Relativism and our warrant for scientific theories

International Journal of Philosophical Studies 12 (3):259 – 269 (2004)
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We depend upon the community for justified belief in scientific theory. This dependence can suggest that our individual belief in scientific theory is justified because the community believes it to be justified. This idea is at the heart of an anti-realist epistemology according to which there are no facts about justification that transcend a community's judgement thereof. Ultimately, knowledge and justified belief are simply social statuses. When conjoined with the lemma that communities can differ in what they accept as justified, epistemological anti-realism entails epistemological relativism. Further, this lemma can also be used to generate an argument for relativism and, thereby, for anti-realism. So if an epistemologically realist account of our justification for belief in scientific theory is to be given, then it must be possible, first, to defend a realist interpretation of the idea that individual belief can be community-justified and second, to defend it in a way that is compatible with the fact of possible community diversity. This paper tries to meet these challenges.



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Paul Faulkner
University of Sheffield

Citations of this work

Relativism, Incoherence, and the Strong Programme.Harvey Siegel - 2011 - In Richard Schantz & Markus Seidel (eds.), The Problem of Relativism in the Sociology of (Scientific) Knowledge. Lancaster, LA1: ontos. pp. 41-64.
Constructed Worlds, Contested Truths.Maria Baghramian - 2011 - In Richard Schantz & Markus Seidel (eds.), The Problem of Relativism in the Sociology of (Scientific) Knowledge. Lancaster, LA1: ontos. pp. 105-130.

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References found in this work

Philosophical Investigations.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1953 - New York, NY, USA: Wiley-Blackwell. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe.
Knowledge and social imagery.David Bloor - 1976 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mind, Value, and Reality.John Henry McDowell - 1998 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge.Laurence Bonjour - 1980 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5 (1):53-73.

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