Absolute Truth and the Death of Turpitude by Cedar Sanderson
Riots, looting, shootings in the street. Get woke, go broke, believe all women except that one, and that one… You’re only black if I say you are…
Where did all of this violence, hatred, and sheer greasiness come from?
The death of truth and morality. When philosophers replaced the concepts of absolute truths with the idea that everything is relative, and it’s all what feels good, man! When those who did not fully understand relative truth began to use it as a justification for destroying the foundations that upheld the concept of turpitude, civilization as we knew it began to totter.
John Macfarlane in his paper, Making Sense of Relative Truth, wrote:
“Relativists often try to meet this challenge by giving a definition of truth that makes its relativity plain. If truth is idealized justification, then it might reasonably be thought to be assessor-relative, since ideal reasoners with different starting beliefs or prior probabilities might take the same ideal body of evidence to support different conclusions. Similarly, if truth is defined pragmatically, as what is good to believe, then it might also be assessor-relative, insofar as different things are good for making sense of relative truth different assessors to believe. But although these coherentist and pragmatic definitions of truth capture the ‘relative’ part of ‘relative truth’, I do not believe they capture the ‘truth’ part.”
He goes on in this talk to the Aristotelian Society to discuss the methods of ascertaining the relativity of an asserted truth, and comes up with a very useful ‘commitment to truth.’
“Here are three things that might be thought to constitute the ‘commitment to truth’ one undertakes in making an assertion:
(Withdraw) Commitment to withdraw the assertion if and when it is shown to have been untrue.
(Justify) Commitment to justify the assertion (provide grounds for its truth) if and when it is appropriately challenged.
(Responsibility) Commitment to be held responsible if someone else acts on or reasons from what is asserted, and it proves to have been untrue.
Everyone should be able to agree that assertoric commitment includes at least (W). Imagine someone saying: ‘I concede that what I asserted wasn’t true, but I stand by what I said anyway.’ We would have a very difficult time taking such a person seriously as an asserter. If she continued to manifest this kind of indifference to established truth, we would stop regarding the noises coming out of her mouth as assertions. We might continue to regard them as expressions of beliefs and other attitudes (just as we might regard a dog’s whining as an expression of a desire for food). We might even find them useful sources of information. But we would not regard them as commitments to truth, and hence not as assertions.”
He concludes, finally, that “the weakest form of relativism about truth would seem to be true.” So, looking at MacFarlane’s commitments, we can judge just how weak relativism is, against absolutes.
Commitment to withdraw an assertion in the fact it is untrue: fact-driven reality. If the statement is made ‘the sky is green’ and it is backed by evidence, or data, then the statement need not be withdrawn. The statement ‘the sky is blue’ is indeed a relative truth provable only under clear, daytime conditions. Green skies ahead of a tornado also exist.
However, to come back to turpitude… the statement that riots are necessary to effect change is a truth relative to what? That it is demonstrably true, as they have caused change; the statement was ambiguous in that the change was not desirable to anyone who was not enriched by their own looting.
A commitment to justify the assertion if and when it is challenged. If you state ‘businesses destroyed by looting and riots can simply claim insurance’ then you must give grounds for the factuality of that statement as it is demonstrably untrue in absolute terms. And then you must honor the first commitment, to withdraw that assertion. If you state that the President called soldiers ‘losers’ and you expect this to be accepted as veracity, you must be able to produce evidence of your assertion.
Finally, a commitment to be held responsible if someone else acts on what is asserted, and it proves to have been untrue. For a hundred years, it was asserted that forest fires were bad (demonstrably true according to those who live in their path) and everything possible must be done to stop them. In tandem, logging was decreed to be bad because it disrupted the environment and the wildlife through removal of those trees the forest fires also threatened. Good for the woods and wilderness, yes?
As a result of those twinned assertions, wildfires are raging on the west coast of North America. Not only will they kill people, animals, and destroy property. They will also kill the forests the assertions were meant to save. It has been shown (an absolute truth) that proper forest management through controlled burns and logging saves the trees that are killed when an out-of-control unnatural fire burns so hotly as to destroy all life. Even trees that would survive a more controlled, routine burn as they did for long before the environmentalists came along to ‘save the trees.’ However, far from being held responsible for their relativist and untrue assertions, the ‘truth’ being espoused now is that controlled burns are bad (as are the wildfires they cannot control) as they release carbon into the atmosphere and provoke climatic change. Which means the wildfires that are so devastating will continue, and human lives will be lost while forests die.
The crimes collected under the legal term ‘moral turpitude’ have been defined as “acts of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties with a man owes to his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”
Leaving aside the ‘squishiness’ of such a broad and sweeping definition, you can see how relativism would be the downfall of turpitude. So what specific crimes are we talking about here? Including, but not limited to: fraud, arson, blackmail, burglary, embezzlement, extortions, malicious destruction of property, fencing stolen goods, bribery of gov’t officials, perjury, counterfeiting, tax evasion with intent, harboring a fugitive, abandonment of a child, assault, bigamy (see comment on adultery below), grow indecency, kidnapping, lewdness… there are more. But you get the drift.
What is notable that we are seeing both in the recent past, and current societal drift (as portrayed by mass media) movement toward decriminalizing, and normalizing, moral turpitude. Adultery, as I noted above, used to be in that list, but has already been legalized and is seen as so normal as to barely cause comment. Movement toward legalizing bigamy (polyamory), incest, and contributing to delinquency of a minor (sexual) is very much in evidence. The attitude toward looters in the current unrest (see burglary, theft, and assault) is one of positive sympathy in the news. Nothing about that societal duty which a man owes to his fellow man comes up. Not even when minority business owners are the victims of ostensibly persecution-based looting.
The social contract, the one once based on the relative truth of “love one another as you love yourself” is being fed into the shredder. The loss of the concept of an absolute truth: “This statement is always true” was only the beginning. Relativism has its place. The statement ‘this is beautiful’ is relative. On the other hand, stating ‘This (riot, fire, logging) is harmful’ may not be relative, and once the assertion is made, if attacked, grounds can be found to justify the true statement. However, if the argument for truth is not allowed, if the assertion is made that all truths are relative, and therefore nothing can be absolute, then we move to the place where duty to fellow men and responsibility to the truth of your assertion can be abdicated. This ground is where we stand with it can be said with a straight face ‘my feelings trump your facts’ and ‘children can consent.’
All manner of evils spring up from what relative truth taught wrongly has sown in this ground.