The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism

The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism

Carol Rovane
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism
    Book Description:

    Relativism is a contested doctrine among philosophers, some of whom regard it as neither true nor false but simply incoherent. As Carol Rovane demonstrates in this tour-de-force, the way to defend relativism is not by establishing its truth but by clarifying its content.The Metaphysics and the Ethics of Relativismelaborates a doctrine of relativism that has a consistent logical, metaphysical, and practical significance. Relativism is worth debating, Rovane contends, because it bears directly on the moral choices we make in our lives. Rovane maintains that the most compelling conception of relativism is the "alternative intuition." Alternatives are truths that cannot be embraced together because they are not universal. Something other than logical contradiction excludes them. When this is so, logical relations no longer hold among all truth-value-bearers. Some truths will be irreconcilable between individuals even though they are valid in themselves. The practical consequence is that some forms of interpersonal engagement are confined within definite boundaries, and one has no choice but to view what lies beyond those boundaries with "epistemic indifference." In a very real sense, some people inhabit different worlds--true in themselves, but closed off to belief from those who hold irreducibly incompatible truths.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72606-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    When philosophers argue against a metaphysical doctrine, they do not usually rest with the charge of mere falsity. They tend to register the much more radical charge of incoherence. In the case of relativism they have tended to go further yet, to say that the doctrine cannot so much as be formulated in a satisfactory way. As a result, contemporary defenders of relativism are well advised to concern themselves primarily not with establishing its truth but with clarifying its content. In setting out to write this book, I have administered this eminently sound advice to myself, seeking such a clarification,...

  4. PART ONE How to Formulate the Doctrine of Relativism
    • 1 The Prevailing Consensus View: Disagreement, Relative Truth, and Antirealism
      (pp. 15-70)

      In my introductory remarks, I said that there are four desiderata that any satisfactory formulation of the doctrine of relativism should meet. It should (1) capture a central and importantintuitionabout its content, (2) attribute to the relativist a distinctivemetaphysical commitmentthat is controversial and yet nevertheless worth taking seriously, (3) ensure that the doctrine iscoherent, and (4) show how we could meaningfullylivein accord with the doctrine. A good method to set up, therefore, would be to start with (1) by looking at the chief intuitions we have about the content of the doctrine of...

    • 2 Relativism as Multimundialism
      (pp. 71-122)

      What, then, would a philosophically satisfactory formulation of the doctrine of relativism—satisfactory, that is, in meeting all four desiderata—look like? In this chapter I will approach an answer to this question by further elaborating and defending the Alternatives Intuition.

      The arguments of Chapter 1 show that the Alternatives Intuition is worth taking seriously, because it does better justice to the very sort of situation that advocates of the Disagreement Intuition have in mind than their own intuition does. However, somewhat more argument is needed to establish that the Alternatives Intuition is central to elaborating the doctrine of relativism,...

  5. PART TWO Evaluating the Doctrine of Relativism
    • 3 Relativism concerning Natural Facts
      (pp. 125-194)

      What reasons are there to reject or accept Multimundialism—or equivalently, to accept or reject Unimundialism—in the domain of natural facts that are appropriate objects of scientific investigation?

      There is some controversy among philosophers about how inclusive the domain of natural facts might prove to be. Some are inclined to the view that it comprehends everything that is real, on the ground that nothing should be counted as real unless it is an appropriate object of scientific investigation. These scientistically minded philosophers all agree that if matters ofvalueconcern anything real, then they must reduce to matters of...

    • 4 Relativism concerning Moral Values
      (pp. 195-270)

      What reasons are there to embrace or reject Multimundialism—or equivalently, to reject or embrace Unimundialism—in the domain of morals?

      I observed at the outset of Chapter 3 that there is some controversy among philosophers about how inclusive the domain of natural facts (viewed as facts that are susceptible to natural scientific inquiry) might prove to be—whether it includes all matters where truth might be at issue, including matters of value. If that domain were all-inclusive in this way, then there were would be nothing further for me to consider in this chapter, because the arguments of the...

  6. References
    (pp. 273-278)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 279-280)
  8. Index
    (pp. 281-289)