Arts & International Affairs: Volume 3, Issue 1, Spring 2018 - Page 81

ARTS & INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS accommodating or tolerant attitude. Whatever response people make will inevitably be grounded in their form of life, and there is no reason to think that all forms of life will respond to value conflict in the same way (or even, as discussed below, that all individuals within a single form of life will do so). If we are going to take the contextual relativity of values seriously, we will have to recognise that there is no reason to believe that such value systems must overlap, though, of course, they may do so empirically. Moreover, as social scientists and political theorists have long pointed out, we cannot assume that forms of life are internally consistent and homogeneous, so that every member will always respond to the same problem in the same way. Nor can we assume that forms of life are hermetically sealed off from one another, such that there can be no meaningful cross-cultural influence or exchange. Both assumptions are implausible as factual claims. On the first point, if a form of life is a loose assemblage of language-games and social practices that are related in a variety of ways, it seems not only possible, but likely, that there will be internal contradictions within a form of life, language-games whose implications contradict other language-games, institutions that conflict with institutions, and so on. Even if it were true that there is a conservative tendency inherent in rooting meaning and knowledge in language-games and social practices, it seems that the very same process is likely to give rise to conflicts and competing interpretations within a single form of life. Similarly, the porosity and complexity of a form of life suggest that it will be likely to have multiple lines of connection and interaction with other forms of life, which will also be internally complex and fragmented. Catholicism is part of the forms of life of both Mexico and the United States, and though it plays very different roles in the two countries, and despite the fact that the Catholic community is internally fragmented and conflictual, this commonality of faith clearly creates lines of communication across the national border. Just as forms of life are not internally monolithic, they are not externally sealed. Relativism As we cannot know whether our words or our ideas are true in the deep sense of being necessary or connected to some external reality, debates about moral truth (like other kinds of truth) simply become pointless�they are irresolvable, and thus neither the dogmatist nor the skeptic can win. Rorty (1979, 1982) suggests, therefore, that we change the topic and talk about something else that we can talk about (like social policy). This, of course, raises the problem of relativism. Since a commitment to one’s own form of life appears to be a condition of making meaning, and since the same must be true of those in other forms of life, there is apparently no way to evaluate forms of life from the outside�“my form of life, right or wrong.” Instead, we are condemned to saying that every form of life is correct in its own terms, and that no meaningful criticism of a form of life can be made from outside that form of life itself. As Ernest Gellner puts the point: 80