Speaking up for (really) radical relativism

Some of the integral folks like to talk about the shortcomings of “radical relativism”.

But radical relativism, if it is radical enough, is the freedom to use stories in any way that seems appropriate. It is the freedom in seeing the limited value in any story and perspective, and then use whatever one(s) seem most appropriate in any given situation.

If it is a truly radical relativism, we see stories as just tools of practical value, so choose stories with more explanation power, that are more compassionate, more effective in getting things done, more elegant, and so on, and according to what is available to us based on our current insights, experiences and skills.

And the way we hold these stories also depend on the situation. Sometimes, it may seem more appropriate to hold them lightly, freely admitting that they are just tools and that other tools may be more useful in the situation.

Other times, and especially if peoples health and well-being is at stake, and we are up against folks who are in the grips of reactivity and blind beliefs, it may be more appropriate to hold our stories far more strongly. To do what is needed to protect individuals and society, meeting people in our actions and language where they are.

When we are clear, we are anything but door mats. And radical relativism can easily take a strong stand in the world, when needed.

The problem with making “radical relativism” sound suspicious and slightly sinister, as some of the strangely “anti green” folks in the integral world do, is that it may prevent us from going far enough. It may hold people back from going far enough through relativism into the truly radical relativism.

And then we just remain stuck in beliefs. We hold onto a story because we actually think it is true.

And that is just blindness.

One thought to “Speaking up for (really) radical relativism”

  1. Thanks for the post. To correct your reference, when “relativism” is considered critically, ie. in its unhealthy manifestations, we tend to speak of “extreme relativism” and also of “relativistic nihilism”, instead of “radical relativism”. Authentic integral approach cannot serve as an obstacle for “sufficient relativism” since it is only available to those who have adequately negotiated the relativistic/postmodern lessons, including their necessity and their limitations (“dignity and disaster”). And again, “holding to stories because we believe they’re true” takes place on several levels, and the structural progression is only one way of solving that problem.



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