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Subjectivity Is Free Will: The Path To Objective Truths by Dinorah Delfin - Presentation

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

(click above to watch this presentation)

On November 28th, 2020 I gave a presentation for John Cabot University (Rome/ Italy) which centered around the idea of Truth in light of Relativism and Posthuman studies.

For the original presentation which features 10 other emerging and leading futurists please check the link at the end of this message. I’d like to thank once again Chryssi Soteriades, Prof. Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, and Prof. Brunella Antomarini for organizing this wonderful workshop.

The following is a transcript of the presentation: The concept of truth and how truth affects the fate of humanity is extremely important as increasing epistemic and ontological uncertainty is causing dangerous societal polarization, calling for urgent coordinated plan of actions to address what has been labeled as the dawn of a “post-truth" era. In this presentation I will discuss three main areas: First, how the concept of relative truth has helped achieved social justice but has also left us without concrete moral standards to guide our actions. Then I'll explain how relativist thinking can also be used to build flexible value systems that can better guide policymaking. I will conclude with a thought on how relativist thinking can help increase human survival and adaptability.

1. Relativism And The Truth Paradox

According to Frederick Nietzsche, and other postmodern thinkers like Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, and Carl Marx, truth and knowledge can never be absolute because everything in life is relative. In other words, reality is a construct with no defined moral parameters. According to this line of thought, there are no facts or absolute truths, only interpretations based on biased perspectives. Therefore all standards are arbitrary and no one system can be more valid than others. This realization brought significant progress in social justice. In his article "Beyond Postmodernism" by writer and integral thinker Keith Martin, reminds us that "it's no coincidence that institutional racism, sexism, ageism and many of other "isms" came to be exposed in the decades after postmodern philosophers first start to write about this, eventually leading to a whole series of laws in the West to try to correct them." Keith adds "the postmodern movement made a solid contribution by taking modernism to its logical conclusion; it served us well by pointing out that all standards of judgment are based, at least in part, on some kind of cultural bias." In other words, the postmodern movement helped free up conscious and subconscious systems of oppression by deconstructing hierarchical systems that placed white man, literally, as the measure of all things. While reasoning based on relativist thinking has been hugely important in the development of human cognition and morality, unfortunately, reasoning based on no defined standards or value systems has taken things a little too far. We see this today with the cancel culture, for example, that is also trying to invalidate scientific progress. When life is seen only as subjective or relative, it is extremely challenging to seek truths that are more universal in order to better guide our ethics, morality, and eventually policymaking. One can speculate that the lack of coordination to contain and deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, for example, can also be seen as a result of lacking a robust and resilient value system to effectively guide concerted action.

2. Relativism In The Service Of Truth and Reason

What is the meaning of truth? In Wikipedia, truth is described as “the property of being in accord with fact or reality." But if reality is relative, how can there be truths that we can rely on?

Fortunately, the mere fact that truth is relative, teaches us that some truths are truer than others and equally some moral standards are more just than others. Keith Martin in the aforementioned article explains, “some things can be relatively more true, more good, and more beautiful than other things, even if we can't speak of these things as being rooted in an absolute." For example, a person who intentionally lies to hurt another person might be considered less ethical or truth-worthy than a person who would lie to prevent a child from getting hurt. Additionally, the mere fact that truth is relative also teaches us that no standards can ever be held in a fixed manner. Life is in constant flux and we must constantly re-adapt our value systems. For example, we tend to think of biological death as an absolute truth, but we know today that there are species like the jellyfish Turritopsis Dohrni that are considered biologically immortal. We are also, through scientific and technological breakthroughs on our way to improve a person’s healthy longevity and potentially evolve into a species that can enjoy indefinite long healthy lives.

3. Upgrading Meaning