Relativism has been, in its various guises, both one of the most popular and most reviled philosophical doctrines of our time. Defenders see it as a harbinger of tolerance and the only ethical and epistemic stance worthy of the open-minded and tolerant. Detractors dismiss it for its alleged incoherence and uncritical intellectual permissiveness. Debates about relativism permeate the whole spectrum of philosophical sub-disciplines. From ethics to epistemology, science to religion, political theory to ontology, theories of meaning and even logic, philosophy (...) has felt the need to respond to this heady and seemingly subversive idea. Discussions of relativism often also invoke considerations relevant to the very nature and methodology of philosophy and to the division between the so-called “analytic and continental” camps in philosophy. And yet, despite a long history of debate going back to Plato and an increasingly large body of writing, it is still difficult to come to an agreed definition of what, at its core, relativism is, and what philosophical import it has. This entry attempts to provide a broad account of the many ways in which “relativism” has been defined, explained, defended and criticized. (shrink)
Epistemology and Relativism Epistemology is, roughly, the philosophical theory of knowledge, its nature and scope. What is the status of epistemological claims? Relativists regard the status of epistemological claims as, in some way, relative— that is to say, that the truths which epistemological claims aspire to are … Continue reading Epistemology and Relativism →.
A familiar point in the literature on the epistemology of disagreement is that in the face of disagreement with a recognised epistemic peer the epistemically virtuous agent should adopt a stance of intellectual humility. That is, the virtuous agent should take a conciliatory stance and reduce her commitment to the proposition under dispute. In this paper, we ask the question of how such intellectual humility would manifest itself in a corresponding peer disagreement regarding knowledge-how. We argue that while it is (...) relatively straightforward to recast this debate in terms of a reductive intellectualist account of knowledge-how, whereby knowledge-how just is a matter of having a particular propositional attitude, the issue becomes more complex once we turn to anti-intellectualist positions. On these views, after all, such a disagreement won’t be just a matter of disagreeing about the truth of a proposition. Accordingly, to the extent that some kind of conciliation is plausibly required of the virtuous agent in the face of a recognised peer disagreement, this conciliation will not consist simply in belief revision. We propose a novel way to address this problem. We claim that what is required of the epistemically virtuous agent when confronted with peer disagreement regarding knowing how to φ is that thereafter she should be disposed to employ her way of φ-ing across a narrower range of practical circumstances than beforehand. Moreover, just as an agent needs to call on her intellectual virtues in order to determine the extent of conciliation required in an ordinary case of epistemic peer disagreement, so the intellectual virtues will play an important role in determining this shift in dispositions to φ that occurs as regards epistemic peer disagreement about knowledge-how. (shrink)
Within contemporary philosophy of mind, it is taken for granted that externalist accounts of meaning and mental content are, in principle, orthogonal to the matter of whether cognition itself is bound within the biological brain or whether it can constitutively include parts of the world. Accordingly, Clark and Chalmers (Analysis 58(1):7–19, 1998) distinguish these varieties of externalism as ‘passive’ and ‘active’ respectively. The aim here is to suggest that we should resist the received way of thinking about these dividing lines. (...) With reference to Brandom’s (1994, 2000, Inquiry 47:236–253, 2008) broad semantic inferentialism, we show that a theory of meaning can be at the same time a variety of active externalism. While we grant that supporters of other varieties of content externalism (e.g., Putnam 1975 and Burge (Philosophical Review 95:3–45, 1986) can deny active externalism, this is not an option for semantic inferentialists: On this latter view, the role of the environment (both in its social and natural form) is not ‘passive’ in the sense assumed by the alternative approaches to content externalism. (shrink)
While fallibilism has been the dominant view in epistemology in recent times, the field has witnessed the rise of a new form of infallibilism. In a recent book, Jessica Brown has taken on the task of mounting a systematic defence of fallibilism against this new infallibilism. She argues that new infallibilism incurs several problematic commitments that fallibilism can avoid. In addition, the key data points that infallibilists have adduced in support of their view can be accommodated by fallibilism, giving fallibilism (...) the upper hand. This paper develops a rejoinder on behalf of new infallibilism. It explores ways in which new infallibilists can avoid the problematic commitments Brown identifies and provides reason to think that some of the data points supporting new infallibilism cannot be as readily handled by fallibilism as Brown would have us think. (shrink)