Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Relativism, Absolutism, and Existential Programming

In the handy Philosopher's Toolkit book[1], there is a section[2] explaining the difference between relative statements and absolute statements (and similarly relativism and absolutism). As a prototypical example, it explains how before Einstein, the "time" an event occurred was considered an absolute statement. In other words, the whole universe would know what it meant because time was the same everywhere (just different time zones). However, Einstein revealed that time is relative to the location and speed of the observer and can't be the same everywhere. Plus, since there is no place and speed that could/should be considered the "official" one, all "times" are equally valid.

Because there are many aspects of reality and opinion that are considered relative by some number of people, Existential Programming counts this as yet another reason to embrace/support multiple ontologies simultaneously. Absolute vs Relative points of view are yet another aspect of modeling the world that traditional object-oriented and relational database modeling make assumptions about.

[1] The Philosopher's Toolkit, Julian Baggini and Peter S. Fosl, Blackwell Publishers, 2003, ISBN: 0631228748
[2] ibid, section 4.2

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