'It's all relative'. In a world of increasing cultural diversity, it can seem that everything is indeed relative. But should we concede that there is no such thing as right and wrong, and no objective truth? Can we reconcile relativism and pluralism?
Relativism surveys the different varieties of relativism and the arguments for and against them, and examines why relativism has survived for two thousand years despite all the criticisms levelled against it.
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.
Relativism is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary philosophy, sociology and politics.
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Part I The history of an idea
relativism in classical philosophy
2 Relativism in modern philosophy
3 Contemporary sources of relativism
Part II Varieties of relativism
4 Relativism about truth
5 Relativism and rationality
6 Epistemic relativism
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absolute absolutist accept according alethic relativism argues argument assumption Azande behaviour belief-systems beliefs chapter claim classical logic cognitive relativism common conception of truth conceptual relativism conceptual schemes context criterion cultural relativism Davidson discussion distinction distinguish diversity doctrine Enlightenment epistemic relativism epistemology ethical ethical relativism evaluation experiences false feminist Feyerabend framework Goodman hence Hilary Putnam historical human ibid idea incommensurability incompatible instance intellectual interpretation judgements justification knowledge Kuhn language law of non-contradiction linguistic metaphysical moral relativism nature Nietzsche norms objective paradigms particular perspectival perspectives philosophical Plato pluralism position possibility postmodernism postmodernist principle principle of charity propositions Protagoras Putnam question Quine radical realist rejection relative relativism about logic relativism about rationality relativism about truth relativist Rorty scepticism scientific self-refutation sense sentences social societies statements styles of reasoning subjectivism subjectivist theory thesis things thinking thought translation true truth and falsity universal values Wittgenstein worldviews