Relativistic hedging – assuming biological and genetic contingencies don’t factor in, but to upholders of indiscriminate parity I ask, when ever do they not? – can only ever be justifiable when we consider a nascent consciousness. Unencumbered with experience and existing as a primal, chalk-line self-awareness, this is perhaps the only instant when human beings can legitimately be considered as universally equal. But it is a fleeting instant, and it flickers out as this primitive consciousness fleshes itself out over time, feeding hungrily, endlessly on the environment in which it exists.
Perhaps self-awareness would be the better term to use in this context after all; consciousness, to me, seems like a colorless, non-intellectual state of being that should be common to all cogent organisms. But the point I’m trying to make is the existence of a real and steady gradation in this self-awareness; you imbibe what you can from your surroundings, you process it internally in a symbiotic process of give-and-take, and you grow as a human being by degrees. There is no drastic jump such as the one seen when a dark room is instantly flooded with light once you switch on the bulb; it is a cumulative process and probably one that is never-ending through the length of a regular, mortal life.
By the same token, then, I believe that there are varying, steadily-increasing degrees of cognizable truth to an external object. The extent to which this truth can be perceived by any individual is directly proportional to the extent to which his self-awareness has evolved. This should not be taken to mean that there are different truths, because that is the way to the same subjective morass that we should always strive to stay clear of. There is only one eternal truth as pertaining to the object it is applied to. Think of it in terms of the beacons lit all over Middle Earth in The Lord Of The Rings to signal the coming of the great war. Many beacons signifying one cause or truth, remote and arduous though the road to it may be.
Intellectual dishonesty arises from a poor understanding of these things. I do not deny that the external world exists and has a life of its own, but I know that I am hemmed in by the limited faculties that nature has vested in me as a human being. I recognize that there is a co-dependent relationship between my self-awareness as an entity in time and space, and the truth of things outside of me, and that this relationship is modeled in the form of a gradient. There are people occupying a higher spot than me on this gradient, and there are ones that occupy a place lower, and these people are necessarily closer or farther from the truth than I am.
Intellectual dishonesty would be denying that objects of the world have any inherent truth of themselves, and that they exist, if at all they do (!), only for me to provide them with a meaning that I think they merit. There is gross arrogance in this line of thinking but it is subliminally present in every dogmatic assertion of truth. Ultimate truth and the self-awareness that leads to it is rarely knowable to man due to the native limitations of empiricism. The tirthankaras and arhats of ancient Eastern religions were said to have come upon the very precipice of this self-realization and to have achieved a oneness with the universal will.
We’re ordinary men with ordinary pursuits but that does not absolve us of the humility, and common sense, mandated of us by the nature of our understanding. There should be no place for self-evidently ridiculous, petulant claims of relativism in civilized discourse only because one has a right to an opinion; in fact, such claims should be laughed and hounded out of one’s immediate vicinity. You have an opinion because you are a human being but being a human being also entails a discriminating use of higher faculties as they happen to be. Things have an innate value of themselves; how you interpret this value is a reflection of where you lie on the curve of evolution.