Speech Title: “Relativism: Fertile Ground for Unreason”
Summary of Speech:
In this speech, I will aspire to persuade my audience of the dangerous ideas of a philosophical theory known as relativism. It is logically incoherent, it leads to moral uncertainty, and it is ultimately impractical.
General Purpose: To persuade
Specific Purpose: To persuade my audience of the inconsistencies of relativism.
“There are no absolute truths,” and “that’s true for you, but not for me.” How many of us have heard these before? These statements describe a philosophical term known as relativism, by definition, it means: “A theory, especially in ethics or aesthetics, that conceptions of truth and moral values are not absolute but are relative to the persons or groups holding them.”1 The Sophist in the 5th century are known to have been founding fathers of relativism; their opponents included Plato and Socrates. Today, it flows violently in the bloodstream of society. By relativism, I do not mean that there is no sense in which truth can be relative. For instance, the statement, “the fee for this class is expensive,” can have variants in truths depending on one’s social status. This class may be very expensive for someone who is poor and this class may be very inexpensive for someone who is wealthy. This type of relativism I do not disagree with. These are subjective. What I am opposed to is the idea that conflicting views can be equally valid. Relativism is a thoughtless dogma that needs to be reconsidered. I will attempt to refute relativism in three points: it is logically incoherent, it leads to moral indifference, and it is ultimately impractical.
Source: "relativism." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
I. Point/Argument 1
a. Relativism is logically incoherent; therefore it is not a credible worldview.
b. The statement “All truth is relative,” is an objective claim, so we must conclude that relativism is false. It is self-defeating.
Source: Taylor, Justin G. “The Death of Truth in Our Campus?” 29 Jan. 2008
II. Point/Argument 2
a. Relativism leads us to moral indifference.
b. If there are no absolute moral laws, than all criminal acts are just as valid as acts of justice. All ethical affirmations would be justifiable.
Source: Koukl, Gregory. “Relativism Self-Destructs.” 1993. 29 Jan. 2008
III. Point/Argument 3
a. People may affirm relativism to be true, but no one lives this way; it is impractical.
b. Our own class can never be conducted in this manner. Imagine if Mr. Morgan graded our tests in this manner. He might say something like: “This student’s answer seems to be completely different from my answer, but let me give them the credit anyway because it’s true for them.” This in, my opinion, is chaos.
a. There are many objections to what I have been presenting, but one that I want to particularly address is the objection that I am being intolerant when I hold to absolute truths.
b. Does anyone see any inconsistency with this objection? Precisely that this very objection assumes that there are absolute truths!
Relativism is false because it is logically incoherent, it leads to moral indifference, and it is impractical.
Questions for Audience:
Why is relativism incoherent?
What are the implications of relativism in our lives, if it is to be believed?
"Relativism." The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
Taylor, Justin G. “The Death of Truth in Our Campus?” 29 Jan. 2008
Koukl, Gregory. “Relativism Self-Destructs.” 1993. 29 Jan. 2008