Tag Archives: relativism

Thinking makes it so…

Reading through some texts, I found an interesting passage. It appears in a play by an author named William Shakespeare. The quote reads: “There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. This sounded familiar to me, and with good reason. A philosopher closer to my time named Seneca said the same thing.

But what does it mean? It sounds suspiciously relativist and reminds me of a similar claim made by Protagoras, who lived during my time in Athens. He said “Man is the measure of all things”, meaning that truth or falsity is dependent upon one’s subjective point of view.

Now, Seneca was not talking about objective truth. He was talking about moral action and values. And I agree with his statement, in a sense, but I do not agree with relativism. So I worry that there is tension in my beliefs.

Consider this syllogism:

P1. (premise) If there is no objective good or bad, then good or bad is based on subjective thought

P2. (premise) There is no objective good or bad (Seneca)

C. (conclusion) Therefore, good or bad is based on subjective thought

But I think the conclusion is false. I have argued many times that moral good or bad is not subjective, which means it is objective:

P1. (premise) If there is no objective good or bad, then good or bad is based on subjective thought

P2. (premise) It is not true that good or bad is based on subjective thought

C. (conclusion) Therefore, there is objective good or bad.

So, I wonder what Seneca meant. How can I reconcile my belief that there is objective good and bad with his claim that “thinking makes it so”? Perhaps he was merely talking about the feelings we have towards certain events. An event may be objectively good or bad, but my feeling about the event is subjective. It is up to me to respond to the event. So I believe he meant that whether we feel angry or upset about an event is the result of our thinking about things.

— Socrates.

Meditations of a 21st century incarnation of Socrates as composed by Brent Silby

Filed under Socrates' Meditations

What is knowledge?

What is Knowledge?
A Socratic Dialogue

Composed by Brent Silby

Over the years I have had many conversations with many people. You would be surprised how often certain issues resurface. My relatively recent dialogue with Thomas and Paul bore a remarkable resemblance to a dialogue I had back in Athens. My memory may be fading, but I remember the dialogue. It was with a worthy fellow by the name Theaetetus and was recorded by my student, Plato. The following is a transcript of my dialogue with Thomas and Paul in which we question the nature of knowledge, just as Theaetetus and I did all those years ago.

— Socrates

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Opinion or Truth

A Socratic Dialogue

Through this dialogue we see the problem that arises when we take a relativist stance to truth. Many people have taken a liking to relativism; perhaps because it seems so wonderfully democratic. However, the further one goes down the relativist road, the more difficult it becomes to answer fairly straightforward questions. It is almost as if the relativist tries to use logic to argue that logic doesn’t work.
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