11 March 2011

Long Live Kuhn?

Errol Morris finishes his 5 part essay with complaints about relativism:
One more parable. For those who truly believe that truth is subjective or relative (along with everything else), ask yourself the question – is ultimate guilt or innocence of a crime a matter of opinion? Is it relative? Is it subjective? A jury might decide you’re guilty of a crime that you haven’t committed. You’re innocent. (It’s possible. The legal system is rife with miscarriages of justice.) Nevertheless, we believe there is a fact of the matter. You either did it or you didn’t. Period.
I fear, however, that Errol Morris misses the mark here and has failed to live up to his wonderful argument. Indeed, I think his argument becomes tied in knots. Whether someone is guilty or innocent does not exclude the reality that the experience of judgment is relative. In other words, certainty is something people approximate. That fact is horrible, but it explains why innocent people are sometimes convicted of crimes. But the fact that they are convicted suggests that 'reality' has a relative tint. I suppose the "golden rule" - a pretty relative injunction as injunctions go - is the best escape we have from this problem