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Relativism Definition in Philosophy Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 21st, 2019


Relativism refers to a school of thought that asserts the relative nature of truth and other realities that characterize human existence in society. According to this sociological viewpoint, truth is usually variable depending on context and recurrent parametrical threshold (Binkley 12).

Relativists view truth as being subject to individual perceptions and prevailing circumstances that define human considerations with regard to various instances of discourse in social contexts. Moral relativism revolves around various benchmarks that define and regulate moral action during human engagement (Binkley 12).

In most cases, individuals propagate truth in a manner that favours their position on germane social undertakings. It is evident that ethical and moral action suffices in limited measure depending on what people have to lose or gain in different situations.

Relativism continues to experience controversy and contention due to its core ideals that seek to defend the relative and volatile nature of truth and ethical conduct in social contexts (Binkley 13). There has been debate on essence of the concept of truth relativism. This concept seeks to entrench the inability to define truth as being absolute and rigid.

For instance, truth that suffices in one context may not apply in a different or relatively similar context. Under this premise, truth depends on particular terms of reference and prevailing conditions that define such situations (Binkley 16). In fact, truth usually depends on particular parametrical thresholds such as cultural inclination and lingual orientation.

Cultural relativism seeks to highlight facts and realities that constitute truth in contexts of human interaction and engagement within cultural entities (Binkley 18). This research undertaking seeks to defend the proposition that truth is relative. It shall also analyze numerous points of view that investigate and assert the reality of this submission.

This shall include development of clear thoughts and deliberations with regard to manifestations of truth in individual and collective endeavours. The aforementioned objectives shall materialize through incorporation and utilization of ideas from credible and authoritative academic publications.


Numerous definitions and implications suffice with regard to the concept of relativism. Scholars and modern philosophers have divergent views that seek to shed light on relativism as a critical facet of philosophical and sociological agency in contemporary society.

Through such efforts, they strive to establish a clear line of engagement that heralds scholarly engagements and counter engagements that overly embody relativism and its constituent realities (Thomas 32). Relativism entails scholarly positions that seek to assert proper understanding of truth and other cultural dynamics that determine perception and reception of truth and ethical conduct in society.

At the onset of 21st century, there were monumental scholarly adjustments that marked a shift regarding general view and understanding of relativist schools of thought (Thomas 32). This emanated from collective desire to decipher and demystify various factors and realities that give rise to deeper understanding of truth and ethics in social contexts.

Most people view truth as subjective and largely dependent on individual personality traits and attributes. This gave rise to various strains of relativism such as contemporary relativism and traditional relativism (Thomas 33). Both explanations hold contrarian views regarding the essence and rationale of truth and morality in society.

This research exercise primarily focuses on contemporary relativism and its relevance to human interaction and engagement in social contexts. However, it is important to establish a historical background with regard to traditional relativism and its evolution to modern views that manifest among scholars and enthusiasts of philosophical discourse (Thomas 36).

Philosophers such as Socrates and Thomas Kuhn conducted extensive discourse surrounding relativist realities in context of society and human engagements. They defended relativism by arguing that it holds relevance in all social and cultural undertakings. Gilbert Harman argues against those who dismiss relativism as irrelevant and inaccurate (Thomas 37).

He asserts that relativism reflects realities that embody and characterize human action in society. According to him, it is impossible for individuals to alienate relativism because it constitutes basic truth and factual representation of society. Gilbert argues that most things make sense in relation to prevailing circumstances and individual aspirations that characterize human thoughts and actions (Thomas 39).

He further argues that concepts of ethics and morality only suffice as components of immediate realities in a situation. Prior to this monumental shift, there was liberal application and usage of relativist ideologies without much thought on the overall reaction of contemporaries within philosophical discourse.

After the events of 20th century, relativism acquired new meaning and status with regard to application and relevance in society. This reality necessitated further research and scholarly undertakings that sought to give direction regarding relativism (Thomas 43).

Contemporary scholars insist on the need for clear distinction between various arguments that arise from scholarly exploits by researchers and enthusiasts. According to them, people should look beyond superficial definitions that seek to explain relativism and its relevance in society (Kendall 19).

They should search further understanding regarding the concept of relativism because it embodies other factual aspects. Historical evidence shows a correlation between truth and relativist ideologies. In most cases, the essence of truth manifests in personal attributes and values that define human action. Experts argue that truth is relative and usually manifests in such fashion and orientation.

However, this reality gives rise to the view that truth must be relative to something (Kendall 21). This gives rise to divergent relativist views that precipitate contrarian views with regard to definition and propagation of relativism. Different variations and dichotomies arise from interpretations relayed by scholars and theorists.

Although such views are mostly similar in orientation, they adopt different approaches that generate ideas regarding relativism and its relevance in social contexts (Kendall 25). Most scholars converge in their explanations and assertions that truth exhibits considerable levels of relativist approach to meaning and interpretation.

In light of such views, it is vital for researchers and scholars to underline their thought in a manner that supports further probe into the relative nature of truth. In their submission, they argue that relative truth manifests in propositional sense as opposed to its general presentation and inclination.

Devoid of such understanding and accurate view of truth, it is difficult for anyone to devise or formulate a rational approach to the relative nature of truth and moral conduct in society (Kendall 29). Proponents hold contrarian views regarding the propositional nature of relativity with regard to truth.

Some argue that propositional truth mostly depends on individual values and attributes that control subjective realities of interaction and engagement. This school of thought asserts that personality traits and attributes are central to development and propagation of truth depending on context and prevailing circumstances (Kendall 33).

Another counter argument argues that relativity arises from ability and willingness to establish favourable actions that assist in creation of assessments and evaluative procedures. Such assessment plays an integral role in actualization of ideals that enable realization of the objective nature of truth.

Although most scholars attest to existence of relative orientation to truth, they hold different views regarding factors that trigger and facilitate such relativism. For instance, some scholars view semantics as a viable trigger for relativism while others consider individual attitudes as key to development and propagation of relativist ideologies (Kendall 44).

Several philosophical scholars derive inspiration from arguments that support semantics as the sole source of relativist inclinations. The semantic view articulates the essence of truth as bearing various facets that characterize its interpretation and propagation in relation to application in social and philosophical discourse. They emphasize on content as a determinant of truth and variables that embody such scenarios (Daft 65).

This variable emanates from prevailing circumstances and factors that determine individual action and reaction in different situations. In this case, evaluation is an important factor because it enables progressive articulation and establishment of relative truth. Another area of concern for truth is the characters of those involved in particular discourse.

In the case of character as a determinant of truth, there is need to understand and appreciates its role as a parameter with regard to consideration of truth and rationality in social settings (Daft 65). This consideration accounts for contextual realities that form basis for arguments and counter arguments that govern discovery of truth and other areas that complement its relative nature.

In most cases, the value of truth anchors on verifiable manifestations that relate to content of specific discourse. Content suffices in relation to contextual engagements among individual.ls in social deliberations. In evaluation of nature and quality of truth, circumstances play an important role because they guide and prompt human action.

This means that what is true in a particular context can manifest as less true in another depending on circumstances and prevailing conditions (Daft 68). Therefore, it is unusual for people to generalize truth regardless of contextual manifestations that surround such truth.

Various parameters of truth give credence to realization of structures that determine the essence and rationale of definitions and considerations with regard to social engagements (Daft 71). This gives room for determination of various factors that underline truth regarding issues that take place in society.

It is difficult to comprehend an absolute nature of truth because such situations negate reason and willingness to investigate and appreciate the dynamic and generative nature of truth. Whenever experts discuss truth in scholarly contexts, they maximize benefits that arise in relation to such endeavours and discourse (Gard 22).

Human beings strive to develop systems that enable them to articulate and establish favourable avenues for realization of core ideals and aspirations with regard to the relative nature of truth. This makes it possible for scholars to understand and create favourable discourse for exploits that embody determination of truth and other related ideological facts (Gard 23).

Different social contexts assign different meanings and approaches that define the overall nature of truth. Issues manifest differently depending on prevailing circumstances that define and govern human action with regard to such contexts. Relativity of truth creates impetus for probity and general acuity in pursuit of germane aspects that characterize its propagation and realization in social contexts (Gard 24).

Different societies ascribe meaning to truth depending on how they approach and articulate various situations of engagement and discourse. Such variations give credibility to the reality that asserts the relative nature of truth with regard to how people perceive and relate to interaction and discourse in social contexts.

It is possible for society to assign different meanings to similar issues because it all depends on context and prevailing circumstances (Gard 27). This reality is indicative of the relative nature of truth because it highlights core issues that determine creation and propagation of truth. On the other hand, individuals have ability to manipulate truth in order to align it to their personal needs and considerations.

In such scenarios, people apply subjective values in order to guarantee and justify personal beliefs and standards that favour their stand (Gard 29). In cases where people present similar sentiments on an issue, there is high likelihood for consensus and unison regarding truth and its essence in society. Such reality changes when people develop differences regarding prevailing issues and realities.

Such conflict of interest presents opportunity for development of ideological thresholds that govern determination of truth as a relative entity (Edel 43).

This makes it possible for individuals to investigate and understand situations before deriving conclusions with regard to existence of truth in its relative sense. In other cases, there could be situations that bear similar content but one is truthful while the other suffices as false (Edel 47).


Propositions that seek to assert the relative nature of truth are usually inclined towards development of structural frameworks that offer guidelines on this reality. There has been debate on essence of the concept of truth relativism. This concept seeks to entrench the inability to define truth as being absolute and rigid (Edel 48). For instance, truth that suffices in one context may not apply in a different or relatively similar context.

Under this premise, truth depends on particular terms of reference and prevailing conditions that define such situations. In fact, truth usually depends on particular parametrical thresholds such as cultural inclination and lingual orientation (Edel 54). Indeed, it is evident that truth is relative to situations and circumstances that define social engagements.

Works Cited

Binkley, Luther. Contemporary Ethical Theories. London: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Daft, Leone. The Philosophical Experience in Society. London: Cengage Learning, 2012. Print.

Edel, Abraham. Methods in Ethical Theory. Newyork: ABC-CLIO, 2010. Print.

Gard, Michael. Theories and Modern Approaches. London: Taylor & Francis, 2012. Print.

Kendall, Diana. Philosophy in Our Times: The Essentials. Newyork: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Thomas, Sue. Ethical Theories: Views on Moral Judgement. London: Spear Books, 2011. Print.

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