

    • “have you studied any type of logic or mathematics ?”

      Take a guess.

      “i believe mathematical truth is objective by its very nature
      ex.(1+1=2) is true for everyone ….
      …anyone, anything, at anytime.”

      It is true for anyone who is aware of it. However, its limitations are the same as those of its designer.

      Mathematics is a language, a mental technology. Let’s call it a machine.

      Now – simply because we have designed a wheel does not imply that it will roll over all surfaces. As you know, the measure of the surface it travels correlates directly to its ability to accomplish the feat.

      I’m using a wheel because I’ve seen enough complexity to desire simplicity. The wheel is the most basic machine I can think of. It requires an operator – as any machine.

      Thus, the ability of the operator becomes an intrinsic variable in the role of the machine’s ability to do work.

      Mathematics operates under parallel circumstances. Any set of working knowledge is dependent upon both its design and its operator.

      In conclusion, we can only see as far as we think. We can only travel to places we know how to travel to. Any knowledge obtained by the human species is directly proportional to our ability to obtain it.

      And btw, the 1+1 hypothesis works fine until the reference points are warped in order to carry out a function. For example, the value of one changes when it is stretch on a parabolic plane.

      I hope this answers the question you began with.


      • there are several senses in which we can say that something is objective relative to a subject’s brain:

        (1) The existence and properties of an external physical object out of a brain are objective relative to the mental processes in the brain. In contrast, the existence and structures of mental representations in the brain are not.

        (2) Whether or not a realistic thought in a brain truthfully represents external physical states of affairs is partially objective, since it is a naturalized correspondence relation with an objective component. The existence of such a naturalized correspondence relation for a realistic thought in a brain is objective, although the existence of the thought is not objective relative to the brain.

        (3) Given a scheme of translation, whether or not a mathematical thought is translated into a true realistic thought directly representing physical states of affairs is also objective, since truth of the latter is an objective matter in the sense (2) above. However, we must remember that this is relative to a given scheme of translation, and there could be many schemes of translations for a mathematical thought (or a collection of mathematical thoughts in a mathematical theory), and different abstract thoughts can be translated into the same realistic thought by different translation schemes.

        (4) Two concepts as mental particulars in two persons’ brains can have similar internal structures and functions. In that case, we may say that they are ‘the same concept’. Objectivity here means that different people can share ‘the same concept’ in some sense. This also includes the cases where the concept is a rule and then it becomes the issue of how two people can follow ‘the same rule’ and the issue of objectivity of correctness in following a rule.

        (5) A sense of objectivity can also come from the awareness that we are constrained in creating and manipulating mathematical concepts in brains, given some purpose for doing so. For instance, if the purpose is to be able to truthfully represent space-time given some translation scheme or just for any possible translation schemes, then one is highly constrained in creating and manipulating geometrical concepts, because of the objectivity in (3) above. These constraints also include the fact that, to serve our purpose, we have to follow some logical inference rules in manipulating mathematical thoughts in brains.

        Finally, (6) our innate cognitive architectures may constrain how we can possibly create and manipulate our mental representations. For instance, we are not able to create a perceptual image in which something is both round and square, and we are not able to imagine directly and clearly microscopic particles with quantum effects. Objectivity here means that we are innately constrained in some way in our fundamental capabilities in creating and manipulating mental representations, or in imagining things.

        These are several aspects of objectivity. Mathematics is not objective in the sense (1) and (2), since there are no external mathematical entities, and mathematical thoughts are not mean to represent external states of affairs directly. Realists’ concern that anti-realism may annihilate objectivity in mathematics is about objectivity in the sense (1) and (2). However, there is objectivity in the sense (3) for mathematical practices, in particular, in mathematical applications. Similarly, there is objectivity in the senses (4), (5), and (6).

        Objectivity in (6) actually concerns with the apriority and necessity of logic and arithmetic

        • that was from
          Naturalism and Objectivity in Mathematics†

          FENG YE*

          • I need to hit this when I have more time…

            • ive also found this

              “Some modern theories in the philosophy of mathematics deny the existence of foundations in the original sense. Some theories tend to focus on mathematical practice, and aim to describe and analyze the actual working of mathematicians as a social group. Others try to create a cognitive science of mathematics, focusing on human cognition as the origin of the reliability of mathematics when applied to the real world. These theories would propose to find foundations only in human thought, not in any objective outside construct. The matter remains controversial.”

              • Joshua, (if I’ve interpreted your post correctly) there is a difference between theoretical mathematics and applied mathematics.

                The adjustment in applied math would constitute the epsilon factor and constant factors, especially in engineering.

                I had 3 semesters of Calculus in my Engineering curriculum and when applying the equations to the real world everything changes.
                It wasn’t until my aerospace material science class that this was truly explained as we conducted experiments to determine the limits of physical materials.

                In our Statics and Dynamics class we used the “cloud-potato” shape as a generalized material with which to apply equations for determining forces, moments of interia, etc. but still it was a paper-chase until you handled real material.

                • i think the point im trying to make is since
                  you can “determine the limits of physical materials”

                  physical objects and the relationships between them are best described by using mathematics and logic

                  this to me shows that the relationships exist , and they exist independently of our minds

                  i have alot of work to do
                  and this discussion has lead to 2 sleepless nights reaching

                  im starting to think that in order to prove something like moral relativism we must first prove the unobjectiveness of mathematics
                  and that to me seems impossible … but i must let the research take me where is must then i will make my final answer … if you have any papers or articles you think might help plz let me know

          • Thanks for the contribution, Josh. I like this material!

  5. LOL

    {}= THE NULL SET


    {} IS A SET.

    |A,b,C|= 3
    {1,2,3,4…}= INFINITY

    GET IT ?

    • Easy, tiger. lol

      To play devil’s advocate – It is a problem considering that it leads to infinite regression.

      Infinity is a problem since it cannot be explained. It may hold the meaning of “null” for some, but I would argue that anything humans decide to name was once worthy of their attention.

      Buut, I don’t want to travel to far down that road. I know where it goes. lol

    |{}|= 0


    |{1,2,3,4…}|= INFINITY

  7. infinity to a mathematician, to say it simply “means dose not stop”

    there are different sizes of infinity

    ex . {1,2,3…}<{all real numbers}
    and yes this lead to the open problem of the
    continuum hypothesis

    down the rabbit whole we go …

    • Yeah, unfortunately, infinity is part of my problem set. lol.

      “there are different sizes of infinity”

      The riddle of time illustrates this well. Depending on countless potentialities/definitions/parameters…etc., the measure only ever finds definition through similar means demonstrated in my wheel illustration.

      Thanks for coming over, Josh. I sincerely appreciate the conversation. I enjoy propositional logic.

      I rarely have a sparring partner. I get tired of shadow boxing.

      • Different sizes of infinity is truly a brain breaker. Bounded on one end but not the other is an example of infinity.

        But mathematics is a language of relationships. In the case of ” |{}|= 0 “, agreement on the syntax and symbolism is still required and, hence, a fundamental assumption.

        One of the problems I see in discussions, regardless of the topic, is all parties being on the same page and agreed on the same meanings.

        Let’s take the case of something like ‘color’. Either of us all may see blue in our minds differently, but there are metrics that we can agree on to define blue – measurable wavelengths.

        So when someone mentions “Relativism”, the meaning may be so different between the parties in the discussion that the true dialogue of one to another is completely skew to the meaning in the other persons mind…and nobody even knows it.

        As a follower of Jesus the concept of “absolutes” in the Christian community is, in my opinion, extremely misunderstood and therefore is propogated all warped up. The ‘spirit of the law’ vs. ‘the letter of the law’ – legalism.

        The language of relationships amongst mankind is not even close to being agreed upon by all parties. Sometimes people misunderstand and rather than seek to reach equilibrium, go on the attack and even kill a relationship (I think you know to whom I am referring, Cat). A painful end due to a misjudgment.

        We’ve dialogued enough to where I have a good concept of what you mean when you say “relativism”.

        I know I’m straying off topic a bit, but I think it’s important to understand this concept first, or at least be aware of it, and the clumsiness it can bring to the table.

        • Oh man, I can’t think anymore…migraine meds kicking in and the old jellied nerve sack is misfiring.

          Back later….and it’s such a nice break to have a good and civil dialogue with all here! :)
          The Orcs of MySpace sucked all the air out of my lungs which is why I abandoned the R&P stuff there.

          Trolls breeding like rabbits everywhere there.

          Blessings and peace,

        • agreement on syntax and notaiton

          dose not matter the way it dose in other types of writings

          well written mathematical papers are logically self consistent
          all syntax and notation is made to follow the exact definitions that the mathematician has put forth .

          the only undefined part of the paper are the axioms which must be accepted as true with out proof


          if two lines meet ,then two lines always meet at exactly one point .

          can not be proven but must be excepted as primary .

          • WhERE is ur dog, nao?! LoL

            “if two lines meet ,then two lines always meet at exactly one point .

            can not be proven but must be excepted as primary .”

            Now, it’s time I melt your brain –

            What if the the point is either infinitely irreducible, thus, perhaps only existing at the time the lines crossed?

            Another idea that challenges this is based on the expansion of the universe. What will happen to this point in time?

            It seems that the very goal of understanding it though finite means challenges its growth as well…


            • **mental note***

              Need to explain this paradox in a chapter… Perhaps a chapter of its own.

            • in projective geometry

              parallel lines meet at the point at infinity

              and just because a set contains infinitely irreducible elements or member’s
              is not an argument against its existence…
              just a condition of it.

              “Another idea that challenges this is based on the expansion of the universe. What will happen to this point in time? ??

              i have no idea that seems to be a question for a physicist…

        • You’re playing with fire, Rob. It sounds like you wish to incorporate psychologism into your schema here. Laughingly, it also reminds me of the light drawing in Carol Anne in the movie “Poltergeist”


          I’ve never witnessed such a messy idea that does not ever find solution, nor does it offer much explanatory power. NOR – is it a moot point. It’s always at play within the psyche – thus, extending to reality in some form or another…

          I believe you’ve encountered another null hypothesis.

          Ask me about incompatible interceptions…

    • Side note – big Tool fan here. I don’t know if you like them but they draw from the spectrum of science to build their music. Best band on earth.

      This song is based on the Fibonacci sequence:

      It is probably the most progressive song I have ever heard.

      If you’re not familiar, you’ll want to check them out…

  8. i like the way you think cat

    hit up my wall from time to time

    ill make sure to check the blog on a regular bases and comment where i can :-)

    • I hope to get this rolling. I’ve been promoting as much as time and work allow, but launching a site requires serious work.

      I would wager that you’ll find discussion here that you’ll dig on.

      The more like minds that come to play – the more room for evolving thought, imo.

      I used to have good interactions on myspace until it drowned in trolls.

      There are still a few minds over there. Honestly, Word Press was exactly what I wanted. It’s probably the best option for us writers…

      You should migrate…it’s easy.

      • im not a writer (at least i don’t think i am…)
        i study math, mostly because i love it
        i guess you can call me a mathematician in training.

        • Propositional logic is a wise choice to master. I like working with clear terms, myself.

          Are you teaching yourself?

          Too bad you don’t live nearby. I have a calculus textbook that I don’t need anymore. It covers an entire year of instruction.

          What is your current level of proficiency?

          • yea im teaching myself

            and having college give me “proper instruction ”

            working on with alots of books

            Intro Abstract Algebra
            c 1997-8, Paul Garrett,

            General Topology
            Jesper M. Mller
            Matematisk Institut, Universitetsparken 5, DK{2100 Kbenhavn

            The Zakon Series on Mathematical Analysis
            Basic Concepts of Mathematics
            Mathematical Analysis I
            Mathematical Analysis II

            An Introduction to Proofs and the Mathematical Vernacular 1
            Martin V. Day
            Department of Mathematics
            Virginia Tech

            Project Gutenberg’s Introduction to Infinitesimal Analysis
            by Oswald Veblen and N. J. Lennes

            Linear and Multilinear Algebra
            Volume 1
            Ray M. Bowen

            to name just a few

            belive me ther are lots more …
            but it will take forever to copy paste for the pdfs on my hd

            and i honestly have no idea how “good i am or how much i know”

            i just know what i know and keep building on it …

  9. Magdalin

    I think you explained this one quite nicely! :)

  10. Charlie Z

    Very well said, Catalyst!

    You sir, always continue to push the deep boundary of all depth.

    I am always honored to be by your side and learn from you.

    Ps. I got my new (Note) posted up. When you get a chance read it please.

    also, I would like for you to promote it if that is possible. Say, can you send me a link to how you post this blogs of yours up. I want to post my blogs up here too.

    ~Charlie Z

  11. I will send you info, Charlie. But, it’s as simple as signing up with Word Press. They have blogs on how to get started.

    Try this:

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