All Claims Are Equal

One of the most prominent strawman attacks of postmodernism and of relativism more generally is the statement countering the claim that all claims are equal.

I know of no one outside those attacking the claim believe this. I’ll give a couple of examples to illustrate why the attack is preposterous — a culinary case and a socio-political case.

The Proof is in the Pudding

Visit a recipe site, and search for macaroni cheese recipes. You’ll get hundreds if not thousands of recipes. Are they all equal? No. It depends on your tastes and preferences…even your audience. There are variations in the type of pasta, the type or types of cheese, whether to add additional ingredients, whether to prepare on the range or baked in the oven, and so on.

For your children, a prêt-à-manger out of the box preparation as opposed to the Gruyère and truffles verion you’re reserving for your next soirée.

Is there a best recipe? No. There are only preferences.

Is there an objectively best recipe? No. There are only preferences.

Can I create any recipe? No. Read on.

And they called it macaroni…

To have a recipe qualify as mac & cheese, there are at least to requirements for inclusion into the domain: Macaroni (or any pasta product or substitute) and cheese (ditto but with cheese products). I’m only pretty sure that no one countering that relativists claim that everything is equal is also arguing that one can make mac & cheese with, say, tacks and bricks. So, one has to question either the intelligence or the integrity of someone assuming someone else would defend this argument. Context matters. And just the choice of a contextual boundary is subjective (and relative).

Good Enough for the Government?

This works for recipes, but what about for government? Obviously Democracy is the best possible form of government because reasons, duh. And people. And agency. And other words I can imagine and associate in my defence.

As with mac & cheese, we need a defined purpose. The problem is that there are not only different purposes, there are different actors, each with their own needs and desires.

At no time is anyone arguing that public policy created by a council of gerbils is the same as that of people or or some artificial intelligence, just as no one is proposing that we throw mac & cheese against a wall in the manner or reading entrails to arrive at a meaningful end. Though, to be fair, given some policy choices I’ve seen, I might have voted for the mac & cheese method.

So, what are you trying to say?

By now a reader should have disavowed the notion that relativists do not recognise domain boundaries. It could be very legitimate for a non-relativist (objectivist?) to call something out as having improper domain boundaries, whether over-specified, under-specified, or just mis-specified, but that’s not the same claim.

A person may justifiably make the claim that such a such is not valid because it does not account for some other absent cohort. Perhaps it leaves out the dead or the unborn, or the animals, or the broader biosphere, if only by proxy. This is not to say that this would be easy or convenient, but it is certainly rational.

Most implemented government systems not only privilege humans over everything else, it virtually excludes everything else. But this is not the main point, which is that if a place and people have a functioning form of government, whether it is better or worse is up to the participants to decide, and there is not likely to be a consensus view. It should always be expected that there will be detractors for any number of reasons. There may be large contingencies of detractors. It could easily be that a government is divided into two worldviews, as in the United States, Canada, and the UK — each side claiming that they’ve got the solution, each side denying relativism in order to defend their version of truth.

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