Let's start by making clear the distinction
between pluralism in ontological categories,
or categories of"being",
and that of a political or social nature.
The former belongs to a metaphysical
consideration of how many substances
exist, and that relates to our subject only
tangentially. Inasmuch as our topic falls
under the broad heading of "Secularism", it
participates in the presupposition of that
perspective: That there are no
particulars, there is no ultimate
value, there exist only particular
values. That is to say, for example,
that since there is no eternal dimension,
existence is defined and limited to the
here and now, and as such, there is
no lasting value, only particular, temporary
values. You can see how this view reduces
ethics and morality to preferences; there is
no ultimate Value; nothing lasts,
Having said that, let's turn our attention to
according to The Oxford Companion to
"A condition marked by the multiplicity of religions and/or ethnic groups within a single state; or a doctrine that holds such a multiplicity to be a good thing."
As we begin to appropriate this new religious
diversity in our public life and
institutions, and in emerging forms of
interfaith relationships, it is important for
reasons of political and social stability to
exercise toleration in order to coexist
peacefully with others who have fundamentally
different beliefs or values. The alternative
is a unitary state where one religion or
ethnicity is dominant and the central
government rules everywhere; by definition
not a Democratic system.
In this atmosphere of the freedom to hold and
exchange ideas, we can consider it a
wonderful opportunity to learn from people of
different perspectives, faiths, and cultural
backgrounds. But to learn what? A descriptive
account of differing belief systems, yes. A
prescriptive formula for the equal veracity
of contradictory truth claims? Absurd.
In order for pluralism to maintain itself in
peace we have to adopt an attitude of
tolerance. The word "tolerate" is defined as
"to recognize and respect others' beliefs,
practices etc. without sharing them" and "to
bear or put up with something not
particularly liked." So we see that
toleration is not synonymous with
endorsement. Everyone has a right to
their opinion. What we must be on guard
against is a relativistic view of
"What you believe is true FOR YOU, what I believe is true FOR ME, all truth is relative, your beliefs and my beliefs are equal. Since there are multiple descriptions of reality, no one view can be true in an ultimate sense."
This sounds tolerant, doesn't it? The mistake
here is in the gratuitous leap from
toleration of differing opinions and
a legal right to hold such opinions
to the granting of equal veracity to
contradictory truth claims.
This is devastating to an honest search for
objective truth. In logic, the Law of
"A thing cannot both be "A" and "Non-A" at the same time and in the same relationship."Therefore we see that something cannot be true and not true at the same time.The evidences for objective truths must be examined and a reasoned response arrived at, albeit on a personal level. In a pluralistic society, every individual has a right to his or her own beliefs; everyone has a right to their opinion; everyone, in effect has a right to be wrong! Neither the state nor any other entity has the right to coerce those beliefs. Our right to them is one of our foundational liberties. As to whether those beliefs are rational and correspond to objective reality is a matter of personal responsibility. The thesis that all points of view are equally valid, all moralities are equally good and all beliefs or belief systems are equally true is clearly absurd.
Pluralism is a fact of life. Tolerance is a
necessity to the stability of society.
Relativism is a either a careless, unthinking
mistake or an offense to rational thought and
a deliberate philosophical crime.
On the Nominis Expers Forum
Content ©1999-2000 Nominis Expers