Truths aren't relative. Everything isn't simply a perspective, and all perspectives aren't equal.

‘There’s no objective truth; everything’s just a perspective, a point of view.’

Relativism stands for the idea that there are no objective truths.

So you can never be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, because there is no such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

In fact, it’s hard to see how you can even be closer to the truth, because when there is no such thing as ‘right’, nothing should be ‘more’ right.

This is a very tempting idea, one that particularly appealed to me once.

I’ve often heard from people that they became ‘more accepting’ and ‘open-minded’ as they grew older, and realized that ‘everything’s “just” a point of view’.

Funnily enough, so far, I seem to have gone the opposite way.

The idea of relativism is something that I strongly disagree with now, where once I thought it was really wise and morally uplifting.

But it’s something I keep hearing and therefore this essay.

Against Relativism

Why is relativism usually fallacious?

In the first place, it’s self contradictory.

Someone who tells you there are no truths, or that all truth is merely relative, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.

Roger Scruton

The statement ‘there are no objective truths’ contradicts itself, because it itself claims the status of objective truth.

Unless you believe there’s only one single objective truth in the entire universe, and coincidentally enough, that happens to be it. Never again will anyone find such a truth.

There’s no point searching either, because somehow, we know that this is the only truth, and everything else is mere ‘perspective’.

And the same way, ‘all truth is relative’ – except this one truth, this objective pearl in a relative world.

Relativism not only contradicts itself; it contradicts all notions of common sense.

Take it to its logical conclusion, and you can’t make any definite statement about anything.

Everything’s relative; nothing’s better or worse, only different.

Someone who truly believed that would claim a saint is no better than a sinner, Gandhi no better than Hitler.

Someone who truly believed that would say the Khmer Rouge or Nazi’s weren’t evil, their ideas were just one ‘perspective’.

And since there are no truths, only perspectives, and all perspectives are different and equally valuable, you couldn’t even condemn them.

Unless you accept that some perspectives are less valuable than others, which leads you down a path that takes you away from relativism.

Which perspectives are valuable? And how do we judge their worth, unless we have some objective standards to hold them up against?

Anyways, there’s no way to argue against a relativist, assuming you wanted to, because he could just wriggle out of it, since your argument is ‘just’ a perspective to him.

How Relativism Seduces

Why is relativism so tempting?

For one, because it’s an easy tool against any form of imposition or authority.

Anyone tells you that ‘this is how it should be done’?

You can always shoot back that that’s “just” their perspective.

“Just” a perspective, because perspectives are just that – opinions and nothing more. Nothing to do with objective facts, because there are none.

But the reason it’s even more seductive today is that relativism is an easy way to virtue signal, to position yourself on a moral high ground, to appear tolerant and open-minded, without actually doing anything.

No one’s wrong, no one’s worse, everyone’s correct, in their own way.

And anyone who doesn’t agree, who thinks that some ideas are better than others – better in the sense they correspond more closely to reality, to what is – is a narrow-minded bigot and intolerant.

It’s not surprising that one of the most patronizing things you’ll often hear is that ‘you’ll understand that no one’s wrong, everyone’s perspective is equally correct and valuable, everything’s just a point of view’ – usually ‘when you’re older, when you’ll “become more open-minded and accepting” ‘.

In the first place, ‘relativism’ doesn’t have a monopoly on open-mindedness. You can be open-minded without believing that ‘everything’s just a perspective’.

And secondly, it doesn’t require being tolerant and open-minded to believe in relativism.

Tolerance and open-mindedness are hard virtues to truly imbibe; it’s far from easy to accept things you don’t agree with.

While it’s the easiest thing in the world (and usually highly rewarding) to preach relativism.

Relativism is the refuge of laziness and cowardice.

Intellectual laziness, because you don’t ever analyze an idea on its merits, you don’t compare it to alternatives, you don’t critique it.

You don’t even engage with an idea if you are a relativist, because you’d simply parrot your ready-made formula that ‘this is one perspective, neither more valuable nor less than the million others’.

In a world of millions of competing perspectives, you’re never going to be able to engage with all. If you truly believe none are better than any other, you’ll end up treating them all equally – which means treating them cursorily.

To engage, you have to treat an idea with respect, to look at it as a unique item and not one of a crowd, to address it specifically, with a tailor-made approach designed for it and it alone, not a one-size-fits-all ready-made magic formula.

It’s a work of art, a one-piece item that needs to be customized for the client’s specific needs, and not a mass-produced commodity churned out in an assembly line that manufactures perspectives one after another, all equally valuable with nothing to differentiate them.

And because you won’t even engage with the idea, which is the first step, you’ll obviously never reject it, because after all, ‘nothing’s wrong, it’s just your perspective that it’s wrong, someone else could have a different perspective’.

In fact, you don’t even accept an idea for the same reason.

And that is cowardice – you never make a claim, you never open yourself up to criticism, and you never take a stand on anything.

Instead, you hide behind weasel words like ‘just a point of view’ and dress yourself up in an illusion of superiority, thinking that you’re on a higher ground than those dimwits who argue for something, who are so blind and narrow-minded to be unable to see beyond themselves, to be able to understand that their view is just one point of view.

β€œIt is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

Theodore Roosevelt

It’s like thinking of yourself as the referee in a wrestling match, thinking that it makes you better because you’re not the one getting dirty in the ring, though the truth is you’re too afraid to step into the ring.

And you can even crown the delusion by telling yourself that you are the real winner, because after all, the referee (usually) doesn’t take even one blow.

But the referee never wins anything either…

A Case for Relativism

Perhaps the biggest lure of relativism is that it isn’t always wrong.

In fact, it’s probably the best way of thinking a lot of the time, because it’s valid in these situations.

  • Personal preferences : I like football
  • Open ended, meaningless comparisons: Football is better than cricket
  • Prescriptions: You should play football

I think that the second and third scenarios are, in some ways, contained in the first.

Because, unfortunately, for a lot of people, it’s usually a very short step from I like football to Football is better than XYZ to You should play football

And you can see this if you go about it the other way too.

If you think chocolate is better than other flavors, or you go about prescribing chocolate to people, it’s probably because you like chocolate.

The caveat is ‘open-ended, meaningless’ comparisons – which means using adjectives without defining them.

Because a statement like football is better than cricket means nothing on its own.

But if you specify your conditions, you don’t need to hide behind relativism.

If you knew that (hypothetically) you burn more calories in a game of football than in cricket on average, and if you want to burn more calories, then football is better than cricket for you (if this was your sole criterion)

So you can probably condense these into one type of situation where relativism holds: Personal Preferences

This won’t apply to other situations as well though.

You might have a preference for the flat-earth theory over other models, but that doesn’t make it a ‘perspective’ that’s equally valid.

That’s because the theory is (or purports to be) a description of objective reality, of the world, and not a subjective ‘personal preference’ of individuals like a game or a flavor of ice-cream is.

There’s an objective benchmark for the theory – how well it describes reality. The closer, the better.

But there’s no objective benchmark for ‘better’ in games like cricket that humans make up, or even in flavors.

Saying that cricket is better than football is like saying that spicy is better than sweet or blue is better than grey. Because the idea of ‘better’ here is going to be totally arbitrary and made-up.

It’s also rather obvious, because imagine if football really was ‘better’ than cricket objectively.

Why would anyone even play cricket?

It’s like buying a worse product for the same price. In an efficient market, no one would.

And arguing that the world is a market that isn’t efficient is arguing that you’re a visionary who’s discovered a profound truth about the universe, that football is better than cricket, which others don’t know about yet.

I think most people would agree that’s very unlikely.

It’s more likely that, just like in the market, customer preferences here vary, and different games cater to different niches.

This is where relativism makes the most sense, and trumps absolutism.

Relativism’s Limitations

But extending relativism beyond these boundaries is where you run into all the faults I outlined earlier.

For example, you can even argue convincingly that “art” is not subjective, that there is a thing as objectivity in aesthetics – something you’d imagine is highly relative.

Even superficially, it seems to be the case that art can’t be entirely relative, otherwise my drawings should be worth as much as Van Gogh’s.

And it can’t be a coincidence that the overwhelming majority of people seem to agree that the works of Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo are ‘beautiful’.

There must be some principles which all these people are using that indicate my art is mediocre and Beethoven’s isn’t. Maybe a lot of it is social conformity, but trying to explain away all of it as that seems to be stretching it too far.

And the reason for this is that it’s no longer about ‘individual’ preferences but about ‘art’ – specifically, what makes art good.

That’s the difference between saying I like Van Gogh’s art and saying Van Gogh is a good artist.

Just as it is in saying I prefer football to cricket and Football is better than cricket.

One is a personal preference, impossible to refute.

Imagine if someone comes up to you to tell you No, you don’t like football more than cricket, you just think you do.

It takes some level of delusion to presume to know someone better than they do.

You might actually be lying, but it’s unlikely they can know that.

The other is a claim you make about reality, that the game of football is better than cricket – nothing to do with your preferences but a supposed ‘fact’.

Therefore, as you move away from individual preferences to larger observations, relativism loses its hold.


You’ll end up resorting to relativism then if you preach your preferences to people.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but knowing that you’re in the domain of relativism can save you a lot of anguish if you take it to heart when people don’t agree with you.

And the other case is when you talk in open-ended, vague terms.

Is Newton greater than Darwin?

Is XYZ policy better than ABC?

Unless you’re simply making conversation, perhaps the best thing is to avoid this entirely (does it really matter to you who was ‘greater’?) or be more specific (better for whom? on what parameters?).

For everything else, remember that when someone tells you there are no truths, he’s asking you not to believe him. So don’t.



Hi Pratyush, another gem of an essay.

Questions if you can answer :

1. How you can practice the things you read/learn ? Most of the philosophy goes out of window when actual event happens. If I read in the morning about objectivity, by the evening I may be hyping the things & forgetting about objectivity. OR when I remember about one idea like objectivity, I will forget some other idea like efficiency -which is needed in the moment. OR If I didn’t read anything I will be at peak of my worst habits & responding everything badly.

2. How to transform something from knowing to doing, to make it part of one’s lifestyle ?

3. Do you like to write about Ideas, without much emphasis on on ‘how’ you did it or ‘how to do it-( In case if you want move away from ‘me’ part) ? Your all essays are finest, to find anywhere. But when shared with people other than aspirants, many find it difficult to implement/understand. Sometimes implementation part too shortly explained. Is it the way you prefer to write ? You can keep third point unanswered. ( I don’t face that much problem though).


Read fewer things and try living them rather than chasing after every popular book. Think about it, maybe for even longer than it took you to read the book. Every book you read should change you for the better, even if it’s by an insignificant amount.

The how part isn’t something separate from the idea. If you really read sincerely, you should make an attempt to understand.
If you really understand, you should be able to articulate your view and reason it out. Whether you agree or disagree, you would have grounds for your belief.
And if you really are convinced what you’re doing is what you choose, which you can only be if you understand why you’re doing it, then you’ll choose to do it, and that’s how you’ll make it part of you.

Rest I can always give you stupid directives: be objective, don’t fall for relativism etc. Or “set an alarm at 5 for 21 days to make it a habit”.
But if you don’t know why (and maybe you will still disagree), you’ll never be able to stick with it.
Spoonfeeding people directions like this demeans them, it assumes they’re sheep who need to be led by a shepherd. And demeans me because any idiot can do that, there’s no skill needed to write such rubbish.
So you can’t get anything without doing at least some thinking for yourself; these essays can only give you the ideas to show you a way, you have to walk it yourself, no one will carry you.


Amazing, thank you very much. πŸ™ŒπŸ™

Meghna Tripathi

Who and what you respect is relative…..for eg. Some people respect wealthy people, others respect knowledgeable ones. So the term respect like all other values is relative. And if respect does not exist then there is nothing relative. All humans have same inherent value. I would also like to know what and who you VALUE. Also what should be our fixed and fluid values?

Meghna Tripathi

If its not relative people would not look up to or value GOD. Then again since you don’t believe in GOD value of God is relative too. But i Respect you as a human since you are not on a WEIRD power trip. Rest you add no value tangibly in my life so I wont bow down before you just because you are an IAS officer.
Also kindness is way more VALUEABLE since it brings people closer to each other than being right. But that too is relative and depends on what you value.

Prachi shankar

This legit feels a personal attack for me.

Lately, I feel relativism is pushing me to mediocrity.
While agreeing that everthing/everyone has their own perspective, I don’t really even make an effort now to stand for the ideas I believe in.

Like that example of artist you gave, lenoardo da Vinci, I guess.
We all know art is a subjective stuff.
But according to that my art & vinci’s should be of same worth.
But that’s not how it is. There must be something that so many people find it beautiful. But if I stop there that – “oh! It’s just a different perspective, not a big deal”
I lose the chance to learn something new maybe.
It actually gives a false sense pride that I won because I have a broader perspective.
Relativism can surely be refuge of laziness and cowardice.
I don’t know if I was able to put across my point well enough, but please respond–
do you feel too that relativism can push us to mediocrity?
Like where should we draw that boundary, if any??


Yeah, if you think there are no truths you’ll never search for them, so you’ll never find them.

Sweta Tripathi

Well I think relativism is essential at certain areas like to the subject of religion or god like during 20th century people started attacking the religious institution and all the belief system of what is right or wrong which resulted into the philosophy of existentialism , nihilism etc. It was needed bacause such institutions were imposing there belief system on the people and it had stopped the creativity of the people to interpret their idea of god .
But that doesnot mean it can apply everywhere because then as Pratyush sir said we will start regarding Gandhi and Hitler the same . Like if someone does wrong to you or keep behaving badly with you and if you follow this ideology then you will say “o that’s his idea of behaviour with others or his way of being in relationship” then stay prepared to feel stupid each time in such a person’s presence .
Relativism is required for developing new ideas and welcoming whole heartedly new concepts . It is not a tool of mediocrity but a tool of tolerance and acceptance just an acceptance that you are allowed to express but after passing this stage you have to go the next stage of seeing where you stand by studying the others opinion regarding the same subject then further removing the weaker points of Your’s then finally devoping a strong opinion .
With regard to people’s behaviour also it follows the samething think where you stand then decide you really accept such behaviour or you are tolerating wrong just bacause someone said we all are different .


No, but thanks for the recommendation. I’ll read it soon.


Here’s my 5 suggestions-

  1. Indistractable ( about how to handle distractions)
  2. The brain, Incognito (understanding brain)
  3. What everbody is saying ( understanding body language)
  4. The fountainhead (audiobook for amazing narration)
  5. Books by Branden Sanderson ( if interested in fiction)

i am 25 and i cannot even take a bath without reading a book about it.




I came to know about the philosophy of Stoicism from you . Thanks for that. .

Have you really suffered from losing your loved one ? And encountered with being a Stoic ?

If yes , care to explain the nuances .

It may help me or anyone here.


Thanks Ajeeta for the the concern. It helped. But Somehow , it’s too tough to take a paradigm shift in real life . Glad to hear that many people are still trying.
Have a good day !


How Einstein’s Theory of Relativity can be applied in our day-to-day life?

The phenomenal universe, in the view of modern science, is embraced by the concepts of time and space [It exists in the time-space frame]. The Upanisads declare that only by being freed from time and space factors can we grasp the ultimate truth that is at the source of the cosmos.

We must try to transcend time…

Is it possible?

To give us the confidence that it is, an example could be cited from everyday life. To spend the time we lap up newspaper reports of the fight going on in a distant country like, say, the Congo [now called Zaire]. If a dispute or trouble erupts nearer home, in a country like Pakistan (or at home in Kasmir), we forget the Congo and turn to Pakistan or Kasmir. The newspapers themselves push reports of the Congo trouble to some corner and highlight developments in Pakistan or Kasmir. But when a quarrel breaks out even nearer, say, a quarrel over Tiruttani between our state and the neighbouring state, Pakistan and Kasmir are forgotten and the boundary quarrel claims all our interest, Now, when we come to know of a street brawl in our neighbourhood, we throw aside the newspaper to go out and see for ourselves what the trouble is all about. Again, when we are watching the street fight, a friend or relative comes and tells us that a war is going on in our own home between the wife and the mother. What do we do then? We forget the street brawl and rush home at once.

On an international level the Congo dispute is perhaps of great importance. But we pass from that to quarrels of decreasing importance. Our interest in each, however is in inverse proportion to its real
importance. Why? The Congo is far away in space. We are more concerned about what happens nearer us than about distant occurences. It is all like coming to the horizon, the spot where we are.

Now let us turn our gaze inward. If we become aware of the battle going on within us, the battle fought by the senses, all other quarrels will become distant affairs like the Congo dispute. Let us try to resolve this inner conflict and try to remain tranquil. In this tranquility all will be banished including place, space, and so on. When we are asleep we are not aware of either knowledge or space, but the jnana (in the state of enlightenment of the inner truth) we will experience knowledge without
any consciousness of space.

The time factor is similar. How inconsolably we wept when our father died ten years ago. How is it that we do not feel the same intensity of grief when we think of his death today? On the day a dear one passes we weep so much, but not so much on the following day. Why is it so? Last year we earned a promotion, or won a prize in a lottery. We jumped for joy then, did’nt we? Why is it that we don’t feel the same thrill of joy when we think about it today?

Just as nearness in space is a factor in determining how we are affected by an event, so too is nearness in time. Evev when we are turned outward and remain conscious of time and space, they lose their impact without any special effort on our part. So the confidence arises that we can be
totally freed from these two factors of time and space if we turn inward. When we are asleep we are oblivious of time and space without any effort on our part. But we do not then have the awareness of being free from them. We must go to the state spoken of by Tayumanavar, the state in which we sleep without sleeping and are full of jnana and are immersed in the bliss of freedom from time and space. Then nothing will affect us, not even a quarrel right in our prescence, in our home. Even
when we recieve a stab wound we will not be affected by it – it would be like a happening in a remote land like Congo. When someone very dear to us dies in our prescence – husband, wife or child – it would be an occurence remote in time, like our father’s passing ten years ago.

Let us, for the time-being, forget arguments about non-dualism and dualism. Let us think about our real need. What is it?

Peace….. Tranquility…..

We are affected by good and bad things alike. We cry, we laugh. Both sorrow and joy have their impact on us. Even excessive laughter causes pain in the stomach, enervates us. When we are tickled we react angrily. “Stop it!” we cry. Even when we dance for joy we are fatigued. We like to
remain calm without being affected by anything, without giving way to any type of emotion. Such is our need. Not dualism or non-dualism.

Let us consider what we must do for this goal. One point will become clear if we think about how the impact produced by a happening or an emotion is wiped away. “When news about the Congo war broke how we became engrossed in newspaper reports of the dispute. How did we lose interest in it later? Why does it not have any impact on us now? ” If we think on these lines we will realise that the impact of any event – or whatever – is progressively reduced as it is pushed further in space. If we also consider why we are not as much affected now by our father’s death as we were ten years ago when he died, we will realise that with receding time we are less and less affected by past events. So if we are to remain detached we must learn to think that what happens close by is happening in a remote place like the Congo.

Similarly, we must also learn to think that all the happy and unhappy incidents of the moment occured ten years ago. We must assiduously train ourselves to take such an attitude. No joy or sorrow is everlasting. They are all relative [that is they do not have their own integral or independent force but rely on other factors]. So without being part of anything or else dependent on anything, we must remain in the absolute state of being ourselves. Then alone will be free from all influences and
experience eternal peace. This is how Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is applied to the science of the Self (Atmavidya).

The essence of Upanisadic message is the burning desire to be from time and space. It would be in proportion to the extent to which we burn within in our endeavour to be free from the spatio-temporal factor that we will be rewarded with the grace of Isvara and be led towards the
fulfilment of the great ideal.

There is no need to go to the mountains or to the forest for instruction. Space and time teach us how to remain unaffected by events. All that we need to do is to pray to the Lord and make an effort to develop the will and capacity to put happenings of the moment back in time and distant in
space .

The first of the ten [major] Upanisads. Isavasya, says:”It is in motion and yet it is still. It is afar and yet near. It is indeed within. . . . . “. This statement refers to space and time and creates the urge in us to be freed from both. The next mantra asks us to see time and space and all creatures in our Self itself. Then there will be no cause for hatred, delusion or sorow, that is nothing will affect us. Another mantra of the same Upanisad declares that the Self is all – pervading, going beyond
space, and distributing things through the endless years according to their natures.

On the whole, the Upanisads speak of the same basic truth of space and time that modern science teaches. But there is this difference. For science this truth is a mere postulate. For the Upanisads it is a truth to be realised within as an experience.

This is a conclusion of the Upanisads which themselves are the concluding part of the Vedas.