HOW TO ARGUE
A. Have him define his position.
B. Put the burden of proof on him. Identify the weaknesses in his arguments. (If he cannot prove his position, then:)
C. Accept the burden of arguing that his position is false. .
D. Define your position. Present your arguments to show either (1) your position is true, or (2) your position is superior to his.
HOW TO ARGUE WITH A RELATIVIST - TRUTH
A. Each person/society/culture has its own truth; there is no universal, objective truth; truth is relative.
B. Relativist's argument: all human opinions are fallible, therefore it is wrong to declare any particular view finally true - all opinions should be expressed and respected.
Refutation: the argument only shows that claims to know the truth are tentative (granted), not that truth is relative. We can respect people and allow free expression of ideas without having to grant equal validity to all ideas, e.g. Holocaust deniers
C-D. Jewish sources are committed to a single objective universal truth, e.g. anti-polytheism, justice and morality
Arguments against relativism
1. contrasting beliefs will not both yield accurate predictions (earth round/flat)
2. what is the purpose of education if the beliefs I have now are already true for me? Or if I don't have beliefs I can choose them arbitrarily
3. is A also relative to person, etc.? If I believe truth is universal and objective, is it so for me? How then can the relativist contradict the absolutist?
Conclusion: A is false or incoherent; our position that truth is objective and universal is the only alternative.
HOW TO ARGUE WITH A RELATIVIST - VALUES
A. Each person/society/culture has its own values; there are no universal, objectively correct values; values are relative
B. Relativist's arguments and replies
1. Mead: different cultures live by different values; therefore no one set of values is objectively correct
Refutation: MERE difference of practice does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare difference of belief vs. objective truth
[Refutation: difficult to establish difference of values since concrete value judgments depend on factual beliefs]
2. no particular values have ever been proved objectively correct; therefore no values are objectively correct
Refutation: lack of proof does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare universe older than five minutes, dreaming, axiom of mathematical induction - [however (claim of) positive refutation would be serious]
3. there is no procedure for establishing particular values as objectively correct; therefore no values are objectively correct
Refutation: lack of procedure does not PROVE BY ITSELF lack of objectivity - compare alchemy->chemistry, present psychology (->??)
Conclusion: A cannot be proved, therefore one is free to believe in absolute values
C. Argument against relativism: ad hominem - rejection of absolute values implies no real moral disputes, no justification of universal human rights, no non-trivial condemnation of Nazis
Conclusion: relativism has a prohibitively high personal price, therefore since we are free to believe is absolute values, we should.