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)
Beginning with a historical overview of relativism, from Pythagoras in ancient Greece to Derrida and postmodernism, Maria Baghramian explores the resurgence of relativism throughout the history of philosophy. She then turns to the arguments for and against the many subdivisions of relativism, including Kuhn and Feyerabend's ideas of relativism in science, Rorty's relativism about truth, and the conceptual relativism of Quine and Putnam. Baghramian questions whether moral relativism leads to moral indifference or even nihilism, and whether feminist epistemology's concerns about (...) the very notion of objectivity can be considered a form of relativism. She concludes the relativism debate by assessing the recent criticisms such as Quine's argument from translation and Davidson's claim that even the motivations behind relativism are unintelligible. Finding these criticisms lacking, Baghramian proposes a moderate form of pluralism which addresses the legitimate worries that give rise to relativism without incurring charges of nihilism or anarchy. (shrink)
Relativism, an ancient philosophical doctrine, is once again a topic of heated debate. In this book, Maria Baghramian and Annalisa Coliva present the recent arguments for and against various forms of relativism. -/- The first two chapters introduce the conceptual and historical contours of relativism. These are followed by critical investigations of relativism about truth, conceptual relativism, epistemic relativism, and moral relativism. The concluding chapter asks whether it is possible to make sense of relativism as a philosophical thesis. -/- The (...) book introduces readers to the main types of relativism and the arguments in their favor. It also goes beyond the expository material to engage in more detailed critical responses to the key positions and authors under discussion. -/- Including chapter summaries, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary, Relativism is essential reading for students of philosophy as well as those in related disciplines where relativism is studied, such as anthropology, sociology, and politics. (shrink)
Relativism, roughly put, is the view that truth and falsity, right and wrong, standards of reasoning, and procedures of justification are products of differing conventions and frameworks of assessment and that their authority is confined to the context giving rise to them. More precisely, ‘relativism’ covers views which maintain that—at a level of high abstraction—at least some class of things have properties they have not simpliciter, but only relative to a given framework of assessment, and correspondingly, that the truth of (...) claims attributing these properties holds only once the relevant framework of assessment is specified or supplied. Relativists characteristically insist, furthermore, that if something is only relatively so, then there can be no framework-independent vantage point from which the matter of whether the thing in question is so can be established. 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 a still developing 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)
What is it about relativism that justifies, or at least explains, its continued appeal in the face of relentless attacks through the history of philosophy? This paper explores a new answer to this old question, casting the response in metaphilosophical terms. § i introduces the problem. § ii argues that one part of the answer is that some of the well-known defences of relativism take it to be a philosophical stance—that is, a broad perspective or orientation with normative consequences—rather than (...) a doctrine or a thesis. § iii draws attention to an assumption, not always explicitly stated by its proponents, that the relativist stance leads to the cultivation of some key intellectual virtues. Open-mindedness, tolerance, intellectual humility, and curiosity are examples of the intellectual virtues that relativism can foster. § iv argues that the defence of relativism on the basis of the virtues that are assumed to follow from it, at best, is only partially successful. Moreover, there is a range of epistemic vices, resulting from the stance, that undercuts the virtue-based defence presented in § iii. (shrink)
We report the results of an exploratory study that examines the judgments of climate scientists, climate policy experts, astrophysicists, and non-experts (N = 3367) about the factors that contribute to the creation and persistence of disagreement within climate science and astrophysics and about how one should respond to expert disagreement. We found that, as compared to non-experts, climate experts believe that within climate science (i) there is less disagreement about climate change, (ii) methodological factors play less of a role in (...) generating disagreements, (iii) fewer personal or institutional biases influence climate research, and (iv) there is more agreement about which methods should be used to examine relevant phenomena we also observed that the uniquely American political context predicted experts’ judgments about some of these factors. We also found that, in regard to disagreements concerning cosmic ray physics, and commensurate with the greater inherent uncertainty and data lacunae in their field, astrophysicists working on cosmic rays were generally more willing to acknowledge expert disagreement, more open to the idea that a set of data can have multiple valid interpretations, and generally less quick to dismiss someone articulating a non-standard view as non-expert, than climate scientists were in regard to climate science. (shrink)
The turn of the twentieth century witnessed the birth of two distinct philosophical schools in Europe: analytic philosophy and phenomenology. The history of 20th-century philosophy is often written as an account of the development of one or both of these schools, as well as their overt or covert mutual hostility. What is often left out of this history, however, is the relationship between the two European schools and a third significant philosophical event: the birth and development of pragmatism, the indigenous (...) philosophical movement of the United States. Through a careful analysis of seminal figures and central texts, this book explores the mutual intellectual influences, convergences, and differences between these three revolutionary philosophical traditions. The essays in this volume aim to show the central role that pragmatism played in the development of philosophical thought at the turn of the twentieth century, widen our understanding of a seminal point in the history of philosophy, and shed light on the ways in which these three schools of thought continue to shape the theoretical agenda of contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
It is commonly accepted that people can, and regularly do, deceive themselves. Yet closer examination reveals a set of conceptual puzzles that make self-deception difficult to explain. Applying the conditions for other-deception to self-deception generates what are known as the ‘paradoxes’ of belief and intention. Simply put, the central problem is how it is possible for me to believe one thing, and yet intentionally cause myself to simultaneously believe its contradiction. There are two general approaches taken by philosophers to account (...) for these puzzles about the self-deceptive state and the process of self-deception. ‘Partitioning’ strategies try to resolve the paradoxes by proposing that the mind is divided in some way that allows self-deception to occur. ‘Reformulation’ strategies suggest that the conditions we use to define self-deception should be modified so that the paradoxes do not arise at all. Both approaches are subject to criticism about the consequences of the strategies philosophers use, but recent cross-disciplinary analyses of self-deception may help shed light on the puzzles that underlie this phenomenon. (shrink)
Hilary Putnam is one of the world’s leading philosophers. His highly original and often provocative ideas have set the agenda for a variety of debates in philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language. His now famous philosophical thought experiments, such as the ‘Twin earth’ and ‘the brains in the vat’ have become part of the established canon in philosophy and cognitive science. _Reading Putnam_ is an outstanding overview and assessment of Hilary Putnam’s work by a team of (...) international contributors, and includes replies by Putnam himself. Divided into clear sections, it contains chapters on key aspects of Putnam’s large body of writing, including: Scientific realism and the changes that Putnam’s thought has undergone on this topic analyticity and ontology, including the important interconnections between the views of Putnam and Quine Putnam’s arguments concerning externalist views of meaning and reference, questions of conceptual relativity, and his preoccupation with ethics through a denial of the fact–value dichotomy Putnam’s developing views on perception. Offering an excellent survey of Putnam’s work, _Reading Putnam_ is essential for those studying philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, and philosophy of science, as well as for anyone interested in contemporary philosophy. (shrink)
This book is a study of relativism as a dominant intellectual preoccupation of our time. Relativism asks how we are to find a way out of intractable differences of perspectives and disagreements in various domains. Standards of truth, rationality, and ethical right and wrong vary greatly and there are no universal criteria for adjudicating between them. In considering this problem, relativism suggests that what is true or right can only be determined within variable contexts of assessment. This book brings together (...) articles published in the International Journal of Philosophical Studies over a period of 17 years, as well as in a Special Issue of the journal published in 2004. The chapters in Section I discuss some of the main forms of relativism. Section II sheds light on the different motivations for relativism, assessing their strengths and weaknesses. Section III provides a detailed examination of the vexed question of whether Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his later work, supported relativism. The varied responses to this important question shed light on the issues discussed in Sections I and II. This collection is a lively and engaging resource for scholars interested in the crucial impact relativism has had on the way we think about the meaning of truth, and what is right and wrong. The chapters in this book were originally published in the International Journal of Philosophical Studies. (shrink)
According to Donald Davidson, the very idea of a conceptual scheme is the third dogma of empiricism. In this paper I examine the ways in which this claim may be interpreted. I conclude by arguing that there remains an innocent version of the scheme -content distinction which is not motivated by empiricism and does not commit us to the pernicious type of dualism that Davidson rejects.
Cultural, moral and religious diversity is a pervasive feature of modern life, yet has only recently become the focus of intellectual debate. _Pluralism_ is the first book to tackle philosophical pluralism and link pluralist themes in philosophy to politics. A range of essays investigates the philosophical sources of pluralism, the value of pluralism and liberalism, and difference in pluralism, including writings on women and the public-private distinction. This is a valuable source for students of philosophy, politics and cultural studies.
Faced with current urgent calls for more trust in experts, especially in high impact and politically sensitive domains, such as climate science and COVID-19, the complex and problematic nature of public trust in experts and the need for a more critical approach to the topic are easy to overlook. Scepticism – at least in its Humean mitigated form that encourages independent, questioning attitudes – can prove valuable to democratic governance, but stands in opposition to the cognitive dependency entailed by epistemic (...) trust. In this paper, we investigate the tension between the value of mitigated scepticism – understood as the exercise of reason-based doubt in a particular domain – and the need for trust in experts. We offer four arguments in favour of mitigated scepticism: the argument from loss of intellectual autonomy; the argument from democratic deficit; the argument from the normative failures of science; and the argument from past and current injustices. These arguments highlight the tension between the requirements for trust and justified scepticism about the role of experts. One solution, which we reject, is the idea that reliance, rather than trust, is sufficient for the purposes of accommodating experts in policy matters. The solution we endorse is to create a ‘climate of trust’, where questioning experts and expertise is welcomed, but the epistemic trust necessary for action upon information which the public cannot obtain first-hand is enabled and encouraged through structural, institutional, and justice-based measures. (shrink)
This introduction provides brief outlines of the articles collected in this special issue of the International Journal of Philosophical Studies on the topic of Ethics and Emotions. It also announces the winners of the 2021 Robert Papazian and PERITIA prizes.
This chapter discusses the topics of trust and expertise from the perspective of political epistemology. In particular, it addresses four main questions: (§1) How should we characterise experts and their expertise? (§2) How can non-experts recognize a reliable expert? (§3) What does it take for non-experts to trust experts? (§4) What problems impede trust in experts?
Over the last several decades an increasing number of philosophers have announced their sympathies for or have become affiliated with what has become known as neo-pragmatism. The connection between the various strands of pragmatism, new and old, however, remains quite unclear. This paper attempts to shed some light on this issue by focusing on a debate between Hilary Putnam and Robert Brandom on classical and contemporary pragmatisms. Using the Brandom-Putnam debate as my starting point, I examine the relationship between the (...) pragmatisms of Putnam and Rorty, two of the most influential neopragmatists, and argue that differing conceptions of the normative are at the heart of their disagreement. I further argue that this disagreement has similarities to, and can be illuminated by, two differing conceptions of norms in Wittgenstein's work. I conclude that Brandom does not delineate the differences between various strands of pragmatism convincingly. (shrink)
The paper I gave at the Dublin conference celebrating Hilary Putnam’s 80th birthday was “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008). This was suitable for a celebratory event because it defended Putnam’s position on biological essentialism (1975) from the consensus in the philosophy of biology. This consensus has led to some severe criticisms of Putnam. Michael Ruse, for example, places Putnam, along with Saul Kripke and David Wiggins, “somewhere to the right of Aristotle” on essentialism and talks of them showing “an almost proud (...) ignorance of the organic world” (1987, 358n). John Dupré argues that the views of Putnam and Kripke are fatally divergent from “some actual biological facts and theories” (1981, 66). I argue that the consensus is quite wrong about essentialism and hence that these criticisms are misplaced. (shrink)
Donald Davidson was one of the most prominent philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. His thinking about language, mind, and epistemology has shaped the views of several generations of philosophers. This book brings together articles by a host of prominent philosophers to provide new interpretations of Davidson’s key ideas about meaning, language and thought. The book opens with short commemorative pieces by a wide range of people who knew Davidson well, giving us glimpses into the life of (...) a great philosopher, a beloved husband and father, a colleague, teacher and friend. The chapter by Lepore and Ludwig and the ensuing heated debate with Frederick Stoutland on how to interpret Davidson demonstrate why Davidson’s legacy has become a disputed intellectual territory. The chapters by Kathrin Glüer, Peter Pagin, Barry Smith, James Higginbotham and William Child, all eminent philosophers of language, are prime examples of just one strand of this legacy, while the piece by Sophie Gibb gives us an opening to Davidson’s enormous contribution to philosophy of mind. _Donald Davidson: Life and Words_ closes with a piece by Davidson himself, first published in 1995 in the International _Journal of Philosophical Studies_, where he brings together the various strands of his work in a Unified Theory of speech and action. This book comprises key articles first published in the _International Journal of Philosophical Studies _and previously unpublished commemorative pieces, and serves as a fitting dedication to the work and memory of a great philosopher. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 272 - 280 In _Extended Rationality: A Hinge Epistemology_, Annalisa Coliva aims to by-pass traditional sceptical challenges to the possibility of knowledge by arguing that all thinking and knowing ultimately rely on hinge assumptions which are immune from doubt because of their foundational role in the very framework that makes knowledge and rational thought possible. In defending her position Coliva also rejects the relativist challenge that there could be incompatible but equally plausible systems (...) of justification relying on alternative hinges or assumptions. In this response to Coliva, I argue that even if we accept that we need to rely on some core assumptions in order to get the process of rational thought going, the question of the uniqueness of these assumptions remains open. I maintain that Coliva’s two argumentative strategies against the possibility of relativism, one based on empirical considerations and a second relying on considerations from logic do not guarantee the uniqueness of hinge assumptions and the possibility of at least a moderate form of relativism looms large. (shrink)