Recently Julian Baggini wrote an article in the Guardian pointing out how stupid and dangerous a naïve relativism about truth is. Predictably, this was followed by a small flurry of silly objection letters. On noticing the amount of overlap between such letters – and ones that had appeared previously – I thought I’d be magnanimous and offer the following ‘defending relativism schema’, thus freeing up the authors’ valuable time to deconstruct themselves.
(1) Begin by pointing out that your favourite maligned ‘continental’ philosopher believed some true proposition p. p should be some proposition that it is morally blameworthy to deny and that was denied by a prominent analytic philosopher. (Example: so-and-so thought Jews were no worse than gentiles, but Frege was an anti-semite.)
(2) Conclude that said maligned philosopher was correct about the nature of truth after all, even though this is completely unrelated.
(3) Apropos of nothing, accuse ‘analytic’ philosophers of indoctrinating their students into positivism, even though no-one is a positivist these days.
(4) Why not end with a nice ad hominem for good measure?
Oh well. Reading the Guardian often makes me angry, but I don’t seem to be able to stop. It’s strange as well – I get far less angry reading the Times, even though what’s written is generally far more repulsive. I just feel the Guardian ought to know better . . .
On a happier note: I have a fondness for amusing signs. I was particularly happy one afternoon while on a woodland walk when I saw both a sign saying ‘please don’t leave the path’ (how am I meant to get home?) and a sign saying ‘please leave the gate closed’ (how am I meant to get to the other side? – especially since I’m stuck to the path and can’t go round the gate!). But a recent good one was at a coffee stall in the train station. It said “Try one of our great cappuccino’s”. There are three mistakes there. Obviously, it’s afflicted with what I like to call ‘the undergrad apostrophe’. Secondly, the plural of ‘cappuccino’ isn’t even the apostrophe-less ‘cappuccinos’, it’s ‘cappuccini’. And thirdly, the coffee wasn’t great, it was rubbish.
As you can see, today I am working hard. I should probably go into my departmental office soon because they have a sign on the door saying “Please knock and enter”. I don’t know why they want me to go in, but I’ll be happy to oblige.