12 November 2011

Book Review--Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air

I just finished reading Relativism: Feet Firmly Planted in Mid-Air by Beckwith and Koukl (1998). Written 13 years ago, this book was at the height of post-modern relativism. Although the clay feet of relativism are becoming increasingly evident, it's tendrils continue to influence many people today. Relativism is the idea that truth and morality are relative to the person--in other words, subjective. The basic idea is that whatever feels right to me is what is true and correct, if they acknowledge truthfulness at all. However, relativism cannot live consistently within its own system.

In the center of the book, the authors point out seven fatal flaws of relativism:

  • relativists cannot accuse others of wrongdoing.
  • relativists cannot complain about the problem of evil.
  • relativists cannot place blame or accept praise.
  • relativists cannot make charges of unfairness or injustice.
  • relativists cannot improve their morality.
  • relativists cannot hold meaningful moral discourse. 
  • relativists cannot promote the obligation of tolerance.
The authors rightly point out that if relativism is true, if morality is truly self-governed, the hero of the viewpoint is a sociopath who has no regard for absolute morality or moral oughtness.  As you talk with people who claim this viewpoint, it's flaws are easily revealed by attacking their hot-button issue through a process of "taking the roof off."

All in all it was a good book. Some chapters were better than others, but if you are looking for a book to better understand the problems with relative morality, this is a good place to start. 4 stars.

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