Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Relativism and liberalism -- an unfortunate pairing

After my dad's relativism post went up, my mom linked to it and asked:

Did RLC take a big lurch right yesterday?
His response:
Did I take a big lurch right? More likely one of my many wobbles.
I wish being a liberal who criticizes relativism didn't seem like a contradiction or a move to the "right."

I don't see anything inherently relativistic about liberalism. In practice, though, there's an unfortunate correlation: liberals are a lot more likely than conservatives to think of themselves as relativists.

But in fact, that's the real contradiction. The idea that no culture's values or principles are objectively better than any other culture's is the antithesis of "progressive."

If you want to see the contradiction on full display, just ask a self-proclaimed relativist how they feel about abortion laws or civil rights or the death penalty or _________. Somehow, the relativism vanishes and absolute principles take its place once the conversation turns to issues that actually matter in the real world.