Relativism

Richard Wolff rwolff at minerva.cis.yale.edu
Sat Jan 14 15:04:21 MST 1995


	In reply to Schwartz, I cannot, of course, throw at him words of
the sort her throws at me - for example, "wrong." To do that, as
Schwartz's comments show, slips an absolute in despite lip service to the
refusal of foundationalism.

	Schwartz rehearses the usual defenses of absolutist judgements on
anything from efficiency to "error" to "plausibility". There is, sadly
for Schwartz, no way out: either you accept the relativity of all
judgement to the perspective/standpoint/commitments of the judger or else
you imagine, seek, and - typically - find some non-relative (i.e.
absolute) standard (i.e. perspective/standpoint/commitment) for judgements.
	
	Contrary to Scwartz's assertions, I have not the slightest
problem in formulating judgements and acting in ways I find consistent
with them. I just cannot and do not claim I am doing other than that. Nor
will I accept others' claims that they are doing more than that - whether
or not they claim their judgements (or critiques) are "immanent" or
"grounded intersubjectively" or any of the host of other phrases used to
comfort those who make judgements but want them to be "valid" absolutely.
	Contrary to Schwartz's assertions, I try hard to convince others
to see my way because I need their help, cooperation, and comradeship to
achieve the goals that make sense to me socially. I understand them to do
likewise. Indeed, these postings are part of all that. But there is no
need nor, in my view, any warrant to require or claim that my judgements
are other than views for which I seek adherents - like others do for
theirs. Depending on the social contexts, some views will and some views
wont win such adherents. But none of this has anything to do with any
claims about "grounds: for critique of judgement beyond the actual social
realm of different, contesting, mutually changing perspectives.
	Contrary to Schwartz, I need not nor do I exclude his absolutist
perspective on grounds it is "wrong" (the way he does mine). I see his
perspective as different from mine, as having social consequences I do
not like, and as worth opposing in discourse as I do. In contrast, he has
to see my view as "wrong," in precisely the sense of something beyond
"different from Schwartz" - in short as more than relatively wrong, as
abvsolutely wrong.
	My parting shot thus is: have we not had more than enough
illustrations, left, right, and center, of awful consequences of such
absolutist judgement styles.........to be at least a little suspicious of
them and defenses of them, to be just a little open to alternative,
different ways of conceptualizing difference?

R. Wolff

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