Friday, July 26, 2013

Conversation With a Relativist

True story.
So in light of my being a "good person," I though I'd share a conversation I had with a relativist a while back.
Now, mind you, there was a whole lotta wine involved, so this transcript is more of a paraphrase. And, the paraphrase is more of a cobbling together of some of the main themes that made it through the day-after fuzziness.

It was good wine. :)

So here goes:

Relativist: There are no absolutes. Truth is just perception. What's true for you is not true for someone else.
Me: Huh? That doesn't make any sense.
R: Sure it does. You perceive truth for yourself. Others perceive truth for themselves. So truth is just a matter of perception. It's all relative.
M: So does this apply to all truth?

R: Yes.
M: So you;re telling me that there is no absolute truth? That everything we call "true" is only our perception?
R: Yes.
M: So what if I perceive that 2 + 2 = 5? That's gonna be true for me from now on.
R. Well, not really. 2 + 2 = 4. That's just basic math.
M: But if it's all relative, and MY truth is only MY perception, then who are YOU to tell me that I'm wrong? 2 + 2 = 5, daggone it!
R: You can't do that.
M: Why not? Is it maybe because there ARE absolute truths? Some things are always true for everyone at all times? Like 2 + 2 ALWAYS equals 4?
R: Huh.
M: .........
R: I guess so. I mean, things like math, I guess, are always true. But the theory of relativity says that they aren't, that even the speed of light is relative.
M: Well, that statement shows a partial understanding of Einstein's thinking. The theory of relativity says that our measurements of the universe skew because we are always moving through it. It's more a method to correct our constant shifting through space/time so we can better understand the universe.
R: ????????
If Mater leaves Radiator Springs heading west going 10 MPH,
and Lightning McQueen leaves California heading north
at 65 MPH, does Fillmore care?
M: Yeah. See, the speed of light is always the same. It *appears* to change, and thus do silly things like bend and warp, because we are moving in a way that is opposed to it. Think of two cars - if one is traveling at 50 MPH, and another at 30, from the vantage point of the slower car, the car at 50 only looks like it's going 20!
R: .......
M: Yeah, so each is going an absolute speed. But relative to how you're measuring, the appearance changes.
R: Yeah, the truth of the speed is relative.
M: (facepalm)
R: The slow car's truth is different than the fast car's truth!
M: The truth is that there are two cars going two different speeds. Each car perceives the total event relative from their vantage point. Their perceptions are skewed. But the truth doesn't separate itself, or magically divide based on who is doing what. There's one truth, one event, and two different, partial perceptions of it.
R: This is good wine!
M: Agree!

(pause to refill glasses)

M: So anywho, what was I saying? Oh yeah! I guess my point is this: There aren't multiple versions of the truth floating around. Truth is not perception.
R: I think it is. You can only know what you perceive.
M: I disagree.
R: (shouting a little) No, truth is just perception!
There is one Truth. We experience it
in bits and pieces,
M: No, no, no, silly Relativist. Think back to the car analogy. The truth is that two cars were moving at different speeds. There is only ONE truth in that scenario. The perception of the drivers was different - they experienced a small slice of the larger truth.
R: ......
M: (giving time to ponder)
R: ........
M: So ya see, truth is absolute. There is only one Truth. Our perception is just a very small piece of the larger truth.
R: Whoa!
M: Iknowright?! So 2 + 2 always equals 4. That's the absolute Truth. And there's only one way an event takes place. There's one Truth for everybody. They just only experience a small part of the larger Truth.
R: WHOA!!!
M: Yeah, it's not all relative. There's Truth, and then there's our small perceptions of the Truth. Perception is relative - Truth is not.
RW H O A ! ! ! ! ! !
M: (smiling) Now you see it. This was fun.
R: (eyes slightly crossed, wheels turning frantically, light bulbs beginning to come on) .........
M: This is good wine.
R: Agree!

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