Pragmatism, relativism and a defence of pluralism


In this century, the most applied “philosophical current” is relativism. This concept underlines that all the opinions can be hold as equally true, as every person can interpret a situation, idea, and behaviour in a different way. It is to say, that truth does not exist, and therefore the subjective interpretation of each individual is correct.

As far as I am concerned, relativism is an incoherent interpretation of reality, and is contributing to moral, ethic, political and social conflict. If we take this definition to the extreme, and we suppose that a person is suffering from colour-blindness, we can accept that she or he does not have a sickness, as everyone is free to interpret the colours as she or he sees them, depending on their vision.

 This example clearly illustrates that is impossible to live in a society which agrees that everyone is free to interpret and have its own idea about reality, and all those opinions are regarded as truthful. Understanding each other would never be possible and we would be reign by the chaos. Relativism argues that all behaviours are defensible, as opinions depend on the culture, and we cannot interfere when we talk about cultural topics.

  What happens if a culture does not respect universal rights? Why do we even call them universal if each culture accepts different rights?

Imagen Democratic countries struggle for civil rights and liberties, human dignity and freedom of expression because we have realised that every human being deserves these rights for his or her human condition, there are intrinsic, regardless of the place he or she has been born at, the culture of that location, ethnicity or any other characteristic. However “the one child policy” still remains acceptable in China or genital female mutilation in many African ethnic groups… Do they go against human rights and dignity? Are they acceptable practices just because they are cultural rituals? No, the answer is clearly not.  However, relativists would argue that since all opinions are valid those techniques are correct. Thus, relativism is a very dangerous concept, which should be put apart, as it goes against the proper logical reasoning of a person.Imagen

 Nevertheless, it is true that we do not hold the absolute truth, we are only aware of the partial truth. This is the reason why pluralism is necessary, by having a fruitful dialogue we can arrive to an idea that is closer to the truth. Nowadays, we have created a new type of religion. One in which we try to explain all the human complexity by the use of science, even if there are lots of our human beings’ dimensions that cannot be measured by science; love, obligations, and responsibilities or the meaning of life for instance.

One of the fundamental questions of philosophers is how can we reach the truth, existing different way of conceiving it. I personally agree with St Thomas Aquinas, who says that “truth is the adequacy between understanding and reality”.  Another theory about the manner to find the truth is the pragmatist theory, developed by John Dewey and William James. It gives knowledge a practicity duty and establishes that knowledge is true if it leads us to success, thus justifies any behaviour if it leads to a good end, even if the means are not correct.


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