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All truths are relative, and this is the only absolute principle.

wrote August Comte.

Anyway a radical relativism poses a serious problem: if every truth is always relative, is the latter an absolute truth?

(R) Self-refutation of Relativity:

(1) All truths are relative.

(2) If (1) is true, the truth of (1) is not relative, then (1) is false.

(3) If (1) is false, the truth is not always relative.

From the truth of (R), it follows that (1) "every truth is relative" is always false.

But:

Refutation of (R):

(4) It is possible to adopt an axiomatic system where the truth value of (R) changes,

(5) Therefore (R) is not always true, and consequently (1) "every truth is relative" is not always false.

Is it correct?

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A more correct rendering of Comte's "absolute principle" would be

All truths are relative, except if they are statements about truths, and this is the only absolute principle.

Since this "reformed absolute principle" is a statement about truths, it explicitely exceptuates itself from its own domain.

I suspect that Comte knew that, but liked the paradox for rhetorical reasons.

  • "All truths are relative, except if they are statements about truths". But thiis is a truth about statements: thus it must be relative. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Aug 30 '18 at 6:13
  • No, Mauro: all truths are relative, except if they are statements about truths. So, statements about truths may not be relative. And since "All truths are relative, except if they are statements about truths" is a statement about truths, it may be not relative. – Luís Henrique Aug 30 '18 at 12:36

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