Relativism is based on the assumption that all diverse viewpoints are equally valid since the various perspectives relate to the observer’s domain in one way or another. In turn, the dialectical method is founded on the premise that a conversation between two people holding conflicting perspectives can establish the truth through a well-reasoned argumentation to examine the divergent views (Hanhijärvi 12). Although these two terminologies have some similarities, they differ significantly.
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The first difference is based on the perception of truth regarding a subject. According to relativism, the truth can be known from what is perceived, while the dialectical method points out contradictions through hypothesis argumentation to rule out that which is not valid (Hanhijärvi 14) Thus, the dialectical method aims to acknowledge one’s ignorance before realizing the truth through hypothesis elimination, while relativism proposes that what a person views as true must be true.
Second, relativism and the dialectical method differ in what they assume about the nature of truth. The former argue that morals are a society’s social traditions, and the only way to be successful is to follow them. Thus, relativism assumes that man is the measure of all things (Hanhijärvi 23). On the contrary, the dialectical method argues otherwise, emphasizing that philosophical inquiry is essential in incorporating and structuring all forms of truth and that the purpose of education is not to fill an empty vessel but to draw the truth out of a student.
I think Socrates is correct because the truth should not be relative but distinct and arrived at after careful, rigorous hypothesis elimination. Indeed, when two people have a conflicting perspective regarding a subject, the best way to prove either stance is by cooperative argumentative discourse (Hanhijärvi 133). The dialectical method best helps to arrive at the truth by eliminating the underlying presuppositions to establish coherence before reaching it.
Hanhijärvi, Tommi J. Dialectical Thinking: Zeno, Socrates, Kant, Marx. Algora Publishing, 2015.