A week or two ago, my friend Momin Malik responded on Facebook* to my first post on Leah Libresco’s conversion. He took issue in particular with my very brief negative reference to relativism. I have argued against relativism at some length before, in response to Peimin Ni, and also to postmodernism. But in those posts I argued against relativism on pragmatic and performative grounds, because it was mainly being defended in pragmatic and performative terms. I’m interested in Momin’s position because, as far as I can tell, he argues for relativism on rational terms, tries to convince us of relativism because it is in some sense true, not just effective.
According to Momin, relativism says (his emphasis and brackets): “there is no universal or neutral perspective from which we can [rationally] arbitrate between competing viewpoints. So, it’s not that we can’t say Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were wrong and horrible, it’s that such a statement is made from within our own values, and not a universal or neutral perspective.” Continue reading