Shanafelt begins his article by quoting another article that, at the start, makes a very important point. “If we believe in any revealed religion and, for instance, we have to admit that Christ is the son of God, then he is not the Messiah still awaiting in Jerusalem. And if Mohammed is the prophet of Allah, then it is mistaken to offer sacrifices to the Plumed Serpent. If we follow the most enlightened and indulgent of deisms, prepared to believe at once in the Communion of Saints and the Great Wheel of the Tao, then we will reject, as fruit of error, the massacre of infidels and heretics. If we are worshipers of Satan, we will consider puerile the Sermon on the Mount. If we are radical atheists, every faith will be nothing but misunderstanding. Therefore, given that in the course of history many have acted on beliefs in which many others did not believe, we must perforce admit that for each, to a different degree, history has been largely the Theater of an Illusion (1).” He starts by pointing out that when religions make exclusive claims they cannot all be true. The only two logical conclusions to conflicting exclusive worldviews are as follows: one view is correct and all the others are false or they are all false. Two conflicting exclusive worldviews cannot both be true. This is the point at which the latter part of his statement fails miserably. He states that to a degree all worldviews over the course of history have been wrong. They cannot be wrong to a degree because truth, by nature, cannot contradict other truths. They are either right or wrong; there are no degrees of truth. It never ceases to amaze me how the proponents of the monoculture can make such logical statements and then conclude them with pure folly (self-contradiction is a reoccurring event throughout the quoted article).
Again, he makes a similar statement admitting the inherent flaw within ecumenism. “When evaluating a belief-system, the analyst should consider the different domains of truth. (2)” In my previous post I made mention of situated knowledge, which this writer refers to as “domains of truth.” He is asking us to consider how the absolute and exclusive truth claims of differing worldviews are situated within the group, or individual, who (whom) constructed it. The writer goes on to admit that, “This being said, one should expect that contradictions will emerge when domains are crossed (3).” He begins with the assertion that one should consider the domains of truth and concludes by stating that the truths within these domains are going to be contradictory. Truth that makes a universal claim, which all exclusive and absolute truth claims make, cannot exist only within the group, or individual, who (whom) constructed it. According to this logic one could suppose that 2+2 is only equal to four if you are a mathematician and the rest of humanity is left to construct their own conclusion. When the logic of situated knowledge is applied to other areas of life its claims are absurdly incredulous. (Please read “Why should you stand against the ecumenical monoculture? Part 1” for further explanation of why truth is not “situated” within domains of truth.)
The following quote illustrates the most basic motivation and flaws of ecumenism. “First, I will discuss the difficulty of maintaining a position of epistemological relativism when others challenge your premises. Even for those who want to be most tolerant, relativism turns out to be a political and methodological solution to the problem of systemic conflicts in values – one effective in temporarily minimizing conflict, but one with unresolved paradoxes. As he put it in his essay on ‘anti anti-relativism’, he is not opposed to rejecting certain beliefs as false. What he does object to is the reduction of ethnography to a kind of ‘condescending provincialism’ in which ‘it can think of nothing better to do with other ways of going at life than make them look worse than our own’(4).” He makes several key confessions regarding relativism/postmodernism/ecumenicalism (I grouped them together to avoid confusion over terminology). First, relativism is difficult to defend when challenged. This is because the assertions of relativism are illogical and inconsistent. Second, relativism is a political solution to conflict aimed at diffusing the situation while the real issue of truth is avoided. Third, ecumenism is temporary and only minimizes conflict instead of resolving it. Fourth, relativism suffers from unresolved paradoxes, in other words relativism is inherently self-contradictory. Finally, the true motivation of ecumenism is avoiding “condescending provincialism.” Ecumenism is pride cloaked in humility, which carefully avoids any narrow definition of truth that excludes others. Ecumenism is not concerned with the nature of or discovery of truth; its purpose and motive is the inclusion of every view regardless of its validity. (This topic will be further discussed in a coming post entitled “The Ecumenical Monoculture is Anti-truth.”)
My Research Topic (How Language Affects Worldview)
(1) Eco, U. (1988) ‘The Force of Falsity’, in Serendipities: Language and Lunacy, pp. 1–21. New York: Columbia Press.
(2) Shanafelt, R. (2002). Idols of Our Tribes? Relativism, Truth and Falsity in Ethnographic Fieldwork and Cross-cultural Interaction. Critique of Anthropology, Volume 22, Issue 1, 7-29.