This past September, The New Criterion and The Social Affairs Unit jointly sponsored a symposium entitled “The Dictatorship of Relativism: Who Will Stand Up for Western Values Now?” in Winchester, England. The New Criterion has published many of the essays from the symposium in their January 2009 issue.
Dalrymple’s contribution is an essay entitled “Guarding the boundaries”, in which he argues that the inevitable uncertainty of philosophical judgment is not an argument for relativism, that judgmentalism is an inescapable feature of human nature and that moral standards, while always imperfect and disputable, are necessary if life is to be bearable.
What is new about the current relativism, it seems to me, is not that it contends the positioning of boundaries, for such positioning has, I think, always been contentious: It is always possible, after all, to argue that any given boundary contributes more to the misery than to the happiness of man. Rather, the current relativism contests the very need for boundaries itself, or at any rate has the effect, once it filters down from the intelligentsia into the general population, of destroying the appreciation of the need for boundaries. And if no boundaries are needed, then any attempt to impose them is without legitimacy. Only what comes from the self is legitimate.
Read the essay here
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