Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Fact of Pluralism Is Not Epistemically Problematic

Dinesh D'Souza says: "If you happen to be born in Afghanistan, you'd be a Muslim. If you happen to be born in Tibet, you'd be a Buddhist. That's true, but what on earth does that prove? I happen to have been born in Bombay, India, which happens to be a Hindu country. The second largest group is Muslim. Even so, by choice, I am a Christian. Just because the majority religion is one thing doesn't make it right or wrong. By the way, [this] is equally true about beliefs in history or science. If you are born in Oxford, England you are more likely to believe the Theory of Evolution than if you are born in Oxford, Mississippi. If you are born in New Guinea you are less likely to accept Einstein's Theory of Relativity than if you are born in New York City. What does this say about whether Einstein's Theory of Relativity is true? Absolutely nothing." ("Our Inescapable Pluralism," fn. 5)

In logic, "truth" is a function of statements. A "statement" (or "proposition") is a sentence that is either true or false. The truth or falsity of a statement is independent of its cultural situatedness. So we see that in logic texts issues of sociology, anthropology, and psychology have little or no place in evaluating arguments. The fact that there are multiple competing theories does not change this. Indeed, any and every theory faces the "problem" of the fact of pluralism. But this fact does not pose an epistemic obstacle to the search for true theories.