Orville Jenkins's Reviews > Who's Afraid of Relativism?: Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood

Who's Afraid of Relativism? by James K.A. Smith
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it was amazing

Smith provides an entertaining and astute serious philosophical analysis of the characteristics and implications of Relativism in late modern thought. He approaches this movement as an epistemological analysis, in terms of cognitive theory and theory of knowledge.

As he develops his analysis, Smith zeros in on the difference between concepts of knowledge in the modern focus on information as “Know-what” in contrast to the practical “know-how” of life. Smith shows how, in the desire for a simple analysis for easy reference and miss the real import, social movements conditions and the common ad hoc critiques miss the underlying streams of thought.

Smith writes like a novelist, with the keen incisive insight of a highly-knowledgeable academic who is in touch with current events and social trends and who can see the patterns through history. He focuses on the corrective insights Relativism brings in recognizing the limitation of human knowledge.

Writing as a philosopher who lives within the stream of Christian faith, he makes application of these cautions about human pretensions to absolute knowledge that show up in the dogmatism we see in contemporary “evangelical” Christianity in the US and the similar error in European Christianity in its dogmatic control of minds and lives.

He looks at classical and medieval social and philosophical movements in a congenial and knowledgeable manner in this regard. He also shows how the modern Enlightenment makes the same error. Relativism brings a healthy reminder of the fallibility of human knowledge and warns against the unwarranted hubris modernism fostered.

He likens this mindset to the “original sin” in the Genesis story where the desire to “know like God” led to what has been called the Fall. Easy to read, at the popular or academic level.
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Reading Progress

February 19, 2019 – Started Reading
February 21, 2019 – Finished Reading
October 23, 2019 – Shelved

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