Tok Essay: There Are No Absolute Distinctions Between What Is True and What Is False

Topics: Truth, Relativism, Perception Pages: 5 (1895 words) Published: October 4, 2012
The claim “There are no absolute distinctions between what is true and what is false,” has been discussed for many years, and despite this fact people still haven’t agreed on a concrete answer. Some people deny the existence of “absolute truth” and believe that all points of view are equally valuable: this belief is called relativism. Others believe in the concept of “absolute truth,” and say that we can distinguish true from false: this belief is called absolutism. In order to understand the claim we need to study the different points of views, evaluate the way in which people acquire information, and lastly connect the claim to our own experiences to show an awareness of our own perspective. The people who are supporters of the claim are referred to as relativists, and believe that all points of view should be valued equally. Relativism believes all points of view are affected by difference in perception – everyone has a biased opinion – and as a result no statement is considered more valid than others. A famous Pre-Socratic Greek philosopher and a follower of Relativism known by the name of Protagoras once said, “man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” He did not believe in the concept of “absolute truth” but rather argued that what someone defines as true depends on the individual; what might be true for some might not be true to others. According to relativist religion is a modern example of relativism. Christians are settled with the belief that Jesus Christ and God existed and consider this to be an example of an “absolute truth”; however, disputes start whenever Christians try to impose their beliefs and practices on other religions. Depending on the religion a person follows, they will have a different opinion about the existence of Jesus and God, and because of this relativists believe that this is an example of relativism rather than absolutism. There are several factors which can affect how we interpret things including language, culture, historical epoch, gender, and status. For example, I’m a girl which can affect how I perceive boys and their way of thinking. Boys and girls are very different and since I spend most of my time around girls I sometimes catch myself thinking that boys’ behavior is more immature; even though I’m sure if you asked them they would say the complete opposite. In order to really understand the claim we need to look at the different ways of knowing to find out how humans acquire information and evaluate how accurate this information is. There are many different ways of knowing and with time philosophers have manages to organize these into four categories; sense perception, reason, knowing, and language. Relativism believes that we are unable to perceive without subconsciously having an opinion about what we see, which makes our judgment more biased. To discuss this idea let’s look at the strengths and weaknesses of sense perception and reason as ways of knowing. Sense perception is one of the most widely used ways of knowing in which we use all of our five senses to get information. All of our senses are very sensitive and technology has even been developed to improve some of our senses such as microscopes used in the lab; however, even this way of knowing has faults to it. Firstly human’s senses are limited; humans can only hear noises within a certain range of pitch and sometimes humans perceive things that in reality don’t exist such as mirages. Secondly humans always have biased points of views which affect the observations they make on a daily basis. We use our five senses to appreciate art works when we’re visiting an art gallery; however depending on the viewer they might understand the artist’s message behind the painting differently. In other words the painting is open for interpretation and as a result you could argue that the knowledge the observer acquires through sense perception is not...
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